Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Rolls Royce goes to War for Real and in Miniature

The RNAS Armoured Car Squadron collar devices offer a convenient Segway into that unique organization, who’s concept and achievements provided the origins of the initial mission and engagements of the Special Air Service, as well as those of Long Range Desert Group, and No. 1 Demolition Squadron (Popski’s Private Army) during World War II. Cdr Charles R. Samson (later Air Commodore Charles Rumney Samson CMG, DSO & Bar, AFC) like his contemporary Col. Thomas Edward “T. E.” Lawrence CB DSO FAS (“Laurence of Arabia”), was a military visionary, and a predecessor of LtCoL David Stirling (later Sir Archibald David Stirling DSO OBE), famous founder of the Special Air Service Regiment, by a generation.

With full acknowledgement and expressed gratitude to the YOONIQ Images web site the following is a very early contemporary photograph of the Cdr C.R. Samson and immediate staff of the RNAS Armoured Car Squadron.  It was probably taken circa early Fall 1914, with the cobble stone street of Antwerp or Liege, Belgium. As a a British naval aviation pioneer he was one of the first four officers selected for pilot training by the Royal Navy and was the first person person to fly an aircraft off a moving ship. Of particular interest is the presence of the two Royal Naval Reserve lieutenants and the Royal Marine officer. Given the specific configuration of the one officer's ammunition pouch and riveted holster, it's highly probable that he is carrying a .455cal. Webley Pistol, Self-Loading Model 1912, Mk IN. This is also the case for Cdr Samson, given his pistol holster's configuration. For those who may be interested in more detail scroll down on; . The other RNR lieutenant with the monocle, judging by the lanyard, is also carrying either a revolver or pistol which cannot be further identified by the author (Almost looks like he may be holding a pipe, or is that a very large lanyard ring.)

Without going into excruciating, potentially boring detail, the following is a summary of the organization of the Royal Navy’s armoured cars during World War I. From an extremely modest beginning of a single squadron the order-of-battle quickly expanded, and the unit was finally officially designated the Royal Naval Armoured Car Division (RNACD). 4 cars comprised a Section. Three Sections comprised a Squadron, and eventually 15 then 20 Squadrons constituted the Division. This would indicate an order-of-battle of 240 vehicles. Records show 120 Rolls Royce cars being built during World War I. These cars constituted half the Division. The balance was comprised of a combination of Worseley and Clement-Talbots armoured cars.

In anticipation of the probable immediate reader's question, what did these other cars look like? Here are photographs of first, one of the Worseley cars, and then one of the Clement-Talbot cars. Both photographs are of the actual original vehicles in Cdr Samson's initial squadron, taken in early Fall 1914. The one of the Talbot contained in the railroad magazine page, while not of the best resolution, is considered by experts to be extremely rare.

The internet is replete with narratives and imagery of the RNAS Armoured Car Squadrons (later Division), so it is not intended to repeat that information here. For the inclined reader three excellent initial sources are; , and . Rather, this article will try to reiterate one of the principal themes of this blog; illustrating how history can be reflected in the art of the toy soldier and military miniature by selected examples, and studied from that perspective.

Although a post World War I configuration Model 1920 Mk I, here is a photograph of a finely restored Rolls Royce Armoured Car currently residing at the Bovington Museum.

The basic specifications of the Rolls Royce Armoured Car are as follows:
Manufacturer   Rolls Royce
Number built   120 During World War I
Variants           Rolls Royce 1920 Pattern
                        Rolls Royce 1924 Pattern
                        Fordson Armored Car, Rolls
                        Royce Indian Pattern
Weight             4.7 tonnes
Length             4.93 m (194 in)
Width              1.93 m (76 in)
Height             2.54 m (100 in)
Crew               3
Armor             12 mm (0.47 in)
Main                .303cal. Vickers Medium
armament         Machine Gun
Secondary       None
Engine             6-cylinder petro, water-cooled
Power/weight  80 hp (60 kW)
                        19 hp/tonne
Suspension      4X2 wheel (double rear wheels),
                        Leaf spring
Operational      240 km (150 miles)
Speed (max.)   72 km/hr (45 mph)

The armoured car incorporated into the design of the collar device represents the highly modified  Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, with the first three vehicles being delivered on 3 December 1914. They replaced their predecessors, also Rolls Royces, which had been hurriedly improvised under Cdr Samson’s direction during the earliest days of World War I.

Both designs, as well as follow-on configurations have long been popular subjects of scale military model enthusiasts, as well as toy soldier and military miniature manufacturers. Among others the iconic British firm Wm. Britains Ltd. produced the Armoured Car, with swiveling gun, Set 1321, which was introduced in 1933 and produced until 1941. However, it represented a model of a hybrid Crossley/Rolls armoured car, not a pure Rolls. It was not until 1997, in a design by Charles Briggs, and a brief resurgence of cast alloy Britains, that the Royal Naval Armoured Car, 1914, Set 8925, made a brief appearance in 1:32 scale (same as Wm. Britains toy soldiers), in its Premier Series. It has long since been retired, now being sought on the internet and at auctions by collectors, particularly during the recent centennial of World War I. The following photographs chronicle a rare image of the original Rolls Amoured car, along with Charles Briggs and W. Britains Ltd, miniature reincarnation.

The purpose built Rolls Royce Armoured Car soldiered on at the conclusion of hostilities in 1918, serving in as divergent locations as Siberia to Ireland, India and Iraq during the inter-war years, and even on into the early period of World War II. It underwent significant modifications in the 1920 and 1924 models. The first photograph is of a beautifully restored (truly unbelievable), currently fully operational vehicle. 

However, for those of us who may be slightly less affluent, one of many alternatives exist. John Jenkins, another manufacturer of military miniatures, makes a 1:30 scale model of one of Cdr Samson's armored cars, issued as set De JJ-BGC-03, in the original accurate livery:

Thomas Gunn, still another military miniature maker, offers a slightly different color scheme, again in 1:30 scale, as set GW016B:

The firm King and Country brings the same car into World War II in the configuration employed by the British 1st Army in North Africa in 1940. The model, set EA044 was introduced in 2011,  also in 1:30 scale, it has been retired, and is now sought after by collectors.

For those readers who might be interested, the following is a video of the Rolls Royce Armoured Car, Mk I, Model 1920, showing it in service with two long term protagonists, Great Britain and the Irish Free State;

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Royal Naval Division Cap Badges - An Addendum

Throughout its illustrious history the Royal Navy has served ashore at various times and places, and in many capacities, ranging from small landing parties to the Naval Brigade Siege Artillery, 24 Pdrs from HMS Shannon under command of CAPT William Peel, present at the Relief/Siege of Lucknow and Cawnpore during the Indian Mutiny in1857. A naval contingent also transported and served the modified 4.7in Naval guns which aided in lifting the Siege of Ladysmith during the Boer War. But to this author’s knowledge, it was not until World War I that an entire military division was raised within the Royal Navy, and rushed to the European continent in the Fall of 1914, to defense the nation of Belgium, in stemming the invasion of that country by the German Army.

First named the Royal Naval Division, and later re-designated The 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, it was also referred to a “Churchill’s Private Army”, because of Sir Winston’s influence and direction in raising the Division, as First Lord of the Admiralty. It was basically comprised of two Naval Brigades and a Royal Marine Brigade. The Division saw early immediate and intense action in the defense of Antwerp, Belgium (obviously a vital port city) in the late fall of 1914. As if that baptism of fire wasn’t enough, it was subsequently engaged in another of Churchill’s “endeavors”, the invasion of Gallipoli in 1915, as well as gaining the Battle Honour “Somme 1916”.

The first four battalions initially raised in the major naval depot ports of Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Deal, and named accordingly, were quickly expanded to eight, and renamed after famous Admirals of the Royal Navy. Those names being; Drake, Benbow, Hawke, Collingwood, Nelson, Howe, Hood and Anson.

This article is intended to provide further detailed information on the insignia worn by the officers and personnel of the Royal Naval Division and the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Squadrons. Because of the fame and unique hybrid (both Army and Royal Navy) nature of the uniforms and insignia of these units, the collection of these insignia has always been, and remains very popular. Unfortunately, as has been addressed frequently in this blog, that very popularity has driven the unscrupulous endeavors of counterfeiters. Hopefully the additional limited knowledge and guidance provided in this article will assist both novice and advanced collector, in avoiding some of those potential “rocks and shoals”.

For the reader's convenience, examples and detailed forensic analysis of the six officially authorized cap badges of the RND battalions can be seen at; .

The Formation Badge of the Royal Naval Division, which was retained when the Division was re-designated The 63rd (Royal Naval) Division is depicted here:

 Another reason for writing this article, is that personnel of these units would have been armed to a limited extent with the .455cal. Webley Self-Loading Pistol, Model 1913 Mk I(N), which was the very recent subject in another entry on this blog page. See; .

Three immediate and vital pieces of information. The unique cap badges specific to the various named battalions were not wore by officers, warrant officers, and Chief petty officers of the Division, who retained either subdued embroidered bullion or metal cap badges. Secondly, there may have been proposed designs for a cap badge for the Benbow and Collingwood Battalions, But NONE were ever officially authorized or worn. Shoulder titles were issued for these two battalions.  Thirdly, the crowned oval badge containing the letters R.N.A.S. and the profile of a Rolls Royce Amoured car, has frequently been misidentified as a cap badge, it is a collar device (“dog”), and worn as a pair on the lapels of personnel of the Royal Naval Armoured Car Squadrons. It is NOT a cap badge. The devices were worn by all ranks.

 The author is again greatly indebted to John 'Paddy' Newell, an established and recognized expert on the insignia of both the Royal Naval Division and the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Squadrons, for providing exemplars from his personal collection of some of the scarcer badges and insignia of both units. In the case of the Royal Naval Division, it should be stated that all personnel, both Royal Navy and Royal Marines, were either reservists or volunteers. This fact explains the appearance of the letters “RNV” on some of the cap badges.

The following series of photographs depict in order;

The Royal Naval Division, Officers Cap Badge (KC)(Bronze)(1st Pattern)

The Royal Naval Division, Officer's Cap Badge (KC)(Bronze)(1st Pattern Variant; almost appears painted)

The Royal Naval Division, Officers Cap Badge (KC)(Bronze)(2nd Pattern)

The Royal Navy, Officer's Cap Badge (KC)(Bullion)(1901-20)

The Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, Officer's Cap Badge (KC)(Bullion)

The Royal Naval Division Chief Petty Officer's Cap Badge (KC)(Bronze)

The following are extremely scarce variant collar devices worn as an alternate on the khaki officer's service dress of the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Squadrons:

Both sets of devices can be observed being worn on the lapels of the group of officers in the following photograph (Apologies, because unfortunately attribution can't be established. Will remove if so requested):

Sunday, May 22, 2016

"Tell It to the Marines!"

Originally a pejorative term referring to the alleged gullibility of the British Royal Marines serving aboard ships of the Royal Navy where they were not as familiar with the ways of the sea as the Matelots, i.e., sailors, and would believe most anything. However, at some point in time the term’s meaning was reversed by the U.S. Marine Corps, in that the marines (both British and American) had served in many places, observed many nations and cultures, experienced many things, and acquired a great deal of practical knowledge. Therefore, if a dubious issue arose and was questioned, and a Marine said it was true, it must be true.

So this is intended as a segway into a recent very rare item, which after at least three decades, I found in what was to me a very unlikely location. In 1982 at the then well-known Great Western Gun Show at the massive Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona, California, I was able to acquire a near mint Webley-Scott Model 1912 Semi-Automatic Pistol Mk I in .455cal. British nomenclature is “Self-Loading”. The gun was the “commercial” model, which subsequent research showed was one of a lot of 136 private sales pistols manufactured in the month of December of 1914. It was identical in every respect, except slightly different markings, to the pistols then being produced under government contract. During the entire span of production there were only 1248 “non-government contract” models ever manufactured. A majority of these pistols were thought to have been purchased by officers of the British Armed Forces, as was their prerogative at the time, and carried during World War I. Records establish that the Army & Navy Cooperative Society Ltd sold over 200 weapons between January 1913 and January 1915, for the most part to British army officers. In the case of this specific gun its serial number in the 118... range, establishes a date of manufacture in December 1914.  If it belonged to an officer, the person must have had a staff billet well behind the lines, given its condition. For readers who may no recognize it, the bronze badge shown beside a Royal Navy officer's cap badge, is the collar device or "dog" (often misidentified as a cap badge) of the Royal Navy Air Service Armoured Car Squadron during World War I.

Because of the virtually new condition of the weapon and its rarity, I have never fired it, and have subsequently searched for both original ammunition and accessories. The holster shown is obviously a modern reproduction of one of the various styles originally manufactured and issued for the pistol. One specific item has eluded me for decades, that being a spare magazine in reasonably good condition. I have searched gun shows, and more recently the internet, without success, until very recently.

Approximately a month ago, in a normal monitoring of various web sites, came upon a dealer offering the precise magazine in excellent condition. He was smart enough to provide extensive colored photography of the magazine, such that it was possible to insure it was absolutely righteous, by comparing it to the magazine original to my pistol. The additional unique aspect of all of this was that he was located in Warsaw, Poland. “Tell it to the Marines!”

Now with the magazine safely delivered, the dealer indicated that he had purchased the magazine from a person in Germany, but was certain that it had previously come from France. Logical, given the presence of the Royal Naval Division, Royal Marines, Royal Flying Corps, Royal Horse Artillery, and the British Army Expeditionary Force, in France during World War I. All being issued (as a limited standard), and/or using this model Webley in various Marks and Mods. It has now come a long circuitous route from its original place of manufacture, Birmingham, England. “Tell it to the Marines!”.

It would appear that the Royal Navy showed considerable foresight in adopting the Case, pistol almost a year in advance of the Pistol, self-loading, Webley and Scott, .455-inch, Mark I, which was not formally approved until 19th May 1913, as announced by LoC. §16403. The reality is that the decision to adopt the Webley Scott pistol had already been taken by early 1912.  As with the pattern 1901 Accoutrements, there appears to be no LoC. entry or other documentation that has come to light, identifying when it was declared obsolete.

Shown below are a series of photographs of a Royal Navy original issued holster, manufactured in 1912 for use with the pistol, and a variant. Rather than stitching, rivets predominate in the construction of the holster, as they were believed to hold up better in the marine environment, although only a small percentage of the weapons were thought to have gone to sea. The original issued magazine/ammunition pouch is also shown below. Am currently in the process of taking delivery of museum quality replicas of each from Kevin and Jenny Beckhurst, who operate the  Military History Workshop in Cornwall, England. Note: Having subsequently received both, can personally attest to the superior quality of their craftsmanship.

Along the way, have acquired Pattern 1925 Carrier, Magazine, Pistol, which was introduced with the Web Equipment, R.A.F. Pattern 1925. See; Air Ministry Weekly Order No. 793/1927, as Stores Ref. 23/79. It was designed to carry two magazines for the .455-inch Colt Semi-Automatic Pistol. The first example below is from someone else's collection.  I made the grievous error of trying to clean mine up, and it has both shrunk and faded, as you will see in the photographs. As you also can see, it may as an alternative, have held a pair of Webley magazines in its original condition. The magazines shown in the second pouch below are for; on the left, .45cal. Colt M1911A1, and on the right, the .455cal. Webley Model 1912 Mk I.


Research however indicates that the only purpose built, ordnance specified, magazine carrier for the Webley Semi-Automatic Pistol was manufactured of leather, and was designed to carry 2 extra magazines, plus an additional seven 7 cartridge packets of ammunition. This would provide an additional 63 rounds. Shown below is an original issue leather holster and ammunition pouch for the pistol, an original magazine/ammunition pouch, and a modern museum quality reproduction crafted by Military History Workshop.

The Pouch, cartridge, pistol, Mark I. Brown leather was approved on 31st May 1912 and announced as part of the Accoutrements, Naval, Pattern 1912 by List of Changes paragraph §16043 of 1st August 1912. It was designed to carry 49 rounds in 7 packets plus 2 spare magazines (charged, 7 rounds each) giving a total of 63 rounds. The magazines were held below the top opening of the Pouch by four spring clips. The position of the magazines was intended to minimize the loss of ammunition from the Pouch. The Pouch, cartridge, pistol measures 5 ½-inches wide by 5 ½-inches high by 2 ¼-inches deep.

The Sub Lt. below shows the standard Webley Auto kit first seen just prior to the outbreak of WW1. With full acknowledgement and expressed gratitude to; NAVYWEB MkII a Division of the Historical Maritime Society (U.K.)


For the reader who might be interested in additional information on the .455cal. Webley Model 1912 Semi-Automatic Pistol Mk I, please see; and .