Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Have Faith

The route to Russia in World War Two was particularly harsh, it was even worse in winter, as Convoy PQ13 found out. Two weeks after leaving Scotland on 10th of March 1942, the convoy was scattered by a storm, which lashed the ships for four days. The Germans of course lost no time in capitalising on their good fortune with submarines and aircraft attacking the merchants.
Three Narvik class destroyers were sent to hunt the convoy down. These were Z24, Z25 and Z26. They first stumbled upon the SS Bateau, which they sunk. Of the 47 crew on board only six were rescued. Ploughing through a heavy snow storm on the morning of March 29th the crew of Z26 saw another large ship appear in front of them, just 4000 yards away.
HMS Trinidad
 Suddenly the ship spouted fire. It wasn't another victim, it was the Crown Colony class cruiser HMS Trinidad (motto "Have Faith"). Using her radar, she had picked up the closing destroyers and moved to block them from attacking the convoy. When she ran into Z26 she was fully armed and alert, and began to pummel the unlucky Z26. After only a few salvos the destroyer Z24 emerged from the snow and launched a torpedo attack at HMS Trinidad. The appearance of Z24 gave Z26 a respite as HMS Trinidad was forced to dodge the torpedoes and switched fire onto her new attacker. The two Germans managed to hit HMS Trinidad with a few shells which caused a small fire, which was quickly controlled. Z24 broke contact with the British cruiser, but Z26 was not so lucky. She was quickly chased down by HMS Trinidad and HMS Eclipse, a destroyer, and shelled until she stopped. The cruiser moved in to finish the German with her torpedoes, after they were lined up the crew in charge of the torpedoes opened fire. Two of the torpedoes failed to launch, frozen into their tubes by the bitter cold. Z26 was then sunk by gunfire. Of her compliment of 240, only 96 were rescued by the other destroyers after the battle.
Z26 sinking
On HMS Trinidad, suddenly there were cries of warning about a torpedo track in the water, heading right for her. The torpedo slammed into the cruiser on the port side near the bridge. It ripped a massive hole in the side of the ship, flooding the forward boiler room, and setting fire to her as well. The torpedo was later determined to have been a British one, the same one that had been fired at Z26. Its gyroscope had malfunctioned in the cold and drawn a giant semi-circle, which by incredible bad luck had managed to hit the ship that launched it. This impact caused he loss of all power, and killed 32 of the ship’s company. The bodies were not recovered until in port, and were later buried at sea by the British minesweeper Niger. HMS Trinidad was taken under tow until the damage control measures restored power and she was able to limp into Murmansk on her own on the 30th.

What followed was a month of repairs, with the repairs being completed on the 2nd of May 1942. It’s an interesting, if ill-fated piece of news, that the replacement steel plates used in repairs were brought to Murmansk by HMS Edinburgh, before she returned to the UK to load up on another type of metal for her final voyage.

After HMS Edinburgh was sunk twenty of her survivors were to hitch a ride on HMS Trinidad on her return journey, which began on the 13th of May. She was accompanied by HMS Foresight, Forester, Somali and Matchless, the first two destroyers were veterans of the HMS Edinburgh's sinking. The journey was to take longer than normal as HMS Trinidad was limping along on just one boiler room, and so was reduced to just 20 knots speed.

Two days later, on the 15th, the group of combat ships came under attack by a force of some twenty Ju 88 bombers. The ships began to fire with everything they had. The captain of HMS Matchless kept station with HMS Trinidad. He had four signallers spot bombs. When a bomb is falling its target often losses sight of it, and so the observers on HMS Matchless were able to flash warnings of bombs that looked like they might hit allowing HMS Trinidad to zigzag out of the way of the danger.
One bomber made a dive bombing run on HMS Trinidad, missing the target aft, but as they flew away the crew hosed down the upper decks with its machine guns, all to no effect. Then torpedo bombers came in, HMS Trinidad nimbly dodged the torpedoes, all the time flak blasting from her guns. Her luck was not to hold, one of the last bombers managed to score a hit on her. The bomb penetrated deep into her hull, near the torpedo damage. The bomb exploded where the passengers were sheltering killing them all. It also caused the seal over the torpedo damage to break, and HMS Trinidad began to take on water, and started a major fire.
One of the last pictures of HMS Trinidad
With all this damage the decision was taken to abandon ship. The wounded and crews were divided into lots and evacuated one by one on the destroyers. This was particularly dangerous for the little ships, as the raging fires were nearly at the A turret magazine. Before the last group was taken off a new string of signal flags was raised on her masts, which read ‘I Am Sailing to the Westward’. With the captain of HMS Trinidad the last to leave her decks, HMS Matchless was ordered to sink her with torpedoes, which she duly did.
HMS Trinidad survivors in the UK after their return.
The escorts then came under heavy German air attack and a running battle ensued, the hard pressed destroyers under constant attack for many hours. Then suddenly heavy shells started to burst amongst the circling bombers. The destroyers had lured the bombers into range of the covering force, which consisted of the cruisers HMS Nigeria, Kent, Norfolk and Liverpool, along with a screen of escorts. The concerted fire-power caused the Luftwaffe to retreat, and the survivors of HMS Trinidad made it to the UK safely.

Image credits:
www.georgelloyd.com and iwm.org.uk

Sunday, November 12, 2017

China's first tank Battle.

Thanks to Seon, of Sensha-Manual, for providing me with the report on the Japanese tanks action used in this article.

On the 9th of August 1937 a Japanese staff car drove down a road in China. Riding in the car were the driver and one Japanese officer, First Lieutenant Isao Oyama. Lt Oyama was a member of the Japanese Marines, the SNLF, he was heading towards a Chinese airfield near Shanghai. For the last five years the Chinese and Japanese had, outwardly, been at peace. Although both sides were aware there was a continuation of their war coming, what Lt Oyama's mission was hasn't been recorded. Because both the officer and his driver were shot and killed by a Chinese solider as they attempted to gain entry to the airfield. This incident was all the casus belli the Japanese needed, and the war was back on.
After the fighting in 1932 the Chinese had been preparing for war, or at least trying too. They had obtained German advisor's and equipment. The leader of the advisor's was a German Colonel called Hans Vetter, whom, it seems, had served during the First World War (It should be noted I've been unable to find a biography for him). While the Chinese leaders did agree on the German suggestion to transform their army into a modern force, they met with some obstruction. However, at the time the Chinese army was still in its warlord period where each local warlord commanded his own troops. Any attempt to merge and create sensible divisions was met with resistance from the warlords as each saw the mergers as a risk to his position. Equally as they were embezzling money a merger would limit their income. By the time the fighting broke out only eight infantry divisions had been formed along the lines suggested by the Germans. Of these forces two divisions, the 87th and 88th were dispatched to Shanghai to push the Japanese back into the sea.
Troops defending the French Quarter
Fighting in Shanghai would indeed be difficult, as parts of the city were territories belonging to the worlds global powers. Initially the Chinese wanted to push through the French quarter to reach the river bank, and then outflank the Japanese. However, this would have created international incidents with France at the very least. For that reason the Chinese forces were limited to moving directly through the Japanese and Chinese held areas.

First of all, the Japanese moved several thousand men into Shanghai and began to bombard the city with ships. A few days later, late in the afternoon the Chinese launched their first assault which was defeated with heavy casualties. For an account of the period see here.
On the 16th of August new orders arrived. Instead of costly frontal assaults the Chinese were to try new tactics. These were instantly recognisable as the "Stormtroop" idea from the First World War. Teams of men would infiltrate forwards and launch surprise assaults on the Japanese defenders. If there was a strongpoint it was to be ignored, except for a suppressing force, and the main attack was to sweep round it. This operation was to be named Iron Fist. There is some confusion as to when Iron Fist started. Sources I've found cite the 16th, 17th and 19th. However, it seems likely that the 17th is the date.

To get into position the Chinese troops would mouse hole through building, or use beams to cross from roof to roof over alleyways. These tactics seemed to work at first. But a plane launched from one of the Japanese ships at anchor in the river spotted their movements and the Japanese were forewarned.
Even so, when the attack was launched the Chinese did make some bloody progress. The main problem encountered was a crossfire. As they advanced down streets, when they came to intersections they would suffer from enfilading fire as well as Japanese troops on the roofs of the buildings firing down.

The Chinese high command was also confused about progress with conflicting reports arriving. It became so bad that one commander ordered that when a position was captured sign posts were to be taken down and the signs returned to his command post as proof. The artillery support that was meant to cover the Chinese slowly got further and further ahead as the Chinese forces were delayed. Equally the Japanese ships in the river began to fire in support of their forces.
At this point the Chinese brought up their newest weapons, two companies from the Independent Mechanized Regiment, consisting of Vickers 6 ton tanks. The tanks had been brought in 1934 and 1935 in three batches. Twelve in March, four in May and the final four in September 1935. All the tanks were single turret models with the Vickers export 47mm gun, a short barrelled weapon. Only the four ordered in 1935 came fitted with radios. Some 14,800 rounds of ammunition were also purchased for the main guns, including 2400 rounds of practice ammo.

