2020 That’s a Wrap!

To borrow from a writer with more skill than I, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually, truth be told, there was bugger-all on the best side of things.

I felt that I had not really accomplished anything, wargames-wise, over 2020, however, looking back, I surprised myself somewhat with what I did manage. Listening to Devo singing Whip It seems very appropriate for post as well.

The Soviet/Russian modern naval fleet, ready to take on NATO

January started well in Manila with the Taal Volcano in the Tagaytay area deciding that it would remind the locals that it was still an active volcano. It is about 60kms or so from Makati City in Metro Manila (what could possibly go wrong) and it had an eruption which caused an ash fall over surrounding provinces as well as Metro Manila. It was impossible to buy a mask after a couple of days. They disappeared from drug store shelves faster than toilet paper in an Australian supermarket during a viral pandemic!

I finished the Soviet modern fleet in February 2020 (see left) with the application of the flight deck decals to the two Soviet carriers.

A quick varnish and they are ready for the modern naval warfare table top.  I will report on games that occur in the future.

In the meantime, I am looking at how I can use these vessels in some solo games.

Modern Japanese naval vessels – 1/3000 scale model in plastic from Fujimi

March marched in and so did various levels of community quarantine. In Metro Manila we had an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) from the middle of the month. Really, ECQ is simply another way of saying lockdown and it was called by the government when there were about 200 active cases of the plague in the Philippines. Essentially everything was closed down except for food, medicine and export companies (BPO, BPS organisations) and work from home was the requirement for all staff.

I quickly built, painted and based some Japanese modern ships in 1/3000 scale. These are produced by Fujimi who produce World War 2 ships in the same scale. They are concentrating on Japanese vessels only and they can build into nice display pieces as Fujimi also makes naval dockyards to the same scale. I did paint ships these as part of an exercise to display the way I make sea bases which is a variation on the method described on the GHQ website (Making Ocean Hexes). My method is described in Sea Bases from March this year.

I did not do much on the wargaming side of things over the period March to June 2020 as much of my time was spent ensuring all our staff were OK working from home, resetting machines at the office when necessary (I lived about 400 metres from the office so that walk was possible during ECQ) and generally being tired of the whole damned thing (see Prisoner — Inmate No. 6) and other posts such as (Day 25 passing, 20 days to go (hopefully) and Day 49 passing, 13 days to go (hopefully)). Of course, the bloody ECQ ended up lasting around three months in Makati and even when it was lifted to a General Community Quarantine (GCQ) there still was not much you could do.

One bright spot in May however, and a lifeline to sanity was the discovery of and acceptance into the Virtual Wargames Club. This was a virtual meeting of gamers from around the world, with the main area of interest being Horse and Musket games in larger scales, however, the group was welcoming and my Saturday nights from around midnight Manila time were booked. I also became involved more virtually with a bunch of reprobates with a certain naval bent that met for the Sunday Bristol Breakfast. Two vastly different groups, with the WVC following a fairly well organized format and agenda whilst the SBB (which was around 2:30pm my time and dinner time for the Oz members so really only a breakfast for one) not having any structure and being more like the guys from the local club, sat at pub after a club meeting and talking as blokes do, with occasional interludes from “the author” to display where he was up to with his next book.

The complete set – Finns vs Soviets in the Winter Air War

Enter June, still in ECQ and a liquor ban had allegedly been applied in Makati City. I say allegedly as there were signs on all the liquor cabinets indicating a ban and as the delightful Hazel at the local convenience store was ringing up and packing my beer, I asked if there was a liquor band and she replied, “yes sir Ian, there is.” There were official liquor bans all over Metro Manila but Makati and one or two of the other cities did not have official bans.

June was also when I finished my Winter War collection of Finns in various fighter aircraft and Soviet bombers and fighters.

The final product – and two other variations on a sea base

Enter July and for the Virtual Wargames Club, after displaying some of my naval models, I was asked if I would do a presentation on preparing sea bases for the club. Rather than just describe the method, I actually added a couple of ships to the bases to add some interest. I selected some French pre-World War One cruisers as they have a lot of funnels and who doesn’t like funnels and tumblehomes on vessels from that era?

The process for that was dutifully prepared into a power-point presentation which can be viewed in Painting Sea Bases (and some ships). The ships selected were the Ernest Renan and Jules Michelet and I must admit, they came out very well.

The Saxon Shield Wall is arrayed

In July I also completed 6mm Anglo-Saxons for DBA — 701-1016 CE. These are part of my Dark Age project and came about from reading historical fiction based around Erik’s Saga.

It is a good looking army and I am debating with myself whether or not to paint one of the other armies from that Dark Ages set next.

The Middle Eastern Buildings making up Peshawar Town in 2mm

August was the completion of the town of Peshawar, as part of my Aeronef/Victorian Science Fiction project. The nominal scale of the Aeronefs is 1/1200 which means figures of around 2mm size.

I started some of those figures as well but the town can be seen in the Middle Eastern Village Complete – Peshawar Project, where the town is set in a dry north-west frontier area.

Nothing much happened then until Typhoon Ulysses decided to pay a visit in November. There had been a couple of named storms already passing over Luzon however Typhoon Ulysses was quite nasty and the eye-wall passed not far from here. Six or Seven hours of a roaring wind (and I understand the term “roaring wind” now and I’d had enough.

I had lost my painting mojo but it returned after the Typhoon and December arrived and I decided that I did at least want to complete phase 1 of my coastal project. I had painted enough German Attackers and merchant vessels, it was time to get some defenders prepared.

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I finished some Fairmile Motor Launches as well as Fairmile Ds. To those I added some Motor Gun Boats (MGBs) which whilst small, have the advantage of being both small, and fast!

To be fair, I was quite busy over that last part of the year, supporting projects in the local time zone as well as Canada along with the regular day job. I was also in the process of moving from Makati City to my current home in Angeles City, a distance of some 95 road kilometres.

So, that was the year that was. What’s in store for the coming year? I hope, more painting time. I also have a long term project in mind that I want to start working on, especially while I am at home and with enough preliminary work done, I will be able to continue work on it should I be called out of the country.

Do have a Happy New Year and stay safe, be good, look after each other and wash your hands!


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Carthage’s Other Wars — Carthaginian Warfare Outside the “Punic Wars” Against Rome — Review

Dexter Hoyos has taken a look at something that has very poor coverage, namely Carthage’s Other Wars. We are all aware of the Punic Wars between Carthage and Rome and to a lesser extent, Carthage’s attempts to expand into Sicily and the conflict that arose with Syracuse among others.

The popular image of Carthage is as a maritime, mercantile state that fought a couple of wars against Rome, eventually losing and setting Rome up to to be the only major power in the Mediterranean.

Carthage’s Other Wars – Carthaginian Warfare Outside the ‘Punic Wars’ Against Rome written by Dexter Hoyos (published by Pen & Sword Military, on 18 September 2019, ISBN: 9781781593578 and 235 pages long) sets out to look at Carthage’s other wars.

According to Timaeus the Sicilian Greek, Carthage was founded in the 38th year prior to the first Olympiad, which in modern terms dates the foundation around 814/13 BC. The city was, according to legend, founded by Dido, who was fleeing from the Tyrian King, Pygmalion. She travelled through Cyprus then on to North Africa. Her alternative name in the stories of the time is Elissa.

While there is not a great deal of Carthaginian text, with the exception of Hanno’s Periplus (sea voyage) in Greek translation and referring to the journey west of the Strait of Gibraltar and down Africa’s West coast, there is information in other sources and Hoyos refers to Herodotus, Aristotle, Diodorus of Sicily who referenced Ephorus, Timaeus of Sicily and Philistus. Pompeius Trogus wrote a history that survived to later times and was abbreviated in Justin’s works. Plutarch provided information on Carthage’s involvement in Sicily and Polybius translated Carthaginian texts of Carthage’s treaties with Rome.

The contents of the book are:

  1. Sources of Knowledge
    1. Carthaginian remnants
    2. Greek and Latin Records
  2. Carthage: city and state
    1. Foundation and footprint
    2. The Carthaginian republic
    3. Trade and business
    4. Merchants, landowners, commoners and slaves
    5. Friends, neighbours and potential foes
  3. Fleets and armies
    1. Carthage’s navy
    2. The army
    3. The defences of Carthage
  4. Early Wars: Malchus to ‘King’ Hamilcar
    1. Malchus: fiction or fact?
    2. Malchus: victories, revenge and ruin
    3. The Magonids: ’empire’ builders?
    4. The expedition of ‘king’ Hamilcar
  5. The Revenge of Hannibal the Magonid
    1. The aftermath of Himera
    2. A new Sicilian war: the first expedition of Hannibal the Magonid
    3. Carthage victorious, 406-05 BC
  6. Carthage against Dionysius and Syracuse
    1. Uneasy peace, 405-398
    2. Himilco vs Dionysius
    3. Mago vs Dionysius
    4. Mago and Himilco against Dionysius
    5. Last war with Dionysius
  7. Carthage against Timoleon
    1. Carthage and the turmoils of Sicily
    2. The arrival of Timoleon
    3. Sorting out sources
    4. The enigma of Mago
    5. The battle at the Crimisus
    6. Gisco and peace
  8. Carthage against Agathocles
    1. The advent of Agathocles
    2. Agathocles frustrating Carthage
    3. Carthage at war with Agathocles
    4. Africa invaded
    5. The destruction of Hamilcar
    6. The destruction of Ophellas and Bomilcar
    7. Agathocles fails in Africa, wins in Sicily
    8. The end of the war
  9. The Sicilian stalemate: Pyrrhus and Hiero
    1. The woes of post-Agathoclean Sicily
    2. The war with Pyrrhus
    3. Hiero of Syracuse
  10. Carthage at War in Africa and Spain
    1. Libya: subjects and rebels
    2. The Truceless War: origins and outbreak
    3. Horrors of the Truceless War
    4. Carthage’s victory
    5. Barcid Carthage’s Spanish empire

There is also a Concluding Chapter, List of Plates, Maps, Preface and Acknowledgements, Abbreviations and Reading, along with Endnotes and Index.

The writing style of Hoyos is quite easy to read and flows well. He examines the sources and secondary readings critically and well, although I did have some trouble locating some of his references (for example, Connolly (1981) is referenced in Carthage’s Navy’s endnotes  but there is no reference to his works in the reading list (I could reasonably guess that we are referring to Connolly, Peter (1981), Greece and Rome at War, Macdonald Phoebus Ltd).

Having said that, the book is a solid piece of research into a little covered area of Carthaginian history. I have had an interest in Carthage since the mid-1970s but most of my previous reading was around the Punic Wars. This has opened an entire other area of interest to me in Carthaginian History.

Best of all, the book is currently on special at Pen and Sword – and it is well recommended.

French Armoured Cruisers, 1887 – 1932 — Review

John Jordan, well recognised for his many books on ships over the years, has penned with Philippe Caresse, a volume on French Armoured Cruisers from the late 19th Century to early 20th Century (1887 – 1932).

The armoured cruiser was like other cruisers, with long range and designed to project naval power to the colonies and elsewhere but it was designed with heavier belt armour, so able to stand up to any ships except battleships.

The role of the armoured cruiser was taken by the development of the battlecruiser, and as a result the armoured cruisers dropped in importance, but lasted until 1922 when the Washington Treaty effectively scuppered them and set a 10,000 ton limit for cruisers and a maximum 8″ guns for main weapons.

Jules Michelet at Tanjung Priok, Dutch East Indies

Who doesn’t love the shape, form and style of the French ships around the turn of the last century? Funnels fore and aft, tumblehomes and really, a transition to the steel warships of the 29th Century.

The Jules Michelet to the right here was one of the French armoured cruisers of the time, with her sister ship, Ernest Renan, built for speed. It is also one of the vessels covered in the book. As with all the ships covered by this book the section commences with a general discussion of the vessel and how it came to be. There as a profile and plan drawing of the vessel, drawings of the bridge deck, layout of the magazines, main guns with detail, the Barr & Stroud 2-metre rangefinder, the torpedo tubes, secondary armament and so on. The authors then go on to describe her sister ship, the Ernest Renan and cover the differences between the two vessels. Further drawings of the Ernest Renan follow.

The authors also cover the specifications of the ship including size of main guns (194mm or 7.6″), medium guns, ATB guns and torpedo tubes. Displacement (in this case, 12,600 tonnes), protection, crew and so on. Each the the vessels is also illustrated with many contemporary photographs of the times from the collection of Philippe Caresse.

Vessels covered are:

  • Dupuy de Lôme
  • Amiral Charner class
  • Pothuah
  • D’Entrecasteaux
  • Jeanne d’Arc
  • Dupleix class
  • Gueydon class
  • Gloire class
  • Léon Gambetta class
  • Jules Michelet and Ernest Renan
  • Edgar Quinet and Waldeck-Rousseau
Armoured Cruiser (le croiseur cuirassé) Dupuy de Lôme

There is also a section in the book on organisation and the Great War 1914-1918 and it aftermath.

French Armoured Cruisers — 1887 – 1932 by By Philippe Caresse, John Jordan and published by Seaforth Naval on 4 September 2019, is a large format book of 272 pages with 240 illustrations, ISBN: 9781526741189.

If you have any interest in the development of modern steel warships and their history, or indeed the French Navy of the 19th and 20th centuries, this book is a must. I have never been disappointed with John Jordan’s works and this book is so well illustrated by contemporary photographs from Philippe Caresse, the book is, quite simply, almost impossible to put down.

Well recommended!

Painting Wargaming Figures: WWII in the Desert – Review

Andy Singleton is a professional figure painter. After some encouragement, he has penned Painting Wargaming Figures: WWII in the Desert. This has been published by Pen & Sword Military. It contains around 200 illustrations over its 157 pages (ISBN: 9781526716316, published on 7 May 2019).

Singleton has broken the book up into two main sections, the first part dealing with the basics, and the second part dealing with specific forces from within the war in North Africa, namely the armies of:

  • Britain and Commonwealth
  • Italy
  • United States of America
  • Afrika Korps

The last two sections in the book deal with Camouflaged Uniforms and Basing.

Each section is split into three levels of complexity, “conscript”, “regular” and “elite”.

Conscript is like the beginning painter level and will get armies onto the table quickly. As the painter develops their skills, or for readers who have painted figures before, the regular and elite levels provide greater degrees of complexity in painting of the figures.

Singleton covers both plastic and metal figures and while all the illustrated figures in the book are either 20mm or 28mm figures, certainly the techniques could be used for figures of 10mm or larger. 6mm and 2/3mm figures require a different approach to painting altogether.

Andy uses much the same techniques in the painting sections with a little variation. The paints her iuses are the popular Army Painter and Vallejo ranges of acrylics and for each figure he is illustrating, he provides a paint bill of materials for both Army Painter and Vallejo paints.

I will admit that my preferred size for World War 2 gaming is 6mm (1/300, 1/285) and as mentioned above, painting figures of that size requires a different approach to painting.

However, recently the publications of Too Fat Lardies for Chain of Command and What a Tanker have me considering some 20mm or 28mm forces. North Africa seems a reasonable location to try those rules, especially with the early war equipment from the Italians and Commonwealth Forces, then the Commonwealth and Germany followed by the introduction of the USA and some Free French forces.

The section on Basing is perhaps the simplest section in the book given that the setting for the forces is North Africa where we are dealing with sand, sand and more sand … except for the dust!

I do think that the softback of this book is a shade expensive for, although if puchased in the context of a club library, would be a good edition. The Kindle or ePub version is better value I think.

The painting advice is good and following Singleton’s suggestions will have the gamer producing either quick armies at Conscript level or very well painted forces at Elite level.

Singleton also has a Painting Guide out for Early Imperial Romans (released in November 2019). Keep an eye out for Andy Singleton’s next book as well – Painting Wargame Figures: Rome’s Northern Enemies due for release in June 2020. Both these books will fit nicely for those of us considering the Too Fat Lardies new rules, Infamy, Infamy!

 

Images of War — Hungarian Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the Second World War

I’ve been in an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) period for seven weeks now, hopefully this time next week some of the restrictions will be lifted here in Makati City. The ECQ only permits us to go outside, one person only per household, for food and drugs and if in a particular industry. A lifting of that ECQ would permit being outsie for other purposes, although, of course, maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask.

On the plus side, this has given me more time in the evenings to catch up on some of my growing pile of reading. There will be a spate of book reviews coming in the near future.

First cab off the rank is an Images of War series on the Hungarian Army. The Hungarian Army was allied to Germany during the Second World War, at least up until the end. The relationship was not without conflict. The Hungarians were, however, possibly the best of the Axis Allies.

Eduardo Manuel Gil Martínez has written about Hungarian Armoured Fighting Vehicles in the Second World War. This is one of the Images of War series from Pen and Sword Military (ISBN: 9781526753816, Published: 2 October 2019). The book runs to 112 pages with 150 rare photographs from wartime archives

The book covers not just the images, but also provides a good potted history of the Hungarian Involvement. The book is organised into:

  • Introduction
  • The Birth of the Hungarian Armoured Forces
  • The Second World War Begins
  • Action in the Ukraine, 1942
  • Reorganization After the Storm, 1943
  • Defending Hungary, 1944
  • The Swansong of the Hungarian Armoured Forces, 1945
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography

The author covers the development of the Hungarian armour from the Hungarian 3000B, which was modelled on the Renault FT-17 through the Ansaldo tanks purchased from Italy, then covering the Csaba”tank” (I would have thought a description of Armoured Car more appropriate built as it was on a 4×4 chassis), 38M Toldi, Turan I and II and so on. Also included are photographs of the motorised transport used by the Hungarians.

