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Back when the RN had more than one flattop

RN Fleet Air Arm carrier planes, 1944. Nearest to farthest is a Seafire (marinized Spitfire), Corsair, Martlet (Wildcat), two Barracuda to the right, aircraft at the end is a Firefly and a Sea Hurricane facing the camera. Photo was taken at RNAS training facility a Royal Navy mechanics school in the Midlands.

During WWII, the Royal Navy saw the writing on the wall in the respect that, to remain a first-rate naval power with a global reach, it needed a fleet of modern aircraft carriers. Entering the war in 1939 with three 27,000-ton Courageous-class carriers converted from battlecruiser hulls, the 22,000 ton battleship-hulled HMS Eagle, the unique 27,000-ton Ark Royal, and the tiny 13,000-ton HMS Hermes (pennant 95, the world’s first ship to be designed as an aircraft carrier)– a total of just six flattops, within the first couple years of the war 5/6th of these were sent to the bottom by Axis warships and aircraft!

Luckily, two 32,000-ton Implacable-class and four 23,000-ton Illustrious-class carriers, laid down before the war, were able to join the fleet to help make good those losses until the first of 16 planned follow-on Colossus-class light fleet carriers, a quartet of 35,000-ton Audacious-class, four Malta-class supercarriers (57,000-tons), and 8 planned Centaur-class carriers could be built (although most weren’t)– not to mention 45 escort carriers quickly folded into service– hence the wide array of comprehensive carrier-based strike and fighter aircraft seen above.

An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age

Check out this beautifully etched 1796 Pattern Light Cavalry Officer’s Sabre from British service in the Napoleonic-era up for auction.

From Bonhams:

The blade bright over a third of its length to the point, the forte etched and gilt against a blued ground on one side with a cherub bearing the maker’s details on a banner, a martial trophy, post 1801 royal arms and Union foliage, and on the other a horse amid foliage, a cavalryman firing his pistol, crowned ‘GR’ cypher within a garland, and a design of foliage, regulation steel hilt retaining its buff leather tassel, and wire-bound leather-covered grip (leather with minor damage), in original steel scabbard with two rings for suspension, the throat on one side engraved with maker’s details in an oval (some light rust patination)

Topeka’s Terriers looking for turkey, 56 years ago today

Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Catalog #: KN-3632

This image, shows the converted light cruiser USS Topeka (CLG-8) firing a Terrier guided-missile on 18 November 1961, during weapons demonstrations for the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral George W. Anderson, a week before Thanksgiving. Photographed from on board USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). Planes preparing for launch on the carrier’s flight deck are a F8U Crusader jet fighter, at left, and an AD-6 Skyraider attack plane (Bureau # 137588), in the lower center.

While probably not aiming at Thanksgiving dinner, Topeka was known for warming up some VC and NVA on occasion.

USS Topeka (CLG-8) fires her forward turret’s 6/47 guns at the Viet Cong, while steaming slowly in the South China Sea on an in-shore fire support mission, April 1966. Official U.S. Navy Photograph. Catalog #: K-31264

The story of the ghost of Mobile Bay, and her robot crew

The ex-USS Shadwell (LSD-15) is a 7,300-ton, 457-foot gator– the last member of the 19-ship Casa-Grande-class dock landing ships. Commissioned in 1944, she was hit by a torpedo and downed a kamikaze in WWII. She was part of the Third Fleet in Tokyo Bay, Japan, on that fateful day in September 1945 when the war concluded.

In better days, USS SHADWELL (LSD-15) Mediterranean Sea, June 1968 NHC Catalog K-51142

After more than 25-years faithful service around the world, she was on 9 March 1970, placed out of commission, and mothballed. In 1976 her name was stricken from the Navy List and she was a warship no more.

However, the Navy Research Lab’s Navy Technology Center for Safety and Survivability’s Shipboard Fire Scaling Section operates and maintains Shadwell as the Navy’s full-scale “Real Scale” Damage Control Facility dedicated to integrated Research, Development, Test and Evaluation studies on active and passive fire protection, flooding and chemical (simulants) defense for the past 30 years. As such, she has been renovated and instrumented to a degree that her builders never imagined.

