Purpose of this blog

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Charlie does Surf!

If you ever get a group of veterans from the British Army of the Rhine together, they're likely to come over all misty eyed and start talking stories about the SLR, and how awesome a weapon it is. "Able to bayonet six Russians at a time, and knock out a T-72, with a blank round. Unlike this modern plastic pea shooter!" etc, it’s a bit like the blind spot US soldiers of a certain age have in regard to the .45 ACP. If you can move them off the subject of the SLR, which admittedly takes a bit of effort, then you might start to hear other stories about the 84mm Carl Gustav anti-tank launcher. Most of them revolve around how bloody heavy it was. 
The weight has given rise to a story that the barrel of the first weapon was created when the 84mm barrels from fortress guns were scrapped. These were used to provide a length of the original barrel. The guns in question are named as m/94-06 guns from Tingstade-Gotland in one source. Trouble is there's not one shred of evidence to back this up. 
The next most common story is about how horrific its black blast is, and you've got good odds on a tale with some scary injuries as well. Another common story is that it’s just the right calibre for smuggling cans of beer out on exercise hidden in its barrel. It’s likely that if the Russians had of attacked the Charlie G, as she was known in UK forces, would have gotten a better reputation. Its been deployed around the world, including playing a crucial role in the Falklands war. For that war the Charlie G got used mostly for smashing Argentinian bunkers, however there are two notable exceptions from the first hours of the war.
The first comes from the landings at Port Stanley by the Argentinians. Arriving on the eastern edge of the settlement twenty LVTP-7's waddled ashore and moved inland. The objective of this force was to relieve some commandos who had landed earlier and attacked the Royal Marine detachments barracks, which had been empty. Mainly because there had been enough warning for the Royal Marines to meet with the Governor, whom had uttered the line "sounds like the buggers mean it!", and arranged for the Royal Marines to deploy.
After shooting up and setting the Royal Marine barracks on fire the Argentinian commandos then moved to seize the government. However, they had found the missing Royal Marine detachment defending the government and become bogged down in a fire fight.
As the lead LVTP's pushed inshore, a section advanced towards Stanley and at 0715 they ran into a road block from a second detachment of Royal Marines. The Royal Marines started by engaging the lead APC's with a pair of 66mm LAW's and one round from their Charlie G, while machine guns on the roofs of nearby buildings racked the following section of LVTP's with sustained and accurate fire.
A second salvo in the shape of a single LAW and one Charlie G round hit the lead LVTP destroying it. The following section began to deploy its troops and engage with recoilless rifles and mortars, as well as the machine guns in the LVTP's. With this base of fire, the Argentinian infantry began to work around a flank, but ran into the Royal Marines and a brisk fire fight developed, before the Royal Marines threw smoke and began to fall back. Faced with overwhelming force the Royal Marines hadn't a hope of stopping the Argentinian invasion and surrendered in short order.

The next challenge for the Charlie G was a much tougher one. Upon hearing of the invasion, the Royal Marine detachment defending South Georgia began to prepare for a fight. They pre-positioned supply caches around the island, so if they were forced to retreat they could continue to fight. Equally they dug some firing positions and laid some wire. Then the Royal Marines became a bit creative. They laid fougasse, created by filling 45 gallon fuel drums filled with petrol, paint and plastic explosive all linked to a command detonator. 
Then an Argentinian ship arrived in the bay next to the main settlement of Grytviken, where the Royal Marines were stationed. It warned the British to stand by for an important radio transmission the following day. The next morning an Argentinian corvette, the Guerrico, demanded the Royal Marines surrender. The initial messages were on the VHF radio, however the Royal Marine Commander replied on the HF set, claiming his VHF set was out of service. This enabled the British ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance to listen in. Guessing this was what the Royal Marine officer was up to this somewhat annoyed the Argentinians. They demanded everyone be assembled on the beach for surrender. The Royal Marines informed them that any attempt to land would be resisted.
The Guerrico entering the bay
The Guerrico then entered the bay that holds Grytviken, and her Puma helicopter landed a detachment of marines. It soon returned with another load of soldiers. However, as it came in to land the Royal Marines began to batter it to pieces with small arms fire from their well sited firing positions. The pilot managed to limp to a point across the cove from the British positions and crash landed. Later on it was discovered the Puma had been hit about thirty times. Two of the Puma's crew recovered her machine gun and began to use it to fire at long ranges at the British positions. Meanwhile there was a fire fight brewing between the stranded Argentinian marines and the British.
The puma after "landing"
Closing up to the shore the Guerrico was going to end the fight. Armed with a 100mm gun, a 40mm Bofors gun and a pair of 20mm's she began to move inshore. The Royal Marines patiently held their fire, luring the warship in closer. At about 250-300 meters the Royal Marines decided they could see the whites of the eyes and opened fire.
The Guerrico
The detachment's Charlie G loader tucked himself in close to his gunner to avoid the back blast and the weapon fired. The round hit the sea just short of the corvette but it continued to travel a short distance before detonating causing flooding and structural damage. 66mm LAWs were also fired, three of which hit around the forward 100mm turret, jamming it completely. Further 66mm hits wrecked the corvettes Exocet launchers. Later on the Argentinians would admit they found 1275 bullet holes in the ship from the Royal Marines fire.

Unsurprisingly the corvette changed her mind and began to limp back out to sea. However during this action a second smaller helicopter of the first Argentinian ship had been ferrying marines ashore at the rate of two per time. With no idea where this force was as it landed behind the settlement, and utterly cut off from reinforcement or support, the Royal Marine commander decided it was time to surrender. He made an impromptu flag of surrender from a jacket, and approached the first party of Argentinians that had been landed by Puma. At first the Argentinians were hesitant, however the Royal Marine officer pointed out that the group of Argentinians by the beach was at a distinct disadvantage, and liable to suffer severe casualties if the fighting continued, which he'd rather avoid. With this the Argentinians accepted the Royal Marines surrender, although at first they didn't believe that the defenders were just 22 men, and demanded that the entire force surrender.

The Royal Marine detachment, with Grytviken in the background.
After searching the area, they accepted that was the entire force and allowed the Royal Marines to disarm the explosives that they had previously been warned about. With that the Argentinian capture of the Falklands was complete, now they could settle back and relax. After all the new, struggling British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, wouldn't care about a small uninteresting set of islands miles away from their country, would she?

