BD 2018

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

Welcome to BD's first blog post of 2018. To get things started we're offering free shipping on all orders over $10 on the site. Use the code Belligerent at checkout to take advantage. 

The forecast for activities for 2018 is that BD will hopefully attend a trade show and we're hoping to put on a stomp/pub crawl for charity. It's still in the planning stage, so input would be appreciated. The stomp will probably be conducted in Adelaide at this stage.

 

Read more →

Kokoda trekking

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

A friend of BD went on a track over the Kokoda track and was contacted for some insight into the experience.

"What a humbling experience it is following the footsteps of our brothers from so many years ago as they defended our great nation against the menace of a rising sun. Let us never forget the sacrifices made in the rugged mountains and thick jungles of the Kokoda track to keep our young nation free. Thanks to the heroic effort of the fuzzy wuzzy angels many of our boys were given a second chance. Through the darkest horrors of the mud, sweat and blood of that rugged track the anzac legend was further forged. Immortal, from Gallipoli to Afghanistan the legend forever grows. Our proud history beating like thunder in our hearts as we stand ready to defend our golden shores and all that is free.

Anyone looking for a challenge and/or some inspiration, I definitely recommend taking the journey so many young Australians did in 1942 to halt the advance of a seemingly unstoppable foe.

An unforgettable experience. Lest we forget."

Read more →

Third Battle of Ypres

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

 

In June 1917, the focus of British operations on the Western Front shifted north into Belgium. A major offensive was launched to break through the German positions near the town of Ypres and advance beyond the Gheluvelt Plateau to the coastline, capturing German submarine bases threatening allied shipping in the North Sea, ejecting the Germans from Belgium, and stabilising channel ports some 200 kilometres from England. This offensive became known as the Third Battle of Ypres.

By focusing the fire of thousands of British guns onto a relatively small frontage, the artillery overwhelmed key German positions, allowing infantry to attack and occupy them. The guns would then be brought up to the newly won positions, and the process repeated. This style of fighting was known as “bite and hold”.

Australian troops were drawn into the offensive after fighting at Messines in June 1917, which had shored up the southern flank of British positions near Ypres before a breakthrough in the north-east was attempted. Australians were spared the opening attacks of the Third Battle of Ypres, fought by British troops between 31 July and 2 August, but were heavily involved in subsequent attacks.

The Australians fought highly successful actions fight over relatively dry, dusty terrain at Menin Road on 20 September (1st and 2nd Australian Divisions), Polygon Wood on 26 September (5th Australian Division), and Broodseinde on 4 October (1st, 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions). In these actions, the sheer weight of the artillery won the ground, the infantry merely occupied. Lieutenant Sinclair Hunt of the 55th Battalion described the anxious few moments before leading his men into action at Polygon Wood:

Half an hour to go. A fog had fallen and we could see Fritz flares only hazily through it. Ten minutes. A man rose here and there to tighten a belt or to scratch his cramped limbs. Three —the fog was more dense, and sections became restless as they fixed bayonets and prepared to advance. A gun behind boomed louder than the rest, suddenly the whole earth seemed to burst into a seething bubbling roaring centre of eruption and, as the touch of an enchantress’s wand, out of the ground sprang a mass of men in little worm-like columns – each wriggling its way forward to a sparkling, shouting seething line of earth, fire and smoke in front of them.

Artillery played a prominent role in the initial Australian successes at Third Ypres, although the infantry still encountered stiff resistance from German troops who bitterly defended their ground from fortified emplacements and concrete ‘pillboxes’ after the artillery had rolled over them. Seven Victoria Crosses were awarded to Australians in the fighting at Third Ypres, nearly all of them for rushing German machine-gun positions and silencing them with bayonets and grenades.

One of them was Pte Reginald Inwood of the 10th Battalion, who pressed forward through the supporting barrage during the fighting at Menin Road and captured a German strong point that would otherwise hold up the battalion’s advance. Inwood single-handedly killed Germans seven and captured nine, thereby allowing the battalion to capture the objectives it set out to take. Later that evening, Inwood volunteered for a night time patrol and penetrated 500 metres of disputed territory to scout the German dispositions. Upon returning, he and another man engaged a German machine-gun position causing havoc on the recently won positions. Inwood crept up from behind the post, lobbed grenades into the position and killed all but one of its garrison. He then captured the sole German survivor and made him carry the machine-gun back across No Man’s Land to the Australian positions.

The firepower that was responsible for the success of the Australian attacks at Third Ypres also destroyed the intricate drainage system of the naturally low-lying area. When the autumn rains began in October, the area turned into a morass, making it difficult for artillery to be brought forward to support further attacks. Moreover, the troops were exhausted and had suffered heavily in previous attacks. Nevertheless, the offensive continued. Australian troops took part in an unsuccessful attack at Poelcappelle on 9 October (2nd Australian Division) with the assaulting waves of infantry floundering in the mud against stiffening German resistance. It was, as one man described, ‘gluey mud, generally knee-deep, and in some places, waist deep’.

In spite of the rapidly deteriorating conditions, and their ability to mount further attacks, the Australians fought their last action of the Third Battle of Ypres on 12 October in an unsuccessful attempt to capture Passchendaele village (3rd Australian Division) before they were relieved by the Canadians. The onset of winter thwarted any further British success in the Third Battle of Ypres, which failed in its strategic objective of removing the Germans from the Belgian coastline. By then, the Australians had suffered over 38,000 casualties in just eight weeks of fighting —their heaviest losses of the war. More than 6,800 Australians had been killed in October alone. These losses resulted in a second referendum on conscription in Australia in December 1917, which was (again) defeated, closing the issue for the remainder of the war.

Aaron Pegram

 

All images from Australian War Memorial

 

Read more →

Open Source Intelligence

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

Because of a bizarre holiday in Asia, I found myself in the curious and unenviable position of head of an operations centre located on another continent that relies on me for intelligence. I got to this position through a mix of luck, hard work and an understanding of open source intelligence practises due to a misspent youth.

Open source intelligence (OSINT) is intelligence collected through publicly available information such as photos, articles, videos and everything in between. And there’s more of it than you can possibly believe.

OSINT is at once immediately accessible and magical in its complexity; it covers every intelligence discipline, can be accessed with a smart phone in its base form but, depending on specialisation, can require an incredible amount of skill and experience.

 



It’s a discipline that takes all sorts:

While unemployed, Eliot Higgins AKA Brown Moses, managed to correctly I.D chemical weapons used in Ghoutta, Syria while intelligence agencies and journalists throughout the world were barely keeping pace. He did this from a couch, posting to Blogger, and has gone on to found an organisation called Bellingcat, which assists journalists do the same thing. One of Bellingcat’s writers, Christiaan Triebert, went on to win the European Press Prize 2017 Innovation Award for reconstructing the recent Turkish coup attempt using Telegram and WhatsApp messages.

Mark Fahey is a biomedical engineer who loves both radios and North Korea. He has travelled to the Hermit Kingdom four times, he said in a talk at Hope X, and managed to find the frequencies of both North and South Korean numbers stations for signalling to spies, hidden tunnels and a floor of his hotel filled with anti-western propaganda.

Hugo Kaaman AKA PurpleOlive, is a 23 year old Swedish man who effectively wrote the book on SVBIED (Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) deployment. His recent report on the typical yields, blast radius, vehicle types and methods of employment are deemed ground breaking. Pundits and military members alike lauded it.

Elements of 4chan’s /pol/ board managed to locate and disrupt Shia LeBeouf’s anti-Trump civil disobedience livestreams a number of times. They did this by watching jet streams, listening to cars honking and a constant, never ceasing analysis of information that Shia LeBeouf unwittingly provided.

That’s just four examples of people hustling every day to find that next DIY rocket launcher, another suspicious field in North Korea or finding obscure numbers for a report. But, they do it. They do it all with the thing you are reading this article on.

My own experience in OSINT started after reading about the 2008 attack on the Taj Mahal.

The Mumbai Terror Attack in 2008 was a horrible thing to happen to India, but it was also particularly amazing in that the attackers from Lashkar-e-Taiba had a tactical operations centre directing them.

Their TOC used Twitter and news services to locate victims within the Taj Mahal and a Jewish community centre before relaying instructions via Skype, phone and text message.

My focus, however, entirely rests on northern Iraq, mainly Kurdistan and the governates near it. Most of my reading on this region comes from Twitter. Due to being time poor these days, I work as mainly an aggregator for other people’s work and what primary sources I can find.

Media in Kurdistan has great access but is limited by its editors and sometimes government, so I find myself looking for staffers from the PUK or KDP Kurd political parties, press releases from NGOs, aid agencies, academics, expats and weapons I.D accounts on Twitter. These social media accounts can yield information that someone wouldn’t normally post while representing their company.

