Purpose of this blog

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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stopping the Vengence

At 18:43, on 8th of September 1944 a gas main in Staveley Road, Chiswick exploded.  The explosion destroyed 11 houses, killed three people and injured a further 27 people. Or at least that was what the news reported.  In truth it was the first V-2 rocket to strike London.  It had been fired by the 485th Rocket Battery from near the Hague in Holland.  The Allies had since 1943 been conducting Operation Crossbow, an attempt to counter the V weapons programs.
Chiswick crater
Staveley Road
By February 1945 these counter measures included fighter sweeps.  As well as specific targets these sweeps would often just attack an area hitting anything that looked like a good target of opportunity.  One of the squadrons that took part was 602 Squadron with Spitfire MK XVI's. No 602 Squadron's other claim to fame was one of its pilots had been the individual who strafed Rommel's staff car earlier in 1944.
One plan was to have AA fire box Barrages along the flight path of V2's detected by Radar. It was never implemented.
On February 14th a flight of six Spitfires set off from Coltishall Airfield.  The Spitfires were armed with a mixture of 500 lb and 250 lb bombs, as well as their cannons.  This flight was lead by Raymond Baxter, who later became a famous BBC presenter.  When they arrived over the Dutch coast they knew exactly where they were going, as they'd flown to this areas many times before.  As they approached the area they were to sweep, at 8000 feet, German heavy flak opened up at them. The flak stood little chance as the flight carried on switching its heading, feeling faintly pleased when the flak bursts continued along the path they'd just turned off.
Over Wassenaar at 6000 feet the Spitfires spotted some vehicles moving below.  Baxter knew they would be German as every drop of fuel was used for the war effort.  The six Spitfires rolled in and dived on the Germans.  On their way to the target they passed over a large wooded area.  One of the risks of dive bombing in Spitfires is that the bombs would hang up, and as the pilot pulled 5G's to get out of the dive the increased weight could cause the wings to rip off.  In this attack all six Spitfires released their ordnance safely and pulled up at 1500 feet.  German light flak units were everywhere in the area to deter just such attacks.  In most cases the Spitfires would use all their built up speed to zoom away, but occasionally they would turn and attack.
Baxter was feeling very aggressive, and he ordered his flight to strafe the troublesome flak batteries.  They turned hard so as to change the direction they attacked from.  One of the pilots, Thomas "Cupid" Love dipped his Spitfires nose and aimed at a flak gun.  Suddenly over the radio Baxter yelled "Christ! would you look at that!".  Looking up, Love saw a huge cigar shaped object slowly rise on a pillar of flame and smoke, directly in front of him!
As the Spitfires flew over the woods, the 485 Rocket Battery had been well into a countdown on one of the 19 V-2's they would launch that day.  They had opted to go ahead with the launch, not realising the Spitfires would turn around.
Love was the only pilot with an angle on the V-2, he quickly wrenched his gun-sight onto it, and at a range of 600 yards began firing.  He sent a long scything burst towards the huge rocket as it accelerated away but luckily he missed.  The V-2 if hit would likely have exploded very possibly killing the entire flight.
V-2 vapour trail, photographed from a USAAF bomber.
Although the Spitfires of 602 Squadron came close there was, however, one claimed shoot down of a V-2. Strangely for such an impressive claim, I've not yet been able to find many details.  On an unknown date the 34th Bombardment Group in B-24's were flying at 10,000 feet over Holland.  A V-2 was launched through the formation and one of the waist gunners on a B-24 opened fire and hit the missile at the end of its vapour trail.
There's little other detail apart from that, no date, no names, not even a mention of the target. Never the less the 34th painted a V-2 kill marking on its aircraft.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

[WoT] First-hand Feedback on WoT 0.9.0

The latest major update 0.9.0 (New Frontiers - yay! major updates now have names) for World of Tanks is now live for EU and NA servers. What are your first impressions?

