If I'm right about the model, it was good preparation for the war years, as Dad became a despatch rider in the Royal Signals, and the BSA M20 was the model used by the military. It's a lot of bike for a 19-year old. Don't you love the fishtail exhaust pipe? Nice shoes, too -- Dad was a bit of dandy in his day.
Here he is again, five years later in Calcutta, outside a requisitioned house, Tivoli Park. Still looking sharp, Doug. Note my mother's name painted on the rear mudguard.
And here are a couple of the other guys in his section, giving a better view of the bikes. Is it obligatory, do you think, for DRs to look ultra-cool?
Standard issue BSA WD M20, I think? Not long after this, the army decided to replace the BSAs with American-made Indian bikes, and the DRs were not happy. Dad wrote in his memoir:
Our next surprise was the arrival of a lorry-load of timber crates all with American markings. On opening them they contained American-made Indian motor-bikes in knocked-down condition, which we were obviously supposed to assemble, and use, instead of our BSAs. They had "cow's horn" handlebars, plus foot-boards instead of foot-rests, a long hand-change gear lever, foot clutch, an immense leather saddle, sprung from the front, and coil ignition! The engine was a V-twin, and altogether we were not too happy with the idea, as on wet roads the very long wheel-base would be tricky to handle. Our worst fears were realised, and in wet weather they were very difficult to start and skidded out of control on bends unless we were very careful. We soon found out that the enormous leather saddles did not dry out during the monsoon, so we always started off with a wet seat.
It was around this time that my genes had one of several narrow war-time squeaks:
Whilst we were not using our bikes I took the chance to strip mine down for a good overhaul. I undid the bolts holding the two halves of the petrol tank together and when I took them off I found tucked up between the two halves a stick of bamboo about six inches long. One end was the large knot which formed an effective seal, the other end had been plugged with some sort of cement, from which protruded two wires - one was earthed to the bike frame and the other was supposed to be on one of the spark-plugs, but it had come adrift. Had it been connected, as I kick-started the bike it would have exploded and I would have had a lapful of burning petrol.
The British Army was not universally popular in the last days of the Raj, of course. Having survived Dunkirk and the North African Desert, that unit of DRs had a number of very close shaves in the "friendly" environment of Calcutta. I think they were glad to ship out to Burma.