Pistolet Błyskawica 

The Polish Home Army manufactured between 500 and 700 Błyskawica submachine gun before the ill-fated Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The name Błyskawica, meaning lightning, stems from three lightning bolts engraved onto the butt plate of many of the guns.    

While resistance groups in France were well armed and supplied by frequent parachute drops from Britain the Polish Underground was less well supplied. While they did receive various small arms in supply drops once airfields in Italy were in Allied hands, the demand for weapons was high. This forced the Poles to improvise and develop their own covertly manufactured submachine gun. Mechanical engineers Wacław Zawrotny and Seweryn Wielanier began working on the problem in September 1942. With no prior experience in firearms design they examined the available STEN and German MP40 and developed an amalgam of the two designs. The Błyskawica shared some characteristics of the MP40 such as its vertical, bottom-loading magazine and pistol grip while the open-bolt action was largely based on the STEN’s.  

The Błyskawica disassembled (source)

With limited tooling and machinery needed to produce a submachine gun the Poles abandoned conventional spot-welds and forgings for micro-grooved threads and screws. The Błyskawica was ingenious in that it used readily available materials and simple manufacturing techniques to create a serviceable weapon. Chambered in 9x19mm, the blowback, open-bolt submachine guns used STEN magazines. The Błyskawica weighed 7.2kg with a heavy bolt and while the weapon had an extremely simple trigger mechanism it had a trigger safety lever which prevented the trigger from being accidentally pulled. Modeled after the STEN, the Błyskawica had a small rear peep sight and a rudimentary pointed front sight.

The first prototype was ready by late 1943 and despite suffering initial jams the early problems were quickly rectified. Steel tubing made up the gun’s receiver while the barrel shroud and butt plate were aluminium. The designers drew up General assembly drawings and parts production was spread across twenty small manufacturers around Warsaw. The Home Army ordered 1,300 guns with delivery scheduled for summer 1944 with the last guns made in August.

The guns saw action during the Warsaw Uprising where their firepower was invaluable during the two month street battle. The photographs above show some posed and candid shots of the Błyskawica in action. The dust of the urban environment meant that, despite the bolt’s machined grooves which channeled dirt out of the action, the guns required frequent cleaning. The Błyskawica was difficult to field strip - a consideration which had not been a high priority for the designers. Sadly, the Warsaw Uprising was doomed, with limited supplies and little help from the nearby Red Army, the Polish Home Army was eventually overwhelmed with the Błyskawica becoming a footnote in Warsaw’s valiant defence.


Images: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 

The colour images above come from ‘Powstanie Warszawskie’ (2014) a documentary film featuring colourised contemporary film. 

While other images come from Leszek Erenfeicht’s excellent article for Forgotten Weapons: ‘Polish Błyskawica SMG’, Forgotten Weapons, L. Erenfeicht (source)

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Today marks 211 years since the Battle of Trafalgar, the decisive naval engagement of the Napoleonic War between Britain and France. This bittersweet victory ended the threat of a French invasion, but claimed the life of Britain’s greatest military hero of the time: Admiral Nelson

The image above, from CAM 157: Trafalgar 1805, depicts the gun crew aboard HMS Victory in the heat of battle. This extract describes what is taking place -http://bit.ly/2et8SeT

“Gun crews in action on the middle deck of the Victory working feverishly to deliver broadsides against the enemy. However ponderous and slow-moving, ships of the line were extremely powerful floating fortresses. The Victory’s three tiers of guns – fifty on each side, plus carronades – could throw a broadside weight of approximately half a ton of metal about a mile and a half. Billowing smoke, the deafening thunder of the guns discharging and recoiling, the shouts of the officers and the cries of the wounded all combined to create a hellish atmosphere.

A gun crew manhandles a 24-pdr (so-called because of the weight of the shot it fired) back into position with the aid of handspikes. Guns were mounted on wheeled carriages so that when they were fired the breech ropes and side tackles could absorb the violent recoil. A gun captain pulls the lanyard, setting off the flintlock and igniting the charge.”

anonymous asked:

How did the Danes & Saxons manage to integrate a two handed long weapon like Dane/English Longaxe with the shield wall formation ? Logically when two densely packed shieldwalls meet in battle, stabbing/thrusting/jabbing attacks & weapons like short swords or spears should predominate. A two handed long hafted weapon that requires a bit of swing space seems to be rather unfeasible in the jostling melee, not to mention it leaves the wielder unshielded & thus, open to aforementioned stabs/jabs.

Great question! 

The two-handed longaxe was the province of the housecarls, professional warriors who served in the household guard of thanes and kings alike. Thus, they weren’t the most common weapon on the battlefield, but rather the sign and tool of office of an elite even within the warrior caste::

In combat, the axe was continuously (and unpredictably) swung to create a deadly zone around the axeman, and when that axe hit, it could easily hit with enough force to split a shield open or knock a man onto his back or cut through a spear or knock a sword out of someone’s hand - which made the thrusting/jabbing combat you’re talking about an extremely dicey proposition if the axeman was fast enough to avoid getting stuck. 

Thus, the housecarls seemed to function in two ways: first, on the offensive, they would open up holes in the enemy shield-wall for other soldiers to exploit. Remember, the longaxe’s haft could be as long as six feet, making it a forerunner of the polearm, which gave the user a good deal of reach into the enemy line, and the axe’s blade was bearded, allowing the wielder to hook over the lip of shields and drag them down, opening up the shield wall:

On the defensive, the housecarl was there to disrupt the enemy shield-wall, either by opening up holes in their defense or by creating zones that soldiers naturally shied away from. 

In either case, the housecarls seemed to function as skirmishers, stepping in front of the shield-wall to contest the area in between. When we look at the Bayeux Tapestry, for example, we see images of housecarls wielding only the longaxe standing between a Saxon shield-wall and the oncoming Normans (which shows you how insanely brave these guys were):


December 7th 1941: Attack on Pearl Harbor

On this day in 1941, just before 8 am, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched an attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After decades of escalating tensions, primarily over Japanese aggression against China, and Japanese anger over American trade sanctions, the Japanese strike on America’s Pacific Fleet still came as a surprise. In a two hour assault, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes dropped bombs and torpedoes which killed around 2,400 American soldiers and sailors, while 20 naval vessels and 200 planes were destroyed. In contrast, the Japanese suffered just 64 fatalities. The Pearl Harbor attacks were part of a larger, co-ordinated assault against American territories in Guam and the Philippines, and parts of the British Empire. While the strike certainly damaged the Pacific Fleet, vitally important aircraft carriers were spared as they were away from the base, and shipyards remained intact, allowing for swift rebuilding. The next day, following a powerful speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. The legislature passed the war measure with only one dissenting vote, cast by pacifist Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana. America’s declaration of war was immediately followed by further declarations by Japan’s Axis allies Germany and Italy against the United States. Two years in, despite initial isolationist neutrality, America was now involved in the Second World War. The entrance of the United States into the war marked a pivotal turning point in one of the bloodiest wars in human history, as the full might of the American military joined the Allied cause against the forces of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and imperial Japan.

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
- President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Congress


June 6th 1944: D-Day

On this day in 1944, the D-Day landings began on the beaches of Normandy as part of the Allied ‘Operation Overlord’. The largest amphibious military operation in history, the operation involved thousands of Allied troops landing in France. For those landing on the beaches of Normandy, they faced heavy fire, mines and other obstacles on the beach, but managed to push inland. In charge of the operation was future U.S. President, General Dwight Eisenhower, and leading the ground forces was British General Bernard Montgomery. The landings proved a decisive Allied victory, as they secured a foothold in France, which had been defeated by Nazi Germany in 1940. D-Day was a key moment in the Second World War, and helped turn the tide of the war in favour of the Allies. Today we remember not just the strategic victory that was D-Day, but also the ultimate sacrifice paid by thousands of soldiers on both sides of the fighting.

“You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.”
- Eisenhower’s message to the Allied Expeditionary Force

At this moment 211 years ago, Horatio Nelson was spotted by a French sharpshooter up in the fighting tops of the “Redoubtable”.

This ship had become entangled with Nelson’s HMS Victory and a fierce melee had ensued. Nelson continued to pace the decks in full view of the enemy, and the sharpshooter fired at the diminutive Admiral. The musket ball penetrated his shoulder and lodged in his spine. He was carried below and spent an agonising three hours clinging to life until the news of the British triumph over the Franco-Spanish fleet was brought to him by Thomas Hardy, Captain of the Victory.


Matchless-Vickers M1916/17 motorcycle and machine gun sidecar

Mounted with a Vickers .303 belt-fed water-cooled heavy machine gun, these vehicles were originally meant for the Russian army before the rise of communism. They were then recalled to the British army and the civilian market.
Sorry for eight ladies that were alive at the time but WW1 is now just plain awesome :v

Buffalo Soldier Jones Morgan, formerly of the 10th US Cavalry pictured here, at the age of 109, with CJCS Colin Powell, in 1992.

“Mr. Morgan was born to freed slaves on a Newberry County, S.C., farm on Oct. 23, 1882, the 14th of 15 children. When he was 15, he ran off and joined the 9th Cavalry and spent two years with the unit. He watched as Buffalo Soldiers joined the Rough Riders in their famous charge on July 1, 1898.”

He died in 1993 at the age of 110.


Every Wednesday of 2016 (starting late, obviously… sorry!) I’m going to post a drawing of an action lady from history: presenting WARRIOR WOMEN WEDNESDAYS.  

Partly it’s ‘cause I figured this would be fun to draw, but also because I grew up thinking that ladies were, with rare and high-profile exceptions (Mary Read & Anne Bonny, Calamity Jane, etc), supporting players in history’s more rough-and-tumble moments.  That isn’t the case, and I thought it might be worthwhile to highlight fifty or so of the figures who strike me as the most visually or narratively arresting so that others might not be saddled with similar preconceptions.

Today’s warrior is MARIA BOCHKAREVA.