In the course of the Harry Gilmour books, many references are made to ships, aircraft, weapons, people and places; many of which will not be familiar to most readers.
Below I have sought to help the reader out by providing comprehensive descriptions of the kit, the places and the people.
THE SHIPS, AIRCRAFT and EQUIPMENT
‘Oscar’ single engine fighter
The Allied reporting name was "Oscar", but it was often called the "Army Zero" by American pilots because it bore a certain resemblance to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the Imperial Japanese Navy's counterpart. Like the A6M Zero, the radial-engined Ki-43 was light and easy to fly and became legendary for its combat performance. It could outmaneuver any opponent, but did not have armour or self-sealing tanks, and its armament was poor. Allied pilots often reported that the nimble Ki-43s were difficult targets but burned easily or broke apart with few hits. In spite of its drawbacks, the Ki-43 shot down more Allied aircraft than any other Japanese fighter. Total production amounted to 5,919 aircraft. Many of these were used during the last months of the war for kamikaze missions against the American fleet.
HMS Pelorus - Parthian-Class submarine:
Parthian class submarine or P class was a class of six submarines built for the Royal Navy in the late 1920s. They were designed as long-range patrol submarines for the Far East.
|Displacement:||1,760 tons surfaced|
2,040 tons submerged
|Propulsion:||2 × Admiralty diesel engines, 4,640 hp|
2 × electric motors, 1,635 hp
|Speed:||17.5 kts surfaced|
8.6 kts submerged
|Armament:||• 8 × 21 in torpedo tubes (6 bow, 2 stern) with 14 reloads|
• 1 × QF 4-inch Mk XII deck gun
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a Second World War–era American piston-engined fighter aircraft. Developed for the United States Army Air Corps, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. Allied propaganda claimed it had been nicknamed the fork-tailed devil. It was used for interception, dive bombing, low level bombing, ground attack, night fighting, photo reconnaissance, radar and visual pathfinding for bombers, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with drop tanks under its wings.
The P-38 was unusually quiet for a fighter, since the exhaust was muffled by the turbo-superchargers. It was extremely forgiving and could be mishandled in many ways but the rate of roll in the early versions was too low for it to excel as a dogfighter. It was the only American fighter aircraft in large-scale production throughout American involvement in the war.
The R boats (Räumboote) were a group of small naval vessels built as minesweepers for the Kriegsmarine before and during the war. A total of 424 boats were built, and they were used in every theatre including the Baltic, Atlantic and Channel, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. In addition to its designed use as minesweepers, these boats were used for convoy escort, coastal patrol, minelaying and air-sea rescue.
|Displacement:||160 tons (max)|
|Length:||41.1 m (134 ft 10 in)|
|Beam:||5.80 m (19 ft 0 in)|
|Draught:||1.60 m (5 ft 3 in)|
|Propulsion:||2x MAN diesel engines; 1,836 hp|
|Speed:||20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph)|
|Range:||1,100 nmi (2,000 km)|
|Complement:||up to 38|
|Armament:||1x 37 mm C/30 cannon|
2 x 20mm cannon
7.92 mm machine guns, mines and depth charges
HMS Redoubtable – R-Class Battleship
R-Class, or Revenge-class battleships were five battleships of the Royal Navy, ordered as the First World War loomed, and were launched in 1914–1916. These were Revenge, Royal Sovereign, Ramillies, Resolution, and Royal Oak. There was no HMS Redoubtable. She is another of the author’s inventions.
The class was not given any major reconstructions between the two World Wars. In fact, apart from some minor upgrades, they remained very much unchanged until World War Two began.
Anti-torpedo bulges were included, which provided superb protection against attacks by torpedo for its time, but due to the increasing power of torpedo warheads, these proved to be not enough for Royal Oak when she was torpedoed at Scapa Flow in 1939.
In accordance with contemporary practice, the R Class were fitted with 6 inch secondary batteries. The heavier guns were intended to combat the larger classes of destroyers entering service but in practice proved to be somewhat too heavy to be of practical use against light craft. Additionally, their low positioning made them largely unworkable in heavy seas.
The other major flaw in the class was the deliberately reduced stability to give the ships a slow rolling motion to make gunnery easier, but rendering them particularly bad at sea keeping.
Due to their smaller size, at 624 ft, conditions were decidedly more cramped for the crew of a Revenge-class battleship compared to their contemporaries aboard the Queen Elizabeth class battleships.
As a result the R class were in general reduced to subsidiary roles during World War Two. Churchill wrote that the Revenge class were a source of constant anxiety, and that he saw to it the Admiralty keep them as far away from the enemy as possible.
|Propulsion:||·Steam turbines, 4 shafts|
·24 boilers coal or oil
|Range:||5,000 nmi at 12 knots|
|Armament:||·8 × 15-inch /42 guns|
·14 × BL 6-inch Mk XII guns
·4 × 47 mm guns
|Armour:||·Belt: 13 in amidships; 4–6 in ends|
·Deck: up to 5 in
·Turrets: 13 in
·Barbettes: up to 10 in
·Citadel: 11 in
S-class submarines were originally designed and built during the modernisation of the Royal Navy’s submarine force in the early 1930s to meet the need for smaller boats to patrol the restricted waters. They went on to become the largest single group of submarines ever built for the Royal Navy. They were constructed in three distinct groups, with a total of 62 being built between 1930 and 1945. Fifty of the "improved" Group 3 S-class alone, were launched between 1940 and 1945. The submarines were built to operate in home waters and in the Mediterranean, and later in the Far East after being fitted with extra fuel tanks.
814-842 tons surfaced
|Beam:||23 ft 6 in|
|Speed:||14.75 knots surfaced|
8 knots submerged
|Complement:||49 officers and men|
|Armament:||six forward 21-inch torpedo tubes, one aft|
one three-inch gun (QF 4-inch on later boats)
one 20 mm cannon
three .303 machine guns
Shosei – an Imperial Japanese Navy Kongo-class battleship
There was no such battleship as Shosei in the the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Second World War. She is another invention of the author.
In the 1930s all four ships, Kongo, Haruna, Hiei and Kirishima, underwent a massive reconstruction increasing their top speeds to over 30 knots, and leading them to be reclassified as fast battleships.
The Kongo-class battleships were the most active capital ships of the Japanese Navy during the war, participating in most major engagements; Hiei and Kirishima formed part of the carrier covering force for the attack on Pearl Harbor, while Kongo and Haruna supported the invasion of Singapore.
All four were at Midway and Guadalcanal, where Hiei and Kirishima were both lost in November 1942. Kongo was torpedoed and sunk by the submarine USS Sealion in November 1944, while Haruna was sunk at her moorings in an air attack on Kure Naval Base in July 1945.
720 ft 6 in
108 ft 7 in
4 × steam turbines - 136,000 shp
10,000 nmi at 18 knots
·4 × twin 14 inch guns
·8 × single 6 inch guns
·118 × 25 mm AA guns
·Deck: (4.7–3.1 in)
·Barbettes: (13.5 in)
3 × floatplanes
Spica Class torpedo boat
The Spica class were a class of torpedo boats built for the Regia Marina prior to the Second World War, and were named after stars. Their construction was as a result of a clause in the Washington Naval Treaty, which stated that ships with a tonnage of less than 600 could be built in unlimited numbers. Thirty ships were built between 1934 and 1937 for the Italian Navy. Although commonly referred to as torpedo boats due to their smaller displacement, the Spica class armaments were similar in design to destroyers, and were intended for anti-submarine duties, although they often had to fight aircraft and surface forces as well.
|Displacement:||·808 tons standard|
·1,040 tons full load
|Length:||83.5 m (273 ft 11 in)|
|Beam:||8.1 m (26 ft 7 in)|
|Draught:||2.55 m (8 ft 4 in)|
|Propulsion:||2 boilers, 2 steam turbines, 2 shafts|
|Sensors||Echo sounder and hydrophones|
|Armament:||·3 × 100 mm (3.9 in) 100/47 dual-purpose guns|
·4 × 450 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes (4 × single mounts)
·Up to 20 mines
The Fieseler Fi 156 Storch was a small German liaison aircraft built before and during the Second World War. Production continued in other countries into the 1950s for the private market. It remains famous for its excellent STOL performance and low stall speed of 31 mph (50 kmph).