At first these tanks began to make their presence felt, despite the lack of co-ordination between the infantry and tanks. This resulted from the tanks having just arrived, and absolutely no training, or even a meeting between the tank crews and infantry had taken place.
Towards the end of the day's fighting the Japanese had been pushed backwards. Now they occupied the last line of buildings on the water front, one more attack and they would be pushed into the river. The line of buildings were warehouses, with very thick walls. Even direct hits from 150mm artillery pieces were unable to damage the walls of this fortress, and the Japanese were dug in and not going anywhere. After a bloody assault the Chinese were unable to make any headway and with light failing were forced to call off the attack. Overnight the Japanese were able to bring in re-enforcements and push the Chinese back.
The next day the battle resumed, the Chinese counter attacks supported by their few remaining tanks began to push the Japanese back again. This time however the Japanese had brought their own tanks. A pair of I-Go tanks, one Kou model, the other an Otsu.
A picture taken looking along Wayside road, the morning after the battle
The Chinese lack of coordination between tank and infantry began to show at this point. A single Vickers tank was sitting in the middle of Wayside Road blasting any Japanese movement in the building at the end of the road. Meanwhile the same building was being attacked from a northerly direction by Chinese infantry. The Japanese made an attempt to advance down Wayside to flank the Chinese assault, however the tank's machine guns stopped that idea. The road to the north that the Chinese were trying to cross was called Ward Road.
The Otsu was sent down the left flank of the Japanese held building, which was Ho Mai Road. Fighting along it, it reached and passed Ward Road, before turning east into Kwen Ming Road. Here it ran into a large force of Chinese infantry. Although the Chinese were soldiers of the 87th Division, and so part of the Chinese new model army, they lacked any anti-tank weapons. This allowed the Otsu to reign supreme. With its infantry supporting it they managed to push down the entire length of Kwen Ming road, taking about an hour to clear it. With enemy forces flanking them the Chinese facing the Japanese held building were unable to resist a counter attack. The Japanese also had a new piece of equipment, a flame thrower. Using this they were able to push down Ward Road.

The Otsu, having cleared Kwen Ming Road took an intersection and headed south with its infantry following. It emerged onto the top of Wayside Road, and was able to see the Vickers tank in the distance. Keep in mind that by this point the Vickers tank hadn't moved for nearly two hours, mainly one suspects due to the lack of information about what the situation was between the infantry and the tanks.

Although the Otsu could see the Vickers the range was judged to be too great for the low velocity 57mm to penetrate. So the Otsu advanced with its infantry in tow once more. At a range of 500m the tank halted and fired. The round hit a nearby building causing a shower of rubble and dust. This served no other purpose to alert the tank crew that they were under attack.
Map of the battle, the location of the Vickers and the Route of the Otsu are estimates. However the range between the two is correct for the Otsu opening fire. One should also be careful of the buildings occupied. These are the only ones the reports state where captured. Its likely that there was fighting in other places.
But where was the tank under attack from? The crew were unaware of the enemy tank behind them. The next shot struck the rear of the tank's storage box on the rear of the turret. Immediately the Vickers responded by beginning to turn its turret. This was the moment the Japanese had been waiting for. The Kou, parked for the entire action at the corner of Mo Hai and Wayside Roads was signalled and it advanced around the corner and began to fire on the Vickers. Its shell hit the left side of the turret. The infantry also began to fire on the tank with their anti-tank weapons, getting a penetration on the machine gun port and the hull front.
Damage to the Vickers tank. These are shots showing the actual tank involved in the action. The damage lines up with the report precisely.  Namely a hit to the left hand side of the turret from the Kou, and infantry AT fire hitting the glacis and the Machine gun mount. THE hit to the rear turret box is taken form the report, but the Report says the hit was to the "Rear Carriage", which could mean a lot of things, and is one of the marvels of translation.
The next day Operation Iron fist was called off by the High Command. But on the 20th the Chinese tried again. Their commander, Zhang Zhizhong found a repair depot with a few tanks. He knew the commander of the unit and asked for an attack. The young officer in charge said "The vehicles are no good. The enemy fire is fierce and the infantry have trouble keeping up." However, when ordered the young officer launched his attack. By now the Japanese had been heavily reinforced, and were bristling with anti-tank weapons. They also had fire from the supporting warships. In moments all of the tanks were destroyed.


Image credits:
www.ww2incolor.com, www.tanks-encyclopedia.com and forum.axishistory.com

Sunday, November 5, 2017

First Jet

A few weeks (due to lead times it takes me a couple of weeks to respond) ago, Allan Rowland suggested an article on the first air to air kill between jets. As I'm always looking for suggestions I thought I'd see what I could find. Should be easy enough to do, I thought, I mean how hard can it be?

Well I'm going to start out by cheating. The first hot jet on jet action took place in 1944. On the 27th of July a Meteor F.1, flown by Squadron Leader Watts intercepted a German jet over Ashford in Kent. This happened just two weeks after Watts' squadron had first been equipped with Meteors. After diving onto the tail of the German jet Watts found that his cannons had jammed, and he had to abort the attack run. On the 4th of August another German jet was intercepted by Meteors, this time the cannons functioned as advertised and Pilot Officer Roger shot the German down. The jets in question were of course V-1's. 
 What do you mean that's cheating, and V1's don't count?

