Category Archives: WWII

Sturmgeschutz IV PSC Conversion

PSC StuG III Superstructure and PzIV hull

PSC StuG III Superstructure and Pz IV hull

 

The success of the Sturmgeschutz III led to a demand for more hulls than could be produced from Alkett, the existing manufacturer of the Pz III chassis. The G variant was by far the commonest, in excess of 8,000 being produced from December 1942 until the end of the war.¹

Krupp were called in, as manufacturers of the Pz IV chassis, and the simple expedient of adding the StuG III superstructure to the Pz IV was adopted. An extended box was necessary to accomodate the drivers position on the PzIV hull, but little else needed to be done. Production only started in November 1943, when the Alkett factory suffered severe bomb damage.

Second Cut to Mate Superstructure to Hull

Second Cut to Mate Superstructure to Hull

The StuG IV did not suffer from the nose heaviness of the Jagdpanzer IV, an ostensibly better design on paper that earned the nickname of “Guderian’s Duck”² from its habit of nosediving into anything soft or wet. Roughly equal numbers were produced of each design: 1,141 StuG IVs compared to 1,208 Jagdpanzer IVs.

Add Driver's Armoured Box

Add Driver’s Armoured Box

My conversion was a simple cut-and-shunt of a PSC StuG III top onto a Pz IV hull. The driver’s box came from scrap plastic and card. Nothing much to it really.

With the old 2-part PSC tracks, the method of assembly that works for me is to stick the top half of the track to the idler assembly, then stick it to the tank hull. Once everything is dry, the bottom half goes on fairly easily. Finally the front and back wheels go on.

Doh! - Loaders Hatches Should be Fore and Aft

Doh! – Loaders Hatches Should be Fore and Aft

Full marks to PSC for doing a StuG III rather than a JgdPz IV, and for adding the new one-piece tracks in retrospect to existing boxes of (PzIV) kits. I’ve remarked before on PSC’s generosity of spirit in this respect, after all, the costs of doing it are relatively small.. Now I’m waiting eagerly for the SU-76.

Correctly Assembled StuG IV

Correctly Assembled StuG IV

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_armored_fighting_vehicle_production_during_World_War_II gives total war production of Stug III A-E of 825 and F-G 8,593; of which only 366 were Fs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturmgesch%C3%BCtz_III). Aditionally 1,217 StuH 42s were produced with the 10.5cm Howitzer.
  2. This was rather unfair, as Guderian had opposed their production in the first place – but Hitler liked them, so they went ahead.
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Filed under Artillery, Modelling, tank, Wehrmacht, WWII

NOVOGOROD Mar ’43 – NQM Squared

 

31 Rifle Div in the Attack on a 9 km Frontage

31 Rifle Div in the Attack on a 9 km Frontage

VELIKY NOVOGOROD sits  astride the River Volkhov, at the northern tip of Lake Ilman. The Command decision Hex Grid Europa map runs a straight rail line between LENINGRAD and MOSCOW, and ignores this inconvenient piece of geography to put NOVOGOROD on the rail line.

33 Rifle Div Assaults 126 Inf Div in NOVOGOROD

33 Rifle Div Assaults 126 Inf Div in NOVOGOROD

For this game, finishing the Soviet winter offensive, I put the city and rail lines back where They should be. It was also the first outing of the new squared board, and a chance to see how a Wehrmacht Korps defence in depth fared against a Soviet army of 3 divisions.

30 Inf Div Defend the River Volkhov

30 Inf Div Defend the River Volkhov

To the south, 126 Infantry Division held NOVOGOROD, and to the north, 30 Infantry Division held a line 9 km deep.

 

33 Rifle Div advances on NOVOGOROD

33 Rifle Div advances on NOVOGOROD

32 Rifle Div Moves up to the VolKhov

32 Rifle Div Moves up to the Volkhov

Facing them was 34th Army with 31, 32 and 33 Rifle Divisions. As in Phil’s original game, we used Tim Gow’s Megablitz SMART counters to codify the tactical stance of the two sides, but we retained the NQM table 12 winning the firefight for resolving combat. Phil’s movement table was used.

First Bridgehead over the Volkhov

First Bridgehead over the Volkhov

During the course of the game, 33 Rifle made no progress attempting to break into NOVOGOROD, contenting itself with demonstrating outside. 32 Rifle forced a crossing over the River Volkhov, and broke into the main line of 30 Inf, but was forced to withdraw as a spent force. 31 Rifle was more successful, with one of its regiments finding the northern flank of 30 Inf, and bypassing it.

Hier ist die Luftwaffe!

Hier ist die Luftwaffe!

