Wren Despatch Riders

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The Women on Wheels

Below are three stories of WRNS Despatch Riders who served during World War Two.


Pamela Betty McGeorge

One of the more famous stories of the heroics of the Wren Despatch Riders was that of Pamela McGeorge.

She had undertaken an urgent despatch to the Commander in Chief at Plymouth when an air raid broke out. The explosion from a bomb threw her off her motorcycle, destroying it in the process.

McGeorge abandoned the motorcycle and ran half a mile across the rubble whilst the raid was still on, in order to deliver her documents safely to Admiralty House.

She volunteered to go back out on duty again as soon as her task was completed. She later received the British Empire Medal for her courage.


Petty Officer Violet Fraser

Another well known Despatch Rider during World War Two was Violet Fraser, who was aged 45 when she joined the WRNS in 1939.

Photograph of Violet Fraser
Photograph of Violet Fraser (RNM)

Fraser initially worked at Whitehall and then served for five years in London's docklands.

The dock workers and seaman expected Fraser to only last a few weeks before she would feel out of her depth. However, Fraser proved the doubters wrong and completed her arduous shifts the same as everyone else.

The dock workers soon developed an immense respect for her, taking her in as one of their own close knit community.

Letter of commendation for Leading Despatch Rider Violet Fraser
Letter of commendation for Leading Despatch Rider Violet Fraser


Betty Upton

Upton joined the WRNS in 1942, age 27, as a Despatch Rider. She had previously worked for the Red Cross on board the SS Viscountess ambulance ship.

Her first WRNS posting was to HMS Vulture, a Fleet Air Arm training airfield at St Merryn. Betty put herself in for a transfer to the Commander in Chief's staff at Portsmouth since there was not much work beyond the confines of the airfield.

The women divided into three groups, operating from a Nissen hut on the forecourt of Southwick House, the location of the Supreme Headquarters Allies Expeditionary Force. They rode Ariel 350cc bikes.

Upton recalls -

'We carried maps, of course, and found our way to the more unfamiliar places by grid references - but such places were often hard to find, since they too were camouflaged or disguised as coal dumps, haystacks or made to appear as derelict buildings. All sign-posts had been removed lest they might be of help to an invading enemy and we were not supposed to stop and ask where we were - no one would tell you anyway - and it was suggested that it might not be wise to reveal that we were women.'

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