Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

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Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by GDOsborne » Sun May 20, 2018 10:45 pm

Hi there,

Looking to find someone that might know about WWII-era motorcycles. Specifically, I'm looking to learn more about the Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle. I am eventually looking to find one to purchase somewhere in the Commonwealth (ideally in reasonable condition). Here's a pretty good online description: http://www.roncobb.com/JamesML.html My grandfather was a motorcycle courier with 3rd Can Inf Div HQ on D-Day and rode a Famous James throughout Normandy, which is why I'm interested in it. Are there any in museums in Canada that anyone is aware of?

I found an online post discussing a Famous James ML, which provides some insight:
http://www.antiquemotorcycle.org/bboard ... 22017.html
James ML with a 122cc Villiers 9D 2-stroke engine. Made 1946-1948... ML stands for "Military Lightweight" and the 1946-48 commercial version shipped in large numbers to the USA during that time was based on the wartime ML which was a version of the 1939 K17 model James Lightweight motorcycle. Military versions were used by glider and airborne (parachute) British and Canadian troops and some MLs were landed on their Normandy beaches early on D-Day , June 6, 1944 for use in carrying messages to and from the Beachmasters who were directing troops and equipment under fire. The story goes that at some time that afternoon, a dispatch rider, more used to a full-size and much heavier motorcycle, was asked what he thought of the little James. "Oh! (he replied) "You wind it up and it goes - just like a 'Clockwork Mouse'". And ever since, the James ML has been nick-named, "The Clockwork Mouse".

An original reference to the "Clockwork Mouse" can be found here:
https://books.google.ca/books?id=k00dDA ... se&f=false

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Re: Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by Phil » Sun May 20, 2018 11:09 pm

Sounds like a fantastic plan! My Great Grandfather was a dispatch rider for the C.A.S.C. and I've got a couple bikes myself (not military related). I'll see what I can dig up, you might try on the Maple Leaf Up forums as well since they are exclusively gear/vehicle focused,

http://www.mapleleafup.net/forums/
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Re: Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by Phil » Mon May 21, 2018 9:47 am

http://cybermotorcycle.com/euro/brands/ ... cycles.htm

http://hmvf.co.uk/topic/5051-james-ml-clockwork-mouse/

Motorcycle James ML (Clockwork Mouse)

https://oldthumpers.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/james-ml/

The 122cc ML (Military Lightweight) was a development of a pre-war design adapted for military use with the intention that it be airdropped during WW II in the period after the D-Day landings to allow airborne troops greater mobility. The ML was nicknamed the ‘Clockwork Mouse’. It came hand geared with fold-able footrest and a quick unlock/lock handle to loosen the handlebars so that the handlebars could be turned in line with the motorcycle, for easier storage and transportation.

Military ML’s were made with numbers running from “ML2” through to “ML 8500” (with some rather odd gaps in the sequence) it is thought that somewhere between 6-7000 Military ML’s were actually built between 1943 and late-1944/early ’45.The last WD contract for ML’s was originally for some 3000 machines, with frame numbers running from “ML 7001” to “ML 10000?……but the last 1,500 machines from this contract were canceled after frame “ML 8500” due to the requirement for such machines having reduced with the end of the war in sight.

It is thought that these canceled WD models were simply built and finished as civilian models for sale from 1945 onwards. They were, it is thought, virtually identical to the standard WD model ML, with the addition of civvy paint, a speedometer, and a longer rear mudguard to accommodate a numberplate.Following construction and delivery of these canceled WD models, James simply carried on with ML production thereafter, continuing the frame number sequence from the WD models. Some of these early civvy versions were little different from the WD and WD/Civvy versions, some still retaining the military folding footrests, cylindrical toolbox, etc, doubtless to use up stocks of parts at the works.By 1947-48, the civvy ML had a few more differences/improvements over the WD model, including a different toolbox, lighting, handlebar mounting, etc, but was otherwise essentially the same bike.

