Classic WLCs in Wartime Photos

 


Photo from an unknown source

'42WLC Model'

An unidentified Canadian Serviceman poses on a 42WLC in front of the Army Barracks.

The photo gives a clear view of the high mounted headlight and marker light of the early 42WLC.
The thread on the Firestone 400-18 Sportsman tires is clearly visible.

A number '13' has been painted on the front fender tip. No other markings are visible in the photo.

 

'Check Point'


Photo: Imperial War Museum 

Corporal Power of the Canadian Provost Corps checks the driver of a Ford sedan for his license and other paperwork. The bike is perfect example of the 42WLC Model with high headlight and auxiliary tool box on the front fender. The tandem seat has been taken off. White painted fenders and bumpers and Black-Out shrouds on the headlights and fender light suggest this photo was taken somewhere in England.
Note the British Style Canadian Defense Forces Vehicle Number C-M4202524

 

'Dispatch-Rider'

Private J.W. King (left) accepts a pigeon message from corporal J Honley of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals somewhere in England.
The date is February 10th, 1943.

The image offers a clear view on the 42WLC Model with Auxiliary Tool Box on the front fender. Although the tandem seat has been taken off, the passenger foot peg and bracket are still attached to the rear forks. The Auxiliary Stop Light Switch is visible on the frame just above the rear end of the tool box.

The marking on the oil tank is a white and light blue square indicating a Corps of Signals unit; the number '9' remains a mystery. The vehicle number has rubbed off from the oil tank.


Photo from the Ottawa Canadian Archives

 


Photo from the Ottawa Canadian Archives

'Checking the map...'

Dispatch-Riders Doug Reid and Norman Given of the 9th Infantry Brigade checking the route of a convoy taking part in a training exercise in England on May 17 1944.

Another interesting view of the 42WLC as used in England;  and again the tandem seat is removed. The round oil filter is barely visible in the photo towards the back of the rear cylinder head. The air cleaner bracket can be seen bolted to the upper battery box and rear fender bolts.
The fuel shut off valve is pulled all the way up for 'reserve'.

Note the Vehicle Registration Number CC-1040822 on the gas (petrol) tank.

Both riders are equipped with US Made M1938 Resistal Goggles, the pair worn by Reid have the Canadian 'Broad Arrow' acceptance stamp just visible above the left eye piece.
The 'Canada' title and colored rectangle on the sleeve indicate the Canadian unit these riders belong to, with the 'DR' badge worn on the lower left sleeve.

 

'On the Way to Brussels'


Photo Imperial War Museum published in Peter Taghon's 'BelgiŽ 44' in 1993

Cromwell tanks of the British Guards Armoured Division drive thru Halle on their way to Brussels on September 4th, 1944. They are cheered on by the crowds, but a number of them seem to have a special interest in the motorcycle of which the windshield is visible in the photo's lower right. Unmistakingly it's a WLC, although it's not clear whether or not the Guards were issued these bikes..... A mystery....
Note the German truck burning in the background.

 

'Canadian Liberator'


Image from CI2WO published in Peter Taghon's 'BelgiŽ 44' in 1993

On September 12th, the 12th Manitoba Dragoons of Canada liberated the Belgian Town of Brugge.
The above image shows Canadian troops just before entering the Smedenpoort, one of the ancient town gates.....
A Dispatch Rider, wearing breeches, motorcycle boots and crash helmet is talking to the crew of an International made M5 Half Track of an unidentified unit. The motorcyclist has left his WLC on the left side of the road, partially obscured by the two little girls. 
The larger rear lights identify it as a 42WLC. It is equipped with a Windshield; there appears to be some marking on the lower front part of the clear plastic shield..... During production the 42WLC was not equipped with saddle bags but on this bike standard WW2 British motorcycle pannier bags are fitted. 
A young boy looks with great interest at the bike; did it spark an interest in HD motorcycles???.....

 

'Royal Air Force WLCs'

  

Above are two images of 43WLC bikes in use by the British. The Royal Air Force used a considerable number of Harleys. It is still not clear if these were supplied from Canadian stocks or if they were delivered by the US under the 'Lend-Lease Act'. Although the foot clutch and hand-gearshift made them unpopular with the British riders who were unfamiliar with that; the ride comfort soon made up for this. Both pictures show Dispatch Riders of the 83rd Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force (RAF). The markings show the RAF Serial Number (RAF157684 on the right picture) on the front fender with the unit marking underneath. The meaning of the letter 'M' has not been determined. Maybe it stands for 'Medium'? These bikes would have been delivered in factory US Olive Drab and would not have been repainted until after the war. Oddly the front Black-Out light seems absent on both bikes......
The left picture shows two WLCs at the head of their unit about to leave Creully, Normandy, France in July 1944, while the right picture shows Reg Humphries astride his bike in Holland in late 1944.
(Left Courtesy Imperial War Museum and Right 'British Forces Motorcycles 1925-45' by Orchard & Madden)

 


Photo Imperial War Museum published in Paul Crucq's 'Turning the Key, the Capture and Liberation of Walcheren' in 2003

This 43WLC was photographed in front of the railway station of Middelburg, SouthWest Holland between the 7th and 10th November 1944. The motorcycle as well as the Humber Light Reconnaissance Cars in the background belong to the Royal Air Force' 2777th Field Squadron, 84th Group, RAF Regiment which was on Walcheren to find a suitable place to install the RAF experimental radar 'NELLY".
Note the red, white and blue roundel marking on the petrolo tank.

 

'Riding Out'

This Canadian Officer(?) takes a 'Export' 43WLC out for a ride.

Place and date are unknown.


Photo from an unknown source

 

'Dutch Spring'


Photo from www.noviomagus.nl via James Thompson

Two Canadians ride their 43WLC near Nijmegen, Holland in the spring of 1945.
Both bikes have been adorned with national symbols and white painted parts and the bike on the left has a spotlight added to the front safety bar.
The TacSign '552' painted on a green and red field on the front fenders indicate these vehicles belong to No. 64 Army Transport Company, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (R.C.A.S.C) attached to the Canadian 1st Army, of which the insignia is visible on both bikes (Yellow Maple-Leaf on red and black field). The white line underneath the '552' sign indicates a unit attached directly to an Army Level Headquarters.

More pictures of this unit can be found Here! 
The rider on the right has been identified as Private Howard Herrington by his daughter Heather Hamill and her husband Dick. Pte Herrington often talked about his motorcycle days during the war. He joined the Canadian Army in July 1941 and was discharged in Feb 1946. After the war he bought a Norton and toured all of Canada and the USA on it. He always loved motorcycles.

 


Private photo via Kurt @ 45 Parts Depot

'Pick your WLC...!...'

At an Ex-Canadian Army Depot in Holland shortly after WW2, Dutch civilians are going thru a dump filled with WLC motorcycles.

A couple of British made bikes are visible, but most seem to be either 42WLC or 43WLC Models.
Note the different markings, both round and rectangular Air Cleaners and both styles of rear lights.

This might explain why so many ex-military Harleys ended up in Holland after 1945.

 


Private photo via Erwin Peters

'Belgians Can Do Too!...'

Herman Wirix poses on a Royal Air Force marked WLC in Germany. The bike may have come from the British, or it may directly have been supplied by the US under 'Lend-Lease'

Wirix served as a member of the Belgian Auxiliary Air Police Service (BAAPS) with the RAF.
2 BAAPS Units were created at the end of WW2.
BAAPS I served under command of the US 9th Air Force, while BAAPS II was attached to the 2nd Tactical Air Force of the British RAF.
The main task of the BAAPS was to help the Allied Military Police in their task of guarding the airfields; but they were also used to guard German Prisoners. BAAPS II served in Germany from August 1945 until September 1946.
For more on BAAPS Click Here!

The bike is a 43WLC Model set up in 'Export' version. A Black Out Shroud has been added to the Headlight. It is equipped with a windshield with leatherette apron. The extra stand mounted to the front axle is just visible.
This photo gives another clear view of the Firestone tires.

The bike is marked to the RAF Police attached to Tactical Air Force (Police?) Headquarters (TAF PHQ). Note the RAF Registration Number RAF 157554 painted on the oil tank. Crashbars have been painted white...

This picture was probably taken in or around Bad-Meinberg on March 16th, 1946...

 

  
Photo: Belgian Armed Forces

'Belgians & Canadians'

After WW2, Germany was divided in different Occupation Zones and the area stretching from the Belgian border to the East was occupied by the 1st Belgian Corps. There were Belgians in Soest (Nordrhein-Westfalen) until 1994, when the 4th Belgian Brigade was disbanded.

Shown left are two riders, one from an unknown Belgian unit and another of the Canadian Army.
They are watching a military vehicle column on the 'Hiddingserweg' (B1 Road) in Soest.

The uniforms, Sten Gun and insignia all date this picture to the early 1950's.
 The Belgian Sergeant rides an FN (Fabrique Nationale) Mk XIII Motorcycle with special front fork suspension.

The WLC on the right is a standard 43WLC 'Export' version with the rear luggage carrier removed.
The markings on the front fnder are not clear
.

Note the GMC Truck in the background. The Belgians would use these trucks well into the 1970's.....

(Thanks to M Bogaert for identifying this road in Soest)

 

'The Big and Small of It'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

This picture taken at Hofgeismar, Germany, in July 1945 shows both the biggest and smallest of vehicles produced in the US during WW2.

A soldier clearly identified by the trousers and 'Double Buckle' Combat Boots as an American GI, sits on a 43WLC with British Royal Air Force markings in front of an M26 Pacific Tank Transporter.

