Portuguese Field Gun

Near the entrance to the Military Museum in Funchal, Madeira was an example of a Portuguese Field Gun from the pre-First World War and inter-war period.

It appears to be a 75mm Schneider-Canet Model 1904 Field Gun, examples of which were used by the Portuguese Army for many years. 144 of these 75mm calibre Field Guns were delivered to Portugal, and they had a barrel length of 2.35m. The weighed 1,077kg and could fire a 6kg shell 6.0km.


The Madeiran Revolt of 1931

During my recent visit to the Military Museum in Funchal, Madeira, I became aware of an event that I had never previously heard about, the revolt that took place on Madeira in 1931.

On my return home I did some research, and I think that this small conflict would appeal to anyone with an interest in the period of history between the First and Second World Wars, and particularly those who like wargame the Spanish Civil War and the imaginary Very British Civil War.

The revolt has several names. It is referred to as the Revolt of Madeira, the Island Revolt or the Revolt of the Deported, and it came about as a reaction against the military dictatorship that had taken control in Portugal. It began with the so-called Flour Revolt, which resulted from measures taken by the National Dictatorship to cope with the impact of the Great Depression. On 26th January, 1931, the state took control over the import of foreign grain – which it suspended – and almost immediately the price of flour – and thus bread – rose.

Unemployment was already high on Madeira, and the increase in bread prices made a bad situation worse. There were a number of strikes and riots, and several mills were attacked. The situation eventually calmed down, and things seemed to return to normal, but in response to the unrest the National Dictatorship sent a Special Delegate of the Government of the Republic – Colonel Feliciano António da Silva Leal – and a small military force to the island.

Since coming to power the National Dictatorship had been exiling some of its main military and civilian opponents to Madeira, including General Sousa Dias, Colonels Fernando Freiria and José Mendes dos Reis, and former government minister Manuel Gregório Pestana Júnior. Early on the morning of 4th April, 1931, junior officers of the newly arrived force, headed by Lieutenant Doctor Manuel Ferreira Camões, began arresting senior leaders loyal to the Lisbon Government and occupying public buildings in Funchal. Within a very short time a Revolutionary Board – presided over by General Sousa Dias – was set up with the declared aim of restoring the constitution that had been suspended following the Revolution of May 28th, 1926. This revolt had a great deal of popular support, and even spread to the Azores, Portuguese Guinea, Mozambique and São Tomé, although it was quickly suppressed in the latter two colonies.

The revolt was supported by members of the Paris League, which was made up of First Republic politicians, most of whom had been exiled to Paris. They hoped that these revolts would be the precursors of a general revolt throughout Portugal that would lead to the overthrow of the National Dictatorship and their return to power.

This was not to be, and when the revolt did not spread as expected the National Dictatorship acted to put down the revolt on Madeira. In taking this action they were supported by countries such as the United Kingdom, whose government felt that the undemocratic National Dictatorship was more representative of the feelings of the Portuguese population in general than the supposedly democratic former government of the First Republic.

Although the Portuguese Navy was almost non-existent, the Minister of the Navy – Commander Magalhães Correia – quickly organised an invasion fleet of requisitioned merchant ships. Accompanied by such units of the Portuguese Navy that were available, this fleet embarked some of the better trained and equipped units of the Portuguese Armed Forces (including a number of seaplanes, which were carried aboard the extemporised seaplane carrier, SS Cubango) and set sail on 24th April, 1931.

Two days later the invasion force arrived off Madeira, and after an unsuccessful attempt to land at Caniçal, troops went ashore at the tip of São Lourenço on 27th April. After seven days of fighting the Loyalist troops – led by Colonel Fernando Broges – had captured Machico and – despite the destruction of several major bridges by the rebels – had advance on Funchal. This was is no small part due to local supporters of the government, who provided transport and guides to the invaders.

