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Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Argyll Lanchester's

In 1927 a contract was placed for a pair of prototype armoured cars. Most armoured cars of the time were built upon truck chassis with an armoured body dropped on top. This pair of prototypes were on custom built chassis, with the structure made out of high quality steel. Despite this the two prototypes were reviewed and the frame was strengthened along with several minor modifications. From there the two prototypes became the Lanchester Armoured Car. Orders were placed from 1928 until 1932 although most of the cars that were ordered were in the first batch. These served around the world including the Middle East and in the Saarland during the plebiscite. When the Second World War broke out most of the surviving cars were in Malaya.
Four of these cars were serving with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Argyll's had a long history with these large robust cars. However, by now they were distinctly temperamental when it came to reliability. In 1941 the Japanese launched their invasion. During the long fighting retreat the Lanchester armoured cars severed the defenders well. The cars saw action throughout the campaign. On the 19th of December the Argyll's were able to field one armoured car to support an armoured counter attack.
This was launched by assorted lightly armoured vehicles, mostly Bren Gun Carriers. It was thrown at a Japanese armour column in desperation when the Japanese armour smashed into the Allied front lines, and penetrated towards Daipand Bridge. The Lanchester was commanded by Sgt Albert Darroch. Unsurprisingly a charge of Bren Gun Carriers agaisnt actual tanks was only going to end one way. Soon the Argyll bugler sounded the regimental call followed by the Stand Fast order, the Argyll's began to fall back. This was the way the Argyll's communicated in the dense brush, they also used the wrong signals such as "Stand Fast" for retreat so that the Japanese would be confused. Often a Lanchester was left behind as a rear guard. However, on this occasion Sgt Darroch's Lanchester was facing off against Japanese tanks. Using his .50 Vickers gun sparingly as not much ammunition remained for the weapon, he attempted to hit the tanks vision slits to cause splash casualties to the enemy crew. He also drove about to attract the Japanese attention towards himself, all the while the Boys Rifles in the carriers were bouncing ineffectively off the enemy armour.
After ten minutes of this Sgt Darrochs Lanchester was hit by a 37mm shell. Sgt Darroch slumped forwards onto his driver, who shoved him off. As he scrambled into the rear drivers position the driver saw, with some horror, an eyeball lying on the floor of the vehicle. It had belonged to Sgt Darroch, who was dying from the head wound. Once at the rear driving seat he managed to get the Lanchester to safety, despite the turret being utterly wrecked. For his actions Sgt Darroch was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

As the campaign progressed the Argyll's were battered to pieces, at one point the entire formation was just 94 men strong. However, reinforcements were on hand. 250 Royal Marines, survivors from HMS Repulse and Prince of Wales along with fresh weapons were incorporated to the unit. Among the reinforcements were some more Lanchesters. Many of these were taken over from another unit that was unable to keep them running. One however had been "pirated". A sergeant in the Argyll's had ordered the crew locked away in the guardhouse, because they weren't fighting the Japanese. By the time the men had been released their Lanchester had gone missing. By pure coincidence a new Lanchester  had shown up on the Argylls roster at the same time, it bore the name Stirling Castle.

It's not recorded which Lanchester was involved in the following incident, nor the exact date or location for it. A Lanchester with a company commander and a couple of extra men was delivering rations to a section acting as an outpost. The men in the outpost reported seeing that a large patrol of Japanese had passed them by and gone into the nearby local railway station. The company commander ordered that the section and the Lanchester begin to take the railway station under fire to attract the enemy's attention while himself and the two other men would sneak round behind them.

Thus the base of fire was set and began its work as a distraction. After negotiating a swampy area and two sentries (whom were shot) the three British soldiers arrived behind the railway station. They could see the Japanese hiding against the brick wall facing the barrage of fire, and were shooting back.
This, and the following pictures are all fro ma sequence showing an Argyall patrol and their Lanchester setting up a road block. Of particular note is the machine gun their dismounting. Its actually a Vickers tank machine-gun, not some half baked concept of a Vickers LMG.
The three men stormed into the building, the commanding officer emptied his 50 round Thompson drum into the Japanese, then seeing a sixth man raise and turn towards him, the officer grabbed the barrel of his red-hot Thompson and waded in swinging it like a club. Several more broke and ran and were shot by one of the British. Four more became entangled at close quarters in a wrestling match with the third British soldier. However, this soldier was a rugby forward, and it became a desperate fight. The British soldier managed to gain the upper hand when he got hold of his steel helmet, which he used to end the fight.
With more Japanese approaching the three men grabbed the least wounded Japanese soldier they could and retreated.
The last account is from the dying days of Singapore. Stirling Castle was the last remaining Lanchester the Argylls were operating. It had helped by suppressing the Japanese forces and dissuading them from crossing the causeway into Singapore. It had driving up firing off several bursts at the Japanese then pulling away before retaliation. When the Argylls were sent to Bukit Timah they took Stirling Castle with them. As before the Japanese launched tanks against the position, one was knocked out by an anti-mine as it approached the roadblocks the Argylls had set up. Stirling Castle attempted to engage the rest, but like before it was hit by return fire and destroyed.
After the fall of Singapore any remaining Lanchesters were captured by the Japanese and their fate is unknown. Although there were a few examples scattered throughout the world, and are the likely source of ones that can be found in museums today.