The Paratrooper’s Pop Up Bike

The Second World War saw the birth of several new types of warfare, one of which was the birth of the Airborne forces.

The Welman, a single crewed midget submarine
​The Second World War saw the birth of several new types of warfare, one of which was the birth of the Airborne forces. Playing a vital part in the eventual liberation of Europe, the Airborne forces would very quickly become pivotal to all future conflicts and their resolutions.
With this rapid increase in their capability and necessity, came the need for innovative inventions that would assist paratroopers in completing their objectives.
The task of coming up with these innovative inventions and ideas fell to Station IX, part of the Inter-Services Research Establishment near Welwyn, Hertfordshire.
This station drew up many new weapons and devices, mainly for agents in occupied Europe, working under the Special Operations Executive. Being based in Welwyn, each invention was affectionately given the prefix of ‘wel’ to its name. For example, the Welrod, a bolt action, supressed pistol and the Welman, a British midget submarine were both developed here.

The British-made Welbike, designed for paratroopers & Airbrone forces
​However, one of the lesser known innovations from Station IX was used by members of Britain’s 1st Airborne and 6th Airborne Divisions. This was the Welbike.
Powered by a single cylinder, two stroke engine, the Welbike could easily do around thirty miles an hour and around 3,500 were built between 1942 and 1944.
Due to the nature of the Welbike’s deployment, it was an extremely compact vehicle, able to fit into the standard CLE Canister, used by the British Airborne forces, which was just 130cm long. The canister also limited the amenities on the bike, as it was built with no starter, kicker, suspension, lights and had just one rear brake!

British paratroopers assembling a Welbike
​The bike would always be constructed in enemy territory and consequently the aim was to have the bike out of its canister, the handle bars secured, and the bike push started in eleven seconds.
There is no evidence of the 6th Airborne Division using the Welbike on the night of the 6th June 1944, however it was used by the division during Operation Market Garden, despite it being considered more of a liability by some.
The Welbike was later used by ground assault forces, including the Royal Marines and was later replaced by                                                               the Corgi Bike.

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