B5 Systems

The Welbike – WWII Minibike for Paratroopers

Developed at Station IX of the British Special Operations Executive, over 3600 Welbikes were produced during 1942 and 43. They were used operationally by the British 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions as well as Commando units.

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During World War II, Station IX was known as the Inter Services Research Bureau was located at Welwyn. Interestingly enough, everything developed by this organization gained a “wel” prefix such as the Welrod integrally suppressed pistol. They were produced by the Excelsior Motor Company, weighing in at 71 lbs, equipped with a 98cc engine.

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(Imperial War Museum Photo)

Due to British TTPs at the time, all equipment was dropped in containers and the Welbike was no exception. Naturally, this led to some problems. It became a bare bones affair with no lights and just a rear brake. Due to the restrictions on size some simple assembly was required to get it into action. In fact, it was designed to be removed from the container (marked “motorcycle”) and be off in 11 seconds. The issue was finding the darned things on the drop zone. Wandering around on a hot drop zone could hazardous to one’s health.

The fuel tank held less than a gallon and had to be hand pressurized due to its location in relation to the carburetor. But, you could get about 90 miles at 30 mph in a single tank.

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9 Responses to “The Welbike – WWII Minibike for Paratroopers”

  1. Chuch says:

    I love the history of anything with 2 wheels…thanks for sharing SSD.

  2. Lance says:

    Interesting, so that is how the welrod got it’s name http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welrod

  3. Sal Palma says:

    That’s a nice looking hard tail…

  4. Terry says:

    These days they are as rare as rocking horse shit and if you find one for sale on eBay or Craigslist, be wary as they are frequently advertised in scams. There is an English company selling replicas though:

    http://www.welbikeuk.com/about.php

    Cheers,
    Terry

  5. I will now boycott Soldier Systems as I am now frantically searching for one of these little mini bikes, and I’m 46 years old.

  6. Tom Payne says:

    http://www.fagenfighterswwiimuseum.org/vehicles/scooter/scooter.html

    Cushman, US maker of engines prior to WWII made three models for the US Army in WWII. Modesl 29(three wheeler), 32 and 53. The Model 53 was air dropable.

  7. Rotorhead says:

    http://www.fagenfighterswwiimuseum.org/vehicles/scooter/scooter.html

    Cushman Motor Scooter for WW2 Airborne troops

    This Cushman Motor Scooter was made for WW2 Airborne troops. The rugged, simple Model 32 was designed to travel through a foot of water, climb a 25 percent grade and had a range of about 100 miles.

    History

    The Cushman Motor Works was in the business of making engines for industrial and farm use. Around 1936 they decided that they could sell more engines if they made a scooter to put it on. The company grew slowly until WWII. During WWII they made three models of Cushman scooters: the model 32 as shown, a model 39 three-wheeler and a model 53 airborne that was parachuted out of aircraft. 495 of the Model 32 military scooters with side cars were ordered by the US armed forces in WWII.

    They were issued with 7-inch, 8-inch or 9-inch tires, and came with minimal lighting and brackets to save on materials. A statement to economy, the Model 32 could go over 75 miles on one gallon of gas.

    In the late stages of the war in Europe, Allied paratroopers used scooters like this one to maintain contact between units, increase their mobility and haul small loads.

  8. Theo says:

    FN made something similar, although larger, for the Belgian Paras after WW2. There are a lot of pictures of it being used in Dragon Rouge and Dragon Noir.

    http://motorcycle-74.blogspot.com/2010/09/fn-type-as-24.html