A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC – Marc G DeSantis – Review

Apart from reading Great Battles of the Classical Greek World by Owen Rees, at the same time I was also reading A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC published by Pen & Sword Maritime in 2017, ISBN 978 1 47386 158 9.

The book is the result of DeSantis’s research for his previous book, Rome Seizes the Trident, where he looked at Rome’s eventual defeat of Carthage at sea by the application of simple tactics against a more skillful opponent along with steadfast resolve. The Athenian fleet (skillful mariners) were brought low by Syracusan blunt force, prow-to-prow tactics.

The Peloponnesian War was largely decided by battles and a strategy at sea. When Athens’ control of the sea crumbled, so did its empire. The classical sources used for the book are Thucydides, Plutarch, Diodorus and Xenophon.

The Naval History of the Peloponnesian War commences with a number of maps of the area of operations as well as a map of the Battle of Arginusae. The book is then divided into 5 main parts parts 3 to 5 consisting of the usual split of the war:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Trireme
  3. The Archidamian War
  4. The Sicilian Expedition
  5. The Ionian War

There are also a Preface, Conclusions, Notes, Bibliography and Index. The itself book covers the naval history of the 27 years of conflict that was the Peloponnesian War.

DeSantis outlines the struggle in the Introduction, noting that Sparta supported by Persian gold eventually overcame Athens although it was the loss of the Athenian fleet at Syracuse that signaled the end for Athens rather than any action of Sparta.

DeSantis traces the war from the sources, first looking at the causes of the war presented by Thucydides as he saw it and he mostly relies on Thucydides’s narrative to 411 BC. Xenophon picks up the tale from then along with Diodorus of Siculus. Plutarch of Chaeronea writing some 500 years or so later in his Parallel Lives looks at the biographies of the Athenians Themistocles, Cimon, Pericles, and Alcibiades along with the Spartan Lysander. Lastly the Hellenica Oxyrhynchia also mentions wartime events including the Athenian seaborne campaign in Asia Minor in 409 BC and the Battle of Notium in 406 BC. These then are the classical references used by DeSantis.

DeSantis covers the economics of the naval build-up of Athens, noting that the 100 talents (600,000 drachmae) in silver extracted from the Laurium silver mines was sufficient to build 200 triremes. He then notes that Pericles estimated the same cost for each year of war against Sparta.

In the second section the author examines the trireme (triers in Greek) with Thucydides identifying Corinth as the first to construct a trireme although there is a competing theory that the trireme may have actually originated in the east with the Sidonian of Phoenicia (trikrotis naus) or the Phoenicans themselves constructing the first such vessels.

The construction of the triremes of Athens is covered including details of where the wood and pitch was sourced from along with the number of men required to move a trireme up the 1 in 10 ramp into its shed (140) as well as take it back into the water (110). One thing that had not occurred to me before but perhaps should of is that there were different quality triremes. The best were known as exairetoi (selects) while others were identified as first, seconds or thirds. Old vessels were converted for troop transport – with a converted trireme able to transport 85 soldiers.

Tactics are covered with discussions of sailing with the wind and under the power of oars. Masts and sails were generally taken down before battle and preferably left on shore to lighten the load in the trireme prior to battle. The main battle manoeuvres are described, being the diekplous and the periplous. Less skillful fleets relied on coming alongside and boarding the enemy.

Rounding out his review of the trireme, DeSantis covers shipboard fighting, funding a fleet, the officers on board, payment on campaign, and propulsion.

DeSantis then moves on the Archidamian War which started when Corcyra and Corinth came to blows over Epidamnus. He looks at:

  • The Battle of Sybota
  • Potidaea
  • The Athenian empire and rival coalitions
  • The Battle of Chalcis
  • The Battle of Naupachus
  • The Attack on Piraeus
  • The Revolt at Lesbos
  • The Second Battle of Sybota
  • Pylos and Sphacteria
  • Strait of Messana engagements
  • Expeditions to Corinth and Corcyra
  • Attack on Nisaea
  • Delium
  • Brasidas’s campaign
  • Amphipolis
  • Meude
  • The Peace of Nicias
  • The Fate of Melos

The next part covers the whole hubristic disaster for Athens that was the Sicilian Expedition.

