River Gunboats – An Illustrated Encyclopedia – Review

I had my reading schedule well planned out then River Gunboats – 
An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Roger Branfill-Cook turned up in the mail and for the last couple of weeks it has taken over from my reading pile. What a great book.

Branfill-Cook has surveyed the river gunboat from their first appearance in 1824 with the Honourable East India Company’s gunboat Diana, in action on the Irrawaddy River in Burma through the river gunboats used in the First and Second World Wars to The US Brown Water Navy in Vietnam and into today’s gunboats.

What was amazing to me was the number of nations that ran river gunboats and Branfill-Cook notes vessels from places such as the Republic of Acre (I had to look this one up but let me give you a hint – think South America 1899); Austria-Hungary; Cameroon; USA and CSA; Estonia; Manchukuo; Sudan (and the Mahdi); Uzbekistan; and Yugoslavia to name a few of the 56 states listed as having gunboats.

Around 40 military campaigns in the 150 years from 1824 involved gunboats – some campaigns were large, some small and some are best described as bizarre. The book does not only look at the historic vessels but updates on modern riverine craft of today.

Apart from a useful bibliography, there are two appendices – one briefly dealing with River Gunboat Camouflage Schemes and the other looking at River and Gunboats in Popular Culture – and many of the older movies mentioned there can be found today on YouTube.

Each chapter looks at the vessels used by that country and includes photographs of the vessels where possible as well as details such as the date launched, armament, speed, and fate.

As an example of the content and as I mentioned Acre above, the entry for Acre covers the period July 1899 to November 1903 and the three declared republics. The gunboats involved were the Bolivian armed launch Rio Afua later captured by the insurgents and renamed Independencia. After the diplomatic peace settlement of 1903 the Independencia became part of the Brazilian Navy.

The book is in Hardcover.  The book contains 336 pages and is published in the US by the Naval Institute Press (published on October 15, 2018). US ISBN: 9781591146148.

The book was originally published in the UK by Seaforth Press on 25 June 2018, UK ISBN: 9781848323650 and is also available in an eBook form (Kindle I believe).

This is a book that would grace both the coffee table and the reference shelf and it is one I will refer to many times in the years coming. Recommended.

 

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Little Wars TV – Fourth Kawanakajima Wargame

I mentioned back in LIttle Wars – a Favoured YouTube Channel, that Little Wars was one of my favourite channels. I watch for the new releases and have enjoyed some great refights (like the recent Agincourt one). A week ago they released another wargame, this one the Fourth Kawanakajima Wargame.

This was a reflight of, yes, the Fourth Kawanakajima Battle. The refight was controlled by the Killer Katana wargame rules (look for the rule review this week and those rules are available from On Matters Military, a company I can recommend and have purchased from before). Fourth Kawanakajima was a large battle between competing samurai clans in the 16th century with armies of 10 to 12,000 men engaged. The refight itself was performed using 6mm figures (another favourite of mine). I am guessing they were Baccus 6mm samurai figures. Another range is produced by Heroics and Ros.

Whichever figures you like, do have a look at the refight and be inspired to paint hundred of 6mm samurai! I will admit that the samurai period of Japan has always had an interest for me, in part from my time in Korea. Anyway, have a look at the video and be inspired.

The Best of Don Winslow of the Navy: A Collection of High-Seas Stories from Comics’ Most Daring Sailor – Review

The All-American Hero – Don Winslow

It was an unexpected surprise. A parcel from the US Naval Institute Press was waiting for me at the Post Office and I had already received the batch of books I was expecting as well as the model ships that were on order. I wondered what it was but as it was raining here, I could not open the parcel to examine the contents until I got back to the office. What a great surprise.

Edited by Craig Yoe and published by Dead Reckoning in September, 2018, the copy I received was forwarded by the U.S. Naval Institute and was the hardcopy of the book. The book is 272 pages long, with ISBN-13: 9781682473238 and is sized at 8.5 X 11 in.

There are, I believe, a Kindle and ePDF (ePub?) version as well.

The back cover – from here it is obvious the style of the content

Who was Don Winslow? The character was first created in 1934 as a newspaper comic strip by Lt. Cdr. Frank Victor Martinek USNR. As this was the period between wars, his erstwhile enemy at this time was a supervillain simply known as “The Scorpion”.

Winslow was noted as being “tall, stalwart, handsome,, all-America, moral, strong, intelligent – in other words, perfect in every way!”

Whether Don Winslow was created as a bit of fun (hobby) or to assist in the recruitment of young men into the U.S. Navy is problematic. What is known is that Don Winslow battled evil in all its forms with intelligence, bravado, and his faithful sidekick, Lt. Red Pennington! Don’s best girl was Mercedes Colby, daughter of retired Admiral Colby and sometime nurse. Don and Red bounced around Asia battling The Scorpion’s evil plans along with the infamous pirate Singapore Sal (you could tell she was a pirate as she had a skull and crossbones on her hat 😁) until Worlld War 2 came along and they could battle the Nazis and Japanese.

Don escaping the Japanese trap (I think)

Don Winslow was made into a radio serial in 1937 and the comic lasted until 1957 when it finally disappeared from the King Features stable.

The book is full of action packed Don Winslow comics as he and Red face-off against the full variety of nefarious enemies in the best pulp fiction manner. My personal favourite nemesis is Singapore Sal. There are 26 comics included (28 if you could the three part Death for Sale separately). Comics such as:

  • The Stolen Battleship
  • Don Winslow of the Navy Climbs Mt Everest
  • Don Winslow of the Navy meets Singapore Sal
  • The Return of Singapore Sal
  • Messenger of Death, and
  • The Doomed Atoll

to name a few!

Don Winslow is really likely only to be familiar to readers from the US as unlike heroes such as the Phantom, Winslow was very much an American here (the Phantom was very much everyone’s hero).

Having said that, I have enjoyed returning to the 1930s and 1940s courtesy of the Craig Yoe’s collection of Don Winslow of the Navy comics – back to a time when heroes wore white and had strong jaws and evil villains were clearly evil villains.

 

Fujimi/Navwar 1/3000 Naval Vessels – Ready for Paint

I have been working a little on two of the Fujimi ships as well as the equivalent Navwar vessels, getting them ready for paint in between bouts of coughing, sneezing, sleeping and putting up with a nose running like Usain Bolt. The Fujimi vessels came from Hobby Link Japan. The metal vessels are Navwar. The vessels are the carrier Shōkaku and the battleship Yamato. They have been attached to bases and the start of a sea surface added. I will get around to painting later this week or early next week.

Fujimi 1/3000 Naval Vessels

A friend here (hi Servillano) put me on to Fujimi’s 1/3000 ships. Now, having a sizeable collection of Navwar 1/3000 vessels plus some from War Times Journal, I was curious to see how Fujimi’s efforts stacked up. Now up front I will admit the GHQ’s 1/2400 vessels are the crème de la crème of model  vessels around this scale however Navwar provide, in my opinion, a better value for money being considerably less expensive than GHQ.

Fujimi adds another dimension. For a coupe of thousand Yen, I could pick up the 5th Carrier Division consisting of the carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku as well as 6 destroyers. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

I will of course display both again after painting but clearly the plastic from Fujimi has greater detail. It also has  deck decals to add later 😁

Lastly, I also picked up a second box that contained a Yamoto. Unassembled, the Navwar and the Fujjimi Yamoto’s, side by side:

The vessels are from Fujimi but I picked up mine from Hobby Link Japan.

The Bob Test

Periodically I become a little self reflective. Recently I have been encouraged to consider values – both mine and the values of those around me. In those periods I look at my actions and my treatment of those around me and apply the “Bob Test”. Bob was a positive influence on my life. Still is truth be told. He passed a few years ago and I know he is sorely missed by his family and his friends.

Bob grew up in Rhodesia and as a young man was involved in the Bush War and I am certain that in later life he suffered from what we now know is PTSD. He left Rhodesia and travelled to the United Kingdom followed by Norway. I am sure that that the laconic and practical Norwegians eased his PTSD and I know he loved both the country and his family and friends. He was always a great friend.

So, what is the “Bob Test”? Bob once noted to me that when he met a person, in his mind he gave them a score of 100. Those with a score of 100 and above he would give time to. The changes of your score were entirely up to you and how you interacted with Bob.  So, periodically I give myself the “Bob Test” – has my score gone up or down with those around me?  Do I care for people as much now as I did before? Do I treat people fairly? Do I keep my word? Do I act with honour and integrity?

A self assessment from time to time is good for my soul and is good to see how I am performing. Sticking to your values is sometimes not easy but I find that if I do, I can sleep well at night.

Bob did meet Joshua Nkomo later in life as well and while they had been enemies in the Bush War, they were able to talk with each other  with respect when they did meet.

Thank you Bob for the test. You are missed mate, but you have left so much behind for the rest of us.

Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905 – Julian S. Corbett – Review

One of my favourite periods of Military History is the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 (RJW). I will also admit to an interest in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95  as well as  these were the last real naval battles of the pre-Dreadnought period (OK, so there was the First Balkan War of 1912-13 as well and the poor performance of the Turkish fleet there but I would still set the RJW as the watershed of the pre-Dreadnought naval battles).

My collection of books on this war includes the Fleet that had to Die by Richard Hough (ISBN-13: 978-1841580449 for a paperback version) and The Tide at Sunrise: A History of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-05 by Denis Warne and Peggy Warner  (ISBN-13: 978-0714682341) but until recently I had not seen a copy of Corbett’s work

Julian Corbett (Later Sir Julian Corbett) wrote the Maritime Operations of the Russo-Japanese War as a confidential publication for the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty War Staff. It was never made available to the general reader until well after Corbett’s death. Corbett composes a picture of the war by writing a continuous narrative that weaves the interrelationship of land and sea events as they affect each other. He examines the political objectives, the geography of the area as well as the naval aspects to tell that story. Because Corbett writes in a continues narratives he is easy to read as well.

Naval Institute Press published a hardback version of Corbett’s work back in 1994. This is the first release of the history in paperback. It is also released in an eBook version (Kindle).

The publishers do note however that:

it was impossible to reproduce the illustrations that accompanied the 1914/15 edition of this work owing to their size and condition. References to maps, charts, and plates have been left in the text in order to maintain the scholarly integrity of the work. The only known originals of these illustrations can be found in the Library of the Royal Naval College and at the Naval Historical Branch, Ministry of Defense, London.

This is really the only criticism that I could make against this work but perhaps a quick side trip if visiting England could be fruitful.

After the preface, the book commences with the opening page from the 1914 report and notes that the publication is confidential. It then goes on to say:

This book I the property of H. M. Government
It is intended for the use of Officers generally, and may in certain cases be communicated to persons in H. M. Service below the rank of commissioned officer who may require to be acquainted with its contents in the course of their duties, The Officers exercising this power will be held responsible  that such information is imparted with due caution and reserve.

It then notes:

The attention of Officers is called to the fact that much of the information  which this history is based has been obtained through the courtesy of the Japanese Government in giving facilities to our Attaches, and in placing at the disposal of the Admiralty their confidential  History of the War. This was done under the understanding that the information should be kept strictly confidential, and it is therefore most desirable that the lessons learnt from this History should not be divulged to anyone not on the active list.

Japan was an ally of Britain at this time.

There are 25 chapters to the book as well as 12 Appendices. The appendices also include the fleet lists for both navies at the time of the confrontation.

This book belongs on any naval historian’s bookshelf, an now that it is available in both paperback and electronic form it is available to a wider reading audience.

I would recommend as well, as a companion set to Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Vols 1 and 2, looking for a copy of The Russo-Japanese War at Sea 1904-5: Volume 1-Port Arthur, the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan and Volume 2: The Battle of Tsushima and the Aftermath by Vladimir Semenoff for a view of the war from the Russian side.

The Product Details are:
Paperback : 600 pages
Publisher: Naval Institute Press (March 15, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1591141974
ISBN-13: 9781591141976

As I mentioned, highly recommended. I am now looking forward to getting  copy of Volume 2.

Little Wars TV – a Favoured YouTube Channnel

One of my favourite YouTube channels is the Little Wars TV channel. I come home from work, late at night, set the TV to YouTube and tune in to see what is up with the guys this week. The guys re-fight battles, review rules and generally behave and talk like wargamers behave and talk. This week I enjoyed the refight of that well-known battle of Hannibal’s – Trebbia. The Romans were defeated historically in this, Hannibal’s first battle on Italian soil and most ancient wargamers know the Battle of Trebbia so it is hard to get the Romans to walk into the trap that is set there. The Little Wars guys do it well. It is also great looking at the way they have based and used 6mm figures for the game – with all figures based in 40mm square bases. They do give the impression of two armies facing off against each other.

Recommended!

Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II – Marco Ghiglino – Review

Waiting for me at the Post Office today was a parcel from the Naval Institute Press. Posted on 20 July 2018 in the US it arrived at my local post office here about a week ago I guess and the note from the Post Office telling me I had a parcel was received last Friday.

Now I will admit that over the last few weeks I have been reading a Naval Institute Press publication, the brilliant Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume 1 by Julian S Corbett. That was tossed aside as soon as I had a quick flick through Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II by Marco Ghiglino. This has been published by Seaforth Publishing in 2018 and is a book of some 240 pages. The ISBN for this is:

  • 978 1 5267 3539 3 (Hardback)
  • 978 1 5267 3540 9 (ePub)
  • 978 1 5267 3541 6 (Kindle)

What a book! Firstly I should note that the actual size of the book is the same as each of Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II series so sits nicely next to them on the bookshelf. Secondly, this is the first major work on Italian Naval Camouflage of World War 2 in English that I am aware of. There have been some minor publications over the years and references in books ostensibly on other topics as well as Italian language publications (such as La Mimetizzazione della Navi Italiane 1940-1945) but this is the first in English and that makes this information more generally available.

The book is broken up into 12 major chapter:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Early Period and the Experimental Phase
  3. Standard Camouflage Schemes
  4. Evolution and Exemptions
  5. The Dark Grey Factor
  6. Submarines
  7. MAS, Motor Torpedo Boats and VAS
  8. Other Warships
  9. The Greek Factor
  10. Merchant Ships
  11. The Armistice
  12. Ship Profiles

Ghiglino follows the development of camouflage in the Regia Marina from the peacetime colourings and aerial markings through to wartime practice. He also includes a section covering the change of camouflage with vessels captured by the Germans and those remaining in Italian hands and employed by the Allies

One particular area of interest to me in among many areas of interest were the colours used on MAS, Motor Boats and VAS along with the colours used by Italian submaries which carried a number of different schemes.

Each chapter is lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs, some in early colour. Unlike other publications concerning World War 2 the photographs used to illustrate here are good quality, and the detail in those photographs is quite clear.

By far, however, the best section of this book is the one dealing with ship profiles. Profiles are provided for:

  1. Battleships
  2. Cruisers
  3. Destroyers
  4. Torpedo Boats
  5. Escort Ships (Auxiliary Cruisers)
  6. Corvettes
  7. MAS and MTB
  8. Gunboats, Minelayers adn Minesweepers
  9. Landing Vessels
  10. Auxiliary Ships
  11. Armament

Looking at the section on battleships (and who doesn’t like these Queens of the Seas) there is a brief discussion of battleship camouflage, noting that Littorio was the first battleship to receive a camouflage scheme in March 1941. Other ships receiving the camouflage are then listed. Also noted in this short section is the repainting of Veneto, Italia (ex-Littorio) Duilio and Doria in the Allied two-colour livery later in the war.

What then follows is the best part of the book – the CAD drawings of vessels and their camouflage schemes. The drawings generally show the starboard side of a vessel and provide a brief description of the camouflage scheme used, including, where possible, the creator of the scheme. The CAD drawing also displays the scale of the drawing and there are multiple drawings of the same ship indicating the changes to the camouflage scheme used over time. For example, Guilio Cesare is illustrated at 1:900 scale as she appeared in December 1941, January 1942, May 1942, June 1942 (this time with port and starboard views), June 1943 (also port and starboard views) and lastly in 1949 when she was transferred to the Soviet Navy, renamed Novorossiysk and painted Soviet grey.

Other vessels that were captured by the Germans are shown in both Regia Marina camouflage as well as Kriegsmarine camouflage.

I am certain that this book does not illustrate every vessel in Regia Marina Service but it certainly appears to cover all vessels from gunboat size and above.

The book also contains a useful (if you speak Italian) bibliography, acknowledgments and best of the reference sections, an index of ships throughout the book.

Given the number of clashes between the Royal Navy and the Regia Marina in the Mediterranean in World War 2, Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II series would be a perfect companion.

I really can’t find enough superlatives to describe this book. It certainly belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in World War 2 naval history, particularly either the Regia Marina or naval camouflage. If I needed to rate this book out of five, I would have no hesitation giving it 6 stars out of 5. Brilliant book, simply brilliant.

The Great Wargaming Survey 2018

It is that time of the year again, time for the Great Wargaming Survey for 2018. It has a focus on tabletop miniature wargaming.

As with previous surveys the purpose is to answer questions that come up regularly in discussions. As before, the results will be published online only for everyone to read, not just readers of Wargame, Soldiers and Strategy.

There are some sponsors to the survey so there are prizes to be won. In any case, all who answer the survey will get a 15% discount voucher for use at Karwansaray Publishing.

Filling out the entire survey should take around 5-10 minutes, and the survey remains open until 5 September 2018.

Click on the Link – The Great Wargaming Survey 2018