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
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.
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
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.
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 !!
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..........
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. http://i20.photobucket.com/albums/b213/markparker/ArrivingatMoscow-1.jpg