Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume II – Book Review

Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume II, written by John Lambert and Al Ross deals with Vosper MTBs and US Elcos. It was published on 9 April 2019 by Seaforth Publishing, an imprint of Pen and Sword Books, is 256 pages long and has ISBN: 9781526747556.

Like volume I, this is a reprint of a book first published by Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, in 1994 the picked up by  Conway Maritime Press in 2002. It was reprinted again in April 2005 by Conway’s. This volume deals with sixteen Vosper MTB designs, and the US 70′, 77′ and 80′ Elco designs.

Also, as with Volume 1, there are copies of volume 2 from 2002 available still, new, for US $72.40 at various outlets.

Vosper was established as a company in 1871. They became famous for the unstepped planing hull-form they developed which was the basis of their Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) and Motor Gun Boats (MGB) for the Royal Navy in World War II. The original boats had a length of 68 feet and were based upon the prototype MTB 102, which survives to this day as a museum piece.

Vosper 70′ MTB in Admiralty Light Basic scheme with recognition star used in the Mediterranean

Vosper’s designs were copied by many, especially given the speeds they acheived with their planing hulls. Apart from MTBs and MGBs, Vosper also built high speed launches for the the Royal Air Force for the rescue of air crew who ditched into the sea.

Vospers were not only built in the United Kingdom but also in the United States under license.

The illustration here are some of the vessels illustrated with differing camouflage designs are taken from the book. Apologies for the quality, I photographed with my tablet and one hand and it is a heavy tome.

Elco 80′ PT Boat in Measure 33/7P

As with the previous volume, the detail, drawings, plans and photographs in this book are super. Al Ross had a reputation as a very fine draughtsman and it shows in his drawings throughout the volume. Lambert covers the details of the vessels, the equipment that was present on the vessels, selected weapon systems and additional data.

The table of contents, apart from the usual sections of Foreword, Preface, Abbreviations and the like covers:

  • Vosper Ltd
  • Elco – a short history
  • Vosper’s private venture (MTB 102) and Bloodhound
  • Vosper MTB designs 1938-39
  • The Vosper 45ft MTB Design
  • Vosper designs 1940
  • MTB 74
  • MTB 103
  • Vosper designs 1941
  • Vosper designs 1942
  • MTB 510
  • Vosper designs 1943-45
  • Vosper construction
  • The Elco 70ft PT
  • The Elco 77ft PT
  • The Elco 80ft PT
  • Licence-built Vospers
  • PT construction
  • PT camouflage
  • The Packard 4M-2500 marine engine
  • Selected weapons systems (0.5in Vickers machine guns; 20mm Oerlikons (single and twin); 9mm Lanchester machine carbine; 18in and 21in torpedo tubes; PT torpedo armament and the Dewandre turret)
  • Additional data covering US 20mm, 37mm and 40mm mounts and guns; Rocket launchers; Development of bridge and wheelhouse during the Second World War; Notes on operating the Royal Navy Packard engines; Free French Vosper MTBs; The Vosper survivors; and Restored Elco PT 617.

As with the first volume, the writing in the book is clear an easy to both follow and understand. It has been fascinating to read about these vessels, so much so that I am looking for similar works on Axis boats. It is a shame that the third volume mooted back in the 1990s never eventuated as it would have dealt with the British Power Boat 70ft MTBs and MGBs which were also very successful boats.

This also is a must have book for anyone interested in coastal warfare and a great companion to Volume 1. There is nothing I can think of that is really missing from this coverage. Best, along with volume 1, it is on special at the moment (23 July 2019)  at Pen and Sword.

Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume I – Book Review

Allied Coastal Forces of World War II – Volume I, written by John Lambert and Al Ross deals with Fairmile Designs and the US Submarine Chasers. It was published on 12 December 2018 by Seaforth Publishing, an imprint of Pen and Sword Books, is 256 pages long and has ISBN: 9781526744494*(see below).

I do love naval history and I have a particular interest in small boats (and big ships and all in between truth be told). This volume deals with some of my favourite vessels, the Fairmiles.

Fairmile Marine was a British boat building company founded in 1939 by the car manufacturer Noel Macklin using his garage at Cobham Fairmile in Surrey for manufacturing assembly. His company was run as an agency of the Admiralty, the company carrying out business without turning a profit, the staff being in effect part of the civil service.

Fairmile B – Admiralty Light Modification Scheme

His first design was the Fairmile A Motor Launch (ML) but the most ubiquitous of the Fairmiles was the Fairmile B ML. Over 600 of these were built over the period 1940 to 1945. Originally designed as submarine chasers the Motor Launches were fitted with ASDIC. Later versions of the Fairmiles (the C, D and F versions) were fitted out as gunboats with the Ds also rigged as Motor Torpedo Boats.

Coastal naval warfare in both the North Sea and the Mediterranean were fiercely fought skirmishes between the Allied MLs, MGBs and MTBs and the Axis E-Boats, R-Boats, MAS boats and the like. The Fairmile boats made up a considerable portion of Coastal Command and fought in all theatres.

Fairmile B – Admiralty Dark Modification Scheme – a harbour defence ML

The illustration here are some of the vessels illustrated with differing camouflage designs are taken from the book. Apologies for the quality, I photographed with my tablet and one hand and it is a heavy tome.

The detail, drawings, plans and photographs in this book are super. The authors cover the details of the vessels, the equipment that was present on the vessels, selected weapon systems and additional data, including the fate of most of the vessels. For example, we can see the builder, when a vessel was completed and its fate. In the case of ML 400, this vessel was built in New Zealand and completed on 18 November 1942. It served in the RNZN where it sailed as HMNZS Kahu, being sold in 1947 and sailing then as the Dolphin.

US Submarine Chaser, SC497, part of a class of 110′ sub chasers in measure 14 camouflage

The US Submarine Chasers are covered as well, although not in as great a detail.

The table of contents, apart from the usual sections of Forewards, Authors Notes, Prefaces, Abbreviations and the like  covers:

  • The Fairmile company
  • The Fairmile B ML
  • The Canadian Fairmile B ML
  • The Fairmile C motor gunboat
  • The Fairmile D MTB/MGB
  • The Fairmile F MGB
  • The Fairmile H Landing Craft
  • The SC 497 class 110 ft sub chaser
  • Depth Charges and anti-submarine equipment
  • British Coastal Forces radar
  • British Coastal Forces camouflage
  • Engines and engineering
  • Weapons systems (depth charge projectors, flares, machine guns, 1- and 2-pounder guns, 4.5in guns and the like

The extensive appendices include:

  • Schedule of British Builders
  • Fairmile production analysis Yard analysis Consumption of major materials
  • Area comparisons
  • Building times

all in all, 12 appendices.

The writing in the book is clear an easy to both follow and understand. Best, most of the book is in shorter chapters making it easier to read and follow over shorter reading sessions. I have learnt so much from this work that I am really itching to start on their volume 2 which covers perhaps the most famous of the Allied coastal vessels, the Vosper MTBs and US Elcos. There is a third volume being prepared covering the British Power Boat 70ft MTBs and MGBs which were very successful boats.

This really is a must have book for anyone interested in coastal warfare. There is nothing I can think of that is really missing from this coverage. Best, it is on special at the moment (20 July 2019)  at Pen and Sword.


* Please note the following (21 July 2019):

This work was originally published in 1994. in the US it was published by the Naval Institute Press (and I am guessing by Conway’s in the UK). In 2005 it was reprinted and published by Conway’s in the UK (and I am guessing that the Naval Institute Press may well have republished then too). I have not seen either of those editions so I can’t comment on any change in content in this edition. I can, however, note that a new copy of the 1994 version is selling on Amazon for US $225 dollars and the 2005 version new for US $165.60. The £32.00 current version from Pen and Sword therefore looks good value by comparison.

I should also note that unfortunately, the third volume covering the British Power Boat 70ft MTBs and MGBs was never published.

Blitzkrieg Commander IV – a Quick Read … not a Review

Blitzkrieg Commander IV Cover

I mentioned that Blitzkrieg Commander IV was being released at Salute last Saturday. Those of us with digital copies however managed to get our hands on it a couple of days sooner than those waiting on physical copies.

It is much better than BKC III was. The army lists have been corrected, at least the ones I had a look at seemed to be better aligned with Historical organization and equipment.

I’m looking forward to some downtime soon so I can read these in detail and maybe organise a little Soviet on Soviet action to test them out.

I believe the hard copies of the rules are mostly in the post to those who ordered BKC III previously, us digital folks already have our copies. World War II micro armour has suddenly just become more interesting, just as I have a mountain of modern Poles and French to paint for Cold War Commander!

Blitzkrieg Commander IV – the replacement for BKC III

Blitzkrieg Commander IV Cover

Back in May 2017 I published a couple of blog posts here in Thomo’s Hole on the furore that surrounded the release of Blitzkrieg Commander III (BKC III) by Pendraken Miniatures. See Blitzkrieg Commander III and Blitzkrieg Commander III – The Final Decision for my thoughts at that time. There were a considerable number of flaws in the rules and the BKC playing community was almost unanimous in its criticism of the rules. This left Pendraken with a commercially difficult decision to make at the time and they decided:

  • to pull PKB III from sale
  • to provide a copy of BKC III.1 when it is produced
  • to attempt to do it all over a three month period

This has, of course, cost Pendraken moneywise but again I can only applaud Pendraken for their commitment to quality. While Pendraken were originally hoping to have a corrected BKC III (called BKC III.1) over about a three month period they have taken the option of taking their time and doing it right, judging by the reviews I have read recently.

It has taken nearly two years to correct BKC III and this correction will be released early in April 2019, at Salute, as Blitzkrieg Commander IV. Blitzkrieg Commander IV contains 44 army lists and 15 scenarios. Pendraken also note that a Quick Reference Sheet, Optional Rules and further material can be found in the Blitzkrieg Commander IV section of the Pendraken Forum.

Given the problems with BKC III I guess there will be some caution from wargamers about this new release, some reluctance to be early adopters of this version. I would also expect that many gamers who would have tried BKC may have, over the last two years, drifted off to other World War II wargaming rules. Recognizing the caution of gamers after the last release, I note that Pendraken have some reviews of the new rules out already from some veteran gamers and some who were rather critical of the previous release. Positive reviews have been provided by Mal Wright and Nik Harwood that I have seen to date.

As for those of us who purchased BKC III, the news is good. Pendraken have noted in their forum in BKC-IV Released at Salute 2019 that:

Replacement Copies

Now our first priority is to get a copy of BKC-IV out to everyone who bought BKC-III when it was released.  How this is done will depend on how you purchased originally:

Bought Online / Not going to Salute 2019
– You will already be in the replacement queue and don’t need to do anything.  Your copy will ship out first, possibly before we leave for Salute but most likely on the Monday/Tuesday after the show.  If you’ve moved house since April 2017, you’ll need to drop us an email with your new address.

Bought Online / Going to Salute 2019
– Please contact us to let us know that you will be attending Salute and we will pull your original order from the replacement queue.  We’ll bring your new copy along to Salute for you.

Bought at Salute / Not going to Salute 2019
– If you bought at Salute but won’t be attending this year, we’ll need you to either send us the cover of your BKC-III book, or a picture of it by email, along with the address that you’d like your replacement sending to.  We apologise for the hassle involved in doing this, but it’s the only way for us to verify that you bought a copy of BKC-III.  If you’re outside the UK, it’s probably easier to send a photo, but contact us if you’re having any problems.

Bought at Salute / Going to Salute 2019
– If you’ll be attending Salute again this year, simply bring your copy of BKC-III along to the show and we’ll swap it for a shiny new copy of BKC-IV!  If you’d like to keep hold of the previous rules for any reason, we’ll need to either remove the cover or mark the inside to show that the copy has been replaced.

Bought on Wargame Vault
– You don’t need to do anything at all, you will receive your new pdf copy of BKC-IV through Wargame Vault automatically.  We don’t have a confirmed date for this just yet, but you should receive your replacement pdf by Monday 8th at the latest.

If there’s any queries on that, please let me know and we’ll get you sorted out.  If you’ve already been in touch or given us your BKC-III cover, then you’re already in the replacement system and don’t need to worry.

So, more power to Leon at Pendraken for doing not just a good thing but also the right thing for hos customers.

I am looking forward to my copy arriving soon.

YouTube – Navwar Parcel #02 Arrives

I received my Christmas gift to myself from Navwar. Seven fleet packs were included (World War 2 Argentinian and Brazilian and Dutch, Italian, French, UK and US modern). Here we have a brief look at the contents of each pack.

I will show more as I prepare each pack for painting … but first I need to finish Anthony’s 20mm World War 2 Brits.

Watch it here:

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!

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.