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Hobo’s Funnies

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The MoD has a great write up on Major General Sir Percy Cleghorn Stanley Hobart KBE, CB, DSO, MC– best known as “Hobo” — one of the most unsung generals of WWII.

In the dark days of late summer 1940, the recently elected Prime Minister, Winston Churchill directed the Army to reinstate one of its most effective, innovative and outspoken former senior officers. This man had led the British development of armoured tactics in the 1930s, but in 1939 he was sacked and found himself employed as a Corporal in the Chipping Campden Home Guard (armed with a piece of drainpipe with a bayonet welded to its end!).

But in October, Churchill summoned this 55-year-old corporal for lunch…and reinstated him as a General. He would go on to raise and train the largest Division to fight in Europe. He was Major General Sir Percy Hobart; possibly the most overlooked British General of the Second World War, whose legacy in military thought, innovation and leadership remains alive and well in today’s British Army.

More here

A battered relic of Saipan

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Japanese Arisaka Type 99 7.7x58mm bolt action rifle with grenade damage and inscribed presentation plaque captured at Saipan 16 June 1944. The “mum” is present on the receiver, a rarity in an of itself. This rifle recently came up at auction with an estimated price of $1,500.

Via Rock Island Auction

The right side of the buttstock has a small brass plaque that reads “AT 0440 ON THE MORNING OF 16 JUNE 1944,/AN AMERICAN INFANTRYMAN JUST LANDING/ON THE SHORES OF CHARAN-KANOA BEACH,/SAIPAN, THREW A HAND GRENADE AT A/JAPANESE SNIPER, KILLING HIM INSTANTLY./THE FORWARD STOCK OF THE RIFLE/WAS DAMAGED BY THE EXPLOSION./PRESENTED BY/COMMANDER WALTER BANTAU, USNR”.

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The Bora Bora battleship batteries at 75

Back in the days of the Great White Fleet, the six Connecticut-class pre-dreadnought battleships (Connecticut, Louisiana, Vermont, Kansas, Minnesota, and New Hampshire; BBs 18-25) were initially designed by BuOrd to carry a secondary battery of twenty-four new model 7″/44 (17.8 cm) Mark 1 rapid-fire naval guns. Designed around 1900, they could rocket out four 165-pound AP shells a minute to 16,500-yards and were considered able to penetrate 9.6-inches of armor at point blank range.

Postcard of USS Connecticut (BB-18) from 1909, the casemated guns above her waterline are 7-inchers.

Postcard of USS Connecticut (BB-18) from 1909, the casemated guns above her waterline but below her decks are 7-inchers.

In actuality, the ships only mounted 12 each in the hull casemates on completion due to topside weight issues, with the slightly longer 7″/45 Mark 2 being the gun of choice. The only other vessel to carry these popguns were the follow-on USS Mississippi and her sistership USS Idaho, which were quickly sold to Greece in 1914.

When WWI came, 54 of these older guns were dismounted to be used in France as tractor and train-mounted mobile artillery though they did not make it there before the Armistice, and indeed not all were converted as such.

Seven-inch tractor mount, Mark five Caption: Developed during World War I. Gun in preparation for proof firing, barrel at 40 degrees elevation. The first gun to be fired at the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Virginia, was this 7-inch caterpillar gun. Taken on a glass plate in October 1918. This gun is still (December 1963) on the station, though no longer used, it is a tourist attraction. Description: Catalog #: NH 70232

Seven-inch tractor mount, Mark five Caption: Developed during World War I from casemated guns taken from the Connecticut-class battleships. Gun in preparation for proof firing, barrel at 40 degrees elevation. The first gun to be fired at the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Virginia, was this 7-inch caterpillar gun. Taken on a glass plate in October 1918. This gun is still (December 1963) on the station, though no longer used, it is a tourist attraction. Description: Catalog #: NH 70232

USS Minnesota (Battleship # 22) At the Philadelphia Navy Yard, circa 1919. Note that all of her 7-inch broadside guns have been removed. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 61215

USS Minnesota (Battleship # 22) At the Philadelphia Navy Yard, circa 1919. Note that all of her 7-inch broadside guns have been removed. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. NH 61215

The Connecticuts? They were used as training ships after scant WWI service and under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, they were all sold for scrap by 1924 and broken up– but their Mark 2 7/45″ guns were saved. Still sitting around at the opening stages of WWII, some (originally from USS New Hampshire) were mounted at Ft. Derussy at Pearl Harbor. Others went to the Azores and USVIs.

