Purpose of this blog

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

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Glorious Glosters

If you mention the Gloucestershire Regiment, most people immediately think of the Battle of the Imjin River during the Korean War. This battle occurred in 1951, a battalion from the regiment stood on top of hill 235 and bore the brunt of the Chinese human wave attacks as 40,000 soldiers advanced on the UN lines. Their tenacious stand won the battalion a US Distinguished Unit citation, and several of its members won Victoria Crosses. 
What's not commonly know is eleven years earlier the Gloucesters were involved in another heroic stand, holding up the onrushing Germans at a critical point in the battle of France.

In May 1940 the Germans were pouring into France and throwing the Allies back. The Gloucesters found themselves at the village of Cassel on the 25th of the month. The 2nd Battalion’s "A" company was dispatched to hold Zuytpene. From that company a platoon was sent to hold a bunker covering a road some distance away. That road lead to a little known coastal town called Dunkirk.
The bunker at Cassel
The above paragraph does give a misleading impression of the situation. The platoon of men was depleted from the previous weeks of action, and the entire platoon was only 13 men strong. It was led by 2nd Lieutenant Roy Cresswell.

Additionally the term bunker is somewhat misleading. It was designed to hold twin 25mm anti-tank guns and two machine guns in armoured housings. The roof was topped by an observation tower. However as work on it had only started on January 20th as part of Frances expansion of the Maginot line it was still largely unfinished. When Lt Cresswell and his men arrived they found a building site. None of the components were on site, leaving huge holes in the walls where the guns were to be mounted. The observation tower wasn't finished and was wide open, with no door inside to close off this opening. It even lacked a front door. The bunker was clad in wooden scaffolding and there was a temporary hut erected by the Spanish workmen right in front of the bunkers firing ports.
Off to one side was a stack of fuel drums to provide for the construction machinery. When the platoon arrived they found numerous Belgian and French refugees who were using the bunker as a shelter.

Through out the 25th and 26th the fourteen men worked on the position. The openings in the wall were turned into firing slits using sandbags and the scaffolding was cut away. They filled as much of the observation towers doorway with sand and gravel as they could, they even knocked down the workers hut and made a makeshift door. However they couldn't solve the biggest issue of the position, that there were no openings to the sides or rear.
Damage to the Bunker
About 1800 on the 27th the Germans announced their presence with a furious barrage of 20mm shells raking the position. As the Germans launched an attack, the defenders poured fire out of their gun slits, and largely kept the Germans away. However one German closed up to the bunker, as he tried to smash down the door one of the defenders tossed out a Mills bomb, which halted the Germans efforts. As the firefight continued the barrage of light shells punched through the improvised protection set up by the defenders, spraying splinters of wood around the inside of the bunker. These huge lances of wood killed one of the defenders. However as night fell the Germans retreated. During the firefight a nearby hay stack had been set on fire which burned throughout the night giving the defenders enough light to spot any approaching Germans.

The following day the Germans launched a second attack, which was kept at arms length by the fire the defenders laid down. Despite this the number of wounded was increasing and now supplies such as food and water were beginning to run out.


On the 29th the Germans were becoming desperate, as long as the blockhouse held it commanded the road to Dunkirk and the retreating British.  Being unable to use the road meant that their advance was slowed down. So they devised a new ploy.
At 0900 a figure hobbled into sight of the defenders and before they could fire he shouted out "A wounded British officer here!"
The figure was a Captain called Lorraine. He'd been dragged out of an ambulance shortly after being captured and ordered to convince the defenders to surrender. As he approached Lt Cresswell started to speak, to which Cpt Lorraine snapped "Don't answer back!". When he was close enough Cpt Lorraine stood beside the body of a German, looked down and said "There are many Germans like that round here."  He then stared at the roof.
Lt Cresswell immediately took that to mean the Germans were on the roof and waiting to ambush his men should they surrender. Cpt Lorraine then returned to German lines. The Germans immediately launched a furious assault, its only effect was to kill or wound the ambushers on the roof of the bunker.

On the 30th the Germans found another weapon to smoke the British out. They used straw and the fuel left from construction to light a massive fire inside the open observation tower. With no way of fighting the fire, and getting suffocated by the smoke Lt Cresswell also knew his men were out of food and water (the previous day the men had been drinking rum to keep their thirst at bay but even that was now gone), and they had almost no ammunition.
With his situation hopeless he ordered his men to try and break out and reach friendly lines. Even in the confusion of the smoke and flames Lt Cresswell's men didn't get very far and they were all captured almost instantly. The road to Dunkirk was now open, although the Germans had been held up for four vital days.
The fire in the observation tower continued to burn for a week after the position fell.

