Ariel were a British bike manufacturer based in Bournbrook Birmingham, the company first produced bicycles starting in 1870 later going on to produce cars for a short number of years between 1902 and 1925. Their major success came from their innovative motorcycle designs under designers Val Page and Edward Turner. The company ceased trading in 1951 when it was sold to BSA "Birmingham small arms" but BSA traded the Ariel name along side it's own until 1967 while it built it's reputation as a bike manufacturer.
Today I would like to introduce you to a machine that took part in the war effort. This is the Ariel W/NG 350, at the start of world war 2 Ariel approached the UK government offering this bike as a possible front line workhorse but the competition was tight and the main contract was given to Norton. That said the war department made a order for a couple of thousand of these to be stored and used as a back up in a crisis.
That crisis happened a couple of years later, the mass evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk. After losing the battle of France thousands of troops were surrounded in the Dunkirk area and it looked as though they would be taken prisoner or be slaughtered but in a massive effort involving military and civilian boats a rescue plan was hatched. In the space of 8 days some 338,226 troops were saved from the fate of the German army. In the need to retreat at speed the emphasis was on saving human life and much of the machinery of war was abandoned.
This is where the back up plan came into action, the UK war department called upon Ariel to release as many bikes as possible, more than had been originally ordered, the factory work day and night to produce more bikes and also converted civilian models for military use. The first batch were delivered in August 1940 with some being shipped to France, over the next few months they managed to turn out about 10,000 of these battle ready machines.
These bikes saw service all over Europe and within the British isles, this one was said to have been used as a messenger bike carrying important documents to government department as they made their plans to fight back after the retreat. I haven't been able to find any genuine evidence of this but have no reason to doubt it.
This bike is not totally original, the tank badge has had it's green paint removed, the headlight cover also had to be removed to allow use on road under modern rules. Little details remain like the canvas handgrips which due to rubber shortages were used also you may notice the foot rests are bare steel for the same reason. As a earlier model this has aluminium engine cases, again due to material shortages later models had pressed steel engine covers. By the end of the war some 35,000 bikes had been produced and in post war nations like Denmark placed large orders for their military along with other allied nations, many of the bikes that stayed in the UK were converted and sold to the domestic market second hand through dealerships, for that reason genuine war department bikes like this are pretty rare.
Hope you enjoyed this post, it's was meant as a introduction to the bike rather than a historical record, to have gone into more detail about the war would take way too much time, this is just a attempt to show how small individual companies made great efforts to aid the nation in times of troubles.