Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Summer Cruise in Wisconsin - The Battleship that is - Circa 1955

In traditional naval parlance you serve in a ship, not on board. As a regular NROTC Midshipman at Princeton University, I spent my “plebe cruise” during the summer of 1955 in the USS Wisconsin (BB-64), along with several hundred other midshipmen. Wisconsin was the late of five Iowa Class battle ships commissioned by the United States Navy during World War II, and a sister ship to the USS Missouri (BB-63). All of the internal photographs shown here have been taken in the USS Missouri. She (the USS Missouri) currently resides as a maritime museum at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, guarding the memorial and remains of the hull of the USS Arizona (BB-39). See; http://arnhemjim.blogspot.com/p/military-strategy.html . The USS Wisconsin is also a museum ship at the Port of Norfolk (her former home port), Virginia.

USS Wisconsin (BB-64) last of the Iowa Class Battleships
commissioned 16 April 1944

Another view of 58,000 long tons full load
displacement (post 1980's) moving at 35.5 knots

The forward main battery of Number 1 and 2 Turrets of
16"/50cal. Naval Guns

USS Wisconsin - A broadside salvo from Number 1 and 2 Turrets

My General Quarters station was in the powder handling room of No. 2 Turret of her battery of nine 16”/50 cal Mk 7 guns. It was the modern version of a “powder monkey” deep in the barbette. Each of the 6 bags of propellant required for the projectile of a single gun (3 guns to each turret) weighed 110 pounds (white silk bags in the photograph). Suffices we didn’t have to move them very far without electro-mechanical assistance. That’s 660 pounds of powder charge for one projectile with it’s weight ranging from 1900 to 2700 pounds, depending on type. See; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/16%22/50_caliber_Mark_7_gun. and for those interested, an in-depth technical article on the design, development and employment of the gun; http://navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_16-50_mk7.php (please cut and pass this URL). We could only hear a low muffled roar when the turret fired, but sure as hell felt a massive shake as the entire ship rolled in recoil.

An inert 16" projectile and 2 dummy propellent charges, again
110 pounds apiece 

The breech and Welin interupted-screw breech-block of a
16"/50 cal Naval Gun Mk 7; noting the close tolerances
between massive moving surfaces

Another view of the breech, observing the open breech-block
almost centered deep below in the photograph, as gun is in
the nearly maximum elevated position of 45 deg

Typical Midshipmen's berthing quarters; It's certainly not the
 Ritz Carlton, but it was warm (sometimes too warm) and dry

All Hands on Deck, Captain's Inspection - Midshipman
Cruise, Summer 1955 (I was somewhere on deck, you
can tell the Midshipmen by the visored combination caps) 

Main Battery Plot - Firing Panel for all three 16"/50cal Mk7
gun turrets and the Main Fire Control Computer Mk IA

United States Navy Gun Fire Control Computer Mk IA;
fundamentally an electro-mechanical analog computer

"Broadway" ran nearly the full length of the ship, was the top of
6 inches of the second steel armored deck, and about midships
provided hatches and ladders, port and starboard, to the four
 firerooms (boilers) and the four engine-rooms

One of the armored hatches (at top of photograph) passing to
 the lower decks from "Broadway"

That's not a hatch, THIS IS A HATCH! Hatch (door) into the
armored conning station on the bridge of the ship, manned and
secured during General Quarters (don't want to be claustrophobic)

One of my assigned duties was to stand “Admiral’s Flag Watch” on the 011 level at night. Someone, never identified, had “purloined” the flag as a souvenir, so a 24-hour watch was established, comprised solely of midshipmen. Unfortunately, no one had seen fit to provide a set of sound-powered phones for the watch station, and after my designated four hours in the dead of night in the Danish Straits (cold even in the summer). I had to wait a further two hours before someone realized the error, and sent up a relief. During that same passage (not the same time) we passed a Soviet Navy Sverdlov Class Light Cruiser. Given the displacement, speed and armament of an Iowa Class Battleship, I’m certain they were a little bit more impressed with us, than the other way around.

The Mikkhal Kutuzov, a Sverdlov Class Light Cruiser -
now also a museum ship

Another view of the Mikhal Kutuszov

The 011 level and the "Admiral's Flag Watch" straight
up from here

We had paid a port call to Edinburgh, Scotland, with additional liberty, and an overnight train for a multiple day visit to London. Being of Scottish ancestry, and already having developed an interest in the history of the British Armed Forces, it was a magnificent adventure. I was able to acquire a set of used bagpipes (very plain service issue) at the famous firm of J.& R. Glen Highland Bagpipes, 497 Lawnmarket, close to Princess Street in Edinburgh. See; http://www.thebagpipemuseum.com/Glen_History.html (please copy and paste this URL). Glen’s finally closed their doors in 1979. They hang this day in a place of honor in our family room closely guarded by “Lt. Col Angus Smyth - Gordon MC” of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders.

The premises of J. & R. Glen - Highland Bagpipe Makers
since the mid 1800's, Edinburgh, Scotland

A set of Great Highland Bagpipes made by
J. & R. Glen - properly displayed and guarded

Between visits to the sights of London, including the Imperial War Museum (National Army Museum hadn’t been established), I made my first of many visits to Laurence Corner Army Surplus Store which stood at the same location from 1953 to 2007. Will never forget rummaging around the literally open barrels outside the store loaded with all manner of genuine surplus British Army cloth insignia, on sale for literally half pennies or at the most pence each. They were standing on the sidewalk directly under the white sign seen in the photograph. These insignia were the genesis of a lifetime collection of British Armed Forces uniforms, equipment, and armament.

Laurence Corner, Patch Collector's Paridise in its day

From Edinburgh, we set sail out of the Firth of Forth for Copenhagen, Denmark. The ship’s boats for both visitors and liberty parties in Copenhagen landed at a quay that was within a very short distance of the famous little mermaid statue inspired by Hans Christen Andersen’s story.

Copenhagen's enchanting "Little Mermaid" looking out sea

While there one day in the duty section I drew the task of being a tour guide for visitors to the ship. I was assigned to accompany a Soviet Navy Captain Second Rank and his wife (rather dour as I recall) on the standard cursory visitor’s tour of the ship. I knew that he had to be far more knowledgeable than I of the ship’s characteristics and armament. Additionally in retrospect realized that because he was obviously stationed there as part of their Naval Attaché’s staff to Denmark, that certainly he, and probably his wife, were both GRU (Fleet Intelligence suborned to the Fifth Directorate) agents. For those who may not be familiar; Гла́вное разве́дывательное управле́ние, translated, Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (Organization of the Main Intelligence Administration) of the then Soviet Union.

The next day was to prove even more interesting, and a lot more enjoyable. Returning to the ship from a half day ashore, when I boarded the liberty boat to return to the ship, I noticed a middle-aged couple accompanied by an absolutely stunning (classic), statuesque blonde Danish teenager (18 or 19) in a beautiful bright yellow summer dress, who turned out to be their daughter, as suspected. Mustering every ounce of courage, I was smart enough to initially introduce myself to the older couple. They spoke fluent English having immigrated to the United States, owned a flower shop in New York City for a period of time, and for certain reasons decided to return to Denmark. It was a bit of a ride back to the Wisconsin, and by the time we arrived, had been introduced to their daughter Else, and invited them to allow me the opportunity to act as their tour guide. They readily accepted, as I truly think they were trying just as hard for their daughter to potentially meet a future United States Naval Officer. As we all reached the top of the accommodation ladder (gangway), the poor midshipman who had the tour guide duty that day had his bubble burst, when I told him that they had asked me to be their tour guide. What a chagrined and abject look on his face, as Else was really quite striking. Her parents invited me for dinner at their home, left us alone for quite some time, and another day we all visited Tivoli Gardens together. I took them a box of Hersey’s Chocolate bars (still a precious gift in Denmark even in the mid-50’s), and when I left, I gave her one of my gold anchor collar devices. A very sad and emotional parting. Else had learned to read and write fluent English, and we corresponded for quite some time. As best as I can recall she became a highly successful hairdresser’s model (use the search term "Danish hairdresser's female models" on the Internet to get some idea of today's competition, and she could match or surpass anyone of them). I’m not sure exactly what happened after that, just too great a distance, and three more years of university, then at least three years in the Navy, at the time. As you can tell from the length of this segment, I reflect occasionally on what might have been? At my age I'm allowed.

A colorful part of the restored older portion of the
waterfront in Copenhagen

Same scene, Magnificent "Wonderful Copenhagen" by night

A portion of Tivoli Gardens by night

Another portion of Tivoli Gardens at night

It was a magnificent, almost idyllic summer, ending with a brief visit to the U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before returning to home port in Norfolk, Virginia. Really tough duty, but someone had to do it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Detailed and Annotated Order of Battle and Table of Basic Allowances of the British 1st Airborne Division Circa 1944

Having written the previous article on the arms and equipment of a World War II British Airborne Division, this author reviewed the orders of battle for those divisions available on the Internet. There are some very good ones, and I have listed one of the best in the Links section of this blog, however it seemed as though all of them lacked certain elements of information.

