Northern Constabulary Matchless motorcycles
1,000 views on 9th December 2013
In 1977, Northern Constabulary took up an offer, apparently from the Scottish Home Department, to buy six Matchless 350 motorcycles (from the 1950s), which had been part of a large batch produced for use by the Auxiliary Fire Service.
These motorcycles were largely not used but kept in reserve by AFS for use in the event of future armed conflict, until declared surplus to requirements in the 1970s.
The force apparently purchased them (very cheaply) for “evaluation purposes”, and they were allocated to various parts of the Force area for general patrol purposes. Because of their engine size however, a further test was necessary before an officer could ride same, and thus their usage was not as much as a smaller bike. Enthusiasm from officers was mixed, to say the least!
Painted in military green from new, they were "police-ified" by the Force by the simple expedient of re-painting the petrol tank white. There is no recollection of any other police markings being applied to them. They did encounter some niggling faults, possibly because their long time in storage, with rust particles in the carburettor being a problem due to rust inside the tank.
Although they were years old, they were issued, as new, from a Government Maintenance Depot and came to Inverness with near enough zero miles on the clock. They had 6-volt systems, and so could not be equipped with radio, etc.
Although resulting in much interest from enthusiasts, some amusement from some of the public, and were loved by a very small number of officers, the bikes were of course old technology and did not compare well with more modern Police motorcycles. They did look so very old fashioned when lined up alongside modern police motorcycles.
They were eventually deemed unsuitable for police purposes. They were sold by auction in Inverness on 11th July 1980 and attracted much interest, realising a considerable amount more than the force had paid for them.
Throughout their police service, the bikes bore their original 1950s VRMs of:
The group photograph of the six bikes was taken outside the Traffic block of the original (now rebuilt) Force HQ at Old Perth Road, Inverness on the day prior to the auction, and their "riders" are police and civilian staff then employed in HQ Traffic Department.
One of the bikes – 444 ALD – remains in the Highlands and is now owned by a former officer. It is depicted, as it currently is, with the petrol tank having been restored to its original military green.
I am most grateful to fellow retired officers for much of the information and for the photographs, and also to Dave Stapleton of The AFS Matchless Motorcycle Register www.afs-matchless.info/ – please visit their site for much more fascinating information about this batch of motorcycles and what has become of many of them.
Photographs not taken by me (but were taken by -and supplied to me by – fellow retired police officers)
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