Fighting of Film: The Long and the Short and the Tall (1961) with Robert Lyman

This week we follow a British sonic deception unit on a doomed patrol through the Malayan jungle. Richard Todd, Laurence Harvey and Richard Harris clash as morale crumbles and questions arise over what to do with a captured Japanese prisoner. We’re joined by the brilliant historian Robert Lyman to discuss what the film gets right and wrong. Load up your mules, straighten your webbing, adjust your radio set and join us for a special look at 1961’s The Long and the Short and the Tall.

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

Ukraine’s Wooden Guns

Recently there’s been lots of reports about Ukraine’s defence volunteers training with wooden guns. 

While this plays on the David & Goliath nature of current Crisis in Ukraine it isn’t without precedent. There is a long historical precedent for recruits and soldiers training with dummy guns going back hundreds of years. 

Ukraine’s Territorial defence battalions were originally formed in March 2014 and since the crisis began there has been a refocus on them with Ukraine’s government announcing plans, in January 2022, to form 150 battalions in 25 brigades. The Territorial Defense Force allows civilians to become part-time members of the Ukrainian military, training in evenings and at weekends. 

Members of the Ukrainian Territorial Defence Force training with wooden rifles

So why are some of the volunteers seen training with wooden rifles? One thing Ukraine isn’t short of is small arms with an estimated ten million state- and civilian-owned firearms. The Ukrainian government has decided that members of the Territorial Defence Force will only be given weapons the duration of drills or defensive operations in the event of war. This means that many will have to arm themselves while this isn’t a problem for those with privately owned firearms. It is estimated that there are a roughly 5 million firearms in civilian hands, though only a fraction of these are registered.  

Those who don’t have weapons are handed wooden dummy rifles. Some airsoft rifles have also been seen in media coverage of the units.

US recruits drilling with wooden rifles c.1917 (US National Archives)

Wooden dummy rifles are more than adequate for safely learning basic drills and getting use to holding and moving with a weapon. Historically, this has been seen countless times. Here we can see American recruits training with dummy rifles in 1917, In 1940 British Home Guard drilled with broomsticks, more recently Afghan security forces were often initially trained with wooden rifles and in South Sudan training with wooden rifles has also been seen. Even in more advanced militaries training with dummy rifles is common with rubber rifles often used in basic training. 

While considered light infantry the training of the Territorial Defense Force is rudimentary and while some media reports have discussed them acting as partisans behind enemy lines they are principally planned to be used to guard important positions in their local areas. 

U.S. Sailors assigned to Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia conduct a mock reconnaissance patrol Nov. 9, 2013 (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Caine Storino)

To be remotely effective the volunteers will need some proper firearms training in weapons handling, drills and the basics of marksmanship. The ad hoc nature of the localised training and the current lack of government issued small arms makes this sort of essential training difficult to organise.

Check out our earlier videos on the Western military aid being sent to Ukraine.

Update (26/02/22):

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy has given an update on the number of small arms distributed saying some 25,000 rifles have been distributed to TDF volunteers across Ukraine.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:


In Ukraine, the Formation of Units of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is Accelerating, Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, (source)

Government to Xreate 150 Territorial Defense Battalions, Kyiv Independent (source)

Guns in Ukraine, Gun Policy, (source)

Ukraine’s Citizen-Soldiers Train to Fight in Case of Russian Invasion, French24, (source)

Ukraine’s ‘territorial defense’ Trains Civilians Against Possible Hitches Amid Tensions, AA, (source)

Ukrainians are Training in Civil Defense, Just in Case, PBS, (source)

Civilians Flock to Defend Ukraine as Russia Tensions Mount, The FT, (source)

Lviv Residents are Learning to Shoot: Training Began with Public Utilities and City Council Officials, Radio Liberty, (source)

59-year-old Grandmother Trains with Ukraine’s Home Guard as Everyday People Take Up Arms, NY Post, (source)

Ukraine Readies for Insurgency as Russia Prepares for Possible War, NBC, (source)

A Generous Donation to the TAB Reference Collection

I was recently contacted by Nigel a viewer who very generously offered some items from his late father’s collection. They’re now part of the ever-growing TAB Reference Collection, I’m honoured to look after them and share them with you in some future videos.

