Despatches from the Front: Far East Air Operations – 1942-1945 – Review

Title: Far East Air Operations – 1942-1945
Compiled by: Martin Mace & John Grehan, additional research material from Sara Mitchell
Published by:Pen & Sword Aviation in 2014
ISBN: 9781473841215 (ePub Version)

I received a digital copy of this volume of Despatches from the Front, the Commanding Officers’ Reports From the Field and at Sea covering air operations over the period 1942 to 1945 over the Far East (Burma and South East Asia generally). This is one of the series of twenty books covering Despatches from the Front, dealing with the history of the British Armed Forces and covering topics such as:

  • Capital Ships at War 1939/1945
  • Disaster in the Far East 1940-1942
  • Gallipoli and the Dardanelles 1915-1916
  • The Zulu Wars
  • British Battles of the Napoleonic Wars 1793-1806
  • Operations in North Africa and the Middle East 1939-1942
  • Operations in North Africa and the Middle East 1942–1944
  • The War in East Africa 1939-1943
  • The War at Sea in the Mediterranean 1940-1944
  • Western Front 1914-1916
  • Western Front 1917-1918

This is an interesting work and is by and large source material from World War 2 along the lines of a Xenophon – and to those interested in World War 2 in Asia, perhaps as interesting. The book is in four main sections covering four despatches back to “Head Office”, namely:

  1. Air Vice-Marshal Stevenson’s despatch on air operations, Burma and Bay of Bengal 1 January to 22 May 1942
  2. Air Chief Marshal Peirse’s despatch on air operations in South East Asia 16 November 1943 to 31 May 1944
  3. Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park’s despatch on air operations in South East Asia from 1st June, 1944 to the Occupation of Rangoon, 2nd May 1945
  4. Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park’s despatch on air operations in South East Asia 3 May 1945 to 12 September 1945

This is a source book, and a great source book containing as it does the despatches from the field mentioned above. Additionally, as part of the inclusion there are some great photos taken of various air attacks by different units relevant to the despatches themselves.

Each of the despatches in this book covers a period of the air war initially over Burma and the Bay of Bengal and then later of South East Asia generally as the Allies pushed the Japanese back. We often think of the war in Burma in terms of Slim and the Chindits, and Alexander’s withdrawal to India followed by the rebuilding of Commonwealth forces in India before the counter attack so it is good to read these despatches which remind us of the contribution made by the air force initially to the defence of Burma and then later to the victory in that theatre. I would recommend reading this volume in company with:

  • The Fall of Burma 1941-1943
  • The Battle for Burma 1943-1945

Reading the despatches, Air Vice-Marshal Stevenson’s despatches were particularly interesting, highlighting the qualitative difference his 53 aircraft had over the 450-500 Japanese aircraft but also highlighting the difficulties he had with no effective early warning system leading to the risk to his Hurricanes and P-40s.

Air Chief Marshal Peirse’s despatches reflect the position he found himself in where unlike Stevenson’s small, outnumbered airforce, Peirse had 48 RAF and 17 USAAF squadrons under command against a Japanese air force of some 250 aircraft. Peirse also had upgraded aircraft with his Spitfire’s enjoying an 8 to 1 superiority in kills.

The objective of the book (and indeed all in the series compiled by Mace and Grehan) is to “reproduce the despatches as they first appeared to the general public some seventy years ago. They have not been modified or edited in any way and are therefore the original and unique words of the commanding officers as they saw things at the time.”

In the opening of Stevenson’s despatch, General Sir Archibald P. Wavell, G.C.B., C.M.G., M.C., A.D.C. wrote to the Chiefs of Staff, London, “I forward herewith two copies of a report by Air-Vice_Marchal D.F. Stevenson on Air operations in Burma and the Bay of Bengal from January 1st (the date in which Air-Vice-Marshal Stevenson assumed command) to May 22nd, 1942 (the date when the forces in Burma completed evacuation to India.”