Lastly the Ionian War is examined. After the defeat in Sicily, the Athenians were spurred on to lock down their Ionian allies, and ensure Euboea in particular remained within the empire. The author looks at:

  • Alcibiades’s seduction of Timaea, the wife of King Agis
  • Alcibiades’s undermining Persian efforts to assist the Peloponnesians
  • The Battle of Cynossema
  • The Battle of Abydos
  • The Battle of Cyzicus
  • Alcibiades and the Athenian plundering expeditions
  • Action off Mytilene
  • The Battle of Arginusae
  • The Battle of Aegospotami

DeSantis concludes with the eventual defeat of the Athenian Empire.

While there were many land battles throughout the Peloponnesian War, it was at sea that Athens was at first strong, then later faltered.

I very much enjoyed this book, especially as I was reading it at the same time as Great Battles of the Classical Greek World. There was some overlap between the two books so taking an alternate view on some matters was a benefit.

If you are a naval tragic like me, and an ancient history addict as well, this book will serve well as an overview of the Peloponnesian War from the naval perspective. Thucydides and Xenophon are still the main sources to read but DeSantis’s book is both easy to read and factual.

This is a good book providing a good amount of detail and covering one the more exciting stories from Ancient Greece. I am now looking for my copy of Thucydides to read further into this conflict again, one that I have not looked at for about 30 years. Recommended.

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Great Battles of the Classical Greek World – Review

A book I received some time ago and have been slowly reading is Great Battles of the Classical Greek World by Owen Rees, published by Pen & Sword Military in 2016, ISBN 978 1 47382 729 5. The book is divided into four familiar main subject areas and a conclusion. Each of the parts are then split into between three and six Chapters covering various significant battles:

  1. The Peloponnesian War
    • The Battle of Olpae (426/5 BC)
    • The Battle of Delium (424 BC)
    • The Battle of Amphipolis (422 BC)
    • The First Battle of Mantinea (418 BC)
  2. The Spartan Hegemony
    • Battle of the Nemea (394 BC)
    • Battle of Coronea (394 BC)
    • The Battle of the Long Walls of Corinth (392 BC)
    • The Battle of Lechaeum (390 BC)
    • The Battle of Leuctra (371 BC)
    • The Second Battle of Mantinea (362 BC)
  3. Siege Warfare
    • The Siege of Plataea (429-427 BC)
    • The Sieges of Pylos and Sphacteria (425 BC)
    • The Siege of Syracuse (415-413 BC)
    • The Siege of Drilae (400 BC)
  4. Greco-Persian conflicts
    • The Battle of Marathon (490 BC)
    • The Battle of Plataea (479 BC)
    • The Battle of Cunaxa (401 BC)
  5. Conclusions

I have run across some of Owen Rees’s writing before in the Ancient Warfare magazine. Rees’s narrative style makes this book easy to read with discrete footnoting at key points through each chapter. The footnotes are presented as endnotes and so do not distract from the narrative but still enable the reader to check source material or other references at leisure.

The first two parts of the book examine battles in two key areas of Classical Greek military history – the Peloponnesian War and the Rise and Fall of Sparta. The third part examines Greek Siege Warfare whilst the fourth section deals with the Greco-Persian conflicts. Including this the fourth section was a decision by Rees because it is clear that “the Greeks did not fight the Persians in the same manner in which they fought one another, but placing this conflict at the beginning allows a false image to arise concerning Greek battle, and Greek tactics in turn” (Rees, 2016, p. xvi). Rees therefore covers the internal conflicts of the Greeks first to develop an image of Greek warfare before dealing with their interaction with the Persians.

