The little-known story of how Charles Samson and his Motor Bandits of the RNAS revolutionised both military aviation and mechanised ground warfare on the Western Front in 1914-15, seeking to attack the Germans from any and every angle.
The Royal Navy Air Service started life as a small unit designed to teach naval men to fly. Their daring commander Charles Samson was the first person to fly an aircraft from a moving ship. When war broke out in 1914 the unit was desperate to get in on the action, and set off for Europe with nine planes and 125 men. With too few aircraft, the notion of using armoured cars for patrols caught Samson's attention, and the unit set to work acquiring armoured vehicles, designing their own and pinching equipment if necessary; the army took to mounting an armed guard on their vehicles whenever they were close to Samson's unit; thus the nickname 'Motor Bandits' or 'the Motorised Bastards' was born. Commander Samson and his Motor Bandits had an impact out of all proportion to the size of the force at their disposal. Samson combined the use of aircraft and armoured cars and developed tactics for these first combined service operations; innovations that changed the way war was fought.Initially involved in patrolling and reconnaissance, they would undertake all kinds of exploits, taking the fight to Germany by bombing the Zeppelin sheds in Dusseldorf, assisting the Royal Navy around Antwerp, and helping to save the Lewis gun from the Germans. They played a key role in the battle of Ypres, where the French and Belgian armies relied heavily on their assistance. At Douai, four of Samson's cars broke the German encirclement and allowed 25,000 French troops to escape. The British used them as a fire brigade to help plug holes in the front line. Samson was fearless, seeking battle and finding whatever method he could to attack the Germans from any and every angle. The Motor Bandits remained in France until April 1915 when they were sent to join the Dardanelles invasion force. This book recounts the colourful story of their origins and their extraordinary adventures on the Western Front in the early part of the Great War.
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