By 2nd May it was obvious that the revolt on Madeira had failed, and many of the rebels sought sanctuary aboard the British cruiser HMS London, which had been sent to the island to protect British nationals living there. Not wishing to antagonise the National Dictatorship government, the British handed over General Sousa Dias and more than a hundred rebel soldiers to the Portuguese authorities, who punished them be sending them to Cape Verde. Four days later the revolt in Portuguese Guinea collapsed.

The invasion fleet sent by the National Dictatorship to invade Madeira included:

  • The seaplane carrier Cubango (a cargo ship transformed into a seaplane carrier)
  • Two auxiliary cruisers/armed merchantmen
  • Two transport ships
  • Four naval trawlers
  • The coastal defence ship/cruiser Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama.

  • Vouga, a Guadiana-class destroyer

A Guadiana-class destroyer.

  • Three gunboats

Of the warships, only the destroyer was relatively modern (its design dated back to the First World War), the Vasco da Gama being an obsolete, re-built ironclad corvette. (She had been built by Thames Iron Works on the River Thames in 1887 and re-built in 1901-03 in Livorno, Italy, to be a coastal defence ship or cruiser. She served as the flagship of the Portuguese Navy until she was scrapped in 1935.) It is also worth noting that the Vouga sank as a result of a collision with the one of the transport ships, the Pedro Gomes.

Pedro Gomes.

During the interwar period the Portugese Army wore the uniforms it had worn during the First World War. These were styled after the uniform worn by the British Army, but made from material that was Horizon Blue in colour.

A First World War Portuguese Infantryman with bicycle.
(Photograph taken in the Lisbon Military Museum.)

Portuguese troops marching towards the front during the First World War.
(Photograph taken in the Lisbon Military Museum.)

China’s Wars

Besides the large quantity of Hexon II hexes he passed on to me on Sunday, David Crook also gave me a book … CHINA’S WARS: ROUSING THE DRAGON 1894-1949 by Philip Jowett.

This book was published by Osprey in 2013 (ISBN 978 1 78200 407 3) and is divided into the following sections:

  • The Sleeping Dragon
  • Chapter 1: Brutal Awakening 1894-1911
  • Chapter 2: Revolution 1911-20
  • Chapter 3: High Warlordism 1920-28
  • Chapter 4: Undeclared Conflict 1928-37
  • Chapter 5: Full-Scale War 1937-41
  • Chapter 6: World War in the East 1941-45
  • Chapter 7: Red Victory 1946-49
  • Bibliography
  • Index

I have yet to read this book, but looking through it reminded me that the first ever article I wrote for the old WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER was about a solo battle I fought between Chinese and Japanese forces. It also struck me that the fighting that took place during the inter-war period is an ideal setting for a mini-campaign … or even a series of mini-campaigns.

Something else for me to think about over the coming weeks and months!

My latest book acquisition

Some time ago – and well before I took part in a re-fight of the Battle of Warsaw last May – pre-ordered a copy of ARMIES OF THE RUSSO-POLISH WAR 1919-21. The book was published very recently, and my copy arrived in the post this afternoon.

The book was been written by Dr Nigel Thomas and illustrated by Adam Hook, and it is No.497 in Osprey’s Men-at-Arms series (ISBN 978 1 4728 0106 7). As one has come to expect from titles in this series, it sets the war in context, it describes the military organisations of the states involved in the fighting, it gives a brief history of the war, and it describes the uniforms worn by the forces involved in the fighting. It also contains eight pages of colour plates that illustrate the uniforms that were worn during the war.

All-in-all this looks like being a very useful addition to my bookshelves.

My Hungarian World War II army … and other ‘finds’

Inside a file box that I found in one of the crates that was in the shed was a small Hungarian World War II army.

I created this army at a time when I was considering using Frank Chadwick’s COMMAND DECISION rules, and they represent a Hungarian Infantry Regiment with some supporting artillery. In the end I never used the rules, and the figures went into storage … although I have vague memories of having lent them to another wargamer for a time.

