The Battle of Bir Bar ‘el – Breaking into the Position

0600 – Crossing the Start Line

Bersagliari under Artillery Fire

  1. 14th Infantry  Brigade Artillery (14ARTY) laid a barrage onto the northernmost enemy strongpoint of 1 medium CU scoring 5 against the medium strongpoint, scoring 1 red pin or pip (1M=5>M=1). Bersagliari tested for morale for coming under fire for the first time, scoring 4, which was OK
  2. 1st Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment (1BEDS&HERTS) advanced to contact with the enemy and each stand of 3 bases opened fire scoring 2 pins (2L=5+6>M=2).
  3. V Bersagliari Motorised Battalion (5BERGn) returned fire with 1 light die scoring 1 pin (1L=4>L=1)
  4. In the first move, 1BEDS&HERTS have inflicted three pins on 5BERGn and received only one in return, so in the next move they can close assault the strongpoint.

Winning the Firefight

0700 Close Assaulting the Northern Strongpoint

  1.  There were no unwounded stands left in the northern strongpoint, so if 1BEDS&HERTS close assaulted, they would just walk over the position, capturing anyone who was in there.  5BERGn were veteran troops however, and passed a morale test for 50% or over casualties scoring a 6! so the Battalion Commander decided that a fighting withdrawal was in order. 1BEDS&HERTS occupied the position. Their supporting Valentine tanks from 4th Royal Tank Regiment (4RTR) declined to pursue the fleeing enemy until the infantry had reorganised, on the grounds that the enemy had probably covered his lines of retreat with anti-tank fire.
  2. The 1st Black Watch Regiment (1BW) advanced to contact in a co-ordinated brigade attack against the southernmost enemy strongpoint and began the firefight (2L=5+3>M=0).The attack stalled as the defenders returned fire (1L=6>L=2)
  3. 14ARTY laid a barrage  of 1 medium CU scoring 2 against the medium strongpoint to the south, to no effect. The attack remained stalled.
  4. The supporting Matilda battalion of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment (1RTR) began a duel with the DAK 50mm anti tank detachment to their north (DAK PaK). 1RTR (1L=3>M*=0). DAK PaK (1M=6>H=1).

 Black Watch Advance to Contact

0800 Black Watch Continue the Firefight Against the Southern Strongpoint

  1. The tank/anti tank duel continued in the south with more sound and fury than actual damage: 1RTR (1L=3>M*=0). DAK PaK (1M=3>H=0), the PaK was now out of ammunition and could only withdraw next move, or sit tight awaiting a close assault.
  2. 14ARTY laid a barrage onto the southernmost enemy strongpoint (1M=4>M=1). 5BERGs had now received 50% casualties and failed a morale test on 2.
  3. 132ARTY fired on 1BW (1L=4>L=1). 1BW had received 50% casualties and failed a morale test on a 2, becoming disorganised.
  4. 1BW settled into a firefight with 5BERGs causing a permanent (black) casualty (2L=4+5>M*=1) and receiving . 5BERGs failed their 50% morale check on a 1, also becoming disorganised**

0900 Black Watch Win the Firefight Against the Southern Strongpoint

  1. 14ARTY continued to bombard the southernmost enemy strongpoint to no effect (1M=3>M=0).
  2. 132ARTY switched fire onto 1BEDS&HERTS (1L4>L=1).
  3. 1BEDS&HERTS closed to effective fire range against the Southern Strongpoint (2L=3+5>M=1). At this stage the combined attack of two battalions had won the firefight and could advance to contact in the next move. [In the picture below, the 3 stands could have black pins stuck into the bases, or be depicted by casualty markers as shown here]

Black Watch Win the Firefight

1000 Beds & Herts Follow Through to the Defenders Gun Line

  1. 14ARTY continued the barrage on the southernmost enemy strongpoint 5BERGs. The fall of shot was doing more damage now (1M=4>M=1).
  2. 132ARTY continued their barrage on 1BEDS&HERTS (1L=5>L=1).
  3. 1BW mounted a disorganised close assault with only one effective fighting base (F1) against the zero strength 5BERGs, which was automatically overrun. RHQ was unable to offer supporting fire to 5BERGs, as they were disorganised.
  4. The Valentines of 4RTR supporting 1BEDS&HERTS brought 132ARTY under direct fire (1L=6>M=1) causing 1 pin.

Valentines Charging the Guns!

1100 The Enemy is Defeated

  1. In a bold move, the Matilda battalion 1RTR  passed through the Southern Strongpoint and broke into the RHQ position in fine style but caused no enemy casualties (1L=2>L=0) and received none in return*** (1L=4>H=0). The Tank Terror rule was not appropriate here as RHQ had organic anti tank assets. By doing this, 1RTR prevented RHQ from putting in a potentially devastating counter attack. [See picture below]
  2. 4RTR‘s Valentines closed with 132ARTY causing another pin (1L=6>M=1) and receiving no casualties in return (1L=4>M=0) – I really was not making these die rolls up!
  3. 1BEDS&HERTS mounted a well-coordinated close assault with two effective fighting bases (F2) against the single strength point remaining of  132ARTY (S1), which was  overrun as this strength point was defeated in close assault by the attacking infantry (F3= 6,5>S1=5). [See picture above]

Black Watch Close Assault

This battle would conclude with 14BDE consolidating on the positions that it had won and reorganising. The supporting tanks would reorganise, following British doctrine, behind the defending infantry. Logistic elements would move forward to resupply the infantry and tanks

It is worth noting that throughout, I have tried to describe as much of the ‘battle’ as possible using language that would be familiar to the commanders of the day. I find battles personally more satisfying doing this than if the language of wargaming is used, as I use games to try and understand the history of the period, as well as being an enjoyable pastime.

This worked example supercedes the earlier Battle of WASHBOARD RIDGE.

Footnotes:

The notation used here is a sort of Chess-style notation that allows me to record the salient points of solo games for future reference, and to keep track in campaigns. For this game I decided that the first people to come under fire would take a morale check, and everyone would at 50%.

* I count most Atk guns as Medium in defence when tanks are firing against them, to reflect the anti-tank guns’ low profile and camouflage, as here.

** disorganised units cannot take advantage of supporting fire, and are automatically overrun if close assaulted.

*** Tanks do not close assault. They drive into an enemy infantry position as they please, but if the infantry do not surrender or run away, then the tanks are treated as light targets in the next move when close assaulted by the defending infantry  if they are unwise enough to stay on the position. See Männer Gegen Panzer to get a feel for what is going on tactically.

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Battle of Bir Bar ‘el

Since explaining combat in the  Battle of WASHBOARD RIDGE, infantry stands have been reduced in strength by 3, reverting to the original version of NQM. See how this works with a combined infantry and tank brigade assault against  a defending battalion with anti-tank support.

 

Order of Battle – Allies

 Beds & Herts orbat at the Battle of Bir Bar 'el

 Black Watch Orbat at the Battle of Bir Bar 'el

 

Order of Battle – Axis

 

  • 8th Bersaglieri Regiment (Motorised) – 1 Comd car + 1 Mortar + 1 47mm Atk (CS3)
  • Attached from DAK1 50mm Atk (S2) +1 Limber (L2)
  • V Motorised Battalion 2 Trucks (L3)*, [ Bn Comd + MG + 45mm Mortar (CS3)], [ 3Rifles (F3)]
  • XII Motorised Bn detached to support Ariete

*(The Motorised Bn could equally be protrayed as two single truck stands  of strength CS3 and F3. If I do that , I usually put some infantry in the back to show they are not just Logistic trucks)

Italian Orbat for the Battle of Bir Bar el

 

 

 

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Sonder Anhänger 116

Sonder Anhanger 116 from a Poundland Chassis

Phil’s poundland trucks – the gift that just keeps on giving! The Anhänger 116 finally came together in about 2 hours, when my erratic spares filing system unearthed three sets of 88mm Flak wheels (Sd Ah 202 – one pair seen left of the picture above). This was a quick and dirty built with a number of glaring errors*, but it looks close enough for wargaming and is recognisable for what it is. As usual, the model is ‘battle ready’ but not finished.

Sonder Anhanger 116

This model will live at DAK HQ. My recovered ROCO Sd Kfz 7 with dodgy tracks and wheels looks the right size to become a Famo Sd Kfz 9, so I put the two together to see how they look (below).

Sonder Anhanger 116 w Famo Sd Kfz 9

This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_ovXgb98Dc shows how the steering works. Looking at the single tyred axles on the 116 caused me to re-evaluate this picture, that I previously tentatively posited as a 116. The tyres on the picture are clearly doubled, so it isn’t a 116. I’m back to the opinion that it is at least 2 trailers in tandem, possibly with a field modification jury rigged between them.

Hanomag 100

This website is German Softskin heaven …Fahrzeuge der Wehrmacht, and this list will have fellow trailer spotters reaching for a calming glass of milk …  Panzer Armee Special Trailer List   as will this one … However did we manage in the 20th Century?

I am still none the wiser.

 

*       1. The cab at the back is too narrow, as the trailer it is based on and the 88 wheels are also too narrow. The real thing was about 14.4m x 3m. Mine is 11mm x 2.6mm

2. The wheels are double 88 wheels, not single as they should be.

3. The mudguards should not be individual at the back axle.

4. The front is too high, there is no towbar, und so wieder … u.s.w.**

** And so on … and so on.

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Getting Chilly on the Northwest Front

2nd Inf Div troops astride the VLADIMIR-MOSCOW road in deteriorating weather

2nd Inf Div troops astride the VLADIMIR-MOSCOW road in deteriorating weather

As the last mud froze into iron hard ruts around KALINEN and VYSHNIV VOLDCHECK, the Axis X, II, and VIII Infantry Korps awaited winter with some confidence. The line they held stretched from south of LEMINGRAD along the railway to KALINEN and MOSCOW. Unlike the winter of 1941, the Landser were better equipped with winter clothing, lubrication oils that did not freeze solid and winter stoves for their dugouts. The Soviets had proved unable to retake MOSCOW this summer and would surely not do so this winter. Should the line come under pressure, then 4 Panzer Korps sat in reserve at VELIKIE LUKIE.

The Northwest Front Early Winter 1942 with Known German and Soviet Positions

The only fly in this ointment was the Soviet 30 Division that had penetrated the line between 12 and 32 Infantry Divisions. The railway was still cut at this point, and restoring the line was a priority for X and II Korps, on whose boundary the breach sat.

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Great Rejoicing as Reinforcements Dock in Tripoli

A package was waiting on my doorstep upon my return from holiday. Of course, it was docked in TRIPOLI (the local post depot) and had to make its perilous way to the front, be sprayed in desert colours and find its way to the correct units. The reinforcements were mostly artillery and limbers for DAK, with a couple of India pattern carriers and a couple of Dovunque 35s. The Soviets even got an 85mm AA piece.

You just want to see the pictures don’t you? Apologies, they were taken in a hurry by a low-flying recce Spitfire.

90th Light Division, Schwere Shutzen-Regiment 155/200

I was surprised that the Sig 33 was such a large model compared to the Saurer .

Dak Artillery. Panzerjaeger Abteilung 605, 1942 onwards

The pair of Sd Kfz 7s and the Diana that I bought look small. They have been shortened to fit a standard FoW base !!! This is my seldom-seen grumpy face :-( *

Diana on Sd Kfz 6 Chassis

These pictures and a few others have been put into the updated DAK orbat post for GAZALA. I should probably make it into a page so that it is easier to find.

* Since making this comment, I have realised that the Sd Kfz 6 was shorter than the 7, and was replaced by the 11, so I shall just place the two tiddlers into the orbat slots for Sd Kfz 11s and buy a couple of proper 7s for the 88s. Harmony is restored :-)

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Button Counting and Concrete Sniffing in the Netherlands

Extreme Mountain Biking in GelderlandCycling

Suzanne has long wanted to cycle on the Continent. Holland is civilized, cycle friendly, stuffed full of good restaurants and flat; so the choice of where to go was easy. Gelderland over on the East of Holland is not much visited by the British, which is puzzling, as the cycling is excellent. We hired two local Dutch cycles for the week, basing ourselves in LOCHEM.

We soon discovered that although we were reasonably cycle fit by UK standards,  grannies with panniers full of shopping kept overtaking us, and small children too (two to a bike with the pillion sitting on the cycle rack)! By the end of the week as we got the hang of the more relaxed Dutch gearing, the grannies were at least puffing a bit as they continued to tear past us on their way to their fit, active ’90s. The area has a well-marked network of cycle tracks with excellent signage. Junctions are numbered and all route signs point towards  the relevant junction number.

A Typical Forest Cycle Route in GelderlandCycle Helmets are not CompulsaryThe Cycle Path is on the Left

On larger roads, cyclists have their own lanes that they share with mopeds and mobility scooters, but not motorbikes. Some suburban streets are marked up as cycle streets with “cars as guests”. Drivers seem more patient than in Britain. All in all, your chances of being taken out by a 40 tonner are far lower than in the UK.

Cycle Friendly Street in Holland

“Yes, yes,” you say, “but what about the button counting?”

Button Counting

In the area that we stayed, it was the custom for various princely estates to display their colours on the wooden shutters. The inner button counter in me was not sufficiently diverted from Grolsch* beer to collect the full set, but here are some to give a flavour:

Heraldic Window Shutters in LochemEstate house displaying Livried window shuttersThe Dutch have a cheerful attitude to souping up carsLuchtmuseum

I can confirm from original source material that Trebian’s Gnome Army uniforms are 100% accurate. Expect an Osprey to follow. This little fellow is just outside Holland’s largest Maze (which is very small and neat).

Primary Research for Peter Pig's Gnome Army

Concrete Sniffing

LOCHEM is the site of a lesser-known 43rd Wessex Division Memorial. Their main one is on Hill 112 at CAEN. I had not realised, or gone looking for, the connection to the Sherwood Foresters in St Mary’s church Bottesford, where I grew up

43rd Wessex Division Monument in LOCHEM43rd Wessex Division Monument in LOCHEM - Subunits

The Open Air Museum just to the north of ARNHEM is well worth a visit**. We drove along the RHENE, contemplating just how miserable a swim would have been on an autumn night. After an overnight stop in OTTERLO, site of the last large battle in Holland, we visited the Kröller-Müller sculpture park and its collection of bizarre and often baffling sculptures. General de Wet’s statue lives here on a sandy heath in the Hoge Veluwe National Park***.

On our way home, we stopped overnight in GORINGCHEM, another throat-clearing town that still has a medieval town plan and a Vauban style trace****.The picture below illustrates how low the earthen glacis is. It runs from the right of the gate across the base of the windmill. Missing are the willows or poplars that would have been planted on the glacis to stabilise it, then have been cut down to make gabions in an emergency. Sight lines have been eroded since the 18th century.

The City Walls of GORINGCHEM

GORINGCHEM is slap in the middle of the ‘new’ Hollandse Waterlinie, an 85km long defensive area some 3-5km deep combining defensive works and planned inundations. In deference to Chris Ager and Airfix, I posed in front of a cannon. Concrete sniffing accomplished, we came home.

Cannon on the City Wall at Goringchem

Language Notes

Hallo is the universal greeting. After that it gets difficult very quickly!

Asking politely “Spreekt U Engelsk?” usually elicited the response “a liddle bit,” followed by excellent English. The best response was in a seafront restaurant at the Hook of Holland: “Of course, I went to school.”

Advice is to speak English. German and French are less popular  even though German is well understood on the eastern border. Several times people would come up to us to enquire if we were lost as we consulted our map, and we were always at pains to thank them.

Bizarrely, one local told us (in relatively halting English) that he was a retired German teacher. Bizarrely, because he had taken me for German initially, and I had asked him in German where the cycle route out of town was. He quickly worked out that I was not a native German speaker and flipped over to English out of politeness, even though his German was much easier to understand.

My attempts at speaking Dutch were met by bafflement and the encouraging cheerfulness that adults display when children are trying hard. I like the Dutch and plan to continue my assault on their beer and language in equal measure.

Concrete Sniffing Accomplished!

* to pronounce the ‘G‘ imagine a Scottish lo’CH‘ starting with a silent G and finishing with all the phlegm in your throat nicely cleared. The ‘sch‘ comes out as a long ‘sss‘. Pointing also works!

** ARNHEM was a bridge too far for us to fit in as well. The open air museum only qualifies as a concrete sniff by virtue of the memorial for refugees evacuated from the museum during the war. It is home to the National Airline Sick Bag Collection  however. This is housed in the ceiling of a replica airline cabin. I really am not making this up – look, here’s a picture. Unmissable!

The Dutch National Airline Sick Bag Collection

*** de Wet, one of the ones that trounced us in the Boer War. Moving swiftly on …

**** Pronounced gCHorCH’m by the locals. Have a cough drop after getting it right!

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