Thursday, 16 May 2019

Chain of Command - 29 Let's Go, Game Nine, Home Run at Osmanville

Rearguard elements of the 352nd Division deploy to defend the former HQ at Osmanville

This week saw the ninth and final game of our Chain of Command Campaign recreating the battle by the US 29th Infantry Division to break out along the coast from Omaha beach and force a link up with US forces landing further west at Utah beach at the base of the Cherbourg peninsular.

The uniting of the two beachheads required the capturing of two important towns, Isigny and Carentan where it was hoped a link up could be established with the 101st Airborne Division dropped in the area to secure key crossing points.

From the German perspective, the battle was one of defence looking to delay and hold up US advances out of their beachheads to allow time for German reinforcing divisions to arrive from the interior to seal off further advances and to eventually allow a German counterattack to destroy the allied beachheads.

Planner map showing the position of the respective tables throughout our campaign

Thus far Ian's determined elements of the 352nd Infantry Division have been giving the 29th a real battle to press forward, and managed to inflict two defeats on the US troops with a corresponding delay on their advance.

However the US troops turned the tide in games seven and eight and now find themselves at the road junction outside the village of Osmanville on table 5, astride the main road to Isigny having driven the German forces back to their former HQ.

The area is held by a rearguard force hoping to join the rest of the division that, thanks to the two game delay, has fallen back over the key bridge at Isigny which they intend to destroy once this rearguard force has managed to push the Americans back and fallen back themselves securing an outright German campaign victory.

If you haven't followed the games played in this campaign, you can pick up the story in the series of links below covering events from game two onward and the final link to 'Welsh Wargamer in Devon', Jason's, our Gamemeister's, personal blog, where he neatly summarises the overall casualty rates and gives the umpires overview of how the whole series of games developed from his perspective.

Games Two (US Victory) & Three (Bloody Draw)
Game Four (US Victory)
Game Five (German Victory & Pushback)
Games Six (German Victory & Hold) & Seven (US Victory)
Game Eight (US Victory)

The question was, could the US troops snatch a small win out of the situation by destroying this rearguard force?

The map below illustrated the position outlined in the briefing with close country crisscrossed with low hedgerows and roads lined with drainage ditches. In the large northern field anti-glider poles topped with mines add further to the restriction on movement.

To reflect the surprise element of US troops rapidly moving up in the wake of their last win the German defenders will be deploying from the HQ building at the rear of their position after the US patrol markers have taken a D3 number of extra moves before they are able to react.

The  mission objective for the US troops was to capture the HQ building, by either occupying and holding it at game end or by breaking the German defenders in the battle that would facilitate the same outcome.

Our table recreating the map in the briefing
The picture below shows the position of the opposing Jump Off Positions (JOP's) at the end of the Patrol Phase.

US and German JOPs in position at the end of the Patrol Phase

With the dominance of mortar attacks in two recent games it was perhaps not surprising that both sides took medium mortars as an option and used them practically from the get go.

The cagey deployment by both sides reflected this anticipated troop type selection and the fact that both sides came with a poor force morale of eight for the US and ten for the Germans leaving little wriggle room to soak up bad events.

Down comes the mortar fire from both sides. The US Shermans are on and about to move up under the cover of this barrage

The Americans beat the Germans to the drop with the mortar barrage but only by one phase of play, by simply calling for an immediate fire for effect rather than taking the spotting round the German troops adopted, which with their follow up barrage, would have blocked the US observer from seeing the target area in the following US phase.

Thus the centre of the table and the forward most German JOP was engulfed in exploding mortar bombs.

The US made the most of this large display of exploding ordnance to move their tanks forward and in the wake of the two barrages to close on the German positions with a plan to advance the US JOP's closer as well to allow a close assault of the nearest German JOP once the mortar fire ceased.

The first units deploy, with the Germans hoping to defend their forward JOP (right). Whilst the Sherman burns in the background down by the stream

Needless to say the moves rattled by as the focus shifted to getting the armour up together with accumulating as many Chain of Command dice as possible and, by the time the turn ended, the US had a distinct advantage with three to one in accumulated dice.

When the mortar fire ceased the game changed completely as the US closely followed by the Germans lost contact with and further support from their mortars.

With a Sherman tank threatening the German position from the south close to the stream and having managed to bog itself, the Germans deployed a Panzerschreck that missed and was caught in the return fire causing it to break and seeing both sides move level with eight force morale points with the German reaction test.

Perhaps the standout unit in this final game, the trusty Sherman tank

With the German troops keen to defend the front of the orchard they were in and their forward JOP, that Sherman had to be dealt with and so with the failure of the Panzerschreck a Panzerfaust was turned to from a German squad close by and this time the German bomb found its mark, completely destroying the tank, but with the US force opting to burn a CoC dice with their lost vehicle and avoid the loss in force morale.