Well then, lets hop forward a few years to November 1950 and the Korean War. The first claim of a jet kill comes on November 1st, 1950. A flight of four MiG-15's had finished a 25 minute patrol, and were heading for home, when they spotted ten F-80 Shooting Stars. One Pilot Lieutenant Semyen Khomich dove on the F-80's, shooting one down, and then he broke off. The rest of the flight reacted to the attack and while concentrating on Lt Khomich, they were bounced by the rest of the MiG-15's. However, their attacks missed, and the combat broke up as the MiG's were short of fuel, and the F-80's were reported as fleeing the area.
There's two issues that can affect this claim, first the only F-80 lost on that day was lost to ground fire, according to US records. The US does also admit that a P-51 was shot down on the same day and if you look at a P-51 it does rather resemble a F-80 So there's a good chance these claims are getting mixed. Or alternatively the plane wasn't shot down, it just appeared to be, this happened on the next encounter between the F-80 and the MiGs.

A week after the first encounter a flight of F-80's was flying cover for even more F-80's who were launching a ground attack mission. The F-80 in question was flown by Lieutenant Russell Brown, upon seeing enemy MiGs lower than him heading towards the strike aircraft, he dove on them. For some unrecorded reason five of his six .50 cal machine guns failed to work. But in a remarkable stroke of luck, or brilliant shooting, Lt Brown was able to hit the enemy MiG with his single remaining gun. The MiG was seen to dive towards the ground breaking up.
If we again compare loss records however the Russians didn't lose a MiG on the 8th of November. It’s likely the Russian pilot in an untenable position dived towards the ground to escape, while jettisoning his drop tanks. Lt Brown would have seen these coming off the aircraft and could easily have mistaken them for the aircraft breaking up.
An A-1 Skyraider pulls out of its attack run on the bridge at Sinuiju
The first time the losses and claims do match up is on the following day, November 9th, 1950. Early in the day a flight of F5U Corsairs and A1 Skyraiders were dispatched to attack the bridge at Sinuiju. To provide cover for the strike two flights of F9F Panthers were provided, one off the USS Philippine Sea, the other from the USS Valley Forge. The fighters from the USS Valley Forge were to provide close in protection to the strike, while the others loitered above the low cloud base. Five MiGs were vectored onto the strike force by Communist ground control. They proceeded to head straight in, as they were closing one of the F9F pilots spotted them and in his excitement called out "20,000 MiGs coming in at five feet!". This was sufficient warning for the F9F's from above the cloud base to dive down. At the same time the strike package was beginning its bombing run.
As the F9F's dove through the cloud they popped into sight ahead of the MiGs. The Russian leading the MiGs ordered his planes to attack the bombing aircraft who were just pulling out. The F9F's committed to a head on with the MiGs, but neither side scored any hits, indeed the US pilots said that the MiGs didn't seem to be attempting to shoot them.
After blowing through each other’s formations, the F9F's retained their energy putting themselves into a climb, passing back through the cloud base they went through a loop and followed the MiGs. This meant they were diving out of the sun onto the MiGs, one plane attempted to make a turn, however, US pilot Lieutenant Commander William Amen brought his plane inside the turn and hit the MiG with his cannons. The shells hit the wing and the MiG flipped over on its back and began to dive. Lt Cmdr Amen lost sight of him at about 200 feet after following him down, however his wingman saw the MiG impact the ground, killing the pilot.
Lt Cmdr Amen climbing out of his Panther
That appears to be the first air to air kill, a battle between Lieutenant Commander William Amen of VF-111 and Captain Mikhail Fedorovich Grachev of 139th GIAP.

 Image Credits:
worldofwarplanes.eu, fly.historicwings.com and acesflyinghigh.files.wordpress.com

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bad Choices

Some individuals in history have a very murky story, but sometimes wide reporting of the story sees it getting tied up in knots and contradicting itself. Here's one such story, that of Norman Baillie-Stewart.
Norman Baillie-Stewart
He was born in 1909 to a military family, in London. The family name was Baillie-Wright, and Norman's middle name was Stewart. However, at the age of 20 he changed his name to Norman Baillie-Stewart for unknown reasons. By this point he'd seen his father lead an Indian Army regiment in the First World War, and he had been to Sandhurst Royal Military College, graduating as a Lieutenant. From here he had joined the Seaforth Highlanders, serving in the Northwest frontier. His tour had not been a success, when his action of pulling down a local banner from a graveyard aggravated the locals and caused some disruption. He was, it is reported, generally disillusioned by army life at this point so he applied for a transfer to the Royal Army Service Corps, returning in 1931 to Britain.
It is here that things begin to get murky, as Norman was soon to get mixed up in espionage. In 1932 Norman was taking pictures inside a British Vickers Medium MK.III, one of the sixteen tonners, when he was arrested for spying. We know this because David Fletcher has spoken to a soldier present during the incident. It was alleged that Norman had taken plans of the A1E1 Independent, a new automatic-rifle and some organisational diagrams and sold them to Germany. The A1E1 Independent plans appear to have arrived in Moscow, likely gifted to the Russians by the Germans whom Norman was working for. These, it seems likely, would have influenced the T-35's development, which first appeared some three years later. Equally its possible, although much less certain, that Norman's interest in the Medium Mk.III is somehow related to the German Neubaufahrzeug tanks.

