New British Battleships – 1942 – HMS Anson and Howe

I ended up by accident looking at an old Pathe News clip today – the one where HMS Howe had completed her time in the graving dock and was being made ready for sea. The news report showed the final stages of preparation and the workers leaving the vessel, the provisioning of the ship and the HMS Howe sailing down to then under the Forth bridge.  Some great shots of her at sea and firing her 14″ broadside.

Well worth looking at for a blast from the past, not to mention the 1940s newsreader English, “the ship was got ready”.

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Battle of Malplaquet

Battle_of_Malplaquet,_1709Just when I was settling into decisions for next years projects it occurred to me that today, 11 September 2013 is the 304th anniversary of the Pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Malplaquet fought between England, Austria, Prussia and the Low Countries on one side and France and Bavaria on the other. It was a battle that was famous for the commanders, John Churchill of the English (the Duke of Marlborough) and Prince Eugene of Savoy on the one side and Claude de Villars and Louis Boufflers on the other. Overall there were 86,000 in the armies of the Grand Alliance with 100 guns and and 75,000 and 80 guns on Bourbon side.

The Army of the Grand Alliance found itself at Malplaquet near the modern Belgian/French border. In the morning of 11 September 1709 at 9.00am the Austrians attacked with the support of Prussian and Danish troops. These were commanded by Count Albrecht Konrad Finck von Finckenstein. They pushed back the French left wing into the forest behind them. On the French right wing the Dutch under the command of the Prince of Orange, John William Friso, attacked to distract the French and prevent them from coming to Villars’ aid.

Later a decisive final attack was made on the weakened French centre by British infantry under the command of the Earl of Orkney. This attack occupied the the French redans. Allied cavalry was then able to advance through this line and engage the French cavalry behind. By this stage, de Villars was off the field having been wounded earlier so Boufflers was in command. Boufflers was leading the Maison du Roi and six times drive the Allied cavalry back before finally deciding the battle was lost and surrendering the field.

The victory for the Grand Alliance had come at some cost however with 21,000 casualties from within the alliance compared to 11,000 casualties on the French and Bavarian side.

Now I am torn again between the War of Spanish Succession and the Great Northern War. Of course, I could just do this as Imagi-nations. Oh yes, and I am still planning something with the Thirty Years War.

Ten Things I learned in the UK

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Friends Douglas and Gillian decided to get married – the decision, like all good decisions, was contemplated and made jointly and the result was an April wedding in Dundee, Scotland. Right says Thomo (you’ll remember my full handle is Thomo the Lost which never augurs well for long distance travel), I think we should go to Scotland for the wedding. It’ll do us good as we’ve not had a wee holiday for some time (OK, so I didn’t say “wee” but I could have).

A quick bit of planning, reference to 18 airlines online booking pages on their websites (sorry KLM – your booking page caused me problems, sorry Qantas, you are just too expensive and sorry Qatar, yours was the most appealing but your return flight meant I would have missed Salute) and we were ready to go via Etihad Airlines.

The plan was to fly into London Heathrow (not my airport of choice but the only one I had at this stage), rent a car and drive on up to Dundee via Carlisle and Edinburgh. Credit cards were flashed, money changed hands and we were off.

The 10 things I learned?

