Purpose of this blog

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

Sunday, November 18, 2018

What is in a Name?

Creating a code name for a project is tricky. You want something that is easy to remember but doesn't give away what the project is. On a few occasions during the Second World War British Intelligence had a code name of a German project and managed to work out roughly what the project was. Such a case was the German Y-Gerät, also known by the code name Wotan. This was a device to guide bombers onto targets at night, a single beam was sent out, and then when a Luftwaffe bomber picked up the beam a frequency modulator received the signal and immediately sent it back to a ground station. This enabled the ground station to calculate the distance the bomber was from the transmitter. If you know the radio beam's direction and know the distance the bomber is along the beam you can pretty accurately guide the bomber to the target.
The British learnt of the new project and obtained the name Wotan from signal intercepts. Asking German literature specialists, they discovered that Wotan was a one-eyed god from mythology. From this and the context of the messages they deduced the nature of the device, i.e. a single beam radio direction system for night bombing. Other spying efforts had provided the work by German scientists which could be applied to this system and so Britain developed a counter measure before the system was even in use.
Alexandria Palace
The counter measure was to intercept the signal with a British aircraft, and then forward it to Alexandria Palace, where a disused and very powerful BBC radio transmitter was residing. This, by sheer luck, used exactly the same frequency as Wotan.

On the first night Wotan was used Alexandria Palace began to transmit. This was done at a low signal power so that the Germans would not realise they were being toyed with. The signal from the German aircraft merged with the Alexandria Palace signal, which significantly changed the signal and introduced a massive error in the output of the ground station’s calculations. This threw the bombers wildly off course and caused considerable arguments between the ground station and the Luftwaffe, each blaming the other for the errors. Each night the power of Alexandria Palace was increased until it utterly blanketed the Wotan system. At this point the Germans realised it had failed and retired the device.

To avoid incidents like the above happening to them, the British Ministry of Supply who were responsible for procurement of new projects decided upon a codenaming system that couldn't be guessed at. The name was a randomly selected colour followed by a noun. These codenames were called Rainbow Codes. Two such examples include items like Green Mace and Blue Peacock.
Green Mace
Green Mace was a 5" water cooled, drum fed AA gun that could be aimed and fired by one man. Loading from twin drums the weapon had a rate of fire of around 96 rounds per minute!
Blue Peacock, without chickens.
Blue Peacock on the other hand was 10 kiloton nuclear mine that could be pre-placed in strategic locations in Germany and then switched on just before retreating in the face of the invading Russian Army. Some eight days later the mine would explode.
Of course, one problem was the weather. It can get cold in Germany during the winter, and the cold would seep into the mine and break the electronics. Thus, the British decided to include a selection of live chickens in the bomb casing. These would be sealed inside with enough food and water for a week, their body heat would keep the bomb warm enough to function.

A great number of Rainbow Codes existed, and new ones are being discovered all the time. Just the other day a friend of mine, Ed Francis, pointed me at a new codename I'd never heard of before, this one was called Red Planet.

Red Planet was a project to develop an infantry anti-tank weapon. The requirements for it were to enable the weapon to destroy or render inoperable a tank armoured with 152mm sloped at 64 degrees. It needed to be able to achieve a 75% hit chance against a stationary 7.5-inch square target at 500 yards, with a rate of fire of ten aimed rounds per minute. Maximum weight for the launcher was to be 25lbs, with a launcher and three rounds coming in at a maximum of 60lbs.
When work began in December 1949 the perceived outlook was entirely negative, as the requirements were considered too technically demanding. Initial work was carried out with a 5" warhead, however after two years this was abandoned in favour of a 4.5" warhead. 
The Red Planet Rocket
Part of the discussions over the calibre of the warhead were down to trials held in the spring of 1951. Here a competing design called Red Biddy was seen as more viable at 5" calibre. Thus, it was decided later that year to keep working on a 4.5" Red Planet in case the Red Biddy project failed. This lasted until 1953 when the financial situation in the UK meant that only one platoon level rocket solution could be pursued and Red Biddy was selected as the preferred option.
Several fuses were tested, the most advanced of these was one which was an electrical crush fuse. The electrical power was provided by a condenser which was hooked in to the firing circuit, and when the system was charged by hand the condenser would store the power.
Cross section of the warhead

The final weapon had a five foot long launcher and a good chance of hitting the target at 300 yards. In part this was down to the speed of the rocket which was around 600 fps. Penetration could be as high as 17" depending on fuse type, although the crush fuse mentioned above only had penetration of 15.7". Penetration of the required target was achieved with about 3" overmatch.

