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Looking for Evelyn Hamilton - any info?

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Looking for Evelyn Hamilton - any info?

30 Apr 2017 08:27

Mrs Hamilton was born in 1906 as Alice Bayliss in London and was to become a famous long distance cyclist in England. In 1926 she married Jack Hamilton and they cycled around the country on a tandem. She was the film double of Gracie Fields in the 1934 musical Sing As we Go when the main character is depicted by Hamilton cycling from Manchester to Blackpool (50 miles). Between 1931 and 1938 her long distance cycling exploits were recorded in a number of epic feats including 1,000 miles in 7 days, 10,000 miles in 100 days, and London to John O'Groats (700 miles) in 4 days.
In 1938 Jack and Evelyn Hamilton opened a bicycle repair and build shop at 416A Streatham High Road, London.
There is some uncertainty of how Evelyn arrived in France but she has given an account of being in Paris, possibly as a part of a circus, just before the occupation of France by German troops. She worked as a waitress in a café frequented by Gestapo officers, lived with a Frenchman called Fernand Maurice Helsen and assumed the identity of a dead woman as she herself was on the wanted list. Becoming a courier for the Resistance she ferried allied personnel across Paris on a tandem until an informer led to her being captured. Wearing her hair in a bun to conceal a small pistol she pulled it out, shot her captor and escaped to England and safety.
The shop was a front for the Free French and the SOE and was run by three Frenchmen including one of the Pelissier brothers. It is known from the records of the Museum of the Resistance that Louis Pelissier, codename Carton, was the leader of the Franc Group of the Morhange network. The Morhange network had been commissioned by Marcel Taillandier as a direct action and counter-espionage group, and was in charge of cleaning up those traitors, collaborators and Nazis who destroyed the resistance networks in the southwest of France. They eliminated dozens of people hostile to free France and resistance. Morhange was also a counter-espionage organization combating the Abwehr and the Gestapo.
Louis Pelissier was killed in action in1944. He was awarded the Knight of the Legion of Honour, Companion of the Liberation - decree of 20 November 1944, Cross of War 39/45, Medal of the Resistance with rosette. Alice Pelissier was member of the Morhange Franc Group. Fernand Maurice Helsen worked as a clerk in the French Embassy in London and died aged 50 from a heart attack in 1950.
Evelyn Hamilton was awarded the Médaille de la Résistance Française, (featuring the Cross of Lorraine), which had been authorised by Charles de Gaulle in 1943, for Voluntary Service in the Free French Forces. The award for ‘Actes remarquables de foi et de courage qui, en France, dans l'empire et à l'étranger, auront contribué à la résistance du peuple français’ (Remarkable acts of faith and courage which, in France, in the empire and abroad, have contributed to the resistance of the French people) was given to 64,000 recipients. Robert Paxton cites the figure of 300,000 cards of combatants issued: 130,000 to deportees, 170,000 to volunteer fighters of the Resistance. He adds the 100,000 resisters who died in combat to approach a total of "active resistance" of 2% of the French population.
After the war the Lorraine Cross was to become the motif on her bicycle frame badges together with the name ‘Lorraine Cycles’. In 1952 she rode 12,010 miles in 100 days on one of her machines fitted with British components just to prove that British machines could be as reliable as other makes from the Continent.
On the 29 May 2005 Hamilton was known as Evelyn Alice Helsen and, aged 99, she passed away and is buried at Swaffham, Norfolk.

There is a Hollywood film in the making on the life of EH and I have decided to apply for a Blue Plaque for the site of the old cycle shop in Streatham.
We are preparing the application now and are researching the details of her exploits. Please would anybody on the forum have any information on her to send to me, the breakdown of the research is as follow:
1. Early years - EH as record setter for long distance rides - need articles from cycling magazines for the period 1926 -1952.
2. War Years - need any reports of resistance activity in Paris during 1940-1944 from books or magazines. I have requested copies of formal files which are held by the Museum of Liberation and other archives in France.
3. Later years - any information on lectures given by her in the Swaffham area from 1980 - 2005.
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30 Apr 2017 14:11

I hope you find the information you're looking for, Evelyn Hamilton sounds like a fascinating person that deserves to have her story told.

Cheers :)
Darryl Webster wrote:
"Nothing seems to blind peeps as much as patriotism does it!"
User avatar Irondan
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09 May 2017 01:32

Could you research the archives at Cycling Weekly?
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Re: Looking for Evelyn Hamilton - any info?

22 Jun 2017 17:51

There seems to be a fair amount of background material on Evelyn Hamilton, and even some original film footage of her cycling fame:

"Cycling Tips 1936"
Description :
Cycling Hints. Part of 'Sea Shell Have Music' issue. Location of events unknown. Evelyn Hamilton, women's professional cycling champion gives cycling tips - covering fashion and safety. M/S of Evelyn having her legs massaged. She stands up and stretches her arms. She is wearing a revealing bikini. Various shots of Evelyn cycling down road on racing bike. She wears natty beret and plus fours trousers - her winter cycling outfit! Various shots of Evelyn cycling in the rain with a wet weather poncho and sou'wester. Various shots of Evelyn cycling in her summer outfit - baggy shorts and tee-shirt. Various shots of Evelyn demonstrating bad cycling habits - overtaking in the inside, swerving in front of traffic without signalling, clinging onto back of trucks to get free ride, not giving way at junctions and cycling without holding onto handlebars.


Somewhat risqué video for the 1930's, obviously Ms. Hamilton was photogenic as well as a superb cyclist.
You must have found these videos already but I post the URLs for general entertainment


Also to suggest that video is the most-compelling way these days to promote a cause online - a nonprofit campaign featuring video content may get about 70% more response than one with no videos. The statistics are something like that.

British Pathé archives might have more-extensive material on her exploits, who knows. From a cursory look into it, seems that a lot of their vintage footage is now "public domain in most nations". These two particular clips say they are copyrighted but can be used ('licensed') for cheap prices (£30)
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