A Grand Day Out

Megablitz at Shrivenham

The Air Umpire’s Tale.

Going back to one’s Old School (RMCS Shrivenham) can unlock forgotten memories, but as most of mine were of the pubs in Faringdon and Oxford they probably don’t bear retelling here. Most peoples’ old school does not have a large tank shed, but mine did and still does. It’s a bit posher now.

The Italians designed the turret, there must be a wine rack in here somewhere. (Photo copyright Phil Steele)

Tim Gow’s refight of Kharkov was not to be missed and can be read in full here:  megablitzandmore.blogspot.co.uk/   Tim’s opening brief to me was “Just make it up as you go along“. I could work with that! It was also a chance to say ‘hello’ to some old toys from my collection that I haven’t seen for a good few years.

I have always maintained that in large games where folks have travelled some distance, that the umpire’s first duty is to give the players an enjoyable experience. I also had a personal goal to play the air war so that it meshed into the ground battle, as it does in NQM. The opening set up turn was spent  at the Army HQ of each commander as an air liaison officer, to find out what the commanders wanted:

“”He says he wants another Panzerarmee!“. Martin Rapier roleplays “Springtime for Hitler in Germany” (Photo copyright Tom Mouat)

The Soviets were clearly focussed on attacking the German railhead in KHARKOV. They stuck to this aim during the whole battle and had largely succeeded in destroying it by the end of the battle. They were not really rewarded for this tactically during the game, but as I shall be writing the results of the battle into the NQM campaign, the title of the battle will not be that of Glantz’s (1998) Kharkov 1942. Anatomy of a Military Disaster through Soviet Eyes. The Soviet plan was effective in that it was simple, had a target that Stormovik squadrons could find by flying up and down the main railway line, and maximised the limited skills that the VVS had in 1942.  Glantz maintained that the the Luftwaffe was superior at this time.

Stormoviks taxi on Soviet Centre (2) forward airstrip (Photo copyright Tom Mouat)

By contrast the Axis commander was far more tactically focussed, changing his plan from day to day. He was fortunate to benefit from the superior navigation skills of his airmen, and he was lucky that the Romanian Airforce was never seriously challenged in the air by the VVS. His failure to appreciate the damage being done to his railhead would have cost him dear had the game gone on longer, but it didn’t. He would have a good case for arguing that logistics was not his problem (after all, it almost worked for Rommel).

The air umpire ponders the next Axis ground target. (Photo copyright Tom Mouat)

The next turn was spent badgering players for decisions on where the forward air strips were to go. When decisions were not forthcoming on the Axis side, due to early information overload, the Luftwaffe just went ahead and built them anyway. An umpire should be judicious about b*******g the players around, only doing so if it serves a narrative purpose and adds something to the game.

The railhead and KHARKOV forward airstrip with a Fieseler Storch can be seen. (Photo copyright Tim Gow)

The Soviets were slow to establish airfields, not because of indicisiveness, but because masses of ground troops were forming up on the masking tape “X”s that the advance parties had laid out. As soon as real estate was available, the airstrips went down and the opportunity for umpire generated mischief passed. Not all went well for the Soviets though; a transit breakage led to the narrative that a Squadron of Bostons (sorry Tim, IL-4s) had crashed in heavy morning mist.

A squadron of Bostons (IL-4s) crash at forward airfield North (1) (Photo copyright Tom Mouat)

Each sides had 3 forward airstrips: North, Kharkov and South for the Axis in the west. North (1), Centre (2) and South (3) for the Soviets.

to be continued …



Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Romanian Army, Royal Romanian Airforce, Soviet Army, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

5 responses to “A Grand Day Out

  1. They let you out? LOL, it’s OK they let me out too after I bribed the guards….)
    Looks like a great time there from what I’ve seen here and on Tim Gow’s blog!


  2. Trebian

    “I have always maintained that in large games where folks have travelled some distance, that the umpire’s first duty is to give the players an enjoyable experience.”

    Well said, sir.


  3. Chris, you did a splendid job as Air Umpire but your contract is under review after you wrongly identified my Il-4 lashed up from an old Japanese bomber kit as a ‘Boston’. Shocking. (To be fair so is the model…)


  4. Chris – it’s not a Betty (just don’t ask me what it is, ‘cos I can’t for the life of me remember…)


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