Coming across a snippet on one of the many WWII Forums (Fora?) that 164 Light (Afrika) Division arrived in theatre without any transport sent me back to my NQM division to re-evaluate it. The Division was shipped from Crete, where it had been building fortifications, less its 440 Infantry Regiment. It collected 125 Panzer Grenadier Regiment, which had been fighting in Africa since the start of the campaign. The division acquired transport by helping itself to captured British stocks.
As I had equipped the three regiments with Opel Blitz trucks, it made sense to just swap them with trucks from the British boxes, which now have some captured trucks of their own. I had to root about a bit to find enough open-backed trucks to do this, but here they are. I kept some Blitzs for 125 Regiment, reasoning that they were already in theatre, so probably had German transport :
“The 125 Regiment was disbanded in January 1943. The other 2 regiments got the remaining men of 125. 382nd Panzergrenadier Regiment had just 2 battalions, the 433rd had the normal 3 battalions. Artillery Regiment 220, had just 2 Abteilungen and 1 (schw) battery.
Panzeraufklärungsabteilung 220 [Recce] (renamed 164 in spring 1943) had 5 companies:
1. Komp Panzerspäh (Recce)
2. Komp : Aufklärungs,Kradschützen and SPW platoons
3. Komp : Heavy company
4. Komp : Stug-battery
5. Komp : Stab und versorgungs Kompanie
Flakbatterie mot 220 consisted of 4 8.8cm Flak*
Panzerjägerabteilung 220 : 3 Pzjg Komp ( of which one was added 1-43, consisting of pak auf Skoda-chassis) and 1 Flak Komp auf SFL
Pionierbatallion 220 : 3 Pio Komp, 1 Schwere Werfer Zug (mot)”
EricV on https://www.feldgrau.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3677 accessed 17/11/22 (corrected for German grammar, spelling and unit designation consistency). Unfortunately, Eric does not cite his source, but cites two battalions each for 125 and 382 Regiments, and three for 433. The orbat suggests that 220 Pioneer Battalion had a heavy (Nebel)werfer platoon. I have found nothing to suggest that this equipment was taken to North Africa, much less that it was ever used operationally.
*Interestingly, Bender and Law (1973) give the following orbat, which may be where the 8.8cm Flak comes from in 609 Flak Battalion:
“Divisional Staff 125th (mot) Panzer Grenadier Regiment
382nd (mot) Panzer Grenadier Regiment
433rd (mot) Panzer Grenadier Regiment
707th Heaviest Infantry Gun Company (150mm IG guns)
708th Heaviest Infantry Gun Company (150mm IG guns)
220nd (mot) Artillery Regiment
609th (mot) Flak Battalion
220th (mot) Panzer Pioneer Battalion
220th (mot) Reconnaissance Battalion
220th (mot) Signals Company
220th (mot) Medical Company
220th (mot) Ambulance Platoon
220th (mot) Maintenance Company
220th (mot) Divisional Supply Detachment
220th (mot) Bakery Company
220th (mot) Butcher Company
220th (mot) Administration Bureau
220th (mot) Military Police Detachment
220th (mot) Field Post Office”
Bender, R.J., & Law, R.D., Uniforms, Organization and History of the Afrikakorps, R.J.Bender, Publisher, USA, 1973.
This .pdf commenting on Rommel’s command style, offers a clue to the nebulous and shifting German orbats at the time : https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/36736361.pdf It is a long, but interesting read if you have an hour to spare.
Nierhorster shows 609 Flakbatallion at Army level armed with 2cm Flak on 23 Oct 1942, 220 Artillery Regiment: 12 x 10.5cm howitzer, 8 7.5cm Mountain Gun, with no mention of 8.8cm Flak
He gives 220 Panzerjager Abteilung as being wheeled with 5cm towed guns and all three regiments being wheeled (125, 382 and 433).
http://www.niehorster.org/011_germany/42-oob/42-10-23/div_afr_164.html accessed 17/11/22.
Nafziger (2000, pp. 176-177) gives the orbat for the invasion of Greece as 5cm Pak.
609 Flak Abteilung was attached to 164 Light (Afrika) Division in August 1942, and later in 1943 to 21st Panzer Division in Tunisia, (uncredited post on Feldgrau)
Feldgrau gives this helpful summary of designations (corrected for German grammar, spelling and unit designation consistency. Note that Batallion is correct for German spelling):
> le. (or leichte) Flak-Abt.
> gem. (or gemischte) Flak-Abt.
> s. (or schwere) Flak-Abt.
H (or Heeres) Flak (or Flakartillerie)-Abt.
Fla-Bataillon (or Btn.)
Elsewhere in Feldgrau, one post gives the 600 series battalions as Army (Heer) units. I have elected to show all 8.8cm Flak as present only at Army level for NQM CSO (Corps-scale) orbats. There were only a few of them, and army Flak aimed to be self-propelled.
For most of its life, NQM has used pins on the bases of models to show permanent casualties. They have a long pedigree, starting with Jon Sandars’ Sandkrieg. Nevertheless, there are a number of perfectly good reasons why not everyone likes pins, useful though they are:
- They bite fingers and can be dropped on the floor! I have never trodden on one, and I don’t ask friends to take their shoes off in the Den for this reason. Not everyone can pin them to the left centre and right on a 50mm wide base, much less a 30mm base.
- Not everyone wants to stick pins into the nicely sculpted bases of their own toys.
- Not everyone remembers to reorganise and reduce the pins.
- If I ever take the game to a public show where children may be in attendance, having a hundred-plus pins on the table is just asking for trouble. It’s all good fun until someone loses an eye!
- They add to the pre, inter and post-game kit faff.¹
So here is an example of a Corps-level (CSO) Regimental/brigade attack, with and without pins on base markers.²
Two S3 bases (total of S6) take four casualty markers spreading them evenly across both bases, probably becoming disorganised.
The two bases reorganise, reducing to two permanent hits spread between the two bases and and moving the casualty markers behind the bases. Both pins go from the right-hand green position to the centre amber position. They begin their second attack with two S2 bases (total S4)
Two S3 bases (total of S6) take four casualty markers placing them against one base, which can only carry three. The fourth hit removes the base at the end of the move.
The remaining base takes a morale check, probably becoming disorganised. The disorganisation marker (not shown) is removed on reorganisation. The base begins its second attack with a strength of S3.
Note that in both cases the green morale die on the right hand attacking base is reduced from 2 to 1 on reorganisation. If the second attack fails, the regiment is spent and can attack no further until it is pulled out of the line to reorganise, rest and be brought back up to strength.
This mechanism reduces the chances of a formation fighting on as a Zombie Unit when it has accumulated too many hits that have gone unnoticed in the chaos of an attack. There is less kit faff, because the maximum number of casualty markers that a unit can accumulate is three before a base is removed on receipt of the fourth casualty. For the moment, reorganisation removes all casualty markers, which encourages carefully planned attacks with pauses to reorganise.
This should avoid skewing game balance, because previously removing half of casualty markers slowed the degradation of a unit, whereas now, gaining four markers will cause a loss of a base. This should speed up combat resolution to the disadvantage of reckless units, and conserve attacking forces if they manage reorganisation properly.
- Anything that slows a game down because players are fiddling with toys or markers rather than getting on with the game counts as kit faff.
- I have concentrated only on the attackers by way of illustration. It is unlikely that a single defending stand would cause four casualties without artillery support.
One of the chat groups that I follow and contribute to expressed amazement that the Russian Federation is using horses to resupply its troops in the illegally occupied Ukraine. This will not be a surprise to any follower of NQM or Wargaming for Grownups, and Trebian made the point that cavalry was widely used in Russia during the 1920 civil war and World War Two. Although there are more paved roads in modern Ukraine now than in 1940, the final mile across fields to the front line is still as claggy today during rasputitsa conditions as it was in 1945.
Trebian, who owns more 15mm horses than I do, also made the valid point that over short distances four legs can be a lot quieter and more mobile than a tracked or wheeled transport vehicle, particularly if said vehicle is up to its axles in mud and revving furiously to get unstuck. My Soviets have always been well supplied by mounted troops, but when a Command Decision sale came along I acquired a pack of German cavalry.
The horses are very nicely proportioned and the riders actually look as if they are on a horse rather than a burro! The riders on these part finished pieces are not in winter camouflage, but rather undercoat! They compare very favourably with the Peter Pig Cossacks on their scrubbier mounts, although I don’t see the small steppe horses reflected in many contemporaneous photos of Cossacks. They all seem to be mounted on horses of a decent size.
For obvious reasons, the NQM Eastern Front Campaign is on pause. I have little appetite for fighting a campaign along the DNIPRO (Dnieper), when a real conflict is raging there. A tray of new models has been sitting in a half-finished state since the war started.¹
Garry at Paint and Glue Miniatures, and Simon at Syborg 3-D printing continue to produce excellent prints, increasingly in resin. A couple of Peter Pig castings are lurking in trenches on the left. I am busy filing and filling the 1/144 Kittyhawks, IL-15 and Hs 129 as the print lines on curved surfaces are quite obtrusive in this scale.
My wargaming time is currently being profitably being spent over on the Pigs in Spaaace blog, where things are getting very stabby with Tibetan cataphracts and brass spears. No, there was no real blood!
- Putin’s attempts to dress an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation by calling it a “special military operation” fool no-one except himself. He needs to lose badly, and be deposed. By threatening nuclear use, he has demonstrated that he is not fit to speak for the Russian people, who have an honourable tradition of resisting foreign invasion themselves, whilst being subject to oppressive regimes at home. Russia will be better without him.
After a busy weekend in a shopping centre (Mall) in Milton Keynes, I am claiming victory for NQM’s first exposure to a non-wargaming public. It attracted just under fifty public contacts ranging from fleeting “Did you make all those little planes?” to rather longer variations on the theme of “I used to play with those, and my Grandad was in the desert“. In addition, there were a dozen plays-through almost exclusively from wargamers, but with three small to early-teenage children, who were already computer gamers, trying their luck.
As we were on a busy corner, we also spent a lot of time explaining what all the FOG (Field of Glory) and AdlG (Art de la Guerre) Competition Gamers were doing in the middle of the concourse (“It’s like a national football league of teams of toy soldiers“). Other stands varied from historical, through the Wild West to the Peterborough Club’s Dad’s Army fighting Zombies on the opposite corner to us, which was attracting a lively crowd and which was the source of much hilarity for all concerned. Apparently everyone could outrun the Zombies except for private Godfrey!
Most of my time was taken up on the Northamptonshire Battlefields Trust stand, which was a busy focus due to the medieval hardware on display. The commonest contact there was ” Would you like to photograph your offspring holding a sword and wearing a helmet?” with the caveat “but only if you promise not to stab your brother/sister” and then a hand-off to the parents with a leaflet and an invitation to visit Delapré Abbey if they wanted a good family afternoon out. Anyone who lingered, showing more detailed interest was handed over to Vincent, or to Alex, who has a History Masters degree and actually knows what he is talking about. We may also have recruited a speaker for our 2023 program who has an interest in the English Civil War.
YesthatPhil came along too. He had had the presence of mind to bring a couple of DBA armies along, so we all managed to fit in a game or two during the days’ quiet spots of calm. As at work, when nothing is happening and you make a coffee, it guarantees that you will be interrupted, so some of the battles were rather fragmented. I don’t know if Vincent or Alex are convinced yet, but we are working on them.
As to Crete, I needn’t have worried. Everyone who invaded Crete succeeded, with between 3:58 minutes and 49 seconds to spare, and I handed out just under twenty information sheets: Okay for a first run out. Improvements to come will be better signage, and as YesthatPhil puts it “Some Fallschirmjäger bling” to attract people in from a distance. I did have, as a contingency, the option for two players to sit down, with one player taking the Commonwealth, but in the event, no-one took up the “Would you like to be defeated by your offspring?” option, as I had weighted the scenario in favour of the Germans. Even so, it was still touch and go for them on a couple of runs-through. Forty nine seconds to spare is still a win!
The key to making the game run on time was to have the player roll five dice using the traditional Risk mechanism, rather than using the Table 12 fire mechanism, and to tell the player if they were attacking or defending. Also having a timer counting down, meant that the player wanted things to move along, as they were focussed on beating the clock, rather than winning the die rolls. Telling the children that the dice only counted if they landed in the box helped too!
It is possible that I am stretching a point – Amsterdam has canals, Chinese and Indonesian Quarters, a Red Light District, The Reiksmuseum and quaint buildings, But I make my case for it over on Pigs in Spaaace.
As a newly-minted Gentleman of Leisure I now have time to do the sort of things that normal people do, such as going to wargames shows. The show at Milton Keynes is a bit special as it is held in a shopping centre. This means that the public is a bit more diverse than a self-selecting audience of wargamers, and most of the public walking through will be relatively new to the idea of wargaming or military history.
The brief that I set myself was to have a board that took up no more than 3′ by 3′ for convenience and would tell the story in five minutes or play through in ten. This is what I came up with for the board:
It is a five by five grid, giving enough space to visually separate the three elements of Operation Mercury – Orion, Mars and Komet as seen from east to west. A player will need about three or four minutes of orientation, leaving little time for die-rolling.
My first run-through with the Empress took 15 minutes and was too repetitive, It persuaded me that the firing mechanism using Table 12 was the wrong one for this game. Also, there was no need to use the smaller bases, as they added nothing to the story except length. I was also persuaded that giving the players choice slowed the game down too much :
“Do you want your bombers to attack the anti-aircraft defences or the troops on the ground?“
Each question led to a minute of to-and-fro question and answer sessions, for which I had no spare time budgeted. As with patients, wargamers will not answer a question until you have given them enough information to persuade them that theirs is the right answer.
The second run-through went much better using the close assault Risk-based die mechanism. The player still had choices to make of when to break off the attack, but was led through the historical course of action, and didn’t have to ponder overly long. I am still wondering if putting Greek troops and Italians onto the board as non-acting extras will clutter things up too much and be another distraction.
All that remains to do now is finish any last-minute painting and pack everything up. Hang on! Will W is coming round for a game of DBA this afternoon! 🙂
From time to time, I review books. Here is one for the Panzer IV in Normandy. The Tankcraft Series is pretty well known and doesn’t really need reviewing, but I do them anyway.
Panzer IV Medium Tank
German Army & Waffen – SS, Normandy Campaign, 1944
This volume covers the Panzer IV in Normandy in the usual meticulous detail that is the hallmark of Dennis Oliver’s Tank monographs. Sumptuous colour photographs of kits by expert modellers, and colour side profile artwork provide inspiration for the AFV modeller. The author has made a close study of contemporary photographs to differentiate the different marks and variations of the Panzer IV in theatre, tying the photographs to individual units where possible.
Of interest to wargamers and military historians, is the introduction with an operational level map showing the seven tank divisions in Normandy, with a timeline of significant events as they affected the Panzers. Brief unit histories set the equipping and operational use of the Panzer IVs in context, together with tables of issue and orders of battle. Oliver will state reliably where he is not certain of details that are open to interpretation.
In summary, a very useful book for wargamers and modellers interested in this Wehrmacht workhorse.
In other news, The Twang Dynasty are at it again over in Pigs in Spaaace. No kitten pictures this time though 😦 , so here is one of a Pz IV. It is one of the three oldest in my fleet, and shows the various scars of tabletop battles. It is not in bad condition for a workhorse that has seen in excess of 25 years use. As far as I know, none of the real ones lasted longer than six years in operation, except perhaps in Syria?