Monthly Archives: February 2010

‘The Sinking of the Laconia’ to hit our screens soon

The Laconia

The Laconia

I’ve just been watching BBC1, and seen a trailer for their upcoming Dramas. Among them is the two-part story of The Sinking of the Laconia. It stars Brian Cox as Captain Rudolph Sharp.

The Laconia was a Cunard Liner, pressed into service as a troop ship in the Seond World War. She was torpedoed in 1942, in what became one of the most moving stories of the war.

I have a keen interest in this programme, as my great-uncle Leading Stoker Thomas Daly was onboard when she went down. He survived and was rescued by the Vichy French. He was interned in Morrocco, and contracted Dysentry. He was liberated, only to die after returning to England in 1943.

Leading Stoker Thomas Daly

Leading Stoker Thomas Daly

Here’s the blurb from the BBC website:

Andrew Buchan and rising German star Ken Duken are joined by Brian Cox and Lindsay Duncan in The Sinking Of The Laconia, a powerful new two-part drama for BBC Two from acclaimed writer Alan Bleasdale. The drama tells the true story of the amazing heroism shown by ordinary people in the face of extraordinary adversity during the Second World War. Brian Cox plays Captain Sharp, whose armed British vessel, the RMS Laconia, was torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat 156 on 12 September 1942. Also on board was 3rd officer Thomas Mortimer (Buchan), who heroically risked his life to help the passengers reach the lifeboats.
Six hundred miles from the coast of Africa, the mixture of English civilians, Allied soldiers and Italian Prisoners of War faced certain death until U-Boat Commander Werner Hartenstein (Duken) made a decision that went against the orders of Nazi High Command. The U-boat surfaced and Hartenstein instructed his men to save as many of the shipwrecked survivors as they could. Over the next few days the U-156 saved 400 people, with 200 people crammed on board the surface-level submarine and another 200 in lifeboats. Hartenstein gave orders for messages to be sent out to the Allies to organise a rescue of the survivors but, in an unbelievable twist, they were spotted by an American B-24 bomber who moved in to attack. The Sinking Of The Laconia takes a look at the human side of the remarkable events that took place: the friendships that developed, the small acts of heroism,and the triumph of the human spirit in the most incredible of situations. The cast also includes some of Germany’s biggest names, including Matthias Koeberlin, Frederick Lau and Thomas Kretschmann.

No idea of when it will be on yet, but you can be sure as soon as I know you will read it here!

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Filed under Family History, maritime history, Navy, On TV, Uncategorized, World War Two

The Battle of Hastings and Beevor

Two British military history heavyweights are to go head-to-head with epic new publications on the Second World War, reports The Times.

Anthony Beevor and Max Hastings have both been contracted by their publishers to publish 800+ page books in 2012. Beevor’s advance from his publishers is believed to be in the region of £1m. “Max and I are both great friends and great rivals,” said Beevor, whose book will be published in Britain by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. “It’s the whole war and yes, it’s a terrifying prospect.”

Hastings is amazed that narrative military history can command such figures: “I would never have guessed when I started writing about this period more than 30 years ago that this market would still be there,” said Hastings, whose book will be published by HarperCollins.

Colin Smith, an author on Vichy France, thinks that military history has followed phases: “After the war itself, we had the heroic books, usually written by those actually in the war such as Churchill and Monty. Then we had a revisionist period, then a lack of interest with some boring military tactician books, and now a revived interest because of good writing and human stories.”

It is very encouraging to see that military history is becoming so popular once again, both to publishers and readers alike. It is very nice to see, especially as we are so far away from the war now that it is in the living memory of fewer and fewer people. And as we are living in a post-military society, where few people have served in uniform, clearly people with no experience of military service are becoming interested in what happened to their forefathers.

I must profess to being no great fan of Beevor or Hastings. Beevor’s books have sold by the truckload. I have read his books on Stalingrad, Berlin and D-Day. Whilst I enjoy his writing style, I cannot help but feel that the lack of substantial new material or hystoriography does not warrant the hype. They are clearly aimed at a general readership. Hastings’s usually offers more research-based writing, but his pugnacious style – as we might expect from a journalist – can be off-putting.

Writing a complete history of the Second World War is a tall order. These are obviously publisher-led books, as no military historian would conceive of covering 6 years worth of battles, on 3 continents and many oceans, and killed millions of people in 800 pages. Modern military historiography as gone beyond the ‘complete history of’ approach. It is far better, surely, to not even attempt it, because the result will almost always be a disappointment. But these names, after all, are names that sell books.

However Beevor’s and Hastings’s books turn out, they will have to go a very long way to eclipse luminaries such as Basil Liddell Hart, John Terraine, Martin Middlebrook, John Keegan or Michael Howard. Or my wildcard entries, Robin Neillands and William Buckingham. I look forward to reading them, but I plan on reading beyond the hype and the name on the spine.

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Portsmouth Historic Dockyard




Victory

Originally uploaded by dalyhistory2010

For the first time in years I went and had a proper look round Portsmouth Historic Dockyard yesterday. Heres a picture of the bows of HMS Victory, Nelson’s Flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

I’d been on most of the attractions at the Dockyard several times quite a few years ago now, but I really enjoyed Action Stations. One thing I have about Museums or other attractions is when they have these wonderful activities for children – but what about Adults? What I really like about Action Stations is that its for everyone. Kids will enjoy it, but theres no need for adults to stand around like a lemon watching!

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Museum Fatigue

You look at the display panels and the glass cases. You can see the words, but your brain cannot take it all in. You see the pictures, and somehow you no longer feel so interested. Nothing jumps out at you. You’re irritated by the kids running around. The glass of coke and slice of cake are giving you a sugar rush. You’ve been there a couple of hours, and you’re thinking its time to call it a day. But the person with you insists on reading EVER word – argh! You can’t even be bothered to look through the shop on the way out.

Congratulations, you’ve got Museum Fatigue!

There is no shame in suffering from this totally random, unforgiving, but entirely curable ailment. It happens to the best of us. I love Museums – hell, I’ve worked in them since I was 16 – but sometimes its all too much. Think about it – why do lectures at University last for an hour? Because thats all the human brain can take in terms of learning at any one time. Even if you can keep looking at 17th Century Dutch Art after that, your brain won’t be taking it in quite as well. I’m sure that the human brain learns better in smaller, focussed sessions. And you enjoy visiting Museums more like this too – if you get bored or irritable, then you wont enjoy yourself.

So all day at a Museum or any kind of similar venue really is pushing it. It helps if somewhere has fresh air, a decent cafe, lots of different displays, audio-visuals, maybe even some physical activities. But I do know that maybe Museums need to look beyond having row upon row of medals, or paintings, or fine china saucers – sometimes I think less is more, and reduces the overload on the human brain. Most people visit Museums in their spare time, after all, and people want to enjoy their spare time. And whats enjoyable about going home with a headache?

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Where Pompey went wrong

With todays news that Portsmouth Football Club has entered into administration, I’ve been thinking back over the past few years to how Pompey have ended up in this sorry state.

The irony is that the club has now gone full circle since it went into administration in the late 90′s, under the reign of the Gregory family. Then Milan Mandaric saved the club from administration. Although Mandaric may have been seen at the time as tight with funds, looking back, he did not spend money that we did not have. Mandaric always promised that he would not leave Portsmouth without building a new ground, and until Pompey were in the Premier League.

Pompey eventually managed to get promoted in 2003, after Harry Redknapp managed to put together a first class team with loan signings, free transfers and free agents. After managing to remain in the Premier League for 2 successive seasons, it should have been the time to consolidate and develop sound foundations at the club. Pompey have a huge catchment area and the potential to fill a 30,000+ stadium. But Portsmouth is a small city, and Mandaric encountered problems finding both the finance anda suitable site for a stadium.

In 2006, however, Mandaric agreed to sell Pompey to Sacha Gaydamak. This is where things get seriously murky. Although Gaydamak was at the time painted as a wealthy Russian in the same vein as Roman Abramovich, in fact it seems that much of his fortune came via his arms-dealer father. Gaydamak junior has a string of failed business ventures behind him.

To begin with Gaydamak bankrolled a returned Harry Redknapp’s spending spree. Clearly with a 20,000 stadium, these infated wages and transfer fees were not sustainable on the clubs income alone. This is surely the problem with football clubs being owned by rich owners – all the time they are there, all well and good, but without sound business practice once they are go serious problems come home to roost.

Supposedly Sacha Gaydamak decided to stop funding the club in 2008, only months after the club won the FA Cup and qualified for Europe for the first time. Ostensibly this was due to the credit-crunch, but as Gaydamak’s funds were not really his own anyway, it seems that his father had decided to claw back his money. In hindsight, it seems that Gaydamak wasnt even investing his own money, but was taking out massive loans. When he left, he left his debts behind. We might have won the FA Cup, but it was like buying something on a credit card but not paying it off.

