Matchless motorcycle combination with Vickers machine gun

The Motor Machine Gun Service was officially part of the Royal Field Artillery. MMGS batteries were allocated to each division of the BEF. Units consisted of 18 motorcycle/sidecar combos carrying six Vickers machine guns along with ammunition and spare parts, as well as eight motorcycles without sidecars and a couple of cars or trucks.

This Matchless motorbike is one of only three wartime machine-gun bikes in the country – the other two are in museums – and is the only surviving one made by Matchless.

This bike has a particularly interesting history – a batch of 250 of these bikes was manufactured in Britain in 1917 for the Russian military, our allies, but they then dropped out of the war and the bikes were no longer needed. This example didn’t see military action. It would have been at a British port ready for dispatch to the Russian Army but when they cancelled the order it was sold off.

When the machines were readied for dispatch they would have consisted just of the motorcycle and the sidecar. The Russians would have then added their own military hardware. The Vickers machine gun on this bike is a later edition but is just like the ones that would have been mounted on these bikes in the war.

It’s got an anti-aircraft machine-gun mount allowing the gunner to shoot in any direction. The machine gun is also detachable and fully telescopic so if you wanted you could take it off the bike and use it separately. The gun can be fitted to three separate mounts on the bike allowing the gunner to fire in all directions. The outfit can seat three people – one on the main saddle, another on a pillion saddle and a third in the sidecar. These would have been the ultimate motorbike attack vehicles of their day.

Not only is it a part of Russian military history but of ours as well. In 1917 Britain was producing the most advanced motorcycles in the world and this no exception.