With those words from the Concierge at the condo, I was handed two cards from the PhilPost Central Makati Post Office telling me there were two parcels there. Now I was expecting a cover for my LG tablet, a couple of books and some wargame figures (English Civil War 6mm to be exact). I wondered which two parcels they would be. I had a meeting in Pasay in the morning then thought I would come back to the Post Office as it would be lunchtime. I prepared to travel back in time to 1954.
I dropped in and handed the cards over with my ID card. In record time the staff returned with two parcels for me – a small envelope and a huge box from Amazon.com. I had one of those moments looking at the box, paid the 224 pesos for the retrieval of the two parcels and returned home for lunch (and to open the parcels of course).
The small envelope certainly contained a cover for my tablet. I then opened the large Amazon box and found 7 books there, 5 more that I had recalled.
At least none of the books were repeats of books I had previously purchased and I recall now that I had purchased a few book as they were all in my sphere of interest.
Next time I think I will leave a note to myself on the fridge with details of each order. Then again, opening the parcel was like Christmas as I had not remembered what I ordered so each book was a pleasant surprise.
The loot is shown below! Oops, I did I order that many? I guess I did.
Two more books from Pen & Sword Military came into my hands recently. These are both in the series of Images of War designed to provide a general military history of a war or campaign with an emphasis on contemporary photographs. The ones I have seen have concentrated on the Eastern Front of World War II, although other theatres are covered as well.
The first of the additions to my collection was the Battle for Kharkov 1941-1943 written and compiled by Anthony Tucker-Jones (ISBN 9781473827479).
By the time of the Battle for Kharkov the titanic struggle between Germany and the USSR was well underway with both Hitler and Stalin does their best to stymy their professional generals – one by interfering micro management, the other by bloody pogroms eliminating generals that were perceived as a threat.
Kharkov was the site of four battles during World War 2. The first was when the Germans took Kharkov, but were too slow to prevent the Soviets moving the tank factory the home of the T34 tank. The second and third battles were unsuccessful attempts by the Soviet forces to recapture Kharkov and the fourth, after the Germans loss at Kursk, finally saw Kharkov liberated and back in Soviet hands.
Most of the photos in this collection have come from the Scott Pick WWII Russian Front Original Photo Collection which consists of over 2,500 photographs, not only of soldiers and tanks but also of buildings and civilians. There are a lot of inspiring photographs in there for the modeller and wargamer.
The second Images of War has the general title of Hitler versus Stalin – The Eastern Front 1941-1942 – Barbarossa to Moscow. This volume was written and compiled by Nik Cornish (ISBN 9781783463985).
This volume is a more general volume than the Kharkov one and covers the first two years on the Eastern Front with a fine collection of photos.
Included in the photos on this volume are lend lease tanks in Soviet service (see the image of the M3 Grant below) including American and British tanks.
Also included are images of the French Hotchkiss H-35 pressed into service with Souma tanks in German Panzer Battalion 211. About 100 French tanks were pressed into German service and for me it is a good excuse to purchase some more models.
One of my interests has been the Battle of Khalkin-gol (Nomonhan) where the Soviets and Mongolians defeated the Japanese and Manchurians. Also of interest were the Korean soldiers captured by the Soviets from the Japanese and pressed into service, only later to be captured by the Germans and then the Americans. The blog post here, Korean Soldiers in WW2 German Army, tells tha tale.
I was also aware of the Mongols having marched into Berlin with the Red Army towards the end of the war. This is highlighted by the T34/85 tank donated by the Russians to the Mongols and on a pedestal and permanent display in Ulaanbaatar at the foot of Zaisan.
It was then interested to see the next two photos. The first is clearly a Mongol, also captured by the Germans. Some of the captured troops from the more disaffected areas of Central Asia were pressed into German service, the others were parked in concentration camps.
The next figure down is also from Central Asia but his nationality is less clear. He appears to a Kazakh or similar.
These two books are a great addition to my World War 2 library and provide wonderful evidence for my having a German tank battalion of Hotchkiss and Souma tanks facing off against Soviets using M2 Stuarts and M3 Grants.
The things I enjoy mostly about this series are the photographs. The books are well illustrated and provide inspiration for modellers and wargamers as well as providing source material or evidence for the more serious student of World War II history. Most of the photos were new to me and this series provides good value for money. They are available in traditional softback bindings as well as eBooks. Recommended!