The Luftwaffe  was more active than over LENINGRAD, and succeeded in driving off Sturmovik regiments and inflicting some damage on one of the river crossings, but failing to destroy either.

They Couldn't Hit a Barn Door at this Dist....

They Couldn’t Hit a Barn Door at this Dist….

The month ended with NOVOGOROD surrounded but the Wehrmacht falling back in relatively good order until the Rasputitsa halted all movement in the north for a month.

High Water Mark

High Water Mark

Post Game Ideas that were Discussed:

  1. Allow attacks from troops that share a square edge in common, but not corners.
  2. Ranged support troops (artillery, AA) can be further back.
  3. Air assets can be placed on airfields or baseline at the start of the game. They must roll an appropriate number to activate a sortie (or perhaps get the first one free), then return to base and reactivate when they reach an appropriate score – perhaps reducing the number by one on each subsequent attempt, perhaps not..
  4. Recce and Engineers show hits on their main (E3) or (R3) stand, but the markers can show where the actual effort is going in.
  5. Defences need to be shown in a fairly abstract manner

 

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Filed under "Rules" Explanations, 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Land Battles, Rules Examples, Soviet Army, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

How is ALAMEIN Shaping up?

7 Armd Div before being slimmed down

The collection of models for ALAMEIN (and later, Tunisia and Italy) is coming on nicely, but I’m hitting some hard limits on (a) storage space,  (b) how much board space I need to lay ALAMEIN out, and (c) the sheer numbers of infantry needed . YesthatPhil previously posited that the players would be happier with a more formal game sequence and squares to help with directions (I believe the original armies had similar problems with maps and compasses), so there may be some mileage in going to NQM Squared.I’m still not a fan of rectilinear military thinking, but if it gets the job done, it’s a compromise that I’m willing to make.

Phil has paved the way there with Megablitz Squared in an elegant blend of NQM and Megablitz, using PBI 6″ squares. In addition, the work that Bob Cordery has put in with The Portable Wargame concept has made squares much more acceptable to players.

My initial sums on the back-of-a-fag-packet led me to believe that the ALAMEIN front of 40miles (65Km) could fit onto a 6.5m tabletop at 10cm per Km (1:10,000). Trebian’s Shedquarter table is 11 feet, or 22 x 6″ (150mm) squares. If the scale is halved to 1:20,000 then that makes a square about 3Km across. A battalion normally holds a frontage of about 1Km or 50mm.

Megablitz divisions are roughly half the size or smaller than those in NQM, but I have been fighting the Eastern Front at between half and 1/3 scale anyway. It would make sense to write orbats for  these army-level games that more accurately reflect what we are actually doing. This makes a lot of sense for 1943 onwards, where on the Eastern Front, the numbers of units increased along with their firepower, but the manpower shrank as the battlefield emptied in response to the increasing lethality of the weapons employed.

This halves my problem for ALAMEIN. It means some sacrifices in orbat chrome to achieve game room for higher level functions, but the die-rolling grind should be halved:

The first simplification is to remove the distinction between support and fighting stands within the infantry battalion. If a battalion is now S3 instead of S6, this no longer matters. The support will sit at regimental level, and headquarters will sit at divisional level.

I will need to make explicit the defence tactic of dispersed defence in depth to reduce the lethality of artillery barrages, whose main effect seemed to be to impose disorganisation on defenders, and disruption/delay on attackers with casualties as a by product. The German defenders at ALAMEIN do not seem to have suffered excessive  casualties from a heavy set piece bombardment conducted to WWI standards of planning by a highly professional artillery arm, but it did stop thenm from interfering with minesweeping and the initial advance.

Divisional supporting battalions such as Anti-aircraft Anti-tank and artillery will have to express their effect over the area of the division. squares should make this easier. This should free up time for logistic matters that are usually ignored when the combat becomes heavy. I have felt for a while now that I only need to track artillery ammunition and fuel for armoured divisions: no-one else ever really reported running out of stuff down at battalion level.

Small markers that don’t really play a part in the came or occupy real estate can be subsumed into units – namely RMP and FOOs. Single figure markers may be useful here.

7 Armd Div Corps Scale Orbat

7 Armoured Division. Corps-Scale Orbat (March 2018)

The first stage is to play a trial game to make sure that the balance between infantry, armour and artillery is still intact.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, The "Rules", Wargames, WWII

Leningrad Counteroffensive (4)

LENINGRAD 4 Guards Rifles North 1

LENINGRAD  – 4 Guards Rifles Assault from the North

As the battle for LENINGRAD moved into the centre of the city, heavy guns from the captured icebound Soviet Fleet came into play.

 

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Wargame

Not Your Run-of-the-Mill Wargame

LENINGRAD SE

LENINGRAD SE

On the Soviet side, no fewer than three B-4 and B-2 regiments laid down a sustained bombardment of the shrinking German lines. This was the largest concentration of heavy artillery seen since the siege of MOSCOW.

Engineers came into their own, with two bridges proving harder to demolish than their size would suggest. Rolling two successive ones didn’t help either!

LENINGRAD Failed Demolition

Anything but a one!

Second Bridge Demolished in the Nick of Time

Second Bridge Demolished in the Nick of Time

The LENINGRAD garrison continued to be pressed from the north, east and south.  Soviet siege artillery pounded the centre of  the  City into rubble with no respite.

13 MR Assault

13 Motor Rifle Assault

Retreat at the Pace of the Slowest

Retreat at the Pace of the Slowest

The survivors that streamed out of the city were shell-shocked and reduced in numbers by 30-60%, And the attackers fared little better as General Zhukov fed more divisions into the meat grinder.

LENINGRAD City Centre

LENINGRAD City Centre

LENINGRAD City Centre is Retaken

LENINGRAD City Centre is Retaken

The Commander of I Infantry Corps received a LittleFuhrer directive ordering LENINGRAD to be held to the last man. It was already far too late for that, so after ordering a breakout and fallback onto the Oranienbaum position, The Corps Commander joined the final few survivors clinging to the Docks area.

I Corps Commander's Final Stand

I Corps Commander’s Final Stand

He was last seen ordering the destruction of fuel oil and ammunition on the jettys, before being overwhelmed.

I Corps Commander's Final Stand

I Corps Commander’s Final Stand

The Soviets, too, were at the end of their resources, so consolidated their position against counterattacks. A final assault on ORANIENBAUM was repulsed. As the Rasputitsa began its thaw and ice on the NEVA broke up, an uneasy peace settled over the  ruined city of LENINGRAD.

 

Nose to Tail on the ORANIENBAUM Road

Nose to Tail on the ORANIENBAUM Road

Game notes:

The new bases speed things up by making it clearer which battalions belong where in attack and defence. I don’t quite know if I approve of the tidiness, but it makes things faster for the players, so that’s good.

Engineers were vital in this game. Neither side had enough. Normally an engineer base is 1SP; I tripled this to 3SP and things were still tight. I ruled that breaching minefields under fire needed a 4-6 on 1d6 in the first turn, with an accumulating one reduction in second and third turns to 2-6 as a minimum die roll on subsequent rurns.

We started by recording hits by placing a die next to the unit affected, then by placing pin markers at the end of a move. It helped to show the situation during attacks. It is easier to place pins on the new larger bases.

The total playing time worked out at about 8 hours, with an hour at each end setting up and packing down. You are not imagining it if you think that the paint jobs on some of the units became more complete during the game. I took advantage of the layout to touch up a few of my own units during the intervals between games.

I need more ambulances and radio trucks for both sides.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Land Battles, Soviet Army, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

LENINGRAD Counteroffensive (3)

The LENINGRAD Front Artillery Masses

The LENINGRAD Front Artillery Masses

As the third day of the counterofensive dawned, leading squadrons of 9 Cavalry Division probed the minefields fronting the 58 Infantry Division position. Early attacks were repulsed easily, but these masked Soviet pioneer companies  moving up to breach safe lanes for 13 Motor Rifle Division.

Short Daylight Hours do not Halt the Offensive

Short Daylight Hours do not Halt the Offensive

A second wave of cavalry, supported by artillery and airstrikes was on the brink of succeeding, but morale failed at a critical point in the assault under a well-timed counterattack from 58 Division’s reserve regiment.

9 Cav Retreats as 13 MR Advances

9 Cavalry Retreats as 13 MR Advances

To the north, the southern defenders of LENINGRAD  were firing onto 13 Motor Rifle Division, in the hope of inflicting significant casualties, but the division maintained its own advance westwards and ignored the pinpricks to its flank.

13 MR Assaults 58 Inf

13 MR Assaults 58 Inf

As the remnants of 9 Cavalry withdrew to the east, more airstrikes paved the way for 13 Motor Rifle to breach 58 Infantry’s northern flank.

Another Wave of Bombers Pound 58 Inf

Another Wave of Bombers Pound 58 Inf

Airstrike Hits 58 Inf with Devastating Results

Airstrike Hits 58 Inf with Devastating Results

Under pressure, the division made its way back  to the airfield at ORIENBAUM. Ju-52s had been ferrying supplies in to LENINGRAD, and casualties out, until the very last moment; but now the last Tante Jus lumbered off westwards, escorted by Fw-190s. After reorganisation, the fighting strength of 9 Cavalry was down to 50%

Overworked Luftwaffe at Flugplatz ORANIENBAUM

Overworked Luftwaffe at Flugplatz ORANIENBAUM

4 Guards Rifle Division and 27 Rifle Division continued to press forward into the eastern defences, gaining ground, then losing it, before subjecting the area to such a fierce combined air and artillery bombardment that the area was left an uninhabitable ruin to defender and attacker alike. ¹

Eastern LENINGRAD in Flames

Eastern LENINGRAD in Flames

28 Rifle Div Breaches East LENINGRAD

28 Rifle Div Breaches East LENINGRAD

4 GR Assaults from the North

4 GR Assaults from the North

4 GR Breaches LENINGRAD from the North

4 GR Breaches LENINGRAD from the North

As the attacks bore in on the outskirts of LENINGRAD, army and front-level artillery added their weight to the assault, exacting a severe toll on the defenders.² The centre of LENINGRAD  began to fill with displaced units and the first bridges over the NEVA were demolished by the rearguard³

LENINGRAD Breached from the North and East

LENINGRAD Breached from the North and East

To be continued …

Game notes:

  1. The first time we ran this sequence, the defender’s reserve regiment managed to evict the attackers. Phil pointed out, quite reasonably, that the bombardment should have fallen on the reserves as well. We re-ran it and this time the defenders were wiped out but the attackers failed their morale due to casualties and withdrew disorganised.
  2. I have been waiting for some years to use my Long Tom masquerading as a 203mm B-4M. We graded it as extra-heavy and  used a red die, which rolled a gratifying number of ones! It can be seen that a Long Tom looks nothing like a B-4M, but I didn’t know that in pre-internet days.B-4M in its firing position.
  3. Shortage of real estate will become critical for the defenders in this game. If there is no space for units, it will force them to reorganise and consolidate stands in order to fit into the space available. It should also be noted that the logistic units can defend, but not counterattack.
  4. The outskirts an roads of LENINGRAD were counted as medium defences. We counted the centre as heavy.
  5. The airstrike on 58 Inf was the most devastating use of heavy dice that anyone can recall. The VVS regiments involved have all been promoted to Guards status!

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Artillery, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Soviet Army, Soviet War Diary, WWII

LENINGRAD Counteroffensive (2)

28 Rifle Div Cross the NEVA with HQ 8 Army

28 Rifle Division Crosses the NEVA with HQ 8 Army

Soviet 8 Army began the offensive from its bridgehead over the Riva NEVA, leading with 27 and 28 Rifle Divisions, and with 4 Guards Rifle Division flanking to the north.

1 Infantry Division defends OSERKI

Resistance from 21 and 11 Infantry divisions was resolute, but the combined weight of air and artillery bombardment, with waves of infantry steadily pushed the defenders out of the position.

 

 

1 Infantry Division Counterattacks Fail to Retake OSERKI

21 Infantry Division Counterattacks Fail to Retake OSERKI

I Infantry Division Repels 4 Guard Rifle Division, but not 28 Rifle Division's Flank Attacks

21 Infantry Division Repels 4 Guard Rifle Division, but not 28 Rifle Division’s Flank Attacks

Regimental level counterattacks failed to regain OSERKI, so a disciplined retreat by bounds of these two largely East Prussian  divisions began, back to the outskirts of LENINGRAD. Meanwhile, the remnants of 21 Infantry Division were reforming in LENINGRAD itself.

I Infantry Division loses OSERKI to 28 Rifle Division and 4 Guards Rifle Division

21 Infantry Division loses OSERKI to 28 Rifle Division and 4 Guards Rifle Division

9 Cavalry Division and 13 Motor Rifle Division Advance

9 Cavalry Division and 13 Motor Rifle Division Advance

On the ORANIENBAUM axis, 9 Cavalry and 13 Motor Rifle divisions made steady progress, against 58 Infantry division.

9 Cavalry Division Pounds 58 Infantry Division with Airstrikes

9 Cavalry Division Pounds 58 Infantry Division with Airstrikes

Ground was given up grudgingly by the Lower Saxon Landser, but in the winter landscape, the Soviet cavalry were in their element.

9 Cavalry Division in Pursuit of 58 Infantry Division

9 Cavalry Division in Pursuit of 58 Infantry Division

LENINGRAD from the South

LENINGRAD from the South

To be continued …

Game Notes:

Observant readers will notice that the Marder III from “Prelude to Leningrad” has morphed into a SiG 33. Phil generously gave it to me, so it only seemed fair to use it against him!

Spot the T-28 and T-35s. They have been sitting patiently in their boxes waiting for LENINGRAD for ages. Don’t they look splendid?

We counted minefields as Medium due to the snow, rather than their usual heavy attack when units cross them.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, WWII

LENINGRAD Counteroffensive (1)

Not Quite Mechanised LENINGRAD Front Jan-Mar 1943

Operation Polar Star (Polyarnaya Zvezda – Операция Полярная звезда) did not come as a surprise to Army Group North. The Snail Offensive had slowed from a crawl to a dead stop, and a pause at the River NEVA as both sides regrouped and recovered did not lull the defenders into believing that the Soviet Winter Offensive had run its course. The incomplete intelligence picture for both sides is summarised above. The actual orbats have been modified below now that the game is underway

German Orbat – Defenders

LENINGRAD Garrison: I Infantry Korps – 122, 123  255 Infantry Division

ORANIENBAUM Garrison and forces East of LENINGRAD:

XVIII Infantry Korps –  11, 58 and 21 Infantry Divisions

Soviet Orbat – Operation Polar Star

8 Army – 4 Guard Rifle Division, 27, 28 Rifle Divisions

23 Army – 15 Guard Rifle Division, 13 Motor Rifle Division, 9 Cavalry Division

Front Reserves

55 Army –  48, 49 Rifle Divisions

The ground to be fought over was well-known to both sides:

River NEVA and OSERKI position

LENINGRADLENINGRAD*

ORANIENBAUM and Baltic SeaORANIENBAUM, KRONSTADT, and Baltic Sea

 

  • Casual readers of this blog might be forgiven for thinking that this looks like MOSCOW. It is not, of course. It is completely different. Maskirovka!

 

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11th Honourable Artillery Company RHA

These splendid chaps fought through the GAZALA battles with 25 pdrs in the KNIGHTSBRIDGE box with the Guards Brigade, before being re-equipped with Priest self-propelled guns for 2nd Alamein and fighting with 1st Armoured Division. I have chosen to model the company with a priest, because A, I have one, and B, it provides some variety from the hordes of 25 pdrs that I need to model. PSC carrier crews provided the gunners, with a Peter Pig seated driver furnishing the obligatory “Officer with Map”

I’m currently trying to build extra limbers and to find out if the priests towed them, or used Kangaroos as limbers, or trucks, as I have modelled.

After munching through a PSC box of nine Universal Carriers, and adding five Loyd Carriers* to the eight or so Piggie carriers that I already own, it is clear that I still need more; in particular, FOOs to bulk out my artillery regiments. There is photographic evidence of FOOs in Morris and CMP trucks, and Dingos, but the carriers are such good value, and perfect for the job. More Quads are on the cards too.

* As far as I know, no Loyd carriers made it to North Africa, but they will do as placeholders. (The temptation to write Lloyd is overwhelming)

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

1st Armoured Division at ALAMEIN

1st Armoured Division in Box 37 has been getting a bit of work done to it over the weekend. They had a reorganisation and all their divisional tactical signs added, as best I can judge. For amusement, have a close look at the divisional Rhinos. With a bit of imagination, you can see pigs, poodles and sheep pretending to be rhinos. It’s why I dont usually bother in this scale (I’m not fond of transfers either!). The whole exercise took longer than I thought, but was fun.

I came across this photo of 11th Honourable Artillery Company, and was surprised to see that the Div flash is on the wrong side – so I have reproduced it as seen.

The odd-looking 6pdr on a plastic hotwheels truck that is lurking in the top right of the photo above, is a placeholder for a Deacon.

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

Rebasing

The very mention of the word sends a shudder through us. We vow that we will never do it (again), so I haven’t been rebasing anything: just reorganising a few Eastern Front divisions to reflect mid war orbats … I’m not fooling anyone, am I?

You may remember the changes that began back on the 8th of January, 2016 to speed up moving the toys around? No? The essence is that you can use whatever you want to depict stands of 3 Strength Points. My current standard is using Flames of War sized bases because they are roughly the size of a 3SP vehicle base. Failing that, a couple of 30mm bases butted together  achieves the same objective. This is a WIP Soviet support base of 3SP, and the reorganised division that it lives in

Soviet NQM Mid War Reduced ORBAT

I still have older orbats around, but they have gradually been reorganising to the new leaner orbats. Here is a Fallschirmjäger Division.

The four bases on the right are Luftwaffe ground crew. Kudos to Will McNally, who has rebased squillions of Renaissance figures. I have managed about 420!

 

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Filed under German Airforce, Modelling, Soviet Army, WWII