All the paper details that Norman obtained were checked out and copied from a military library in Aldershot. Even worse they were checked out in Norman's own name leaving a paper trail that was pitifully easy to follow.
What induced Norman to commit treason? Well on a visit to Germany a German named "Otto Waldemar Obst" offered to introduce him to a young lady. She was named Marie-Louise, she was described as five and half feet high with blue eyes and a good figure. He had never found out her surname, job or where she lived. He only ever had dates with her picking her up from a specified location and leaving her in the street after each date. The dates themselves would involve a trip to a lake near Berlin where "Marie-Louise" had a boat. Whilst at the lake the couple would become intimate.
After his return Norman received two payments of cash by post, one of £50 and one of £40, along with a note from Marie-Louise thanking him for the loan. She suggested he come to meet her in Holland, and Norman was discovered to have notes on travel plans at the time of his arrest. His trial was widely reported by the press as it had a lot of drama, including a large legal argument over the exact meaning of the law. The point of contention was the word "and", but should it be implied to mean "or". Further drama occurred when a religious type stood up in the public gallery and yelled about not sending Norman to the tower whilst brandishing a bible, before being removed from the court. The prosecution also pointed out that the last name of the German contact who introduced the couple, "Obst", sounds similar to Oberst, a German Rank. The German speakers will also have spotted that Obst also means "fruit" in German, but I'm not sure that fact would have helped Norman's defence, despite (to my surprise) it being an actual last name in Germany.

Luckily for Norman despite the ten charges of breaching the official secrets act, as Britain and Germany were not yet at war there was no death penalty. However, he could have been awarded 140 years in prison. He got away with just five when the Courts Martial came to a close at the end of March 1933 and he was sent to the Tower of London. As he was imprisoned he was also refused the campaign medal for his service in India.
Wolf Mittler
After Norman's release he moved to Austria, where he applied for citizenship. However, his application was rejected as he didn't qualify and was suspected of being a Nazi agent. Equally the British consulate rejected his pleas for help. Thus, he was forced to leave the country and ended up in Czechoslovakia. When Austria was taken over by Anschluss in 1938 Norman returned to the country. At a party after his return he heard a German English language broadcast, possibly by the original Lord Haw Haw, Wolf Mittler. He was described as being like Bertie Wooster (A cartoon buffoon and bit of a tit in popular culture). Norman made several remarks about it at the party, however one of the other guests who heard these remarks worked for the authorities.
William Joyce, upon his capture
Luckily for Norman the authorities in question were the Austrian radio service, these comments travelled up the chain of command and eventually Norman was given a radio test, and then ordered to report to Berlin where upon he began to broadcast in English. His first broadcast was a week before the war broke out. Norman was one of the contenders for the name Lord Haw Haw, which seems to have been used for several broadcasters before finally settling on William Joyce. Norman may also have gained the nickname "Sinister Sam". However, Norman was soon dismissed by the Germans, being fired in December. From then on he worked as a translator and taught at Berlin University, eventually becoming a German citizen in 1940. In 1942 under the name Lancer he returned briefly to the radio, before leaving again. In 1944 he was back in Austria for medical treatment and at the wars end he was arrested (reportedly wearing lederhosen). At his trial he once again faced a potential charge of treachery. This time it would carry the death sentence. Again, he got lucky with the prosecutor not believing they could get the charges to stick and so went for a lesser charge. MI5 suggested deporting him to the Soviet occupation zone where they were sure that legal issues wouldn't get in the way. However, this didn't happen, and Norman received another five years in prison after pleading guilty. After release he took up a new name, James Short, and moved to Dublin. He collapsed from a heart attack in 1966, and died aged 57.

Image credits:
dirkdeklein.files.wordpress.com, blog.twmuseums.org.uk and www.worldwarphotos.info

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Down the Boozer

Bomber Command's war was an odd one. During the Second World War it was more a battle of electronics and counter measures than of guns and performance. The British bombers flew at night simply because it was hard to find them, yet if the Germans used electronics to find the bombers they could attack and were likely to succeed in shooting down the target. So the Germans used radar to find their targets. But radar would turn out to be a double-edged sword. There was one problem with the state of electronic warfare of the age, how do you find out what frequencies the enemy are using?