  1. Heathrow sucks. Sorry, you might be holding Olympics in a couple of months time but you really cannot organise things. They are so used to queuing that they think this is a normal state of affairs. We queued for over 90 minutes (this is not an exaggeration and judging from what the nice immigration lady said, this is quite normal). It took 90 minutes to reach the immigration officer. Lesson – fly into Schipol in the Netherlands then arrive in London through Stanstead. Or fly into Birmingham, Manchester, anywhere but Heathrow!
  2. If you already own a GPS, pay the upgrade for the Western European maps and use it. In our case, the cost was AU $99 and we had to bring it from Australia. we could have “rented” one in England for AU $20 a day. As we were travelling by car for 11 days, the arithmetic there is pretty straightforward.
  3. The English generally are quite nice, especially up north. That is, they are quite nice until you meet the Scots then the English seem a bit miserable. The Scots really are suh a warm, open and friendly group – well, except for the buggers driving around Edinburgh.
  4. Single Malt whisky does not keep the cold out … but my goodness you feel great about being cold.
  5. Scotsmen can’t drink – neither can South Africans. Surprisingly, the last two men standing at the wedding were the two Aussies (and the groom it must be said but we were still leading 2:1)
  6. When you are driving, you really get an idea of exactly how small England and Scotland are, especially when you have an Australian view of things. We would think nothing back in Oz of driving 500 kms in a day and will, at a pinch, do 1,000. Try that in the UK and you run out of island very quickly..
  7. The Scots missed the boat when they didn’t invent pockets. The kilt is fine and warm but my hands were cold. Trying to put them in your sporran just doesn’t work. Build me a kilt with pockets and I’ll be a happy bloke.
  8. Did I mention Heathrow sucks? When you’re busy with your creams and such in your plastic bag prior to the security check, you may sometimes not hear the words “take iPads out of bag”. Not sure why you have to do that – it’s a freaking x-ray after all – I suspect that most security checks have no real idea what they are looking for and it is all for show.Anyway, be that as it may, you forget to take your iPad out and your bag goes through the x-ray. Anywhere else in the world, the security staff frown at you, you take the iPad out and the bag and iPad are immediately x-rayed again and you are on your way with no real delay to other passengers. Did I mention the English love to queue? At Heathrow, your bag is put aside with the bags of other similar security miscreants and it remains until a security officer can come along and test the bag for explosives, search the bag and then (wait for it), put the bag and the iPad in a different coloured tray and pass it through the x-ray again. This whole process adds a further 20 minutes to the user security experience.
  9. The English love to complain about the hotel room they booked on the Costa del English Tourist on the Mediterranean being in a building site. I am pleased to inform you that the practice is alive and well in the UK. The Holiday Inn in Wimbledon South (sorry Kas, we ran our of time) was a building site. The taxi driver drove three times past it before we noticed the name behind the hoardings. Waking in the morning to see a big burly workman staring in your window is always a pleasure as well. Room service breakfast was to move to part of the building site, grab your sausage and powdered egg and take it back to your room to eat. All this luxury for GBP 80 per night.
  10. I learned what a Scotsman wears under his kilt.

Having noted all that, at the end of the trip both of us are hoping for Scottish Independence. We also know that we will return to the Highlands, especially to the area around Spearn Bridge. We will also return to the lovely pub in the Lowlands at St Boswells – the Buccleuch Arms Hotel, a lovely spot to spend a night or two.

Oh, and one other useful hint for weary travellers … the left luggage operations in the London mainline stations are a godsend.

Malaysia High Commission London – Services

mal_hc It seems that the Malaysian High Commission in London has been moonlighting. Entering “malaysia high comm london” results in the map to the left with additional information being displayed.

You should be able to see the “extra” service.

Seems it is a visa with a happy ending.

Thanks Scott for pointing that one out.

De Grasse

The last unsuccessful search term from the unsuccessful searches here at Thomo’s Hole was De Grasse. Now this is an interesting one as there are a number of nautical De Grasse’s in particular and I am not sure whether the reader of the blog was looking for the Admiral or the ship. Well, true to form, I’ll give you both.

Admiral de Grasse

François Joseph Paul, marquis de Grasse Tilly, comte de Grasse
François Joseph Paul, marquis de Grasse Tilly, comte de Grasse

François Joseph Paul, marquis de Grasse Tilly, comte de Grasse (1722 – January 14, 1788) was a French admiral. The potted history of de Grasse really starts in 1776, during the American Revolution. The French Navy was assigned to assist the Americans and de Grasse was a commander of a division. He served under Louis Guillouet, comte d’Orvilliers at the First Battle of Ushant from July 23 to 27, 1778.

