Tank Fest 2015

I spent last weekend at Bovington Tank Museum, attending Tank Fest 2015. For those who aren’t aware, Tank Fest is an annual event, where the museum brings out a selection of vehicles and has them drive around the arena. It’s a chance to see the vehicles running, rather than stationary in a display hall.

Modern vehicles are often driven at speed, which can be a spectacular sight. Older vehicles tend to be driven slowly, and may even stop if the engine appears to be having trouble. The museum is keen to keep the vehicles in driving condition, so would rather halt a display than do potentially irreparable damage. Given that most of the historical vehicles are very rare, and in some cases the only running example, this is a sensible policy.

There were other attractions, too. The museum itself was open. There were living history displays from military re-enactment groups, and there were WWII-themed entertainers. There were fly-pasts by a Spitfire and a Hurricane. I spent most of my time in the arena, watching the various AFVs.

A particular highlight for me was the Polish T-72M, especially as it demonstrated its ability to make smoke by injecting diesel into the exhaust.

It was also good to see the Tiger running. I’ve seen it in the display hall before, but it’s even more impressive on the move. Other highlights included the Matilda 1, Panzer 38(t), Leopards, Challenger 1 & 2, and the Tank Pull.

That last one is exactly what it sounds like – teams of twelve men pulling an 8-ton Scorpion tank. I’m not much of a sports fan, but if that was included in the next Olympics, I might tune in.

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Lidice Shall Live!

Last night, my wife and I went to see the Lidice Shall Live! festival at the Victoria Hall theatre in Stoke on Trent. The festival marked the destruction of Lidice, and celebrated the part of North Staffordshire miners in rebuilding the village. It was an appropriate venue – Sir Barnett Stross started the Lidice Shall Live movement in the Victoria Hall in 1942.

My number at the Lidice Shall Live! festival
My number

Before the show started, we were each given a number. It was explained that the show would start in the foyer, and we would be called into the theatre by number, just as death camp inmates would have been. Our numbers weren’t consecutive, leading us to consider what we would do if we were split up. That simple question helped us to understand a little more of what the survivors of Lidice suffered. If we were split up, we might have to be apart for an hour or two. Still, it made us think about how different that question would be in different circumstances.

The show itself was very good. It started in the foyer, with the actors playing people from Lidice going about their ordinary lives. News came of Heydrich’s death, and then soldiers started to arrive, leading the people to worry about what was happening. A particularly poignant moment was a mother telling her daughter to get dressed because they had to go to the school. Knowing the story, we knew exactly what was happening, even though they didn’t. As we were led into the theatre, we passed actors relating personal stories of Lidice survivors. It was heart-rending stuff.

The main performance was a series of dances. Each was performed by local children, with a particular theme. They were all performed well, with a great deal of energy and emotion. At the end of the second dance, the children briefly came together in a way that was reminiscent of the children’s memorial at Lidice. I was very pleased that the final dance had themes of community, solidarity, togetherness, and hope. It was good to see it end on a note of hope.

I’m really pleased that the people of Stoke on Trent have begun to remember how they helped the people of Lidice. The atrocity of Lidice should never be forgotten, nor should the miners who gave so much to help unknown strangers in a foreign land.

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Win a copy of A Fleet in Being in paperback

A Fleet in Being coverI’m giving away two paperback copies of A Fleet in Being. Everyone on my mailing list will be entered into the draw.

If you’re not already on my list, you can join here. You will also get a free ebook copy of A Damn Close-Run Thing as soon as your subscription is confirmed.

You can earn more chances to win by referring others. For each person that joins the mailing list using your referral link, you will get five extra entries into the draw. Get your referral link here.

Good luck!

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AFV Alphabet: R is for Rolls-Royce Armoured Car

1924 Rolls-Royce Armoured Car with modified turret, in the Bardia area of the Western Desert, 1940

The Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) created the first British armoured car squadron in September 1914, requisitioning all Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost chassis for the new vehicle. The design had a fully armoured body with a rotating turret, mounting a single water-cooled Vickers 0.303″ machine gun. The first vehicles were delivered in December 1914, but by then the Western Front had moved to trench warfare, which armoured cars were ill-suited for.

The RNAS formed six armoured car squadrons, each having twelve vehicles. Initially, one went to France and one to Africa to fight in the German colonies. Later, two squadrons were sent to Gallipoli. In August 1915 the RNAS squadrons were disbanded, and the material handed over to the army. The squadron in France was moved to Egypt, where the conditions were more suitable. T.E. Lawrence (more famously known as “Lawrence of Arabia”) used a squadron of nine armoured cars in his campaign against the Turks, and rated them highly, saying that they were “more valuable than rubies”.

Thirteen vehicles were given to the Irish Free State by the British government for use against the Irish Republican Army during the Irish Civil War. They were found to be very useful for convoy protection, and were used in the retaking of Waterford and Cork. They remained in service with the Irish army until 1944.

The armoured cars were modernised in 1920 and 1924, and in 1940, some vehicles had the turret replaced with an open-topped turret, mounting a Boys anti-tank rifle, Bren machine gun and smoke grenade launchers. 76 vehicles were in service with the British army when World War II broke out. They saw service in the Western Desert, Iraq, and Syria, but had been replaced by newer vehicles by the end of 1941.

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Nonfiction Authors Association Interview

I’ve been interviewed by the Nonfiction Authors Association. A couple of excerpts:

What inspired you to write your book?

I’ve long had the impression that many Brits thought that the outcome of the war was a foregone conclusion, and that the Argentines weren’t a strong enemy. I feel that any suggestion that the Argentines didn’t put up a hard fight is an insult to the hundreds of men who lost their lives in the war. I wanted to write something that would show that the outcome of the war could easily have been very different.

Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?

The first book I read after buying a Kindle was The Losing Role by Steve Anderson. It’s self-published, and an excellent book. That was the book that made me realise self-publishing was feasible, and that realisation was what started me on the path to writing a book.

Less direct inspiration came from authors like Steven Zaloga, Cornelius Ryan, and Max Hastings. They all fuelled my interest in the subject, and without that interest, I wouldn’t be writing my books.

You can read the whole interview at Member Interview with Russell Phillips, author of A Damn Close-Run Thing: A Brief History of the Falklands War

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