October 10, 2016

The Ships of the Russian Weapons of Victory Series

Four ship stamps were issued in 2013 by the Russian Postal Authority to commemorate weapons that helped contribute to the "Russian" victory in WWII.  

The first stamp in the set depicts the minesweeper Mina.

The Mina was built as a fast coastal minesweeper for the Soviet Russian Navy at Sevastopol.   Completed in the same year construction started she was launched on August 20, 1937. 

Mina's particulars are:
Displacement 410 ton standard, 503 ton full load. Dim. 62.0 x 7.2 x 2.26m (draught); Powered by two 42-BMRN-6 diesel engines producing 2,000 hp; twin shafts; speed 18.5 knots.

Armament 1 – 100mm gun B-24; 1 – 45mm gun 21-K; 3 – 12.7mm MG (Machine Guns); 2 DCR (Depth Charge Racks) (20); 31 mines and sweeps.  The Mina was designed to have a Crew 44

She was delivered to the Russian Navy on August 28, 1938 and served in the Black Sea.  Through the four years of WWII, she sailed 47 000 miles through mine infested waters and was responsible for escorting numerous ships.  Through her service during the war she had come under air attack no less than 300 times.  In July 1944 the Mina was awarded the Order of the Red Banner.

The next stamp features the patrol boat Metel. This ship was constructed in sections that were shipped via train and sent to the Soviet Far East and assembled at the  Dalzavod Shipyard in Vladivostok.

Metel's particlars are: 
Displacement 450 ton standard, 530 ton full load, dim. 71.5 x 7.4 x 2.6m. (draught); Powered by Curtiss geared steam turbines, 6,290 hp, speed 24 knots, economical 14 knots; Range by a speed of 14 knots, 1,200 mile.

Armament 2 – 102mm; 3 – 37mm guns; and 3 – 12.7mm MG.; 3 – 450mm torpedo tubes; 2 – mortars; carried 48 mines and 30 depth charges. Fitted out with mine sweeping equipment.  She had a crew compliment of 108.

Throughout WWII the Metel escorted ships through minefields.  During the battle of Chongjin, in Northern Korea  the ship and crew distinguished themselves through expert fire support shooting down enemy aircraft, destroying an armoured train, taking out enemy coastal batteries and searchlight installations, destroying eight concreted fortifications and gun positions, and causing serious damage to an enemy landing craft.

64 of the Metel's crew were awarded with orders and medals.  Her Captain was conferred with the title "Hero of the Soviet Union".

The river armoured craft BKA-75 is the next stamp in the set.  She was built at Zelenodolsk and completed in December 1941.  

The particulars of the BKA-75 are: 
Displacement: 49.75 standard, 52.16 full load, dim. 25.3 x 4.04 x 0.87m (draught); Powered by engines of 1,800 hp, maximum speed 37.4 km/h, economical speed 23 km/h; Range up to 680 km.

Armament 2 – 76.2mm guns; 2 – 12.7 and 2 – 7.62mm MG. The BKA-75 had a crew 17.

Through out WWII BKA-75 served along side Russian army units and participated in the defence of Stalingrad and worked on the Volga river until September 1943 when she was loaded on a rail car and transported to the Azov Sea.  After suffering serious damage and repairs she joined the Danube Flotilla where she took part in the liberation of: Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria.  She also particpated in the liberation of Belgrade.

The last stamp in this set displays the gunboat Usyskin.  Orinally built as a paddle steamer tug for service on rivers, she was converted to a gun boat in July 1941. 

The Usyskin's particulars are: 
Displacement 400 tons, dim. 56.4 x 17.1 x 1.2m;
One 480 hp steam engine , speed 8.5 knots.

Armament: 2 – 45mm guns; 1 – 7.62mm MG.

The Usyskin participated in the defence of Stalingrad as a unit in the Volga River Flotilla.  In February of 1943 she received the Order of the Red Banner.

In April of 1943 the Usyskin was severely damaged as a result of a mine.  In July 1943, she was converted back to a tug.


October 04, 2016

Celebrating Peacekeeping

Peacekeeping is the maintenance of peace by an armed force.  This is usually done in the context of a United Nations peacekeeping mission. It is an honourable task and in 2012, Japan commemorated peacekeeping by issuing the below stamps.

UN peacekeeping began in 1948 and since then there have been 69 UN Peacekeeping Operations.  

The Austrian State Opera and Theater houses

Issued by Austria in 2005 the country of Austria celebrated the 50th Anniversaries of the reopening of their national opera and theater houses. 

The Opera House
Construction on the state opera house commenced in 1861 based on a design by August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nüll.  Built by the renowned architect and builder Josef Hlavka, the opera house was finally finished in 1869.  The opera house is pictured in the stamp on the right in the souvenir sheet above.  It was extensively damaged during World War II and completion of the renovations and reconstruction was finished in 1955.  
The National Theater
Featured on the left stamp in the above souvenir sheet is the Austrian National Theater.  One of the most important German language theaters in the world, it opened in 1888 and was designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer.  As with the opera house, it was extensively damaged during World War II.

