Purpose of this blog

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

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Tank: The Next Generation

Some weeks ago I ran the design a tank competition. The number of entries was rather low, as in, only two designs. One design came in, on the last day, and is part of the reason for the results delay, as the winner isn't answering his email! This, I suppose makes my life easier as judging is pretty simple.

So the only winner I have to show to you is Bob Mackenzie's winning design:

Step forward Mr Mackenzie, and give your tank a cool name!

The FMBT 2040 is a “light” MBT. Although protected against 155mm shell splinters exploding 5m away, 20mm APDS and AT mines, it is not heavily armoured, relying on superior situational awareness, mobility and advanced APS for survivability

1)    1750bhp diesel electric drive. The engine powers electric motors on the sprockets, giving exceptional acceleration and mobility. The cooling fans for the engine are double the “traditional” size to reduce ambient engine temperature and this reduce IR signature.

2)    Micro drone hanger. Carries 10 micro drones each equipped with a high-res zoomable camera and a multi frequency (jam resistant) data link plus a GPS receiver. The drone increases situational awareness and allows the tank to conduct its own indirect fires.

3)    TV cameras with overlapping (for redundancy) 360 deg coverage horizontally and 180 deg vertically

4)    Active Protection System. Each point around the tank is overlapped by at least three tubes allowing for redundancy and combat sustainability. System will deal with both slow (missile) and fast (APFSDS) threats

5)    Millimetre Wave radar targeting sensor of APS, with a supporting IR system.

6)    Main commanders’ optical sight, wide angle and zoom optics plus a thermal imager and a laser rangefinder

7)    GPS receiver. Should this be jammed / non-functional then the tanks combat information system may receive position updates from other thanks in its company. There is an auxiliary inertial system.

8)    Datalink antenna for drones, has 20 different frequency settings allowing the tank to “watch” multiple drones and to watch drones for other vehicles plus larger drones supporting the formation.

9)    Bustle autoloader, able to deal with 3 types of ammo. There are blow off safety panels on the roof.

a.    HE with a programmable airburst fuse (burst position for direct fires determined by laser rangefinder, for indirect fires based on the GPS co-ordinates of the directing drone). This round has a very much reduced propellant charge compared to other rounds.

b.    Monolithic Heavy APFSDS. Long rod penetrator for dealing frontally with heavily armoured legacy threats

c.    Triform APFSDS. Contains three penetrators each sufficient to deal will all but the heaviest frontal armour. Once out of the barrel the penetrators diverge laterally then resume a converging course. Flight path is determined by the tank’s fire control computer in conjunction with the laser rangefinder. Penetrators have a MMW radar absorbent coating. The coating, plus the number and differing approach vectors to the target is designed to confuse and overwhelm enemy APS.

10)    Gantry to allow loading of cassettes for the autoloader rapidly and under fire

11)    Sensor mast which telescopes up to 15m high. For transport (and fitting under bridges) it may hydraulically pivot backwards

12)    120mm main gun. With the change to APS as the primary method of protection, rather than armour, the 120mm is sufficient for all armoured threats in 2040. As legacy heavy armour systems are retired the tank is able to be down gunned to 105mm to allow for more ammunition to be carried.

13)    Main gunner’s sight. Dual channel TV and thermal imaging, plus a laser rangefinder

14)    Crew module. Turret is unmanned and the three crew members sit in the hull. Crew sit reclined and low down in the hull to reduce their exposure to fire. The Module has an automatic fire extinguisher plus an NBC system. Escape doors to either side and in the vehicle floor

15)    Now noise APU to power the electronic systems. Allows operation with the main engine turned off. For truly silent operation in sunny climes optionally an 10m x 10m rolled solar panel mat is provided (to be laid on the ground)

16)    Multi-spectrum smoke dischargers (opaque to laser, thermal imagers and MMW radar)

17)    Main exhaust. Exhaust is mixed with ambient air to reduce the IR signature

18)    Multipurpose, tuneable, jammer and radar warning. The jammer can be tuned to known threat frequencies for IEDs and enemy drones. A separate antenna is designed to operate against enemy MMW radar for APS. APS radars and drone links are too low power to be reliably detected by a simple threat receiver, however enemy jammers can be easily detected.

19)    Commanders’ auxiliary position (unmanned except in emergency). It is cramped but has direct view periscopes, auxiliary firing controls and auxiliary driving controls. These are routed on the opposite side of the tank to the primary controls. In the event of damage to various electronic components (for example the vehicle’s camera system) the tank can be fought from this position and moved to safety.


Now interestingly Mr Mackenzie has gone the same direction as Rheinmetall's designers in the new KF51 Panther, which they put on show earlier this year.

The concept is that by using other systems you can lighten the amount of armour you put on the tank, producing a lighter chassis and the massive cost benefits this creates.Why do I suggest the Panther is light on armour? Well by looking at the weight. The tanks weight range is 50-60 tons, hence the designation of KF51. Into that weight you've stuck a 130mm gun, autoloader and four crew, which is more stuff than current modern western tanks have, and yet they weigh around 70 tons. In addition the Panther is stated to have defences against top attack weapons, although it is obviously secret at this time. So unless the scientists at Rheinmetall have worked out how to break the laws of physics (which admittedly may have happened), the only way to achieve the specified weight is by stripping off huge slabs of armour.

