Quotulatiousness

July 22, 2017

Dunkirk Myth vs. Reality – Operation Dynamo

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

Published on 7 Jul 2017

The evacuation of British, Belgian, and French troops at Dunkirk – Operation Dynamo – was a crucial event in the early stages of the Second World War. Although the Allies were ultimately severely beaten in the Battle of France, the events at Dunkirk were mostly portrayed and perceived as a victory for the British. Quite naturally various myths surround this event.

» SOURCES «

Palmer, Alice: Dunkirk: The Defeat That Inspired a Nation
http://repository.wellesley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=library_awards

Alexander, Martin S.: French grand strategy and defence preparations. In: Cambridge History of the Second World War, Volume I
Frieser, Karl-Heinz: The war in the West, 1939-1940: an unplanned Blitzkrieg. In: Cambridge History of the Second World War, Volume I
Amazon.com link (affiliate): http://amzn.to/2tuFtuM

Gardner, W.J.R. Gardner: The Evacuation from Dunkirk: ‘Operation Dynamo’, 26 May-June 1940 (Naval Staff Histories)
Amazon.com link (affiliate): http://amzn.to/2uoqMFV

History of The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships
http://www.adls.org.uk/t1/content/history-association-dunkirk-little-ships

Mrs. Miniver
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs._Miniver

July 21, 2017

Dunkirk

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

Megan McArdle was very impressed with the new Christopher Nolan movie on the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940:

I was perhaps unreasonably excited to see Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s new movie about the evacuation of British forces from a French beach during World War II. The historical event on which it is based is astonishing: unable to get enough warships close to the beach to load their fleeing troops, the British government mobilized a flotilla of small private craft, which ultimately helped evacuate more than 330,000 soldiers ahead of the German army. I was eager to see what one of my favorite directors would do with the story.

He did not disappoint. This nearly flawless film put me on the edge of my seat for two hours. It is the best thing I’ve seen about war since the stunning opening of Saving Private Ryan — and Nolan, bless him, is not prey to Steven Spielberg’s compulsion to mar his creations by slopping them over with speechy goo.

As with all of Nolan’s films, it’s emotionally distant from its characters. Cillian Murphy plays an officer credited only as “Shivering Soldier,” and none of the characters have much in the way of backstory or goals, other than survival. Matt Zoller Seitz calls it an “Ant Farm Picture,” a portrait of society in which individuals are almost incidental. That’s rather the point.

A lesser director would have given in to the temptation to make this a story about the righteous crusade against the Germans, men fighting other men, but Nolan shows us a world in which the enemy is a plane, a torpedo, the water and the flying bullets, and men are reduced to little more than their rage to live.

The result is less a war film than a disaster movie. An exquisite disaster movie. I didn’t expect such a vivid and visceral illustration of how quickly a ship can sink, or just how difficult it is to hit a target in the sky. I left the theater almost too overwhelmed to talk.

Having recovered, I began to wonder why we can’t have more pictures like Dunkirk. The easy answer is, of course, that there is only one Christopher Nolan, and only so many people willing to give him $150 million to spend putting thousands of extras and some World War II-era ordnance onto a French beach. But the easy answer is incomplete.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve been impressed with the reviews I’ve seen so far (except the ludicrous “it doesn’t have any women or POC characters in lead roles” criticism from historical illiterates).

Behind the Scenes of Naval Legends – HMCS Haida

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

Published on 19 Jul 2017

Curious about how the Naval Legends episodes are made? Want to know how the beauty shots are made? Then let me take you behind the scenes of Naval Legends HMCS Haida.

Filmed with the permission of Parks Canada, at HMCS Haida National Historic Site.

Special thanks to Nicholas Moran, WarGaming America.

July 16, 2017

Tank Chats #13 Praying Mantis

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

Published on 8 Jan 2016

Number 13 in the series of David Fletcher’s Tank Chats, the Praying Mantis is an experimental machine-gun carrier manufactured in 1943 based on the Universal Carrier.

Praying Mantis was designed by Mr E.J. Tapp of County Commercial Cars and the original patent dates from 1937. Two prototypes were built of which this is the second. The idea was to create a low profile weapon carrier which could take advantage of natural cover but raise itself up, as necessary, to shoot over walls or other obstacles.

http://tankmuseum.org/museum-online/vehicles/object-e1951-47

QotD: The value of price controls in World War 2

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Government, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In World War II price controls [in the United States] were administered by the Office of Price Administration (OPA). I have been present at discussions where serious attempts were made to assess the OPA’s damage to the Allied cause, measured in terms of the equivalent number of German panzer divisions. The estimates tended to be large.