Gaydamak sold the club to Sulaiman Al Fahim, who then sold it to Ali Al Faraj. Both owners who clearly had no idea about running a football club and who had no money to invest. In the end Al Faraj defaulted on loan repayments, and the club (and ground) were taken over by Balraim Chainrai. And today, Pompey are in administration.

If anything, surely it is amazing that it has taken this long for a Premier League Football Club to go into Administration. Since the advent of Sky TV and the Premier League, English football has on the whole been operating on unworkable business models. Football Clubs used to be exactly that – Clubs. After the gradual transition into businesses, business principles should have come into play – outgoings should not be more than income, for example. Sound foundations are important, not short term success. But Football is still imbued with the Thatcherite principle that success is everything, and is worth abandoning your principles for.

There have been calls for a rich owner to come in and save Pompey. Surely that is short-sighted. After all, isnt it the rich owners who have caused this scenario in the first place. Being owned by foreign, disinterested businessmen is surely not good for the long-term of the football club and the city. In Germany many clubs are still clubs, where the fans are members and collectively control the club.

Football has changed. Supporters are more customers now than anything else. They may feel that the club belongs to them, but the cruel fact is that they have virtually no involvement in the club.

The Football world needs to sit up and take notice. Or Pompey will not be the last.

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Latest Falklands News: naval encounter and sub deployment

Something new crops up regarding the latest Falklands crisis every day, so until the situation calms down I ‘m going to give a daily analysis of the news.

It has emerged that on 28 January HMS York, the Royal Navy’s South Atlantic guardship, intercepted an Argentinian Navy Corvette that was approaching the area where exploratory drilling has recently started. The Drummond, a veteran of the 1982 Falklands War, apparently made an ‘innocent navigation error’, 10 miles inside the oil exploration area. HMS York radioed across and ‘encouraged’ her to change course. This incident can be seen in two ways – either the Argentine Navy’s seamanship is very poor, or they are acting provocatively. Much as Soviet and now Russian jets test UK airspace, perhaps Argentin was hoping to provoke a flashpoint?

In other navalnews, the Royal Navy today confirmed that a submarine has been deployed to the South Atlantic. Normally Submarine deployments are kept secret, so this news will have been made public as a clear signal to Buenos Aires. In all likelihood it is a Nuclear Attack Submarine carrying torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles. In 1982 the Black Buck Vulcan raids demonstrated to Argentina that British forces had the ability to strike at any point in Argentina. Only with Tomahawk there is much less risk and more precision. And the Argentine Navy will remember very well how after HMS Conqueror sunk the Belgrano their ships were virtually bottled up in port.

In political news Argentina’s Foreign Minister met today with the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, to press for support over the Falklands issues. Although the Foreign Minister emerged from the meeting uttering the same soundbites as other Argentinian leaders have recently, there has been a telling silence from Ban and the UN. Hopefully he is far too clever and impartial to be drawn into what is essentially South American power-play politics.

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Navy Days: then and now

After this week’s announcement about Navy Days 2010, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at Navy Days over the years. It’s very much a Portsmouth institution, theres nowhere else where you can see so much of the Royal Navy’s past and present in one place all together. Not only is it a great day out but it’s also a great chance for the Royal Navy to showcase what it does.

Not only does Navy Days tell us about the History of the Royal Navy, it is a part of Naval History itself. They have been taking place for many years – I’ve seen posters advertising Navy Days dating back to the early 20th Century, showing rows of battleships decked out in flags. My Granddad can remember going just after the war, and watching Fairey Swordfish Biplanes attacking ships with bags of flour. I can remember my Gran telling me about going on the US Warships, and the American sailors serving up hot dogs!

I first went to Navy Days in June 1994. It was the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, and there were plenty of interesting Royal Navy and foreign warships in the Harbour, to take part in the International Fleet Review later that week. I can remember going on HMS Ilustrious, and plenty of Destroyers and Minesweepers. I can also remember seeing the US Cruiser USS Normandy, and the wartime liberty ship Jeremiah O’Brien. But what I remember most of all is my dad showing me round the Dockyard that he worked in, explaining how the Docks and caissons worked, and pointing out the parts of the ships that he worked on – ‘oh look, there’s number two weapons shop!’ and ‘that’s number three basin!’ sounds quite impressive when you’re 11!

The last time I went to Navy Days was in 2008. What I remember most from then is the foreign warships – Japanese, Chilean, Danish and French. It was interesting to have a look at HMS Ilustrious again 14 years later, and the Landing Ship RFA Largs Bay was a rare visitor to Portsmouth. And of course theres nothing quite like watching the Royal Marines Band close the day.

