French Battleships of World War One – John Jordan & Philippe Caresse – Review

French Battleships of World War One by John Jordan & Philippe Caresse, published by Seaforth Publishing, on 30 May 2017, ISBN: 9781848322547, 328 wonderful pages.

I know John Jordan works from the wonderful Warship series, Warship 2017 sits on my bookshelf waiting for me to get some spare reading time. Jordan has been the editor of that publication for a number of years. Recent books of his for Seaforth Press include French Battleships 1922-1956, followed up with French Cruisers 1922-1956 and lastly French Destroyers 1922-1956. This book then is a prequel to those.

It is, simply, wonderful. French World War One Battleships were perhaps the most stylish, certainly the most distinctive of the period. The large tumblehome, pronounced “ramming” bows and the eccentric grouping of funnels give French Battleships of the First World War such a unique look that it is impossible to mistake them for any other’s battleships.

Philippe Caresse co-authored this work and is himself a respected author of matters nautical, in particular the German Navy of both World Wars.

That Jordan has spent many years researching French warships, especially of this period and immediately before the war, is clear from reading the text. Caresse provided the historical background as well as many of the photos. This book is worth having for the photo collection alone. That is also has line drawings of the class leaders b Jordan, many in both elevation and plan as well as cross-sectional drawings, discussions of propulsion machinery, hull form and superstructure as well as technical tables of the vessels, and periodically comparisons between the main competitors from other navies makes this book an invaluable sourcebook for French Battleships of the period 1890-odd to the mid to late 1920s.

To the above, add 8 pages of watercolour paintings of various vessels from Jean Bladé and here is a book that I will happily sit and just flick through, looking at a picture here, reading some text there, but all the while admiring the style that was the French battleship of the time.

The book has chapeters on:

PART I TECHNICAL SECTION

  • Pre-History 1870-1890
  • The Flotte d’Echantillons
  • The Charlemagne Class
  • Iéna and Suffren
  • The Patrie Class
  • The Courbet Class
  • The Bretagne Class
  • The Normandie Class
  • The Projects of 1913

PART II HISTORICAL SECTION

  • The Fleet and its Ships 1900-1916
  • The Great War 1914-1918
  • The Interwar Period 1918-1939
  • The Second World War

The chapter on the Second World War is because many of the vessels from the First World War were still in service.

If I had to give this book a rating out of five stars, then I would not hesitate to give it 5-stars. Did I mention that it is wonderful?

Another book that I would recommend to anyone interested in the pre-Dreadnought and Dreadnought periods of battleships, a must have on the naval historian’s bookshelves and under the naval enthusiast’s coffee table.

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A New Project – The Lobster War

A number of posts have been floating around the Internet recently about a game called Cod Wars, set in the period of the Royal Navy’s losses to the plucky Icelanders. The game was developed by David Manley, run at Salute this year and there is a write up on his blog, Don’t Throw Bloody Spears at Me! This had me reading about the Cod Wars. The Cod Wars led on to the Turbot Troubles of Newfoundland (and I learned a lot about Newfoundland’s political history at the same time). All this then naturally enough led to the Lobster War.

Briefly, [from Wikipedia] the Lobster War (also known as Lobster Operation) is a name given to a dispute over spiny lobsters which occurred from 1961 to 1963 between Brazil and France. The Brazilian government refused to allow French fishing vessels to catch spiny lobsters 100 miles off the Brazilian northeast coast, arguing that lobsters “crawl along the continental shelf”, while the French sustained that “lobsters swim” and that therefore, they might be caught by any fishing vessel from any country. The dispute was resolved unilaterally by Brazil, which extended its territorial waters to a 200-mile zone, taking in the disputed lobsters’ bed.

There was, however, two fleets mobilised and involved and it could have got nasty. Best reason yet for this as a project however is the chance to use some 1960s naval technology and by 1960s I mean anything from about 1942 onward. The competing fleets were the Brazilian and French Fleets. The Brazillians utilised:

  • Ipiranga (V17) – a corvette
  • Paraná (D29) – a Fletcher class destroyer
  • Babitonga Pará (D-27) – a Fletcher class destroyer
  • Acre (D 10) – a destroyer
  • Araguari (D-15) – a destroyer
  • Greenhalgh (D 24) – a destroyer
  • Almirante Barroso (C-11) – a cruiser
  • Tamandaré (C-12) – a cruiser
  • Minas Gerais – an aircraft carrier
  • Riachuelo (S15) – submarine
  • 1 Squadron of B-17 maritime patrol aircraft
  • 1 Squadron of P-15
  • 4 x P-16 Tracker