  1. FPS and general performance
  2. Graphics improvements
  3. Turrets!
  4. New HD models for some tanks
  5. Historical Battles mode
  6. Reworked maps (Severogorsk, Pearl River, Malinovka, and Serene Coast)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Trojan Tank

In 1974 after several periods of violence between the ethnically split inhabitants of Cyprus, two NATO countries went to war with each other.  Today I'll be looking at some of the armour actions of that conflict on the small Mediterranean island.
In the early hours of July 20th 1974, a fleet of Turkish ships appeared off of the coast of northern Cyprus. Originally they were attempting to land and create a bridgehead at Glykiotissa, however, finding this landing site unusable they switched to Pentemilli and began landing.  In the first waves there were about 3000 men and 20 M113’s.  Two days later the first Turkish armour landed, 15 M47 Pattons were brought ashore.
Facing them was the Greek Cypriot National Guard, most of its heavy weapons were of Second World War British origin, such as 6 and 25 pounder guns, although it did have some more modern weapons.
The GCNG had an armoured branch on the island but these were T-34/85 tanks brought from the Soviet Union and shipped via Egypt in 1964.  They were a mash up of models and parts, but had been fitted with US made M2 .50 calibre heavy machine guns.  Old when they were delivered, after a decade of use they were utterly worn out.
The first clash of armour came at 10:00 on the first day of the invasion.  A handful of T-34's supported by their infantry attacked the bridgehead, destroying two M113's.  In return in a separate engagement two T-34's were destroyed by Turkish hand held anti-tank rockets.  Already the strain on the tanks was beginning to show, several tanks had broken down and were abandoned.  Another attempted counter attack that night and two more T-34's broke down, while a third got stuck in a dried up river bed.
The next morning The Turkish Air Force destroyed the two broken down tanks, while the one stuck in the river bed was captured and freed by the approaching Turkish forces.  Three days into the fighting and the Turkish force launched a breakout.  The last local T-34's had run out of ammunition and were abandoned in place.

With a secure beachhead the Turkish forces were comfortable with a ceasefire, to see if a diplomatic solution could be found.  Meanwhile both forces prepared for another clash.  The Turks brought in more forces, while the GCNG dug in.

While the diplomats talked, there were still several clashes and outbreaks of fighting.  The most important to our story is the Battle of Kornos Hill (Hill 1024), located near to Mount Pentadaktylos.  In the morning of the 2nd of August the hill was attacked by a Turkish force.  The defenders threw the attack back.  In the afternoon a much larger force was brought up and smashed the defenders aside.  The Turkish armour pushed on.  Leading the column was a pair of M47 tanks, followed closely by two M113's.
The armour wound its way along a narrow road cut into the hillside.  The road itself was only a few inches wider than the M47 tanks with a sheer cliff face on one side, and a wooded drop on the other.  The lead tank hit a mine, which blew its track off.
This was the cue for the defending GCNG infantry battalion to open fire with its ambush.  The infantry was armed with M40A1 106mm recoilless rifles.  Their first shot hit the 4th vehicle in the column, one of the M113's.  The 106mm HEAT warhead burned through the fragile light weight armour which was only intended to stop shrapnel and caused it to go up in flames.  The other M47 and M113 were trapped and unable to move, with the M47 barely able to rotate its turret due to the closeness of the cliff face.  The Turkish forces were forced to retreat.
The following morning a recovery team from the GCNG's Mechanized Battalion arrived at the site of the battle.  They managed to free the two trapped vehicles, and both were returned to their depot for repairs. 

At the depot the M47 was found to have a broken hydraulic turret traverse, in fact all the Turkish M47's had had that system disabled. The GCNG soon had the tank fully operational. In a stroke of luck the M47 was not repainted.
Meanwhile the diplomatic efforts to find a peaceful situation were going badly, and soon failed.

The Turks launched a new phase of offensives on August the 14th.  Although they had lost some tanks, the Turkish armour managed to drive 80 km's in the first day, smashing aside the defenders.