I’m looking forward to Navy Days already. I had a sneak peak of HMS Daring last year at the Royal Navy past and present event, and she really is something else. It’s a long time since RFA Argus has been in Portsmouth too. A former merchant vessel that served in the Falklands War before becoming and RFA ship, it will be a rare opportunity to visit a Falklands veteran. Hopefully we can expect to see some foreign warships too.

To watch a British Pathe newsreel clip of Portsmouth Navy Days 1969, click here!

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More bluff and bluster over Falklands

Reportedly Argentina is seeking a meeting with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, over the Falklands Oil crisis.

The Argentinian Government has been conducting an aggressive diplomatic offensive in recent days, every bit as aggressive as their 1982 invasion. To seek to talk to the UN Secretary-General rather than put the issue before the General Assembly or Security Council is underhand. The fundamental principle of the United Nations is self-determination, the right of people to choose their own form of Government. The people of the Falkland Islands choose to be British. Until the change their minds, to agigate against their wishes is aggression.

A summit of South American leaders urged Argentina and Britain to “renew negotiations in order to find in the shortest time possible a just, peaceful and definitive solution to the dispute”. Funnily enough, it was Argentina who walked out of negotiations, only to cause a fuss now that it suits her. Argentina’s track record over the Falklands cannot be ignored, even since 1982 there has been the shadow of Argentinian threats to regain the Islands. All the time these exist, how can negotiations take place?

Brazilian President Lula da Silva, normally one of South America’s more sensible leaders, excelled himself with “What is the geographic, the political or economic explanation for England [sic] to be in Las Malvinas? Could it be because England is a permanent member of the UN’s Security Council [where] they can do everything and the others nothing?” Aside from referring to the UK as England, and showing a Janet and John level of understanding of the relationship between the UK and the Falklands, Lula’s comments have more to do with Brazil’s desire to be seen as a serious world power herself. There is a reason why the UK is a permanent member of the Security Council – aside from a few notable examples (Suez and Iraq spring to mind) the UK has by and large been a force for good in the modern world.

As I have frequently commented, the effects of Empire are all over South America. Is President Lula feeling guilty about how his Portuguese ancestors came to Brazil? The British Empire no longer exists, and the UK Government clearly has no desire to ‘hold on’ to any territory that wants independence – witness the withdrawal from Empire post-1945, and the handing back of Hong Kong in 1997. Frankly, the attempt to whitewash Britain as an Imperial power does not wash.

The sad thing is, it seems that South America’s leaders are behaving more imperialistically than Britain has for many years. The Falklands issue has found itself hijacked by the bigger issues of South American power-play.

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A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain by Marc Morris

Review by Scott Daly

For me, Edward I is one of the most misunderstood Kings in British History. The man known in his time as ‘Longshanks’, and who’s tomb in Westminster Abbey bears the inscription ‘Scottorum Malleus’ (Hammer of the Scots), has been given somewhat of a rough ride recently, largely thanks to a certain Hollywood film-maker. Marc Morris’s book A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain, seeks to cast Edward in a new light.

And on the whole, Morris succeeds brilliantly. From the onset its clear that a massive amount of research has gone into this book. Edwards early life and his role during Henry III’s power struggle with Simon de Montfort is exhaustively explained. In fact during the first two chapters of this book I found myself wondering whether this book was about Edward I or Simon de Montfort. But all this detailed exposition only serves to paint a tapestry of the medieval world in which Edward inherited his Kingdom, and how his early experiences under the reign of his father shaped his Kingship. Unlike Henry III, Edward I would not be dominated by his nobility.

And by the end of this book, the reader is left in no doubt that Edward was a true Medieval Colossus. By the time he ascended to the throne in 1272, he had already been on (an albeit unsuccessful) crusade, and right up until his last days he harboured ambitions of retaking Jerusalem. His wars with Wales and Scotland were bloody and brutal, and its easy to think of Edward as a Warmongerer, a kind of Medieval George W. Bush. But Morris manages to judge Edward purely by the standards of his time. What medieval King could have allowed such rebellious threats to exist and expect to reign securely?

