NORTHOLT, RAF base. My grandfather on … Well, this motorcycle could not be identified. Is that ARIEL SV? Or maybe British HOREX? It is known for certain that it has worn tires.
It is 1940, the Battle of Britain is in progress, of which Polish airmen are undeniable heroes, and among them probably the most famous 303 Squadron. But planes must have ground crew to fly. One of its members is a mechanic, Jan Ślizankiewicz vel. John Walters. It would not be anything unusual if it wasn’t for the fact that he was my grandmother’s brother. Almost my grandfather. Can you have a passion for machines and motorcycles in your genes? Everything points to that because my grandfather, who stayed in London after the war, was an avid motorcyclist. And this is the story of how I found out.
303 squadron in which my grandfather was a mechanic. In this photo he is sitting on the wing on the right.
When my grandmother died, I found albums full of different photos in her apartment in Warsaw’s Powiśle. Most of them told me nothing. People, places, situations – riddles themselves and nobody who will answer all the questions. Among the black and white traces of the past, however, were those that caused me to freeze for a moment – in the pictures was my grandfather and his motorbikes. It was something! Yes, but what are these machines? There were so many motorcycle brands in the UK that there are not enough hands to count. What is a bigger garage, a factory was being built soon. The outline of the logo can be seen in the pictures, but this is not enough to be sure. British motorcycles are rather rare with us, and only the most popular brands and models are known. So I turned to the fans of “island” bikes for help. Members of Great British Motorcycles and the Ariel Motorcycle group responded to my call to identify motorcycle brands and models.
My grandfather before the Polish pilots’ skip near RAF Northolt. Here on BSA, most likely C11 with a capacity of 250 cc (also recognized as BSA “big single” B31 or B33). Probably also in an air uniform.
Today in my family album I keep his photos, among them one, where the whole Squadron is. Unfortunately, I never met Grandpa myself, but one day even talking about relatives “in the west” was dangerous, let alone cultivating the tradition of soldiers fighting in the west.
Maybe you also have photos of your ancestors and their motorcycles in your family albums?