North West of Nicosia lies the village of Skylloura.  The Turks attacked on the 15th with about 30 tanks reinforced with two battalions of paratroopers.  The defenders consisted of five companies of infantry, and one tank, the previously captured and now fully operational M47.
Early in the battle the infantry used a 106mm recoilless rifle to knock out one of the attackers.  The Turks encircled the village and thats when the Greek M47 struck.  In an audacious move she moved through the confusion and joined the back of one of the Turkish tank columns.  The Turks just saw a friendly tank joining their attack. 

With total and utter surprise the M47 was able to attack the Turkish tanks.  For two hours she roamed amongst the confusion of the battle using her superior gun traverse to out manoeuvre the Turkish tanks.  Often disappearing then reappearing, the Turks didn't know if it was a friendly tank or not. 
They found out the hard way as the 90mm gun suddenly and with frightening speed swung in their direction before sending a shell roaring towards them, followed closely by the loud clash of the shell striking armour.

After two hours the Greek M47 escaped from the battle back to friendly lines.  Behind her seven Turkish tanks lay destroyed and burning.
That M47 remained in service with the Greek Cypriot National Guard until 1993.

Friday, April 11, 2014

[WoTB] Post Closed Beta QA for WoT Blitz

Some frequently asked questions:

Q: So, the CBT is finished. Will the game go live this month? Or will there be a second phase of closed beta?
A: The game won't be released this month. We need at least a few iterations to polish it. There might be a iOS test of some sort but not in closed beta format. Follow the news for more information.

Q: When will platoons be added to the game? There were no platoons in closed beta.
A: Both platoons and new sounds (hangar sounds, music, and new battle sounds) have already been implemented. We are testing them internally now. Both features will be added into the upcoming version.

Q: Will you be able to ping minimap? That would work for larger screens.
A: We are planning to rework minimap in one of the future updates. It will be scalable in battle with the possibility to ping particular sectors, give orders, and even draw movement trajectories.

Q: What will hi-end graphics for Blitz look like? HD tank models or smth different?
A: There are plans to substantially improve visuals for top mobile devices (like iPad Air). Features that are almost finished: high-quality 3d grass, water shader, lighting for maps and tanks, weather effects, normal maps for tanks. And some more things for distant future.

Q: What kind of social integration will be in the game?
It will be possible to share battle results, purchased tanks, and invite your Facebook friends.

Q: Will there be any improvements for iPad and iPad 2 in terms of performance and graphics?
A: First gen iPad is currently not supported. We are working on performance improvements. It's unlikely that there will be a substantial boost, however, we can get a few extra FPS. Visual improvements will be available for hi-end devices (see above).

Q: Can you tell us more how testing worked out? What changes will be made? 
A: The list of changes hasn't been finalized yet, closed beta feedbacks will be added in the upcoming two updates. Among the main things:

  • platoons for two
  • Facebook sharing for battle results and purchased tanks
  • auto-aim improvements, plus it will be possible to disable auto-aim only in sniper mode
  • Backwards movement Y axis inversion (not in the next update)
  • No cruise-control
  • Results for finished battles will be displayed in hangar via pop-up messages at the top for the screen (not in the next update)
  • Old medals and achievements removed, descriptions fixed, full info on medals and achievements in post-battle screen
  • hangar sounds, music, new battle sounds and voiceover
  • restyled garage interface
  • improved interface for iPhone, including texts and battle interface
  • lots of client options (not in the next update)
  • lots of bug fixes

Q: Will there be a reporting system?
A: Planning to use server-side message censoring as on PC. Reports are likely to be added later.

Q: Will you add cruise-control/automated movement?
A: Not going to added in the upcoming updates. It doesn't work well with vehicle micro-managment, when you need to pull up all of a sudden or peekaboo. And don't want to add two more buttons on the screen.

Q: Consumables and equipment are getting more and more expensive with each tier. Is it for balancing reasons? Why can't I dismount stuff?
A: Yup, this was done for the sake of balancing and simplification. Plus there is no depot in the game, so everything - shells, consumables, equipment is linked to its tank. Consumables and shells are sold with no penalty, for equipment - there is 50% selling penalty.

