Purpose of this blog

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

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Panzershreck

Last weekend I was rather busy with a trip, which meant time away. Then the Long Haired CO (the wife) decided we were going to be out all day on Sunday for an exhibition. The trip away will be of benefit to you lot for articles and such forth so its worth it.
It did mean that I didn't get an article done. So here are some documents direct from an archive. What did the British think of the Panzershreck?

'What is it Tim?'
'No idea... some kind of horribly over engineered, but inferior, German version of a PIAT? I'll bet it uses Rockets?'



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Drawings:


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Field of Dreams

In the west corner of the Zeppelin field, one of the Nazi Party rally grounds at Nuremberg, German soldiers dug in furiously. Above them were the giant Swastika flags and iconography on the buildings. They laid barbed wire out in front of them, scattered a handful of mines, and sighted their machine guns, for they knew that soon the enemy would arrive. They knew they had some light field guns in support, but nothing else. Heavy artillery began to rain on their positions and the Germans ducked into cover. From the far side of the field the first troops from the 3rd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment began to assault towards the defenders. Covered by heavy machine guns, the assaulting infantry tried to make it through the curtain of fire laid down by their enemies. It's almost like a World War One battle, charging into machine gun fire. The weight of the defender’s fire is just too much, and the troops are pinned in the open.
One side of the Zeppelin Field, pre-war.
 Tanks rumble onto the field and begin to push through the stalled assault, blasting at point blank range into the defender’s positions. As the tanks close a few vehicles are unlucky and strike mines, although disabled they are still able to fire. The tanks continue their assault ripping through the barbed wire, once the way is open the infantry leap up and close in to continue their stalled assault. The German defenders begin to fall back under the unrelenting pressure, retreating out of the field.

There is thunderous applause from the crowd in the stands.
 The year is 1936, and for the last few hours the Wehrmacht has been putting on demonstrations of its might, and mock battles as part of the Nazi Party rally. Earlier the army had demonstrated how effective its cavalry troops were, with a screen of reconnaissance cavalry advancing across the field. When the cavalry spotted enemy tanks, they launched red rockets which gave the main cavalry troops time to unlimber their anti-tank guns. After driving off the enemy tanks with a few well aimed shots the entire force mounted up and galloped off the field.

The show had started, at 0800, with a Luftwaffe air display, followed by a dive-bomber and level bombing attack on the stadium, which was defended by several AA batteries. Nine years later the same design of guns would be in action firing at aircraft, this time for real, and the aircraft were American planes. But first, after the Wehrmacht parades, Hitler was to speak to the crowd.

In April 1945 the US forces were pushing through southern Germany, straight towards the city of Nuremberg. On the Allied side were battle hardened, well equipped and supplied US troops. The defence of the city fell to the fanatical Nazi, Gauleiter Karl Holz. Like most last stand defences, the defenders were a mix of auxiliary troops such as Luftwaffe manpower and Volkssturm. In addition to these, the defenders also had a force from the Russian Liberation Army. This latter force were volunteers fighting for the Germans against the Communists and were in no illusions about their fate. The battle started on the 16th, and the Americans used their superior firepower and blasted the city block by block.
By the 18th the US forces had reached the city centre. Gauleiter Holz and the Mayor Willy Liebel were ensconced in a command bunker. Like in many cities Mayor Liebel was more concerned about protecting his city and its inhabitants, so he wanted to surrender in the face of overwhelming US firepower. Holz shot Liebel sometime between then and the 20th of April. On that date, Hitler’s birthday, the bunker was stormed by the Americans and Holz was shot. With the command knocked out the defence of the city collapsed.
 At the party rally grounds there is a mystery. There are numerous pictures of a lone Sherman sitting burnt out in the Zeppelin field. Some of these shots show a single dead German soldier about 60-70 meters away, and in the direction of the Sherman's gun. Could this be the last die hard German (or Russian?) with a very lucky long range panzerfaust shot?
The units involved in the capture of Nuremberg do not record any fighting in the area, although there are signs of damage to the structure caused by military hardware. The Sherman is a very early production model, with some later additions such as duckbill grousers. It was later dragged outside of the Zeppelin field ground but was certainly in place to witness the iconic demolition of the giant swastika on the roof of the building.
After the surrender of the city the Nazi party rally grounds were turned to the US Army's use. The wide 'Great Street' became a temporary air strip. The Luitpoldarena was used to host entertainments for the troops at first, including, ironically, a jazz band (The Nazi's had tried to outlaw and ban jazz music). It later became a vehicle park. Many features of the rally grounds have been demolished over the years, or otherwise altered, driven mainly by neglect and indifference from the German authorities. However, over recent years the authorities have started spending money to restore these items.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

