During the 51 years of its existence the Birmingham Small Arms Company has had to face and overcome many difficulties and has formed a close acquaintance with mighty national and international problems in its dealings with Governments. Its progress, from its inception by a combination of a few individual gunmakers to its present world-renowned position, has been marked by a continuity of sound principles with the happy direction of far-sighted, broad-minded and progressive business men. And well it has been so. For all those problems and difficulties of the past faded into mere nothingness before the appalling situation disclosed on that memorable day in August 1914, when war was declared between England and Germany.
– ‘Munitions of War: A Record of the Work of the BSA Company During the Great War’
BSA was the world’s leading supplier of military bicycles. Prior to 1910, bicycles were supplied as fittings only, to be assembled locally. With international orders, this avoided import tax. Australia, for example, published guidelines as to how rough the imported parts must be in order to qualify for import tax exemption. The Australian bicycle and motorcycle industry was founded on BSA Fittings, so BSA parts were the most common to be found in Australian bicycles. When war was declared, BSA bicycles were supplied to Australian soldiers by the British government. You can see a typical example in the photo below.
1910s BSA Territorial with WW1 Military Fittings
(Fitted with Webley & Scott Bayonet Training Rifle for illustration only)
BAD TEETH NO BAR: A HISTORY OF MILITARY BICYCLES IN THE GREAT WAR
1914 BSA CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
WEBLEY & SCOTT BAYONET TRAINING RIFLE
Webley & Scott is best known for the standard issue service pistol used by the armed forces of Great Britain and its Empire from 1887 onwards. Officially known as ‘Pistol, Webley, Mk 1’ the initial contract was for 10,000 .455 calibre revolvers. It went through various model changes. The Mk IV was known as the ‘Boer War Model’ and the Mk VI was introduced in 1915, to be used for the duration of WW1. The company also manufactured flare pistols and a bayonet training rifle.
The Bayonet Training Rifle is constructed like a rifle with wood stock and cup steel butt plate. The action and barrel are just a tube, with wooden fore stock, containing a large coil spring into which a floating steel rod is secured with a steel disc to the front.
Upon contact with an opponent the rod compresses into the tube simulating bayonet combat, which, at that stage of WW1 was an everyday event on the Western Front.