Seventy years ago, my father, G.W.D Slack, fought in Normandy on D-Day. Like many who served, he seldom spoke of his experiences, but did recount one story to me when I was a child.
Before the Channel crossing, he was given a heavy pedal bike which he carried onto a boat, then onto a landing craft and eventually ashore on his arrival at Sword Beach.
After crossing the beach, under enemy fire, still carrying the bike, he made his way to the road and was about to ride forward in the attack when an officer told him to get rid of his bike and walk as there were mines everywhere.
He passed away in October 2012 and left me his medals.
– letter from George Slack, Daily Mail, 5th June, 2014
Preparation for D-Day actually started in august 1943, with the Allies’ preliminary plan. On 6th June 1944, 156,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy. Five days later, a total of 326,657 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been delivered to the beaches. It became the largest single military operation in history.
1944 BSA Airborne Paratrooper Bicycle
Frame No R48672
This folding paratrooper bike was recently discovered after being stored in a garage for many decades. It was covered in a thick grease which protected the paint and prevented it from rusting. The chainset and rear wheel had been replaced with a 3-speed. However, the original rear wheel and this chainset were present too. Once in our workshops, the grease was cleaned off and the chainset and wheel fitted, as well as new tyres and tubes.
My inspection reveals two discrepancies. The tommy bar on top of the handlebar works fine but is bent on one side; it would not be hard to straighten it. And the chainset has been chromed; I’m not sure why. I’m now advised that it may not be original. The chrome is now quite worn; it could be scraped off (or soaked in acid to remove it).
The paintwork on 1944 BSA Airborne # R48672 is in excellent unrestored original condition, as are its original transfers (decals). All its components are original specification and it even retains its original BSA handlebar grips (On most surviving BSA Airbornes they’ve been replaced with repro grips). I fitted a saddle with an original frame and replacement BSA leather top. The retractable pedals operate freely, and the bicycle folds easily.
It’s not easy to find good original unrestored examples these days. This is as good as any original BSA Airborne I’ve come across recently, and it’s ready to use and display.
As you can see (below) the rear sprocket is also marked BSA.
D-DAY 5th JUNE 1944
CANADIAN INFANTRY WITH BSA AIRBORNE BICYCLES:
HIGHLAND LIGHT INFANTRY
WEST NOVA SCOTIA HIGHLANDERS
WW2 BSA AIRBORNE FOLDED
POSTWAR: BSA AIRBORNE ARMY SURPLUS SALES
QUEEN MARY INSPECTING THE TROOPS