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Help identifying a circa WW2 Douglas military motorbike in Indian Army

Started by AAK123, 27 Sep 2022 at 16:45

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Hi all. I have had passed down this great photo of my grandfather who served in the Indian army in India between 1925 and 1945. There was no date or description. I posted on a WW2 forum and someone suggested that the Douglas Motorbike forum might be able to identify the model and relevant approximate year, enabling me to match the unit with his military history. Any help greatly appreciated.
Thanks Andrew


Hi Andrew,

Nice snippet of military history, from (I think) well before WW2. The bikes are c1931, probably 350s, but if not someone will correct me...



They are indeed 350cc models. The 350cc with sump first appeared in 1929 as the B29 model and lasted to the 1931 catalog year. As early as 1929 Douglas were trying to woo the Army with a "L29" known only by a few remaining factory drawings for items like a more encompassing rear chain guard, stronger gearbox cover, etc. They seem to have sold a few, as a special gearbox suffix was assigned for the 'L29, L3, 350cc W.O. machine, low reduction'. (L3 was the designation for the 1930 model.) Whether the contract was in 1929, '30, or '31 I do not know. Several period photos survive showing these models on maneuvers (miss-captioned in the Peter Carrick book as WW1), where up to fourteen are seen in one group. And apparently some made it to India. But they must not have gotten the large order desired as the model is relatively unknown. They were visually much the same as the regular road model except for all the bright work being painted, more encompassing rear chain guard, and fuller mudguards (probably from the 600cc models).

Larger view

In 1932 all the Douglas lightweights went to a dry sump system (a process started in 1931), which would have been better for a military model as the elimination of the sump offered possibility for greater ground clearance. However they seem to have been out of the running by then and 1933 was a finical disaster for Douglas.



Thanks Doug and Leon. Very helpful and allows me to identify the unit as part of the Royal Deccan Horse.


Hi Doug,

15 years ago there were posts about a c1929-1931 350 Douglas that surfaced in India:,2347.msg8473.html#msg8473 and

Back then, as in the posts above, there was discussion about whether the bike was 1929, 1930 or 1931: for example the rear axle stand was a B29 feature that had been replaced with a centre stand by 1931.

As part of my BTH magneto party trick, I can date the BTH magneto on the surviving 350 in India by its serial numbers to February 1931, despite the rear axle stand, left-hand tank filler, etc. It seems that at least some of these military machines were built into 1931, with features outdated on civilian models by this date.