“Especially admired was their sang-froid when something went wrong with their ambulances, and shells and aeroplanes were about.” This was the verdict on the Motor Transport Column led by Geraldine Hedges in Serbia during the First World War.
When she enrolled in London’s ARP ambulance service in 1939, Geraldine was probably their most qualified recruit. In 1917 27yo Geraldine, a solicitor’s daughter born in Berkshire, joined Elsie Inglis‘s unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in London as a driver. You can just see the initials SWH on her epaulette in the photo. In early 1918, promoted to Transport Officer, she was transferred to the Russo-Romanian front and made Chief Transport Officer. The work was filthy, gruelling and dangerous, but Geraldine was sent home at the end of 1918 only because she was suffering from malaria.
Here are some words about Geraldine from the SpeedQueens website
Raced in and around Brooklands in the 1930s. She first appears in the entry lists in the JCC’s High Speed Trial, in 1932, driving a Riley, but she was most associated with Talbot cars, one of which she owned jointly with Patricia McOstrich. In 1932, she scored her first Brooklands win, in a Talbot 90, the Sports Long Handicap at the Inter-Club Meeting. Other notable results include a second in the Cobham Long Handicap in 1933, and third in a 1933 Lightning Short Handicap. Later on, she raced a Singer and a Frazer Nash-BMW, in which she was part of a Frazer Nash team with Kay Petre, for the Light Car Club Relay in 1936.
Women had raced at Brooklands since 1907. There were women-only races but from 1932 many of the races were with men on equal terms.
In 1932 Geraldine, dressed in furs, was featured with Patricia and Iris Capell setting off on a 1,000 rally around England.
A gossip column in The Tatler (6 March 1935) reported on a cocktail party held at a garage in Tite Street. Geraldine, now a “car consultant” had “with the help of rugs and flowers, …transformed a prosaic garage into an attractive drawing-room. The only reminders of its real use was the presence of a couple of cars, one blue and one bright scarlet.” Among the guests was Hugh McConnell (1885-1943), the Chief Scrutineer of Brooklands.
The 1939 Register shows Geraldine was living at 4 Eaton Mansions with Dorothy Mary Makins, a widow.
Geraldine Hedges died in London in 1968.
Patricia Gladys Morris McOstrich, was born in Surbiton, Surrey in 1898, the daughter of a stockbroker’s agent. In 1939 she was the managing director of a motor engineers. She died in 1958.
She contributed a section on Motor Work to Careers and Vocational Training: A Guide to the Professions and Occupations of Educated Women and Girls:
To-day there are a number of openings for women in motor-car and garage work, but before discussing them it should be remembered that, however mechanically-minded, technically skilled and physically strong a woman may be, the chances of her making a living as a mechanic are small; this is partly due to prejudice and partly to a doubt as to her physical ability.