Quite a few years ago, in 1995 or 1996 if my aging memory isn’t failing me, I was asked to present a light talk at a company event in Trondheim, Norway. Norwegians are lovely folks, friendly, helpful and generous. They have an interesting sense of humour and when you are winding them up, you are expected to smile so they know you are teasing them. It was at the start of a large project so I wanted to both entertain and instruct. I started to think about the orientation of the globe. I presented a number of “facts” that proved Australia was on the top of the globe, and Norway on the bottom.
Why Australia is at the Top of the World records the three or four original “proofs” I presented as well as some added later. Stanley Friedman kindly provided an additional (and now the 9th) proof. It goes something like this:
Polaris (the Pole Star or North Star) is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor (α Ursae Minoris). It also happens to appear at a fixed point in the sky of the Northern Hemisphere with the rest of the constellations and stars revolving around that point. As we determined that stars are a sign of up and as the Northern Hemisphere has less stars than the Southern Hemisphere and must be less up, therefore down, Polaris must be the fulcrum that allowing for the various astronomical attractions and such, the earth rests and revolves upon. This is further confirmed by Proof Number 6, the Rotational Proof that has the earth rotating clockwise!
Thanks Stanley for the proof, this has been added the page here. Other proofs are welcome.
There are many books looking at “linchpins to victory” and “decisive contributions to the winning of the war”, be they the fleets, corvettes, rapid production, the RAF and the Battle of Britain, Dunkirk, the entry of the USA, the Soviet efforts and so on. A war cannot be won, however, if a country is cut off from its supplies of food, raw materials and completed goods and keeping those supplies coming (as Germany and Japan failed to do in World War 2) is critical to winning the war.
This was the very real threat facing England the United Kingdom in both World Wars as the German u-boat campaigns went into full swing. The solution (apart from more and better convoy escorts) was to build ships faster than the enemy can sink them.
To rapidly build ships, standard designs become necessary and that is the theme of this book. Nick Robins discusses Standard Ships from the concept of them (austere, functional and lots of them), through the design criteria and then splitting the book into essentially two sections, looking first at the First World War and then the Second World War. In both cases he discusses ship building in Great Britain, the USA and Canada in particular. Interestingly the Australians, who owned substantial fleets in both wars in terms of numbers if not weight, and who were one of the main suppliers of food and raw materials, did not really get into the swing of building Standard Ships.
The author also looks at the Standard Ships built by the Germans in the Second World War and the limited numbers of the Japanese Standard Ships. The Liberty Ship is covered in some detail of course as is its successor, the Victory Ship.
Robins concludes by examining the successes and failures, concluding that perhaps the “unparalleled success of the American ship-building programmes in both World Wars” was a major contribution to victory. Robins quotes the United States Maritime Commission in 1943 which noted:
The Liberty ship is a product of war use. It can be classed with the tank, the fighting plane and other materials of war. It was produced to be expendable if necessary. If expended, it had served its purpose.
The 172 pages of this book are well illustrated with relevant black and white photographs as well as interesting sidebars. I have a well-known interest in naval history and the ships that form much of it and had of course heard of the Liberty and Victory ships and the contribution of the merchant marine to the overall victory but in this book it seemed that I was learning something new on every page.
There is a useful References chapter at the end of the book and index that contains among other things, a lot of references to individual vessels.
This is another good work on a little understood subject and one that will continue to keep these largely defenceless vessels in the place they deserve to be in the history of both World Wars. Recommended.
World War I and the Sinai campaign gave us Lawrence of Arabia; King Faisal of Iraq; King Hussain and the Arab revolt from Ottoman rule; the Charge of the Australian Light Horse; and the advance on Damascus. It also gave us broken promises and a carve up of the Middle East which arguably has resulted in problems that we still have today.
General Sir Edmund Allenby led the force that marched on Damascus. The force included Australian, New Zealand and British mounted contingents, British infantry and artillery and an Arab army under the command of Ḥussain’s son Faiṣal, formed in the Hejaz, with Syrian and other Arab officers and British help led by T.E. Lawrence.
Peter O’Toole along with T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom have immortalised the Arab contribution to the campaign; the Charge of the Australian Light Horse has focused the Cavalry contribution to the campaign; the taking of the railway was an Arab contribution; and the taking of the towns and wadis has shown the infantry contribution for those that marched along with the columns. The arm overlooked in the past, however, has been the artillery that took part in the campaigns.
Alan Smith is an Australian author, the book first being published in Australia by Blue Sky Publishing before being picked up by Pen and Sword Military and being exposed to a wider audience.
The book is very well laid out with the Table of Contents listing the photographs; maps; and tables before the Foreword. A Preface then follows after which are Notes on Sources; Abbreviations used; and Map Legend. The main part of the book is then broken up into three broad sections or Narratives, with Narrative One providing the Background to April 1916. Narrative Two covers the period November 1917 to May 1918 and Narrative Three covers May 1918 to November 1918 and the end of the war. There are then 8 appendices; endnotes; bibliography; and an index.
Each of the Narratives is then further broken up into bite sized chunks. For example, Narrative Two covers:
The Great Northern Drive
The drive north to Junction Station
Allenby takes Jerusalem
The Northern Front and the defence of Jerusalem
The capture of Jericho
The Amman raid and the first Es Salt affair
The April 1918 battles of XX Corps and XXI Corps
The second Es Salt raid
The Northern Front 1. Wadi Auja: 18 March 1918
Summer in the Jordan Valley
The narratives are easy to read and flow well. The layout of the book makes browsing easy and it is a simple matter to look into particular areas of interest. In addition to the written content of the chapters, Smith has provided relevant illustrations at various stages through the book.
For example, Chapter 22, The Northern Front 1. Wadi Auja: 18 March 1918 is four pages long and contains image 16: the Abu Tellul feature which was the objective of Allenby’s planned advance in the area, with the capture of the Wadi Auja and its waters, designed to dishearten the Turks further. Smith carries the narrative well but doesn’t lose sight of the objective of the book, which is to discuss Allenby’s Gunners, the artillery arm of Alenby’s forces.
So Smith discusses Bulfins XXI Corps which went into the attack with:
52nd (Lowland); 54th (East Anglian) and 75th divisions and XXI Corp Cavalry
XXI Corps Artillery under Brigadier Williamson-Oswald:
100th Heavy Group (15th and 181st batteries plus one section of the 43rd Siege Battery)
102nd Heavy Group (189th, 202nd and 380th siege batteries with one section of the 43rd and another of the 304th siege batteries)
95th Heavy Group (209th Siege Battery and one section each of the 134th and 304th siege batteries)
Under command 75th Division – one section of the 134th Siege Battery , tractor drawn
Smith describes the assault and the contribution of the batteries to the assault. For example, he notes:
The infantry’s objective was the line of Wadi Deir Ballut. Farndale notes that ‘there were good positions for the artillery’, recognising also the impressive road building efforts of the RE field companies and infantry working parties to move the guns forward. On one such road to Abud, the 177nd Brigade RFA advanced by leapfrogging batteries.
The action overall was successful with the artillery-infantry cooperation.
The research Smith has put into this work is remarkable but importantly Smith does not lose sight of the object of the book, which is to cover the contribution of the artillery to the campaign. Artillery was key to the success of the campaigns in the Middle East. Best is that this book is written by an Aussie who is capable of looking at the campaign as a whole and the contributions of all arms without being tied up by the jingoism around the Australian Light Horse charge at Beersheba.
This book has re-sparked an interest in me in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns of 1916 to 1918 as well as a desire to look further now at the carving up of the Middle East by the British and French post war.
Mr Smith, you have written a remarkable history and I commend you for it. It is a book I will refer to again many times in the coming years. And hour to spare, a narrative to read. Well written, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anybody with an interest in Military History.
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.
After our spirited discussion on submarines recently in More on Submarines and then the post Submarines – some more, I came across an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today with a title of Defence to get new supercomputer. It seems that Cray Inc., the company making supercomputers has sold the Department of Defence a $2.2 million supercomputer to help with research for the Future Submarine program.
A Defence Department sopkeperson noted that,
The system will be used to undertake computational fluid dynamic studies to increase knowledge and assist the evaluation of technical risks associated with the hydrodynamic performance of future Australian navy platforms.
The capacity of the system will enable large computational fluid dynamics simulations to be performed in the order of days rather than months.’
So, seems the Australian Department of Defence is trying to make the next batch of submarines flow through the water, better – even if they can’t get enough crew to man them.
Personally, I would have thought a $2.2 million supercomputer wasn’t that flash!
The other two interesting bits of news with regards to this is that they apparently are looking at container-housing the computer so that it is portable. Not sure why they want to do that rather than just ensure they have the necessary channel bandwidth to access back to the supercomputer.
The other interesting part of the report was where “client and vendor are expected to run performance tests to see whether the system would qualify for nomination for the biannual top 500 supercomputer list”.
Mother’s car insurance has came up for renewal. It happens every year and every year Mum asks, “is this the best deal son?”
Every year I then devote the best part of a couple of hours or so out on the InterWebs searching to see what the best car insurance deal is for mum. It’s not like we are insuring a Ferrari or anything, it’s just a harmless old Nissan Pulsar but Mum has grown quite attached to it. Takes her shopping, lets her do her Meals-on-Wheels delivery and generally gets her around.
So, every year I spend a few hours and find her the best deal I can.
Those that know me too know that I hate “dicking” around. Systems should make it easy for me to do things, not harder. They should speed the process up, not make it longer. Right then, let’s have a look at a couple of fun moments from my recent searching.
First off though, I should mention that Youi Car and Home Insurance has been her insurer for the past two years. Before that it was AAMI. We had a quote from them already as part of the renewal notice. The first of the failures was QBE Insurance. I spend about 10 minutes stepping through all the questions, identifying the vehicle, recording details of all the potential drivers, recording my mother’s details, what the agreed amount was that we were looking for insurance for and whether we wanted excess protections etc.
When I got to the end of all this and clicked the “get quote” button, the image on the left was returned. Yep, after asking me how much insurance I wanted the system went ahead with the other 50 questions and only when I had completed every question including how much insurance was required, QBE then told me that the amount of insurance requested was below the minimum amount they will deal with. In Twitter terms …. #fail!
Of course, the other thing about this is that there is no link backwards to change any of the information given, like did I want to increase the amount of insurance.
http://www.budgetdirect.com.au/ was the insurance quote system to annoy me. Again, after answering the 50-odd questions, plugging away to the end the one thing that I had not answered was any amount for the insurance (“agreed value” in Australian terms). I progressed through and the screen to the right was eventually returned.
The lump sum payment amount was nice – it was about $20 cheaper than Youi. However the issue was that now where did Budget tell me what the insured value was. They mentioned “market value” only which could be any value really. It was not specified. So budget wanted $512.33 of my mother’s hard earned money for an unspecified amount of insurance. #Fail!
The other nasty thing about Budget – look at the instalment option. Pay back over 12 months on a month-by-month basis and pay $599 instead of $512 – and $87 premium for paying by the month on an agreed insurance value that presumably is going to get smaller as the year progresses. Another #fail.
There were some other annoying things as well – GIO Car Insurance for example. After answering the questions they came up with a quote that was around about the same level as Youi. The only problem was it was for about $2,600 over insurance coverage whereas Youi was $4,750.
The other thing I noticed is that same quotation system is used between many insurers. That is not surprising as many of the insurers are owned by the same company, Suncorp.
The good thing from all this? I won’t have to do this for another 12 months 🙂
A comment was left on the post Singapore Submarines by mhalblaub who appears to be from Germany. I had noted that the the Singapore Navy hqad acquired from Kockums two Archer Class (Ex-Västergötland Class) submarines under the Northern Lights programme. I had also made a comparison to the length of the Västergötland Class and Archer Class to that of the Australian Collins class vessels – noting that the longer Collins class would provide a better platform for crew in long voyages.
mhalblaub noted that:
The enlarged Västergötland-class is also known as Collins-class. Most problems Collins-class has are related to the divorce from the original submarine builder Kockums in 2000 because the Australian government thought they can do it on their own with some help from the US. Until today Australian Submarine Company (ASC) is proof of they can’t even properly maintain submarines.
Australian submarine crews is one area I have some experience with as my brother-in-law for many years whilst he was in the RAN was responsible for drafting crew – trouble was, crew didn’t want to serve on Submarines and it is a voluntary posting. That has been a problem plaguing the Australian submarine fleet for many years now, the difficulty of getting crews together and this is one reason that so few of the Collins-class are at sea at any time.
Whilst there is no doubt that the Colllins class building program was best with many problems – welds not to specification from Kockums, large problems with the weapons systems and the ASC being on a learning curve with submarine construction and maintenance, one of the chief issues was and is still crewing.
During the First World War, the Australian Navy operated two submarines, AE1 and AE2 and their feats are well recorded in Australian naval history.
During the Second World War there were, as far as I am aware, no submarines operated by the Royal Australian Navy. Based in Australia during that war however were may US submarines.
Wikipedia notes about crewing for the Collins class vessels:
During the late 1990s, a combination of low recruitment and retention rates across the RAN resulted in the number of trained submariners falling below 40% of that required. As an attempt to retain submariners, the RAN offered a one-off A$35,000 bonus in 1999. Other measures introduced around the same time included priority transfer of volunteers for submarine training and rotating submariners between sea and shore assignments to relieve them from continual sea service and prevent burnout. A year later, these measures had increased submariner numbers to 55% of requirements.
However, the problem with submarine crewing continued; by 2008 the RAN could only provide complete companies for three of the six submarines.
So, it may not be a case of the inability to maintain the vessels that is the issue, but rather the reluctance of Australians to serve in small metal chambers generally floating around under the sea.
A tour of what will become HMAS Canberra when it is completed and commissioned.
This video gives a good look around the Nuship Canberra at its current state of completion. Nuship Canberra is the first of the Landing Helicopter Dock ships (LHD) and is currently under construction at the BAE Systems Williamstown Shipyard at Port Phillip Bay. The ship is due to commence sea trials in late 2013.
Ski jump flight deck for helicopters? Hmm, apparently she’ll have the ability to operate 18 aircraft but which aircraft?
I had cause to spend some time on the Australian Government’s Citizenship website tonight so after checking the information I was asked to check, I thought I would give the citizenship quiz a go. Fortunately I got all questions correct (a great relief I will add). There was one question that threw me a wee bit – it was concerning state governments and whether they have their own constitutions. Logic suggested to me that they do but hey, when has logic ever applied to the Aussie way of doing things?
That is, they each have their own constitutions. Of course, now I am wondering whether there is any real relevance in them any more?
Old Reynalla in the City of Onkaparinga, South Australia, is the site of a Festival of History over the 9th and 10th of March, 2013.
The festival will include vintage cars on display, model railroading, re-enactment groups, static displays of different artillery amongst other things but perhaps the greatest attraction to the wargamer is the refight of the Battle of Leipzig (it is the 200th anniversary next year after all)
Further information can be obtained by contacting the Old Reynalla Festival Director, Mal Wright, on +61 8 8381 5785 or email@example.com.
It is a good opportunity for overseas visitors to take a bit of a holiday in a really nice part of Australia whilst getting in some wargaming as well. There are plenty of other activities in the area to keep partners happy as well.