Policewomen Outfit

As a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, there was one photograph that caught my eye when I started volunteering at the Lock-up. I am told this picture shows two pioneers of the Women Police Service, Mary Allen (riding the bike) and Margaret Damer-Dawson (in sidecar holding child). These women were responsible (along with Nina Boyle) for starting the first national women police service that aimed to train female officers to be sent out to police forces around the country whose numbers were being depleted by officers joining the Armed Forces.

I sent the photograph to The Classic MotorCycle magazine and received the following reply from Richard Rosenthal:

'Thank you for sight of the super picture of the two police ladies on their motorcycle outfit. The machine is Sunbeam (built in Wolverhampton by John Marston Ltd of Sunbeamland, Wolverhampton) and could date circa 1916 to 1921 but is most likely to date from 1919 - 1921. I can't see clearly enough of the engine to be certain of precise year or even engine size, but it's earlier than 1922 due to the front brake design. Sunbeam used this large hoop front stirrup brake only on their machines fitted with the leaf spring front fork and by the 1922 season it had been replaced with a dummy rim brake. The likelihood is its a 3 1/2hp model (500cc) but it could just be a 4hp (600cc) example. Near Identical rolling chassis for both models but differing engine capacity. Both are side-valve engines which look similar other than the larger model has a taller cylinder barrel. The sidecar is a Sunbeam design and was built for Sunbeam by Charles Hayward of Paul Street, Wolverhampton who also built sidecars for AJS (also of Wolverhampton) until 1930. The 'police' Sunbeam outfit bears a Dorset registration mark.'

Thanks to Joan Lock for sharing the image from her book: The British Policewoman, reissued in 2014.

Ed. Those in the know will realise the play on words in the title of this article - a motorcycle and sidecar is known as an 'outfit'.