I was very much looking forward to my last trip back to Australia. Apart from getting to see mother, I had a review copy of British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II: Vol 2, Battleships & Aircraft Carriers (ISBN: 9781848322530) written by Malcolm Wright and published on 23 September 2015 waiting for me. This volume covered Capital Ships, namely Battleships and Aircraft Carriers of the British Commonwealth, something I have had an interest in since reading up on Task Force 57 and so I really could not wait to open the package. Whilst most will recall the British Commonwealth Navies efforts in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, their exploits are less well known in the Indian and Pacific Oceans at the time.
What is also not often realised is that by the end of the Second World War, the United Kingdom had more aircraft carriers under steam than any other navy with the exception if the US Navy. The British Pacific Fleet in 1945 for example consisted of 6 fleet carriers, 4 light carriers, 9 escort carriers and 2 aircraft maintenance carriers, with a total of more than 750 aircraft. It also contained 4 battleships.
The current volume from Mal covers the Aircraft Carriers and Battleships of the British Commonwealth Fleets, often with their pre-war colours as well as their active service camouflage in the Second World War.
I should state at the beginning that I have known the author, Malcolm Wright, for a number of years and you can see my name on his acknowledgements page, not from any addition to the story of the ships and camouflage he is writing about but more from being his part-time technical geek when things go wrong with the computer when he is working on the drafts.
I mentioned that I could not wait to open the parcel containing the book. Wow! I was impressed with Mal’s first volume but this volume surpasses even the high standard of Volume 1. Perhaps it is because it is a book about the battlewagons and carriers or perhaps it is Mal’s drawing ability and the new tools he is using but this volume now sits on top of my book pile for easy reach when I have an hour spare and a hot cup of lapsang souchong in hand.
The book follows the format of Volume 1, with sections on the Reference Sources Mal has used, Paint Types and Schemes, a glossary of Symbols used with the drawings then the vessels themselves. The 5 chapters covering the ships deal with the World War 1 era battleships and battlecruisers, the modern battleships, the monitors, then aircraft carriers and lastly fleet carriers.
Before starting on the ships, Mal discusses the various paint types and schemes, both the official Admiralty schemes and the unofficial. He also looks at Admiralty special schemes and the Admiralty Standard Scheme. Mal also provides a page covering British and Commonwealth Warship Paints During WWII being a page of paint chips, very useful for ship modellers and wargamers. This is also of interest to those with just an interest in warships to see an example of the colours used on British Commonwealth ships during WWII although as Mal will agree, the colours are at best an approximation of the colours, subject both to the limitations of printing as well as there being no extant example of the colours – see for example the discussion on the Mountbatten Pink colour scheme.
There are two pages of, for want of a better term, a glossary for the drawings. The first covers aircraft symbols used in the book to indicate the aircraft carried by various vessels although the markings and colours may vary. The second page is a glossary of the symbols used for weapons and electronics in the book.
There are multiple views of the different vessels reflecting the changes in camouflage over the years. For examples, HMS Queen Elizabeth is illustrated in 1915 as she appeared when providing bombardment support at Gallipoli, then her 1936 colours, followed by 1941 (port and starboard), 1943 (port and starboard), 1943-44 (port and starboard) and then 1944-5 (port and starboard) – ten illustrations showing the progression of camouflage schemes and colours on this vessel over its service life. This pattern is repeated through the book.
To book not only concentrates on British Commonwealth vessels but also covers those vessels transferred to other navies, for example, the Royal Sovereign, which was transferred to the Soviet Union and was re-christened Archangelsk.
There are top views of some vessels as well. The top views become even more valuable with the aircraft carriers. For example, the illustration of HMS Victorious when she was serving in the British Pacific Fleet.
The book is rounded out with a chapter on the escort carriers, some of the more colourful of the capital ships in the British Commonwealth forces and with a discussion of HMAS/HMS Albatross.
I highly recommend this book and it is available from:
We’ve sort of settled into Manila and after a couple of walks around the Makati City area I thought I would do what I always do when arriving in a new country long term, I had a look for a book on Philippine history. Two bookshops, both large and the only book I could find was on Philippine History after the Cross.
Now I know that there is a rich history in these 7,000 odd islands stretching back a number of years but published works in English on the period between pre-history and the Spanish arrival seem to be rare – or at least hard to find.
Given my hobby and love of Ancient and Medieval History in particular, this is kind of frustrating so I can see I will have a decent chunk of research to keep me amused as I learn more and travel these islands.
So, what do I know about the pre-Spanish history of the Philippines. I can summarize is as follows:
Negritos are believed to have migrated to the Philippines around 30,000 years ago (yes, I know, that is pre-history)
They apparently came from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya
More Malayans followed over the years
the Igorots display today some of that older Malayan culture
a bunch of Austronesians also migrated in and generally took over from the Negritos
the ancient Philippines (say, from about 1 C.E. to 1,000 C.E.) were influenced by the Hindu kingdoms, then perhaps by the Chinese and Indonesian states they were trading with. This lead to:
the Rajahnate of Butuan and Cebu
the dynasty of Tondo
the august kingdoms of Maysapan and Maynila
the Confederation of Madyaas
the Country of Mai
the Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao
these were small maritime states trading with China, India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia
the remainder of the settlements were independent Barangays allied with one of the larger states
the period of Philippine history I am most likely to be interested in is that period following the creation of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription which is the first written document found in a Philippine language
The first interest in the local history will end about the time to the Spanish colonization and settlement, which began with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi’s expedition on 13 February 1565. He established the first permanent settlement of San Miguel on the island of Cebu. We will soon (I hope) be moving into an apartment in Legazpi Village, in Makati City, Metro Manila.
So, a lot of history to research. I expect the military history of the area is likely to mirror that of the Indonesia archipelago.
One of the magazines I always look forward to is Ancient Warfare and this latest issue is of particular interest to me for two reasons:
There is no coverage of the Mongols – they deserve separate treatment purely because of their success and the size of their eventual empire
The coverage of the Amazons – something that has been an interest to me since seeing the Amazon sculpture frieze and mosaic in the Louvre
This issue then covers many of my interests whilst focussing on the Pontic Steppes where the majority of classical period nomadic horsemen originated. Included then are articles about the Amazons; a look at Herodotus’s examination of the Skythians; Dugdammi (Lygdamis), who managed to cause some trepidation in Ashurbanipal of Assyria when he united a number of nomadic tribes; Darius the Great’s Scythian expedition, 512 BCE; The battle for the Bosporan Kingdom, 310/309 BCE (Skythians face off against Sarmatians); and Alexander the Great’s mauling of the Skythians at the Battle of the Jaxartes.
There are a number of other articles as well on Rome and Egypt but perhaps most interesting for me was the article noted as an obscure debate over a very long spear – How Long was the Macedonian Sarissa? There are a couple of good illustrations of both the reported length of that spear and it relative reach compared to the spears of regular hoplites.
It is also strangely appropriate and good timing that this issue comes out during the Naadam festival, the celebration of Mongolia. As I type this I have been watching the nine standards of Chinggis Khaan paraded and placed for the festival.
Somehow or other, Robert J Walker came up the other day. In one of those fortuitous moments of historical coincidence, I quickly checked the name and found some interesting stories.
Robert J Walker was an early economist and the 18th Secretary of the Treasury of the United States during the presidency of James Polk. This was the period 1845-1849.
He was responsible, amongst other things, with organising the financing of the US Mexican War. One example is seen in correspondence with Major General William Orlando Butler,
“February 23, 1848. Sir, Upon the ratification of a treaty of peace by the Republic of Mexico in conformity with the provisions of the act of the congress of the United States of America approved March 3, 1847 stated ‘an act making further appropriation to bring the existing war with Mexico to a speedy and honorable conclusion’ you are authorized to draw on this department for any sum not exceeding three millions of dollars to be paid in pursuance of the promotion of said act.”
Walker supported the Union Cause during the American Civil War and as a result, the county in Texas that was named initially, Walker County, in honour of Robert J Walker was renamed to honour Samuel Walker, a Texas Ranger.
The US Government however did name a Coastal Survey ship to honour him in 1848. The Coastal Survey Ship USCS Robert J Walker.
The USCS Robert J Walker was built in 1847. She was iron-hulled and was a side-wheel steamer. on June 21, 1860 she collided with a schooner in rough seas of
The Walker, built in 1847 as one of the first US government iron-hulled, side-wheel steamers, sank in rough seas on June 21, 1860, after being hit by a commercial schooner.
The 40-metre vessel sank within 30 minutes, taking 20 sailors down with it of a total crew of 66. The schooner it collided with has been identified as the Fanny.
