Thursday, 18 June 2009

(1886-1901) Nordenfelt I

Not many know that Greece was among the first nations that acquired a submarine, as early as 1886. Nordenfelt I in trials in Landskrona, Sweden (September 1885). The flag is the swedish one.Thorsten Nordenfelt, a Swedish inventor and industrialist that had become rich with his machine gun design, headhunted English submarine pioneer George Garrett to build Nordenfelt I. This quickly proved an unsatisfactory design, difficult to control and unable to stay underwater for more than five minutes. It was fitted with one whitehead torpedo that was held in an external tube. Surprisingly, it was the first time that a submarine was fitted with the very successful whitehead torpedo. However, there is no record of a torpedo being fired by Nordenfelt I, not even in trials. It was received with mixed feelings when it was officially demonstrated in 1885 and would possibly have remained unsold if Nordenfelt's agent in the Balkans wasn't that shady character, (later Sir) Basil Zacharoff, a Greek-French arms dealer and financier. He convinced the Greek government to pay £9,000 for this submarine that would give them the edge against the Turks. Zacharoff parodied as Bazarov in TintinThen, he convinced the Turks that they should buy two of these (Nordenfelt II and III) because the Greeks already had one, and finally he convinced the Russians to buy another two, because the Turks had two. Basil ZacharoffIn practice, the Greek Nordenfelt I was a complete waste of money that was left to rot for 15 years before it was scrapped. The Turkish and Russian Nordenfelts were not more successful. One of the Turkish ones sank when it attempted to fire a torpedo and one of the Russian ones sank on the way to Russia when it was purchased. From then on, the Greek government was very cautious with submarines and did not try to buy another one until 1911. Bazarov in Tintin ('Broken Ear')Zacharoff, on the other hand, had started his arms-dealing career that made him a multi-millionaire. In 1890 he was hired by Russian machine gun producer Maxim, and was buying shares of the company until he was able to tell his boss that he had become an equal shareholder. Later, he became the director of Vickers Munitions, one of the most successful companies in World War I, and also bought the Monte-Carlo casino. Zacharoff is often seen in popular culture. For example, in Tintin he is parodied as the weapons trader Basil Bazarov, who sells to both parties of a single conflict that he helps provoke.

Below, a page from The London Illustrated News showing a Greek squadron entering the Bay of Salamis in 1886. At the bottom right of the image, one can see the submarine.

Operational History
1882 - Laid down in Stockholm.Nordenfelt I in official demonstration in front of foreign dignitaries (September 1885, Landskrona, Sweden).
Sep. 1885 - Undergoes trials at Landskrona and later in the same month gives surface and submerged demonstrations in front of 39 dignitaries from the navies of several European powers, Japan and Mexico. Reports mention the Prince of Wales, the King and Queen of Denmark, and the Czarina among them.
1886 - Bought by Greece for £9,000 and renamed "Piraeus". It undergoes trials in Greece.
1901 - Stricken without having been used by the navy at all

SpecificationsThe steam engine of Nordenfelt I. Arranged according to the fireless locomotive principle
Nordenfelt I submarine "Piraeus"
Width: 3.66 m
Height: 3.35 m
Displacement: 60 tons
Crew: 3
Max. Depth: 50 ft (15 m)
Engine: 100 HP steam engine
Speed: (Surfaced) 9 knots. It would shut down its engine to submerge
Armament: 25.4 mm Nordenfelt cannon and one Whitehead torpedo

For gamers and game designers
The Nordefelt submarine is considered a complete failure. The Greeks never used it in action, possibly only as a training platform. While reasonably balanced when surfaced, it was extremely unstable when submerged. There is no record of Nordenfelt I firing a torpedo, but when one of the later Turkish Nordenfelts attempted to do so, it sank.

For modellers
A profile of the submarine:
Profile of Submarine I
The actual patent awarded to Nordenfelt for the submarine in 1882:
Patent page 1 Patent page 2 Patent page 3 Patent page 4 Patent page 5 Patent page 6

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

(1877-1949) Gras rifle

Guards of a Greek monastery in Mount Athos after having repelled Bulgarian invaders. Some are possibly monks and there is one Gendarme among them. The front row, from left to right, carry Gras rifle, Gras cavalry carbine, two Gras musketoons and Gras rifle, while all three at the back carry Gras rifles (photo taken in 1913)The Gras rifle is an example of military equipment that reached legendary status in Modern Greece. Despite the fact that it could fire only one shot at a time, its robustness and lethality made it a favourite weapon of guerilla fighters for 70 years, from the local revolts against the Ottoman Empire to the resistance against the Germans. In fact, the name "Grades" (Γκράδες) entered the Greek language to represent all kinds of rifles and was used in this manner until a few decades ago. The name "gradia" (γκραδιά) meant the shot of a Gras. Also, weak students and people that were not intelligent were often called "Grades" (Γκράδες). The colourised photo above shows guards of a Greek monastery in Mount Athos after having repelled Bulgarian invaders (1913). Some are possibly monks and there is one Gendarme among them. The front row, from left to right, carry Gras rifle, Gras cavalry carbine, two Gras musketoons and Gras rifle, while all three at the back carry Gras rifles.

The Gras is mentioned in numerous works of literature and in folk songs.

