Brussels

Montgomery roundabout at 4:30 am - looks cold don't it?
Montgomery roundabout at 4:30 am – looks cold don’t it?

I’m in Brussels at the moment, just down the road from Charleroi and Waterloo. This is perfect for the wargaming but a little unfortunate as I have to work.

Looks cold out there doesn’t it? It has been around 4 degrees in the day time with a lazy wind ((the wind is so lazy that it doesn’t bother flowing around you it just blows straight through you))  blowing from the north. Snow is expected tonight which will make a change from the sleet and rain of the past couple of nights.

I like Brussels with it’s beautiful old four and five storey houses in brick and stone. I particularly like that many folks in the restaurants and such are pretty good at speaking English.

I noted when we arrived at Frankfurt on the way here that you could tell you were in Europe – the first advertisement we say on the skybridge was for ICBC – a Chinese bank.

The down side of the trip so far has been Brussels airport. Getting through to collect the bags was a breeze although it was a long walk from the plane to the baggage hall. Unfortunately, when we collected our bags there appeared as though there must have been a customs strike as the queue to leave through either the green or the red channel was even longer than a terminal 3 immigration queue at Heathrow.

The queue started at the exit the went out to the left (see the next photo). We are at the end of the queue after it had snaked around the baggage hall
The queue started at the exit the went out to the left (see the next photo). We are at the end of the queue after it had snaked around the baggage hall
Here you can see the queue extending off to the left and starting its circling of the baggage hall
Here you can see the queue extending off to the left and starting its circling of the baggage hall

After standing in the queue for about 30 minutes the police or someone decide do just open the customs exit and with a mighty surge we all squeezed out and raced to the taxi rank where another mighty queue formed – this time, however, it was serviced by all the vacant taxis.

Not good Brussels!

Khalkin-gol – Nomonhan 1939 – New Books

A nice parcel arrived from Amazon today with some books I’ve been waiting for. These are three works on the Battle of Khalkin-gol (Nomonhan in the Japanese) that occurred between Russia and Mongolia on one side and Japan and Manchuoko on the other side.

As readers here will know I have a particular fascination with things Mongolian as well as some of the more esoteric areas of the wars of the 20th century (and indeed, the 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th centuries).

The hard copy books go with the Kindle version of Leavenworth Papers – Nomonhan: Japanese-Soviet Tactical Combat 1939 by Edward Drea that I picked up a while ago.

The three books in today’s bundle were:

  • Nomonhan 1939 – The Red Army’s Victory that Shaped World War II by Stuart D Goldman (ISBN 978-1-59114-329-1)
  • In the Skies of Nomonhan – Japan versus Russia May-September 1939 by Col Prof Dimitar Nedialkov PhD (ISBN 978-0-85979-152-6)
  • Nomonhan: Japanese-Soviet Tactical Combat, 1939 by Edward Drea (ISBN 978-1-105-65014-7) – and yes, this is the same as the Kindle version but I wanted a hard copy of it as it is:
    • easier to read in hard copy
    • permanently with me, not at the whim of Amazon.

For those unfamiliar, the Battle at Khalkin-gol started as a border skirmish and escalated.

I have some serious reading to do now – then some research and maybe turn this into a couple of games.

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.

Opio en Provence

P1010200 I’m fortunate in having to have to spend a few days in Opio in the Alpes-Maritimes in the South of France. I’m attending a senior consultant conference from my company and this is held in the Club Med at Opio. Opio is a small town, about 361 metres above sea level with a population of a little over 2,000 people.

The last few days have been involved in some work activity, catching uo with some old friends and making some new ones, all whilst enjoying fine French cooking and produce.

I’m already looking forward to the next event in two years time.

