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The AFP and their undying love affair with the .45

Today’s Armed Forces of the Philippines trace their lineage to 1935 when the formation was officially established by the new nation, with then-retired U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur asked to supervise its foundation and training. As such, their weapons, uniforms, and equipment were very much 1930s U.S. Army surplus and the fighting men of the Philippine Commonwealth Army were armed with a stockpile of some 220,000 M1917 Enfield rifles in 30.06 as well as shipments of M1917 Colt and S&W model .45 ACP revolvers.

While the Japanese would capture most of these guns in 1941/42 (with the exception of those cached, destroyed or otherwise kept in use by rebel remnants of the Commonwealth’s Army) the AFP would be reformed in 1946 with largely the same caliber weapons, only upgraded. This meant that they received thousands of M1 Garands and M1911s, which they have put to good use over the years. Remember that the AFP sent troops to Korea– Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK)– as well as the Philippine Civic Action Group to Vietnam, in addition to fighting a low-key simmering insurgency off and on for decades.

Of course, the M1s have been supplemented by M16s and M4s, but the M1911s continue to soldier on, now in their 70s for the newest guns.

A well-used Ithaca 1911 in AFP service. A lil Ballistol should fix it right up

In keeping with the trend, the PI government earlier this month awarded a contract to local 1911-maker Armscor (Rock Island) for 50,000 new TAC Ultra double-stack 1911s.

Although they have neat features like a 14+1 capacity, an extended beavertail, plastic grips, an accessory rail, and better sights, deep down inside they are still .45s– a gun that was ironically invented because of the Philippines.

More in my column at

Lewis, by way of Savage

Savage Arms during the Great War made Lewis guns for the Canadians (in .303), the Tsar of Russia (in 7.62x54R), and the U.S. Army & Navy (in .30-06), the latter in both M1917 (ground) and M1918 (air) variants.

In all, it was a thing of beauty as far as light machine guns went.

Fold-out. Lewis Machine Gun 30-U.S. Government Airplane Model 1918, in Papers on Aeronautics. L’Aerophile Collection, Science, Business and Technology Division, Library of Congress 

Warship Wednesday (on a Thursday), Dec. 13, 2018: Franz Ferdinand’s Pacific platypus slayer

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time 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 (on a Thursday), Dec. 13, 2018: Franz Ferdinand’s Pacific platypus slayer

Photographed by B. Circovich of Trieste, Via Capuano 17, Trieste, NH 88933, colorized by my friend Diego Mar at Postales Navales

Here we see the Kaiser Franz Joseph I-class “torpedo ram cruiser,” SMS (Seiner Majestät Schiff =His Majesty’s Ship) Kaiserin Elisabeth, of the Austro-Hungarian k.u.k. Kriegsmarine, probably soon after her completion in November 1892 while in the Adriatic. She would have a history filled with oddities.

Laid down at Marinearsenal Pola in June 1888 for the dual monarchy’s navy, her only sister, SMS Kaiser Franz Joseph I, was named for the country’s tragic emperor. Old Franz Josef, had lost his brother, Maximillian, after the Mexicans stood him up against a wall in 1866. His only son, Rudolph, died in 1889 in the infamous Mayerling Incident. His wife, Elisabeth, a German princess, had been Empress of Austria for 44 years when she was stabbed to death by the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni in Geneva in 1898.

A picture made available 04 September 2008 shows the triangular file with which Austria Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) was murdered, in the Sisi Museum at the Vienna Hofburg, 03 September 2008, in Vienna, Austria. EPA/ROBERT JAEGER

It was for said consort that our cruiser was named, although she was very much alive at the time of the ship’s construction.

Just 4,500-tons, the 340-foot (overall) torpedo ram cruiser named for the ill-fated Empress earned her designation from the fact that she carried a ram bow (a weapon the Austrians had used to good effect at the Battle of Lissa just two decades earlier) and four 14-inch deck-mounted trainable torpedo launchers for early Whitehead-style fish. That is not to say that she did not carry a decent gun armament, as it should be noted that she carried a pair of 9.4-inch Krupp breechloaders as well as a number of short-barrel 5.9-inch guns.

