Wednesday, October 25, 2023

A Different Kind of Bespoken Gun for a King at War

When one thinks of a bespoken firearm, names like Boss & Co., Holland & Holland, Purdy and Rigby, and shotguns, normally come to mind, particularly for the King of Great Britain. But that would not be the case with King George VI during World War II.  An entirely different gun once which belonged to George VI, now resides in the Imperial War Museum. It is in  a suitably inconspicuous wooden cased (attache type), and is a STEN Mk II 9mm Machine Carbine, with three fully loaded magazines, and additional ammunition in the nine boxed compartments to the left part of the case (estimated 450 rounds). Unlike the normal production cost $10.00 USD configuration it has an extremely well finished exterior surface, and I feel certain precisely toleranced interior parts, specifically the magazine followers and feed lips. There is a question as to how frequently either he personally, or his equerry, carried the cased weapon during the entire World War II. (Editorial note: Perhaps the recommendations of certain current leaders should be reviewed in the context of the King's choice. He gave both Elizabeth and Margeret shooting instruction, Elizabeth learning on a Thompson .45cal. Model 1921 Sub-Machine Gun, which purportedly belonged to Prime Minster Winston Churchill).

It is not known to the author whether this image of Prime Minister Winston Churchill shows him with that specific weapon, but it is the correct configuration.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Kitting the British Tommy through the Ages

 In 2014, The Telegraph published a pictorial series showing the kit of a British soldier at various times throughout modern history from The Battle of Hastings to Helmand Province. The actual work was done by well known London based photographer, Thom Atkinson. This author believes that this series merits being re-shown as a definitive reference for military historians, artists, toy soldier, and military miniature collectors. A few of the numerically annotated images were inadvertently cropped, and in one case the image and text (The Alma 1854) were completely omitted. Where possible these have been augmented with full images. Each image can be enlarged by double tapping your mouse.With full acknowledgement and gratitude to the Telegraph and Thom Atkinson, the full series is again presented herein.

The Battle of Alma in 1854
The Battle of the Alma was the first battle of the Crimean War fought between British, French and Turkish troops against the Russians. The allied army defeated the Russians, blocked their advance on Sebastopol, and forced them to retreat, which largely shaped the rest of the Crimean War. The author has lost the numerically annotated image and listing.

Addendum: The following three images, unfortunately without annotated text, are added to at least complete the photographic series. If text is found, will be included.

Norman Knight, Hastings 1066

Longbowman (Yeoman) 100 Years War, Early 15th Century

Private, War of the Spanish Succession, First Decade 18th Century


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Boldest of the Bold, Bravest of the Brave, British Special Air Service Regiment

It has been recently more and more of a challenge to develop topics for articles consistent with the overall theme of the blog. The following may be stretching, but hopefully will prove interesting.

To try a select the most famous and brave military persons in recent history is inherently an arbitrary, very difficult, and controversial task. However, most military historians would agree that the British Special Air Service Regiment would rank very near the top for candidates.

Within its ranks there are three soldiers who certainly deserve consideration as the most famous and courageous in modern times. Rather than rank the individuals, they will be listed in chronological order.


Lieut-Colonel Robert Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne, DSO w/4 bars

The Irish Lion. Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Blair 'Paddy' Mayne, DSO w/4bars. Lieutenant-Colonel 'Paddy' Mayne is a legendary figure in the history of the Special Forces. A celebrated sportsman with a turbulent character, he played a vital role in the early successes of the Special Air Service (SAS), becoming one of its most important commanders., capped for Ireland and the British & Irish Lions at rugby union, lawyer, amateur boxer and a founding member of the Special Air Service. For his action in Germany, Mayne was recommended for the Victoria Cross, the highest military award for gallantry. This was later downgraded to his fourth Distinguished Service Order. should have had the VC, but he beat up too many officers over the years. The powers that be, didn't want anyone emulating him. He was also decorated by France the Legion of Merit. In North Africa Paddy Mayne personally destroyed 100 German aircraft (confirmed, all on the ground). Here are his medals. One of only seven men in history to win the DSO four times.

Believe it or not there is a connection between "Paddy" Mayne and one of the predominant themes of this blog. One of the early themes of the second generation of King and Country toy soldiers/military miniatures was the WWII British Eighth Army and Special Air Service Regiment. Obviously included in the series was the founder Lieut-Colonel David Sterling, and the following portrait figure of "Paddy".


Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, BEM, MID

 Battle of Mirbat, Oman 1972.

Painting of wounded SAS Sgt Talaiasi Labalaba, operating the 25 pounder
artillery piece during the battle, with trooper Takavesi covering him.

At the height of the communist rebellion in Oman, the British sent a detachment of 9 SAS soldiers to the key port of Mirbat, with orders to train local soldiers and defend the region. The SAS were based at the British Army Training Team (BATT) House, a large fortified building inside an open compound bordered by barbed wire, with a single 25 pounder artillery piece in a dug in position near the BATT building and a forward defensive picket a mile from the BATT building, manned by local Oman army guards.

Mirbat Fort, British army training team HQ.

At 05:00 on 19 July, 1972, a large force of 300 communist insurgents attacked and swiftly overwhelmed the forward picket position at Mirbat and killed the Omani Gendarmerie guards. At this point, SAS Captain Mike Kealy, became aware that something was afoot and ordered his small team of SAS soldiers to take up defensive positions, manning the roof and entrances, before radioing the British for reinforcements.

The British training staff at Mirbat included 9 SAS soldiers, most of them veterans, a handful of British intelligence officers and a small complement of Oman Gendarmerie.

As the sun came up, Captain Kealy could see hundreds of guerrilla insurgents surrounding the SAS position and clambering over the barbed wire fencing. Unfortunately the 9 SAS soldiers only had rifles which didn't have the range to engage until the enemy got closer, their one browning machine gun opened fire.

SAS Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba volunteered to man the 25 pounder gun outside, Laba ran 200 hundred meters from the SAS position to the artillery piece and jumped into the gun pit, taking cover behind sandbags. Sgt Labalaba wasted no time loading and operating the large gun, which normally required 6 men to operate. He began laying down devastating shells onto the waves of communists charging towards the SAS position, all the while the remaining 8 SAS soldiers provided a cross fire from the fortified building and roof, accurately laying down supporting fire with their SLR rifles and one heavy machine gun.

After an hour of continually reloading and firing the gun alone, Sgt Labalaba radioed Captain Kealy to report that he had been hit by a bullet and needed help. Mike Kealy wasted no time and sent Labalaba’s fellow countryman, trooper Takavesi to aid him, when Takavesi reached his friend he found Labalaba bleeding profusely from a head wound, but still operating the gun at almost a round a minute. Trooper Takavesi who had medical training, quickly bandaged Labalaba, before taking up a position and covered Labalaba, accurately tapping away with his SLR rifle at the wave of insurgents rapidly approaching.

"So we set about taking them out. The group in front were hit. The line faltered and collapsed. Wave upon wave of them were advancing, grabbing at the barbed perimeter wire with bare hands, while Labalaba was blasting them into oblivion." - Trooper Takavesi.

For two and half hours, Sergeant Labalaba held his position outside the Mirbat building, against hundreds of guerrilla insurgents, with his Fijian countryman and friend he fought, as dried blood and sweat matted his hair and beard, staining his clothing, he continued to battle.

Eventually the main gun ran out of shells and Labalaba picked up his SLR rifle, throwing a few mags to his friend Takavesi, they both defended their little fort made of sandbags, desperately firing at point blank range as waves of communists closed on them

When Labalaba began to run low on ammo, he attempted to recover a nearby weapon, he asked Takavesi to cover him and quickly made his move… Takavesi later said that while he was covering Laba, who bravely tried to recover the weapon, they glanced at each other, when their eyes met, it was like Laba knew something was about to happen, then suddenly Laba was shot in the neck and dropped dead.

Sadly reinforcements and air support arrived not long after Labalaba died, and with that, the remaining insurgents fled. From the bodies recovered, it's estimated that over half the enemy number died, with more being wounded and taken from the battlefield. Most were killed by SAS Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba.

When 9 SAS soldiers defeated 300 insurgents and secured the independence of Oman. 3 SAS operators died at Mirbat, including Sgt Labalaba.