Q: Do HE shells work in the same way as on PC?
A: Yup, the same server-side mechanics.

Q: Will we see larger maps like in PC version?
A: There won't be any larger maps in the near future due to performance reasons, 500x500 is our cap for now. There are plans to try 5vs5 battles at least for low tiers.

Q: Will server selection (RU, EU, NA) depend on region settings for my tablet/phone?
A: The region is determined based on IP meaning that selected region/language doesn't matter. However in-game language will depend on device language, meaning you can for example play on EU server using RU localization if you want to. Later on we are planning to add language selection to game options. 

[WoT] Maus Reconstruction

As a part of history/vehicle-honoring campaign, Wargaming in cooperation with the Kubinka Tank Museum is going to reconstruct the legendary "Maus" tank. The current model in Kubinka is almost empty inside. The parts will be customly reconstructed at factories around the world in close cooperation with experienced military vehicle restorers.

So, this is likely to be a costly adventure.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

[WoT] 2014 Game Modes

Check out the new WoT dev diary video
  • New things to do for clans apart from CWs - Fortifications mode
  • Long-awaited Historical battles
  • Garage battles

Sunday, April 6, 2014

But why is the Rum Gone?

It is often said "An army marches on its stomach" which is taken to imply the importance of logistics.  However another slightly less uncouth view could take that saying to mean one thing, alcohol.  The obtaining of alcohol is the one field that has had more ingenuity and time dedicated to it throughout history by the lower ranks.

Some of the time it is condoned by the authorities, but most of the time it is frowned upon.  Because of this you'll not find records, or archive files for this activity.  However stories and anecdotes will appear within veterans accounts.  What follows is just a smattering of such accounts that I've been able to find.

After the breakout in 1944, US Sherman tanks kept having an odd mechanical failure.  Sherman's at the time had spring loaded clips to hold their ammunition in its racks.  But these were failing and letting the ammunition fall out.  It was a problem that couldn't be replicated.  It later came to light that the crews were storing bottles of French wine in the ammo racks, as the wine bottles happened to be the same size as the 75mm rounds.  Whenever the tanks were due for inspection the crews would simply remove the bottles.
Oddball's Wine cooler
The British also had some adventures looking for drink.  The 6th Guards Tank Brigade had one of the best stocked officers messes.  They had liberated a huge number German soft-skins after the collapse of the German army.  Their motor pool of captured vehicles was so large that just about every tank troop had a couple of German staff cars or trucks to haul their supplies, so finding room for extra drinks for their mess wasn't a problem.  One pair of officers touring the countryside in their looted German staff car got a bit lost, and ended up in Paris several hours before any allied forces arrived!

A similar event happened in Germany the following year. As the German forces collapsed a pair of officers in a car went looking for drinks. They invited the unit Padre along for a drive in the countryside, and wandered into a town.  As they were looking for the best place to locate the mess they were approached by a German soldier, who asked if they would accompany him.  They followed him to the town hall where the local commander had drawn up all the forces under his command for a formal surrender.

Knowing that the brigade commander was on the way, and would disapprove of having the surrender taken by two lowly officers, they made their excuses and left. The Padre recalls seeing the brigade commander's tank come round the corner as they roared out of the town, and turned off down a side road.
The RAF wasn't to be outdone, however they had the advantage of being able to fly to the drinks, instead of acquiring it locally.  At first drop tanks were cleaned out and used to carry the drinks.  However the chosen liquid gained a nasty metallic aftertaste from the drop tanks.  Some planes had bottles of Champagne stowed in their wings, however, it was quickly found that engine vibrations affected the bottles causing them to react as if they had been shaken.  This caused the corks to shoot out making holes in the plane mid flight!