From 1953 to 1955 several smaller trials were held on the launcher, until in 1956 a trial was held where some 220 rounds were fired, five each at varying temperatures and ranges, with the maximum range being 300 yards. After this trial two of the observers used the launcher on the shoulder to fire 19 rounds. It was found that ear buds were needed to avoid ringing in the ears after the shots.
This launching rig was used to test the recoil of the launcher. You can at least see the tube (with rocket in it) and so gain an idea what the launcher would have looked like.
Here we had a weapon system that meet the requirements, and was entirely viable, but what happened to it? Well, in keeping with the traditions of British weapon development, we wound the project up and forgot all about it.

Ed Francis sent me a picture of another Rainbow Code missile, he said it was codenamed Pink Hippo.



Sunday, November 11, 2018

At the War's End

At 0900 on the 19th of April 1945 the Chief of Leipzig's fire department scrambled through the rubble of his home city. To either side crouched men and soldiers of the Volkssturm and the remnants of the German armed forces, clutching at their weapons. In total the defenders consisted of just over 1000 fighting men. The core was the 107th Infantry Regiment, strengthened by Luftwaffe flak units, the usual grab bag of German remnants and some Volkssturm. There was a force of about 3,000 police, however the commander of the police forces had been desperately trying to surrender the city to prevent its destruction. He especially objected to the use of Volkssturm, describing their deployment as tantamount to murder.
For the last few days the city had been cut off, and for the last 24 hours the US Army had been assaulting the city. Through determination and fierce fighting the Americans had been held from the town's centre and its town hall.
Now the Chief of the fire department carried a dire warning to the remains of the government. He had been sent by the Americans demanding a surrender. If the defenders refused to give up in the specified time period of 20 minutes, then they would be obliterated by massed artillery, which would be followed up by a division strength assault, with attached flame throwers. Realizing it was over, that the ill-supplied exhausted men could not hold the Americans out the remains of the city government surrendered. In the next few minutes while the word of the surrender was carried to the assaulting forces, many of the officials took their own lives, some accompanied by their families.
Col Poncet
The city’s military commander, Colonel Hans von Poncet, however decided to fight on. He along with around 150 men, with enough food and supplies for several weeks, had dug themselves into the Völkerschlachtdenkmal. This was the monument to the Battle of the Nations, where in 1813 an alliance of states had stood up to the French Dictator Napoleon, and defeated him, hastening his fall from power. The battle was fought between some 650,00 men over several weeks. The Völkerschlachtdenkmal was built from thick granite slabs, and resembled nothing so much as a bunker.
The Völkerschlachtdenkmal
Initially the US tried to blast Col. Poncet and his soldiers out with 8" artillery. These shells had almost no effect on the massive granite construction, with some shells being described as 'bouncing off'. The scale of destruction open to the US forces were further limited by the presence of seventeen POW's captured earlier in a failed armoured push the day before. A long siege and bloody fighting were on the cards at this German last stand.
Then a young Captain stepped forward. His name was Hans Trefousse. Born in Frankfurt in 1921 he had moved to the US in 1936. He was serving as an integrator and translator in the US Army. He asked permission to try to negotiate the positions surrender.
At 1500 Cpt Trefousse, a German POW with a white flag and the battalion’s executive officer approached the Völkerschlachtdenkmal. Outside of the monuments gift shop they met with three German officers, including Col Poncet.

There's no chance to win. The war is lost. It's wise to give up now and save men."
"I have orders from the Fuhrer in person never to surrender." was the reply.

While the negotiations continued Col Poncet did agree to a cease fire to allow US forces to recover any wounded in the area.
After two hours the negotiating team had managed to convince Col Poncet to continue the talking inside the monument and the group moved inside.

