Friday, February 25, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #8 - Huey's, books, more rebasing 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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Couple of years ago I read the Max Hastings history of the Vietnam war (or rather "wars" as you can probably differentiate between the French Colonial war, the civil war between north and south, and then the increasing American involvement) and was hugely taken with the section where he recounted the experiences of just one of the Huey pilots who had been assigned to Vietnam after basic training.. came back to me again the other day, so I thought I'd go off and do some reading round the subject..

"Though Cobra's and Huey's were the same loaded weight, 9,500 pounds, the latter were quieter and smoother in the gunship role, carrying sixty-two rockets and four thousand mini-gun rounds. Never in history had so many tactical helicopters been deployed – nor would be again. ‘There were times when over a hundred were in the air over a battle,’ said Hickman [who was an American Huey pilot in Vietnam]. ‘When you saw a ten-ship lift going into an assault with four supporting gunships and a smoke ship, it was just awesome.’*" 

*Is it just me who is reminded of the "Tears in rain" (also known as the "C-Beams speech") monologue at the end of Bladerunner? 😊

How amazing is that picture?!

Over 30 years Bell made more than 16,000 UH1 "Huey" helicopters - the US Army had  between 7 and 12,000 alone in Vietnam (depending on your source) providing a number of roles of which the three main appear to be "slick" the troop carrier model (carrying approximately 12 soldiers), the "dust-off" or medical extraction model, and the gun ship which could be armed with any number of variations of gun and rocket. The UH-1H model, was the most-produced Huey variant, with 5,435 units manufactured, and the one most likely to be encountered in Vietnam.

My reading would indicate that natural wastage could account for at least 1,000 of them a year, as a result of damage, wear, crashes, accidents, etc. The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, reckon a total of 11,846 helicopters were shot down or crashed during the war, while the Vietnam Memorial Fund reports 5,000 were destroyed - difficult to identify cost, but I think they were about $4.5/5M each, no one ever said modern war was 'cheap'...

I was within a gnats whisker of another project and re-reading that the other day, and then being prompted to read up on this iconic helicopter has not helped..! 😀
 
If anyone hasn't, and fancies reading further - then these are all hugely recommended - not a one of them is less than 9/10 in my humble, but nonetheless unchallenged, opinion.. 
  • Max Hastings "Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975"
  • Robert Mason "Chickenhawk"- Huey pilots account of his war in Vietnam and after ..  troubled life, brilliant book...
  • Michael Herr "Dispatches" - Herr was a war correspondent for Esquire magazine and the book describes the author's experiences in Vietnam. I'm a bit of an old hippy, must have read this about the time it came out..

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The seventh book in this beyond compare series. O'Brian fans call reading the entire series a 'circumnavigation', so this is my second - but whereas for the first one I raced through them all, practically one after another as I wanted to know what happened to lucky Jack Aubrey in the next book, for this circumnavigation I'm taking my time and enjoying them..

At the end of the previous book (which was set during the Anglo American, War of 1812), Aubrey and Maturin (along with Maturin's intended Diana Villiers) had escaped from the American's to a British frigate which had then engaged one of the American heavy frigates in combat and won the day - safe in British held territory, Jack awaits news from home and a ship to return. 

When they finally get a ship home they are chased by two American privateers, Maturin has managed to snatch some very valuable intelligence papers and it is clear that either he, or Diana who has absconded with a large diamond, is the target..

Back in England at last, but without a ship, and penniless again due to a poor business investment Jack is saved (in more ways than one!) by a mission Maturin is asked to undertake, and in which he asks for Jack as captain of the ship needed to take him to the site of the mission in the Baltic.

After a successful conclusion to the mission, their ship is wrecked on the way home, and they are captured, and imprisoned by the French - Maturin is then identified as a spy by one of the American intelligence officers and all is not looking good, but there is then a final and surprising turn...  brilliant!!  9/10

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Rebasing is proceeding apace..  the following after the first coat of "Forest green"..

They have since had a second coat, and flocking has started...

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

Friday, February 18, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #7 - Books, LCT's and sundry 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 have been to...  "Landing Craft Tank LCT 7074"

Been meaning to share these pictures for ages as I found the subject fascinating..  last summer I took a ride down to Southsea on my new then e-bike ('Gertude', by the way..  don't ask..) as part of a circumnavigation of Portsea island - done for no other reason than it was a lovely warm day, with little breeze (so no sailing) and I had a new electric bike to ride..

Outside the D-Day museum (which I must revisit soon as I haven't been inside in ages) they now have a new installation - the last every surviving Landing Craft (Tank) in the UK, and according to the information I've read the last surviving LCT that was actually present on the beaches on D-Day.

She was saved from a life on the bottom of Birkenhead docks, where it had sunk following an interim life as a club house and then a nightclub (!), and restored/returned to it's war time appearance with a National Lottery grant - and it is huge... 

On D-Day this would have carried 10 tanks, the display has a couple of the Museums exhibits in it (a Churchill and a Sherman), it's a Mark 3 version, one of about 250 built..  She had a crew of 12, maximum speed of 9 knots provided by twin 460HP engines (fairly unusually she had petrol rather than diesel engines), about a 190 feet long..

The vessel was built in just three months by Hawthorn Leslie on Tyneside, at a cost of about £28,000, the equivalent of just over a million pounds today.

The "17" is to indicate that she was part of the 17th LCT flotilla, and given that she was only launched on April 4th, she had just two short months to prepare for D-Day (in fact, less than that, as she had engine problems after launch). Evidently this preparation was successful though, as on the day, commanded by Sub Lt John Baggott RNVR (picture following), a trainee solicitor in Swindon in "real" life, she landed 9 of her 10 Sherman's (another source says she had 1 Cromwell tank, 2 Sherman tanks and 7 Stuart - but confirms 9 of them were landed) on Gold Beach in support of the British and Canadian landings.. as ever, it is the story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things that leaves you gob smacked..

Sub-Lieutenant John Baggott RNVR, who commanded LCT 7074.
© National Museum of the Royal Navy

Then check the following (picture courtesy and copyright  the IWM) which is fascinating..  first..  look at the hole in side of the LCT next to them ... two, the Germans on 7074 don't seem to be too bothered about having been captured.. and three, on the back of the LCT with the hole you can just see written "looters will be shot", clearly the crew of that LCT were very proprietorial..  😁

LCT7074 7th June 1944 on Gold Beach with enemy prisoners for return to the UK. © IWM

"While I breathe, I hope" - inscription on the bridge..

After D Day she continued in her role of delivering men and tanks to Normandy, and over the following months made 32 landings in all.

To get an idea of the size of it - this might help with scale...

 
 
More here (3 and 4 in particular, are very interesting): 
  1. https://www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk/register/713/lct-7074
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMLCT_7074
  3. https://www.combinedops.com/WW2_LANDING_CRAFT_LCT_7074_RESTORATION.htm
  4. https://blog.twmuseums.org.uk/lct-7074-hebburns-remarkable-d-day-survivor/
  5. https://museumcrush.org/worlds-last-d-day-landing-craft-tank-to-be-restored-and-displayed-in-southsea/

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Just finished this one which was very good ..

David Gilman is probably better known as the author of the 100 Years War series of books featuring the archer turned knight Sir Thomas Blackstone, and very good they are as well - now to my knowledge that author hasn't completed that series but clearly fancied a change as a couple of books ago he started this series, set in modern times, and featuring the ex French Foreign Legionnaire, Raglan..

Raglan served a long and eventful career in the Legion in their special ops regiment, where he cultivated a number of very useful friends and contacts, one of whom, in this book has disappears in mysterious circumstances leaving only a message that if he does so, Raglan is to be contacted..

Raglan follows the clues, meets a number of people who do and don't help him, kills a fair number of them (😀), hunts and is hunted, but in the end tracks down his man (or rather woman) and Armageddon then ensues in the middle of a jungle..

I have never read any Jack Reacher books, but am enjoying the Amazon Prime series, and I can't help thinking Raglan and Reacher would enjoy each others company - wouldn't want to be in the pub with them at the same time though!

If you like special ops, Frederick Forsyth level weaponry and procedural detail, and a very easy reading thriller style, this is the one for you..  I do, so it's recommended...  9/10.

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Elsewhere, re-basing has started..

These (following) are classed as already "good to go", being based to the standard size/look that I will do the rest with..

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

Friday, February 11, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #6 - The Chattanooga is Hunted, 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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"Regiments of renown"...   an occasional series...    also known as tricorne porn... 😄  

Longer ago than I can ever remember this was the picture that resulted in me painting the same regiment - the Royal Italien Regiment - for my Marlburian project ...

It may very well be, that I saw it in Wargames Illustrated but I honestly can't remember..   I think they are Front Rank figures, but whoever painted them, they were/are stunning (well done whoever it was), and provided the impetus to do the same for my little corner of the wargame world.. those brown coats with the red linings/turn backs really appealed...

The regiment (one of 52 raised by Louis in the period up to 1684!) was raised on April 27 1671, following a commission issued by Louis in the same year, by the Count Magalotti a naturalised Frenchman originally from the Florence area of Italy and formerly a captain in the Gardes Françaises. Recruitment was in Italy and the Piedmont region..

The regiment initially consisted of 27 companies, each of 204 men (that is huge!!) and Louis XIV was so satisfied when he inspected the regiment that he immediately decided to name it “Royal-Italien”. On the same occasion, he decided to dress the regiment with brown uniforms which was the same colour as the justaucorps - or coat - that he was wearing on the day of the review.

In 1672, during the Franco-Dutch War (1672-78), the newly raised regiment joined the Army of Flanders and took part in numerous operations and sieges, and also the battles of  Seneffe, Cassel and Saint-Denis. The regiment was reduced to 12 companies immediately after the war ended

My feeble copy...

In 1689, during the Nine Years' War (1688-97), the regiment was again busy, being at numerous skirmishes, sieges and offensives, and the battles of Fleurus, Steenkerque (where it distinguished itself) and Landen.

In 1701, at the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession, the regiment counted only one battalion and was still serving with the Army of Flanders. In 1702, the regiment were at Nijmegen; in 1703, at the sieges of Alt-Breisach and Landau and in the victorious skirmish at Speyerbach; in 1706, at Ramillies and the defence of Menin; in 1708, at Oudenarde; in 1709  at Malplaquet; and they served to 1713 in numerous other skirmishes, battles and sieges.

These guys deserve a new flag and I think I know just where to go for it [clicky]. They were completed back in March 2007, and are Warrior Miniatures figures

Bit more here:

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Hunt the Chattanooga

In a triumphant conclusion to the mini naval campaign that I have featured over the previous weeks, I can confirm that the Confederate ironclad Chattanooga has been located and sunk..   but that kind of gets us ahead of the curve..

So as a reminder the Union fleet was as follows, comprising a Monitor, and two heavy woodenclads. The ships were at almost full strength (minor damage was accrued during the previous days of the campaign due to enemy action), but the most significant impact was to the firepower of the Monitor that had lost one of their two heavy guns due to equipment failure in a previous engagement..

...and then there is the Chattanooga, a "standard" (if there is such a thing) Confederate Casemate ironclad - strongly armoured and, for the Confederacy, well armed..

A few shots of the action follow - but in summary the Union ships sort to divide and conquer - splitting their attack so as to come at the ironclad from three different sides...

The woodenclads, being armed with light and medium guns were always going to struggle putting in damage on the ironclad, but in the end sheer weight of numbers began to have an effect, and in one lucky shot the ironclads steering was damaged and she ran aground - happily for her with enough arc of fire to keep up her bombardment..

The ironcald managed to get afloat a few turns later and but with mounting damage decided to try and make a break for the river..

Taking damage as she went..

Until the inevitable happened, and with one mighty broadside her guns were silenced and she struck to the triumphant Union commander, but not before she had done the same to one of the Union woodenclads - but Union mission complete!

The butchers bill..  two ships all but destroyed, but the Monitor only with light damage, and with a replacement gun would soon be back in action. All in all a good outcome, especially in light of the other successful actions over the previous days...

That was good fun, but that's enough Ironclad action for the time being - on to other things..... 😁

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

Friday, February 04, 2022

"Firing into the Brown" #5 - Campaign finale, Pedestal 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"

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Been waiting to read this one for an age - probably from the first time I saw that it had been published as I am a bit of a Hastings fan boy, and I'm not sure I've read a duff one by him..

Pedestal was the code name for the operation to send a relief convoy to Malta in 1942, and this history was a bit of an eye opener measured against what I thought I knew already..

So what did I take away from this??

First , in 1942 the Royal Navy was nowhere near as accomplished as they were to become in the sphere of anti submarine warfare..  ASDIC was coming on line, but the in depth courses that taught the escort commanders how to tackle the submarine threat were some way in the future - the book is replete with examples of how the ships were just not used in the right way, and how exposed convoys and ships were at this time of the war to submarine attack..  in perhaps the luckiest night for submarines in WW2 an Italian commander sank an oil tanker, and the German U73 sank the aircraft carrier Eagle..

Second, ground to air (or in this case sea to air) coordination was also in it's infancy - despite having successfully offloaded almost 50 Spitfires to Malta, the lack of coordination between Malta and the convoy resulted in huge gaps in air cover for the convoy..

Three, British carrier born aircraft of the period were woefully under powered and under spec when compared with the enemies they were expected to take on in the air - the carriers had Hurricanes and Fairey Fulmars/Albacores, when what they needed was Spitfires.. the carriers themselves were wooden decked (little or no armour plating) and lacked the ability to get lots of planes into the air at the same time

Sinking of HMS Eagle..
Fourth, convoy coordination/communication was also in it's infancy, the Royal Navy put together a convoy comprising fast modern merchant ships (all of them were capable of 16 knots) but once the attacks started going in (by submarine, aircraft, and gunboats) most communication appears to have been by Aldis light as it was quicker and safer than transmitting in plain English..

Fifth, as in the Napoleonic wars, the British navy needed destroyers (frigates) by the score - they were the maids of all work; fast, well armed for their size..  the Navy sent a number of cruisers as convoy escort, but they were almost a liability, requiring more protection themselves than the support they provided, ditto the aircraft carriers -  there almost seemed a palpable relief when the point was reached on the convoy when the capital ships could be sent back to Gibraltar

All in all then a HUGE undertaking, and Hastings does touch on the multitude of views as to whether the action, and the casualties , were justified, but I tend towards his view, and also Churchill's that it was absolutely the right thing to do, and the right time to do it... 

A warts and all history treating each side to an equal review of their good and bad, tactics, personal performance of the offensive forces..  my overwhelming opinion at the end of it was huge respect for the merchant seamen who got those ships to Malta, and the clear indication that the Navy were ready to learn from the mistakes. Good read..   9/10.

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ACW Riverine Campaign – “Hunt the Chattanooga” - Summary Campaign diary

I'll shove this in full on the ACW Naval Project page (link in the sidebar) but as the campaign has come to an end, a summary of the actions and events seems timely..

Union Force/background:
  • Monitor (10 SP)  plus two decent wooden clads (8SP each and with a good light and medium armament)
  • Two additional ships as transports
  • Union player starts with 20 victory points (VP's)
  • 5 turns per day
Day 1

1st Turn
    • Shore battery identified comprising two earthwork batteries (10 DF each/trained; one with 4 light rifles, one with 1 medium smoothbore)
    • Union commander decides to send the Monitor in holding back the more vulnerable wooden clads, both batteries are destroyed but the Monitor takes a point of damage
3rd Turn
    • Confederate heavy gunboat encountered (6DF/MRL and LRL)
    • Again the Union commander decides to send the Monitor in holding back the more vulnerable wooden clads - the gunboat is quickly overwhelmed and with both guns knocked out , runs for it!
5th Turn
    • Tributary is seen leading off the main river..
    • Small Confederate gunboat encountered (4DF/LRL and LRL).
    • This time the Union commander decides to send in the two wooden clads as well as Monitor for a quick finish – the Confederate gunboat is destroyed in the first turn with no damage to the Union ships...
Click to embigen

End of Day 1:
    • The Union supply ships have travelled one section behind all day and catch up overnight and rearm the Monitor… 
    • Victory points currently 33:
    • five turns so -5 pts
    • -3 (for damage) 
    • + 10 (2 shore batteries destroyed)
    • + 10 (heavy gunboat sunk/destroyed) 
Day 2

1st Turn 
    • There is a rudder malfunction on Union wooden clad #2 and she can only steer straight ahead - good news given we have a straight stretch of river!
    • Confederate hidden battery encountered comprising two earthwork batteries (10 DF each/trained; one with 4 medium smoothbores, one with 1 medium smoothbore)
    • Union commander decides to withdraw and try the tributary first
4th Turn
    • Rudder repaired on Union wooden clad #2 but no other issues other than some trouble working up steam on the Monitor
    • Union commander decides to rest for the night before taking on the earthwork the next morning
End of Day 2:

No ammunition has been expanded, and all ships apart from the supply vessels which were stationary all day, were stationary for two turns.. Union commander takes the opportunity to refuel

Day 3

1st Turn 
    • The Union master gunner has become convinced that one of the two guns on Monitor is prone to failure and is likely to burst (throw a 1 and it explodes)
    • The Confederate hidden battery comprises two earthwork batteries (10 DF each/trained; one with 4 medium smoothbores, one with 1 medium smoothbore)
    • Union commander attacks with his full force in line ahead focussing on the stronger battery first..
    • With minor damage to the two wooden clads (1SP each) the two forts are overcome, but the Monitor does indeed lose one of it's guns in the process a major blow to the Union fleet
5th Turn 
    • No further issues during the day - the Union commander orders his force to anchor for the evening and brings the supply ships up from the section behind.
End of Day 3:
    • Union commander takes the opportunity to refuel the second supply ship..
    • VP's 36 (following victory over the batteries and losses to damage)

"...'ere 'Ank, did you hear that funny cracking noise last time we fired??"

Day 4

1st Turn 
    • Union wooden clad #1 runs hard aground and is well and truly stuck fast (roll a d6 at the start of each turn. The vessel is freed on a roll of 5+ but becomes permanently trapped if a 1 is rolled)
    • Union commander decides to halt until the ship is freed.
2nd Turn
    • By supreme effort the crew of Union wooden clad #1 managed to club haul her off the sand bank she became stuck on and the fleet is free to proceed…
    • No further issues during the day other than intermittent boiler issues on Union wooden clad #2 reports – speed is reduced but sufficient to keep up with the fleet (d6 roll of 5+ at the start of each subsequent turn will solve the problem)..
End of Day 4:
    • All ships were stationary for one turn while the wooden clad was freed up – no ammunition was expended. 
    • VP's 31

Day 5

1st Turn
    • Union wooden clad #2 reports boiler issues continue; somewhat shame faced the captain of Union wooden clad #1 reports that he has run hard aground again!
    • The fleet remain stationary for the whole of the day while they work to refloat Union wooden clad #1
End of Day 5:
    • All ships were stationary for all but one turn while the wooden clad tried to free up – no ammunition was expended. 
    • VP's 26
Day 6

1st Turn
    • By the supreme effort throughout the night by the crews of all the Union ships, they are able to report in the morning that Wooden Clad #1 is afloat again and ready to proceed. 
    • Pausing only to allow time for food and coffee the Union commander orders “up steam”.. and the Union flotilla departs
2nd Turn 
    • The lead ship identifies a Confederate shore battery comprising two earthworks both with rifled artillery (3 in one, 2 in the other). Union commander orders his force to open fire immediately..
    • Despite opening fire first, the initial Union broadside is devastating, completely destroying the first earthwork with one barrage! The other is also quickly reduced…
3rd  Turn 
    • The lead Union ship spots a huge Confederate ironclad – they have found their prey! The Union commander orders full ahead and all ships engage… 
Stay tuned for a battle report!!

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Not a great one for film critiquing but this was an unexpectedly good watch (I got it on Netflix) so I thought I'd pass the word to my reader, since wargamers do not live by little metal men and acrylic paint alone..

This is a docudrama on the Iranian embassy siege in 1980, the background of which in the film was good and also informative - despite having seen the pictures in the press and knowing about the SAS assault I hadn't realised what the hostage takers had been asking for, or indeed how duplicitous the Iraqi's were in all this.

The role of the negotiator I wouldn't have wished on my own worst enemy - between the Iranians on one side and Margaret on the other there was no way they were every going to get a good result by talking.. Mark Strong played the role brilliantly.

The role of the SAS is known, but as their representative Whitehall advised Cobra (the mini cabinet that meets in all emergency situations)  they are not supermen, and it was always going to be messy... and so it was (if the film is to be believed), with one of the SAS men being trapped while abseiling down the front of the building, and lots of smoke and confusion, but despite that, all hostages were freed (apart from one the terrorists killed during the siege, and one they killed before it) - and the terrorists? Well only one survived and he was paroled 25 years later.

Reading up on this on Wiki after seeing the film (well you do don't you..) the film looks to have been pretty close to the actual reality - the only major difference being the role of the diplomatic policeman who was taken hostage at the same time was under played in the film - in reality he got the George Cross for his actions during the assault, and it's a shame the film couldn't show that...

Well worth a watch - I'll give it an 8 out of 10..

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