Then, eight were sent to Bora Bora, northwest of Tahiti in French Polynesia’s Society Islands just weeks after the war in the Pacific set off. Known as “Operation Bobcat” the Navy maintained a supply force of up to 7,000 men on the island for the duration of the war. The eight 7/45’s were set up in two, four-gun batteries overlooking strategic points around the island to protect it against potential Japanese attack.

Seabees placing a Navy 7”/45 Gun on a hill overlooking Teavanui Harbor, circa February 1942. The town of Vaitape is on the point of land at right. National Archives photograph, 80-G-K-1125 (Color).

Seabees placing a Navy 7”/45 Gun on a hill overlooking Teavanui Harbor, circa February 1942. The town of Vaitape is on the point of land at right. National Archives photograph, 80-G-K-1125 (Color).

Emplacing a Navy 7"/45 gun on a hilltop over looking Teavanui Harbor, February 1942. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1119 Copyright Owner: National Archives

Emplacing a Navy 7″/45 gun on a hilltop overlooking Teavanui Harbor, February 1942. Catalog #: 80-G-K-1119 Copyright Owner: National Archives

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These guns never fired a shot in anger and the U.S. pulled out 2 June 1946, turning the airstrip (French Polynesia’s only international airport until 1960), new port facilities and guns over to the locals.

The century-old guns are still there and are a popular tourist attraction, now celebrating their 75th year on the island this month. A little of the Great White Fleet still on watch.

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The immense engine of Generosity

On 18 February 1800, some 217 years ago today, the French Téméraire-class 74-gun ship of the line Généreux (Generosity) carrying the flag of Rear Adm. Jean-Baptiste Perrée and commanded by Capt. Mathieu-Cyprien Renaudin, ran into a British squadron a week out of Toulon on the way to relieve the embattled French garrison on Malta.

The French force, consisting of Généreux, the 20-gun corvettes Badine and Fauvette, the 16-gun Sans Pareille and the fluyt Ville de Marseille, wound up facing the British squadron just off the island, composed of four (4) 74-gun ships– HMS Alexander, Northumberland, Audacious and Foudroyant— as well as the 64-gun HMS Lion and the 32-gun frigate HMS Success. The leader of the Brits was a chap by the name of Nelson.

The action was heroic on both sides, with the faster Success overtaking Généreux and Perrée electing to engage the British squadron alone in a holding action, allowing the rest of his ships to escape what would have been certain destruction or capture.

'British Frigate Success attacking Genereux Feb. 18, 1800, winging her and delaying her until Nelson arrived' by the artist R. Bramley. Source http://www.antiques-atlas.com/antique/rbramley_oil_hms_success_engaging_genereux/as237a1163

‘British Frigate Success attacking Genereux Feb. 18, 1800, winging her and delaying her until Nelson arrived’ by the artist R. Bramley. Source

In the resulting maiming of the Généreux by the Brits, Perree lost first an eye to a splinter and a leg to a cannonball, but eeked out, “Ce n’est rien, mes amis, continuons notre besogne” (It is nothing, my friends, continue with your work) like a true 18th Century naval hero. He later died that evening, probably telling “your mama” jokes about Nelson to the leeches.

Généreux eventually struck her immense (53 x 27 ft.) tri-color after an hour of terrific battle and went on to be repaired and pressed into service with the RN as HMS Généreux, serving Nelson for a while until broken up in 1816.

On Nelson’s orders, Perrée was interred in Saint Lucy church in the Dominican convent of Syracuse on nearby Sicily and remains there today.