The items include infantry training manuals for the Bren, SLR and a section commander’s aide Memoire.

Nigel’s dad, Peter, was an avid collector of military items having served three years with The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) before joining the Royal Marines. After 12 years with the Royal Marines he later volunteered with the Royal Marine Cadets.

My thanks to Nigel for sharing some of his dad’s collection, they’ll be well looked after as part of the TAB Reference Collection. Check out more videos on items from the collection here.

Fighting On Film: The PIAT In Film

This week we have a very special episode where we tap into a topic close to Matt’s heart, the PIAT. Matt wrote a book about the PIAT, or Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank, in 2020 and continues to research its history. One of the most interesting aspects of the PIAT is its unique cultural history, having been portrayed in a plethora of films spanning over 70 years. Most famously it was heralded, literally, when Anthony Hopkins as Lt. Colonel Frost in A Bridge Too Far shouted ‘BRING UP THE PIAT!‘ A line which has become iconic. But there’s so much more to the PIAT’s onscreen career!

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the films:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

The SMAW-D In Ukraine

In recent days, with the news that a shipment of M141 SMAW-D anti-structure weapons have arrived in Ukraine as part of the US military aid shipments, a number of media articles and videos have been made on the subject which seem to confuse the SMAW-D with the AT-4 and even the M72. So, I thought it would be useful to take a look at the SMAW-D in a little detail. 

M141 (SMAW-D) (US Army Manual)

So What is the SMAW-D?  

Its official designation is ‘Rocket and Launcher, 83mm HEDP Bunker Defeat Munition (BDM), M141 (SMAW-D)’ SMAW-D stands for Shoulder-Launched Multi-Purpose Assault Weapon-Disposable. This isn’t to be confused with the Mk 153 Shoulder-Launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon used by the US Marine Corps. Those the SMAW-D did evolve from the SMAW.

Originally developed by McDonnell Douglas the design was acquired by Talley Defense Systems, whom were subsequently acquired by Norwegian company Nammo. Development began in the early 1980s and the system was adopted by the US Marine Corps as the Mk 153 in 1984.

M141 (SMAW-D) (US Army Manual)

The Mk 153 has a reusable forward launch tube and firing mechanism which has a spotting rifle and can be mounted with an optic. The warhead element of the SMAW is attached at the rear of the launcher. The US Army was initially interested in the Mk153 but preferred a lighter, single use weapon.

A Marine fires a Mk 153 SMAW (USMC/Cpl. Drew Tech)

In the early 1990s the US Army began the search for a disposable Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon. McDonnell Douglas offered a lighter, disposable version of the Mk 153, taking the Mk 153’s High Explosive, Dual Purpose warhead and pairing it with shorter burn rocket. In 1996 the US Army selected the SMAW-D, beating a Swedish design, the FFV AT8, and the Hunting Engineering LAW80.

US Army advisor demonstrates how to deploy the M141 (Ukraine MoD)

The SMAW-D is similar to the 66mm M72 in that it telescopes with the launch tube extended before firing. When collapsed it measures just under 32 inches in length but extending the inner tube gives the weapon an overall length of 55 inches. The launch tube and rocket weigh 15.7 lbs.

The tube has the firing mechanism mounted on the side under a plastic cover which when opened arms the rocket ready to fire. The weapon has front and rear iron sights for aiming. The SMAW-D can also be fitted with an AN/PVS-4 nightsight and various infrared aiming lasers for night fighting.

Ukrainian soldiers fire M141 BDMs (Ukrainian MoD)

To fire the M141 the operator removes the locking pin from the front of the launch tube, depresses the tube release button and extends the inner tube rearward. The operator then raises the weapon onto the right shoulder, slides the front sight cover forward and then the same for the rear sight. Then opening the firing mechanism cover pivoting it forward, flush with the tube, this arms the weapon. The operator should then check the backlist area and fire when ready by depressing the safety button and then the red trigger button. The rocket is ignited by an electrical impulse sent by the firing mechanism. Once ignited the rocket burns out before it leaves the muzzle, this protects the operator.

M141 (SMAW-D) (US Army Manual)

The M141 can engage targets out to 500 metres but is most effective out to 300. Its 83mm unguided, fin-stabilised round has an integral high-explosive, dual-mode warhead with 2.38 lbs of explosive. Detonation is instantaneous when impacting on a hard target, such as a brick or concrete wall, or an armored vehicle. Impact with a softer target, such as a sandbagged bunker, results in a fuze time delay that permits the rocket to penetrate into the target before warhead detonation. It can penetrate up to 200mm (8 inches) of concrete, 300mm (12 inches) of brick and 2m (6 feet 6.74 inches) of earth or sandbags. It can also perforate up to 20mm (0.8 inches) of rolled homogenous steel giving the SMAW-D the ability to take on soft and light armoured vehicles. For training at the range a 21mm sub calibre training system can be used. While the usefulness of the M141 might be questioned, as it isn’t an anti-tank weapon and could be considered more of an offensive rather than defensive weapon it would no doubt prove very useful during urban fighting, which Ukraine anticipates in the event of an invasion.

The SMAW-D saw service with the US Army during the War in Afghanistan and during the Iraq War. Some 6,000 units were initially procured, with an unknown number procured since. It remains an active part of Nammo’s product line. 

Airmen and civilians from the 436th Aerial Port Squadron palletize ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine during a foreign military sales mission at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Jan. 21, 2022. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mauricio Campino)

It is estimated that perhaps 100 M141 BDMs have been shipped to Ukraine so far as part of military aid, alongside small arms and ammunition, Javelin Anti-Tank Guided Missiles and NLAW anti-tank weapons from the UK. From the US Department of Defense’s packaging configuration table for the SMAW-D we know that each metal container holds one round and that 25 containers can be placed on a pallet. This appears to match up to the photos of the weapons being prepared for shipment. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence and media have shared photographs of Ukrainian personnel training with M141s under the supervision of US troops. The training took place over two days at the 184th Training Center and the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security of the National Ground Forces Academy. These personnel will likely be tasked with then training other Ukrainian units on how to use the weapon. 

M141/SMAW-D Specifications:

Length(extended/ready to fire): 1,371mm (54.8inches)
Length(closed/carry): 792mm (31.8inches)
Weight(ready to fire): 7.12 kilograms (15.7 pounds)
Rocket muzzle velocity: 217 meters per second (712 feet per second)
Rocket diameter:83mm (3.26 inches)
Minimum arming range: 15 meters
Maximum effective range: 300 meters
Maximum range: 500 meters


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography: 

FM 3-23.25 Shoulder-Launched Munitions, 2006, US Army

Bunker Defeat Munition (BDM), Nammo, (source)

M141 Training, Ukraine Ministry of Defence, (source)

M141 Training, Ukraine Land Forces, (source)

Thank you to Amael for sharing some of the documents and manuals used to make this video.

Footage/Imagery: 

Marines fire SMAW, have a blast, USMC, (source)

Dover supports strategic partnership with Ukraine, US Air Force, (source)

Dover AFB supports US, Ukraine strategic partnership, US Air Force, (source)

Sadr City 2008 SMAW D, Gold 5 Publishing, (source)
SMAW-D (AT-4) fired in combat Sadr City, Iraq, Bowen11b, (source)

Fighting On Film: The Enemy Below (1957)

This week we take a look at the Dick Powell-directed naval thriller The Enemy Below. Starring Robert Mitchum as the commander of a destroyer hunting Curt Jürgens’ U-Boat during a cat and mouse battle. Tension ramps as the captain pit their wits against one another. Based on a novel by based on the 1956 novel by Denys Rayner, a Royal Navy veteran of the Battle of the Atlantic, The Enemy Below is an engaging classic of the naval war film genre with some strong performances from its leading men and Oscar winning special effects.

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

Improvised Bazooka Mine

I recently came across an interesting segment in a January 1945 US Army Combat Bulletin newsreel. It showed men of B Company of the 238th Combat Engineers setting up improvised anti-tank mines in Belgium. The mines were fashioned from Bazooka rockets!

A still from Combat Bulletin #39 showing an engineer from the 238th Combat Engineer Battalion setting up an improvised off route rocket mine on a fence post (US Army)

This is a relatively little-known application for the Bazooka’s rockets but a really interesting field expediency. The footage shows engineers cutting the cardboard tubes the Bazooka’s rockets were carried in, down and attaching them to a fence post. Essentially setting up an off-route mine or IED. The engineers run a wire back to cover for remote detonation with some batteries. 