Image credits:
BBC, Flickr, Wikipedia

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Defence Capabilities Centre Shrivenham

About a year ago myself, Jingles and another EU Community Contributor, Ed Francis, were invited along to the Defence Capabilities Centre at Shrivenham. This is a teaching environment for the UK military, and other nations. It has a huge selection of tanks, guns and defence related items. Last week myself and a few others, including Quickybaby were invited back. All arranged by Ed.
Obviously I had my camera along with me, and while the others spent their time hugging the tanks, I had a root around and found some of the interesting smaller stuff.

The first piece is almost art like, its the shrapnel generated by a shell. I have no idea how they created it though.

Next we have something that looks like a missile, next to some normal 81mm mortar rounds. Well the "missile" is actually a Merlin round for 81mm mortars. You can see the size difference between it and a normal round. It was an attempt in the 80's to give the standard British infantry mortar a guided anti-tank (AT) weapon. It uses radar in the nose to guide itself into a hit the top armour of a tank. Now imagine the rate of fire of an infantry battalions support mortars with each one firing a guided AT missile. Its range was 4 km.
The trouble was the unit cost was very high, so it was dropped. A project that came slightly afterwards, but made it to service was the Swedish Strix 120mm round that used a IR sensor.
Many, many years ago I saw this picture:

Now at first glance you'll think its a British soldier with an L85, but then those of you up to speed on uniforms and weapons will start spotting the mistakes. Well the Armoury at Shrivenham has these:
 They're EM-1 and EM-2 rifles, from the mid to late 1940's. The British conducted several studies into small arms and produced a .280 calibre, with excellent ballistics. However for NATO standard ammunition the US  would accept nothing other than 7.62mm, and the rifle and the round were consigned to history. Recent trends in small arms have been heading back towards the intermediate rounds, however.

Next we have this large green collection of tubes, I was quite surprised when I found out what it is, its a Bangalore torpedo. I blame Hollywood. The traditional image I've got from films like The Longest Day or Saving Private Ryan is this giant drainpipe being lugged about, but no its actually quite compact.

A mysterious bag of white powder, but I wouldn't go near it if I was you, its 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, more commonly know as "CS" or tear gas.

Now we come to the meat of the article. You're all aware of the Tier 2 French tank destroyer the Renault UE 57. Well it did exist, here's a picture of it alongside its larger cousin a Lorraine 37L fitted with a 17 pounder gun. The thing you instantly spot is the muzzle brake.
Well they have one of those muzzle brakes at Shrivenham. Last year they had only snippets of information on the subject. Myself and Ed Francis were plugging away at it trying to find more information, unbeknown to us two Shrivenham were also working on the problem, and they got a lot further than we did!

So here is the story of the Galliot muzzle brake. Now I would say there's still a lot of confusion about the exact details, so please keep this in mind.
After the First World War a pair of French men, one of whom was called Galliot, the other's name is given as "Borg" or "Bory" were working on a new muzzle brake. In 1919 experiments were held in the US, and in 1924 the results of the experiments were submitted to the US authorities. The muzzle brake worked by directing the blast backwards through a series of fluted spiral channels. It was an incredibly complex piece of equipment that several UK manufacturers point blank refused to build.

After the fall of France Commandant Galliot ended up in the UK. The first attempts made were fitting a Galliot muzzle brake to rifles. In 1941 it was fitted to a 6 pounder. During 1942 there were several trials with the weapon but while the recoil was reduced by 81% the back blast was tremendous. All in all it would require a redesign of the gun mounts. In late 1942 the Free French forces produced a 17 pounder fitted with the brake which was subsequently trialled. However the British considered the brake utterly impossible to mass produce and halted work on it.
I assume that this is where the two AFV's pictured above came from. One would obviously ask: Where did the French vehicles come from? There are suggestions that about seventeen Renault UE's made their way to Britain after the fall of France, but I've no idea on the Lorraine 37L.

