Saturday, May 31, 2014
|Home is the Hunter|
William S. Phillips
Now blogging-wise, Thursdays are fairly intense. On the way home from work I think about what the Friday Flyby is going to look like. Sometimes I have two weeks worth of Flybys running through the corridors of my mind. Sometimes I'm scrambling to come up with something for the after dinner blogging hour.
Not so this week, nor for the next few weeks as Juvat has planted some ideas in the old noggin, which is cool, as I used to calibrate his jet's radar (and everybody else's for that matter). So all I need to do is come up with the pictures and the text and arrange them suitably. Or something like that. Hell, this ain't rocket science, I don't get paid to do it, but DAMN it's fun.
Anyhoo, Thursday nights are hectic as I put together the next day's Flyby. Sometimes it can take four to five hours, so I kind of take Friday nights off, blogging-wise.
Sometimes I feel guilty about that.
Sometimes I don't.
All things being equal, it's nice to get up in the bright shiny AM, fire up Mr. Computer, log into the blog, hit publish, then sigh with contentment. Until I hear,
"Are you going to mow the lawn today?"
If I indicate to The Missus Herself that I was thinking about doing that on Sunday, she'll tell me it's supposed to rain. So now I'm in a quandary, do I roll the dice and wait until Sunday? Knowing full well that if the wife says it will rain on Sunday and I wait until then, it will rain. Then I'll be stuck mowing the lawn in stages after work on Monday and Tuesday.
But if I cut the grass Saturday then of course, Sunday will be beautiful.
Cutting the grass isn't all bad though, it does give me time to think. Think about the blog and what I want to post about in the near future. Sometimes though, I just let my mind go blank and follow the mower around until I realize that I'm done.
I had a dream last night that The Nuke and I were driving down a lovely tree lined road. Nicely paved and gently winding through some lovely country. In each tree was a sleeping raccoon. (?!?!?)
(Damn Jedi-raccoon mind tricks.)
No more Italian sausage for dinner methinks. The Nuke thinks I should see a specialist...
Oh look! An aircraft carrier!
Hhhmm, maybe this is why I don't write Saturday posts on Friday night...
Friday, May 30, 2014
|Hurricanes of No. 303 ("Kościuszko") Polish Fighter Squadron|
303 Dywizjon Myśliwski "Warszawski im. Tadeusza Kościuszki"
The Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum's website has this to say about No. 303 Squadron:
The Poles were keen to fight but the RAF would not at first let them fly operationally. This was because few of the exiles spoke English and there was concern about their morale. What the British did not yet realise was that many of the Poles were excellent pilots. Having come through the Polish and French Campaigns, they had more combat experience than most of their British comrades and they employed superior tactics.
As the Battle of Britain wore on, and the shortage of trained pilots became critical, the exiles were accepted into RAF squadrons and two Polish fighter units, Nos. 302 and 303 Squadrons, were formed. Once committed to action, the Poles flew and fought superbly, shooting down 203 enemy aircraft for the loss of 29 pilots killed. No. 303 Squadron became the most successful Fighter Command unit in the Battle, shooting down 126 German machines in only 42 days. Czech Sergeant Josef Frantisek, also of '303', was the top scoring pilot with 17 confirmed victories.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, who led Fighter Command, would later write:
"Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the Battle would have been the same."
|Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding|
Commander of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain
In the same vein, RAF Uxbridge, which was the headquarters for No. 11 Group of Fighter Command which was responsible for the aerial defence of London and the south-east of England during the Battle of Britain has this as one of it's static displays -
|Hurricane of No. 303 Squadron|
You can tell this is a Polish aircraft by the Szachownica z kirem (chessboard with a pall) insignia on the nose of the aircraft just under the exhaust stacks.
|Szachownica z kirem|
Of course, there is this wonderful scene from the film Battle of Britain...
I think I have seen this movie 20 times and that is one of my favorite scenes!
|Undaunted by Odds|
by Robert Taylor
RAF fighter squadrons all had a distinctive 2-letter code painted on the side of the aircraft, No. 303 Squadron's code was "RF". The third letter on the side was the letter code for the individual aircraft within the squadron.