"Labalaba was a bear of a man. When he was fully tooled up, he was the original Rambo. They wanted to give him the Victoria Cross, but because the war was a secret in 1972 no one received any major decorations." - SAS Trooper Takavesi.

The statue of SAS Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba,

outside Fijian Airport

Staff Sergeant John Thomas “Mac” McAleese, MM

McAleese is one of the most famous and decorated British Army soldiers of all time. He successfully led the team of SAS operatives known as “blue team” into the famous Iranian Embassy siege, called Operation “Nimrod”. This was the operation that made the SAS the household name they are today. He was even spotted live on television on the first-floor balcony of the embassy, at the moment he places an explosive charge on the door. It was moments before they stormed the building on 05 May 1980. Later on in his career he served in the Falkland War in 1982, and received the Military Medal in 1988. He received most of his fame when he told his life story on the TV Show “SAS: Are you tough enough?”. He was well known for his trademark moustache and was later recognized as the legend of the World’s special forces. The show was aired on British television and gained much success.



Thursday, June 29, 2023

40th Anniversary (now 41st) of British Forces in the Falkland Islands 1982

This blog page portrays a minimalist diorama (vignette) commemorating the 40th Anniversary (now 41st) of 3 Royal Marine Commando Brigade, and B Squadron, Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards). Hopefully a future expansion may include 2 and 3 Battalions The Parachute Regiment, and representation of all other units of the British Military Forces engaged in action in the Falkland Islands, April-June 1982.

Included are a couple of images of the desolate, and hostile environment of the theatre of operations. Miserable, an understatement!

The 1:30 scale armoured vehicle depicted is one of four Scorpion FV101(76mm L23A1) which were deployed. They were accompanied by  four Scimitar FV107 (30mm L21 Rarden gun), and additional support vehicles. The figures and the newly released light tank (the actual tank weighed only 8 tons; great speed and trafficability) are produced by Andy Neilson's King and Country Military Miniatures.

In the background of some of the shots can be seen the miniature full band of The Parachute Regiment marching out of their Aldershot depot playing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina". This actually occurred (have the tape). An identical set was presented to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Have copy of her thank you note in 1984 to D.J. Cross, the maker. 

What also may be of interest is the accurate corrected historical account of the Royal Marines action at Government House in Stanley at the onset of hostilities on 2 April 1982.


The secret battle of the Falklands War you have never heard about; the Real First Battle of Stanley (Argentine Invasion of the Falkland Islands).

By Gayle_Herald  |  Posted: June 14, 2017

By Ricky D Phillips

This is the untold story of a 'secret battle' fought during the Falklands war, according to one military historian.

Author Ricky D Phillips says the Battle of Stanley has been ignored in the history books and is calling for the men who fought in it to receive the recognition they deserve.

On the 35th anniversary of the conflict, he shares his account of what really happened.

On April 2, 1982, 60 Royal Marines of the Naval Party 8901 who constituted the entire garrison for the Falkland Islands were overwhelmed by 80 Argentine Commandos. 

They put up a mere token defence, fired off a few shots, killed one Argentine and wounded a few more and then surrendered.

That's the story you are supposed to know. It is the story that we – the British public – were all told.

It is the story you will find in every book and on every website which deals with the Falklands War. It is a story which has stood for 35 years as 'established history'.

That story, might I say, is rubbish.

For the first time in 35 years, the accounts of the people involved from all three sides; British, Argentine and the Falkland Islanders themselves have been taken, analysed and formed into a new history with fresh interviews and in-depth research into each and every claim or quote, creating a panoramic view of a battle which we’re all told never happened.

The battle of Stanley - for it was a battle, not a mere skirmish – was an action on a par with Rorke's Drift, a battle which, had the world known the truth, might have cost the UK the entire Falklands War.

At 06.05 the battle opened with 84 Argentine Commandos attacking the British position from the rear.

The night sky lit up as Moody Brook barracks, the Marines' accommodation block outside of town was torn apart by gunfire and grenades only for the Argentine Commandos to find their bunks empty and the Royal Marines already deployed.

