The Norton WD16H is a single cylinder 490cc side valve engine with a bore and stroke of 79 x 100 mm. Norton was the main military motorcycle supplier prior to WW2 and one of the main suppliers of motorcycles to the British Armed Forces during WW2 for whom they produced almost 100,000 motorcycles. Military orders were placed for the 16H from 1936 and continued throughout the course of the Second World War, setting a ten year record for the longest time the War Office procured a single make of motorcycle. These bikes were supplied to the Australian, New Zealand, Indian and the Canadian Armies.
While it was used a lot by despatch riders, the WD16H was also used for training, reconnaissance, convoy control and escort duties.
Military Motorcycles left the Norton factory in Army Service Green, Khaki green, Khaki brown or Olive green, depending on colour specified at time of production. Prewar RAF machines (up to September 1939)were delivered in RAF Blue.Wartime RAF bikes were identically coloured as the “Army” bikes. A number of machines were painted sand ‘desert camouflage’ by local workshops in the Middle East and used in Palestine and the North Africa Campaign.
This is my Norton WD16H from 1944 in civilian, silver and black trim. The frame was built under contract S2602 which was scheduled for delivery at 1600 per month commencing January 1944. There are no surviving records of machine allocation – these were all destroyed when the new registration system was introduced in 1948 / 49.
Machines with consecutive numbers could be sent anywhere in the world. However, by mid 1944, there were really two main possibilities – The British in NW Europe had by and large stopped taking 16Hs but the Canadians still did. Machines from this contract appear in late war photographs.
Perhaps most likely is that they were sent to the ‘Far East’ – initially to India for further distribution. There was a substantial stockpiling through 1944 as the war in the Pacific was not expected to end as soon as it did.
These later bikes do have the convenience of the last ciphers of the frame number matching the census number-military registration number- usually applied on the petrol tank, made up with white numbers-sometimes, in a black square with a white edges. so my motorcycle would have been C5271641.