It comes as a surprise to a lot of people that I find myself searching as much for things like refugee and internally displaced people (IDP) movements and wellbeing, regional political machinations, oil data and economics situations as much as I look for what ISIS is doing. This is because I’m not trying to find out about offensives and defensives. I want to know whether northern Iraq will survive itself post-ISIS, and that doesn’t just mean military things.

I’m thus gifted with readymade and available reports, graphics and videos. All I have to do is turn on my phone.

There’s a lot of Twitter to filter out, even if people seem genuine. Twitter is a magical place where everyone looks like an expert, and most people aren’t. People also have their own biases and prejudices that affect how they post. Some people are just lying sacks of shit.

One example is an account I follow of a Shia militia active in northern Iraq. They post 720p minimum videos and photos of them firing missiles, giving out aid and multiple views inside captured vehicles.

They strangely forget to post the videos of them launching IRAMs in to civilian populated areas and dragging bodies through streets. I know that they do that because sometimes, yes, they do post Hector.avi, but I also search around them for people who found material not disseminated from their actual media team but by their members.

To get around biases, I try and vet material I find or receive. I sometimes don’t and pay the price of possibly passing on inaccurate or useless information that could’ve been made by a crack pot.

For this, the Motive, Opportunity, and Means (MOM); Past Opposition Practices (POP); Manipulability of Sources (MOSES) and Evaluation of Evidence (EVE) framework. MOM POP MOSES EVE is the checklist for “is this person deliberately deceiving me?”. It’s a valuable tool to keep in mind no matter whether you operate at state level or mum’s basement level, even if you can’t remember the acronym but know the reason behind it.

I also use LiveUAMap to visualise what a given AO looks like. It’s a map that is connected to Twitter and shows live front lines and held territories/ influence areas with interactive symbols that show you what type of event occurred where.

Even if intelligence analysis and collection doesn’t interest you, it’s still good to know a bit about what intelligence you give to people without knowing. Thinking before you post a photo of you surrounded by 50 radios and a mortar tube on Tinder could be the difference between your holiday to Bali being a great week or a honeypot. Because it’s so easy, you should be thinking “who could use what I write or post against me or my unit?” It’s the stuff they tell you about during safety briefs that you think will never happen to you.

For digs on deployment, when you can spare a minute online, you could be checking up to see what’s going on in your AO. Not everyone gets to sit in on intel briefings, so be your own intel briefing.

Our enemies talk frequently and in detail about what they’re doing. They want to scare you and they want you to think they’re bigger than they are. They aren’t big and scary, they’re just desperate and that makes them do more with less. Knowing what they do more with less of is half the battle.

Hannibal Presley is an ex infantryman who currently writes and works as a PI and has experience working on humanitarian jobs with HASF in Iraq.


References:

http://brown-moses.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/who-was-responsible-for-august-21st.html

Eliot Higgins’ investigation in to the 2013 Ghoutta chemical weapon attack

http://bellingcat.com

The Bellingcat website

http://www.europeanpressprize.com/article/turkish-coup-eyes-plotters/

The Turkish Coup through the Eyes of its Plotters by Christiaan Triebert

https://zaytunarjuwani.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/the-history-and-adaptability-of-the-islamic-state-car-bomb

The History and Adaptability of the Islamic State Car Bomb by Hugo Kaaman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_HXPm-PN1g&ab_channel=themarimbaincident

North Korea – Gathering Information in the World's Most Restrictive Nation by Mark Fahey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw9zyxm860Q&ab_channel=InternetHistorian

Capture The Flag by Internet Historian

Out of the Mountains by David Kilcullen

Cases in Intelligence Analysis by Sarah Miller Beebe and Randolph H. Pherson

OSINT image https://andreafortuna.org/my-personal-list-of-osint-sources-the-search-tools-a9097f4b2539

 

 

Read more →

Remembering the Bloody Fighting at Bullecourt

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

By Aaron Pegram

One hundred years ago, on 11 April 1917, troops from 4th Australian Division conducted an attack on the German army’s elaborate Hindenburg Line defences between the villages of Bullecourt and Riencourt in France. Significant gains had been made elsewhere as part of the Battle of Arras, most notably the Canadian capture of Vimy Ridge on 9 April.

An attack at Bullecourt was thought to achieve a breakthrough where the Germans least expected. Two divisions, the British 62nd Division and 4th Australian Division, would attack either side of Bullecourt and eject the Germans from their positions. The attacking infantry would be supported by twelve British tanks instead of artillery. Still considered a new and innovative weapon, the tanks were to crush thick belts of barbed wire and deal with nearby strongpoints.

The tanks at Bullecourt were poorly armed, armoured and prone to mechanical problems. They failed to reach the rendezvous on time, delaying the attack for 24 hours. This news did not to reach the attacking battalions of the British 62nd Division whose men assaulted Bullecourt as planned. This so-called “dummy stunt”, cost the British more than 200 casualties and alerted the Germans a major attack was coming.

Repeating the plan for the previous day, the 4th Division attacked Bullecourt before dawn on 11 April. Of the twelve tanks supporting, just two made it to the German wire before they were destroyed. The rest were knocked out of action, suffered mechanical failure or encountered obstacles in No Man’s Land from which they could not recover. Completely unsupported, the infantry were left to fight their way into the German positions after advancing across a kilometre of exposed ground, in broad daylight, through a torrent of artillery and enfilading machine-gun fire.

Private Wilfred Gallwey of the 47th Battalion was held in reserve during the attack, holding a position that was being mercilessly shelled by German artillery. ‘This was my first experience in the front line and I can only describe it as hell. Every minute I expected to be blown out by my luck was in hand and I never got hurt. All round me men were falling and coal boxes [German 5.9 inch howitzer shells] dropped within ten feet of me giving me a severe shaking’.

Around 11am, German troops delivered a devastating series of counter-attacks as the beleaguered infantry faced mounting casualties and ever-diminishing supplies of ammunition in their close-quarters fight for the Hindenburg Line. Lance Corporal George Mitchell of the 48th Battalion described an encounter with ‘a big German in a steel helmet’ preparing to post a grenade into a nearby position. ‘I fired as he threw his bomb. In my haste I missed. Quickly I worked the bolt. But there were no more cartridges in the magazine … I shook my fist in sheer rage, and the Fritz grinned amiably back at me. For ten minute I waited. Up came his head. My bullet crashed into it and his last bomb went unthrown’.

Repeated requests for artillery support went unanswered, largely due to reports that the tanks had made a breakthrough and Australian infantry were spotted in Riencourt village (they were Germans). Unable to hold their gains any longer, the Australian infantry locked in a fierce fight for the Hindenburg Line were forced to withdraw. Machine-gun and artillery fire inflicted a heavy toll on those who stepped out into No Man’s Land, while hundreds of Australian troops left fighting in the German trenches fell victim to one last enemy counter-attack.

Lance Corporal Lancelot Davies of the 13th Battalion was tending the wounds of two men of his platoon when German troops overran their position. ‘I was suddenly surprised to hear a gruff voice demand “Come on Australia”. On looking up I beheld several Jerry bombers with bombs – of the “potato masher” type – each pointing a revolver. I was compelled to submit to the most humiliating experience of a lifetime – surrender! As the alternative meant death, and I was in a helpless position, one must naturally excuse my choice’.

The 4th Division suffered over 3,000 dead, missing and wounded in the fighting on 11 April 1917. 1,170 of them were taken prisoner, representing the largest capture of Australians in a single engagement during the First World War. Poor command and the inability of the tanks to properly support the infantry led to a deepening distrust of British command and unwillingness to work with tanks in future operations.

Australian troops remained in the Bullecourt sector, engaging the Germans in a second more protracted fight for the Hindenburg Line between 4 and 17 May. Drawing in troops from the 1st, 2nd and 5th Australian Divisions, this second engagement resulted in the eventual capture of the village at the cost of a further 7,000 Australian casualties. But what was it all for? No sooner was Bullecourt captured, the focus of operations shifted north into Belgium where the British sought to conduct a major offensive in the Ypres salient and achieve a breakthrough near Passchendaele.

Australian losses at Bullecourt were staggering, but the worst was still to come.

 

 

Aaron Pegram is a senior historian in the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial.

 

References:

H11990: A British aerial photograph of the German Hindenburg Line defences near Bullecourt before the attack on 11 April 1917. AWM H11990. 

1.jpg: One of the destroyed British tanks that supported the 4th Australian Division in its costly and unsuccessful attack at Bullecourt on 11 April 1917. This German photograph was likely to have been taken between the two Bullecourt battles, however German troops later recaptured this portion of the Hindenburg Line during the German Spring Offensive in March 1918. Image courtesy of Drakegoodman/Flickr

Read more →