In the days after D-Day several breweries in the UK had offered to supply their wares free of charge to the Armed Forces.  They could deliver beer kegs to airfields in their locality.
It was at that point some bright spark noticed the size and shape of a beer keg. With very little work they realised the pylons fitted to fighters such as the Spitfire, normally for drop tanks or bombs, could be altered to carry beer kegs.  So an enquiry was made about whether pressure testing had been done on the kegs, unsurprisingly they hadn't been designed with high altitude flight in mind.  It was decided to test the mounting out.  The only problem found was with some of the larger kegs fitted the ground clearance wasn't great.  On the plus side at high altitudes the beer would be nicely cooled during the flight.  These modifications were used to start shipping them across to France.
As the supply chain to Normandy was under strain with the demand for essential war supplies, there was no room for luxuries and the load out for the fighters soon gained official recognition.  The flying kegs became known as the Mod XXX Depth Charge.  The Ministry of Information also used the story for propaganda.
The news stories soon attracted the attention of another government department that had had a long history with alcohol, the Inland Revenue.  They informed the breweries that they were exporting the alcohol, and would therefore be liable for export taxes. Unsurprisingly the breweries backed down and the Mod XXX became a thing of the past.

Our next pair of stories come from the US and post war.  In the late 1950's a particular brand of beer was only available in one location, and would spoil before it could be shipped to a remote US airbase. The airbase was operating F-86 Sabres.  Again one bright serviceman noticed the dimensions of the beer bottles. They could be loaded onto the rocket rails fitted under the plane.  It was found that about five cases could be loaded onto each F-86, and so whenever the jets left for the other side of the country they would always have empty rocket rails.
Bottle or 2.75" FFAR?
Things don't always go as well though.  A few years later after the US had switched to A-4 Skyhawks one such plane was returning from Cuba.  It was carrying a large centreline drop tank which had been steam cleaned, and filled with the best quality Cuban rum.

The pilot had a stopover to make, and having completed his business, he returned to his aircraft to find the ground crew had just finished refuelling his plane including topping up his drop tanks!

Such activities happen even today. In 1991 a British tank regiment was being deployed for operation Granby (Desert Shield/Storm).
Beer crates arriving on a ship
As the destination was to a religious country with strict laws, alcohol was banned in theatre.  The soldiers were facing a long deployment to a hot country with no liquid refreshment.  At this point it was noticed that 500ml beer cans were exactly the same size and shape as the smoke grenades loaded into the tanks smoke dischargers.  It doesn't take a genius to work out what happened next. The veteran who told me this story said "It was a very good job we didn't have to go into action straight away!"

Friday, April 4, 2014

[WoTB] Beta Test Is Over

World of Tanks Blitz closed beta has come to an end. We have gathered enough feedback and data to polish the game in future versions. We are especially excited by really warm reception of the game in all regions.

Each Blitz tester with 1+ battles will get some gifts when the game goes live in the respective region.

Thanks to all who have been testing with us and stay tuned for more news!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Grand theft Walrus

R,J Mitchel of Supermarine is most famous for developing the Spitfire. However, he was also responsible for developing another single engined all metal plane that served throughout the war, and its one most people have not heard of.
Designed in the early 30's for Australia the Seagul V was to be a catapult launched flying boat used by the larger capital units to spot for gunnery.  The first test model was flown in 1933, where Superamine's test pilot surprised everyone at the display by looping the aircraft.  The aircraft was slow, and barely armed with only a pair of .303 Vickers K guns.  In Royal Navy and RAF usage it gained the name its more commonly known as, the Walrus.
 One story of the Walrus comes from the Norway campaign.  HMS Suffolk launched its Walrus' to spot for its gunners as it bombarded a shore target.  However as she was under the risk of submarine attack she was unable to retrieve the planes.  Both planes were forced to fly back to Britain.  The five hour flight ended with one of the planes landing and running out of fuel on the runway.

The next remarkable story concerning the Walrus comes from Ireland.  In 1939 the Irish Air Corps had three Walrus delivered and used them for maritime patrol.  One plane, No 18, had a interesting time, whilst being delivered it was forced down in heavy seas in the Irish Sea causing damage to the wings.  Unable to fly, it was then towed into port by a local fishing boat and lifeboat.  Once in port it was loaded onto a truck and driven to its final destination at Dublin.  At Baldonnel Aerodrome it was repaired and put back into service.