Well the RAF hatched a cunning plan. A lone Wellington bomber would fly about above Germany, waiting to be attacked, and when she was attacked, this Wellington could simply record the frequencies used, and the British would have learned a vital piece of information they could use as a weapon. There was of course the slight problem with the Wellington surviving.
Nevertheless, on 2nd of December 1942, a Wellington Ic, serial DV819, aircraft registration DT-G, took off from Grandsen Lodge airfield to join in the bomber stream that was heading towards Frankfurt. On board was not the usual payload of bombs, but Pilot Officer Harold Graham Jordan, and his specialist electronic equipment for picking up radar signals. The idea was that the plane should operate from the coast of France to near Frankfurt. This was the 18th time this mission had been flown, all previous missions had not yielded the results needed. At about 0430 as she neared Mainz DV819 separated from the bomber stream and began to head north, at 14000 feet, trying to bait an enemy night fighter into attacking her.

Less than a minute later PO Jordan's equipment began to flicker into life, with a very faint signal. PO Jordan announced over the intercom that these seemed likely to be the signals that were to be investigated, and that the crew should expect a night fighter attack.
 Imagine that warning, you are very much on your own, over Germany, in the pitch dark, and you've been warned that at any second an enemy fighter will come steaming out of the darkness illuminated by its cannons blazing, which would result in your death. The impact of enemy fire is likely to be your first warning as well.
Minutes later, as PO Jordan stared at his equipment the signal strength began to grow, and became stronger indicating that the enemy fighter was closing. All PO Jordan was able to do was issue the same warning again.

Getting the information back to base was critical, so a coded signal stating what the frequency of the enemy airborne radar probably was, was prepared to be sent. Hopefully it would reach England. But transmitting over enemy territory would defiantly give one's position away, even if the night fighter had not detected them. But they transmitted the message anyway.

At about 0442 DV819 changed course again, heading for home. By this point PO Jordan's receiving equipment was being overwhelmed with the signals from the enemy radar. This meant without a doubt that the transmitter was very very close. PO Jordan issued his warning that an attack could come at any second. Before he finished speaking the German cannon shells ripped into the fuselage, the first rounds hitting PO Jordan. The rear gunner saw a Ju 88 hurtle past and began to give warnings of its approach, this allowed the pilot (Pilot Officer Paulton) to throw the bomber in to corkscrew turns to avoid the attacks. The gunner also brought his turret into play and began to fire back. After about 1000 rounds the turret was hit, rendering it useless and the gunner was wounded in the shoulder.

In the centre of DV819, PO Jordan was in pain after being hit in the arm, despite this he transmitted a message to base confirming the previously suspected frequency as being the correct one. Despite his wounds he continued to take readings of various aspects of the signal, noting them down and working his equipment. As he studied his equipment PO Jordan realised he was able to tell which side the enemy fighter was on, and so began to relay this information to the pilot allowing him to make the correct manoeuvres to avoid the German. He continued to do this even after another pass from the German hit him in the jaw.

Then the front turret gunner (named Grant, however his rank is not given) was hit and wounded. The wireless operator went to free him from the turret, but as he moved forward a cannon shell exploded between his legs, which badly wounded him, he managed to get back to his duty station however. Jordan was hit for a third time, this time in the eyes. Now blinded he was unable to operate his equipment. He had no intercom, as it had been blasted by enemy fire, so couldn't call for help. He groped and scrambled forward where he found PO Barry, the navigator, and led him back to the electronic equipment. There he tried to give him a cash course on how to operate the vital electronics, all the while under enemy fire, in a severely damaged bomber with no means of defence.
To give you an idea of how badly damaged DV819 was, one engine was set at maximum boost power, while the other engine had no throttle. Both engines were spluttering and running irregularly.  The starboard control surfaces were jammed, she was leaking fuel and both hydraulics and instrumentation such as the air speed indicator were not working. 

PO Barry was unable to grasp the advanced electronics and PO Jordan had to give up his attempt to get him to work it. By now the Wellington had been in so many corkscrew manoeuvres to avoid the attacker they had dropped down to just 500 feet. Luckily at this point the Ju 88 gave up its attack. 

Slowly DV819 climbed, managing to stagger up to 5000 feet. Meanwhile the wounded wireless operator continued to continuously transmit his signal of what the frequency was, as he had not received the acknowledgement. At last at 0505 the acknowledgement arrived and the plane could fall silent. On her current course DV819 would come close to Dunkirk, and she had to fly low to avoid enemy searchlights. Over the channel she flew higher again. After reaching England PO Paulton announced that they had no chance of landing so would await daylight and then ditch the aircraft. He offered to let anybody who so wished to bail out first. The wireless operator who realised his leg wounds would prevent him from swimming and evacuating a sinking aircraft opted to jump. He was given all of PO Jordan's log books, containing their vital recordings and jumped out near Ramsgate, making a safe landing where he and his papers were recovered safely. 
DV819 ditched off the coast at Deal, as the crew began to scramble out their automatic life raft inflated, however it had been shot full of holes. The crew desperately tried to pinch the holes closed but it was futile, and the wounded crew scrambled off the sinking life raft and back onto the bomber. Some five minutes later a rowing boat approached and rescued them. 

