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Men of action in coffee-stained crackerjacks, 104 years ago today

These are not the kind of guys you want to pick a fight with.

NHHC NH 100612

Ensign Schuyler F. Heim and other members of the landing party from the South Carolina-class battleship USS Michigan (BB-27) preparing to disembark, 22 April 1914, at Vera Cruz, Mexico.

Their white uniforms have been crudely dyed for camouflage purposes. Heim is wearing an M1912 pistol belt and magazine pocket, with a very newly issued M1911 automatic .45cal pistol in a swivel holster. The immense First Class Boatswain’s Mate beside him wears the M1910 dismounted cartridge belt for the Springfield M1903 rifle. Note additional ’03s in chests on deck.

BB-23’s career was cut short by the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922 and she was decommissioned in February 1923 and broken up for scrap the following year.

Heim went on to become a commodore and was in command of the Naval Air Station on Terminal Island in 1942, resulting in a bridge named in his honor crossing the Cerritos Channel at the Port of LA that remained in service until 2015.

No word on what became of the Hulk BM1.

The Cricket Ball grenade

This bad boy seemed like a good idea at the time it was invented, but the lengthy fuze and the fact that it was thrown to some of the most capable hobby bowlers in Thrace gave it an Achilles heel.

From the AWM

The Turkish 1914 model hand grenade, better known to the Australians as a ‘cricket ball’ grenade, was developed by Tufenidjieff, according to an August 1915 translation of a Turkish handbook by the Intelligence section of the Headquarters Unit, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Manufactured by the Kalafat Yeri Foundries at Constantinople, they formed an essential part of the Turkish Army’s capability.

The spherical bodies of these grenades were about 73 mm in circumference and made from cast iron, the body being divided into equal rectangles and dimpled on the insides to assist fragmentation. They were filled with 100 grams of TNT (described in the translation as ‘Bombiet’ by the Turks) and provided with a fuse protected by a copper tube; the fuse – 2 grams of fulminate of mercury – is lit by a friction material, described in the booklet as being similar to that “put outside the safety match boxes”. The fuse is capped on the exterior by a screwed bronze cover provided with a belt hook.

The handbook then describes the method of use: “The man holds his rifle with his left hand and the grenade with his right hand. He uncovers the fuse with his right hand; he rubs the fuse on the match sheet hung on the right or left of his chest, [and] throws it to the desired place. It explodes in 19 seconds as the pieces of the grenade are dispersed in a circular and upward direction, the thrower must find a cover if possible.”

The 19 second timing of this fuse explains the ability of Australians, often noted in accounts such as the battle of Lone Pine, to grab a Turkish grenade and hurl it back.

More here.

Fit for a Kingsman

All photos Chris Eger, except where noted

The folding clasp knife, aka jackknife, aka pocketknife, aka penknife, aka peasant knife, et. al, in military ancillary use dates back to the Roman Legions as early as 200~ AD. Fast forward to the 19th Century and the level of inexpensive standardization that was brought about by the Industrial Revolution, and good folders became available on the cheap. By 1905, the British Army started to standardize the basic issue clasp knife (the Pattern 6353/1905), used for opening tins, working ropes, and other basic non-fighting tasks.

Typically made in Sheffield by a myriad of firms, they were marked with a Broad Arrow acceptance mark on the blade, included a sheepsfoot main and can opener secondary auxiliary blade with a tertiary marlinspike in some cases. By the 1930s, shell and bone handled knives fell by the wayside and scales were commonly made from “chequered black bexoid (plastic).” This was the standard Commonwealth jack used through WWII and Korea, with surplus stocks in wide circulation for decades after.

A vintage multitool, the blade ends could be used as screwdrivers as could the center scale insert and the canopener as a fork when hungry enough.

Here is my British Army WWII era clasp knife. Marked SSP 1943 with a Broad Arrow, it is a hoss at 5.1-ounces and is built like a tank.

The two blades are 2.75-inches long overall and the knife itself, when closed, is 3.75-inches.

The strong shackle on the heel enabled the knife to be used as an ersatz plumb in field construction and in use as a slungshot to throw lines.

army issue clasp knife (WEA 4120) Clasp knife with chequered black bexoid (plastic) grips secured by three rivets. Pivoting at one end of the knife are a“ sheepsfoot” style blade and a tin opener. At one end of the knife is a flat screwdriver head and at the other is a pivoting steel shackle. Tied to the shackle is a buff cord lanyard with a large loop at the opposite end. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30003938

A more pointed “dagger jackknife” was commonly issued to commando, paratrooper and Marine units as well as the gentlemen of the SOE.

