Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (1914 Pattern)

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…more valuable than rubies

Col. T.E. Lawrence
“Lawrence of Arabia” describing the Rolls-Royce Armoured Car

The Rolls-Royce Armoured Car was the first ever Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) to enter production for the British armed forces pre-dating the tank by nearly two years. However the way in which it came about was not so much through a government issued requirement or even the Army for that matter but actually the Royal Navy. A handful of Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts served with a Royal Naval Air Squadron unit based in France and in August 1914 these were used to assist the RNAS’ aircraft in spotting the German advance. The only defence came from a 0.3 cal machine gun and the men driving these vehicles obviously felt very vulnerable because soon they began welding pieces of iron boilers on to the sides to give some level protection from enemy bullets. Thus the first armoured Rolls-Royces came in to existence.

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These early armoured cars were still open topped vehicles like the car it was based on which meant that if the crew found themselves caught by enemy fire they were forced to duck down while they tried to make good their escape. Although rudimentary, the Admiralty were quite taken by the initiative of their officers and engineers and so established a committee to investigate the concept further and establish an improved and properly manufactured version offering all round protection. The result was the Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (1914 Pattern). This finally offered all-round protection for the crew from small arms fire and the build quality was naturally higher. Mechanically the vehicle was identical to the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost using all the same running gear and suspension and as proof of how much importance was placed on the new vehicle all of the chassis and components for civilian Silver Ghosts were requisitioned by the War Office.

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Just 120 vehicles would be built for the Royal Naval Air Service and their usefulness would be later recognised by the Army who ordered upgraded vehicles in the post war period. More vehicles were desired by the RNAS during the war but Rolls-Royce found themselves in such demand for aero engines that it lacked the facilities to meet demand for both and so the war in the air was given priority. Although born out of the fighting on the Western Front it would be in Africa and the Middle East where it would distinguish itself. Superb reliability for the time coupled with great agility and reasonably good protection (there were few infantry weapons available in World War I that could destroy any armoured vehicle) produced a war winning vehicle. Its reliability was proven dramatically by Commander Locker-Lampson and his force that operated on the Russian Front achieving extraordinarily high mileage for the day with very little support from the UK.

Rolls Royce specifications (1914 Pattern)

  • Dimensions: 194 in x 76 in x 100 in (4.93 x 1.93 x 2.54 m)
  • Total weight: 4.7 tons (9400 lbs)
  • Crew: 3 (commander, driver, machine-gunner)
  • Propulsion: 6-cylinder petrol, water-cooled 80 hp (60 kW), 19 hp/t
  • Suspensions: 4 x 2 leaf springs
  • Speed: 45 mph (72 kph)
  • Range: 150 miles (240 km)
  • Armament: 1 x Vickers Water cooled cal.303 (7.62 mm) machine gun
  • Armour: 12 mm (0.47 in)
  • Total production: 120
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5 responses to “Rolls-Royce Armoured Car (1914 Pattern)

  1. Great post on a weapon for its time. I suspect that its employment in the Middle East and Africa influenced the Special Air Service activities in the Desert during World War II.

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  2. In 2003 after being advised by David Fletcher of the Tank Museum Bovington, UK, that an example of the 1914 Pattern Rolls Royce Armoured Car had recently been located in India, I visited the car on my next business trip to India and spent some time measuring it and snapping photographs.

    At my defence manufacturing business, we built a copy of the RRAC on a genuine Phantom 1 chassis and by 2006 had nearly completed it when my defence manufacturing business was sold (including the RRAC project). The new owner had no interest in the project and sold the chassis sans body and the project was never completed.

    All the engineering has been done and if another suitable chassis becomes available, I will look into doing the project again.

    I am currently completing CAD drawings for the RRAC for a project in 1:5 scale along with a Great War British Mk IV tank in 1:5 and 1:6 scale.

    Keith Dudley
    Frontier Defence
    Victoria Australia

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is fascinating. Thank you. Do you have a web page for the project? If so I will post a link on the site for you. I have seen a replica that was built for centenary of the start of the Great War at the Haynes International Motor Museum. You can find it on the museum page.
      Thank you again
      – Tony

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  3. Pingback: How War Inspired the Vehicles of Yesterday and Today – Ancestry Blog

  4. Pingback: Defence of the Realm – Army | Defence of the Realm

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