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Friday, August 30, 2013

Wanted: Photos of women Dispatch Riders of WWII

A secret envelope, doubly sealed, is handed to a Wren Dispatch Rider who starts off on her 100-mile journey over rough roads in the black-out. © IWM (A 2832)
Wanted: Photographs of women Dispatch Riders on Royal Enfield motorcycles during World War II.

Monika Zarebska in period dress.
Monika Zarebska wants to recreate the appearance of such brave women as Pvt. Joyce Preece who rode her Royal Enfield as a courier for Britain's Auxiliary Territorial Service during the war.

To do it, she needs to know what they looked like, down to the tiniest detail.

Monika is a member of the Bluszcz Reenactment Group of Poland. These women "aim at reconstructing civil female fashion from 1910s 'til the end of the 1950s" but they also get into uniform to portray nurses and women's auxiliary military units.

"My personal huge dream is to recreate a character of a woman dispatch rider, which will enable me to link my love of motorcycles with my love of history," Monika wrote.

My only suggestion was to search the excellent website of the Imperial War Museum.

If you have photos of women Dispatch Riders (on any motorcycle) please email me and I will forward them to Monika.

The Royal Enfield Bullet is an obvious candidate as a prop for reenators. To illustrate, Monika sent me a link to a recent ad on eBay for a 1999 Bullet Military that played the role of a World War II military motorcycle in a film.

The reenactors of Bluszcz.
The Bluszcz website (the group is named for a pre-war fashion magazine) is full of photos of pretty girls in the lovely outfits of the 1930s and '40s.

But a warning: the wartime recreations naturally result in startlingly realistic photos that are even more powerful because they appear to have been taken yesterday. The group recreates Axis units as well as the Red Army and one photo shows members posed on a Jeep.

History indeed seems to come alive in these pictures. They can be unsettling as well as nostalgic.

Is it real? It looks it. Reenators take a dunking to portray 1939.

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