Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Review & Scenario Ideas - “Armoured Cars in Eden" by Kermit Roosevelt

Hello! Well I was able to type up another book review a little bit over the last few weeks and got enough time to post it on my blog. I am still on a long hiatus, so this might be the only entry for another couple of months. I am hoping to get another book review up next weekend (Memorial Day weekend), but we will see. On with the review! 

Book Review: “Armoured Cars in Eden: An American President’s Son Serving in Rolls Royce Armoured Cars with the British in the Mesopotamia & with the American Artillery in France During the First World War” by Kermit Roosevelt; originally published as, “War in the Garden of Eden 

General Description 

This book is an interesting personal account of Kermit Roosevelt’s, Teddy Roosevelt’s son, WWI experiences starting with his transfer from training as an officer in the British Army to the Mesopotamia campaign and ending with his post-armistice occupation of Germany with the US Army. I had bought a paperback version of the book and later found that it is available online for free under the original title, “War in the Garden of Eden” as the copyright had expired for it. There is no additional information or pictures in the “Armoured Cars in Eden” version, so unless you prefer not to read from a computer, there is no reason why not read the online book. The following is the email address for the free online copy of “War in the Garden of Eden”: 

The paperback book is actually fairly short, 135 pages long, excluding the pages containing the 19 B&W photographs. The book is broken into nine chapters, of which eight is about his time with the British Army and the final chapter about his transfer and time in the US Army in 1918-1919. 

The Good 

The book overall is a good personal account on the mundane things in life, the wonders of exotic places and customs, and some good telling about clashes with the Turks. But, it is a personal account and is not an attempt to give a detail unit history for the 14th Light Armoured Motor Battery (LAMB), which he served with or give details of engagements that he was involved in against the Turks and Germans. Over half of the book is his description of land and the people in the Mesopotamia, which I found interesting. About a third of the book is about life in the service and including meeting Lawrence of Arabia and several other famous officers for the British & ANZAC forces, either in the Mesopotamia or when he had a chance to visit the Palestine. The remaining was about his experience in the US Army in France during WWI and the occupation of Germany after the Armistice. 

The Bad 

Personally, I enjoyed the book, but I had one issue with it. That is the lack of dates given. At no time did Kermit Roosevelt give a date for when he was stationed in the Mesopotamia or dates of his military actions. About the only time frame he gives is that he arrived after the First Battle of Gaza, (26 March, 1917) and he left some time after his fighting around Khan Baghdadi (26 March, 1918). If I dig around some more on the internet, I probably could find more information on the 14th LAMB and Kermit Roosevelt’s service record, but that might be a lot of work. 

What would have been really nice, since this is reprint of “War in the Garden of Eden”, would to have had an editor add a forward of Kermit Roosevelt’s history, a time line of his service, and a map of the Mesopotamia with the locations of all of the named cities and towns that Kermit Roosevelt wrote about in his book. 

Fun Facts For Gamers 

Some things that I found interesting in the book where the following:

  • Kermit Roosevelt hired a native guide/servant that rode with him most of the time in his armored car throughout his time in the Mesopotamia. But most British officers had an Indian servant that escorted them.
  • The LAMBs usually worked with the British Yeomanry or Indian cavalry on the attack of Turks units or when Arabs were revolting. One time, Kermit Roosevelt’s section, along with some Indian cavalry, were sent off in a chase of a reported Turkish gold shipment.
  • The British had Political officers that worn white tabs on their uniforms. The Political officers are the British army’s civil affairs and the LAMB patrols would usually escort them to or from their assignments.
  • Gurkhas were issued pith helmets as the high command was afraid that they would suffer from the sun like the European troops, but the Indian troops retain their turbans.
  • Steel helmets were issued to the British forces during Kermit Roosevelt’s service time, but only worn during the winter months
  • Due to the high heat, dryness, and fine sands, aircraft had a high incident rate of failures.
  • Because of the high incident rate of failures with aircrafts, sewn on the airplane’s fabric was a sheet that stated in several languages that a reward would be given for the safe return of the British airmen to the British troops sort of like the “Blood Chits” for the Flying Tigers in WWII. It was usually the LAMB patrols plus some infantry riding with them in the back of the armored cars that would picked up the downed aircrews .
  • Arabs were an equal opportunity attacker and killing wounded soldiers for their equipment, but they preferred to kill the Turks. Rumor was that in one battle, the Turks requested a cease fire with the British so they could join forces and attack the Arabs was killing the wounded on both sides. The British declined the offer.
  • Four of the eight Rolls Royce armored cars of the 14th LAMB were named: Sliver Dart, Silver Ghost, Grey Knight, and Grey Terror. Kermit Roosevelt does not state what his armored car was named, but does mention that it was destroyed by an artillery gun near the end of the war after he had already left to join the US Army in France.
  • There were Japanese destroyers in the Mediterranean involved in hunting German U-boats! Matter of fact, due to the lack of enough troop ships to sail from Palestine to Italy, Kermit Roosevelt sailed on one of the Japanese destroyers, the Umi. During his time on the Umi, it engaged German U-boats two different times before reaching Italy. 

Wargaming “Armoured Cars in Eden” 

    The book has several good ideas for small action scenarios to wargame. The scenarios from this book would be based around a LAMB patrol of two Rolls Royce armored cars and two motorcycles scouts (referred to as “Hyenas” by the LAMBs troops), plus figures for the dismounted crews for the cars and scouts as your base force. The LAMB section could be then reinforced with a platoon of Indian cavalry or British Yeomanry troopers. Or the cavalry could be replaced with a half section of infantry riding on the back of the armored cars or a full section in several additional Model T Fords. Additional models should include a British Political officer, a downed pilot and observer, an Arab servant, and an Arab guide. Opposing forces would mainly be a Turkish infantry or cavalry platoon or two, with possible German advisors. You could even have a Turkish camel caravan convoy of gold! Also, a band of 30 or so Arab bandits can be used to fight your LAMB patrol, or they could be used as Arab rebels to help the British against the Turks. The scale of these actions would be very reasonable for number of miniatures required. Rules would need to be at a platoon level or lower, like Too Fat Lardies, “Through the Mud & the Blood” to be workable. Plus there is always the bonus naval scenario of having Japanese destroyers defending a British convoy from German U-boats in the Mediterranean! 

    Next Book Review 

    There is another book that I plan to buy and read about the armored cars in WWI, “Steel Chariots in the Desert,Armoured Car Brigade of the Royal Naval Air Service. He saw action in Flanders in 1914, also in the Senussi Uprising in Libya, and finally supported Lawrence of Arabia’s irregulars. It sounds like another interesting personal account.

    But my next book will take me away from the heat of the Middle East’s deserts to the Great Dustbowl of Texas and the Mid-West States, to relive the lives of two hold-up criminals and part-time bank robbers, Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow in, “Bonnie and Clyde: The Lives Behind the Legend” by Paul Schneider.

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