It is quite easy to convert a post-war civvy James ML into the WD version. Long civvy mudguards can be shortened to the correct WD length, the lighting is standard Lucas (except for the headlight switch and panel), the fuel tank vented filler cap, handlebar clamping lever and folding footrests are all available as repro parts (the latter made by converting the rigid civvy ones), and spares for the Villiers 9D engine unit and carburetor are all available from Villiers Services.

The prefix used on the Mark 9D was ‘AAA’ with a the suffix ‘A’.The engine had a 6 pole 18 watt flywheel magneto, fitted with a flat aluminium dust cover it had a dome in the middle. A 3 speed gearbox was built in unit with the engine. It had a flat topped piston, 4 transfer ports, a single plate cork clutch and an endless roller chain primary drive enclosed in an oil-bath chaincase.

http://wwii.space/%D0%BC%D0%BE%D1%82%D0 ... %B8%D1%8F/

(translated)

The motorcycle was produced by James in 1942-1945. In total, 6 thousand cars were built. TTX motorcycle: engine - single cylinder; engine capacity - 125 cm³; engine power - 3 hp; gearbox - 2-speed.

https://mmoto.tk/%D0%BC%D0%BE%D1%82%D0% ... %BE%D0%B9/

(translated)

James ML 125

A few words about motorcycles of small cubes. They were used mainly in the German army, and there is no way to list all. Many models of DKW, "Ardie", "Victoria", "Maico" were used. Most of the two-stroke, with the block-motor (and the motors of the firm "Sachs" still had a deflector on the piston), with light tubular frames, they looked very miserable when they were piled on them by uncles with submachine guns. Extremely extravagantly looked and 125-cubic "James" and "Royal Enfield" in parts of the British Expeditionary Corps in France and especially in the Algerian desert.
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Re: Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by Phil » Mon May 21, 2018 9:50 am

Phil

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Re: Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by Phil » Tue May 22, 2018 11:28 am

Here's another for sale, in Kansas but a much better price, so far at $1,500 USD but reserve not yet met. The paper on the bike in the photo says 7,000 I believe, so that's probably what the seller is looking for -- perhaps a reserve around 5,000?

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-5320 ... 2983328197
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Re: Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by GDOsborne » Wed May 30, 2018 8:53 pm

Fantastic! Thanks Phil... I will definitely follow up on some of these leads... This is a great start.

Please post anything else you come across!!

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Re: Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by Phil » Wed May 30, 2018 10:10 pm

That one on eBay sold, winning bid:US $3,600.00. Certainly a tempting price.
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Re: Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by GDOsborne » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:35 pm

Wanted to ask a follow up question related to this. Specifically regarding what motorcycle couriers / liaisons would typically wear in WWII. In a separate thread I spoke about how my grandfather was with General Keller on D-Day and was ordered forward on motorcycle to connect with 7th Brigade (led by Harry Wickwire Foster).

The pictures above (and other ones I've come across) give an indication of what soldiers would have worn. However, I'm particularly interested to try learn about Canadian "D-Day motorcycle fatigues". The following picture has always struck me for a lot of reasons, but I'm interested to know if the fellow on the left would have been a motorcycle courier. If so, I feel like this is a pretty good clue given this is taken with 3rd Cdn. HQ and the General is present.

Image

Let me know what you think!

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Re: Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by Temujin » Thu Jun 14, 2018 2:38 pm

Here’s a link to Canadian Dispatch Riders in WW2

http://www.motorcycling.ca/remembering- ... tch-rider/

Also a film about DR training

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTerqATYvy4

The photo you have shown “could” be a DR.....But as you Grandfather was a Capt/Major in the Canadian Army at this time, it is unlikely he would have worn a DR uniform. If I recall, in his story about landing on D Day which you shared with me, he was ordered to connect with one of the Brigades, and he “requisitioned” a motorcycle to do this....so he would have probably been dressed similar to the two Generals in this photo.....normally Canadian Army Battle Dress

Typical DR uniform (very similar to what the man on the left Maj Gen Keller is wearing
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Re: Famous James Military Lightweight (ML) Motorcycle "Clockwork Mouse"

Post by GDOsborne » Mon Jun 18, 2018 2:17 pm

Fantastic. This is very insightful - greatly appreciated!

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