 Image Credits:
dailymail.co.uk, www.americanrifleman.org, paradata.org.uk, www.crusader80.co.uk, www.britishempire.co.uk and www.sofmag.com

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Under Dogs

There is a little-known war that is full of surprises. It happened between 1932 and 1935 and had around 100,000 killed, but is almost unknown. This is the Chaco War. What's surprising is how one side lost. It was fought in a baking hot area between Paraguay and Bolivia, with areas of desert and jungle but always sweating heat. This plateau was considered to belong to Bolivia, however they never exploited or worked upon the area. The people of the area also had historic links to the population of Paraguay. Both sides of the divide had claimed the area and there were skirmishes for decades. Then oil was discovered, with thoughts of an oil rush both sides staked their claims and the war began.
Paraguayan soldiers.
On one side there was the Paraguayan Army, which had been trained by exiled White Russians and the French. However, the Paraguay was largely without money and this was reflected in the state of the army. Many men lacked boots. Even guns were hard to come by, with enough elderly cast off rifles from her neighbours to equip about 1 in 7 men. As the war loomed agents in Europe brought what small arms they could with Paraguay's limited funds. Mostly rifles and the occasional batch of light machine guns. Support weapons were limited to mostly mortars, although a few heavier conventional pieces were purchased. The rest of the men were armed with machetes. Oddly machetes were the one thing that the Bolivian forces lacked. During the phase of re-armament, the Bolivians began to buy weapons from abroad, mainly from Vickers in the UK; planes, machine guns and armour. Along with the artillery from continental countries, the Bolivian Army was as well supplied as a modern army could be, although it may have lacked numbers of some of its more sophisticated weapons. For example, the total number of tanks was limited to just five armoured vehicles. These were a pair of Carden-Loyd tankettes, a pair of Vickers six tons with the twin machine gun turret arrangement, and a lone Vickers six ton with a single turret, these were even equipped with radios. They also had a veteran German commander in the shape of Hans Kundt, who had served as a Regimental Commander on the Eastern Front in World War 1, rising through the ranks to the rank of General by the end of the war. He had been present at some of Germany's big victories against the Russians
One of the Bolivian Carden-Loyds
The war began, and its exact course would take too many pages to cover, and there are many perfectly good books on the subject. But instantly things went wrong for the Bolivians. Due to the nature of the terrain the logistics of supply to the troops was appallingly hard. Even so the Bolivians began a grand offensive with overwhelming force to push the Paraguayans out of the disputed land. Almost instantly the two Carden-Loyds were knocked out by small arms fire when they were used as assault tanks. After several months of grinding battles one of the Vickers tanks was destroyed when it was hit by one of the few Paraguayan artillery pieces, which damaged its transmission. It was then blown up by sappers after it had been abandoned.
Bolivian Conscripts being taken away from their homes.
The reason for the Bolivians poor performance was several fold, General Kundt wasn't a good general. He often used human wave attacks without preparation bombardments, and would ignore his officer’s recommendations. He also neglected the need for logistics. Morale of the army was falling and self-inflicted wounds spread like wild fire. After a year the Bolivian soldiers had been at the front for the entire time with no leave. In an effort to improve morale home leave was awarded. Of the troops given leave only one third returned, with the others all deserting. Even the Bolivians equipment was proving troublesome, with many of their radios being damaged by the humid moisture of the jungles.
The Vickers six ton after it had been blown up to prevent capture..
The lighter equipped Paraguayan infantry was also more mobile in the primal jungle. In late 1933, Gen Kundt carried on receiving aircraft reconnaissance reports of a large force of Paraguayans out flanking one of his forward positions. Kundt had so far constantly failed to recognise the military manoeuvres of the enemy and misjudged their plans. He'd also shown an utter lack of willingness to adapt, just going on with the headlong charge into defended positions. He'd also been on record as saying that air reconnaissance was of no use as pilots always exaggerated. This, tied to his lack of understanding about outflanking a position possibly lead to the battle of Campo Vía. Unsurprisingly the Paraguayans cut off a large force of Bolivians, consisting of two divisions. Several times the General had been prompted to withdraw the forward forces, or do something. But every time he had issued the order of failure, to hold all their ground! (can anyone think of a time when that order has actually worked and not resulted in a severe beating?)
One of the two twin turreted Vickers six tons, maybe even in place after its capture.
To open up the road to Campo Vía, General Kundt ordered a counter attack, being led by his last two tanks. However, the Paraguayan forces arranged a surprise. One cavalry regiment, the Seventh "San Martin", comprised mostly of Argentinian volunteers prepared an ambush. As the tanks advanced slowly through the dense jungle on an arrow winding trail, the Paraguayans waited. As the tanks entered their ambush the cavalry men felled several trees in front, and behind the two Vickers tanks. Blocked in on all sides by impassable terrain the two tanks put up as much resistance as they could, slashing at the jungle about them with their machine guns. This fire fight carried on for two hours. Then as the temperature rose with their morale sapped by the constant hammering of small arms, the crew surrendered. The temperature inside the tanks was said to have reached over 50 degrees centigrade. The attempt to reopen the road to Campo Vía failed, and the Bolivians were pushed out of the eastern part of the Chaco region. About 7500 Bolivians surrendered. Along with the prisoners came a mountain of weaponry, including 8000 rifles, over 500 machine guns, 25 mortars and 20 artillery pieces, as well as two tanks. One of the tanks was mounted as a monument in Paraguay and only returned to Bolivia in the 1990's, where it was lost.
The Captured tanks on its war memorial.
After the defeat a twenty day cease fire was agreed, and both sides halted to prepare for the next phase of the war. Gen Kundt was dismissed from his job. However, things didn't go well for the new appointee, even with 12 Italian CV3's, some with flame throwers fitted, the war still went against the Bolivians. In June 1935 a cease fire was agreed, with Paraguay holding most of the Chaco region.

Image Credits:
civilianmilitaryintelligencegroup.com, theunion4ever.com and www.latinamericanstudies.org.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Who do we Fight?

The middle of 1943 was a confusing time for the Italians. First came the fall of their dictator Mussolini. That was followed by an outwardly pro-German government, whom was trying to negotiate a peace settlement with the Allies and at the same time showing their dedication to continuing to fight as part of the Axis. Both the Italians and the Germans drew up plans for the eventuality of the Italians dropping out of the war, however the Italian plans were more guidelines in the case of German hostilities, the German plans were much more detailed. In early September the crunch came with the Italians surrendering to the Allies with the Armistice of Cassibile, which was announced on the 8th of September at 18:30 by Allied radio, and confirmed by the Italian government radio broadcasts at 19:42. At 19:50, moments after the Italian broadcast had finished, the German High Command transmitted the code word "Achse" to all commands informing them to take action as detailed in the issued plans.

