The Second Battle of El Alamein.

 

On this day in 1942. The Second Battle of El Alamein begins and this is how it looked from the start line for British, South African and other Commonwealth troops taking part in the battle – this image taken as the British night artillery barrage opened the battle on 23 October 1942.

Image copyright – Imperial War Museum, posted for the SA Legion by Peter Dickens


 

Bush War in Angola, now here we have a serious piece of captured Soviet artillery, taken by the SADF during Ops Hooper in 1988.

One can only appreciate the size of this weapon when one stands next to it. The hardware in question is the Soviet manufactured 130mm M-46 Artillery Towed Gun is manually loaded and was used in the Soviet Army since the 1950s. The M-46 was first seen in public in May 1954 and originally was known in the West as the M1954. Operation of the M-46 towed gun revolves around a crew of eight personnel. The M-46 is no longer in service with the Soviet Army but is still used by many armies in the world, mostly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The M-46 has a barrel with a tied jaw horizontal sliding block breach with a ‘pepperpot’ muzzlebrake. The M-46 was developed from the M-36 130 mm naval gun used on ships and for coast defence. Ammunition included High Explosive Fragmentation, Armour Piercing Solid Shot, Smoke, Illuminating and Chemical shells. The High Explosive shells weigh some 33 kg. The maximum rate of fire for this gun is between 5 and 6 rounds per minute and about 70 rounds per hour over a maximum distance of 27,1km.

The barrel is mounted on a split-trail carriage, with deep box section trails and foam filled road wheels on the ground when firing and 50° (25º left and 25º right) of top traverse. The barrel can elevate from -2.5 degrees up to +45 degrees. The carriage is of the split trail type and is provided with a two-wheeled limber. The small armoured shield protects little more than the sights from the effects of muzzle blast and also provides a limited amount of protection from machine gun fire in anti-tank engagements. The gun has long and robust trails to provide stability when firing and a large detachable spade is fitted to the end of each when the gun is brought into action.

The gun is mounted on a two-wheeled split trail carriage with large sponge-filled rubber tires on each of the single wheels. For travel, it is provided with a two-wheeled limber and can be towed by a truck or armoured vehicle. The length of the gun is 5,4m, width is 2,2m and height is 1,8m. When travelling, the 130 mm barrel is withdrawn by a mechanism onto the right trail from battery to the rear to reduce the overall length of the weapon which can be safely towed by truck at a maximum speed of 50 km/h. The weapon weighs 8 450kg in the traveling position and 7 700kg in the firing position.

The M-46 towed gun has the OP4M-35 direct fire sight with a field of view of 11º and a magnification of ×5.5, as well as an APN-3 active/passive night sight. The M-46 fires case-type, variable-charge, separate loading ammunition.

Photo and caption thanks and courtesy to Graham Du Toit.


 

A South African Air Force 34 Squadron Liberator bomber’s stick of bombs (top left hand corner) on their way down onto the Marshaling Yards at Sarajevo, Yugoslavia during a 2 SAAF Wing Raid on the facility.

Copyright SAAF Museum Collection


 

In case you are wondering why Angola is one of the most mined countries in the world, well this captured Soviet hardware goes some way to explain how mining land mines on an industrial level can be done.

Here we have the Soviet manufactured PMZ-4 Minelayer Trailer. Originally designated the PMR-3 “Pricepnoi Minnyi Raskladchik” meaning “towed mine layer (surface)”, this apparatus was the first Soviet minelayer capable of burying mines as well as laying them on top of the ground. It consists of a single chute and a plow attachment. The attachment provides the option of burying the mines or depositing them on the surface of the ground. The PMR-3 equipment designation was later changed to PMZ-4 “Pricepnoi Minnyi Zagraditel” meaning “towed mine layer (buried)” as this designation was more accurate in describing the task carried out by this piece of equipment.