Photographed early in her career, probably in about 1892 at Pola. The hulk in the right background is unidentified. The layout of the ship’s armament-two single 24cm (9.4 inch), one forward and one aft, and six 15cm (5.9 inch) guns, three to a side, can be seen clearly. NH 88908

However, being a steam warship for the 1880s, she was not very fast, capable of only 19-knots when all 8 of her boilers were aglow with Bohemia’s finest coal. Her bunkers could carry over 600-tons of the latter, which enabled her to steam some 3,500nm between station. This set up Kaiserin Elisabeth for overseas service.

Note that big 9.4-inch gun forward, looking right at home on a boat the size of today’s light frigates. Photographed while on trials. Note temporary rig NH 87329

How she looked when complete, notice different rig. KAISERIN ELISABETH Austrian Cruiser NH 87337

Commissioned 24 January 1892, by the next year she was headed to wave Austria’s flag in the Far East.

KAISERIN ELISABETH Photographed early in her career, possibly during her round-the-world cruise of December 15, 1892, to December 19, 1893. Notice her extensive awnings, common when the ship was in the Far East. NH 92041

Although the country had no colonies, Austria was allied to Germany who had several territories in both Africa and the Pacific, which allowed the cruiser ample opportunities for coaling.

Her first mission: take the Kaiser’s cousin and then second in line to the throne, a young Franz Ferdinand, on a world tour that included stops in India, Ceylon, and other points East. (Franz Ferdinand’s father, Karl Ludwig, was at the time first in line to the throne but died of typhoid fever in 1896, leaving Franz to become Archduke).

Franz Ferdinand and his hunting companions pose by a dead elephant in Ceylon, from the Austrian National Library / Ehzg Franz Ferdinand und vier Jagdbegleiter beim erlegten Elefanten

In May 1893, Kaiserin Elisabeth made port at Sydney, where aboard was Ferdinand, along with other such personages as the Archduke Leopold of Tuscany. As told The Monthly, an Australian magazine, in a 2011 issue, for the next several weeks Ferdinand and company, “accompanied only by his personal taxidermist, three counts, a major-general, the Austrian consul,” took over 300 animals on a series of great hunts across the Australian continent including kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and at least one likely very surprised platypus for which the Archduke had a “burning desire” to take.

Kaiserin Elisabeth went on become involved in Chinese politics and landed forces in 1900 along with the Austrian cruisers Zenta, Maria Theresia and Aspern to take part in the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion as part of the Eight-Nation Alliance.

Sailors from the SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth in the streets of Tsingtau. The four Austrian cruisers would land a 300-man force for duty ashore.

The two-year conflict netted Vienna a paltry 150-acre concession from the failing Manchu Dynasty in the city of Tianjin in 1902, which was duly protected by a platoon of Austrian marines. During the Boxer Rebellion, the commander of the Austrian force, RADM Count Rudolf Monecuccoli, used Kaiserin Elisabeth as his flagship. He would in 1904 go on to become Marinekommandant (Navy Commander) and Chef der Marinesektion (Chief of the Naval Section of the War Ministry), so it was evidently a good stepping stone for him.

Photographed at Pola on 1 October 1901 on her return from East Asia and the Boxer Rebellion, in a grey scheme. NH 87336

Returning to Europe, Kaiserin Elisabeth underwent a major two-year refit and modernization starting in 1905 after more than a decade of hard service including two extensive world cruises. This saw the replacement of her dated Krupp 9.4-inch guns with a pair of long-barreled 5.9-inch L/40 K.96s. This gave her a broadside of five 5.9-inch guns on each side, with three ahead and three astern. Her sister, which became a harbor defense ship at Cattaro, had a similar refit.

Photographed after reconstruction of 1906. NH 87341

Photographed at Kobe, Japan on 18 August 1909 with her decks almost completely covered in canvas. The ship had been rebuilt in 1906. NH 87339

Her 1914 entry in Janes

Caught in the German Chinese colony of Tsingtau when the Great War kicked off, Kaiserin Elisabeth originally didn’t have anything to fear from the growing Japanese fleet that was massing just offshore. This changed when Japan declared war on Austria-Hungary on August 25, 1914– two days after the Empire of the Rising Sun did so on Germany.

