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The Story of Muriel Thompson and V 33

February, 14 2024 | James Russell

UK number plates often have fascinating histories and owners, and the tale of V 33 is pretty extraordinary.


The Story of Muriel Thompson and V 33

From blindfolded races to Emeline Pankhurst, a nursing organisation called FANY and World War One, let’s jump into the intriguing story behind the original owner of V 33.

Introducing Muriel Thompson

Muriel Thompson was born in Aberdeen and developed a keen interest in automobiles following her father’s death in 1896. She took part in all kinds of motoring events in her lifetime, with one of the weirdest and earliest coming in the form of blindfolded driving.

Muriel Thompson black and white photo

In her father’s 24 HP Austin, nicknamed “Pobble” and bearing the V 33 number plate, she managed to beat everyone in her first race by driving 75 yards blindfolded, in reverse, in just 20 seconds.

Her brother Oscar went on to become one of the first members of the British Automobile Racing Club, but as you might imagine, Muriel was the real star of the family as her driving skills were much better than her brothers.

A keen racer

In Britain, women were banned from racing tracks until 1908 when the first female event took place, and of course, Muriel was involved. The track distance was three miles with the best cars capable of around 60mph, and Muriel won the race convincingly by two car lengths, beating the wife of the owner of the track in the process.

The female racers of the time hated the caps and coats worn by male drivers, so they wore distinctively coloured scarves, instead, which were tied in bows around their necks and flailed behind them as they raced. They also deemed motor goggles “far too hideous", so they were scrapped, too, even though they were touted as having numerous safety benefits at the time.

Muriel went on to compete regularly for Berkshire Automobile Club, beating male competitors in many races. In her second and one of her most famous races over a five-mile course, she beat her closest opponent by an astonishing three-quarters of a mile, and she became well-known for her driving achievements at the club.

The Suffragettes and World War 1

The same year as this famous racing victory, she was appointed official “Chauffeuse” of the Women’s Suffrage and Political Union. She even drove Emmeline Pankhurst in the Union’s purple and green Austin, which was registered with the number plate WS 95.

After many more convincing racing wins and the breakout of the First World War, Muriel joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) as a driver, even though women were excluded from joining the British armed forces. Since the Brits wouldn’t let her on the frontline, she drove to Belgium where she was allowed to drive an ambulance that she nicknamed Flossie.

She found herself in grave danger multiple times on the Western Front and due to her incredible bravery, was decorated by the King of the Belgians with the Knight’s Cross for her work evacuating wounded soldiers while under fire.

As a result, Muriel was highly influential in the inclusion of women in war efforts, and from 1916, all FANY members were allowed to drive ambulances for the British Army. What’s more, seven of the nurses went on to win the Military Medal, which they achieved when an air raid was blaring and they were surrounded by exploding shells, but they carried on evacuating the wounded.

Muriel also received the French Croix de Guerre for her bravery in this event, one of only three people to receive it.

Muriel’s closing chapters

Muriel returned to the front in 1918 and reached the rank of Assistant Commandant before being demobilised in 1919. She lived in London with her brother and mother until both had passed, and she died in 1939.

The car and V 33 number plate she’d owned went into the history books after her death, until it was purchased by Marilyn Jack’s father in the 1950s. Its latest sighting was in 2017 when it was spotted on a silver BMW.

Make your own history with National Numbers

As you can see, number plates and their owners can be incredibly interesting. And we bet you weren’t expecting to hear about a heroic feminist hero of World War One from a private number plate dealer!

To bag your own personalised registration and make your mark on the world, visit our website. You can also call our team on 01642 363738 for inspiration and advice.

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