CARS IN BOOKS, October 1961




Through the thoughtfulness of a member of Camberwell Public Libraries I have been able to read a book that throws much interesting light on the use of armoured cars in the First World War. I have for some time thought it would be nice to write a book about this aspect of the Kaiser war and claim for myself the title ” Motor Vehicles in the 1914/18 War ” hut even better than technical facts are accounts of what happened when these primitive and varied commercial vehicles, on oil lamps, solid tyres and calling for a swing to start them, went to France and Belgium on active service. There is a good book about the advent of tanks and I picked up by chance in a bookshop behind the MtrtoR Snow!’ offices, within a stone’s throw of the barracks front where its author operated, a fascinating book about anti-aircraft defences and vehicles of the 1914/18 era. But books about motor vehicles at the Front seem almost nonexistent and consequently I was most interested to read ” Fights and Flights,” by Air-Commodore Charles Rumney Samson, C.M.G.„ D.S.O., A.F.C., R.A.F., published by Ernest Benn in 1930.

The author commences with a description of his Eastchurch R.N.A.S. Squadron as it was constituted when ordered to Ostend in August 1014. Apart front some 70 aeroplane mechanics Commodore Samson had 20 specially-enlisted transport drivers, ” the majority being very highly skilled motor mechanics and testers from Rolls-Royce, Wolseley and Talbot.” I note; too, that his repair officer was a Mr. Brownridge, a carpenter, R.N., who is most highly spoken of. Is he, I wonder, the Mr. Brownridge who after the war helped Eldridge to build the Fiat ” Mephistopheles ” ? There is a great deal in this fascinating 370-page hook about aeroplanes hut, confining this summary to motor vehicles, I find that the Squadron’s transport comprised ten touring cars, of which F. R. Samson’s 45/5o Mercedes mounted a Maxim gun, two 5-ton Mercedes lorries and eight L.G.O.C. omnibus chassis,

one of which was actually No. 2, so it must have been a veteran.” The author’s brother, Lt. Felix Samson, was very keen on armouring motor cars for battle but the first fought with the cars, at Cassel on Sentember 4th, 1914, was with the Mercedes, and a Rolls-Royce without a gun. The next day, four cars, two.of them with machine-guns borrowed from the French, took Lille, ?nd Continued on page Sr.lo