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To most people, the mention of the Police using lightweight motor cycles for beat patrol duties in the 50s and 60s would mean LE Velocettes, the occasional Ariel Leader and, alright, I don't actually watch the telly programme with Nick Berry myself, but allegedly the odd Francis-Barnett. I'd be very surprised if anybody suggested Raleigh mopeds. There was at one time, however, a sizeable fleet of Raleigh RM5 Supermatics in use with Lincolnshire Constabulary on rural patrol duties. I only became aware of the fact when fellow Granadaland member Glynn Stockton bought not one but two of the things from a member in the Potteries via an advert in Buzzing. Glynn thought that they were ex Hull Police - I think that was what he had been told - but the registrations, 'FFU' and 'EFU' suggested Lincolnshire. This was confirmed by EFU's old log book which showed Lincs Constabulary as the original owners.
Both differed from the usual RM5 specification: the obvious things being the provision of under-sprung single saddles in place of the standard RM5 dual-seat and a rear carrier with downward extensions for panniers. Both had windscreens and one had a battery carrier with a glass fibre cover in place of the LH toolbox lid. The colour scheme was blue and white. One of the 'pair', FFU 32D, was made to run and put in an appearance on the Three Sisters race circuit during the joint VMCC Cyclemotor Section/NACC parade at the September 1995 vintage race meeting. At the strictly non-competitive event where 'racing' was definitely not permitted, it came in a close second to a Cucciolo. The second and older RM5, EFU 71C, was in poorer condition mechanically as purchased and had obviously been taken out of use at an earlier date. It slumbered in the back of Glynn's garage for a while before I bought it in October 1995.
Wanting to discover more about its police career, I made contact with a friend who serves with the police in Grimsby. He in turn contacted the Lincolnshire police museum - run by a retired Officer - at Lincoln. The result was a photocopy of an article first published in the Police Journal in June 1995. The writer was the late John Barnett who was at that time the Chief Constable. "The Moped in Lincolnshire" is a fascinating article, beginning with some historical background information. Central to the reasoning in mounting the rural Countable on two wheels is the fact that a rural beat in the county (at that time) could comprise as much as 20,000 acres and include as many as five separate villages. Rural Beat Patrol Officers had been issued with cycles back in 1932 to "assist them in traversing unfrequented parts of their beats". Prior to this cycles were not issued as it was thought that the constables would make illicit use of them in their spare time. Manpower shortages and the introduction of a shorter working week in 1955 were behind the first moves at providing powered transport for the rural force.
This happened in 1954, when, as the Chief Constable intriguingly puts it "two autocycles were obtained ... on an experimental basis ... 28 similar machines were (subsequently) purchased". No make or makers are given, the only clue being the mention that they were fitted with a "hand-operated gear selector". What were they? It is of course possible that the machines concerned were LE Velocettes and that their description as "autocycles" is an error. However the article is really too well informed for a slip such as that. If any reader can shed some light here - possibly somebody has a surviving machine - I would be interested to hear, via Buzzing of course. * The hand changes on the mystery autocycles seem to have proved their downfall. Reading between the lines, it would seem that this feature proved to be beyond the comprehension of the majority of Constables given the job of riding them. "Police Officers using the machines soon found weaknesses" was how Mr Barnett put it. Perhaps there aren't any survivors. The availability of fully automatic machines in 1962 proved to be the important factor. "Then, for the first time, anyone who could ride a pedal cycle could ride an automatic moped without difficulty, thus eliminating the need for special training", wrote the man in charge. I know that there are some people who have been present at the various NACC runs over the last few years who may disagree with that statement, but there we are. After "a number of Mopeds" had been tested, the Raleigh RM5 Supermatic was selected. I wonder what the other contenders were. As "older machines" came up for renewal, they were replaced by Raleighs. At the time of the Chief Constable's article, 94 were in service. Apparently one of the tests involved scaling the hill through Waddington village - there is a photograph of an early leading-link fork RM5 performing this feat in the article. The machines were allocated to individual officers who kept them at home and were responsible for their appearance, the provision of fuel and repairs at a garage or garages "within their beat". A civilian specialist mechanic would inspect the machines at roughly one month intervals. They were retained for approximately 3 years (EFU 71C was in Police service for 3 years 7 months - though it may have ceased to have been used well before its date of sale out of service). During their active career they were expected to turn in a quite impressive 20,000 miles, accrued in a six hours a day, five day working week. The condition of the engines of EFU 71C and FFU 32D as received would certainly would back up this sort of mileage!
The riding attire of the Rural Beat Officer is worthy of mention. "With the exception of a specially constructed helmet, the uniform of the moped rider is identical to that worn by any other constable", writes the Chief - presumably from the warmth of his office. "This is most important if the Officer is to retain his image as a beat duty Constable." The helmet was the same as those worn by the riders of the LE Velocette 'Noddy' bikes. They looked like an ordinary helmet but were heavier, being cork reinforced, and had a double chin strap
The two survivors in Bolton differ in subtle ways. The 1966 machine has provision for a battery, as previously mentioned. It also has a rear stop light with the Lucas switch being activated via a link from an upward extension of the rear brake fulcrum lever. The presence of the battery box has led to the alloy Zefal tyre inflator being relocated on the top of the RH engine cover. The 1965 machine, which does not have any evidence of being battery fitted and does not have a stop light has the pump on the LH side. Both have screens of the same style - which, at a mere 1' 3" width, gives little protection to the rider's hands. Both have had a repaint at some stage, but retain an identical blue and white colour scheme. EFU 71C made it back onto the road in November 1995 following some major engine work, a clutch rebuild and some new parts, including a chain sprocket a little further down the drive train. FFU 32D is currently undergoing similar treatment at Glynn's, following its brief outing on the race track. EFU is capable of an honest 45 mph now it has been revitalised. More importantly, it has proved well up to the job of life in the Pennines, coping with the hills in a way that is impressive for a machine of its size and age. 1996 should see both out together - which is a nice thought, as both spent the years immediately following their Police days under the same roof - as a 'his and hers' pair in the (then) North Lincolnshire town of Grimsby. Hailing from that area myself and with family still there, I may yet transport EFU 71C over there for a return visit at some stage.
* The most likely candidate for the mystery autocycle would be the Excelsior G2 Autobyk. Assuming the information in the Police Journal article is accurate, this would be the only available machine to fit the description.
First published - April 1996
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