Sunday, May 19

"Firing into the Brown" #48 - Phoenix, gun ports and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update..
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Spotted this on Farcebook the other day - never seen it before, but it touches on a subject I had a brief'ish mention of here [clicky] and it's a fascinating picture..

This is Hayling beach - just down the road from me, and at the entrance to Langstone Harbour - and the hive of activity you see is construction of Phoenix (type C) caissons destined for Normandy as part of the Mulberry Harbours. There were four built between '43 and '44, so I would guess this is probably sometime in late '43, or early '44 given the state of construction and the workers clothes. 

The building in the far distance is now the Ferryboat Inn pub. View hasn't changed that much despite the years...  and the concrete support blocks are still there...

Piccie courtesy Tripadvisor

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Other blokes collects stamps, I collect gun ports... 😁

Was out on the bike the other day and wanted to see if any of the forward/front facing, gun ports were still visible on the Hilsea Lines despite the landscaping, and having been covered in the intervening years..  was surprised to find several - all bricked in of course, but one of them still has the remains of what must have been a steel shutter

No shutters but note the hinges for where they would have been



Look at that arch of bricks...

Remains of a steel shutter still visible.. note also the crappy quality of the brickwork to block the entrance compared to the others..  given the graffiti on this one I'd day that this one has been used for access more recently than the others by the "local youf"... 😏

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 Laters, as the young people are want to say...

Saturday, May 4

"Firing into the Brown" #47 - Armstrong 7" 'ers, Sansom and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update..
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..I came across this on Farcebook, and it is absolutely fascinating, it also has a direct bearing on the minor investigations and research I've been doing over the winter on the Hilsea Lines, as these would have been the guns that were mounted for a short time between 1886 and their eventual removal in 1903. By the by, these were also the heavy guns we saw fitted to HMS Warrior in the previous post.


It's worth noting that the design of these guns were already over 20 years old by the time they were actually installed in the Lines..  given that the Lines were already obsolete before they were even completed, and these guns were the first equipped despite the Lines having been completed 15 odd years before, it's also not beyond the realms of reason to conclude that these would have been guns not needed elsewhere..  😏

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I was sad to read this week of the death of the author CJ Sansom, one of my favourite writers..

He was perhaps best known for his books about the barrister Matthew Shardlake, set in Tudor England against the background of Henry VIII's court and the machinations of Thomas Cromwell, which I loved and have read all of (and this has caused me to want to revisit them soon), but I think his finest books were two relatively modern period ones he wrote..

Of the two "Winter in Madrid" is awesome and I reviewed it here [clicky] giving it a very solid 9 out of 10, but the best book by far is "Dominion". I reviewed it here [clicky] giving it a 10, and I absolutely completely and totally recommend it - if you haven't yet, you need to read it.

Sansom is (was πŸ˜”) one of those near mythical story tellers that I rave about - he was up there with the best, and I shall miss not having any more new stories from him, but what a legacy he leaves behind...

RIP, Sir...

Guardian Obituary [clicky]..

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 Laters, as the young people are want to say...

Saturday, April 20

I have been to... HMS Warrior

Time for another update..
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Time to take advantage of my yearly dockyard ticket, this time with a visit to HMS Warrior which I don't think I've been on in over 20 years..  I seem to remember the last time might have been either a wedding reception or a charity dinner (either of which you can host on the ship) given by the hospital that the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer worked at..  anyway, more than long enough since I've been on board this awe inspiring piece of naval architecture.. she is utterly magnificent (piccie following) and dominates the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour - you can't help but notice her! 


There's a trend here (as you'd expect), and like Mary Rose and Alliance, her inclusion in the museum is because she marks a crossover, in this case between the wooden warships of Nelson's day, and the first iron framed, and ironclad, warships of latter times..

Anyway - brief history/summary, Warrior is a 40-gun, steam-powered, armoured frigate built between 1859 & 1861. What I didn't appreciate before this visit was that Warrior was a class of warship and she also had a sister ship HMS Black Prince. They were the first armour-plated, iron-hulled, warships ever built, and were a response to France's launching in 1859 of the "Gloire" (and two sister ships). Gloire was the first ever ocean-going ironclad warship, but wooden-hulled...  the Royal Navy clearly couldn't leave that unchallenged , and besides, didn't have anything that could match in terms of firepower and more importantly protection* so Warrior and Black Prince were ordered in a hurry... πŸ˜€

*(it really did cause almost a national emergency - sparked a massive invasion scare, and a lot of the fortification building that subsequently happened was also because of it)

Unless I'm mistaken this would have been one of the four Rifled breechloading 40-pdr's - I was much taken with the attached caisson - clearly it could be moved and used wherever required...

Armament was:
  • 26 × Smoothbore muzzle-loading 68-pdr (206 mm) guns (and consider that only 50 years before, the largest gun on HMS Victory would have been 32pdr)
  • 10 × Rifled breechloading 110-pdr (178 mm) guns
  • 4 × Rifled breechloading 40-pdr (121 mm) guns
Despite being the most powerful ship afloat at the time - she never fired in anger - she was the atom bomb of her day, a deterrent..

Bow chaser - one of the Rifled breechloading 110-pdr's I think

I can confirm it is real (not a fibreglass or wooden copy), and a feel inside the barrel showed it was rifled.. 😏

I was massively taken with the bronze tracks on the deck - they would have been used to protect the deck during recoil, but more to assist with the laying of the gun - moving it from side to side for aiming

Stern chaser - details as per the bow chaser

She would have had a crew of just over 700 men (including officers) and I confirm that there were multiples of these (following) scattered around the ship

1858 Enfield rifles, with bayonets - I believe the rifles are replicas (there are a lot of them so I'm not surprised!) but that the bayonets may be original

Also side arms.. 

1851 Navy pattern Colt revolvers - these are replicas, but the originals would have been made by the Samuel Colt Armoury in London. The stand is a ready use "crocus" weapon rack - there were two or three of these scattered round the ship - there was also a pistol next to every gun on the gun deck for use in the event of boarding.. 

...and then the piece de resistance..  my favourite part of the ship, the main gun deck.. it's difficult to show how light, open, and airy this space is compared to Victory - good standing head room, plenty of space between each gun, but a sailor on Victory would have felt quite at home on Warrior I think - the guns may be bigger, but the loading process is similar, the 'messing' arrangements are the same - tables between the guns for 18 sailors (the mess) who basically lived as a small sub unit of the crew in terms of rations, drink, socialising, etc. Men each mess would take it in turns to be mess cook- this job entailed collecting the food for your mess for each meal, taking it to the galley to be cooked, bringing it to the mess table and dolling it out fairly. They also slept between the guns in hammocks - 18" of shoulder room only..

Thirteen 68pdrs leading off into the distance..  same on the other side..

...with a 110 pdr rifled breech-loader at each end for a bit of extra oomph.. 😏

Better view of the mess living space..  note also that the Royal Navy muzzle loaders are now largely recoil-less and the carriages don't have wheels - basically they have a massive iron pin at the front which attaches the gun directly to the ship - any recoil is thus absorbed by the ship..

So how fast was she? In addition to the sails she carried on the main masts, she also had a two-cylinder trunk steam engine, made by John Penn and Sons, using steam provided by 10 rectangular boilers to drive a single propeller. During sea trials in 1868 she got up to just over 14kn's - she carried enough fuel (coal) to steam just over 2000 nm at 11 kn. She could do 13 kn's just under sail alone - and the propeller could be raised to reduce drag while sailing (though it took 600 men to do it as the thing was damn heavy!) To further reduce drag, her funnels were telescopic and could be lowered.

Under sail and steam together, the ship once reached 17.5 kn against the tide while running from Portsmouth to Plymouth

Two cylinder steam engine..

Last of all this was what made her the wonder of the age that she was..  the armoured "belt" on Warrior

4" of hammered wrought iron armour plate facing..

..with 18" (!) of teak backing..

Fantastic ship - but like the Hilsea Lines she had SUCH a short shelf life and all due to the sheer speed of technological advance at the time - so commissioned in 1861, she went on a public relations cruise around the UK in 1863 (to show the flag and also to train up the crew in an entirely new kind of ship) before joining the Channel Squadron as flagship. 

She began a refit in November 1864 and was recommissioned in 1867. 

