The Birmingham Small Arms Company has a long history as a firearms manufacturer and was also well-known as the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer during WWII. In 1939, BSA began production of a military version of their M20 commercial motorcycle that was fitted with a Lucas light which is a military signaling lamp and other additional equipment.
It was powered by a 12hp single-cylinder 500cc side-valve engine and offered superb reliability and ease of maintenance. Modifications were made during the course of the production and late-war motorcycles featured an air filter fitted onto the fuel tank. Over 126,000 units were produced during the war and most of them were deployed with the British Army. They saw service on every front for a wide range of duties including liaison and supply convoy escort. Some were also used by the RAF and British Navy.
BSA workers employed making the M20 were killed in an air raid on the BSA factory in Armoury Road, Small Heath, Birmingham on the night of Tuesday 19 November 1940. The factory was one of the main targets for the Luftwaffe and at 9.25pm a low flying aircraft dropped two bombs which destroyed the southern end of the BSA building in Armoury Road. Rescuers included BSA's own fire brigade who pumped the Birmingham and Warwick canal dry putting out the fire. As well as 53 workers killed and 89 were injured. Much of the factory and equipment was destroyed or damaged but BSA had 67 factories so work was transferred elsewhere and production of the BSA M20 continued.
After the war, the M20 continued to serve throughout 1950s and some were even used until the end of the 1960s.
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