Service with a salute!

Once upon a time, breakdown help was more of a club affair than merely an insurance scheme with multiple marketing spin-offs run by giant companies. Photos from the Mortons Archive tell the story of the good old days, when the sidecar-mounted patrolmen of the RAC and AA were seen as the knights of the road.

An AA patrolman assists a member in difficulties in the 1920s.

Ever since the motor vehicle was invented, it’s been breaking down – and for many years it was the humble box sidecar outfit, ridden by smartly dressed patrolmen of the RAC and the AA (founded in 1901 and 1905 respectively) that came to the roadside rescue.

At the turn of the 20th century, Britain’s class culture was alive, well and thriving nicely thank you, and of course those from the upper echelons of society who could afford automobiles could also afford the uniformed chauffeurs to drive them.

An AA patrolman negotiates the ‘water barrier’ during an AA solo motorcycle course at the AA Patrols Training School at Widmerpool Hall in Nottinghamshire. The instructor keeping an eagle eye was Inspector R Farley of the AA’s Maidstone area.

Back then, anyone in a position of service, from the nannies who looked after the children of landed gentry and pushed their perambulators in the parks to the servants who cleaned out the fireplaces, polished the silver and peeled the potatoes in ‘upstairs, downstairs’ households and, of course, chauffeurs, wore some kind of ‘uniform’ – but far from being something to be ashamed of, they were worn with pride, for they at least announced to the world that their wearers had responsible and respectable jobs to do.

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