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A Century at La Citadelle

The Canadian Army’s Royal 22e Régiment, the Van Doos, dates back to 1869 and today they are the only French-speaking Regiment of the Regular Force. Make no mistake about blue flannel-wearing “Jon Paul” Quebecois jokes, the Van Doos are legit, especially when it comes to cold weather ops.

A snow-camo’d member of 3e Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment standing watch in front of a barn during Exercise RAFALE BLANCHE in St Sylvestre, Québec on February 3, 2014. Note his C7 with Elcan sight

In 1919, after returning with 21 Battle Honours from a very serious tour on the Western Front during the Great War, the unit was barracked in metropolitan Quebec.

On 22 May 1920, the Van Doos moved into the City’s historic Citadelle on Cap Diamant, the site of fortifications protecting the city going back to 1608.

This place

This month the Regiment celebrates its 100th year in residence, which remains a functioning military installation as well as an official residence for the Monarch– the Queen is their Colonel-in-Chief– as well as being the typical summer home of Canada’s Governor General.

In such official public duty at the Citadelle, with the site entertaining a quarter-million visiting tourists each year, the Van Doos wear the familiar scarlet uniforms and bearskin caps of British Foot Guards regiments.

They earned them, having stood post at St. James and Buckingham in 1940, during the Blitz, the first French-speaking unit to do so. In that gig, they wore standard kit, down to gas masks, and charged SMLEs.

Their traditional mascot, Batisse, is a goat, and their motto is Je me souviens, (I remember).

The reports of Chung Hai’s demise have been premature

During World War II, the 50-ship-strong LST-491 class of tank landing ships, and the hundreds of follow-on LST-542-class near-sisters, proved both effective and remarkably versatile. Some 3,640-tons, these 328-foot vessels could shelp a full-strength infantry company or between 1600 and 1900 tons of cargo, landing them directly to the beach while launching landing craft from their davits to lead the way.

Over time, they served not only as amphibious warfare ships but also mini “L-Bird” aircraft carriers, repair ships, PT-boat tenders, minesweeper support craft, and ersatz ambulances.

USS LST-755, built by the American Bridge Co., Ambridge, PA, was commissioned in August 1944 and would spend 1945 earning her stripes in the Lingayen Gulf and Mindanao landings in the liberation of the Philippines.

After a stint in occupation duty, LST-755, along with her sisters, passed into mothballs in 1946.

By 1948, LST-755 was stricken and passed over to the Republic of China (Taiwan) as the ROCS Chung Hai (LST-201).

Chung Hai would serve Taiwan for over 60 years, and would account for a Chicom patrol boat in a 1958 surface action

She would be joined by more than 30 sisters and, over the course of an amazing second career with the ROCN, steamed 75,126hrs and 556,728nms before she was retired in 2010.

Over the past decade, it was thought she would be retained as a museum ship but the plans repeatedly fell through.

The ship was sold for scrapping, 19 May 2020 after bidding for NT$14 Million according to United Daily News. In poor condition after 76 years afloat, she was reportedly slowly taking in water and sinking.

However, as reported by local media: 

The sale drew condemnation from historians and military enthusiasts who saw the ship as an important cultural heritage artifact.

Even the scrap dealer was concerned about the backlash of public opinion if he were to dismantle the ship.

The navy then decided to postpone signing the sales contract with the winning bidder for one month, while relevant government agencies come up with a plan to possibly keep and restore the ship as an historic monument.

The Kinmen County Government issued a press release earlier this evening saying that it is coordinating with the Ministry of Defense to seek an alternative solutions, and to preserve “this important historical asset.”

Warship Wednesday, May 27, 2020: The Showboat and the Speedboats

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 27, 2020: The Showboat and the Speedboats

Photograph by Walter E. Frost, City of Vancouver Archives Photo No. 447-2863.1

Here we see the lead ship of her class of “treaty-era” heavy cruisers, HMS York (90) looming out of the fog in Vancouver, British Columbia, 10 August 1938.

