River Gunboats – An Illustrated Encyclopedia – Review

I had my reading schedule well planned out then River Gunboats – 
An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Roger Branfill-Cook turned up in the mail and for the last couple of weeks it has taken over from my reading pile. What a great book.

Branfill-Cook has surveyed the river gunboat from their first appearance in 1824 with the Honourable East India Company’s gunboat Diana, in action on the Irrawaddy River in Burma through the river gunboats used in the First and Second World Wars to The US Brown Water Navy in Vietnam and into today’s gunboats.

What was amazing to me was the number of nations that ran river gunboats and Branfill-Cook notes vessels from places such as the Republic of Acre (I had to look this one up but let me give you a hint – think South America 1899); Austria-Hungary; Cameroon; USA and CSA; Estonia; Manchukuo; Sudan (and the Mahdi); Uzbekistan; and Yugoslavia to name a few of the 56 states listed as having gunboats.

Around 40 military campaigns in the 150 years from 1824 involved gunboats – some campaigns were large, some small and some are best described as bizarre. The book does not only look at the historic vessels but updates on modern riverine craft of today.

Apart from a useful bibliography, there are two appendices – one briefly dealing with River Gunboat Camouflage Schemes and the other looking at River and Gunboats in Popular Culture – and many of the older movies mentioned there can be found today on YouTube.

Each chapter looks at the vessels used by that country and includes photographs of the vessels where possible as well as details such as the date launched, armament, speed, and fate.

As an example of the content and as I mentioned Acre above, the entry for Acre covers the period July 1899 to November 1903 and the three declared republics. The gunboats involved were the Bolivian armed launch Rio Afua later captured by the insurgents and renamed Independencia. After the diplomatic peace settlement of 1903 the Independencia became part of the Brazilian Navy.

The book is in Hardcover.  The book contains 336 pages and is published in the US by the Naval Institute Press (published on October 15, 2018). US ISBN: 9781591146148.

The book was originally published in the UK by Seaforth Press on 25 June 2018, UK ISBN: 9781848323650 and is also available in an eBook form (Kindle I believe).

This is a book that would grace both the coffee table and the reference shelf and it is one I will refer to many times in the years coming. Recommended.

 

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Strategy and Tactics – Fail Safe: Nuclear Warfare in the Cold War

ST283M-2I remember the Cold War. Seeing the title of issue 283 of Strategy & Tactics when I took it out of the envelope in the elevator heading back up to the apartment last night brought back some memories.

I can remember life in the early 1970s in particular, the Cold War was well underway and at that time it was not clear who was winning. At that time many of us thought it was better not to win the Cold War as we didn’t want to upset the other guy – after all, they were always considered a bit unstable in the eyes of the Free World.

Ban the Bomb, protests against stationing US Nuclear Forces in Britain, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the gulags, so many memories flooding back in. Really, it had me feeling that Generation X and Generation Y never understood the stress of being a Baby Boomer.

Fail Safe ((now there is another term fresh from the Cold War that takes on a whole new meaning these days)) is a look at the manned bombers carrying nuclear weapons in the period 1945 to 1960 and the story of the doctrine that directed and restricted their use. For another view on that, I can thoroughly recommend watching Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. That really caught the mood of the time well and is a superb black comedy. The article in S&T however has some really neat photographs of some of the nuclear capable aircraft of the time – I can almost feel another wargaming period coming on!

In this issue also is a look at Saladin – not so much the chivalrous warrior this time but more the ruthless contender reaching for power.

Pontiac_conspiracy
The Pontiac Conspiracy

In 1763, after the British had won the French-Indian Wars, Fort Pitt was besieged by a confederation of Indians unhappy with British rule and the policies of General Jeffrey Amherst in particular. This was the decisive battle in what became known as Pontiac’s War. Pontiac was an Ottowa Indian and leader of the confederation.

At this battle, British officers at Fort Pitt attempted to infect the besieging Native Americans with smallpox – an early example of biochemical warfare. The plan was to send blankets exposed to the smallpox virus to the Indians and hope it caught. The article also looks at the Battle of Bushy Run where the British did manage some effective infantry tactics.

There is an examination of Tulagi, the August 1942 landing on Tulagi to support the Guadalcanal landings.

Other notes and articles this month deal with the birth of the Roman Navy; Japan’s rise to naval dominance; submarines in the Gallipoli Campaign; and a piece on Admiral George Stephen Morrison (father of singer Jim Morrison of the Doors fame) and one of the commanders of the US naval forces in the Gulf of Tonkin at the opening of the Vietnam War when North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked US Navy warships.

Another good read coming up over the next few nights. I do enjoy this magazine, even without the game it is good value for money and any of the games that are interesting can be purchased later anyway. In fact, after a quick read of the Cold War piece I am starting to consider that as a board game to add to the collection.

The West Lake – Ha Noi

2012-10-03 14.55.16After a meeting this afternoon in Ha Noi that was near the West Lake we decided to walk for a little to stretch the legs before catching a taxi to the next meeting. We took a walk around the West Lake which is the largest in Ha Noi. There were some nice houses around the lake, coffee shops, places to sit and and it all looked very nice. Even some of the locals fishing.

Fishing here is interesting. It is done with a hand line and a bamboo pole with a ring on the end. The fisherman uses his hand to work like the reel does on a rod you would buy elsewhere. I was amazed with the distance these guys were getting on the cast however.

The only downside that I could see was related to the smell of the lake. It really did not smell all that healthy. Indeed, the lack of health seemed to be borne out by the number of dead fish that we saw on the edge of the lake as we walked around.2012-10-03 15.04.56

A Slightly Different View

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Moving on from the Philippines I have a few days of meetings in Hanoi to attend to. The hotel (Melia) is a nice older hotel with good facilities. Best of all was that they checked me into a room on the 22nd floor so this was the view from my window this morning.

I have not been to Hanoi for about 10 years but I have noticed a lot of change – there are more cars and less bikes, for example, on the roads. The old French colonial architectural styles have been kept in many places and there are a thousand places to eat on each block.

We settled in last night to beer at four bars followed by a late supper – all within one block of the hotel.

Last night’s Hanoi induced sleep was the best I have had in the past month.

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.