Thursday, 8 December 2016

Tora! Tora! Tora! ... the replica aircraft

Writing my recent blog entry about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour reminded me that I had not watched the film TORA! TORA! TORA! for some time ... so I did.

Because the film's makers took such pains to try to get as much of the detail right (there are quite a few errors, but they do not - in my opinion - detract unduly from the overall desire for accuracy in the film), it is a film that I think has stood the test of time, and is as good to watch nowadays as it was when it was first released back in 1970. In fact the film was made by two separate teams of film makers, with one based in the United States, where their work was directed by directed by Richard Fleischer, and one based in Japan. The Japanese team was initially led by Akira Kurosawa, but early in the filming he was replaced by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku. As a result the American and Japanese segments have very distinct styles, each style reflecting the traditions of that nation's films.

One thing that the makers did that showed their commitment to getting things right was the use of replicas where there were no flying examples of the original aircraft available. North American T-6 Texan training aircraft were modified to look like Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighters, ...

... Vultee BT-13 Valiant training aircraft were used to replicate Aichi D3A Val dive-bombers, ...

... and the rear fuselages of several Vultee BT-13 Valiants were grafted to the front ends of North American T-6 Texan to produce replica Nakajima B3N Kate torpedo bombers.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A date which will live in infamy

F D Roosevelt rightly titled the 7th December 1941 as 'a date which will live in infamy'. The Japanese attack was not supposed to have taken place until thirty minutes after the peace negotiations between Japan and the United States were formally terminated, but thanks to slow processing of the coded message that was to be passed to the Americans by the Japanese Embassy in Washington, this did not happen. The message was not an actual declaration of war; this was not made until 8th December, the day after the attack.

'Battleship Row' under attack.
The attack on the United States Pacific Fleet was devastating. The following ships were sunk or badly damaged as a result of the attack:
  • 8 Battleships: Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, California, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Maryland.
  • 1 Target/AA training ship (ex-battleship): Utah.
  • 2 Cruisers: Helena and Raleigh.
  • 3 Destroyers: Cassin, Downes, and Shaw.
  • Auxiliaries: Oglala (minelayer), Vestal (repair ship), and Curtiss (seaplane tender).
Of the ships sunk, all but the Arizona, Oklahoma, and Utah were repaired and returned to active service.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 6th December 1936

Nationalist aircraft bombed Barcelona.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Ships of the Nationalist and Republican Navies during the Spanish Civil War: Mendez Munez-class Cruiser

Built at El Ferrol between 1917 and 1924. The design was similar to the British C-class Light Cruisers.

Cruiser Mendez Nunez.
Ship's characteristics:
  • Displacement: 4,650 tons normal
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 462’ (140.8m)
    • Beam: 46’ (14m)
    • Draught: 15’ 6” (4.7m)
  • Maximum Speed: 29 knots
  • Armour: Belt: 3” to 1.25” (76mm to 32mm); Deck: 1” (25mm)
  • Armament: 6 x 6” (152mm) (6 x 1); 4 x 3 pdr (47mm) Anti-Aircraft Guns (4 x 1); 12 x 21” (533mm) Torpedo Tubes (4 x 3)
  • Complement: 343
Mendez Nunez served in the Republican Navy. She survived the Civil War, and was re-built as an Anti-Aircraft Cruiser (1944-47). She was finally stricken and broken-up in the 1960’s.
(Her sister ship Blas de Lezo sank in 1932 as a result of an accident.)

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Ships of the Nationalist and Republican Navies during the Spanish Civil War: Libertad-class Cruisers

The class was built at El Ferrol between 1922 and 1931. The design was based upon the British E-class Light Cruisers. Libertad was originally named Principe Alfonso.

Cruiser Libertad.
Cruiser Almirante Cervera.
Cruiser Miguel de Cervantes.
Ships' characteristics:
  • Displacement: 7,475 tons standard; 9,237 tons full load
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 579’ 6” (176.6m)
    • Beam: 54’ (16.5m)
    • Draught: 16’ 6” (5m)
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Armour: Belt: 3” to 1.6” (75mm to 40mm); Deck: 2” to 1” (50mm to 25mm)
  • Armament: 8 x 6” (152mm) (3 x 2, 2 x 1); 4 x 4” (102mm) (4 x 1); 2 x 3 pdr (47mm) Anti-Aircraft Guns (2 x 1); 12 x 21” (533mm) Torpedo Tubes (4 x 3)
  • Complement: 564
Libertad served with in the Republican Navy. She survived the Civil War, and was renamed Galicia. She was stricken and broken-up in the early 1970’s.
Almirante Cervera served in the Nationalist Navy. She survived the Civil War, and was stricken and broken-up in the 1960’s.
Miguel de Cervantes served in the Republican Navy. She was torpedoed off Cartagena on 23rd November 1936. The damage was later repaired, and she survived the Civil War. She was stricken and broken-up in the 1960’s.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Ships of the Nationalist and Republican Navies during the Spanish Civil War: Canaris-class Cruisers

The class was built at El Ferrol between 1928 and 1936. The design was based upon the British County-class Heavy Cruisers.

Cruiser Canarias.
Cruiser Baleares.
Ships' characteristics:
  • Displacement: 10,113 tons standard; 13,070 tons full load
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 635’ 9” (193.6m)
    • Beam: 64’ (19.5m)
    • Draught: 17’ 4” (5.3m)
  • Speed: 33 knots
  • Armour: Belt: 2” (50mm); Turrets: 1” (25mm); Deck: 1.5” to 1” (38mm to 25mm)
  • Armament: 8 x 8” (203mm) (4 x 2); 8 x 4.7” (120mm) (8 x 1); 8 x 2 pdr (40mm) Anti-Aircraft Guns (8 x 1); 12 x 21” (533mm) Torpedo Tubes (4 x 3)
  • Complement: 780
Both ships served in the Nationalist Navy.
Canarias was torpedoed and sunk off Cartagena whilst escorting a convoy on 6th March 1938.
Baleares survived the Civil War, and became the flagship of the Spanish Fleet. She was stricken and broken-up in the 1970’s.

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Battle of Austerlitz

The Battle of Austerlitz (which was also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors) took place 211 years ago today on 2nd December 1805.

Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz.
Napoleon's Grande Armée (with approximately 67,000 men) defeated a larger Russian and Austrian army (with approximately 86,000 men) led by Tsar Alexander I and Holy Roman Emperor (and Emperor of Austria) Francis II respectively, and brought the Third Coalition to an end.

Napoleon receiving Emperor Francis II after the Battle of Austerlitz.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The birth of Georgy Zhukov

Today is the 120th anniversary of the birth of Georgy Zhukov.

He was born into a peasant family in Strelkovka and when he was old enough, he managed to become an apprentice furrier in Moscow. In 1915 he was conscripted into the 10th Dragoon Novgorod Regiment, and during his service in the Imperial Army he achieved a reputation for bravery. He was awarded the Cross of St. George twice and promoted to the rank of non-commissioned officer.

He did not join the Bolshevik Party until after the 1917 October Revolution, but this did not hinder his career in the Red Army, and between 1918 and 1921 he fought in the Russian Civil War as a member of 1st Cavalry Army. His service was recognised by the award of the Order of the Red Banner.

His rise through the ranks of the Red Army was steady if unspectacular.
  • May 1923: Appointed to a command position in the 39th Cavalry Regiment.
  • 1924: Attended Higher School of Cavalry.
  • 1925: Commander of the 39th Cavalry Regiment.
  • May 1930: Commander of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, 7th Cavalry Division.
  • February 1931: Appointed become Assistant Inspector of Cavalry of the Red Army.
  • May 1933: Commander of the 4th Cavalry Division.
  • 1937: Commander of the 3rd Cavalry Corps, and then the 6th Cavalry Corps.
  • 1938: Deputy Commander of cavalry in the Belorussian Military District.
His big opportunity came in 1938 when he became Commander of the First Soviet Mongolian Army Group. The Army Group was fighting an undeclared border war with Japan's Kwantung Army along the border between Mongolia and Japanese-controlled Manchukuo. As the fighting escalated Zhukov began planning what was to become a major offensive. On 20th August 1939 the much-reinforced First Soviet Mongolian Army Group began its offensive with a huge artillery barrage on the Japanese front line, and this was followed up by an attack that was led by nearly 500 tanks, supported by large numbers of fighters and bombers.

