Archive for March, 2009

31
Mar
09

‘Tiger’ in Action 1944 Western Front

Since the very moment of their combat debut in the area of Leningrad in November 1942, the Tigers became one of the most dangerous tools of the German war machine. PzKpfw VI, designed as a typical breakthrough tank, quickly changed its original offensive character and became a very effective defensive weapon. This metamorphosis, which was most clearly visible during the fights on the Eastern front, could also be observed during military operations in Western Europe. In the latter region the German armed forces were continually retreating since June 1944 and often had to fight against the superior forces of the Allies. In the middle of 1944, “Tigers” were joined by even mightier vehicles: PzKpfw VI “Tiger” II. Much better armoured and armed, they gradually became known as “Royal Tigers”. Their performance in combat showed that they fully deserved this name. The German heavy tank battalions and companies (the 1942-1944 battle route of which has been presented in parts one and two of this monograph) were gradually rearmed with these vehicles. This book presents the combat use of “Tigers” — both ordinary and “royal” ones -against the Western Allies in the period from January to December 1944. The monograph is supplemented with numerous battle plans, unit organisation charts as well as photographs and colour charts showing the applied equipment.

31
Mar
09

The Wild Geese

Ireland was the battered prize of invaders who moved west from the continent of Europe. The Irish believe themselves to be descended from one of the earlier migrations, that of the Milesians. The great movements of the barbarians which overran the empire of Rome eventually reached this, the westernmost of the British Isles, climaxing in the Danish kingdom of Ireland of A.D.1OOO. Often invaded, Ireland was never truly conquered. Unlike most of Europe, the Gaelic homeland continually threw itself into murderous uprisings against its latest rulers. The Danes were defeated at Clontarfin 1014. The Normans, fresh from their triumph in England, seized but never subdued Ireland. The Plantagcncts and Tudors had constantly to send fresh armies to garrison the rebellious island. The most successful of these ill-fated rebellions occurred in 1594. Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and ‘Red’ Hugh O’Donnell led the ‘Army of the Gael’ against the soldiers of Queen Elizabeth. Their continuous struggle convinced Spain, England’s mortal enemy, to send the Irish 4,000 veterans under Don Juan D’Aquila. Determined to crush the nearly successful revolt, Elizabeth sent Lord Mountjoy and a massive army into Ireland. In the open, formal warfare which followed, the guerrilla-fighting Irish melted before the steel of disciplined English infantry. Abandoned by the Irish at Kinsale, D’Aquila wrote ‘surely Christ didn’t die to save these people’, and surrendered his army.

31
Mar
09

The Armies of Crecy and Poitiers

It is bcvond the function or the size of this book to describe the causes or the historv of the Hundred Years War, but the following brief introduction will give the reader some historical perspective. In the short period between 1314 and 1328 the three sons of Philip IV of France reigned in rapid succession; but on the death of the last, Charles IV, the main line of the House of Capet came to an end, and the crown of France passed to Philip de Valois. Philip based his claim on a clause in the Salic Law which stated that women were not allowed to inherit landed property. Besides his three sons Philip IV also had a daughter, Isabella, who had married Edward II of England; and through his mother their son, Edward III, claimed that his right to the throne of France was stronger than that of Philip de Valois. Edward protested forcefully that Salic Law might prevent a woman from succeeding to the throne but it in no way prevented the inheritance passing through a woman to the male heirs. The animosity between England and France had existed for many years. The English kings had not forgotten or forgiven the French for John’s expulsion from Normandy in 1204, The need to avenge this ignominious defeat was still strong. Philip IV had encroached on the Duchy of Guiennc, a traditional area of English supremacy, and while England fought its long wars against the Scottish chieftains Philip supported the latters’ claim for independence.

31
Mar
09

New Model Army 1645-60

Many authorities quote the Restoration of 1660 as the birth date of our modern British Army. While this may be true as far as continuity of unit identity is concerned, it is untrue in a far more fundamental sense. The evidence of history shows that the creation of an efficient military machine, and its proving on the battlefield, predates the Restoration by 15 years. It was on the fields of Naseby, Dunbar and the Dunes that the foundations of the British professional army were laid. While this book deals primarily with the New Model Army from its formation in 1645 until the Restoration, it is inevitable that other aspects of 17th century society are mentioned. To talk of the New Model is to talk of Oliver Cromwell; and to talk of Cromwell is to talk of politics. In the mid-17th century the army was a much more powerful force, relatively speaking, than it is today, both in its monopoly of physical power and in its political influence. In the absence of any type of civil police the army ruled, and represented what law and order there was. To be a senior commander was automatically to wield political power. On more than one occasion generals marched their men down to a Parliament with which they disagreed, and either expelled selected Honourable Members, or closed the House down altogether. The New Model owed its birth to what was essentially a political decision.

31
Mar
09

Napoleon’s German Allies (4) – Bavaria

The rank badge system for soldiers was also shown on the lapels but they all wore five bullous, the differences being in the number of buttonholes embroidered in the button colour, as follows: sergeant-major — five (he also carried a gold-topped cane and wore a white and light blue sabre knot with a red wreath). Staff sergeant top four buttonholes embroidered; cane and white and light blue sabre-strap. Sergeant top three buttonholes; cane and white and light blue sabre-strap. Corporal top two buttonholes, hazelwood stick, white and light blue sabre strap. Lance-corporal – top buttonhole only. In addition the regimental saddler and the drum-major had their top buttonholes embroidered with a white Hungarian knot in camel hair, and the drum-major’s facings were edged in white and light blue diced braid. From October 1791 the drum-major wore a bandolier in the facing colour edged in gold or silver according to the button colour, and bearing a gold/silver plate with the crowned monogram of the colonel-in-chief. The swallow’s nests (in the facing colour) also bore this crest. The provost had only three lapel buttons, the top one having a white or yellow Hungarian knot buttonhole. The adjutant, quartermaster, chief clerk, surgeon, under-surgeon and ensign or cornet all had the top buttonhole embroidered in plaited gold or silver thread; the chief clerk, surgeon and under-surgeon had seven lapel buttons, the quartermaster eight. Surgeons wore dark blue coats and lapels with scarlet linings, collar and cuffs, scarlet waistcoat and black trousers. Cavalry blacksmiths wore normal facings, five lapel buttons, but iron grey coats and trousers.

31
Mar
09

Germany’s Spanish Volunteers 1941-45

During the next few days the company reconnoitred the coastal area to the east, where Captain Ordas established his command post at Pagost Ushin, and the terrain to the south-east. The temperature remained at 40° below zero and by the 14th the company had been further reduced by frostbite to 76 men. On the 17th Lieutenant Otero dc Arce led 36 Spaniards and 40 Latvian soldiers of the 81st Division on a further reconnaissance to the south-east. Marching in a freezing wind through waist-deep snow, they passed through Maloye Utschno and Bol-shoye Utschno, and first encountered enemy forces at Shiloy Tschernez. The Spaniards mounted an assault and drove the Soviet troops out of the village at bayonet-point. However, a (bolhardy probe by two rifle squads to the next hamlet to the south, Pinikovo, resulted in the entire Spanish and Latvian force being put to (light and pursued northwards by six T-26 tanks and numerous Russian ski-troops. At Bolshoye Utschno Lieutenant Otero de Arce made a stand with a small group, holding back the tanks and skiers while the many wounded continued their flight north on sleighs until reaching the command post at Pagost Ushin. The lieutenant and a few exhausted survivors later made their escape under cover of darkness.

31
Mar
09

British Infantry Equipments 1808-1908

The period covered by this book begins with the British infantryman entering the Peninsular War wearing the lethal knapsack equipment of the day, and ends with the introduction of the first equipment set made entirely of woven cotton webbing, the 1908 pattern described in the accompanying Men-at-Arms title British Infantry Equipments 19o8-8o. The contrast between the two sets could not be more stark, and reflects the vast improvement in the infantryman’s lot which took place during the 19th century. Yet it must be remembered that for nearly 50 years of the period under study the influence of the Duke of Wellington — though arguably the greatest military leader Britain ever produced — kept the British Army in a state of stagnation. The infantry who had contributed so much to his enviable reputation and numerous honours were served badly by him in the years after Waterloo and up to his death in 1852. Determined to maintain his army in the state in which it had won its greatest triumphs, the Duke created a reactionary atmosphere powerful enough to daunt the most ardent reformer. The army that set sail for the Crimea shortlv after the death of the Duke had an infantry element clothed, equipped and armed in much the same manner as the Peninsular infantry. Commanded by a protege of the Duke of Wellington almost as conservative as the great man himself, the expedition to Russia was ripe for disaster. That no major military defeat ensued was probably due to the stoic courage of the common soldier and the leadership and professional ability of officers up to regimental level. Eventually Raglan’s death, and the public reaction to the reports of military and administrative incompetence in the Press at home, created the right climate for the commencement of army reforms so long overdue.