A chance search by a son to find a motorcycle his late father rode as an Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS) despatch rider in Cornwall in the early 1960s, found him visiting Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Mark Barnicoat travelled from Luton with his fiancé Katie Barr and his mum Elaine Barnicoat, who made the journey from her home in Falmouth in Cornwall, to see the vintage Matchless motorcycle her husband Roy Barnicoat rode, that is now part of a heritage fleet owned by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.
The visit came after Roy sadly passed away in 2021 and Mark and his mum were looking through some old photos. They found several images of Roy from his Auxiliary Fire Service days, including one of him with a Matchless G3L motorcycle. Elaine recalled he absolutely loved riding the bike and remembered it fondly, so Mark decided to try and find it.
He started with the DVLA website and the vehicle registration, which luckily appeared on a photo. To his surprise he discovered the bike was still in existence and his dream of tracking it down then began in earnest.
After many internet searches he eventually found it pictured on display at the Sandbach Transport Festival, so he contacted the event organiser, who then contacted Chester Station Manager Andy Gray. Andy had entered the bike in the show so immediately phoned Mark. After a long chat Andy invited the family to Cheshire to come and see it, and they made the trip in April.
Mark, Elaine, and Katie met Station Manager for Road Safety Ryan Swindells on the day, along with firefighter and classic bike enthusiast Zach Burns at the Service Training Centre at Sadler Road in Winsford. The family got to know more about the bike and what the Service uses it for, which is as an interactive tool to help educate bikers on road safety.
Mark said: “I couldn’t believe it when I found it registered. I thought it would be long gone so I’m happy to see it’s still going strong. It looks really well cared for and still in its original condition, which is amazing.
"I’m just sad dad didn’t get to see it. He’d have loved talking about his days in the Auxiliary Fire Service and how he rode the Matchless in action as part of his role.”
Firefighter Zach Burns said: “The chance of ever tracing the history of a vintage vehicle is pretty slim, so it’s lovely to know where this bike started its life and who rode it in the early 1960's. It’s a cherished part of our fleet so knowing this history now makes it extra special to us.”
The Matchless is a 350cc bike that was built to Home Office specification and painted green. They were used to escort the famous Green Goddess fire engines. Roy was stationed at Sea View Road Station in Falmouth and due to the station being in such a remote location the bike and his work was invaluable during the during the Second World War.
Elaine said: “My husband absolutely loved motorbikes and owned a few himself when he was younger. Latterly he’d spend hours just searching and looking at different bikes on the Internet. Everyone at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service have been lovely and I’ll never forget it, seeing my son sat on the bike.”
The bike is quite rare and was purchased by Cheshire Fire Road Safety Team a few years ago, from an enthusiast on the South Coast. The team were searching for something a bit different but with a fire service connection, to use as a method to engaging with a different audience of bikers. They came across the authentic Matchless, which was perfect, so it now goes to station open days and events across the county.
Last updated: Monday, 22 May 2023