Sunday, April 30, 2006
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Friday, April 28, 2006
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Monday, April 24, 2006
On 9 June, the Australians were involved in heavy fighting at the Litani River in southern Lebanon. Further intense action occurred between 11-27 June at Merdjayoun, Lebanon, where Australian and British troops attacked and counter-attacked Vichy forces. On 21 June, the Syrian capital of Damascus fell to a combined Indian, British, Australian and Free French force. Fighting, however, continued in Lebanon as the Allies struggled to take the important coastal centre of Damour. With the fall of Damour on 9 July 1941, the Vichy commander, General Dentz, asked for an armistice which was signed at Acre on 13 July 1941. Altogether about 18,000 Australian troops took part in the Syrian campaign.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Martin Customer Number Time
Model Designation Produced Period Customer
167 XA-22 1 1939 USAAC
167-F1 167-A3 115 1939 France
167-F2 167-A3 100 1940 France
167-F3 167-A3 95 1940 France
167-B3 Maryland Mk.I 35 1940 Great Britain
167-B4 Maryland Mk.II 150 1941 Great Britain
Friday, April 21, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Monday, April 17, 2006
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Friday, April 14, 2006
Thursday, April 13, 2006
The third buy from the left is John Hill, who reportedly now works as an intelligence analyst in the DC area.
The real value of the 88 was in the way the Germans used it - and this started in the Civil War in Spain ! Von Thoma had only PzKw 1 tanks against Russian T26’s so he used the "Shield and Sword" tactic. This involved retreating and drawing the Russian tanks onto a Pakfront ( linked anti- tank guns in prepared positions.) After the guns had done their work the tanks attacked the fleeing enemy tanks or the unsupported infantry.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Monday, April 10, 2006
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Saturday, April 08, 2006
British tank armament policy in the late 1930's and WWII reflected the changing perception of how tanks would fight. The mistaken ideas of the all-tank school, such as Percy Hobart, thought that tanks would be used to fight tanks, so British gun-armed tanks were originally armed with the 2pdr gun, a high-velocity, low-shot weight (as the name implies) piece. Before that, British tanks were primarily armed with the medium velocity 47mm 3pdr. A few tanks (support tanks) were armed with a low-velocity 75mm gun for firing HE rounds. In parallel with the 2pdr gun, there continued to be a small number of support tanks armed with a gun for firing HE rounds. This was not considered to be the primary role of tanks, tanks were to fight other tanks, so they needed an "anti-tank gun". The British bureaucratic mind decided that numbers were more important than quality, so development of the much better 57mm 6pdr gun was deferred so that large numbers of the smaller gun could be producted.
Only after fighting Rommel, who taught them a radically new way to fight, where tanks attacked infantry and emplaced anti-tank guns were used to fight tanks, that the British started to rethink their policy. They also were greatly impressed by the 88mm AA/anti-tank gun, and the power of the larger guns. The organizational infighting in the British army kept the 95mm AA gun from being adapted for anti-tank use during the timeframe when it would have been most useful.
Besides seeing the utility of the 75mm gun on the Pzkw IV, at first a low-velocity gun, when the first American medium tanks arrived, armed with the medium velocity 75mm gun, there was a great impetus to arm British tanks with guns that were suitable for firing at both infantry and tanks. As the 57mm gun started to appear, some were bored out to 75mm, so that they were capable of firing HE. The larger 76.2mm guns that were fairly high velocity only appeared late in the war. There was the 17pdr gun, at first mounted in modified Shermans as the Firefly, and the less bulky "77mm" gun, really a 76.2mm gun, mounted in the Comet cruiser tank. Better guns, such as the potent "20pdr" only appeared post-war.
Friday, April 07, 2006
The 5th Indian Brigade attacked at Kissoue, early on 15 June 1941. The defense was not alert, and after repelling two counter-attacks, the 4th Indian Brigade was able to consolidate its position in possession of Kissoue with a night attack. The 1st Royal Fusiliers, the third battalion of the 5th Indian Brigade, was having a difficult time at Kuneitra. They were attacked by a strong force, and there were no resources to send to aid them. Almost to a man, they were taken prisoner. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
We also knew that the large destroyer Chevalier-Paul, just arriving from metropolitan France, was sunk by air attack. There is Chapter 8 from The Royal New Zealand Navy online. This Chapter is called "Operations off the Coast of Syria". The book confirms that the aircraft that sank the Vichy destroyer Chevalier-Paul were six FAA Swordfish flying from Cypress. This is largely based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
We might be in a position to offer some assessments of the various British commanders in North Africa and the overall Eastern Mediterranean and Africa. The list includes General Wavell, General O'Connor, General Wilson, General Auchinleck, and General (later Field Marshal) Montgomery.
General Wavell was asked to do some very unreasonable things, but until the spring of 1941, he had responded with a reasonable effort. In many ways, he proved himself mostly lucky, as he seems to have been unknowledgable about the conditions of modern warfare. Perhaps his main strength was his ability to recognize talent and to utilize it. Churchill had ruined General Wavell's attitude by the spring of 1941, so he really needed to be replaced and used elsewhere.
General Wilson ("Jumbo" Wilson) was a solid, old-school soldier, who was given one difficult task after another, and responded reasonably well. The Greek campaign had been forced on the army by Churchill, and was an unmitigated disaster, but General Wilson acquitted himself as well as was possible, in difficult circumstances.
General Auchinleck was more uneven, as he seemed to have trouble with judging people. His main strength was on the battlefield, and Churchill constantly pressed Auchinleck to take command in the field, as Churchill recognized Auchinleck's ability. Auchinleck was out by the fall of 1942, as Churchill's political survival depended on making some changes. Still, Auchinleck had saved Egypt and defeated Rommel in the First Battle of El Alamein, and his plan (with Major-General Dorman-Smith) for Alam el Halfa worked well.
General Montgomery was very conservative, and perhaps that was what was needed to stabilize the situation in North Africa. He was too conservative, and this was enabled by the vast inflow of resources into Egypt in late 1941 and early 1943. We suspect that Montgomery understood Rommel's tactical principles, and used them (cautiously). Rommel let anti-tank guns fight tanks and used his tanks to fight infantry. The Second Battle of El Alamein suggests that might have been how Montgomery fought the battle. In any case, Montgomery seems to have believed in and used combined arms battle groups, but to a greater degree than Auchinleck (and Dorman-Smith). Given Montgomery's success, he is hard to criticize, except for his style and demeanor. Results justify a great deal, even if we dislike his style and demeanor.
Monday, April 03, 2006
British and Free French troops moved into Syria and Lebanon. The 5th Indian Brigade quickly moved north 15 miles, to Sheikh Meskine, after taking Deraa, immediately after crossing the border. the 1st Royal Fusiliers moved into Kuneitra (familiar from the Yom Kippur War). On the second day, the Free French reached a point only 10 miles from Damascus. After they were blocked for several days, the 5th Indian Brigade was sent as reinforcements.
There were more Australians now involved. The 25th Australian Brigade was ordered to take Metjayun, but encountered heavy resistance. Still, they took Metjayun on 11 June, but the advance was altered to sweep through Jezzine. The 21st Australian Brigade moved north on the coast road. By 12 June, they had reached Sidon, where the Vichy troops were waiting. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
Syria was less of a threat than it had seemed. Apparently, when the Germans saw Rashid Ali's coming collapse in Iraq, they pulled out of Syria, hoping to remove any pretext for a British attack. Syria could wait until they had achieved victory in Russia. They had expended their airborne forces in Crete, and could not use them in Syria.
The British occupation of Syria took five weeks. The French in Syria hated the Free French, and shot at them, even when there was supposed truce, and abused prisoners. The British forces opposing the Vichy troops were an odd-assortment of units, with no cohesion. The air support at the start was meager:
No.11 Squadron (Blenheim IVs), short on aircraft and crews
No.80 Squadron (Hurricanes)
No.3 Squadron RAAF (requipping with Tomahawks)
No.208 Army Cooperation Squadron (one flight of Hurricanes)
X Flight (Gladiators)
The Vichy airforce was much larger. They had 30 bombers and 60 fighters, and these were quickly doubled with arrivals from metropolitan France.
General Wilson commanded the operation. The French were led by General Dentz, the governor. He was located in Beirut, so General Wilson decided to mount an attack there. The 7th Australian Division attacked on the coastal road and on the central road. C Battalion of the Special Service Brigade was attached to the 7th Australian Division. There were also additional units from the 1st Cavalry Division and 6th Australian Division. The right advance was spear-headed by the 5th Indian Brigade, battle-tested veterans. The Free French would follow them. The naval forces included "the 15th Cruiser Squadron (Phoebe, Ajax, with the Coventry, the landing ship Glengyle and eight destroyers). The Vichy French had the destroyers Guipard and Valmy at Beirut.
This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
7th Australian Division (two brigades)
2 cavaly regiments from the 1st Cavalry Division
5th Indian Brigade
a Free French force commanded by Genral Legentilhomme
with 6 battalions, one artillery battery, and several tanks
one squadron of armoured cars
one light AA regiment
one heavy AA regiment
one field regiment, RA
C Battalion of the Special Service Brigade (a commando)
This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Official History.