Sometimes referred to as the “Cathedral” class cruisers, York and her near-sister HMS Exeter (68) were essentially cheaper versions of the Royal Navy’s baker’s dozen County-class cruisers, the latter of which were already under-protected to keep them beneath the arbitrary 10,000-ton limit imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. Weighing in at 8,250-tons, the Yorks were intended not for fleet action but for the role of sitting on an overseas station and chasing down enemy commerce raiders in the event of war.

York mounted six 8″/50 (20.3 cm) Mark VIII guns in three twin Mark II mounts. Fairly capable guns, they could fire a 256-pound SAP shell out past 30,000 yards at a (theoretical) rate of up to six rounds per gun per minute. Importantly, they carried 172 rounds per gun, up from the 125-150 carried by the preceding County-class, a factor which allowed a slightly longer engagement time before running empty.

Bow turrets of HMS York. Photograph by Mrs. Josephine Burston, via Navweaps

Notably, Exeter was completed with the same main gun but in Mark II* mounts, which allowed for a shallower 50-degree elevation. That vessel also had a slightly different arrangement for her funnels and masts, giving her a distinctive profile.. (A 3553) HMS EXETER. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205137940

Rounding out the cruisers’ offensive armament was a half-dozen deck-mounted 21-inch torpedo tubes and a battery of DP 4-inch guns and Vickers machine guns to ward off aircraft, the latter of which was apparently never installed. Built with overseas service in mind, they could cover 10,000nm at 14 knots. Able to achieve 32.3-knots due to having 80,000-shp via Parsons geared steam turbines, they sacrificed armor protection for speed and magazine space, with just 1-inch of steel on their turrets and a belt that was just 3-inches at its thickest.

As noted by Richard Worth in his excellent tome, Fleets of World War II:

In trimming down the County layout, designers managed to retain several features, though sea keeping suffered. Protection also received low priority; the armor scheme (similar in proportion to the County type) included some advances, but all in all, the Yorks seemed even more vulnerable, especially in the machinery spaces.

Ordered 1926 Build Programme, York was the ninth such RN vessel to carry the name since 1654 and was constructed at Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Jarrow. Commissioned 1 May 1930, she was a striking vessel for her age. A true peacetime cruiser.

British Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS York (90) secured to a buoy 1930 IWM FL 4185

York’s motto was Bon Espoir (“Good Hope”) borrowed from Edmund Langley, First Duke of York, and she exemplified that for her early career.

For the next decade she would embark on a series of “waving the flag” port visits around the globe as she shifted between North America and West Indies Station to the Mediterranean Fleet. A beautiful ship, she was often the subject of amazing period photos and newsreel footage.

She would log 61,000 miles at sea between November 1936 and April 1939 alone, as ably told by Robert John Terry on his website.

A British man of war at Washington, D.C. H.M.S. York, the flagship of the British West Indian Fleet, docks at the Navy Yard at Washington, D.C. She brought Vice Admiral, the Hon. Sir Matthew R. Best, K.C.B., D.S.O., M.V.O., R.N., to Washington where he will be the guest of honor at a round of social functions, 30 October 1935. Harris & Ewing photo in LOC collection.

The same day, with bluejackets inspecting the British man-o-war from the Navy Yard docks. Note her Fairey IIIF floatplane, an anemic biplane that dated back to the Great War. LOC Photo.

Same day. This photograph was made from the deck of the USS Sequoia, the yacht used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. LOC Photo.

HMS York in the port of Montreal 20 June 1937 via the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Vieux-Montréal, photo P48S1P01697

“Picking up the Plane at 20 MPH.” Note her 4-inch DP gun in the foreground. The new Supermarine Walrus floatplane was picked up in late 1936. As noted by Leo Marriot, in his book, Catapult Aircraft: Seaplanes That Flew From Ships Without Flight Decks, “By no stretch of the imagination could the Walrus be considered a graceful aircraft and it was universally and affectionally known as the ‘Shagbat.'” Photo via Robert John Terry’s excellent galleries on HMS York https://sites.google.com/site/robertjohnterry/hms-york-gallery-2

HMS York Anchored St Lucia, Walrus on deck. Photo via Robert John Terry’s excellent galleries on HMS York https://sites.google.com/site/robertjohnterry/hms-york-gallery-2

HMS York entering Havana, Cuba, with the historic Morro Castle in the background, 14 January 1938. Created from personal photograph in the collection of RN CPO(Tel) George A (“Art”) Browness, “Sparks” (Wireless Telegraphist) onboard HMS York, by Ian Browness, his son. Via Wikimedia Commons

In the summer of 1939, York would receive a new skipper that would see her throughout the war, CAPT Reginald Henry Portal, DSC, RN, a naval aviator turned surface warfare officer who earned his DSC in 1916, “For conspicuous gallantry during a combat with an enemy aeroplane in the Dardanelles.”

CAPT Reginald Henry Portal by Walter Stoneman, bromide print, January 1943, NPG x164616

Deployed with the 8th Cruiser Squadron on the America and West Indies Station when Hitler marched into Poland in 1939, York made for Halifax and by 15 September was escorting convoys going across the Atlantic from Canada to Europe. Before the end of the year, she would be a part of a half-dozen Halifax (HX) convoys, keeping an eye peeled for German raiders.

York with her warpaint on

By February 1940, she was reassigned to 1st Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, and worked with the Northern Patrol looking for Axis blockade runners trying to make it back to the Fatherland. With a degree of success in the latter, she sent the 3,359-ton German freighter Arucas to the bottom of the Atlantic off Iceland on 3 March.

HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) intercepts the German passenger ship Arucas, via U-boat.net

HMS York (Capt. R.H. Portal, DSC, RN) intercepts the German passenger ship Arucas, via U-boat.net

April through June saw her extensively involved in the Norway campaign from supporting landings at Andalsnes to the evacuation of Narvik.

Transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in August, she ran the gauntlet from Alexandria to Gibraltar for the next several months, escorting UK-to-Egypt troopship convoys, and often brushing up against the Italian fleet. Once such instance found York stumbling upon the Italian Soldati-class destroyer Artigliere, stopped, and on fire after the Battle of Cape Passero on the morning of 12 October.

Artigliere struck her flag, cleared her crew, and was promptly finished off by a brace of torpedoes from York.

The Italian destroyer Artigliere is finished by torpedoes from HMS York at 9.05 on the morning of October 12th, 1940, after the battle of Cape Passero. The ship’s stern ammunition magazines explode after the torpedo hit. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A lucky ship thus far in the war, York screened the carrier HMS Illustrious during the famous Operation Judgement airstrikes on Italian Fleet at Taranto and increasingly became a player in the actions off Crete, as well as keeping the supply lines open to Malta. This saw her in 1941 start to fend off sustained air attacks by German aircraft.

In March, she took part in Operation Lustre, the move of Allied troops from Egypt to Greece, shepherding fast 3-day convoys from Alexandria to Piraeus. This left her in Suda Bay, Crete with the bulk of the Mediterranean Fleet cruiser force, safely behind a triple torpedo net array that left her impervious to attack from the sea.

Enter Xª Flottiglia MAS

On the night of 25/26 March, the old Italian destroyers Francesco Crispi and Quintino Sella hove to some 10 miles out from Suda Bay. Using special cranes, they deployed LT (Tenente di Vascello) Luigi Faggioni of the 10th MAS Flotilla and his five shipmates. Faggioni & Company each helmed an 18-foot Motoscafo da Turismo (Modified Tourism Motorboat).

