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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Royal Enfield military motorcycles in World War II

Is that a Royal Enfield military motorcycle in this movie?
Yes, that's a Royal Enfield motorcycle the soldier stands astride, directing traffic, in the 1943 movie "The Gentle Sex."

Consensus on the Internet is that it is a Royal Enfield, probably a Model WD/C or CO.

Its rider is a woman, shepherding her convoy of lorries through wartime England in this movie with its mildly suggestive title.

No sex in this one, just gender. The film glamorizes the lives of women in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) of the British Army. There's not much glamour either, although the young women are pretty enough, even in their lumpy uniforms.

At one point the female motorcycle dispatch riders dismount and come prancing, helmets in hand, to a briefing. Their running looks more like ballet than the lumbering jog similarly burdened men would have performed.

The convoy departs, guided by ATS motorcyclists.
"The Gentle Sex" is a well made picture, directed by Leslie Howard, who also provides the ironic "they think they're helping, I suppose" narration.

It was Howard's last film before his death in June, 1943, when the passenger plane in which he was a passenger was shot down by German fighter planes.

Obviously meant to encourage women to help out in the war effort, the "Gentle Sex" rises above the usual "you're in the army now" cliches. For one thing, it's realistic.

The movie's primary drama revolves around a grueling 400-mile drive with vital war supplies. It's not exactly flying Spitfires, but it's no piece of cake either.

And some of the women do encounter the Luftwaffe. You see their variety of reactions when the "mixed" (male/female) anti-aircraft battery they're assigned to makes a kill. Mere propaganda would have been content with one reaction.

The military equipment on view in these wartime films is one of the reasons I watch them. This is what 1943 must really have looked like.

ATS recruits get their first look at army life from a U.S. truck.
One example: the U.S. trucks that are seen with "Left Hand Drive NO SIGNALS" on the tailgate.

Did you know that ATS women pronounced it as an acronym: "ats"?

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