One such location was Piombino, on the Italian coast. On the 10th of September, about 04:30, the Germans approached by sea. They claimed to be an Italian flotilla that wanted to put in for refueling. The two lead vessels were Torpedoboot Ausland (this was used by the Germans to describe the myriad of small foreign vessels captured across Europe as they overwhelmed their original owners). The two lead boats were TA9 and TA11, these originally had been French La Melpomène class torpedo boats. Each weighed about 800 tons, and had two each of 4 inch guns, 37mm AA guns and a pair of machine guns. TA9 had been the 'Bombarde', and TA11 the 'L'Iphigénie' in French Service. Any mentions of previous service are rare, for example I've only found mention of L'Iphigénie helping escort a convoy to Malta in 1939, for five and a half hours.
La Melpomène class
After being seized by the Germans they were handed over to the Italians, and given Italian two tone camouflage. This was hastily painted over with a third shade of grey when the Germans seized her, although she retained most of her other Italian markings.

At first the Italian naval commander denied them access to the port and the Germans held position off shore. After some five hours the local port commander gave permission for the Germans to enter. As they entered the two ships split up taking up station on either end of the harbour and covering the entire port with their guns. During the rest of the day many more boats entered the port, all German. These began to land armed patrols who roamed about and began to prepare to seize key parts of the city. Thus the tension began to bubble as the citizens began to realise what was about to happen.

Piombino was a steel town with two large steel plants. In the 20's there had been a distinct communist feeling in the city, which had once before come to armed conflict, with the army being used to suppress the revolts. Again, after that fateful morning the workers of the steel plants began to gather and formed the core of a protest to the Italian authorities that they should defend their town. The protests also included the warning, if not outright threat, that if the military didn't act then the civilians would rise in open rebellion. So here you have a large riotous group of people with a distinct whiff of communism, arguing against fascist officers. 
Men from one of the steel plants moving to action in a communist dispute in the early 50's.
The Italian authorities agreed to the demands of the populace and called in tanks, while they were awaiting the arrival of the armour the civilians set about preparing for the defence of their town. As the day passed with no sign of reinforcements the protests began to become agitated and angry, eventually they tried to storm the headquarters of the National Fascist Party looking for weapons, this storming was driven off by troops firing warning shots. However soon after about twenty M15/42 tanks arrived and began to fire directly on the crowd.
During the afternoon, lower level officers began to side with the protesters, these were lead by the commander of the local anti-aircraft battery, this placed stocks of small arms in the hands of the protesters. Slowly junior officers began to change sides, when the two regional commanders who had organised the armoured force arrived on the scene to arrest the rebelling officers. What happened to them isn't recorded, however they didn't succeed, as the Germans were now beginning to land in force and move towards the Italian protests.
At 21:15 someone launched a flare over the harbour, this illuminated the German ships and their captain believing they were about to be attacked, ordered the ships to open fire. On land, the armed civilians bolstered by the soldiers that had changed sides began to engage the German sailors. The tanks began a fierce gun battle with the German ships.  The 47mm guns of the tanks peppered the two torpedo boats, sinking TA11 and forcing TA9 to withdraw at midnight after being heavily damaged. TA9 was to survive until August 1944 when she was sunk in an air attack whilst at sea.

As dawn broke the next day the German forces who had been abandoned by their ships surrendered. About 2-300 were captured with about 120 killed in the fighting, many of whom were likely to have come from the ships. The Italians had lost only four people killed and three times as many wounded. Later that day with command and control restored an Italian general ordered that the German prisoners be released and their weapons returned. The Germans then retreated from the city. The authorities then agreed to a surrender to the Germans. Incensed at this many of the soldiers and civilians who had taken part in the defence of their city grabbed the guns they had liberated and fled to the hills to form a resistance band. As they left they destroyed any equipment they couldn't carry, and just in time as the German forces returned.

Image credits:

See also this book for information on the TA11 camo, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Last Stand

The war was coming to an end, France was nearly defeated, and soon the last battle would take place at Epinal. Over the preceding month the Germans had driven deep into France forcing the Allies to evacuate, and then they had hooked south, diving past the Maginot line. Epinal is located behind the line of fortresses, and the Germans were attacking from the wrong way. Their objectives were the small fortresses of Adelphes, Longchamp and Dogneville. Towards this the Germans threw the 6th Panzer Division, supported by a variety of units including the 660th Assault Gun Battery. From this force Kampfgruppe Esebeck, commanded by Colonel Hans-Karl Freiherr von Esebeck was to capture the city of Epinal. The Kampfgruppe had started off the battle of France with one battalion each of tanks, artillery and infantry, along with a company of engineers and anti-tank guns. However by this stage in the campaign the engineers and anti-tank guns had been withdrawn. At least two famous names were also on the force in the 6th Panzer, Claus von Stauffenberg and Franz Bäke.
German forces at Epinal
Facing them were a demoralised French formation, which I've not been able to identify. They were described as scruffy and drunk, not interested in defending their ground and all command and control had broken down with the soldiers ignoring the orders of their superiors. However these French forces did obey one order they received, the one to retreat.
This didn't leave Epinal open to the Germans though, the 46th GRDI, the reconnaissance battalion for an infantry division took over the defence. Even at full strength this force would only have two 60mm mortars, ten machine guns and a pair of 25mm anti-tank guns. Once again the battle in France revolved around a bridge. The French forces dug themselves in fortifying houses with sandbags and knocking firing slits in walls to cover the buildings flanks, they prepared to fight the Germans aiming to hold them on the river line. The last thing the force did was to lay mines on the bridges, they did this at about 0400 on the 19th of June 1940.
Sgt Schillé's 25mm gun, sandbagged in the entranceway of a school. Looks like some German has nicked the flash suppressor off the barrel.
At 0600 the Frenchmen saw several Sdkfz 251's pulling up on the other side of the river, they started to unload the troops they carried within themselves. Immediately the battalion’s machine guns began to stutter, and soon a blazing fire fight was in full flow. The Germans flanked and crossed further down from the French position, luckily there was the open ground of a park there and one of the 25mm's had been sighted to cover it, along with several riflemen. This rush of two half-tracks was wrecked by the French, with both Sdkfz 251's set on fire, although about a squad of Germans was left on the bank, they were under fire from the small arms.