Squadron Leader Witold Urbanowicz's Hurricane MkI of 303 Sqn during a combat over Beachy Head in the summer of 1940 -
by Piotr Górka
|No. 303 Squadron Spitfire Mk.Vb RF D of S/Ldr Jan Zumbach with Donald Duck nose art.|
No. 303 Squadron was one of 16 Polish squadrons in the RAF, No. 303 was the highest scoring RAF squadron during the Battle of Britain. Here are some squadron statistics for WWII.
|No. 303 Squadron downed 126 German aircraft ("Adolf's") during the Battle of Britain.|
|No. 303 squadron pilots in 1940. From left: P/O Ferić, F/Lt Kent, F/O Grzeszczak, P/O Radomski,|
P/O Zumbach, P/O Łukuciewski, F/O Henneberg, Sgt. Rogowski, Sgt. Szaposznikow.
|F/O Bronisław Kłosin holding an aerial gunnery contest award, on the left side of him, Flt Lt Bieńkowski, on the right side Flt Lt Zumbach.|
Some of the high scorers of No. 303 Squadron were:
- Squadron Leader R G Kellett DSO DFC, Original CO of 303 Sqn during the Battle of Britain, (five claims)
- Flight Lieutenant John A. Kent, Canadian Flight commander during the Battle, (11 claims)
- Sgt Josef František, Czech pilot flying with 303 Polish Squadron, was one of the top fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain, with 17 confirmed kills.
- Flying Officer Witold Urbanowicz, Polish commander of 303 Squadron from 5 September 1940, scored 15 kills during the Battle of Britain (17 or 19 + 1 + 0 total)
- Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach, commander of 303 Squadron from 19 May 1942, scored 8 kills during the Battle of Britain (12 1/3 + 5 + 1 total)
|Sgt Josef František|
|Flying Officer Witold Urbanowicz|
|Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach|
|P/O Zumbach's Spitfire|
The last thing you'd want to see on your Six, if you were German in 1940!
|King George VI visited the unit during the Battle of Britain on September 26.|
In that photo above, just to the left of the King, partly visible is S/Ldr Urbanowicz, who took over after S/Ldr Krasnodebski was wounded. Presenting pilots is S/Ldr Kellet. The King shakes hand with P/O Januszewicz, on who's his right has P/O Henneberg, F/O Cebrzynski and F/O Paszkiewicz. To the left of Januszewicz are: P/O Grzeszczak, P/O Zumbach and P/O Feric. (Source)
That source linked above is an excellent website dedicated to No. 303 Squadron during the Battle of Britain. They start with this -
It must be said, that before the two Polish squadrons and one Czech entered the battle, the British Command regarded their Slavic allies as inferior pilots to their own, with broken morale, hindered by language incapability. Except for the language they were completely wrong.Ladies and gentlemen, I give you No. 303 Squadron of the Royal Air Force - 303 Dywizjon Myśliwski "Warszawski im. Tadeusza Kościuszki".
Thursday, May 29, 2014
|A Thousand Years of Polish Cavalry|
(Pomnik Jazdy Polskiej)
Okay, we did do that to a certain extent. But that isn't what won the war. No matter what you learned as a kid.
Another enduring legend/myth I had been taught as a kid is that when the Germans invaded Poland on the 1st of September in 1939 (starting WWII), the silly Poles had nothing but infantry and cavalry to fight the "hordes" of German tanks and motorized infantry. They actually attacked German tanks on horseback! With swords!
Nope. Wrong. Didn't happen like that. That was German propaganda, not fact.
|Polish Cavalry in the 1930s|
Polish cavalrymen made quite a name for themselves over roughly a thousand year period. The terrain of Poland is mostly flat, lots of fields and is admirably suited to cavalry. Of course, because it's so flat, and there aren't many convenient barriers to outside enemies, Poland got invaded, a lot.
In fact, Poland has moved around a bit since the founding of the Polish nation. Seems the Russians, Austrians and Prussians liked to invade Poland, back in the day. Afterwards they would divide the spoils. Everybody would get a piece of Poland. Sometimes the Poles were left some of their land, sometimes not. Many was the time in history where Poland as a nation ceased to exist as a political entity. But the Polish people remained.
These maps will give you an idea how Poland has drifted about over the centuries. Always the Polish people remained, paying taxes to first one king, and then another. Warsaw, Krakow and Lublin always seemed to anchor Poland, even when the state itself had been submerged by foreign invaders.
The modern Polish state (in gray above) really started up again in earnest in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the rise of the Solidarity movement and the fall of the Soviet Union. Finally Poland was free to be Poland, no longer under the heel of some larger state. The freedom-loving Poles were free once again.
Now what about that Polish cavalry versus German tanks myth? First of all, let's look at the battle honors inscribed on that monument at the top of this post:
- Cedynia 972
- Psie Pole 1109
- Legnica 1241
- Płowce 1331
- Grunwald 1410
- Obertyn 1531
- Orsza 1564
- Byczyna 1588
- Kircholm 1605
- Kłuszyn 1610
- Trzciana 1629
- Beresteczko 1651
- Warka 1656
- Alsen 1658
- Podhajce 1667
- Chocim 1673
- Wiedeń 1683
- Parkany 1683
- Zieleńce 1792
- Samosierra 1808
- Lipsk 1813
- Stoczek 1831
- Grochów 1831
- Walewice 1863
- Rokitna 1915
- Krechowce 1917
- Jazłowiec 1919
- Koziatyn 1920
- Komarów 1920
- Korosteń 1920
- Krojanty 1939
- Mokra 1939
- Bzura 1939
- Wólka Węglowa 1939
- Kock 1939
- Montbard 1940
- Tobruk 1941
- Monte Cassino 1944
- Falaise 1944
- Moerdijk 1944
- Ancona 1944
- Bolonia 1945
- Borujsko 1945
For nearly 1000 years Polish cavalry have fought the enemies of Poland. One of the earliest types of Polish cavalry were the "winged hussars." (Read more about them here.)
|Polish Winged Hussars|
These troopers were tough, masters of their horses and their weapons. The weapon most famously associated with the Polish cavalry was the lance.
The Emperor Napoléon was so impressed with the Polish lancers that he incorporated a unit of them into his Imperial Guard. A detachment of these men went into exile with the Emperor on Elba upon his first abdication. (Lancers were also known as ułani in Polish, which translates as uhlan, another popular term for cavalry armed with lance and dressed in the Polish style. Especially in eastern Europe.)
|Polish lancers of the French Imperial Guard|
One of the most famous incidents involving Polish cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars was at the Battle of Somosierra, in Spain. (Source)
The Battle of Somosierra occurred November 30, 1808 in the Peninsular War, when a French army under Napoleon I forced a passage through the Sierra de Guadarrama shielding Madrid.
At the Somosierra mountain pass, 60 miles north of Madrid, a heavily outnumbered Spanish detachment of conscripts and artillery under Benito de San Juan aimed to block Napoleon's advance on the Spanish capital. Napoleon overwhelmed the Spanish positions in a combined arms attack, charging the Polish Chevau-légers of the Imperial Guard at the Spanish guns while French infantry advanced up the slopes. The victory removed the last obstacle barring the road to Madrid, which fell several days later.
Because the Spanish forces could not easily be outflanked by infantry movement, and Napoleon was impatient to proceed, he ordered his Polish Chevaux-Légers escort squadron of 125 men to charge the Spaniards and their fortified artillery batteries. To that number must be added members of other squadrons, totalling some 450 men, but these entered the battle later.
Jan Kozietulski, who commanded the 3rd squadron that day, mentioned that he called, "Lekka jazda kłusem!" ("Light cavalry at the trot!") and, passing the little bridge, added, "En avant, Vive l'Empereur!" (Forward, long live the Emperor!")
|Polish Light Horse at Somosierra|
The Poles fought (and died) at Waterloo. Many died in the massive cavalry charges which took place on that field.
Polish cavalry uniforms.
|2nd Uhlan Regiment (1914-1918)|
|1st Wielkopolska Uhlan Regiment|
The jacket and traditional four-cornered Polish cap are called the kurtka and czapka. These were worn by most nations fielding units of uhlans.
|German Uhlan, 1914|
(The German czapka had a rather Teutonic look to it!)
The Poles were tough, well-disciplined troops. As with many armies throughout history, their politicians failed them. The Poles went to war in 1939 with the army they had, perhaps not the army they wanted. However, here's a couple of extracts from a great write-up concerning the opening moves in September of 1939. (Read the whole thing here.)
By late afternoon of that first day, the German 20th Motorized Infantry Division was approaching the city of Chojnice, in the Tuchola Forest, about 165 miles northwest of Warsaw, and it was threatening a key railroad junction in the village of Krojanty about four miles northeast of Chojnice. Army Pomorse forces in this area consisted primarily of the 18th Lancer Regiment of the Pomorska Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Colonel Kazimierz Mastelarz. Having been ordered to hold the area, Colonel Mastelarz decided to take the regiment’s 1st and 2nd Squadrons through the forest and attempt to attack the German infantry positions from the rear. That evening, Mastelarz’s two cavalry squadrons surprised a German infantry battalion in an open area.
Ordinarily, after cavalrymen had arrived at a battle area, they would dismount and use their rifles and other weapons to engage the enemy. However, in this case, Mastelarz had the advantage of both surprise and mobility, so he ordered a mounted saber attack against the German infantry.
The 1st and 2nd Squadrons, a force of about 250, charged out of the forest across an open area and into the German formation. With only a few casualties, the Poles quickly gained the advantage during the close-in fighting, and the Germans started falling back.
Just when it looked like the Poles were going to win the skirmish, several German armored cars equipped with machine guns and automatic cannon appeared and opened fire on the Polish cavalry who then broke off the attack and retreated from the battle scene. Losses to the Polish squadrons were about 20 killed, including Colonel Mastelarz, and an unknown number, probably about 60, wounded or captured. This was the first cavalry charge of World War II.
A MYTH IS BORN. Two days later, General Heinz Guderian, commander of the 19th Corps, of which the German 20th Motorized Division was a part, wrote that, “…we succeeded in totally encircling the enemy on our front in the wooded country north of Schwetz and west of Graudenz. The Polish Pomorska Cavalry Brigade, in ignorance of the nature of our tanks, had charged them with swords and lances and had suffered tremendous losses.”
The myth led to the belief that the Poles had no armored vehicles, and that they were so primitive that they thought military tanks could be attacked and destroyed with saber and lance. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. Polish cavalry units were trained and equipped to combat both tanks and infantry.
Polish cavalrymen were essentially mounted infantrymen using their horses to move quickly from one location to another, and the weapons that they normally used against enemy infantry were their rifles. Sabers and lances were seldom used in combat except for close-in fighting from horseback where they were more effective than rifles with affixed bayonets.
However, there was no need for the Polish cavalry to use sabers or lances against German tanks. Each cavalry battalion carried deadly Swedish Bofors 37mm anti-tank guns and Polish-designed Maroszek WZ 35anti-tank rifles for use against enemy tanks. A projectile from the Polish anti-tank rifle, with a muzzle velocity of over 4000 feet per second, could penetrate the armor of any German tank in the field. Polish anti-tank rifles were so effective that hundreds of them captured by Germany were reissued to German military units that then used them against French tanks when Germany invaded that country in 1940.
Nor was there reason to believe that the Poles were ignorant of the nature of tanks. In 1939, Poland had more than 600 tanks. Most of them were small tankettes armed with only machine guns. In addition to these, Poland fielded 38 British-built Vickers 6 ton tanks and 135 7TP tanks of Polish design based on the Vickers tank. Each single-turret version of these Polish 7TP tanks carried a 37mm main gun and up to 17mm of armor plate. They were superior in both armor and armament to most of the invading German tanks, and they were the world’s first diesel powered tanks to see action.
Another, perhaps less-familiar, fact regarding Polish knowledge of tank technology is that the rotating Vickers Tank Periscope used in 40,000 allied tanks during the war was originally called the Gundlach Peryskop obrotowy and was invented in Poland in 1936. It was the first periscope to provide a tank commander a 360-degree view without turning his head.
|Yup, the guy driving the motorcycle is toast!|
Even today, the Poles remember their traditions.
The Polish cavalry lives on!
Niech żyje Polska!
For my buddy Paweł. (Yes Paweł, I will get to 303 Squadron eventually!)
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
|A Kampfgeschwader of He-111s Approaches Dover|
The Channel could be crossed if the Germans could gain air superiority. This would allow them to drive the Royal Navy from the Channel while the Wehrmacht crossed over from France to England.
In order to gain air superiority, the Luftwaffe had to neutralize RAF Fighter Command, which in August of 1940, had a strength of roughly 800 front line fighter aircraft, one-third of which were Spitfires, the remainder Hurricanes.
By the time of the fall of France, the Luftwaffe (the German air force) had 3,000 planes based in north-west Europe alone including 1,400 bombers, 300 dive bombers, 800 single engine fighter planes and 240 twin engine fighter bombers. At the start of the battle, the Luftwaffe had 2,500 planes that were serviceable and in any normal day, the Luftwaffe could put up over 1,600 planes. The RAF had 1,200 planes on the eve of the battle which included 800 Spitfires and Hurricanes - but only 660 of these were serviceable. The rate of British plane production was good - the only weakness of the RAF was the fact that they lacked sufficient trained and experienced pilots. Trained pilots had been killed in the war in France and they had not been replaced. (Source)So the RAF was outnumbered. However, skilled pilots in well-designed aircraft can make a huge difference. Those boys who stood against the Luftwaffe in 1940 got the job done.
|British Pilot: Welcome to England Jerry!|
German Pilot: Scheisse!
Now I may have posted this short film The German by Nick Ryan before, perhaps I saw it on someone else's blog a while back. Doesn't matter. I watched it again last night and decided to post it here for you today. I thought it was extremely well done.
It also taught me a little known fact that I had not known before.
I won't tell you what that was though, you'll need to watch the film for that!
Kampfgeschwader, German Bomber Wing
Wehrmacht, German armed forces
Luftwaffe, German Air Force
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Still looks cool though.
So it's a Tuesday after a long weekend. A long, rather melancholy weekend. I am not feeling all that creative today. So today is all about aircraft which I saw on another blog and which provides me with a reason to link to a post by someone else.
Saving me the need to be creative today and giving you, the Reader, with something interesting to look at.
The following is from Wikipedia (surprise, surprise, surprise) with my commentary in red italics. Unlike a Blue Ray disc, you can't turn off the commentary. Sorry.
The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter is a single-engine, high-performance, supersonic interceptor aircraft originally developed for the United States Air Force (USAF) by Lockheed. (It's more of a manned missile than an aircraft. I mean seriously, the AMRAAM has more wing area!) One of the Century Series of aircraft, it was operated by the air forces of more than a dozen nations from 1958 to 2004. (Century Series: F-100, F-101, F-102, etc. Note that the F-117 is not part of the Century Series. The Air Force is not very good at sticking to numbering or naming conventions of any kind.)
The F-104 served with the USAF from 1958 until 1969, and continued with Air National Guard units until 1975. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) flew a small mixed fleet of F-104 types in supersonic flight tests and spaceflight programs until 1994. (NASA was somewhat taken aback when they learned that the cockpit did not go into orbit all by itself. I mean c'mon, it looks like a rocket. Am I right?) USAF F-104Cs saw service during the Vietnam War, and F-104A aircraft were deployed by Pakistan briefly during the Indo-Pakistani wars. Republic of China Air Force (Taiwan) F-104s also engaged the People's Liberation Army Air Force (China) over the disputed island of Quemoy. The operational service of the Starfighter ended with its retirement by the Italian Air Force in May 2004. (Though very fast and sexy looking, even the Italians got tired of the poor safety record of this bird.)
A total of 2,578 Starfighters were eventually produced, mostly by NATO members. A set of modifications produced the F-104G model, which won a NATO competition for a new fighter-bomber. (Seriously, a fighter bomber? Where does one hang the bombs?) Several two-seat trainer versions were also produced, the most numerous being the TF-104G. The ultimate production version of the basic fighter model F-104 was the F-104S all-weather interceptor designed by Aeritalia for the Italian Air Force and equipped with radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. (A missile carrying missiles. Neat.) An advanced F-104 with a high-mounted wing, known as the CL-1200 Lancer, did not proceed past the mock-up stage.
The poor safety record of the Starfighter brought the aircraft into the public eye, especially in German Air Force service. The subsequent Lockheed bribery scandals surrounding the original purchase contracts caused considerable political controversy in Europe and Japan. (OMG. Bribery? Involving a defense contractor and a foreign nation? Joe, say it ain't so!)
Still and all, it was a cool looking aircraft. I had a model of one when I was a kid. All shiny and silvery it was.
If you simply must have one (Murph) they have them for sale in various parts of the world. You can go here to see what's available and for how much. But this one in Denison, TX looked enticing. (Looks to be in reasonable shape too!)
|For Sale, Seriously...|
Oh yes, what sparked this sudden interest in the venerable F-104 Starfighter?
|I don't know; ask the skipper|
Um, yeah. That last caption was a link.
So why is that B-29 up there all dressed up like some kinda Commie aircraft?
Uh, that's not a B-29, it's actually a Tupolev Tu-4. So the Soviet-era markings are absolutely correct.
Peter over at Bayou Renaissance Man has the story.
And an interesting tale it is!
As Buck might say, "I had no ideer..."
Monday, May 26, 2014
The young dead soldiers do not speak.
Nevertheless, they are heard in the still houses:
who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night
and when the clock counts.
They say: We were young. We have died.
They say: We have done what we could
but until it is finished it is not done.
They say: We have given our lives but until it is finished
no one can know what our lives gave.
They say: Our deaths are not ours: they are yours,
they will mean what you make them.
They say: Whether our lives and our deaths were for
peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say,
it is you who must say this.
They say, We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning: give them an end to the
war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards:
give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died; remember us.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In nearly every corner of the world, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have laid down their lives...
|The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific|
At the going down of the sun...
...and in the morning...
We will remember them.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
On this day, take a moment to remember...
Whisper a silent prayer of thanks...
Raise your glass and pay homage to those who gave all of their tomorrows...
That we might have today.