Pressed into service

The BSA Fleet Star was one of a number of smaller capacity modified ‘civilian’ machines that were used by the police.

Words: ROY POYNTING Photographs: TERRY JOSLIN

Mention of police motorcycles tends to conjure up images of Triumph, BMW and Velocette twins, but a surprising number of other manufacturers managed to get a toehold into this lucrative market.

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Just to name a few there were Greeves Essex singles and twins, DMW Deemsters and, of course, there was the Francis-Barnett Falcon made famous by the ‘Heartbeat’ television series.

The second syllable of that title is significant, because a friend who was a motorcycle copper at the time tells me those smaller bikes – obviously not much use for high speed pursuits – were generally used as ‘beat’ bikes, patrolling rural lanes and byways, and quickly getting to the seat of an emergency.

The BSA featured here was another typical example of a relatively cheap and simple motorcycle converted for the long arm of the law, and initially used as a beat bike by the Gwynedd Constabulary in north-west Wales.

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Gwynedd Constabulary was subsequently amalgamated with other districts and became part of the North Wales Police Force, whereupon the BSA was relocated to Llanberis Police Station, which naturally had responsibility for policing the daunting 359m-high Llanberis Pass.

This was notorious for bottlenecks caused by breakdowns and sightseers, and the situation became so bad that when the Llanberis Police’s general purpose vehicle – a Mini-van – was sent to sort things out, it made things worse by getting stuck in the traffic queue.

As we all know, the ideal way to get past a queue of larger vehicles is on a motorcycle, and now Llanberis Police had one, they just had to find somebody to use it.

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The ohv engine could trace its lineage right back to Edward Turner’s 1953 Triumph Terrier.

Rather surprisingly, just one officer at the station – PC 107 Joseph Heddwyn Jones – held a motorcycle licence, and so, naturally, he got the job.

The little BSA proved ideal and until the pass was re-designated as a clearway, PC Jones was fully employed booking rubber-necking tourists for causing unnecessary obstructions.

Once its policing job was done on the pass, the machine spent a few more years in public service as a general runabout for the Gwynedd Highways Department, before passing into private ownership.

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Read more and view more images in the August 2019 issue of TCM – on sale now!

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