In the early hours of the 20th Cpt Trefousse passed a message onto Col Poncet, that if he exited the monument then he would be allowed to surrender. If his men follow, one at a time, they too would be taken prisoner. Col Poncet agreed, and at 0200 exited the Völkerschlachtdenkmal.
A US soldier standing inside the Völkerschlachtdenkmal
However there was a problem, the message had been miscommunicated, and the offer had only applied to Col Poncet, not the rest of his force. If they surrendered, they were to be held temporarily inside the monument. Cpt Trefousse attempted to negotiate the change to these terms of surrender, however one man insisted on the original deal. To sweeten the deal Cpt Trefousse offered 48 hours leave to the officers should they accept. The reluctant soldier still insisted and was allowed to exit as a captive. Some fifteen officers were smuggled out of the monument for their promised leave period, and two days later all returned, apart from one who sent an apologetic note explaining the cause of his absence.

Image Credits:
warfarehistorynetwork.com and english.leipzig.de

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Forgotten Tanks Supplement

 Edit: I've just been informed that there is some question to the first part of this article, that the tank was a demonstration piece of stupid ideas from Europe. In which case that throws the whole premise I make into question. Although the translation suggests that it is Propaganda to deride Europeans, which in turn could mean that they based the piece of their own design but scaled up, in which case the idea I present would be accurate.
The counter claim is made here, by Aizenns.

Now you see the problems with research and history! But to be fair, this area is rather more of a mess of myth and half facts than any German Panzer46 stuff!

With my book out this week I felt it was a good idea to include something that came to light too late to include in the book. In the book I make the case that the Type 97 Heavy Tank entered service to some limited degree. The only bit of evidence we lack is unfortunately the clinching proof,  a photograph.
Well between my book being finalised and its release the following two pictures were found by Seon Eun Ae. The captions say they are of a 100 ton heavy tank at a armaments exposition in 1941.




Obviously they are not the most clear pictures. But I contend enough detail is visible to say these are the Type 97 Heavy Tank, or more accurately an upscaled model of the Type 97 used as a demonstration piece.

For those who have not seen the Type 97 I will use one of the sketches my artist drew when mocking out the full piece of artwork we used in the book. It came from the original Japanese plans, if you're curious about the source. If you want to see the final product, you can buy it my book here (Kindle version will be along in about a month due to problems during conversion).





Look at the first picture, the clearer one from the rear. A spoked idler wheel, large box suspension covers, cylindrical turret and an box exhaust on the roof of the rear hull. All match up perfectly with what can be on the Type 97 Heavy Tank. Equally when we look at the front view the hull plates are roughly the same position, and there;s even a machine gun visible in the correct location. As this image is  bit harder to comprehend what I'm talking about I threw this together.
The colours match up on both sides. So Red is glacis plate, Green is the drivers position and blue the machine gun.
There is one obvious difference, between the glacis plate and the drivers hood there would be a section of roof, which is missing from the sketch. This I feel is slightly minor when you compare everything else. Also take into account the differences between a mock up or model and an actual vehicle. Equally, as we're about to see plans do change between actual produced vehicle and the drawings I found.

The other thing I am happy to report about my book, it appears to have answered a question. My Thanks to Hunter12396 over at Tanks Encyclopedia for pointing this out to me. Here we have a mysterious Japanese light amphibious tank at the Kokopo War Museum in Papua New Guinea.





There's even some shots of it during testing:
No one knew anything about the tank, apart from a designation of 'Type 94 prototype' until my book came out. In it one of the mystery tanks, that were detailed in the UK archives, was a Kawasaki Type 94 amphibious tank. This bares more than a passing resemblance to this tank, however there are differences in the lay out of the superstructure and some slight differences in the pontoons.
On the above picture you can see the drivers position is offset to the right. On the plans the position is more central and slightly more sloped. The Pontoons are thinner as well, although this might be an artefact of the faded plans. I would suggest we're in fact looking at different stages of development. With the plans coming first, however when the prototype was built it was modified to the configuration you see above due to technical reasons.



Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Bulldozer!

A little while back I was doing some research on military bulldozers, and I grabbed a file marked 'The Bulldozer', that'll be full of dozing specifications, right?

Nope. It was a magazine put out by the Combined Operations HQ, to give a look at all matters relating to Combined Ops. As I needed a quick article this week I'm handing over to The Bulldozer, and its brilliant front cover:




Next week I'll get a proper article done, I know as I'm about to sit down and write it!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Jungle is Neutral

In the Second World War the Japanese forces had a reputation for infiltration and surprise, supported by little logistics. In early 1943 a small force of raiders was inserted into the mountains about five miles west of Kaduma. Their task was to observe deployment of enemy forces in the area. For this task they were given five days of rations and told to hide in the jungle as the local population were hostile and would report them to the overwhelming forces of the enemy.
For the next four days the raiders observed the area, skulking in thick jungle, and creating observation posts during the day and night. Sleeping was often done in Chaung's, which were the local name for ditches or dried up rivers. Sometimes these contained water. By now the raiders had a picture of the movements. Road movements were limited to small parties on foot and single vehicles at night. These took no steps to conceal themselves. Every night at around midnight a train used the main line. On day four the decision was taken to ambush the main line and cut the road. 

For the next three days the raiders moved towards the chosen ambush site. Occasionally they would halt to ask villagers questions, which would lead any reports reaching the enemy to indicate the raiders were heading away from their chosen ambush point. By day eight, food exhausted, the raiders were within striking distance of the road and railway. In a final briefing the raiders were given the password and counter sign. The former being the first line from a popular song, the latter the second line. The ambush was to comprise of three groups. Two blocking groups and the ambush party.
One group would head north for eight miles along the main road, here was a weak construction concrete bridge. This would be rigged for demolition and the squad would watch over it. Should a large force of enemy approach, one of the raiders precious radio sets and its mule was given to them. Once the main ambush was warned the blocking force would do its best to slow the enemy, destroy the bridge, and withdraw. Otherwise the blocking group was to leave traffic unmolested and the bridge intact until the main ambush was sprung.

A group with identical orders was sent south to a small choke point on the road near milestone 24. Instead of demolishing a bridge they would have mines, which were not to be placed until a large enemy force approached, or the main ambush occurred.
All three forces would withdraw separately to a rendezvous point set up by the second in command with a few guides and guards, and the supply mules.
All three groups set off early in the night with all established in position by the designated time. During the movement to their locations one of the groups was spotted by three locals. Luckily, by a quirk of culture the locals decided it was too late in the day to report the matter to the enemy forces. This apparently was a common occurrence from local population. However, despite this the enemy had learnt of the raiders presence, although not their exact location. By 0100 on the ninth day of the operation the train had not arrived. The raiders had to withdraw by 0500, any later and the raiders risked being unable to make it to the safety of the jungle before daybreak. By 0400 the raiders had been in position for several hours, tired, exhausted, nervous and starving, only their will to complete the mission kept them going.

As 0500 approached, in the far distance the train’s approach was detected. Due to the enemies suspicions the train had been re-enforced. The escort now consisted of a company of soldiers. In addition, two armoured wagons had been provided to enable the troops to suppress any ambush.

Despite the hour and the stronger than anticipated enemy, the raiders prepared. When the train entered the kill box the trooper assigned raised his PIAT and fired.
 The raiders were Chindits, and the train full of Japanese troops. The Chindits had been formed to launch raids and disrupt the Japanese supply lines well behind the forward edge of battle.  These men often fought half-starved and were frequently racked by tropical diseases. The title of this article comes from Freddie Spencer Chapman, who spent a lot of the war behind Japanese lines in Malaya (and Googling him is well worth it - e.g. he once spent 20 hours in a kayak off the Greenland coast in a raging storm...). Chapman used the saying to point out that the jungle that was seen as an alien environment by western soldiers was no such thing. The Japanese mastery of the terrain was part of the aura they had to the common western soldier, and they too could learn to do what the Japanese did.

The Chindit's opening shot penetrated the boiler of the train and caused the entire engine to explode and derail itself. This explosion meant that the train did not put its brakes on, and the wagons and coaches still on the rails rolled out of the kill box. To prevent it going further a demolition party triggered a mine in a culvert under the railway which caused the rolling stock to halt, with two derailing at the front.
Chindits demoing a railway bridge
The British troops now out of position leapt up and charged after the rolling stock. As they caught up with the train they moved down the line pouring fire into the train from point blank range. The Japanese in the armoured wagons opened fire, however the Chindits were now too close to the train to be fired upon, so the Japanese fire, although intense was flying over the heads of the British.

The troops not in the armoured wagons dismounted from the opposite side of the train and fell back some 300 yards to regroup for a counter attack.
This was foreseen by the Chindits as a possibility. Therefore, a platoon of Commandos had been stationed nearby to react to this. The Commandos charged the marshalling Japanese and in a short bloody fight scattered them, leaving around thirty casualties behind.

A second PIAT was brought up and quickly silenced the armoured wagons. The Chindits began to loot the train and police up the ambush site. As well as recovering some precious scraps of food and documentation, a Japanese official was found hiding in the first-class toilet, standing on the seat.
Chindits getting their wounded out.
Around twenty prisoners were taken, they along with the captured documents and the Chindit’s casualties (two killed, four wounded) were air lifted out by L-5's from the US No 1 Air Commando at about 0530. Around the same time another train was detected approaching. This was a fully armoured train coming to destroy the Chindits. It pushed some empty flat cars ahead of it to detonate any mines. About four miles from the ambush it was blocked by infantry with a PIAT team in support. The PIAT destroyed the empty flat car at the front. The Japanese train commander decided he was unable to advance due to the high risk of mines and so halted. This allowed the Chindits time to destroy the first train by setting everything on fire with a lifebuoy flamethrower and successfully break contact and withdraw.

Image credits:
ww2today.com, warfarehistorynetwork.com and www.irrawaddy.com

Also, today is the 21st, so you know what this means don't you...? Its the final countdown!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

No Longer Lurking

Back in 2015 I posted an article about Japanese Heavy tanks, entitled Japanese Monster. In it I mentioned several Japanese tank designs I had discovered in the UK archives. These designs and some proofs for them went into a chapter in my upcoming book, which due out in about two weeks at the end of October. It can be pre-ordered right now, with a £4 discount direct from the publishers.

Cover of my first book. Can you name the tanks and guns?

Part of my contract with the publisher forbade me talking about the contents of the book without their prior permission.

Well, I've gotten permission.


Earlier this week I published an article on tanks encyclopedia (note: I've had a few other articles published over there already), containing the details of one of the Japanese heavy tanks I had re-discovered, the Mitsubishi 104. The article is written by me, and contains the details I was able to get from the UK files.

As I was a bit short of an article this week, I decided to link to it, as a quick article. However I feel I'd need to pad this post out a bit more. So here's the plans from the archives.

First the British drawing of the Mitsu-104.





Next, the big prize, the original plans the above drawing was made from.
Finally the document was talking about all identified Japanese tanks. It included a review of their suspension. This diagram should give you an idea about the suspension style the Japanese used. From the layout of the wheels and suspension arms I suspect this is actually from a Type 97 Chi-Ha.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Komet Come

On the 10th of April 1945 American forces were approaching Leipzig. In support of this push the RAF launched a daylight raid on the marshalling yards. Around 200 bombers were dispatched, consisting of about 90 Halifax’s and 110 Lancaster’s. Some of the latter belonged to the RCAF's 405 squadron, the RCAF's only pathfinder unit. The bombers were escorted by twelve RAF piloted Mustangs from 165 Squadron. The route the formation took was from over the North Sea and then directly towards the target, during this phase of the mission some German fighters were seen in the distance.
About 1602 GMT, over the marshalling yards, at 16,000 to 17,000ft, pitching in the flack bursts, the pathfinders released their target markers. Suddenly drawing a line of smoke a small dot screamed towards the bombers, this was a lone ME-163 Komet from Jagdgeschwader 400 based at Brandis airfield. The blazing dot lined up on a Halifax from 415 squadron. Hurtling in the Komet was spotted at about 1500 yards, on the port side by the upper turret gunner. He called out a warning and the Halifax threw itself into a starboard corkscrew manoeuvre. This brought both the upper and tail gunners to bear on the Komet both of whom opened fire between 700 to 800 yards and swung the bomber out of the way of the Komet’s attack.
With its initial target evading, the Komet powered out the top of the formation, nosed over and dived back downwards, by now the formation was responding. One of the Mustangs got on the Komets tail and attempted to follow it, blasting away at the speeding German. The Mustang pilot bent the wings on his plane, badly enough to write the plane off, in an attempt to keep up. A Halifax from 425 squadron also took a shot at the Komet as it streaked past. The Komet’s new target was one of the pathfinder Lancaster's.

Four 30mm rounds struck the rear of the bomber, completely shooting off the port rudder and both elevators as well as the rear gun turret, killing the gunner, Flight Lieutenant Melborn Leslie Mellstrom from Calgary. Flt Lt Mellstrom was buried by Allied POW's, alongside a POW who had been killed in an air raid on the 13th of April, at Engelsdorf, about ten miles from Leipzig.
Back in the bomber the upper turret gunner was also badly wounded, as was the plane. After the initial impact the bomber nosed over and plunged towards the ground, only the efforts of the pilot, Squadron Leader Campbell Haliburton Musells, and the engineer, Pilot Officer Charles Rene George Ryan, they managed to pull the stick fully backwards, and bring the Lancaster out of the dive.
It was impossible for Squadron Leader Musells to hold the stick back on his own, so a rope was tied to the control column, and Pilot Officer Ryan helped pull on the stick. Soon the rope became soaked with his blood as the rope lacerated his hands and caused severe friction burns. Despite this pain, and the need to hold onto the rope, Pilot Officer Ryan also managed to run his normal controls and keep the engines working, and the speed balanced, as the bomber wallowed through the sky.
Several of the escorting Mustangs closed in to escort the bomber back to the UK.

Musells and Ryan wrestled the bomber back to the UK. The engines had to be run at a low enough power that the vibrations didn't cause the bomber to break up, but fast enough to keep the bomber from stalling. To add to the difficulties the wounded craft hit bad turbulence. Despite all this Plt Off Ryan kept all four of the engines balanced and the Lancaster in the air.

Over RAF Woodbridge the crew were ordered to abandon the plane and parachute to safety. Both the flight crew could not abandon their craft, because if either let go the plane would immediately plunge into a crash dive, and the wounded gunner was unable to be evacuated safely. 

The terrible damage struck again when the undercarriage was lowered, suddenly the plane dropped rapidly, the flight crew managed to keep the nose up and brought her into a very steep crash-landing at RAF Woodbridge.
For his actions Plt Off Ryan was awarded a DFC. There were also two other bombers lost on the raid. A 433 Squadron Lancaster shot down by flak, and a 415 Squadron Halifax that was hit by falling bombs.

Image credits:
aircrewremembered.com and www.junobeach.org

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Welcome to Texas!

After the dust settled on the Six-Day War of 1967 the situation was resolved with Israeli controlling the entirety of the Sinai Desert. This had been a stinging defeat for the Egyptians, and despite the signing of a ceasefire they soon began what was known as the War of Attrition, just twenty days after the end of Six-Day war. This war was less about large armoured formations battering each other, and more about small scale skirmishes and cross border artillery bombardments. This period of conflict would last until 1970. Due to the nature of the fighting the Israeli's began to call the Canal Zone 'Texas', making a reference to the Wild West.

Towards the end of the conflict Israeli had obtained total air superiority, which meant that she was able to strike at Egyptian positions at will. To counter this Egypt turned to her ally, Russia for help. As well as modern equipment Russia also supplied personnel to man these weapons deploying a SAM division and fighter regiment. At first the Soviets limited themselves to their operational scope, and the Israeli’s took pains to avoid a shooting war. However, the demon of mission creep soon caused the Soviets to move closer and closer to a direct confrontation. Eventually the Israeli's judged that the Soviets were determined to force an incident and so decided to conduct an ambush on the Soviet forces. Earlier similar ambushes, aimed at the Egyptians, had been codenamed 'Rimon'. The attempt to entrap the Soviets was codenamed Rimon 20.
The day for the operation would start with a strike package of A-4 Skyhawks attacking a radar station near Suez city, meanwhile a pair of Mirages would fly at a higher altitude on a reconnaissance strike. It was expected the Soviets in MIG-21's would launch to intercept the pair of Mirages.

This was when things would go awry for the Soviets. The reconnaissance flight was four Mirages loaded for air to air work and flying in such close formation their radar returns showed only one or two planes. These Mirages would draw the Soviets over the flight following a normal A-4 strike's flight profile, which were in fact the Israeli's new F-4 Phantoms.
The Phantoms were armed with AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, which would allow long range shots against the pursuing Soviets. Then as the Phantoms passed below the Soviet formation the Mirages would turn and engage, backed up by another flight of four Mirages that had been loitering at very low level out of sight of radar over the Sinai Desert.
Due to the nature of the fight, the Israeli's collected their best air crews, between them the pilots had over sixty air to air kills.

The battle began at 1400 on the 30th of July, and the plan was carried out perfectly. The Soviets launched some 16 planes from three airbases to chase the Mirage 'reconnaissance' flight. At 20km the Mirages turned to draw the Soviets over the Phantoms, however the Mirages turned to tightly, and instead found themselves on a collision course.
This left the Phantoms with a confused radar picture, from which they couldn't launch their Sparrows into with any degree of telling friend from foe. For that reason, they powered into the fight earlier than planned with the four Mirages also joining in the fray. The third part of the ambush, the four low level Mirages moved to engage, but one pair were forced to abort when one suffered an engine malfunction.

A swirling dogfight erupted that was to last just three minutes.

At first a pair of MIG's got behind a pair of Phantoms, one of the Mirages dropped in on the MIG's tail and killed one with an AIM-9D Sidewinder. Another Mirage found itself in amongst several MIGs and hit one with another Sidewinder. However, seconds later this Mirage was hit by an AA-2 Atoll fired from one of the MIGs. The missile struck the engine exhaust and depending on which source you read either failed to detonate or did detonate but did not cause the Mirage to be shot down. Either way the Mirage was damaged and unable to continue fighting, the pilot managed to fly his wounded plane back to the nearest airfield and conduct an emergency landing.

The Mirages, like their Soviet counterparts split up into lone combatants. The Phantoms however had stayed in pairs with their wingmen, and at this point had not scored any kills. Realising the MIG pilots were very inexperienced the Phantom's agreed to go solo as well. One of the Phantoms was jockeying for position when the MIG he was chasing pulled a tight turn towards him, the Phantom pulled an Immelmann which left him above and behind the Soviet plane. The MIG pilot decided to power dive down to 700ft, and entirely silly thing to do when pursed by a Phantom. It was the easiest thing for the Phantom to follow, lock a Sidewinder onto the fleeing MIG and knock it from the sky. 
One of the MIGs attempted to depart the battle due to fuel, a Phantom fired a short-range missile at him, but it ran out of fuel, so a Mirage moved in to fire, only finding that when entering battle, the pilot had mistakenly dumped his missiles along with his drop tanks. The Mirage pilot closed in to try and get a kill with his cannon, however before he could reach the MIG it was struck by a Sparrow from a Phantom, the MIG was at a height of about 1000ft. This shot became the lowest altitude launch with a Sparrow up until that date, previously the Sparrow had not been thought to be able to function at low height.

Another MIG was exiting the area, it had already been hit by two missiles that had failed to knock it from the sky, when a final Mirage arrived on scene. This plane had been part of a two-ship flight that had been on standby. When the low altitude Mirage's suffered an engine failure and aborted the standby package had been launched. One of the planes had gotten lost, and the remaining pilot ordered the lost plane to return to base, while he carried on alone. He was now chasing the fleeing MIG, eventually he caught up with it and opened fire with his cannon. Now out of ammo he aborted without seeing the MIG crash. It was only later discovered that the MIG had finally succumbed to the barrage of fire that it had received.
This was the last act of the battle. In those three minutes five Soviet planes had been knocked out of the sky, for one damaged Israeli one. The biggest casualty was to Soviet pride, ever since they had arrived they had been of the opinion that the failures to defeat the Israeli Air Force were down to the qualities of their Arab hosts. The Egyptians were well aware of the tactics involved in the ambushes that he Russians had fallen for. The mocking from Egyptian sources aimed at the Russians became so bad that the Egyptian president, Gamal Nassar had to issue an order to cease the laughing and ridiculing of Russian personnel. 

Just a few months later the War of Attrition would come to an end with a peace deal. However, it would set up the background for the Yom Kippur War a few years later.

Image Credits:
www.iaf.org.il and www.aerospaceweb.org

Sunday, September 23, 2018

RAM Kangaroo Ram

There is some confusion about the Kangaroo armoured personnel carriers of the Second World War. This comes mainly from pictures of a turret-less Stuart tank in North Africa, it is claimed these were Kangaroos. This picture has been attributed to many different versions of the Stuart. Well I can now shed some light on that picture. Stuarts without their turrets were borrowed from armoured brigades by engineer formations, for use when the engineers were working alongside the armoured brigade. However, it is not known if these vehicles were called "Kangaroos". Identical conversions later in the war in Europe were used for reconnaissance when the turrets were removed from the Stuarts in some armoured regiments, and these were called Stuart "Jalopies".

