Real Classic - - Letters -

I am re­ally en­joy­ing read­ing RC160 with so many well writ­ten and in­ter­est­ing ar­ti­cles. The piece on the fa­mous White Hel­mets dis­play team brought back great mem­o­ries from the past and my ad­mi­ra­tion of the teams thrills and skills con­tin­ues. Me and my late dad reg­u­larly watched them on a small black and white TV screen back in the 1950s. Tele­vised mil­i­tary dis­plays were al­ways reg­u­lar view­ing for us back then, es­pe­cially as dad was ex-Royal Engi­neers.

As a young teenage worker for a lo­cal coun­cil in the early 1960s, I was able to sur­rep­ti­tiously slope off to the Wool­wich army dis­play ground to watch the lesser­known mo­tor­cy­cle dis­play team of the Royal Ar­tillery. The Fly­ing Gun­ners prac­tised their rou­tines on most Wed­nes­day af­ter­noons.

The photo cap­tion for the 1952 images says that the White Hel­mets are rid­ing Tri­umph 350s. This is cor­rect, they are 3T mod­els. The rocker boxes are clearly vis­i­ble and this is one of the most vis­ual ex­ter­nal dif­fer­ences be­tween the 500cc ohv mod­els and the 350 twins. The White Hel­mets started us­ing the 3T Tri­umph twin not long af­ter WW2. They were mostly used from 1948 un­til 1952. In­evitably there was a need for a reg­u­lar mil­i­tary mo­tor­cy­cle, so Tri­umph in­tro­duced the side­valve TRW. This model was then used for dis­play pur­poses from 1953 un­til around the early 1960s, when it was phased out by the team and Tiger 100s took over.

Sev­eral other mod­els were used at dif­fer­ing times. Team Sergeant Sankey had a Tro­phy for four years be­tween 1958 to 1961. Also a 5T Speed Twin was fit­ted to a side­car in this pe­riod. In 1959 this 5T twin was down on power and the Tri­umph fac­tory agreed to fix this for them dur­ing its an­nual win­ter over­haul at the works ser­vice cen­tre. When the bike was re­turned it had phe­nom­e­nal power com­pared to pre­vi­ous years – Tri­umph omit­ted to tell the White Hel­mets that they had fit­ted a Tiger 110 en­gine into the 5T chas­sis! That was the most pow­er­ful Ama­ranth Red 5T around at that time.

The White Hel­mets used sev­eral dif­fer­ent makes and sizes of mo­tor­cy­cle over the decades, but back in the 1930s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent form of horse­power was used. In­te­grated dis­plays of jump­ing and other skilled rid­ing in­cluded horses and mo­tor­cy­cles to­gether! Let’s hope that in this age of come­backs and re­vivals the White Hel­mets make a re­turn in the fu­ture... but not with elec­tric power units in their dis­play ve­hi­cles. Dave Blan­chard, mem­ber 4809

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