Whilst modern anti-missile systems can, and likely, will destroy any incoming missiles, they can only intercept the first few launched at you. Most anti-missile systems these days will not shoot down more than about four missiles, and many will only be able to intercept two... then what? At that point your tank will be hit. We've seen in Ukraine some examples of Russian tanks surviving the first hit, at which point the Ukrainian defenders fire off another missile. There are other factors at play as well, anti-missile systems which shoot down incoming missiles all need targeting data, and there is no passive way of obtaining that information with enough accuracy to achieve interception. Thus you need a radar system emitting, which will give away your position. What if you're in a hidden position with anti-missile system switched off, and the enemy see you and launch on you? Equally, if you are fighting as part of a combined arms group (which you should be, again See Russian activities in Ukraine for an example of why you should do it), the infantry are at risk from the tanks anti-missile system, so it may well be switched off. That's the good thing about huge slabs of armour, it's always working and available as protection.

Of course, that's my own view. Obviously not everyone agrees with me, including those who do this for a living. So Thank you to Mr Mackenzie for submitting his design, and allowing me to start a discussion on the subject. I'd also point to feature number 10 on Mr Mackenzie's design, which is something a lot of people utterly neglect to think about, so a bonus point, if not several, for that!

Sunday, July 3, 2022

A Tanks Future [competition]

Last week I asked if the tank is dead, which it is not. However, I suggested the shape of the tank may well change. But change to what?

Well we can all take our guesses as to what a tank will look like, so why don't we? Lets have a competition.


I have sitting on my book shelf, five brand new copies of the second edition of Forgotten Tanks & Guns. This is the paper back version of my first book. As it is the second edition it has some corrections in it, and I've gotten new artwork done to harmonise a lot of the drawings. In the first edition the artwork didn't get done on time, so I was sitting there drawing stuff, which led to the rather terrible plan drawings in some chapters. Well these have been replaced by the cracking 3d drawings from Andrei Kirushkin.

I can of course sign the books before dispatch, or include a message. Just be aware my hand writing is terrible, so you have been warned on that score.


To win one of these I want you to design a tank (or other AFV to do the role of a tank). For this I am defining a tanks role as to move weapons about the battlefield in a protected manner, and to close with and destroy the enemy with firepower, manoeuvre and shock effect.

A note on technology: I'm going to limit it to an in-service date of 2040 (when the current crop of MBT's are due to out of service). So ideally the technology will be roughly the same as now, with maybe limited advancements, of course where you think technology will be in a decade is entirely up to you.

How to Enter:

Entering is easy!

Get your designs together and email them into: historylisty-general@yahoo.co.uk (I hope I've set up that email account correct! If not, yell down in the comments, and I'll set it up again).

Now, don't worry if you can't draw. I can't either so I'm not judging anyone on their art standards. But a very rough plan allows me to understand what you are thinking. I'm also used to finding terrible sketches in documents as designers try to sell their ideas. Equally, with the abundance of modern graphics programs you should be able to get a basic outline done, which is all you need.

You'll want to include some text to describe what you're thinking as well, but this could be notation of the drawings, or some paragraphs. As long as its legible I'm not fussed by English ability (also something I'm terrible at!). Remember, previous competitions I've run for writing a whole article have been won by non-native speakers. 

Deadline for this will be 1st August. After this date I'll pick the top five designs which I think are best, and contact you on the email address the entry was submitted from. I'll then post the books to the address you give.

I look forward to seeing your designs.


Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Tank is Dead

Events in the Nagorno-Karabakh war back in September 2020 hinted at the new reality of warfare. These truths were thrown into sharp relief during the Ukrainian war, where light forces equipped with modern tank-killing weapons have annihilated Russian armoured columns. Swarms of cheap drones have given precision data allowing the modern anti-tank weapons to find and spectacularly destroy the lumbering dinosaur from the last century.
These lighter forces are more mobile, a cheaper platform and more agile with better ability to punch above their weight. They are a transformative option that signals the end of the century of the tank. Interconnectivity allows information dominance in the battlespace blah blah obsolete blah blah blah Cyber! Blah blah blah…


Knocked out T-90 in Ukraine.

How many times recently have you read an article about the ‘Death of the Tank!111!’ from any number of media sites? They cite the ability of modern anti-tank weapons that have rendered the tank too vulnerable and have thus made them a liability on the modern battlefield. Well the pass-time of predicting the tanks demise is a long and proud one, and it has always been proved wrong. For the rest of this article we shall be looking at some of the previous claims of the end of the tank, from the first days when the tank crawled from the primordial mud of the Somme.

The Pioneers:
As we all know the Mk.I tank lurched its way across a muddy Somme swamp in September 1916. They had been born from the need to break the superiority of the machine gun. Throughout the war they had a chequered effect, and it has long been argued if they were a war winning weapon (for a more detailed argument see Tavers, 1992).
While historians are debating the effect of the tank during the First World War, there were similar contemporary debates after the war. In December 1919 Major-General Sir Louis Jackson gave a speech to the Royal United Service Institution. In it he stated:

‘The tank proper was a freak, the circumstances which called it into existence were exceptional and not likely to recur. If they do, they can be dealt with by other means.'

(Quoted in Harris, 2015)

While this may have been the opinion of a single such officer, there were other voices that cautioned not to become too enthralled by the tank, including one that was instrumental in designing the tank:

‘By the adoption of springs and other mechanical devices a speed of 20 miles an hour, which is a great deal faster than a fox hound, can be attained across country over hedges and ditches and so forth, and one thousand miles have been run without any appreciable wear and tear in the gear. This tank weighing 30 tons is able to pass over a brick lying on the road without crushing the brick, so delicate is the mechanism.
On the other hand the methods of anti-tank warfare have also made a profoundly significant advance. A new-form of grenade has been devised which can be discharged from the ordinary rifle capable of inflicting mortal injury on the wonderful little instrument which I have just described.
And the same thing applies to the growth of the tank as to the dual system of gun and armour. Whether the tank by increased speed, by the use of smoke, by increased protection, and by some other devices can maintain its ascendency cannot yet be foreseen. Of course its value against all enemies unprovided with these special means of offence will remain. The whole subject, however, is highly experimental and we should be most unwise to commit ourselves to any large programme of tank construction, involving heavy expense, until much more definite results can be reached and the whole practical aspect of this new war weapon has been further examined.’