Early in my evolving interest in the British 1st Airborne Division at the battle of Arnhem I compiled an expanded and annotated Order of Battle (OOB)/Table of Basic Allowances (T B/A) of the Division. Given my then very limited knowledge of the battle, I submitted my preliminary efforts to the staff of the Airborne Forces Museum, which was co-located with their Headquarters and Depot, Aldershot, Hampshire. It's reasonably comprehensive, and although far from perfect, it does incorporate some features not found elsewhere. Where there are identified errors or incompleteness, hopefully they have been identified.

It was 1974 and the epic film adaptation of Cornelius Ryan’s book “A Bridge Too Far” was yet to be produced, however the book had become a best seller. Maj Geoff G. Norton, the then curator of the museum, was gracious enough to personally respond to my request to review and correct my efforts to that point in time. I think that because the query was coming from a “colonial”, and a reserve naval intelligence officer of senior rank, must have captured his interest and attention. At the time he was a busy man, also serving as Second-in-Command of the Depot of the Parachute Regiment and Airborne Forces. In addition, he himself had already authored a book in the “Famous Regiments” series, “The Red Devils”, in 1971. See; Norton, G.G., The Red  Devils (The Story of British Airborne Forces), Leo Cooper Ltd, London, 1971, ISBN 0 85052 045 2.  Given his detailed knowledge and encouragement, I continued to expand and refine my efforts.

As already pointed out in the immediately previous blog article, http://arnhemjim.blogspot.com/2017/07/detailed-list-of-arms-and-equipment-of.html, there is a disparity with regard to quantities of items in allowance as given in Lt Col H.F. Joslen’s book, Orders of Battle, Second World War,1939 -1945, Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1960. When compiling the list of arms and equipment I was not aware of Lt Col Joslen’s book. Nor do I know whether Maj Norton had access to the book. In his correspondence Maj Norton cites as his source British Army Staff Tables (1944) for an Airborne Division’s weapons. Two of the principal differences in the two lists is in the increase of anti-tank weapons (6 pdrs and PIATs) and jeeps. Given the significantly improved capabilities of German armor late in the war, combined with the combat established need to improve ground mobility for the paratroops, the author would give more credence to the higher numbers. The author personally concludes that the higher numbers are more likely to be correct. An attempt to reconcile all the discrepancies has been attempted, and is included in addition to the original analysis developed in 1974.

Keen eyes will also discern the author’s limited knowledge at the time, such as the
erroneous inclusion of the Inglis Browning 9mm pistol and Wireless Set, No. 38 in
the equipment list, the omission of the Morris artillery tractors for the 17 pdr anti-tank
guns, and the lack of personnel numbers for the 6080 and 6341 Light Warning Units of
the RAF (at least I was aware of their existence). Suffices the author has learned quite a
bit since those early efforts, and hopefully that knowledge has been conveyed in this and
other articles contained in this blog.                                                                                             

To the best of my knowledge all the other names and numbers are correct to the extent of known official archives. Having diligently attempted to edit the tables for alignment of the columns, if there are any remaining ambiguities, please advise the author in the Comments. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Detailed List of the Arms and Equipment of a British Airborne Division Circa 1944

TO&E (Table of Organization and Equipment) is a term used in the United States Armed Forces, specifically the Army and Marine Corps. The British Army uses the term Order of Battle (OOB) and Table of Basic Allowances (TB/A). It includes authorized personnel strength as well as equipment. In as much as there are numerous and detailed Order of Battles available on the Internet of the WWII Airborne Forces of the British Army, this article is confined to their equipment. The detailed allocation and assignment of armament and equipment to lower echelons is not included at this time.

The following tables attempt to detail the weapons and transport of both the British 1st and 6th Airborne Divisions at Operation Market Garden (Arnhem) and Operation Overlord (Normandy) respectively. Where possible the standard complete nomenclature of the armament or transport has been given. These are nominal quantities, and as the reader will readily understand, subject to variance given time, circumstances, and individual unit mission requirements for the two operations. The first list is as published in Lt Col H.F. Joslen’s book, Orders of Battle, Second World War, 1939 -1945, Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1960, with additions and modified only to provide more detailed nomenclature, specifically identifying arms and equipment. The quantity of a given item, if known, is indicated in parentheses.

