At All Costs Audio Book Review

At All Costs

Authored by Sam Moses, Narrated by Michael Prichard

Audiobook, 11 hours and 13 minutes

Published by Tantor Audio, December 2006

Language: English


Malta is a rather small island located in the Mediterranean approximately fifty miles south of the Sicilian coast.  During the Second World War it was a British colony, and was a considerable thorn in the side of the Axis.  From Malta, British submarines and aircraft could attack Axis shipping attempting to supply Rommel’s Afrika Corps.  Obviously, the Axis could not let this threat stand.  The German and Italian strategy was to lay siege to the British base, bombing the island daily and cutting off resupply to starve the island into submission.

By the summer of 1942 the situation on Malta was critical, without resupply of food and fuel the island would be forced to surrender, a humiliating defeat for the British and a great strategic victory for the Axis.  The British organized a convoy named Operation Pedestal consisting of thirteen merchantmen including the tanker Ohio, which alone carried enough fuel and heating oil necessary for Malta’s survival.  As if to underscore the convoy’s importance, the escort was extremely strong, consisting of over fifty warships which included two battleships and five aircraft carriers.  Opposing this force were over five hundred Italian and German aircraft, the Italian surface fleet, several submarines, and a flotilla of torpedo boats.

The story of the Pedestal convoy is told through one of the Merchant Marine Officers, a Norwegian named Fredrick Larsen.  Larsen left his wife and child behind when Norway was occupied.  Larson was assigned to one of the ships in the convoy, the freighter Santa Elise.  When the Santa Elisa was sunk Larson and another Officer, Francis Dales, were rescued by a British destroyer.  The tanker Ohio was also hit several times and abandoned, but still afloat.  Several sailors including Larsen and Dales volunteered to re-board the Ohio, and the Royal Navy attempted to tow her into Malta.

I was impressed by the level of research which went into this book, which included log entries and reports from senior officers and crewmen from several ships.  Larsen is a good lens through which to tell the story as it gives some perspective of what types of men made up the Merchant Marine during WWII.  This is an epic tale of the war at sea and a book I can recommend without hesitation.

Supermarine Seafire Color Photographs

Seafire Ib NX942 of 736 Naval Air Squadron is seen in the background as Sub-Lieutenant Harold Salisbury adjusts his flight helmet for the camera. The photograph was taken at Royal Navy Air Station Yeovilton in September 1943. Complete fuselage codes are “AC-E”.
Ratings are seen fueling Seafire X4652 at Yeovilton, September 1943. Agricultural tractors were often used as towing vehicles. Yeovilton is currently the home of the Fleet Air Arm Museum.
A Seafire in the foreground at HMS Fledgling. Also visible are a Corsair, a Martlet, and two Barracuda. Poking out of the hangers are two Sea Hurricanes and a Hellcat.
A crop of the previous photo shows the wear on the paint at this Seafire’s wingroot. HMS Fledgling was the Royal Navy’s aircraft maintenance school. In April 1943 it was decided to use the facility to train WRENs as aircraft mechanics in order to release more men for front-line service.
Here is a series of outstanding color photographs taken aboard HMS Indomitable at Scapa Flow in March 1943. Indomitable was working up following the repair of bomb damage suffered during Operation Pedestal, the famous convoy to Malta. In the background is the Avenger-class escort carrier HMS Biter (D97).
A crop from the previous photo focusing on Seafire Mk IIc MB189 of 880 NAS. The aircraft are being spotted on Indomitable’s flight deck. Note the plane handlers have placed their chocks on the Seafire’s wings.
A fuel lighter passes down the side of Indomitable with Seafires of 889 NAS on deck. While U.S. Navy aircraft carriers were built with wooden flight decks during WWII, those of the Royal Navy were armored.
A magnificent view of the Indomitable’s camouflaged island structure behind two Seafires.
A Reserve Flight Lieutenant poses on the wing of his Seafire. Modelers note the amount of wear to the paint on the leading edge of the wing. This photograph has sparked discussion concerning the color of the underside of the nose and removal of the tropical Vokes air filter.
Three unidentified pilots with their flight gear donned over their dress blue uniforms, which seems a rather impractical outfit for flying. On the left is a Sub-Lieutenant of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (Aviation), on the right is a Sub-Lieutenant of the Royal Naval Reserve.

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.


Construction posts here:

Vickers Mark VI Light Tank Build in 1/72 Scale

I have a Creality LD-002R 3-D resin printer, it is small enough to fit on a corner of my workbench and not horribly expensive for what it can do. The printers are quite useful but you can easily go down the rabbit hole with these things. I found a file for a Vickers Mk. VI light tank from designer “TigerAce1945” on Thingiverse here: I scaled it to 1/72 and soon it was ready to go.

Assembly consists of removing the supports and placing the turret on the hull. The resin is cured by UV light, so I placed it in the sunshine and flipped it over after the supports were off to make sure everything hardened up completely. The resin is hard and a little on the brittle side but cuts and sands very much like typical model plastic or casting resin.

