Author Topic: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread  (Read 57696 times)

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Offline Geo

One of Britain’s greatest maritime mysteries has finally been solved.

More than two and a half centuries on, archaeologists have now worked out what caused one of the Royal Navy’s worst disasters – the sinking of the mid 18th century British fleet’s flagship, the Victory. The vessel sank in the English Channel in early October 1744 some 50 miles south-east of Plymouth – and all 1,100 men on-board perished.

It was the greatest single naval disaster ever sustained by Britain in the English Channel.

At the time, and indeed over the intervening centuries, Admiralty officials and naval historians have maintained that the main culprit was the weather – in the form of a major storm that was raging at the time the vessel sank.

But now, a detailed study of the disaster has revealed that it was in fact ultimately caused by more human factors – poor design and sub-standard construction.

A 3.5 ton bronze cannon on the wreck of the Victory A 3.5 ton bronze cannon on the wreck of the Victory (Odyssey Marine Exploration)
The new research – led by British marine archaeologist, Sean Kingsley - strongly suggests that the Victory sank because her design made her particularly vulnerable to major storms and because she had probably been built from sub-standard timbers.

The investigation has revealed that the  Royal Navy was quite literally running out of high quality timber at the time the Victory was built – and that, consequently, immature trees and unseasoned timber were being used to construct many of the mid 18th century  Royal Navy’s ships.

England’s timber resources had been massively depleted by the Anglo-Dutch wars of the mid 17th century, by the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666 and by illegal private agricultural encroachment on royal forests.

What’s more, the new research has revealed that levels of organisation within naval shipyards had declined to such an extent that seasoned and unseasoned timbers were not being separated from one another – and sorted according to quality.

The 7-ton Remotely-Operated Vehicle Zeus, being prepared for archaeological operations (Odyssey Marine Exploration) The 7-ton Remotely-Operated Vehicle Zeus, being prepared for archaeological operations (Odyssey Marine Exploration.)
Timber storage management in naval dockyards was at such a low ebb that unseasoned  timbers  were being used – even when seasoned ones were available. Moreover, sapwood was not being adequately removed from cut timbers – and wood was being used for ship construction without it being allowed time to season.

The use of unseasoned timbers meant that ship’s hulls and decks began to rot much faster than would normally have been the case – and were therefore much less able to withstand the huge physical stresses that storms subjected  vessels to.

The new research – carried out in conjunction with the UK charity, the Maritime Heritage Foundation and the US-based archaeology company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, which discovered the wreck of the Victory seven years ago – has revealed that the time when the Victory was built  was part of a particularly sub-standard period in terms of Royal Navy ship-building activity.

During most of the 18th century, British warships enjoyed between 12 and 17 years of service before they had to go into dry dock for major repairs. However, in the seven year period – 1735 to 1742 – that figure was just 8.8 years. The research, led by Dr Kingsley, suggests that that dip in vessel quality was partly caused by a long succession of mild winters in the 1730s which stimulated trees to produce larger quantities of sapwood, which was then much more difficult and time-consuming to season.

‘The Loss of the Victory, 4 October 1744’ by Peter Monamy. ‘The Loss of the Victory, 4 October 1744’ by Peter Monamy.
Of particular importance, the new research has also identified serious design flaws in  the Victory. Even at the time, the ship was perceived by  senior English mariners and by Britain’s French rivals as being badly proportioned – too long for her breadth and too tall with too little compensatory volume at the bottom of the vessel.

The Admiralty at the time was also aware that there was inadequate air circulation in British warships, including the Victory – and this would have led to increased levels of timber deterioration and rotting.

But out of all these factors, one of the most decisive appears  to have been the mild winters of the 1730s  which meant that timber being felled  for use in the Victory  had too much sapwood and was therefore almost certainly sub-standard.

All the  construction and design flaws in the vessel – launched in 1737 – strongly suggest that the storm which actually sunk her seven years later only did so because the ship was already very vulnerable and weak.