The Naval Research Laboratory’s ex-USS Shadwell is a decommissioned U.S. Navy Landing Ship Dock that serves as the Navy’s full-scale damage control research, development, test and evaluation platform. Moored in Mobile Bay, Ala., the ship is regularly set ablaze in controlled demonstrations to test firefighting technologies, tactics and procedures and damage control practices to improve the safety of operational Navy and civilian shipboard firefighting measures. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Among the high-tech systems, the ship has been a testbed for is Virginia Tech’s SAFFiR robotic firefighter built for ONR.

The Office of Naval Research-sponsored Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) undergoes testing aboard the Naval Research Laboratory’s ex-USS Shadwell located in Mobile, Ala. SAFFiR is a bipedal humanoid robot being developed to assist Sailors with damage control and inspection operations aboard naval vessels. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

Based in Mobile Bay since 1988, she is currently on the disposal list.

Shadwell is to be dismantled in place and all fire testing will be shifted to land-based facilities located at NRLs 168-acre Chesapeake Beach Detachment.

Below is an All Hands video of her from 2015, highlighting some of what made her so special.

A trophy Sterling-Patchett, with an interesting back story

The Sterling-Patchett Mk 5 was a silenced version of the Sterling Submachine-gun. The modification was the work of George Patchett, who had originally designed the Sterling itself. The Mk 5 was adopted by the British armed forces as the Gun, Sub-machine, 9mm L34A1.

This is the commercially sold version with a “crinkle” finish, which featured a wooden foregrip to protect the firer’s hand from the integral suppressor unit, which became hot from the propellant gas which vented into it upon firing:

Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

This particular gun was captured from Argentinian forces during the 1982 Falklands Conflict by the British Army in June 1982 along with 20,000~ other sundry surrendered arms. It was issued (along with standard versions of the Sterling SMG) to the Argentine Marines, and was most notably used by their assault commandos – the Buzos Tacticos – during the initial stages of the Argentine invasion.

These Royal Marines of Naval Party 8901, seen outside of Government House during the Argentine invasion, would later return to the Falklands as part of 42 Commando and settle scores, being the first unit to raise the Union Jack at the compound.

Farewell, Paladin

Once described as being a product of the “most dangerous publisher in the world,” the Boulder, Colorado-based media house and distributor is closing its doors at the end of the year.

As noted on the company’s website, Paladin is shuttering following the death earlier this year of their co-founder and publisher, Peder Lund, and is selling off remaining inventory at greatly reduced prices. Over the decades, Paladin has marketed 800 how-to books and videos on topics like self-defense, firearms, martial arts, and survival as part of its Professional Action Library. Some are downright hokey, but others are very valuable texts, especially those on military history.

“There will be no more books or videos sold after November 29, 2017,” the company’s website says. “We are incredibly grateful to all of our amazing customers and authors for their continued loyalty and support over the decades.”

I ordered a mystery crate of 50 titles for $50 as well as a few classic volumes that I didn’t have hard copies of for basically chump change. For example, they have Maj. John L. Plaster’s excellent work on Great War snipers, which just came out and has a $40 MSRP, on sale for $6 measly dollars.

You are welcome!

Goodbye and good riddance!

So it looks like the Zimbabwe bogeyman, Mugabe and his wife, has been replaced in a coup that officially isn’t one.

Can you believe this guy has been in power since 1980? And thought it would be cool that his batshit wife inherits the throne? Yikes.

Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo of the 30,000-strong ZDF appeared on state-run TV and said, in his best Mars Attacks address to Congress, that all is going perfectly well.

This came as the BBC reported that “Heavy gun and artillery fire could be heard in northern parts of the capital Harare early on Wednesday.”

As a side note, I always did like the Belgian and later Rhodesian “brushtroke” pattern camo, though the ZDF uses a gently modified version of it today.

But they still use it…

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