In 1871 however, the Royal Navy commissioned its first mast less capital ship, HMS Devastation (from lessons learned during the American Civil War, and especially the turreted Monitor) and shortly after Warrior went in to second line/reserve (after just 10 years!). She was classified a hulk in 1900. After that she was the unglamorous maid of all sorts..
  • The ship was used as a storage hulk from May 1901 to July 1902.
  • In preparation for service as a depot ship for a flotilla of destroyers, the ship had her engines and boilers removed and part of her upper deck roofed over. 
  • In March 1904, she was assigned to the Portsmouth-based Vernon, the Royal Navy's torpedo-training school and was renamed Vernon III in order to release her name for a new armoured cruiser HMS Warrior. New boilers and electric generators were installed so that she could supply steam and electricity to the neighbouring hulks that made up Vernon.

    ..as Vernon III..

  • In October 1923, the school was transferred to a newly built shore installation, rendering Warrior and her companion hulks redundant; Warrior resumed her name (the battle cruiser had sunk) but the Royal Navy declared her redundant six months later.
  • due to the number of ships being scrapped after WW1 there was no demand for scrap iron when the Navy decided to sell her off, so she remained in Portsmouth for another four years being modified into a mooring jetty in 1927. 
  • Her new home was Pembroke Dock in Wales, where from 1929 she served as a floating oil jetty for the next 50 (!) years
  • During World War II she served as a base ship for coastal minesweepers and renamed Oil Fuel Hulk C77 to release her name for use by a light aircraft carrier, HMS Warrior, then under construction.
    Oil Fuel Hulk C77..   πŸ˜ž
Unglamorous then, but the very utilitarian nature of the service she did after decommission is exactly what saved her..  she was also lucky, as Black Prince was scrapped in 1923.

Brilliant day out - very much recommended for a visit..

Further references and reading:

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 Laters, as the young people are want to say...

Saturday, April 13

"Firing into the Brown" #46 - mystery buildings and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update..
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(ex) Factories of renown...  virtual prize to the first person who correctly identifies it - if ever a building deserved a blue plaque this one does... building centre right with the two open windows..

I remember going there a few times when I was a much younger Steve the Wargamer..

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 Laters, as the young people are want to say...

Saturday, April 6

"Firing into the Brown" #45 - Burma, tables and stuff..

"So Carnehan weeds out the pick of his men, and sets the two of the Army to show them drill and at the end of two weeks the men can manoeuvre about as well as Volunteers. So he marches with the Chief to a great big plain on the top of a mountain, and the Chiefs men rushes into a village and takes it; we three Martinis firing into the brown of the enemy".

Kipling "The Man Who Would Be King"

Time for another update..  just a short one this week (for which I apologise), but there is just so much going on in the other hobby at the moment that there's little time for wargaming'y activity..

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Holland is one of my favourite military historians, one because he has a very easy reading style, but second, and most, because his histories focus on the individual - like Richard Holmes (RIP) he is one of those historians who tells the story from the bottom up, rather than the grand sweeping view downwards.. in my view (and theirs), it is the man and woman in the field who make the strategies, and the tactics work, and I am endlessly fascinated by their memories and recollections of what it was actually like to be there at the time..  

Quite possibly the best of his books, was the one I read on the siege of Malta late last year - a real 10 plus'er - so I was looking forward to reading this one immensely, as not only is it by Holland, but I'll be quite honest and say I am not particularly au fait with the Far Eastern theatre of operation in WW2 so was looking to learn a little more.

Holland argues that the Battle of the Admin Box in Burma in '44 was quite possibly the turning point of the war in Far East as far as the British/Indian troops were concerned - up until that point in time, much as Rommel had been the bogey man in the desert, the Japanese had been the bogey man for the soldiers of the Allies in the Far East. They were seen as fierce, unbeatable, and closely allied with the jungle, and between the two of them Allied soldiers at the time were at a considerable morale deficit - they were seen as unbeatable.

When Mountbatten was put in charge of the theatre however (and that in itself was an interesting decision) he proved to be a dynamic leader (also interesting as it's definitely at odds with the picture of Mountbatten you get in the book on Operation Jubilee by Patrick Bishop for example) and one of his first (have to say, inspired) decisions was to put Slim in charge of the 14th 'Forgotten' Army, who together with a talented and inspired staff started training the army to the point where they felt that they might have a chance - one of the hero's for me was Messervy, who after an ignominious career in the Western Desert had been sacked and sent to the Far East (which seemed to be the dumping ground for all the failures in West and Middle East!) but where he argued strenuously that heavy and medium tanks could be used in the jungle - in my mind an absolute game changer and one of the main reasons that the British won the battle..

So what of the Battle of the Admin Box [clicky]?

  • at the start of '44, and after the winter of training mentioned, Slim launched his offensive into the Arakan (the costal province of Burma), 
  • at the same time the Japanese launched their offensive aimed at sucking in Allied resources so as to make a second Japanese offensive on the central front easier
  • the Japanese infiltrated the British and Indian front lines and besieged what was known as the Admin Box - an administration centre for the coordination of operations for the 14th Army
  • as a result of the intensive training, although the box comprised mostly HQ staff, admin, radio operators, engineers, hospital and medical staff - they were all now trained in weapons and tactics, but before they were sealed off, were reinforced by a couple of squadron of tanks (Lee's - which were obsolescent everywhere except the Far East!), and also men of the West Yorkshire Regiment, Gurkha's, and also artillery
  • despite continued attacks the siege was unsuccessful and the British/Indian/Gurkha's held out for a little over two weeks, before the Japanese broke off and retreated
  • other main reasons they won apart from those tanks? 
    • that training - they troops on the ground knew what to do and had been trained in small unit tactics and weapons - their morale was good at the beginning, and only grew as they saw the successes of beating off attacks
    • air superiority through a combination of Spitfire Mk VIII's and the introduction of Battle of Britain style air coordination
    • air supply - the box was getting two or three air drops a day courtesy RAF Dakota's
    • the Japanese tactics of living off the land - which failed when their primary source of supply (the army) refused to give it up - basically the Japanese army starved to death
Excellent book then, and an inspiring read, but only an eight out of ten for me - primarily because of a lack of other first had accounts to bolster the narrative - basically nothing major from any of the Indian, Gurkha or Japanese combatants, as Holland himself admits, they just don't exist..

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Wondered if a step by step on how to use a table generator I found online might be of interest???  I use tables all the time in my blog posts for orbats and the like but I appreciate there'll be those this doesn't apply to.. so, if generating tables in your blog posts is of no interest, I'll return you to your normal programming..  "next blog, please" 😏

If you are interested though...

1/. Got to website (HTML Tables generator – TablesGenerator.com) and select the HTMLTables option


2/. Set the size of your table.. it doesn't matter if you want to add or delete extra rows or columns later.. default seems to be 4 (rows) by 5 (columns) select the 'table' drop down and then 'set size' to open a little box on which you can select with your mouse to set size of table (just move the mouse over the area you want and click).. it tells you the size at the bottom as a check..  (NB. If at a later point you want to add or delete rows or columns select the relevant drop down for column or row)


3/. Not essential but this is a 'tarting up' point - either do it now or after you've entered your content...  this is how you space the lines and columns - narrow or wide..  just slide the bar with your mouse..


4/. Time to put your data/content in - just click on the cell and start typing - you can either do it here, or copy the blank table into the Blogger post and do it there.. this example assumes you're doing it in the web page..


5/. Set the alignment, font, font characters (bold underlined etc)..  for Blogger I wouldn't bother with these, as you can do the latter in Blogger..  but you can do it here if you want..


6/. Click the "Do Not Generate CSS" check box - CSS is an HTML language but the code is more complex, and isn't necessary in Blogger, as Blogger has it's own CSS code running in the background..  then click the "Generate" button


7/. Click the copy to clipboard option


8/. Go to blogger, open a new post, select "HTML" option at top left (under the pencil icon), and paste the code - the only change I made was to add "Border=1" to the "Table" command right at the beginning so that I could see the lines between the cells...


Click "Compose" top left (under the < > icon)and voila, un table ...  job done....

tutorial fgfgf fgfgf
fgffgf
fgffg
fgffg
fgffg
fgfgfg
fffgg
fgfgfg
fgfgffg
fgfffgf
fgffgfgg
fgffg
fgf
fgfg
fgfg
fgfgf

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Laters, as the young people are want to say...