While the Germans managed to evacuate most of the ocean-going warships from the harbor during the Japanese ultimatum prior to the balloon going up, the elderly and, by 1914 obsolete, Austrian cruiser was left behind along with the small German coastal gunboats and torpedo craft Iltis, Jaguar, Luchs, Tiger, and S-90. The stripped and crewless old German Bussard-class unprotected cruiser SMS Cormoran (2,000-tons), was also in the harbor, but her crew had already beat feet with the condemned ship’s guns and vital equipment in a captured Russian steamer that assumed the latter’s name.

When the Japanese siege began, Kaiserin Elisabeth‘s 5.9-inch and 3-pounders were removed and mounted ashore in what became known as “Batterie Elisabeth.”

SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth’s guns as part of the defenses at Tsingtau, August-Nov 1914

During this period, as the largest ship in the defender’s hands, she suffered no less than three ineffective air raids including the first documented attack by a ship-based airplane when Japanese Navy Maurice Farman seaplanes from the seaplane carrier Wakamiya dropped small bombs around her. If the curiosity of French balsa-wood flying machines piloted by English-trained Japanese pilots bombing an Austrian warship crewed largely by Yugoslavs (and commanded by Hungarians) in a German-held port in China doesn’t make you shake your head, I don’t know what will.

An abortive sortie out of the harbor by the partially disarmed cruiser failed, although it did allow the crew of the German torpedo boat S-90 to escape to nearby Nanking– after she sank the Japanese mine cruiser Takachiho (3,700-tons).

One by one, as the Japanese grew closer, the bottled up Austro-German ships were scuttled and Kaiserin Elisabeth was no exception, being sent to the bottom by her own crew on 2 November 1914, just two days before the city fell.

In all, more than 300 members of Kaiserin Elisabeth‘s crew that survived the siege became Japanese prisoners, with most of them held at Camp Aonogahara, near Kobe, for the duration of the war. They only returned to Europe in 1920– to a country that no longer existed. As for Franz Josef, he died in 1916 while Elisabeth‘s crewmen were in Japanese EPW camps. As for Tianjin, it was indefensible and the Chinese took it over in 1917 after the formality of a bloodless declaration of war.

For our cruiser, she is remembered in maritime art:

S.M.S. Kaiserin Elisabeth in Tsingtau by Fritz Marschner, shown with the Austrian naval ensign on her stern and the German ensign aloft.


Photographed at Pola Courtesy of the International Naval Research Organization NH 87342

Displacement: 4,494-tons FL
Length: 340 ft 3 in
Beam: 48 ft 5 in
Draught: 18 ft 8 in
Propulsion: 2 triple expansion engines, 8 boilers, 8,450 ihp at forced draft, two shafts
Speed: 19 knots (near 20 on trials)
Range: 3,500 nm on 600 tons coal (max)
Complement: Listed as between 367 and 450, although only had 324 at Tsingtau.
Armor: Up to 4 inches at CT, 2.25-inches deck
(As designed)
2 × 9.4 in (24 cm)/35
6 × 5.9 in (15 cm)/35
2 × 66 mm (2.6 in)/18
5 × 47 mm SFK L/44 Hotchkiss guns (3 pdr)
4 × 4.7 cm L/33 Hotchkiss guns (3 pdr)
3 × 3.7 cm L/23 Hotchkiss guns
2 x 5.9 in (15 cm)/L/40 K.96
6 × 5.9 in (15 cm)/35
16x 47 mm SFK L/44 Hotchkiss guns (3 pdr)
1 MG
4 × 360mm (14 in) torpedo tubes

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Send it! 1918 version

“U.S. Signal Corps photograph. American 155 mm Artillery Cooperating with the 29th Div. in Position on Road Just Taken from the Germans. Bat[tery] A 324th Artillery, 158[th] Brig[ade] in France.” Showing a stumpy Schneider M1917 155mm howitzer at play. A total of 3,008 were bought or built with U.S. guns made under license by the American Brake Shoe Co. on carriages by Osgood-Bradley Car, using recoil mechanisms made in Detroit by Dodge, although the one in use below is almost certainly a French-made example.

