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From Welbike to Corgi
The Welbike was a folding motorscooter that was developed in England during World War II, for the Special Operations Executive, at the SOE development centre at The Frythe, near Welwyn, Hertfordshire. The prototype Welbikes which were designed by Harry Lester under the directorship of Lieut Col John Dolphin, were not accepted by the SOE, but nevertheless the Welbike went into production for use by by airborne troops. The purpose of the Welbike was to provide a lightweight motorscooter that could be parachuted in a container to or with agents or airborne troops. British airborne troops in particular had a problem from the time of their formation in 1940 that the parachutes and small Hotspur gliders greatly limited what they could take with them in the way of weapons, equipment and transport.
The Welbike was manufactured by The Excelsior Motor Company of Birmingham, using the Villiers JDL autocycle engine and were first used in the disastrous Arnhem campaign in 1943. They were also known to have been used in the Normandy landings and North Africa, but the majority of the 3,853 production Welbikes ended up being used as base runabouts by the three Services. After the War, the bulk of the survivors were exported to the USA, where they were sold by a large New York department store.
After the War, Brockhouse Engineering (Southport) Ltd., in conjunction with John Dolphin, went on to develop the Welbike into the well known and popular Corgi scooter. The machine was powered by an Excelsior Spryt Autocycle engine, built under licence by Brockhouse. The civilian Corgi is often confused with the Welbike, but is actually quite different.
Production of the Corgi for the export market started in 1947, with many being sold in North America as the Indian Papoose - Indian at that-time being part of the Brockhouse empire. The Corgi did not reach the domestic market until early 1948, and some 27,050 were manufactured before production ended in October 1954.