Rolls-Royce armoured cars

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Sir,
With reference to the starting methods for Rolls-Royce armoured cars. My credentials are that I was a driver of them, as a member of the RAF Armoured Car Wing in Iraq for 3 years 1925/27.

They were fitted with self-starters, but to enable the engines to be started from inside the armour in the event of failure when unfriendly tribes were taking pot shots, a chain-driven hand-turning gear was fitted to rotate the engine, by means of a sprocket fitted on the shaft between the clutch and the gearbox. The drill was to switch on to both mag and coil; the second driver rotated the engine whilst the driver rotated a hand magneto to feed a shower of sparks to the distributor. Talk about belt and braces! It never failed. Praise be to Allah! The sand was thrown into the cone clutch to overcome clutch slip. In the end of the crankshaft was a spring-loaded plunger which passed a small quantity of oil to the clutch spigot when the clutch was fully depressed. Clutch slip was caused by too much oil and for a mild attack we used to crush aspirin and put that in to absorb the oil. On one occasion, in the Neutral Zone of the Southern Desert, I had such serious slip that my second driver had to shovel in sand as I held out the clutch until the whole assembly was locked solid. I drove it back to Kuwait, and I well remember I didn’t snick a gear in the hundreds of changes. It was a beautiful gearbox. They don’t make them, etc.

If anyone is thinking of going to Iraq to find one, don’t! They were sent back to MT Pool at Aboukir in Egypt for overhaul and held in readiness. Eventually I believe they were used in North Africa during the last war. I wonder if any reader knows the end of the story.

R. S. Cooke.
Yeovil.