The information recovered from this sortie allowed the RAF to develop a device called BOOZER (boozer being slang for a pub). In its first version (Mk.I, sometimes called Yellow BOOZER) it warned the pilot if their plane was being painted by night fighter radars, and lit up a small yellow lamp. The idea was the pilot would then fly away from the signal. However, it never worked properly, due to various faults and was often turned off.
The captured Ju88, note the British markings.
In May 1943 a Ju 88 night fighter was tasked with intercepting the usual BOAC flight to Sweden (flown by Mosquito's in civilian liveries because a military aircraft would be naughty and violate Sweden's neutrality). Of the three crew two were ardent anti-Nazi's and they decided to defect. They reported an engine fire, flew low to the sea and dropped three life rafts to give the impression the plane had crashed. One of the crew had to hold the third prisoner at gunpoint as he wasn't in on this defection attempt.
Yellow BOOZER display.
As the Ju 88 approached England two Spitfires flown by an American (Flt Arthur Ford) and a Canadian (Sgt B Scamen), were vectored in for the intercept. As they approached the Ju 88 dropped its landing gear, waggled its wings and fired off flares. From there it was escorted to Dyce airfield. This aircraft is the one currently stored at the RAF Museum in Cosford. With this aircraft and its all-important radar, the flaws of Yellow BOOZER were discovered. This lead to a Mk.III version of BOOZER, also known as Red BOOZER. It retained a now working yellow lamp warning for air intercept radars, but also included a red one that would warn if ground radar picked up the plane. A dull red glow for fighter control radar and a bright red one for flak control radar. BOOZER seems to have been used throughout the rest of the war.

Image credits:
www.hinckleypastpresent.org, www.theworldwars.net and spitfirespares.co.uk

Sunday, October 15, 2017

North Korean Landings

Sometimes Google fails you. A couple of weeks ago I found a reference to an amphibious invasion during the Korean war in a document. Any combination of Googling brings up one of two results. The Inchon landings or modern stories about North Korea. Luckily, I managed to get back down to the archives and get some more documents and details. What follows is the Communist amphibious invasion of Changin Do. 

Changin Do is one of the many islands in the estuary of the Yalu River. At sea the Communist forces didn't have much to challenge the UN naval power, although these ships couldn't be everywhere. On land the allies used advisor's to lead local Korean guerilla forces. These US Special forces reconnaissance teams were run under an operation codenamed HEMONG. Irritatingly the reports all use period terminology and codenames, and one of the leaders of an operation in the area is only referred to as "LEOPARD", without giving a clue who LEOPARD is. Equally there are areas of operation and they're all referred to by their code names, same with locations, which makes the modern-day historian really confused. Which, I guess is the entire point, you don't want the uninitiated from guessing what you're talking about.

The communist forces were conducting an island hopping campaign using three motor and eleven sailing Junks, with about a battalion of troops to fight for control of the islands. These had by July 1952 pushed the HEMONG teams back.  
Changin Do lay near the mainland, and was considered a prime place by LEOPARD as a jumping off point for his teams and agents. Equally if it was captured the neighbouring islands of Kirin Do, Ohwa Do and Sunwi Do (I'm sure you've spotted it, but Do = Island) would be unsupportable and fall. Changin Do had already changed hand several times. If this cluster of islands fell then the strategically important Paingyong Do would be under threat.  
About 0200, 15th of July about 300 North Korean Army troops had landed on Changin Do. Although after the battle it was estimated that the number was half the reported 300. The landing force was carried in two sailing Junks and four foldable boats. The latter were about 15 feet long, 5 feet wide and just three feet deep. They were made out of rubber and light woods, with an outboard motor on them. An LMG could be mounted forwards. To carry them eight men would be needed per craft, or three could be loaded into an Ox cart. The outboard motor was too powerful for the construction however, and caused the boat to shake and leak as it was used. These had been used elsewhere and were of interest to the Allied intelligence as they'd never ever recovered a sample.
HMS Belfast

The first reports of the islands capture reached Allied naval forces about 0915, the two nearest ships were quite famous ones. HMS Belfast, whom had been heading back to base to refuel, and HMS Amethyst, of the River Yangtze fame. These two ships immediately steamed at best speed for the captured island, with HMS Belfast arriving first at 1000 and HMS Amethyst arriving shortly afterwards. Both ships launched a boat apiece, armed with machine guns and a few Royal Marines. They were dispatched towards the beach where the enemy were estimated to have landed, with the intention of obtaining a sample of the folding boats. As the two boats approached they saw a large number of civilians taking cover in caves, and turned towards them, however the communist forces were also there. The communists were on the top of the cliffs above the caves, and they began to fire at the boats with everything they had including mortars. The Royal Marine boats broke away and returned to their parent ships, with only one marine wounded through the leg. 
On its way back, the boat for HMS Belfast picked up a naked Korean from a small rocky islet. He was a local who had ferried DONKEY agents about. He had been carrying two agents overnight and had run into the Communist forces just after landing the agents, they had chased him, and to escape he had swum out to the rock where he had lain exhausted.
HMS Amethyst

