70 Years Ago Britain’s Motorcyclists Still Felt Effects of WWII
By September 1947, World War II in Europe had already been over for more than two years, yet the nation still struggled with rationing, restrictions and other privations they had experienced during the war.
This rare issue of Motor Cycling magazine, dated September 4, 1947 tells the story, starting with the Royal Enfield advertisement on the front cover.
“Recapture Pre-war Rapture,” the ad wistfully says above an artist’s image of a couple frolicking on a beach with their Royal Enfield 350cc Model G thumper in the foreground.
The ad hints at the problems of the time, saying, “Travelling easily and enjoyably wherever they go Royal Enfield Motorcycles provide a standard of reliability, as well as independent mobility, which is appreciated by the many Royal Enfield Riders who are doing their utmost to cope with the present demands.”
One of the major privations that directly affected motorcyclists and other members of the motoring public was denounced by the magazine’s Editor, Graham Walker. Walker wrote in his editorial about the announcement by the British government of new fuel austerity measures effectively banning “pleasure” motoring and limiting vehicle use to “essential” transportation only.
Walker said, “Stunned by the sudden nature of the blow, motorcyclists in the British Isles have probably yet to recognize all the hardships entailed in the ban on so-called “pleasure” motoring announced by the Government last week.” He went on to foretell the further breakdown of the already-overtaxed public transit system and the virtual end of British club motorcycle racing, the Isle of Man TT, trials and scrambles competition in 1948.
Later in that same issue of the magazine a writer pen-named “Carbon” resumed the discussion of the implications of the government’s action: “It is sad that most motorcyclists will not be able to get any petrol at all; what is really serious is that it will become an offense to use a motor for pleasure.”
Though the restrictions did go into effect, some competition did continue. The Isle of Man TT and Manx Grand Prix did take place in 1948 and Motor Cycling magazine did have some trials competition to report on in 1948. Ultimately, the “ban on the basic” as it came to be known was lifted and things began to normalize.
Enfield, for its part, was one of the brands that survived and thrived after the war. The company began manufacturing motorcycles in India since being incorporated there in 1955 when the Redditch Company partnered with Madras Motors in India to form Enfield India, Ltd. When Enfield folded its U.K. operations in 1971, manufacturing continued in India.
Initially only the 350cc single-cylinder Bullet model was manufactured in India; 800 of which were for the government in India. However, product development at the Chennai manufacturing facility has continued to gain momentum in updating the product as well as at the firm’s new technical center in the English county of Leicestershire, U.K.
Royal Enfield has been on a roll in recent years and in 2016 reported it had “achieved 50 percent growth in sales every year for the last five years.” In 2016, the company showed its intentions to be a bigger player in the North American market with the opening of its corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, Wis. We were there for the Grand Opening.
The motorcycle market changed after World Ware II, not only in Britain, but around the world. Not all the British brands endured the post-war years. For example, Sunbeam and Vincent HRD, one of Britain’s true early superbike brands foundered in the post-war period both were out of production by 1956.