When Stevenson took over command from Group Captain E.R. Manning, he noted that he “found that the air garrison of the country comprised one Squadron of the American Volunteer Group, armed with P.40’s at a strength of 21 I.E. based at Mingaladon, and No.67 R.A.F. Buffalo Squadron and a strength of about 16 aircraft, also based at this Sector Station. Apart from the personnel of 60 Squadron – whose aircraft had been retained in Malaya – and the Communication Flight equipped with aircraft of the Moth type belonging to the Burma Volunteer Air Force, there was at that time no further aircraft in the country. Reinforcing aircraft for the Far East were, however, flying through Burma to Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.”

Stevenson goes on to relate other aircraft movements, the defence of key areas and the airfields and so on. There is a wealth of detail in not just the first despatch here but in the four in this book.

This is an interesting book, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on others from the Despatches from the Front Series. I recommend this book to the military historian, general reader with an interest in the Second World War in Indochina and Burma, and the wargamer building scenarios from this theatre!

The book is available in Hardback, ePub and Kindle formats.

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15mm Khmer – Test Base Complete

I have been testing a new (for me) painting technique of brown undercoat, block (ish) paint and wash. This is a method I am planning to use on my South-east Asian themed armies. At the moment they are Burmese and Khmer. I wanted a quick test to start with so an element that I could paint simply. I selected the Maiden Guard from the Khmer, for no other reason than the colours and that there is a lot of flesh.

These figures are 15mm tall so the detail that looks overdone in these photos is not so bad in real life, although I will need to redo the faces of the figures again. These are Irregular Miniatures and I am pleased with the way they look painted. Much nicer than their appearance in bare metal.

The Maiden Guard on on of my test hills - faces need redoing
The Maiden Guard on on of my test hills – faces need redoing
The Maiden Guard
The Maiden Guard
The left hand side view
The left hand side view
The Maiden Guard from the rear
The Maiden Guard from the rear
The Maiden Guard right hand view
The Maiden Guard right hand view

Next on the Painting Table

Then Burmese and the Khmer. Prepped, based and undercoated. Now just waiting for the application of the brush
Then Burmese and the Khmer. Prepped, based and undercoated. Now just waiting for the application of the brush

Is … not sure! 🙂

Thinking about the 1/2400th scale Guerra del Pacífico vessels I have for Peru and Chile. It was an interesting sea war. Somewhere in the stockpile I have some 10mm Chilean and Bolivian figures for the land warfare component. Mind you, in a recent mini-sort of the Man Cave I have not managed to find any evidence of those figures yet. They must be in there somewhere.

I think, however, in a break from nautical painting, I may just try get the Burmese, or the Khmer, or both DBA Armies painted.

The figures have been cleaned up and based. They have also received a brown undercoat in Army Painter spray paint so they are ready to go. I will admit being interested to see how these look after painting as it will be the first time I have painted Irregular Miniatures 15mm figures.

As today is Friday and as we approach beer o’clock, I guess this is tonight’s rumination over a quiet pint.

Khmer and Burmese – Step 1

Burmese on the right and Khmer on the left drying after undercoating
Burmese on the right and Khmer on the left drying after undercoating

After the excruciating effort of super gluing all the figures to Irregular Miniatures Burmese elephant – not to mention several successful attempts at gluing my fingers together ((and the ensuing problems the next couple of days at the office when the finger-print reader at the door no longer recognises my fingerprint)) – I was ready to start the next step – gluing the basing material on and undercoating. First however, there was one more &$*&@#£ archer to glue back on that &$*&@#£ elephant.

Base material of fine grade sand and some larger grains was stuck to the base with some Woodland Scenics glue ((which mercifully does not glue ones fingers together)). The figures were let stand for 24 hours and then undercoated in Army Colours brown. I guess I need to start researching uniform colours – or find another project to get in the way of this 🙂

And yes, that is the &$*&@#£ Burmese elephant on the right hand side of the pachyderms!

The Burmese

All the materials ready for basing the figures
All the materials ready for basing the figures

I had ordered some Burmese – enough for one DBA army both as an opponent for the Khmer and because I needed to purchase 4 Khmer crossbowmen. I didn’t feel like sending an order to Ian Kay at Irregular Miniatures for four figures so he ended up getting the order for the Burmese. I reckon when I get around to the Indonesians and Malay I’ll be on to Grumpy’s figures.