The structure of each of the chapters is consistent with the first section being the background and identifying the classical sources used for that battle. This is then followed by a description and location (where possible) of the battlefield. The armies are then examined followed by a description of the battle itself, with specific references to the sources as well as maps outlining the probably deployment of the forces present. The last section is the aftermath of the battle.

For example, chapter 3 deals with the Battle of Amphipolis (422 BC). The Background identifies the sources for this battle as Thucydides, (IV.70, 78-88, 102-V.3) and Diodorus (XII.67.3-68.6, 72-3). The Battlefield is identified as outside the walls of Amphipolis and Amphipolis is located by Rees in a U-Bend of the River Strymon. The armies are discussed and any assumptions about troops presented. So for the Battle of Amphipolis, Brasidas’s army is noted as a conglomerate force of allies under his command, some 6,500 men strong. The size of Cleon’s army is not known but it appears that his force was roughly the same size, or a little larger.

The battle itself is then described with the references for that being Thucydides V.6-11 and Diodorus XII-74. The battle description includes three maps representing the three phases of the battle. The Aftermath of the battle is then discussed:

After Brasidas fell in battle, he was dragged back into the walls of Amphipolis where he held on to life, waiting to hear news from the battlefield. A messenger was sent to inform the city of the Athenian rout and, with victory ringing in his ears, Brasidas was able to release his final breath in the knowledge that his legend had been cemented in the history of his beloved Sparta.

Clearidas brought the army back into Amphipolis and, in full armaments, they buried their commander in a tomb at the front of the agora. This spot became the focus of a hero-cult dedicated to the man the Amphipolitans appointed their new founder of the city – replacing the true founder, Hagnon the Athenian.

For Athens, the defeat, alongside the defeat at Delium, was too much for them to consider continuing the war. Similarly the Spartans were still trying to recover from their embarrassing defeat at Pylos and no amount of success in Chalcidice was enough to compensate for this. A ten-year peace was finally agreed and, although in fact it only lasted seven years, this gave both sides time to recover from their tragic losses (Rees, 2016, p. 40).

Apart from the five parts mentioned above, the book also contains a glossary covering technical words from the book, a section of Notes (endnotes) from each chapter, a bibliography, an index and six useful URLs for further research.

Overall, Rees’s book is well supported with tactical diagrams through each chapter. Rees is also willing to challenge popularly held beliefs, such as the invincibility of the Spartans.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book to those interested in Classical Greek Warfare or the development of Hoplite tactics. The short chapters make the book the perfect companion with a fine coffee and a spare 20 minutes. The book itself has inspired me to look further into Greek warfare again and to start a collection of Ancient Greek armies to wargame these battles.

Shiny Things, or Rather the Perils of Being a Wargamer and Reading a New Book

Actually, two books. I received a copy of A Naval History of the Peloponnesian War – Ships, Men and Money in the War at Sea, 431-404 BC written by Marc G DeSantis, ISBN: 9781473861589, published on 29 November 2017.

When reading that I thought it would be a good idea to read Great Battles of the Classical Greek World by Owen Rees, ISBN: 9781473827295, published on 15 August 2016 at the same time as there was a degree of overlap between the two.

Both books are published by Pen & Sword and both look at one area of particular interest to me. I will review both books separately in other blog posts.

So, what is the risk to the Wargamer? Well, it is simple. My favourite periods of interest are Ancient Wargaming and Naval Wargaming. The Peloponnesian War has both. The 25 years of the Peloponnesian War covered a bitter period of classical Greek history and warfare. By this time the Greeks were well settled into the hoplite style of warfare with armoured man, large shields and a long spear standing in a long line with other men similarly armed.

To my pile of uncompleted projects I have added two Greek projects. One is the Greek world circa 670 BCE to 450 BCE – the period when hoplite panoply and warfare was developed to its peak. This was also the period where the Persians were defeated at Marathon and Plataea. The second is the Greek world circa 450 BCE to around 225 BCE which includes the Peloponnesian War.

