Guns and Motorcycles: A Photo Essay

Presented without comment, because I am traveling today…

Bren and Thompson
M1909 Benet Mercie
M1909 Benet Mercie
Breda 30
Breda 30
Breda 30
Breda 30
Hotchkiss M1914
Hotchkiss M1914
Lightweight Air-Cooled Maxims
20mm Madsen
20mm Madsen
Thompson SMG
Colt M1895


  1. Ian (or anyone else), do you know where and when that image with the Schwarzlose was taken? I don’t recognize the motorcycle model or the uniforms, but those guys don’t look like Europeans and Austria-Hungary had no colonies. Could they be Italian colonial troops from WW2 or inter-war era? (Which used the Schwarzlose and the M95 Mannlicher rifles in 8x50mmR.)

    • Maybe those are Dutch colonial troops; the two soldiers’ uniform, puttes and hats seem to point to the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (the Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger or KNIL for short) during the inter-war era, as the Dutch used the Schwarzlose chambered for their regulation 6.5x54R round as M.08: the first batches were ordered from OWG; from 1915 onwards, the machine gun was produced under licence by the Artillerie Inrichtingen at Hembrug. In the inter-war era, the Schwarzlose machine guns of the Dutch army were converted to the unique 7.92 x 57R Schaarpe Patroon 23 round, used solely by The Netherlands and also known as 8x57R Dutch and 7.92mm Schwarzlose. I am not sure whether the Schwarzlose in the East Indies were also converted though.

      You can see a few period photographs of KNIL Javanese soldiers in this link (an Indonesian forum), including a couple of Schwarzlose M.08 pictures (one with a large shield) – just scrool down:

  2. So what we’ve learned today is that you can put a Breda 30 on your motorcycle, but you are then required by law to tape feathers to your helmet. Subtext: Italian machine guns are gay.

    Also, that tandem tricycle (snort) with the twin Maxims (well okay then): Could those guns traverse at all? The picture is fuzzy, but that mount looks solid.

    • Feathers only if you are a Bersaglieri, which is what most Italian motorcycle troops were. The Bersaglieri (which means sharpshooters) were originally a specialized light infantry reconnaissance force of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which couldn’t afford enough expensive cavalry. Special attention was given to individual marksmanship and physical fitness. Under the Fascists they transformed into a motorized reconnaissance force with lots of motorcycles, armored cars and trucks for mobility (which the regular Italian infantry in WW2 did not have). Along with the much later paratroopers they were the closest to an elite infantry force Italy had during WW2 (and even before that).

      • Hi Joel and Euroweasal, like you said the Belgasari were certainly an elite force and it could be argued that they were at the very least the equal of both their German counterparts and allied opponents
        Just to give an example the Italian Centauro Division was one of the better Italian formations in the Second World War and a large proportion of its component units were Belgasari. This division was instrumental in Rommel’s victory at Kasserine pass where it broke through the allied lines alongside the 10th Panzer division and destroyed an American combat engineer regiment in the subsequent rout. If I remember correctly the 7th Belgasari were personally commended by Rommel for their actions that day, they played a key role in the breakthrough at the cost of their commander being killed.
        Given the substandard kit that the Italians were using these achievements are all the more impressive. I know that a large part of Rommel’s success at Kasserine can be attributed to Lloyd Fredendall’s abysmal leadership but when you consider that these people attacked a force with superior numbers and equipment and still came out on top, suddenly the feathers don’t seem quite so silly.

    • A pair of maxims seems to be enough to provide fire in all directions: you never know who can dare to rob your luggage from the bellboys in their way to the balneary…

  3. The two guys with the Schwarzlose are Dutch colonial troops from the former Dutch East Indies (present Indonesia). The picture was taken during World War I, when trials with motorcycle transport were held. This method, however, was never adopted. The machine gun is a Schwarzlose M.12 as it was called in the colonies, and it differed from the Dutch M.08, M.08/13 and M.08/15 most recogniseably in the angled position of the grips. There also was a somewhat different model M.14, Both were made by Steyr, before and during WWI, in limited quantities: in total 4 prototypes,64 M.12 and 100 M.14. As far as I know, only one M.14 has survived. This was in the hands of an Australian collector, but was traded through the efforts of Henk Visser, and is at present in a Dutch museum. The type of motorcycle I don’t know, but I believe the Dutch East Indies Army used either Dutch or American makes.

    • That makes perfect sense, thank you. The guys don’t look like East Africans, either, and certainly not North Africans, come to think about it.

    • Thanks for the confirmation, Bas. I posted an answer to Euroweasel above, but you were faster.

      • No problem Aballe. The history of Dutch military firearms is quite complicated and so are the correct designations. And then we had the army, the colonial army and the navy, who all used different guns, different models and different designations. I still hope that one day I can make an English translations of the 5-volume series ‘Nederlandse Vuurwapens’ which deals with Dutch military firearms between 1813 and 1942, which I wrote in 1993-2001 with my collegue Guus de Vries.
        East Indies Schwarzlose machine guns were never chambered for the 8x57R. In fact, no East Indies gun ever fired that roudn. Instead, these used the .303 British in most of their eight models of Vickers machine guns, and a variety of other rounds in the Lewis, Colt-Browning and Hotchkiss MG’s.

        • “East Indies Schwarzlose machine guns were never chambered for the 8x57R.”

          I periodically try to get information on that round. Is it (or like) the 7.92x57mmR rimmed sporting version of the 7.92x57mm Mauser?

          No edition of “Cartridges of the World” I have refers to it.

          • The ‘Scherpe patroon No. 23’ (live cartridge No. 23), or 7.9x57R was adopted as a machine gun cartridge by the Dutch in 1925. Any stories about an adoption in 1917, or a rifle Model 1917 for this cartridge, as sometimes encountered in publications, is pure fantasy. The 7.9x57R was developed by the Dutch because it had shown to be very difficult to develop tracer and armour piercing bullts for the 6.5 mm round. Since the Dutch forces were using Vickers machine guns in .303 and German MG08 machine guns in 7.9×57, the new cartridge was a combination of the three, with the case head diameter of the 6.5×53,5 round, and a beafier bullet. The 7.9x57R was only used by the Dutch.

        • Thanks for your prompt and detailed answer. What about the short Madsen version used by the KNIL? I suppose those used the same round as the Mannlicher rifles and (varied) carbines, the 6.5x54R… Am I right?

          • Yes, all the Dutch Madsen machine guns (and I am sorry, but these were used in different configurations by the army, the colonial army and the navy) used the 6.5 mm round which, as Dutch researchers have established from factory drawings, should be correctly labelled as 6.5×53.5R.

          • Thanks for the clarification on the cartridge, Bas. I am aware of the array of Madsen variants used by different branches of the Dutch armed forces: despite the sheer dificulty such a task would entail, it is time for a brave team of authors to start working on a book devoted to the Madsen mg.

        • I wrote and posted my previous reply to your comment from my smartphone and forgot to congratulate you and Mr. de Vries for your excellent book on the Dutch Luger and also the monograph on the Dutch Mannlichers and their cartridge; both titles occupy a proud place in my shelf. I would very much welcome an updated, English language edition of your 5volume series ‘Nederlandse Vuurwapens’; perhaps you can produce a cartridge-era only version of your work, but that’s just one possible approach to the task of preparing a new, English language edition.

    • Bas – The Dutch M14 you mentioned was in the collection of the Australian War Memorial and was an officially sanctioned exchange between the two museums. It originally came from the Dutch East Indies and was in excellent condition.

  4. Well now .. Seem to me the US hasn’t been the only country (reference the US BAR walking fire ) to come up with something a bit on the far side reality, to say nothing of these “modern” machinegun designs. OHH yea!!What was it the Ausie RSM said about “beer bottles and rocks” hahahahah However there were a couple Brit desert units that made believers of the Germans with BRENS, Lewis, and Browning’s on jeeps and land rovers (right Earl!). In 1959, 82nd, in RECON Plt, we still had M38A1 jeeps mounting 1919A6’s on the pedestal mount.
    Thank you Ian.
    PS: Looks to me like our “uniformed guardians of peace and order on the American streets were at one time kinda serious when they said “HALT ..put your hands UP!”

  5. Very interesting photographs and commentary. That Zundapp KS750 with sidecar and MG-34 was probably the most effective and user-friendly motorcycle/machine gun combo of the Second World War.

    • I forgot to mention that they also made a neat little equipment/stores trailer that was towed behind the Zundapp/sidecar combo.

      • Earl .. In all honesty I cannot picture myself dashing across the country side on a dirt road blasting away in short bursts with a MG34 ! Recon Pltn had a required mounted fire course for our mounted 1919A6’s, not me, the mounted guy’s .. (I was mounted in a pair of Cochrans!) I NEVER saw those guy’s hit didley squat while moving at 10 MPH! I think as a means of getting your MG to a location from which you then engage the target … Now that was; I believe the idea. But I just never could get the hang of standing straight up in the bed of the jeep behind the A6, 7 ft off the ground; feeling very eye catching. LoL.

  6. Regarding the first image (the one with the Thompson), I remember reading somewhere that there was a special ‘bird-shot’ round developed specifically for the motorcycle mounted ones to ‘reduce casualties’ when it was used during car chases. -Doesn’t strike me as a particularity sensible idea (though might slightly improve chances of hitting anything)

    • The Thompson SMG/motorcycle combination surfaced with several big-city PDs during Prohibition, and then the “gangster rampage” of the early 1930s. They were often splashed in the newspapers and magazines like Popular Science, but there is no reliable report that any of these lashups actually saw action.

      The use of birdshot rounds in the Thompson for such duty would be dubious. Shooting at a fleeing Ford with birdshot rounds when the occupants would likely be firing buckshot and rifle-caliber FMJs in return wouldn’t be exactly a viable tactic.

      In fact, the whole idea is pretty ridiculous, and against some hard-cores like Dillinger and the Bowman brothers, etc., would mainly be a way to end up in the hospital, or worse.

      My vote for the most egregious one is the 20mm Madsen. As a way for, say, airborne troops coming in by glider to move a light AT weapon, it makes a fair amount of sense- as long as you fire it from a ground mount once you get it to where you want it.

      However, I would point out that one problem with firing the M2HB .50 Browning off a Jeep is that due to its recoil forces, bits tend to fall off the Jeep in question.

      What the recoil effects of a 20mm would do to a motorcycle and sidecar would probably make a good segment for a “Mythbusters” episode. Definitely in the “don’t try this at home” category.



      • This is an example of how some real heavy caliber weapons were in fact used to great effect. I have and will post when I find them pics of M2HB’s on Jeeps. Several groups operated at the same time as LRDG, which included the now famous SAS. They just needed added reinforcement to the under body .. no problem with the cradle or post mount. The patrol vehicles were initially armed with 11 Lewis machine guns, four Boys anti-tank rifles and a Bofors 37 mm anti-tank gun distributed amongst their vehicles.[14] By December 1940, the vehicle armaments had been improved and ‘T’ Patrol, for example, had five .303 Vickers Medium Mk. I machine guns, five Lewis guns, four Boys anti-tank guns and the Bofors 37 mm.[30] Another Vickers gun used was the heavy Vickers .50 machine gun, which would be mounted at the rear of the vehicle.[31] All of the unit’s vehicles were armed with at least one gun; each vehicle was fitted with six to eight gun mountings, but normally only two or three of them would be in use.[32]

        Supplementing their army-supplied weapons, the LRDG was equipped with surplus Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft guns which were acquired for their high rate of fire. The most widely used of these was the Vickers K machine gun, which was sometimes used mounted in pairs.[33] From mid-1941 the LRDG acquired .303 Browning Mk II’s from RAF stocks, also mounted in pairs, with a combined rate of fire of 2,400 rounds per minute.[34] When new vehicles were issued in March 1942, several were converted to carry captured dual-purpose 20 mm Breda Model 35s, which replaced the Bofors 37 mm, and each half-patrol was equipped with one Breda “Gun truck”. In September 1942 the .50 Browning AN/M2 heavy machine gun began to replace both calibres of the Vickers machine guns and the Boys anti-tank rifle.

      • Thankfully the 20mm Madsen was a selective fire weapon. I doubt they would fire full auto when mounted on a motorcycle sidecar…

      • The main differences between the AN M2 .50 and its cousin the M2 HB (heavy barrel) are:
        •Faster rate of fire (the AN M2 is almost 300 RPM’s faster)
        •It weighs 17 pounds less
        •Can only fire automatic (the M2 HB can fire single shots)
        •no quick change barrel on M2 ACFT Gun.

        This is not the same as the Vickers .50 but some sources seem to confuse the two machine guns.
        eon cannot get the pic to post, but is if a .50 BMG on a SAS Jeep.
        •Caliber: .50 (U.S.)
        •Action: recoil
        •Weight: 61 pounds
        •Length: 64 inches
        •Barrel: 37 inches
        •Rate of fire: 750-800
        •Muzzle Velocity: 2900 FPS
        An SAS Jeep mounting Browning AN M2 .50 machine gun

        Also COL Popski’s desert group made extensive use of .50 BMG on tricks and Jeeps.

      • The 20mm Madsen combo did quite well in combat though. While you could fire it from the motorcycle you were supposed to detach it and use it as a regular ATMG. The motorcycle was just a transport.

  7. An interesting book on a related topic is Bicycles in War by Martin Caidin and Jay Barbree, published in 1974, and used copies are still available. Forgotten Weapons is a great site. Keep up the good work.

  8. What is that motorcycle that the Russians are using? First I thought it was an Indian Scout based on the front forks, but the engine doesn’t look right to me.

    It looks to me that the DP-28 is a “kwik” detach from it’s motorcycle mount by merely lifting it out of the mount. Is that correct?

    What was the planned tactic of the Russian motorcycle troops? Fight from the motorcycle or dismount like the Germans?

    Finally, a couple of years ago I found a website about the WW2 German motorcycle ‘cavalry’, but didn’t bookmark it. Also, there was/is a video of these units on youtube that I didn’t bookmark. Does anyone have a link to either of these?

  9. I work for a company that provides IT support for Harley dealerships. The pictures were a big hit!

  10. Not that this needs any comments, Ian. Well, except for the one with the Thompson and the Bren. That one deserves an “overkill” as a title. In capitals and bold.

  11. Awesome set of pictures. Seems like a lot of countries were trying the motorcycle/machine gun craze. I kinda feel sorry for the poor bastards who only had a BICYCLE though!

  12. My wife got to drive Jaques Scorpion in 1993 while we were visiting the Portola Valley property. It was an impressive collection. If I remember correctly, he had the only civilian owned M-1A1 in the world.

    • That photo was take personally by Ronaldo Olive on September 7, 1960 during the Brazilian Independence Day Military Parade in Rio de Janeiro. The bike and gun were owned by the Polícia Militar do Estado da Guanabara (Guanabara State Military Police), and the Hotchkiss there is in 7×57.

  13. The picture about Hotchkiss machine gun was done in the 1960 during a military parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 7th september. This picture was originally published by a brazilian writer named Ronaldo Olive

7 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Traveling Essay – hoganoutletols
  2. Anti War Essay – hoganoutletols
  3. Bmw R75 Manual – Galería de imágenes de Just Another Car
  4. Bmw R71 With Sidecar – Galería de imágenes de Just Another Car
  5. Bmw R71 – Otras ideas de imagen de coche
  6. Land Rover For Traveling – Otras ideas de imagen de coche
  7. Bmw Motor Ww2 – Kulis Kocaeli

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.