The figures arrived very quickly from Irregular, taking about 7 days from order to delivery. In fact they arrived a few days sooner than I expected.

I put the magnetic material on the bottom of the MDF bases before starting on the figures.

I set to work with file and X-acto knife on the figures, cleaning the flash. Some of the figures had a fair bit of flash but it was fairly easy to clean off. Irregular seems to use a softer metal than some other manufacturers.

The figures on MDF ready for the flocking of the bases
The figures on MDF ready for the flocking of the bases

Once the flash was cleaned off the figures were attached to bases ready for the flocking to come.

There was no need to trim bases in this batch like I had to with the Khmer as there are no real close order troops in the Burmese army.

The elephant is a beast however. I have managed to delete my fingerprints again – I guess I’ll be using my plan B key at the office to get in tomorrow morning as the fingerprint reader is not going to be able to read me.

There are so many crew for the elephant – in fact two of them fell off just after the photos were taken. I’ve decided to leave them off tonight and will attempt to glue them on tomorrow night after all the other glued on blokes have had a chance to let the glue cure.

I decided to finish off this blog post with a couple if pictures of the elephant to give you an idea of how much of a beast it is.

The beast from the port side
The beast from the port side
The starboard side view of the elephant and crew - this is the side where the crew have fallen off
The starboard side view of the elephant and crew – this is the side where the crew have fallen off

A New Ancient Project

It’s been a few months since I outlined my next wargaming project, to be added to the pile of other projects either planned or underway but not yet completed. Time for an ancient one.

This came about as a result of the three for two sale from Essex Miniatures. I’d bought Hungarians, Poles and Serbs. It felt so good handling 15mm lead again that I thought I should look at something a little Ancient. Having been reading Conn Iggulden’s Mongol series of books recently and noting that the fourth book in the tale of the Mongols has just been released, it felt good to consider a Mongol theme.

The DBA rules have a Mongol campaign in them with the armies being Hungarian, Mongol, Pole, Russian, Chinese and Khwarizm. There is also an eastern based campaign set around the Asian opponents of Kublai Khan (Korea, Sung Chinese, Japan, Vietnam and Burma).

I wanted to start it a little earlier however, starting with the Mongols coalescing into a unified state, to deal with the various tribes first then sort off on worldwide domination. To that end I am looking at a campaign (or at least a series of armies) consisting of:

  • III/44 Tribal Mongolian – two of these armies will be required as the early on the Mongols were fighting each other
  • III/11ab – these are the Uigher and other Central Asian Turkish tribes – one of the early opponents
  • III/42b Sha-t’o Turkish
  • III/15 Khitan-Liao
  • III/66 Hsi-Hsia

These would do for starters. I know that I could easily add the Tang and Sung Chinese into this group, especially as they are dealt with in the first three books of Iggulden’s novels but I think they will keep nicely for a link set.

A second stage would have a smaller campaign consisting of the following:

  • III/44 Tribal Mongolian – only one of these required now as the Mongols are more unified now
  • III/61 Sung Chinese
  • IV/14ab Jurchen-Chin
  • IV/15 Qara-Khitan
  • IV/35 Mongol Conquest – this is what the Tribal Mongol eventually became

The third stage would be to adopt from the rules the Mongol Terror campaign, consisting of:

  • III/67b Early Hungarian
  • III/62b Early Polish
  • III/78 Early Russian
  • IV/35 Mongol Conquest
  • III/61 Sung Chinese
  • IV/24 Kwarizmian

Lastly the Kublai Khan stage where the armies involved would be:

  • III/61 Sung Chinese
  • IV/48 Yuan Chinese (the Mongol Empire in China)
  • III/56 Koryo Dynasty Korean
  • III/54 Early Samurai
  • III/59 Medieval Vietnamese
  • III/9b Burmese

I realise that I could then add in the period of the various Hordes traipsing across Asia in particular but they will need to wait for a later project.

In the meantime, there are 16 DBA Armies listed above – that will keep this as a running project for some time. The next stage in planning this will be identifying figures, starting with the Early Mongol period.