ID-Documents of a WWII Blitz Ambulance Driver

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The following fantastic document set of a female ambulance driver found its way into my archive. Meet Miss Marjorie McMahon. She drove an ambulance for the British Red Cross in London during the Blitz and later into Europe after D-Day. ID-Documents WWII Ambulance Driver

ID-Documents WWII Ambulance Driver

Women Ambulance Drivers in WWII ID-Documents WWII Ambulance Driver

In the early months of 1939, the looming threat of another war in Europe prompted urgent preparations. Lessons from the First World War guided individuals, volunteers, and charities in addressing home front and frontline needs.

War Preparations

After the declaration of war in 1939, the Joint War Organization of the Order of St John and the British Red Cross Society started to prepare once again to support the war effort. After Germany had invaded France in May 1940, the Luftwaffe, the German Air Force, targeted Britain.

They failed to win control of the skies in the Battle of Britain in August 1940, and Germany’s invasion plans had to be postponed. However, Nazi leaders were convinced Britain would surrender if her civilians lost the will to fight. The plan was to destroy morale through heavy bombing raids on towns and cities.

Throughout the Blitz, Joint War Organization members operated ambulances, acted as stretcher-bearers, ran mobile units, and made up first-aid parties, rescuing people from buildings demolished by bombs. They also handled first-aid posts, for example, in the London Underground stations that people were using as air-raid shelters.

Women ambulance workers

During the Second World War, women played a crucial role, especially in transporting the wounded to British hospitals. Despite societal gender expectations, women at the home front and in France actively shaped history, defying odds and restrictions.

In 1939, a General wrote regarding the existence of female personnel in France: “Of course, you can say that we don’t smile on the proposition.” However, women who took part in these life-saving operations proved that their contribution to a more humane world was voicing its vision in the most elaborate way, in an act that demanded to be heard and recognized. ID-Documents WWII Ambulance Driver

ID-Documents WWII Ambulance Driver

The Documents

The collection includes her passport and Allied Expeditionary Force Permit. Additionally, there are two photos, a Red Cross Motor Transport embroidered cloth arm badge, a British Red Cross ID, and a gratuity letter from the British Red Cross. The war gratitude letter, e.g., from 1946, grants Marjorie £13 or £500 today for her service during the war.

The photograph shows a fleet of ambulance trucks and Marjorie in a Red Cross uniform with a horse. The passport photo of her 30 April 1945 travel document also shows her in uniform; as an occupation, it’s mentioned: British Red Cross. The British Officer’s Club card seems to be from somewhere in France.

ID-Documents WWII Ambulance Driver

Marjorie died on 24 December 2008 at age 87. ID-Documents WWII Ambulance Driver


FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...