Topic: AIF - Cars
1st AUSTRALIAN ARMOURED CAR SECTION, AIF
THE MOTOR DASH ON ALEPPO
This is a transcription from a manuscript submitted by Captain E.H. James called "The Motor Patrol". It is lodged in the AWM as AWM 224 MSS 209. This is Part 1.
The Motor Dash on Aleppo - Part 1
When Major General MacAndrew left Damascus with the 5th Cavalry Division with Aleppo as his objective it was known that he had a pretty tough proposition in hand. Aleppo was a Turkish military depot where several divisions were stationed with large supply and ammunition reserves. It was also a Railway Depot and junction of the two Railway Systems to Baghdad and Damascus and was in direct communication with Constantinople.
On the other hand the 5th Division was only about half its strength on account of the losses through disease and battle etc. The horses were more or less done on account of the strenuous operations preceding the taking of Damascus and there was over 200 miles to go before reaching the objective with perhaps the prospect of strong enemy resistance anywhere on the route. Nevertheless, the division made excellent progress considering the conditions for over a third of the distance when it was realised that progress was getting considerably slower and the horses were becoming more or less done.
General MacAndrew, or fighting Mac as he was known, realised that something else would have to be done if the operations were to be successful as speed was one of the main factors necessary for success. The General than decided when the division reached Homs to collect all the available motors together and make a rush for the enemy's base leaving the division to follow on as soon as possible. Three Armoured Car batteries (Nos. 2, 11 and 12 L. A.M.B.S.) and three Light Car Patrols (Nos. 1, 2 and 7 L.C.P.S.) were hastily collected together with their necessary transport vehicles. Each armoured car battery consisted of four 50 h.p. Rolls Royce armoured care, each mounted with a Vickers Machine Gun and each Light Car Patrol consisted of four light care each mounted with a Lewis Gun.
Both units of course had necessary tenders accompanying them with extra patrol, oil, water, actions end ammunition. Thus the fleet counted between them twenty four machine guns with their crews and transport. The armoured cars were the battle ships of the fleet, but owing to their weight they were more or less compelled to stick to the hard ground. The cars of the Light Car Patrols while they did not have the protection of the larger vehicles could venture on to places where the others could not go and were like the light cruisers of the fleet.
This little mobile army, with General MacAndrew in command himself, left Hama at daybreak on the morning of the 22nd of October, 1918 and said good-bye to the rest of the division.
After driving due north for an hour or two a fleet of enemy motor vehicles hove into view. phase vehicles consisted of a German armoured our and a number of German motor lorries fitted-with steel tyres and each mounting a machine gun and than, began one of the prettiest little fights that has probably ever bean witnessed. This was probably the first occasion on record of a battle between two fleets of motor vehicles. The German vehicles saw that they were outnumbered and were making all haste to get away north firing frantically with their machine was from the rear of the lorries as they bounced and jolted over the rough ground. The big German armoured car endeavoured to cover the retreat of the other vehicles. Our armoured cars rushed up alongside the enemy vehicles and a running fight ensued at a speed of about thirty miles per hour with the Light Car Patrols hovering round to get a shot in now and then, while some of them rushed ahead in order to cut off the enemy vehicles. The shooting from the German lorries was very erratic as owing to the roughness of the ground, the speed at which they were travelling and the unsuitableness of the vehicles for fast travelling, the gunners one minute would be firing into the ground and the next into the clouds. After a few minutes of this running fight the German armoured car suddenly stopped, a door opened at the side and the crew rushed out towards some barley crops growing alongside the track only to be shot down as they ran. The other lorries were then gradually surrounded and captured and some caught fire and were burnt. On examining the enemy armoured car we found that the engine was still running and we soon discovered why the crew left it so hurriedly. The fact being that it was a very unhealthy place to be as the bullets from our vehicles were penetrating the supposed armour plating and going clean through both sides at close range. The bullets from the German cars only fell harmlessly from the plating of our armoured care, so the fight was more or less a one sided one.
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Further Reading:The Australian Light Horse - Structure
Citation: 1st Australian Armoured Car Section - The Motor Dash on Aleppo - Part 1