Tuesday, November 24, 2020

British Army Coloured Field Service Caps 1937 to 1941

 Unlike the almost universally unpopular Broderick cap, the Field Service Cap (also referred to as the side cap or forage cap) first introduced into the British Army in 1894, saw a much-welcomed rebirth in 1937. This author has had a few recent inquiries from readers asking assistance in identifying from WWII black and white photographs containing an individual wearing a coloured field service cap, the regiment or corps. Surprisingly, given a combination of the crown, body, piping, and peak, and the cap badge (sometimes obscured), the owner’s regiment or corps can, if not identified outright, be narrowed down significantly.

In conducting research for one lady, I discovered that there were no less than 126 separate authorized caps. This was established in a table by the late Brian L. Davis, contained in his definitive reference, British Army Uniforms & Insignia of World War Two, Which is both acknowledged and gratitude expressed. Some were solely differentiated by cap badge, however a significant number were in a combination of colours. As colorful as they are, I thought it would be of potential interest to compose a post showing a representative sample. I’m indebted to a book entitled Military collectables, by Joe Lyndhurst, which is acknowledged and gratitude expressed. It includes two pages of photographs of the actual caps. In addition several publishers produced a whole series of coloured pamphlets throughout the entire span of WWII. The series of drawings depicted in 1941 by George Philip & Son (and cited by Brian Davis) while not quite as colorful and accurate, are the best known contemporary reference of all the caps in use during the period from 1937 - 1941.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Not You Again Don Quixote - Another Windmill?

On the Internet today (10 November 2020) at a blog site called the SANDBOXX News (https://www.sandboxx.us/blog/), there appeared a very interesting, at least to this author, post. It was entitled, B-1B Gunship: Boeing’s plan to put big guns on the Lancer. It was written by Alex Hollings, a former Marine specializing in foreign policy and defense technology analysis. Fundamentally it advanced the concept of converting the Rockwell B-1B Lancer Bomber from a supersonic heavy payload bomber to a high performance version of the Lockheed AC-130H and J Spectre Gunships. With full acknowledgement and expressed gratitude to both the SANDBOXX and Alex Hollings the entire article is repeated herein;

B-1B Gunship: Boeing’s plan to run big guns on the Lancer

 Alex Hollings | November 9, 2020

The B-1B Lancer has long served as America’s only supersonic heavy payload bomber, but for a time, Boeing considered extended its life as a high-speed gunship that would combine the firepower of the Spooky AC-130 gunship with the speed and maneuverability of an oversized fighter.

 The Rockwell B-1B Lancer is a viable sweep-wing bomber straight out of the Cold War, complete with massively powerful engines that grant it both immense speed and a payload capacity that exceeds that of the gargantuan B-52 Stratofortress. The first B-1 took to the skies in 1974, but the platform itself didn’t enter service until more than ten years later, thanks to the complex and rapidly developing technological environment of the Cold War. Slated to be replaced by platforms like the AGM-86 cruise missile and the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber before it even entered service, the B-1B Lancer has defied the odds for over four decades.

The B-1B can fly like this with the equivalent of three school busses worth of bombs in its weapons bays. (USAF Photo)


Today, it’s once again expected to be sent out to pasture in favor of the next stealth bomber, the forthcoming B-21 Raider, but in 2018, Boeing began toying with the idea of stretching out the Lancer’s shelf life by adding close air support to its mission profile.


How do you take a supersonic bomber and turn it into a close air support titan? According to patents filed by Boeing, it’s as simple as adding some really big guns.

The patent actually depicts a number of different cannon-mounting solutions for the B-1B Lancer, including a system that places a retractable cannon in the Lancer’s large weapons bays. What makes these patents of particular interest is that they seem to require very little in the way of permanent modifications to the aircraft itself, meaning the conversion could be less expensive than broader overhauls. The lower the cost of such an effort, the more feasible it becomes — especially in terms of the B-1B, which is renowned for its high cost of operation.

By making the weapon retractable, it minimizes aerodynamic drag when the weapon is not in use. (US Patent Office)


Based on the illustrations, it appears as though Boeing doesn’t have its heart set on a specific cannon, and even shows two different sizes of them mounted in the same apparatus. Visually, these cannons look very similar to M230 30mm cannons or the Bushmaster cannon, which can run from 25mms to 40mms in size, as The Warzone has pointed out.


There would, in fact, be some benefit to Boeing’s approach to mounting these weapons on the B-1B as compared to the new AC-130J Ghostrider gunship and its predecessor, the Spooky AC-130. In the C-130-based gunships, the massive 105mm cannons are longitudinally mounted in a fixed cowling on the left side of the aircraft. In order to engage targets, Ghostrider gunships have to bank and circle over the target area to point the large cannon in the right direction.

By extending a cannon apparatus down from beneath the belly of the B-1B, the weapon can rotate a full 360 degrees while making target adjustments through a fire control module. This would allow a B-1B gunship to keep its weapon oriented on the target while the aircraft conducts various maneuvers.

However, there are also some significant limitations that one can’t help but consider when pitching the idea of a B-1B Gunship. Because the B-1B is designed to serve as a high-speed bombing platform, it almost certainly can’t maintain the low speeds achievable in an AC-130, despite its swing-wing design. The B-1B is also far more expensive to operate per hour than the still-in-production AC-130.


On the other hand, a B-1B Gunship could reach trouble spots far faster than any AC-130. The B-1B tops out at a blistering Mach 1.2, as compared to the AC-130 Ghostrider, which can’t exceed 420 miles per hour.


“They’re tuned for down low and mid-level altitudes, so you pretty much get pushed back into your seat,” Major “Coyote” Laney, a B-1B pilot instructor from the 28th Bomb Squadron, told me in 2019 during an interview for Popular Mechanics.


“The acceleration just keeps on coming—you can go right through the sound barrier pretty quick,”


Not as crazy as it might seem?

Despite being designed to penetrate Soviet airspace by flying fast and low, the B-1B Lancer has nonetheless found itself serving in a close air support role at times throughout the past two decades of the Global War on Terror. Thanks to the addition of a Lockheed Martin-sourced Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod, the Lancer can now deliver ordinance more precisely than ever before. The bomber’s massive fuel stores and heavy payload capabilities allow the B-1B to loiter over a combat zone for hours, before using its onboard fire control system to manage targeting data relayed from ground troops or its sniper pod to deliver ordnance with pinpoint accuracy.


“I remember in Afghanistan where troops needed help across the entire country and I could go 1.2 Mach all the way there and still have enough gas to hang out when I got there,” Laney explained.


“So you can take a platform that’s on the East side of Afghanistan and 15 or 20 minutes later, I’m showing up when there’s no one else for several hundred miles that could help.”


However, it seems clear that American ground forces don’t like to rely on precision-munitions from high-flying or far-flung weapons systems when they’re engaging the enemy. The long-standing love affair between U.S. military grunts and the A-10 Thunderbolt II speaks to this preference. When it comes to engaging the bad guys, ground troops prefer aircraft that actually have their eyes on the target.


However, a B-1B gunship may be able to split this difference by utilizing a combination of precision-guided bombs and onboard cannons. As it stands, B-1B Lancers are already capable of putting on quite the spectacle when delivering air support to ground troops.


“If I’m talking to a guy on the ground and I have my sensor on him … we can drop weapons seven miles away, or we can drop lower, drop them closer,” said Lt. Col. Dominic “Beaver” Ross, director of operations for the 337th Test and Evaluations Squadron.


“We’re not going to drop them as low as an A-10, but we are going to do shows of force where we’re 500 feet overtop of their head.”


Will a B-1B Gunship ever actually happen?


That’s tough to say, but for now at least, it seems unlikely… but that doesn’t mean the end for this concept or these patents. The premise of installing modular close-air support cannons in an aircraft like the B-1B could easily be modified for use in other aircraft as well. In fact, the Air Force is already experimenting with the idea of using modular weapons systems in aircraft that were intended for cargo carrying purposes.