My only criticism of this book is that while it is thoroughly detailed and researched, its a little light on historical anecdotes, the small stories from primary sources that really bring Medieval history to life. When they are to be found, they are brilliant. The gruesome end of Simon de Montfort for example, when he was killed by Edwards forces at Evesham his genitals were cut off, placed in his mouth and his severed head presented to his wife. Or upon handing over control of Scotland to his leuitenant after the first war of conquest, Edward remarked, ‘A man does good business, when he rids himself of a turd’. But I read Morris’s account of the English sack of Berwick in 1296 with frustration, for I didnt feel the true gruesomeness of the assualt was captured. Instead Morris argues that Edward ‘acted entirely in keeping with the traditions of Medieval Warfare’. The author seems to be fearful of being too revealing at this point, incase the audience should be alienated against Edward too much, and it’s a shame.

However, despite this minor gripe, I found this book to be a highly enjoyable, educational read, since there aren’t too many modern books out there about Edward I. I would suggest this is an essential read for any fan of Medieval History.

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Argentina claims regional support over Falklands

Argentina has claimed to have gathered support from other South American countries for its stance over the Falkland Islands, according to BBC News.

At a regional summit in Mexico a document has reportedly been drafted giving Argentina unanimous support. No official statement has been made, but the President of Mexico has reportedly said a document had been drawn up offering Buenos Aires full support in its territorial dispute with London. This regional support is hardly surprising, and has come with the usual anti-imperialist soundbites.

Cristina Kirchner, the Argentinian President, has apparently said that “I think the important thing is that we have achieved very strong support, something that legitimates our claims fundamentally against the new petroleum activity.” How somebody who happens to be the wife of the last President can claim any kind of legitimacy or expect to be taken seriously is beyond me. Also, it hasn’t been made clear exactly what international law has been violated by Britain.

Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, said “Mrs Queen of England, the empires are over”. Clearly Mr Chavez’s grasp of history, british politics and indeed of democracy are slightly weak. The British Empire ended years ago. The people on the Falkland Islands want to be British, how they got there is immaterial. Is Mr Chavez going to hand Venezuela back to the Indigenous Venezuelan Indians?

The majority of people in South America, and certainly those who find themselves in power, are the descendants of the Spanish Empire. If they are advocating that the Falkland Islanders should be shipped home, shouldn’t they all go home to Spain too? Like it or not, the effects of Imperialism are a reality, and the make up of modern South American is exactly the same.

One cannot help but feel that the rumblings coming from Buenos Aires are being caused by two factors. Firstly, the economic and political situation is leading the Argentine Government to exploit the age-old Falklands factor to divert attention away from their own domestic failings. Secondly, Buenos Aires is unhappy about having to eat humble pie over the oil issue. They may make noises about Britain not negotiating or acting unilaterally, but in 2007 they withdrew from talks over the sharing of oil revenue. Now, when it seems that there is money to be made, they want a slice of the pie. I cannot help but think that this recent crisis is not so much about the Islands per se, but about Argentinian domestic factors and oil. Argentina is being less than altruistic in this.

Given the staunch support of the UK for recent US Foreign policy, including unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it might be expected that the US Government will support the British stance. However, with Barack Obama’s somewhat cooler approach to the special relationship, and a desire to engage more with regional governments, the UK might not be able to expect as much support as it received in 1982.

So where does this leave Britain? Clearly, in a very dangerous position. Argentina will feel emboldened by the support they have received from their neighbours – they are not as isolated as in 1982. But economically and militarily, Argentina is unlikely to act. All the same, it is important that the Foreign Office works hard to garner support, particularly from the US and the EU countries.

Theodores Roosevelt’s adage ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ still holds firm – it might not be a bad idea, if possible, to send an extra warship or two down south to patrol the drilling area. We might not have many ships available, but the deployment of one or two now might save a bigger headache later. The biggest mistake the British Government made in 1982 was not acting decisively over the South Georgia incident.

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Guide to Your Ancestors Lives by Nick Barratt

Barratt

Family History is more popular now than it has ever been before. Along with the growth of genealogy websites, this explosion in interest has also been caused by the popular programme ‘Who do you think you are?’. Nick Barratt is the mastermind behind WDYTYA. A Doctor of History and a former employee of The National Archives, there are few people better placed to give us a guide to family history. But the bookshelf of family history is crowded one, so what makes this book different?

The clue is very much in the title. This is not just a guide to carrying out research and finding out dates and names, but a deeper look at the lives of our predecessors. I am a big fan of the more social history approach to genealogy. Why stop at just finding out their names, why not really get to grips with what their lives were like? There are some aspects where Barratt’s expertise really shines – in particular regarding legal documents, property history and the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps this book is not so strong on military history, but it would be pretty impossible for any family history book to be all things to all people.

