Two Weeks Locked Up, Two Weeks to Go!

Two weeks of extended community quarantine have now passed and while the daytime has mostly been taken up with work from home tasks, late night to relax I have been working on some 1/3000 scale Fujimi models of modern Japanese warships.

These are delightful models, full of character and detail. When compared to the humble Navwar models I painted a couple of years ago, well, there is no real comparison. Admittedly these are somewhat more expensive, maybe 1.5 times the cost of Navwar and plastic so lack the reassuring heft of metal models, but the final result of a little work, and they look absolutely wonderful.

The decals that come with the models really make these too, even down to hull numbers on the vessel, something that is far above my painting skill. 

I am becoming a big fan of decals for 1/3000 scale models and the flight deck decals that are produced for the 1/3000 scale Navwar aircraft carriers are brilliant, really making the model stand out, however, they are really only available for aircraft carriers.

The decals for these Fujimi vessels perform the same magic, marking the landing spot for the ships’ helicopter(s).  This box represent the first flotilla of the modern Japanese fleet, circa 1995. I have another box of Fujimi ships that represent the same flotilla several years advanced, including a full-on helicopter carrier, a DDH that is currently under conversion to become an aircraft carrier.

As for the community quarantine, it is tough residing in 42 square metres. In the afternoon I walk to the local convenience store for “food” – in my case, a large can of beer. It is my only outside time unless I am called into the office. I do hope that after the month that Metro Manila, indeed, Luzon, has spent locked up flattens the curve enough for us to rejoin the world outside, and safely for us old-timers.

So, for sanity’s sake, my late evening, after work, was spent adding just one colour to the models, followed by the can of beer then sleep. Last weekend was the first one off as well and that allowed me to finish the vessels. You can see the progress below:

Next task, in the late evening, tidy up my work/hobby table. Yes, it is a shared space. Then decide on the next painting project.

In Action with Destroyers 1939–1945 — The Wartime Memoirs of Commander J A J Dennis DSC RN — Review

In Action with Destroyers 1939–1945 — The Wartime Memoirs of Commander J A J Dennis DSC RN by Alec Dennis, Edited by Anthony J Cumming was published by Pen & Sword Maritime on 2 November 2017 (ISBN: 9781526718495).

This book contains the wartime memoirs of Alec Dennis, who served on four destroyers during the Second World War, two of them as the commanding officers.

The destroyers were the workhorses of most navies during the Second World War and Commander Dennis saw action in the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Indian Oceans. The two vessels he commanded were HMS Valorous (the fifth HMS Valorous, ex-HMS Montrose, a V-class flotilla leader of the British Royal Navy that saw service in World War I, the Russian Civil War, and World War II) and HMS Tetcott (a Type II British Hunt-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy during World War II. She was the only Royal Navy ship to be named after the Tetcott fox hunt).

HMS Tetcott on Russian Convoy Duty

Commander Dennis was mentioned in Despatches three times (Norway, sinking the Scharnhorst and in the North Sea) and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (Greece 1942).

The experiences of Commander Dennis provide a great read, reading like a Boy’s Own tale. The text is very easy to read and the book is difficult to put down. The editor, Anthony Cumming, has taken pains to preserve most of Dennis’s recollections although he does admit that Dennis removed some recollections that, fairly or unfairly, were not very complimentary to senior officers.

The book was unfortunately released after Dennis’s death. It is split into the following sections, following Acknowledgements, a Foreword, Maps and Editor’s Introduction:

  1. The End of Peace and the Phoney War
  2. The Finest Hour
  3. Crisis in the Mediterranean
  4. The Far East ann Back
  5. The Tide Turns
  6. The Final Victory

This is followed by the Editor’s Historical Notes, End Notes, Bibliography and an Index. There are around 20 illustrations in the centre of the book as well.

It has been a fairly stressful few weeks for me here but a few pages of this book in the evening transports me to those momentous days of the Second World War and a feeling of what life was like on the workhorses of the fleet – the destroyers. A brilliant read!

 

The Battle of Actium 31 BC — War for the World by Lee Fratantuono –Review

We all know the Battle of Actium — Antony and Cleopatra’s final act against Octavian and the start of the Augustan Peace in Rome, albeit now with an Emperor. Professor Lee Fratantuono re-examines the ancient evidence and presents a compelling and solidly documented account of what took place in the waters off the promontory of Leucas in late August and early September of 31 B.C.

Rather than present a coherent story cross referencing different sources, Prof Fratantuono has adopted an approach when examining the battle of looking at the sources independently and then analyzing the evidence presented by them to draw his conclusions.

Fratantuono notes in the preface that his,

“interest in Actium has romance as its genesis: the twin lures of poetry and cinema, the poets of Augustan Rome and the cinematic depiction of the battle in Mankiewicz’s 1963 Cleopatra, a film that despite is numerous problems of both film quality and historical accuracy, was a contributing factor to [his] early interest in antiquity”

He goes on later to note that the methodology used in this study “will be to examine closely the surviving literary attestation of the naval conflict at Actium, with a view to reconstruction and analysis of what might have happened”.