(Churchill, 1920)

The argument being put forward here is that while the mechanical faults and inside conditions that plagued the tanks during the First World War were largely corrected, and that great developments had been taken in refining the vehicle, anti-tank methods had also advanced. Anti-tank guns had for the first time appeared and were more than capable of killing contemporary tanks quickly and effectively. But despite these concerns the tank did not die out, indeed it could be said to enter a golden age where everyone was experimenting with weird tank ideas.

No Really, It Is Dead Now!

For this episode of the Tank is Dead, one would like to show you a newspaper article from a very well known name. It was published in 1940 of all dates:

(Thanks to Andrew Hills for supplying this)

Later in the decade chemical energy rounds such as HEAT and HESH were developed, or came into common use. These could knock holes through huge thicknesses of armour, and they became smaller and lighter, allowing a humble infantryman to carry a weapon that could kill a tank. Indeed, by the end of the War in Europe around 35 percent of British tank losses were knocked out by shaped charge warheads.

It’s Dead Jim!

After the war, the chemical energy anti-tank rounds were quickly combined with guided rockets, and suddenly there were statements of the tank being obsolete, these seemed to come to a peak during the Yom Kippur War, where Israeli armoured columns were smashed by man-ported Sagger anti-tank guided missiles.

But like all claims of the tank's demise, it missed one important thing. The new development that renders tanks obsolete gets countered. In the Yom Kippur the crews quickly learned how to deal with Saggers. The simple trick of waiting until the missile was about halfway through its flight, and then spraying the launch position with a burst of machine gun fire, and moving the tank a few feet forward would usually cause the missile to miss as the operator ducks to avoid the bullets, meaning the missile goes off guidance.
In the case of chemical energy warheads from the 1940s, composite and spaced armours were developed, with the first appearing on Wasp flamethrowers in 1945. Even against anti-tank guns there was a counter response from the tank. In the British case they developed the Close Support tank that was designed to blind anti-tank guns with smoke. While this turned out to be less successful than hoped, the simple expedient of combined arms being adopted enabled tanks to survive.

Even today there are questions about the new technologies such as drones. First off I would challenge the claim that drones are ‘cheap’. They are not:

Source: NaCTSO

 As you can see to be carrying any sort of payload, with the range to use it, you need to spend large sums of money. In addition, laser and directed energy weapons are just getting to the point when they can be used to destroy drones. A defence which may be adapted to deal with anti-tank missiles. The US currently seems to be going with a slightly different approach to the problem, adopting the main armament of its next generation of IFV to have the ability to engage drones and such threats, thus every IFV in the battle group would have an anti-drone capability. Whether this approach will work, or could be used to provide ATGM protection remains to be seen, as the choice of 50mm cannon raises serious questions in AFV design. But either approach could easily create a massive no fun zone for drones and ATGM’s around the tank.

In the latest war, where we apparently have seen the ‘death of the tank’, the Russian forces were, at the time of writing, still advancing slowly. Equally, on a number of occasions the Ukrainians have asked for large numbers of tanks to be supplied. This alone indicates that the tank is still a vital part of the modern military.
The fact remains, if you want to destroy the enemy with firepower, manoeuvre and shock effect you need a big cannon that can move around the battlefield, and is protected from enemy fire.
There is only one technological solution to this requirement, and that is the tank. Tanks will almost certainly change and gain new defensive systems, or need the support of new vehicles or capabilities from combined arms warfare, but they will remain.


    Churchill W (1920): Mr Churchill's Statement: Hansard: Volume 125, col 1356: debated on Monday 23 February 1920. Available at: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/1920-02-23/debates/260327d5-9b51-4ab3-9e4b-116dde81c6e8/MrChurchillSStatement?highlight=tank#contribution-b1cff7f9-56d1-496d-8a23-77ebb9cc8fca

        Harris, J (2015): Men, Ideas, and Tanks: British Military Thought and Armoured Forces, 1903-1939, Manchester University Press.
    Tavers, T  (1992): Journal of Contemporary History Vol. 27, No. 3 (Jul., 1992), pp. 389-406 (18 pages). Available at:  https://www.jstor.org/stable/260897  


Next week, I think we'll have a little competition about tanks.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

With a Bit of Guts Behind them!

Hello Historians, I am still alive and doing history stuff. As you may have gathered, it has not left me much time to do full articles. I do still provide history related content on my social media, with most of it going up on Facebook, but I do put some of it on Twitter (@History_Listy) as well (all dependent on word counts and the like).

Today as I have nothing planned, I thought we could have a look at part of my collection. Over the last few years I have been slowly collecting British Bayonets, and as I now have a decent quantity of them I figured a quick post is in order. So let me take you through my collection of stabby sticks.

The 'complete' collection


First up we have what I am pretty certain is a Brown Bess musket socket bayonet. I got it second hand so its exact details are not stated. I am also daily certain it is a modern reproduction, but as the price was low even for a repo, it seemed silly not to get it. 


Next we have our first real bayonet. In 1871 the British army introduced their new rifle, the Martini–Henry.  Made famous today by its use and appearance in the film Zulu. This was similar to the Brown Bess bayonet, however the triangular cross-section is the same width on all of the sides. This particular one is quite badly battered, with the tip of the blade being quite beaten up. Which is a shame as at the time casting bayonets was tricky, and it was not possible with the technology of the time to get an equal sided point at the tip. So the outer edge had a slight curve to it.This particular one is missing part of the locking system, and has a cracked base, which leads us nicely on to:

This is a 1887 Mk.4 bayonet. After experience of the Martini–Henry bayonet, and its use in Africa, it was determined that the bayonet was in need of improvement. Specifically the old socket bayonets tended to break, and had troubles in their mounting system. So work began on sword bayonets, like this one. The term ‘sword’ is entirely appropriate as the blade is absolutely massive. In length it is about 18 inches (nearly 46cm)! This particular blade was forged in 1886 as part of the trials and development of the bayonet, then in 1891 it was converted to a 1887 pattern. The trials bayonets converted to the 1887 pattern became the Mk.4 of the weapon.


The next bayonet seems to be a much more conventional length to us, and is an 1888 pattern. This particular one was forged in 1896. You can instantly see the similarities in the cross-guard and the bayonet socket on the hilt to the 1887. These were often converted to fighting knives during the First and Second World Wars. There is an interesting variant, which I don’t yet have an example of. It is the 1903 bayonet, the main visual difference is that the rivets holding the grip on are changed to screws, which then becomes the standard way of fitting the handles onto the bayonets.

The new screw style of attachment is amply shown on our next subject, a 1907 sword bayonet. This particular weapon was forged in 1916, at the height of the First World War. These bayonets were fitted to the SMLE Mk.III and would serve all the way up until the early part of the Second World War. Like hte 1887 it is a sword bayonet, and is only a bit shorter in blade length than the 1887. However, the 1887 has a longer grip.

Our next bayonet is a bit of a special case, and unfortunately a bit of an example of a cowboy at work. The bayonet itself is a US made 1913 pattern, with a maker's date of 1917. This particular one then got sent to the British (as it is War Office marked) and is fitted with the leather UK style scabbard, this means it was highly likely it would have been issued to the Home Guard.

The down side is of course the grip. It seems that at some point in its past someone attempted to repair the grip by gluing a pair of wooden handles that they had crafted in place of the originals. The originals should look a lot like the 1907 handles, fixed in place by screws. Both the 1907 and the 1913 patterns look almost identical. So to distinguish the two types two vertical grooves were cut in the wooden handles. This one obviously lacks them, and so would need some restoration.

Our last Bayonet is a No4 Mk.II* spike bayonet. This was pretty much the standard bayonet for the British for the later half of the Second World War. This particular one lacks any markings at all, when combined with the finish makes me believe it may be one of the Post war Belgium production

Anyway, I hope you found this brief look into my collection interesting. There’s still oodles of Bayonets out there to add, however, this is a work in progress.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

The Bridge

Over the years (soon to be decades!) I have been writing these articles I have focused on a great many items to bridge elements of the story, be it a tank, warship, location or even weapon system. But today, to span the passage of time, I am going to focus on a bridge. Waterloo Bridge to be exact. 


Waterloo Bridge is actually the second bridge over the Thames to stand at this location. The first bridge, made of stone, was opened in June 1817. It was called the Strand Bridge. Over the years the flow of water around the piers caused the mud of the riverbed to be worn away. This caused the Strand Bridge to become undermined, and by the 1923 the middle of the bridge had settled and warped the structure. In 1925 a temporary metal bridge was constructed to take southerly traffic and ease the strain on the main bridge.  As the Strand Bridge was considered a work of art, an argument broke out on what to do with it. Some were for maintaining it like you would any other culturally and historically important fine house or building. Others, headed by the London Country Council (LCC) wanted to tear it down and build a new modern structure. In 1934 the LCC was taken over by the Labour Party, and had a new leader, Herbert Morrison. This is the same Morrison that would design the Morrison Air Raid Shelter of which some half a million would be made during the Second World War. The new LCC decided to knock the Strand Bridge down and build a new structure. Morrison broke the first stone signalling start of the work that same year. 

Morrison Shelter showing what it can do.

By the outbreak of the Second World War the bridge was not completed. As more men enlisted the work of construction moved to female workers, and it gave Waterloo Bridge it’s nickname, ‘Ladies Bridge’. A late modification to the bridge was to include recesses for explosives in the pillars, this was to enable it to be demolished should the Germans approach.

The Germans did approach on the 19th of April 1941, when during the Blitz a German bomb hit the nearly complete Waterloo Bridge. There were only two London bridges hit during the Second World War, Waterloo and Kew Bridge. The latter occurred when a German bomber was attacked by RAF fighters, and it dumped its bombs. A bomb hit the centre of Kew Bridge, but was only a small bomb, as the Germans were want to drop, resulting in a small hole in the road way and some shrapnel damage to the massive stone blocks, which is still visible today. 

Splinter damage on Kew Bridge

The Germans came close again in 1944 when a V-2 impacted into the Thames just to the east of Waterloo Bridge, but again with no effect.

On 7th of September 1978 Georgi Markov was waiting at a bus stop when he felt a sharp pain on the back of his thigh. Spinning around he saw a man who had just dropped an umbrella. The man picked up his umbrella and hurriedly crossed the road and got into a taxi.  Markov was a Bulgarian dissident and would die four days later from an unknown poison that many suspect to be Ricin. This was the infamous Bulgarian Umbrella assassination.

As you can see Waterloo Bridge has seen its own share of events over the years. 


Thank you for reading. If you like what I do, and think it is worthy of a tiny donation, you can do so via Paypal (historylisty-general@yahoo.co.uk) or through Patreon. For which I can only offer my thanks. Or alternatively you can buy one of my books.

 Image credits:


Sunday, February 13, 2022

First and Last

On the 24th of February, 1815, two days before Napoleon escaped from Elba, and four months before the Battle of Waterloo, a huge ship of the line rumbled down the slipway at Bombay. She was named HMS Wellesley in honour of Arthur Wellesley, who at that time had had a distinguished career, albeit was shortly to fight the battle he became famous for. She weighed in at 1745 tons, and was armed with seventy-four guns, in a variety of sizes ranging from 12-pounders all the way up to banks of 32-pounders. 

Now I know what you’re thinking, hang on David, this is a bit outside the date range for your usual fare? Yes, she is, but the HMS Wellesley had a service career that lasts 125 years, at which point she picked up several unique events.

The birth of the HMS Wellesley was somewhat difficult. She was ordered in September 1812 from the East India Company by the Royal Navy. The plans for her construction were dispatched to India aboard the ship HMS Java. But what else was going on in 1812? Yes, the war against the United States. HMS Java was captured en-route by the USS Constitution. To keep on schedule the shipyards in Bombay used the plans they already had on hand for a Vengeur class, and built the ship to those specifications. HMS Wellesley’s hull was laid down in May 1813. When she was completed, she cost a little over £55,000. 

Her first taste of warfare was at Karachi in 1839. Here the local rulers had refused to sign a treaty with the East India Company. The EIC accused the locals of conducting piracy out of the port. Thus, on the first of February 1839 HMS Wellesley arrived and anchored under the fort that guarded the entrance to the harbour. Two days later she opened fire on the fort that had first been erected in 1797 and deployed her boats carrying the men of the 40th Royal Marines. HMS Wellesley fired upon the fort, in return the fort fired a single shot back. Due to the number of ratings needed to crew the boats, the remaining Royal Marines were kept aboard to help man the guns. Landing to the west the marines stormed the fort. They found just four or five men, without any guns to defend themselves, so they quickly took control of the fort, and Karachi surrendered.

However, a new crisis was brewing in the Persian Gulf around Aden. The British Residency at Bushire was under siege from Persian troops. Arriving in March, HMS Wellesley once again deployed the Royal Marines while she stood off. There was a brief firefight during the landing when the British took three injuries, and the Persian troops fled. The Marines were then able to relieve the Residency and evacuate the staff. The Marines stayed in position until the 30th when all were evacuated. Later that year the Anglo-Persian treaty was signed.

HMS Wellesley took part in the first Opium War in later that year. During the capture of Chusan HMS Wellesley became engaged in a firefight with shore batteries. Upon returning from this action 27 cannon balls were dug out of her sides. The following year she took part in the second battle of Chuenpi, which is vastly more famous for the ironclad paddle steamer Nemesis slaughtering the entire Chinese fleet. Then she took part in silencing the forts and shore batteries during the Battle of the Bogue and Battle of First Bar. Finally, this rampage ended with a battle against the Chinese Flagship, weirdly called ‘Cambridge’. She was involved in several other actions during the course of the war.

After the Opium War she returned to the UK, where she became a guard ship at Chatham. HMS Wellesley was even mentioned in The Times at this point, and not in a flattering way:

‘It is reported here that Her Majesty has graciously signified her pleasure that the name of the leviathan line-of-battle ship Windsor Castle, 140, shall be changed to that of "The Duke of Wellington," in token of Her Majesty's high esteem for the memory of that lamented hero. This resolve on the part of the Queen will be universally applauded, as we have nothing bearing the name of the deceased but two wretched old 74's (the Wellington and Wellesley).’

Then in 1859 Sir George Henry Chambers approached the Royal Navy. In the mid-late 1800’s social philanthropy was quite common and seen as a moral duty. Sir Chambers had an idea to rescue young boys who might otherwise fall between the cracks and descend into crime. Sir Chambers idea was to set up training ships to instruct young boys in how to be sailors while keeping them out of trouble and installing some discipline. The Royal Navy agreed, providing that Sir Chambers would raise some £2,000 in capital first. He promptly did so, and the Royal Navy handed over HMS Cornwall to become the training ship (prefix was changed from ‘HMS’ to ‘TS’). Two more ships would follow, and eventually HMS Wellesley was handed over. This is where things become a little complicated. TS Cornwall was renamed TS Wellesley and sent to South Shields where she was used as an industrial school. Meanwhile, HMS Wellesley became TS Cornwall. All this happened in 1868, although for clarity I will keep calling her HMS Wellesley. 

Ships company aboard TS Cornwall/HMS Wellesley

Main cabin of the head master of TS Cornwall/HMS Wellesley. They also had a bedroom and dinning room.

HMS Wellesley remained in this role as a training ship for decades to come, although her location changed. In 1928 she was moved to Denton, and she remained there until the 24th of September 1940.
On that day the Germans had launched an air raid with some 200 bombers aimed at the heart of London. Setting off at around 0830, it was fought off by Fighter Command. About 1130 another 200 bombers formed up and headed for London. Fighter Command scrambled eighteen squadrons to intercept the formation. Only two made contact and the raid made it through. Wellesley was hit by a bomb. Lord Haw Haw is reported to have claimed the Luftwaffe sunk a battleship. Although that was put out, she later settled onto the riverbed, and was officially classed as ‘sunk’. This means she was the last ship of the line to be sunk by enemy action in the world, and the first to be sunk by air attack! 

HMS Wellesley sunk by the Germans.


HMS Wellesley was raised in 1948, and beached at Tilbury Ness, where she was broken up. Much to everyone’s surprise a great many of her timbers were found to still be sound. These were used in repairs to the London Law Courts. 

HMS Wellesley during salvage and breaking up.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Intelegence Files 2: everything you wanted to know about the M1967

 Hello Historians, and happy new year! I realise I've been very lacking in content of late, and once again I can only apologise. As I am acutely aware of not posting anything for a while, I've grabbed some off the shelf stuff.