Moments later, the first Argentine casualties came when a landing craft with 40 men on board sailed through the narrow strip of water into Stanley Harbour and was destroyed, overturned and sunk with an anti-tank rocket, the tightly-packed men being plunged into the freezing, sucking waters from which none came up again.

At Government House, the seat of government in the islands, a special snatch-squad raced into the grounds to seize the governor Rex Hunt, only to run into four waiting Marines who gunned down three of them and left them lying in the garden.

Now others came, rushing in four-abreast and making easy targets for the Royal Marines who, crouched behind a stone wall, picked them off at will.

"The words 'turkey shoot' flashed through my mind," said one of the defenders, Jim Fairfield.

"We took targets of opportunity. There were a lot of targets and I'm a good shot."

At first light, 21 amphibious armoured personnel carriers, each bearing 28 men, landed on the beach around Stanley airport and raced inland like an iron fist ready to smash the pinned-down Royal Marines, but waiting on the outskirts of town was an anti-tank section who fired rockets at the lead vehicle as it came towards them.

Turning to its right, off the road, the giant 'Amtrac' APC seemed to become stuck on the bank of the road as the Royal Marines reloaded and determined to take it out; "I said 'Let's get it!' and I fired and hit it," remembered Royal Marine Stephen 'George' Brown.

"I know exactly where I hit it… there was a flash and then the smoke started to come out as she brewed up."

Marines Reynolds and Gibbs also fired at it with their own weapons from out on the flank.

Gibbs said: "I definitely hit it about three-quarters of the way up and along. It rocked on its suspension and blew a huge great cloud of black smoke and then died."

Coming to its aid were several more Amtracs, the lead one of which was peppered with machine gun fire, taking out the gunner's scopes as the Royal Marines deployed smoke and pulled out just as the Argentine artillery zeroed their position.

Nobody emerged from the destroyed Amtrac.

Back at Government House, the Argentine forces had pulled back to a nearby rocky ridge, waiting for their armour to come to their aid as the Marines now engaged them in a sniping contest, with Geordie Gill, the Royal Marines' top sniper taking out a section leader, a rifleman and a machine gunner as Corporal Terry Pares beside him took out a radio operator.

Marine Graham Evans said: "At one stage we were in the 11-5 club.

"Eleven wounded and five killed as we were hitting them hard up there on the ridge."

Meanwhile, in the streets of Stanley, several sections of Marines fought running battles with the Argentines, vaulting fences, ploughing through gardens and taking down the enemy who seemed to pop up from everywhere.

One Stanley resident, who later found Argentine bodies in her garden, said: "They were fighting like lions to protect us.

"I never knew our Marines could fight so hard."

Finally, with Argentine forces surrounding them by the thousand, the Falklands' governor Rex Hunt agreed to talk to the Argentine commander, Admiral Busser.

He knew that his Marines could – and would - fight to the finish, and so he had to make a decision.

Looking at his officers, Majors Norman and Nott he ordered them to "Tell your men to stop fighting and to lay down their arms".

Later, in an interview with the Plymouth Herald, he said: "I didn't use the word 'surrender' because I knew it wasn't in the Marines' vocabulary."

It had been an epic defence but sadly an inconvenient one.

With the UK needing to look like it was taken by surprise and stomped over by a fascist junta – a necessary story if the world was to be on our side – the men and their story were denied.

Five military medals and 12 mentions in dispatches were recommended and even approved, none were granted.

When the people of the Falklands – knowing the true story – proposed to grant their own medal, the UK government silenced them.

Hoping that a bare minimum report of five enemy killed, 17 wounded, three prisoners and of course the destroyed Amtrac (only what they physically saw and could confirm) would at least be believed, Major Norman put this in his official report.

It was never published.

(Editorial Note: Roy, it sounds a lot more consistent with the defense Lt Keith Mills and his detachment of 22 Royal Marines put up on South Georgia Island. Also consider that the lead attack elements were comprised of the “elite” Buzo Tactico and 2nd Marine Infantry Battalion.)

(An additional significant Editorial Note: At the most recent annual London Toy Soldier Show ( November 2023) Andy Neilson of King and Country Toy Soldiers, displayed a preview of 8 new Falkland British Parachute Regiment figures. They include LtCol "H" Jones, VC, and are tentatively scheduled for release in January 2024).