Sunderland flying boats:
The Short S.25 Sunderland was the RAF’s long range maritime patrol flying boat based upon the S.23 Empire flying boat, the Imperial Airways flagship on the Empire air routes. It was one of the most powerful and widely used flying boats throughout the Second World War and played a major part countering the threat posed by German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic.
The Sunderland Mk.I was powered by four Bristol Pegasus XXII air-cooled radial engines of 1010hp. The fuel for these engines was held in ten self-sealing fuel tanks in the wings, for a total of 2552 gallons. In addition to the guns in the nose and tail turret, the Mk.I had two guns in hatches on the upper aft fuselage. The Mk.II had a dorsal gun turret introduced, replacing the hatches. The Mk.II also carried radar.
The fuselage was roomy enough to give the crew of ten or more men some comfort on their long patrol flights, which could last up to 13 hours. The front part of the fuselage was divided in two decks. The upper deck contained the cockpit with two pilots, and stations for the flight engineer, the wireless operator and the navigator.
On the lower deck there was a bomb room to store bombs or depth charges on movable racks, run out under the wing for an attack. The lower deck also had a wardroom, a galley with two primus stoves and an oven, two bunks for off-duty crewmembers, a flush lavatory, a wash basin, and a shaving mirror. Crews would supply their own set of dishes and cooking utensils, add curtains to the wardroom, and install luxuries like portable radios.
Swordfish float plane – Fairey Swordfish:
The Fairey Swordfish was designed as a torpedo bomber for the Fleet Air Arm in the 1930s Nicknamed "Stringbag", it was an outdated design by the start of the war in 1939, but remained in front-line service until 1945.
The Swordfish achieved some spectacular successes, notably the attack on the Italian fleet at Taranto and the famous crippling of the Bismarck.
In 1939, there were three flights of Swordfish equipped with floats, for use off aircraft catapult-equipped warships. One from HMS Warspite spotted fall of shot and radioed gunnery corrections back to the ship during the Second Battle of Narvik in 1940. It is from that operation that I have borrowed the story of the fictional HMS Redoubtable’s floatplane adventures.
T-Class submarines – HMS Trebuchet:
The T class submarine was designed in the 1930s. Fifty-three of the class were built just before and during the Second World War, but HMS Trebuchet, aka, The Bucket, was not one of them. She is another creation of the author. The boats played a major role in the Royal Navy's submarine operations.
T-class submarines fought in all theatres during the war and suffered around 25 percent losses. They were particularly vulnerable in the Mediterranean, where their large size made them easily visible from the air in the clear waters, but they had much more success elsewhere.
|Displacement:||1,290 tons surfaced|
1,560 tons submerged
|Length:||276 ft 6 in|
|Beam:||25 ft 6 in|
|Draught:||12 ft 9|
Twin diesel engines, 2,500 hp each
Twin electric motors 1,450 hp each
|Speed:||15.5 knots surfaced|
9 knots submerged
|Range:||8,000 nmi at 10 knots surfaced|
|Armament:||6 bow torpedo tubes|
4 external torpedo tubes
QF 4 inch deck gun
HMS Titania was originally ordered as a merchant ship of 5250 tons for an Austrian shipping company, but by the time she was launched in March 1915 by the Clyde Shipbuilding Company at Glasgow, she had been commandeered by the Admiralty and was commissioned in November 1915 as a submarine depot ship and based at Blyth.
She remained as a depot ship after the war, and served on the China Station. After the outbreak of World War Two she was based at Blyth with the 6th Flotilla, and then in 1940 was subsequently transferred to Holy Loch, where she is pictured, until replaced by HMS Forth.
Unterseeboot – U-Boat
-boat is a shortening of Unterseeboot, which means "undersea boat".
During World War Two, Germany had the largest submarine fleet in the world and Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote "The only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril."
In the early stages of the war, the U-boats were extremely effective in destroying Allied shipping, initially in the mid-Atlantic up until 1942 when the tide changed.
The U-boats ranged from the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the Arctic to the west and southern African coasts and even to the Far East where there were U Boats based on Japanese-occupied Penang.
During World War II, the Kriegsmarine produced many different types of U-boats as technology evolved. Most notable is the Type VII, known as the "workhorse" of the fleet, which was by far the most-produced type, and the Type IX boats which were larger versions of the VII but specifically designed for long-range patrols, some traveling as far as Japan and the east coast of the United States.
To counter the increasing sophistication of Allied detection and subsequent losses, German designers began to fully realise the potential for a truly submerged boat with the Type XXI "Elektroboot" – the first true submersible.
The "Ursula Suit" was the idea of the CO of the U-class submarine, HMS Ursula, Lt Cdr. Philips. From taking command of Ursula just before the war, Philips had hated the Trade's regulation foul weather gear of oilskins and duffel coats. The idea for a new, more submarine-friendly kit came when he spotted his navigating officer's motor-cycle overalls - a one-piece waxed-cotton suit made by Barbour, the country outfiters. Philips asked the company to adapt the suit, splitting it into jacket and trousers and adding a hood. It quickly became standard watch-keeping clothing on Royal Navy submarines.
V & W class destroyers
The V and W class were the ultimate evolution of British destroyer design in the First World War, embodying the improvements of their predecessors as well as new technological advances. The new design, originally known as the Admiralty V class Leader, incorporated a more sensible layout of the main armament, the amidships gun between the funnels being removed to the aft shelter deck, superfiring over the gun on the quarterdeck. This introduced the ubiquitous "A", "B", "X", "Y" layout for the main armament. New developments, such as director firing for the main armament, triple torpedo tubes and a heavier armament.
|Beam:||26 ft 9 in|
|Draught:||11 ft 3 in|
|Propulsion:||3 Yarrow-type Water-tube boilers (White-Forster type in Valentine), 2 shafts, 27,500 shp|
|Range:||3,500 nmi at 15 knots|
|Armament:||· 4 x QF 4 in Mk.V guns|
· 2 x QF 2 pdr Mk.II "pom-pom" anti-aircraft guns
· 4 (2x2) tubes for 21-inch torpedoes
She was the second member of the Littorio-class battleship that served in the Italian Regia Marina during the Second World War. The ship's keel was laid down in October 1934, launched in July 1937, and joined the Italian fleet in August 1940. Named after the Italian victory over the Austian Empire at Vittorio Veneto during the First World War I, she had three sister ships: Littorio, Roma, and Impero, although only Littorio and Roma were completed.
Vittorio Veneto saw extensive service during the war, including the Battle of Cape Spartivento in November 1940 and although she escaped undamaged during the British raid on Taranto in November 1940, she was torpedoed by the British at the Battle of Cape Matapan in March 1941, and again by the British submarine HMS Urge in December 1941.
She surrendered to the Allies in September 1943 after Italy was knocked out of the war and subsequently broken up for scrap.
|Installed power:||·8 × Yarrow boilers|
|Propulsion:||4 × steam turbines, 4 × shafts|
|Range:||3,920 miles at 20 kts|
|Armament:||·3 × 3 381 mm (15.0 in) guns|
·4 × 3 152 mm (6.0 in) guns
·4 × 1 120 mm (4.7 in) guns
·20 × 37 mm (1.5 in)
·10 × 2 20 mm
|Armor:||·Main belt: 350 mm (14 in)|
·Deck: 162 mm (6.4 in)
·Turrets: 350 mm
·Conning tower: 260 mm (10 in)
|Aircraft carried:||3 aircraft|
The Supermarine Walrus was a single-engine amphibian reconnaissance aircraft, designed by the man who designed the Spitfire, R. J. Mitchell, and first flew in 1933. It was operated by the Fleet Air Arm and the Royal Air. It was the first British military aircraft to incorporate a fully retractable main undercarriage, completely enclosed crew accommodation, and an all-metal fuselage.
Designed for use as a fleet spotter to be catapulted from cruisers or battleships, the Walrus was later employed in a variety of other roles, most notably as a rescue aircraft for downed aircrew. It continued in service throughout the Second World War.
The single-step hull was constructed from aluminium alloy. Metal construction was used because experience had shown that wooden structures deteriorated rapidly under tropical conditions. The wings could be folded on ship, giving a stowage width of 17 feet 6 inches . The single 620 hp Pegasus II M2 radial engine was housed at the rear of a nacelle mounted above the lower wing and powered a four-bladed wooden propeller in pusher configuration.
The pusher configuration had the advantages of keeping the engine and propeller further out of the way of spray when operating on water and reducing the noise level inside the aircraft. Also, the moving propeller was safely away from any crew standing on the front deck, which would be done when picking up a mooring line. The engine was offset by three degrees to starboard to counter any tendency of the aircraft to yaw due to unequal forces on the rudder caused by the vortex from the propeller.
