Saturday, 9 April 2011

Old family photos

Every family has that box of old photos stashed away in some dusty corner of the attic or garage.  And as succeeding generations pass on the collection grows, like mushrooms in the dark, rarely ever seeing the light of day.

Every so often you drag the box out and among all the blurry photos (Why do we insist on keeping bad pictures?) and pictures of families you don’t recognize (Could that be second cousin Billy-Bob and his 17 children and step-children?) you find those hidden gems, memories of a distant and not-so distant past.

This is one such photo.

With Streaky in Digby

My father joined the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) in 1940 and served overseas during the war, stationed at various RAF bases in England and Scotland. While at RAF Digby one of his favourite pastimes was to take his dog Streaky for a ride around the base or into the nearest town. There was a war on so danger was a relative thing and ATGATT wasn’t a big deal for humans, but note the lack of protective gear on Streaky.

If any of my readers happens to have a familiarity with WWII vintage British motorcycles I’d sure be interested in knowing what he is riding. I would hazard a guess that it’s likely a BSA single, but that’s all it is, a guess.


  1. I'm pretty sure that is a BSA M20. The springer forks and rigid rear date it to early 1940s, perhaps 1941-2. Pretty common, with 126,000 in active service in WWII. I'm no expert, but I hope that is some help.

  2. Richard - Thanks for the lead. Looking at pictures of the M20 it seems they had the front brake drum on the right hand side, and this is on the left - a custom modification perhaps, or unique sub-model? Someone else suggested a Norton 16H which is also pretty close and does have the brake drum on the left. Would really need to know the tiny details that would differentiate both models to be sure.

  3. Wrote you a reply, then looked at a pic of a 16H and - yup, I think that's the one. I ride often with a guy who rides a 16H and it didn't suggest itself from the pic, but the details all match - front engine mounting, battery box, tank pads and so on. The curious thing is that the 16H pics I have been able to find are split about 50/50 between right and left mounted front drums. There's no logic to the dates, some are early and some are late, but British manufacturers at the time, and especially in wartime, would put on whatever they had in the shop that day. I think you definitely have an answer there. From Wikipedia: "British Army Nortons were also supplied to the Commonwealth forces such as Australian, New Zealand, India and the Canadian Army."


  4. Richard - Agreed. Checking a few more pictures it seems that's most likely what it was. Thanks for your help.


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