Crete – D Minus 4

CRETE - Allied and Axis Troops Assemble in their staging areas before heading to Shedquarters

The Axis troops are massing in their assembly areas. On the Allied side, Major-General Freyberg knows that an invasion is imminent, but has precious few troops in good order to do something about it. The most likely scenario is a seaborne invasion.

CRETE -Sturmgruppe COMET west

The layout at the top of the page is entirely schematic, and the only purpose  is to make sure that no one is left behind, or turns up without his face painted! Fitters in the various Greek airfields are fuelling, arming, and in some cases still frantically fitting propellers to aircraft!

Crete - MALEME and its Associated Airstrip

The RAF is taking things easy in the sun whilst the Army continue to cobble defences together.

CRETE - Allied Central Command

Local ports are being scoured for anything that will float, and the Kriegsmarine are hoping that the Corinth Canal is cleared in time to get vital fuel shipments through to the Luftwaffe.

 

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Book Review – Britain’s Island Fortresses

britain's island fortresses. Defence of the Empire 1756 - 1956 Britain’s Island Fortresses

Defence of the Empire 1756 – 1956

Bill Clements

This book catalogues the overseas defences of the British Empire. It is a story of the conflicting demands of cost and security across Great Britain’s naval staging posts for its far-flung commercial interests. Bill Clements’ book has successfully navigated a path through a complex story, without becoming too bogged down in detail, but equally without becoming bland. The race to maintain up-to date armaments is also charted as technology made older weapons obsolete; this in a time span encompassing the Seven Years’ War through to World War II.

Readers with an interest in WWII will find the chapters on Singapore and Hong Kong to be of particular value. The book is liberally provided with plans, line drawings and photographs to give a good representative  feel for the defences. The Islands of Bermuda, Jamaica, St Helena, Antigua and St. Lucia, Ceylon, Mauritius and Ascension Island are all covered too.

The book should appeal to anyone with more than a passing interest in the subject of coastal fortifications, and perhaps even provide inspiration for a bit of “concrete sniffing” on family holidays abroad. It sheds light on a forgotten part of Great Britain’s overseas history.

My review copy was provided by Pen and Sword Publishing.

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Bf-110 and ZG 26 “Horst Wessel” in the invasion of Crete

The Messerschmidt Bf 110 started life as a heavy fighter, but was outclassed by its contemporaries and lighter opponents. It soldiered on to the end  of the war in a fighter bomber/ground attack role and found its eventual niche as a night fighter.

The Revell kit shows its age – everything fits badly and the nose profile is far  too thin, to the point that it does not look like a 110. Even my shabby modification with melted plastic sprue is an improvement. National markings are hand painted as usual, and I tell myself that their unevenness draws the eye away from the failings of the kit.

ZG 26 “Horst Wessel” was prominent in the invasion of CRETE. My colour scheme is from 1940, and would probably have been modified a bit by the time of the invasion. It is close enough.

Bf 110 ZG26 "Horst Wessel"

Messerschmitt Bf 110 D by Robert Wasik used without permission

 

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Model Review – True North YAG10 mounting an M1931 76.2mm Anti-Aircraft Gun

True North YAG10 mounting an M1931 76.2mm Anti-Aircraft Gun

The True North YAG10 mounting an  M1931 76.2mm Anti-Aircraft Gun is a beast of a model on a number of levels: It is large, measuring 75 x 40mm, tall (25mm just to the top of the cab), and it has a massive presence on the wargames table. It was also a pig to put together, with a-five piece cab and bonnet that didn’t quite fit. The flatbed needs filing and careful alignment. Despite my best efforts the end result sloped down and forwards to the cab in an annoying fashion.The spare tyre that sits under the flatbed just behind the cab is not modelled, and should be added if you care about that sort of thing.

It didn’t help that one of the door panels was missing in the kit. I know that manufacturers will send out spares if contacted, but it is quicker to fabricate one from flat. You can see which one it is in the picture as it is the door that fits properly 😦

My model came with a small seat that had no obvious point of attachment to the gun, but online photos show a shallow tractor-type seat attached to the right hand side of the gun in the gun-aimer’s position. Only 333 of these were built¹, and only 61 with AA guns at the start of the war², so even rarer than Tigers!

Despite these reservations, the end result is worth the effort. I added some Skytrex tank riders for the crew and will get around to finishing it off when it has a few battles under its belt.

True North YAG10 mounting an M1931 76.2mm Anti-Aircraft Gun

Product ID: SUE13
YAG10  76mm Anti-Aircraft Gun
True North via Old Glory UK
They make AA and Gun crews too, but looking at the US website, you find this:
Product ID: SU07
Russian AA Crews (12 figures)
15mm scale – This pack contains 4 horses, 2 mounted riders, 2 riders in process of mounting the horses and 4 foot.
I don’t imagine that this is true for one moment, but this lack of attention to detail loses sales!
2. Accessed 2.11.2019YAG-10 with M1931 76.2mm AA Gun

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5th Panzer Division at Crete

Pz II AusF C

Peter Pig Pz II AusF F

5th Panzer Division appears on Nierhorster’s orbat for Unternehmen Mercur (Op Mercury), and of course, what every wargamer wants to know is; “Can I use Panzers in the invasion force?” I found this :

“Following the Balkan campaign the 5. Kompanie of Panzer-Regiment 31 with 5 Panzer II and 17 Panzer III was detached from the division to be used in the invasion of Crete where it was used to form Panzer-Abteilung Kreta. Two Panzer II from this kompanie were transferred to Crete by a small harbor tug under the command of Oberleutnant-zur-See Albert Oesterlin following urgent requests from the airborne troops fighting on the island.”

(https://www.axishistory.com/axis-nations/150-germany-heer/heer-divisionen/3962-5-panzer-division)

Accessed on 26/10/2019

which in turn quotes “Anton D von Plato – 5. Panzer-Division 1938-1945”

So that’s it. 1SP of a Pz II to represent the two Pz IIs that made it ashore, which is not going to stop me enjoying “what-if?” pictures of KV2s rolling up the beach at wargames shows :  It could have happened …. 🙂

  Of more likelihood though, is the possibility that the Pz IIIs might have made it ashore. For that to occur, the Royal Navy would have had to be less aggressive, or unlucky, or both. It should be a possibility in the scenario, and the British defenders certainly considered the seabourne invasion to be a more credible threat, laying out their defences accordingly.

PSC Pz III AusF H

PSC Pz III AusF H

 

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Book Review – Memoirs of a Stuka Pilot

Stuka Pilot Helmut Mahlke Book ReviewMemoirs of a Stuka Pilot

Helmut Mahlke

This book is a challenging but rewarding read. Helmut Mahlke details out his career as a Stuka pilot, and was clearly proud of his war record, his unit and his technical professionalism as a leader. The reader may be left uneasy at the Stuka’s use in WW2 as a terror weapon in the early part of the war. Mahlke was part of a naval squadron and trained initially to attack shipping, but went on to fight in the Battle of Britain, North Afrika and the Eastern Front.

There is a wealth of detail in the employment of the Stuka, and it is perhaps surprising that the pilots considered their aircraft to be robust and reliable, had high morale and took great pride in completing their missions. Mahlke’s views on Germany’s Italian allies may come as a surprise to those who have hitherto formed their opinions from only RAF accounts.

At its heart is the conundrum that faces any reader of a WW2 bomber pilot’s memoirs, particularly those of a pilot unquestioningly serving a totalitarian regime. The Dambusters were celebrated, yet the allied bombing campaign caused far greater civilian casualties, returning the Nazis early efforts over Holland with interest. On both sides, civilians bore the brunt of the war.

My review copy was provided by Pen and Sword Ltd and was published by Frontline Books, London (2013)

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Book Review – The first Helicopter Boys

The first Helicopter Boys  The early days of helicopter operations in the Malayan emergency 1947 - 1960.

The first Helicopter Boys

The early days of helicopter operations in the Malayan emergency 1947 – 1960.

This book covers a little-recorded aspect of the development of helicopter warfare in counter insurgency operations, and does it well with a mix of anecdotal interviews and history of the Emergency, with the development of tactics that were to be developed further in the Vietnam War. The establishment of jungle forts and airstrips is covered as is the close cooperation with the Army.

Initially used for casualty evacuation, the early helicopters went on to be used for insertion of troops, resupply, and as early gunships. This book covers the use of Hoverflys, Dragonflys, Sycamores, Scouts and Whirlwinds. Accidents and wrecks feature prominently!

The book is an engaging read, studded with details such as – The rule of thumb for the S-55 (Whirlwind) was that on operations, it could carry “six Gurkhas, five British, or three Fijians.” There is a good selection of black and white photographs of the helicopters in operations and of the jungle forts, leaving the reader with a strong flavour of a forgotten conflict.

My review copy was provided by Pen and Sword Books Ltd, Barnsley UK and published by Air World ISBN 978 1 52675 413 4 © 2019

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Crete Planning Session

Crete First and Second Waves

The first wave of Fallschirmjäger battles for HERAKLION as the second wave approaches

 

The Orbats for Crete  May 1941 are loosely sorted out now. A large number of unresolved questions remain for a game that would keep six players happy. It was time to parade the troops on the table schematically so see what sort of real estate they occupy.

Will W and YesthatPhil came round to help me thrash few things out for a timeline, and to do a dummy run through of the first and second waves attacking one of the three airfields. We had time to run through twice in two hours, so five to six hours should be enough to reach a resolution over three main defended airfields, and three attacking waves.

A Hurricane squadron is ready to scramble as a Blenheim squadron rearms. A hard cover air raid shelter is there to protect the ground crew, but not the vehicles

Phil’s ideas on the use of air power were particularly helpful – the original ideas shown here are his, modified by my imperfect understanding, and desire to fiddle with perfectly good mechanisms. He has form, having run the air umpire side of Tim Gow’s original Megablitz Fall of France some ten years or so ago.

Stage one: Aircraft will be scrambled with operational orders and are shown as are operationally ready with a range of ‘x’ squares. They are shown on a flight stand and are placed somewhere on the area of operations that will give them possibilities for attacking suitable targets. The defending player knows that he needs to defend a number of targets in range with his AA and Fighters.

A Blenheim Bomber Squadron has successfully scrambled from Heraklion Airfield, which is under attack.

Stage two: Radar and spotters on the ground will alert defending fighters when they need to scramble in response to an attack, otherwise they risk being caught on the ground if no early warning structure exists. The defender will scramble his own ready fighters on flight stands in response if he is aware in time, to meet the attack. Fighters without early warning systems may have to scramble in rotation to keep a fighter screen in the air to be able to do this.

Stage three: Combat will take place. Everyone will have operational orders that may look something like this:

Bombers: Bomb (visibly identifiable stationary structure) at (location that can be described as a feature on the ground or by a square centre or corner.

Dive bombers (DB) or fighter bombers (FB): Bomb a stationary square centre or corner,or identifiable troop concentration, vehicle concentration, train, AA or ship. Troops on the ground in slit trenches, or vehicles guns and aircraft in blast shelters or emplacements can count medium cover. Troops only in air raid shelters can count heavy cover.

Fighters: Attack enemy , fighters, dive or fighter bombers, or bombers.

Fighter bombers or fighters: Strafe targets of opportunity on the ground if no other combat has taken place.

 Fighters attacking their first target of choice have a +1 bonus in a contested 1d6 roll, and can attack bombers before they reach their target.

Defending fighters that beat off attacking fighters, who are protecting bombers/FB/DB, can then go on to attack the protected bombers/FB/DB, after the bombers complete their bombing run at a disadvantage of -1 for the defending fighters.

Following combat the aircraft will return to base and land – nose towards their ground support unit or marker to show that they are ready to refuel and rearm.In this position they cannot attempt to scramble until they are refuelled and rearmed.

 

Stage four: Account for refuelling and rearming – fighters , fighter and dive bombers, one turn per point of support unit. Bombers one turn per engine. Thus a three SP ground unit can refuel and rearm 3 fighters or one three-engined bomber per turn.

Stage five: When they are ready, aircraft will sit on the ground away from their support unit, or with the unit at its tail, ready to scramble.

If they are attacked on the ground they can attempt to scramble according to skill level. once successfully scrambled they can fight as normal, except that fighters can only attack bombers AFTER their bombing run, if the airfield is the target.

Green: Never

Trained: Succeeds on 5+

Experienced: Succeeds on 4+

Veteran: Succeeds on 3+

Ace/Elite: Always

Operational Radius from airstrip when airborne:

4 squares – Fighters

5 squares – Fighter bombers and dive bombers.

8 squares – Bombers and transports

10 squares – Recce aircraft

 

 

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Unfashionable City Breaks Two – Rotterdam

Waterfront Skyscrapers

“You went for a holiday in a container port?” My team leader at work was bemused even after I explained it to her. Nevertheless, 21st century Rotterdam¹ has much to commend it as a city break and concrete sniffer’s destination.

Central Rotterdam

Central Rotterdam

Not as crowded as Amsterdam, and with  an impressive modern skyline, the Dutch have embraced the future with an enthusiasm that puzzles the British psyche.

Make It Happen

Suzanne Making it Happen en route to our Hotel

Rotterdam is easily accessible via Eurostar, with an efficient security check in that is not as onerous as most airlines. Legroom is generous. You are deposited into the centre of the city, which is stuffed with street art in unexpected places.

Wibbly-wobbly Skyscrapers with added Pigeon just outside the Station

Saluting Balcony with Golden Lions

Saluting Balcony with Golden Lions

Our hotel, tucked away in a mixed commercial district had a saluting balcony and excellent breakfasts, which consisted of pancakes with bacon, scrambled eggs and Stroop. If your sweet tooth is not sated , then pastries, cakes and toast with hundreds and thousands follow (or precede), all washed down with cups of strong coffee.

Golden Lions

Golden Lions

Windmills at Kinderdijk

Windmills at Kinderdijke

Of course, there are windmills, at Kinderdijke; well-preserved ones too. I personally think that the Dutch leave them standing as a bit of a laugh for the tourists. Why? Because to get to them, you have to walk past a really impressive set of three Archimedes screws that keep the polder dry. Maybe, it’s just me.

Archimedes Screw doing the Heavy Lifting Work

Archimedes Screw doing the Heavy Lifting Work

The Dutch are the unrivaled masters of Whimsy and Kitsch. Walk into a park that could be somewhere in Lord Nobby Nobb’s English country mansion, were it not for the huge rubber ducky in the middle of the Lake, or an enameled tin palm tree in a pocket park. Note the protective fence to stop cows nibbling the trunk!

Rubber Ducky near the Zoo

Rubber Ducky near the Zoo

 

Enameled Palm

Enameled Palm

Then of course, there is Butt-plug gnome.

Cool Kid in Dordrecht

Cool Kid in Dordrecht

It only took Suzanne 48 hours to be Skyscrapered out, so we took the waterbus to Dordrecht and spent the day inside it’s medieval trace, watching a robot transcribing the first Dutch translation of The Bible, at the pace a monk would have done if he did it in one solid stretch without eating or sleeping. It was slow, relentless entertainment.

Robot Monk

Robot Monk

The lovely Mrs K’s instincts for a good cake shop, and mine for a quiet ramshackle corner bar did not desert us.

Lowlander Poorter

Lowlander Poorter tastes of liquorice and Vanilla

Dordrecht also has not one, but two Specialist Pirate Memory Game shops. This will only make sense to fans of Little Britain.

Specialist Pirate Memory Game Shop

Specialist Pirate Memory Game Shop

To be continued …

  1. YesthatPhil thinks that this post should have been called Rotterdammerung.

 

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Verstärkungstruppen vs усиливающие войска (usilivayushchiye voyska) – Reinforcement Troops

Soviet Motor Rifle TroopsThe ground is firming from the south on the Eastern Front, and troops that have been sat in marshalling yards are approaching  the front; some faster than others. In no particular order are a pair of Skytrex 10.5cm LkW Feldhaubitzer , previously posted German motorcycles, fifty Soviet truck-mounted troops  and a few Butler’s Printed Models dovunque trucks. A lollipop stick’s worth of PSC artillery officers have been lounging about in Cairo hotels, wondering when the next big push is coming. They have taken second place to canoeing over the summer, and biological and chemical warfare on a new allotment, but their time is drawing near.

The rest of the world knows that dry-brushing colours over black is the quickest way to paint large numbers of troops. I have always resisted it in the past, but gave in when faced with fifteen or so blocks of seated troops. Likewise, the motorcycles have a lot of undercut shadows, so got the same treatment. As usual, they look fine to me at a distance.

Soviet Motor Rifle BattalionsThe seated Soviets are gradually replacing the more active truck-mounted troops that used to leap about on the flatbeds in heroic poses.

 

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