The reader is cautioned that while every attempt for completeness and accuracy has been made, the author accepts full responsibility for any errors or omissions. The spectrum of specific mortar bombs, and demolitions has not been included at this time. Any corrections or additions will be gratefully accepted, acknowledged and incorporated in the revision of this article. Photographs and more details of the vast majority of the items listed can be found in following articles within this blog:

Pack Howitzer 75mm M1A1 Carriage M8

75mm Pack Howitzer in action Oosterbeek/Arnhem 1944

Same 75mm Howitzer in action Oosterbeek/Arnhem 1944

(Divisional Standard Table of Basic Allowances)
Pistol, Colt, .45cal Self-loading M1911A1, Enfield, .380cal No.2 Mk I* or Inglis Browning, 9mm, No.2 MkI* (Inglis only after Fall 1944) (2,942)
Rifle, Enfield .303cal, No.4 Mk I or MkI* (limited No.4 Mk I (T) Sniper) (7,171)
Machine Carbine, Sten, 9mm, MkII, MkIII, (but predominately) MkV, (6,504)
Light Machine Gun, Bren, 303cal Mk II (966) **
Medium Machine Gun, Vickers, .303cal, Mk I (46) *
Medium Machine Gun, Vickers, 'K', .303cal (22)
Grenade, Hand, Anti-tank, Gammon, No.82 (unk)
Grenade, Hand, Anti-tank, Hawkins, No.75 (unk)
Grenade, Hand, WP Smoke, No.77 (unk)
Grenade, Hand, Mills, No.36M Mk I (unk)
Grenade, Hand, Offensive, No.69 (unk)
Camouflet Set, Light (Cratering charge) (unk)
Mortar, 2in M.L. Mk VII* or VIII (474) **
Mortar, 3in M.L. Mk II (56) *
Mortar, 4.2in M.L. Mk II mortars (5)
Projector, Infantry Anti-Tank (PIAT) Mk I (535) **
Gun, Anti-aircraft, Polsten, 20mm No.2 MKII (airborne) guns Mounting, Airborne, 20mm Gun No.2 Mk2 or Hispano, Oerlkon license (23)
Flamethrower, Ack Pack (Marsden Portable) (38)
Howitzer, Pack 75mm M1A1 Carriage M8 (27) **
Ordnance, Q.F.,6pdr Anti-tank Gun Mk IV (L/50) Carriage Mk III (Airborne) (84) **
Ordnance, Q.F.,17pdr Anti-tank Gun Mk II Carriage Mk II (16)
Wireless Set, No.68P (man-pack) (15+spares)
Wireless Set, No.22 (vehicle borne) (13+spares)
Wireless Set, No.19HP (unk)
Wireless Set, No.65 (unk)
Wireless Set, No.76 (5+spares)
Wireless Set, SCR-536 BC-611 (TRX) (unk)
Wireless Beacon, Eureka/Rebecca, Mk 2 (unk)
Light Warning Set (Radar), AMES, Type 2 (2)
Parachute, Personnel, GQ,  X-Type Statichute (unk, but in the thousands)
Stretcher, Airborne (unk)  
Bicycle, BSA Standard, Mk V (1,907) ** 
Bicycle, Airborne, Folding (1,362) **
Motorcycle, Lightweight, Royal Enfield WD RE light  (529) *
Motorcycle, Solo, Triumph, Model 3 SW, James ML or Ariel, Model W NG (704) **
Motorbike, Lightweight, Welbike (unk)
Jeep, 5 cwt (various configurations including (22) armed units of the 1st AB Recce Sqn) (904) **
Miscellaneous Cars (115)
Scout Car, Daimler “Dingo" (25)
Carrier, Universal, Mk III (Airborne) (25) **
Ambulance, Heavy, 4x2, Bedford MI (24)
Truck, 15 cwt, General Service, 4x2 (129)
Lorry, 3 ton, 4x4, Troop Carrier or Lorry, 3 ton, 4x2, Bedford OYD (438)
Truck, Humber FWD, 4x4, Heavy Utility (unk)
Tractor, Artillery, 30cwt, Morris C.8/AT Mk III (26) 
Cruiser Tank, Cromwell, Mk IV, V, VII (6th AARR) (11)
Light Tank, Mk VII Tetrarch and Locust M22 (11)
Trailers (935)
Trolleys (Handcarts) Fixed wheel and collapsible (450) **
Tractor, Light, Bulldozer, International or Caterpillar, 5 ton,  (3)

The above list should be considered the best, most comprehensive, and most accurate. It takes precedence over all other lists of arms and equipment contained in the entirety of this blog, regardless of date of issue. As it does not apply, it does not take precedence over lists of personnel.  In the event of any further additions or corrections, they will be reflected in modifications to this list. 

Double asterisks (**) reflect an increase from other or previously cited documentation.
Single asterisks (*) reflect a decrease from other or previously cited documentation.  

At some limited variance to the above list, is a published British Army Staff Table (dated 1944) of an Airborne Division, which was personally transcribed handwritten, and provided to me by Maj Geoff G. Norton, very early in my then developing interest in Operation Market Garden. Unusual then, even more so this day in age. At the time (1974), Maj Norton was a serving officer of the Parachute Regiment, and Curator of the Airborne Forces Museum, then located at Aldershot, Hampshire.

Readers can probably understand that differences in the numbers can be attributed to both the delay cycle in wartime publication (security and priorities) and the evolving requirements of the Airborne Forces gained from combat experience. The first list, while citing 1944, obviously reflects much later historical research. Here is Maj Norton's list as conveyed (It did not include any quantities on rifles, Sten guns or pistols);

Bicycles                                 1806
Bicycles (folding)                  1162
M/C Solo                                 601
M/C Lightweight                     587
M/C Combination                      41
Cars 5 cwt (jeeps)                    693
Handcarts                                   15
Carriers, Universal                       9
LMG (Bren)                             701 (+ 60 Pool Reserve)
Mortars 3”                                  88
Mortars 2”                                451
MMGs (Vickers)                        48
PIAT’s                                      258
6 pdr ATk guns                           56
75mm guns                                 24
17 pdr ATk guns                         16

The following photographs are of some of the more specialized and unique equipments used by the airborne divisions:

Light Tank, Tetrarch Mk VII

Cruiser Tank, Cromwell Mk VII

Morris C.8/AT Mk III (Airborne configuratiomn)
used to tow 17 pdr Anti-tank Gun

The following photograph, with acknowledgement to The Daily Telegraph, presents the annotated kit of a representative lance corporal of the 1st Parachute Brigade, 1st Airborne Division, at the Battle of Arnhem 1944.

1.        Parachute, Personnel, GQ X-Type Statichute and Harness
2.         Denison Smock and over (jump) smock
3.         Toggle rope
4.         Battledress blouse, Pattern 37, with wrist watch and dog tags placed on sleeves
5.         Individual Soldier's Service/Pay Book
6.         Braces, trousers, pair
7.         Gators, web, pair
8.         Socks, pair
9.         Ammunition Boots, pair
10.      Gloves, wool, pair
11.      Wallet, leather
12.      Shield (Veil), face, camouflaged (scarf)
13.      Battledress trousers, Pattern 37 (Airborne modified), colorless shirt, undervest, underpants 
14.      Haversack, Pattern 37, with mess tin, mug, water bottle, 48 hour ration kit
15.      Kitbag, Parachutist, with handling line and sleeve
16.      Shovel (in kitbag)
17.      Cutlery, “Housewife”, spare boot laces, wash towel
18.      Entrenching tool head
19.      Haft (handle) for entrenching tool
20.      Ammunition pouches, Universal, Pattern 37, pair
21.     Web belt and braces,  Pattern 37
22.      9mm Machine Carbine, Sten MkV and cleaning kit (below)
23.      Bayonet, No.4 Mk II, with scabbard (and Frog, web, airborne)
24.      Pocket loading tool for Sten
25.      Magazine, Sten, 32 rounds of 9mm ammunition (28 rds usually loaded)
26.      Bandoleer, web, with 7 magazines for Sten
27.      Cigarettes, matches, playing cards
28.      Haversack, Respirator, Lightweight, Mk II  
29.      Grenades, Hand, No. 36M Mk I and No. 69
30.      Fighting knife, Fairbairn-Sykes, with scabbard
31.      Cape, gas, in roll
32.      Respirator (gas mask), Lightweight No.5 Mk I
33.      Ointment, anti-gas
34.      Hood, anti-gas
35.      Eye shield, anti-gas
36.      Ground cloth, with sewing kit/thimble from “Housewife” on top
37.      Beret, maroon (“Red”), Airborne Forces, with Parachute Regiment cap badge
38.      Torch (flashlight)
39.      First field dressing
40.      Helmet, Steel, Airborne, Troops (HSAT) Mk I, leather harness/chin cup, camouflaged netting

Norton, Maj G.G. (personal correspondence), Airborne Forces Museum, Altershot, Hants., 6 April 1974

Joslen, Lt. Col. H.F., Orders of Battle, Second World War,1939 -1945, Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1960