IN the last couple of weeks we've become interested in RAC and AA roadside emergency phoneboxes and, in response, Joan Potts of Howden-le-Wear has sent in a great collection of pictures concerning a family member who was an AA patrolman in the Durham dales.

The two motoring organisations began placing "sentry boxes" beside main roads just before the First World War, and by the 1960s, when then practice ceased, there were about 1,500 of them. Each member had a universal key which opened the box door and from the telephone inside, the member was able to summon assistance – we think that the two organisations had joined forces so any member could gain access to any box.

For much of the 20th Century, motoring was very different to how it is today. Today in our satellite-guided cars we swish grandly along smooth new motorways that barely have a service station every 50 miles, but back in the day, cars were slower, more primitive, less reliable and the highways were narrow and twisty.

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Main roads, like the old A1, were lined with garages and cafes – a place like Catterick Village must have had scores of jobs tied up with its position straddling the Great North Road.

The sentry boxes and patrolmen were part of those different motoring days.

Joan's husband's uncle was Les Menforth, who lived at Fir Tree on the A67. "He joined the AA after returning from service in the Second World War," she says. "I first remember him riding a motor bike and then driving a small patrol van. I remember him attending the inspection by the Duke of Edinburgh, although I'm not sure of the date." That inspection is the main picture on today's front cover, with Prince Philip riding like the Pope in an AA LandRover with AA patrolmen from the Newcastle and Manchester areas standing to attention. If you can tell us anymore about it, or if you have any motoring memories that you'd like to share, please email chris.lloyd@nne.co.uk