National Photo Company Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (118.00.00)


Mad Mike is still kicking

“Mad” Mike Hoare (center) somewhere in the Congo.

For those who are fans of Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner and grew up reading about the exploits of the various traveling warriors during the “Golden age of mercenaries” that was Africa in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it may surprise you to find that the most resilient of the breed, Col. Thomas Michael “Mad Mike” Hoare, is still very much alive. A veteran of the London Irish Rifles in WWII’s Burma campaign, commander of 5 Commando in the Congo (there were no #1, #2, #3, or #4 Commando brigades), and the later Seychelles affair, he has lived a charmed life.

In fact, the Irishman is set to turn 100 next St. Patrick’s Day.

More here, in an interview with his son, at SOF (where else?).


A failing monarch and a rising eagle, 101 years ago today

Emperor Karl (Charles) I of Austria-Hungary inspecting troops of the newly formed Polish Auxiliary Corps (Polski Korpus Posiłkowy) in Bukovina, 10 December 1917. The officer on horseback is probably Lt. Col. Michał Rola-Żymierski, formerly commander of the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the Polish Legions.

The Corps was formed after Col. Józef Piłsudski, who started the Polish Legion from the pre-war Rifleman’s Association, in the summer of 1917 forbade Polish soldiers in the Austrian Army to swear a loyalty oath to the future (Austrian or German) king of Poland and the Central Powers but instead only to a planned independent Poland. The Germans arrested Piłsudski and locked him up in Magdeburg along with his followers while the men who still wanted to fight the Russians were enrolled in the new unit.

While the old Polish Legion numbered eight infantry and three cavalry regiments organized in three separate brigades, the “Corps” only numbered about 6,000 at its peak. In February 1918, when the Germans and Austrians gave large parts of ethnically Polish land to the new puppet Ukrainian government as a part of the carve-up of the old Russian Empire that was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Corps mutinied and about 1,500 made good as escape for White Russian lines while the remaining 5,000 ended up disarmed and in Austrian internment until that Empire, in turn, collapsed in November 1918.

As for Kaiser Karl, Hapsburg king for less than two years, he passed away in Portugal of pneumonia in 1922, aged 34. At the same time Karl took his last, Rola-Żymierski was serving as a general in the Polish Army while Piłsudski was the defacto head of the Polish state.

Radom is back on top in Poland

Fabryka Broni Łucznik, Radom and the Polish Army go way back, at least as far as pistols go. Besides refurbishing captured/inherited Tsarist Russian M1895 Nagants, German P08 Lugers and various Austro-Hungarian Steyr/Frommer pistols for the force, in 1935 FB started manufacturing first Polish-closeout Nagants then the wholly-Polish Pistolet wz. 35, commonly known as the VIS after an acronym for the inventors’ last names.

Some 50,000 such guns were made for the country’s military prior to World War II — with Polish Eagle markings — and the Germans liked the single-stack 9mm so much they cranked out another 300,000 simplified guns, sans Eagles, for their own use during the war.

I saw this “sweetheart” gripped VIS at a collector show a couple years back. An occupation gun, it was captured in Western Europe by a U.S. soldier in 1944 and carried for the remainder of the war under new management.

Post-WWII, FB made the P-64s Czak and P-83 Wanad, both in 9x18mm, for the Polish Army and police forces but was edged out by the somewhat wonky WIST-94 in recent years.

Well, that has changed as FB just won a contract for 20,000 new PR-15 RAGUN pistols, which will be dubbed VIS 100s in Polish service, to both pay tribute to the old-school VIS-35 and the fact that Poland’s recent centennial celebration of achieving independence following World War I.

More in my column at

Also, FB just released 50 limited edition VIS Eagles, with similar honors

The gun is marked “100 LAT NIEPODLEGŁEJ” which translates roughly to “100 years of independence.” The special VIS also carries the banner of the 2 Dywizja Kawalerii (II RP), the famed Polish 2nd Cavalry Division, down the right-hand side of the slide.

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