All American

Ralph Burbridge was 21 in 1940, at this age he could finally make his own life choices, and his first one was to join the USAAF. On December 7th 1941 he was still undergoing training when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Once he had graduated as a bombardier, he was stationed on the Pacific coast ready to attack any Japanese shipping, and otherwise support the US Navy. The victory at Midway soon removed that threat, and the mass of the USAAF bombing wings were turned against the other Axis member, Germany.

On 17th August 1942 twelve B-17's, escorted by four squadrons of Spitfires were sent to bomb the marshalling yards at Rouen-Sotteville. This attack would have far reaching consequences. The first flight of six planes was led by Butcher Shop, flown by Major Paul W. Tibbets Jr., a name you may have heard of before. He would, three years later, drop Little Boy at Hiroshima. On his right wing was the All American, with Lt Burbridge as its bombardier. The twelve B-17's took off about 1530, and arrived, without incident over their target about 1830. From an altitude of 23,000ft the USAAF was about to put their vaunted day-light bombing accuracy ideas to the test in combat. General Eaker in Yankee Doodle, the lead ship of the second group, watched the bombing which he later described:

'As each plane’s bomb load reached its mark, a lofty, mushroom-like pall of smoke and dirt rose sluggishly into the air and clearly identified the point of impact. The tallest of these giant mushrooms was within the central target area; two appeared to engulf the roundhouse while four were well spaced among the tracks of the marshalling yard. The bombing, I thought, was especially good.'
Rouen-Sotteville marshalling yards in July 1944.
Despite all the advantages, the bombing accuracy was just as bad as before. Less than 50% of the bombs landed within the target area, the others killed 52 Frenchmen and wounded 120 more. Only one of the aim points was hit, the rest of the bombs were scattered within 1,500ft radius. For the second aim point the grouping was out to 2,000ft radius. Only 10 of the 24 tracks in the marshalling yards were hit, as well a locomotive workshop and two storage sheds. As these were mostly 600lb bombs, the damage would have been minimal. This was a lesson learned by the British during the Luftwaffe's best efforts. This raid was hailed as a great success and vindication of the USAAF's policies.

Lt Burbridge's squadron (the 414th) was soon sent to North Africa. To get there the planes were stripped of everything, including guns, and had extra fuel tanks installed. A long flight, very low to the water and under the Germans radar then followed to get to Gibraltar. Low on fuel, with tired pilots, it can't have been fun landing at Gibraltar airfield. They did come under some light AA fire from the Spanish during this flight. Then from Gibraltar the B-17's flew to Biskra, North Africa. Once there the planes were re-equipped and began to launch raids on the Germans.
During one of these raids, on 1st February 1943, the incident happened that catapulted All American into the limelight. The target was the Tunis dock area, as they approached the target, they came under extremely dense AA fire which was soon made worse by German fighters attacking them through the flak! After their payload had been dropped, the bombers turned for safety, when Lt Burbridge spotted two more German fighters climbing to attack them.

One fighter made a head on pass on the lead bomber, the other came straight in against All American, who was flying to the left of the lead plane. At this time the B-17's only had the cheek guns, one a .50 and the other a .30. Lt Burbridge was on the .30 and began to fire at the approaching fighter, while the navigator began to shoot at the plane attacking the lead B-17.
The combined firepower sent the first fighter down with a trail of smoke. Meanwhile Lt Burbridge began to fire at his target. Lt Burbridge would later say that the worst thing about the job was firing his machine gun. Often the hot casings would fall in the tops of their boots and burn them through their flight suits. You couldn't stop firing because your life, and the lives of you squadron were on the line, so you just had to endure the pain and keep firing.

