military history

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Images: M1 Carbine

A glider pilot of the British Army’s Glider Pilot Regiment firing an M1 Carbine from the first floor front balcony of the Hartenstein Hotel in Oosterbeek. The Battle of Arnhem during the Operation Market Garden saw men of the Glider Pilot Regiment fight alongside the glider-borne 1st Airlanding Brigade and 4 Brigades of paratroops. Once landed the glider pilots fought alongside the men they had carried in their aircraft. They were armed with a range of weapons including Sten guns and Rifle No.4s. The M1 Carbine was issued in limited numbers to specialist troops, including glider pilots, by the British. 

Over 1,300 glider pilots landed in two waves during Market Garden, of these 229 were killed and 469 wounded or taken prisoner. 21 Glider Pilots fought at Arnhem Bridge with Colonel Frost’s 2nd Parachute Battalion.

Image Sources: 1 2 


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P1 Mle 1915 grenade

Manufactured in France c.1915 for the French army.
30g PETN explosive charge, aluminium scoopoid arming lever with a cloth streamer - secured by a small cord, lead screw-in percussion plug in the base, internal fragmentation grooves.

Surprisingly not the shittiest grenade design from WW1, the Pércutante N°1 of 1915 was one of the few contact grenades - like the British N°1 grenade - that exploded right away upon falling. This of course could be pretty hazardous, and even with a streamer and a heavy butt the explosive would not always be detonated upon landing, nevermind it detonating in the hand of its owner because they sneezed too hard.
At least it’s not like the British N°1 where its a stick grenade with a top detonator that’s supposed to be thrown with a wall of mud less than half a meter behind you.

I really love the look though, of both.

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German Squad Tactics in World War 2. Also includes the organization of a squad. This took quite some time..

Script - German Squad Tactics in World War 2

enjoy

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“The Ninth Armored Division, under the command of Maj. Gen. John W. Leonard, joined the ‘immortals’ of military history March 7, 1945, by spectacular capture of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen and its subsequent swift establishment of the first Allied foothold east of the Rhine. This brilliant military coup electrified the entire world, and hastened the end of the European War. 

This booklet commemorating the seizure of ‘The Bridge’ is respectfully dedicated to those living and dead who courageously carried out this magnificent feat.”

United States. Army. (1945). The bridge. Bayreuth, Germany: Carl Giessel.

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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

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Battlefield WWI

Recently there have been rumours floating around that suggested that DICE, a Swedish video game developer owned by EA, were going to set the next edition of their popular Battlefield series during the First World War. For once internet rumours have proved to be true and DICE are again looking back into the past for innovative new setting for their long running first-person shooter.

If you’re unfamiliar with Battlefield the series was launched back in 2002 with the first edition, Battlefield 1942, set during World War Two. While the series has more recently focused on modern and future warfare it has also featured the Vietnam War. As such the Battlefield series has a history of mining the past for inspiration. 2016 finds us at the centre of the Great War centennial and this has no doubt led to the decision to set the game during the period. It is also unlikely that the developers overlooked the success of the excellent multiplayer game Verdun

As a historian my immediate question after watching the trailer was: how historically accurate will the actual game be? Having played some of their earlier games (namely Battlefield: Bad Company 2: Vietnam) and been impressed with the level accuracy and detail I decided to take a look at some of the weapons seen in the 60 second teaser trailer to see what level of detail DICE has aspired to. 


Melee Weapons:

In the first 10 seconds of the trailer we see what looks to be a German soldier wearing a Gaede Helmet and gasmask clubbing an enemy with a trench club. A little later the trailer cuts to what appears to be a sabre wielding Arab horseman charging through the desert.

A German trench raiding party wearing the Gaede Helmets c.1915 (source)

Aerial Lewis Gun:

13 seconds into the trailer there is a spectacular aerial shot of a Western Front battlefield seen over the shoulder of an observer manning what appears to be a MKII aerial Lewis Gun.

Bristol F.2 Fighter with two MkII Aerial Lewis Guns (source)

Trench Gun:

Another scene again shows a Gaede helmet-wearing German dispatching what appears to be an American infantryman armed with what could be a Winchester M1897 Trench Gun or alternatively a Remington Model 10A Trench Gun. The shotgun’s profile (it doesn’t appear to have an exposed hammer like the Winchester) and its bayonet lug support this. The Model 10A was used in limited numbers by the USMC. However, the weapon lacks the wooden heatshield which was fixed to the top of the barrel. The pump handle also appears to be missing! 

An M1897 Trench Gun (source)

Remington Model 10A Trench Gun (source)

Maxim LMG 08/15

The trailer features a series of dog fights over a number of different theatres, 20 seconds in we see a red German plane (possibly a Fokker Dr.I) chase an allied biplane through a canyon destroying it with its MG 08/15 Maxim machine guns.

Aerial IMG08/15 (source)

Tankgewehr M1918 (Anti-tank rifle):

At the 25 second mark the world’s first anti-tank rifle, the German T-Gewehr, can briefly be seen. A soldier can be seen sprinting beside a British Mark IV Male tank (which is moving far too fast to be realistic), quite the feat considering the T-Gewehr weighed 41 lbs!

T-Gewehr (source)

Colt M1911

Near the halfway mark of the trailer there is what could be a brief glimpse of a 1911. This scene is another hint that the game will be much more than just trench combat.

Colt Model 1911  (source)

Lewis Gun

As we reach the midpoint of the trailer we get our first glimpses of gas in the game as a shattered ruin collapses under artillery fire a German infantryman is killed by a Lewis Gun before the gun’s operator dons a gas mask.

Lewis Gun (source)

Carcano M1891 Carbine?

The trailer cuts to a group of what appear to be Italian infantry wearing Adrian helmets being cut down by machine gun fire. The carbines they’re armed with are the trailer’s first mystery. Not quite Carcanos, but what else would Italian troops be carrying? They lack the Carcano’s curved bolt handle, folding bayonet and its magazine but no other weapon fits the bill, perhaps a rare miss in the so far very accurate representation of period weapons. It’s probably the inclusion of a weapon model that’s not quite finished yet.

Carcano M1891 Carbine/Moschetto da Cavalleria Mod. 91 (source)

SMLE

At 38 seconds the iconic British Short Magazine Lee-Enfield MkIII/MkIII* makes an appearance as the camera pans across a trench full of British troops scrambling to fix bayonets as they race to their stand to posts.

SMLE (source)

Scoped Gewehr 98

For a split second we get a glimpse of a sniper element to the game as a building explodes into flames a Gewehr 98 equipped with a scope is briefly visible. 

Gewehr 98  (source)

MG 08/15 or Bergmann MG15nA 

It’s difficult to see quite what this unrealistically armour clad soldier is hip-firing but it is probably either a MG08/15 or possibly a Bergmann MG15nA (which had a carrying handle) as these were the only light machine guns used by Germany during the war. This brief scene concerns me as the armour looks more like something from the 15th century than World War One and with the MG 08/15 weighing almost 40 pounds the weapon cannot be fired from the hip for long. While armour was experimented, and this figure wears a Sappenpanzer Gesichtsmaske helmet these weren’t worn with shoulder and arm armour. Most of the combatant nations found heavy armour to be impractical and armour outside of breastplates and helmets (often restricted to stationary snipers, machine gunners and sentries) it was never really deployed as depicted in the trailer. 

MG08/15 (source)

Bergmann MG15nA (source)

Mauser C96 & Bergmann MP18

Let’s round things out with a look at the weapons carried by the potential protagonist seen in the first promotional images made available earlier today. They show a man armed with a trench club in one hand, the iconic Mauser C96 in the other, and a Bergmann MP18 submachine gun - complete with a trommel magazine slung at his side! 

Mauser C96 (source)

Bergmann MP18 (source)


So there we have it, a brief overview of the surprisingly wide variety of weapons seen in the trailer for Battlefield 1. Having examined the trailer I do wonder just what else will we see in the game. No doubt we’ll see BARs, Chauchats, LebelsLugers and a host of Maxim guns. But what about more obscure weapons? Perhaps an Italian Villar Perosa, a French RSC 1917, British Webley automatics or even a Pedersen Device jutting out of a M1903 Springfield? 

So what do you think of Battlefield 1? Does the prospect of a new big title Great War first-person shooter excite you? Do you think it’ll be historically accurate? 


The stills and most of the images above are courtesy of Othais over at C&Rsenal, so many thanks to him. C&Rsenal have also put together a video here


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June 18th 1815: Battle of Waterloo

On this day in 1815, French troops under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte were defeated by the seventh coalition, led by the British Duke of Wellington and the Prussian von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon was then forced to abdicate the French throne for the second and last time, thus signalling the end of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars which had raged since 1792. The seventh coalition was finally able to defeat Napoleon’s formidable army at Waterloo when the French - whose backup failed to arrive - were driven from the field by the numerically superior and better commanded allies. The Battle of Waterloo was a major success and victory for the coalition forces, and became a legendary episode in the history of warfare. Despite his ultimate defeat, Napoleon is still considered one of the greatest generals of all time, and a pivotal figure in French history.

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AS Val & VSS ‘Vintorez’

Developed during the early 1980s by the 1980s by the state-owned TsNIITochMash (Central Institute for Precision Machine Building) the AS Val and VSS were specially designed to fill the Russian special forces and intelligence agencies need for a suppressed assault rifle and marksman’s rifle. The Val has an integral suppressor and spurred development of a family of suppressed weapons. With the increasing use of body armour by NATO forces Russian special forces teams requested a silent weapon which had the capability of also penetrating armour, while offering the firepower needed for covert infiltration operations against NATO command and control centres. The Soviets developed two new 9x39 mm armour piercing rounds: SP-6 for suppressed assault rifles and the more accurate SP-5 for suppressed sniper rifles.

Russian troops with an AS Val (source)

The VSS and AS Val began development in the mid 1980s with the Val adapted into the assault rifle role and officially adopted in 1987. The VSS shares approximately 70-75% parts commonality with the Val with some differences in stock furniture and optics mounts to allow it to fill a designated marksman role. Both are select fire and have integral suppressors which use a conventional ported barrel, expansion chamber and baffle system layout. The AS Val and VSS proved to be very effective and remain in service with elements of the Russian military, special forces, intelligence and security forces. The suppressed rifles were first fielded during the last years of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and were later extensively used during the Chechen Wars and during the conflict in Georgia. Most recently they have seen action during Russia’s interventions in the Crimea and Syria. 

During the early 1990s the VSS and AS Val were also supplemented with the lower cost VSK-94 (see image #3). The VSK-94 is based on the 9A-91 carbine and its suppressor is not integral.

Sources:

Top: AS Val (source)
Middle: VSS (
source) 
Bottom: VSK-94 (source)

Guns of the Spetsnaz: Specially Designed Silenced Long Guns, Small Arms Defense Journal, M. Popenker (source)

Spetsnaz “Vintorez” is able to “remove” the enemy without the noise and dust, tvzvezda.ru, D.Yurov (source)


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March 24th 1944: The ‘Great Escape’

On this day in 1944, a group of Allied prisoners of war staged a daring escape attempt from the German prisoner of war camp at Stalag Luft III. This camp, located in what is now Poland, held captured Allied pilots mostly from Britain and the United States. In 1943, an Escape Committee under the leadership of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell of the RAF, supervised prisoners surreptitiously digging three 30 foot tunnels out of the camp, which they nicknamed ‘Tom’, ‘Dick’, and ‘Harry’. The tunnels led to woods beyond the camp and were remarkably sophisticated - lined with wood, and equipped with rudimentary ventilation and electric lighting. The successful construction of the tunnels was particularly impressive as the Stalag Luft III camp was designed to make it extremely difficult to tunnel out as the barracks were raised and the area had a sandy subsoil. ‘Tom’ was discovered by the Germans in September 1943, and ‘Dick’ was abandoned to be used as a dirt depository, leaving ‘Harry’ as the prisoners’ only hope. By the time of the escape, American prisoners who had assisted in tunneling had been relocated to a different compound, making the escapeees mostly British and Commonwealth citizens. 200 airmen had planned to make their escape through the ‘Harry’ tunnel, but on the night of March 24th 1944, only 76 managed to escape the camp before they were discovered by the guards. However, only three of the escapees - Norwegians Per Bergsland and Jens Müller, and Dutchman Bram van der Stok - found their freedom. The remaining 73 were recaptured, and 50 of them, including Bushell, were executed by the Gestapo on Adolf Hitler’s orders, while the rest were sent to other camps. While the escape was generally a failure, it helped boost morale among prisoners of war, and has become enshrined in popuar memory due to its fictionalised depiction in the 1963 film The Great Escape.

“Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug – Tom, Dick, and Harry. One will succeed!”
- Roger Bushell

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The FN Minimi’s Alternate Feed

Ernest Vervier, who also designed the FN MAG general purpose machine gun, developed the FN Minimi in the mid-1970s. Fabrique Nationale intended the Minimi as the companion light machine gun to their new FNC 5.56x45mm rifle. One of the Minimi’s most interesting features was the alternate feed system developed by Maurice V. Bourlet and a team of FN engineers. 

This system allowed the weapon to fire from both a disintegrating link belt but also from box magazines. This was an emergency option for situations where belts of ready ammunition were not available thus keeping the Minimi in action. The bolt can strip a round either from the belt or the magazine. Magazines can be inserted into the left side of the Minimi’s receiver with no swapping of parts or modification to the gun. A hinged, spring-loaded dust cover protects the housing when the weapon is feeding from a belt (see image #3). This was a major positive over the Minimi’s rival designs during the Squad Automatic Weapon trials.

Vz. 52/57 Machine Gun, note the belt and dust cover for the magazine feed on top of the receiver (source)

Bourlet and his team developed the dual feed system in 1975-76 with it first appearing on prototype Minimis in 1977. A patent protecting the alternate feed system was subsequently granted in September 1978. The Czechoslovakian Vz. 52/57 Machine Gun, developed from the ZB.26/Bren, used a similar systemwhich combined a belt-feed with a top feeding box magazine (see above). 

The Minimi’s reliability and alternate feed system impressed the US military who adopted it as the M249 in 1982. Once in service the M249 suffered some problems when feeding from magazines. It emerged that the bolt shaved or sheared the feed lips from magazines leading to failures to feed. Operationally, however, the M249 is invariably fed by belts not magazines and this has not been a major problem.

Dozens of countries around the world have adopted the Minimi and the alternate feed system continues to be part of the weapon’s design. FN USA recently launched the M249S semi-automatic civilian version of the Minimi with each unit shipping with a standard STANAG magazine as well as disintegrating links.

Sources:

Images: 1 2 3 4 

‘Supply device for a portable firearm by means of cartridge belts or by means of rifle magazines using the same ammunition’, US Patent #4112817, (source)

Jane’s Infantry Weapons 1983-84, I.V. Hogg

The SAWs that never Was, Pt.5, Weaponsman.com, (source)


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Adlergarnitur of Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria from the 16th Century on display at the Neue Burg Museum in Vienna

Made in 1547 by Jorg Seusenhofer it can be adapted into different tournament armours as well as field armours for warfare. Adlergarnitur is a style that makes heavy use of the Austrian Eagle as a motif on armour. The eagle can be seen on the helmet and the thigh plates.

Ferdinand managed to incur a high level of dept due to his love of ornate armour and Counter-reformation artwork which is now in display in museums in Vienna.

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April 17th 1986: 335 Year War ends

On this day in 1986, the alleged three hundred and thirty five year war between the Netherlands and the British Scilly Isles officially ended. During the English Civil War, the Dutch sided with Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians over the Royalist supporters of King Charles. The Royalists felt betrayed by their former allies, and responded by raiding Dutch shipping lanes. The tide of war gradually turned against the Royalists, and by 1651 their army had been pushed back to Cornwall on Britain’s south-western coast. The Royalist navy was forced to the tiny Isles of Scilly off the Cornish coast, the largest of which is only four square miles. The Dutch sent warships to Scilly to demand compensation for their mercantile losses, and when the Royalists refused, Dutch admiral Maarten Tromp declared war on the islands and set up a naval blockade. Tromp’s authority to make such a declaration is unclear, but what is known is that no blood was shed, as the Parliamentarians took the Isles of Scilly in June 1651 and the Dutch promptly sailed home. The incident was forgotten until a Scillonian historian enquired at the Dutch Embassy for evidence of a war which by then had been raging for three centuries. The embassy subsequently found evidence to suggest that the war between the Netherlands and the Isles of Scilly had indeed never formally ended. Despite questions about Tromp’s authority and the technical impossiblity of declaring war on a specific region of a nation, thus throwing the legitimacy of the alleged war into confusion, the Dutch ambassador was invited to the isles to negotiate peace. On April 17th 1986, an official peace treaty was signed between the two unlikely adversaries, ending a bloodless 335 year conflict.

“It must have been awful to know we could have attacked at any moment.”
- The Dutch ambassador in 1986