The London Ladies Motorcycle Club, or more accurately the London Ladies Motor Club (LLMC), was formed in 1927 and was affiliated to the Auto-Cycle Union (ACU) South East Centre. The ACU is the governing body of motorcycle sport in Great Britain and was founded in 1903 with the name the Auto-Cycle Club. The BFI has a film from 1928 that shows the LLMC gymkhana at Mitcham which can be found here – Topical Budget newsreel item 1928. An image of members of the LLMC from the 1920s can also be found on the MotoLady website.

Very little information survives today about the LLMC, but we have within our collections a copy of the 2nd issue of its magazine, published in December 1930, the cover of which is shown above. The editorial in the magazine celebrates the club embarking on its 5th year of existence (1931), discusses its members’ attendance at the recent Olympia motorcycle show (November 1930) and contains various snippets of news such as the following;

“We had the good fortune, also, to meet Miss Janina Rotwandówna, a Polish motorcyclist and journalist. Miss Rotwandówna rides a DKW but has ordered a BSA and also a dirt track model. She tells us that there are only six women motorcyclists in Poland.”

A Polish motorcycle blog (written in English and Polish) dedicated to Janina, is illustrated with many 1930s press cuttings about Janina, and tells us that after receiving her brand new and more reliable BSA machine, referred to above, she entered the 1000km Warsaw-Vilnius-Warsaw rally and the blog goes on to recount her experiences of that rally including its 3 a.m. start!

Magazine Contents

The style of much of this LLMC magazine is tongue-in-check in a 1920s/1930s fashion and it contains the sections; hints to novices no.1; how to keep warm in winter; “exhaust notes”; things we’d like to know; things we’ve heard; “verse and worse”; community songs; “a novel degree”; answers to correspondents; and fixtures for December. Extracts from the various sections include the following;

What to carry in your tool kit. “If you have acetylene lighting carry a spare burner for front and rear lamps and if you expect to travel far after dark carry extra carbide”.

How to keep warm in winter. “All the best people now wear Michelop’s Patent Hot Water Bottle Suit. The suit is composed of two layers of rubber, between which hot water is inserted. The de-luxe model can only be worn with a Scott or other water-cooled engine, for a tube is connected with the radiator and hot water circulates continuously through the suit. Hot water can be drawn off from a tap and can be used for making tea…… The suit is also eminently suitable for the habitual skidder, the resilience of the rubber will cause her to bounce.”

Things we’ve heard. “We read in the daily press of a girl being fined for exceeding the speed limit, and when she pleaded lack of funds to pay the fine (a very usual state of affairs for a motorist as we are sure all our members will agree) the magistrate said he would trust her as she had such an honest and pretty face! As we are always anxious to assist members of the LLMC in difficult situations such as the above, we are pleased to announce that after much difficulty we have succeeded in obtaining the services of the famous film star – Greta Garbo (our edition) [Note: elsewhere in the journal one of the LLMC member’s is referred to as being like Great Garbo] whose hints on ‘how to be beautiful although a motorcyclist’ will commence in next months’ issue of the magazine”

A novel degree – what would you do in these circumstances?

  • Your motor cycle has broken down for the third time in one day? Throw it over a hedge.
  • You are stopped by a policeman who alleges that your 147cc Fancy Blister was doing 50 mph? Write to the makers and congratulate them, and enter the bike for the next TT.
  • You have run out of petrol. Milk cow and try milk as substitute. Alternatively, attach said animal, by means of its tail to the bus and use cow as tower.
  • Having stopped on a lonely road you meet a handsome young man? Stick a pin in your tyre and look helpless.
  • You have won a gold medal? Take it to a goldsmith and find out if it is really gold.

Answers to correspondents

  • EC, Suzie and others. Try declutching when you change gear. This is the usual custom amongst motorcyclists and it may stop that grating noise to which you refer.
  • “Blue-eyes”. Give him up. A man who would have you jilt the LLMC will certainly jilt you later on.
  • A constant reader. You are quite correct in assuming that both wheels should be round. The bouncing feeling you experience may be due to your back wheel being oval.
  • Certainly not. You should consult your mother at once.
  • Yes. I think pink is a delightful colour for motorcycling socks.

Members of the LLMC

The officials of the LLMC are listed in the magazine, and they include many noteworthy individuals.

President: Lady Bowen

Vice Presidents: The Hon. Mrs Victor Bruce; Mrs J W Bryan; The Lady Iris Capell; Mrs Malcolm Campbell; and Miss Violette Cordery

Hon. Treasurer: Mrs I M Trimble

Hon. Secretary: Miss I M Crow

Trials Secretary: Miss D E Sparks

Press Secretary: Miss B Debenham

Captain: Miss G E New
Vice Captains: Miss B E Tippett and Miss E M Chinn

The President Lady Bowen was the 2nd wife of Sir Harold Bowden which might in part explain her love of motorcycles. Sir Harold amongst other things served as President of the British Cycle and Motorcycle Manufacturers and Traders Union, and was also Chairman and Chief Executive of the Raleigh Bicycle Company which at that time manufactured motorcycles as well as bicycles.

The Press Secretary was Betty Debenham, who together with her twin sister Nancy Debenham, featured in several photographs on their BSA motorcycles (which they promoted) often with their dog. Together they also published the book Motorcycling for Women in 1928. In addition to competing in trials events Nancy won a gold medal at Brooklands in 1926.

Many of the women mentioned in the magazine such as those above might be largely forgotten today, but I would expect them to be fascinating candidates for further study and investigation. The magazine has an archive reference NAEST 92/10/9 and can be consulted by appointment at the IET Archives.