This is the approach he takes with the first part of the book looking at Greek Historical Sources. These are:

  1. the Evidence of Plutarch
  2. The Lost Appian
  3. The Evidence of Dio Cassius
  4. Strabo’s Geography
  5. The Evidence of Josephus

The Second Part deals with Roman Historical Sources

  1. Velleius Paterculus
  2. Lost Roman Sources
  3. Octavian Himself
  4. Florus’ and Eutropius’ Detached Accounts
  5. The Evidence of Orosius

The Third Part looks at Actium in Verse

  1. The Shield of Aeneas
  2. Horace’s Epodes — The Earliest Evidence?
  3. Horace’s Cleopatra Ode
  4. The Evidence of Elegy: Propertius
  5. The Allegorized Actium
  6. The Lost Carmen de Bello Aegyptiaco/Atiaco

Part Four then is Analyzing the Evidence

  1. So What Really Happened?
  2. The Birth of a Romantic Legend

Part Five examines the Aftermath

  1. ‘Death Comes in the End’

The book finishes with an Afterword looking at Actium and Roman Naval Practice.

There is, as well, a preface and introduction as well as bibliography, index, endnotes and further reading. There are also a couple of maps and battle dispositions as well.

All-in-all I enjoyed reading this, especially as it introduced me to some areas I had managed to avoid all these years, namely the literary and poetic evidence – I guess there is more than just Plutarch and Dio Cassius.

Prof Fratantuono concludes at the end that Antony intended to fight and fight he did at Actium. He also discusses the involvement of the Egyptian vessels and concludes that they must have fought that day as well, either as part of the main battle or during the breakout at the end of the day. Prof Fratantuono is certain that Antony was planning on winning the battle that day, and so he is at odds with the views of the previous writer’s on the battle who suggested that Antony and Cleopatra always intended flight, or that they intended to launch a withdrawal that could lead to a strategic victory.

Antony and Cleopatra were planning on winning that day. The withdrawal at the end of the day, tactical or not, was a loss. The fleet remaining would have surrendered quickly and land forces in Greece and the East would also have surrendered to Octavian (and did).

Prof Fratantuono also hazards some estimates of the number of ships involved in the battle by looking at the numbers given in Plutarch, Florus and Orosius. Plutarch, for example, estimated that Antony and Cleopatra had a fleet of 500 ships to Octavian’s 250. Orosius however estimated the Antonian fleet at 200 ships. There were 60 Egyptian vessels, which if added to  Florus’ estimate for Antony’s fleet of 170 ships gives a total of 230 ships. Similar numerical discord exists between Plutarch’s estimate of Octavian’s fleet of 250 vessels and Florus’ estimate of 400 ships. There is some discussion on whether these are beaked vessels only but Prof Fratantuono concludes around 250 vessels for Octavian against 230 in the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra would seem a reasonable estimate. This seems a workable estimate — if outnumbered 2:1 it would be unlikely that Antony would give battle, similarly with Octavian. 

The Battle of Actium 31 BC — War for the World was published by Pen & Sword Military on 31 May 2016 (ISBN: 9781473847149) and consists of 194 pages.

I found Prof Fratantuono’s writing style easy to read and his discussion is, in my opinion, a good discourse of this topic. It now sits on my bookshelf with other ancient naval tomes.

Battle of Playa Honda

I received a nice comment on a recent article in Thomo’s Hole so went and had a look at that bloggers blog. The blog is Subli. The author is Rosalinda and she is writing about the the Philippines – its history, its culture, and its people.

A couple of days ago she posted Olivier van Noort and other early Spanish-Dutch conflicts in the Philippines. OK, so that was going to be too much for me to ignore so I had a read., as I knew the Dutch hovered around this area, they had a colony on what is today Taiwan for example so I was not surprised they were involved in the Philippines as well.

Olivier van Noort sailed into the Pacific and on to the Philippines during the Eighty Years’ War between the United Provinces and Spain. He was one of many captains who fought the Spanish in these waters (and at the entrance to Manila Bay as well) with Galleons. The Spanish were similarly equipped with Galleons and some Galleys. I need to do  a lot more research on the vessels involved as this particular war and location is not within my usual area of reading.

The area of modern Botolan (in the province of Zambales) was known in those days as Playa Honda. There were three known minor conflicts during the Eighty Years’ War between the United Provinces and Spain held in Playa Honda in the Philippines. All the battles were won by the Spanish. The first battle occurred in 1610. The second, the most famous, took place in 1617. The third battle took place in 1624.

Interest piqued, now for some bright, shiny searching! Oh, and do stop in to Subli, there is some interesting posts in that blog, particularly about early Philippine history.

Labels on 1/3000 scale ship models

Japanese vessels – ready for Modern Naval Wargames

With a large collection of 1/3000 sale ships (more unpainted than painted I will admit), remembering the name of all the vessels can be a memory trial. As the vessels are primarily painted to wargame with, it is good if both sides can see the vessels name during battle.

