Little Wars TV – The Battle of Kharkov (Donets Campaign)

I am enjoying the wargames put one from time to time by the Little Wars guys. Little Wars has become my favourite wargaming channel. I enjoyed the Fourth Kawanakajima Wargame in early November. This week it is the Battle of Kharkov.

The Third Battle of Kharkov was a series of battles on the Eastern Front of World War II, undertaken by the German Army Group South against the Red Army, around the city of Kharkov between 19 February and 15 March 1943. Known to the German side as the Donets Campaign, and in the Soviet Union as the Donbas and Kharkov operations, the German counterstrike led to the recapture of the cities of Kharkov and Belgorod.

The commander of the German forces for this campaign was Erich von Manstein, with Paul Hausser, Hermann Hoth, E. von Mackensen and Theodor Eicke. The Soviets were led by Filipp Golikov, Nikolay Vatutin, K. Rokossovsky and Vasily Koptsov. Manstein’s. Wikipedia has a reasonable description of the Battle of Kharkov.

The battle was technically a German victory – against hugely overwhelming odds if Manstein’s report is to be believed however with the German losses in materiel and men, I think overall this can be considered a strategic victory for the Soviets, especially as by this stage of the war the Soviet tactics of attrition were really starting to pay off.

The Little Wars guys were refighting the battle using 1/285 scale vehicles and aircraft and 6mm figures. The wargame rules they used were A Fistful of TOWs. I had always thought of a Fistful of TOWs as modern wargame rules but I see that version 3 has extended the period covered from 1915 to 2015. As they are available in PDF form as well as hardcopy, I am thinking of downloading a copy for reading on my upcoming travels to Oz.

Enough of my rabbiting on … enjoy watching the wargame!

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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.

 

The Best of Don Winslow of the Navy: A Collection of High-Seas Stories from Comics’ Most Daring Sailor – Review

The All-American Hero – Don Winslow

It was an unexpected surprise. A parcel from the US Naval Institute Press was waiting for me at the Post Office and I had already received the batch of books I was expecting as well as the model ships that were on order. I wondered what it was but as it was raining here, I could not open the parcel to examine the contents until I got back to the office. What a great surprise.

Edited by Craig Yoe and published by Dead Reckoning in September, 2018, the copy I received was forwarded by the U.S. Naval Institute and was the hardcopy of the book. The book is 272 pages long, with ISBN-13: 9781682473238 and is sized at 8.5 X 11 in.

There are, I believe, a Kindle and ePDF (ePub?) version as well.

The back cover – from here it is obvious the style of the content

Who was Don Winslow? The character was first created in 1934 as a newspaper comic strip by Lt. Cdr. Frank Victor Martinek USNR. As this was the period between wars, his erstwhile enemy at this time was a supervillain simply known as “The Scorpion”.

Winslow was noted as being “tall, stalwart, handsome,, all-America, moral, strong, intelligent – in other words, perfect in every way!”

Whether Don Winslow was created as a bit of fun (hobby) or to assist in the recruitment of young men into the U.S. Navy is problematic. What is known is that Don Winslow battled evil in all its forms with intelligence, bravado, and his faithful sidekick, Lt. Red Pennington! Don’s best girl was Mercedes Colby, daughter of retired Admiral Colby and sometime nurse. Don and Red bounced around Asia battling The Scorpion’s evil plans along with the infamous pirate Singapore Sal (you could tell she was a pirate as she had a skull and crossbones on her hat 😁) until Worlld War 2 came along and they could battle the Nazis and Japanese.

Don escaping the Japanese trap (I think)

Don Winslow was made into a radio serial in 1937 and the comic lasted until 1957 when it finally disappeared from the King Features stable.

The book is full of action packed Don Winslow comics as he and Red face-off against the full variety of nefarious enemies in the best pulp fiction manner. My personal favourite nemesis is Singapore Sal. There are 26 comics included (28 if you could the three part Death for Sale separately). Comics such as:

  • The Stolen Battleship
  • Don Winslow of the Navy Climbs Mt Everest
  • Don Winslow of the Navy meets Singapore Sal
  • The Return of Singapore Sal
  • Messenger of Death, and
  • The Doomed Atoll

to name a few!

Don Winslow is really likely only to be familiar to readers from the US as unlike heroes such as the Phantom, Winslow was very much an American here (the Phantom was very much everyone’s hero).

Having said that, I have enjoyed returning to the 1930s and 1940s courtesy of the Craig Yoe’s collection of Don Winslow of the Navy comics – back to a time when heroes wore white and had strong jaws and evil villains were clearly evil villains.

 

Fujimi/Navwar 1/3000 Naval Vessels – Ready for Paint

I have been working a little on two of the Fujimi ships as well as the equivalent Navwar vessels, getting them ready for paint in between bouts of coughing, sneezing, sleeping and putting up with a nose running like Usain Bolt. The Fujimi vessels came from Hobby Link Japan. The metal vessels are Navwar. The vessels are the carrier Shōkaku and the battleship Yamato. They have been attached to bases and the start of a sea surface added. I will get around to painting later this week or early next week.