However from 1943 the idea of fitting it to a Mosquito FB Mk XVIII (Tsetse) came about. Trials may have been considered as well. However one final oddity, there is a persistent rumour that a 32 pounder gun was fitted to a Mosquito Tsetse, although very little is known of this. Some sources suggest that the Galliot muzzle brake was used. There is a document in the archive about a 32 pounder fitted with a Galliot style muzzle brake, but I've yet to view that document and so can't say what information it contains.
In 1948 the muzzle brake design was patented, we think it was by the Commandants son, Jules Andre Norbert Galliot.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Horror at 25,000 feet (part 2)

A few weeks ago I posted part one of a story about a B17 bomber. When we left the bomber was damaged, with two very seriously wounded crew on board.

In the navigator's position 2nd Lt Koske was faced with the problem of SSgt Weaver. He quickly realised that SSgt Weaver's only chance of survival was the Germans. 2nd Lt Koske explained what he had in mind, and after initial resistance SSgt Weaver relented. Realising that it was good luck he couldn't give the morphine injection, as that would have rendered SSgt Weaver unconscious, 2nd Lt Koske helped c into his parachute.  He then opened the escape hatch, and set SSgt Weaver's hand on the ripcord, then pulled his hand away. However the sheer amount of blood flowing from SSgt Weaver's wounds meant that 2nd Lt Koske's glove had become glued to SSgt Weaver's who's in turn had become sealed around the ripcord. The act of pulling the hand away meant the parachute began to deploy, billowing in the storm of wind from the open escape hatch.
Imagine three men, one of whom is wounded, and a half deployed parachute in this space, while getting shot at by Germans.
A deployed parachute would seal SSgt Weaver's fate, as there'd be no way to reuse it. However luck was on SSgt Weaver's side yet again. The parachute caught on a fuse box and stopped deploying. This partial deployment even worked in their favour, 2nd Lt Koske wasn't sure SSgt Weaver had enough strength left to pull the ripcord, but now with a partial deployment the entire parachute would follow even if SSgt Weaver wasn't able to pull the cord.

As he plummeted away SSgt Weaver knew his chances were slim, if he wasn't captured immediately he would bleed to death. The same fate would await him if he landed too far away from a hospital. As he fell he saw 2nd Lt Koske's reassuring smile looking down from the hatch.  The ball turret gunner reported that he'd seen SSgt Weaver's chute open.
In December 1943 word reached the family of SSgt Weaver that their son was alive and in Stalag 7-A POW camp.

With SSgt Weaver on his way, 2nd Lt Koske scrambled back into the nose of the aircraft to find the bombardier busy manning the guns so 2nd Lt Koske rushed to help him. Throughout all this time the bombers had been under constant attack from the German fighters. They thought that the sudden manoeuvres of the plane were evasive moves from the pilot, not losses of control as the dying Lt Campbell launched another frenzied attack on 2nd Lt Morgan.
Then they were over the target, which was thickly shrouded in smoke, the bombardier dropped the load and the formation turned. After the plane was safely out over the sea 2nd Lt Koske checked on the cockpit and found out the true situation of what was going on. This was at least two hours after the initial attack. 2nd Lt Morgan explained they needed to move Lt Campbell as 2nd Lt Morgans view was obscured by the smashed windscreen, and so he couldn't see to land.
The bombardier and 2nd Lt Koske wrestled the struggling Lt Campbell into the nose of the plane where they secured him. As they descended the increased oxygen meant the crew at the rear of the plane regained consciousness, but were suffering from varying degrees of frostbite. Then 2nd Lt Morgan spotted something else, all the fuel gauges read empty. Somewhere in the unrelenting attacks the cannon and machine guns of the Luftwaffe had shredded the fuel system and they'd lost all their fuel. 2nd Lt Morgan eventually landed at RAF Foulsham, rather than fly all the way back to RAF Alconbury.

Lt Campbell died an hour after landing at RAF Foulsham. Like all service personnel who died in the UK he is buried at the American Cemetery at Madingley, Cambridge. As today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, last Friday I made a visit down to the Cemetery and found Lt Campbell's neatly tended grave.
Lt Campbell's death was reported in the US newspapers, understandably he was reported as killed immediately by the cannon shell that wounded him.

For his actions 2nd Lt Morgan was awarded the Medal of Honor. Nearly a year later on March the 6th 1944, 2nd Lt Morgan was flying his own B-17, as part of the first major USAAF attack on Berlin, when his plane was hit by flak and it was reported plunging through the formation on fire. However 2nd Lt Morgan was able to escape in his parachute, and was promptly was captured by the Germans.  He became the first ever Medal of Honour winner captured by the enemy.

Thirty six years later in 1979, Koske and Weaver held a reunion, this was the first time they'd met in all those years. Morgan died on January 17th 1991, and Weaver on Feb 20th 1993.

