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Ron Walker

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  1. Ron Walker

    M-29 Weasel

    You might be interested by researching two similar groups to 1SF, known as "Jedburghs" (if they were American) or "les Anges" (If they were British). Composed of small independent groups of highly trained, ultra-fit special forces they were dropped behind enemy lines into occupied France with generous supplies of weapons and explosives, and tasked with destroying lines of communication. It was well known that the Germans had a large number of heavy combat units recuperating in the SOUTH of France, and it was expected that in the aftermath of D-Day these units would be called upon to move North towards Normandy. "Les Anges" and the Jedburghs' task was to make that as difficult as possible, blowing up bridges, causing land slips, mining roads, ambushing convoys... and then vanishing back into the countryside. It worked. The German armoured formations took WEEKS to reach Normandy, barely managed to bring half of their tanks intact, and were in no condition for further serious combat. The Panzers had been under near-constant attack since the moment they started to move north. That was pretty much what was wanted from 1SF, but as a larger force. To be a constant irritation to German communications and supply lines (Germany was heavily dependant of Norwegian Iron, for example) The "Lofoten raid" already carried out by Commandos in Northern Norway had been regarded as a great success. The troops were brought in by boat, took over a small town. held it for two days, took a number of prisoners, "blew shit up and killed people". Then they got back on their boat and sailed away (But the threat remained that they might return!) Suggesting that NOT going away might be an interesting idea, and then developing the idea - in ridiculous detail - was typical of Pyke. Pyke's ideas were often SO off the wall that people weren't sure whether to take them seriously. From The idea of leaving troops behind enemy lines in Norway comes the need to design a machine that can traverse snow rapidly, From that come extensive research into the nature of snow and ice, from which grew the concept of "Pykrete" and ENORMOUS unsinkable aircraft carriers built from "super-ice". And also perhaps the most famous "Pykeism".... his "Urinal for Officers only" paper. The concept of the Weasel had ben for a small, Jeep-like vehicle, idea for SMALL raiding parties. But do you need to guard it, while you're away blowing up a railway line or a bridge? It was a question that genuinely concerned Pyke. His solution was two-stage. Firstly, each Weasel would carry a rolled-up portable canvas barrier, which would be unwound, and rapidly assembled around the vehicle. Pyke regarded the Germans as very obedient, and thought that stencilling the words "Uriinal, for officers only" would explain away the screen, and prevent further investigation. Just in case, he suggested that the vehicle should ALSO carry a placard reading "Extreme Danger of Death! Gestapo Experimental Death-ray. DO NOT APPROACH WITHIN 50 METRES! Highest Secret". The theory being that anybody nosy enough to have ignored the FIRST implicit warning (If you're not an officer, keep out) would encounter an unfamiliar piece of machinery, and a plausible explanation for what it was. An explanation that people would be reluctant to report having seen. OK... it's a crazy idea... but who knows... it might have worked! Which leaves us wondering quite who, in this sentence, the word "They" refers to. S.O.,E. had three bites at the cherry.If the "they" indicated Special Operations, Executive, then "they" did indeed "finish the mission". A "former OSS member" seems likely to be an American, making it (semantically) more plausible that "They" (i.e.. not US; not MY group) means S.O.,E. rather than the (50% American) 1SF.
  2. Ron Walker

    M-29 Weasel

    Here in the UK, there was a very popular TV show, hosted by a chap called Barry Norman, which reviewed films. Barry retired and wrote an autobiography in which HE too lamented that he'd been unable to discover what his Dad had done during WW2. His Dad had worked in the movie industry, and had been drafted into a secret unit. Which I suspect (as was the habit of the UK Military at the time) was given a deliberately misleading name - the Armoured Car Squadron. These were the guys who specialised in "Combat HiFi", able to convincingly reproduce sounds at night which led the enemy into totally false conclusions about how many soldiers they were facing. In Normandy, on D-Day, American paratroops jumped into an area which had been very recently reinforced by German troops. Thankfully, those troops were exhausted and miles away from their base, having responded to rumours of a substantial drop of parachutists the previous day. An illusion created by dropping model parachutists from planes AND a jeep loaded with HiFi gear, which moved around the countryside making a great deal of realistic noise, and drawing their German pursuers ever further from their own base. THAT operation wasn't declassified until the 1970's. Sadly, Barry Norman gave up his hunt to find the truth only year or two before the government decided to declassify a huge amount of stuff early. Bletchley Park got the main attention from the media, but a HUGE amount of other stuff also got declassified... and hardly anyone noticed. The Fact remains, ISF's records in the UK will (almost certainly) be found in Plymouth, where Combined Ops is still based. They're a small, secretive unit which looks and behaves a lot like the SAS, but for historical reasons isn't part of the Army, Navy or the Air force. (One pays them, another feeds them and the third transports them!) S.O.,E. was disbanded at the end of WW2. THEIR records will be found with Military Intelligence, over in Ashford. One on Devon, the other in Kent. That's a long way apart (in terms of English Geography) I'm frankly puzzled that "I corps" is regarded as the descendant of S.O.,E.(During the war they did NOT see eye-to-eye) The two units Were like two different (and specialist) tools..You don't use a hatchet for a job that needs a screwdriver. As a friend once remarked to me, "If you want a safe that's behind enemy lines blown, ask the SAS. If you want the safe opened, the contents photographed and returned, and the safe closed so that nobody knows it's been opened... ask Military Intelligence. Different tools for different jobs, Same deal with 1SF and S.O.,E. They do (did) very different jobs, in very different WAYS. Kind of like the Submarine Service and the Parachute Regiment. I remain unconvinced that 1SF had any connection with the Heavy Water plants. Certainly, their original purpose was to see action in Norway... BUT. They even existed because Pyke suggested that they should. Pyke had absolutely ZERO connection with S.O.,E.
  3. Ron Walker

    M-29 Weasel

    It's the part that I've put in square brackets [like this!] which puzzle me (Not having read the original article) First Special Force was brought into existence as a result of ideas from Geoffrey Pyke, chief Science Officer advising Lord Mountbatten, who was then commander of Combined Ops.The Weasel was Pyke's idea too, as a means for them to move around.His fertile brain threw out what often seemed to be crazy ideas ALL the time. When thinking about Norway, Pyke realised that he knew very little about ice and snow... and set about filing this gap in his encyclopaedic knowledge. The discovery of a NEW kind of Ice by Pyke and his team was a spin-off of that research. The USA had entered WW2 full of confidence, possibly rather OVER full of it. They initially planned to invade France in 1943, but were warned by the British that this was an utterly unrealistic timetable, and an invasion as early as '43 would have been a costly disaster. What was needed was time to develop and stockpile weapons and assets... AND develop what Churchill described as a "Bodyguard of Lies", Germany KNEW for a fact that an invasion was coming. But what they DIDN'T know was when or where. Churchill.had History, (going back to WW1) of "Deceptive Warfare", and this time around he continued to play the same game. Any and every means that the Germans could be persuaded was the "TRUE" invasion was exploited, right up to the time when the invasion was actually happening, Hitler remained convinced (having been fed so much misleading information) that Normandy on 6th June was merely a feint, and the REAL attack would come from Calais. The UK had invested massive efforts in producing a very realistic (but totally spurious) American Army group, visible from the air, and which generated a huge amount of (equally spurious) radio traffic. The Germans were utterly convinced that the First United States Army Group was REAL. We also invested in (for example) "Combat Hi Fi". Experts from the UK film industry had been drafted, and demonstrated that at night (when, obviously, you can't SEE) you fall back on what you can hear. If that appears to be a large detachment of tanks moving across your front you believe the evidence of your own ears. On D-Day morning, fog-bound Bordeaux announced that THEY could hear an invasion fleet waiting off-shore. AND they could SEE it on RADAR. Therefore they could NOT send any troops to Normandy. (I thought this was totally hilarious!). Unaccountably, the Americans showed very little interest in taking the deception plans seriously, and reportedly were outraged to hear from their own spies that Britain was planning to invade Norway. Why had they not been consulted?! Why had they had to wait for the news to come from agents in Germany? It was explained to them that If Germany erroneously imagined that an invasion of Norway was imminent, then they'd reinforce their positions there. And soldiers can't be in two places at once. A soldier posted to Norway can't be anywhere else (like, for example, Normandy?!) This deception stuff was often the work of Combined Ops. (1SF also came under the Combined Ops umbrella; did someone think that turning a mere rumour into fact - using just a few hundred soldiers - would be a smart idea? A few hundred commandos, properly equipped, could hold down THOUSANDS of Germans .Under the command of Combined Ops. But... the three attacks on Norway's heavy water plants were carried out under the auspices of S.O.,E. - Special Operations, Executive. Who were a completely different outfit. It strikes me that someone has mixed up two different operations and two different forces. 1SF never had any connection with Operations Grouse, Freshman, or Gunnerside.
  4. Ron Walker