The Germans brought up some more armour, a Panzer 35(t). It halted and began to fire at the building occupied across the river, then after only a few shots swung about and drove off, all the time under fire from the 25mm, the rounds bouncing off the tank.
About ten minutes later a Panzer 35(t) approached again, no one knows if it was the same one or a second tank, but looking at pictures I suspect it was a second vehicle. It halted beside the river and began to fire against the buildings again. After six or so rounds it lurches forward, crossing the bridge, avoiding the mines laid there. A second 25mm was dug in the doorway of a boys school, it was commanded by Maréchal-des-logis (roughly sergeant rank) Schillé. He waited until the German Panzer was at point blank range, before firing three rapid shots. As was shown earlier the long range striking power of the 25mm was fairly terrible, but at such short range even the 25mm's could hurt a Panzer. The tank shudders to a halt and begins to burn. The horribly burned commander clambers out, and somehow despite the pain helps his loader get out. Of the hull crew one is killed instantly the other, now wounded, manages to get out, despite his wounds he staggers into a house, and ends up in its cellar, he is found there still alive six hours later.

The Ps-35(t) knocked out by Sgt Schillé's 25mm.
The blaze on the tank reaches its ammunition, and the tank begins to really burn, this sets fire to the nearby buildings adding to the problems for the beleaguered Frenchman. The German bring up some Panzer IV's or maybe Stug IIID's. Their armour would come round the corner, and trying not to close with the 25mm's would then begin to bombard the enemy buildings and then withdraw. One of their salvoes destroyed the 25mm covering the park, and a Panzer IV moves up onto the bridge and begins to smash the buildings. Soon all the French machine guns are destroyed, the last one manned by one volunteer until his stand is ended by the Panzer IV. Unable to respond to the Germans the French troops begin to fall back, leaving a covering screen in their place. These men use up the last of their ammunition and the battle ends. Two days later the war ends for France as the Armistice is signed.

Image Credits:
www.worldwarphotos.info and www.materielsterrestres39-45.fr

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Biggest gun in the West

Just after the Second World War the west was facing a problem, it's the same problem that tank designers face today. Its gotten to the point where a tanks protection is better than the guns on tanks, they are lacking the power to perforate the tanks defensive layers. Just after the war we were worried about the IS-3 , and later about the T-54.
Jim Warford uploaded these pictures over at Tanknet, they show an IS-3 that's been shot up by L7 APDS... Scared yet?

Normally what would happen, and what happened during the Second World War, is that a gun would defeat an armour, then the other side would increase the armour, so the gun's increased by a small amount so that they could defeat the armour. Then the cycle would repeat. So you got a steadily increasing calibre of gun in small increments.
In the early 1950's the chief engineer (I suspect his name was Lillywhite, but I haven't been able to prove it yet) at the Fighting Vehicles Development Establishment sat down, and thought 'What if we cut out the small steps and went directly to the end, to the biggest gun possible? What is that calibre?'. So he pulled out his slide rule and some paper and set to work. The figure he came out with for the maximum theoretical gun calibre was 180mm. This was the 180mm Lillywhite gun. The engineer also calculated the estimated performance of the gun. It fired a whopping 71.5 lbs AP shell at 3720 feet per second. This gave a kinetic energy at muzzle of around 20 megajoules. In comparison a modern 120mm L/55 smoothbore with the best available ammunition is providing about 13 megajoules (APFSDS). The Lillywhite had such a big round it was split into two bag charges and the projectile.
From this point the gun was developed and became the 183mm L4, that we all know and love on the infamous FV215 and FV4005. The L4 had a single bag charge, but the projectile was very similar. It however lost some of its velocity as it was only ever designed to fire HESH rounds (HESH rounds are often seen as "low velocity"). Well these low velocity HESH rounds were still able to generate about 18 megajoules of kinetic energy.
"I say, you! Over there in the tank that looks like an inverted frying pan... Yes you! Want some low velocity HESH rounds delivered?"
The L4 was worked into the FV215 and there has been a great deal of misinformation floating about this tank in modern games. It could carry twenty rounds, of which twelve were ready rounds. The turret could rotate through 360 degrees but the gun was to be locked out and prevented from firing if the barrel passed forty five degrees of arc. However the gun could be fired when pointing backwards.
From the outset the army was lukewarm about the FV215. When the Malkara guided missile appeared on the scene they got behind the project with enthusiasm and dropped the L4 as soon as they could. Then the L11 120mm gun showed up and it had enough power to defeat the enemies armour and things settled down.

In the 70's people began to see armour once again getting better, and forecasts indicated that Russian tanks could get very scary. During the time when I was growing up a lot of writers and commentators pointed out how superior the Soviet armour was, going on about how invulnerable their tanks were (much like people do today in regards to the T-14), so once again the idea for the next generation of tank guns showed up. Of course after a few years we actually learned their armour was pretty poor. First on the scene was the 152mm for the MBT-70 project. Not much is known about this gun, but from little that is known is that it'd have produced a kinetic energy value similar to the 120mm L/44 smoothbore with its earliest variants of ammunition.
There's even less known about the gun that came next, it was 145mm joint US-German gun project hinted as the "Future Armament system" on one sketch. It occurred sometime about 1986. We do however know what it would have looked like as some models have survived.
The next gun to be developed was the 140mm FMBT gun, and is widely fitted to a whole host of tanks. It was a NATO standard weapon in many respects. The choice of 140mm wasn't as random as you might think, research shows that above 140mm the projectile is actually less efficient with that calibre being the optimum. Coming in two parts it had to be screwed together before use.  As you can see the sheer size of the rounds would have meant a autoloader was necessary, as it'd be like trying to load a small human into the breach with each round. The 140mm FMBT gun developed a whooping 20 megajoules of energy.
I got bored, and did some drawing, ably helped by Maddest. Who now wants me to add All of the shells ever made since 1945 to the diagram.
Finally we come onto modern times when the Germans announced that the 120mm was no longer good enough, and that presumably not enough power could be pulled from the gun to defeat current threats. Rheinmetall has designed the 130mm Main Gun Combat System. The MGCS is reported by Rheinmetall to have 50% more energy than their 120mm gun. However one has to be very careful about these sorts of claims as most companies sales teams are worse than the shadiest of used car salesman. An expert who has to deal with this sort of stuff professionally laughed at that figure and suggested its more likely to be around 40% at best. This would give the MCGS around about 15-17 megajoules of energy.
Classic German design, at its finest, draw a box around the gun and call it a Panzer! Then lie about its emissions.
Without a technological leap guns are going to have to become bigger if you want them to keep punching through enemy armour. However that will impose a series of big problems that modern western armies are reluctant to have on their tanks, such as limited ammunition and less crew. All things considered the immediate future of tank armament is looking very tumultuous.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mine Enemy

At the end of the war in Europe you had a devastated countryside littered with the debris of war which took some time to clear up. For an example a knocked out Elefant at Mittenwalde wasn't scrapped until the middle of 1947. However that wasn't anywhere near the level of the problem that the international community faced at sea. During the war years both sides had been laying mines into the ocean as fast as they could. Because of this, and the vital need for post war reconstruction, trade and fishing, all the major Allies including Russia joined forces to create a group to oversee the sweeping of mines. The world was divided up into areas and the naval forces of the area were combined and coordinated in an effort to clear the mines, with each local area having representatives of the countries with assets that could contribute.

Meanwhile the political stage was in even more turmoil than the land. One political storm was around Albania. None of the major Allies had entered Albania during the war, all recognised it post war, although the US did offer recognition with strings attached. Equally the Albanians were backing anti-Greek communist rebels immediately after the war, while the western Allies especially Britain, supported Greece. Both of these forced the western Allies to have some difficulty dealing with Albania politically, and eventually the Soviets would scoop them up into their sphere of influence.
HMS Orion
On the 15th of May 1946, at 0830 in the morning two British warships, HMS Orion and Superb (Minotaur and Leander class cruisers), were traversing the Corfu channel between Greece and Albania. As they neared the bay of Saranda, Albanian shore batteries began to fire at them. The fire proved utterly ineffective and caused no damage, apart from a diplomatic storm. Unsurprisingly the British objected strongly and wanted to know what was going on, and recalled their ambassador. The Albanians at first claimed the British ships hadn't been flying any flags and so were fired upon as a warning. This was somewhat undermined when they also claimed that they had ceased fire when they'd identified the Royal Navy Ensign on the ships and concluded that these were not Greek warships. The diplomatic argument ended with the warning that if the Royal Navy was fired upon again, they would fire back.

Later that year it was decided to test the issue. The Royal Navy would dispatch a small task force to navigate the channel to see if the Albanians would react to British ships exercising the right of innocent passage. Aircraft were put on standby to help should the incident escalate.
On 22nd of October at 1330, the ships HMS Mauritius (Crown Colony cruiser), HMNZS Leander (Leander cruiser), HMS Saumarez and HMS Volage (both destroyers) left Corfu harbour. The ships were deployed in pairs, with HMS Mauritius and HMS Saumarez leading, then a gap of about 3000 meters and the other two ships. All the ships were at action stations.
About 1445 the ships reached their closest point to the Albanian coast, there wasn't a hint of reaction from the shore and the ships began to move towards the open sea. Eight minutes later there was a massive explosion, just forward of the bridge, smashing a thirty foot hole in the side of HMS Saumarez. The ship's executive officer Teddy Gueritz* led the damage control parties forward, and saved more than a few men, and prevented the ship from sinking. However despite their best efforts thirty men were killed. The explosion had been caused by a mine.
HMS Saumarez after the mine hit
The Royal Navy had thought it was safe to operate in the waters as the area had been swept of mines in 1945, and the charts of the areas swept given to the Albanians. The Albanians didn't have any minesweeping or even mine laying ability themselves.
At this juncture a fast Albanian boat approached the damaged ship and her covering cruiser. Wary of any further attacks from the Albanians source they were turned away briskly. HMS Volage was brought up and took the damaged ship under tow. However as they proceeded at 1616 she too was hit by a mine, which blew her bow off. At this point two further ships were dispatched to assist in recovery operations from Corfu harbour. However HMS Volage running in reverse managed to re-secure the tow line, with the help of a leading signalman who'd had his jaw broken in the first explosion. Both ships entered Corfu harbour, in reverse at about midnight. The second explosion had claimed fourteen more dead, and about 42 were wounded across both ships.
HMS Volage after her mine hit
Unsurprisingly the British were rather miffed at this turn of events and on the 12th of November they showed up in force to patrol the area. Then the following day an even larger fleet containing ships of all sizes entered the area to sweep for mines. Although I've not yet been able to find a list of all ships involved in Operation Retail (google it, and you'll see why I couldn't find a ships list) the carrier HMS Ocean was on standby to provide cover. During the operation around 22 mines were found. Two were towed away for further analysis and the rest disposed of.
The mines were German GY types, freshly painted with grease on their anchor chains and no marine growth. Obviously they were brand new and must have been laid after the channel was first swept after the war. Comparison between fragments of casing recovered from the two damaged destroyers confirmed that these were the same type of weapons that had caused the casualties. As it turns out the Albanians, lacking the facilities to lay their own mines had invited Yugoslavia to lay them for them.
One of the recovered mines
Diplomatic relations deteriorated from there, and ended up in the International Court of Justice. The charges were violating the rite of innocent passage and the attack and killing of British service personnel. Against it the counter claim that the British violated territorial waters, and it wasn't the Albanians who laid the mines. In the end the ICJ ruled against Albania, pointing out that they might not have laid the mines, but they sure knew who had and gave them a fine of £843947. The Albanians were now worried, as Britain was looking after a large stock of Albanian gold recovered from the Germans who had stolen it from Rome in 1943. As diplomatic negations now broke down this gold sat in Britain until the mid-1990's when diplomatic relations were re-established and the Albanians agreed to pay the fine and got their gold returned.

*Present at the Battle of the River Plate, and was Beachmaster on D-day for Sword Beach. I thought I recognised his name as I wrote this. He was the chap who took command of Marine Burt, who I interviewed a few years back, and included his story in my first book, General War Stories. Its funny how you keep tripping over the same people by accident in history.

Image Credits:

Sunday, July 9, 2017

O Canada

I tend to write these articles a week in advance, and as it's now currently Canada Day, I figured I should finally do an article on a Canadian who I've had on my "to write about list" for some time. This Canadian wasn't about to say “I apologise” to anyone.

