Desert runabouts

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Sir,
I was fascinated to read Mr. Williams’ letter, under the heading “Desert Runabouts”. My grandfather was also along on the Mesopotamia campaign and has often described these T-Model pickups.

The model shown is fitted with wooden artillery wheels, which apparently broke up constantly while in use, so it is doubtful if any totally authentic examples survived. However, the appearance of the photograph prompted some reminiscences on the ficklety of these runabouts when faced with fording rivers, etc. Since the electrics were all flywheel driven, after crossing a river it was necessary for several men to take turns swinging the starting handle until centrifugal force had dried the system and the electrics would again function.

On the subject of starting handles, my grandfather, who was gunner in a Rolls-Royce armoured car, recalls that, the original Rolls chassis being designed for civilian use, the armoured cars were supplied with no self-starter. Since the opportunity of using the handle seldom occurred while under fire, the cars were taken to Woolwich and equipped with self-starter units which engaged in grooves in the flywheel. These tended to be oily on occasion and it was apparently regular practice to lift the car’s flooring, grab a handful of sand and throw it on the flywheel. While this was apparently effective, it does seem somewhat cavalier treatment of such a respectable piece of machinery as a Rolls-Royce.

I have in my possession the dashboard plate (No. 17RD) of my grandfather’s R-R. This, he believes, was dumped along with many others in Mesopotamia. So, apart from oil, the Middle-East may well he rich in Rolls-Royce and T-Model Ford chassis, just waiting to be restored.

The Autographic No. 1A mentioned conveniently fitted in the uniform pocket intended for first field dressings. It is perhaps fortunate that so many troopers of this campaign chose to be able to take photographs rather than carry first aid gear, and so, even if the vehicles do not survive, pictorial records do.

Bruce Henderson, Jnr.
Gunelochhead.