Image credits:
David Lister, Tom Philo Photography and Albumwar2

Sunday, November 2, 2014

.45-Zero

This article is in essence two stories, but one couldn't have happened without the other, and I'm sorry to say, one of them is not a happy story.

Bombing raid over the Pyinmana bridge
On March 31st, 1943 four aircraft of 9th Bomb Squadron of the 7th Bomb Group were sent on a mission to destroy a railroad bridge at Pyinmana, Burma. The squadron were in B-24's, and as they approached Magwe they had the bad luck to stumble across a flight of Japanese fighters.

KI-43-II
The thirteen KI-43-II's (nearly all allied accounts claim Zero's) where from the 64th Sentai, and were flying on a transport mission to Chittagong. Leading the flight was the Japanese ace Captain Yasuhiko Kuroe. Cpt Kuroe and another plane targeted one of the B-24's and pressed home their attack, despite the ferocious defensive fire put up by the bombers. The bomber they targeted began to drop out of formation, whilst on fire. Inside that B-24 the co-pilot, Lieutenant Owen J. Baggett manned the dorsal gun while the rest of the crew struggled to put the flames out. However it was obvious they were doomed. The pilot Lt. Lloyd Jensen ordered the crew to bail out.
Lt Baggett
 As they hung in their parachutes Cpt Kuroe and his wingman began to strafe the helpless bomber crew. Lt Baggett was wounded in the arm by the attack. With no other choice he palmed his Colt M1911 pistol and hung limp in his harness, acting dead. Cpt Kuroe brought his fighter round, and throttled back. As he passed the group he opened his canopy, and was flying at almost stall speed.
As he passed Lt. Baggett the American raised his pistol and fired four times. The Japanese fighter peeled away. Lt Baggett and Lt Jensen were both captured. At the time they were the first B-24 pilots captured by the Japanese, and were of special interest. Eventually they were released from solitary confinement and put in with the general population of POW's.
Col Melton
Here the second story starts. Colonel Harry Ripley Melton Jr, was the commander of a squadron of A-36's (dive bomber versions of the P-51). On a mission on the 29th of November 1943, about twenty miles east of the Bay of Bengal, his plane suddenly lost power, and he was forced to bail out at 1000 ft. He too was captured, and while in the same camp as Lt Baggett they got talking. Lt Baggett told of his story, and how he got there. At which point Col. Melton confirmed the story by saying they had found a crashed Japanese plane, the pilot had been thrown out of the airframe by the force of the impact. The Japanese pilot had a single .45 gunshot wound to the head.

Unfortunately there's no other supporting evidence. Even Lt Baggett’s own remarkably slim account when he was official historian for the 9th Bomb Squadron fails to mention the details. Was it just a tale to raise morale while in a POW camp? Did Cpt Kuroe merely pull away in surprise? Or did Lt Baggett make a one million shot? Shots with longer odds have happened before.

Lt Baggett remained a POW until the end of the war. After liberation, instead of returning to his peace time job on Wall Street he decided to stay in the Air Force, and retired a colonel. He died at the age of 85 in San Antonio, Texas in 2006.
Rakuyo Maru
For Col. Melton a much unhappier fate awaited. On 6th of September 1944 he was sent to Japan. He was the only American, in 1318 POW's on the Rakuyo Maru. Six days into the journey the convoy was decisively attacked by US submarines. Sinking, the ship turned into hell and the full horrific story can be read here. Col. Melton was lost at sea, adrift in the Pacific ocean.

Image credits:
Wikipedia, The Command Post (Jan 26th, 1945), Flymag and St Petersburg Times (Dec 5th, 1943)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Armoured Soldier