The type of mines laid by this apparatus were the Soviet TM-44, TM-46, TM-57 or TM-62 series anti-tank mines. The mines could be spaced 4 to 5,5m apart depending on the control setting. If buried, the mines are placed at a depth between 6-12 cm while the vehicle traveled along at a speed of 5km/h. The trailer on its own weighed 1.8 metric tons. The towing vehicle could carry 120 to 300 mines depending on the capacity and type of vehicle. The SADF captured one of these trailers in Southern Angola during Ops Protea in 1981. The captured PMZ-4 minelayer trailer is seen pictured here while on display to the public at Oshakati.

Picture copyright Oswald Kruger, article courtesy and thanks to Graham Du Toit http://ift.tt/1MOzenO


 

A little snippet of relatively unknown South African history. Here’s another South African military veteran from the Second World War who went on to become a famous movie star.

Laurence Harvey (born Laruschka Mischa Skikne; 1 October 1928 – 25 November 1973) was a Lithuanian-born South African actor. In a career that spanned a quarter of a century, Harvey appeared in stage, film and television productions primarily in the United Kingdom and the United States. His performance in Room at the Top (1959) resulted in an Academy Award nomination. That success was followed by the role of the ill-fated Texan commander William Barret Travis in The Alamo (1960), produced by John Wayne, and as the brainwashed Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate (1962).

Harvey’s civil birth name was Laruschka Mischa Skikne. His Hebrew names were Zvi Mosheh. He was born in Joniškis, Lithuania, the youngest of three sons of Ella (née Zotnickaita) and Ber Skikne, Lithuanian Jewish parents.

When he was five years old, his family emigrated to South Africa, where he was known as Harry Skikne. He grew up in Johannesburg, and was in his teens when he served with the entertainment unit of the South African Army during the Second World War.

Image shows Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Source – Wikipedia, posted for the South African Legion by Peter Dickens


Imperial War Museum

The Fire-Force on the move. (SAAF Museum Collection photograph) – courtesy and thanks to Graham du Toit

 

Another South African Air Force artwork by renowned aviation artist Derrick Dickens’, part of his collection of South African Air Force paintings.
These are SAAF Beaufighters attacking German ships during World War 2. Acrylic on canvass.

Derrick passed away recently and is sorely missed by family, friends and the SAAF community.

Artwork copyright – Peter Dickens


 

Celebrating true South African heroes and here is another Victoria Cross recipient, this is his story whilst taking part in the Italian campaign during World War 2,

Gerard Ross Norton VC MM (7 September 1915 – 29 October 2004) was a South African recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Educated at Selborne College, East London (where he acquired his nickname) he was a keen sportsman excelling at cricket, rugby and tennis. After school, he joined Barclays bank at Umtata. After a short spell in the Johannesburg branch of the bank, he returned to East London. The hostel at Selborne College is named in his honour.

Norton’s peace-time military training was done with the Middelandse Regiment, but after the outbreak of the Second World War he was transferred to the Kaffrarian Rifles in East London. In 1943, he transferred in to the 1/4th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment (later the Royal Hampshire Regiment)

On 31 August 1944 during the attack on Montegridolfo, Italy, Lieutenant Norton’s platoon was pinned down by heavy fire. On his own initiative and with complete disregard for his own safety, he advanced alone and attacked the first machine-gun emplacement, killing the crew of three. He then went on to the second position containing two machine-guns and 15 riflemen, and wiped out both machine-gun nests, killing or taking prisoner the remainder of the enemy. Throughout these attacks he was continuously under fire from a self-propelled gun, nevertheless he calmly went on to lead his platoon against the remaining enemy positions.

The award of the Victoria Cross was gazetted on 24 October 1944.

He later achieved the rank of Captain.

Later life
After the war he moved to Rhodesia, where he ran a large tobacco plantation and became a Rhodesian citizen. Gerard Ross Norton died on 29 October 2004.

Reference – Wikipedia, posted for the SA Legion by Peter Dickens http://ift.tt/1Lpf5Wn


 

Once in a while a personal photograph gem pops up on the veterans forums, this one thanks to the 61 Mech veterans fraternity, this was taken by Christie van Zyl during the demobilisation phase after Operation Prone in 1988.

Photo copyright and courtesy of Christe van Zyl, posted for the SA Legion by Peter Dickens. via South African Legion


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