Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Biggest gun in the West

Just after the Second World War the west was facing a problem, it's the same problem that tank designers face today. Its gotten to the point where a tanks protection is better than the guns on tanks, they are lacking the power to perforate the tanks defensive layers. Just after the war we were worried about the IS-3 , and later about the T-54.
Jim Warford uploaded these pictures over at Tanknet, they show an IS-3 that's been shot up by L7 APDS... Scared yet?

Normally what would happen, and what happened during the Second World War, is that a gun would defeat an armour, then the other side would increase the armour, so the gun's increased by a small amount so that they could defeat the armour. Then the cycle would repeat. So you got a steadily increasing calibre of gun in small increments.
In the early 1950's the chief engineer (I suspect his name was Lillywhite, but I haven't been able to prove it yet) at the Fighting Vehicles Development Establishment sat down, and thought 'What if we cut out the small steps and went directly to the end, to the biggest gun possible? What is that calibre?'. So he pulled out his slide rule and some paper and set to work. The figure he came out with for the maximum theoretical gun calibre was 180mm. This was the 180mm Lillywhite gun. The engineer also calculated the estimated performance of the gun. It fired a whopping 71.5 lbs AP shell at 3720 feet per second. This gave a kinetic energy at muzzle of around 20 megajoules. In comparison a modern 120mm L/55 smoothbore with the best available ammunition is providing about 13 megajoules (APFSDS). The Lillywhite had such a big round it was split into two bag charges and the projectile.
From this point the gun was developed and became the 183mm L4, that we all know and love on the infamous FV215 and FV4005. The L4 had a single bag charge, but the projectile was very similar. It however lost some of its velocity as it was only ever designed to fire HESH rounds (HESH rounds are often seen as "low velocity"). Well these low velocity HESH rounds were still able to generate about 18 megajoules of kinetic energy.
"I say, you! Over there in the tank that looks like an inverted frying pan... Yes you! Want some low velocity HESH rounds delivered?"
The L4 was worked into the FV215 and there has been a great deal of misinformation floating about this tank in modern games. It could carry twenty rounds, of which twelve were ready rounds. The turret could rotate through 360 degrees but the gun was to be locked out and prevented from firing if the barrel passed forty five degrees of arc. However the gun could be fired when pointing backwards.
From the outset the army was lukewarm about the FV215. When the Malkara guided missile appeared on the scene they got behind the project with enthusiasm and dropped the L4 as soon as they could. Then the L11 120mm gun showed up and it had enough power to defeat the enemies armour and things settled down.

In the 70's people began to see armour once again getting better, and forecasts indicated that Russian tanks could get very scary. During the time when I was growing up a lot of writers and commentators pointed out how superior the Soviet armour was, going on about how invulnerable their tanks were (much like people do today in regards to the T-14), so once again the idea for the next generation of tank guns showed up. Of course after a few years we actually learned their armour was pretty poor. First on the scene was the 152mm for the MBT-70 project. Not much is known about this gun, but from little that is known is that it'd have produced a kinetic energy value similar to the 120mm L/44 smoothbore with its earliest variants of ammunition.
There's even less known about the gun that came next, it was 145mm joint US-German gun project hinted as the "Future Armament system" on one sketch. It occurred sometime about 1986. We do however know what it would have looked like as some models have survived.
The next gun to be developed was the 140mm FMBT gun, and is widely fitted to a whole host of tanks. It was a NATO standard weapon in many respects. The choice of 140mm wasn't as random as you might think, research shows that above 140mm the projectile is actually less efficient with that calibre being the optimum. Coming in two parts it had to be screwed together before use.  As you can see the sheer size of the rounds would have meant a autoloader was necessary, as it'd be like trying to load a small human into the breach with each round. The 140mm FMBT gun developed a whooping 20 megajoules of energy.
I got bored, and did some drawing, ably helped by Maddest. Who now wants me to add All of the shells ever made since 1945 to the diagram.
Finally we come onto modern times when the Germans announced that the 120mm was no longer good enough, and that presumably not enough power could be pulled from the gun to defeat current threats. Rheinmetall has designed the 130mm Main Gun Combat System. The MGCS is reported by Rheinmetall to have 50% more energy than their 120mm gun. However one has to be very careful about these sorts of claims as most companies sales teams are worse than the shadiest of used car salesman. An expert who has to deal with this sort of stuff professionally laughed at that figure and suggested its more likely to be around 40% at best. This would give the MCGS around about 15-17 megajoules of energy.
Classic German design, at its finest, draw a box around the gun and call it a Panzer! Then lie about its emissions.
Without a technological leap guns are going to have to become bigger if you want them to keep punching through enemy armour. However that will impose a series of big problems that modern western armies are reluctant to have on their tanks, such as limited ammunition and less crew. All things considered the immediate future of tank armament is looking very tumultuous.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mine Enemy

At the end of the war in Europe you had a devastated countryside littered with the debris of war which took some time to clear up. For an example a knocked out Elefant at Mittenwalde wasn't scrapped until the middle of 1947. However that wasn't anywhere near the level of the problem that the international community faced at sea. During the war years both sides had been laying mines into the ocean as fast as they could. Because of this, and the vital need for post war reconstruction, trade and fishing, all the major Allies including Russia joined forces to create a group to oversee the sweeping of mines. The world was divided up into areas and the naval forces of the area were combined and coordinated in an effort to clear the mines, with each local area having representatives of the countries with assets that could contribute.

Meanwhile the political stage was in even more turmoil than the land. One political storm was around Albania. None of the major Allies had entered Albania during the war, all recognised it post war, although the US did offer recognition with strings attached. Equally the Albanians were backing anti-Greek communist rebels immediately after the war, while the western Allies especially Britain, supported Greece. Both of these forced the western Allies to have some difficulty dealing with Albania politically, and eventually the Soviets would scoop them up into their sphere of influence.
HMS Orion
On the 15th of May 1946, at 0830 in the morning two British warships, HMS Orion and Superb (Minotaur and Leander class cruisers), were traversing the Corfu channel between Greece and Albania. As they neared the bay of Saranda, Albanian shore batteries began to fire at them. The fire proved utterly ineffective and caused no damage, apart from a diplomatic storm. Unsurprisingly the British objected strongly and wanted to know what was going on, and recalled their ambassador. The Albanians at first claimed the British ships hadn't been flying any flags and so were fired upon as a warning. This was somewhat undermined when they also claimed that they had ceased fire when they'd identified the Royal Navy Ensign on the ships and concluded that these were not Greek warships. The diplomatic argument ended with the warning that if the Royal Navy was fired upon again, they would fire back.

Later that year it was decided to test the issue. The Royal Navy would dispatch a small task force to navigate the channel to see if the Albanians would react to British ships exercising the right of innocent passage. Aircraft were put on standby to help should the incident escalate.
On 22nd of October at 1330, the ships HMS Mauritius (Crown Colony cruiser), HMNZS Leander (Leander cruiser), HMS Saumarez and HMS Volage (both destroyers) left Corfu harbour. The ships were deployed in pairs, with HMS Mauritius and HMS Saumarez leading, then a gap of about 3000 meters and the other two ships. All the ships were at action stations.
About 1445 the ships reached their closest point to the Albanian coast, there wasn't a hint of reaction from the shore and the ships began to move towards the open sea. Eight minutes later there was a massive explosion, just forward of the bridge, smashing a thirty foot hole in the side of HMS Saumarez. The ship's executive officer Teddy Gueritz* led the damage control parties forward, and saved more than a few men, and prevented the ship from sinking. However despite their best efforts thirty men were killed. The explosion had been caused by a mine.
HMS Saumarez after the mine hit
The Royal Navy had thought it was safe to operate in the waters as the area had been swept of mines in 1945, and the charts of the areas swept given to the Albanians. The Albanians didn't have any minesweeping or even mine laying ability themselves.
At this juncture a fast Albanian boat approached the damaged ship and her covering cruiser. Wary of any further attacks from the Albanians source they were turned away briskly. HMS Volage was brought up and took the damaged ship under tow. However as they proceeded at 1616 she too was hit by a mine, which blew her bow off. At this point two further ships were dispatched to assist in recovery operations from Corfu harbour. However HMS Volage running in reverse managed to re-secure the tow line, with the help of a leading signalman who'd had his jaw broken in the first explosion. Both ships entered Corfu harbour, in reverse at about midnight. The second explosion had claimed fourteen more dead, and about 42 were wounded across both ships.
HMS Volage after her mine hit
Unsurprisingly the British were rather miffed at this turn of events and on the 12th of November they showed up in force to patrol the area. Then the following day an even larger fleet containing ships of all sizes entered the area to sweep for mines. Although I've not yet been able to find a list of all ships involved in Operation Retail (google it, and you'll see why I couldn't find a ships list) the carrier HMS Ocean was on standby to provide cover. During the operation around 22 mines were found. Two were towed away for further analysis and the rest disposed of.
The mines were German GY types, freshly painted with grease on their anchor chains and no marine growth. Obviously they were brand new and must have been laid after the channel was first swept after the war. Comparison between fragments of casing recovered from the two damaged destroyers confirmed that these were the same type of weapons that had caused the casualties. As it turns out the Albanians, lacking the facilities to lay their own mines had invited Yugoslavia to lay them for them.
One of the recovered mines
Diplomatic relations deteriorated from there, and ended up in the International Court of Justice. The charges were violating the rite of innocent passage and the attack and killing of British service personnel. Against it the counter claim that the British violated territorial waters, and it wasn't the Albanians who laid the mines. In the end the ICJ ruled against Albania, pointing out that they might not have laid the mines, but they sure knew who had and gave them a fine of £843947. The Albanians were now worried, as Britain was looking after a large stock of Albanian gold recovered from the Germans who had stolen it from Rome in 1943. As diplomatic negations now broke down this gold sat in Britain until the mid-1990's when diplomatic relations were re-established and the Albanians agreed to pay the fine and got their gold returned.

*Present at the Battle of the River Plate, and was Beachmaster on D-day for Sword Beach. I thought I recognised his name as I wrote this. He was the chap who took command of Marine Burt, who I interviewed a few years back, and included his story in my first book, General War Stories. Its funny how you keep tripping over the same people by accident in history.

Image Credits:

Sunday, July 9, 2017

O Canada

I tend to write these articles a week in advance, and as it's now currently Canada Day, I figured I should finally do an article on a Canadian who I've had on my "to write about list" for some time. This Canadian wasn't about to say “I apologise” to anyone.

Born in 1921, Leo Major was of French descent. He had a bad relationship with his father, and in 1940 decided to join the army to show his father what he could do. His first action was storming ashore on D-Day, where he started as he meant to go on by capturing a Sdkfz 251 (some sources say it was a 251/22), however it soon looked like the war would be over for him when on D+2 he had his eye burned out by a white phosphorus grenade. Stating that "Doctors are fools" and "I only need one eye to aim straight." he declined to be evacuated and returned to duty wearing an eye patch, which he fancied made him look like a pirate.
His piratical activities continued in Holland, where he was out scouting for a patrol and a gaggle of new inexperienced soldiers both of which had gone missing. Sneaking forward he found himself in a ruined house and some distance away he could see a German position. Major crept silently towards the German position, for this reason he tended to wear plimsolls, instead of army issue boots. When he reached the German position he found that all the Germans were asleep, with no signs of any sentries. So he crept into the middle of the enemy held building finding a German officer sleeping in a chair with his back resting on a wall. Major abruptly woke the snoring German by slapping his hand over the officer's mouth and prodding him in the ribs with his Sten Gun. Much like Jack Churchill, Major was of the opinion that if you tell a German what to do firmly enough he'll obey. So he told the officer that they were all his prisoners, the dazed and surprised officer readily agreed and at Major's instance yelled at his men to wake up, and surrender. All but one soldier did so, the final solder began to raise his rifle, but Major beat him to the draw and shot him.
Major then took the surrender of the company of Germans, and began to march them back to friendly lines. On the way they came under fire from a group of Germans that had been woken by the noise from Major's Sten gun earlier. This fire killed a number of the prisoners. At this point a British Sherman approached, and the commander calmly asked if Major needed any help. Major said he was quite all right, but did ask the Sherman commander if he could deal with the Germans shooting at him, which the tank crew quickly did. Major was able to return to his lines with ninety three POW's.
Major still had some fight in him, and after a brief incident involving the Universal Carrier he was riding hitting a mine that caused Major to suffer four broken ribs, both ankles broken and his back broken in three places. Major then fled from hospital to avoid getting deported due to medical injuries. Major spent a month with some friends in the Dutch town of Nijmegen before rejoining his regiment.

The Canadian forces were now approaching the city of Zwolle, and lacked any information on its defences. So Major and one of his friends volunteered to "reconnoitre the town". About 2100 they left friendly lines, as they approached at about 2300, they ran into a German outpost and a brief fire fight erupted, leaving the Germans dead as well as Major's companion. Taking his colleagues Sten gun and spare grenades Major continued on into Zwolle, entering its outskirts about 0100.
Here Major found a German machinegun nest which he promptly attacked and destroyed. Then moving forward he captured a German staff car, forcing its driver to transport him he moved around the city attacking various locations, including setting the main Gestapo headquarters on fire. His actions convinced the Germans that a major Canadian assault was underway and they began to withdraw. In the early hours of the morning Major linked up with four local resistance fighters who arranged transport for him, on the way back he recovered the body of his friend killed at the German outpost, and returned to his lines about 0700. However seeing an approaching staff car the front line opened fire. Major halted and stood out in the open in plain sight until the Canadian troops realised their mistake and waved him forward.
Canadians in Zwolle during its liberation.
Major demobbed and returned to civilian life. He finally got his back operated on, and settled down to be a pipe fitter. However in 1950 the Korean War erupted and Major volunteered for active service again. As the ceasefire talks neared their end the Chinese decided to capture Hill 355, this was a prominent position between the Commonwealth division and the US positions. It, if captured, could force the Allies back across the Imjin River giving them some extra bargaining chips in the peace talks.
Chinese troops assaulting a hill in Korea.
After a period of bitter fighting the Chinese assault captured a nearby hill, which allowed them to flank Hill 355, and force the Canadians off their position. The Canadians only reserve was a scout platoon commanded by Major, he led the platoon out into no-man's land during the night, then began to creep up to the top of Hill 355 from the direction of the Chinese lines. Once all his men (almost universally armed with Sten guns) were in position they opened fire. Due to the surprise attack coming from the middle of their position the Chinese were routed, and by 0045 Leo Major was in control of Hill 355 again.

About 0200 the Chinese launched a counter attack, with overwhelming numbers and with the flanking hill laying down covering fire. Major was ordered to withdraw, but refused. He did allow his platoon to fall back to their only cover on the barren hill, a line of shell holes some 25 yards from the crest. There they set up and stayed, despite Chinese human wave attacks. Major called down mortars almost on top of his position to hold the Chinese away, the mortar tubes fired so fast they eventually warped their barrels. Through it all whenever the Chinese pressed their attack Major was seen to race to that location through all the fire and help his men in the area fight off the attack. Eventually the Chinese fell back, Major held his position for three days until finally relieved and then the ceasefire agreement came into force.

During his career Major was nominated for the Distinguished Conduct Medal three times, the first time (after capturing the ninety three POW's) he refused it. The other two times (Zwolle and Hill 355) he was awarded the medal. Major died in 2008 aged eighty seven.

Image credits:
www.zwolle40-45.nl and www.lonesentry.com

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Defending France

The commander of the S-35 tank, sits in his turret, peering out from his cupola, across the Seine River at Melun. His tank sits on a side street stretching up from the water front. Tucked up as close as he can to a house, above him a sign for Lu Lu Biscuits basks in the morning August sun. In front of him he can see the island in the middle of the Seine, and on it the prison. He can also make out the bridge on the other side of the island leading to the opposite shore. Somewhere on that shore are the invaders, who will soon show up to attack with devastating fury. To his left he knows there's at least one more S-35, and there are another three Souma's in the town as well.
But the tank commander is German, and the five S-35’s were captured four years earlier. Soon the Americans will arrive and the battle will commence.

Today there is some question of where the S-35's in Melun came from, as records haven't survived to tell the story. One theory is from Panzer Kompanie Paris which had responsibility for the area that Melun is in. That formation had at least twenty Panzerkampfwagen 35-S 739(f). Another idea is that the tanks may have belonged to Sicherungs-Regiment 1000 or 1010, both had seventeen Pzkpfw 739(f) and were fighting in the area. You can see video footage here of two of the 1010's Pzkpfw 739(f)'s being moved out the way.

The Americans late on that August were sweeping south of Paris, and Melun was chosen as one of the crossing points on the Seine. Despite minefields, a forest, sniper fire and skirmishes (on one occasion a bicycle infantry company was encountered and overrun) they were making decent time. Their progress was helped by the FFI who scouted such minefields and guided the Americans around the obstacles created by Germans and nature. Eventually about 1400 they reached a railway embankment and could see the river, and the intact bridge. Seizing their chance the Americans rushed forward without any preparation, hoping to launch a force across the bridge and seize it before it was demolished. However they met a withering hail of enemy fire. Crouching behind the parapets with tracers and cannon shells hurtling past them the US soldiers were forced to withdraw.
They then deployed the US Army's tremendous fire-power, three full batteries of artillery began to shell the German positions for thirty minutes, and the airstrikes were directed onto the German front lines. After this preparation bombardment the US tried another push. Again a hail of gunfire met them and the US forces couldn't make any headway. About 1800 they withdrew to prepare for a full assault the next day.

The next morning about 0800 a patrol was sent forward, as it approached the Germans blew the bridge showering the patrol with debris. With the destruction of the bridge the US forces facing Melun cancelled their attack and switched to a holding fight. Later on that afternoon an assault was launched over the river further south to outflank Melun. However during the 23rd the US forces facing Melun were not idle.
Late on the morning of of the 23rd the Corps commander arrived on the scene. He was unhappy with the inaction of the soldiers there and so he started ordering and planning an assault. At 1400 much to everyone's surprise a very wet Frenchman staggered up to the Americans. Mr Pasquier worked as a waiter on the other side of the Seine. He had swum across the river in broad daylight to speak to the Americans, as he feared they would obliterate his home town. Mr Pasquier had been an artillery officer in the French Reserves before the war and this was to prove very important. He was able to give rather precise information on the location of the Germans and their artillery units. The Americans put this to good effect, pasting them with a concentrated twenty minute bombardment. Then the US forces tried to push forwards again. It's at this point one of the US tanks is destroyed by enemy anti-tank fire, it may be that the Pzkpfw 739(f)'s were responsible.
The attack appeared to have some initial success. The troops found that the demolitions to the bridge were not as thorough as they might have been and infantry could at least cross to the island halfway across. They were ably helped by at least one Frenchman, a young man named Robert Hugot. He performed the task of an engineer, arriving with planks of wood that he began to lay to help the US soldiers cross. However he was hit and killed while carrying out this task.
Now with the US soldiers on the island they began securing it, in the process they cleared the prison, and released a number of unpleasant criminals who fled back to the Allied side, and had to be rounded up at the expenditure of some effort by the US forces. By 2000 the fighting had abated for the day, and a lucky rain storm helped quell the fires that were burning.

The next day the fighting began about 0630, and slowly got worse throughout the day. The Germans tried to emplace a machine gun in the church steeple, however it was quickly smashed down by US firepower. During the day the US forces tried to get information out of the French civilians by means of signals, however as the French were civilians they had no standard means of communication. Throughout the day at least three Frenchmen crossed the river, some under German fire to deliver information to the US forces, one even made a double crossing. Eventually the push from the south arrived and the outflanked Germans were surrounded and forced to retreat, with at least five of their tanks reported lost.
The church before...
...and after.

The numbers of tanks lost is curious as some sources give the number as twenty. Which would be roughly equal to the number of Pzkpfw 739(f) that Panzer Kompanie Paris had. However the after action reports from the units involved only say five tanks were captured. It maybe that some post war authors are mixing the total numbers of tanks in Pz.Kompanie Paris and applying that to the total losses from this battle. What is certain is that only two Pzkpfw 739(f) have been photographed.

Image credits:
www.larepublique77.fr and melun77.com

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Charging Stag

After the closure of the Falaise Pocket the Germans began to fall back from the Allies, and the pursuit across France began. The Germans did defend where possible, mainly leaving delaying forces so there was a line of skirmishes across France. The first major obstacle the Allies encountered was the Siene River, surprisingly the Allies managed to bridge this with some speed, despite some casualties, at several locations. At Elbeuf the Canadians bounced across on the 28th of August, despite the destruction of the original bridge.
 Over the next two days the Canadians began to push forward to pursue the Germans. However the Germans fortified every little hamlet they could as a delaying tactic to try and form a new front line. As a result of this, progress was slow. On the 30th of August the Canadian 4th Armoured was advancing, and leading them was the 18th Canadian Armoured Car Regiment. The Regiment was spread out along either side of the 4th Armoured’s line of advance, with small patrols, each consisting of a platoon of Staghounds up front, on their own and unsupported.
Their advance began well, driving forward all morning then about midday they hit trouble. First in trouble was B Squadron, in the centre of the screen. They ran into a battery of three PAK-40's and lost two armoured cars near Samonville.
D Squadron was deployed to the right of B squadron. French civilians told the advancing Canadians that the village of Denis-Thibault was clear of German forces, so a troop was sent forward. The first Staghound was destroyed by a concealed anti-tank gun and the rest of the troop was taken under a ferocious barrage of small arms fire from a large number of German infantry. In the following fire fight another Staghound was damaged and had to be abandoned.

Meanwhile "C squadron was advancing well, in particular 13 Troop led by Lieutenant W Liard. As they approached Bierville Lt Laird was in the lead with Sergeant Ross J Bell following him. Suddenly from a mere ten feet away a German appeared with a Panzerschreck and promptly destroyed Lt Laird's Staghound. Stuck on a narrow road with no way to turn about and with the ambushing German reloading his Panzerschreck, Sgt Bell had only one possible course of action. This was to blow through the German ambush and hope they didn't have a cut off group waiting for him. Accelerating as fast as the narrow lanes would let them, Sgt Bell's Staghound roared forward. That was the last his unit saw of him.
Sgt Bell's adventure had just begun, as his car raced forward Sgt Bell frantically looked for a way to turn around and return to friendly lines. However the narrow sunken road thwarted his efforts. They cannoned down the sunken road, at times reaching speeds of fifty to sixty miles per hour. As they rounded one bend they found themselves face to face with a column of infantry. The Germans were marching to the front unaware that Sgt Bell and his Staghound were in the area. The armoured car rocketed forwards ramming into the column of men at full speed with both Browning machine guns chattering. The car smashed the standing Germans down with its mass and hardly slowed. Like Sgt Bell, the German infantry were trapped in the sunken road. At the rear of the column were three anti-tank guns being hauled to support the infantry, again the speeding Staghound rammed these obstacles out of the way, smashing them and then they carried on along the road.

The Canadians continued deeper into occupied territory. The next corner held another surprise. A Tiger tank was moving forward, and its huge bulk blocked most of the road. But neither side fired. The Tiger politely pulled a little to the side in the road that was now slightly wider, allowing the Staghound to pass. Obviously the Germans inside the tank didn't realise the bloody and dented armoured car was hostile!
Now Sgt Bell found himself beyond Bierville and ducked into some cover on a slight rise to work out what to do next. It soon became obvious, he could see a horse drawn artillery column moving north east. The lone Staghound began to engage and shoot up the column. Horse drawn guns are horrifically vulnerable as that column found out. Sgt Bell estimated that he killed about seventy horses, with the only one to escape being the one ridden by the units commanding officer. In the midst of this battering from the Staghound the Germans did try to bring one of their pieces into action, but as they began to unlimber it Sgt Bell spotted the danger and quickly silenced it with his 37mm gun.
Decamping from this new battlefield Sgt Bell now found himself far behind enemy lines and almost out of ammunition. Luckily as he was wondering what to do next he was found by some Frenchmen, all carrying guns. These belonged to the Free French of the Interior (the FFI). These Frenchmen were able to shelter and feed the crew, and hide their Staghound overnight. The next morning Sgt Bell set about trying to rejoin C Squadron, a feat he achieved about 1030. He was immediately ordered back to RHQ to give a full debriefing, and he arrived about 1300.
Sgt Bell received the Military Medal for his actions.

Further pictures and images, including Lt Lairds Staghound, can be found here.

Image credits:
anzacsteel.hobbyvista.com, ww2live.com, www.diggerhistory.info and www.warwheels.net

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Old and New

During the run up to World War Two the Norwegian Army was woefully under equipped. This stemmed from pacifism and neutrality from competing sides of the political spectrum. So when war broke out Norway was in a precarious position relying on its weakened armed forces to enforce its neutrality. The Norwegian Army did start a massive recruitment campaign, however its weaponry and equipment was in a pretty bad state. Of course in 1940 the Germans dared to test Norway's armed forces by invading. There was a plan for a coup de main straight up the fjords to Oslo seizing the government, the Royal Family and the country's gold reserves. For this the brand new Admiral Hipper class heavy cruiser the Blücher was to carry some eight hundred men straight into the heart of Oslo. The captain of the Blücher was reported as saying that his main armament should be left in its travelling position because of his contempt for the Norwegians defences and their poor equipment. After all what could these antiques from the last century do against the most modern ship in the German Navy.
The Blücher
Just four days after the Blücher had been commissioned into service, on 8th of April 1940, just before midnight, she began to nose into the Fjords leading to Oslo. Accompanying her were a pair of other cruisers and a pair of minesweepers. The latter wasn't needed, as the minefields were due to be laid over the following weeks. All seemed to be going well for the Germans, until in the early hours they approached the town of Drøbak, and entered the sound that holds the town's name.
Oscarsborg fortress, the Germans would have been approaching from bottom right. You can see the main batteries on that side of the island.
Here lay the Fortress of Oscarsborg. Sitting in the middle of the sound the fortress was formed of two islands. One, the slightly larger, held several eleven inch guns. These guns were brand new in 1900. The state of the fortress manpower was just as bad. To man the guns there were 450 men. These were fresh recruits who had been conscripted just seven days earlier. This was also well below the strength needed to man the guns, and only two of the weapons could be crewed.
To lead these green troops was Colonel Birger Eriksen, who was aged 65. Col Eriksen had spent his entire life in the coastal artillery, and in just six short months would be retiring.
Col Eriksen
Just after 0400 the German flotilla was spotted by the Norwegian patrol boat Pol III, the Germans hit the patrol boat with a torpedo but not before the ship had raised the alarm. Hurrying to their positions the recruits made ready. Col Eriksen stared out at the flotilla of heavily armed ships sailing towards him. Not knowing whom they were, Col Eriksen faced a huge dilemma. Although neutral the Norwegians were closely aligned to the British. If these were British ships opening fire could cause huge ramifications, and with hostilities with Germany likely in the next few weeks then attacking an ally could leave Norway exposed. Another alternative could be that these ships were British and were coming in by invite of the government to thwart a German operation elsewhere. Col Eriksen had literally no clear information or orders.
But what if they were German?

At 0421 on the 9th of April 1940 Col Eriksen, under his own initiative ordered the guns fired. His subordinates were unsure of his actions and in the face of their isolation questioned the orders. At which point Col Eriksen issued his most famous quote: "Either I will be decorated, or I will be court-martialed. Fire!"
Two of the guns were fired at the largest ship in the approaching flotilla, the Blücher, at almost point blank range. What happened to the first shell is open to debate. Some sources say it hit near the forward turret, others that it hit the range finding gear near the bridge.
What isn't in doubt is where the second round hit. About amidships, just in front of the rear mast, some sources claim it penetrated the aircraft hangar. This shell started a massive fire that started to spread.
One of the Krupp 28cm guns, with over casemates in the background. During the action only three were loaded, and of those only two were fired.
That fact that the guns had live rounds loaded is surprising, the standard orders for the coastal batteries was to fire a blank round as a volley, and Col Eriksen is rumoured to have said "Damn straight we're firing live ammunition." He's also said to have used the logic that other forts further up the fjords would have fired blanks as warning shots and have been ignored, so that the ships had received their warning.

With her amidships ablaze the Blücher steamed forward. The flotilla engaged in a fierce gun battle with several smaller batteries of coastal guns. As she passed the island with the fortress on the Blücher towered over one of the smaller batteries on the mainland and silenced them with her secondaries which were able to fire down onto the Norwegian gunners.

The second smaller island that formed Oscarsborg Fortress didn't appear to hold any gun batteries, in fact it appeared to be deserted. It wasn't deserted, a subterranean bunker was built there, housing a torpedo launching system. Two tubes fed into the channel below the water line. This torpedo battery had lost its commander some weeks earlier to illness. Its new commander had been in charge of the battery previously until 1927, when he'd retired. Commander Andreas Anderssen had spent the last thirteen years in retirement living in Drøbak, the previous night he'd been summoned by Col Eriksen so had put on his old uniform and been brought across by boat. Now he was in charge of nine torpedoes. However these torpedoes were old. They were of the Whitehead type, first developed in 1866 and were the first self-propelled torpedoes as we'd recognise them (previously "torpedoes" had been the term for what we'd currently call "mines". Remember the quote "All ahead full and damn the torpedoes!" He was actually referring to a mine field). Some sources say these torpedoes were manufactured about 1900.
Whitehead Torpedo in 1888.
Two were launched from the submerged tubes again aimed at the blazing Blücher, both hit, knocking out all but one of the ship's boilers. Now limping badly the Blücher continued forward and anchored out of the arc of fire for the defenders. Here she was able to try and fight the fires. Meanwhile the rest of the flotilla withdrew, fearing that the two torpedo hits were actually part of a minefield.
About 0530 the raging fires reached the Blücher's magazine for its 105mm flak guns, which promptly detonated causing massive internal damage, and rupturing the fuel bunkers flooding the ship with even more flammables, which also caught fire. At 0622 the Blücher began to sink bow first, before turning turtle.
A series of shots of the demise of the Blücher.
The halting of the flotilla meant that the Royal Family and government was able to evacuate to England, along with the gold reserves first being moved to another part of Norway and then to the UK. This meant the Free Norwegian movement was able to continue fighting alongside the Allies. With all the information and support that the movement was able to give to the Allies, they played a vital role in the rest of the war. This included assisting in the destruction of Bismark and Tirpitz and the destruction and sabotage of the German Heavy Water program.

Image Credits:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Main Bottle Tank

There are any number of battles in military history which boil down to "how did you mess that one up?". Where one side has all the advantages and still manages to lose against an an enemy who, by rights should have been flattened in the first half hour. Well during the fighting at Nomonhan in 1939, there was just such a battle.

As I've mentioned before the fighting at Nomonhan was due simply to a badly marked border, and a chunk of land claimed by both sides. When the Mongolians entered the disputed land it caused a battle where the Japanese were quickly wiped out. From there the skirmish escalated to a full blown war. At the start of the war the Japanese held the initiative, and drew up plans for an offensive into Mongolia. However they lacked a lot of the requirements for such an assault, and tried to make do on a shoestring and eventually the much better organised and larger Russian Army smashed them.
The start of the Japanese offensive was to bridge the Halha River, secure the opposite shore with a division of soldiers, while a veteran regiment mounted in trucks launched a lighting attack deep into Mongolia. The motorised infantry was to be the 26th Infantry Regiment commanded by the able Colonel Shinichiro Sumi. While the men were veterans, the regiments equipment wasn't in such a good state. Rushed to the front they had six each of heavy machine guns and battalions guns and two mortars across the entire regiment. Even the trucks were pressed into service from civilian sources, often still driven by their civilian drivers.

If these weakness caused worry to Col Sumi, the Japanese Higher Command did not share his misgivings and ordered the assault to begin on the evening of 2nd of July. Problems started immediately. Navigation in the region was horrifically hard, as there were very few landmarks. In one place one engineer unit began building its pontoon bridge on a lake, until it was noticed that there was no current. The bridge itself dated from the early 1900's and had never been designed to carry more than a field artillery piece. Even this equipment was in such short supply that the bridge (the engineers had all the bridging material in China) had to have pontoons so widely spaced that the bridge could only support a single truck at a time, and the truck had to be fully unloaded. To make matters worse the bridge was only 2.5m wide (about the width of a standard car park space). The crossing point was also the narrowest part of the river, but this too caused problems and compounded others. Because the river was narrower, the current was much faster, which lead to the bridge being curved, making the drive across even more difficult. Plus the river bank was sandy gravel which made it exceptionally difficult to anchor the pontoons. Every so often crossings would have to be halted for half an hour or so to allow the bridge to be repaired. Because of this, and other units that belonged to the infantry division also wanting to cross (Col Sumi was the ranking officer on the scene but he was described as an "outsider" to the division and so was largely ignored) the 26th Regiment only had a single battalion across the river by noon on the 3rd. Yet in the wildly optimistic plans drawn up by the divisional command, Col Sumi's entire regiment should have been across the river the night before.
With Russian pressure mounting on the infantry division protecting the bridgehead, and it likely to take most of the rest of the day for the rest of the 26th Regiment to cross the Japanese were faced with a choice, send a single battalion to do the job of three or wait and see what would happen. If you've read anything about the Japanese during Nomonhan it'll come as no surprise to find that they decided to proceed with the single battalion attack.

The battalion across the river already consisted of the 532 men and 78 trucks of Major Adachi's 1st Battalion. Although the other two battalions of the 26th Regiment dismounted and crossed the bridge on foot which was much quicker, they were still separated. The 1st Battalion began its advance towards its distant objective. After advancing for about a kilometre it ran into enemy armour.
Col Sumi stood atop an observation point and looked to the west, on the horizon he could see shapes moving in the blistering heat haze, Russian tanks were beginning to amass for an assault.
Against them stood a handful of Japanese soldiers and a smattering of field guns from 1906. The terrain was against the Japanese as well, it was flat open desert with no cover. Even the sandy soil was against the Japanese. At the time one of the principal Japanese AT weapons was a Type 93 mine on a bamboo pole. The pole was used to position the mine under the tank's tracks, where upon it would explode, disabling the tank. In the light sandy soil a tank would often pass over the mine, pushing it into the ground without meeting enough resistance to set off the explosive charge.
In preparation for this fight Col Sumi had dispatched officers to visit units that had seen action against the Russians earlier, and they returned with a variety of experience on the subject. One of the things that was suggested were Molotov cocktails. To this end Sumi's regiment requisitioned some 1200 bottles of soft drink, after some arguing with the quartermaster. First they had to be emptied, the soldiers were happy to do. Then they were filled with some sand to give them ballast, and the rest with petrol. When the tanks approached the bottles would be capped off with some wadding and then lit from a match and thrown at the Soviet tanks. These bottles were known as Kaenbin.
When the Soviets charged the 26th Regiment they attacked with a mass of hundreds of tanks and armoured cars. The Japanese infantry were out in the open with no cover, and no AT weapons, apart from the Kaenbin. As the tanks approached the soldiers started trying to light matches to ignite the wicks on their petrol filled bottles. However the wind ripping across the desert snuffed out the matches. In desperation the first bottles were flung unlit. Much to everyone's surprise the bottles smashed on the side of the Russian tanks, and spread fuel all over the tank. The tanks had been rushed from their base over many miles, and had been driving all the way in the baking sun, meaning the decks of the tanks were scaldingly hot. The petrol would catch fire from a combination of the heat of the direct sun and the searing deck plates. The tank would begin to burn from the bottom up, giving the appearance of the ground being on fire. Then the flames would creep higher. When they entered the petrol tank there would be a larger puff of flames and the tank would judder to a halt.
In that first action the Japanese claimed to have destroyed 83 tanks, in the open with nothing more than the Kaenbin.
You can see how much cover the Japanese had from this and other pictures. Its interesting to note if you look at the area now there's actually a lot more cover than there was back in the 30's.

By the end of the day the Russian forces had been forced to withdraw, however with stocks of Kaenbin almost exhausted, and no other means of defence the Japanese had to fall back, although the surprising resistance did mean the Soviets didn't push as hard as they might. This allowed the Japanese forces to fall back across the bridge and then destroy the span.

Image credits:
warfarehistorynetwork.com and www.flamesofwar.com

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Red Bridge

Disclaimer: This one is written from mostly French sources, and so was put together using Google Translate, so it might have some errors creeping in. Equally the information is quite sparse on the battle.

On the last day of May 1918 the German assault was in full flow, however near Retz Forest the French Moroccan infantry were about to launch a counter attack. Shortly after the attack was opened on the defending Germans, a number of tanks burst out of the cornfields just a few tens of yards away from the German lines. These tanks were unlike anything seen before by the Germans, they were Renault FT's. The Germans, by now knew how to deal with tanks, and started shooting at vision slits with their machine guns. However this had little effect, and one by one the German machine guns were silenced. The Renault FT was produced in huge numbers and sold around the world, and became the father of a great many nations tank programs. In 1940, At the start of World War Two there were still several hundred, if not a thousand or more in the French inventory.
When the Germans invaded France on the 10th of May 1940 the French military began to react. The French Army’s Ecole des Chars (tank training school) formed an impromptu battalion from the cadets and instructors who volunteered for combat, many of the instructors were reservists. At the time the School had a huge array of vehicles, including two Char B1 Bis', four Char D1's, three Char D2's, two Hotchkiss H39's, two Hotchkiss H35's, four FCM 36's and a single Renault R35. It also had on its books about 350 Renault FT's.
In the FT's the commander's controls were crude. The commander had to kick the driver to transmit his commands. A boot to either shoulder indicated a turn to that side was desired. A kick to the back was advance, and the poor drivers head, kicked once, was asking for the tank to be halted. Repeated blows to the head were the signal to reverse.
From the School's tanks the R35's and H39's and some of the FT's were formed into two companies. One of those companies was held back to protect provide Paris with an armoured force for its protection. In this role the FT's would have been more than adequate.

