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potential. The Admiralty agreed, but insisted on the move to Dunkirk, considering Ostend to be too vulnerable. At this time communications were poor, based


almost entirely on the civilian telephone network, which was manually controlled and largely confined to official organisations and business houses, and the railway telegraph system using Morse code in French and Flemish. Rumour and scaremongering were rife and sifting for reliable information became extremely difficult. The idea of having a British aero-cum-


motorised ally at hand, backed by armed Marines, was worth pleading for. Bearing in mind that the object of the meagre


and mostly privately owned transport available was to seek landing grounds, recover pilots from crashed aircraft and, if possible, the aircraft themselves – in fact, generally to serve the RNAS squadron – Samson showed immense initiative in using these cars for military reconnaissance as the situation appeared to require. The move to Dunkirk was successfully


concluded in three days. The aircraft flew to the aerodrome and the transport followed. The Marines travelled in local buses and three London General Omnibus Company bus chassis now fitted with charabanc-like bodies. Samson constantly moved around, liaising


with the local civic dignitaries and troops. The latter were almost all reservists and territorials, hastily mobilised and armed with little but rifles and tremendous zeal. Their artillery pieces were French 75s and at least two armoured Minerva cars carried Lewis guns. These vehicles were basic in design, but were not unnoticed by Samson. Later during 1914, the Belgians made great efforts to produce armoured vehicles and Mors, Minerva


and SAVA (Société Anversoise pour la Fabrication de Voitures Automobiles – if you must know) from their Antwerp factories. These were all of crude design: boilerplate-clad and open-topped, and armed with French Hotchkiss machine guns. Samson also kept close contact with his


naval friends serving on ships based in Dunkirk. It was due to his pleadings that a number of Maxim guns were removed from warships, where their use was limited, and handed over to arm his cars. On 2 September, Mr PC Sarell, British


Consul in Dunkirk, asked Samson for transport to Lille as he urgently needed to talk to the Vice-Consul there. In his peregrinations, Samson had been introduced to Cavrois O’Caffrey, a Jesuit priest of Irish origin and a fluent speaker of German and French, who owned a bicycle. His knowledge of the area and local population was vast and he quickly became Samson’s “agent”. O’Caffrey had introduced Samson to Mr Sarell, who became totally involved and his office became an intelligence centre. The Revd O’Caffrey, always on the alert for a free ride and to be helpful as an interpreter, volunteered to join them. In Lille, O’Caffrey telephoned the Chief of Police who told him that a patrol of around 40 German cavalry were in fact at police HQ and two officers were “bullying” the Préfet du Nord. The redoubtable reverend then boarded


a tram car into central Lille and returned by the same means to say that he had counted a column of 1,000 German infantry in the main square with cyclist patrols active all over the city. Over the telephone, O’Caffrey arranged with


a lawyer of his acquaintance that he would come out to Lille between 10 am and 3 pm daily with news of German movements. The lawyer, to help


THE ENTHUSIAST 53


Opposite: Following the bombardment from the sea of east coast towns in 1914, Rolls-Royce armoured cars were sent to act as Coast Defence Vessels, here pictured in Southwold, Suffolk, March 1915


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