Fortunately the core troops from the earlier period will also double up for the later period. Currently I am planning the hoplite forces. This little project will be in 6mm for reasons of:

  • space
  • cost
  • speed of painting

Rules will either be DBA or Basic Impetus. The armies should be easy enough to build to be useful for both rule sets. For example, the early Athenian army in Basic Impetus consists of a maximum of 8 bases of Hoplites, and one base each of Slingers, Javelinmen, Thessalian Light Cavalry and Thessalian Medium Cavalry. The DBA equivalent is 10 elements of Hoplites and two elements of skirmishers.

The only real question I have to consider from the rule perspective is whether to use 60mm or 40mm wide bases. DBA would normally be a 40mm element frontage while Dadi and Piombo recommend a 60mm frontage for Basic Impetus in 6mm. 60mm frontage is also the base frontage for Baccus’ SPQR rules.

The base size will set the area that is needed to play and 40mm has the attraction of probably only needed a 2-foot square area (DBA) or 3-foot square (Basic Impetus) while 60mm would set a 4-foot by 3-foot area (Basic Impetus).

More updates later as I start to plan further.

Wartime Standard Ships – Review

Wartime Standard Ships, published by Seaforth Naval and written by Nick Robins (ISBN: 9781848323766, published: 23rd August 2017) looks at the Wartime Standard Ships of both World Wars.

There are many books looking at “linchpins to victory” and “decisive contributions to the winning of the war”, be they the fleets, corvettes, rapid production, the RAF and the Battle of Britain, Dunkirk, the entry of the USA, the Soviet efforts and so on. A war cannot be won, however, if  a country is cut off from its supplies of food, raw materials and completed goods and keeping those supplies coming (as Germany and Japan failed to do in World War 2) is critical to winning the war.

This was the very real threat facing England the United Kingdom in both World Wars as the German u-boat campaigns went into full swing. The solution (apart from more and better convoy escorts) was to build ships faster than the enemy can sink them.

To rapidly build ships, standard designs become necessary and that is the theme of this book. Nick Robins discusses Standard Ships from the concept of them (austere, functional and lots of them), through the design criteria and then splitting the book into essentially two sections, looking first at the First World War and then the Second World War. In both cases he discusses ship building in Great Britain, the USA and Canada in particular. Interestingly the Australians, who owned substantial fleets in both wars in terms of numbers if not weight, and who were one of the main suppliers of food and raw materials, did not really get into the swing of building Standard Ships.

The author also looks at the Standard Ships built by the Germans in the Second World War and the limited numbers of the Japanese Standard Ships. The Liberty Ship is covered in some detail of course as is its successor, the Victory Ship.

Robins concludes by examining the successes and failures, concluding that perhaps the “unparalleled success of the American ship-building programmes in both World Wars” was a major contribution to victory. Robins quotes the United States Maritime Commission in 1943 which noted:

The Liberty ship is a product of war use. It can be classed with the tank, the fighting plane and other materials of war. It was produced to be expendable if necessary. If expended, it had served its purpose.

The 172 pages of this book are well illustrated with relevant black and white photographs as well as interesting sidebars. I have a well-known interest in naval history and the ships that form much of it and had of course heard of the Liberty and Victory ships and the contribution of the merchant marine to the overall victory but in this book it seemed that I was learning something new on every page.

There is a useful References chapter at the end of the book and index that contains among other things, a lot of references to individual vessels.

This is another good work on a little understood subject and one that will continue to keep these largely defenceless vessels in the place they deserve to be in the history of both World Wars. Recommended.

Allenby’s Gunners – Review

World War I and the Sinai campaign gave us Lawrence of Arabia; King Faisal of Iraq; King Hussain and the Arab revolt from Ottoman rule; the Charge of the Australian Light Horse; and the advance on Damascus. It also gave us broken promises and a carve up of the Middle East which arguably has resulted in problems that we still have today.