Korean Soldiers in WW2 German Army–Part 2

The most commented post here in Thomo’s Hole is Korean Soldiers in WW2 German Army. The comments have ranged from polite to vitriolic. The post concerned a photograph of a Korean soldier in Wehrmacht Uniform from the Second World War. It seems that this story has caught on and the movie makers are currently making a movie about this. The movies is currently titled “My Way”

Director Kang JeKyu has been working on this movies since 2010 and it is due for release late 2011. The movie has a budget of nearly US$28 million – the biggest budget for a Korean movie ever. The stars are Korean, Japanese and Chinese stars – Jang DongKun, Joe Odagiri and Fan Bingbing.

The story appears to have been based on the guy mentioned in the original post here but as it is a movie, it appears as though the story has been varied a lot to bring in the love interest and perhaps make some philosophical or moral comment.

Four links for further reading:

1859-1871

I got a new book the other day. It was one that I had on a wish list for a while now. It was a history of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 – The Austro-Prussian War – Austria’s War with Prussia and Italy in 1866 written by Geoffrey Wawro. Being the kind of wargamer I am, the first reason I liked the idea of wargaming that war was that it really was misnamed. The war actually involved Austria, Prussia and Italy, with the Prussians and the Italians taking on the Austrians with varying degrees of success.

I then got to thinking, Doug has been nagging at me to do some Franco-Prussian War figures so that we can play that with Polemos but i have been manfully resisting. Now, Italians and Austrians, there is an interesting pair, and he can use his Prussians.

I know he also bought some French for the FPW which made me think, “French v Italians? No. Ah, French and Italians v Austrians!”

I recalled that in 1859 there was a little war between those three protagonists and as I plan on gaming this in 6mm, the uniform detail should work for both 1859 and 1866 Italians and Austrians. I need to research the French Uniforms a little to decide whether the 6mm Franco-Prussian War French will work or whether I need to look at collecting some Crimean War French.

Voila, my next project to add to the growing pile of half and incomplete projects. Ah, wargames heaven.

Khalkhin Gol or Nomonhan

From 11 May to 16 September 1939 Japanese and Manchurian forces clashed with Mongolian and Soviet forces on the border of Mongolia and Manchuria (at that time called Manchukuo by many nations) around the village of Nomonhan near the Khalkhin gol (Khalkhin River). Having spent time in Mongolia my office at the bank used to look out on Jukov Square, next to the Jukov Museum. Jukov is the Mongolian spelling of Zhukov, as in Georgy Zhukov (well, it’s the Mongolian spelling when it’s Latinised). Zhukov, having given the combined Mongolian Soviet Army a victory over the Japanese is a hero in Mongolia. For the record, the Mongolians fought with the Russians during the Second World War with Mongolian troops marching into Berlin as part of the Red Army forces in that campaign.

It all started when a Mongolian cavalry unit of about 90 men went searching for grazing in the area between Nomonhan an the river. Manchukuo cavalry attacked the Mongolians and then forced them back over the Khalkhin gol. Two days later the Mongolians returned in greater numbers and the Manchukuans were not able to force them back this time.

The next day elements of two Japanese army arrived and forced the Mongolians out. Then a combined force of Mongolian and Soviet forces surrounded the Japanese causing many casualties. It all escalated. The 2nd Japanese Air Brigade then launched an unauthorised air attack on the Soviet air base at Tamsak-Bulak in Mongolia losing some aircraft but destroying more Soviet aircraft.

Lt. Gen. Georgy Zhukov then arrived to take control of the Soviet-Mongolian forces and so began a battle that lasted until 31 August with the defeat of the Japanese in the area. I’ll provide more detail about individual engagements at a later time. The battle though was significant as it was the first reverse the Japanese Army took in World War 2. At the same time, the result of this battle was that Japan looked southwards for the future which released valuable Soviet (and Mongolian) divisions to the fighting in the West.

Some selections from the Canberra Times about the fighting in Manchukuo and Mongolia.

The Canberra Times Tuesday 4 July 1939

JAPANESE DEMANDS ON BRITAIN AND FRANCE

Threat of Force to Achieve Objectives

LONDON, Monday.