Arrayed against this formidable force were the French forces offshore Brazil and the west coast of Africa:

  • Offshore Brazil:
    • Tartu (D636) – escort vessel (I guess like a frigate)
    • Paul Goffeny – despatch boat
  • Offshore West Africa:
    • Clemenceau – aircraft carrier
    • De Grasse – cruiser
    • Cassard (D623) – escort vessel
    • Jauréguiberry – escort vessel The Picard – destroyer
    • Le Gascon – destroyer
    • L’Agenais – destroyer
    • Le Béarnais – destroyer
    • Le Vendéen – destroyer
    • La Baise A625 – tanker

What’s not to like about this – could make for some fun wargaming. Now to hunt up my Navwar catalogue!

French-Indian War – Battle Two at the Gun Bar

It started back on August 3rd, 2013, with the Battle of St Roll No Ones. That was the battle that I rolled so many ones and coupled with the following battle, had us wondering about dice Feng Shui as when we played the third game, Anthony was on the other side of the table. By now, two wins in Rank and File and from what was the poor Feng Shui side of the table now has me wondering if the Feng Shui is period specific.

2013-09-14 15.50.36We met for an engagement at Dresden’s Ford.

The French (that’d be moi) had stolen a march on the British and advanced to the village on the ford. Indeed, the skill of the French engineers and the efforts of the troops ensured the road across the ford and the cross roads were suitably protected with earthworks. The was designed to ensure the the British left a holding force in from of the earthworks and attacked, most likely, on their right flank

The French were ready for an attack on either flank but had le Blue regiment stationed there waiting for the British to come. They came.

The view of the battle from the British side can be seen in General Gage it is with some trepidation … 

2013-09-14 18.36.26 I fear the British powder was wet as they barely caused a French casualty all day. They advance, the French shot, the British routed. Overall it was a simple battle. Those foolhardy enough to advance on the earthworks were repulsed with heavy casualties.

Those attempting to work the flanks were repulsed with heavy casualties as well. The French Cause was aided somewhat by the British inability to roll a 6 (or a 5 or a 4 come to think of it when those were needed).

The photo above is from the Montgolfier brothers recent invention and show the final position of most of the forces.

Lessons and Comments

When attacking hard cover, I think the attackers probably need around 2.5 to 1 odds.

We need to have a look at the interaction between cavalry and squares – namely, how many elements in the square can fire on the cavalry and when it comes time to melee, how many cavalry elements and how many infantry elements get to fight?

Lastly, an about face. 1/4 move to about face and 3/4 move or  … ?

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.

French-Indian War – Battle One at the Gun Bar

The French Battery and and battalion
The French Battery and and battalion

For a change from the Rapid Fire, Anthony suggested I read Rank and File on the bus up to the Gun Bar ((with one small change of letters this could become the Gin Bar)). I’m not sure that it was because he was bored with Rapid Fire but rather than he had received some new toys in the post and wanted to play with them.

The first part of the day was trying a burger from the barbecue as the search for the perfect burger continues (see the next post).

We then retired to the table where some terrain was laid out and Anthony’s French-Indian War figures were ready for battle.

Rules of Engagement were simple. Two roughly equal forces face off against each other across a valley. Let loose the dogs etc etc.

I deployed my cavalry and a battalion of infantry to product my right flank, positioned the battery with another battalion to protect it on the hill and split the remaining four battalions. Two were to hold my left flank and the remaining two to act as a strike-force up the centre. The centre was to be the main strike force as I could rapidly reinforce with another two battalions and support with the artillery.

The main strike force ready to advance and the right flank covered by the dragoons and another battalion
The main strike force ready to advance and the right flank covered by the dragoons and another battalion

It was a plan.

This was out first battle using Rank and File rules

The battle commenced. My left flank advanced and formed line waiting for an expected onslaught from the British. It came and my two battalions performed admirably, not only holding the flank but forcing the British back.

Meanwhile my artillery played on the British battalions and caused them some consternation.

On my right, my dragoons advanced on the river in company with a battalion of infantry to attempt to prevent the British crossing at that point.

My dragoons however ended up being roughly handled by the British and left the field.

Towards the end of the battle before things went pear-shaped on my right. Soon after this both the French and British right flanks crumbled. We called time at this point as both armies would have withdrawn from the field to lick their wounds. We really enjoyed the Rank and File rules and by the end of the battle we were playing bound after bound quite comfortably.

The advance up the road was initially successfully but ultimately failed
The advance up the road was initially successfully but ultimately failed

Painting Progress – the 1/6000th French – labels

2013-05-01 22.28.25I finally got some time yesterday, May Day, to start on labelling the vessels. I may have mentioned the process before but I’ll cover it again as someone asked me how I did them.

Using Microsoft Word (or any Word Processor really) create a table, in my case I make one 8 columns by 2 rows to start with. Then insert a couple of blank lines in the document and create a second 8 column by 2 row table.

Then a couple of blank lines and create a third table 8 columns by 2 rows.

In the second table, record the name of each of the vessels in the fleet. Record them in columns 2, 4, 6 and 8. Font and font size does not matter at this stage. You can then copy the table over table three (so that in both tables columns 1, 3, 5 and 7 are empty and columns 2, 4, 6 and 8 now contain all the ship names).

Now, to table three. In columns 1, 3, 5 and 7, next to the ship names, insert a code number for the vessel. For example, BB01 goes in column 1, next to the name Bretagne in column 2. DD03 goes next to the destroyer Epee and so on. Now you have two tables with some information in them, the second table with the ship names and the third table with a ships code number. I use the same code numbers between fleets so, for example, BB01 is Bretagne in the French, Hapsburg in the Austrian fleet, Tri Svititelia in the Russian fleet and so on. In the case where you are having a wargame with allied fleets fighting, well, I hope the paintwork will avoid confusion Smile

Highlight column 1 in table 3 (the ship codes). Now copy that and paste it into column 1 of table 1 and column 5 of table 1. Repeat this for column 3 table 3 (copy to columns 2 and 6 of table 1); column 5 of table 3 (copy to columns 3 and 7 of table 1); and column 7 of table 3 (copy to columns 4 and 8 of table 1).

Save the document.

Now there are three tables with only table 2 having empty columns. We now start formatting, Firstly, table 2. highlight the table (all columns) and select font “Calabri”, click on bold, change font size to 6 point or 8 point. The size of the font is something you will need to guess to make sure when finished the label will fit in the bottom of the ship base – so destroyers may need to be smaller than capital ships.

2013-05-01 22.40.25Next, search the internet and find the naval ensign for the World War 1 fleet you are painting (this is of course optional but adds a nice touch). Copy the image and paste it into cell 1, (row 1, column 1) of table 2. It will be very big but resize to until it is small and matches off with the text – you may need to adjust the column width here too. Play around a little and it will work out one way or another. Align the image either Center Left or Center in the cell. When it looks right, copy the image and paste it to each of the empty cells next to the ship names. Format the columns with the flags is to Center Left or Center alignment. Save the document.

Now comes the interesting part. The sea bases I have painted are coloured with a base coat of Prussian Blue then a light blue dry brush and a white dry brush. I have found that a background colour of dark blue works – the colour details are for R:G:B colour 23:54:93. This matches fairly closely with the Prussian blue as you can see in the photo to the right.

Now select all columns of table 1 and change the font to “Calabri”, the size to 6 point, select “bold”, select font colour “white” and then select fill colour –> more colours –> custom and use the R:G:B figures mentioned above. Your sea base labels should be starting to look good. Whilst the table is selected, go to design –> borders and turn borders off.

imageThe last step with the blue labels is to select columns 5, 6, 7 and 8 from table 1 and amend the character spacing, This is done so that the labels will fit the smaller label tabs on destroyers, torpedo boats and so on. Go to home –> font –> advanced and set scale on character spacing to 75%.

It does make the label a little harder to read, but not impossible but also ensures that it will fit most bases.

We have a sheet of labels. Save the document again and now it is ready for printing. Print on standard paper on a colour printer((OK, so I win a prize for stating the bleeding obvious but I needed the line in there for continuity)) and you are ready to stick on your models base.

Note that if you are using spray varnish, go right ahead and stick. If you are using varnish applied by a brush, then test first to see if the varnish will make the label run, especially if you have used an ink jet printer rather than a laser printer.

Simply cut the little blue label from the sheet with a sharp knife (I use one of the ones with a snap-off blade as it is best done with a very sharp knife and paper blunts the knife fairly quickly). I attach the blue labels with a dob of white glue (the stuff that dries clear) and then when the glue is dry varnish the vessels. They can then be separated from the tongue depressors I use to hold the vessels whilst painting.

Now you have labelled and varnished vessels. There is one final step. Using table three as a guide as it tells you which vessel is which code number, cut out and stick the vessel’s name label and ensign to the underside of the sea base. Voila! Finito!

Pick up the ship, look underneath and you know the vessels name. Use the code number on the sea base label to identify for damage and firing results during a game.

austrian_smaller russian_naval_jack italian_small japan_naval_ensign royal-navy-ensign_small sms_navy_ensign_small

Armies of the Seven Years War

The postman brought another book. This time it was Digby Smith’s Armies of the Seven Years War: Commanders, Equipment, Uniforms and Strategies of the ‘First World War’, ISBN 978-075245-923-3.

I have been looking forward to this one as well. Smith’s Uniform works are quite good and I have an interested in the Seven Years War that remains unsatisfied still – both at a naval level and a battle level.

In fact, I have been pondering this war for the start of my own Imagi-Nations of that period, sort of like the Grand Duchy of Stollen. If not the Seven Years War period, then the Great Northern War or the War of Spanish Succession.

I digress.

Smith’s work is supposed to supply information on the senior commanders, uniforms, weapons, equipment, artillery, strategy, tactics and combat involvement (military and naval) of the forces engaged from 1756 to 1763.

States covered include Austria, Bavaria, Britain, Brunswick, Denmark, Hanover, Hessen-Darmstadt, Hessen-Kassel, Holland, France, the Palatinate, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Wurttemberg and the Holy Roman Empire. He has attempted to cover the uniforms of the protagonists and given that some of them had large forces, I am not sure that he will be able to manage that in a work this size. I am ready to be pleasantly surprised however.

There are over 150 illustrations and maps in this work. I will write more about this when I have had a chance to have a long look.

Triumph of Nations

9781849089289 I am falling for the quality of Field of Glory Napoleonic. Te rules seem OK, and I guess will give me as much pleasure as Shako does. With some clever basing I can use the figures for either game as well.

The other day, I was trawling through Amazon as I have a want to do from time to time and noticed that it was almost release date for Triumph of Nations so I ordered it. It appeared on my desk today.

I quite like this too – well presented lists covering the later period of the Napoleonic Wars, including some of the smaller nations.

Now all I need to do is to keep focussed on everything else and not start buying 15mm Napoleonic figures – no …. resist!!!!!

Vinh Long

vinh long 100 Jim at the War Times Journal has released some more models of ships from around the end of the 19th Century. This latest release includes:

  • Collingwood
  • Monmouth
  • Drake
  • Highflyer
  • Dupleix
  • Vinh Long
  • Wittelsbach
  • Braunschweig
  • Cormoran
  • Arcona
  • Umbria
  • Etna

Along with two shore batteries.

The Vinh-Long particularly interested me as I recalled reading somewhere about the USS Bainbridge (DD-246) having rescued a large number of passengers and crew from the vessel in the 1920s and the skipper of the Bainbridge being decorated for his efforts. A little research was therefore in order.

Off to the US Naval History and Heritage website – one of my favourite sites, especially for US Navy vessels history.

vinh long 105 The Vinh-Long was a 5500-ton screw steamship and was built in 1881. I was one of several military transports needed to support France’s colonial empire. During the First World War the Vinh-Long server as a hospital ship. After the November 1918 Armistice she returned to her previous role as a troops transport.

On 16 November 1922, while carrying 495 persons, including civilians as well as military and naval personnel, the Vinh-Long caught fire in the Sea of Marmora, Turkey. She was carrying armaments in her magazines and as the fire spread, eventually it reached her after magazines causing explosions. This caused the fire to intensify and spread throughout the rest of the ship.

Even though the blaze as intense and there were known risks of further explosions (the forward magazines for example. The USS Bainbrdge (DD-246) pulled alongside the bow of the Vinh-Long and managed to save 482 of the passengers and crew. Thirteen people, among them two women and four children, lost their lives in the fire and subsequent efforts to abandon ship, some having life boats fall on them when they were in the water. One other man died of exposure on board the Bainbridge.

vinh long 106 The Bainbridge was approached eventually by HMS Sepoy but by that time the Bainbridge was underway to Istanbul with the survivors so needed no further assistance.

The rescue of Vinh-Long‘s passengers and crew was widely celebrated at the time. The Bainbridge‘s officers and crew were officially commended for their performance and the captain of the Bainbridge, Lieutenant Commander Edwards, was subsequently honoured with the United States’ Medal of Honor along with the French Legion of Honor and the British Distinguished Service Order.

Following on from here are pictures of Lt Commander Edwards receiving his medal from the US President, Calvin Collidge and then the last three photos are of Edwards’ actually report of the incident.

I can see I will need to prepare and order for Jim shortly.

vinh long 110

vinh long 200

vinh long 201

vinh long 202