In 1779, he joined the fleet in the Caribbean under the command of Count d’Estaing. De Grasse distinguished himself in the battles of Dominica and Saint Lucia in 1780 and Tobago in 1781. He was involved in the capture of Grenada and fought against Admiral Rodney in the Battle of Martinique, where the French were commanded by Guichen.

De Grasse came to the aid of Washington and Rochambeau when he brought 3000 men from Saint-Domingue, landing these reinforcements in Virginia. He then won perhaps his greatest victory when he defeated the British fleet in the Battle of the Chesapeake in September 1781.

His later fortune was somewhat less successful however, being defeated at the Battle of St. Kitts by Admiral Hood and then being defeated and taken prisoner by Admiral Rodney at the Battle of the Saintes.

De Grasse – the Ships

The French Frigate, D612 De Grasse, a frigate of the F67 Type
The French Frigate, D612 De Grasse, a frigate of the F67 Type

There have been five ships carrying the name de Grasse, two in the French Navy and three in the US Navy.

French De Grasse 1

The first French vessel carrying the name De Grasse was an anti aircraft cruiser of the Coubert class. This cruiser was designed in the late 1930s, of a similar design to the preceding La Galissonnière class cruisers although heavier and with improved anti-aircraft equipment. The other two ships of this class, Chateaurenault and Guichen were cancelled.

De Grasse was launched eventually in 1946, commissioned in 1956 and finally scrapped in 1974.

The general characteristics of De Grasse were:
Displacement: 9,389 t (9,241 long tons)
Length: 199.3 m (653 ft 10 in)
Beam 21.5 m (70 ft 6 in)
18.6 m (61 ft 0 in) w/l
Draft: 5.54 m (18 ft 2 in)
Propulsion: 2 × Rateau turbine groups from Chantiers de Bretagne, 27,000 hp (20,134 kW) each
4 × boilers
Speed: 33.8 knots
Complement: 70 officers
160 warrant officers
750 men
Armament: • 8 × twin turrets 127 mm AA
• 10 × twin turrets 57 mm Bofors (later removed)
Armour: Belt: 100 mm (3.9 in)
Deck: 38 mm (1.5 in)

French De Grasse 2

The Second French vessel carrying the name De Grasse is a type F67 frigate, still in service. This vessel is the one illustrated above and was laid down in 1972, launched in 1974, commissioned in 1975 and went into service in 1977. The De Grasse is still in service in the French Navy.

Tourville class frigate

Details of the vessel are:
Class and type:
Displacement: 4580 tonnes (6100 tonnes fully loaded)
Length: 152.75 m
Beam: 15.80 m
Draught: 6.60 m
Propulsion: 2 Rateau steam turbines, double reduction
4 multitubular boilers
Fuel: Gazoil
Propelers : 2 fixed propelers
Power : 58000 hp (42 MW)
Speed: 32 knots
Range: 1900 nautical miles (3500 km) at 30 knots
4500 nautical miles (8300 km) and 18 knots
Complement: 24 officers
160 non-commissioned officers
115 men
Sensors and processing systems: 1 DRBV 51B surface sentry radar
1 DRBV 26A air sentry radar
1 DRBC 32D targeting radar
2 DRBN 34 navigation radar
1 DUBV 23 hull sonar
1 ETBF DSBV 62C sonar
1 DSBX 1 tugged sonar
1 Syva torpedo alert system
Electronic warfare and decoys: 1 ARBB 32 jammer
1 ARBR 16 radar interceptor
2 Syllex decoy launchers bubble belt SENIT
3 SEAO/OPSMER HF, UHF, VHF and SHF liaison systems Syracuse 2 Inmarsat
Link 11
Armament:
Anti-air * 1 Crotale EDIR system (8 missiles on launcher, 18 in magazine)
* 2 x 100 mm turrets (1968 model)
* 2 x 20 mm cannons
* 4 x 12.7 mm machine guns
Anti-surface
* 6 Exocet MM38 anti-ship missiles launchers
Anti-submarine
* 2 x L5 torpedoe launchers, 10 torpedoes on board (L5 mod 4)
Aircraft carried: 2 Lynx WG13

And yes, I have my Conway’s back 🙂

American De Grasse 1

The first De Grasse in the US Navy was the yacht shown below, in service in 1918. Details of this vessel are sketchy and there is no listing for this vessel in Conway’s. The US Naval Historical Center notes:

USS De Grasse, an 81′ 2 1/2″ long section patrol boat, was built in 1917-1918 at Neponset, Massachusetts, as the steam-turbine powered pleasure craft of the same name. Though ordered taken over for World War I Naval service in June 1917, she was not placed in commission until her construction was completed about a year later. De Grasse briefly served in mid-Atlantic coastal waters before being returned to her owner, J.L. Redmond of New York City, in early November 1918.

The yacht, USS De Grasse in 1918
The yacht, USS De Grasse in 1918

American De Grasse 2

The second US Navy vessel to bear this name was a Crater Class Cargo vessel during World War II. With a displacement of 4,023 tons this Liberty ship was active in the Pacific Theatre from November 1943 until decommssioned in April 1946, going on to serve as a general cargo vessel after that date until being scrapped in 1970. The De Grasse was awarded three battle stars.

American De Grasse 3

The third US Navy ship to bear this name was the USS Comte de Grasse (DD-974), named for Admiral Francois-Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse (1722-1788), was a Spruance-class destroyer built by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries at Pascagoula, Mississippi. She was laid down 4 April 1975, launched 26 March 1976 and commissioned 5 August 1978.

General Characteristics:
Class and type: Spruance-class destroyer
Displacement: 8,040 (long) tons full load
Length: 529 ft (161 m) waterline; 563 ft (172 m) overall
Beam: 55 ft (16.8 m)
Draft: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Propulsion: 4 × General Electric LM2500 gas turbines, 2 shafts, 80,000 shp (60 MW)
Speed: 32.5 knots
Range: 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km) at 20 knots
3,300 nautical miles (6000 km) at 30 knots
Complement: 19 officers, 315 enlisted
Sensors and processing systems: AN/SPS-40 air search radar
AN/SPG-60 fire control radar
AN/SPS-55 surface search radar
AN/SPQ-9 gun fire control radar
Mk 23 TAS automatic detection and tracking radar
AN/SPS-65 Missile fire control radar
AN/SQS-53 bow mounted Active sonar
AN/SQR-19 TACTAS towed arrayPassive sonar
Electronic warfare and decoys: • AN/SLQ-32 Electronic Warfare System
• AN/SLQ-25 Nixie Torpedo Countermeasures
• Mark 36 SRBOC Decoy Launching System
• AN/SLQ-49 Inflatable Decoys
Armament: 2 x 5 in (127 mm) 54 calibre Mark 45 dual purpose guns
2 x 20 mm Phalanx CIWS Mark 15 guns
1 x 8 cell ASROC launcher (removed)
1 x 8 cell NATO Sea Sparrow Mark 29 missile launcher
2 x quadruple Harpoon missile canisters
2 x Mark 32 triple 12.75 in (324 mm) torpedo tubes (Mk 46 torpedoes)
2 x quadruple ABL Mark 43 Tomahawk missile launchers
Aircraft carried: 2 x Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk LAMPS III helicopters.

De Grasse was decommissioned and struck in 1998, eventually being sunk as a target in 2006.

USS Comte De Grasse (DD-974) entering port at the Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia
USS Comte De Grasse (DD-974) entering port at the Naval Air Station, Norfolk, Virginia

More Packaging Oddities

Ainsley's Couscous - see the calories?
Ainsley's Couscous - see the calories?

Mum suggested trying some Couscous with dinner one night after Molly had given it to her. I’d eaten couscous before but thought I’d try it anyway. So, dutiful son that I am, I was wandering around Woolworth’s and checking the couscous and I thought “Ainsley Harriott’s couscous will do”. I bought some and used it with dinner last night. As the couscous was flavoured in a Mediterranean style I thought I would have it with lamb chops. I prepared dinner.

