Royal Enfield can trace its roots back as far as the late 19th century when the Enfield Manufacturing Company was formed in Redditch, Worcestershire.
George Brown, a 92-year old former World War II despatch rider can’t claim to have witnessed the event, but he did take part in a rather special event at last weekend’s Goodwood Revival.
As Royal Enfield – now under Indian ownership and based in Chennai – launched a new range of riding gear, accessories and clothing, the company turned to George to model the new items.
Despatch riders were military messengers who used motorcycles to deliver urgent messages between headquarters and military units. Such a role was vital when commands were often urgent and telecommunications were limited and secure.
During World War II, despatch riders were often referred to as Don Rs, from the phonetic for D in ‘DR’. The British military would use motorcycles made by the likes of Triumph, Norton, Royal Enfield, BSA, Matchless and Ariel for such tasks.
George’s passion for motorcycles led to him volunteering to join the Royal Corps of Signals as a Don R in 1941, where he carried out the role of despatch rider for five years, travelling around Europe in the process.
Commenting on the new Royal Enfield range at the Goodwood Revival, George said: “As a motorcycle enthusiast, it has been my pleasure to help unveil the new range. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I used to ride a Royal Enfield during the war, so seeing an identical Royal Enfield to what I rode as a despatch rider has stirred a lot of memories from my younger days”.
Royal Enfield claims to be the oldest motorcycle brand in continuous production, with The Crown licensing the name in 1890. UK production ceased in 1970 and the company was dissolved in 1971, with all remaining tooling and equipment auctioned off.
Back in 1955, the Redditch company had partnered with Madras India to form what was called Enfield India, a company which grow to become what is today known as the modern Royal Enfield. It is perhaps best known for its flagship Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle.