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The Tank Museum

Rolls-Royce in Lacock by David Fletcher

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bovtm_rolls_royce_lacock.jpg

 

It’s always a real treat when a new photograph turns up, especially when it comes ‘out of the blue’ and particularly in my case if it features the sort of vehicles I am interested in. This one, although perhaps not as sharp as it might be, is a case in point.

 

It came to us from Mr Terence O’Neill of Lacock in Wiltshire and features, as you can see, a selection of Rolls-Royce armoured cars which seem to have halted in the village for a rest. The photograph was taken by Mr O’Neill’s grandfather and very appropriate too, since Lacock is virtually the home of photography in England.

 

The interesting thing from my point of view, is the selection of vehicles at the head of the column. Right at the front is a Rolls-Royce, 1920 Pattern Mark I armoured car, in original condition. But behind it is one that has been modified to Mark IA standard. There are three major points of difference. Firstly, the armoured strips across the bonnet, intended to deflect incoming bullets away from the driver’s visor. Secondly, the way the Vickers machine-gun has been fitted to the turret in a bullet proof ball mounting instead of the more open style of mounting fitted to the unmodified 1920 pattern cars, and finally the large, oval cupola on top of the turret to give the car commander a bit more headroom and enable him to see outside in reasonable safety. This car also has the oval device on the side of the hull which should tell us that it belonged to the Royal Tank Corps and include its specific War Department number.

 

The third car in the line-up is another Rolls-Royce but this time of the 1924 Pattern with a revised type of armoured hull and a new style of turret. It was one of the last batch of Rolls-Royce armoured cars built for the British Army, all on the 50/60hp Silver Ghost chassis. The 1924 Pattern cars also featured the machine-gun in a ball mounting and a cupola on top of the turret but the style of these makes the car instantly recognisable.

 

The line-up of these three armoured cars is very unusual and most distinctive, as far as one can tell the other two armoured cars, further down the line, are both standard 1920 Pattern types and beyond them is a lorry, too surrounded by people to allow accurate identification but certainly a typical 6x4 in the 30 cwt class and therefore probably a Morris-Commercial.

 

So what are they doing there, why are they parked outside the Abbey in Lacock at all? Well to be honest we don’t know, but two possibilities suggest themselves. Given the variety of vehicles they could be on a training run from Bovington, something designed to give the commanders some navigational experience and the drivers a bit of practice and accustom them to driving in convoy.

 

The other possibility is that they are working with the Experimental Mechanised Force which took part in a military exercise on Salisbury Plain in 1928 and spread over most of Wiltshire. In that case the cars would belong to 3rd Battalion, Royal Tank Corps which was stationed at Lydd, in Kent. However if that were the case the mixture of cars seems a bit unlikely.

 

So can we date the event? If it is the Mechanised Force then it must be the summer of 1928 but if they have driven up from Bovington it could be any time after 1924, when the third car in the line-up (and probably the Mark IA come to that) began to enter service, we cannot be more precise then that.

 

http://www.tankmuseum.org/ixbin/indexplus?record=ART4161&_IXMENU_=news_and_events

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What a fascinating photograph, and a very informative and expert analysis! Thanks!

 

How many armoured RR's were built altogether?

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Thanks for the information on the Rolls Royce armoured cars David, Terry O'Neill, who is chairman of Lacock parish council showed me this photo at this years West Wilts MVT Lacock at War show. The photo was taken from the entrance to the Red Lion pub car park, which coincidentally is also the public entrance to the Lacock at War show. It's a pity we will never be able to re-enact this photo. I will pass on the information to Terry who will be very interested in your findings.

Edited by johnwardle

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