 On 9th January 1942, No 18 was stolen.  Four Irish aircrew led by the pilot Alan Thornton stole the silver painted Walrus from the airbase where she was stationed.  They set course for Cherbourg, with the intention of joining the Luftwaffe.
Over Cornwall things started to go wrong with the plan.  They were spotted by a flight of RAF Spitfires.  The RAF planes escorted the Walrus to St Eval, where the crew were arrested and the plane placed under guard.  Both the plane and crew were returned to Ireland, where the airmen were court-martialed.  Alan Thornton received a 16 month jail sentence.

No 18 continued to serve with the Irish Air Corps until 1945, then it was sold into civilian use.  In 1946 she was put up for sale again, and brought by the Royal Auxiliary Air Force as a runabout, where they used her to fly to the coast with bathing parties.  Finally she was retired and left on a dump until she was eventually rescued in 1963.  She then ended up at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton.

1942 also saw the last successful air attack by a Walrus.  On the 11th of July an Italian submarine was attacked near Cyprus and sunk.  From then on the Walrus continued to serve as air sea rescue and patrol aircraft.  On 10th of August 1945, a Walrus was sent to rescue a downed New Zealand pilot near Japan.  The Walrus searched for hours until it finally saw the pilots life raft. However the long search caused the Walrus to run out of fuel and it had to set down some distance away.  What the Walrus crew didn't know was that the New Zealand pilot had already been rescued by a US Submarine.  When the submarine saw the shape of the Walrus chugging through the skies they hadn't believed anything that looked like that could be friendly and crashed dived to avoid the supposedly Japanese air craft.
The Walrus crew were picked up later by a destroyer.  The pilots name was Pilot Officer Bruce Ada, an Australian who was in service with the Royal Navy and based upon HMS Victorious.

Earlier in the year Pilot Officer Ada had carried out a much more daring rescue.  During the battle of Okinawa Sub Lieutenant John Gass was a navigator in an Avenger bomber over Miyako island.  His plane was hit by a heavy AA Shell, which struck right under his seat and caused the Avenger to burst into flames.
Avenger from HMS Victorious
Injured by the shell burst and burnt by the flames, Sub-Lt Gass scrambled out of the plummeting fireball that was his plane.  He was the only member of the crew to make it out of the aircraft.  The badly injured Sub-Lt Gass landed in the sea near the Japanese held town of Hirara.  The current quickly swept Sub-Lt Gass away from the Japanese town.

Then Pilot Officer Ada and Sub Lieutenant Marshall appeared in their Walrus.  Chugging along at its heady speed of about 130mph they landed about half a mile from the drifting and exhausted Sub-Lt Gass.  Pilot Officer Ada then began to slowly taxi through the deadly reefs that littered the area.  The Japanese on the shore then began to fire their heavy AA guns at the ponderously moving Walrus.  Sub-Lt Marshall was manning one of the Vickers K guns, and started to bombard the shore line.  The Walrus eventually made it to the downed flier who was promptly hauled aboard,  While Pilot Officer Ada taxied out through the reef Sub-Lt Gass was given first aid and brandy.
After returning to HMS Victorious, the Royal Navy queried the pair if they had opened fire on the island. Pilot Officer Ada's response was
"No we threw coral at them."

The message received by Pilot Officer Ada from Rear Admiral Denny, who was the captain of HMS Venerable, the carrier Sub-Lt Gass’ Avenger was based upon read slightly different.  It said:
"We are most grateful for such a fine rescue”

Monday, March 24, 2014

[WoTB] Closed Beta Starts Tomorrow

World of Tanks Blitz closed beta officially starts tomorrow - March 25, when we will invite the first wave of players to test the game on RU, EU, NA servers.

To increase your chances to be one of the first, fill out the application form on the respective WoT portal and leave the link to your game profile in comments to this post. I will do what I can do. :)

And the new video dedicated to the game.