The markings on the M26 are ASCZ 45? ORD EVAC, which means the vehicle belonged to an Ordnance Evacuation Company attached to the Advance Section of the Communication Zone... The company number is most likely the 456th, but could be the 455th or 458th... The vehicle carries the nickname LITTLE JOE above the windscreen...
The US Army Ordnance Evacuation Companies were tasked with the transport of tanks or other heavy loads and may have had a British WLC mounted motorcycle escort that day.

This picture came from the effects of a soldier of the 307th Field Artillery Battalion of the 78th Division...

 

 

'Yes, the US Army used the WLC during WW2!....'

 

The pictures below prove the WLC Model was used by the US Army during WW2.
There are a few other pictures showing WLCs in use by a US Army MP Unit in the Continental USA, but their use remains highly exceptional.
There's has been no documentation available to establish why and how many WLCs were delivered to the US Army.

 

'9th Air Force Signal Corps Messenger'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

These pictures show a WLC in use by a Signal Corps unit of the US 9th Army Air Force in Europe during WW2.

The above picture shows the bike just prior to, or just after the Normandy landings, either in Britain or France.
It is marked to an unidentified Signal Corps unit of the 9th USAAF. It is a standard 'Export' 43WLC with an added rear view mirror which seems to have come of a Dodge or GMC Truck.
The invasion bar unit code is painted on the front fender and German minefield flags adorn the windshield.
Visible above the bar code is the 9th AAF's Spade Tactical Sign, also visible on the chest towards the left.
The clear screen has the Signal Corps Insignia and the word 'MESSENGER' stencilled on it.

Below are two more pictures of the same bike with the same GI's, posing with a local girl and her father.
These photos were probably taken in the fall of 1944 in France.
By now several parts of the bike have been highlighted in white for better visibility and the Black-Out shroud on the headlight has been removed. It seems the rear lights have been replaced too.

Note the wear of both patterns British Made ETO jackets and the USAAF Shearling Flying Trousers worn by the rider below right.

    
Photos from the Webmaster's Collection

 

 
Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'Another US Army WLC!!...'

Three GIs fool around on a motorcycle somewhere in the ETO in 1944/45.

Although the soldiers are clearly American, the bike is definitely a WLC evidenced by the small CMP Rear Lights and the Rear Stand equipped with Sand Pads.
This is another proof that the US Army did use WLC models during WW2.

A small plate bearing the number X-62070 has been attached underneath the rear lights.
X pre-fixed registration numbers were issued by the US Army's Ordnance Corps to vehicles which either had lost their original number or to non-US-Army vehicles which were put into US Army use during the war.
The 'Ace of Spades' marking next to three color code bars on the rear fender is the tactical marking of the 9th Army Air Forces.
For more on this insignia Click Here!

Two GIs are wearing British Made ETO Field Jackets which confirms these men belonged to an Army Air Force unit which were issued these garments in large quantities.

 


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

'2 GI's on WLC?!?'

Two GI's pose on a Liberator, near the end of WW2 in Europe.

Although the bike looks like a WLA at first glance, some details indicate that it's most probably a WLC.
Close scrutiny of the original photo shows a CMP style tubular marker light on the front fender. The oil feed line appears to be rubber and there are passenger foot pegs just behind the footboards. The front hub is clearly WLC style and the T-handle of the front axle is barely visible. These are all features of a 43WLC.
The handlebar grips are black rubber and there's no trace of a hand clutch lever nor hand clutch cable attached to the lever on the gearbox side.
Maybe the motorpool mechanics swapped the WLC handlebar with throttle on the left and spark control on the right, for a WLA set with controls on the 'right' side?
The ride control damper has been removed and a standard gun rack has been added. A M1 Carbine is carried in its leather scabbard in the bracket.
Legshields have been improvised and a painted panel with an invasion bar code and unit number is attached behind the gun bracket. A German gas mask canister is mounted on the front.

The windshield apron marking tells us the bike belongs to a 3rd Army unit. 

 

'Military Police Line-Up'


Photo from the Webmaster's Collection

The Jeeps and Motorcycles above are marked to a US Army Military Police unit.
This is confirmed by the uniforms worn by the soldiers next to the vehicles.
The unit insignia painted on the windshields between the 'M' and the 'P' cannot be identified.
The picture was taken in front of an MP Radio Station in Echternach, Luxemburg in 1945.

While the bike in the foreground is clearly a WLA, the other three motorcycles are WLC Models.
The shrouded headlight, fender marker light and rear lights, along with the absence of the Ammo Box and the reinforced rear stand are all typical features of the WLC. The picture below shows these details even better.....

 

My sincere thanks to Prem Zizka and Frank Berg, as these WLC-pages would not have been made without their support and encouragement, to James Thompson for sending me several photos and to Clive Law who has been a great help in gathering information and who is currently working on a
book about Canadian Military Motorcycles.