Images of War – Axis Tanks of the Second World War – Review

Written by Michael Green and published by Pen & Sword Military on 7th August 2017, 216 pages, ISBN 9781473887008, this publication contains a number of rare photographs from wartime archives, as well as photos of tanks still existing.

The book is split into fours chapters of Light Tanks; Early-War Medium Tanks; Late-War Medium Tanks; And Heavy Tanks.

Each chapter then looks at some of the background to the type of tanks and the various countries constructing them. For the German section of Light Tanks chapter for example, the Panzer I and Panzer II are naturally covered. Then the Czech light tanks and their variants in German use, Panzer 38(t), are discussed.

The chapter then moves on to the Italian Light Tanks, the various Carro Veloce marks followed by the Hungarian Toldi and Nimrod tanks. Japanese light tanks are then round out the narrative.

The 10 pages of narrative on the Light Tanks does not give more than superficial information but that is not the main purpose of this book – it is for photographs. 36 pages of photographs, most contemporary to the tanks along with some colour photos, generally of tanks in museums  and private collections.

The same format is followed for the remaining three chapters.

This book is full of interesting photographs and should be on the bookshelf of any AFV petrol or diesel heads. Best of all, it is currently on sale (October 2017).

Images of War – Axis Tanks of the Second World War

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Images of War – Two Books Reviewed

SCAN0015Two 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.

SCAN0011Kharkov 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).

Mongol in Russian Service - a German POW
Mongol in Russian Service – a German POW

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.

Central Asian (maybe Kazakh or Mongol) in Russian Service
Central Asian (maybe Kazakh or Mongol) in Russian Service

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.

Hotchkiss H-35 tanks in German service
Hotchkiss H-35 tanks in German service

The next figure down is also from Central Asia but his nationality is less clear. He appears to a Kazakh or similar.

M3 Grant tanks used by the Soviets
M3 Grant tanks used by the Soviets

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!

S.S. Robert J. Walker – the Man and the Ships

Robert_John_Walker_cph.3a01283
Robert J Walker

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.

robert walker
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.

There is a great report on the Story of the Coast Survey Steamer Robert J Walker on the Internet.

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.

Canb Times 14 March 1945
from the Canberra Times 14 March 1945

The Argus Melb 14 March 1945
From the Melbourne Argus 14 March 1945
Barrier Miner Broken Hill 13 March 1945
from the Barrier Miner Broken Hill 13 March 1945