Purpose of this blog

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

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Tiny Erinyes

Last week I posted a collection of plans I had found lurking on my hard drive. Well I didn't post them all, as I wanted to use the last ones to add to this week’s article. That's because the subject of this week’s piece is a bit of an enigma, and not a great deal of information exists upon it. I am talking about the Alecto (The name comes from the Greek Erinye of the same name). I hardly need tell you that it uses the same skid steering as the A.17 Tetrarch, however the rest of the vehicle was based upon the A.25 Harry Hopkins light tank. You can see that the claim of many sites that the A.25 is a modified form of the Tetrarch is dubious from the suspension drawings, when you can see that the sides of the hull are very different shapes. I would suggest the only thing that is shared between all three vehicles is the suspension style and the wheels.

The exact beginnings of the Alecto are a bit hazy to find, most sites claim it as 1942. That's the year the new 95mm close support howitzer appeared so it may be correct. Now, interestingly the 95mm came in two versions. One used split cases, the other used complete rounds. The version in most British tanks was the one firing whole rounds, while the version on the Alecto used the split rounds. This allowed the Alecto to vary its range by substituting different charge sizes, much like the Royal Artillery. This points to the role it seems to have been intended for.
As we go through this article, look at the pictures and note the differences between the Alecto's. The main area of variation are on the sides of the fighting compartment, on some vehicles they are bevelled inwards, on others they have a box or other structure placed there. Also look at the muzzle brakes. I have no idea on what the minor variations mean, nor does there seem to be a set pattern.
British armoured car regiments had a heavy troop in each squadron. This was a fire support element to give the squadron a bit more firepower. The first vehicle used in this role was the US halftrack with a M1897 75mm gun on the back. Later, AEC armoured cars armed with the same 75mm from a Cromwell would be used. These later vehicles were somewhat heavy and being only wheeled, unmaneuverable. A lightly armoured tracked vehicle would certainly fulfil the need, and as it was equipped with the 95mm howitzer it could certainly provide some serious fire support.
An Alecto with a longer gun than normal. From the shape of it I would think it is a 6-pounder.
Now the first version of the Alecto was armed with the 95mm, however there is a single picture, of one mounting what appears to be a 6-pounder. Due to the lack of crew, and the driver not wearing any head gear it seems likely that this was a prototype of some form.
An Alecto in the UK. It has been suggested this is from The Great Flood in 1953 taken at Shepperton.
There are assorted other claims on the Alecto, mounting a 25-pounder and even a 32-pounder! The latter of which I would have to question. How you are going to fit a gun weighing 3.27 tons into a vehicle that weighs just over 8 tons is a bit of a question. Equally it’s likely that the gun's length will provide issues for the Alecto. I have a suspicion that this is a miss identification of the 95mm. The 95mm's calibre was actually 94mm, which is exactly the same as the 32-pounder.
A pair of Alecto's in Berlin at the end of the War. Note the lead vehicle seems to have five crew!
We do know that two Alecto's served in the 11th Hussars just after the end of the war, as there is a picture of them in Berlin on the parade to mark the British forces arrival in the German capital. This can be identified from the markings on the Alecto, and when compared to other vehicles in the event, or that we know belong to the 11th Hussars, we can see a clear link.
A known 11th Hussars Daimler Dingo, with a very interesting twin machine gun mount (Possibly twin Vickers K's). Compare the markings to those on the Alecto.
The arrival Parade on 4/7/45 in Berlin for the 11th Hussars. Again almost identical markings on the vehicle.

A small handful of Alecto’s also served in the Kings Dragoon Guards in Libya in 1947.

Thank you for reading. If you like what I do you can donate via Paypal (historylisty-general@yahoo.co.uk) or through Patreon.

Image Credits:
Plans from the National Archives, at Kew

Sunday, December 22, 2019


In the run up to Christmas, getting some building work done, and fervently hunting for a new job I completely failed to get an article done for this week.
However, while leafing through my documents folders, in a dusty corner which I don't visit too much I found a sub-folder marked "Plans". Upon closer inspection it wasn't plans for world domination or how to make a million doing history, but plans for assorted tanks. Ah-ha I think, I know a few interested historians who'd like to see those, and so I'll post those.

Before we do, I just want to say thank you to a couple of people.

First to Dean Bartle for his generous donation through Paypal (historylisty-general@yahoo.co.uk).
Next to fatoler and KbdNoOni for donating through Patron

Thanks to you all for reading, and a Merry Christmas, or if it all gets on your nerves Bah-Humbug!

Right to the tanks, also, if you're using a mobile device, check your Wi-fi is on!

A.17 Tetrarch:

M10C Achilles

Now those of you who are exceptionally observant will notice a few interesting points on these plans. First it is listed as the SP3. This was a brief alternative classification used by the British towards the end of the Second World War, standing for Self-Propelled. SP1 and SP2 were, if memory serves, the Alecto and the Archer, but I forget which got which number. SP4 was a mysterious beast, a Centurion with a 32-pounder gun. While there are pictures of Centurions with 32-pounders, these seem to be separate to the SP4. So far all that has been found is a single document on the subject, which covers the ammo handling inside the vehicle, and that fails to include a picture of what the tank looked like.
The other interesting point in these plans are it includes the extra armour that the M10 was sometimes fitted with. You can just see the armour on this vehicle, under all the stowage.

A.43 Black Prince:

M3A3 Stuart:

A.39 Tortoise:

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The MBT-70 story (part two)

A few weeks ago, you'll remember me putting up an article on how TACOM scrapped the MBT-70 prototype. Well there has been some movement to the story, but not one that ends with someone getting double timed into an office for an interview without coffee and a "chance to explore new career options", as far as anyone can tell. 

First, we need the full background. The site where most of the destroyed kit was being housed was rented and closed in 2017. The landowner requested that all the military equipment that was still there be cleared away. Thus, with no-where to store the items TACOM decided to start gas axing exhibits. 
Upon hearing of this the owner of another museum requested that the exhibits be moved to him. This request was not dealt with by the relevant office; indeed, it seems to have been ignored. By this time the scrapping alluded to in the previous article was done. 
The other collection then contacted senator Richard Blumenthal, who started creating a bit of noise and asking some pointed questions. TACOM responded agreeing that the treatment of the other museum had been wrong, and they had received poor customer service. They then shot back that the other collection did not meet the exact requirements to be considered a museum, and thus they could not dispose of the items to this second location. Which all seems a little bit too much like trying to deflect blame to me. 
TACOM's "defence" letter
The picture that was supplied with above letter to prove the MBT-70 was too dangerous!
Another vehicle that was given the chop, but its not American, so no one cares... according to TACOM
Anyway, TACOM also said there were other reasons why the exhibits were destroyed. For several the answer was "They are not American items, so no one cares" or words to that effect. The other reason was because the exhibits were a bit rusty and thus not safe to be a display piece. Unless this is a new sort of rust that generates airborne toxins, massive amounts of ionising radiation or spontaneously explodes, I feel that someone is grasping at straws. 

I say this because I am qualified and have done quite a bit in the Health and Safety field, and my approach to such a problem would be to make a display where the tank is a safe distance away from the public, if there is any danger of a collapse. Either way, it’s not TACOM's call to make, it’s up to the organisation who would be displaying it. As the very blurred shot (and the unblurred shot of the tank) shows the suspension is in very bad shape. But the MBT-70 had hydro-pneumatic suspension, so its likely collapsed as there is no fluid. That means the bottom of the hull has rested on the ground and is likely where the rust is. But the sides of the tank would still form a solid footing to prevent a collapse. 
Such Danger! How would anyone survive visiting Bovington... I mean it'd be utterly foolhardy to place a car park next to this hazard!
But I can understand your reluctance of believing some bloke on the net, so let’s look at another example. Bovington Tank Museum. One suspects they know rather a lot about displaying tanks and safety of their visitors. At the overflow car park, they have several display pieces that are pretty much giant lumps of rust. They have unfortunately, I fear, been classified as restoration impossible, and so have been parked out there to await their fate. This include some very rare tanks such as the Churchill Gun Carrier. Yet, despite the presence of so much very dangerous rust, you can get to within a few feet of them. 

Italians joining in the Gas Axe party.

In other news, OTO Melara has joined in the scrapping madness. They recently are reported to have chopped up a prototype Palmaria hull for scrap. It is thought this was the prototype OF-40 hull as well.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Miss Fit Mavis

On 23 October 1942 a PBY-5a Catalina was flying over the Solomon Sea. Around lunch time she became embroiled in a vicious gun battle with a Japanese H6K4 "Mavis" flying boat, the flying boats battered at each other with their machine guns, the PBY horribly outclassed in firepower and performance by the Japanese plane. The PBY had to stay away from the tail of the H6K4, otherwise the deadly 20mm cannon mounted there would rip them apart. As it was the machine guns would do enough damage. As ponderous dogfight pulled close to a squall, the bright sunlight glinted off the wings of a third plane overhead, which broke off to join in, the crew of the PBY saw the four engined plane in a very steep dive towards them, then lost sight of it.
Moments later the plane burst out of the squall, about fifty feet away from the PBY's tormentor. It had used the cloud to close up with the combat unseen. It was a B-17E, named Miss Fit after a series of faults and one short landing which ripped off the tail. When the prototype B-17 was unveiled it was described by the Seattle Times as a "fifteen ton Flying Fortress", simply because of the large number of guns it carried, Miss Fit now put its arsenal to work. Both the B17 and the H6K4 swung their turrets to bear and began to hammer at each other. Tracers crisscrossed the gap, the planes were almost wing tip to wing tip, and both were shuddering from the vibrations of the guns and the pelting of the bullets. Tracers could be seen ricocheting from both planes like hail.
The H6K4 pulled a tight turn away from Miss Fit, this was to bring the 20mm cannon into play which would have ended the fight straight away. The pilot of Miss Fit increased speed and had to follow the turn on the outside, in a deadly aerobatic manoeuvre. Tracers continued to flash the short distance between the planes, when nature decided to join in. The turn had brought them into the squall, and a torrential downpour lashed both sides. The H6K4 kept on using the rain and cloud to break contact, but every time Miss Fit would chase after him, and each time would catch up. This happened five times. By now the H6K4 was low to the water to prevent the B-17 from getting under him. Then the Japanese plane started to smoke, one of its engines failed and it crashed into the sea. The entire engagement had taken forty-four minutes from start to finish. The bombardier and navigator were both wounded by the storm of fire, although the navigator had remained at his gun. The H6K4 was flown by Takeshi Shimoyamada.
Back at the Shortland seaplane base in the Solomon Islands the 851 Kokutai were awaiting the return of Shimoyamada. When he failed to return the squadron commander was beside himself with anguish. Shimoyamada's plane was the latest to have just vanished while on a mission. All that the base would receive was a morse code signal from the flying boat saying "plane", then silence. A month later the total of lost planes was sixteen, when Lieutenant Tsuneo Hitsuji lifted his H6K4 into the sky on a routine patrol.

Around 0700 Lt Hitsuji's plane spotted another, it was Miss Fit. Lt Hitsuji put his plane into a dive to get as low to the sea as he could, while ordering his crew to battle stations. Miss Fit remained flying above the flying boat and slightly off to the rear starboard. Lt Hitsuji felt that she was radioing in his position. Lt Hitsuji threw his plane into a tight starboard turn, which caught the pilot of Miss Fit off guard, and allowed the H6K4 to pass under the B-17. As she entered the rear gunners arc the 20mm cannon scored several hits causing one engine to start smoking. Miss Fit broke contact and headed for home, while Lt Hitsuji continued his patrol.
The crew of the H6K4 ate their breakfast, then just after they had finished, off to the port heading right towards them came another B-17. The crew manned their guns, and Lt Hitsuji activated a CO2 fire extinguisher in the fuel tanks to fill the tanks with inert gas to prevent a fire, and they were ready. At a height of 30 meters Lt Hitsuji turned for a squall. The B-17 flew alongside out of gun range, then passed in front of the H6K4. Both planes made a head on pass, but neither side scored any hits despite filling the air with as much firepower as they could. The B-17 made several passes, each time from a slight angle to avoid the tail gun. Each time Lt Hitsuji saw the sea behind them turn white with foam from near misses. On the fourth pass the situation deteriorated, Lt Hitsuji could smell smoke, and two crew were wounded. Equally the fuel tank was hit and began to leak into the cockpit. On the sixth pass a .50 round smashed a hole next to Lt Hitsuji's foot which he could see the waves through. 
Sensing the end was near Lt Hitsuji grabbed his pistol and announced his intention to ram if the opportunity presented itself.

The B-17 came thundering in from the side, the co-pilot suddenly dived, which meant that the B-17 crossed directly astern, at a range of 30m. The 20mm in the rear could never ask for a better target and raked the B-17. Lt Hitsuji even leant out of the window and fired a few rounds from his pistol. The B-17 pulled into a turn next to the H6K4, but was not firing as all his gunners were injured or out of ammo. At that point the H6K4 entered the squall and the B-17 was lost from sight. Leaking fuel it limped back to base, where ninety-three holes were counted in her fuselage.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Grand Theft Pig

 Part one can be found here.

