The End of the White Helmets


Story: Harry Fisher

This might not mean much to many South Africans, but if you are of English descent or you spent your formative years living in the UK and obsessing about motorbikes, then this will come as sad news.

The Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team, more commonly known as the White Helmets, is to be disbanded, the powers-that-be in the British Army feeling that it is too old-fashioned in today’s digital army.

As yet another woeful display of ‘management’ completely misunderstanding the good-will and publicity value of such an outfit, the team is on its final tour before being disbanded at the end of the month.

Why should we care? Because the White Helmets were brilliant, bringing a military precision to motorbike stunt riding and becoming a truly British institution over its 90 year history.

Team leader Jon McLelland said: “We are just privileged to have been White Helmets in the first place. We recently celebrated our 90th anniversary with our young lads in their 20s and some 90-odd year-old veterans all chatting. It was great. It’s sad it’s ending, but at least we got to see it out to the final show, to make those who’ve done it over the years proud of us. We say: ‘Once a White Helmet, always a White Helmet.’”

As for the dastardly British Army, the spokesman had only this pathetic line to deliver while justifying the disbanding; “The Royal Corps of Signals have come far since using motorbikes to carry messages across the battlefield, and are now highly trained ‘Leaders in a Digital Age’ with expertise in cyber operations. This modernisation means that 2017 will be the last season for the iconic ‘White Helmets’ Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team.”

What on earth does being a ‘leader in a digital age’ have to do with anything? I suppose the troops don’t use guns anymore because they are a really old-fashioned way of killing people? And are you trying to tell me that the British Army has only just become modernised with digital technology? What about the previous 20 years? Why was the team still relevant then but not now?

The team was originally formed by officers employed as despatch riders, who performed horse-riding as well as motorcycle demonstrations.

They’re the oldest motorcycle display team in the world and probably best-known for their human pyramid stunt.

They use 750cc 1970s Triumph Tiger T140s to leap through hoops of fire and modern machines like Kawasaki’s KX450F for bigger jumps.

Below is a video of one of their displays followed  underneath by their famous 1980’s Texaco ad: