Saturday, March 2

"Firing into the Brown" #41 - Submarine Museum, Gunfight at Dexter's Corral 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..

Use continues to be made of the Dockyard yearly ticket - this time with a much-anticipated visit to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum - home to HMS Alliance (following) which absolutely DOMINATES the entrance to the museum...  

Alliance (pennant number P417/S67) is an A-class, known as the Amphion or Acheron-class, submarine. She was constructed between March and July 1945, but not commissioned until 1947, so didn't see WW2 service. 

The design was intended for operations in the Pacific where because the distances were huge, required specific modifications and features...  anyway, more on her in a moment...

First, I had a look inside the museum where the first thing to catch the eye is one of the last remaining X Craft from WW2...  

These are the class of miniature submarine immortalised by John Mills in "Above us the Waves" (which for my UK reader is currently showing for free on ITVx) the film of the sinking of Tirpitz in the fjord in Norway. The one they have in the museum though, is X24 – the only one to have seen combat in, and survived, WW2. 

She was used used on Operation Guidance (attacking the LaksevΓ₯g floating dock at Bergen 15 April 1944) when due to faulty intelligence and incorrect charts, the merchant ship Barenfels alongside the dock was sunk instead; X24 went back though, and dock was attacked and sunk in Operation Heckle on 11 September 1944. 

...explosive charge carried on the side is a mock up clearly, as 4.4K pounds of amatol might make a hole in the floor if it went off...  8.8K pounds if it also set off the one on the other side.. 😁

...and this - following - is the answer to last week's question.. they used the same diesel engine in the X Craft as they did in double decker buses, this is a Gardner (specifically, a Gardner 4LK 4-cyl diesel engine, driving a Single shaft, and giving 42 hp at 1,800 rpm πŸ˜€)..  they used them in fire engines as well apparently... I found it amazing, but it was a tried and trusted power plant, plenty of spares, easy to maintain...  you can see why they chose it but therein lies one of the fundamental differences between the German and British approaches to such a question - I don't doubt that the Germans would have had Daimler design a new engine specifically for the purpose, almost certainly more elegant, more powerful, but also more difficult to maintain, and yet another strand in the supply chain that the Kriegsmarine would have to support...  well done, Norm, you were first to answer "engine", kudos to Matt for coming in second..  Maudlin Jack Tar's answer gets an honourable mention, it wasn't correct but it did make me almost spit out the mouthful of coffee I had just slurped... πŸ˜‚ 

You can see the electric engine (used underwater) behind it..

...there is something very, very poignant, about the sheer guts and bravery of the men who went to war in these craft, seated in what can only be described as a piece of garden furniture (following)..  it just beggars the imagination and sent shivers down my neck when I looked...  truly we stand on the shoulders of giants...

..but having enjoyed the museum it was time to visit Alliance.. 

I was really impressed with the layout and access for her, by the way - basically you enter the front of the boat in the forward torpedo room and can then walk to the far end (exit is in the rear torpedo room) in your own time... the guides are available to ask questions of, and are usually ex-submarine men themselves... they have a soundtrack playing in the background to give the impression that you are walking through an active submarine..  snatches of conversation, tannoy announcements and the like, very effective..

Sailors mess (living area) - count the bunks - between 6 and 8 blokes would have shared this space, she had a crew of about 60, plus 5 officers, so space would have been at a premium...

Captain's cabin - loved the fact that he got chintz covers...  😁

"Fruit machine" (early target range and deflection calculation device) and torpedo launching panel - following - when originally launched Alliance had six bow torpedo tubes (including 2 external dry close fit) and four stern torpedo tubes (including 2 external dry close fit) and carried 20 torpedoes - during a major refit in the late 50's early 60's to make her "Cold War suitable" the external tubes were all removed (made her quieter under water) ...

Vents/ballast controls - following - unbelievable complexity! This is the helm position - note the trim indicator, depth, and steering column - looks like a bike handlebar!

Same - dual steering - note also periscope handle on the left

Two toilets (following) with 65 blokes you've got to hope they didn't have curry often... 😏 

By the by, I read that this may well be where the phrase "getting your own back" originated - though that may be apocryphal. In essence, once you'd completed your business, if you didn't operate the pressure gauges to blow the contents out of the ship in the correct order, you might get back what you just deposited... πŸ’©

Engine room - Alliance was a diesel electric boat, diesels for surface, electric under water, but she was fitted with a snorkel to allow her to use her diesels while partially submerged... what you see here is one of two 2,150 hp (at 450 rpm) supercharged Vickers 8-cylinder diesel engines...  these would give her 18 knots on the surface, which was fast for the time, and also necessary for a Pacific based boat...

...and here's the electric - one of two 625 hp electric motors for use underwater; after the refit in 1960'ish she could do 10 knots underwater... 

...that refit by the way was major - in addition to removing the external torpedo tubes, they also removed a deck gun, an anti-aircraft gun, and also massively redesigned the fin (not the conning tower as most people call it) - this is her, following, pre refit. 

Basically, a quintessential WW2 submarine went in for refit, and the Cold War submarine came out...  it was only afterwards, thinking about the visit, that I realised Alliance and Mary Rose have a thing in common, both of them were designed for a specific type of warfare/role that fundamentally changed during their service life, and both had substantial refits to be able to support that change in role...  fascinating, I thought - bleedin' obvious to everyone else I suspect! 😁

More info:
Absolutely brilliant day out, and very much recommended...


The sun burned down out of a cloudless sky as 'Mexican' Pete (Average gunfighter, hand to hand rating of 3, rifle rating of 2, revolver rating of 3) and fellow gang member Zack (Novice gunfighter, HtH 1, R 0, Rev -1), approached the sleepy border town of Cedar Gulch (population 67) on foot, and intent on mischief. 

Their horses were tied up in a concealed spot just outside of town so they wouldn't be encumbered. 

They were looking for Gerry (also an Average gunfighter, HtH 3, R 2, Rev 3), a member of a rival gang who they had heard was also in town, somewhere near Dexter's Livery Stable - suffice to say they weren't planning to buy him a beer....

Mexican Pete and Zack can be seen entering top right - Gerry and Robbie bottom left..  the corral is dead centre..  in both cases the "boss men" had given orders to their sidekicks to try and outflank.. north is top..

What they didn't know as they slowly approached the corral next to the livery was that Gerry wasn't alone, he was accompanied by one of his fellow gang members, known only as Robbie (Novice gunfighter, HtH 1, R 0, Rev -1). The two of them had come into town for a few drinks but had been tipped off that Mexican Pete and Zack were looking for them, so had decided rather than leave, they'd go looking for them too.. 

All was quiet - most citizens had very sensibly left the four men to it, and retired either to their dwellings, and /or well out of range - word had also been sent to the Sheriff (that he was needed) and the undertaker (that he might soon have business)

So it was the two groups approached the corral from opposite sides, and nothing moved other than the cows in the corral, swishing their tails and moving nervously around (the cows block line of sight and provide cover, so I threw a direction dice for each base of cows at the start of each move and moved them an inch in the direction indicated - literally a 'moving feast' 😁) as they smelt and heard the men approaching. Then each group saw the other... 

Pulling Zack close, Pete tells him to move round the building to the north to see if he can get a flank shot on the other two, he tells him he's going round back of the building to the east to do the same. He's clearly showing his lack of experience, with no rifles between them, the other two are hugely out ranged with just their pistols. 

Lucky for him Gerry is just as clueless; he orders Robbie to move towards the slight rise in the SE to see if he can get a flank shot..  he meanwhile is going to go through the rocks north of him and then curve head to the north building.. to get there he jumps the fence of the corral keeping some cows between him and Zack..

Few moves later and all hell breaks loss as Pete and Robbie see each other and exchange shots..  despite his better gunmanship both end up 'nicked' (a non-penetrating wound that in essence causes the recipient to stop doing what they were doing for a turn) and on the floor - first blood evens.. 

To their north Gerry and Zack do the same; Zack has sneaked up the back of the building but had then doubled back to come out in front of the parked wagon.. both men fire at close range, and again both men go down badly nicked.. (Gerry was unlucky..  in fact Pete was too.. the stats were in Gerry and Pete's favour as the better gunmen, but unfortunately for them lady luck was smiling on the greenhorns)

Climbing painfully to their feet Pete and Robbie again exchange shots but this time Robbie comes off slightly worse as he is shot in his gun arm and drops his weapon while Pete is shot in his other arm and retains his pistol only to shoot again while Robbie is down and hit him in the leg..  Robbie is out for the count, and Pete moves back north to help his compadre.. 

Gerry and Zack have again exchanged shots and on both cases are now down on the ground and bleeding into the sand from grievous body shots..  worse, Gerry is now out of ammo and needs to reload, while Zack still has a bullet or two left... worse still, Pete comes into range and snaps a couple of ineffectual shots off in his direction (long range, fence line, and Gerry is prone - was never going to happen 😏)..

Realising he is done for Gerry calls out that he's dropped his gun and is giving up, but Pete beckons to Zack to leave him, and the pair light off out of town to recover their horses and leave the other two to their wounds ... and the Sherriff, who has a number of questions to ask.. Pete and Zack will ride again, but Gerry and Robbie?? Maybe, maybe not.. πŸ˜‰

Rules were again those venerable old Western Gunfight Wargame Rules, and again I used v1..  I like them, they are simpler than the v2 one's.. but for the next game I will get my head round the v2 nuances and have a go with them..

Great fun...


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


  1. Some great images of HMS Alliance, really gives you an idea of how claustrophobic it must be to be on a sub, very interesting reading, will follow your links to read some more about her.

    1. Cheers for the comment Donnie.. she just predates the boats that my Dad went on to serve in so I had an idea of what they were like..

  2. Very interesting info on the submarine. Being stuck in one of those things, especially submerged under attack, is the stuff of mightmares! I vividly remember as a young boy being taken round a serving submarine when it was open to the public and docked in Hull back in the 1960s - even to a small child it seemed pretty cramped... Hardly surprising that all submarine crew are volunteers! And only 2 toilets... Ooof. ;-) Thanks for the post.

    1. Afternoon David... yes, I can understand it, the funny thing is when you're on it, you have no concept of the water all round you... late 1960's would have been when my Dad started serving on them, what they call the P&O boats.. not cruise liners, but Porpoise and Oberon class diesel electrics..

  3. Fun looking game Steve.

    Thanks for the post on the Alliance. Very different sub from it's pre-conversion. It seems like the deck has gone as well as the guns.
    Extremely crowded on what would have been very long trips in the Pacific.
    I must get to the Sydney Maritime Museum as I think they have a sub there.

    1. Cheers Ben - it was a fun game to be honest, but I should have given them rifles! My Dad was based at HMS Platypus for a while so we lived round the Sydney area for a couple of years mid-70's...

  4. Enjoyed the tour of the sub, thanks for that! Western gunfights are always fun I've found.

    1. Hi David, hell yes... :o) ..thinking of getting Neil Thomas's One Hour Skirmish book to see how they play...

  5. An intriguing post full of lots of stuff that I knew nothing about previously. Ending with a bit of fun at a gun fight; marvellous!
    Regards, James