The figures were originally Spanish Civil War infantry that were sculpted by the late Dave Allsop. I modified some of them so that I could field heavy machine guns, machine gun crews, and gunners . I also scratch-built a field gun and a light anti-tank gun, which I used as masters from which I was able to create a silicon rubber mould.

The bases are looking a little ‘sad’, but I think that it will be possible to rebase the figures so that I can use them for my Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War project.

I have also made some other ‘finds’ during the great sort out. These include a number of 1960s/1970s-era pre-assembled and painted model British military vehicles manufactured and sold by Denzil Skinner …

… and a complete hard plastic 1920s/1930s-era wargames army created with figures from Fijumi, trucks from an unknown model railways supplier, artillery tractors scratch-built from Airfix US half-tracks, light tanks scratch-built from various bit and pieces, and artillery scratch-built from Airfix Napoleonic field guns and a Napoleonic board game.

The Battle of Warsaw, 1920: Some photographs

Unfortunately I was only able to take photographs of the tabletop at the end of the battle, but I hope that the following images will give regular blog readers a flavour of the wargame.

The Soviet XVI Army (commanded by Alan Buddles) pushing towards Warsaw’s main line of defences.

Polish armour and artillery.

The only Soviet breakthrough was achieved by units from Soviet III Army. The Soviet cavalry seen at the top right of the photograph were the only Soviet troops to penetrate the Polish defences around Warsaw … but they were too little, too late.

Soviet XVI Army’s traction engine-drawn heavy siege artillery. Their arrival on the battlefield was delayed due to the action of Polish partisans … or was it due to Soviet inefficiency or reactionary sabotage. No doubt a post-battle interrogation of the artillery’s commander will arrive at the truth. 

Polish aircraft played a vital role in the gathering of information about the location of the Soviet forces.

Polish armour, infantry, and artillery in action.

The Battle of Warsaw, 1920

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a part in a wargame about the the Battle of Warsaw, 1920, and it was the first wargame I have fought in quite some time!

The wargame was one of the regular ones organised by the Jockey’s Field Irregulars. The Irregulars are a group of wargamers who meet once a month in central London, and the total membership is probably somewhere in the thirties. Some ‘members’ go to every session whilst others (like me) go as and when they can. The average turn-out per session is between ten and fifteen, and yesterday there were just ten of us.

The wargame was set up by Ian Drury, with the assistance of Richard Brooks (whose OP14 rules were being used) and Alex Kleanthous (who provided the venue and who helped set out the large gridded battlefield). I volunteered to take on the role of the Russian commander, Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, and I was very ably supported by three subordinate commanders:

  • Nick Drage (Commanding part of IV Army and XV Army)
  • Chris Ager (Commanding III Army)
  • Alan Buddles (Commanding XVI Army)

The Poles were under the command of John Bassett, and his capitalist underlings were Phil Steele, Alex Kleanthous, and Nigel Drury.

From my point of view it was a great game. I sat in my HQ in ‘Moscow’ (in actual fact a rather pleasant office … once we managed to get the air conditioning to work!) with my maps and a signal pad, sending orders to my subordinates. They commanded their troops on the tabletop … and I am very pleased to state that they were very diligent in keeping me as up-to-date with the situation around Warsaw as the primitive communications allowed. (Written messages were passed to and fro via the umpire and often took many hours of gameplay to arrive.)

The end result was close … but it was obvious that the Russians were about to be pushed back, even though they had managed to reach Warsaw’s outer defences in one sector. What was particularly pleasing was the fact that what I had plotted on my maps was not too far from the situation I saw on the tabletop when the wargame ended.

The participants. From left to right: Alex Kleanthous, Phil Steele, Richard Brooks (Umpire), Nigel Drury, Nick Drage, Chris Ager, Ian Drury (Umpire), and Alan Buddles (who is almost completely obscured). Missing are John Bassett and me.

My thanks go to Ian Drury for organising this wargame, to Alex Kleanthous for providing the venue, to Richard Brooks for writing such an excellent set of rules, and to all the other participants. It was an excellent day … and I am already looking forward to the next one that I can go to.