I applaud that this book does not instantly point the reader towards family history websites. Whilst these can be useful, I do feel that they take away some of the fun of researching your family history. For me, part of the appeal is going to libraries and records offices and getting your hands dirty. I think is misleading to think that you can research your family tree just on Ancestry.

There are plenty of things in this book that were new even to myself, in particular a couple of websites that I have never see before – just goes to show there is always something new in the internet world. But the most interesting thing about this book – for me – is the suggestion that perhaps we should be thinking about archiving our lives now to help our descendants in the future. But with mobile phones, emails and social networking, will there be a lack of sources? This is were Arcalife comes in – a website that archives our activities across a range of media and, effectively, archives our lives.

There are some issues of presentation that I feel do let the book down. I’m exactly not sure why there has to be a full-sized picture of Barratt on the back cover. Also I think some more illustrations would help explain some of what he is trying to say. I’m not advocating dumbing down – after all most genealogy books are full of pictures anyway – but sometimes pictures or diagrams make more sense than words. This book, however, is probably most useful for people who already have a basic grasp of genealogy issues.

Guide to Your Ancestors Lives is published by Pen and Sword

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British Forces in the Falklands

With the amount of press recently about the latest Falklands crisis, I thought it might be timely to take a look at the British Forces that are currently deployed on the Falklands. Notice I say currently – despite the Sun’s screaming headline, all of the warships below are already ‘down south’, none have sailed south as any kind of task force. The Navy, Air Force and Army deployments below are all standing deployments.

HMS Clyde is the Royal Navy’s Falklands Patrol Vessel. She displaces 1,850 tons and has a crew of 36. It has a flight deck that can accommodate Merlin-sized Helicopters. Armament wise Clyde is hardly bristling, with a 30mm Gun, two Miniguns and 2 GPMG’s. Her real value is in giving a presence in the South Atlantic, and being able to transport boarding parties. HMS Scott is very much a stand-in. An Ocean Survey vessel, she is deployed in the South Atlantic to cover for the damaged HMS Endurance. She weighs in at 13,000 tons, and although she carries no armament and cannot operate helicopters, she does provide a presence in some of the further south parts of the Falklands area. HMS York is a Batch 3 Type 42 Destroyer. although rather old she does carry a 4.5inch Gun, Sea Dart Anti-air missiles and a Lynx Helicopter. Type 42′s were used as advanced radar pickets in 1982. RFA Wave Ruler is a fast fleet tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and is on station to replenish warships in the area.

4 Eurofighter Typhoons are based at RAF Mount Pleasant to provide Air Defence. They are far in advance of anything that the Argentine Air Force can offer. To support them a VC10 tanker is also based at Mount Pleasant, which means that the Typhoons can spend longer in the air. A Hercules is also on station to provide transport and patrol functions. 2 Sea King Search and Rescue Helicopters complete the air line-up.

The main ground fore consists of an Infantry Company, which is rotated regularly. An Engineer Squadron is also based on the islands, along with other supporting troops, such as Signals and Logistics. A Royal artillery Rapier Detachment is based at Mount Pleasant and will be crucial – based permanently on the islands, their radars will be well-adjusted to the conditions. Finally, the Falkland Islands Defence Force is a local, volunteer force of Falkland Islanders.

The Ministry of Defence maintains a Joint Rapid Reaction Force for quick deployment to trouble spots globally. Any reinforcement of the Falklands would come from this pool. The Navy maintains a Frigate or Destroyer at high readiness, and several more would also be available. An Aircraft Carrier, currently HMS Ark Royal, is normally earmarked for quick deployment. And although submarine deployments are routinely kept secret, an SSN or two in the South Atlantic would severely hamper the Argentine’s room for manoeuvre. Air reinforcement would include extra air defence assets. The air bridge via Ascension would enable more Infantry and Air Defence Artillery to be deployed very quickly.

Given the political-economic situation, it is unlikely – but not impossible – that the Argentinians would risk another full-scale war. But we live in uncertain times, and as I have commented recently, any struggling Buenos Aires Government looks to exploit the Falklands as a diversion. Initial problems are likely to be possible interference with oil drilling and with British ships in the Falklands Islands waters. Ships will need to patrol confidently to ‘stake out’ possible areas of conflict, and patrol vessels are far better suited for this than Destroyers. The typhoons are a serious deterrent, but the defence of their airfield will also be crucial. In conclusion, there are probably enough forces on and around the islands to deter the Argentines from risking a conventional invasion.