Law 2 - The Ball

When I was younger and much more in shape I was a soccer (football) referee.  On top of being great exercise and fun, there was the memorization of the 17 laws of the game.  This blog post will focus on Law 2 - The Ball.
Law 2 states that the ball must be:
  • spherical
  • made of leather or another suitable material
  • have a circumference of not more than 70 cm and not less than 68cm
  • At the start of the match it cannot weigh more than 450 g and not less than 410 g
  • have a pressure of not more than 0.6 - 1.1 atmospheres.
Other considerations on Law 2 are that should the ball become defective during a match, the match will be restarted by a drop ball at the location where the original ball became defective.  
If it became defective at a penalty or kicks from the mark, the penalty  will be retaken.  
If the ball becomes defective during a restart the ball is replaced and the game restarted accordingly.
I have to say in my 16+ years as a referee I have never had to replace a defective ball, many that were lost on roads and highways, but none as a result of becoming defective during the game. 
From a topical perspective there are plenty of stamps that have been issued with soccer balls appearing on them. Below are some more.

September 12, 2016

The Battle of Shaykan

Commemorated by Sudan in 1984 the Battle of Saykan was fought between the forces of Egypt and Sudan and was part of the Mahdist War.

Also referred to as the Battle of El Obeid it was fought on the plains near the town of El Obeid.

The main commanders of the forces were "Billy" Hicks in charge of the Egyptian forces and Mohammed  Ahmed, the Mahdi commanding the Sudanese forces.

At the time it was estimated that the Sudanese forces numbered around 40,000 Sudanese warrior although this number was probably exaggerated.  The Egyptian forces numbered around 11,100. The majority of this force were Egyptian soldiers that were recently released from prison and didn't have their hearts in the fight.

The Egyptian government had heard that Ahmed and his forces were laying siege to the Egyptian town of El Obeid and decided that he must be captured.  Despite warnings against this plan by Hicks, the operation got under way.

While in transit, El Obeid had fallen to the Madhist forces, but the Egptians continued on to relieve their governor in Darfur. According to Winston Churchill the Egyptian forces were "perhaps the worst army that has ever marched to war".

Through mistake or on purpose the guides leading the Egyptian forces were led astray and soon found themselves surrounded.

At this point the regulars started to desert and on November 3rd the Sudanese forces began the attack.  The Egyptian forces formed a square and some reports state that they persevered for up to 2 days.

500 of the Egyptian troops surrendered and were later freed, all the officers who were mainly European were killed.



September 04, 2016

György Dózsa

Stamp issued in 1972 by Hungary
György Dózsa was a  Székely man-at-arms from Transylvania who led a peasants uprising against the Kingdom of Hungary's Nobility in the 1500s.  

He was born in 1470 during the Hungary's war with the Ottoman Empire and grew up to become a soldier of fortune who was well known for his valour. 

In 1514, under the direction of the Hungarian Chancellor, Dózsa was asked to put together an army to fight the Ottomans.  He raised an army of 40,000 mostly peasants, students, priests and friars.  At the conclusion of the training his army started complaining about their status and the treatment they were receiving at the hands of the nobility.  

As a result the nobility started to treat their families poorly and placed retainers on their return to reap the crops that were due to be harvested.  This combined with the nobilities lack of military leadership led to to Dózsa's army to lead a war of revenge against the nobility.

Dózsa was successful and on all accounts seemed to operate honourably and with the exception of those nobles who were extremely greedy he rarely tried to execute those he captured.  His primary concern was his lack of control over his followers.

His successes were becoming a bigger problem for the King and  his capture was a necessity.  This was accomplished at Temesvár.  After his capture Dózsa was tortured and killed.  


August 15, 2016

the Battle of the Saintes

In 1975 the postal authority of the island of Barbuda issued a set of four stamps commemorating the Battle of the Saintes. The stamps were issued on the 30th of May, 1975 and are perforated 13.5 x 14.

This was an important naval battle that was fought between the British under Admiral Sir George Rodney and the French under the Comte de Grasse between April 9th, 1782 and April 12th, 1782, during the Anglo-French War. The Battle was fought off the Island of Dominica and was named after the group of islands between Gaudeloupe and Dominica which were collectively known as the "Saintes".

This battle was important to the British forces as the fleet was responsible for the blockade of Yorktown and was responsible in part for the British surrender.  With the British surrender at Yorktown, the next phase of the French/Spanish plan was to invade Jamaica.

On April 7, 1782 the French left Martinique to rendezvous with 12 Spanish ships of the line and to embark 15,000 troops.  On hearing this Admiral Rodney left in pursuit of the French fleet the next day.

April 9th saw the British fleet catch the French fleet and the two sides sailed in line for the next few days while repairing damage to their respective ships.

At 7:40 am on the 12th, the British began to engage the French fleet and the two sides engaged each other in broadsides.  Due to shifting winds, the British ships broke the line and delivered a devastating attack on the French fleet.  Eventually with the French fleet in disarray, the Ville de Paris, struck her colours and the Comte de Grasse surrendered to the British.

Ships of the Line.
The strength of the British fleet was 36 ships of the line, the French fleet consisted of 33 ships of the line.
H.M.S. Ramillies.
 At the conclusion of the battle the total casualties for the British were 243 dead and 816 wounded with no loss of ships.  In contrast the French suffered 3,000 dead or wounded. 5,000 captured, 4 ships of the line captured and 1 destroyed.

Bonhomme Richard firing broadside. 
As a result of the loss, the French/Spanish plan to invade Jamaica was ruined and British dominance of the seas was again re-established.  

The French ship of the line L'Orient burning.