At this point LEOPARD decided to mount an operation to re-capture the island with local forces, but it wouldn't be ready until the morning of the 16th. The Royal Navy ships were asked to hold station and keep the sea lanes secure. About 1645 while sailing around the island, a battery of 76mm guns on the mainland began to fire at HMS Amethyst. Sensibly she retreated, while returning fire. One of her shells caused a secondary explosion and one hostile gun ceased to fire on her. During the run to be outside the batteries range, which was some 12000 yards, about 45 rounds were fired at her, some landing as close as 20 yards. In return HMS Amethyst sent back some 78 rounds. HMS Belfast in the meantime couldn't see the battery, due to Changin Do being in the way. But she could reach the site with her main guns. HMS Amethyst walked the fire onto the target and with just 26 silenced the battery. 
A similar incident occurred about 1945, when a battery began to fire directly onto HMS Belfast, getting some twenty rounds off, but the nearest was seen to land about 200 yards away. HMS Belfast didn't miss, and one salvo silenced the enemy battery.

As darkness began to approach the South Korean patrol boat 702 (Named the Kum Kang San) appeared. Belfast had ordered her to attend to help with the blockade as shallows between the island and the mainland were no go areas for HMS Belfast or HMS Amethyst. The PC 702 along with HMS Belfast's armed boats blockaded this area all night.
Patrol Boat 702

The next morning was planned for the 200 guerillas to land from Ohwa Do. Transport problems occurred straight away. The guerillas only had one motor junk, and it was only using 1.5 of its normal cylinders, the others being broken, and was being used to tow sailing junks. The previous night the two US advisors had arrived and asked for a tow from the British ships, but they'd all been needed to blockade the island. As dawn broke the channel element couldn't remain under the enemy guns and so was withdrawn, with PC702 being sent to tow the junks. The tow rope however, was rubbish. Rotted through it kept on breaking as soon as PC702 started to move, as she couldn't actually go slow enough to pull the other junks. So LEOPARD's motor junk had to resume meaning that the landing was some 3.5 hours past its time. This actually proved a boon as due to the delay planes from the USS Bataan were able to arrive to provide close air support. The guerrillas split up into two companies and began to move opposite ways around the island, supported all the way by air strikes and point-blank gun fire from the warships. This liberal amount of support actually worked against the counter attack, when about 1000 the main defensive position was reached. The North Koreans were dug in on ah hill that dominated the entire island. Both HMS Belfast and the air strikes tried to blast the communists out of their position but failed. However, the guerillas wouldn't assault as they thought it wasn't their job. To that end after two hours of bombardment, at 1200, the planes from the USS Bataan were called off, and HMS Belfast left the area to complete her refuelling. The withdrawal of most of the support had the desired effect, one of the companies of guerillas encircled the enemy position and then both attacked. After five hours of fighting the position was silenced and the island was back in Allied hands.
USS Bataan
 HMS Belfast was back on the scene about 1800, and overnight she and HMS Amethyst provided medical support to the wounded from the fighting. HMS Amethyst even had a US doctor flown on board to assist the ships medical personnel, and some fifteen personnel (including one of the US advisor's and a female) were treated. There was one more incident, PC702 was back patrolling the channel overnight when she found six North Korean soldiers swimming for the mainland. In an incredible quirk of fate, the captain of PC702 knew the officer in charge of the group, they had gone to school together, however as he was an ardent communist he had joined the North Koreans. Of the 156 North Koreans landed, 80 were killed, 42 captured, thirty drowned while trying to regain the main land by swimming, and five unaccounted for.
 


Now I'm going to try something different. Sometimes I have extra information related to a story. But it would make the article too long. For that reason, I have set up a Patreon where I can put the bonus material. This is in part to deal with some of the costs of this work (which up until now I've been paying out of my own pocket).

Don't worry I'm not going to put the ending of the article behind a pay wall or anything like that. You will still get a complete story every week free. However occasionally I will stick some extra details up on the Patreon.
 Today is a perfect example of what I mean. The main article above is already nearly 1500 words long, which is close to the point when I'd cut it into two articles. However, I still have the story of an earlier invasion of Korean islands by communist forces, the fate of LEOPARD's motor junk and HMS Belfast getting ambushed a week later. While related, they are not part of this story, and too short to make a full article out of. Therefore I've placed the stories of LEOPARD's junk and the earlier North Korean Amphibious raid on Patreon. Later this week, Wednesday most likely, I'll post up the HMS Belfast incident on my Facebook page (which I recommend you follow as there are changes afoot).