    Why is there a sudden turn to communism?

    My go-to reference for issues like this is the Mitrotchkin Archive. Vasili Mitrotchkin was an archivist with the old KGB, tasked when they split his old agency into "foreign" and "domestic" agencies, he was given the task of sorting the KGB's document archives, and splitting it between the two new groups. He decided to defect - in this case to the SIS in the UK. Initially he just copied notes about the files passing through his hands onto cigarette papers, and smuggled them out of the building... But realised that security was very lax and he WASN'T being searched. SO he just began stealing complete documents. His dowry, when he was extracted and brought to the UK was eight full steamer trunks filled with documents. With some assistance, they have ben translated and, after some redactions by the security services... the collected documents were published.for anyone to refer to. Page 238 reads.... How the General died remains a matter of speculation... but then again, so was much of what happened inside the Kremlin. Back then, the front page of Pravda was generally typeset 48 hours in advance (to allow the news to be changed, if it didn't fit with the official party line. Authentically Orwellian,) We don't know how Penkowsy died either. According to Wynne, he committed suicide, according the "Victor Suvurov" he was cremated - alive. Then Suvurov changed his story and claimed that the man burned alive had been someone else.
  5. Ron Walker

    M-29 Weasel

    The name you need to research is "Geoffrey Nathaniel Pyke", There are a number of excellent books about him. He advised Louis Mountbatten on scientific matters, and threw out weird ideas in all directions, most famously for a vast aircraft carrier to be constructed from huge panels of a material created from super-freezing a mixture of salt water and woodpulp. If you stir the mix as you superfreeze it, and then STOP stirring it, it forms an unusual crystalline structure, more like mild steel than normal ice... and it tends not to melt. Invading Norway had been Pyke's idea, although the idea might also have been part of Churchill's "Bodyguard of Lies" for D-Day. As with "Operation Mincemeat", where a corpse (who had died from pneumonia, which gives similar symptoms to drowning) was planted in the sea off of the Spanish Coast, dressed as a Royal Marine major, carrying top secret documents chained to his wrist in a briefcase. The Documents "accidentally revealed" plans to invade Crete from North Africa. German agents in Spain moved heaven and earth to get a look at what the documents said, and managed to persuade Spanish officials sympathetic to their cause to let them have a surreptitious look, Word got back to Germany, which transferred both Luftwaffe AND armoured units to Crete, from amongst other places, Sicily. The subsequent invasion of Sicily (NOT Crete) came as a shock to the Germans. Numerous other plans were created to lead the Germans to believe that the "Second Front" would come anywhere BUT in Normandy. Plans WERE produced to invade Norway, whether as actual plans or merely yet more misdirection to confuse German intelligence we'll probably never know. Maybe both?! Pyke's fertile brain was quite capable of exploiting what was supposedly no more than a feint and causing it to tie-down huge numbers of German forces. Mountbatten commanded "Combined Operations", which included the commandos - tasked with keeping Germany off balance, needing to protect EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME, Because if they DIDN'T, some bugger would turn up out of nowhere and blow it up. 1SF did have a distinguished war record - after the planned Norway expedition was abandoned (like the super-AIrcraft Carrier made from ice, it was killed off by an emphatic lack of either interest or support from the USA) My understanding was that the we sent first briefly to the Kurile Islands (Between Alaska and Japan) and then rather more productively to Italy, where they earned the name "The Devil's Brigade" Take a look at the book of the same name, (from which came the movie. )
  6. Ron Walker

    Why is there a sudden turn to communism?

    My own "hero" from the Cuban Missile Crisis is Oleg Penkowsky. He was a Major in the GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) who was in charge of security within the Kremlin. He was also an MI6 Asset, "handled" by a chap named Greville Wynne. Penkowsky was also a frequent drinking buddy of the General in charge of Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces, whom he had convinced that he was writing a history of those forces - and was granted "access to all areas". Penkowsky was also apparently a wizzard with a Minox camera (so much so that the CIA grew suspicious; he demonstrated just HOW good he was, able to get one more extra frame from each film AND without losing a shot to bad photography. The copious amounts of material he handed over to Wynne kept a substantial team of CIA analysts working 24 hour shifts. When it was complained that some of the names listed in the documents were unknown.. he provided a copy of the Kremlin's internal phone book as a handy reference. Of course, it was too good to last; Penkowsky knew that they were going to catch him eventually, and generated as much material as he could in the meanwhile. Suicidally brave. Penkowsky was "our man in the Kremlin", with emphasis on the world "OUR". HE was the guy who put the record of the Central Committee's daily deliberation in the safe each night. What he knew, WE knew. And so did the CIA. And what HE knew was.... EVERYTHING. (When he heard that Penkowsky had been arrested, the Commander of Strategic Rocket Forces put his pistol in his mouth... and blew his own brains out. HE realised quite how bad the leak had been.) Things are often presented as "Kennedy and Kruschev, eyeball to eyeball... and Kruschev blinked first". Rather more accurate would be the image of a game of poker, where ONE of the players is sat with his back to a mirror.. revealing exactly what cards he's holding. Russia HAD no "spare" missiles. What was sent to Cuba had first been removed from the USSR's own front-line, leaving a gaping hole. Penkowsky knew that, it strikes me as inconceivable that he wouldn't have shared that information via Greville Wynne. In which case, what Kennedy could see in that metaphorical "mirror" was that Kruschev was bluffing. Back at the time, Penkowsky was arrested, and almost immediately executed. Greville Wynne was arrested, and the British government flatly denied that he was anything but an innocent businessman... until he was exchanged for a Russian captive. (When he recounted his own story under the title "The Man from Moscow".) SO Penkowsky's part was significantly played down.for many years.
  7. Ron Walker

    What was the best submachine gun of WWII?

    My money is still on the Hungarian Danuvia. Britain looked at it, pre-war, and decided that SMGs were for gangsters, not soldiers, so dropped the idea. Then realised that they'd got it wrong, and produced first the Lanchester then the Sten. So... the Sten was the UK's THIRD choice. And the Danuvia had been the first choice. https://www.forgottenweapons.com/kiraly-43m-hungarys-overpowered-submachine-gun/
  8. Ron Walker

    Average Germans knew Nazi atrocities

    At the end of WW2, as a result of agreements made earlier with Stalin, the western Allies were obligated to repatriate many thousands of people who had - either voluntarily or otherwise - moved from the Soviet zone of control into the zones of the UK, USA and France.In scenes reminiscent of what had happened only a short time earlier, involving Jews, Civilians were forced into cattle cars - at bayonet point - to be shipped off to "camps". It's perfectly legal to talk it, always has been. (with the obvious exception that Nikolai Tolstoy produced some wild and unsubstantiated accusations, and was sued) but in general, people just don't talk about it. There can have been little misunderstanding by the troops involved: some of the Russians being re-patriated committed suicide rather than return to the Motherland, and what they strongly suspected would be awaiting them there. How many British Tommies, or American GIs went home and told their families "I forced dozens of civilians into cattle trucks at gunpoint, and then watched them being shipped of to Russia?" I think the answer to that one would be "pretty much NONE." That's stuff that the NAZIS did. We were supposed to be the GOOD GUYS.
  9. Ron Walker

    Need help to Identify!

    Ribbed hilt (rather than the earlier etched diamond pattern), complete absence of a ricasso...(That's the bit on earlier models between the hilt and the cutting part of the blade where you rest the tip of your thumb, sometimes known as an "escutcheon") That makes it the final "Third Pattern" knife. Rogers of Sheffield continued (amongst several other cutlers) to produce these for the civilian market right up to the 1960's Some UK post-war special forces were issued with third pattern knives... some weren't. (The regimental Sergeant Major of the SAS comments in his autobiography, in response to Chris Ryan's "The one that got away" rubbishes his claim to have taken on a number of iraqi soldiers with just his fighting knife after shooting his pistol dry, because the SAS simply "didn't issue fighting knives ".) Is a fighting knife purchased privately, but carried into battle by a soldier a still a "fighting knife".?
  10. Ron Walker

    The Capitulation of France in WW2

    Can't quite agree with "no one was prepared for the new tactics and the speed of the German movements"... At the end of WW1, the British having stockpiled large supplies of tanks got ready to put them to use in 1919. Not randomly, but after first having given considerable thought about how to go about it. A Small group of British offices produced a strategy called (rather unoriginally) "Plan 1919". The three officers were Fuller, Liddell-Hart, and Trevelyan.They called their plan to the assault on German lines using massed tanks "expanding Torrents"... Germany realised that it was already beaten and threw-in the towel at the end of !918, so "Plan 1919" was never out into action. But it WAS talked about, and written about.It was the basis for "Blitzkrieg". A young French officer read what Liddell-Hart and Fuller had been writing, and was impressed; he penned his own volume titled "The Army of the Future". His name was Charles deGaulle - maybe you've heard of him?! DeGaulle's book was in turn read by a young German officer, named Guederian, and he also wrote a book basically repeating the same ideas, The book was called "Achtung, Panzer!" Hitler in turn was very impressed, and placed Guederian in charge of developing the armoured forces -and-strategies of the rapidly expanding Wehrmacht. So... by 1939 quite a LOT of people were familiar with idea originally promulgated by the British. Those people included quite a few French officers... but (alas) NOT their supreme command, whose response to the outbreak of war was to assume that - like WW1 - it would be a static war. The French command established an HQ in an impressive chateau... without the benefit of modern telephony, expecting to communicate with sub-commanders using despatch riders on motorcycles. (Rather reminiscent of Napoleonic times, or maybe the Crimean war, where "Gallopers" carried messages back and forth.) In 1940,The messengers proved totally incapable of transmitting information fast enough to be useful.The guys at the top of the French army (OLD men) were still fighting WW1. But a few (younger) officers reacted rather more appropriately. There was quite a successful counterattack against the invading Germans near Arras, Three names come up, associated with that fight) sadly, lacking sufficient resources to be effective other than short term. A British general named Montgomery, a French one named deGaulle, and a German named Rommel. So, not everyone was caught with their pants down.
  11. I'm going to make another nomination the Il-2 "Shturmovik". The most plentifully produced miitary aircraft of all time.Which might explain why it's also the most shot-down aircraft on history, although thanks to its plentiful armour, mainly shot down by German fighters rather than FLAK. The puzzle is that the Sturmovik's huge successes seem largely to have been propaganda inventions. Moscow claimed that an Ilushin squadron destroyed several hundred panzers...from a unit which had been reduced to a mere ninety tanks days before. When one side claims two hundred and seventy definite kills from attacking a unit already decimated down to under a hundred... someone clearly isn't telling the truth. MANY Shturmovik units made similarly inflated claims - that they'd destroyed HUNDREDS of German tanks in attacks on units already depleted down to a few dozen survivors. The plane was the victim of constant re-design - the powerplant was too weak (and got upgraded) The armour didn't reach the rear gunner (who resultingly got shot to pieces in air combat) and extending the armour backwards to fix the problem changed the plane's balance. The plane carried underwing rockets... but lacked the means to accurately aim them. About the only aspect of the plane that DID work effectively was the cannon. The Ilusihins would fly in formation, in a large "circle of death" (so able protect each other, using the forward-facing weapons) and they'd peel off in turns to attack ground targets, before returning to the circle. Which kind of reminds me of the Bolton-Paul Defiant: the first unit to be equipt with them developed much the same tactics for defence against enemy fighters. AIrcraft in the Western Front, like the Typhoon, the Bristol "Rockbeau", the Hurricane... were able to use underwing rockets to devastating effect. The Shturmovik really WASN'T a very good plane.
  12. To be fair, the plane's construction relied heavily on a kind of double-sided tape used to laminate sheets of plywood. The Allies bombed and totally destroyed the single factory which produced that adhesive material... what was used to replace it apparently didn't do a very good job. The plywood panels unilaterally de-laminated. Towards the end of WW2 German arms manufacture was plagued with a shortage of exotic materials for almost every kind of weapon, from Cannon shells to Jet aircraft.
  13. The rationale of the Defiant was that it could fly faster then the typical bomber of the time, and could fly alongside and rake the (UNescorted) bomber from end to end with fire from the bank of 4 machine guns.Note the difficulty with which the Luftwaffe had in providing escort fighters even in the South Eastern corner of the UK: bomber raids on the East and the North would - of necessity - have been unescorted. The Germans didn't have any fighters that could reach (for example) Manchester.They likewise found Bristol a stretch. During the Battle of France (which immediately preceded the Battle of Britain) Defiants did pretty well. NOT just (as often claimed) by being mistaken for Hurricanes by BF109's which tried to dive on them from behind - right into the turret's kill zone) The first squadron to be kitted out with Defiants had the time to explore the best way to use them. Briefly, they held the record as the single most effective squadron in the RAF, mainly by blasting Ju87 Stukas out of the sky. A second squadron was established, but at a time when the initial squadron didn't have the opportunity to pass-on their knowledge or experiences, and at a time when the RAF was DESPERATE for fighters. They were badly misused. During the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe attempted to attack using bombers from a Luftflotte stationed in Holland and attacking - unescorted - across the North Sea. Perfect targets for the Defiants, but instead attacked by Hurricanes and Spitfires, because the mis-used Defiants had already been withdrawn from the fight. Hard to nominate the plane that held the record (however briefly) as "the most successful shooter-down of bombers" in the RAF as "The WORST plane of WW2". It was a GOOD plane, put to the wrong use in a time of crisis.
  14. Ron Walker