Although the aircraft typically flew with one pilot, there were positions for two. An unusual feature was that the control column was not a fixed fitting in the usual way, but could be unplugged from either of two sockets at floor level. It became a habit for only one column to be in use; and when control was passed from the pilot to co-pilot or vice-versa, the control column would simply be unplugged and handed over. Behind the cockpit, there was a small cabin with work stations for the navigator and radio operator.
Armament usually consisted of two .303 in Vickers K machine guns, one in each of the open positions in the nose and rear fuselage; with provision for carrying bombs or depth charges mounted beneath the lower wings.
HMS Warspite was one of five Queen Elizabeth-class battleships built for the Royal Navy on the eve of the First World War. Her sisters were the Barham, Queen Elizabeth, Malaya and Valiant, and as a class are still considered to have been among the finest men-of-war ever built.
Warspite’s service in two world wars earned her the title of the most battle honours ever awarded to an individual ship in the Royal Navy.
When she was launched in 1913 she burned oil fuel and was fitted with 15-inch guns – both features that were revolutionary in battleship development and designed to put the Royal Navy ahead in the naval arms race between Britain and Germany.
However, the new "fast battleships" proved to be an outstanding success during the First World War. Warspite was refitted twice between the wars, and although she served until 1945, she had long been relegated to shore bombardment.
Webley naval revolver:
The Webley Revolver was the standard issue service pistol for the British Army and Royal Navy from 1887 until 1963.
The Webley is a top-break revolver with automatic extraction. That is, breaking the revolver open for reloading also operates the extractor. This removes the spent cartridges from the cylinder. The Webley Mk I service revolver was adopted in 1887. The Mk VI, introduced in 1915 during the First World War, is perhaps the best-known model.
Firing the large .455 Webley cartridge, Webley service revolvers are among the most powerful top-break revolvers ever produced.
HMS Wolverhampton Town Class cruiser
The Town class was a 10-ship class of light cruisers of the Royal Navy. Designed to the constraints imposed by the London Naval Treaty of 1930, the ships were delivered in three distinct versions; the Southamptons – which, if she had ever existed, the Wolverhampton would have belonged to – the Gloucesters and Edinburgh and her sister, Belfast, which survives as a floating museum on the Thames in central London.
The Southamptons mounted a main battery of twelve six inch guns in four turrets. Under normal operating conditions, the guns could fire eight rounds per minute each, and had a maximum range of approximately 25,500 yards. Each round weighed 112 pounds, and (unlike the rounds for eight inch guns) could be manually handled in the event of power failure.
Armour for the ships was chosen to provide some protection against the eight inch shells fired by heavy cruisers (which the Southampton class might be expected to fight), although they could not be expected to withstand the much heavier guns of capital ships.
Each ship was equipped with was the Supermarine Walrus, which was a single engine amphibious biplane for a reconnaissance role. One innovation was, having experienced problems in other ships maintaining aircraft in an air-worthy condition at sea, the ships were fitted with two aircraft hangars - the first British cruisers to be so equipped.
The aircraft were launched by catapult from the ship, and were recovered by crane after landing on the water.
Eight four inch guns were chosen for dual purpose air defence and short range weaponry. They had a rate of fire of 20 rounds per minute and were supplemented with two four barrelled pom-poms, which were a cut down version of the eight barrelled weapon fitted to larger ships. These guns fired 115 rounds per minute per barrel, and were effective out to 1,203 yards.
Finally, eight 0.5 inch machineguns were installed in two mounts of four guns each, although these were found to be prone to jamming. The pre-war lack of appreciation of the threat posed by aircraft can be seen in this light selection of anti-aircraft weaponry.
Torpedo tubes were provided in case the vessel had to go in to action against a capital ship.
Overall, the Southampton class was seen to be a success, with proven ability to stay afloat and continue to fight after sustaining considerable damage. They also boasted an effective main battery, adequate armour and sufficient speed - all the qualities of a good cruiser. In common with all ships of their time, the class was shown to be initially lacking in air defence, although as the war progressed significant improvements were made to the anti-aircraft guns and this deficiency was rectified.