Therefore it seems likely that the role of the armed forces in the present crisis will be low intensity in nature – protecting the integrity of territorial waters, and providing enough of a ‘big stick’ to back up diplomatic moves.

No doubt the heads of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force will attempt to make great capital out of this current crisis. Whilst we have to look on this favourably as something that will inform debate, the risks are that the Admirals in particular will take things out of context. At this point the oil crisis seems to make a case for smaller, hard-hitting patrol ships.

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Filed under Army, Falklands War, Navy, News, Royal Air Force, Uncategorized

Military Vehicles: a confession

I’ve always had a bit of a ‘thing’ for military vehicles. I guess theres no way about getting away with this one: in this respect, I’m a geek.

My favourite military vehicle has to be the good old Land Rover, stalwart of the British Army for years. I’ve never heard anything other than good words from people who have driven them, especially the 110 long wheel base versions – the military counterpart of the civilian Defender. There are some fantastic examples out there – 109′s restored as SAS ‘Pinkies’, Lightweight airportable verions, Gurkha versions, Royal Signals FFR (fitted for radio) versions, and ambulance versions.

There are even a number of communities dedicated to the restoration of ex-military vehicles – The Military Vehicle Trust and the Ex Military Land Rover Association are both fine examples. Just take a look at some of the vehicles in their galleries! There sure is a wealth of expertise out there.

I guess you could say it is an ambition of mine to own one. The plan, eventually, is to pick one up at a knock down price and take it on as a project – research its service history and restore it back to something like its original condition, complete with markings. The great thing is that you can research the service history of every ex-army Land Rover via the records of the Royal Logistics Museum.But, alas, as I haven’t got a driving license yet the Land Rover project is there on the backburner. But that doesnt stop me looking in the classified ads in military vehicle magazines, an on auction websites.

Not only do I find them interesting, but I can imagine a Land Rover 110 being a pretty darn practical vehicle – you wont find the snow stopping you driving round a Lanny. I can see it being an ideal fishing wagon too. And any vehicle that is designed to serve in action with the Army is going to be reliable and easy to maintain, surely?

If money were no object, I would like a WW2 airborne Jeep too. Now that would be something to drive along Southsea seafront in Summer. And while we’re at it, how about a DUKW amphibious vehicle? Is it a truck, is it boat? Its both! It beat Top Gear to it by 60 years!

The Land Rover is gradually being phased out as a combat vehicle in favour of more armoured and mobile vehicles. This is especially important given the inadequacy of the Snatch Land Rover at protecting troops from roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I’m sure the Lanny will keep on serving away from the front-line for some time to come.

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The Lee-on-Solent Fleet Air Arm Memorial

Lee

Lee-on-Solent was selected as the site for the Fleet Air Arm Memorial as it was the location of the large Naval Air Station HMS Daedelus. It is one of the lesser known Memorials in the UK, but remembers 1,925 men of the Fleet Air Arm who have no known grave, most of them having been lost at sea.

The Fleet Air Arm served in almost every theatre between 1939 and 1945, such was the growing importance of sea-based airpower. Men and aircraft were lost in air combat, accidents, and also when aircraft carriers were sunk – the Royal Navy lost seven in the Second World War.

The Fleet Air Arm carried out many daring operations in the Second World War, including the hugely succesful strike on the Italian fleet at Taranto in 1940, the sinking of the Bismarck in 1941, and operations against the battleships Scharnhorst, Gneiseau and Prinz Eugen during their channel dash in February 1942.

20 Portsmouth men are remembered on the Lee-on-Solent Memorial:

The Aircraft Carrier HMS Glorious was sunk on 9 June 1940. Onboard were Air Mechanic 1st Class Harry Aldington (28, North End), Warrant Air Mechanic Leslie Ayres (34, Southsea) and Air Mechanic 2nd Class William Nevitt (20, North End). She had recovered RAF aircraft from Norway and was in the process of returning to England when she and her Destroyer escorts were intercepted and sunk by the German Battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst.

Air Mechanic 1st Class Douglas London (21, Copnor) died on 27 November 1940. During this time his ship, HMS Hermes, was on station in the South Atlantic defending convoys and intercepting German warships.

Petty Officer (Airman) Ronald Hurford (28, Stamshaw) died on 1 January 1941 when HMS Formidable was in the process of transferring from the South Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

From HMS Goshawk Air Mechanic 2nd Class George Harris (21, Milton), Air Fitter James Davitt (19, Portsea), Chief Petty Officer (Airman) Alfred Dicks (36, Portsmouth) and Air Mechanic 2nd Class Stanley Newnham (29) were all killed on 17 January 1941. HMS Goshawk was a Naval Air Station in Trinidad.