Carried on a lanyard attached to the camouflaged jumpsuit for cutting parachute shrouds lines if required while the blade was to be of sufficient length for stabbing…(Photo by Range Days in France)

In a form of flattery, this 1960s follow-up was made by Bianchi in Italy for the Italian military and is marked, Campobasso. It is lighter than the preceding Anglo-Saxon model, tipping the scales at 3.7-ounces. The two blades are 2.5-inches and the knife itself, closed, is 3.5-inches.

Post-war, the Brits themselves moved to adopt a slimmer version with metal scales. Today they are still made in Sheffield and, taking a key to the marketing behind Swiss Army knifes, Joseph Rodgers/George Wostenholm make “Genuine British Army” knives for the market in various models, with the below being one of the more svelte models, a single blade that weighs just 2.2-ounces.

I quite like it while the other ones see time in the safe.

As for the revolver, of course, it is a .38/200 Enfield No.2, 1943 production, the same date as the Bren gun brass cleaning kit.

Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the most important, and least remembered Canadian cavalry charge

The Battle of Moreuil Wood on March 30, 1918, is captured in the painting “Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron” by Sir Alfred Munnings via the Canadian War Museum:

UNDATED — Undated handout photo of Alfred Munnings’ painting CHARGE OF FLOWERDEWS SQUADRON, held by the Canadian War Museum.

The story behind the charge:

“The Canadian charge at Moreuil Wood occurred at the height of the Kaiserschlacht, the German Spring Offensive of 1918, a massive assault on the Western Front that the German High Command hoped would split apart the Allied armies and drive the British out of Europe.

On the foggy morning of March 30, 1918, the Canadian Cavalry Brigade, one of the few Allied units not retreating from the German onslaught, was tasked with recapturing the Moreuil Wood, a forested ridge east of the French city of Amiens, a crucial railway junction that linked the British and French armies…”

There, only C Squadron of Lord Strathcona’s Horse, under a 33-year-old British Columbian rancher named Lt. Gordon Muriel Flowerdew, made ready to ride into history.

More here in this great piece in the National Post

Provisioning a warship

“This drawing gives a splendid idea of the hugeness of the task of keeping a warship fighting trim. It represents the food for the officers and the men only. The food for the guns is, of course, another very big item”

Source: “The Great War” Ed. Wilson/Hammerton (Amalgamated Press, 1918) via Forgotten Infographics https://www.forgotteninfographics.com/new-blog/provisioning-a-warship

Looking at the turret layout, the warships look to be early St Vincent-class or Bellerophon-class dreadnought battleships.

And that is a LOT of prunes…

Never know what is stored in an old cabinet

Behold: the forgotten Great War-era colors of the 116th Inf Rgt:

Via VA National Guard

While conducting an inventory of a seldom-used storage compartment at the Virginia War Museum in Newport News, museum worker discovered forgotten World War I Regimental flags for the 111th Field Artillery Regiment and the 116th Infantry Regiments of the 29th Division as well as flags belonging to the 510th and 511th Engineer Service Battalions and the guidon for the 1st Virginia Signal Company.

As noted by the VA Guard: “Both of these units were Virginia National Guard units which had served in France. Also discovered were the flags for the 317th and 318th Infantry Regiments of the 80th Division. The 80th had been a National Army division and these two flags represented the two regiments comprised of draftees from Virginia.”

More here.

100 years ago today: Second-hand Artillery Luger

“167th Infantry, 2nd Battalion, Co. F. –Cpl Howard Thompson holding pistol of German whom Sgt James W. White killed in No Man’s Land with the butt of his pistol. A patrol of 5 men met 10 Germans in No Man’s Land on March 7, 1918. Cpl. Thompson went into No Man’s Land in the daytime and found the pistol of the dead German, Ancerville France”

U.S. Army Signal Corps photo 7748-H via NARA #55176278

An Alabama National Guard Unit, the 167th Infantry Rgt was part of the 42nd “Rainbow” Division during the Great War after being involved in the expedition to chase Pancho Villa across Chihuahua and Sonora in 1916. During WWII, the 167th again served, as part of the 31st “Dixie” Division in the Pacific.

Tracing its origin to the old 4th Alabama of Civil War fame, 1-167th INF today is still part of the Alabama Guard and has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan several times in recent years, where their soldiers are no doubt still eagerly on the lookout for trophies in No Man’s Land.

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