The waves that finally overwhelmed the 53 metre long flagship in 1744 were probably between 7 and 9 metres high – but perhaps not particularly steep (probably no more than 20 degrees).

A portrait of Admiral John Balchen - the admiral who commanded the doomed flagship, Victory and went down with her - by the artist Jonathan Richardson, c. 1695 A portrait of Admiral John Balchen - the admiral who commanded the doomed flagship, Victory and went down with her - by the artist Jonathan Richardson, c. 1695
But, with substantial waves hitting the Victory from various directions (as is common in large storms), it’s likely that the vessel’s prow or stern would have frequently cut into the sides of waves, thus allowing substantial quantities of water to flow into the ship.

Given what is known about the amounts of water that entered other vessels in the same fleet (but did not sink them) during that storm, it is likely that more than three metres of water flowed into the Victory’s hold.

As the vessel was buffeted by the waves the water in the hold would have made manoeuvring the ship virtually impossible. What’s more, that shipped water would have rolled violently from port to starboard and  vice-versa with increasing force and momentum, almost certainly helping to tip the vessel over.

The evidence found on the seabed by the archaeological investigation – 50 bronze cannon spread out over the seabed to the east of the wreck – suggests that the ship lurched to one side, filled with water and then sank. It’s likely that parts of the vessel’s superstructure broke up as it began to fill with water on the surface of the sea. Certainly lots of rigging, masts, sails, wooden gun carriages and even the captain’s travel bag (still filled with his final correspondence) were carried by the English Channel’s fierce currents  and deposited on the beaches of the Channel Islands, 70 miles to the east.

Because of dangerous currents, tides and the 70 metre depth of the wreck site, the archaeologists – from Florida-based  Odyssey Marine Exploration – had to carry out their investigation, using a remotely controlled underwater robot, rather than divers.

Because the Victory was a Royal  Navy warship, the wreck belonged to the Ministry of Defence until 2012, but ownership was then transferred to the Maritime Heritage Foundation which hopes to work with its archaeological contractor, Odyssey,  to rescue all the cannon and other historic artefacts visible on the seabed. This is necessary because the site is being damaged by fishing trawlers and natural erosion. The foundation also wants to carry out additional investigative work to determine how much of the Victory has survived under the seabed, in what physical state and how the wreck should best be protected. The vessel was the immediate predecessor of its namesake, Nelson’s flagship, which still survives in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

 "When the pride of Britain sank, the Admiralty was in a state of denial over what caused the disaster. Based on wreckage washed onto the Channel Islands, the Casket's lighthouse keeper was falsely blamed, and then the mighty storm was made the scapegoat. Our latest archaeological and historical research now shows for the first time that the Admiralty was well aware that the central culprit was human error and a system failure at the heart of the establishment, a scandal hushed up for centuries," said Dr. Kingsley, a consultant to Odyssey Marine Exploration and Chief Liaison Officer of the Maritime  Heritage Foundation.                                                                                                             

The research papers – examining what sank the Victory – will be published online on 1 August (on the website www.victory1744.org)  by Odyssey Marine Exploration and the Maritime Heritage Foundation.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/hms-victory-the-mystery-of-britains-worst-naval-disaster-is-finally-solved--271-years-later-10431814.html

Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #286 on: August 07, 2015, 06:50:40 AM »
No submarines in coastal waters? What are those drug gangs then using to smuggle their stuff in the US? Atm they're 'only' semi-submerged, but that won't last. The US Coast Guard sure can use a reliable sonar for shallow waters.

Well, I saw on the evening news that the Coast Guard made a record drug interdiction- A plane spotted a submerged vessel- only a cab and exhaust broke the surface. According to the report a full third of the drugs that enter by sea arrive in these crude subs.

Geo knew what he was talking about.

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Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #287 on: August 18, 2015, 07:53:35 PM »
'Sea Monster' Figurehead Hauled from the Baltic Sea
http://alphacentauri2.info/index.php?topic=16818.msg79885#msg79885

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Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #290 on: September 11, 2015, 07:53:20 PM »
Key to Survival Found for Russian Sailors Shipwrecked in Alaska in 1813


A month in winter in an area noted for it's storms.

