Friday, 3 July 2020

BOOKS.

UP AMONG THE PANDIES.




This is the last of the books I bought from Naval Military Press. For those who wonder what Pandies are I will explain. That is the generic name for Sepoy mutineers during the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58. One of the first mutineers was named Pandy hence the nickname.

This book is a reprint of a volume written in 1859 by a Lieutenant who sailed to India with the relief forces after the outbreak of the Mutiny. Given the sailing time in those days he arrived towards the end of the uprising and only took part in one battle.

The book is very typical of the era in that the author spends about 80% of the content describing scenery, sunsets and places in lengthy, flowery prose. I think many of this time period liked to demonstrate their level of education and sophistication in this way. I am afraid I find reading five pages about palanquins for example,  dull and pointless and something to be endured in order to read the real substance of the book.

As mentioned, the author only took part in one battle but he gives excellent descriptions of the action as he saw it. The only other really interesting elements to me in the book are the passages about his travel out to India and camp life in general. 

Although only 20% of the book is worthwhile reading to me,  I have to admit that if you want highly detailed descriptions of life in India at this time, and you can cope with the use of ten words where only one would suffice, this is an excellent book.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

IMAGI-NATIONS.

PART  17.   THE FIRST MAJOR BATTLE OF THE INVASION OF CHINA.




On the morning of 10th August 1870 the Chinese and UNION armies, with a combined strength of over 615,000, found themselves only 5 miles apart about 850 miles south east of Harbin, just over 150 miles north west of the border. 

Using reconnaissance information from UNION cavalry, who now retired to the far western edge of the battlefield,  heavy artillery battalions commenced a steady bombardment of the oncoming Chinese forces while the UNION armies spread out into battle formation. As both sides inched closer together, UNION field artillery also started sending heavy barrages into the Chinese masses. Chinese artillery was at that time still out of range despite Chinese efforts to move their artillery to the vanguard of their army. The leading elements of the two armies finally came to within a mile of each other and both sides edged to the east and west seeking an opportunity to out flank the other. UNION artillery was  now inflicting very heavy losses on the Chinese army but Chinese artillery had  finally came within range of the UNION positions. As soon as they opened fire however , they were subjected to  ferocious counter battery fire which inflicted huge losses. 

UNION commanders had already decided not to launch infantry assaults on the Chinese until the artillery fire had broken Chinese cohesion. UNION infantry and heavy weapons now came into action with heavy long range fire on the leading elements of the Chinese army. The Chinese commander , if he had ever had any doubt as to UNION firepower, could see clearly that his army was already beginning to melt away under the fierce UNION bombardment. He decided that launching an attack would only result in huge casualties with little prospect of success. He therefore ordered his troops to commence a slow withdrawal whilst his officers desperately sought other strategies for victory.

As the Chinese slowly withdrew, taking their wounded and even burying the dead, UNION generals were elated with such a cheap victory. It was ordered that UNION forces , in battle formation, would follow the Chinese till dusk at which time the cavalry would take over the pursuit. Dusk came and the UNION armies halted for the night, the Chinese however continued marching. UNION cavalry moved from the west to follow the Chinese . They soon reported that Chinese troops covering the western flank had moved into a small town and seemed to have halted for the night. There seemed to be an opportunity to out flank the Chinese if UNION infantry could by pass this town during the night. This could enable an assault on the unguarded Chinese flank sometime next day perhaps causing the whole Chinese position to collapse.

The UNION commanding general gave orders for two infantry brigades to by-pass the Chinese held town during the night, link up with the cavalry and launch a combined assault on the Chinese flank in the morning. The UNION major general commanding the two brigades , by the name of Custer, had orders to link up with the cavalry army of six brigades and subordinate himself to the lieutenant general commanding that force. As his troops got underway, however, Custer decided that with only 15 miles to march to reach the agreed rendezvous with the cavalry , his troops could actually attack the Chinese held town and secure a victory which he considered would greatly boost UNION moral.

He decided to launch his attack on the town with just one brigade. His troops formed up to attack at dawn. Unknown to him, the Chinese had set a trap for just such an occurrence. The Chinese troops in the town, who were far more numerous than the UNION cavalry had reported, knowing they had been under UNION cavalry surveillance, had moved out of the town after dark and had then entrenched in a semi circle around the town with the open side facing east, exactly the direction from which any UNION attack would come. At dawn the UNION infantry brigade opened an artillery bombardment on the town and the infantry assault began.




