Quotulatiousness

February 11, 2017

Britain’s “silent service” reported to be the “absent service” right now

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In The Register, Gareth Corfield relays reports that the Royal Navy has no submarines currently available for sea duty:

None of the Royal Navy’s seven attack submarines are deployed on operations at the moment, according to reports, which potentially threatens the security of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

The Sun reported this morning that six of the seven boats are in maintenance – except for the seventh, HMS Astute, which is still undergoing sea trials.

Her sister Astute-class boat, HMS Ambush, is still undergoing repairs after ramming a civilian tanker in 2016 while hosting wannabe sub captains undergoing the Perisher submarine command course.

The main uses of attack submarines, as distinct from the four Vanguard-class boats that carry the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent, are twofold.

As their name suggests, attack submarines can be used to attack the enemy – or, in the modern world’s uneasy peace with Russia, trail their submarines and naval vessels around the high seas, gathering vital intelligence on their sound signatures and electronic emissions for later analysis.

Attack submarines can also be used as escorts for other vessels, using their advanced sensors to sweep the seas for hostile ships such as Russia’s infamous intelligence-gathering trawlers, as well as doing secret squirrel tasks such as dropping off Special Forces in remote shore locations. British attack boats also deploy on intelligence-gathering missions into the seas around Russia and have chased Russian submarines away from Britain’s territorial waters.

February 10, 2017

Bulgaria Digs In At Doiran – The Final Blow Against The Senussi I THE GREAT WAR Week 133

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 9 Feb 2017

While the US breaks off diplomatic relations with Germany in response to unrestricted submarine warfare, the Western Front is rather quiet. On the Macedonian Front, the Bulgarian Army is digging in at Doiran. They built a formidable defence network without the Entente realising it and this week 100 years ago the British get a first taste of that. The British also deal the final blow against the Senussi tribesmen on the Libyan Front.

February 3, 2017

Germany Resumes Unrestricted Submarine Warfare I THE GREAT WAR Week 132

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 2 Feb 2017

This week 100 years ago, Germany goes all in and resumes unrestricted submarine warfare, their goal is to starve Britain out of the war before Germany cannot continue the war. All doubts are brushed aside and all shipping around the British Isles will be sunk without warning. At the same time, the economic situation in Russia gets worse and worse and winter prevents any major action.

January 31, 2017

Anti-U-Boat Strategy and Tactics in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 30 Jan 2017

During World War 1, German submarines were a major thread to shipping routes of the Entente everywhere. The Royal Navy and and her allies had to come up with defence mechanisms against the silent hunters. They deployed flying boats and airships to spot the enemy U-Boats, harassed them with depth charges and mines. But the most effective measure against them proved to be the convoy.

January 27, 2017

Nivelle’s Spring Offensive – Royal Conspiracy In Greece I THE GREAT WAR Week 131

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 26 Jan 2017

Germany is about to unleash unrestricted submarine warfare again which might draw the United States into the conflict – but the Germans are not worried. The German Kaiser is instigating with his sister in Greece and Nivelle has big plans for a decisive battle in spring.

January 13, 2017

No Peace For The Wicked I THE GREAT WAR Week 129

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 12 Jan 2017

This week 100 years ago there was talk about peace between the great warring nations. But even after millions of casualties, starving people at home and more escalation on the horizon, the situation didn’t seem bad enough for one of them to give in on their demands. At the same time, the fighting in Romania continues and the political situation in Russia becomes ever more dire.

August 30, 2016

The Invention And Development of Submarines I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 29 Aug 2016

Submarine warfare is one of the lasting impacts of World War 1. Especially the unrestricted submarine warfare by the German navy was a big problem for the British supply routes. But the development and improvement of submarines was not a German story at first.

June 16, 2016

Silent Victory now available in wargame format

Filed under: Books, Gaming, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I’m currently reading this two-volume history of the US Navy’s submarines in the Pacific during WW2 by Clay Blair, Jr., so I was interested to see this review of a wargame covering this exact conflict:

Consim Press has published a fantastic solo player wargame in Silent Victory: U.S. Submarines in the Pacific, 1941-1945. With game design by Gregory M. Smith, Silent Victory offers a little bit of everything for someone looking for an immersive, historical naval wargame that is easy to play yet detailed enough to be fulfilling for an advanced gamer.

It covers one of the biggest problems American sub commanders faced for the first two years of the war:

For every torpedo you fire, you’ll roll a 1d6 dice for a dud. Roll a 1 or 2, well, you are out of luck. It might have hit, but it didn’t explode. Dud. This happened to me at least three times in two patrols. It was a fact — the U.S. Navy had a torpedo problem. Clay Blair Jr.’s magisterial book Silent Victory: The U.S. Submarine War against Japan made this clear:

    “…[T}he submarine force was hobbled by defective torpedoes. Developed in peacetime but never realistically tested against targets, the U.S. submarine torpedo was believed to be one of the most lethal weapons in the history of naval warfare. It had two exploders, a regular one that detonated it on contact with the side of an enemy ship and a very secret “magnetic exploder” that would detonate it beneath the keel of a ship without contact. After the war began, submariners discovered the hard way that the torpedo did not run steadily at the depth set into its controls and often went much deeper than designed, too deep for the magnetic exploder to work.”

Blair notes that not until late 1943 would the U.S. Navy fix the numerous torpedo problems.

Actually, the depth control issue was only the start of the problem. Once enough sub skippers had complained to their chain of command that the torpedoes were running too deep, and were able to get a few of them tested to prove it, then other problems became apparent. Even if the torpedo ran at the correct depth, the magnetic exploder would not reliably trigger the warhead when it passed under an enemy ship. The German and British submarine services had also developed similar exploders, but had abandoned them after wartime testing proved them to be ineffective. US Navy submarine admirals would not be convinced, so it took much longer for the sub captains to get permission to de-activate the magnetic exploders and use the contact exploders instead.

Unbelievably, it now became clear that there were also problems with the contact exploder as well, so even if it hit the side of the target it might not explode. American torpedoes had a significantly smaller warhead than those of other navies, because it had been expected that the magnetic exploder detonating below the keel of an enemy ship would be sufficient to break the back of the target and sink it. When used as ordinary torpedoes, it often took three or four hits to guarantee a sinking even on a merchant ship. Warships, having better compartmentalization, were even tougher to sink without lucky shots that hit fuel or ammunition compartments.

There are three reasons why this game succeeds.

First, historical accuracy. From the problems with torpedoes, to the detailed lists of Japanese merchant and capital ships, or to the specific weapons load out of each U.S. submarine in WWII, it is all there. The makers of this game did not cut any corners. They did their homework and tried, I think successfully, to incorporate significant historical facts into the gameplay.

Second, a risk/reward based gameplay experience. Every decision you make — from the torpedoes you use to deciding if you want to attack submerged and at close or long distance — incurs risk. There are numerous tradeoffs. For instance, you can attack from long distance submerged, but you suffer a roll modifier and risk not hitting your target. Or, you can be aggressive, and attack at close range, surfaced at night, which may increase your chance of hit but also increase your chance of detection. It just depends.

Finally, simple game rules. Complicated games are no fun to play. As a player, I don’t want to spend 10 minutes looking up rule after rule in a rulebook the size of a encyclopedia. In Silent Victory, the designers have done us a favor. The rules are clearly written and extensive, and after a single read through I referred to them occasionally. But more important, the combat mat has the dice roll encounter procedures printed on it, all within easy view. Also, the other mats all have reference numbers and clearly identify which dice should be rolled for what effects. It is all right there on the mats. This makes for a fun, smooth playing experience. And finally, if I were add another reason why this game is worth your money, it is the game’s replay value. You can conduct numerous patrols and no two patrols will ever be the same.

Silent Victory is a fun naval wargame that will appeal to the novice or expert gamer – and maybe you’ll learn something along the way.

May 6, 2016

The British Surrender At Kut – Germany Restricts The U-Boats I THE GREAT WAR – Week 93

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 May 2016

After 140 days, the Siege of Kut ends with the biggest surrender of British forces in history. The remaining soldiers are starting their long march into captivity. Meanwhile the Italian front lights up again as Luigi Cadorna plans a new offensive and the Germans give in to diplomatic pressure and stop their unrestricted submarine warfare.

March 27, 2016

The Russian Navy – Submarines – Trench Mortar I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 26 Mar 2016

More pictures from Flo’s Great Grandfather: https://imgur.com/a/R1T92

It’s chair of wisdom time again and this week we talk about the Russian Navy in the Baltic Sea, submarine warfare and trench mortars.

March 18, 2016

Battle of the Isonzo – Discord Among The Central Powers I THE GREAT WAR Week 86

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 17 Mar 2016

The alliance between the Central Powers of World War 1 doesn’t seem to be as strong anymore. The Bulgarians, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany are following their own goals without really helping out the other. Erich von Falkenhayn is obsessed with Verdun, Conrad von Hötzendorf wants to go on the offensive again after the 5th Battle of the Isonzo and the Bulgarians don’t have the resources to pursue their own goals. At the same time the unrestricted submarine warfare of the Germans is taking a deadly toll.

February 19, 2016

The Ghost Of The Lusitania – Russia Takes Erzurum I THE GREAT WAR – Week 82

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 18 Feb 2016

The sinking of the Lusitania is still causing diplomatic tensions between Germany and the USA. While the Germans insist they were forced by the British blockade to adopt unrestricted submarine warfare, the Americans think otherwise. In the meantime the Russian Army is taking Erzurum in the Caucasus and the big offensive at Verdun is delayed for a week.

December 16, 2015

How Did Submarine Warfare Change During World War 1? I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 12 Dec 2015

Indy sits in the Chair of Wisdom again to answer your questions of WW1. This time we are talking about submarine warfare during the First World War.

November 4, 2015

Sometimes the US Navy isn’t subtle

Filed under: Cancon, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At the RCN News site, a recent press release from the US Navy expresses just a bit more than most civilian readers will get:

U.S. and Canadian naval units began a Task Group Exercise (TGEX) off the coast of Southern California, Oct. 20.
Participating units from the Royal Canadian Navy include Canadian Fleet Pacific, Halifax-class frigates HMCS Calgary (FFH 335) and HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331), and Victoria-class ASW target HMCS Chicoutimi (SSK 879).

Emphasis mine.

October 26, 2015

Going price for a working Enigma machine – $365,000

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Lester Haines reports on a recent record auction price for an Enigma machine:

A fully-functioning four-rotor M4 Enigma WW2 cipher machine has sold at auction for $365,000.

Enigma machine

The German encryption device, as used by the U-Boat fleet and described as “one of the rarest of all the Enigma machines”, went under the hammer at Bonham’s in New York last night as part of the “Conflicts of the 20th Century” sale.

The M4 was adopted by the German Navy, the Kriegsmarine, in early 1942 following the capture of U-570 in August 1941*. Although the crew of U-570 had destroyed their three-rotor Enigma, the British found aboard written material which compromised the security of the machine.

The traffic to and from the replacement machines was dubbed “Shark” by codebreakers at Bletchley Park. Decryption proved troublesome, due in part to an initial lack of “cribs” (identified or suspected plaintext in an encrypted message) for the new device, but by December 1942, the British were regularly cracking M4 messages.

I recently read David O’Keefe’s One Day in August, which seems to explain the otherwise inexplicable launch of “Operation Jubilee”, the Dieppe raid … in his reading, the raid was actually a cover-up operation while British intelligence operatives tried to snatch one or more of the new Enigma machines (like the one shown above) without tipping off the Germans that that was the actual goal. Joel Ralph reviewed the book when it was released:

One Day in August, by David O’Keefe, takes a completely different approach to the Dieppe landing. With significant new evidence in hand, O’Keefe seeks to reframe the entire raid within the context of the secret naval intelligence war being fought against Nazi Germany.

On February 1, 1942, German U-boats operating in the Atlantic Ocean switched from using a three-rotor Enigma code machine to a new four-rotor machine. Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division, which had broken the three-rotor code and was regularly reading German coded messages, was suddenly left entirely in the dark as to the positions and intentions of enemy submarines. By the summer of 1942, the Battle of the Atlantic had reached a state of crisis and was threatening to cut off Britain from the resources needed to carry on with the war.

O’Keefe spends nearly two hundred pages documenting the secret war against Germany and the growth of the Naval Intelligence Division. What ties this to Dieppe and sparked O’Keefe’s research was the development of a unique naval intelligence commando unit tasked with retrieving vital code-breaking material. As O’Keefe’s research reveals, the origins of this unit were at Dieppe, on an almost suicidal mission to gather intelligence they hoped would crack the four-rotor Enigma machine.

O’Keefe has uncovered new documents and first-hand accounts that provide evidence for the existence of such a mission. But he takes it one step further and argues that these secret commandos were not simply along for the ride at Dieppe. Instead, he claims, the entire Dieppe raid was cover for their important task.

It’s easy to dismiss O’Keefe’s argument as too incredible (Zuehlke does so quickly in his brief conclusion [in his book Operation Jubilee, August 19, 1942]). But O’Keefe would argue that just about everything associated with combined operations defied conventional military logic, from Operation Ruthless, a planned but never executed James Bond-style mission, to the successful raid on the French port of St. Nazaire only months before Dieppe.

Clearly this commando operation was an important part of the Dieppe raid. But, while the circumstantial evidence is robust, there is no single clear document that directly lays out the Dieppe raid as cover for a secret “pinch by design” operation to steal German code books and Enigma material.

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