That's a pretty dynamic survival situation. A little north of there, the annual rainfall is 20 feet. Further south it's 13 feet.  Nothing easy about lighting and sustaining a fire in a climate like that, or keeping powder dry if you've got it. Thy might have got a seal. There might be sea birds. Without a boat, it could be very dire. They could have been stranded on a pebble beach and surrounded by moss covered granite walls.


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Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #291 on: September 11, 2015, 07:59:50 PM »
The Aleutians are not the Garden of Eden, no.

Offline Unorthodox

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #292 on: September 11, 2015, 08:51:34 PM »
Dumb random question. 

So, my grandpa served as a bombardier on a B-17 in WWII.  Both Pacific and European theaters across 2 tours (signing up for a second after being shot down during the first, no less).  He had a penchant for (of questionably legality) taking a picture with his camera whenever he dropped his bombs...

Were I able to recover these pictures (they is with my Uncle who "doesn't know where he placed them".  Also lost is his flight jacket, also with my Uncle, I have the medals and paperworks, so at least that is saved), would you be able to, or know someone able to reconstruct where his missions were?   

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Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #293 on: September 11, 2015, 09:01:07 PM »
I would think paperwork and closeups of medals and patches along with any pics of his planes and so on would make that doable...  I wouldn't be surprised if his exact name, as used in the paperwork, and ranks and such wouldn't put him just a googling away.  If you scored his dogtag you ought to be golden.

MY grampa got out the second he could -less people looking to kill him IRL- but that was from a few months after Pearl to 1946...

Offline Unorthodox

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #294 on: September 11, 2015, 09:27:32 PM »
Oh I got tags and medals and stuff, but his whole wing...well, there's not a lot of history on it, as not many survived. 

There's a nice blacked out section of his official record that would seem to line up with the bay of pigs as well, and he died shortly thereafter having retired from the airforce and working locally to investigate some strange goings on locally for some local gubment agency.  His neighbors strongly suspect he was killed by the gubment.  Either for what he was investigating or what is blacked out in his files.  Officially died of the flu, but I was told there was something fishy with how the doctors handled, or refused to handle it. 

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Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #295 on: September 11, 2015, 10:00:22 PM »
Huh.  Looks like there would still be a good deal easy to find on the 401st Air Wing of the Army Air Force, or whatever.  I'd desperately want to lay hands on that jacket for close-ups of the flight patches, if I were you.

Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #296 on: September 11, 2015, 10:19:04 PM »
Oh I got tags and medals and stuff, but his whole wing...well, there's not a lot of history on it, as not many survived. 

There's a nice blacked out section of his official record that would seem to line up with the bay of pigs as well, and he died shortly thereafter having retired from the airforce and working locally to investigate some strange goings on locally for some local gubment agency.  His neighbors strongly suspect he was killed by the gubment.  Either for what he was investigating or what is blacked out in his files.  Officially died of the flu, but I was told there was something fishy with how the doctors handled, or refused to handle it.
 

You're suspicions may have merit.

I'd suggest that this part be left as family legend, and not dug into. If he was murdered in the interest of national security, nobody will appreciate anything being brought up again. National Security has more power than it used to. Probably a bad career move in government contracting circles.

I had a great uncle who was a lazy genius type. He was shot in the back by his own deputy during a prohibition raid, strangely coinciding with a patent of his being stolen. One he wouldn't sell for less than a million dollars.  Highly suspicious, but the authorities insisted otherwise in stonewall fashion. An accident. Right.

There are probably WWII history forums who can help you. I got some help with a Civil War antique at a Civil War forum.

I'm sorry your grandpa's life was cut short.



Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #297 on: September 12, 2015, 02:47:45 AM »
I just finished a kindle book, "Sniper on the Eastern Front: the memoirs of Sepp Allerberger".
The editor/publisher are British.

I'm not particularly interested in WWII beyond the naval aspects, so I don't read as many books about it as other periods. Because hunting and shooting was a big part of my life, and I've been forced to give it up entirely to preserve what's left of my hearing, there's a void. Sometimes I fill it with books about snipers and special forces. The introduction to this one taught me something I didn't read in school.


"Lenin and Stalin made no secret of their desire for a second European war to establish a communist Europe. The Soviet build-up towards this end began long before they embarked upon the road in 1939 with the occupation of eastern Poland, and in 1940 the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In his recent book, The Icebreaker, Viktor Suvorov (the former military spy Vladimir Bogdanovich Resun) makes the case that Soviet military theory was based on offence and the conquest of territory ‘for the world revolution’. Operation Groza (Thunderstorm), the invasion of Europe to the Atlantic, was scheduled to begin on 6 July 1941. The statement of General S.P. Ivanov, Chief of the General Staff Academy of the USSR armed forces in 1974 that ‘the Nazi High Command succeeded in forestalling our troops literally two weeks before the war began’ seems eloquent enough proof of this allegation, and more recently Russian academic historians Vladimir Nevezhin and Mikhail Meltiujov have found archive material that supports Suvorov’s allegation."

Wacker, Albrecht (2008-06-15). Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Sepp Allerberger, Knight's Cross (Kindle Locations 59-66). Casemate Publishers. Kindle Edition.

So, in the parlance of HBO's classic series, "The Wire", the Germans saw the Russians setting up on them, and did the same. The introduction continues-

"Even if the evidence of the Soviet plan were cast-iron, however, Western historians would fight tooth and nail to discredit the documents simply because the West could not have an official history in which Hitler pre-empted the Soviet planned invasion of Europe while the United States and Britain supplied Russia with weapons and equipment. It is very possible that the mission of Hess in May 1941 was to bring the evidence to the attention of Britain in the hope of making lighter Germany’s formidable task. Therefore the answer to Allerberger’s question, ‘Were we right (to attack the Soviet Union)?’ is almost certainly ‘yes’"

Wacker, Albrecht (2008-06-15). Sniper on the Eastern Front: The Memoirs of Sepp Allerberger, Knight's Cross (Kindle Locations 83-87). Casemate Publishers. Kindle Edition.

This changes my perspective. Barbarossa wasn't proof of Hitler's insanity. He had painted himself into a corner. As Stalin would have seen it, what better time to attack Europe, than when he had both American and British support, and France was destroyed?

In Hitler's position, there are no good options. He could surrender to Britain and the USA, in which case he would have been humiliated, then eventually executed for war crimes when the truth came out, OR he could strike a pre-emptive blow against the Russians and hope he lived longer that way.

Actual discussion of the book proper in a following post.

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Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #298 on: September 12, 2015, 03:04:04 AM »
;popcorn

Offline Rusty Edge

Re: Rusty's Naval/Military History thread
« Reply #299 on: September 12, 2015, 05:53:09 AM »
"Sniper on the Eastern Front"

As a matter of personal opinion, among the multitude of ways to die in WWII, a sniper's bullet was one of the most humane, quick and unexpected. Also as in video games, new people die in droves before they develop a situational awareness. They just don't regenerate. Officers and command structure are a little confusing in this story, due to all of the attrition. A captain might be commanding the battalion, because the other officers were dead, but at the same time, it only had the strength of a company, etc.

Sepp was an Austrian villager, apprenticing with his father as a carpenter when he was drafted, trained, and assigned to the 3rd Mountain Division, which was mostly Bavarian. He reached the front after Stalingrad. His goal was simply to survive the war and return home safely.

Trained as a machine gunner, he soon learned that enemy snipers, mortars, and machine gunners all seemed to single him out. He did his best to remember his training and continually fire, move, and load. At the end of his first battle, which was a 5 day German advance, he and an NCO were the only survivors in his platoon.

Wounded, he was sent to the rear for treatment and light duty. He decided that he had to get a new assignment or he would be dead quickly. Because he was a carpenter by training, he was temporarily assigned to the armorer to repair rifle stocks. While there he found a Russian sniper rifle. The armorer allowed him to practice with it in his free time ( there was plenty of ammunition for it ), and he did it as if his life depended upon it. He got good enough to hit a matchbox at 100 meters, and a 30 cm ( about a foot ) square at 300 meters.

 The armorer recommended him to the company commander, who was eager to have a sniper under his command ( unlike most of the army officers, who considered it dishonorable). He told Sepp to act independently. By comparison, Russia embraced the sniper concept, and had units of snipers as large as 60 or 80 people. They killed a lot of German officers.

Sepp toured the trenches, interviewing the front line soldiers. They asked him to get rid of a Russian sniper. He did so impressively, but seeing the body turned his stomach. He formed an enduring philosophy-

"War is a merciless system of Killing and Being Killed. In action, sympathy for the enemy is ultimately suicide, for every opponent whom you do not kill can turn the tables and kill you. Your chances of survival are measured by the yardstick of how you compare in skill and objectivity as against your opponent."

After that, his war was a long series of strategic withdrawals and desperate stands, through Russia, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Czechoslovakia again, and finally trying to reach home without being captured.

That theater of the war was pretty brutal. Originating with the SS, prisoners tended to be executed, particularly the wounded, which led to reprisals and counter-reprisals, then atrocities. I'll spare you those accounts. Sepp tells those stories to explain that under no circumstances did he wish to be taken alive by the Russians or the communist partisans.

He tells of tactics he used in various situations, such as shooting the drivers of American built halftracks through the driver's observation slit, wrecking the vehicles. The Russians were cleverly using them to insert troops behind the front lines, where they could strike against the
lightly protected headquarters, hospital. kitchen, and supply cache. This would cripple a battalion. If they had enough men to then turn upon the rear of the entrenched Germans, they could eradicate them. He shot 7 of 12 drivers this way once.

Other situations involved a Cossack cavalry charge, 18 snipers at once, or the standard 4 wave Russian infantry assault ( the first two waves were armed with a mixture of rifles with bayonets, and machine-pistols. the 2nd two were unarmed, and expected to pick up the weapons of the fallen and fill the gaps. ). Without air cover or artillery support, the battalion usually called upon him to solve whatever problem they had. Enemy amphibious assault? Encircled again? Send for Sepp!

In trenches he used decoy heads to draw enemy fire and reveal sniper or machine-gun positions. He always planned his escape routes before he planned his shooting positions, making sure that he could reach or leave them unseen. He rarely fired 2 consecutive shots from the same position, unless it was almost rapid fire. He was not big on camouflage, a white poncho or tent worked well enough in the winter. In the summer his favorite tool was an umbrella with the hook cut of. He could quickly disguise it with grass and twigs to match the location, and collapse it for carrying.

He formed the opinion that the Russians were both amazingly brave and stupid, on the whole. I don't think he was giving himself enough credit. After all, he was always trying to slow the Russian advances by putting bullets in the heads of the political officers, which surely degraded their thought process. Likewise, he was dong the same to the regular officers, and that had to interfere with reporting the situation to other officers and artillery.

He carried a luger pistol on his hip, an MP-40 sub-machine gun  on his front ( for under 30 yards ) and the sniper rifle wrapped in a small tent on his back, which doubled as a rest. He had 257 confirmed kills in that target rich environment ( 2nd highest in the Wehrmacht ) , but the scoring was such that they required a higher-ranking witness , and kills in "regular" combat didn't count.  Ultimately, he became increasingly afraid of what the enemy would do to him if they ever caught him, and he would send his awards, insignia and medals home, make places to hide the rifle when the enemy got close. He would keep less info his notebook. He got various iron crosses and a knighthood, and that knighthood ( normally reserved for officers )  got his picture publicized just before the fall of Berlin.







 

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