General Sir Edmund Allenby led the force that marched on Damascus. The force included Australian, New Zealand and British mounted contingents, British infantry and artillery and an Arab army under the command of Ḥussain’s son Faiṣal, formed in the Hejaz, with Syrian and other Arab officers and British help led by T.E. Lawrence.

Peter O’Toole along with T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom have immortalised the Arab contribution to the campaign; the Charge of the Australian Light Horse has focused the Cavalry contribution to the campaign; the taking of the railway was an Arab contribution; and the taking of the towns and wadis has shown the infantry contribution for those that marched along with the columns. The arm overlooked in the past, however, has been the artillery that took part in the campaigns.

Allenby’s Gunners – Artillery in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns 1916-1918 by Alan Smith published by Pen & Sword Military on 6 December 2017 (ISBN: 9781526714657) does much to set the record straight.

Alan Smith is an Australian author, the book first being published in Australia by Blue Sky Publishing before being picked up by Pen and Sword Military and being exposed to a wider audience.

The book is very well laid out with the Table of Contents listing the photographs; maps; and tables before the Foreword. A Preface then follows after which are Notes on Sources; Abbreviations used; and Map Legend. The main part of the book is then broken up into three broad sections or Narratives, with Narrative One providing the Background to April 1916. Narrative Two covers the period November 1917 to May 1918 and Narrative Three covers May 1918 to November 1918 and the end of the war. There are then 8 appendices; endnotes; bibliography; and an index.

Each of the Narratives is then further broken up into bite sized chunks. For example, Narrative Two covers:

  • The Great Northern Drive
  • The drive north to Junction Station
  • Allenby takes Jerusalem
  • The Northern Front and the defence of Jerusalem
  • The capture of Jericho
  • The Amman raid and the first Es Salt affair
  • The April 1918 battles of XX Corps and XXI Corps
  • The second Es Salt raid
  • The Northern Front 1. Wadi Auja: 18 March 1918
  • Summer in the Jordan Valley

The narratives are easy to read and flow well. The layout of the book makes browsing easy and it is a simple matter to look into particular areas of interest. In addition to the written content of the chapters, Smith has provided relevant illustrations at various stages through the book.

For example, Chapter 22, The Northern Front 1. Wadi Auja: 18 March 1918 is four pages long and contains image 16: the Abu Tellul feature which was the objective of Allenby’s planned advance in the area, with the capture of the Wadi Auja and its waters, designed to dishearten the Turks further. Smith carries the narrative well but doesn’t lose sight of the objective of the book, which is to discuss Allenby’s Gunners, the artillery arm of Alenby’s forces.

So Smith discusses Bulfins XXI Corps which went into the attack with:

  • 52nd (Lowland); 54th (East Anglian) and 75th divisions and XXI Corp Cavalry
  • XXI Corps Artillery under Brigadier Williamson-Oswald:
    • 100th Heavy Group (15th and 181st batteries plus one section of the 43rd Siege Battery)
    • 102nd Heavy Group (189th, 202nd and 380th siege batteries with one section of the 43rd and another of the 304th siege batteries)
    • 95th Heavy Group (209th Siege Battery and one section each of the 134th and 304th siege batteries)
  • Under command 75th Division – one section  of the 134th Siege Battery , tractor drawn

Smith describes the assault and the contribution of the batteries to the assault. For example, he notes:

The infantry’s objective was the line of Wadi Deir Ballut. Farndale notes that ‘there were good positions for the artillery’, recognising also the impressive road building efforts of the RE field companies and infantry working parties to move the guns forward. On one such road to Abud, the 177nd Brigade RFA advanced by leapfrogging batteries.

The action overall was successful with the artillery-infantry cooperation.

The research Smith has put into this work is remarkable but importantly Smith does not lose sight of the object of the book, which is to cover the contribution of the artillery to the campaign. Artillery was key to the success of the campaigns in the Middle East. Best is that this book is written by an Aussie who is capable of looking at the campaign as a whole and the contributions of all arms without being tied up by the jingoism around the Australian Light Horse charge at Beersheba.

 

This book has re-sparked an interest in me in the Sinai and Palestine Campaigns of 1916 to 1918 as well as a desire to look further now at the carving up of the Middle East by the British and French post war.

Mr Smith, you have written a remarkable history and I commend you for it. It is a book I will refer to again many times in the coming years. And hour to spare, a narrative to read. Well written, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to anybody with an interest in Military History.

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.

Seaforth World Naval Review 2018 – Review

The Seaforth World Naval Review, 2018 edited by Conrad Waters, 192 pages, ISBN: 9781526720092 and published 15 November 2017 Seaforth Publishing has provided a balanced round-up of World Fleets currently and for the coming year.

The book is a well written, easy to read and well illustrated discussion of current naval power world-wide with a number of well-known authors and illustrators contributing to the overall volume.

The book is divided into four main sections:

  1. Overview – a summary of the overall contents including a summary of the change in defence expenditures over the previous 10 years by country; Fleet Reviews ad Major Fleet Strengths; Significant ships being reviews in the current volume; and Technological Developments
  2. World Fleet Reviews – this section is broken up by Regions:
    1. North and South America
    2. Asia and the Pacific
    3. The ROKN: Balancing blue water ambitions with regional threats
    4. Indian Ocean and Africa
    5. Europe and Russia
    6. The Royal Navy: the start of a new era
  3. Significant Ships
    1. Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers
    2. Baden-Württemberg Class
    3. Otago Class OPVs
  4. Technological Reviews
    1. World Naval Aviation
    2. A New Age of Weapons – lasers and rail guns
    3. Royal Navy Guided Weapons – new missile systems
    4. Modern Warship Accomodation – where the crews sleep

Contributors to the volume include Richard Beedall, David Hobbs, Bruno Huriet, Mrityunjoy Mazumday, Norman Friedman, Richard Scott, Guy Toremans, and Conrad Waters.

I particularly enjoyed the section on lasers and railguns (I’ve been reading too much science fiction lately), the significant ships section, and the Fleet Reviews. I’m not sure why the editor persists with a section called “North America” consisting as it does with the huge US fleet and the modest Canadian fleets only. The US really reserves its own section – perhaps split in the future to the US, and the Rest of the Americas.

The book itself is well illustrated with photographs from official sources of lots of vessels – most in black and white with a few in colour, with perhaps my favourite colour photo being of HMNZS Wellington sailing past an iceberg in October 2015. Ship drawings are by Norman Friedman.

I am looking forward to next year’s publication already and World Naval Review, 2018 now joins my bookshelf next to the space for Warship 2018. Recommended for anyone with an interest in modern naval fleets.

 

Destroyer at War – Review – The Fighting Life and Loss of HMS Havock from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean 1939-1942

HMS Havock was one of the H-class (or Hero-class) destroyers that saw extensive action through the Second World War. The H- lass were similar to the G-class but used more welding to save weight. The H-class were approved in mid-1934 and were armed with the heavier CP XVIII 4.7-inch gun mounting which were also installed in the Tribal-class.

While the destroyers were generally as good as any others around at the time, their two main failings were their design for the North Sea and Mediterranean operations (reduced endurance) and poor anti-aircraft protection.

Destroyer at War – The Fighting Life and Loss of HMS Havock from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean 1939-42 is published  by Frontline Books, written by David Goodey and Richard H. Osborne and contains 293 pages. It was published on 3 October 2017 (ISBN: 9781526709004).

I was looking for a couple of things to read on my recent trip back to Australia to spend some time with mother and this was one of the books I took with me. The book struck my interest as it was written in part by the son of of one the members of the Havock‘s crew and also involved interviews with around 50 surviving members of the crew. In many respects it is David Goodey’s tribute to his father, Stoker Alber W. Goodey.

HMS Havock was one the the Royal Navy’s most famous destroyers from the first half of the Second World War with her exploits reported regularly in the English press.

Havock saw action in the Spanish Civil War and the report of the air attack by a single “four-engined Junker Type monoplane” that proceeded to attack with four bombs from about 6,000-feet while travelling at about 90 mph is an interesting entrance the rest of the book. I did like the description of the bombing run as Havock was in company with HMS Gipsy and the report notes,

Fire was opened with 0.5 machine guns. The aeroplane altered course to counteract Gipsy‘s manoeuvre and about 1646 1/2 four bombs were seen to leave the machine.

Gipsy promptly altered course further to Starboard and Havock to Port and the bombs fell between the two ships about 100 yards from  Gipsy and 300 from Havock.

The authors then go on to provide recollections from various crew members, in this case John Thomson, the Havock‘s Signals Telegraphist, Nobby Hall, also from Signals, and Able Seaman Griff Gleed-Owen. The book follows this pattern throughout, recounting the action, talking to the men who were there, then describing where Havock went next.

Havock did see a lot of action being present at:

  • Spanish Civil War
  • The Battle for Narvik
  • The Invasion of Holland
  • Service generally in the Med
  • The Battle of Matapan
  • Convoy escorts and the Tripoli Bombardment
  • Evacuation of Greece and Crete
  • Action around Syria, Tobruk, Groundings and More Convoy Work
  • and lastly, the Second Battle of Sirte and the ship’s eventual grounding and the crew being taken prisoner

Apart from the story of Havock and her crew, the book also has a fine collection of pictures included, many from the collections of the authors.

The book is an exciting read where the prose flows and even the casual reader will find an engrossing story without resort to great quantities of technical information. Destroyer at War provides some evidence of the contribution of the hard-working H-class destroyers through the Second World War. I happily recommend this to both naval historians and general readers. It is a compelling tale and one I have enjoyed immensely reading.

Churchill Tanks – British Army North-West Europe 1944-1945 – Review

When I received a copy of Panther Tanks to look at, I also ask for a copy of a similar publication on Churchill tanks, partly because I had little knowledge of them and partly because I think I will be modelling some in 1/300 scale later this year. I was sent a copy of Dennis Oliver’s “Churchill Tanks – British Army North-West Europe 1944-1945.”

The Churchill was beset with many mechanical problems, brought about by being rushed into production. It was a difficult tank to maintain but its strength was its versatility. The technical section of the book discusses this versatility well outlining the different marks and usage of the vehicle. Not as effective in tank-on-tank combat as the SHerman, it was the versatility of the vehicle that was its greatest strength.

Design of these tanks was commenced in 1939 with the vehicle originally designated the A20, becoming the Churchill as it entered production. Following from the A11, the Matilda and the Valentine, the Churchill was the 4th of the Infantry Tanks developed by the British to fit within the initial British belief in the way war would run (tanks support infantry and breakthroughs exploited by cavalry).

The book itself is short, some 64 pages only but contains a background of the Churchill tank, details of its use operationally, some great photographs and best of all for the modeller, models! The book contains the following chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Army Tank Brigades
  3. Camouflage and Markings
  4. Model Showcase
  5. Modelling Products
  6. 1st Assault Brigade, Royal Engineers
  7. Technical Details and Modifications
  8. Appendix
  9. Product Contact List

This book is primarily written for the modeller and is part of Pen & Sword Books, Tank Craft Range and as such the modelling, detailing and camouflage information is extensive. Oliver presents 12 pages of colour and markings and information of 10 tanks. He then illustrates with colour photographs, builds of 1/35 scale vehicles from different modellers and manufacturers, some from the box others with conversion kits added. The modellers are from different countries and the models are superb.