Diagram showing how the rocket could be buried (1944 US Army field manual)

While these seems quite ad hoc it was a secondary use for the Rocket Launcher’s ammunition which was laid down in the Bazooka’s 1944 basic field manual. It doesn’t appear in the 1943 technical manual for the M1A1 launcher at all but the 1944 manual explains that 

“In addition to its use as a projectile when fired from the launcher, the rocket may be prepared for firing electrically and used as an improvised anti-tank mine.”

Diagram showing the transport packing and transit cannister tube for the M6 Rocket, the tube could be used as a makeshift launch tube (US Army)

This improvised method of use was also demonstrated in a training film for the Rocket Launcher, a Bazooka team are seen digging a pit in a road and burying a rocket in its makeshift launcher just as laid down in the manual. The training film explains it best…

A still from the 1943 US Army training film for the Bazooka, demonstrating the setting up of an improvised rocket mine (US Army)

The 238th Combat Engineer battalion fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received a commendation from Major General Matthew B. Ridgeway, commander of XVIII Corps, for helping to establish a line of defence against the German offensive. The commendation read: 

“The work of the 238th Engineer Combat Battalion in the construction of the initial barrier in the vicinity of Manhay was outstanding and materially assisted the Corps in holding off the attack of the enemy in that area.”

Illustration from a 238th Combat Engineer Battalion Association book showing knocked out German tanks around Grandmenil (238th Combat Engineer Battalion Association)

Whether this technique of improvising a mine from the rockets was used during the battle is unclear but I found the footage of the engineers demonstrating the set up fascinating. Its always interesting to see suggestions from manuals and training films put into action in the field so I was excited to come across this footage. 


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

238th Combat Engineer Battalion Association (source)

The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, H.C. Cole, 1965, (source)

Footage:

The Anti-Tank Rocket M6” 1943 US Army Training Film; M1 & M1A1 Bazookas, War Department

Combat Bulletin No.39, War Department

Fighting On Film: Go Tell The Spartans (1978)

This week we take to the jungles of Vietnam as Burt Lancaster commands an embattled MAAG unit advising their South Vietnamese allies. Set in 1964, and based on war correspondent Daniel Ford’s novel Incident at Muc Wa. Go Tell The Spartans offers an interesting look at an early period of the Vietnam War that we don’t often get to see. Directed by Ted Post and staring Craig Wasson, Jonathan Goldsmith, Marc Singer, Joe Unger, Evan C. Kim and James Hong.

If you haven’t listened to our episode on another little-known Vietnam War film, The Siege of Firebase Gloria, join us here.

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!

The 2B25: Russia’s Silent Spigot Mortar

Recently there have been a number of defence media articles about Russia’s new ‘silent’ mortar. It’s often described as cutting edge technology but in reality it’s based on technology over 100 years old. 

The Russian 2B25 82mm mortar is in fact a spigot mortar. What is a spigot mortar? Unlike a conventional mortar which uses gravity acting on the bomb dropped into the tube striking the anvil or striker at the base of the tube detonating the propellant cartridge in the bomb and launching the mortar bomb. A spigot mortar alters this principle, instead using a spigot or metal rod onto which a bomb with a hollow tail is placed. The bomb’s tail then becomes the element which contains the pressure from the detonated propellant charge rather than the tube as in a conventional mortar. The 2B25’s bomb has a plug at at the base of the propellant cartridge which when fired is pushed down the bomb’s tail tube by the expanding propellant gases – essentially acting as a piston. The plug is prevented from leaving the tube by a constriction at the tube’s end. This captures the gases and reduces the report of the mortar.

The 2B25 82mm Mortar (CRI Burevestnik/Russian Army)

Perhaps the most famous spigot mortars are the Blacker Bombard and PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) of world war two. I wrote a book about the PIAT a couple of years ago so the 2B25 really interests me as a niche application of the same technology!

Spigot mortars have a number of benefits and drawbacks which set them apart from conventional mortars, including a shorter range and slower rate of fire than conventional mortars, but the advantages primarily seized upon is their reduced sound signature and lighter weight. The ignition of the propellant cartridge against the spigot, inside the bomb’s tail tube removes visible flash and is much quieter than a conventional mortar which. The 2B25 optimises this by enclosing the bomb inside a light weight tube to further reduce the visual and audio signatures of the weapon firing even further.

Why is this important and why are ‘silent’ mortars useful? With a reduced signature on the battlefield the chances of effective counter-battery fire are reduced enabling the mortar fire to be more effective and sustained. The developers claim that the 2B25 is about as loud as AK fitted with a PBS-1 suppressor, about 135db, substantially quieter than a standard mortar.

The patent for the 2B25’s bomb, filed in August 2011 and published in February 2013, states:

“proposed shell comprises main part and tail. Tail case accommodates propellant charge and combination piston with initiator. Shell is composed of detachable sealed screw assembly of tail and main part. Tail is furnished with fin. Tail charge chamber accommodates multi-section propellant to be implemented in various versions.”

Patent diagram of the 2B25’s self-contained piston bomb (Russian Patent #2494337)

The 2B25 first began to appear in western media back in 2018 but the design dates back to at least the early 2010s. Developed by the central research institute Burevestnik, it is manned by a two man team and can be transported in a backpack. Officially released data for the mortar suggests it has a maximum range of 1,200 metres with a rate of fire of perhaps 15 rounds per minute. It is reportedly equipped with a standard MPM-44M optical mortar sight.

The mortar appears to be of a fixed spigot design with a firing pin running inside the spigot. This means that unlike the PIAT the 2B25’s spigot does not move. Once the bomb is slid into the mortar tube, down onto the spigot, the operator pulls a handle at the base of the weapon downwards to cock the weapon and then pushing it up to fire it. 

The 2B25 82mm Mortar (CRI Burevestnik)

The mortar’s baseplate is said to be made of an aluminium alloy with the whole weapon weighing 13kg or 28.6lbs. The mortar’s 3VO35 bomb itself weights 3.3kg and has a 1.9kg warhead.

Both Russian and western media reports have stated that the weapon has been delivered to the Russian armed forces with some suggesting it was in use by “special-purpose units”, possibly Spetsnaz 

The 2B25 certainly isn’t the only modern spigot mortar in service, others include the Fly-K from Rheinmetall. Personally, I find it fascinating that spigot-based weapons still have a place on the battlefield, albeit a niche one.


If you enjoyed this video and article please consider supporting our work here. We have some great perks available for Patreon Supporters – including custom stickers and early access to videos! Thank you for your support!


Bibliography:

82mm 2B25 Mortar, CRI Burevstnik, (source)

Mortar Silent Shot, Russian Patent, RU2494337, 16 Aug. 2011, (source)

Mortar 2B25 “Gall” No noise and flash, TopWar, 26 Sept. 2018, (source)

Advanced Silent Mortars Start Arriving for Russian Army, Tass, 7 May 2019, (source)

Russian-made 2B25 “Gull” Silent Mortar will be Modernized in the Imminent Future, Army Recognition, 13 Nov. 2015, (source)

Russian Commandos Are Getting “Silent” Mortars, The Drive, 7 Sept. 2018, (source)

Footage:

Silent Killer: Test Footage of the Latest Mortar for Special Forces, Zvezda, 25 Dec. 2015, (source)

2B25 Silent Mortar, Rosoboronexport, 24 Nov. 2021, (source)

82mm Mortar Silent 2B25, Russian TV Report, 27 Feb. 2014, (source)

Fighting On Film: Munich: Edge of War (2021)

This week we examine Netflix’s latest war film – Munich: Edge of War, starring Jeremy Irons, George MacKay and Jannis Niewöhner. Directed by Christian Schwochow and based on a bestseller from Robert Harris, Munich follows a German diplomat’s desperate attempts to unmask Hitler and his plans during the 1938 Munich Conference. We were lucky enough to be joined by Wesley Livesay, host of the History of the Second World War, Wesley has recently completed an in-depth 9-part series on the Munich Agreement. Join us as we unpack this interesting historical drama.

The episode is also available on all other podcast platforms, you can find them here.

Here are some stills from the film:

If you enjoy the podcast then please check out our Patreon here. Be sure to follow Fighting On Film on Twitter @FightingOnFilm, on Facebook and don’t forget to check out www.fightingonfilm.com.

Thanks for listening!