Friday, 22 July 2011

Communications Trench No.1

With the publication yesterday of The Ironclad Prophecy, the second book in the No Man’s World series, here’s your chance to catch up with all the bumf from HQ in a round-up of recent latrine rumours, reviews, readings, interviews and podcasts.

First up is a wind-up gramophone recording from Abaddon Books’ own dugout, where David Moore debriefs Pat Kelleher on the background to the No Man’s World series.

Next comes a barrage of questions from behind the lines courtesy of Gareth Wilson at The Falcata Times, who followed up with an explosive review.

Graeme Flory over at Graeme’s Fantasy Book review also gave the book a bright Very flare of a review and wanted to know more about the historical inspirations behind the series.

And for those of you who are still wondering about going ‘over the top’ into No Man’s World, Boston Book Bums recently fired off a brilliant review of the first book in the series, Black Hand Gang.

Still not enough for you? Then ‘Stand to’ on the fire step and take a peek over the parapet of Book 2 with David Moore’s trench periscope as Pat Kelleher reads an extract from The Ironclad Prophecy at this year’s Alt.Fiction.

Finally, Cavan Scott wanted to know which book I wished I written. Find out what it is here.

And if you’re curious about the tank featured in the books, check out previous posts here and here and follow PennineFusilier on Twitter.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Landships Ho!

When the Pennine Fusiliers vanished in November 1916, they weren’t the only British troops to disappear. It is now widely acknowledged that a Mark 1 male tank, the HMLS Ivanhoe, vanished with them.

Partially inspired by HG Wells’ 1903 tale in the Strand magazine, The Land Ironclads, the tank was conceived as an armoured landship to counter the German machine gun and trench defences. They were organised into several companies under the command of the Machine Gun Corps, each with a small complement of Mark 1 male and female tanks (also called bulls and bitches).

Both male and female tanks had fore and aft light machine guns and side gun sponsons. In the Mark I male tanks these were armed with two 6 pounder Hotchkiss guns and two Hotchkiss belt-fed machine guns:

The Mark I female tank had smaller side sponsons, equipped only with four Vickers machine guns:

These armoured behemoths were thirty two feet long, weighed twenty eight tons and could reach a maximum speed of four miles per hour. They were powered by a 105hp hand-cranked Daimler engine and had a crew complement of eight. It took four of them just to turn the starting handle. It also took four men to drive it. The driver and tank commander sat  up front in a small cabin. Each tank track was also controlled by separate secondary gears, manned by two gearsmen at the rear. The other four crew were gunners and loaders.

After the tanks’ first notable victory at  Flers Courcelette, in September 1916, 'I' Company of the Machine Gun Corps Heavy Section was deployed to the Harcourt sector, with the hopes that it would help break the deadlock there before winter set in.

It wasn't to be.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

HG Wells and his Ironclad Prophecy

Since the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the nineteenth century  there had been a persistent fear of invasion in Britain and there had long been a public appetite for Coming War stories or Invasion Literature, pitting Britain against a series of pitiless foreign invaders, from The Battle of Dorking by George Chesney in 1871 to The Invasion of 1910 by William Le Queux in 1906.

As well as his 1898 novel The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells further added to the genre in 1903 by writing a prescient short story that was published in The Strand magazine. Entitled The Land Ironclads, it envisioned a navy of huge 100 foot long armoured machines like battle cruisers, driven by pedrails; wheels with feet like those of an elephant or caterpillar attached to the rims. These terrifying smoke-belching land ships bristled with guns and were filled with troops. They rolled across the battlefield, blinding the enemy with searchlights and  crushing their  trench defences.

 A little more than a decade later they were to become a reality.