 However the 2nd Company was dispersed along the Marne to protect ten bridges stretching along the river from Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Château-Thierry, and was in position by the 25th of May. As was so often the case the French deployed their tanks in small numbers. At one of the bridges in Château-Thierry there stood a lone FT commanded by Cadet Charles-Armand de Rougé. The bridge  had only just been rebuilt after the battle at Château-Thierry in 1918. About two months after that battle, on the 28th of August Cadet de Rougé had been born in Paris. Now the young noble was watching refugee's and shattered French units retreat back across the bridge which he was parked next to, guarding. He was not completely alone, some of the French infantry began to halt in place to help him defend. The bridge was also rigged for demolition.
Medallion featuring Cdt de Rougé

 On the 10th of June 1940, Cdt de Rougé spotted a line of vehicles approaching, these were trucks and a pair of armoured cars from the 54th Reconnaissance Regiment, belonging to the 1st Greisberg Jager Division. Cdt de Rougé opened fire, along with the rest of the defenders as the Germans tried to charge over the bridge. The lone FT knocked out at least ten enemy vehicles, and the Germans were forced to break off the attack. As the battle drew to a close Cdt de Rougé stood up in his hatch, and was hit by small arms fire, and fell down outside his tank, the bridge was also demolished at about this time. Cdt de Rougé died later on of his wounds. When the new bridge was built, and opened in 1950 it was named after him.

Image Credits

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Aachen's Call

At 1615 on the 15th of October 1944 two US combat patrols met in a muddy area of countryside. The soldiers were from the 1st and 30th Divisions, and their linking up late on that Sunday afternoon meant that the German city of Aachen was now officially surrounded. For the last five days the two forces had been a mere two miles apart, but repeated attacks by the 116th Panzer "Greyhound" Division had kept the two US forces from closing. Now trapped in the pocket were some 5000 German soldiers backed up by five tanks, six 150 mm's, nineteen 105 mm's and eight 75 mm's, although the latter may have been anti-tank guns not artillery pieces. In addition the city was heavily fortified with bunkers, and even where not fortified by concrete the city was constructed of heavy thick stone walls, turning every house into a bunker.

The city of Aachen was in the US Army’s original plan to be surrounded and left to wither on the vine. However the logistic problems faced by the attackers, and the forces required to surround it were considered, plus there was the propaganda value. As an ancient city the German Kings were crowned there, and holding it gave the Nazis an air of legitimacy. It was also the first big German city to be threatened by the Allies. Faced with this possible rallying cry, and their own problems the Allies decided to subdue the city.
First however, like the days of Charlemagne (who was born in the city) the Allies broadcast an ultimatum calling for the city’s surrender within 24 hours, or it would be reduced with all the forces they could bring to bear. Colonel Gerhard Wilck (the garrison commander) did not reply, he was later to comment on the state of the German officer corps and say "The only cement that holds many German officers in place is fear, not only for their own lives, but of reprisals against their families at Himmler's hands."
Thus with neither side willing or able to give terms, the ultimatum expired on the 11th of October at 1200, and the US Artillery began to fire, and the US 1st Infantry Division began its attack.

On one hand the 1st Division only had two infantry battalions of the 26th Infantry regiment to act as assault troops. But they did enjoy some certain advantages. While the city was not yet completely surrounded they did have enough of it to place the artillery support in a position to fire parallel to the line of advance. Artillery fire was often long or short of its target point by a significant margin, but the degree of inaccuracy laterally is very small. Normally when firing over the heads of friendly troops it is the length ways inaccuracy that causes problems. With the side on set up the artillery could be brought down startlingly close to the US forces, sometimes even being aimed at targets within the same block, which game the US a massive fire-power advantage.
The US Infantry moved their way down streets in bitter close-in fighting, slowly pushing the Germans back. But the buildings proved very resistant to the 75mm and 76mm guns of the US armour. A new weapon was needed, and as luck had it the US Army had reluctantly adopted just such a weapon, the M12 Gun Motor Carriage.
The M12 was a First World War vintage 155mm gun, copied from the French and mounted on the chassis of a M3 Lee. The whopping 155mm gun fired its 95 pound shell at nearly 2500 feet per second. There is a story of one M12 taking a hit to the gun barrel, just short of the muzzle. Desperately needing this gun back in action at the front and no replacement barrels being available a quick fix was suggested and carried out, of just cutting a foot off the end of the barrel and sending it back into action. This, technically, created a sawn off self propelled artillery piece!

The effects of the M12's was colossal. Towards the final days of the battle one M12 was brought up and fired towards the final German defenders. The shot slammed into the first house and blasted a hole right through it. The round then carried on smashing through another two houses before the delayed action fuse caused it to detonate inside a fourth house, blowing it to pieces. One round was also used upon Colonel Wilck's HQ, a disused cinema. This caused Col Wilck to refer to them as barbaric during his interrogation shortly afterwards. However one should consider the Colonels mental state during this time. An account of his interrogation can be found here.
An example of how the M12's were brought into action can be found at Hindenburgstrasse. There lay a German bunker impervious to anything the US could get directed at it. So an M12 was brought up, however the M12 was a very rare and vitally important piece, and no replacements could be found if it was knocked out. With only one to cover the battalion the US commander had to be careful.
To get a line of fire onto the bunker the M12 would have had to be driven out into the main street exposing it to a hail of enemy fire. The commander used a bit more ingenuity. He brought up a M10 Tank Destroyer and used it to cut a firing slit in the wall with point blank high velocity shells. Then he sent some tanks to flanking positions where they commenced a suppressing fire. Then he sent some infantry out to clear some of the nearby houses on the German side so that they couldn't be used by a Panzerfaust team to ambush the M12. Then the M12 was emplaced at the "firing slit", lined up on the German bunker, and began to fire as fast as the gun could. The M12 fired twelve rounds, some at the bunker, some lobbed in general at the German positions. Later it was found out the bunker had in fact been a German tank, which had been obliterated by the 155mm shell. Equally, one of the randomly fired rounds had, by sheer luck caught a Panzer that had been emerging from a side street to fire at the M12. Obviously it too was destroyed.

