Joan Burns was a WRNS despatch rider in the Second World War. Despatch riders had the important task of delivering urgent orders and messages between headquarters and units. The women had not only to be able to ride but to be able to maintain their own bikes. They often worked long hours through adverse weather conditions.
Joan made her first uniform by dyeing her jodhpurs navy blue and blacking her riding boots.
During the war she was fined 10s by the Swansea justices for speeding on her way to work. She was caught going at 53mph at 8.30am on the Mumbles Road.
Her other duties during her career included taking orders out to the D-Day invasion fleet in her launch. She was de-mobbed as Second Officer Joan W M Burns in 1945.
After the war, she told her family that she was very proud of her second stripe, but she didn’t know what she had done to deserve it.
She clearly drew the attention of the locals, as she received many letters from admirers:
Letter 25th March:
Hoping you will excuse the liberty of me addressing you, but I writes to say as me and my mates was real sorry to see you in trouble with the Perlice on the Mumbles Road this a.m. when we was passing, they r a nasty interpreting lot down by hear. Me and my mates as often admired you from afar, hoping to come closer same day as the saying is, and we wants to say that you ever done it and if the word of the good men will help you its yours we couldn’t do less for a young lady with such fine legs excusing the liberty and out in all wethers to, doing her bit for the Old Country all the chaps admires you for it.’
A Christmas card:
‘From a chap who cannot forget the young lady who rode around Swansea, always smiling and with always a cheery word for everyone.’