A history of this armored car would require a great many pages,
devoted to its lengthy and varied service in the British armed
services; and it is connected, oddly enough, with aviation. At
the beginning of WWI the British military directed their thoughts
to the need to protect newly built airfields against their being
suddenly overwhelmed by enemy troops. The Royal Naval Air Service
(RNAS) suggested to the Admiralty that a special armored car be
developed, which could not only execute defensive functions but
also as necessary support army units in combat, and fulfill communication
and transport duties. Soon, the Air Department of the Admiralty
made overtures to a firm in the motor industry, Rolls-Royce, which
had been producing cars for about ten years.
In 1906 this firm introduced the highly successful Silver Ghost,
which continued to be built by the factory while the War was already
under way. Admiralty engineers developed an original simple armored
superstructure for the Silver Ghost chassis, which appeared to
be successful in all respects. In December 1914 the first three
cars were issued to the army. A rotating turret fitted with a
Vickers machine gun was installed on top of the armored body.
On the whole the design appeared to be just what was wanted, and
soon the motor company received a new order for additional cars.
With the onset of physical fighting at the Western Front soldiers
became interested in the armored car. However, the idea of sending
the car into the battle area, which featured impassable mud for
kilometer after kilometer, was intimidating from the very beginning.
The fragile suspension of this passenger car with an armored shell
would never be able to survive in these conditions. The active
military service of this car in the trench war was over before
it had even begun. However the War quickly spread from Europe
to other regions of the world. The Middle East, and Africa, where
the war also began for the possession of the German colonies,
were the most promising for the application of the fast and reasonably
well protected armored car.
Instead of guarding airfields in the territory of Misty Albion,
six newly formed squadrons of the Royal Naval Air Service were
sent to the hot and dusty deserts of North Africa and to the Turkish
province of Gallipoli, where the fighting had already been going
on for some time. These cars were found to be highly useful weapons,
and even the end of the Great War did not put a full stop to their
career. In 1920 they underwent their first modernization. And
four years later, another one. Elegant on a passenger car, but
worse than useless for a military armored car, the spoke wheels
were exchanged for ones with full metal disks. The form of the
turret was changed for an open topped one, and instead of a Vickers
gun, a Boys anti-tank rifle and a Bren light machine gun were
fitted. It was also equipped with a smoke grenade launcher.
In the 1920s these cars continued to take part in armed service:
in the colonies of Great Britain they co-operated with aviation,
repressing local revolts by unarmed colonial tribes; and even
in Europe employment was found for them, during the period of
civil war in Ireland, when the British government delivered several
armored cars to the Irish government to counter the attacks of
the Irish Republican Army. These vehicles conducted their active
service until 1944 and were retired only due to the complete wearing
out of their working parts.
One of the cars passed into the hands of one of the best-known
eccentric historical figures of the 20th Century, Lawrence of
Arabia: his armored car was used by him during his guerrilla actions
and other adventures in the Middle East. In due course the Thirties
came to their end and there was again a smell of war in the air.
There was extensive modernization in Europe, and also in the armor
of the British Army. At the time about one hundred Armoured Cars
remained in service in the colonies. The majority (about 70) of
them were in North Africa, where they soon faced Italian troops.
Some more were in India, carrying out raids in the territory of
Today, some original armored cars of this type have been preserved
in different countries of the world. They have been quite valuable
private property for a long time now, and remind us of those distant
times, when the first blundering motorized constructions, weakly
protected against an opponent's firearms, enabled rapid development
of a military technical idea and led to the appearance of more
modern mobile weapons in the future.