I did learn about the Hungarian annexation of Transylvania from the Romanians in March 1939, a full six months before the invasion of Poland and the official start of the Second World War. The Reich had tried to stop the Hungarians from this action. The author later covers the Hungarian defence of its territory from the Soviets and Romanians towards the end of the war.

The book does suffer a little from occasional dodgy editing although I suspect that issue may have been from the original manuscript not being written in English but later translated.

Overall, this is a great overview with many brilliant photographs of the World War 2 Hungarian Army and it is inspiring me to drag my unpainted Turan, Csaba and Toldi tanks out of the lead pile and on to the painting table.

Best, it is currently on sale at Pen and Sword Books.

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!

 

Armies of Celtic Europe — 700 BC – AD 106 by Gabriele Esposito — Review

This particular book is a follow on from Gabriele Esposito’s previous books in the Armies of the Past series, Armies of the Late Roman Empire AD 284 to 476 by Gabriele Esposito – Review and Armies of the Hellenistic States 323 BC to AD 30 by Gabriele Esposito – Review. This book looks at the Celts in Europe from 700 BC to AD 106.

Celtic culture was (and arguably still is) a rich culture with a strong oral tradition. Celtic warriors were renowned for their fierce charges and were one of the few ancient civilisations to successfully invade Rome itself where they were ultimately thwarted by a flock of geese.

Esposito uses members of various reenactment groups to provide the illustrations, photographing them in today’s interpretations of Celtic dress. Nine reenactment groups are used and these are resident in France and Italy. While the photographs of the clothing are excellent and inspiring, one small disappointment is the lack of mounted photographs (two only) and no chariots. I suspect this is due to the cost of owning and stabling horses in modern Europe. The only other lack that I could see are the moustaches and hair of the various warriors illustrated. I guess that is because of the need to hold down a job in modern Europe as well.

Armies of Celtic Europe 700 BC to AD 106 — History, Organization and Equipment by Gabriele Esposito was published by Pen & Sword Military on 23 October 2019 (ISBN: 9781526730336) and is 172 pages long with 102 illustrations.

The book follows a similar format to his Hellenistic one and is broken up into the following chapters:

  1. The Origins of the Celts and the ‘Hallstatt Culture’
  2. The ‘La Tène Culture’ and Early Celtic Expansion
  3. The Celtic Conquest of Italy and the Sack of Rome
  4. The Celtic Expansion in Western and Eastern Europe
  5. The Celtic ‘Great Expedition’ and the Birth of Galatia
  6. The Fall of Cisalpine Gaul and the Invasion of the Cimbri and Teutones
  7. The Roman Conquest of Iberia and Gaul
  8. The Decline of the Eastern Celts and the Conquest of Britain
  9. Celtic Arms and Armour from the La Tène Period
  10. Celtic Warfare and Battle Tactics

The book also has an Introduction, Bibliography Index and a list of the Re-enactors who contributed to the book.

Anyone with an interest in the Celts will find this book useful.

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 Manila, Miguel Miranda – Review

I’ve been living in Manila now for over five years. In that time I have visited Corregidor Island (thank you for the tickets Craig), looked out over Manila Bay (and the scene of Dewey’s victory over the Spanish fleet), seen the American Cemetery in Fort Bonifacio (Bonifacio Global City – BGC), Taguig, but never managed to get around to some of the areas where there was fighting during the Battle of Manila in 1945.

The Japanese attacked the American (and Filipino forces) in the Philippines in 1942. To save casualties to the civilian population and damage to Manila, the Americans declared Manila an open city and the Japanese were able to take control of Manila with little or no bloodshed. Unfortunately, the reverse was not the case in 1945 and the Japanese defended Manila which required the liverating forces to literally move house by house through the city to clear the Japanese. This also meant a lot of artillery support with the resultant damage to buildings. The occupation and the fighting to retake Manila unfortunately resulted in a large number of Filipino casualties. Estimates suggest at least 100,000 civilians were casualties at the time.

Miguel Miranda, a Filipino was a reported and is the author of this ‘History of Terror’ volume. Pen and Sword notes of the author:

Writing about the battle of Manila has been an opportunity for him to confront a very dark period in Philippine history, one that is still misunderstood today. To amass the wealth of research and insight for his latest work he pored over volumes of official histories and archives, assembling a detailed narrative on the topic.

The battle of Manila lead into the total independence of the Philippines in 1946 as well as removing what turned out to be a cruel foreign domination, not that the previous period of Philippines history, the American colonial period (1899–1945) was free of cruelty, quite the opposite. The battle of Manila really was the start of the final movement to independence, ending a long period of conflict and struggle for the Filipinos.

the Battle of Manila — Nadir of Japanese Barbarism, 3 February – 3 March 1945 is one of the volumes in the History of Terror series. Written by Filipino Miguel Miranda and published by Pen & Sword Military on 16 April 2019 (ISBN: 9781526729057), there are about 60 illustrations in this 128 page book.

Miranda’s prose is easy to read, although much of what he describes is disturbing. The book is divided into the following chapters, following from a usefu timeline and Introduction:

  1. MacArthur’s Bitter Defeat
  2. Leyte to Lingayen
  3. Desperadoes
  4. The Angels
  5. Encirclement
  6. The Genko Line
  7. Bloody Hell
  8. Intramuros
  9. A Country in Ruin

The book is then closed with an Epilogue: Facing a Strategic Conundrum; then a list of sources and finally an Index. The Epilogue is a reasonable assessment of the position in the South China Sea currently with the PLAN exercising its muscle as it attempts to dominate the area while the US Naval forces, along with Japan, Australia and the other smaller navies of the region attempting to ensure that the area remains open, international waters, rather than a Chinese lake.

Te timeline commences in 1896 when Filipino revolutionaries in Cavite and Manila launch an uprising to overthrow Spain’s colonial government. This revolution carried over into the period where the US became the colonial overlord and the Introduction discusses that period in more detail.

I must admit that while the book is very well written, and easy to read, it is also a very disturbing work, but one that should be read.

Images of War — Battle of Midway — America’s Decisive Strike in the Pacific in WWII – Review

Anyone with an interest in military history or history generally will know the Battle of Midway. Following Japan’s attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the US Pacific aircraft carriers were undamaged, leaving the US with three effective carriers in the Pacific.

The Battle of Coral Sea in May 1942 saw one US carrier lost so effectively only two carriers remained. The Japanese Combined Fleet commander, Yamamoto, decided then to lure the remaining carriers into a battle where they could be destroyed. This would give Japan a free hand with its expansion plans across Asia and the Pacific.

Location of Midway Atoll (image from Google Maps)

Yamamoto targeted the Hawaiian Island chain again with the target this time being the Naval Air Station on Midway Atoll. The Japanese then launched an attack on Midway on 4 June 1942. Unfortunately for the Japanese:

  1. The Americans had deciphered Japanese signals so knew exactly where the Japanese attack would fall
  2. Admiral Nimitz had three aircraft carriers in his command, not just the two that the Japanese expected
  3. The americans had more aircraft available than the Japanese, although about one third of those aircraft were land-based

The battle ran over the period 4 to 7 June 1942 and at the end the Japanese had lost all four of their aircraft carriers engaged to one US carrier lost. As a result of those losses, Japan was forced onto the back foot and never recovered its previous naval dominance through the rest of the war. The Battle of Midway is considered by most to be the turning point in the war with Japan.

There are many images and photos from the Battle of Midway, many of them on the Internet illustrating web pages or in museum collections. Frontline Books has published a book of these photographs in their Images of War series. The Battle of Midway — America’s Decisive Strike in the Pacific in WWII was written (compiled?) by John Grehan and is published as a paperback. It is 164 pages long and contains 150 illustrations and photographs. ISBN: 9781526758347 it was published on 23 September 2019.

The photographs in the book are ordered into the following chapters:

  • Map List
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: The Build-up to Battle
  • 3 June 1943
    1. First Contact
  • 4 June 1942
    1. Bombs Fall on Midway
    2. Attacking the Japanese Fleet
    3. The Japanese Hit Yorktown
    4. The Torpedo Bombers Strike
  • 5 June 1942
    1. Operation MI Cancelled
  • 6 June 1942
    1. Last Shots
  • 7 June 1942
    1. The End of the USS Yorktown
    2. After the Battle
  • References and Notes

I have no hesitation recommending this book to any naval or military historian, modeller or wargamer. I have spent quite a few hours looking at the photographs in this work. In addition to the photographs there is a reasonable interpretation and map how the battle played out.