Then the German forward squad attempting to defend the orchard forward JOP was caught deploying by a US squad on overwatch in the nearby house supported by the remaining US Sherman.

The combination of close range HE, machinegun and small arms fire, quickly shredded the German unit and saw another two point drop in German force morale.

The battle was getting fierce and extremely tense as units started to deploy at close range and with little room to absorb losses both forces strove to keep in touch with the other by getting in damaging blows.

The German response to losing a section of infantry was to deploy a tripod MG42 in a dug in position that enfiladed another US squad close to the burning US tank and sheltering behind a hedge.

The German machinegun returned the compliment shredding the US squad which managed to hang on long enough to go tactical before becoming pinned, waiting for the other Sherman to come to the corner of a nearby house and fire on the offending German weapon.

The US rifle squad broke under the onslaught and this time the US force morale took a hit, but not before the American tank knocked out the German machinegun forcing another German force morale loss.

In response that daring Panzerschreck, now rallied, returned to the fray, firing off another rocket towards the lone Sherman peeking out from among the houses. The cover proved its worth causing the Germans to miss and this time the US tank finished the job, yet again, killing the remaining German operator and forcing yet more morale loss and lost command dice.

The US infantry advance across the road up to the hedge bordering the orchard. The forward German JOP has now been withdrawn to the back table edge near the HQ building

The battle was getting fiercer and more desperate reflected in the combined attack by another German tripod MG team firing on the US squad in the lane opposite the orchard and followed up by a second German squad operating in the orchard to come charging out of the trees to attack it.

Hand grenades heralded the German assault and, as always, close combat is often unforgiving to both sides, but in this case the US got the better of it, just managing to win and not break, but seeing the German section smashed with its loss and its leader killed dismantling the German force morale to within two points of breaking and reducing the German command dice tally still further.

The German squad in the orchard (top centre) is about to come forward to assault the US rifle squad lining the hedge on the lane by the houses. Note the German JOP bottom left soon to be approached by a US recce team.

The Sherman tank was being kept busy and the second German MG42 was dealt with by a quick round of HE and machinegun fire, which left one more German section still undeployed and so, to try and force the German hand, the third US quad, so far untouched and held in reserve amid the houses, sent forward a recce team towards the German JOP on their left flank.

The manoeuvre worked and the recce team were driven back amid a hail of German small arms fire but managed to only loose one of the two man team and were close enough to run back to the parent squad, sharing the shock and see the German section receive a return volley together with some tank HE as the Sherman brought its turret to bear.

The surviving US units at the close of a very bruising encounter

The US fire was enough to so badly hit this last German squad that the defenders broke leaving just one practically intact US squad, less one man and the remaining Sherman to mop up.

What a last battle to end our campaign on, with massive swings of fortune throughout and the US looking at times to be on their way out with low force morale, tanks burning and mortar support lost.

However as has happened a few times in our campaign, when the going has got tough it has been the trusty Sherman tank that has often proved to be the winning difference between the two sides often surviving anti-tank and mortar attacks to deliver knock out punches with well delivered HE rounds that has literally shot the US rifle squads onto the position and so it was rather fitting that they played such a prominent role in this final game.

Ian threw everything at the Americans to try and close out the ninth game that would have secured an overwhelming German win, but his forces did enough in the campaign to ensure that the bulk of their forces have survived to fight on.

We have really enjoyed playing this series of games and Tuesday nights wont seem quite the same, and from the comments I have received some of you have to, with many comments about wanting to play more CoC but not having quite got around to it.

All I can say is, that was me a couple of months ago, but following this series of games, I can highly recommend the time investment into these rules and I am looking forward to playing them again.

Thanks to Jason and his wife Tina for providing our venue for our gatherings and for Jason's tutoring and provision of some fine tables and figures that have really added to the fun. Thanks also to Steve and Ian for playing the games - great times.

I'm off up to Newark this weekend for our annual DWG Beano to Partizan 2019 as well as our usual gathering at Wargames Foundry for a pre show big game where we are planning to play Dux Bellorum again, so will aim to post on both those weekend activities, plus I have a book review from Mr Steve coming up so lots to come here on JJ's.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The Sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo 1810 and 1812 - Tim Saunders

Last month I completed my planned education in the key Tolkienien works by finishing the six books that make up 'The Lord of the Rings', having started with 'The Silmarillion' in September last year, then 'The Hobbit' in December.

Following that little detour I then fed my mind with a bit of Imperial Roman fiction and read Simon Scarrow's, 'The Eagles and the Wolves' covering Macro and Cato's adventures during the Invasion of Britain in 44 AD.

This perhaps explains my recent lack of Book Reviews on more serious historical reading since my last review of 'Four Days in September' and Jason R Abdale's excellent look at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in February.

However I have had two books that I have very much been wanting to get read before setting off on a long planned for trip to Spain and Portugal next month; taking three weeks to drive across the Peninsula taking in the battlefields of Sir John Moore and the Duke of Wellington.

Those books being the one featured in this review, published last year by Pen & Sword to be followed by 'The Key to Lisbon' by Kenton White this year and covering the third French invasion of Portugal in 1810-11 from Helion Books.

So following a rather lengthy preamble, what were my thoughts about 'The Sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo 1810 -1812'?

I have to say I really enjoyed Tim Saunders new book, having read several of his other titles as part of my studious collecting of the Battleground Europe series of WWII battlefield tour guide books that he has written, also through Pen & Sword.

The border between Portugal and Spain was for centuries a fiercely contested demarcation line between two very distinctive countries, with the smaller Portugal always aware of defending their hard fought for independence from their much larger neighbour.

As the two countries played their part in the periods of European conflict that epitomised the typical 'Sport of Kings' that saw European royal dynasties vying with each other through marriage and war to control ever greater empires; the border saw the erection of major fortified centres designed to control the key crossing points between them.

The three principle routes when invading Portugal in the Peninsular War

Cuidad Rodrigo was one of those fortified centres, controlling the most northern of the three invasion routes into Portugal, which in turn took the invader towards the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

In the Peninsular War, Portugal was invaded three times by the French, with General Junot entering via the central route along the Tagus Valley in 1808, Marshal Soult taking the more problematic route through mountains from Corunna in the north only getting as far as Oporto in 1809, and the third and final attempt under Marshal Massena in 1810, via the northern route and Cuidad Rodrigo.

André Masséna, 1st Duc de Rivoli, 1st Prince d'Essling

Saunders, in his first two chapters, covers the lead up to Massena's invasion, taking the reader through this earlier period of the war and explaining the route selected by Napoleon and Massena very much in terms of the reality that successive French invasions had stripped the approach routes of potential supplies for Massena's invading French army, designed to live off the land.

However Napoleon was alert to the fact that even using this route, the French army would still need to take along its own supply column, given the guerrilla war being waged by Spanish partisans and the paucity of supplies in Spain at the best of times, but also take the time to secure its rear areas and create the required depots to supply the large force envisioned for the invasion of 1810.

Thus Massena's orders from the Emperor made it quite clear that before entering Portugal, Cuidad Rodrigo had to be taken from its Spanish garrison.

The fortified city of Cuidad Rodrigo and the castle overlooking the River Agueda (top right) which is now a Parador hotel in which I will be staying next month during my visit.

Saunders then looks at the preparations in some detail for that invasion and the gathering of troops and supplies along a route stretching from Bayonne on the norther Franco-Spanish border via Vittoria, Burgos, Vallodolid and Salamanca (see the map above).

In addition the route would also be used to bring forward the French siege train of fifty pieces of heavy artillery, together with all the ammunition and transport, gathered earlier in the year at Burgos and Vallodolid.

As the French preparations gathered pace Wellington's sources of intelligence kept the British general informed of French progress and troop movements and Saunders outlines how he was aware of the dozen large bread ovens constructed at Salamanca and the changes in French operating procedures that produced enough food supplies in May 1810 'to feed Ney's VI Corps for six weeks and and the cavalry, artillery and their mounts for a month'.

In addition other places were secured such as Astorga on the northern flank of the French assembly area, by General Junot's 12,000 strong VIII Corps. 

Chapter three concludes with the French preparations well established and Massena bringing together his three corps for the campaign, namely Junot's VIII Corps, Ney's VI Corps and Reyniers II Corps, and with Ney moving into position to secure and blockade the city at the end of May 1810 as the other two corps moved to the north and south to observe any Anglo-Spanish moves from the Portuguese border and the south.

The next six chapters then take the reader through, in good detail, what I found to be the most interesting part of the book, namely the war of the frontier that characterised the period from Ney's blockade being established to the fall of the city

This four month period would see the eventual fall of Cuidad Rodrigo to the French siege operations on the 10th July 1810 and the final clash between the Light Division and Junot's troops of observation at Villar de Peurco the day after, which preempted the Light Division finally being driven back behind the River Coa as Ney lead the invasion into Portugal. 

Within these six chapters lies a wealth of scenarios that the Peninsular War enthusiast can only dream off with the little battles between Junot's and Craufurd's men as both attempted to dominate the ground between the two armies as the French focused their attention on the Spanish city; with the actions at Barba del Peurco, the clashes between General Herrasti's Spanish garrison and Ney's besiegers, together with multiple skirmishes along the River Azaba, culminating in the final clashes at Villar de Peurco and the Coa Bridge.

Captain Peter O'Hare leading his company of riflemen in action at Barba del Peurco - Christa Hook
One of several small battles that characterised the fighting between the French and British outposts, March to early July 1810 and one of the sites I will be visiting in June.

All the actions mentioned are accompanied with maps and on the ground pictures taken by the author giving a great sense of what each battle area looks like and the terrain that the combatants fought over.

With the conclusion of the French siege and capture of Cuidad Rodrigo, Chapter nine takes a whistle-stop tour of the events that followed that charactersised the period of French expulsion from Portugal for the last time and the shift in strategic initiative that moved in favour of Wellington and his Anglo-Portuguese army, neatly setting up the situation that lead to the Anglo-Portuguese siege and recapturing of the city in January 1812.

Again Saunders covers in good detail the preparations leading up to this campaign, with the probing actions around the city at Espeja and El Bodon as Wellington sought to size up the new man in command of the ironically named Army of Portugal, Marshall Marmont, who replaced Massena in 1811 after his failed invasion.

Major General Robert 'Black Bob' Craufurd, charismatic, temperamental leader of the Light Division
pictured here at the Battle of Bussaco fought during Massena's invasion of Portugal. He played a leading role in
both sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo and was killed there leading his division into the lesser breach.

I have several other accounts of the British siege of Cuidad Rodrigo and am much more familiar with it than the French operation, but Saunders account is a great addition; taking great care and attention to detail over four chapters, in covering the preparations, siege operations and eventual storming of the city and the aftermath with copious maps and illustrations together with his own photographs of the city today. 

As you would expect from a member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides, Appendix I gives a comprehensive tour itinerary which as well as describing what can be seen today also lists the walking maps required together with grid references and GPS coordinates, plus details of where to park and what to take when heading out into the wilds.

Part of my collection of walking maps, many informed directly from Tim Saunders new book which will be my travel companion for visits to and around the city next month

The Sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo 1810 and 1812 by Tim Saunders is 273 pages and consists of the following content:

Chapter 1. Cuidad Rodrigo
Chapter 2. The Peninsular War, 1808-1809
Chapter 3. Preparations for the 1810 Invasion of Portugal
Chapter 4. Barba del Puerco
Chapter 5. The French Investment of Cuidad Rodrigo
Chapter 6. The Light Division as Corps of Observation
Chapter 7. The 1810 French Siege of Cuidad Rodrigo
Chapter 8. The Affair at Villar del Peurco
Chapter 9. The Peninsular War, 1810-1811
Chapter 10. The Combats of Espeja and El Bodon
Chapter 11. Preparations and Investment
Chapter 12. The 1812 British Siege of Cuidad Rodrigo
Chapter 13. The Storm of Cuidad Rodrigo
Chapter 14 Aftermath

Appendix I: Battlefield Tour
Appendix II: Viscount Wellington's Orders
Appendix III: Order of Battle, Cuidad Rodrigo 1812
Appendix IV: Wellington's Cuidad Rodrigo Dispatch

This is definitely one book that does not need more maps! I counted some forty-six maps and aerial photos mixed with a very generous amount of pictures and illustrations to accompany the text.

I am very pleased to have this book and to have read it prior to my expedition next month and this is definitely a must have for the Peninsular War enthusiast. 

The cover price for this hardback is £25 from Pen & Sword, which is where I got my copy and they also have it on for £15 for the Kindle version, however you can pick up hardback copies now from Amazon for around £12 to £16 which is a steal.

Lots more to come on JJ's with a post on the final, very bloody, battle that concluded our '29 Let's Go' Chain of Command campaign and I am off to Partizan 2019 this weekend with the chaps from the DWG for our annual beano to Newark and Lincoln.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Target for Tonight - Nuremberg

This weekend at the Devon Wargames Group a few of us got together to play the second in a series of eight planned games to work up a campaign system for Target for Tonight (TfT). Normally I would post about games at the club on the club blog, but this project to design a campaign around the basic game has been detailed here on JJ's and so for completeness and ease of looking back over previous posts I have decided to post about these games here on JJ's.

The first game in this series, which is recreating the first month in the Battle of Berlin conducted by Bomber Command between late August 1943 through to the end of March, started with the first attack on the 'Big City' on August 23rd - 24th 1943 and you can follow what happened in the link to the post below.

Target for Tonight - Berlin Game 1

As described in my recent post covering the planing for this next game, the raid on Nuremberg on the 27th-28th August 1943, I am following the list of Mainforce ops composed principally from the Bomber Command War Diaries and The Berlin Raids as mentioned in that post and listed below.

The Berlin Campaign list of raids used to inform our ops planning for our eight games
Target for Tonight- Mainforce, Nuremberg Ops Plan

As can be seen both these raids saw a maximum effort by Bomber Command, now able to put close on 700 aircraft up when required, with both these first two targets deep into enemy territory, putting a greater strain on aircrews and increasing their risks with the long flights to and from the target.

This period was another one of those turning points in the night-bomber war against Germany as Bomber Command looked to take advantage of the disarray caused to the Nachtjagd by the use of 'window', aluminium foil strips dropped in mass bundles to disrupt the signals picked up by German radar, which since the mass raids on Hamburg the previous summer, had forced the German nightfighter crews to adopt new tactics to find the bombers and destroy them.

The situation after game one 

However the struggle to accurately navigate to the target and then to mark and bomb it in sufficient numbers to cause multiple fires and mass destruction continued to be a challenge, especially when the bomber crews went further into Germany restricting the accuracy of their blind bombing technology and, when making best use of bad weather conditions to blind the nightfighters, this also tended to impact on the accuracy of target marking as well as the bombing of them through thick cloud and haze.

As covered in previous posts leading up to this series of games, we are working through a play-test to see if we have the balance right on points scoring our raids. Quite clearly these games are designed to 'bath-tub' the actual campaign by allowing the players to enjoy the best part of TfT, which is the tension generated during the flight of the multiple model aircraft along our ops route to and from the target, with the aspect of raid planning, bombing up and fuelling the aircraft and attacking targets in such away as to maximise the damage caused and victory points that will outweigh the inevitable loss in aircraft and crews.

The target plan outlined to the players with the wind direction indicated and forecast to be light and with haze over the target

The losses sustained in TfT do not accurately reflect those that Bomber Command typically suffered and it would be a very boring game if they did, so the trick, it seems to me, is to marry up results with the cost of lost assets to come up with a simple number that reflects that analysis of the game result, namely victory points.

The result of game one produced a crushing victory from a very concentrated bombing of Berlin, but seeing just under half of the aircraft used failing to return, which leads me to conclude that the VP loss rate for aircraft lost is not correct and I wanted to run a second game to a similarly deep target to assess that conclusion and this post will show what happened and my conclusions that followed.

The order of battle for the five Mainforce bomber groups with the aircraft they were able to deploy together with the losses they sustained

Pre game planning for the op puts the players in command of the five Mainforce bomber groups as seen above showing the number of aircraft they have been able to put into the air, and in this example also showing the lost aircraft from the mission marked with a red X.

As Group commanders the players, following the briefing on weather and intelligence, have to decide how much fuel and bomb load will be carried and what the bomb mix will be, ranging from Cookies (4,000 lb HE) 1,000lb HE and incendiaries, which in different quantities and combination will cause major fires to the different targets within the city being attacked.

The players on this op decided to be conservative by selecting a light bomb load with maximum fuel but with an equal mix of HE and incendiary, having the Lancaster groups primarily bombed up with Cookies.

If they had gone for a heavier bomb lift, but with less fuel, it runs the risk of aircraft not having enough fuel for the return flight and less chance to evade nightfighters on the flight to the target with all that weight restricting manoeuvrability, but a bigger bomb lift, if they can get it to the target, likely to cause greater destruction.

With the aircraft bombed up and the aircraft identified with their unique call signs, the squadrons took off heading for the North Sea and in this case without any pre and post takeoff mishaps as shown in the picture above together with the long, long flight track ahead of them to and from the target with potential nightfighter interceptors awaiting them.

The flight proceeded without mishap until the stream came in over the enemy coast when the first casualty of the night occurred when Halifax, 'L - Leather' from 4 Group fell to the guns of an NJGI Me 110 patrolling over the Dutch coast with only the navigator able to bail out but posted as missing.

We had a new member, Steve, join us for the day's play and, as this was his first game of TfT, I had the pleasure of watching his pulse rate race away as one of his 1 Group Lancasters 'A-Apple' had a 'Monica' nightfighter warning alarm sound over the Khamhuber Line and he put the Lancaster into a corkscrew on the nightfighter board with the enemy Me 110 about to administer the coup de grace, when the model was returned to the bomber stream track and he was informed that the it had been a false alarm.

Further on to the target we had a couple of night-fighter intercepts and this gave us the opportunity to try out the nightfighter rule adaptations from the chaps on the TfT Facebook Group which allows air gunners and nightfighter crews to have individual ability factors plus a more enhanced use of the bomber's defences from its various gun positions.

Our bomber stream heads on into Germany, target Nuremberg with window streaming out in its wake

These rule changes produced yet more drama with nightfighter pilots weighing up the risk of enduring bomber return fire from mid-upper and tail gunners whilst trying to ensure that close in tail chasing kill shot with zero deflection.