At 300 yards distance the German pilot stopped firing, and began to roll away, to pass underneath All American. At the apex of the roll one of the many machine guns firing at the plane must have hit something critical, the pilot or a control surface, as the fighter never completed its manoeuvrer to pass beneath the B-17. Instead it skimmed along the top of the All American, Lt Burbridge heard the swoosh as it passed, and it crashed through the tail section ripping the left tail plane off. The entire plane juddered, and there was an almighty WHOOMP.
All American, still flying.
Miraculously All American was still flyable, albeit loosing speed. The rest of the bomber formation, having seen what had happened, moved into a tight formation round the crippled plane, and reduced speed, escorting their damaged friend. Once over friendly lines the rest of the squadron sped up and returned to base. All American had lost so much speed that it took her so long to return to base, most of the ground crew thought she had been shot down. Not one of the B-17's crew had been injured in the entire flight.
All American on the ground.
There is an alternative version of the story, an example of which can be found here. Which is largely made up.

Ralph Burbridge would go on to fly a total of 52 missions, two more than required. On these he had many near misses including one time when a German fighter attacked and its 7.92mm bullets hit an ammunition box and began an ammo fire. Luckily the navigator had the presence of mind and time enough to pitch the burning container over the side. After his tour of duty was complete Lt Burbridge became an instructor for the rest of the war. He died aged 93 in 2013.

Image credits:
airandspace.si.edu, www.aviation-history.com and warfarehistorynetwork.com

Sunday, May 26, 2019

More Cow gun

There has always been an appeal to military types of the ability to place the firepower of artillery on the mobility and positioning of aircraft. The idea of being able to use direct fire artillery from above to destroy enemies is certainly an attractive one. Early planes, however, were flimsy things and woefully underpowered. This meant that almost all attempts failed. In July 1913 the Coventry Ordnance Company decided to make another attempt. They obtained a Shorts Brothers Ltd pusher plane and mounted a naval 2-pounder quick firing cannon to the front of it. Once done they suspended it from the ceiling of a hangar and fired a few rounds from it to see what effect the recoil would have. The plane seemed, to an extent, act as a recoil buffer. The next logical step was to fire the plane in flight, but whom to fly the plane? Every previous test had resulted in the plane being disassembled in mid-flight due to the recoil of the gun firing, usually with fatal results for all aboard. Luckily, this was before the Great War thinned out the numbers of Edwardian manhood, and so a product of Empire was found to fly and fire this contraption.

Robert Clark-Hall was born on 21st June 1883 and had enlisted in the Royal Navy aged just 14. A year later he was attached to the China Station as a Midshipman, then posted to HMS Aurora. During the Boxer Rebellion he was part of the Naval Brigade detached to Tongshan, and may have been back on board HMS Aurora for the battle of Tientsin. In 1907 he qualified as a gunnery officer and would go on to serve as gunnery officer of HMS Illustrious. In March 1913 he was attached to the Central Air Office for armament duties with aircraft, and in July he took the modified Shorts Brothers aircraft up into the sky and opened fire.
HMS Aurora
There was a blinding flash, and the plane seemed to stand still in mid-air, Clark-Hall later reported, but otherwise there was no damage to the plane. As the weapon was just a deck cannon off a ship it had to be manually loaded in mid-flight, after firing several rounds Clark-Hall landed successfully.

Clark-Hall would go on to serve in the First World War, with posting amongst other things, as commander of a seaplane tender at Gallipoli. In between the wars he would retire and emigrate to New Zealand. At the outbreak of World War Two he re-enlisted and served in several staff posts throughout that conflict before retiring in September 1945.