Currently, the B-1B is expected to slip into retirement in the later end of the 2020s, as more B-21 Raiders roll off the assembly line and into service. While the forthcoming stealth bomber promises to be the most advanced aircraft of its type ever to take to the skies, it doesn’t offer many of the same capabilities the B-1B does. Like the B-2 Spirit it will also replace, the B-21 is expected to be subsonic, leveraging its stealth more than its speed to accomplish its missions.


Geopolitically, the B-21 may also be more complicated to use than the B-1B. The Lancer was converted into a strictly non-nuclear bomber platform in 2011, in accordance with the START Treaty between the United States and Russia. Retiring the B-1B will mean using nuclear capable B-21s for conventional airstrikes, which, because of its use a nuclear-weapon delivery bomber, could exacerbate tensions with America’s diplomatic opponents. Headlines claiming America is sending “nuclear bombers” to any region B-21s are deployed to would technically be accurate, despite misrepresenting the role these bombers may play.


In that regard, the B-1B may see some lawmakers and defense officials championing its continued service as has happened in the past. When a new airframe is slated to replace an old one, but lacks the capabilities of its predecessor, there will always be some arguing in favor of old and reliable.

While it seems unlikely that we’ll see B-1B gunships in the air any time soon… In the rapidly shifting world of defense priorities, one can never say never."

Alex Hollings

Now for the Don Quixote Part - A Rather Interesting Retrospective and Discovery

In 1993 this author was working on the McDonnell Douglas C-17A Program in Long Beach, California, as a Manager for the Improvements & Derivatives Program. Several of my own concepts, as well as others from members of the group were compiled and published in a brochure (cover and pages shown below) One of my concepts was to modify the C-17A Globemaster II to an up-scaled Super Spectre version of the Lockheed AC-130 Spectre gunship series, already highly successful having been well proven in combat operations. That was 25 years before the Boeing Company filled for Patent No.: US 9,963,231 B2 dated May, 8, 2018. The principal argument advanced in opposition to the concept was that the C-17 was too expensive an asset  for exposure at the projected operational altitudes for the threat environment. Apparently several ill-informed yet influential individuals thought it would be flying at the same altitudes as the AC-130 gunships. Any patent application never even entered the discussions. As those familiar with the aerospace industry McDonnell-Douglas ceased to exist in 1997, having been acquired by Boeing. Having had the opportunity to work for Boeing early in my career as a young engineer, and passed it up at that time for very good reason (hire and lay-off with individual contracts) suffices to say I retired the next year.


However, I believe even the casual reader will notice the rather pronounced similarities in the projected Boeing modification of the Lockheed B-1B and the concept that was proposed in the McDonnell Douglas corporate brochure for the C-17A in 1993. I'm seriously interested as to who within Boeing might have found a copy of the brochure, or are we talking sheer coincidence. I'll probably never know.


As was the case in other previous episodes presented in this blog, Don Quixote was unseated from his mount by yet another windmill.



Monday, October 19, 2020

A Different Kind of Gordon Highlander for My Toy Soldier Collection

As the reader can infer from the title of this post, this author intends to take a diversion from the scope of normal subject matter of this blog. There is a connection, as soon will be revealed, which I hope will prove interesting.

A longtime self-confessed “magpie” or “gallimaufry” (Scottish for bits and pieces) type collector, I consider myself extremely fortunate in my mid-eighties to have somehow avoided being afflicted to date with the model train bacteria. Have to admit that growing up I did have, on loan from my uncle, an early Lionel electric train set which was returned for his children, as my interest in toy soldiers had started. There also was a General Mills Kix Cereal 1947 combination printed on the box and mail-in premiums of cut-out trains which were a popular sales promotional (now having become a collectable antique).The other singular exception being the more recent collection of a limited number of the Lionel/Hallmark (nominally N gauge - being introduced in 1996) Christmas tree ornaments over the years. Judging from my most recent Internet research it can become highly addictive, and an extreme and continuous drain on the sporran. None the less, I feel it safe to say that model train collectors are an extremely prolific breed, and for quite some time have far outnumbered, and continue to outnumber, toy soldier collectors.

In any event I would be totally less than candid if I did not readily admit to a life-long fascination with small scale toy trains/model railroading, and the engineering precision the hobby incorporates, somewhat analogous to a jeweler or horologist (watchmaker).  

 However, very recently an opportunity appeared on e-Bay that was too good to pass up. This is obviously a rationalization at best. It was an HO scale locomotive set comprised of the engine, tender, and corridor brake 3rd class coach by Bachmann of a classic LMS “Royal Scot” Class 4-6-0 6P 6100 Series. For those who might not know the letters stand for London, Midlands and Scottish Railway Company. However, more specifically the model I have acquired is Engine 6106 “Gordon Highlander” of the series. 70 actual locomotives were built in the Class, starting in 1927, with the majority being named after regiments of the British Army. Based on my research to date the model was first offered in 1998. Given my family surname, Scottish ancestry, and interest in British/Scottish military history, the reason for my personal interest immediately becomes rather obvious.

A brief segue occurred to the author. Is it merely a coincidence that the distinctive deep maroon livery of the LMS is the same colour originally selected for that of the famous "Red Beret" of the Parachute Regiment of the British Army?


Although several model train manufacturers have produced excellent models of various configurations of the "Royal Scot Class" in various scales, to the best of my knowledge the Bachmann Company is the only one to have produced a "Gordon Highlander". It was produced in OO gauge. In my personal opinion, for an OO scale size, I think they did a great job, but will let the reader be the judge of that, hopefully based on the images presented. There is one other high end connoisseur manufacturer of  toy trains, the British Company named Wrenn. They offer a "Royal Scot" Class locomotive, but unfortunately not the "Gordon Highlander". Wrenn's OO gauge version is shown, with acknowledgement and gratitude, in the last two images below. One other observation, unlike toy soldiers and military miniatures, model train makers do not take creative artistic license. The exceptions known to the author (there are always exceptions) being the popular "Gordon the Tank Train" series, and the Harry Potter "Hogwarts Express", but neither one passed off as an actual train. As a consequence the models are an extremely accurate replication of exactly the real thing, with the possible exception of the level of detail practically not attainable in some of the physically smaller scales such as N and Z gauge.


In a addition, and subsequent to the initial acquisition of the "Gordon Highlander", have been able to locate another 3 Bachmann, and 1 Hornby model in matching scale and LMS livery, the first one is a uniquely British coach. It is called a Brake Gangwayed (BG), or Full Brake Coach first offered in 2011. It has a guard's compartment in the center and two large highly secure areas to either side (fore and aft) for the storage of valuable luggage, as can be seen in the following image.

The second is a more conventional 57 ft Corridor 1st/3rd Class Coach, and can be seen in the following image.


The third is the so called former LMS 57 ft Porthole Corridor 1st Class Coach (actually not put in service until 1950) in the next images (model followed by actual coach).

The fourth is a Hornby model of a 68 ft Dining Car (note 6 wheel bogies incorporated for requisite load carrying capacity, comfort and stability) which was introduced into service in 1932 (Running Number 238), and seen here. As both a model and as the real coach, this is a big car (44 tons).

Given the date and composition of this specific rake, the original locomotive number 6106 would be in error, having been rebuilt in September 1949, and renumbered 46106 (see image below). 

For those who may not know, the LMS was a massive British railroad monopoly, having been formed on 1 January 1923 under the Railways Act of 1921. Besides being the world's largest transport organisation, it was also the largest commercial enterprise in the British Empire and the United Kingdom's second largest employer, after the British Postal Service. The LMS also claimed to be the largest joint stock organisation in the world.

The “Royal Scot” Class was introduced in 1927, with the “Gordon Highlander” being built in September 1927 (rebuilt 1949), and was in service until being withdrawn in December 1962, with a final short commemorative guest trip in April 1963.

The lead locomotive of the class the "Royal Scot" Engine 6100 was even shipped to the United States in 1933 where it performed a public relations tour including the Chicago World's Fair during the course of its route.