Sub-Lieutenant Francis Gallichan (25, Southsea) was killed on 30 July 1941. His ship, HMS Furious, was operating in support of Arctic Convoys to Russia, Furious launched an air attack on Petsamo. 11 Fairy Swordfish Biplanes were lost.

Air Mechanic 1st Class Leonard Sanger (22, Copnor) died when HMS Audacity was sunk on 22 December 1941. Audacity was a captured German Mechant ship, converted into the Navy’s first Auxiliary Aircraft Carrier. Operating in defence of an Atlantic Convoy, she was spotted by Kondor aircraft and subsequently torpedoed by U571.

Leading Photographer Sydney Horne (23, Cosham) of HMS Sparrowhawk died on 1 April 1942. HMS Sparrowhawk was a Naval Air Station in the Orkneys. It hosted a number of different aircraft, including Swordfish, Rocs and Avengers.

Leading Airman John Bristow (20, Cosham) was a crew member of HMS Avenger when he died on 4 May 1942, while she was in transit from the US to England, having been acquired as part of the Lend-Lease agreement.

HMS Dasher sank on 27 March 1943. Amon those killed were Air Mechanic 1st Class William Cluett (21, Portsmouth), Chief Petty Officer (Air) George Chaplin (35, Fratton) and Petty Officer (Airman) Albert Young (44, Cosham). Whilst at anchor in the Clyde a fire onboard caused her to explode. An inquiry found that the fire was probably caused by a dropped cigarette.

Sub-Lieutenant Edward Clark (23, Hilsea) was serving in 838 Naval Air Squadron when he was killed on 1 May 1944.

Sub-Lieutenant (Air) Leslie Smith (21, Milton) was onboard HMS Illustrious when he was killed on 11 June 1944. During June 1944 Illustrious was operating in support of US Landings in the Mariana Islands, by launching diversionary air raids on Sabang.

Lieutenant (Air) George Cornish (24 Southsea) of HMS Puncher was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on 8 June 1945 ‘for gallantry, determination and devotion to duty in carrying out a successful air operation in the face of heavy opposition’, for action on 26 March 1945. In poor weather Puncher launched air attacks on German shipping in Alesund, Norway. Cornishas killed during the attack.

Lieutenant Kenneth Lorimer (22, Southsea) died on 20 March 1947. He was serving at HMS Ferrett, a shore establishment in Derry, Northern Ireland.

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Line-up announced for Navy Days 2010

The Royal Navy’s two newest warships are set to take part in the Royal Navy’s annual showcase this summer, alongside historic ships such as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior.

The first two Type 45 Destroyers, HMS Daring and HMS Dauntless, will be open to visitors during Navy Days 2010 in Portsmouth Dockyard, between Friday 30 July and Sunday 1 August. As well as Royal Navy ships a number of vessels from foreign navies are also expected to visit Portsmouth for the event. Other ships on display will include two Type 23 Frigates. A rare visitor will be RFA Argus, a helicopter training and casualty recieving ship. She is one of the only ships in the world to have a CT scanner fitted among her medical facilities. She served in the Falklands war as a civilian ship, before being taken into RFA service.

Captain Paul Lemkes, Deputy Naval Base Commander, said: “Navy Days is a fantastic opportunity for the Royal Navy to be able to show the public, close up, the capabilities it contributes to UK Defence. I am particularly delighted that we are planning to have two Type 45 destroyers on show in their home port so that visitors will be able to see how the Royal Navy is maintaining its place at the forefront of maritime operations with this cutting edge class of warship. I am sure that RFA Argus will be a big hit with visitors too. She is a one-off ship with a very special capability and does not often get the chance to have the public on board.”

As well as ships many other displays are planned. The Royal Navys Black Cats helicopter team, the Royal Signals White Helmets motorcyle display team, the Royal Artillery Black Knights parachute team, the Royal Navy Dive Team and a Field Gun competition are just some of the displays already confirmed, with more expected.

Events such as this are absolutely crucial to the Royal Navy. Now more than ever it is important for the armed forces to work hard to let the general public know what they do. Especially the Royal Navy, who might expect severe cuts in the upcoming Defence Review. While operation commitments are important, it is also important for the Navy to pull out all the stops to put on a first-class show. The RAF, ever publicity savvy, would not miss a chance to showcase itself. It would be really good to see a bigger ‘headline’ act. Fingers crossed!

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