The next round of tests was less successful, although why is not recorded. This was a shame for the Coventry Ordnance Works, as there was an observer from the US Navy in attendance. The company stopped work on the 2-pounder and instead concentrated on a lighter, semi-automatic, 37mm gun firing a 1lb shell.
The Cow gun loaded and ready for action.
Once completed the weapon was handed over for testing at Shoeburyness. Here at the end of a pier, three guns were elevated to 85 degrees and fired, out of three, two functioned perfectly and fired their entire five round clip. In the other example the gun jammed as the spring proved insufficient to return the gun to battery. Now the same tests were repeated with the two remaining guns pointing straight down. Unsurprisingly each shot at point blank range into the water threw up plumes of water and drenched everyone on the pier. Despite this soaking the guns performed perfectly. Unsurprisingly the personnel who became involved with the gun took the initials of the Coventry Ordnance Works and called it the 'Cow Gun'. Work would continue on the weapon throughout the First World War, with the weight of the projectile increasing to 1.5lbs.

During the war the Cow Gun was fitted to several aircraft experimentally. One early version of the weapon was mounted on a Voisin III plane for testing. During the initial burst the plane’s wings detached and the aircraft plummeted to the ground killing all on board. However, by the end of the Great War plane development had improved to the point that it was able to enter service on a DH.4. But after two guns were so fitted, the armistice was signed and the project halted.
Westland's Cow gun fighter

Vickers Cow gun fighter
The Cow Gun next appears when Westland and Vickers decided to fit it in a bomber interceptor to meet the Air Ministry's specification F.29/27. The Cow Gun was fitted pointing upwards at an angle, next to the cockpit. Thus, the pilot of the interceptor would fly underneath the bomber and smash it with several 37mm rounds, shooting it down. However, the idea was dropped
 In 1933 the Cow Gun was more successfully fitted to the Blackburn Perth flying boat, which served until just before the start of the Second World War. The Cow Gun would find its final service as an airfield defence weapon with the RAF in the Second World War. Several RAF Armadillo armoured trucks would be fitted with them.
A Bedford Armadillo, armed with at least two Lewis guns as well as the Cow gun. Protected by slabs of PPP and armour plate portions of this vehicle would have been able to happily resit 20mm cannon, and even 28 mm panzerb├╝chse 41 rounds. Making it a perfect weapon for use agaisnt any German fallschirmjagers or strafing attacks from aircraft.
While the Cow Gun does keep appearing until the mid 1940's, the weapon played a more important part than it would first seem. At some point it seems that Vickers obtained a copy or details of it. This may be linked to the closing of the Coventry factory in 1925. From the designs that Vickers obtained they produced the 40mm S-Gun. In 1938 this was chosen as a bomber defensive weapon and was planned to be fitted to power operated turrets on Wellington bombers. While this never came to fruition, Coastal Command took an interest in the S-Gun and continued to fund its development. It eventually was fitted to some coastal commander B-17's.
Meanwhile the Ministry of Aircraft Production issued a requirement for one of the world’s first tank busters. It was a single engine monoplane, with a Rolls Royce Model 45 low-altitude engine. This engine was to be mounted in the rear of the plane and act as a pusher arrangement. The entire plane was to be encased in as much armour as possible and have a speed of just 250mph. The main weapons would be a pair of S-guns in the nose, each modified to be belt fed.
This project never seems to have materialised, and with the less than perfect results from the Jeffries 9lb Anti-Tank bomb, named Puffball, the RAF turned to mounting a pair of S-guns in the Hawker Hurricane. These served throughout the war in Africa and the Far East.

Image credits:
www.gracesguide.co.uk, www.quarryhs.co.uk and www.ibiblio.org

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Run Out the Mortars!

Mortars are great, they give the infantry they are supporting some organic indirect fire, sort of like pocket artillery. Plus, they're cheap! That is why pretty much every single army has kept medium mortars in their inventory, while heavy and light mortars fade in and out of use the humble medium mortar remains. Of course, like everything else they do have a negative, in the case of the mortar moving it about can be quite difficult. The base plate is heavy, although reasonably compact. The mortar tube is both heavy and a difficult shape to move about. Even today the British Army hasn't gotten to grips with the problem, and the poor bloke carrying the mortar tube has a choice to make. The first option is to carry it in his back pack laid across the top, under the flap, horizontally across his shoulder blades. Although comfortable it does significantly increase his width and the soldier stuck with the tube runs the risk of clotheslining himself if he runs between two trees. The other option is to store the mortar tube vertically over one of the shoulder blades. This makes the backpack unbalanced and uncomfortable. All this is rather curious, as the British had the answer in the Second World War.
Early WWII Mortar detachment out for a stroll.
...and a modern mortar crew.


Below you can see a harness that is described as being similar to the 'Everest harness', which was designed to carry mortars about. In the below harness each part of the mortar is strapped to an A-frame designed to match the component that will be attached (tube, base plate or bi-pod). From there the A-frame is attached to a common harness. The mortar all stows away quite neatly, with the loads evenly distributed. Upon showing the picture to a couple of mortar crew types I know today it caused some muttering and comments along the lines of 'They've got better carrying kit than we have now!'
But there is another solution to mortar mobility, and it came from Iraq in the Second World War. Persia And Iraq Force (Paiforce) was the formation assigned to look after the Middle East. The area that they had to cover has some very rocky and mountainous areas, which you would deploy infantry into, and where the infantry goes, they want to take their mortars. A Major N Barnes in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers came up with a solution... why not turn the 3-inch mortar into a wheelbarrow?
To this end he retired to a workshop with the front end of a motorbike, fitted the handle bars to a clamp that is fixed just behind the muzzle, the forks were fitted to a clamp that goes around the lower end of the barrel. Next an old wheelbarrow wheel was added, and a service recoil spring fixed between the baseplate and the wheel clamp.
The Mortar modified by Maj Barnes.
Paiforce put it through its passes and found it extremely easy to use. To bring it into firing position you simply halt, unlatch the bi-pod legs and push the contraption over and it is assembled and in battery ready to start firing.
Paiforce taking their mortar for a cross-country run
This idea was forwarded to the Ordnance Board along with a full report. They promptly ordered six made, to test options they had half the order with twin wheels and half with single wheels. However, due to the nature of the original conversion, the components were not available, so new items had to be manufactured from scratch.
The Mono and dual mortar attachments.
On the 26th of September 1944 the demonstration platoon of the Netheravon Wing of the Small Arms School ran a series of trials comparing both wheeled versions and the Everest harness.
Coming into action the harness won by 12 seconds. However, the wheeled attachments caused problems when firing, and would jump up the gun barrel, necessitating a re-alignment every five rounds or so. It was advised therefore that the attachment needs to be removed before firing, which added 15 seconds to the time.
The mono-wheel attachment in place.
Next cross-country trials were carried out, on normal downland scrub all three detachments covered a course of 3.2 miles with rest breaks in about an hour. The next trail showed up the biggest weakness, it was across very difficult ground, such as ploughed fields, shingle, shell holes, and finally a river with a steep bank, all terrain that is not commonly found in the mountains of Iraq and Syria. This course was half a mile long. It took the Everest Harness team just 11 minutes, while the wheeled detachments took 26 minutes each. To make matters worse at the river bank the wheeled attachments had to be removed and the mortar man-packed as normal. The main advantage of the wheeled mounts was the ability to carry twice as much ammunition (six vs twelve rounds) with the detachment. Indeed, the dual wheel version allowed one man to rest his bomb load on top of the mortar during travel.
The difficulty across country was the reason why the whole project was dropped.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Navy's Little Gem's

Note: I first got clued into this story from the IWM website. They have a large collection of free to use images relating to the first part of this story. The rest took a bit of digging.

On December 1940, a new rating marched up the gangplank to his new post. The sailor was Ordinary Seaman James Joseph Sweeney, a Canadian who had been born in St. John's, Newfoundland. He was trained as a gunner. His new ship was His Majesty’s Trawler Cornelian.
Seaman Sweeny at his Lewis gun onboard HMT Corenelian

Trawlers like HMT Cornelian were part of the Royal Navy Patrol Service. This branch of the Navy was to man minesweeping and anti-submarine auxiliary vessels, usually very lightly armed these vessels would sail slowly about escorting convoys and generally providing support, allowing the bigger faster destroyers to be used offensively. Around 250 ships were lost from the RNPS, which was higher than the regular Navy's ship losses during the war. After the war Churchill sent a message to the RNPS, which ended with the lines:

'No work has been more vital than yours; no work has been better done. The Ports were kept open and Britain breathed. The Nation is once again proud of you.'