In addition, nightfighters and airgunners are no-longer 'vanilla' in their abilities and bomber pilots can no longer assume that the nightfighter pilot knows what he is doing until he tries to cause a hit, when his gunnery factor is revealed, likewise some airgunners were equally deserving of respect or not and the change certainly adds to the game without any added complexity.

With the Monica alarm sounding a Lancaster is flung into a corkscrew with a rearward  Me 110 in hot pursuit

As well as nightfighters to contend with we had our usual mix of navigational errors and drifting off over searchlights and flak zones leaving various aircraft carrying reduced fuel loads and damage dice from flak and nightfighters but leaving an intact bomber stream minus L Leather to arrive in the flak zone over Nuremburg.

In the main the flak was intense with plenty of buffeting and a couple of aircraft picking up extra damage dice but again the stream remained intact ready to turn in over the target ready for the bomb run.

It was at this stage that the Nachtjagd unleashed part of its new tactics with radar carrying Wild Boar single seat fighters zooming in on the bomb-run and attacking three of the bombers causing extra damage and seemingly to cause already jumpy bomb-aimers to lose control and release early, with several bomb drops looking likely to have found just fields.

'G - George, a Stirling from 3 Group starts its run in over the target, not particularly well lined up and with early bomb drops of cookies, HE and incendiary littering the forward edge causing a scattered bombing pattern  with better drops into the city up ahead.
As with the Berlin raid it seems the Nachtjagd were still not able to predict the target location until well into the op and it was on the return flight that the stream started to succumb to further attacks from fighters and damage sustained on the way in.

The next casualty was O-Orange, a  Lancaster from 5 Group that was attacked on the first part of the homeward leg by an Me 110 from NJG VII which caught the bomber as it seemed likely to evade into the dark only to see multiple hits start fires in the port and starboard outer engines as the German fighter sprayed rounds across the target with a swift kick on the rudder.

Even then the pilot of this veteran crew, managed to side-slip putting out the fire on the port side only to whip up the fire on the other engine causing him to lose control and see the aircraft lost with all its crew.

Soon after this, another veteran crew of Halifax R-Roger fell to the guns of a Ju 88 using Schrage Musik upward firing guns which managed to approach the bomber undetected and shoot the aircraft down without the crew realising they were under attack until it was too late. However the tail and mid-upper gunners managed to bail out just in time.

Then the final casualties occurred on the run back over the Belgian coast as two Lancasters from 1 Group succumbed, B-Beer and D-Duff, with both captains losing control of their aircraft from damage sustained early in the flight only to see all their hard efforts to return in vain, as the English Channel coast was about to be crossed. Only the tail gunner survived from B-Beer.

Another 1 Group Lancaster C-Charlie had a close run thing with a tyre blow out on landing but with the pilot managing to apply enough opposite rudder to stabilise the aircraft and to only sustain minor damage to the undercarriage whilst still landing safely.

In the post raid analysis it was found that the light winds had meant that the target indicators had been accurately deployed on the Oil refining plant, north of the city, but a slight drop back had meant that the serious fires had been inflicted on the nearby residential area, and with the early drops likely caused by the notable nightfighter activity, the other two major fires broke out in the industrial and urban areas to the south close to the river, but with a large bomb drop falling in nearby fields.

So points scored on the raid would be 11 for the target, 8 for the major fires, 6 for other bombs not causing fires hitting the target less 5 points for aircraft lost for a total of 20 victory points and another crushing result which again does not reflect the losses incurred.

On the next series of Ops I plan to make some changes to the victory point scoring which will increase the points loss for downed bombers to better reflect the attrition caused to bomber command.

My thinking will be to increase the basic cost of a lost aircraft from 1 to 2 points for these previous two ops and from op three onward, to cost losses similarly but with a premium added for more experienced crews.

The debrief, an important aspect of the op and in our case an opportunity to look at the game overall and the campaign structure.

As it stands then, with these basic modifications, the Berlin op would net 18 points and the Nuremberg op 15 points leaving the current situation running at a British victory at just over 16 points per mission described as;

'the targets have been plastered with losses kept at acceptable'. 

If that average should drop to 12 points, then the situation would be a draw, described as;

'mounting losses cancel the effects of the bombing' 

which would reflect the historical result and keep the campaign interesting from that perspective.

If the average should drop to 10 points then we move into a German minor victory where;

'losses outweigh the damage inflicted' 

and thus the campaign would be unsustainable.

Anything less that a 10 point average and we enter a disastrous outcome for Bomber Command described as;

'unacceptable losses causing a pause and rethink of the night bomber offensive'.

The aim will be to allow for those disastrous missions to cause pause for thought but balanced out by those that cause massive destruction for an average or less loss rate, all impacted by the changes brought about by the technological battle running alongside the air campaign and making fuel and bomb load decisions in the prevailing weather conditions that critical part of planning.

So the next game is planned for July with another op to The Big City and a chance to test out these ideas.

Thanks to Ian, Steve L, Stephen H, Si and Steve (Our new member) for flying this op and here is looking forward to the next one.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Chain of Command - 29 Let's Go, Game Eight, Cardonville Radar Station Attack!

US mortars blast the infantry onto the German position

Our Chain of Command campaign continued this week with a return to table 4, The Radar Station at Cardonville, following the US victory on table 2 last week and the German troops deciding to pull back from the Arthenay position astride the main road to Osmanville.

Following the US victory in our first game at Cambe on table one, we have charted the games played so far which can be followed in the links below.

Games Two (US Victory) & Three (Bloody Draw)
Game Four (US Victory)
Game Five (German Victory & Pushback)
Games Six (German Victory & Hold) & Seven (US Victory)

As the titles in the links suggest the US forces have have been given a hard fight with two crushing German victories in games five and six which caused the US command team to take a very close look at the tactics we were employing and to initiate some key changes to our attack methods.

Game seven and the aggressive use of the US armour changed the balance back to the attack with the US finding a way to overcome the German mortars in defence by advancing in the barrage and enabling US Jump of Positions (JOPs) to be moved up prior to a US infantry assault at close quarters.

The German defenders chose to pull back before the US infantry were able to close and so our battle has moved back to the Cardonville Radar Station (table 4) which held bloody memories for both Steve and I (See link to game five above) as we recalled how our infantry squads were decimated on the slopes of the nearby hill, unable to close down two German JOPs and without any support from HMS Glasgow which retired from our battle early.

The scenario is pretty much straight out of the rule book with an attack and defend scenario requiring the US to either break the German defenders or force them to retire from the position.

The map below illustrates the position and the start lines of the two forces prior to the Patrol Phase.

Because this was the second time US forces had fought over this ground, HMS Glasgow would not be on call in our support and with the German defenders having plenty of time to prepare the position we expected and found they had mined two positions close to the US start line, with the road bend and large house next to it heavily mined and booby-trapped.

The table below shows the position of the game after the US infantry had advanced from the JOP (top left of picture) onto the nearest German JOP in the small orchard near the house (top right of picture).

The US infantry have advanced behind a US mortar barrage that plastered the two closest German JOPs allowing them to take the JOP without a German soldier being on the table, and with the JOP captured US forces have just ended the turn using a CoC dice.

Whilst the attack was being pressed US tanks can be seen positioned at the back along the road (top left of picture) to give covering fire should the mortar barrage have ended prematurely.

In addition the position of the US FOO is indicated in the grey house with a senior US commander who has controlled the FOO and his barrage as well as directing an engineer team to clear one of the German minefields in preparation for moving up to clear the next one.

As the barrage ended to secure the German JOP with the ending of the turn, German troops immediately emerged from the next nearest JOP further up the road and, with US infantry moving among the orchard securing the position, immediately opened up on them with withering machinegun, small arms and HE from a dug in 7.5cm infantry gun.

US infantry securing the first German JOP

The German fire was massive in dice rolled causing just two casualties, both riflemen, but seven shock, and putting the whole US attack plan in the balance with only one German force morale point removed along with their lost JOP.

Some relief came in the form of fire from one of the supporting Shermans using HE and managing to inflict two shock on the German defenders, but the firefight was not in favour of the US infantry who could only go tactical and keep their heads down and hope to keep the shock under control with support from the second US commander who moved up to rally the troops.

The US officer commanding directs the engineer section to clear mines whilst also relaying commands to the mortar FOO in the grey house.

The Shermans proved valuable for their fire support once the mortar barrage dropped.

US infantry come under rapid close range fire from newly emerged German defenders - top right

The game had reached a critical point and with a second German section deployed next to the first with a plan to destroy the nearest US infantry squad in the orchard, radio link was re-established with the 81mm mortars and a satisfying marker round exploded ominously amid the German position.

Not only that but the US force had rolled a double six which allowed the fire for effect order to be issued immediately and the German position disappeared among smoke and exploding bombs.

The black plume bottom right marks one corner of the mortar barrage with red pinned markers sprinkled among German troops manning the hedges beyond

The mortar fire was not initially particularly effective in causing casualties and only a modicum of shock, but the fact that the German position was now pinned and masked allowed the US infantry to remove its shock and get into position to launch its own close attack with tanks moving up in support once the barrage lifted.