A few months ago I posted about some intelligence files where the British sent someone to assess Soviet and Chinese equipment captured in Vietnam. In that the inspectors looked at several common tanks such as the T-55 and the Type 59. 

Well, today I've extracted the pages for what the British called the M1967 APC. The more common name is the Type 63 APC. This is even more detailed than the tanks with nearly 100 pages of technical inspection, it even includes a large section on vulnerability.

As the file is so large, I'll once again upload it to dropbox. I caution if you want this data to download it sooner rather than later as this is a large file and may need to be deleted. It can be found here as a ZIP file.

Thanks for your forbearance on article production. There will be some article in a week or two, and I'll try to post random stuff up on both Twitter and Facebook. I may even start an Instagram. Equally, there may be some far reaching news later this year, but we'll see.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Fly Bite

Early in the day, on the 25th of March 1944, Flying Officer Douglas Jackson Turner and his co-pilot Flight Lieutenant Des Curtis were sitting in the cockpit of their Mosquito Tsetse, on the runway of RAF Predannack. Over the preceding three weeks they had been involved in multiple gun fights with shipping in the Bay of Biscay. Mostly these had involved gun battles with surfaced U-boats and their escorts. At this time the Germans were having difficulty getting U-boats into the Atlantic, so they had started escorting U-boats with light warships brimmed with AA weapons to try and discourage Allied air power. 

F/O Turner had been born in Wellingborough and worked as a constable in Essex Constabulary before the war, before joining the RAF in 1941. FLt Curtis was a Bank Clerk from Caterham, until he too had joined the RAF in 1941, when he turned 18.

At 0905 F/O Turner revved his engines and hurtled along the runway. Once he had enough speed, he stayed on the runway aiming for a group of Irish labours who were working on extending the runway. At the last moment as they dived out of the way of the speeding Mosquito F/O Turner pulled up. There was a long-standing disagreement between the RAF personnel and the labourers. The workmen were getting paid danger money to work on the runway and were thus getting paid more than the aircrew who were flying out to be shot at. F/O Turner linked up with five further Mosquito’s, one of which was a Tsetse.

The flight loitered along at just 40ft above the sea. Their mission was to find and attack another U-boat. Radio intelligence had detected a U-boat launching, and this information had been passed to the RAF who sent the strike package out to sink it before it got away. By doing this the British knew roughly where the U-boat would be and could intercept it. 

As the flight entered the search area, they climbed up to 1,500 feet, having avoided the German radar. They spotted the U-boat, turned and began to dive. As they screamed down on the gaggle of ships, a U-boat and two minesweepers, the German craft put up a hail of gunfire. One of the escorting Mosquito’s hosed down the submarine silencing the AA guns. F/O Turner lined up his Molins 6-pounder and began to fire. The heavyweight weapon managed to fire and cycle five times during the dive hurling out armour piercing rounds. The Tsetse soared over the U-boat at about 300ft, chased by AA fire from the minesweepers. The flight of Mosquito’s hurtled away all undamaged and returned to base. 

U-976, which had been the target of the attack was not so lucky. F/O Turner had aimed his shots at the sea, just beside the U-boat. Several of the shells had punched holes in the pressure hull, below the waterline and she was beginning to take on water. The crew, led by Kapitänleutnant Raimund Tiesler, fought to save her, however, she sunk after about 20 minutes. Only four of the fifty-three crew were killed during the attack, the others were all recovered by the minesweepers. 

The busy month would continue for F/O Turner, when two days later himself as part of a flight of eight Mosquito’s would encounter two U-boats escorted by nine warships. This was so close inshore German land-based AA joined in as well. One of the U-boats, U-960 was damaged in the subsequent attack, but so were most of the Mosquitos.  For this, and other actions over the period both F/O Turner and FLt Curtis were awarded DFC’s in April. They would go on to fly around about 72 missions in total before the end of the war.

After the war Turner carried on flying for a while, before retiring and becoming a landlord. He died in May 2008. Curtis is still alive, and in 1994 he wrote to a German historian asking if he had any details about the crews of the U-boats he had attacked. Much to his surprise the historian said he was close friends with Tiesler and offered to pass on a letter. The two men became good friends, until Tiesler’s death in February 2000.


Thank you for reading. If you like what I do, and think it is worthy of a tiny donation, you can do so via Paypal (historylisty-general@yahoo.co.uk) or through Patreon. For which I can only offer my thanks. Or alternatively you can buy one of my books.

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www.thesun.co.uk, www.grahamtall.co.uk, www.history.navy.mil, ww2aircraft.net and www.ibiblio.org

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Fortress Koepenick

 On 13th February 1849 a lowly shoemaker living in Tilsit, in Prussia, met his brand-new son. The son’s name was Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt, and he would have one the speediest rises through the ranks of the Imperial German Army. However, Voigt’s early years were somewhat less auspicious. At the age of 14 he was arrested and convicted for theft, and subsequently imprisoned for two weeks. Upon his release he found he had been expelled from school. Thus, with no other option open to him he learned the trade of a shoemaker from his father. Although he had a trade, he continued his criminal enterprise catching multiple sentences for theft, forgery and burglary. His final sentence was for a failed attempt at a cashier’s office, for which he received a sentence of 15 years. 

Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt, taken in 1906

He was released the day before his 57th birthday in 1906. He then moved in with his sister in Berlin and obtained a job at a local shoemaking factory. However, his attempt at going straight would not last, as the local police soon began to harass him due to being an ex-convict, and eventually expelled him from Berlin on the 24th of August. It was at this point Voigt started his rise through the army’s rank structure. As he had been expelled from Berlin, he had to quit his job, and told everyone he was heading to Hamburg. However, in reality he stayed in Berlin. He then visited several second-hand shops purchasing parts of a Prussian captain’s uniform. Once he had a complete uniform, he began to approach German soldiers and test the effect he had on them whilst wearing it. In stereotypical Prussian fashion the soldiers leapt to obey his every command. This testing lasted until October when Voigt had refined his role enough that he felt confident of his disguise. 