On the evening of the 14th of January 1942 the mission, codenamed Operation Postmaster, began and it soon went wrong. The operation was timed perfectly to start at 2330, as that was when the islands power was cut off for the night. This gave lights to steer by in the run up, and then darkness to complete the operation in. However, planning had missed one important fact. Instead of being on the local time, the island was running to Spanish time, and thus the lights would be on for another hour. Luckily the two tugs were able to abort and loiter unseen offshore for an hour.

Ashore a local had been contacted by an SOE agent. The local was deeply opposed to the Nazis and wanted the Axis powers gone from his home island, so was very willing to play along. Through this intermediary a party was arranged for all of the officers from the three Axis ships, and they were all there getting drunk. To ensure the party kept going he had arranged for a supply of paraffin lamps, so there was no need to stop at 2330. Equally the seating plan had all the officer’s backs towards the windows, which looked out onto the harbour. The local agent had also supplied an 'Unusually large amount of alcohol', to quote one of the serving staff. To make matters even better, a large thunderstorm had appeared off the coast, with rolls of thunder in the distance. The SOE agent took a stroll down to the harbour and found many of the Spanish Guardia asleep at their posts.
In the harbour the two tugs entered. One stopped near the harbour mouth to allow canoes to be launched, while the other made a beeline to the Duchessa d'Aosta, and laid alongside she made contact. Immediately the raiders swarmed aboard, covered by Bren guns on the bridge. Despite the gentle contact the tug rebounded after only five men had boarded, so she was nudged in allowing a few more to jump across, then a third such manoeuvre deposited the last of the raiders. The lead commando racing forwards in the dark suddenly crumpled to the deck with a cry. He had not been shot but had tripped over a pig that was wandering around the upper deck. The commando suffered a minor injury in his fall. Storming the bridge, it was found to be deserted, a sweep of below decks found the remaining crew asleep or passed out from that evenings drinking. A few did try to resist, but the coshes soon drummed that idea out of them.
Quickly the commando's slapped plastic charges onto the mooring chains and triggered their detonators. One chain refused to be cut and required a second charge. Then the tugs made for open water, one towing the Duchessa d'Aosta, the other towing the German craft, at the heady speed of three knots.

Ashore the explosions were taken as an air raid, and AA guns opened fire as cries of "Alerto!" could be heard echoing through the city. The Guardia raced to its armouries and every man checked out his rifle, as their officers tried to determine what had happened. At the party, most men were too drunk to stand, although some had staggered to the local brothel. The officers of the two ships collected themselves and in a swaying mass staggered, half undressed, to the harbour, where much to their surprise and incomprehension their ships had simply disappeared. After the confusion had died down both the locals and the Spanish worked out what had happened and were laughing themselves silly at the Axis officers, who were still very very drunk.
At about 0130 the still rather drunk German captain of the Likomba burst into the British consulate and demanded to know what had happened to his ship. The Consul ordered the German out, at which point the German punched the Consul. The Scottish Vice-Consul punched the captain, knocking him to the floor, and ripped out his trusty revolver. Staring down the barrel the German wet himself and followed up by defecating as well. It was in this state he was handed over to the local police.

No trace of the ships, or their attackers could be found. Various rumours were flying around the next day, pinning blame on the Vichy-French, the Free French, the British and even the US or local anti-Spanish pirates. Indeed, the skeleton crew placed on the Duchessa d'Aosta replaced the Italian flag with a skull and crossbones.
The Germans immediately started accusing the British of piracy, stating that a "British destroyer had entered the harbour and dropped depth charges to blow up the anchor cables and the ship's crew were shot"
In reply Britain pointed out that no British ships were in the area (all very true), but reconnaissance had spotted a large ship in the area and ships had been dispatched. In fact, HMS Violet, a Flower Class corvette was planned to bump into the Duchessa d'Aosta, seemingly by accident, as part of the plan, and this response to the Germans gave them a perfect cover story.

HMS Violet
In total twenty-seven Italian men and one female, an African and one pig were taken prisoner. Apart from the injuries suffered by the commando tripping over, and a few bruises for the Italians no injuries to either side were suffered. All the prisoners, (minus the pig I expect) were interned in a special internment camp in the middle of the jungle, about 150 miles from anywhere. This was done to prevent word of the raid leaking out, they remained there for the rest of the war.

The Duchessa d'Aosta was sailed to Scotland, in July she caught fire and sunk, but was refloated, and renamed to Empire Yukon. She then served for the rest of the war before being sold off to a Canadian company. In 1951 the Canadians sold her back to Italy, and a year later she was scrapped.