From the moment at Agincourt when a single soldier was killed by a gunpowder weapon, armour protection became more and more impractical. The large scale of issue needed and the cost due to lack of manufacturing meant for most of history the best protection a soldier could wish for was a padded outfit.
This carried on into the first industrial war, World War One. In the early years of that war cloth caps were the norm, however with modern warfare modern mass production arrived and the benefits of metal helmets were realised and issued en-masse.
In the First World War several attempts at protecting the soldier from enemy fire were also tried, the best known was the German Lobster armour. However there were several other concepts tried.
MacAdam shovel in action, notice how the loophole is actually to low to the ground to be used without the mound of earth.
One was the ill-conceived MacAdam Shovel from Canada. It was designed, in 1913, to function as not only a shovel, but also as a bullet shield. The idea being that the soldier stuck the blade of the shovel into the ground, this gave him an armoured screen with a loop hole in it so he could fire at the enemy, while their return fire was deflected by the blade.
You can see how short the handle is on this picture.
To make it bullet proof it was built of very dense and heavy steel. However this was unable to stop enemy fire, and resulted in a very heavy shovel, with a short handle and a hole in the shovel blade.
In reality the shovels never made it closer to the front than England and were finally sold off as fifty tons of scrap at a massive loss to the Canadian Government.
Martel's one man tank. this is the MK2 version, made out of actual metal. the Prototype had been made of wood.
In-between the wars one British officer, Giffard Martel, came up with an idea for a one man tank. The idea is said to have come from a discussion with another British officer who witnessed a French tank attack during the First World War, and the swarm of FT-17's. When Martel pitched his idea it was laughed at, so he cannibalised an old car and rebuilt it at home in the shape of a one man tank. His plan was for each infantry unit to have a handful of these, and they would advance with the infantry giving covering fire. When the difficulties of one man doing all the jobs for the tank arose Martel countered by pointing to fighter pilots doing all the jobs required in their one man vehicles. Martel went one step further and proposed that every infantryman should be mounted in one of these tankettes.
Carden-Loyd one man tankette
As the idea was looked at other companies got in on the act, however the high point for the one man tank was the Dominion Premiers demonstration, in 1926.  The army put several of its machines, including the A1E1 Independent through a demonstration.
Dominion Premiers demonstration in 1926
 In less than a couple of years the idea had disappeared. However the one man tank does have one success story. Martel also built a two man version, and from this starting point you can trace a direct development through to the unparalleled success of the Universal Carrier. The idea of a slow moving tank to support the infantry in their advance could also be said to have resulted in the A11 Matilda Infantry Tank, however the link there is much more tenuous.

Soviet SN-42
In World War Two body armour made another appearance. The two best known are the Soviet armours like the SN-42, or the US flak jackets worn by bomber crews. A less well known version was a Japanese attempt at body armour, looking like a direct copy of the Soviet armour, it was let down by Japanese manufacturing, proving to be extremely heavy and offering no protection.
The British also worked on body armour. During the early 40's the Medical Research Council and the army thought through the problem, and eventually produced a usable armour.
The basic problem was that technology, at the time, couldn't provide armour thick enough to provide protection to prevent high velocity projectiles from penetrating the armour and causing damage. There were also certain places where low velocity projectiles would cause fatalities. Adding to the issue was that the Army had imposed a weight limit. The armour was designed to cover the most amount of vulnerable body parts within the constraints of the weight limit.
The Armour was found to be proof against rifle fire from 700 yards, pistols at 5 yards and Thompson Submachine gun fire at 100 yards.
The armour was mostly used by the RAF and 21st Army Group. There's anecdotal reports of it going ashore on D-Day and fighting through Normandy. It was definitely used during Operation Market Garden.
MRC armour can be seen on the soldier guarding these POW's.
After the war many ideas were tried for body armour, for both police and military uses, such as this police armour:
However its only due to modern technology that effective body armour has been realised.
My thanks to Volketten from the NA server, whom is a real expert in these matters and helped with this article.

Image Credits:
Milart, Wikipedia

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stug Ace

Hugo Primozic was born in 1914 in W├╝rttemberg, Germany to a German mother and a Slovenian father. He enlisted with the German army in May 1934 and joined the Artillery. During the Polish campaign he was part of the 152nd Artillery Regiment of the 52nd Infantry Division.
Hugo Primozic
After serving in the French campaign, he rotated through several reserve and replacement positions including a posting at the Artillery school in J├╝terbog. After graduating, he was sent to join the 667th Sturmgeschutz (assault gun) battalion. He was given command of a platoon of Stug assault guns in the 2nd battery of the 667th.

After bitter fighting in August and September, the 667th halted several heavy Soviet attacks near Rzhev but was subsequently pulled back due to heavy casualties. Then on the 15th of September, the Soviets launched another massive attack. Primozic only had his platoon of three Stugs at his disposal which he promptly moved forward to face the assault.
As they approached under cover, Primozic halted his platoon and dismounted to scout out the situation facing his small force. Once this was complete, he moved his Stugs into concealed positions on the flank of the advancing Soviets tanks.

As Primozic’s platoon moved into firing positions, one of the Soviet T-34s apparently spotted Primozic and quickly swung its turret round and fired. By luck, despite the short range of the shot, the round bounced off. The Stug fired a heartbeat later destroying the T-34. Primozic's platoon began to pour fire into the sides and rear of the Soviet tanks. As the Soviets began to return fire, Primozic ordered his Stugs to pull back from their previously concealed positions and relocate to new firing positions to the left of their location. The Stugs low profile, speed and concealed positions made this manoeuvre possible despite enemy fire.
While Primozic had been moving, the Soviet tank had begun advancing towards his platoon and had closed the range so that the nearest T-34s were now only 300 yards (275 meters) away; well within optimal firing range for a T-34. Additionally, his platoon spotted KV-1 heavy tanks moving up to support the stalled T-34s. His Stug was hit by a round from a KV-1 which did no damage however Primozic’s gunner likewise bounced his shot off of the KV-1. It was now a straight reload race as the first to reload and fire accurately would likely destroy the other. The Stug's 75mm roared and the KV-1 shuddered to a halt gushing smoke.
The fighting continued with the heavily outnumbered platoon continuing to inflict damage on the T-34s and KV-1 heavy tanks until the Soviets began to retreat. The platoon had flanked the Soviet advance and used the covered, rolling terrain to maximum advantage to halt the soviet attack and destroy over 24 tanks during the engagement.

From the 15th through the 28th, Primozic and his platoon continued to fight with their battalion in repelling repeated Soviet attacks in the Rzhev vicinity. On the 28th of September, Primozic’s platoon was assigned to cover the extreme flank of their division and they proceeded to hold their position against repeated attacks conducted by Soviet tanks with infantry support. Primozic’s Stugs held their ground until they had literally fired off all of their ammunition and then attempted to withdraw to avoid being encircled. Before his platoon could disengage, Primozic left his vehicle while under fire with a steel tow cable and attached it to an immobilized Stug in his platoon to tow it from the battlefield using his own vehicle. Upon returning to his Stug, he personally covered the successful withdrawal of both vehicles against infantry attack with a machine gun.

In the five months from September 1942 to January 1943, Hugo Primozic destroyed 60 enemy tanks and was awarded both the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross and the Oak Leaves. Hugo Primozic was the first non commissioned officer in the Wehrmacht to be awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight’s Cross and one of only seven NCOs in total to receive the Oak Leaves.
He received his officer’s commission in February 1943 and served as an instructor until 1945 when his training unit was deployed to face the advancing Americans on the Western front. Primozic was captured by American forces on May 8th, 1945 and survived the war. He died on the 18th of March 1996 in Fulda Germany.


(Following a suggestion last week, I'm trying something new out from today forward, if you don't like it, let me know. To stop the images in articles disappearing, I'll be copying them across to Imgur, and then giving credit to the original website.)Image Credits:
Wikipedia, Bundesarchive Photos and theatlantic.com

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Ghost of Edward

Nearly a year ago I wrote about Soviet robotic tanks. As with all nations with this sort of research they kept the program a secret. Well its no surprise that other nations started thinking along the same lines and developed their own programs. One of those was of course Britain.

In the early 30's the British Army and the Royal Navy worked together on remote control ships, one project was fitting Coastal Motor Boats with radio control, although that never reached completion. One project that was completed by Mr Evershed of the Royal Navy Signals School was the fitting on an old battleship, HMS Centurion, with remote control to use it as a target drone for coastal batteries.
HMS Centurion as a target ship
From that basis the idea of a remote controlled tank on land grew. The first hint of a remote controlled tank was in October 1935.  As the Air Ministry had a lot more experience with radios and electronics than the Army, the Army inquired if they knew of any reason why a remote control tank wouldn't work up to a distance of two miles from its control station. With the Air Ministries positive reply the Army proposed to set up a conference on the subject and start a joint project.

There is some argument as to whom came up with the idea of the remote control tank. Brigadier Percy Hobart makes the claim it was his idea, however that is based entirely upon a minute in a 1937 meeting being deleted. A review into the UK records conducted in 1946 suggests the idea came from an officer called "Chapham", but fails to credit him with his full name.

On the 5th of December 1935 the first meeting on the subject was carried out, where the basic role was laid out:
  1. To carry out reconnaissance of an area over which an attack may be made. The idea of the remote control tank was to draw fire from enemy guns, so that they may be targeted.
  2. To find out the location of enemy minefields by driving into them and finally to be used as a mobile mine. the explosive charge could also be used to destroy the tank should it be in danger of being captured. A requirement was that it should be controllable from a standard issue army radio set.

The project was codenamed "Edward".

Upon hearing this the Air Ministry declared it would likely take two years to develop. and then both elements of the Air Ministry present at the conference started using the project as a chance to empire build. The Royal Aircraft Establishment demanded an increase in staffing levels, while the Air Ministry itself asked for an extra £5000 in its budget to be taken from the armies allocation. However in 1936 the project was regulated to minor status as the Air Ministry was working on its own project, a rocket powered remote control plane. Of the £5000 allocated to the Air Ministry only £708 of the grant had been spent on the project, of that £638 was for the gearbox.

Initial testing found that an automatic gearbox was needed. By a happy stroke of luck one had just been invented by Freeborn Power Converters Ltd, and fitted to a omnibus, where it had completed 28,000 miles without fault.
Best guess at the type of bus fitted with the gearbox.
With the gearbox sorted the rest of the tank was needed. In the end a Light Tank Mk II was used, and fitted with a Rolls Royce engine. Visual changes over a normal Mk II Light Tank were two bulges on the glacis plate to hold steering linkages. Internally an automatic starter was installed.
Standard Light tank MKII
In July 1936 the Air Ministry then announced its pet project was finished, and that it would need £4880 for 1937 to work on Edward. Once again the Army paid, however work was moving forward and in February 1937 an issue with the steering control was solved. However the Army was getting restless. With its budget going missing and no apparent feedback it led to Colonel Giffard Martel sending a very strongly worded series of letters enquiring how the project was progressing. The Air Ministry managed to placate the angry Army, by pointing out that by May 1937 the radio equipment was working well under laboratory conditions. However the mechanical side of things wasn't going so well. The brakes were far too powerful slamming full on as soon as they were engaged. However conversely the servos powering the gear select and the track drives were too weak. The Air Ministry announced that Edward would be complete in 3-6 months.

Edward was privately demonstrated on 1st of June 1936, and announced ready for full demonstrations on 2nd July. However those demonstrations didn't take place until the following year. In the 13 Jan 1937 demonstrations the witnesses were very impressed by the performance of Edward. However a question was raised. Somewhere in the previous year Edward had switched from a project for service to a technology demonstrator. The visiting dignitaries asked where the research project could go from its current high point. One suggestion was to use Edward as target for anti-tank gun training.

However in light of its flawless performance Edward was given a stay of execution. Some additional goals were added, to increase the range of operation up to 3000 yards, the ability to lay a smoke screen (which resulted in an air compressor being fitted) and a safety system that would stop the tank if it didn't receive a signal for more than 30 seconds. Trials at Bovington were scheduled for later that year, and Edward moved back to being a project for a service piece of equipment. The Air Ministry asked for another £5200 to cover development in 1938, which was approved on Christmas Eve 1937.
No.11 wireless set
In late 1937 the Army was developing its new radio set, the number 11 set. It would give the added range needed to reach 3000 yards control, so it was tested out with Edward.  Almost immediately Edward developed its own consciousness, sometimes driving around under its own control ignoring the signals from the control unit.  Throughout the remainder of 1937 and the first half of 1938 Edward continued to display signs of self control.  The issues continued so much that the two establishments involved with the project were looking to either adapt the Queen Bee target drone control gear, or build special purpose equipment.
Queen Bee Target drone
In the end it was found that a certain set of inputs on the No.11 radio would cause excess radiation from the set which was flooding Edwards receiver with fake signals causing the tank to drive itself.  The solution was to use the old No.9 set linked with a No.11 set. And not a moment too soon. On 1st of November 1938 a new demonstration was held.  This time two Edwards performed flawlessly for ten minutes being commended on the crisp highly responsive nature of their movements. The demonstration was brought to a halt when one of the Edwards threw a track.

For some reason at this high point the Edward project was wound up with a notification sent to the Air Ministry to stop work on 14th December 1938. Some discussions were held about fitting Edwards to A12 Matilda Seniors to serve as gunnery targets, although there's no record of this being carried out.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Horror at 25,000 feet (Part 1)

People occasionally ask where I find the stories I put up. Some I've known about for years, others I stumble across as I'm reading, such is the case today. While researching another story I was reading a newspaper archive, when a story in the column beside the one I was interested in caught my eye, and so here is the story of Ruthie II, a B-17 bomber flying out of RAF Alconbury.
Senior Pilots of 92nd bombardment group
Its no surprise that when Lt. Robert Campbell landed Ruthie II that three of his crew were seriously injured. The plane had been shredded from tail to nose by German fighters. This was on a short trip to Nantes, France. Worse was to follow.

On 26th of July 1943 which was Lt Campbell's fifth mission, the target was a synthetic rubber tyre plant at Hannover. Ruthie II took off from RAF Alconbury and headed out over the North Sea, then turned into the German coast with the rest of the bombers. As usual their escorts had to turn back from lack of fuel, and the German fighters soon fell upon the formation.
The first attack came from 7 o'clock position, the FW 190's riddled the B-17's side. One of the cannon shells flew in the window, narrowly missed the co-pilot and caused massive injuries to the back of Lt Campbell's head, splitting open his skull and splashing brain matter everywhere. At the same time another German fighter made a pass from the front of the plane smashing the window in front of the co-pilot, one 2nd Lieutenant John C Morgan.
Lt Campbell's body slumped forward on the control yoke, and it took all of 2nd Lt Morgan's strength to wrestle the aircraft level. Then much to his horror the corpse of Lt Campbell lurched to life and started punching and clawing at him.
2nd Lt Morgan fought off the pilot, and managed to hold him back with one arm, all the while piloting the heavy bomber. The injury to the back of the head had caused such damage to Lt Campbell that he was entirely delirious.

The same attack that had injured Lt Campbell had knocked out the intercom so 2nd Lt Morgan couldn't call for help. Not that any help was available. The cannon fire had shredded the oxygen system for the waist and tail gunners who were all unconscious from the low oxygen levels.
The dorsal turret gunner was Staff Sergeant Tyre C Weaver Jr. His war had ended with the attack from the FW190. One of the shells had blown his arm off just below the shoulder. In shock, with blood pouring from the wound he dropped from the turret and rolled through a hatch into the navigator's position. There 2nd Lt Keith J Koske saw the injured man appear and grabbed a first aid kit. He tried to inject SSgt Weaver with morphine, however the needle was bent and wouldn't go into the skin, so 2nd Lt Koske started trying to stem the blood pouring from the arm stump. With the limb severed so close to the shoulder he was unable to stop the flow of blood.

Back in the cockpit 2nd Lt Morgan had a choice to make. He could either try to stay in formation, or drop out. As they were still near the coast they'd soon be safely away over the sea, where they could hopefully pick up the fighter escort and return to England. With no gunfire coming from the rear of the plane, 2nd Lt Morgan assumed that the crew back there had bailed out when the plane first dived out of control. 2nd Lt Morgan also had to fend off Lt Campbell, who every few moments would start fighting and trying to take over control of the plane, causing it to lurch out of control until 2nd Lt Morgan could regain control and subdue Lt Campbell.
With that in mind, and considering that there were at least several hours of the mission still to fly and 2nd Lt Morgan couldn't see to his front as the windshield was smashed, its remarkable that 2nd Lt Morgan made the decision to hold his place in the formation and complete the mission.



Part Two is here.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Tank Race, History style!

I've just got back from Churchill college where I was doing some research, in their rather nice little archive. Now we all know of the Chaffee Race going on, well:

I asked permission to stick this up on the net, and their helpful archivist pointed out it was under crown copyright, not theirs, so ignore the little sticker.
Then when I get back someone pointed me towards this picture of a RAM:
I just couldn't get this classic comedy sketch out my head. I can just see one of the British guys saying:
"I look down on him, because he couldn't beat a Churchill tank."

Of course the US did some Tank racing, only they filmed it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

[WoTB] ASAP Video for Blitz

New ASAP video for Blitz dedicated to 1.3 update.


And answering some of the questions to it.

Q. What about British tank line? :(
A. Will come later this year after we add Maus branch for Germans.

Q. When will we see the android version of it...
A. Android is now at beta testing stage on RU region. Release date is not set now and will depend on testing results. Just make sure you've got a solid device, not smth outdated.

Q. When will the 1.3 update be ready?
A. The update is now undergoing Apple review. Should be ready soon.

Q. When do we get camos?
A. They are in plans for future updates in 2015.

Q. When we get french tech tree?
A. Still not decided regarding balancing of high tier autoloader tanks with no armour. Blitz gameplay is different from PC version, and the absence of armour may be crucial. We gonna add Brits first.

Q. When wot blitz is coming to samsung devices?
A. Samsung devices are the ones with high-to-highest priority for Android. See above.