Voigt's officer uniform.

On the 16th of October Voigt marched towards the barracks in the town of Tegel. He halted a group of four soldiers and a NCO and took command of the detachment, relieving the NCO and dismissing him. He then gathered another six soldiers from a nearby shooting range. Now leading ten armed soldiers he marched them to the station and onto a train, which took them to the town of Köpenick. Once there Voigt and the soldiers moved to the town hall. He informed the soldiers that the Mayor Georg Langerhans and the City Treasurer von Wiltberg were accused of fraudulent book keeping. With the might of the army behind him, he also obtained support of the local police, ordering them to stop all telephone calls at the local exchange for an hour but otherwise to keep out of politics and look to local law and order. 

Mayor Georg Langerhans

Then Voigt led the soldiers into the town hall, and the mayor’s office. When Voigt arrested the Mayor, Langerhans demanded to see his warrant. Voight pointed to the soldiers, with bayoneted rifles and said ‘There is my authority!’

Voigt then sized the city’s funds, some 4,002 marks and 37 pfennigs. He did issue a receipt for the money, signed in the name of the jail warden he had been imprisoned under for the previous 15 years. He then had the soldiers commandeer two carriages, into which the two detained officials were placed, along with an armed guard in the form of some of the soldiers. The guards were told to deliver the men to the Royal Guardhouse in Berlin. The remaining soldiers were ordered to secure the offices of the mayor. Voight then simply left with the money, headed back to the train station and changed into civilian clothes.

Unsurprisingly the military authorities were furious (although it is claimed the Kaiser was amused, as was the general public). Voigt was arrested on the 16th of October and sentenced on the 1st of December to just four years in prison. However, the Kaiser pardoned him in 1908. Voigt capitalised on his fame, with books, signing events and even wax work models in museums. In 1910 he moved to Luxembourg where he took up his old trade of shoemaker for a couple of years before buying a house and retiring. He would die in 1922. 

Voigt's grave at Cimetière Notre-Dame in Luxembourg

Now, there is a reason for me telling you this story, other than it’s a damn funny story, and that is this incident became famous for the embarrassment of the German military. So much so that in 1943 when the Luftwaffe embarrassed itself Voigt’s exploits would be referenced by none other than Herman Goering. 

Düren, albeit after a Bomber Command attack in 1944

In early October 1943 the USAAF launched its infamous Schweinfurt raid. This caused a certain amount of alarm in the German officials, so that when on the 20th of October the USAAF launched a raid on a small town on the border of Germany and France called Düren, there were reports of the American bombers heading deeper into the Reich. It has been suggested this report was due to radar returns from window expended during the raid. The assumption from the Luftwaffe was that the Düren bombing was a feint, and there was another mass-formation heading towards Schweinfurt again. Thus, German fighters were scrambled and vectored in. Like the Battle of Barking Creek and the Battle of Los Angeles, the fighters were picked up by the ground radar, and this caused them to be mistaken for enemy aircraft. So further fighters were dispatched, and lo and behold the enemy formation grew in size, resulting in more fighters being scrambled, and so on. When many hours later the mistake was discovered, and the Luftwaffe had scrambled most of its squadrons, Goering sent a telegram to everyone involved (including himself, as he had taken direct command and ordered the scrambling of many of the fighter squadrons himself) congratulating them for the defence of Fortress Koepenick, a direct reference to Voigt's escapade. 


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Sunday, November 21, 2021


 What I find interesting, and I’m not sure if I’ve said it before, is how Britain studied the effects of German bombing conducted during the Blitz on contemporary life and structures. They quickly discovered the Germans were dropping too small bombs. This meant that even when the Germans did land a stick of bombs in the right place, it had minimal effect and the infrastructure was soon back in operation. This was quickly seen as a worry, as the British bombing efforts were all but identical to the German ones. It was quite sensible to assume that their bombing efforts were as effective on the Axis as the Germans were against the UK. Thus, the British went away and worked out what would work, so that when they started bombing the Germans, they did it properly. As Bomber Harris said, ‘They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind’. This was very literally true. This study work, of course, covered incendiary bombs. 

Testing of German 1kg incendiary bombs. Top picture is at 15 seconds after ignition, bottom is at 45 seconds.

‘Beat Firebomb Fitz’ was a famous poster from the Blitz and featured the German B1E 1kg incendiary bomb. It has become a slightly iconic poster of the time. The principle behind it was that a small detonating charge would trigger a thermite warhead filler. This in turn would cause the body of the bomb, which was made from magnesium, to catch fire. Magnesium is very difficult to extinguish, indeed using water on a magnesium fire is a very bad idea. But despite this, Britain did not burn… but Germany would. 


The main weapon for the RAF for starting fires was the humble 4-pounder incendiary bomb. Now despite what I said earlier, this was in service from the start of the war. It worked on an identical principle to the German weapon, containing an igniting element and a magnesium body. But today very little is written of it, especially when compared to ‘Firebomb Fritz’s’ reputation. I would suggest that this in part is down to looks. The German weapon looks like a bomb, whereas the British 4-pounder weapon is a hexagon some 21 inches long, and about 1.67inches wide, and barely looks like a piece of ordinance. 

German civil defence personnel holding a 4-pounder to give an idea of the size.

