The Naval War in the Baltic – 1939-1945 – Review

I read Freeing the Baltic 1918-1920 about six months ago and as a result I was looking forward to The Naval War in the Baltic 1939-1945. Wow! I wasn’t disappointed.  This book arrived a couple of months ago and I finally had a week where I read rather than painted figures or headed to the pub and this was on the top of the reading pile.

The Naval War in the Baltic 1939-1945 was originally published on 17 May 2017 however it appears to have been sold out and is now due to re-release on 28 February 2018. The author is Poul Grooss. The book is 400 pages long with ISBN 9781526700001.

Poul Grooss is a retired Danish Naval Captain whose career was 40 years long. He served as an intelligence officer and Soviet analyst. He also speaks Russian. He currently is a teacher at the Royal Danish Naval Academy.

I reckoned I knew a bit about World War II and I also knew there was a lot I didn’t know. Reading Grooss’s book has reminded me of how little I do actually know. Grooss starts setting the scene in the book by describing the geography and the history of the Baltic region, then goes on to discuss the political manoeuvring and naval developments between the wars. His coverage of the 1939 to 1945 period starts with the attack on Poland then looks at the Baltic region through to 1941. Later chapters cover the attack on the Soviet Union to Spring 1942; the war between Spring 1942 and 1944; Spring 1944 to New Year 1944/1945; then from that New Year, month by month to the end of the war. He then looks at the aftermath of the war and a retrospective.

The book is easy to read and Grooss has taken advantage of his Russian language skills to collect data from sources not usually referred to western histories. Grooss was writing for the general reader but has managed to write a book that will appeal to both general readers and the more professional historian.

He covers and uncovers the degree of Swedish cooperation with the Germans. He covers the interactions between the Soviets and the Swedes and while this is a naval history of the Baltic, the land battles are included for context, especially Kronstadt and Leningrad. Hitler’s desire to hang on to Narva is also covered.

The Baltic was a training ground for German U-boat crews but what really amazed me was the quantity of mines that were laid there and the amount of shipping that suffered. I should also mention that the Swedes were not as pro-German as we perhaps think, permitting the British to build a listening station on Swedish soil, for example. Both the Germans and the British seemed to have a laissez faire attitude to Swedish neutrality.

This book is not all about Sweden though. Grooss also covers the minor states (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) as well as Denmark, Norway, Finland, Poland and of course the main protagonists. The book is supported by many fine photographs, most of which have not been seen in print before as well as well drawn maps. There are a number of appendices and indexes with an index of people and another of ships. There is an appendix containing a chronology of the conflict, a glossary of abbreviations, ranks, terminology and explanations. Another appendix is a cross-reference of place names in various languages as well as an extensive list of sources and bibliography. This book is one I will return to many times in the future I think. For the naval historian, the wargamer and the general reader, it is well worth waiting for this re-release and grabbing a copy.


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.

New Toys – 15mm DBA Armies

Essex in the UK had a sale recently. They were offering three 15mm DBA Armies for the price of two. Given the Aussie dollar’s stellar performance against the pound sterling it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I purchased.

I was looking for something fairly late and recognisable. I ended up settling on army IV/66 Later Polish (1335-1510 CE). This seemed like an interesting mix of elements and troop types – knights, war wagons foot and such. It also reminded me of my trips to Warsaw, Lodz and other places when I worked in Europe – loved the Poles.

The second army that arrived was army IV/22 Serbian Empire (1180-1459 CE). At this stage the Serbs were an ally of the Poles and so would make a nice addition to the collection when the chance for a big battle DBA rolled up. They were a similar but distinct mix of troops that would sit well with the Poles.

The third army was IV/43c Later Hungarian (1397-1526 CE). The Later Hungarians were near enough to the Poles and the Serbs to both be complementary whilst looking different as well as being a nice army in their own right.

After all the painting I have been doing recently on 6mm, 2mm, 1/1200, 1/2400 and 1/3000th scale figures and vessels, I am quite looking forward to painting these guys up. I’ll put up more information about these as I get it together.