Born in 1921, Leo Major was of French descent. He had a bad relationship with his father, and in 1940 decided to join the army to show his father what he could do. His first action was storming ashore on D-Day, where he started as he meant to go on by capturing a Sdkfz 251 (some sources say it was a 251/22), however it soon looked like the war would be over for him when on D+2 he had his eye burned out by a white phosphorus grenade. Stating that "Doctors are fools" and "I only need one eye to aim straight." he declined to be evacuated and returned to duty wearing an eye patch, which he fancied made him look like a pirate.
His piratical activities continued in Holland, where he was out scouting for a patrol and a gaggle of new inexperienced soldiers both of which had gone missing. Sneaking forward he found himself in a ruined house and some distance away he could see a German position. Major crept silently towards the German position, for this reason he tended to wear plimsolls, instead of army issue boots. When he reached the German position he found that all the Germans were asleep, with no signs of any sentries. So he crept into the middle of the enemy held building finding a German officer sleeping in a chair with his back resting on a wall. Major abruptly woke the snoring German by slapping his hand over the officer's mouth and prodding him in the ribs with his Sten Gun. Much like Jack Churchill, Major was of the opinion that if you tell a German what to do firmly enough he'll obey. So he told the officer that they were all his prisoners, the dazed and surprised officer readily agreed and at Major's instance yelled at his men to wake up, and surrender. All but one soldier did so, the final solder began to raise his rifle, but Major beat him to the draw and shot him.
Major then took the surrender of the company of Germans, and began to march them back to friendly lines. On the way they came under fire from a group of Germans that had been woken by the noise from Major's Sten gun earlier. This fire killed a number of the prisoners. At this point a British Sherman approached, and the commander calmly asked if Major needed any help. Major said he was quite all right, but did ask the Sherman commander if he could deal with the Germans shooting at him, which the tank crew quickly did. Major was able to return to his lines with ninety three POW's.
Major still had some fight in him, and after a brief incident involving the Universal Carrier he was riding hitting a mine that caused Major to suffer four broken ribs, both ankles broken and his back broken in three places. Major then fled from hospital to avoid getting deported due to medical injuries. Major spent a month with some friends in the Dutch town of Nijmegen before rejoining his regiment.

The Canadian forces were now approaching the city of Zwolle, and lacked any information on its defences. So Major and one of his friends volunteered to "reconnoitre the town". About 2100 they left friendly lines, as they approached at about 2300, they ran into a German outpost and a brief fire fight erupted, leaving the Germans dead as well as Major's companion. Taking his colleagues Sten gun and spare grenades Major continued on into Zwolle, entering its outskirts about 0100.
Here Major found a German machinegun nest which he promptly attacked and destroyed. Then moving forward he captured a German staff car, forcing its driver to transport him he moved around the city attacking various locations, including setting the main Gestapo headquarters on fire. His actions convinced the Germans that a major Canadian assault was underway and they began to withdraw. In the early hours of the morning Major linked up with four local resistance fighters who arranged transport for him, on the way back he recovered the body of his friend killed at the German outpost, and returned to his lines about 0700. However seeing an approaching staff car the front line opened fire. Major halted and stood out in the open in plain sight until the Canadian troops realised their mistake and waved him forward.
Canadians in Zwolle during its liberation.
Major demobbed and returned to civilian life. He finally got his back operated on, and settled down to be a pipe fitter. However in 1950 the Korean War erupted and Major volunteered for active service again. As the ceasefire talks neared their end the Chinese decided to capture Hill 355, this was a prominent position between the Commonwealth division and the US positions. It, if captured, could force the Allies back across the Imjin River giving them some extra bargaining chips in the peace talks.
Chinese troops assaulting a hill in Korea.
After a period of bitter fighting the Chinese assault captured a nearby hill, which allowed them to flank Hill 355, and force the Canadians off their position. The Canadians only reserve was a scout platoon commanded by Major, he led the platoon out into no-man's land during the night, then began to creep up to the top of Hill 355 from the direction of the Chinese lines. Once all his men (almost universally armed with Sten guns) were in position they opened fire. Due to the surprise attack coming from the middle of their position the Chinese were routed, and by 0045 Leo Major was in control of Hill 355 again.

About 0200 the Chinese launched a counter attack, with overwhelming numbers and with the flanking hill laying down covering fire. Major was ordered to withdraw, but refused. He did allow his platoon to fall back to their only cover on the barren hill, a line of shell holes some 25 yards from the crest. There they set up and stayed, despite Chinese human wave attacks. Major called down mortars almost on top of his position to hold the Chinese away, the mortar tubes fired so fast they eventually warped their barrels. Through it all whenever the Chinese pressed their attack Major was seen to race to that location through all the fire and help his men in the area fight off the attack. Eventually the Chinese fell back, Major held his position for three days until finally relieved and then the ceasefire agreement came into force.

During his career Major was nominated for the Distinguished Conduct Medal three times, the first time (after capturing the ninety three POW's) he refused it. The other two times (Zwolle and Hill 355) he was awarded the medal. Major died in 2008 aged eighty seven.

Image credits:
www.zwolle40-45.nl and www.lonesentry.com

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Defending France

The commander of the S-35 tank, sits in his turret, peering out from his cupola, across the Seine River at Melun. His tank sits on a side street stretching up from the water front. Tucked up as close as he can to a house, above him a sign for Lu Lu Biscuits basks in the morning August sun. In front of him he can see the island in the middle of the Seine, and on it the prison. He can also make out the bridge on the other side of the island leading to the opposite shore. Somewhere on that shore are the invaders, who will soon show up to attack with devastating fury. To his left he knows there's at least one more S-35, and there are another three Souma's in the town as well.
But the tank commander is German, and the five S-35’s were captured four years earlier. Soon the Americans will arrive and the battle will commence.

Today there is some question of where the S-35's in Melun came from, as records haven't survived to tell the story. One theory is from Panzer Kompanie Paris which had responsibility for the area that Melun is in. That formation had at least twenty Panzerkampfwagen 35-S 739(f). Another idea is that the tanks may have belonged to Sicherungs-Regiment 1000 or 1010, both had seventeen Pzkpfw 739(f) and were fighting in the area. You can see video footage here of two of the 1010's Pzkpfw 739(f)'s being moved out the way.

The Americans late on that August were sweeping south of Paris, and Melun was chosen as one of the crossing points on the Seine. Despite minefields, a forest, sniper fire and skirmishes (on one occasion a bicycle infantry company was encountered and overrun) they were making decent time. Their progress was helped by the FFI who scouted such minefields and guided the Americans around the obstacles created by Germans and nature. Eventually about 1400 they reached a railway embankment and could see the river, and the intact bridge. Seizing their chance the Americans rushed forward without any preparation, hoping to launch a force across the bridge and seize it before it was demolished. However they met a withering hail of enemy fire. Crouching behind the parapets with tracers and cannon shells hurtling past them the US soldiers were forced to withdraw.
They then deployed the US Army's tremendous fire-power, three full batteries of artillery began to shell the German positions for thirty minutes, and the airstrikes were directed onto the German front lines. After this preparation bombardment the US tried another push. Again a hail of gunfire met them and the US forces couldn't make any headway. About 1800 they withdrew to prepare for a full assault the next day.

