Some riders dedicate their life to entertaining others, and that’s the case with the legendary White Helmets motorcycle team. Recently, they performed for the last time at the Preston Military Show. The 23 man team have earned a reputation as being the oldest and most accomplished motorcycle display team in Britain. They’ve performed all over the country, and 2017 marks their 90th anniversary. To honour them, we’re taking a look at the history of the team and their final show.
The White Helmets were formed in 1927 and were made up of dispatch riders from the Royal Corps of Signals. Known as ‘Siggies,’ they had a duty to provide communications for the army via telegraph and visual signaling. They were essential in WW1, delivering messages across the battlefield. The symbol for the corps was Mercury, the Roman messenger god, referred to as Jimmy by members.
When the White Helmets formed they started training at the Signal Training Centre in Yorkshire. It wasn’t long before they were performing death-defying stunts, such as leaping over barriers and jumping through fire.
The team appeared in a Texaco advert in the 1980s and became linked with TV shows like Blue Peter. The group inspired the Wallace and Gromit episode ‘A Close Shave,’ in which Wallace and Gromit performed motorcycle stunts while wearing white helmets.
Ahead of the Preston event, Lance Corporal Dayne Ryan gave his thoughts. “I used to work as a call handler for a bank, but it got a bit tedious and I felt I needed a change. I went into the Army careers office, had a chat to someone and joined The Royal Signals. Before this part of my career I’d never really been interested in motorcycles or motorsport. It’s been a real honour to be a part of the White Helmets.”
During the event, the White Helmets carried out a variety of impressive stunts. This included two men teams balancing on their motorbikes while holding a pole so another member could hang upside down. Among the crowd were army veterans and former White Helmet members, such as 80-year-old Brian Iddon, who performed with the team in 1959 and 1960.
The disbanding of the White Helmets is a sad loss for the motorcycling world. But their teamwork and commitment to entertaining people will never be forgotten.