Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Great Fire of London: 29th December 1940

Today marks the 75th Anniversary of the worst air raid of the London Blitz. On 29th December 1940, a first wave of German bombers raided London each carrying 180 of small incendiary bombs packed with magnesium. Around 100,000 incendiaries were dropped creating 1,500 fires and the destruction of hundreds of buildings. 163 people died in the raids, including 16 firemen, with a further 503 were injured.

28 incendiary bombs landed on St Paul's Cathedral. One bomb melted the lead on the dome. However the bomb fell through the roof and was extinguished and St Paul's thereby saved.

The fire damage appeared to be of such magnitude that it is referred to as "The Second Great Fire of London", the first referring to the fire of 1666.

130 sorties were made by the Luftwaffe bomber forces on the December 29th. However the raid was intended to be much larger; deteriorating weather limited bombing operations to only two hours of attacks which ended prematurely at 10pm. The use of incendiaries in a concentrated area of the City of London NW of St Paul's created the large number of fires.

British 4.5-inch anti-aircraft gun and crew, of 52nd Heavy Regiment, Royal Artillery

My father, Sydney William Davis, 891332,  served in the 154th Battery, 52nd (London) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, during this period. His 4.5" battery was posted on Primrose Hill, the Isle of Dogs (in London's former docklands) and the Hackney marshes. In his memoirs, he does not indicate exactly where he was on specific dates but would have had a very good view of the events of December 29th wherever he was stationed. In his own words "The Isle of Dogs was definitely the worst as it is of course in the middle of the Dock areas and we were frequently ringed by fire".

The 52nd HAA was assigned to 26 A.A Brigade in the 1st AA Division. Bombardier Davis recounts that "Initially firing at night was more of a boost to civilian morale than to bring down German bombers". With the introduction of radar direction, the AA defense became much more effective. My father's troop was credited with 13 bombers in the first month of its introduction. However I think this was in 1941.

4.5-inch anti-aircraft battery

Today in London,  an air raid siren marked the 75th Anniversary.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Wake Island, 1941, refought December 19, 2015

On December 19th, perilously close to Christmas, I had the pleasure of participating in another Fire & Maneuver demonstration wargame at the new wargames facility at Brookhurst Hobby in Westminster This time, the subject was the first Japanese assault on Wake Island on December 9, 1941 just after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The beautiful set and all of the battlefield details and troops were again provided by the designer of Fire & Maneuver. What made the game very special for me was that my son John assisted me with the Japanese forces under my general command. My grandson Jack took the role of commander of the Imperial Japanese air forces present in the form of a squadron of Mitsubishi G3M3 (Nell) bombers and a Kawanishi flying boat.

My eldest son William was overall commander of the US Marine Corps garrison and attached naval and civilian personnel.

Once again, the game was exciting and visually very appealing. The Brookhurst Hobby hall is a great venue for a large game and they were excellent hosts.

Jack ready for action

Jack handles Aerial Recon

William prepares his forces

John considers a landing site

The Pan Am hotel, built by Frank Patterson

The Game Master coaches Jack

I designed the Hotel signage 

The Japanese have a toe-hold

The Battle of Perryville, October 8, 1862

On a recent visit to Kentucky, I was able to visit the battlefield at Perryville. This battle between Confederate General Braxton Bragg and Union Major General Don Carlos Buell was the largest fought in Kentucky.

I spent two half days walking the battlefield. The series of ridges crossed by the attacking Rebs as they routed regiment after regiment of raw Union troops is breathtaking. The battlefield is beautifully maintained as a State Historic Site with the trails carefully cut through the grass or field cover to allow access to all of the principal features of the battlefield.

Since the second of the 2 visits was on my birthday, December 2nd, the visit was all the more special. I was the only visitor to the park that day and enjoyed myself immensely. Don't miss this if you are in Central Kentucky!