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A trip down memory lane

PUBLISHED: 15:24 18 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:08 12 August 2010

ROAD RUN: It is 100 years since motor vehicles were used to move troops en masse in the War. PICTURES BY JOHN BLACKMAN

ROAD RUN: It is 100 years since motor vehicles were used to move troops en masse in the War. PICTURES BY JOHN BLACKMAN

A MILITARY road run re-enacting part of a historic 60-mile journey 100 years ago took place to raise money for charity. Veteran cars,

A MILITARY road run re-enacting part of a historic 60-mile journey 100 years ago took place to raise money for charity.

Veteran cars, historic army lorries and AA road patrols drove from London through Bromley and Orpington and on to Sevenoaks on Sunday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first occasion that troops were carried en masse by motor transport.

On St Patrick's Day (March 17) 1909, members of the Automobile Association (now known as the AA) carried a composite Battallion of Guardsmen from London to Hastings.

To commemorate and celebrate the contribution of the British Motor Industry, the the Invicta Military-Vehicle Preservation Society (IMPS) and the Military Vehicle Trust joined forces with the AA to run the 25-car calvacade from the Embankment to Sevenoaks.

The event raised money for military charity Combat Stress that supports almost 3,900 service men and women veterans, including 242 from the Iraq conflict and 47 from Afghanistan.

Last week we revealed how north Kent veteran Nick White, 51, is still receiving support from the charity after developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during two tours of Northern Ireland in the '80s and '90s.

Organiser James Baxter, President of the IMPS, said: "The idea came in a chance conversation and we are delighted that the AA are as keen as we are to recognise this important day in both motoring and military history."

Following a brief wreath laying ceremony at the Chelsea Hospital, owners of veteran cars, which included a 1905 Renault open tourer, were flagged off by Red Dwarf actor and car collector Chris Barrie at 10am.

Leaving through the South Grounds via the Bull Ring gate, they drove up towards Parliament Sqaure to cross Westminster Bridge and joined south-east London and the A21 via Bromley and Farnborough arriving in Sevenoaks at about lunchtime.

At the Buckhurst 2 car park near the Leisure Centre, the cars were left on view to the public before the group moved on to the Plow Inn at Hildenborough for a lunch of Irish Stew, the meal given to the Guardsmen on arrival in Hastings.

More than 600 men from the Grenadiers, Coldstream and Scots Guards, were embarked in over 100 AA members' open four and five-seater cars, with the Guardsmen's weapons, ammunition and equipment carried in London Taxis hired and converted for the occasion.

The exercise was organised in conjunction with the War Office to raise the government's awareness of responsible motoring and to test the viability of moving troops in large numbers by road. It proved that in an emergency, such as foreign invasion, troops could be quickly assembled and moved far faster than on foot or using horse drawn transport or train.

The success of this exercise was to be uniquely demonstrated at the beginning of World War One when London buses were used to move the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to confront the advancing Germans in France.

Major Mike Whatley, organiser of the Household Cavalry Pageant, said: "The run to Hastings was a vitally important event for the Army. It marked the beginning of the end for horse drawn transport in the British Army.

"As a direct result of this exercise the War Office recognised the value of motor transport, so that the British Army became the very first completely mechanised army in the world, and the only fully mechanised army to enter World War Two in 1939."

kate.mead@archant.co.uk

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