Daily Archives: 5 December, 2009

Guide to the Royal Navy 2010

Guide to the Royal Navy 2010

Guide to the Royal Navy 2010

I picked up this booklet yesterday, published by Warships International Fleet Review. It makes for very interesting reading. If you are interested in the Royal Navy and Defence issues I would highly reccomend picking up a copy, but I think it is worthwhile summarising the key points.

The editorial introduction sets out the running themes. The Royal Navy’s ability to act as a global force is on a knife edge, still having a fleet that can deliver Government policy and defend British interests, but its ability to do so is stretched almost to the point of fragility. This has been caused by relentless cuts, particularly in the number of hulls and retiring the Sea Harrier early. The Navy is so overstretched that it is unable to deploy beyond its standing commitments in the Gulf and the South Atlantic. The prime cause of this overstretch is the reduction in the criticial mass of numbers of Frigates and Destroyers, the workhorses of the fleet. RFA vessels have recently performed patrols that should be carried out by Frigates.

At one point the Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, promised a British Frigate to patrol off Gaza to prevent Hamas receiving arms – it later transpired that none was available. Perhaps we could borrow back the three Type 23 Frigates that we sold to Chile recently at a knock down price? A classic example of the Government expecting our armed forces to do twice as much, but with half as much resources.

The Guide argues that Labour has never been serious about funding armed forces, and particularly the Navy, but has shown an eagerness to commit them to action without investing in them. While the ongoing operation in Afghanistan is quite rightly taking priority at present, it would be very dangerous indeed to close our minds to more long term needs. Billions of pounds has been pumped into shoring up banks, while the comparatively cheap insurance policy of sufficient armed forces falls by the wayside.

Another startling Government policy is the giving of millions of pounds to India in order to eradicate poverty, while the Indian Navy embarks on spending Billions of pounds on a new Nuclear Submarine programme. British Foreign Policy may change for the better if the astute and intelligent William Hague becomes Foreign Secretary, but with ranks of former Army and even current Territorial Army officers on the Conservative benches, the Navy looks in for a rough time in the upcoming Defence Review. The expected appointment of General Sir Richard Dannatt as a special adviser on Defence will reinforce this Army-bias considerably. Already, stories have sprung up in the press arguing against the new Aircraft Carriers and Nuclear Submarines.

Britain and the Royal Navy clearly needs new Aircraft Carriers, new submarines and new Frigates. If, the Guide argues, the Government decides to scrap the current schemes for these ships, it will merely have to come up with alternatives.

Finally, the overarching argument seems to be that the next Government faces a stark choice, that has been avoided for some time – does Britain wish to be a player on the world stage? If so, we need to invest in the Royal Navy. If not, then Britain faces a future of irrelevance, inability to safeguard citizens, protect trade or play its part in securing international stability.

There are several interesting features. The first, by David Axe and based on a visit to HMS Portland while on anti-piracy patrol in the gulf of Aden, argues that cuts in the Navy would undermine security in the region. The Royal Navy’s much vaunted professionalism would be at risk if the amount of ‘sea-time’ was cut due to a reduction in ships.

An interesting article by Usman Ansari argues quite succintly that with the Navy’s move towards having less but more capable ships, a less technological but more numerous foe could easily swamp the fleet. Also, there is a startling revelation that many of the Type 23 Frigates, designed as anti-submarine vessels, do not carry towed array sonar as a costcutting measure. Therefore even the decreasing amount of ships flatter – certain ships only have certain capabilities. The potential for being caught out does not bear thinking about.

Dr Robert Farley suggests that the special relationship between the US and British Navy, whilst still strong, has come under question in recent years. In particular the US has questioned the Royal Navy’s fighting spirit after a number of embarassing incidents. US Naval figures have also been dismayed at the continual decline of the Royal Navy, and this had led to doubts as to its capability to contribute to operations.

Dr Lee Willett discusses the strategic value of Nuclear submarines, both of the attack variety and ballistic missile. Again, a reduction of hull numbers will lead to a fall in capability, and mean that replacements for the Astute Class would need to be ordered much sooner than expected due to overstretch and over-use.

Falklands veteran and air warfare expert Sharkey Ward offers some stark opinions regarding the new Aircraft Carriers and the F-35. Both projects are crucial to the UK achieving its policy of maintaining an effective expeditionary task force. With new carriers and a naval air wing, the UK will always be able to operate independently of the US, something that would not have been possible in recent years. Many developing nations have purchased the advanced MiG Flanker. Interestingly, Ward argues that the combined Carrier and F-35 projects can be achieved at less cost to the UK than the Eurofighter project – if so, this represents good value for money indeed.

Dr Dave Sloggett argues that it is crucial that a mix is found in the capabilities of the planned FSC Frigates. I reported some time ago on the C1 and C2 sub-classes that are planned, demonstrating the wide range of roles expected of the Frigate fleet.

The Guide also includes some new, exciting computer images of the new class of Aircraft Carriers, including on the flight deck and inside the aircraft hangar. Finally, this interesting publication finishes with some interesting interviews with Naval Officers and ratings, several book reviews and nostalgic articles too.

An essential read if you want to keep on top of whats happening with the Navy, interested in Defence or just generally like reading about ships.

‘Guide to the Royal Navy 2010’ is published by Warships: International Fleet Review, RRP £5.50. I picked up my copy from WH Smith.



Filed under Articles, Book of the Week, debate, Navy, politics

Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard – Ronald Pawly

Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard

Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard

From the moment Napoleon Bonaparte emerged to prominence at the recapture of Toulon in 1793, until his final defeat at Waterloo in 1815 and his subsequent exile to Elba, the French Army had revolutionised warfare. Napoloeon developed an Army that was overwhelmingly made up of conscripts, using a large body of poorly trained men who could be easily replaced. At the head of this mass army, however, was perhaps the most formidable Royal Household unit formed since the Roman Praetorian Guard – the Imperial Guard. The Imperial Guard came to set the standard for elite Household units, a mantle picked up by the British Foot Guards and Household Cavalry at Waterloo.

The Mounted Grenadiers were the Imperial Guards heavy cavalry, imposing in their Bearskins and chosen for their physical stature. This book, by Ronald Pawly uses regimental records and is a short history of the Mounted Grenadiers, and also contains many photos of rare weapons and equipment, as well as Osprey’s trademark artwork.

This book is pretty much a historical narrative of the unit, the part that they played in the Napoleonic French Army and the wider Napoleonic Wars. If you are looking for a comparative study of Napoleonic heavy cavalry then maybe this isnt the book for you, but if you are simply interested in reading about an elite force and studying them in depth this will make for a very good read. I can imagine this being especially interesting if you are keen on military models, wargaming or military uniforms. It is packed with facts and figures, and has clearly been written by someone who has done much research on this subject.

I must warn you, however: this book is very difficult to read without hearing the Sharpe theme tune in your head, or upon closing your eyes seeing epic scenes from the film Waterloo!

Mounted Grenadiers of the Imperial Guard is published by Osprey

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Filed under Book of the Week, Napoleonic War

Portsmouth’s Prisoners of the Japanese

A prisoner of the Japanese in WW2

A prisoner of the Japanese in WW2

Prisoners of War faced a particularly grim experience during the war. While servicemen captured and held by Nazi Germany faced an arduous experience, many of them for almost 5 years, those unfortunate enough to be captured and imprisoned by the Japanese had to endure untold horrors before they were released.

The Japanese Government had not signed or recognised any of the international treaties on the treatment of Prisoners of War, such as the Geneva Convention. As such, the Japanese authorities felt under no obligation to treat prisoners humanely. In addition, Japanese military culture saw surrender as a shameful act, and it was widely felt that people who had allowed themselves to be captured were not deserving of respectful treatment. The Prisoners were allowed no access to Red Cross representation, and camps were not inspected by neutral countries. Prisoners faced brutal treatment, torture, summary punishment, forced labour, medical experiments, starvation rations and little or no medical treatment.

Unsurprisingly, the Tokyo Tribunal found that the death rate amongst Allied POW’s held by the Japanese was 27.1%. This was SEVEN times that of prisoners held by the Germans and Italians. Many Japanese personnel were tried and executed for war crimes after the war, and the pictures that emerged of the emaciated men liberated in the Far East shocked the world.

So far I have found two Portsmouth men who died and were buried in Japan during the Second World War, so were almost certainly prisoners of war when they died.

Lance-Sergeant Harold Kennard, 34 and from Stamshaw, was a member of the Royal Signals. He died on 28 December 1942. He was presumably captured in the 1941 and 1942 land battles in South East Asia, when the Allies faced a number of defeats, and taken to Japan to work as a forced labourer.

Private George Ogle, 46 and from North End, was a member of the Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps. He died on 5 February 1945. Hong Kong was the main base port of the Royal Navy’s China Station. Hong Kong was attacked by the Japanese on 8 December 1941, 8 hours after the raid on Pearl Harbour. By 25 December Hong Kong had fallen. He was also presumably taken to Japan as a slave labourer. He had served over three years as a Prisoner of the Japanese by the time of his death.

Sadly it is difficult to find out much more about them and their experiences, as the Red Cross were unable to keep records of them, as were the British Government.

Both Lance-Sergeant Kennard and Private George Ogle are buried in Yokohama War Cemetery, Japan.


Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, World War Two