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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

RAC Corps


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I have just finished reading one of the best and most detailed narratives of 1914 I have ever found: "From Mons to Ypres with General French", Frederic Coleman, Dodd Mead & Co, 1916, also available as a modern reprint and as an online ebook. It follows the fortunes of , mainly, the 2nd Cavalry Brigade. The writer was an American who took his car along with some 24 others to France and Flanders as part of the Royal Automobile Club Corps.

This RAC Corps, because they were with the most senior officers of the BEF at the time, saw much that others did not.

Apart from Coleman's second book, "With the Cavalry in 1915", which I am waiting delivery of, are there any other records of the RAC Corps and its band of brave car-owners who took their own vehicles into the thick of the fighting as volunteers?

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The "official History" of the RAC: Brendon, P, (1997), The Motoring Century, the Story of the Royal Automobile Club, Bloomsbury, has a chapter on the Great War (pages 161-191) - from a quick glance it looks very much like a summary of motoring's contribution to the War. It makes reference to 28,000 motorists responding to a call to join The British Motor Service Volunteer Corps (which the RAC formed) and being ready to serve the War Office by the end of August 1914.

Frederic Coleman, an American member, was always, as General Smith-Dorrien said, 'close to where shot and shell were flying pretty merrily', and he wrote an entire book about his experiences. Perhaps, though, he somewhat exaggerated the importance of the role played by himself and his heroic fellow-motorists. One of them, E.F. Baring-Gould, noted that nine out of twenty-five RAC members' cars on active service in France were hors de combat at any time. But there is no doubting their drivers' quixotoc devotion to duty. Attached to the General Headquarters staff, Baring-Gould sometimes drove his Cadillac for thirty hours at a stretch.


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Also Christopher Baker-Carr (founding light of the MGC and the Tank Corps) and "Chauffeur to Brigadier" Not the most reliable of sources, but as retired regular he offered to act as an RAC driver - and was later recalled. The RAC drivers qualified for the 1914 Star.

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