The following images, although not of exactly the same train, are of the Royal Scot Class, intended to provide a direct comparison of the model to the real thing.

The following image is a late photo of the "Gordon Highlander" renumbered with the revised number 46106 and livery of the British Railway System, however still in service. It appears in the first video cited below. Not certain of the exact date, but probably in the early 1960s. The BR style smoke deflectors being fitted in December 1952 are correctly included in the model.

Besides the zenith of the classic steam locomotive era in the 1920s and 30s, personified in the "Royal Scot Class", there was an earlier generation steam version "Gordon Highlander", and a follow-on diesel locomotive version, both shown below.

The steam locomotive which preceded the “Gordon Highlander “ of the “Royal Scot Class” was the Great North of Scotland Railway’s Heywood ‘F’ Class No. 49 “Gordon Highlander”. Eight of the locomotives entered service in 1920, being built by the North British Locomotive Company Ltd. No. 49 remained in service until being withdrawn in 1957. It remains today, restored on museum display.

The diesel locomotive configuration “Gordon Highlander” is one of 22 British Rail Class 55 engines which were built in 1961 and 1962 by English Electric, which gained the name “Deltic” based on their Napier Deltic power units. The engines were withdrawn from service at the end of 1982, with 6 units preserved and still running today.

In addition as a NROTC Midshipman during the summer of 1955, I had been able to take a train excursion from Edinburgh to London as a liberty during my midshipman training cruise. Although I can’t remember the specific train I was on, it was overnight and feel certain that the actual “Gordon Highlander” had made the same trip, over the very same rails, hundreds of times. Obviously the train model is truly a great personal remembrance.

For those readers who may be real train enthusiasts the following videos should prove to be of significant interest (the first video including the above photograph of the "Gordon Highlander");



Bachmann OO Gauge LMS Royal Scot Series "Gordon Highlander" video.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Fox, Morigi or Moriarty, It’s all in the Name, More Fake Cap badges

For the better part of seven decades I’ve been collecting British and Commonwealth armament and militaria, and for the past nine years have attempted to convey in this blog, the figurative minefield that exists for everyone from beginning collector to advanced/experts in the field.


Having been burned many times over the years, fortunately never too severely, I have personally ceased further serious collecting, resting and enjoying the fruits of my labors, the good, bad, and questionable. As a realist rather than a purist,  I think I can identify all my conscious deliberate fillers, which are there only because a while back I reconciled to the fact that the originals only resided in museums, extremely wealthy collections, or existed in miserable deteriorated condition.


With full acknowledgement and gratitude to Dubaiguy aka Mark of the British and Commonwealth Military Badge Forum, the author would like to continue the ongoing saga of the production and sales of known fake cap badges.


In a recent set of images in that forum he presented a whole new source of counterfeit badges this author was not aware of. They are the product of a nefarious individual by the name of Marshand Morigi who practiced his “skills” in the 1960s and 70s, along with a more recent cohort in crime, Martin Marsh, both originating in Great Britain. Somehow the name Morigi triggered in my mind another, that of Sherlock Holmes’ arch villain, Professor James Moriarty.


Morigi purchased the badges from a certain John Morris (now deceased) of Aston in Birmingham, who owned the dies, also made in Birmingham, and had them stamped out by several other Birmingham manufacturers, including Gladmans. Morigi also tried his hand at British Special Forces cloth insignia during the same time frame.


I’m not certain whether I have any of the metal badges, but am absolutely certain (and have so identified) a rather fair number of the cloth variety. Many of which can be seen in the following blog article; https://arnhemjim.blogspot.com/2015/06/a-gallimaufry-of-militaria.html . Following image is a sample of the offerings at the time.


Returning to the metal cap badges, Mark has provided images of a series of Morigi’s catalog pages. It provides the collector with another series of “mug shots” of badges to be aware of, and cautious to avoid without an established source and sound provenance. Personal apologies for the small size of the images. They can be copied and enlarged to a limited extent without a significant loss of resolution. However, I think most collectors can identify the cap badges which have been duplicated. Once again an overused cliché, “It’s a jungle out there!”.