Steven Landsburg, The Armchair Economist, 2012 revised edition.

July 14, 2017

Canadian Experimental Lightweight No4 Enfield

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

Published on 20 Mar 2017

Sold for $25,300 – http://jamesdjulia.com/item/1659-396/

In 1943 the need for a lighter and handier version of the Lee Enfield rifle became clear throughout the British Commonwealth, and experimentation began in Canada, Britain, and Australia. The work in Britain would culminate in the No5 Mk1 rifle, but the Canadian arsenal at Long Branch would try some different ideas first. Several different experimental prototypes were made with varying features, but they all shared the idea of substantially lightening the rifle without shortening it very much. This was done by removing metal anywhere possible, most obviously including the elimination of the stock socket and the use of a single piece stock in place of the traditional two piece Enfield stock.

These modifications, also including an aluminum alloy trigger guard, were able to cut 25% of the weight from the rifle, and do so without a significant loss in accuracy. However, I suspect the resulting rifle would have proven far too fragile for combat use had it been adopted. The stock is surprisingly light and thin at the wrist, and it feels like it would not take much force to crack it. In addition, lightening cuts down the length of the hand guard made it quite susceptible to warping with heat and humidity changes.

Ultimately the Long Branch Lee Enfield carbine experiments would be abandoned as the No5 “Jungle Carbine” was adopted instead.

QotD: Did the Holocaust Undermine the German War Effort?

Filed under: Economics, Europe, History, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One of the great paradoxes of the Second World War is that while German troops on the Eastern Front were starving and freezing to death for lack of supplies, the rail transport of Jews to the death camps proceeded with uninterrupted Teutonic efficiency. The explanation is found in a profound insight by the historian Gerhard Weinberg (born 1928); that for the Nazis the extermination of Europe’s Jews was the purpose of the war, not a distraction or a side show. A complication was that this “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was a state secret, even though it might have been the worst-kept secret in history.

Yaron Pasher is a young Israeli historian who studied under Weinberg. In this book he sets out to explore how the implementation of the Holocaust fatally undermined the German war effort between 1941 and the final collapse in May 1945. Unfortunately Pasher is simply out of his depth trying to write military history from the perspective of logistics (admittedly, one of the hardest things that any historian can attempt!).

Much of the text is a mish-mash of rehashed secondary sources about the course of operations on the Eastern and Western fronts. The reader bogs down, like a Panzer division in the Spring thaw, in a welter of inconsistently transliterated Slavic place names. The narrative is interspersed with glimpses of the progress of the Final Solution repeatedly hammering home the same assertion: if all those trains that carried Jews to the death camps had been used to carry supplies and reinforcements to the Front, the Wehrmacht might have performed better against the Russians.

Yaron Pasher, “Holocaust versus Wehrmacht: How Hitler’s “Final Solution” Undermined the German War Effort”, Strategy Page, 2015-09-02.

July 12, 2017

World of Warships – Dunkirk

Filed under: Britain, Gaming, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 11 Jul 2017

It’s all well and good for Churchill to promise to “Fight them on the beaches…”, but first he had to get them off the beaches of France to ensure he had anyone to fight them on the beaches of England with…

July 10, 2017

The end of the British Empire

Filed under: Britain, History, India, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Kai Melling takes an unusually anti-American stand in this quick explanation of the decline and fall of the British Empire:

The common narrative is that the USA inherited the British Empire as an aftermath of World War 2. But this phrasing is misleading, because the USA actively designed and exploited the political, mental and military framework of WW2 to Britain’s disadvantage.

Churchill believed that Britain and the USA would be eternal partners, with British statesmen playing Greeks to America’s Romans. But when Britain was in her darkest hour, Roosevelt shook her down for every dime. Poring over a list of British assets in the Western Hemisphere, FDR “reacted with the coolness of a WASP patrician: ‘Well, they aren’t bust — there’s lots of money there.’” (Alan Clark)

Looking back, Alan Clark was appalled by Churchill’s groveling to the Americans: “Churchill’s abasement of Britain before the United States has its origins in the same obsession (with Hitler). The West Indian bases were handed over; the closed markets for British exports were to be dismantled; the entire portfolio of (largely private) holdings in America was liquidated. “A very nice little list,” was Roosevelt’s comment when the British ambassador offered it. “You guys aren’t broken yet.”

Before Lend-Lease aid could begin, Britain was forced to sell all her commercial assets in the United States and turn over all her gold. FDR sent his own ship to pick up the last $50 million in British gold reserves.

“We are not only to be skinned but flayed to the bone,” Churchill wailed to his colleagues, and he was not far off. Churchill drafted a letter to FDR saying that if America continued along this line, she would “wear the aspect of a sheriff collecting the last assets of a helpless debtor.” It was, said the prime minister, “not fitting that any nation should put itself wholly in the hands of another.” But dependent as Britain was on America, Churchill reconsidered, and rewrote his note in more conciliatory tones.

FDR knew exactly what he was doing. “We have been milking the British financial cow, which had plenty of milk at one time, but which has now about become dry,” Roosevelt confided to one Cabinet member. “Great Britain became a poor, though deserving cousin—not to Roosevelt’s regret. So far as it is possible to read his devious mind, it appears that he expected the British to wear down both Germany and themselves. When all independent powers had ceased to exist, the United States would step in and run the world.” (A.J.P. Taylor)

H/T to Sean Gabb for the link.

July 8, 2017

Four Fun Facts about the Oerlikon 20mm Antiaircraft Cannon!

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

Published on 13 Apr 2017

The 20mm Oerlikon automatic cannon was a mainstay of United States naval air defense during World War 2, and today we will look at a few of the characteristics and questions that apply to this sort of automatic cannon but not to typical small arms. Like, for instance, how do you cock a gun that has a 400 pound recoil spring? Or, what happens if you fire a high explosive shell into your muzzle cover?

http://www.patreon.com/ForgottenWeapons

July 6, 2017

Hunting the Bismarck – IV: Sink the Bismarck – Extra History

Filed under: Britain, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Jun 1, 2017

Sponsored by Wargaming! New players: Download World of Warships and use the code EXTRA1 for free goodies! http://bit.ly/2rpKsch

European Players: Check out the “Hunt for Bismarck” Extra History bundle in the premium shop: http://bit.ly/2qLifdR

Sink the Bismarck. Churchill’s orders were simple, but executing them had proved tricky. Admiral Tovey and his hastily summoned handful of ships and planes had one more opportunity to sink the German juggernaut, and they were determined not to waste this chance.

July 5, 2017

QotD: Mussolini’s crimes

On the face of it, Mussolini’s collapse was a story straight out of Victorian melodrama. At long last Righteousness had triumphed, the wicked man was discomfited, the mills of God were doing their stuff. On second thoughts, however, this moral tale is less simple and less edifying. To begin with, what crime, if any, has Mussolini committed? In power politics there are no crimes, because there are no laws. And, on the other hand, is there any feature in Mussolini’s internal régime that could be seriously objected to by any body of people likely to sit in judgement on him? For, as the author of this book (The Trial of Mussolini by ‘Cassius’) abundantly shows — and this in fact is the main purpose of the book — there is not one scoundrelism committed by Mussolini between 1922 and 1940 that has not been lauded to the skies by the very people who are now promising to bring him to trial.

For the purposes of his allegory ‘Cassius’ imagines Mussolini indicted before a British court, with the Attorney General as prosecutor. The list of charges is an impressive one, and the main facts — from the murder of Matteotti to the invasion of Greece, and from the destruction of the peasants’ co-operatives to the bombing of Addis Ababa — are not denied. Concentration camps, broken treaties, rubber truncheons, castor oil — everything is admitted. The only troublesome question is: How can something that was praiseworthy at the time when you did it — ten years ago, say — suddenly become reprehensible now? Mussolini is allowed to call witnesses, both living and dead, and to show by their own printed words that from the very first the responsible leaders of British opinion have encouraged him in everything that he did. For instance, here is Lord Rothermere in 1928:

    In his own country (Mussolini) was the antidote to a deadly poison. For the rest of Europe he has been a tonic which has done to all incalculable good. I can claim with sincere satisfaction to have been the first man in a position of public influence to put Mussolini’s splendid achievement in its right light. … He is the greatest figure of our age.

Here is Winston Churchill in 1927:

    If I had been an Italian I am sure I should have been whole-heartedly with you in your triumphant struggle against the bestial appetites and passions of Leninism… (Italy) has provided the necessary antidote to the Russian poison. Hereafter no great nation will be unprovided with an ultimate means of protection against the cancerous growth of Bolshevism.

Here is Lord Mottistone in 1935:

    I did not oppose (the Italian action in Abyssinia). I wanted to dispel the ridiculous illusion that it was a nice thing to sympathize with the underdog. … I said it was a wicked thing to send arms or connive to send arms to these cruel, brutal Abyssinians and still to deny them to others who are playing an honourable part.

Here is Mr Duff Cooper in 1938:

    Concerning the Abyssinian episode, the less said now the better. When old friends are reconciled after a quarrel, it is always dangerous for them to discuss its original causes.

Here is Mr Ward Price, of the Daily Mail, in 1932:

    Ignorant and prejudiced people talk of Italian affairs as if that nation were subject to some tyranny which it would willingly throw off. With that rather morbid commiseration for fanatical minorities which is the rule with certain imperfectly informed sections of British public opinion, this country long shut its eyes to the magnificent work that the Fascist régime was doing. I have several times heard Mussolini himself express his gratitude to the Daily Mail as having been the first British newspaper to put his aims fairly before the world.

And so on, and so on. Hoare, Simon, Halifax, Neville Chamberlain, Austen Chamberlain, Hore-Belisha, Amery, Lord Lloyd and various others enter the witness-box, all of them ready to testify that, whether Mussolini was crushing the Italian trade unions, non-intervening in Spain, pouring mustard gas on the Abyssinians, throwing Arabs out of aeroplanes or building up a navy for use against Britain, the British Government and its official spokesmen supported him through thick and thin. We are shown Lady (Austen) Chamberlain shaking hands with Mussolini in 1924, Chamberlain and Halifax banqueting with him and toasting ‘the Emperor of Abyssinia’ in 1939, Lord Lloyd buttering up the Fascist régime in an official pamphlet as late as 1940. The net impression left by this part of the trial is quite simply that Mussolini is not guilty. Only later, when an Abyssinian, a Spaniard and an Italian anti-Fascist give their evidence, does the real case against him begin to appear.

Now, the book is a fanciful one, but this conclusion is realistic. It is immensely unlikely that the British Tories will ever put Mussolini on trial. There is nothing that they could accuse him of except his declaration of war in 1940. If the ‘trial of war criminals’ that some people enjoy dreaming about ever happens, it can only happen after revolutions in the Allied countries. But the whole notion of finding scapegoats, of blaming individuals, or parties, or nations for the calamities that have happened to us, raises other trains of thought, some of them rather disconcerting.

George Orwell, “Who are the War Criminals?”, Tribune, 1943-10-22.

July 4, 2017

A Bit of Fry & Laurie – Nazi sketch

Filed under: Britain, Germany, History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 Apr 2007

Nazi Sketch

July 1, 2017

Hunting the Bismarck – III: A Chance to Strike – Extra History

Filed under: Britain, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on May 25, 2017

Sponsored by Wargaming! New players: Download World of Warships and use the code EXTRA1 for free goodies! http://cpm.wargaming.net/i3v7c6uu/?pu…

The order went out: Sink the Bismarck. Ships converged from all over the Atlantic to hunt down the pride of the German navy, and Swordfish planes launched from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal raced to harry the great warship.

June 29, 2017

Tank Chats #12 TOG II*

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

Published on 17 Dec 2015

This enormous tank was designed on the premise that World War II would evolve in the same way as the First World War. Some believed that existing tanks would not be able to deal with such conditions, and one of the most influential was Sir Albert Stern, who had been secretary to the Landships Committee in the First World War. In company with many others involved in tank design in 1916, including Sir William Tritton, Sir Eustace Tennyson D’Eyncourt, Sir Ernest Swinton and Walter Wilson, Stern was authorised by the War Office to design a heavy tank on First World War principles.

Two prototypes were built, both known as TOG for The Old Gang and they were even manufactured by the company that built Little Willie and the first tanks in 1916, William Foster & Co. of Lincoln.

http://tankmuseum.org/museum-online/vehicles/object-e1951-49

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