The next morning about 0800 a patrol was sent forward, as it approached the Germans blew the bridge showering the patrol with debris. With the destruction of the bridge the US forces facing Melun cancelled their attack and switched to a holding fight. Later on that afternoon an assault was launched over the river further south to outflank Melun. However during the 23rd the US forces facing Melun were not idle.
Late on the morning of of the 23rd the Corps commander arrived on the scene. He was unhappy with the inaction of the soldiers there and so he started ordering and planning an assault. At 1400 much to everyone's surprise a very wet Frenchman staggered up to the Americans. Mr Pasquier worked as a waiter on the other side of the Seine. He had swum across the river in broad daylight to speak to the Americans, as he feared they would obliterate his home town. Mr Pasquier had been an artillery officer in the French Reserves before the war and this was to prove very important. He was able to give rather precise information on the location of the Germans and their artillery units. The Americans put this to good effect, pasting them with a concentrated twenty minute bombardment. Then the US forces tried to push forwards again. It's at this point one of the US tanks is destroyed by enemy anti-tank fire, it may be that the Pzkpfw 739(f)'s were responsible.
The attack appeared to have some initial success. The troops found that the demolitions to the bridge were not as thorough as they might have been and infantry could at least cross to the island halfway across. They were ably helped by at least one Frenchman, a young man named Robert Hugot. He performed the task of an engineer, arriving with planks of wood that he began to lay to help the US soldiers cross. However he was hit and killed while carrying out this task.
Now with the US soldiers on the island they began securing it, in the process they cleared the prison, and released a number of unpleasant criminals who fled back to the Allied side, and had to be rounded up at the expenditure of some effort by the US forces. By 2000 the fighting had abated for the day, and a lucky rain storm helped quell the fires that were burning.

The next day the fighting began about 0630, and slowly got worse throughout the day. The Germans tried to emplace a machine gun in the church steeple, however it was quickly smashed down by US firepower. During the day the US forces tried to get information out of the French civilians by means of signals, however as the French were civilians they had no standard means of communication. Throughout the day at least three Frenchmen crossed the river, some under German fire to deliver information to the US forces, one even made a double crossing. Eventually the push from the south arrived and the outflanked Germans were surrounded and forced to retreat, with at least five of their tanks reported lost.
The church before...
...and after.

The numbers of tanks lost is curious as some sources give the number as twenty. Which would be roughly equal to the number of Pzkpfw 739(f) that Panzer Kompanie Paris had. However the after action reports from the units involved only say five tanks were captured. It maybe that some post war authors are mixing the total numbers of tanks in Pz.Kompanie Paris and applying that to the total losses from this battle. What is certain is that only two Pzkpfw 739(f) have been photographed.

Image credits:
www.larepublique77.fr and melun77.com

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Charging Stag

After the closure of the Falaise Pocket the Germans began to fall back from the Allies, and the pursuit across France began. The Germans did defend where possible, mainly leaving delaying forces so there was a line of skirmishes across France. The first major obstacle the Allies encountered was the Siene River, surprisingly the Allies managed to bridge this with some speed, despite some casualties, at several locations. At Elbeuf the Canadians bounced across on the 28th of August, despite the destruction of the original bridge.
 Over the next two days the Canadians began to push forward to pursue the Germans. However the Germans fortified every little hamlet they could as a delaying tactic to try and form a new front line. As a result of this, progress was slow. On the 30th of August the Canadian 4th Armoured was advancing, and leading them was the 18th Canadian Armoured Car Regiment. The Regiment was spread out along either side of the 4th Armoured’s line of advance, with small patrols, each consisting of a platoon of Staghounds up front, on their own and unsupported.
Their advance began well, driving forward all morning then about midday they hit trouble. First in trouble was B Squadron, in the centre of the screen. They ran into a battery of three PAK-40's and lost two armoured cars near Samonville.
D Squadron was deployed to the right of B squadron. French civilians told the advancing Canadians that the village of Denis-Thibault was clear of German forces, so a troop was sent forward. The first Staghound was destroyed by a concealed anti-tank gun and the rest of the troop was taken under a ferocious barrage of small arms fire from a large number of German infantry. In the following fire fight another Staghound was damaged and had to be abandoned.

Meanwhile "C squadron was advancing well, in particular 13 Troop led by Lieutenant W Liard. As they approached Bierville Lt Laird was in the lead with Sergeant Ross J Bell following him. Suddenly from a mere ten feet away a German appeared with a Panzerschreck and promptly destroyed Lt Laird's Staghound. Stuck on a narrow road with no way to turn about and with the ambushing German reloading his Panzerschreck, Sgt Bell had only one possible course of action. This was to blow through the German ambush and hope they didn't have a cut off group waiting for him. Accelerating as fast as the narrow lanes would let them, Sgt Bell's Staghound roared forward. That was the last his unit saw of him.
Sgt Bell's adventure had just begun, as his car raced forward Sgt Bell frantically looked for a way to turn around and return to friendly lines. However the narrow sunken road thwarted his efforts. They cannoned down the sunken road, at times reaching speeds of fifty to sixty miles per hour. As they rounded one bend they found themselves face to face with a column of infantry. The Germans were marching to the front unaware that Sgt Bell and his Staghound were in the area. The armoured car rocketed forwards ramming into the column of men at full speed with both Browning machine guns chattering. The car smashed the standing Germans down with its mass and hardly slowed. Like Sgt Bell, the German infantry were trapped in the sunken road. At the rear of the column were three anti-tank guns being hauled to support the infantry, again the speeding Staghound rammed these obstacles out of the way, smashing them and then they carried on along the road.

The Canadians continued deeper into occupied territory. The next corner held another surprise. A Tiger tank was moving forward, and its huge bulk blocked most of the road. But neither side fired. The Tiger politely pulled a little to the side in the road that was now slightly wider, allowing the Staghound to pass. Obviously the Germans inside the tank didn't realise the bloody and dented armoured car was hostile!
Now Sgt Bell found himself beyond Bierville and ducked into some cover on a slight rise to work out what to do next. It soon became obvious, he could see a horse drawn artillery column moving north east. The lone Staghound began to engage and shoot up the column. Horse drawn guns are horrifically vulnerable as that column found out. Sgt Bell estimated that he killed about seventy horses, with the only one to escape being the one ridden by the units commanding officer. In the midst of this battering from the Staghound the Germans did try to bring one of their pieces into action, but as they began to unlimber it Sgt Bell spotted the danger and quickly silenced it with his 37mm gun.
Decamping from this new battlefield Sgt Bell now found himself far behind enemy lines and almost out of ammunition. Luckily as he was wondering what to do next he was found by some Frenchmen, all carrying guns. These belonged to the Free French of the Interior (the FFI). These Frenchmen were able to shelter and feed the crew, and hide their Staghound overnight. The next morning Sgt Bell set about trying to rejoin C Squadron, a feat he achieved about 1030. He was immediately ordered back to RHQ to give a full debriefing, and he arrived about 1300.
Sgt Bell received the Military Medal for his actions.