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Généreux‘s skipper, Renaudin, after he was paroled was acquitted at a court martial for losing his ship and sought to continue his service in the French Navy, though he was cashiered on direct orders from Napolean. Just 43 at the time, Renaudin had over two decades of sea service under his belt including numerous ship-to-ship combats and likely could have been useful for a good while longer. C’est la vie.

Renaudin retired to the quiet coastal town of Saint-Denis-d’Oleron on a nominal pension of 900 francs per year. He was later offered the Legion of Honor and its associated knighthood by the Bourbon government, which he refused. He died on Valentine’s Day 1836, you could say of a broken heart. A book was written about him in 2010 entitled, Un marin d’infortune (Sailor of misfortune).

As for the Généreux Tri-Color, it is believed to be one of the earliest still in existence and is preserved by the BNPS, though it is deteriorating. The ensign, after being captured, was sent to Norwich, where it was put on display until 1897. Brought out and shown off once more for the 1905 centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar, it has been in storage since then.

Set to be put on public display at the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery from July 29 to October 1, it was recently unfurled and examined. Fragments of wood, likely splinters from battle-damaged ships, and traces of gunpowder were found as was a nail used to hammer it up at one point, likely for display.

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To ensure this amazing object– the oldest Napoleonic flag in the UK– is available for future generations to enjoy, the Costume and Textile Association have launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise £5,000 towards the total costs of £40,000 needed for vital conservation work.

Gustloff-Werke precision 98K variant

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Here we have a very nice Gustloff-Werke “bcd/4” code Model 98K Mauser bolt-action sniper rifle in “long rail” configuration. It’s fitted with a “bmj” code Hensoldt-Wetzlar Dialytan model 4X fixed power scope and includes a period correct leather sling, lens covers, and scope case  Via Rock Island Auction House, estimated range $2,000 – $4,500

Gustloff Werke, was a located in Weimar, Germany, and up until 1938 was known as the Jewish-owned Berlin Suhler Waffen- und Fahrzeugwerke (BSW). Seized by the state, it was renamed  after assassinated Swiss Nazi Wilhelm Gustloff but, as it was one of the few factories intact after the war, in 1947 the Soviets disassembled the whole concern and moved it to Russia where it became part of the Avtovelo works. Urban legend has it that the disassembly and reassembly was so complete that offices even had the correct trash cans for each desk– still with the trash inside in case anything useful was thrown away.

Dragon’s teeth removal in a bag

M85 Carrying Case, photo via Pritzker Institute

M85 Carrying Case, photo via Pritzker Institute

The M85 carrying case is a component of the M183 Charge Assembly, a satchel charge used by demo guys ranging from Army engineers to Navy SEALs to destroy obstacles. The M85 case can hold 20 pounds of C-4, enough to destroy a single three-foot-high by three-foot-wide concrete dragon’s tooth obstacle.

What gets crammed inside to turn the M85 case into the M183 is 16 M112 block demolition charges and four priming assemblies. The whole thing is a blast at parties and great to prank your friends with. m183-chargeWithout that, the M85 is just a sack.

Houston is still there

140609-N-ZZ999-001 140609-N-ZZ999-001 This photo shows the cruiser USS Houston (CA30) in the San Diego Bay in Oct. 1935

140609-N-ZZ999-001 This photo shows the cruiser USS Houston (CA30) in the San Diego Bay in Oct. 1935

Last December, the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) and the National Research Centre of Archaeology Indonesia/Pusat Penelitian Arkeologi Nasional (ARKENAS) conducted a remote-sensing survey of the wreck sites of Royal Australian navy light cruiser HMAS Perth (D29) and the U.S. heavy cruiser USS Houston (CA30), lost during World War II at Sunda Strait, 1 March 1942.

There had been persistent reports that both ships, along with a number of Dutch vessels, had been extensively raided by illegal scrap metal salvors.

After initial analysis, it looks like Houston may have been spared the vultures.

The new multi-beam sonar imagery shows the entire wreck site and confirms the wreck remains in its original sinking location and is largely intact.

More here

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