The MTs, 18-foot long boats powered by a 95-hp Alfa Romeo AR outboard motor, could make 33-knots while floating in just a few inches of water– shallow enough to jump over torpedo nets.

With the single boat operator hanging 10 off the end of the MT, the bow of the vessel was filled with a 660-pound high-explosive warhead that could be rigged to either detonate on impact or detached and allowed to sink alongside a target for a later, timed, explosion.

Not intended to be a suicide craft, akin to the Japanese Shinyo/Maru-ni, the operator ideally would bail out over the back of the boat on the final leg of the attack run, and paddle to safety on their backrest which, predating today’s air travel briefing, doubled as a flotation device.

To make a long story short three MT boats managed to penetrate the harbor and braved the near-freezing water to make the final attack just before dawn. Two boats, piloted by future admiral Angelo Cabrini and petty officer Tullio Tedeschi, hit York’s portside– although it should be noted that numerous wartime reports are that just one boat struck the British cruiser. The third boat, piloted by Emilio Barberi, hit the 8,324-ton Norwegian tanker Pericles. Faggioni’s boat hit a pier.

The 1954 Dino De Laurentiis action film, Siluri umani, released as “Human Torpedoes” in English-speaking markets, highlighted the MTMs of Xª Flottiglia MAS and the Suda Bay raid.

The highly dramatized meat and potatoes of the raid starts at about the 1:16 mark

York, crippled, was beached with two of her crew dead, five men injured, and most of her below deck machinery spaces full of water.

The British continued to use York as a AAA battery for another two months with her hull resting on the bottom of the Bay as her engineering gang tried to pump out and shore up her spaces in the hope of putting to sea for Alexandria and more repairs.

To provide power to her ship’s systems, the submarine HMS Rover tied up alongside and arranged electrical lines enough to work the big ship’s guns and communications. This, however, left her in a fixed position in an increasingly German part of the globe, which left her a target.

Various sources list a range of German air attacks by JU-88 bombers on 12, 21, 22, and 24 April– two of which caused further damage to the ship– with one such raid leaving a pair of divers working over the side on her broken hull dead from a near miss.

At the same time, some of the ship’s company were detailed to provide beach parties for the evacuation of Greece.

On 18 May, the party was over and York was hit and seriously damaged by a German JU-87 dive-bomber attack, ending her usefulness, at the time the largest surface ship chalked up by Stuka pilots (Hans-Ulrich Rudel would later be able to claim a kill on the Great War-era Soviet Battleship Marat/ex- Petropavlovsk in Leningrad in November).

With the endgame in Crete being written and the German airborne invasion starting on the 20th, York was abandoned and blown up in place on the 22nd, her remaining crew withdrawn to Egypt where the understrength Mediterranean Fleet was licking their wounds.

The hype

By June, the Italians outnumbered the British in the Eastern Med four operational battleships to two and with 11 cruisers stacked up against three, nonetheless, this would soon be rectified by coming events after December.

Sir Henry, York’s skipper, would go on to become commander of the battleship Royal Sovereign, serve as an ADC to King George VI, become a member of the Bath in 1946, and retire as an admiral in 1951.

As a result of her damage from the Luftwaffe, the Germans claimed to have destroyed York in battle for the remainder of the war, although the Italian Navy cited their own MTM attack as her principal method of death. Half a dozen of one, six of the other, I suppose.

Both countries circulated images of her smashed hull and deck spaces for their own purposes.

Epilogue

After the war, the rusty hulk of York was raised and towed to Bari, where it was scrapped by an Italian shipbreaker in March 1952.

Her boat badge is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London

She was also remembered in maritime art and several scale model companies over the years have recreated her in plastic.

Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Her only sister, Exeter, would famously go toe-to-toe with the “pocket battleship” KMS Adm. Graf Spee in December 1939 and be left nearly crippled after seven 11.1-inch shells found a home in her spaces. Patched up, she would be sunk at the Java Sea by 8-inch Japanese shells in 1942.