The model would be fine for wargaming just as it was, but I wanted to jazz it up a bit as a display model using Evergreen strip and wire. The shovel and ax are separate prints. The towing eyes on the front of the hull and fire extinguisher are from the spares box. I rebuilt the stowage frame on the rear plate because the wall thickness was too much.

A couple of coats of Mr. Surfacer 1000 smoothed out most of the printing layers. These were not all that bad, but the prints don’t yet have the same fidelity as injection molded kits. The technology is getting closer though and works well for many modeling tasks!

Here is the model with the Malta “stone wall” camouflage prior to weathering. I love the scheme, and this is a quick and painless way to try to represent it.

What better backdrop for a stone wall camouflage than a stone wall? I found a suitable example and printed a wall to go with the tank. The file is intended for 28 mm wargamers, but one of the neat things about printers is the files can be re-scaled within reason. The designer is “Ravenloth” on Thingiverse:

Here is the wall mounted to a display base. Small pebbles from the driveway enhance the randomness of the wall and provide rubble where sections have fallen down.

I added more rocks to the top of the wall to break up the flat profile. The small tree is a twisted wire trunk, scattered grass and tufts complete the terrain.

The Vickers was finished off in the standard way with washes and chipping, then sprayed with DullCoat. The antenna is Nitenol wire, and there is some basic stowage added in the rack on the back.

Here is the finished product, with a Preisser Luftwaffe figure modified to represent a British tanker added for scale. All in all an enjoyable little project which came together quickly.

Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mk. Vc Trop of 249 Squadron in 1/72 Scale

This is a No. 249 Squadron Spitfire Mk. Vc Trop defending Malta in the Summer of 1942.  Many of the Malta Spitfires were re-camouflaged locally and the colors used are still debated.  This example was finished in an overall “dark blue”, I have chosen Insignia Blue for my model.


More completed Airfix Spitfires here:

Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vc Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

This Spitfire will be in post-war Greek markings. Mr. Color #5 was a good match for the blue in the Greek roundels. The natural metal finish almost did me in on this one though, as the soft Airfix plastic scratched easily and the Alclad made any scratches jump right out. I ended up buffing out scratches and re-shooting the Alclad a couple of times.
Everyone agrees that several of the Malta Spitfires were oversprayed in blues, but there is little consensus as to what blues and to what extent they were covered. Here I have layered on two USN colors, Intermediate Blue and Blue Gray.
For a darker blue Malta scheme I used Model Master Insignia Blue. I still have some stocks of the MM paints, although they do not age well and I often discover a few unusable bottles during every build.
The last will be another Greek Spitfire in the more usual Temperate Sea scheme. This one will have the hybrid markings with RAF Type B roundels on the upper wings and Greek roundels in the other positions.
A group shot all glossed up and ready for decals.
This is the ugly stage of a “sludge wash” to bring out the panel lines. The sludge wash is a diluted dark gray acrylic mixed with a little dish soap. This is best applied over a gloss finish with the excess wiped away before it is completely dry.
Here the excess has been removed with a damp cotton swab. Always work in the direction of the airflow and any streaking will add depth to your weathering.
The finished batch. I borrowed some spare Type B roundel decals from the Eduard kit as the Xtradecal sheet didn’t have enough to do every subject I wanted. The only real flaw with this kit is the center sections of the canopies are not as clear as they should be, I replaced what I could with spares from Eduard kits which are much better molded. Overall though I am happy with these kits as they go together well and are fun builds.  In total I spent 26.5 hours on these, or about 6 hours and 40 minutes per kit.

More completed Spitfire pictures here:

Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mark Vc Batch Build in 1/72 Scale Part I

This is the Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc, kit number A02108 released in 2020. This is a new tool and very much in Airfix’s home court as it replaces their older tools and, well, it’s a Spitfire. I’ll be building a small batch of these, hopefully as a painless build before trying something more involved.
I was really pleased to see that Xtradecal issued a decal sheet targeting this kit, and it one with several interesting options. The Airfix kit has two decal options provided, one in U.S. markings and one in South African. I think at least one of the kit options should have been in Royal Air Force markings as this would have provided examples of the most common national insignia for the Spitfire.
On to the sprues! The kit is molded in the soft light blue plastic we now expect from Airfix. The panel line detail has come a long way and this kit features finely scribed recessed panel lines. I was pleasantly surprised to see just how nicely these were rendered. There are also optional upper wing parts for the clipped wing version, no cutting needed.
On the smaller parts sprues Airfix has provided the builder with a number of options. Both the Rotol and DeHavilland three-bladed propellers are provided along with their associated spinners. The Vokes tropical filter as depicted on the box art is included, as are parts for the standard nose panel and filter. Exhausts come with or without the gun heater tubes. The modeler can also choose to show the landing gear up and the canopy either opened or closed.
The cockpit is well-detailed and builds up as a tub to be inserted into the fuselage. You must do this before joining the fuselage halves but it fits nicely.
Here are two tubs assembled and painted. Seat belts are not included, I have made mine from masking tape. The instrument panel is the kit decal which is fine given what can be seen.

Part II here: