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16 October 2014
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......From Bangor to Baku - the lighter side

Ulster soldiers fighting for the Royal Navy..... on land in armoured cars.... with the Russian Czar in Asia Minor in 1916

RACD  using camel transport

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Among the serious business of fighting a multinational foe en route to Asia Minor, the RACD enjoyed the lighter side of their difficult and dangerous journey.

Russians Invade London!

The obviously inhospitable weather awaiting the RACD needed to be addressed by fitting out the men in suitable clothing. Gammages store in London was the outfitter and one particular visitor caused a nation wide panic :

After PO North was kitted out from head to toe in sealskin, to add to the effect, Mr Gammage himself showered the poor private with artificial snow to complete the frozen look!
North, already late for a date hurried from the store in his new arctic style and drew curious looks form passers-by. A number of sensational newspaper reports claimed that Russians with snow on their boots had been seen in central London. Sixty years later PO North wrote to the Daily Mail exploding the myth once and for all.

Soccer Victory

The famous Irish soccer victory over England in the 1988 European Championship was not the first such triumph as the sporting media may have led you to believe, they are no less than 72 years out.

On Friday 17 March 1916, in a highly competitive match which must have been played under a canopy of Arctic snow, 'Ireland ' defeated 'England' by a convincing 5 - 1 score line. This momentous victory was subsequently celebrated by a St Patrick's night concert in the clubhouse of the Russian Armoured Car Division, Royal Naval Air Service, Alexandrovsk, N.W.Russia. The team sheets and goal scorers regrettably, are now known to the Almighty alone.

For this unique revelation we are indebted to the diary of P.O. Joseph Cameron of Gilford, Co Down and, in particular to his daughter, Mrs. Metcalfe, for kindly letting us have access to her father's records.

New Money

In the far corners of Asia Minor fresh faced westerners were not a common sight in 1915, especially ones with their own armoured cars. The Cossacks especially, were taken with the clean shaven men and tall stories of life in Britain.

It soon became clear that although the Cossacks were fearsome fighting men, they were very naive. The RACD men managed to convince their Russian hosts that money was imperative to everyone's way of life and that bartering with livestock and guns was obsolete. When the Cossacks enquired how to trade some of their provisions for money, the quick thinking Naval men steamed off jam jar labels and used them as the new currency !!

Secret Weapon

Supporting Cossack cavalry crossing the Mush Plain to Bitlis, Locker lampson was cut off from the rest of his squadron in a single armoured car with a driver and two men, armed only with rifles. As they passed through a high-sided valley the Commander was right to be tense as within minutes the men were attacked by Kurds shooting from above. The order was given immediately to accelerate away, which proved difficult as at every turn the car had to slow to avoid deep splits in the "road" or dried up waterways.

With bullets pinging all around the car, Locker Lampson suddenly had a stroke of genius. The Kurds were not familiar with armoured cars and their capabilities or range of weapons. The Rolls Royce armoured car had a klaxon horn fitted and the commander yelled at the driver :"Sound the Klaxon !"

The Kurds were sufficiently suspicions of this alien whaling to assume it meant a signal for back up and retreated, allowing the men to escape.

What Bridge ?

The RNACD's long and arduous journey across Armenia into the heart of Asia Minor was not helped by the woeful intelligence supplied by the Russians. Locker Lampson decided to set up a series of shuttle runs to establish bases at intervals ahead of the main convoys. Small camps with a couple of men, where petrol and other supplies could be stashed, were etablished.

This proved highly effective and meant a constant supply chain for convoy's journey. This tactic was invaluable as one instance demonstrated very clearly : The Commander arrived to find a Cossack bridge guard cooking its evening meal, but the strategically important wooden bridge which was marked on their Russian reconnaissance map was nowhere to be seen - they had burnt it, plank by plank, to keep warm in the cold mountains!


One final story concerns the RNAS mascot, a small Russian bear called Miskab. Apparently each squadron took it in turns to look after the animal and when the Irish contingent had the responsibility, Miskab new it was party time as he was fed Russian vodka and went "dancing" across the polished floor of the billets..........



Your Responses

Mark Parker
- Aug '06
Hi I have a little photo album covering through to Armenia, It was sent to my Grandmother here in Australia by her sister inlaw who's brother Ltn Cecil Tatton Tatton was in the RNAS.



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