York’s name was recycled in 1981 for a new Batch III Type 42 Destroyer, HMS York (D98), the last of her class. She was decommissioned in 2012 after more than three decades of hard service to the Crown and is the 12th in an exceptionally long line of HMS Yorks.

Type 42 Destroyer, HMS York (D98) making a turn on her 2005 Far East deployment. MOD Photo 45145563 by LA(Phot) Kelly Whybrow. She was broken up in Turkey in 2015, and the name “York” has not appeared on the RN List since.

As for the MTM drivers, the six Italian frogmen were picked up floating around Souda Bay by the British, and kept as POWs until after the Italian armistice in 1944 although they would be decorated in absentia with the Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare, Italy’s highest military honor. Faggioni would become an admiral, working with COMSUBIN commandos after the war, and died in 1991.

Likewise, Cabrini and Tedeschi would later lend their names to a class of high-speed multipurpose patrol boats for the modern Italian Navy, intended to carry frogmen on deeds of daring-do.

Tullio Tedeschi was launched in 2019 by Tullio Tedeschi’s daughter, Rosangela Tedeschi.

The Angelo Cabrini-class patrol boat, Tullio Tedeschi (P421). Some 144-feet oal, they can carry a team of 20 commandos at speeds up to 50 knots

Specs:

1932 Jane’s listing. Both ships of her class would be gone from Janes by 1942

Displacement:
8,250 long tons (8,380 t) (standard)
10,620 long tons (10,790 t) (deep load)
Length: 575 ft
Beam: 57 ft
Draught: 20 ft 3 in
Propulsion: 8 Admiralty 3-drum boilers, Parsons geared steam turbines, 4 shafts 80,000 shp
Speed: 32.25 knots
Range: 10,000 nmi at 14 knots
Complement:628
Armor:
Belt: 3 in
Decks: 1.5 in
Barbettes: 1 in
Turrets: 1 in
Bulkheads: 3.5 in
Magazines: 3–4.375 in
Aircraft: FIVH style catapult, one Fairey IIIF seaplane (1930-) Walrus flying boat (1936-)
Armament:
3 × twin 8-inch (203 mm) guns
4 × single QF 4-inch (102 mm) anti-aircraft (AA) guns
2 × single 2-pounder (40 mm) AA guns
2 × triple 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

The last measure of the House of Hohenzollern, 80 years ago today

Note this official Christmas card of Kaiser Wilhelm II sent to Hugh, 5th Earl of Lonsdale in 1910. The card features a portrait of the Kaiser with his first grandson Wilhelm, eldest son of the Kaiser’s heir, Crown Prince Wilhelm. The card bears the Kaiser’s handwritten greetings in English.

IWMHU68361

Although the Kaiser fled his country for exile in Holland in November 1918 and never returned to Germany, a number of his sons and grandsons remained in the Vaterland, often falling back on the “family business” of becoming Army officers.

While the Crown Prince had nominally led an Army Group in the Great War (and was held by the French as a war criminal because of it in 1945), he was blackballed and kept under close Gestapo surveillance after 1933, lest he would go on to inspire monarchists.

Ironically, the Crown Prince’s brother, Prince August Wilhelm, was allowed to serve in the SA, reaching the rank of SA-Obergruppenführer. Another brother, Prince Oskar, who had been wounded twice in the great war, was allowed to join the Wehrmacht as a “Generalmajor zur Verfügung” (Major general, unassigned). Prince Louis Ferdinand, an aviation buff, flew in the recently-restored Luftwaffe.

Further, two of the Crown Prince’s sons, Prince Hubertus– who joined the Wehrmacht in 1934 and served as an officer in the 8th Infantry Regiment– and Prince Wilhelm, the young boy seen with his grandfather at the top, saw line service in WWII. Tragically, their first cousin, Prince Oskar’s son, Prince Oskar Wilhelm Karl Hans Kuno, was killed as a lieutenant in the opening act of the conflict on 5 September 1939 at Widawka in Poland, aged 24.

Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, the former Kaiser’s favorite grandson and the former Crown Prince’s no. 1 son, died of wounds in a field hospital in Nivelles on 26 May 1940, aged 33. At the time, he was an Oberleutnant der Reserve in Kleffel’s 1. Infanterie-Division, serving as a company commander in the elite 1st Regiment.

The high profile of his death, and that of Prince Oskar Wilhelm’s death in Poland the previous September, led Hitler to issue the so-called Prinzenerlass, or “princes’ decree” which removed all of the remaining Hohenzollerns from the German military.

Nonetheless, they would not be the last of their line to die for Germany.

In 1977, Prince Louis Ferdinand Oskar Christian of Prussia, grandson of the Crown Prince and great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, was killed while on maneuvers with the Bundeswehr, which he had joined in 1967 as a reserve officer. He was 33.

Remember, today is not about saving (up to) 40 percent on select items

It’s a small plot of land that’s never left unguarded. The Sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are a small and exclusive group. They stand their post 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the weather. Hear the Sentinel’s Creed and you’ll know why. DOD video edited by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jared Bunn

Museum ships hanging out their shingles again. Others may hang it up

Sadly, as a side effect of the worldwide economic crisis sparked by the COVID 19 response and the extended shutdowns in some areas, it is estimated that one in eight museums currently closed will never reopen.

While not quite a descent into the Dark Ages just yet, that is still a big blow if you think about it. For instance, the Historic Naval Ships Association (HNSA) counts nearly 200 vessels in their “fleet,” which simple math would lead you to deduce that at least 16 will no longer be viable at the end of this crisis, a figure that in reality could be much higher as some museums have numerous ships.

For sure, with everyone sheltering in place, there are no visitors, the key to any museum’s survival. Ships located in states/countries with very strict lockdown seemingly extended forever are surely under the gun.

Last month the Mystic Seaport Museum closed and laid off 199 employees, with no date on the horizon to reopen. At the USS New Jersey (BB62) Museum, with the termination of visitors, and withheld funds from the State of New Jersey, ship managers are almost out of money to maintain the historic Iowa-class battlewagon, the only one that fought in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.

Everett, Washington’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, originally established by Paul Allen, announced, “The current global situation is making it difficult for us to serve our mission and we will spend the months ahead reassessing if, how, and when to reopen.”

How long can large, aging ships located in areas like New York City (USS Intrepid) and San Diego (USS Midway) survive if everything stays shut down in those areas with no expected relaxation of the lockdown rules in the near future?

With all that being said, many vessels have taken advantage of the past couple of months to restore compartments and areas that have long been neglected due to offering 364 days of yearly access to the public.

For instance, check out the USS Alabama/USS Drum‘s social media pages which have detailed an extensive before-and-after restoration of several areas of both the battleship and submarine. They even removed the 30+ planes from the Aircraft Pavilion for deep scrubbing.

USS Alabama’s recently restored sickbay

The Alabama Battleship Memorial Park will open to the public on Saturday morning, May 23, at 8:00 a.m., with new social distancing and hygiene standards in place. The Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, home of the USS Razorback (SS-394), opened on May 22.

Likewise, the USS North Carolina Museum is opening on Tuesday, and Patriot’s Point in South Carolina is reopening Friday.

Hopefully they are the first of many.

Bumping into Dad’s Army in the local pub

The Royal Armouries this week posted a great 6-minute short film. Shot from the first-person perspective, the viewer bumps into a shotgun-equipped Local Defense Volunteer– soon to be a Home Guardsman– in late 1940.

It is pretty informative, and entertaining.

Enjoy.

If you like the above, the National Army Museum has also been doing a similar program as part of the 75th VE Day Festival.

Check out this detail of the 1940s Tommy’s marching kit.

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