One option is to put the name under the base, but this suffers from the vessels being lifted off the game surface constantly to check. A second is to add the name to a tab at the rear of the base, in the wake as it were, in the same way that Figurehead provide a label area for their 1/6000 scale vessels.

Chilean Navy Ensign

I prefer to base my vessels on 3mm thick bases and add the vessels name to the side. The 3mm thick base is good as it allows those of us with corpulent fingers to grip the base and not hold the vessel in our fingers. More importantly, I like how it looks 🙂

The method used to produce the base labels is quite straightforward.  Using word processing software such a Microsoft Word or similar, I create a table of six columns. In the second, fourth and sixth columns I type the vessel’s name.  Let’s use three modern Chilean Naval units for an example: Almirante Cochrane – a British Type 23 class; Capitán Prat and Almirante Latorre – Jacob van Heemskerck class.

Ensign placed

I then decide on whether I will add the national flag or the naval ensign. I usually lean towards the ensign although in some navies the national flag and the ensign are the same. In this case, a hunt on Wikipedia for “Chilean Navy” will return the basic details, including national flag and ensign.

Table set to Autofit to contents

Next step is to resize the text. The font I use is Calabri (not sure what the Apple font equivalent is) and it is set to “bold” and resized to 6pts. I also set the table contents to “Autosize to contents”.

The ensign is then copied and pasted to the first column, first row of the spreadsheet. It is usually quite large at this point. Once the ensign has been copied in, then we resize that image, using the size of the text as a guideline.

Ensign resized

The image of the ensign is then copied to the empty cells we have ready for the. We set the wrap text option for the image to “square”

It can then be moved to the next column where the name of the vessel is.

Set the distance between image and text … make 0.1cm in this case

When formatting the layout of the image, under text wrapping set the “Distance from Text”, Right to 0.1cm (or 1mm).

After this it is pretty much straight sailing.

Drag the ensigns to the left of the name of the vessel (see Almirante Cochrane below). Once the columns the flags were originally in are empty, they can be deleted.

The table can then have a design adjustment in “Borders and Shading” by turning off the cell lines in the table.

Select the table one last time, set font colour to “white” and the “fill colour” to a dark blue, close to the shade you will use on the base. You end up with something like below.

The final name labels

Of course, when I got to the end of this it occurred to me that the blue on the ensign may make it disappear after printing. In this case I would add a white border around the image.

I then use a sharp knife to slice the names from the sheet and some PVA glue to affix to the base. Slap on a bit of varnish and job done!

Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume II – Book Review

Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume II, written by John Lambert and Al Ross deals with Vosper MTBs and US Elcos. It was published on 9 April 2019 by Seaforth Publishing, an imprint of Pen and Sword Books, is 256 pages long and has ISBN: 9781526747556.

Like volume I, this is a reprint of a book first published by Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, in 1994 the picked up by  Conway Maritime Press in 2002. It was reprinted again in April 2005 by Conway’s. This volume deals with sixteen Vosper MTB designs, and the US 70′, 77′ and 80′ Elco designs.

Also, as with Volume 1, there are copies of volume 2 from 2002 available still, new, for US $72.40 at various outlets.

Vosper was established as a company in 1871. They became famous for the unstepped planing hull-form they developed which was the basis of their Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) and Motor Gun Boats (MGB) for the Royal Navy in World War II. The original boats had a length of 68 feet and were based upon the prototype MTB 102, which survives to this day as a museum piece.

Vosper 70′ MTB in Admiralty Light Basic scheme with recognition star used in the Mediterranean

Vosper’s designs were copied by many, especially given the speeds they acheived with their planing hulls. Apart from MTBs and MGBs, Vosper also built high speed launches for the the Royal Air Force for the rescue of air crew who ditched into the sea.

Vospers were not only built in the United Kingdom but also in the United States under license.

The illustration here are some of the vessels illustrated with differing camouflage designs are taken from the book. Apologies for the quality, I photographed with my tablet and one hand and it is a heavy tome.

Elco 80′ PT Boat in Measure 33/7P

As with the previous volume, the detail, drawings, plans and photographs in this book are super. Al Ross had a reputation as a very fine draughtsman and it shows in his drawings throughout the volume. Lambert covers the details of the vessels, the equipment that was present on the vessels, selected weapon systems and additional data.

The table of contents, apart from the usual sections of Foreword, Preface, Abbreviations and the like covers:

  • Vosper Ltd
  • Elco – a short history
  • Vosper’s private venture (MTB 102) and Bloodhound
  • Vosper MTB designs 1938-39
  • The Vosper 45ft MTB Design
  • Vosper designs 1940
  • MTB 74
  • MTB 103
  • Vosper designs 1941
  • Vosper designs 1942
  • MTB 510
  • Vosper designs 1943-45
  • Vosper construction
  • The Elco 70ft PT
  • The Elco 77ft PT
  • The Elco 80ft PT
  • Licence-built Vospers
  • PT construction
  • PT camouflage
  • The Packard 4M-2500 marine engine
  • Selected weapons systems (0.5in Vickers machine guns; 20mm Oerlikons (single and twin); 9mm Lanchester machine carbine; 18in and 21in torpedo tubes; PT torpedo armament and the Dewandre turret)
  • Additional data covering US 20mm, 37mm and 40mm mounts and guns; Rocket launchers; Development of bridge and wheelhouse during the Second World War; Notes on operating the Royal Navy Packard engines; Free French Vosper MTBs; The Vosper survivors; and Restored Elco PT 617.

As with the first volume, the writing in the book is clear an easy to both follow and understand. It has been fascinating to read about these vessels, so much so that I am looking for similar works on Axis boats. It is a shame that the third volume mooted back in the 1990s never eventuated as it would have dealt with the British Power Boat 70ft MTBs and MGBs which were also very successful boats.

This also is a must have book for anyone interested in coastal warfare and a great companion to Volume 1. There is nothing I can think of that is really missing from this coverage. Best, along with volume 1, it is on special at the moment (23 July 2019)  at Pen and Sword.

Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume I – Book Review

Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume I, written by John Lambert and Al Ross deals with Fairmile Designs and the US Submarine Chasers. It was published on 12 December 2018 by Seaforth Publishing, an imprint of Pen and Sword Books, is 256 pages long and has ISBN: 9781526744494*(see below).

I do love naval history and I have a particular interest in small boats (and big ships and all in between truth be told). This volume deals with some of my favourite vessels, the Fairmiles.

Fairmile Marine was a British boat building company founded in 1939 by the car manufacturer Noel Macklin using his garage at Cobham Fairmile in Surrey for manufacturing assembly. His company was run as an agency of the Admiralty, the company carrying out business without turning a profit, the staff being in effect part of the civil service.

Fairmile B – Admiralty Light Modification Scheme

His first design was the Fairmile A Motor Launch (ML) but the most ubiquitous of the Fairmiles was the Fairmile B ML. Over 600 of these were built over the period 1940 to 1945. Originally designed as submarine chasers the Motor Launches were fitted with ASDIC. Later versions of the Fairmiles (the C, D and F versions) were fitted out as gunboats with the Ds also rigged as Motor Torpedo Boats.

Coastal naval warfare in both the North Sea and the Mediterranean were fiercely fought skirmishes between the Allied MLs, MGBs and MTBs and the Axis E-Boats, R-Boats, MAS boats and the like. The Fairmile boats made up a considerable portion of Coastal Command and fought in all theatres.

Fairmile B – Admiralty Dark Modification Scheme – a harbour defence ML

The illustration here are some of the vessels illustrated with differing camouflage designs are taken from the book. Apologies for the quality, I photographed with my tablet and one hand and it is a heavy tome.

The detail, drawings, plans and photographs in this book are super. The authors cover the details of the vessels, the equipment that was present on the vessels, selected weapon systems and additional data, including the fate of most of the vessels. For example, we can see the builder, when a vessel was completed and its fate. In the case of ML 400, this vessel was built in New Zealand and completed on 18 November 1942. It served in the RNZN where it sailed as HMNZS Kahu, being sold in 1947 and sailing then as the Dolphin.

US Submarine Chaser, SC497, part of a class of 110′ sub chasers in measure 14 camouflage

The US Submarine Chasers are covered as well, although not in as great a detail.

The table of contents, apart from the usual sections of Forewards, Authors Notes, Prefaces, Abbreviations and the like  covers:

  • The Fairmile company
  • The Fairmile B ML
  • The Canadian Fairmile B ML
  • The Fairmile C motor gunboat
  • The Fairmile D MTB/MGB
  • The Fairmile F MGB
  • The Fairmile H Landing Craft
  • The SC 497 class 110 ft sub chaser
  • Depth Charges and anti-submarine equipment
  • British Coastal Forces radar
  • British Coastal Forces camouflage
  • Engines and engineering
  • Weapons systems (depth charge projectors, flares, machine guns, 1- and 2-pounder guns, 4.5in guns and the like

The extensive appendices include:

  • Schedule of British Builders
  • Fairmile production analysis Yard analysis Consumption of major materials
  • Area comparisons
  • Building times

all in all, 12 appendices.

The writing in the book is clear an easy to both follow and understand. Best, most of the book is in shorter chapters making it easier to read and follow over shorter reading sessions. I have learnt so much from this work that I am really itching to start on their volume 2 which covers perhaps the most famous of the Allied coastal vessels, the Vosper MTBs and US Elcos. There is a third volume being prepared covering the British Power Boat 70ft MTBs and MGBs which were very successful boats.

This really is a must have book for anyone interested in coastal warfare. There is nothing I can think of that is really missing from this coverage. Best, it is on special at the moment (20 July 2019)  at Pen and Sword.


* Please note the following (21 July 2019):

This work was originally published in 1994. in the US it was published by the Naval Institute Press (and I am guessing by Conway’s in the UK). In 2005 it was reprinted and published by Conway’s in the UK (and I am guessing that the Naval Institute Press may well have republished then too). I have not seen either of those editions so I can’t comment on any change in content in this edition. I can, however, note that a new copy of the 1994 version is selling on Amazon for US $225 dollars and the 2005 version new for US $165.60. The £32.00 current version from Pen and Sword therefore looks good value by comparison.

I should also note that unfortunately, the third volume covering the British Power Boat 70ft MTBs and MGBs was never published.

Rome Seizes the Trident – The Defeat of Carthaginian Seapower and the Forging of the Roman Empire – Review

After reading Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World by Owen Rees recently, it only seemed natural to pick up the story by looking at Rome and Carthage. Carthage was famous for its seafaring having been originally a Phoenician colony, the same Phoenicians who participated (we must assume unwillingly) in the ill-fated Persian invasions of Greece. Rome certainly was not famous for its seafaring.

Where the naval battles were mostly fought in  the Ancient Greek World by triremes and to a lesser extent, penteconters, when Rome and Carthage faced off against each other the vessels had become heavier, consisting to quadriremes and more importantly, the peak of the ancient Mediterranean galleys, quinqueremes.

Pen & Sword Books published Rome Seizes the Trident – The Defeat of Carthaginian Seapower and the Forging of the Roman Empire by Marc G DeSantis. The book is 272 pages long (ISBN: 9781473826984) and was originally published on 16 May 2016. It is available in hardback, Kindle and ePub versions with the electronic versions somewhat cheaper than the printed copy.

Owen Rees noted that in the Battle of Catane, part of the Hegemony period, in the the battle between Syracuse and Carthage it appears that this is where the Carthaginians were first exposed to quadriremes and quinqueremes, noting:

Leptines had already shown himself a capable commander, having been in charge of the fleet since the siege of Motya, at the latest. Within his fleet he is said to have had thirty superior ships, a crack force of the same number which had confronted the Carthaginian armada at the beginning of their expedition. It seems extremely probably that these thirty ships, or at least a proportion of them, were of the new designs: quadriremes and quinqueremes.

When Carthage and Rome finally faced off in the Punic Wars, the standard warships at the stage were the quadriremes and quinqueremes Carthage may have been exposed to in Syracuse.

Marc G DeSantis commences his book by a look at the sources, and for this period , the preeminent source is Polybius. Also important of course were Livy although a much later author and concentrating on the Second Punic War and Plutarch, later still with his Parallel lives. Appian is the main source for the final Punic War and the destruction of Carthage. The Byzantine, John Zonaras was an author from the 12th Century but his value here is the summaries in Epitome Historiarum where he recounts information from the now fragmentary Dio with some naval aspects from the First Punic War that Polybius did not mention.

In Part I of his work, DeSantis breaks that section up into the following chapters:

Part I: Breaking Carthage

Chapter 1 – Sources
Chapter 2 – The Contestants
Chapter 3 – Sicily: Theatre of War, History and Blood
Chapter 4 – War at Sea in the Age of the War Galley
Chapter 5 – Breaking Athens: A Case Study

Chapters 4 and 5 are where DeSantis really gets swinging. The early chapters really set the scene, discussing Rome and Carthage and Sicily, for much of the naval aspects of the Punic Wars, the battleground. In Chapter 4 however he talks about the ways galleys fought, and for once he does not draw a straight dichotomy between ramming and boarding tactics, rather noting that both were used by all sides, depending on situation. He does draw a clear distinction, however, between the skilled seafarers who seemed to prefer ramming over boarding, such as the Athenians, the Phocaeans, the Rhodians and the Carthaginians. However he does point out that “ramming and boarding would have been carried out as the opportunities presented themselves”.

He notes the use of lemboi as a means of transferring signals across a fleet by standing off a little and repeating the signals, much like the frigates of the Napoleonic Wars at sea.

Chapter 5 is a review of the breaking of Athens through the negation of naval superiority in the Peloponnesian Wars. He also recounts a Corinthian tactic where the Corinthians at the Battle of Erineus in 413 BCE, slightly outnumbered by the 33 Athenian vessels, had made changes to their rams and adopted the tactic of a headlong charge at the Athenian fleet, looking to ram their vessels straight on and not giving the Athenians a chance to use their superior seamanship.  While no vessels were sunk from either side so technically a draw, the Corinthians looked on it as a victory and the Athenians saw it as a defeat.

After this survey of early naval tactics, DeSantis starts on the meat of his work – the Punic Wars.

Part II – The First Punic War

Chapter 6 – Trouble at the Toe of Italy
Chapter 7 – Opening Moves
Chapter 8 – Mylae, 260 BC: Rome’s Fleet Sails in Harm’s Way
Chapter 9 – After Mylae
Chapter 10 – Ecnomus, 256 BC
Chapter 11 – The Battle of Cape Hermaeum, 255 BC
Chapter 12 – Rome Tries Again
Chapter 13 – Drepna, 249 BC
Chapter 14 – The Debut of Hamilcar Barca
Chapter 15 – Endgame: The Battle of the Aegates Islands, 241 BC
Chapter 16 – Peace
Chapter 17 – Was Seapower Worth the Cost?

DeSantis starts with the trouble at Messana and Rhegium and the effect of the perceived threat from Pyrrhus. Mercenaries and garrisons revolting and taking over, enter Hiero of Syracuse who placed the city of Messana under siege after defeating the Mamertimes at the Battle of Longanus River in 264 BC. The Mamertimes appealed to both Rome and Carthage for assistance. Rome really stepped in to prevent Carthage developing a toehold in Sicily, fearing that the Carthaginians would use that as a springboard to an invasion of Italy.

From this point in and narrative DeSantis examines the moves and counter moves of the protagonists. The Romans built a fleet, copying a Carthaginian galley that had grounded itself on the coast back in 264 when it was trying to oppose the Roman landings in Sicily. The Roman vessels however were not of the same quality as Carthaginian or Greek vessels. DeSantis the follows the course of the war, the defeats and then victories of the Romans, stopping briefly to discuss the Corvus and its origins. The necessity for the corvus was probably because of the poor quality of the Roman vessels and seamanship. The suggestion for the corvus appears to have come from an unnamed Sicilian Greek. The suggestion may have come from within Messana although there are a number of compelling suggestion that it may have come from Syracuse, given the Syracusans being an enthusiastic practitioner of the Corinthian style headlong rush into the enemy. Grappling from that position was a natural extension of that tactic and building a boarding bride, the next logical step.

DeSantis also examines the negative answer to this version of the corvus mounting as well and provides a good counter argument. His discussion of the corvus and the Roman quinquereme versus the Carthaginian quinquereme is a far argument of both sides of the tale. I will admit that his discussion has me reexamining some of my thoughts and perceptions of naval warfare in those times.

He then discusses the more famous battles, Mylae; Ecnomus; Cape Hermaeum; Drepna; and Aegates Islands. To conclude the section on the First Punic War DeSantis looks at the question, “was the seapower worth the cost?”

Part III: Conflicts Between the Wars

Chapter 18 – Illyria and Gaul
Chapter 19 – The Mercenary Revolt 240-238 BC

The two chapters here deal with Rome’s intervention in Illyria in 229 and the overseas deployment, this time across the Adriatic, of the Roman army. The start of this intervention paralleled that of the start of the First Punic War but in this case it was a bunch of Gallic mercenaries seized control of the city of Phoenice in Epirus. The people of the city asked the Romans for assistance and that coupled with the Illyrian pirates attacking Italian shipping the situation became one that Rome could ignore. Polybius even records that previously the Senate in Rome always ignored complaints about the Illyrians. Rome sent a couple of commissioners to Queen Teuta’s court but she dismissed them and apparently had one murdered while he was returning to Rome.

Naval operations got underway with the Illyrians attacking Epidamnus and Corcyra. The Corcyraeans appealed for assistance to the Achaeans and Aetolians for assistance and 10 Achaean ships were sent (quadriremes it seems). Acarnanians allied themselves to the Illyrians and sent seven galleys. A small inconclusive battle was fought off the Paxi Islands. The Illyrians used lighter galleys than the Achaeans but developed an interesting tactic when they faced the Achaeans. The Illyrians lasd their vessels together in groups of four. This was a tempting broadside target for the Achaeans who dutifully increased the stroke rate to ram speed and hit the Illyrians vessels only then to become entangled with the four lashed vessels and as their crews were well outnumbered (about 4 to 1), the Illyrians stormed the Achaean vessels and four Achaean quadriremes were either lost or captured.

The Roman army and fleet became engaged in the area now and the result was around 20 Illyrian galleys and most of the coastal cities captured by the fleet while the army moved inland and took control of cities there.

Part IV: Strangling Carthage

Chapter 20 – The Second Punic War, 218-202 BC
Chapter 21 – A Second War with Carthage
Chapter 22 – Hannibal in Italy
Chapter 23 – Holding the Line in the Adriatic: The War with Macedonia
Chapter 24 – Sicily and Sardinia
Chapter 25 – Carthage’s Spanish Ulcer
Chapter 26 – Africa
Chapter 27 – Seapower and the Second Punic War

The Second Punic War is one that modern readers mostly associate with Hannibal (with or without his elephants); Scipio Africanus; battles such as Cannae, Trebia, Trasimene and Zama; and a small largely mercenary army spending 16 years in enemy territory undefeated. This is not to ignore the contribution of Scipio, especially with the battles he fought in Spain but mostly the Second Punic War is remembered for land actions.

DeSantis makes a good survey of naval action as well as other theatres over this period. The details of the treaty Hannibal struck with Philip V of Macedon, for example, where the Macedonians would assemble a fleet of 200 ships and harry the west coast of Italy as well as operations on land. Once the Romans had been defeated, Macedon would be given control of the Illyrian coast and Hannibal would assist Philip to defeat his Greek enemies.