Oliver then goes on the survey the model kits available and lists in:

  • 1/35 scale – Dragon Models,Tamiya, Italeri
  • 1/56 – Italeri
  • 2/48 – Tamiya
  • 1/76 1/72 – Arifix, Italeri, Revell, Zvezda
  • 1/100 – Zvezda

For the modeller or the wargamer, this is a worthwhile addition to the bookshelf. Colour details are excellent and accurate as are the marking details. I am looking now for both my glue for the model sitting on my workbench as well as hunting around for the wargame vehicles for my late British Army – at least to be targets for the previously mentioned Panthers. Highly recommended and best of all, on sale currently.

Churchill Tanks – British Army, North-west Europe 1944-45
By Dennis Oliver
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Tank Craft
Pages: 64
ISBN: 9781526710888
Published: 4th September 2017

URL: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Churchill-Tanks-Paperback/p/13919

Recommended for the modeller and the wargamer and best of all, this publication is currently on sale at Pen and Sword Books (January 2017).

Panther Tanks – German Army & Waffen-SS, Normandy Campaign 1944 – Review

I recently purchased a model kit of a Panther tank. Actually, I purchased a lot of model kits of tanks, one of which was a Panther. Looking around for some information on the tank, I came across Dennis Oliver’s “Panther Tanks, German Army and Waffen SS, Normandy Campaign 1944.”

Well armoured and with a powerful 75mm gun, the Panther was a shock to Allied tank crews, surviving many hits whilst dealing out  destruction to all the Allied AFVs. The German Army and Waffen-SS deployed around 300 Panthers in the west prior to the Allied invasion. There were more powerful German tanks in the west (the Panzer VI – Tiger for example) but only in small numbers, and more numerous (Panzer IVs) but it was the Panzer V, the Panther, that caused the greatest grief to the Allied tank crews.

Design of these tanks was commenced in 1941 with prototype vehicles being demonstrated to Hitler in May 1942. With haphazard design changes, the first tanks off the production lines suffered from a number of issues including engine fires, and whilst these were to some degree addressed during the production of the model D, a number of the faults still plagued the vehicles in service.

The book itself is shirt, some 64 pages only but contains a background to the Panther, details of its use operationally, some great photographs and best of all for the modeller, models! The book contains the following chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Normandy Battlefield
  3. The 1944 Panzer-Regiment
  4. The Army Panther Battalions
  5. Camouflage and Markings
  6. Model Showcase
  7. Modelling Products
  8. The Waffen-SS Panther Battalions
  9. Technical Details and Modifications
  10. Product Contact List

This book is primarily written for the modeller and is part of Pen & Sword Books, Tank Craft Range and as such the modelling, detailing and camouflage information is extensive. Oliver presents 12 pages of colour and markings information of 24 tanks. He then illustrates with colour photographs builds of 1/35 scale vehicles from different modellers and manufacturers,  Dragon and ROCHM Model (conversion kits). The modellers are from different countries and some are simply models, others part of dioramas.

Oliver then goes on the survey the model kits available and lists in:

  • 1/35 scale – Dragon Models,Tamiya, Italeri
  • 1/56 – Italeri
  • 2/48 – Tamiya
  • 1/76 1/72 – Arifix, Italeri, Revell, Zvezda
  • 1/100 – Zvezda

HE then goes on to list some of the aftermarket suppliers as well supplying etched brass additions such as zimmerit, straps, radiators and fans,periscopes and the like. Also listed are replacement items such as aluminium gin barrels. Replacement tracks are also listed.

For the modeller or the wargamer, this is a worthwhile addition to the bookshelf. Colour details are excellent and accurate as are the marking details. I am looking now for both my glue for the model sitting on my workbench as well as hunting around for the wargame vehicles for my late German Army. Highly recommended and best of all, on sale currently.

Panther Tanks (Paperback), German Army and Waffen SS, Normandy Campaign 1944
By Dennis Oliver
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Tank Craft
Pages: 64
ISBN: 9781526710932
Published: 4th September 2017
URL: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Panther-Tanks-Paperback/p/13698