The iconic ‘salute’ used to be one of the AA patrols’ critical duties in days gone by – and dates from 1907, when that year's patrol guide instructed all AA patrol scouts to salute members whose cars displayed the AA badge.
Within two years, this established tradition of courtesy had become a handy means to alert motorists – if the patrol did not salute a member, it meant that the member was approaching a speed trap on the road ahead.
However, it didn't always go to plan – here’s what happened to the Hon. Inspector A.E Bedford in 1924, whose training as a patrol neglected to mention the AA salute:
March 1924 found me just returned from abroad – demobbed and looking for a job.
An advertisement for ‘Road Patrols with pedal cycles’ attracted my attention, and, on being accepted, I reported to Hursley, near Winchester – where I was to meet my sergeant on the road for full instructions concerning my duties.
That morning, on looking in the looking glass, I saw the first AA man I had ever seen. I had no idea of my duties, but pedalled away down the road and duly met the sergeant, who gave me booklets, receipt books, and forms by the dozen.
After about one hour, I continued on my way – loaded with literature and knowledge.
For the remainder of that day, and half the next, everything seemed rosy – motorists winked at me and slowed down, and some just laughed and waved. Some even stopped and asked if everything was all right – to which I replied, “Yes, thank you.”
Coach drivers nearly fell out of their seats to give me the thumbs up
Coach drivers nearly fell out of their seats to give me the thumbs up – and, when I stopped on a hill just outside Romsey, a man with a large attaché case stopped near me, and after a few minutes said, “I wish I knew as many people as you do. I go canvassing door to door – I would make a fortune”.
I tried to explain that I didn’t know any of them, but he didn’t seem to believe me. And then my sergeant came along.
After I signed my sheet, I remarked on how friendly most people seemed to be – waving to me, and even stopping to ask if everything was all right – when the dreadful truth dawned on him.
He had forgotten to tell me to salute all AA badges – or to warn the motorists if police trouble was ahead.
(22 November 2013)