Yangtze River Gunboats Book Review

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Yangtze River Gunboats 1900–49

Osprey New Vanguard Series Book 181

By Angus Konstam, illustrated by Tony Bryan

Softcover, 48 pages, index, heavily illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing, June 2011

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-84908-408-4

ISBN-13: 978-1-84908-408-6

Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.6 x 9.8 inches

Foreign trade with China was opened in 1858 with the treaty of Tientsin.  While nominally one country, there was no real central authority, actual power being vested in local warlords with their own interests.  The treaty gave foreign powers the right to trade along the Yangtze River on very favorable terms, and allowed for the protection of foreign nationals and interests by their own military forces.  Along with troops in the various ports, the Yangtze saw the presence of fleets of small, heavily-armed vessels whose Captains were charged with protecting their nation’s citizens and had broad discretion to do so.  The peak period of what became known as “gunboat diplomacy” lasted from the Boxer Rebellion in 1901 to the beginning of the Second World War.

Several European nations, along with the United States and Japan, sent gunboats to the Yangtze, the local commanders often cooperating to support each other and achieve common goals.  The book describes several ship designs and military incidents, focusing mainly on the vessels of the United States and Great Britain due to space constraints.  Of these, two actions stand out for me, both of which involve Royal Navy ships.  HMS Cockchafer (illustrated on the cover) was instrumental in the rescue of two British steamers and their crews seized by a local warlord in 1926, supported by HMS Widgeon and a boarding party aboard SS Kiawo.  The second incident centered around the Black Swan-class sloop HMS Amythyst (F116), which effectively brought an end to the Yangtze Patrol in 1949.  With the Chinese Communists in power, she was engaged by shore batteries, damaged, and trapped in the river with her Captain killed.  Over the next ten weeks major diplomatic standoff ensued, which was resolved when Amethyst made a daring nighttime dash down one hundred miles of river, running the Communist gauntlet to rejoin the Royal Navy fleet at Woosung.

Like all the books in the Osprey New Vanguard series, space limitations preclude anything more than a brief overview of the topic presented.  For those interested in learning more about the Amythyst, there are several newsreels available online as well as the 1957 feature film Yangtse Incident: The Story of HMS Amethyst.  An excellent depiction events from the U.S. perspective is the 1966 film The Sand Pebbles starring Steve McQueen.  This is a fictionalized account set in 1926 which draws on several historical incidents to tell its story.

A valuable introduction to an interesting topic, I can recommend this volume.  It is well illustrated with period photographs and quality artwork specifically commissioned for this book.  While not the most attractive ships, several of the gunboats represented would make for fascinating large-scale models.

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Cunningham T1 Light Tanks Build in 1/72 Scale

Cunningham_01
The Cunningham T1 was a series of prototype light tanks developed in America. They were modified and rebuilt into a number of configurations, but were never formally adopted by the U.S. Army. Apparently, versions have become popular in the World of Tanks game, and I found the type interesting enough to print out a couple using a file by “Turenkarn” here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2192170

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The mudguards didn’t come out too well on my prints as can be seen on the nearer hull. Fortunately this is pretty easily corrected using sheet styrene.

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An earlier iteration of the Cunningham had no mudguards at all so they were simply removed from the print. The 37 mm cannons and machine gun barrels were replaced by Albion Alloy tube.

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Mr. Surfacer 1000 smoothed out the printing layers well. The tanks were painted and weathered as usual from there.

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I wanted to display the tank on a base. Here are some small trees made from twisting copper wire from lamp cord. After bending to the desired shape, the trunks are fixed with superglue, primed with Mr. Surfacer 500, and painted. The foliage is from Woodland Scenics.

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The base was made using a small plaque and represents a dirt backroad.

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Here is the finished scene with a figure added for scale. The figure was converted using a Preisser Luftwaffe pilot as a base. Another fun little printer project to clear the pallet between more involved builds.

Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Vc Trop of Sgt. George Beurling in 1/72 Scale

Sgt. George “Screwball” Beurling was the highest-scoring Canadian ace, with 31 credited victories, the majority of which were scored over Malta.  BR323 was one of the Spitfires he flew with 249 Squadron at Malta, achieving 5 victories with this aircraft in July 1942.  The dual drop tanks on the centerline were a field improvisation, the blue camouflage was applied in theater and has been interpreted in several ways.

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Chevrolet G506 E-5 Turret Training Trucks

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During the Second World War the U.S. automotive industry produced a vast number of trucks and light vehicles which were used by all Allied nations. One of the more versatile designs was the Chevrolet G506 1+1⁄2-ton, 4×4 medium truck, of which 154,204 were built in various configurations. Over 44,000 were provided to the Soviets.

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One of the versions was the E5 Turret Trainer Truck. This was a rather straight-forward modification which replaced the cargo bed with various frame-mounted aircraft turrets. The truck’s engine drove an electric generator which provided power to operate the turret.

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Aerial gunnery students began their training by shooting skeet with shotguns. They then progressed to shooting clay pigeons from the back of a moving vehicle. This is a standard G506 cargo version with a wooden shooting stand added to the bed. The weapon is a Remington Model 11 shotgun fitted with a spade grip.

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Shotguns were also fitted to the E5 trucks as the students gained proficiency. The shotguns helped reduce costs.

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Here is another configuration – B-24 turrets fitted with .30-caliber machine guns. Note that the truck frames are fitted with stabilizers above the rear wheels for firing.

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A good view of the top of a Sperry ventral turret with Perspex transparencies removed. This reveals of details of the frame.

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Another top view from a magazine illustration. The caption reads, “Learning To Give Our Enemies a Nasty Taste of Bitter Medicine. Gunnery students learn to aim and fire the .50-caliber machine guns which will later be installed in regulation bomber turrets. Here, for trial workouts, these deadly guns are mounted in Army trucks, from which they fire at targets carried by a driverless jeep running on a circular track.”

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A posed photograph, but interesting as it shows jacks being installed under the front bumper to stabilize the vehicle. Note the placard with the number “4” in front of the turret.

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A model aircraft mounted to a Cushman cart is intended to provide practice tracking a crossing target, but the trainees don’t appear interested. In many of these photos the trucks have their hoods open, presumably to help keep the engines cool while the vehicles are stationary and generating electricity for the turrets.

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Trainees carry ammo to the gun range at Page Field, Fort Myers, Florida. Trucks are lined up preparing to fire. Red flags indicate a “hot” range.

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A cloth banner mounted to a Jeep is the intended target. The Jeep would be unmanned when firing, guided by the fixed track system and protected by the earthen berm in the background.

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A good view of the rear of the E5 Turret Trainer Truck. To the right is a Sperry ball turret.

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The Sperry ball turret required a different frame when mounted to the truck, one which provided clear arcs of fire to the rear. Ironically, the mounting structure resulted in a taller vehicle than those equipped with any of the standard ventral turrets.

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A clear side view of an E5 with a ball turret. Any of these vehicles would make an unusual conversion project for a modeler.

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While I could not confirm that any of the E5 turret trucks served in anything other than a training capacity, it would be plausible to use them in a local security role for airfield defense. Bomber units would have all the required logistics in place to support both the truck and gun system plus have an abundance of trained gunners.

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This and the following photo are supposedly of a gun truck in New Guinea, and may show an E5 truck utilized in an airfield defense role.

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Compare the support frame on this truck to the previous photographs – it is much simpler and mounted lower than the others, similar to the support for the Liberator turrets with the .30-caliber guns seen in the fifth photograph.

Teenage Resistance Fighter Book Review

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Teenage Resistance Fighter: With the Maquisards in Occupied France

By Hubert Verneret, Translated by Sarah Saunders and Patrick Depardon

Hardcover in dustjacket, 146 pages, photographs

Published by Casemate, November 2017

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-61200-550-0

ISBN-13: 978-1-61200-550-8

Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.5 x 9 inches

When Germany invaded Poland on 01 September 1939, Hubert Verneret was a fourteen-year-old Boy Scout living in Burgundy, France.  As the war came to France, he kept a dairy of his experiences.  The Scouts were active in civil relief efforts, helping with refugees and troops at train stations, and later rescue operations in areas hit by Allied bombing raids.  After the Allied invasion of Normandy, he and a friend decided to join the Resistance, traveling to the Mont Beuvray area to enlist in the Louis Maquis in August.

Maquis roughly means “the bush”, and the Maquis lived in camps in rough terrain where German pursuit would be difficult and easily detected.  The Marquis could then emerge to conduct ambushes or sabotage, for their part the Germans overestimated their numbers and generally avoided areas where they were operating when they could.  During the withdrawal from France roadblocks and mines funneled the Germans into routes which were more easily attacked by Allied airpower while smaller formations on lesser roads were ambushed.

Verneret kept a journal of his experiences living as a boy in occupied France and his adventures after joining the Maquis.  While he was never in actual combat, this was a matter of chance as he participated in field operations on several occasions.  The Maquis were disbanded at the end of September, its members joining the Free French or other Allied forces, or simply returning to civilian life.

The book is divided into two sections.  The first is a reconstruction of Verneret’s wartime experiences, the second a series of interviews with prominent figures associated with the Louis Marquis.  Also included are diary entries describing the German retreat from a Madame Forneret, and a summary of the Marquis contribution to the war effort.  This is a short read, but an interesting description of life in France during the German occupation and withdrawal.

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