EARLY METROPOLITAN POLICE L.E.s – OCTOBER 1957 (LOOKING BACK No. 33)

The Police took an interest in the L.E. right from the machine’s early days – indeed the first force to buy one of Veloce’s Everyman motorcycles was the Kent Police in March 1949. By early 1957, the Factory had supplied L.E.s to 25 Police forces, including some overseas.

But the prize for Hall Green was to convince London’s Metropolitan Police – Britain’s largest force – to take a bulk order. By the mid-1950s the Met was facing a manpower shortage, and the prospect of fewer Bobbies on the beat was viewed by the top brass at New Scotland Yard as pretty unpalatable. Putting their officers on motorised two wheels seemed like a solution. George Denley got wind of this, and Veloce’s sales director persuaded the Met to take some sample machines for evaluation. The factory’s sales records show that four L.E.s were supplied direct to the Police in May 1955. These machines were pitted against the products of other firms, particularly Triumph’s Terrier.

A Metropolitan Police publicity picture from summer 1955 taken at the force’s Hendon Driving School. A Triumph Terrier and one of the four L.E.s offered by Veloce for evaluation. Both machines are fitted with Olicana windscreens.

By late 1956, by which time Bertie Goodman had taken over as Veloce’s director of sales from the retiring Denley, the Met had decided to place a large L.E. order. The first machines were delivered in January 1957 to the force’s Hendon Driving School, where a training programme for some hundreds of volunteer officers – many of whom had no previous motorcycling experience – had been put in place.

A machine from the Met’s first big L.E. order in early 1957. The force were keen to offer reassurance that putting officers on motorcycles didn’t mean they would lose touch with the public.

By the autumn, Motor Cycling magazine’s Bernal Osborne, who was the title’s Midlands editor, was invited by Bertie Goodman to see the new Police machines in action. Osborne was a good friend of the Goodmans – indeed in the early 1950s they had sold him the prototype L.E. which had been road registered FON 898 during WWII for its first evaluation trials. I described this machine’s chequered history, including Osborne’s ownership, in Looking Back No. 17.

The article, which appeared in Motor Cycling’s 17th October 1957 issue, is reproduced here and describes in some detail the increased patrol work officers were able to achieve with the water cooled twin. The riders’ reactions to their new transport make interesting reading. Criticisms include difficulty engaging first gear – and the ratios not well spaced for patrol work – the need for a four speed gearbox, ignition cutting out and a requests by some riders for a taller windscreen. Overall, reactions are positive. My interviews with officers who became ‘Noddy bike’ riders mirror these – that the L.E. allowed the Police to cover more ground while still being able to keep in touch with the local community.

The metal shield over the left-hand cylinder head was one of the first modifications Veloce offered for Police models. This developed into the vertical plate fitted to the rear brake pedal – the idea being to protect the rider’s shoes from catching on the cylinder head nuts. Apart from this, and the reversed ammeter and ignition/lighting switch mentioned previously in my March Historian’s Notes, these L.E.s were standard 1957 models, with Rexine pannier bags and without radio equipment.

Bernal Osborne commandeered FON 898 from his wife for the trip to west London and he wasn’t particularly complimentary about how she maintained this historic machine.
 

Dennis Frost

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