The RNPS operated all sorts of ships, from tiny little motor launches with a single Lewis gun up to much larger trawlers. HMT Cornelian was typical of the sort of ships that the RNPS operated. She weighed just 426 tons and had a length of just over 152 feet. She was powered by a single three-cylinder steam engine. She was launched in 1933 and became part of the fishing fleet sailing from Boston, with the Hudson Steam Fishing Company. She was called the Cape Warwick. In November 1935 after the Abyssinian crisis the Admiralty was authorised to purchase a number of modern trawlers, Cape Warwick was one of them. Once in service she was part of the Gem class of trawlers and named HMT Cornelian. In her new guise she was armed with a single 4-inch gun on the bow and a pair of Lewis guns on either side of the bridge. Seaman Sweeny was assigned to man the port Lewis gun. 
HMT Cornelian

Exact details for HMT Cornelian's war service are not available at this time. However, in 1940 she was based in Birkenhead as part of an anti-submarine squadron. On 4th of February 1942 she shot down a JU-88 bomber, and on 8th of March 1942 she stumbled upon a HE-111. The Heinkel was flying at very low level of just twenty feet. She was suspected to be engaged in mine laying. At a range of just 200 yards, Seaman Sweeny on the port Lewis gun opened fire on the German as it closed on the trawler.

At the bow gun the layer was frantically trying to bring his gun to bear on the Heinkel. Once he had it in his sights, he began to track the German.
The bow 4" gun on a sister ship of HMT Cornelian
The Lewis gun had scored several hits on the Heinkel, setting it on fire. As the Heinkel crossed in front of the trawler, the raised platform which the main gun sat on blocked the line of fire for the Lewis guns, so the captain ordered the 4-inch gun to fire. The first round scored a direct hit on the HE-111.
The 4" gun crew of HMS CORNELIAN. Left to right: Gunners Thomas Richard Chandler, Robert Helm, "Sloshy" Aldred, the ship's cook; Jim Milne and Kenneth Gilley.
For his accurate shooting on both battles Ordinary Seaman Sweeny was mentioned in dispatches.
Crew of the HMT Cornelian, including Sally, the ships mascot, she is on the lap of Lt Correll, the ships captian
Between then and the next part of Cornelian's story Sweeny was transferred to HMS Flash. In February 1944 there was some kind of accident and he was drowned. He is buried in Trinidad and Tobago.

In 1944 she was assigned to Operation Neptune and escorting convoys for D-Day. She crossed the channel as part of Convoy B-4, which consisted of nine LST's, one of which was LST-515, one of the ships that was involved in the fateful Exercise Tiger. After escorting the convoy to the French coast HMT Corelian was ordered, along with her sister ship HMT Pearl, to anchor and await instructions.

There was some initial worry when HMT Pearl observed large clouds of smoke issuing from HMT Cornelian's deck, and they were worried she had been hit. It turned out to be a problem with the Cornelian's steam plant which had caused the smoke. In the afternoon a large oil slick was spotted moving slowly across the surface of the sea. As it closed it was seen to consist of packets of lemonade powder. These had come from all the US K ration packs that had been dumped on the beaches. They had not been moved before the tide came in, and the cardboard packs had disintegrated in the water, but the cellophane lemonade packets floated. The crews of both trawlers spent some time fishing these out of the water and stocked up enough supplies to last until the end of the war.
USS Texas
Later that day, on Omaha Beach there was a large explosion ashore. In response the battleship Texas began to fire over the pair of trawlers. The crews of the trawlers could feel the wind as the huge shells roared overhead. Eventually Texas flashed them a message, demanding they move as the trawler’s presence was disrupting their gunnery.
HMT Cornelian spent the rest of 1944 escorting convoys across the channel. On convoy PW-256, on the first of December German E-boats attacked. The escorting forces managed to put up such a volume of fire the twelve attacking German boats were driven off before they could come too close. They did however launch their torpedoes, one of which struck the HMT Jasper, destroying her utterly.

