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Female Dispatch Riders of World War II.

by Apr 15

By 1939, it was clear that every able-bodied British seamen would be needed to serve on ships so the Royal Navy decided to reconstitute the Women’s Royal Navy Service—nicknamed "The Wrens"—which had been disbanded after World War I. During the war, the number of Wrens peaked at nearly 74,000, and the number of different jobs they performed increased to more than 200. One of the jobs in which the Wrens received world-wide recognition was that of the motorcycle dispatch rider. Story by Panhead Jim. Photos from the web.

As more and more men were called for active duty at sea and abroad, women were trained for many duties in WWII.

One of those roles was motorcycle dispatchers for messages.

The British Royal Navy wanted women who could not only ride motorcycles, but also maintain their own machines. The first women chosen for dispatch duty were well-known competition riders from local motorcycle race circuits. As war-time need increased, more women were trained, many of whom served with great distinction.

Wren McGeorge was awarded the British Empire medal for bravery following her actions during a bombing raid on the town of Plymouth. While carrying urgent messages to her commander, McGeorge's motorcycle was struck by a bomb. Although McGeorge was not injured, the motorcycle was rendered useless. Still determined to get her messages delivered, McGeorge left the wrecked motorcycle behind and ran the remaining half mile back to headquarters with bombs falling all around her. After successfully delivering her messages, she volunteered to go back out into the fray.

During the invasion of the Low Countries, the London-based Wrens worked eight-hour shifts, both day and night, to deliver messages between the Admiralty and multiple embassies. Their work throughout the Battle of Britain was highly praised as safe passage through London became increasingly difficult with the German bombing campaign wreaking havoc on the city.

Although they never served at sea, a total of 100,000 women served in the British Royal Navy as Wrens during WWII. Of those, 303 were killed in service to their country. The Wrens continued in active service until 1993, at which time they were officially integrated into the Royal Navy.

When telecommunications were limited and insecure dispatch riders, a military messenger on motorcycle were used by the armed forces to deliver urgent orders and messages between headquarters and military units. Women excelled as dispatch riders and were often seen taking their motorcycles, in the name of duty through perilous conditions.

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