This picture is often captioned as a Stuart "Kangaroo", when there's nothing to back up such a name.

The first vehicles to be officially called Kangaroos were M7 Priests, modified at Workshop Kangaroo near Bayeux Normandy. The objective of this workshop was to convert as many Priests as possible to APC's, with the target date for the work to be completed as the 9th of August 1944. As well as routine maintenance overhauls the main gun of the Priest was removed. The resulting opening was filled with a plate of armour taken from a wrecked tank. Or when that source ran out two sheets of mild steel with the space between filled with gravel or sand. Thus, the armouring of Priests was down to what was on hand. There is one report that the Admiralty complained to the army that Canadian soldiers were cutting up stranded landing craft on the D-Day beaches.
The last of the 72 machines ordered were completed on the night of the 6th (or 7th depending on source). The next morning the Kangaroos were thrown into battle where they proved an immediate success, allowing fast moving columns of men to capture important objectives and opening up mobile warfare. During the war the Kangaroos were regarded as more armoured trucks than dedicated APC's as we would see them today. The main use was to transport infantry close to the objective (a suggested number in one source is about 200 yards) where they would dismount to launch the assault. Once the infantry had dismounted then the Kangaroos would retire to a rally point then either collect more men to bring them forward, or remain there holding supplies for the troops they had just delivered.

Some of the problems with Kangaroo deployments were the large volume of vehicular traffic they caused, both in the approach march and during the battle. Equally as the war progressed some officers decided to create new and unusual drills and uses with the Kangaroos, which it is claimed after the war, lessened their impact.

Another problem was German prisoners of war. When a column of Kangaroos encountered a German unit that wished to surrender they had no space, time or manpower to take them prisoner, nor could such be spared. The only recourse the infantry in the Kangaroos had was to disarm the Germans, place them under their NCO's and give orders to continue back down the line of advance until they met a unit more able to properly take them prisoner.

To close off today's article, I wanted to share a extract from the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment war diary. By this stage of the war the regiment had been re-equipped with RAM Kangaroos.



Image Credits:
www.warlordgames.com, www.tanks-encyclopedia.com, Canadian National Archives, UK National Archives

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Demolition Rocket

Time for another short article. I feel I should give a quick explanation on why we're getting so many quick and dirty emergency articles these days. I currently work shifts six days a week. That only leaves Saturday for me to do any writing. If something crops up, such as a company I work with requiring na archive visit, then I can only do that my one day off, leaving no time for writing an article. That means I have to be lazy and just grab something spare from my collection and put it up before I go into work on the Sunday. 
I can only apologise for these short articles, hopefully the situation will improve soon.

In the UK at least there was always a considerable effort devoted to research into knocking out bunkers and other concrete fortifications. One early suggestion was a sawn off 60-pounder WWI era artillery piece, to blast the fortification to pieces.

However it was quickly found that just sheer mass of HE was inconsistent, if not ineffective, in its results. This lead to development of other ideas such as using APHE rounds, and some were built and tested for 17-pounder guns. The idea was that standard issue weapons could then be used, without resorting to specialist equipment. This idea seemed to have limited effect. Other anti-concrete weapons utilised HESH or HEAT warheads.

The US stuck with a mass of HE projected against a concrete position. To that end they adapted the Mousetrap anti-submarine weapon for land use. Mousetrap was in turn a development of the Hedgehog anti-submarine mortar. The main difference being Mousetrap was propelled by rockets, where as Hedgehog used a conventional gunpowder propulsion.
Mousetrap launcher

cutaway of a 7.2 demolition rocket
This T37 7.2 inch demolition rocket was mounted on a Sherman in a 20 round launcher, known as the T40 Whiz-Bang. One was loaned to the British who decided to test its anti-concrete performance. They wheeled it out and fired it agaisnt a concrete target to assess the damage from a full 20 round salvo.
The Sherman used in the test firing.

The results of 19 rockets, the 20th is the blind you see lying in the foreground.