Whilst waiting for things to cook and the water to boil to prepare the couscous, I was reading the back of the packet. I read the instructions for preparation and had some time to kill so I was reading the nutrition information. Now this packet was different to many others in that it contained the nutrition information for both the United Kingdom and Australia. Neat. Checked the one against the other … Sodium, Aussie, 304mg, UK, o.3g … Dietary Fiber, Aussie, 3.1g, UK 3.1g … so far so good.

Then I got to Energy. Australia (per 100g) 597kJ, UK (per 100g) 579kJ. OK, so we have some dyslexia at work here do we? Nope. Checked the calories – 143 against 137. Even the Ave Quantity per serving (and there are two servings in the packet for both Australia and the UK) – 836kJ against 811kJ. Both the Australian and the UK nutrition information note that the information is based on the food being ‘prepared as per instructions without butter or oil’.

Seems then that I have found the reason Aussies are bigger than the English – there are more calories in our Aussie foods than English foods 😆

Qantas and British Airways Merger Talks

Do it. Really, best thing that could happen to Qantas. Give up the pretense and just fold. Qantas has aged and it has aged badly. I’ve been travelling regularly for over 20 years now and when I first started flying, Qantas was my airline of choice, even though the service level of the Asian airlines was greater. The reason? It was the safest airline around. I was kind of like Rain Man when travelling. I read the safety cards and knew the differences between aircraft and I even looked at and photographed the different liveries of the various airlines I saw.

The important thing from those early days was that I knew the flight attendants (they were still hotesses and stewards then) were actually not waiters but rather were safety officers first.

The Asian airlines caught up on the safety side and I started to travel on Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines amongst others as well as the likes of British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa in Europe. Qantas service improved but they never really managed to star at the service side of things, relying instead to trading on their safety record.

Now, things are changing. Qantas has had so many incidents lately that you have to start to wonder. Some have been blaming it on the off-shore servicing of the aircraft but realistically, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and so on, well, all their servicing is (from an Australian viewpoint) off-shore as well and they aren’t having the same problems.

I think that at all levels, Qantas has just ceased to care. Executive management are interested in selling it and that’s about it whilst the rest of the staff are more interested in where they will work when it is sold.

On a flight from Sydney to London in September, we had to fly Qantas. The return, London to Sydney, was British Airways. Remembering that the staff on the aircraft are there are safety officers first, compare the two airlines. On the Qantas flight we had left Singapore and were heading across the sub-continent, when we hit some turbulence. The seat belt light was illuminated and passengers asked to return to their seats. None of the flight attendants checked the cabin to make sure passengers were safely secured, they all just disappeared to their seats as well. Compare that to the British Airways flight we took back from London. Again, over the sub-continent we hit turbulence. The seat belt light was illuminated and then the flight attendants checked the cabin to ensure that all passengers were secured in their seat, even though the plane was bouncing around the sky.

Nah – don’t just merge Qantas with British Airways – sell the airline and be done with it.

Cyclone in Apia, Samoa, March 1889

Or, The US and Germany Square Up To Each Other In The Pacific

Like a foam flake tossed and thrown,
She could barely hold her own,
While the other ships all helplessly were drifting to the lee.
Through the smother and the rout
The `Calliope‘ steamed out —
And they cheered her from the Trenton that was foundering in the sea.

USS Trenton
USS Trenton

The harbour at Apia on Samoa over the 15th and 16th of March, 1889 was the site of one of the most amazing naval confrontations in the 19th Century. Both the US and Germany were trying to expand their spheres of influence in the Pacific as well as obtain coaling stations in advantageous areas. One such location was the island of Samoa and the harbour at Apia. The Germans had been trying to take over the island, with the permission of the British, it seems, and there are grounds here for some nice little colonial skirmish Wargames.

The ships involved in this event are all described in Conway’s All The World’s Fighting Ships: 1860-1905, probably one of my favourite books. The page references to Conway’s below refer to this edition of Conway’s.

In Apia Harbour on that fateful day were, amongst other vessels, 7 ships of war. The Americans were represented by USS Trention (pg 126), USS Nipsic ((a Kansas Class Gunboat)) (pg 130) and USS Vandalia ((a Galena and Vandalis class sloop)) (pg 127).

The Germans were represented by the SMS Olga ((a Carola class corvette)) (pg 252), the SMS Adler ((a Habicht Class gunboat)) (pg 260) and the SMS Eber (pg 260).

The British were there too with HMS Calliope ((a Calypso class steel corvette)) (pg 54) flying the Union Jack.

The reason the US and German vessels were there was due to the political unrest in Samoa at the time. The US appear to have perceived the German presence at Samoa as contrary to US interests in the Pacific. The British were also there but more in a position of just watching what was going on.

The US commander was Rear Admiral Lewis A Kimberly aboard the Vandalis and he appears to have ignored the threatening weather. Local advice from Samoa was that the hurricane/typhoon/cyclone season ((actually, as it is the South Pacific Ocean I think that it was technically a cyclone)) was past there was no danger. I think that the fact that the Germans were still there and not moving may have persuaded the Admiral to remain in place as well.

The Germans were also remaining in the harbour, presumably because the Americans were.

The cyclone then arrived.

To find out what happened after the cyclone arrived, follow the link to Apia, Samoa, March 1889 – The US and Germany Square Up To Each Other In The Pacific and be sure to read the poem about HMS Calliope written by A. B. “Banjo” Patterson whilst you are there.

Gallery Updates

I have been madly updating the gallery over the past few days with Mark I versions in place for:

  • Mongolian Landscapes
  • Places Visited

I have also uploaded all the museum photos from the old gallery. These are covering the Choson, Three Kingdom and Koryo Periods of Korean History as well as the Thai Airforce Museum. Labelling (captions) are still being updated for them. Also being updated are the wargaming pictures and the  how-to guides. They are also waiting captions and in some cases re-sorting.

To get there either click the photo to the left (Photo Images) or go to https://thomo.coldie.net/gallery/main.php.

Enjoy!

IKEA in Jeddah

Tonight I went to the IKEA store here in Jeddah. The main reason for going there was for kjøttboller (meatballs) and to check out the furniture and knick knacks. I like IKEA. I like their furnishings, the simple style of them and I particularly like their knick knacks.

I have been to IKEA stores in Australia, England, China and now Saudi Arabia. The Jeddah store is by far the worst IKEA store I have been to, one that is not really true to the spirit that is IKEA. I am not talking about the stupidity that is the segregated eating area (families in one area, bachelors in another) – especially as just across the road is the Megamall which has mixed seating in the food court on the top floor – but rather I am talking about the service levels and customer treatment in the store.

The bachelor eating area is small – 6 tables wide by 4 rows deep. The 3 table width to the left is a smoking area, to the right, a non-smoking area. Better not to try and segregate the smokers and non-smokers at all as the smokers just sat where they felt like and IKEA staff would not do anything. Better to ban smoking outright from in the store, after all, there are children present in large numbers and I did think that IKEA had a social conscience.

The store itself was laid out like all other IKEA stores, just smaller because it was in Jeddah. Maybe the Riyadh store is bigger. There were many things not displayed, near as I could see, because of the smaller size. When shopping though there were catalogues available with a note on the red/blue plastic covers that these were for use in the store. The covers noted that there were copies available in customer service on the way out. There were not. They were out of stock.

The only positive thing I could say about the trip to IKEA here was that the kjøttboller tasted the same as in every other IKEA store. However, it was not a pleasant experience eating there, or indeed shopping there. I really hope that IKEA senior management take a trip there and have a look at the absolutely worst IKEA store in the world.