    Why the Axis lost the war.

    So folks, you heard it here FIRST. George Collins says that the Battle of Stalingrad NEVER HAPPENED! It's FAKE NEWS! Because in HIS opinion it would have been LOGISTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE to maintain a Soviet army in the same place for five months, one week, and three days. I'm waiting to hear him telling us that WW1 never happened either Complete ARMIES pretty much holding static positions for up to four YEARS? Just NOT POSSIBLE.
  15. Ron Walker

    Why the Axis lost the war.

    I'm aghast. We're talking about "WHAT WAS POSSIBLE in 1941" in a way that sounds like we're discussing some pre-industrial era. I was born and raised in Bristol (SW England) which for most of the first half of the last millennium was the second largest town in England (After London). So what? Well... in a pre-industrial era, with no refrigeration, and no railways, the maximum size of a town was determined by how much food could be brought in from the surrounding countryside before it was being brought in from so far away that it was rotting on arrival. Bristol (a successful port) was able to "cheat" by bringing food in by boat. Same deal (in those days) with armies. Large numbers of people gathered together in one place, behaving (from a logistics viewpoint) much like a town. Armies HAD to move - particularly the cavalry element - as they soaked up all the available food in the area. Armies would be brought together shortly before the battle started, and dispersed when it had finished.At least, that's the "logic of logistics" as they stood at (for example) Waterloo. But NOT as they stood in 1941, particularly in an authoritarian command economy like the USSR. If Stalin wanted a million men, or ten million encamped around a map co-ordinate in the Ukraine for a day, for a week, for a year...IT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED. Because in the USSR in 1941, the population were, quite justifiably, scared shitless of "being thought badly of" by the party apparatus, and winding.up either in a Gulag, or a shallow grave.
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