1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22

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Lot 384
1914 Blackburne 499cc,
Registration no. B 9963 Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22

Sold for £ 18,400 (US$ 22,379) inc. premium
1914 Blackburne 499cc

Registration no. B 9963
Frame no. C22
Engine no. C22
• Restored by the VMCC Blackburne marque specialist
• Represents the Burney brothers' WWI despatch riders' motorcycles
• Believed to be the sole surviving belt-driven single-cylinder Blackburne motorcycle

Engineering apprentices Cecil and Alick Burney acquired the patterns, drawings and rights to an engine designed by Geoffrey de Havilland and in 1912 started a venture to build motorcycles with the de Havilland engine. Known initially as Burney & Blackburne, the company's motorcycles attracted very favourable comments in the motorcycle press and the Burney brothers won many competitions riding the two prototypes. At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the Burney brothers volunteered as despatch riders and their exploits were written up in a contemporary account by Captain WHL Watson, who was a fellow despatch rider in the 5th Signals Company, Royal Engineers. Adventures of a Despatch Rider was an immediate success but was withdrawn on the orders of the Censor's Office, as publishers Blackwood had failed to obtain approval for the book.

In 2011, VMCC marque specialist for OEC and Blackburne, Martin Shelley and his brother Nick (secretary of the Marston Sunbeam Club & Register) discovered the Burney brothers' medals and archives. The latter included an album of pictures taken in 1914 and early 1915 and a letter from the riders' company CO, Captain Doherty Holwell written to Mrs Burney, the brothers' widowed mother, testifying to their contribution to the unit's success in the early part of the war on the Western Front.

This discovery led to the Shelley brothers publishing a new book, Two Wheels To War, which includes a complete annotated and illustrated edition of Adventures of a Despatch Rider. It also contains a vast amount of additional material, which adds greatly to the original account. The book also includes a list of over 400 despatch riders who landed in France in 1914, giving their personal details to enable relatives to research their history. A second edition of Two Wheels To War is included in the sale, signed by both authors.

Shortly after the new book was first published, a reunion of despatch riders' relatives was held, and the part-restored sole surviving Blackburne motorcycle offered here was displayed so the families could see the actual type of motorcycle featured on the cover of Two Wheels To War.

The machine was restored by the VMCC Blackburne marque specialist using the remains of the sole surviving belt-driven single-cylinder Blackburne motorcycle. The restoration was completed in 2018 and the machine was entered in the 2019 Pioneer Run but failed to finish, though it then successfully completed the 2019 Banbury Run. This wonderful Blackburne would make a worthy centrepiece for a museum display devoted to WW1 despatch riders. The archive material mentioned above which includes many period pictures of WW1 despatch riders, is available by separate negotiation.

Footnotes

  • As with all Lots in the Sale, this Lot is sold 'as is/where is' and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.

Saleroom notices

  • There is a current V5C offered with this Lot. Please click the link to view the walkaround video of Lot 384: click here
Contacts
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
1914 Blackburne 499cc, Frame no. C22 Engine no. C22
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