A message from Peking declares that the Japanese controlled Chinese Government dispatched to the English and French Embassies a list of demands for a basis of settlement at Tientsin, and said that the Japanese army in North China supported them.

The Japanese spokesman declares that no compromise regarding the demands would be accepted and force may be used to obtain the objectives.

They include demands that the English and French Concessions support the new Japanese currency; secondly, that the Peking Government be allowed to inspect banks and business houses in the Concession; thirdly, that a rigorous control be exercised over publications and organisations acting contrary to the policy of Peking, and fourthly, that, a Chinese – speaking Government be appointed to control the Concession.

The army spokesman announced that gendarmes are holding in custody Mr. E. T. Griffiths, a British engineer from a British steamer, allegedly for insulting the Japanese army.

He added that the reported stripping of John Anderson at the Concession barricades yesterday was being investigated.

Renewed Fighting in Manchukuo

DARIEN, Monday.

It is officially announced that the Japanese army launched an offensive against the Soviet-Mongolian forces with the object of expelling them from Manchukuan territory.

The British United Press reports heavy fighting on the western border of Manchukuo and Outer Mongolia. Tanks, machine guns, cavalry and planes are engaged.

The Canberra Times Tuesday 18 July 1939

RUSSIAN AIR RAIDS IN MANCHUKUO

TOKYO, Monday.

Eight Russian planes dropped bombs in the vicinity of Nalunarshan railway station, 30 miles inside the Manchukuan frontier, and injured four Manchukuans, as well as destroying four carriages and setting fire to a number of buildings.

The Japanese have protested to Moscow.

In an earlier raid on Sularki station, 180 miles north-west of Harbin, seven were injured.

The Canberra Times Thursday 27 July 1939

MANCHUKUO

JAPAN CALLS UP TROOPS CONTINUED TROUBLE ON BORDER

TOKYO, Wednesday.

In “view of continued trouble on the Manchukuan border, the Government has announced the reinforcing of forces throughout the Japanese Empire.

An army communiqué claims that 59 Soviet war planes were brought down on the Manchukuan frontier on Tuesday.

Japanese artillery heavily bombarded the Soviet position on the west bank of the Khalha River throughout the day.

and lest we forget that the Japanese were fighting the Chinese at the same time, this piece followed in the same issue of the Canberra times the following article was found:

Japanese Claim Major Victory

TOKYO, Wednesday.

The Japanese north of Hankow claim lo have trapped 30,000 Chinese as a result of a fierce offensive launched on Tuesday.

Supported by aircraft, the Japanese are advancing to the north along he Pekin-Hankow railway.

A second force is manoeuvring in order to cut off the Chinese retreat.

From the Canberra Times Thursday 31 August 1939

TO MANCHUKUO

Effect of Russo-German Pact

TOKYO, Wednesday

Large forces are being sent lo Manchukuo as the result of the Russo-German pact

The Premier (General Abe), in a nation-wide broadcast viewed with delicacy the international situation, and stated that the Government was establishing independent diplomacy, and also taking measures at home and abroad with the Chinese incident
as a focal point.

General Abe appealed to the nation for co-operation.

The four Chinese, who were arrested at Tientsin, are to be handed over to the Japanese on August 31.

From the Canberra Times of Tuesday 11 June 1940

SOVIET AND JAPAN AGREE ON FRONTIERS

TOKYO, Monday.

The Foreign Office issued a communiqué that Mr. Toga and M. Molotov, Ambassadors for Japan and Russia, reached an agreement yesterday on the precise demarcation of the frontier of Nomonhan area with mutual recognition of interests.

by special arrangement: Reuter’s World Service in addition to other special sources of information is used in the compilation of the overseas intelligence published in this issue and all rights therein in Australia and New Zealand are reserved.

I’ll give more detail on the battle and the Orders of Battle of both sides of the conflict in a later post.