Further pictures and images, including Lt Lairds Staghound, can be found here.

Image credits:
anzacsteel.hobbyvista.com, ww2live.com, www.diggerhistory.info and www.warwheels.net

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Old and New

During the run up to World War Two the Norwegian Army was woefully under equipped. This stemmed from pacifism and neutrality from competing sides of the political spectrum. So when war broke out Norway was in a precarious position relying on its weakened armed forces to enforce its neutrality. The Norwegian Army did start a massive recruitment campaign, however its weaponry and equipment was in a pretty bad state. Of course in 1940 the Germans dared to test Norway's armed forces by invading. There was a plan for a coup de main straight up the fjords to Oslo seizing the government, the Royal Family and the country's gold reserves. For this the brand new Admiral Hipper class heavy cruiser the Blücher was to carry some eight hundred men straight into the heart of Oslo. The captain of the Blücher was reported as saying that his main armament should be left in its travelling position because of his contempt for the Norwegians defences and their poor equipment. After all what could these antiques from the last century do against the most modern ship in the German Navy.
The Blücher
Just four days after the Blücher had been commissioned into service, on 8th of April 1940, just before midnight, she began to nose into the Fjords leading to Oslo. Accompanying her were a pair of other cruisers and a pair of minesweepers. The latter wasn't needed, as the minefields were due to be laid over the following weeks. All seemed to be going well for the Germans, until in the early hours they approached the town of Drøbak, and entered the sound that holds the town's name.
Oscarsborg fortress, the Germans would have been approaching from bottom right. You can see the main batteries on that side of the island.
Here lay the Fortress of Oscarsborg. Sitting in the middle of the sound the fortress was formed of two islands. One, the slightly larger, held several eleven inch guns. These guns were brand new in 1900. The state of the fortress manpower was just as bad. To man the guns there were 450 men. These were fresh recruits who had been conscripted just seven days earlier. This was also well below the strength needed to man the guns, and only two of the weapons could be crewed.
To lead these green troops was Colonel Birger Eriksen, who was aged 65. Col Eriksen had spent his entire life in the coastal artillery, and in just six short months would be retiring.
Col Eriksen
Just after 0400 the German flotilla was spotted by the Norwegian patrol boat Pol III, the Germans hit the patrol boat with a torpedo but not before the ship had raised the alarm. Hurrying to their positions the recruits made ready. Col Eriksen stared out at the flotilla of heavily armed ships sailing towards him. Not knowing whom they were, Col Eriksen faced a huge dilemma. Although neutral the Norwegians were closely aligned to the British. If these were British ships opening fire could cause huge ramifications, and with hostilities with Germany likely in the next few weeks then attacking an ally could leave Norway exposed. Another alternative could be that these ships were British and were coming in by invite of the government to thwart a German operation elsewhere. Col Eriksen had literally no clear information or orders.
But what if they were German?

At 0421 on the 9th of April 1940 Col Eriksen, under his own initiative ordered the guns fired. His subordinates were unsure of his actions and in the face of their isolation questioned the orders. At which point Col Eriksen issued his most famous quote: "Either I will be decorated, or I will be court-martialed. Fire!"
Two of the guns were fired at the largest ship in the approaching flotilla, the Blücher, at almost point blank range. What happened to the first shell is open to debate. Some sources say it hit near the forward turret, others that it hit the range finding gear near the bridge.
What isn't in doubt is where the second round hit. About amidships, just in front of the rear mast, some sources claim it penetrated the aircraft hangar. This shell started a massive fire that started to spread.
One of the Krupp 28cm guns, with over casemates in the background. During the action only three were loaded, and of those only two were fired.
That fact that the guns had live rounds loaded is surprising, the standard orders for the coastal batteries was to fire a blank round as a volley, and Col Eriksen is rumoured to have said "Damn straight we're firing live ammunition." He's also said to have used the logic that other forts further up the fjords would have fired blanks as warning shots and have been ignored, so that the ships had received their warning.

With her amidships ablaze the Blücher steamed forward. The flotilla engaged in a fierce gun battle with several smaller batteries of coastal guns. As she passed the island with the fortress on the Blücher towered over one of the smaller batteries on the mainland and silenced them with her secondaries which were able to fire down onto the Norwegian gunners.

The second smaller island that formed Oscarsborg Fortress didn't appear to hold any gun batteries, in fact it appeared to be deserted. It wasn't deserted, a subterranean bunker was built there, housing a torpedo launching system. Two tubes fed into the channel below the water line. This torpedo battery had lost its commander some weeks earlier to illness. Its new commander had been in charge of the battery previously until 1927, when he'd retired. Commander Andreas Anderssen had spent the last thirteen years in retirement living in Drøbak, the previous night he'd been summoned by Col Eriksen so had put on his old uniform and been brought across by boat. Now he was in charge of nine torpedoes. However these torpedoes were old. They were of the Whitehead type, first developed in 1866 and were the first self-propelled torpedoes as we'd recognise them (previously "torpedoes" had been the term for what we'd currently call "mines". Remember the quote "All ahead full and damn the torpedoes!" He was actually referring to a mine field). Some sources say these torpedoes were manufactured about 1900.
Whitehead Torpedo in 1888.
Two were launched from the submerged tubes again aimed at the blazing Blücher, both hit, knocking out all but one of the ship's boilers. Now limping badly the Blücher continued forward and anchored out of the arc of fire for the defenders. Here she was able to try and fight the fires. Meanwhile the rest of the flotilla withdrew, fearing that the two torpedo hits were actually part of a minefield.
About 0530 the raging fires reached the Blücher's magazine for its 105mm flak guns, which promptly detonated causing massive internal damage, and rupturing the fuel bunkers flooding the ship with even more flammables, which also caught fire. At 0622 the Blücher began to sink bow first, before turning turtle.
A series of shots of the demise of the Blücher.
The halting of the flotilla meant that the Royal Family and government was able to evacuate to England, along with the gold reserves first being moved to another part of Norway and then to the UK. This meant the Free Norwegian movement was able to continue fighting alongside the Allies. With all the information and support that the movement was able to give to the Allies, they played a vital role in the rest of the war. This included assisting in the destruction of Bismark and Tirpitz and the destruction and sabotage of the German Heavy Water program.

Image Credits: