Fabulous Flying Boats – A History of the World’s Passenger Flying Boats – by Leslie Dawson – Review

Pen & Sword Aviation have just released Leslie Dawson’s Fabulous Flying Boats – A History of the World’s Passenger Flying Boats in paperback. Originally released as a Hardback a number of years ago, then in Kindle and ePub format (I have a copy in ePub), this edition is now in paperback and good value at half the hardback price. This release contains 320 pages, ISBN is 978-1-52673-969-8 and was published on 2 May 2018.

Where to start? I was watching an old Charlie Chan movie today, Charlie Chan at the Olympics with Warner Oland playing the redoubtable Chinese Hawaiian detective and where honourable number one son Lee won the gold medal for the Berlin, 1936 Olympic metres freestyle final (yes, I know it was a Hungarian first and two Japanese in second and third). Early in the movie Charlie takes a Pan Am Clipper seaplane flight of 18 hours duration from Hawaii to San Francisco (followed by a 13-hour trans-continental flight to New York and a 61-hour Zeppelin flight to Friedrichshafen, chasing the theft of an aircraft remote control gizmo that would change the face of war (it didn’t).

Anyway, the movie caused me to reach for my ePub copy of Fabulous Flying Boats. I have had it for a while now and had not got around to reviewing it as such although I had often flicked through it reading items of interest. I started flicking through it again today.

The book has 11 chapters and a very interesting Appendix. The chapters are:

  1. First to Fly
  2. Bigger and Further
  3. Peace to War
  4. Battle for Britain
  5. Survival
  6. High and Lows
  7. Thoughts of Peace
  8. Post War Years
  9. A Closing Door
  10. End of an Era
  11. Last of the Breed

The book outlines peacetime operations in Europe, the US, the Pacific, Australia, Latin America, South America, Africa, New Zealand, and France (including photos of the largest sea plane, a French aircraft) among others. The author also covers airlines such as Qantas, BOAC, South Pacific Airlines (and the twice weekly flight from Hawaii to Tahiti via Christmas Island), Ansett, Antilles Air Boats, and Barrier Reef Airways.

Aircraft producers came from the UK, France and the US among others with the more famous manufacturers being Short, Boeing, Martin, Douglas and Sikorsky for example. Militarily the flying boats were formidable but more importantly, robust weapons of war that adapted quickly to and from peacetime roles. The aircraft were tough, taking a great deal of punishment before generally being forced to land at sea. The could also deal it out and I can remember being thrilled of tales of the Australian pilots flying Short Sunderlands when I was a kid. The Catalina as well whose role was so important to the victory in the Pacific.

As a kid I can remember the flying boat services taking off from Rose Bay in Sydney heading to exotic sounding locations in the Pacific and the book contains photos of the flying boat base that existed at Rose Bay.

The Appendix is a treat though as Dawson tracks the airlines that used flying boats and identifies registration numbers, aircraft name, aircraft type and fate, by airline. An impressive database.

The flying boats were eventually retired from service with BOAC in the early 1950s hanging on longer in Australia and Africa but eventually being replaced by land-based aircraft which could fly further and faster and that enabled the airlines to reduce their operation costs by reducing the number of aircraft servicing locations and management.

This book is a great review of the Flying Boats and the author’s personal, easy style make the book a relaxing read. The photos are a joy to look at as well. However, I think I will let the author have the last word:

Though no large passenger flying boat remains in service, for a moment we had admired a unique form of flying that had once graced the waterways of the world: from the grey, heaving Atlantic to the dry heat of Africa and the idyllic sun drenched islands of the Pacific.

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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.

Images of War – Hitler’s Tank Destroyers – Review

Written by Paul Thomas and published by Pen & Sword Military as part of the Images of War Books Series,  ISBN: 9781473896178 and published on 15 November 2017, this book contains 132 pages with a number of rare photographs from wartime archives, as well as photos of AFVs still existing.

The book is split into an Introduction, then three chapters covering the panzerjäger development and deployment of panzerjägers followed by a chapter on the destruction of the panzerjäger in 1945. Finally there is an Appendix which lists the various panzerjäger vehicles over the period of the war.

Vehicles included are:

  • Panzerjäger I
  • Marder I, II, and III
  • Hornisse/Nashorn
  • Sturmgeschütz IV
  • Elefant
  • Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer
  • Jagdpanther
  • Jagdpanther IV
  • Jagdtiger
  • Sturmgeschütz III (technically an assault gun but also used in the Panzerjäger role
  • And the following self-propelled artillery:
    • Sturmpanzer I Bison
    • Sturmpanzer II Bison
    • Grill
    • Hummel

The book follows the usual format of the Images of War series with more contemporary photos than text. Many of the photos are rare photos from wartime archives. There are some great photos of vehicles in this book, including knocked-out vehicles.

Like previous works in this series, this book is one for the bookshelf of anyone interested in the development and deployment of AFVs though the Second World War.

Images of War – Hitler’s Tank Destroyers

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.

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).

Treaty Cruisers – the First International Warship Building Competition – Review

The 10,000 ton cruiser, a product of the attempt to restrict the uncontrolled growth of Post World War 1 naval building, was also a significant contributor to the Second World War naval actions. Leo Marriot discusses the genesis of the 8″, 10,000 ton Treaty Cruisers.

I’ve had this book on my bookshelf for a few years now and grabbed it to read on this trip back to Oz as it was light enough to not be a nuisance carrying on and off aircraft.

The Washington Treaty was an attempt to limit the number and size of warships being built post World War 1. It was originally signed in 1922. There was later a Geneva Conference in 1927 and two London treaties, one in 1930 and the second in 1935-36. The original treaty was principally drafted to limit capital ships but cruisers also came under the spotlight and after much discussion, 8″ gun armed cruisers of 10,000 tons maximum weight were the result (the 8″ gun limit was to permit the British to keep their 7.5″ armed cruisers – no other navy had 8″ guns at the time).

The later treaties were to control the tonnage of vessels built by nation.

So, one the the unexpected consequences of the ratification of the Washington Naval Treaty was that the five treaty nations very quickly ended up building cruisers. These were built to the limits of the treaty and over the period from 1022 to 1939 the following were built:

Country Ordered Completed
Britain and Commonwealth 17 15
France 7 7
Germany* 5 3
Italy 7 7
Japan 20 18
USA 18 18

Germany is included above as not one of the 5 signatories to the treaty, there was a later British-Germany agreement.

Marriot briefly discusses the history of the cruiser, then starts a description of the political and technical aspects of the period that influenced the major powers to try and limit warship construction. He then goes on to describe how each power approached the building and modification of cruisers.

The book is broken up into parts, with part 1 discussing the rules of the treaties, part 2 the various powers (contestants in the race), part 3 looks at the cruisers at war by theatre. There are then 4 appendices covering technical data, construction programmes, eight-inch guns and aircraft deployed aboard heavy cruisers.

The book is published by Pen & Sword Maritime, with 185 pages, ISBN: 9781844151882 and was published on 30th September 2005.

Marriot’s style is easy to read and he provides a good survey of the Treaty Cruisers, covering the treaties, the building programmes and the performance in combat. This is a book I am happy to have on my bookshelf.

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

World War 2 Belgians – Another BKC Army

The full Belgian force

Earlier this year I was looking for something a little different and as Blitzkreig Commander III had been released I flicked through the rules and lists and decided that I would start building some another early World War 2 army or two. I have Western Desert Italians (built for BKC – see this blog post and then this one for colour) back in Australia and had acquired some Early War Germans from Douglas as he sold off figures before his move to Scotland. I had also already built an early war Soviet Army (built for BKC II) and thought to myself, “English, French or something else?” Something else won and I started looking for figures for a Belgian army, circa 1940.

Now I know there have been issues with BKC III resulting in that being pulled but fortunately the only differences in the BKC II and BKC III lists was effectively the removal of the 47mm Anti-Tank Guns. So my army is missing those at the moment but I will add them next time I can afford a figure order.

The models eventually selected to use were the Belgians from Scotia Grendel. I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed with the infantry figures as they suffer from thin legs and poor casting as well as a rather static pose. Having said that, the motorcycles and vehicles are lovely. I selected from the Belgian range, the French range and the Neutral Equipment range.

Overall now, it is a nicely fragile force of early war equipment. The figures have been based ready for sand to be added and painting to commence.

I will update Thomo’s Hole later with painting details as the point goes on.

For the future? I think the next early war forces will be the French, followed by the British prior to Dunkirk then more early Germans. To oppose the Soviets will be slightly later early war Germans and I also have the Japanese. Somewhere along the line I will add so Poles as well.

As to the quality of the figures, see for yourself and make up your own mind.

Images of War – Axis Tanks of the Second World War – Review

Written by Michael Green and published by Pen & Sword Military on 7th August 2017, 216 pages, ISBN 9781473887008, this publication contains a number of rare photographs from wartime archives, as well as photos of tanks still existing.

The book is split into fours chapters of Light Tanks; Early-War Medium Tanks; Late-War Medium Tanks; And Heavy Tanks.

Each chapter then looks at some of the background to the type of tanks and the various countries constructing them. For the German section of Light Tanks chapter for example, the Panzer I and Panzer II are naturally covered. Then the Czech light tanks and their variants in German use, Panzer 38(t), are discussed.

The chapter then moves on to the Italian Light Tanks, the various Carro Veloce marks followed by the Hungarian Toldi and Nimrod tanks. Japanese light tanks are then round out the narrative.

The 10 pages of narrative on the Light Tanks does not give more than superficial information but that is not the main purpose of this book – it is for photographs. 36 pages of photographs, most contemporary to the tanks along with some colour photos, generally of tanks in museums  and private collections.

The same format is followed for the remaining three chapters.

This book is full of interesting photographs and should be on the bookshelf of any AFV petrol or diesel heads. Best of all, it is currently on sale (October 2017).

Images of War – Axis Tanks of the Second World War