Image Credits:
militarymashup.com and www.dailyherald.com

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Terminal Reservist

As is well known one of the main problems during the Second World War was logistics, especially the securing of ports after a landing on a hostile coast. At first there was some thought of capturing a port intact, such thoughts led to Dieppe and Operations Terminal and Reservist.
Entrance to Oran harbour
The latter two were part of Operation Torch, the US invasion of Vichy North Africa. The plan for both was simple. Run a pair of small ships into the harbour, smashing apart the booms covering the entrance to the harbours, then once alongside unload the troops carried whom could then secure the area and prevent the harbour facilities being destroyed. Upon seeing the Royal Navy vessels loaded down with US infantry, and a small party of six USMC (possibly the gun crew on one of the ships), bearing down on them the enemy would instantly surrender. Or so it was thought.
Its interesting to note that this action is the only time in the Second World War when the USMC saw action in Europe, apart from a few men acting with the SOE in France.
HMS Hartland
The plan for Operation Reservist was for two ex-US Coast Guard cutters (which had been gifted to the Royal Navy and were now know as HMS Hartland and HMS Walney) to carry the forces. The force was led by Captain Frederick Peters, a 53 year old retired Royal Navy officer who had won DSC and a DSO in the First World War. Cpt Peters had volunteered for this mission.
Cpt Peters
As the two ships began their run in towards the harbour at Oran in the early morning of the 8th of November 1941, they saw the city ahead laid out with all its lights blazing. As they neared the harbour word of the invasion must have reached the French defenders, a siren began to wail and the power to the city was cut, plunging everything into darkness. HMS Walney led, with HMS Hartland five minutes behind.
As they approached the engines are turned to full speed, however the line is quickly seen as terrible, and the sloops were destined to miss the harbour mouth by at least a quarter of a mile. The two naval vessels begin a full 360 degree turn to line up and try again. In the area there was a colossal thirteen coastal batteries, with the largest gun being a 9.4" battery. Equally there was somewhere in the order of 10,000 men defending the area. This cacophony of weaponry was turned on the two small Royal Navy vessels as they approached. In reply the ships carried a large US flag and had loud hailers to broadcast a message. The two ships did have a five inch gun apiece.
Speared by a searchlight, and blasted at by all the guns that could be brought to bear, HMS Walney made her second approach, this time she was lined up perfectly and impacted the boom and broke right through it. At that point the searchlight spotted HMS Hartland on her approach and switched to it, taking all the gunners attention away from HMS Walney.

As the battered ship moves into the harbour a French destroyer was seen nearby, HMS Walney then maked an attempt to ram, however the two ships scrape past each other, the French destroyer opens fire at point blank range with all its guns. The devastating barrage blasts the armour plate from the bridge, the impacts knocks Cpt Peters to the deck, and causes even more casualties. HMS Walney is now on fire getting shot at by every calibre of gun you can imagine from every direction. On-board the ammunition stores are on fire and detonating, and the forward gun has been hit and is out of action. Cpt Peters scrambles to his feet, looking about he sees he is the only survivor on the bridge. He is now utterly exposed to the fire coming from all around and he guides the exploding, blazing ship forward. Meanwhile the US soldiers are returning fire with their personal weapons as best they can.
However despite this all, Cpt Peters was not hit, and reaches the mole where he was meant to land the US troops. Peters dashes to the forward deck and assists another officer in securing the first of the lines, then he races along the deck to the quarterdeck to assist in tying up there. All the time as he moves about there are two French destroyers on the other side of the harbour. From what is effectively point blank range, they direct a storm of fire at HMS Walney, and at in particular the naval officer rushing about on its deck. Cpt Peters didn't even hesitate or take cover once.
Before the troops could begin to disembark a large shell hits HMS Walney in the boiler room and destroys all power. Finally the damage begins to tell and HMS Walney begins to sink, and the order to abandon ship is given.

HMS Walney at rest
HMS Hartland fared little better. On her second approach her captain was hit and blinded, the ship impacted into the outer harbour wall. The wounded Lt Commander GP Billot, her captain, ordered her backed off and she tried again. All the time the fire was savaging the ship. This time she succeeded in entering the harbour. However as HMS Hartland passed another French destroyer it too raked the RN ship, putting her out of action and disabling her completely. She had to be abandoned immediately and drifted for a while before sinking.
HMS Hartland drifting on fire.
A similar plan was carried out for Operation Terminal. This time two Royal Navy ships, of similar size to HMS Walney and Hartland, tried to force an entry into Algiers harbour. The first ship, HMS Malcolm, broke through the boom, however she lost three of her four boilers to the storm of defending fire and she had to withdraw. Her companion was HMS Broke (no, not the HMS Broke from the battle of the Dover Straits).
HMS Malcom, with US troops on-board
 HMS Broke took four attempts to breach the boom, all the time under fire, however she managed to eventually enter the harbour and land her troops before withdrawing. However while heading for safety she was hit by coastal batteries and sunk. The troops she landed managed to fight off the French for seven hours until they were forced to surrender.
US troops in Algiers after the French surrender.
Algiers harbour a week after the surrender, the facilities remain intact, due largely to the few troops managing to hold on for those critical hours and denying the French time to destroy the harbour.
Operation Reservist suffered casualties in excess of 90% of the force, they totalled 307 killed and 250 wounded, the terminal casualties were much lighter with 22 killed and 55 wounded. One of the few Reservist survivors was Cpt Peters, who for his actions was awarded the Victoria Cross. All the prisoners were released when the French surrendered on the 10th. Cpt Peters was then sent back to the UK by Sunderland. However it crashed in fog in Plymouth Sound, Cpt Peters made it out of the plane along with the pilot. The pilot struggled to keep him afloat for 90 minutes until they were found and rescued, but Cpt Peters was dead when he was pulled from the water.

Image credits:
warfarehistorynetwork.com, liberationtrilogy.com, www.wrecksite.eu and wwww.iwm.org.uk