Fujimi 1/3000 Naval Vessels

A friend here (hi Servillano) put me on to Fujimi’s 1/3000 ships. Now, having a sizeable collection of Navwar 1/3000 vessels plus some from War Times Journal, I was curious to see how Fujimi’s efforts stacked up. Now up front I will admit the GHQ’s 1/2400 vessels are the crème de la crème of model  vessels around this scale however Navwar provide, in my opinion, a better value for money being considerably less expensive than GHQ.

Fujimi adds another dimension. For a coupe of thousand Yen, I could pick up the 5th Carrier Division consisting of the carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku as well as 6 destroyers. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

I will of course display both again after painting but clearly the plastic from Fujimi has greater detail. It also has  deck decals to add later 😁

Lastly, I also picked up a second box that contained a Yamoto. Unassembled, the Navwar and the Fujjimi Yamoto’s, side by side:

The vessels are from Fujimi but I picked up mine from Hobby Link Japan.

Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II – Marco Ghiglino – Review

Waiting for me at the Post Office today was a parcel from the Naval Institute Press. Posted on 20 July 2018 in the US it arrived at my local post office here about a week ago I guess and the note from the Post Office telling me I had a parcel was received last Friday.

Now I will admit that over the last few weeks I have been reading a Naval Institute Press publication, the brilliant Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume 1 by Julian S Corbett. That was tossed aside as soon as I had a quick flick through Italian Naval Camouflage of World War II by Marco Ghiglino. This has been published by Seaforth Publishing in 2018 and is a book of some 240 pages. The ISBN for this is:

  • 978 1 5267 3539 3 (Hardback)
  • 978 1 5267 3540 9 (ePub)
  • 978 1 5267 3541 6 (Kindle)

What a book! Firstly I should note that the actual size of the book is the same as each of Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II series so sits nicely next to them on the bookshelf. Secondly, this is the first major work on Italian Naval Camouflage of World War 2 in English that I am aware of. There have been some minor publications over the years and references in books ostensibly on other topics as well as Italian language publications (such as La Mimetizzazione della Navi Italiane 1940-1945) but this is the first in English and that makes this information more generally available.

The book is broken up into 12 major chapter:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Early Period and the Experimental Phase
  3. Standard Camouflage Schemes
  4. Evolution and Exemptions
  5. The Dark Grey Factor
  6. Submarines
  7. MAS, Motor Torpedo Boats and VAS
  8. Other Warships
  9. The Greek Factor
  10. Merchant Ships
  11. The Armistice
  12. Ship Profiles

Ghiglino follows the development of camouflage in the Regia Marina from the peacetime colourings and aerial markings through to wartime practice. He also includes a section covering the change of camouflage with vessels captured by the Germans and those remaining in Italian hands and employed by the Allies

One particular area of interest to me in among many areas of interest were the colours used on MAS, Motor Boats and VAS along with the colours used by Italian submaries which carried a number of different schemes.

Each chapter is lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs, some in early colour. Unlike other publications concerning World War 2 the photographs used to illustrate here are good quality, and the detail in those photographs is quite clear.

By far, however, the best section of this book is the one dealing with ship profiles. Profiles are provided for:

  1. Battleships
  2. Cruisers
  3. Destroyers
  4. Torpedo Boats
  5. Escort Ships (Auxiliary Cruisers)
  6. Corvettes
  7. MAS and MTB
  8. Gunboats, Minelayers adn Minesweepers
  9. Landing Vessels
  10. Auxiliary Ships
  11. Armament

Looking at the section on battleships (and who doesn’t like these Queens of the Seas) there is a brief discussion of battleship camouflage, noting that Littorio was the first battleship to receive a camouflage scheme in March 1941. Other ships receiving the camouflage are then listed. Also noted in this short section is the repainting of Veneto, Italia (ex-Littorio) Duilio and Doria in the Allied two-colour livery later in the war.

What then follows is the best part of the book – the CAD drawings of vessels and their camouflage schemes. The drawings generally show the starboard side of a vessel and provide a brief description of the camouflage scheme used, including, where possible, the creator of the scheme. The CAD drawing also displays the scale of the drawing and there are multiple drawings of the same ship indicating the changes to the camouflage scheme used over time. For example, Guilio Cesare is illustrated at 1:900 scale as she appeared in December 1941, January 1942, May 1942, June 1942 (this time with port and starboard views), June 1943 (also port and starboard views) and lastly in 1949 when she was transferred to the Soviet Navy, renamed Novorossiysk and painted Soviet grey.

Other vessels that were captured by the Germans are shown in both Regia Marina camouflage as well as Kriegsmarine camouflage.

I am certain that this book does not illustrate every vessel in Regia Marina Service but it certainly appears to cover all vessels from gunboat size and above.

The book also contains a useful (if you speak Italian) bibliography, acknowledgments and best of the reference sections, an index of ships throughout the book.

Given the number of clashes between the Royal Navy and the Regia Marina in the Mediterranean in World War 2, Mal Wright’s British and Commonwealth Warship Camouflage of WW II series would be a perfect companion.

I really can’t find enough superlatives to describe this book. It certainly belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in World War 2 naval history, particularly either the Regia Marina or naval camouflage. If I needed to rate this book out of five, I would have no hesitation giving it 6 stars out of 5. Brilliant book, simply brilliant.

Despatches from the Front: Far East Air Operations – 1942-1945 – Review

Title: Far East Air Operations – 1942-1945
Compiled by: Martin Mace & John Grehan, additional research material from Sara Mitchell
Published by:Pen & Sword Aviation in 2014
ISBN: 9781473841215 (ePub Version)

I received a digital copy of this volume of Despatches from the Front, the Commanding Officers’ Reports From the Field and at Sea covering air operations over the period 1942 to 1945 over the Far East (Burma and South East Asia generally). This is one of the series of twenty books covering Despatches from the Front, dealing with the history of the British Armed Forces and covering topics such as:

  • Capital Ships at War 1939/1945
  • Disaster in the Far East 1940-1942
  • Gallipoli and the Dardanelles 1915-1916
  • The Zulu Wars
  • British Battles of the Napoleonic Wars 1793-1806
  • Operations in North Africa and the Middle East 1939-1942
  • Operations in North Africa and the Middle East 1942–1944
  • The War in East Africa 1939-1943
  • The War at Sea in the Mediterranean 1940-1944
  • Western Front 1914-1916
  • Western Front 1917-1918

This is an interesting work and is by and large source material from World War 2 along the lines of a Xenophon – and to those interested in World War 2 in Asia, perhaps as interesting. The book is in four main sections covering four despatches back to “Head Office”, namely:

  1. Air Vice-Marshal Stevenson’s despatch on air operations, Burma and Bay of Bengal 1 January to 22 May 1942
  2. Air Chief Marshal Peirse’s despatch on air operations in South East Asia 16 November 1943 to 31 May 1944
  3. Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park’s despatch on air operations in South East Asia from 1st June, 1944 to the Occupation of Rangoon, 2nd May 1945
  4. Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park’s despatch on air operations in South East Asia 3 May 1945 to 12 September 1945

This is a source book, and a great source book containing as it does the despatches from the field mentioned above. Additionally, as part of the inclusion there are some great photos taken of various air attacks by different units relevant to the despatches themselves.

Each of the despatches in this book covers a period of the air war initially over Burma and the Bay of Bengal and then later of South East Asia generally as the Allies pushed the Japanese back. We often think of the war in Burma in terms of Slim and the Chindits, and Alexander’s withdrawal to India followed by the rebuilding of Commonwealth forces in India before the counter attack so it is good to read these despatches which remind us of the contribution made by the air force initially to the defence of Burma and then later to the victory in that theatre. I would recommend reading this volume in company with:

  • The Fall of Burma 1941-1943
  • The Battle for Burma 1943-1945

Reading the despatches, Air Vice-Marshal Stevenson’s despatches were particularly interesting, highlighting the qualitative difference his 53 aircraft had over the 450-500 Japanese aircraft but also highlighting the difficulties he had with no effective early warning system leading to the risk to his Hurricanes and P-40s.

Air Chief Marshal Peirse’s despatches reflect the position he found himself in where unlike Stevenson’s small, outnumbered airforce, Peirse had 48 RAF and 17 USAAF squadrons under command against a Japanese air force of some 250 aircraft. Peirse also had upgraded aircraft with his Spitfire’s enjoying an 8 to 1 superiority in kills.

The objective of the book (and indeed all in the series compiled by Mace and Grehan) is to “reproduce the despatches as they first appeared to the general public some seventy years ago. They have not been modified or edited in any way and are therefore the original and unique words of the commanding officers as they saw things at the time.”

In the opening of Stevenson’s despatch, General Sir Archibald P. Wavell, G.C.B., C.M.G., M.C., A.D.C. wrote to the Chiefs of Staff, London, “I forward herewith two copies of a report by Air-Vice_Marchal D.F. Stevenson on Air operations in Burma and the Bay of Bengal from January 1st (the date in which Air-Vice-Marshal Stevenson assumed command) to May 22nd, 1942 (the date when the forces in Burma completed evacuation to India.”

When Stevenson took over command from Group Captain E.R. Manning, he noted that he “found that the air garrison of the country comprised one Squadron of the American Volunteer Group, armed with P.40’s at a strength of 21 I.E. based at Mingaladon, and No.67 R.A.F. Buffalo Squadron and a strength of about 16 aircraft, also based at this Sector Station. Apart from the personnel of 60 Squadron – whose aircraft had been retained in Malaya – and the Communication Flight equipped with aircraft of the Moth type belonging to the Burma Volunteer Air Force, there was at that time no further aircraft in the country. Reinforcing aircraft for the Far East were, however, flying through Burma to Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.”

Stevenson goes on to relate other aircraft movements, the defence of key areas and the airfields and so on. There is a wealth of detail in not just the first despatch here but in the four in this book.

This is an interesting book, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on others from the Despatches from the Front Series. I recommend this book to the military historian, general reader with an interest in the Second World War in Indochina and Burma, and the wargamer building scenarios from this theatre!

The book is available in Hardback, ePub and Kindle formats.

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.

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