Sunday, 28 June 2020

I am pleased to report I have been a little more productive this past week. I am a little late posting this update due to yet another internet failure most of today. A broken fibre optic cable apparently that affected most of our town !!!!!
Anyway this week I have completed construction of the batch of 31 GS wagons and painting is well advanced. The Pioneer upgrade has been completed and I have made a start on the next infantry battalion upgrade.
I am now getting  close to the end of my planned equipment and soldier build programmes. Only about another couple of thousand soldiers to paint. I guess I have another three months of work then I will have to either stop modelling or build another display unit and start a fourth army. The problem is where to put another display unit. Not much spare wall space left now !!!!!!

Friday, 26 June 2020

BOOKS.

USELESS MOUTHS.  The British Army's Battles In France After Dunkirk May-June 1940.





This book was kindly brought to my attention by Mark at ManofTin blog. Mark is aware of my interest in logistics and on reading the synopsis of the book it certainly seemed to cover the logistics of the British Expeditionary Force in the campaign in France in 1940.

However that is not quite the case. I was vaguely aware that some British troops were left in France after the Dunkirk evacuation. I had no idea there were so many, 150,000 in fact. This book covers the fighting these troops engaged in before they were either captured or evacuated.

The reason why the book seems to address logistics is that the troops left behind after Dunkirk were mostly line of communication soldiers. The British Army of 1940 used French ports much further south than in 1914-1918 because of the threat of air attack. Therefore British lines of communication lay far to the south of the actual battle positions occupied by the BEF. When the German attack took place the British combat units were forced back to the northern Channel ports as the Germans cut them off from their LOC to the south.

Additionally the introduction and first few chapters tell the story of the development of logistics in the British Army. This is very interesting in its own right, but I  assume is actually intended to explain why so many soldiers were on the LOC and how they could be formed into combat units and equipped from LOC resources.

Anyway, despite the book seeming to be about logistics, in fact it is a very detailed and well researched history of BEF operations after the fall of Dunkirk through to the French surrender. There is a great deal of useful information and I for one have learned a lot. I suspect I am not alone in thinking that British involvement in the French campaign ended after Dunkirk. If you thought so too or you have an interest in this campaign generally this is most definitely the book for you.

Thanks Mark for bringing it to my attention. It is a good book.


Wednesday, 24 June 2020

IMAGI-NATIONS.

PART  16.   THE APPROACH OF THE OPENING BATTLE OF THE INVASION OF CHINA.



On 4 July 1870 UNION and Chinese forces engaged in an encounter battle as Chinese troops attempted to delay the UNION invasion of their country. As both sides fed more troops into the battle it soon became clear to the Chinese they were massively outnumbered  not only in manpower but particularly in artillery. As the UNION bombardment increased in power the Chinese commander decided to commence a slow withdrawal, his mission being to delay the UNION advance while awaiting reinforcements rather than to engage in a pitched battle.

By early afternoon the Chinese had retired north about 5 miles, fighting as they fell back. Unbeknownst to them UNION cavalry in large numbers had moved to their north east ready to strike. The UNION cavalry had orders to wait until the Chinese were level with their positions then to launch a horse artillery attack followed by dismounted assaults by the cavalry. As Chinese attention focused on these attacks the UNION forces to the south would then launch their attack thereby crushing the Chinese in a pincer movement.

In a flagrant disregard of orders, as soon as the Chinese forces came in view, one of the UNION horse artillery regiments thundered down the hillside towards the Chinese, unlimbered and started a bombardment. Although surprised, the Chinese  realised they may be in danger of being outflanked. While the UNION cavalry commander frantically ordered the rest of his forces to launch their assaults early, the Chinese , in a rare display of tactical brilliance, made a rapid retirement out of the danger zone leaving the following UNION forces desperately trying to catch up while the UNION cavalry commander sought to avoid his troops accidentally engaging their comrades.

The UNION plan had failed spectacularly.  Lieutenant Colonel Fetterman, commander of the horse artillery regiment which had jumped the gun was relieved of command and sent home immediately. He subsequently took early retirement rather than face a court martial. Over the next few days the UNION cavalry followed the withdrawing Chinese while the main body of the UNION army remained stationary waiting for the railway to reach their positions and link up to the Chinese railway, thereby gaining a clear line all the way to Harbin.

On 10th July the first of many trains arrived in Harbin bring Chinese reinforcements. Over the course of the next two weeks a Chinese army of 150,000 assembled around Harbin together with another 150,000 who de-trained at the camp of the rearguard   about 30 miles north of the main UNION positions. The Chinese general knew his forces would soon be strong enough to attack the UNION army, who still remained camped at the old Chinese rail-head waiting for their railway construction crews to arrive. UNION cavalry had maintained their positions in the hills overlooking the Chinese rearguard positions and had reported on the Chinese build up. They were not however aware that another 150,000 Chinese troops were at Harbin.

By the beginning of August the UNION track builders were only 30 miles from the main UNION positions. As UNION commanders prepared to continue their advance into China, information arrived from the cavalry that Chinese forces had started to deploy from their camp and that a movement south was clearly imminent. There were also confused reports of dust clouds to the north perhaps indicating the arrival of another Chinese force. In fact the Chinese troops around Harbin had been trained south and were being unloaded less than ten miles north of the Chinese advanced camp.  On 6th August UNION cavalry fell back to the main UNION position with news that a very large Chinese army was on the move. In fact the Chinese forces now numbered 350,000 with  troop trains arriving daily bringing further reinforcements.

Over the next few days the two sides maneuvered  for advantage while moving closer so that by 10th August the two sides were only five miles apart, 265,000 UNION troops and over 350,000 Chinese troops were about to clash in a titanic struggle.

Monday, 22 June 2020

BOOKS.

THE EAST INDIA COMPANY'S ARSENAL's AND MANUFACTORIES.




Yet another of the books I bought from Naval Military Press. This is a reprint of a work published in 1937 by The Director of Ordnance Factories In India 1917-1920 who wrote the book following his retirement.

The contents are an in depth analysis of the development of the many and varied factories run by the East India Company with a look at how the various locations continued after the Mutiny, if at all. The level of detail is amazing . The research was carried out on old company records going back to the 1600's. Although there are no descriptions of the actual manufacturing processes which I would have liked, there are vast amounts of information on the various products made in India for the Company together with details of the development and staffing of production facilities over the years. 

Throughout the reign of the Company the normal method of securing locally made products or supply services was by means of giving contracts to either Company or military officers which they managed as an adjunct to their other duties. The method of payment was to allow a commission on the value of goods supplied. Such an arrangement seems unusual today but was quite normal in those times. 

As is well known, it was common for both civil and military officers to go to India to earn their fortune. This practice, especially under the Company, was known as Shaking the Pagoda Tree. Everyone did it to some degree or other. That said, reading this book gives an entirely new meaning to the expression. Rather than just shake the tree most of the contract holders uprooted the tree and beat it with big sticks to get every last rupee out and when that was done they usually resorted to fraud to extract even more. The level of corruption was staggering. I recall mentioning in a previous review that 19th century America had an endemic fraud problem but that pales into insignificance compared to what went on in India under the Company.

Although an unusual subject which will not appeal to many, this book gives a wonderful insight into several generally obscure aspects of the Company's operations in India quite apart from the actual purpose of the book. For that reason alone this book is highly recommenced to historians of the Indian Empire.



Saturday, 20 June 2020

This week I have managed a little more modelling time although I am still feeling lazy. That is to say time has gone by but I really have no idea what I have been doing other than some walking and even that has been between showers. Hopefully a little more activity will follow next week as the warmer weather comes back, assuming the forecasts are right !!!!
This week I have completed the batch of ammunition caissons , as shown below, and just need to issue them to units.



I have now started construction of a batch of 31 GS wagons. As can be seen below, the bodies have been made. Next steps are to add wheels, including the spare, poles and horse mounting blocks, and towing hooks



The Pioneer upgrade batch have advanced but still need two coats of varnish to complete. I have also started another infantry battalion upgrade.
I am trying to post every two days so the next book review will follow Monday with Imagi-Nations on Wednesday.
Thanks again to all readers of my blog in allowing me to reach the milestone of 4000 hits. If there are any particular topics that interest you please let me know so I can do more.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

IMAGI-NATIONS.

PART 15 . THE INVASION OF CHINA.




The UNION army was instructed to plan and prepare an invasion of China to start at dawn on 22 June 1870.  All seven UNION armies would be involved with the exception of an Infantry brigade forming the garrison in Mexico and a Cavalry brigade on the border with Ukraine operating patrols in that country to enforce the peace agreement with Russia.

The UNION forces would be formed into two army groups . Army group A consisting of  1st, 5th and 6th armies would march north west close to the Atlas Mountains while army group B comprising 3rd, 4th and 7th armies would march parallel to but north of army group A. 2nd army  would form a general reserve and march several days behind army group A.  Cavalry patrols would cover the space between the army groups.  The ultimate objective would be Harbin, one thousand miles from the border. The intention was to bring the Chinese army to battle within that thousand miles, hopefully surround it and destroy it totally. Upon reaching Harbin, having  already destroyed the Chinese army, that city would also be destroyed and the UNION forces would then withdraw while carrying out a systematic program of scorched earth on as much of eastern China as UNION forces could reach. To facilitate the invasion, the railway from Denver was improved and supplies and material collected to extend the railway into China to support the advancing UNION forces. All the resources of the UNION railway companies were collected to deliver this critical requirement.

By early June preparations had been completed with troops assembled and huge quantities of supplies at rail head. At dawn on the appointed day UNION artillery launched a short but heavy bombardment on the Chinese border outposts while cavalry forces funneled between the outposts and then fanned out into China. The Chinese outposts were quickly overrun by the advancing infantry. By the end of the first five days UNION forces had moved about 100 miles with the leading cavalry units another 50 miles further ahead where they had found and secured the rail-head of the new Chinese railway. In fact UNION cavalry had seen the smoke of the last Chinese train departing the area carrying the construction workers.

Clearly alarm bells had rung in Peking and all Chinese armies were mobilised. The nearest major troop formations were at the new base near Harbin and they started south around day 3 of the invasion with instructions not to fully engage with the UNION armies but to fight rearguard actions and await reinforcements. In the meantime Chinese civilians, having little idea of the UNION, did not at first flee the advancing troops but merely watched them disinterestedly and continued to tend their fields and crops. The UNION saw no danger from these simple peasants and ignored them too.

Construction of the UNION railway followed the advancing armies urgently soon reaching an average of three miles per day. UNION forces were under instruction to halt the advance as soon as the distance from rail-head reached 100 miles.  It was now decided however to continue the advance until the main armies had reached the captured Chinese rail-head some 150 miles from the border which they did on day 8. Meanwhile the cavalry continued to press forward until day 10, some 200 miles from the border, at which time they too halted. Chinese forces from Harbin , using their railway, had moved south but had decided to de-train around 200 miles north of the border to enable sufficient space for maneuvering. It so happened that the de-training took place under the eyes of the most advanced UNION cavalry units.

The Chinese forces were estimated to have a strength of only 10,000 with ten guns as they were observed spreading out and slowly moving south, clearly looking for the UNION army. It was decided to move only one UNION army forward to meet the Chinese in order to avoid the Chinese learning the full strength of the UNION forces. It was assumed the Chinese would soon fall back after the two sides met in battle, at which time the bulk of the  UNION cavalry force of about 6,000 with 72 guns would attack the Chinese from the flank. On day 13 of the invasion the Chinese advance guard ran into the leading elements of the UNION 1st army.  The opening battle of the UNION invasion of China had started.

Monday, 15 June 2020

I thought I would let my few readers know that as of today my blog has just past 4000 hits. I think that is good considering the highly specialised nature of my ramblings which were never going to have a high  level of general  interest. That said, after two years of blogging with two followers and another three email followers I am very pleased that so many have found even a little interest in my writings. Thank you all.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Not much to report this week . Once again not much modelling time but I really am not sure what has taken up my time. I seem to be going through a period of laziness. Perhaps lockdown is getting to me at last. Anyway, I have started painting the batch of ammunition caissons and the next upgrade of Pioneers and the heavy weapons upgrade has been completed and just needs to be shelved. Two new books arrived this week. Reviews in due course. The next Imagi-Nations chapter will be published Monday.