“More valuable than rubies. I should like my own Rolls Royce car with enough tyres and petrol to last all my life.”
– Thomas Edward Lawrence CB DSO FAS, A.K.A. “Lawrence of Arabia” discussing his squadron of nine Rolls Royce Armoured Car used in his operations against the Turkish forces
If you thought Wings of the Great War was content to build replicas of tanks and aircraft, you’d better think again. This November, the Company plans to introduce their first ever armored car, a heavily modified Rolls Royce that was used by the Royal Naval Armoured Car Section during WWI (WW10301). Based on a vehicle that served with the Light Armoured Motor Batteries of the Machine Gun Corps, on the Western Front in 1916, their first effort at offering a non-traditional battle wagon is welcome news for any number of reasons. Foremost among them, it means they can begin to branch out a bit and tackle some more exotic locales and subjects, and, in particular, one of Lawrence of Arabia’s famed weapons when he took the war to the Ottoman Empire.
Six RNAS Rolls-Royce squadrons were formed of 12 vehicles each: one went to France; one to Africa to fight in the German colonies and in April 1915 two went to Gallipoli. From August 1915 onwards these were all disbanded and the materiel handed over to the Army which used them in the Light Armoured Motor Batteries of the Machine Gun Corps. The armoured cars were poorly suited to the muddy trench filled battlefields of the Western Front, but were able to operate in the Near East, so the squadron from France went to Egypt.
Lawrence of Arabia used a squadron in his operations against the Turkish forces. He called the unit of nine armoured Rolls-Royces “more valuable than rubies” in helping win his Revolt in the Desert. This impression would last with him the rest of his life; when asked by a journalist what he thought would be the thing he would most value he said “I should like my own Rolls-Royce car with enough tyres and petrol to last me all my life”.
In the Irish Civil War (1922-1923), 13 Rolls-Royce armoured cars were given to the Irish Free State government by the British government to fight the Irish Republican Army. They were a major advantage to the Free State in street fighting and in protecting convoys against guerrilla attacks and played a vital role part in the retaking of Cork and Waterford. Incredibly, despite continued maintenance problems and poor reaction to Irish weather, they continued in service until 1944, being withdrawn once new tyres became unobtainable. Twelve of the Irish Army examples were stripped and sold in 1954.
At the outbreak of World War II, 76 vehicles were in service. They were used in operations in the Western Desert, in Iraq, and in Syria. By the end of 1941, they were withdrawn from the front line service as modern armoured car designs became available. Some Indian Pattern cars saw use in the Indian subcontinent and Burma.