Operational History
1877 - Greece purchases about 60,000 Gras rifles from Steyr.
22 March 1886 - Last recorded order (1,000 Gras rifles). In total 129,000 have been bought since 1877 (118,000 infantry rifles, 6,000 artillery musketoons and 4,800 cavalry carbines).
24 Jul. 1923 - At the time of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Greeks have 77,000 Gras rifles & carbines, which corresponds to about 25% of the total number of rifles.
28 Oct. 1940 - At the time of the Italian invasion, the Greeks have 60,000 Gras rifles, which corresponds to about 13% of the total number of rifles.

Specifications Greek Gras infantry rifle, artillery musketoon and cavalry carbine
Greek Gras Mle 1874 infantry rifle

Weight: 4.2 kg
Length: 1.32 m
Barrel Length: 0.82 m
Caliber: 11 mm
Action: Bolt-action
Feed System: Single shot
Muzzle velocity: 450 m/sEvzone of the Royal Guard in ceremonial dress with a Gras infantry rifle (1914)

Greek Gras Mle 1874 artillery musketoon
Weight: 3.3 kg
Length: 0.99 m
Barrel Length: 0.49 m
Caliber: 11 mm
Action: Bolt-action
Feed System: Single shot
Muzzle velocity: 410 m/s

Greek Gras Mle 1874 cavalry carbine
Weight: 3.75 kg
Length: 1.171 m
Barrel Length: 0.72 m
Caliber: 11 mm
Action: Bolt-action
Feed System: Single shot
Muzzle velocity: 430 m/s

For gamers and game designers
At the time of its introduction, the gras was a very potent rifle. Later, it was considered too slow in comparison to more modern rifles. Still, although it could fire only one shot at a time, its 11mm caliber made it particularly lethal.

For modellers
Being a close ally of the French, Greece had tried to order Gras rifles from them, but at the time France was frantically re-arming as a result of the disastrous Franco-Prussian war and could not supply Greece. Then, the Greeks turned to Austrian Steyr for Gras rifles. The Gras rifles produced by Steyr for Greece were identical to the French Gras rifles, with the exception of the left receiver flat that is marked with Styer proofs and the left buttstock that carries a Greek cartouche. The rifle is chambered for the French Mle 1874 Gras cartridge.
The Gras Musketoons are a bit shorter than the rifles and the carbines are practically identical to the French Gras cavalry carbines, but with brass buttplate and barrel bands and turned down bolt handle.

Friday, 5 June 2009

(1938-1941) Dornier Do.22Kg

Do22. Hastily painted and pressed into service.The Do.22 was a German seaplane torpedo bomber that was never used by the Germans and never operated as a torpedo bomber; in fact it was not always a seaplane either. 12 were sold to Greece (Kg variant), 4 to Finland (Kl) and 12 to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (Kj). In Greek service, they were first used in naval convoy escort, anti-submarine patrol, and naval reconnaissance missions, including searching for enemy minefields. Later, nine were fitted with conventional landing gear instead of sea-landing floating system, because the Greeks were desperately short of army cooperation aircraft. They were also expected to be used for night bombing missions against the Italian forces at Tepeleni, but only one such mission was carried out.

Operational History
1938 - 1939 - Greece receives her 12 Do.22.
December 1940 - January 1941 - 9 of the 12 aircraft are fitted with landing gear in Elefsis (KEA) and are assigned to the reconstituted 2nd Observation Squadron to be used in reconnaissance and night bombing missions.
Do22Kg hydroplanes carrying bombs
Apr. 1941 - All but one are destroyed (probably on the ground) by German air raids. A hydroplane escapes to Alexandria, where it serves under British command for a short period of time.

Do22G light bomber/reconnaissance

Crew: 3, pilot, gunner and radio operator
Length: 13.12 m
Wingspan: 16.2 m
Height: 4.83 m
Wing Area: 45 m²
Do22Kg hydroplanes carrying bombs
Weight: Empty 2,545 kg, loaded 4,300 kg
Powerplant: 12cylinder Hispano - Suiza 12Y21 910 hp. 3-flap propeller with automatic pace modulator system
Speed: 355 km/h at 4,000 m, 280 km/h at sea level
Range: 6 hours, (with max. fuel) 1,600 km, (with max. payload) 800 km
Service ceiling: 9,500 m
Armament: front 1x FN-Browning 7,92 mm machine gun with French GSC synchronisation system, plus 1x same type machine gun at the gunner's position. Central bomb rail for 2 x 50 kg or 8 x 15 kg or 1 x 250 kg bomb payload of Greek contruction (American type).
Photographic Camera: F-50
Landing Gear: L Model
Radio: Telefunken 40/70
Oxygen Supply: Made in United States
Do22. Before delivery to the Greek airforce (1938)
Aiming Sight: Wimperis (made in United Kingdom)

For gamers and game designers
The Do.22s are relatively diverse aircraft that can be used for light bombing, convoy escort, night bombing and photographic reconnaissance

For modellers
The Greek Do.22 aircraft took the serial numbers N21 - N32. The ones that were converted with conventional undercarriage started from Σ81.

A model of the Greek Do.22Kg hydroplane variant made by Matt Bittner. The colour should tend more towards silver than grey, but still a great-looking model.
A model of the Greek Do.22Kg hydroplane variant made by Matt Bittner

The following are profiles from an unknown French book. The artist is Daniel Laurelut. The text reads: "Do 22Kg Greek 'N27' based in 12NMS at Paloukia. Like many of the Greek Do22, this one could also be used in land configuration, the undercarriage being interchangeable".

Do22 Kg profiles from a French book

From unknown French source, a profile of a Do.22Kg of 2nd Mira of land cooperation in March-April 1941.

Do22 Kg from March-April 1941