Over the period of the Second Punic War there were a number of naval expeditions, mostly in and around Sicily. Bomilcar in 212 with 130 war galleys and 700 transport ships sailing to Sicily to rescue Syracuse from the Romans was one such expedition.  Over this period, Rome maintained some measure of control over the sea between Africa and Sicily but there were many other  areas where control of the sea was not so complete.

DeSantis also notes that the Carthaginians may have been reluctant to try their hand against Rome at sea as the First Punic War and the naval defeats there were only a generation previously.

Part V: Destroying Carthage

Chapter 28 – Roman Naval Operation in the East
Chapter 29 – A Third War with Carthage

Interestingly, DeSantis notes as well about this period, “the First Macedonian War (215-205), fought as part of the larger Second Punic War, had sputtered along once the Romans lost interest in it.” In chapter 28 he surveys the Roman naval operations in and around Greece, especially with regards to the Second Macedonian War and makes mention of the monster galley building of the Hellenistic monarchs (for further detail on those monster galleys, I can suggest Giant Hellenistic warships with more than 7000 crew members).

To conclude his work, DeSantis notes a number of changes in Roman Society as a result of the Punic Wars. He contends that the huge influx on slaves after the First Punic War changed the state from one of yeoman farmers into a state with great inequality among the citizenry. The appearance of the patron-client relationship over this period as well would cause issues for the later Republic. This relationship first appeared in the Second Punic War. As more provinces were added to the Roman Empire, the equites or knights became more and more wealthy as the class that were the tax collectors. This stymied any future attempts of the aristocrats to return Italian peasant farmers to the land as well as causing provincial populations to hate the state as a result of the deprivations of the tax collectors.

The Romans also simplified their ship building (as did the Carthaginians for that matter), preparing premade parts and stockpiling them, building the ship as a large kit. Rome settled on two ship designs over the period, the being based on the Carthaginian war galley that had run aground in 264 and the second on the vessel of Hannibal the Rhodian, captured in 250.

DeSantis’ book is a good survey of Rome’s efforts at sea and the effects of the strategy and tactics involved in the period covered. He discusses the effects of battles and political manoeuvring, including its effects on the struggles underway on land. This is a great read, and one I have been waiting to read since I read A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC – Marc G DeSantis last year (yes, I know, read them in the wrong order). I am happy to recommend this book to anyone interested in ancient history, military history, naval history, classic naval warfare. I will admit to having learnt a few new things here, especially about Queen Teuta and her conflict with Rome.

Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World by Owen Rees – Review

I have waited for this to be published since receiving and reading the previous work of Owen Rees, Great Battles of the Classical Greek World and A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC by Marc G DeSantis.

Where DeSantis looked at the trireme then three wars (Archidamian, the Sicilian Expedition, and Ionian War), Rees breaks his work up into the following parts:

Part 1 – The Persian Conflicts
Chapter 1 – The Battle of Lade (494 BC)
Chapter 2 – The Battle of Artemisium (480 BC)
Chapter 3 – The Battle of Salamis (480 BC)

Part 2 – Archidamian War
Chapter 4 – The Battle of Sybota (433 BC)
Chapter 5 – The Battle of the Corinthian Gulf (429 BC)
Chapter 6 – The Battle of Corcyra (427 BC)

Part 3 – The Ionian War
Chapter 7 – Battle of Erineus (413 BC)
Chapter 8 – The Battle for the Great Harbour of Syracuse (413 BC)
Chapter 9 – Battles of the Ionian Coast (412-411 BC)
Chapter 10 – The Battle of Arginusae (406 BC)
Chapter 11 – The Battle of Aegospotami (405 BC)

Part 4 – Turning of the Tide
Chapter 12 – Battle of Catane (396 BC)
Chapter 13 – Battle of Cnidus (394 BC)

The book, Great Naval Battles of the Ancient Greek World was published on 10 January 2019 in Hardback, Kindle and ePub versions. The author is Owen Rees and Pen & Sword Military publish it. The book is 218 pages line and its ISBN is 9781473827301. The URL to the book is https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Great-Naval-Battles-of-the-Ancient-Greek-World-Hardback/p/14504

As you would expect there is also an introduction, glossary, conclusion, endnotes, select bibliography, acknowledgements and index.

While DeSantis covers various parts of the Peloponnesian War in greater detail than Rees, Rees is working to a broader canvas so appears to concentrate on only those battles he consider relevant to the argument.

Rees, as expected, starts his book with a discussion on the trireme, a tool central to any story concerning Greek naval warfare. He also looks at the differences between the different poleis, noting for examples that while a trireme normally carried a marine complement of 14 (10 hoplites and 4 archers), Athenian triremes generally had less to enable them to maintain their manoeuvrability while Corinthian triremes that specialised in boarding generally had more.

Rees follows with a brief discussion of Naval tactics covering the usual diekplous, kyklos, and periplous. The last section of the Introduction is where Rees discusses what a Great Battle is. He also notes that the Battle of Catane is included as part of the Hegemony period but notes its importance as a battle between Syracus and Carthage is perhaps for exposing Carthaginians to quadriremes and quinqueremes for the first time.

Leptines had already shown himself a capable commander, having been in charge of the fleet since the siege of Motya, at the latest. Within his fleet he is said to have had thirty superior ships, a crack force of the same number which had confronted the Carthaginian armada at the beginning of their expedition. It seems extremely probably that these thirty ships, or at least a proportion of them, were of the new designs: quadriremes and quinqueremes. This ships were bigger and more powerful, propelled forward for four or five men to each oar (an attribute which most likely gave the ships their names).

Rees covers each battle in the same manner, initially with a background, referencing a primary source. He indicates as a heading within the chapter the source used and the chapters within that source. After the back ground, the forces are identified (or estimated). The description of the battle itself follows, again with the source identified. There is a map outlining where Rees believes the opposing fleets deployed and then each battle section finishes with a discussion of the aftermath.

I am really enjoying this book (as I did his Classical Greek Warfare and DeSantis’s Naval Warfare of the Peloponnesian War).

Rees has an easy to read style and his book is a delight to read. I do recommend grabbing a copy of this (which is actually on sale currently at Pen and Sword), grab a good java, put your feet up, and then smell the salt in the air as you read of these classical battles of the past. For a wargamer, this will likely drag you into another period. For the general reader of military history, it will remind you of the importance of naval warfare in Classical Greece, as well as suggesting where the quadriremes and quinqueremes of the Punic Wars may have come from.

Well worth purchasing.

Moving Right Along – Wargaming Tasks – 2019 update!

I indulged myself in January 2019 when I posted Wargaming Tasks – 2019 – another indulgence I am sure! Apart from the miserably poor painting performance over the period 2017 to 2019, I noted some other items on the list including:

  • Anthony’s 20mm World War II British
  • Finish off the 1/285 scale World War II Japanese
  • 1/285 scale World War II Hungarians
  • 1/300 scale Cold War Commander Danes to be completed
  • 1/1200 scale Coastal Warfare Ships
  • The 1/3000 scale Jutland Fleets
  • Houston Ships Italians and Austrians from the Battle of Lissa
  • Dystopian Wars fleets, and
  • Peshawar and the 2mm armies and aeronefs

Well, I can say that in April 2019, flat out at work though I was, I did find some painting time over Holy Week here and have managed to continue painting a couple of nights a week. Anthony’s World War 2 British are now set for return to Anthony on my next trip through Singapore.

Well except that the 2-pdr and 6-pdr needs one more coat of paint or two 🙂 Late Update (May 2nd): the 2-pdr and 6-pdr are now finished as well. Job completed, finally!

I also managed to spend some time working on repurposing my Middle Imperial Romans – these were painted by a paint shop and were organised for SPQR (Polemos rules) but I decided to re-purpose them to DBA and Impetus – using a 40mm base.

I also managed to start work on my modern Soviet Naval group by starting to read the Naval Institute Press’s Admiral Gorshkov. A review of that will be coming soon as well as photographic progress of the painting of that fleet.

I also managed a few book reviews, principally Silver State Dreadnought – The Remarkable Story of Battleship Nevada; Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume 2 – Julian S. Corbett – Review; World Naval Review 2019 – ed. Conrad Waters – Review; and Narrow Gauge in the Somme Sector – by Martin J. B. Farebrother, Joan S. Farebrother – Book Review. I have another 7 or 8 books in the reading and review pile. The next one is likely to be dealing with Coastal Forces which runs the risk of distracting me from my 1/3000 naval and ancient wargames and lead me into 1/1200 coastal forces!

I also still have in the queue:

  1. 6mm 1815 Prussians – Heroics and Ros figures
  2. 6mm Napoleonic Poles – Baccus 6mm
  3. Some 6mm Napoleonic German states – Adler figures
  4. 6mm Baccus Napoleonic Brunswickers and Dutch Belgians
  5. My 1/3000 Russo-Japanese War fleets – with about half of the vessels repainted into more correct colours
  6. A 6mm Baccus English Civil War starter set – both sides. I am trying to decide however whether to use them for the English Civil War or the Thirty Years War. That internal debate should keep them off the painting queue for some time
  7. Heroics and Ros 6mm Greeks for yet another Ancient project. I am still waiting on the delivery from Rapier Miniatures, but I fear these are the first order to the Philippines to go astray as it has been over 6 months now Update (May 1st) – I just received an email from Stefan at Rapier (not bad, about one hour after posting this) to note that the parcel was sent but they will send again. Brilliant service guys – thank you.
  8. Heroics and Ros 6mm modern French for Cold War Commander
  9. Fujimi 1/3000th Pacific War World War II ships. These are nice, see Fujimi Navwar 1/3000 Naval Vessels Ready for Paint for images
  10. Seven fleet packs from Navwar – 1/3000 scale ships, for:
    1. Modern British
    2. Modern Dutch
    3. Modern French
    4. Modern Italian
    5. Modern US
    6. World War I Argentinian
    7. World War I Brazilian

So, add to that the other stock items here such as the fleets from the Battle of Matapan, Philippine Sea and Jutland and I am likely to be busy for a few years yet!