HMT Cornelian survived the war, being sold to Consolidated Fisheries Ltd for £15,000. After another £20,000 was spent refitting her she began to fish out of Grimsby, with her first trip in 1947. She was renamed again at this point to the Lincoln City. She was sold again in May 1963 to another fishing company, they kept her on the books for less than four months before being sold for scrapping. She was finally struck from the record on 20th September 1963.

Image credits:
texashillcountry.com and www.pattonthirdarmy.com

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Anti-tank Kangaroo

During the Second World War a lot of the UK's odd weapons and equipment research came from one of two departments. The famous MD1, nicknamed 'Churchill's Toyshop' or the Admiralty's Directorate of Miscellaneous Weapons Development. Of the two, MD1 seems to have been far more concerned with making stuff explode, and most of their inventions contained explosives. DWMD however tackled other fields.
One of DMWD's projects, a floating airfield that turned the surface of the sea into an airstrip.

Another DMWD idea. by spreading coal dust on the surface of a water feature it no longer looks like from the air. This would confuse German night time navigation. Here we see the Coventry Canal, some 4 hours after application. This scheme was also tried out on the Thames. Another scheme that is worthy of mention was the development of large umbrella's for coastal craft like MTB's. These would be erected when the craft were halted or tied up, and camouflage them from observation.
MD1 seemed to be far more eccentric than DWMD and embraced the aura of the wild inventor. I recently found a small number of notes, and pictures, from a demonstration they carried out featuring some of their weapons. From this we can sort of work out what the weapon was and possibly how it works. However, at this point I've got no confirmation of the speculation. But maybe one of you lot has some more data?

The results from one of MD1's explosive packages. This was a directional fragmentation mine. Or in modern terms, a Claymore mine. The cone of shrapnel has cut out the centre of the witness plate.
The demonstration was held on Monday 22nd November 1942, at a small town in Buckinghamshire called Princess Risborough. A number of devices were shown off including a forerunner to the PIAT, an explosive charge for clearing wire and a 3.7" HEAT shell for howitzers.
The results of a normal 3.7" HE round on armour plate.

And the 3.7" HEAT strike. The hole is 1.5" through 90mm plate.
Another weapon they demonstrated was introduced named as the 'Kangaroo Mine'. From the name alone it appears we can deduce that it is some form of bouncing mine, like the German S-Mine. However, later pictures indicate this may not have been entirely accurate. The thinking behind it seems to be a way of destroying a tank from a mine. The demonstration involved dragging a A.22 hulk over two Kangaroo mines. The first was filled with flash powder to show off how it fired, the second one was live. It drilled a very neat 6-inch hole in the underside of the tank.
The hole at the bottom of the Churchill, caused by the Kangaroo mine.
 Originally when writing this I suspected that it was a kind of upright tank gun, firing an APHE round, due in part to the neatness of the hole, and the after effects on the tank. However, when I mentioned this to some friends, Andrew Hills (the TOG expert) mentioned that he had seen a reference to the Kangaroo mine. He went and checked the reference, and found out it was more akin to a HESH round, and fired a wad of explosive onto the underside of the tank. The very neat hole can be explained by using plastic explosives, or as these substances were known back then 'cutting explosives'. Other tests I've seen have had remarkably regular circular holes in them as well.
Wooden crew were placed inside the tank, as you can see at least three of the crew have been disassembled, and it's likely the other two have significant shrapnel damage.

Most impressively the blast has buckled the roof plate upwards and started all the rivets.
What happened to the Kangaroo mine? Well that is another mystery. It seems that everything was working, and then it just sort of vanishes. One might argue that from that time on Britain was on the offensive and that mine warfare was just not of importance or of use. Maybe for a disposable weapon it was considered extremely costly to produce or transport.

My information is limited to what is contained above, and speculation. Do any of you have any more information to add?

Sunday, April 28, 2019

RAF Welford

A couple of weeks ago I was invited down to the Ridgeway Military & Aviation Research Group (RMARG) at RAF Welford. The visit was to see some exhibits that I was interested in, whilst there I was given a guided tour by the organiser of the group, Don Summers. I took quite a few photogrpahs, and figured you lot might like to see those pictures.