In August 1940 it was realised that these incendiary bombs were using a colossal amount of magnesium. So, a study was begun to find parts of the bomb that could be changed from that precious and scarce metal to much more common (and cheap) cast iron. Even a small saving would pay big rewards due to the large number of bombs being constructed. This simplified bomb became the Mk.III weapon (the Mk.II was just alterations to the internal arrangements). At the same time the supply issues meant the British started looking at a bomb that was 2in shorter than standard. This would save about 0.25lbs per bomb, with the new bomb using 0.75lbs of magnesium.

During 1941 two major factors happened, first the Bomb was to be produced in the US. Changes to the design to allow improved manufacturer became the Mk.IV bomb, which was subsequently mass produced. The other change was in how the bomb was tested. 

Colour shot of a surviving 4-pounder Mk.IV at the IWM.

In October the task of assessing how incendiary bombs would work was passed to the Road Research Laboratory. Their solution was to build a German style house roof, including attic floor. They managed to obtain copies of German house construction styles and copied it to the letter, even going so far as to obtain supplies of German roofing tiles (Bibeschwanz and Ludovici tiles, in case you’re wondering). The mechanics of incendiary bombs suggest that the ideal effect of a bomb is to penetrate the roof tiles, then the attic floor boards before igniting in the structure below. So, this was tested by the expedient of the RRL converting a 2-inch mortar to fire the bombs at the test target. Different impact velocities could be obtained due to an alterable gas check, made from brass, at the base of the mortar. To keep the hexagonal bomb straight in the round tube several guide lugs were added at the muzzle end. One point in these tests were that similar US tests, held at the Standard Oil Company, were getting very different results. There was an investigation, and despite the comparison identifying several different factors between the two test targets (such as tile overlap, rafter spacing and the like) and these being standardised to the British model the divergence of results continued.

In the middle of 1942, the shortened version of the 4-pounder bomb which had begun development in 1940 finally made it to testing. Those experiments showed that the incendiary effect was not lowered by the reduction in magnesium. In the middle of 1942, another suggestion was for the bomb design to have a spring-loaded pop-out tail, so when loaded into a bomber it would only be 8in long, with the tail deploying when the bomb was dropped. Both bombs were tested against the RRL’s German roof target, and one critical point was discovered. As the bombs were lighter their impact energy was lower. Thus in turn they failed to penetrate the target. This lack of effect doomed both projects, with them being cancelled in 1943.

So far, we’ve just focused on the 4-pounder’s incendiary effect. However, from before the war it was recognised that one way to improve the effectiveness of the bomb was to incorporate explosives with a time delay to hamper firefighting efforts. Thus in 1939, after a few months of development starting in 1938, ‘Type E’ bombs were produced. For those following such things the nomenclature was the ‘type’ of bomb would come after the Mk number, so for example ‘4-pounder, Mk.IV.E’. These incorporated a small gunpowder charge in the body of the bomb and would detonate between 1 minute and 56 seconds to 4 minutes after impact. It produced a fairly paltry explosive effect but was deemed acceptable.

The Germans did something very similar with some of their incendiary bombs, so the British learned and in December 1940 started looking at using a high explosive charge. For this weapon they added a canister at the rear of the tail with a small HE charge (later models would have a nose filled with explosive). These would be ‘Type X’. The tail-based container was also switchable to chemical weapons if needed, with the idea that this would prove much more effective at deterring fire fighters. What followed was a lot of bureaucratic backwards and forwards between the Ordnance Board and other departments within the government. The problems of supply of the explosive, and construction were causing a bit of a circular development, with one party changing the design to fix a flaw and causing follow on problems. This continued until 1941, when it was decided to see if such an addition had a useful effect. 

Lancaster loaded with a bomb-load codenamed 'Usual'. This consisted of a 4,000lb 'cookie'. The idea was to create massive blast that would damage the roofs of German cities. The damage would weaken the roof structure so that when the 4-pounders impacted they would have a easier time penetrating into the structures.

Thus, London Fire Brigade was consulted on the effectiveness of such bombs, as they had encountered them in the shape of the German weapons dropped in the Blitz. The effectiveness of the bombs against both personnel and the chance to break hoses was considered.

LFB* raised several objections to the weapon. The foremost being that during a heavy night raid the crews were so busy that the presence of such bombs would not affect how they worked. It was also pointed out that such bombs would be almost invisible in the blackout conditions. Equally it was advised that if they did start to suffer several casualties, orders would be issued to stay clear of any suspected weapons for a period of time to give it a chance to detonate. As to the idea of breaking hoses, the hoses were put through such rough treatment during the course of normal operations that a few additional incidences of damage would be hardly noticed. With this information in hand, it was recommended to the Air Ministry that the idea be dropped. However, the RAF stated the requirement remained. They had a strategy of having 50% Type X bombs, and 50% normal weapons per bomb load. This would be continued until German fire crews were warned to stay away from the bombs for a period. At which point the loads could be switched to nearly 100% normal incendiaries, in the hope the Germans would stand back allowing these to develop into decent fires. 

Loading 4-pounders into a bomb bay one at a time would have taken huge number of man hours. So the bombs were loaded into 'Small Bomb Containers'. Here we see three partition versions, but they also came in two and four versions. Each partition can take twenty 4-pounders. For more detail.

In February 1942 the Air Ministry suddenly demanded 2,000 Type X bombs by 1st of March for a planned operation. These were manufactured with a 4.5-minute delay on the explosive. On the 28th of March 1942 234 bombers attacked the Port of Lübeck. 25,000 incendiaries were dropped and created the first Allied firestorm of the war. More were to follow, and most were powered by the humble looking grey hexagon.


Thank you for reading. If you like what I do, and think it is worthy of a tiny donation, you can do so via Paypal (historylisty-general@yahoo.co.uk) or through Patreon. For which I can only offer my thanks. Or alternatively you can buy one of my books.

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