The AA Military Road Run
Sevenoaks to Hastings
14th April 2024
In support of Combat Stress
On the 17th March 1909 (St. Patrick’s Day), members of the Automobile Association (now known as the AA) carried a composite company of Guardsmen from London 60 miles to Hastings in their motor cars. This was an exercise organised by the Automobile Association in conjunction with the War Office (forerunner of the Ministry of Defence) to both raise the Government’s awareness that motorists are responsible people, and to test the viability of moving troops in large numbers by motor transport.
The troops, comprising a composite Battalion of 600 men from the Grenadiers, Coldstream and Scots Guards, were embarked in over 100 AA members’ open 4 and 5 seater cars, with the Guardsmen’s weapons, ammunition and equipment carried in London Taxis hired and converted for the occasion.
This was a very significant event for both motorists and the military.
For the Army it demonstrated that in an emergency, such as a foreign invasion, troops could be quickly assembled and moved rapidly to the point of crisis, far faster than had previously been the case on foot or using horse drawn transport, or even by train. The exercise was also to provide invaluable lessons in organising the logistics of such a move, to include the transport of all their weapons, rations, and other equipment necessary to go immediately into action upon arrival at the threatened point. The success of this exercise was to be uniquely demonstrated at the beginning of World War One when the experience gained was used to great effect to transport troops of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), in hired London busses, so quickly to confront the advancing Germans in France, that the Germans were completely surprised with the arrival of British troops in front of them. From that moment on the British Government were persuaded of the vital strategic importance of motor transport to the army.
For the motorist, the AA managed to persuade the Government of the day that motorists were responsible people, who could be called upon to support their country if needed. For the AA it raised the profile of the fledgling organisation, founded only 4 years previously, in the eyes of the motoring public, from which it has never looked back.
The Run, AA and Combat Stress
Every Year IMPS, in conjunction with the AA, organise a road run from Sevenoaks to Hastings to commemorate the event and raise funds for Combat Stress. https://combatstress.org.uk.
The run starts to leave Sevenoaks at 09:30, via Tonbridge and Pembury, to Lamberhurst for a refreshment stop at the George and Dragon Inn. Then on down the A21 to St Leonards, and along the sea front at to the Stade in Hastings. On arrival in Hastings, participants are met by a contingent of veterans to herald our entrance into The Stade Open Space on the seafront, where we display for public viewing until about 3.30 pm.
The AA provide technical support for the vehicles and sponsor the vehicle Rally Plates as well as light refreshments for the participants.
Combat Stress is the UK’s leading charity for veterans’ mental health, providing a range of community, outpatient and residential mental health services to veterans with complex mental health problems.
Qualifying vehicles are any veteran, vintage and classic cars, commercial vehicles and motorcycles pre 1965, and any soft skinned military vehicles and motor cycles of the type used by the British armed forces from 1909 to the present day (armoured vehicles are precluded as this run commemorates a logistical exercise, not a combat operation).
If you are a qualifying vehicle owner:
The purpose of the run is to raise funds for Combat Stress, as well as enjoy the day. If you would like to take part and have a vehicle that fulfils the above criteria, we would ask you to make a donation to Combat Stress (£15 or over per vehicle is suggested).
Registration forms and Combat Stress Gift Aid forms below:
The vehicles will drive along Sevenoaks High Street (09:45 onwards) down River Hill to Tonbridge 10.00 onwards), to Pembury (about 10:15 onwards) to Lamberhurst (10.45/11.00 plus). Then down the A21, to St Leonards and to the Stade display area (next to the Fishnet Huts on the beach opposite the Old Town), with first arrivals around 12.30 where you can just go and wander round the vehicles, chat to the owners and enjoy the sunshine… FOR FREE.
Donate to Combat Stress
If you are not intending to participate in the run, but would still like to donate to Combat Stress, to help us reach our event donation target of £1800, please click here: Combat Stress – AA Commemorative Road Run.
For further information contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org