RAF Welford has been operated by the USAAF/USAF since the Second World War. Currently it is still an operational military base, and a very large ammo handling facility, which is the bit I didn't get to see, for obvious reasons. Thus this isn't a museum you can just show up to visit.
Previously RAF Welford was how to troop carrier squadrons that were used on D-day, which makes a difference to most airfields I've gone to locally, which were all Bomber airfields.
A murial rescued during renovation of one of the bases buildings.

The outline of a BGM-109G Gryphon TEL, that was to form the basis for another piece of wall art at RAF Greenham common, again rescued during redevelopment of the building it was housed in. The art work was scrapped as it included a picture of American Indian, and at the time murials baring such likeness were banned by the USAF.
A complete reflector gunsight.

750lbs Propaganda bomb, as used by the USAF to spread leaflets around in Afghanistan. Along with a display of quite a large number of propaganda leaflets from the Second World War to Modern times (two images below).







RMARG have been invited to dig up a few areas, interestingly they were offered a chance to dig up a nearby firing range which was being decommissioned. They found this gun shield:
Which was ID'd as belonging to a T30:




Whilst digging up the location, they came across a large deposit of Civil war relics, Lots of fired musket balls and even a Halberd head (top shelf). The working idea is this firing range was also the location of the Battle of Boxford during the Civil War. Which was a minor skirmish as part of the Battle of Newbury.

Some chunks of masonry they obtained from various famous locations:


Once a gentleman approached the group, with a lump of metal and chain he'd found asking if htey knew what it was. HE supplied this picture:
The group were able to help him, and as he no longer had need for the metal and chain he donated them to the Museum. With those parts the volunteers recreated the fixture. IT was part of the Anti-Invasion defences from 1940. They were prepared roadblocks that could be quickly put in place to block roads and slow Germans down. Generally they were located right under the guns of a well camouflaged pillbox.
The log would have been a lot longer, and this is just to demonstrate the idea. The log is stowed alongside the road, and when the Germans invade the local Home Guard platoon send a section out to swing the log into the road, then either remove the wheel, or simply puncture the tyre. These gentlemen then go sit in the bunker and await the Germans.

The above picture is a MIG-29 nose cone. One might ask how a small museum got hold of one of them, well it just fell off the front of a plane!

Speaking of film, the Museum also has a film star in it:
This Horsa mock up was used to film the Pegasus Bridge scenes from The Longest Day.
By the time RMARG got hold of it, the film crew had sliced her in half for filming, and it was missing the cockpit. the museum then had to restore her as best they could. The control column came from a Morris Minor, and the seat is a rare example of a plywood version off a Texan trainer!

 During this research they found out one of the most important bits of the cockpit was the rope angle indicator. This detailed the angle of the tow rope, and thus the relation between glider and towing plane.
The safest place for the glider was above the level of the plane. If they were level then the turbulence from the plane would make life very difficult for the glider as it was unstable in the air stream off the plane.
Below the level of the plane, if the tow plane got into difficulties it would cast the glider off, at which point the solid cast iron link that joined the tow rope to the tow rope would fly straight back and smack into the glider. To give you an idea of scale the Museum has one of these lumps of metal work:

You can see the six inch long ruler I placed on top of it to give you an idea. The ruler is lying on the tow rope end. It weighs a couple of kilograms, and that crashing into your glider, which is made of wafer thin plywood at 150mph is likely to be very fatal to all in the Horsa.
The Museum also has a small piece of the plywood that was used to build the Horsa. It was about the thickness of paper and felt like very brittle plastic.



As this post is getting a bit long I'll skip a load of the other stuff I was going to feature, and skip to some of the highlights.
American Air force personnel having ab it of a giggle. They made a football from the nose cones of a pair of Cluster bombs.
Mr summers showing off how the 'football' opens up
The group actually have the front half of a C-47 which you can climb in. This particular plane was previously owned by the French Air force.
Pair of used JATO bottles for aircraft.