The Battle of Khalkhin Gol/Nomonhan was a decisive victory, and by 31st August the Japanese had been pushed back. As a result, Zhukov was declared a Hero of the Soviet Union, and in 1940 Zhukov he became an Army General. From then on his rise within the Red Army became more rapid.
  • 1st February 1941: After two spectacular victories during Army-level wargames held in January 1941, Zhukov became Chief of the Red Army's General Staff and Deputy Minister of Defense of the USSR.
  • 29th July 1941: Removed from his post of Chief of the General Staff and appointed Commander of the Reserve Front.
  • 10th September 1941: Commander of the Leningrad Front.
  • 6th October 1941: Appointed the representative of Stavka to the Reserve and Western Fronts.
  • 10th October 1941: When the Reserve and Western Fronts were combined to form the Western Front, Zhukov was appointed to be their new commander.
  • August 1942: Deputy Commander-in-Chief and sent to take charge of the defence of Stalingrad.
  • November 1942: After planning operations against the German troops around Stalingrad, Zhukov coordinated the attacks made by the Western Front and the Kalinin Front during Operation Mars.
  • January 1943: Coordinated the actions of the Leningrad and Volkhov Fronts (and units of the Baltic Fleet) during Operation Iskra.
  • July 1943: Stavka coordinator at the Battle of Kursk.
  • 1st March 1944: Appointed Commander of the 1st Ukrainian Front
  • May 1944: During Operation Bagration Zhukov coordinated the attacks of the 1st Belorussian and 2nd Belorussian Fronts.
  • 23rd August 1944: Sent to the 3rd Ukrainian Front to prepare it for the advance into Bulgaria.
  • 16th November 1944: Commander of the 1st Belorussian Front, which he led through the Vistula–Oder Offensive and the Battle for Berlin.
After the war he fell out of favour with Stalin, and he was sent to command troop in some of the more obscure and less important regions of the USSR. Attempts were made by Lavrentiy Beria (Head of the NKVD) to discredit him, and he was accused of Bonapartism.

When Stalin died suddenly in 1953, Zhukov led the team that arrested Beria, and he was part of the Military Tribunal that tried and sentenced him to death. Under the new leadership of Premier Nikolai Bulganin, Zhukov became Defense Minister, and he remained in post until he fell out of favour again and was retired into relative obscurity aged 62. His memoirs were published in 1969 and became they a best-seller, but on 18th June 1974 Zhukov died as a result of a stroke.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Vive l'Empereur: Even more Light Infantry added to my Napoleonic French army

I have managed to finish the last batch of Napoleonic French Light Infantry that I will be adding to my collection for the time being.

I am now going to take a bit of a break until Christmas. I then hope to return to this project fully energised and raring to go!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Ships of the Nationalist and Republican Navies during the Spanish Civil War: España-class Battleships

The class was built at El Ferrol between 1910 and 1921. They were the smallest dreadnought-type battleships ever constructed. The completion of Jaime I was considerably delayed by the non-delivery of material, including the main armament, from Britain due to the outbreak of the First World War. España was originally named Alfonso XIII.

Battleship España.
Battleship Jaime I.
Ships' characteristics:
  • Displacement: 15,452 tons normal; 15,700 tons maximum
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 459’ 2” (140m)
    • Beam: 78’ 9” (24m)
    • Draught: 25’ 6” (7.8m)
  • Speed: 19.5 knots
  • Armour: Belt: 8” to 4” (203mm to 102mm); Barbettes: 10” (254mm); Gunhouses: 8” (203mm): Deck: 1.5” (38 mm)
  • Armament: 8 x 12” (305mm) (4 x 2); 20 x 4” (102mm) (20 x 1); 4 x 3 pdr (47mm) Anti-Aircraft Guns (4 x 1)
  • Complement: 854
España served in the Nationalist Navy and sank after hitting a mine on 30th April 1937.
Jamie I served in the Republican Navy. She was damaged by Nationalist bombing whilst at Cartagena, and was subsequently scuttled there on 17th June 1937 following a fire that was caused by an accidental magazine explosion.