The captain of the Robert J Walker at the time was one Lieutenant John J. Guthrie and apparently he was the only naval officer on board. He was an experienced officer but was not on the bridge at the time of then collision. The executive officer, Joseph A. Seawell, who had been dismissed from the Navy on the recommendation of the Efficiency Board in 1855 was the officer on watch at the time of the collision.
The Fanny was loaded with coal so was heavy. The collision occurred about 3:00 am off Absecon, New Jersey. The Robert J Walker was underway from Norfolk to New York.
The officers and surviving crew of the Robert J Walker were rescued by Captain L. J. Hudson of the schooner R. G. Porter and taken to May’s Landing on the coast of New Jersey. The steamer sunk in less than half an hour after the collision, which took place about twelve miles from land.
This then leads to the connection between Robert J Walker and Australia. I will admit ahead of time that I did not realise that there were German U-Boats (or at least one u-boat) active off the Australian coast during the Second World War.
There was an American Steamship, the SS Robert J Walker, which was apparently running in ballast towards Australia. U-862, a type IXD2 u-boat was on a second cruise around Australia, having based out of Singapore. U-862 has an interesting history.
U-862 undertook two war patrols under Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Timm (Knights Cross). The first of these was a long cruise, starting at Kiel and from there moving on to Bergen and then Narvik. From Narvik U-862 sailed out into the Atlantic, around Iceland and headed south. On 25 July 1944 in the South Atlantic U-862 sank the US registered steam merchant Robin Goodfellow on-route from Capetown to New York via Brazil with a load of chrome ore. The vessel was lost with all hands.
Turning into the Indian Ocean around the Cape of Good Hope U-862 engaged the British merchant vessels Radbury, Empire Lancer, Nairung and Wayfarer. Most were carrying various ores and coal. All were sunk.
After passing up the channel between Madagascar and the African coast, U-862 was engaged by a Catalina aircraft. The submarine shot the Catalina down and proceeded to sail across the Indian Ocean to Penang then to Batavia.
After refuelling, rearming and restocking food and water in Batavia the U-862 still under Timms, now promoted to Korvettenkapitän , commenced a second patrol. This was south into the Indian Ocean from Batavia then eastwards across the Great Australian Bight, south around Tasmania and from there around the North Island of New Zealand, back to the Australian coast then through Bass Strait, across the Great Australian Bight again and back to Batavia. This was over the period 18 November 1944 to 15 February 1045.
On that patrol U-862 met and sank the Robert J Walker off the coast of New South Wales whilst U-862 was on her way to New Zealand. U-862 also met and sank the Peter Silvester in the Indian Ocean west of of Albany on her return leg to Batavia. Both ships were US registered. Interestingly, as U-862 passed around Tasmania on 9 December 1944 she had a gun duel with the Greek steam merchant Ilissos. U-862 fired three shots that missed, but choppy seas and accurate defensive gunfire from the merchant vessel forced the U-boat to dive and leave the area before firing any more.
After returning to Batavia U-862 then moved onto Singapore on 20 February 1945. on 5 May 1945 U-862 was taken over by Japan at Singapore and became the Japanese submarine I 502 on 15 July 1945. She had no further patrols that I have been able to determine.
At the conclusion of World War 2, I 502 surrendered at Singapore in August 1945. On 15 February 1946 she was towed into the Straits of Malacca, off Singapore, by HM Tug Growler and scuttled there alongside I 501((I 501 was U-181 before being handed over to the Japanese)) by the frigate HMS Loch Lomand((Seven u-boats, namely U-181, U-195, U-219, U-511, U-862, U-IT-24 and U-IT-25 were scuttled in Asia)).
Interestingly the wartime press in Australia all reported the attacks as Japanese submarines. Copies of some of those press reports are shown below.
Readers of Thomo’s Hole will be well aware of my interest in things Mongolian and in part in my interest in the Mongolian involvement in World War 2. Whilst it is generally accepted that World War 2 started with the German invasion of Poland, I have contended that it really started with the Japanese invasion of China and the installation of the puppet regime in Manchuoko (Manchuria). Nomonhan, or as it is known in Mongolia, the Battle at Khalkin-gol, was a decisive in moment in Japanese/Russian relations. The effect of the battle was the Japanese no longer continuing to look northward for expansion but rather to concentrate more on the East-Asia sphere and to also free up Russian divisions that would later be needed in the West facing the Germans.
For those reasons I consider the Battle at Khalkin-gol as a key moment at the start of World War 2.
World at War this month looks at that battle (and in the full version has a game based on the events at the battle). I must admit being tempted to purchase the game issue this issue.
Other items in the magazine this issue include:
A look at Lend Lease between the US and Soviets in World War 2
Army Group Courland and the Breakwater Strategy
Auchinleck vs Montgomery – who really did save the 8th Army from Rommel’s efforts?
Brief notes, observations on:
Operation Whiteshot and the Churchill NA75 Tank
Black and female US wartime aviators
The story of Robert L Vannoy, USMC VMF-115
and the destruction of the French Fleet at Toulon in 1942
Overall, a great issue and one that has me putting aside the current issue of Strategy and Tactics until I can finish this.
I remember the Cold War. Seeing the title of issue 283 of Strategy & Tactics when I took it out of the envelope in the elevator heading back up to the apartment last night brought back some memories.
I can remember life in the early 1970s in particular, the Cold War was well underway and at that time it was not clear who was winning. At that time many of us thought it was better not to win the Cold War as we didn’t want to upset the other guy – after all, they were always considered a bit unstable in the eyes of the Free World.
Ban the Bomb, protests against stationing US Nuclear Forces in Britain, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the gulags, so many memories flooding back in. Really, it had me feeling that Generation X and Generation Y never understood the stress of being a Baby Boomer.
Fail Safe ((now there is another term fresh from the Cold War that takes on a whole new meaning these days)) is a look at the manned bombers carrying nuclear weapons in the period 1945 to 1960 and the story of the doctrine that directed and restricted their use. For another view on that, I can thoroughly recommend watching Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. That really caught the mood of the time well and is a superb black comedy. The article in S&T however has some really neat photographs of some of the nuclear capable aircraft of the time – I can almost feel another wargaming period coming on!
In this issue also is a look at Saladin – not so much the chivalrous warrior this time but more the ruthless contender reaching for power.
In 1763, after the British had won the French-Indian Wars, Fort Pitt was besieged by a confederation of Indians unhappy with British rule and the policies of General Jeffrey Amherst in particular. This was the decisive battle in what became known as Pontiac’s War. Pontiac was an Ottowa Indian and leader of the confederation.
At this battle, British officers at Fort Pitt attempted to infect the besieging Native Americans with smallpox – an early example of biochemical warfare. The plan was to send blankets exposed to the smallpox virus to the Indians and hope it caught. The article also looks at the Battle of Bushy Run where the British did manage some effective infantry tactics.
There is an examination of Tulagi, the August 1942 landing on Tulagi to support the Guadalcanal landings.
Other notes and articles this month deal with the birth of the Roman Navy; Japan’s rise to naval dominance; submarines in the Gallipoli Campaign; and a piece on Admiral George Stephen Morrison (father of singer Jim Morrison of the Doors fame) and one of the commanders of the US naval forces in the Gulf of Tonkin at the opening of the Vietnam War when North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked US Navy warships.
Another good read coming up over the next few nights. I do enjoy this magazine, even without the game it is good value for money and any of the games that are interesting can be purchased later anyway. In fact, after a quick read of the Cold War piece I am starting to consider that as a board game to add to the collection.
Just 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.
Distractions, distractions. In the words of Hedly Lamarr, “my mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives!”
Well OK, there was a bright shiny object over there and I got distracted.
Today’s distraction is the Thirty Year’s War. I’ve always had an inkling to do it (and/or the English Civil for the matter) but never got around to it. A passing reference today to the Battle of White Mountain had me starting to think about it more seriously again. In the meantime, whilst I think, I’ll talk about the battle.
The Battle of White Mountain fought on 8 November 1620 effectively ended the Bohemian involvement in the Thirty Years War. 30,000 Bohemians under Christian of Anhalt were defeated by the combined armies of the Holy Roman Empire under Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, the Count of Bucuoy and the Catholic League under Johann Tserclaes, the Count of Tilly. They numbered 27,000 men. White Mountain (Bílá Hora) is near Prague. Within Tilly’s army was another famous and successful military commander of the Thirty Years War, Albrecht von Wallenstein.
I will post more about this later – I want to check my references next and get an idea of the makeup of the forces involved. In the meantime, it is another period for me to consider.