2nd Alamein Pocket Orbat

8th Army HQ and Army Troops

8th Army HQ and Army Troops

I haven’t had a good parade for some time now. It is easily the best way of managing large orbats. There is no substitute for hauling the toys out of their boxes and putting them into their fighting formations prior to a game, so whilst I heartily disliked true scale parades, 15mm ones are great fun. The troops on parade usually benefit from an extra lick of paint too.  Sorting out the Pocket Orbat for 2nd ALAMEIN took longer than I thought, and it will probably be tweaked after a game or two.

8th Army vs Panzer Armee Afrika

All the toys now fit onto two of my steel Parade Trays¹, whereas before it took six. This looks like a much more manageable way of fighting Alamein in a day with six or so players, and as a bonus, four trays worth of toys are freed up for CRETE, TUNISIA, SARDINIA and ITALY.

The detailed pictures are being added to the Pocket Orbat, and should be published in a week or so.

 

  1. A very grand name for a Tegometal display shelf backing panel.
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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, DAK, Italian Army, Orbats, Western Desert, WWII

Pocket Orbats

This picture shows the troops layed out for the first Alamein Game at Shedquarters. Not all of the stuff here made it onto the table

Alamein First Layout

It is a good 5 years since I started faffing about with scaling orbats, and in fine WWII fashion, these are still evolving as they succeed or fail in combat. Having played  (and built) ALAMEIN at Corps Scale, it is obvious that it needs at least 12 players to run it in a day, and a good 18-20 feet of table space. I managed half of it quite happily on Trebian’s eleven footer, but the logistics of carting that amount of kit to a venue are already quite daunting. Doubling it will make it a chore rather than an enjoyable game.

Alamein 50 Division Attack Engaging the MDL on D+1-2

Alamein 50 Division Attack Engaging the MDL on D+1-2

The front scale works, but is starting to feel a bit “samey” and for ALAMEIN loses detail at divisional level, where the British divisions were better manned than the German and Italian. My latest evolution is the Pocket Orbat for Panzerarmee Afrika, which is essentially Front scale, with anti-tank assets dropped back to divisional level. The surplus troops freed up will be needed as the Mediterranean Front moves on to Tunisia and Italy.

NQM FSO Soviet Front with supporting Air Army

NQM FSO Soviet Front with supporting Air Army

The challenge is to show all of the significant signature equipment, without overpowering the infantry, and without overburdening the table with markers. The good news is that everybody’s favourite models will still be in there (think French) but fewer troops are needed.  Expect still more faffing about in future!

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Orbats, Western Desert, WWII

The River Calls

A Perilous Adventure begins

A Perilous Adventure begins

From cold wet rain to an unseasonably hot weekend – the river calls, and the recently arrived boxes of toys from PSC and Skytrex will have to wait. What else can a chap do, other than go with the flow? Braving Signs in WADENHOE warning us of DANGER, (sunburn perhaps?) and fierce DRAGONflies we meandered along the River Nene at its best.

Are you Sure that it's a Swan and not a Shark?

Are you Sure that’s a Swan and not a Shark?

We faced down swans and grumpy villagers guarding nests and car parks from invaders by the simple expedient of paddling quietly past them. Some of the backwaters get pretty overgrown at this time of year, which only adds to their charm¹. A couple of optimistic red kites circled us for a while in the hope that we might die, or leave the remains of a sandwich on the bank. We disappointed them on both counts.

Some Stretches are Quite Jungly

Some Stretches are Quite Jungle-y

As is often the way, we met a couple of old friends canoeing the same way close to our landing point, so we stopped for a chat, then wandered off to do some damage to tea and sticky cake at the local teashop (too posh to be called a caff). Bob and Dace² (Dat-Sa) are stalwarts of the local canoe club and folk music circuit, and Dace worked for us at Tradewinds for a while in the early 00’s. Mischief-making accomplished!

Canoeists are Style Icons

Canoeists are Style Icons

On a more military note, Marine William Henry Mills, one of the  Cockleshell Heroes from the Boom Patrol Detachment (RMBPD) Marine Commando raid on BORDEAUX in 1942, was a local Northamptonshire man from Kettering.

Wildflowers on the Banks of the Nene

Wildflowers on the Banks of the Nene

1. If you hear banjos, paddle faster!

2. That isn’t Bob in the picture, and Dace is on the left, in the baseball cap, but this illustrates the axiom that to have any river cred at all, it is best to look like a Train Spotter or a ’60s Hippie Chick.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Kayaking, Off Topic

Ostfront Rasputitsa Reorganisation Spring 1943

As England enjoys its own mini-rasputitsa in a late start to summer, the Wehrmacht made good use of the breathing space afforded to it on the Ostfront.

Having laid out the formalised Front Scale Orbat (FSO) here and here, I thought that it would be a relatively simple matter to look up a couple of orbats to refresh my magnetic Ostfront map. Nierhorster formed the basis, as always, but the actual relaying of the map took three months, with units being duplicated, lost, re-found and massaged to allow the discrepancies between the NQM campaign and the historic campaign to be ironed out.

The orbats were typed into Apache Open Office to take advantage of its find facility. In this way, I was able to chase errant units around the map to decide if they should stay in their game positions, or reorganise back to their historical formations. I ended up doing a bit of both, of course. The map looks much more crowded now, and the Soviets are still bringing troops on from the East!

A deliberately vague picture follows below. In the Army group North sector around LENINGRAD, the old Corps Scale Orbat (CSO) markers  show a much thinner spread in contrast to the centre and south, where the FSO markers are mustering.

Ostfront Spring 1943

Ostfront Spring 1943

Reinforcements have been arriving on the painting desk too. More of those later.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Eastern Front, Land Battles, Wargames, WWII

German 15mm Zundapp and BMW Motorcycles by Skytrex

My obsession with 15mm two (and three) wheeled German heavy metal bikers continues with the purchase of some Skytrex BMW and Zundapp motorcycle troops¹. Having previously commented that the QRF combo was lively but a bit blobby around the cylinder heads, I can report that Skytrex offer both a BMW and a Zundapp, and that you can easily tell the difference between the two.

Skytrex 15mm German Motorcycles (L) Zundapp, (R) BMW

Skytrex 15mm (L) Zundapp, (R) BMW

The castings are clean and flash-free. It is only when you look at the casting head-on that the model’s main flaw stands out: the handlebars and rider’s arms are comically close together. Peter Pig and QRF overcome this respectively by  casting the bars and arms separately, which is a better way of dealing with the problem.

From L to R – Skytrex Zundapp, BMW; QRF BMW?, Peter Pig BMW

You could overcome this by a bit of sawing and sticking (YesthatPhil probably will) or by ignoring it – my preferred option. Either way, on balance, it makes Peter Pig the best of the bunch  for ease of assembly and accuracy. Having said that, my personal favourite is the QRF, for sheer exuberance.

The Skytrex sidecar combo comes with an extra spare wheel and tarpaulin for that overloaded Eastern Front look, but has no MG42 for the combo passenger. Points lost for missing out on Hollywood clichés there! All the Skytrex models come with two separate panniers. I only stuck one onto the bikes as the exhaust casting on the Zundapp gets in the way – a not insoluble problem.

  1. I say purchased … YesthatPhil  did all the hard work. I just gave him some money afterwards.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Modelling, Motorcycles, Wehrmacht, WWII

Rasputitsa- In Slovenia.

Happiness

The 1943 Rasputitsa has finally closed in on the NQM Eastern Front, and for real across Europe in 2019.  This is not as bad as might have been imagined, as I have just spent the last fortnight kayaking the River Soča, and was happy that the water levels were high. The Julian Alps were the scene of heavy fighting between Italy and Slovenia, particularly around this valley, and fortifications can still be seen dating from the late 1800s to WW2. our campsite at Napoleon Most (bridge) had the remains of pillboxes and trenches on both sides of the river.

Needless to say, I spent most of the time floating down the River², not always in an upright manner. I might have visited one of the museums in the area, had the European Wild Water Championships not been on over our last two days. Wild Water racers will cover the distances that we did in less than half the time. Watching them is pretty dull if you are not a kayaker, because they make it look ridiculously easy.

Three days in to our holiday, severe Katabatic winds barrelled down the valley. We were assured that these things normally lasted two hours. Two days later, half of our tents (not mine, he said smugly) and some camp site trees had blown down, including one over the only camp exit. The staff were unfazed, opening the summer bar for sleeping in. As we were, by now the only folk on the site still camping, it was not crowded, although the stuffed bear inside looked a little put-out.

The rest of the Chaps seem to have deserted the Mess, Mr Holland.

  1. (pronounced Soch-ah).

2. For anyone who is interested, I’m the third boat down (Yellow boat, red helmet).  The scrapes on my helmet were newly minted on this trip 🙂

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Filed under Kayaking, Off Topic

Marmon Herrington FAT

Marmon Herrington FAT (2)

Marmon Herrington Field Artillery Tractor (FAT)

The QRF Chevrolet truck with clear windows is a much better model than their solid cab offering, despite some of the flash being thicker than the supporting pillars that it clings to. However, at £4.50 compared to £6.50 the solid cab wins the day for 3 crude models that are going to be chopped about for wargaming, even though the window alignment between the front and sides is cheerfully approximate. I simply added the ammunition storage lockers and seats for the Alamein game, then afterwards cut the rear cargo body to size, and added the canopy struts and soft cab top at leisure. QRF are remodelling their WWII range to bring it up to the standards of their modern stuff. I wait in hope.

This YouTube clip was invaluable for more detail: YouTube  Marmon Herrington FAT with 25 Pdr

Marmon Herrington FAT and Chevrolet Truck towing 25pdrs

Marmon Herrington FAT (L) and Chevrolet Truck (R) towing 25pdrs

It is worth looking at YesthatPhil’s conversion of the open cab kit into a Tanake for the ALAMEIN game at Shedquarters in October 2018.

For Corps Scale Orbat (CSO) and above (Front – FSO) I have been modelling the tractors and guns together on the same base. It is less flexible, but gives players one less opportunity to muddle units up in a large game, and as umpire, I don’t have to keep reminding folk that the tractor goes with the gun, that it doesn’t matter if they show it limbered up or not, and that yes, in a move lasting from four hours to a day, they can move and fire.

Marmon Herrington FAT Work in Progress

Marmon Herrington FAT Work in Progress

Brass rods are a pig to line up for canopies. I used a card jig for the first one, but may use a solid jig for the next ones, or just leave the canopy off! I left off the spare tyre frame, wing mirrors and front bumper as being too fiddly and too fragile respectively.  Card and a thick coat of paint rectify the poor window castings, with some cloth covering the roof of the cab to give an approximation of the canvas cab tilt. Altogether, I think that I need about ten FATs for the whole of ALAMEIN if I am to do it all at once.

Marmon Herrington FAT with 25 pdr

Marmon Herrington FAT with 25 pdr

 

Marmon Herrington FAT and 25 pdr

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, Artillery, Modelling, Trucks, Western Desert, WWII

Book Review – M7 Priest

Images of War, M7 Priest, Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives by David Doyle .

Images of War, M7 Priest, Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives by David Doyle .

Images of War, M7 Priest, Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives by David Doyle.

This 143 page book offers comprehensive photographic coverage of the M7 Priest in all its variants and service with the American British Canadian and French Armed Services. This reviewer would have liked to see more coverage of the priest in British service, as the only example was a pair of  heavily censored pictures from the 11th honourable Artillery Company Royal Horse Artillery in 1st Armoured Division, and the 9.75″ Mortar carriage developed in 1945 for use against the West Wall. Coverage of the Priest in US service is exemplary. There is mention of the Kangaroo conversion but no photographs. Field use in Europe and the Pacific is covered as well as Korea.

The quality and variety of photographs is excellent, giving full coverage in great detail of pretty much every part of the vehicle, the sole exception being the internal layout of the engine. Photographs are, in the main crisp and atmospheric, giving a huge amount of incidental detail that the modeller needs: Stowage, trailers, ammunition storage, tarpaulin covers, the debris surrounding a position when firing has been going on for some time; these details are all there. The author has selected well. At the back of the book is a colour section of 16 sides, again with crisp detail.

Various iterations of the design from early to late are shown, with the M7, M7B1 and M7B2 being covered, the last being a high angle elevation version of the M7B1, for use in Korea. Four apendices cover vehicle data and organisational table for  a Field Artillery Battalion. This book should provide an excellent reference work for wargamers and modellers, and is highly recommended.

 

My review copy was provided by Pen & Sword Military.

 

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Filed under Artillery, Reviews, WWII

Battle for the Southern DNEPR – Part 5 (Will it Never End?!!)

The Alte Häse¹ of 99th Light Division were settling into their recaptured billets and dugouts in DNEPROPETROVSK as the first spatterings of rain heralded the beginning of the Rasputitsa. They were looking forward to a month of rest, albeit a wet, muddy one during which, nothing much could be done.

3rd Army Advances

3rd Army Advances (FSO)

Their peace was about to be rudely interrupted though, as 3rd Army² massed to the northeast, with its sights set firmly on breaching the DNEPR river before rain made movement impassable.

Recce Battalions Advance to Contact

Recce Battalions Advance to Contact (FSO)

Wearily, 23rd Panzer regrouped to meet hitherto un-engaged and unknown to intelligence, infantry divisions and tank Corps.  Early attacks in battalion strength were beaten off, but these proved to be only probing attacks by reconnaissance, seeking to find the German main battle line. Once the main Soviet forces were engaged, the initial clash of armour pushed the Axis forces back some 20 kilometers.

 

 

Guards Mechanised Corps and 23 Panzer Division in Head-on Meeting Engagement (FSO)

Unknown Guards Mechanised Corps and 23rd Panzer Division in a Head-on Meeting Engagement (FSO)

23rd Panzer lost its hold of the bridges on the east bank of the DNEPR, and the already sorely-pressed infantry of 99th Light Division and 9th Infantry Divisions were driven out of the east of DNEPROPETROVSK in vicious street fighting that swung first one way then another. Soviet artillery regiments were employed in direct fire street to street fighting. At the end of the battle, both divisions were down to battalion strength³.

To the Last Man and Bulllet

To the Last Man and Bullet

Such was the scale of the attack that the Soviets had enough troops to put pressure on all parts of the line, with at least a Corps of infantry attacking on each side of the DNEPR. These were fresh troops too, not seen before in this sector.

SS Wiking had been pulled from KHARKOV further north to refit over winter, in what had hitherto been a quieter part of the front. It was apparent now though that the  tenuous line being held further east along the DON river would have to be abandoned in order not to lose the troops holding it. Accordingly, the SS panzer troops were ordered to swing south to outflank the offensive.

This proved not to be possible – the Soviet front being broader than anticipated, and the panzers found themselves engaging guards infantry head-on.

The game ended at this point after a couple of hours of play. The Germans were commanded by Tim aka (General Frohlich), and Richard (aka General NQ Timoshenko) commanding 3rd Army, with a little umpire help pushing the toys around. Using squares threw up another few conundrums, when units are thrown backwards onto others, that are pushing the game more into ancients territory; but there is nothing that can’t be resolved. YesthatPhil arrived in the nick of time, as is his wont, to take command of 23rd Panzer and thwart a Corps level attempt to bridge the DNEPR to the west of DNEPROPETROVSK.

Footnotes

1.Old Hares – veterans.

2. My 3rd Army from Box 047. The Germans have no idea who is facing them at the moment.

3. Both the German and Soviet divisions survived their morale checks, and the Germans fought to almost the last man, before the shattered remnants withdrew westward to reorganise.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Land Battles, NQM Squared, Wargames, WWII

Book Review – The Desert Air War 1940-1943

Understanding the desert war in north Africa is difficult if the air war is not taken into account.  Most coverage of the air war in the Western Desert takes the well-trodden path of anecdotes from pilots and ground  crew, and this book has examples of this narrative flavour too, but it is refreshing to find an account that also takes a wider view of the area of operations.

The book splits into nine chapters, and is profusely illustrated with photographs, some familiar but many not. The value of a book of this nature is in the welter of incidental detail that the photographs provide. Malta is covered in some detail. Modellers and wargamers will find plenty in this book to engage and divert them, with an eclectic mix of statistical gems thrown in too.

My review copy was provided by Pen & Sword.

 

 

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Air Forces, German Airforce, RAF and Commonwealth AFs, Reviews, Western Desert, WWII