The whole German position, pinned, is laid out with both their two remaining JOPs, two sections and a dug in infantry gun squarely amid the explosion markers showing the boundary of the US mortar barrage. US infantry gather in the buildings beyond preparing to attack when the barrage lifts

However persistence started to pay off and successive mortar attacks with the Germans unable to end the turn and lift the barrage started to wear down the defenders with accruing shock and casualties, making their chances of resisting any US attack when the barrage lifted more and more unlikely.

The US squad that was badly hit when the first barrage lifted is now down to just one point of shock (red die) from the seven it had received and, having lost just two riflemen, is ready to reengage. The other squad has just entered the building to the right, facing the German position. The explosion marker shows the proximity of the US mortar fire keeping nearby German troops pinned and masked.

With their position becoming more and more untenable with each successive turn, Ian decided to order a German pull out and the US troops moved onto the position to mop up and secure it in the wake of the next advance.

US tanks rumble forward equally protected from anti-tank fire by the US mortar barrage

This was the first time our game plan worked as envisaged and saw the US force finally get their various units working together as an all arms combat team that took control of the battle early on as soon as the US armour and FOO deployed on turn one, seeing the barrage dropped on the German position within three turns and the German JOP captured within six.

In addition this attack differed very much from the previous one in that it was lead by the infantry, not the tanks and combined with the US mortar support gave a very different attack but no less effective, with even the engineers contributing with a cleared minefield.

Ian played the German position as well as he could given the circumstances, as we have all learnt to maximise our effectiveness from the experience we have gained since game one.

Each and every game has been very different even when played over the same table and Chain of Command has created lots of decision points for all players throughout. All you can do is hope to improve you chances of a favourable outcome by stringing periods of play together that shifts the game irrevocably in your troops favour.

Ian, Steve and myself have experienced the rollercoaster of emotions those game shifts create spanning the spectrum from utter frustration when the wheels of a plan fall off in a period of play to the satisfaction of seeing a plan move through the gears and take the game away from the enemy.

Anyway from a US perspective Colonel Goode, our boss is 'almost happy', with a US victory costing the loss of just two US riflemen and an advance enabled to the German HQ at Osmanville and a potential to breakthrough to Isigny and Carentan beyond.

Thank you to Jason, Ian and Steve for a very entertaining evening of play and off to Osmanville we go, next week, for our next game in our campaign.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Roman Auxiliary Infantry

When working through units needed for a project I like to build to play as I go and I like to try and mix things up a bit to add some fun to the whole process.

So although four more units of Dacian Warbands are on the to-do list, I also have my Roman collection to work up as well and I have been really looking forward to working with the Victrix range of figures and in particular the Auxiliary Infantry which I have not built before.

My four units of Auxiliaries that have featured in the games run so far are the Warlord units that I converted over to my Augustus to Aurelian basing system.

The Victrix range compliments them quite well but in my opinion are very much superior in their look and I intend to replace the Warlord figures with these in time.

Auxiliary Infantry formed a significant component of Early Imperial Roman armies and with the plan to build two Roman armies for my collection will see a lot of these cohort type units being put together.

The design and look of these figures perfectly compliments the Victrix legionaries and together will really capture the look of a Principate army with serried ranks of both types.

The nice thing is that Victrix builds in plenty of options to allow you to vary the look of individual units with the inclusion of bearskins for the ordinary ranks to recreate the look of some of the auxiliary units pictured on Trajan's Column.

As you will see here I have stuck with a more traditional appearance, but plan to include the other look going forward.

One thing that really characterises the Auxiliaries on Trajan's Column is the depiction of these soldiers taking Dacian heads and in some scenes presenting their trophies to the Emperor himself.

Thus I have included a few of my soldiers with heads carried or impaled on sloped spear-point to emphasise their 'barbarian' heritage as any Roman commentator would note.

As well as a selection of trophies to adorn the unit with I was really taken with the character built into the faces of these soldiers which just seen to cry out for a bit of attention with the brush.

The shield decals are as usual from LBM and I have acquired a good mix of the many patterns they have available to allow easy identification when we get around to a bit of Roman vs Roman action.

Finally the painting of this unit saw me trying out one of a few new techniques that I have been planning to use, which in this case was working with a wet palette.

I have usually mixed my paint, which in the main is Vallejo, with water in a standard dry palette covered in foil to allow the occasional clean up and replacement with a new mixing surface.

For this project I decided to put together a wet palette, for which their are numerous suggestions on how to, all over the net, simply to say mine cost me £2.75 to put together.

I have to say, this has added another level of flexibility to my painting in terms of colour mixing, not to mention the cost saving in paint in finding colours still able to be used hours after they were mixed and still giving good coverage.

Having now got familiar with this way of painting I am surprised at myself for not doing this earlier, but I do know not all painters get on with this way of working, and perhaps I saw no real need to change.

Al I can say is that I am now a convert to this way of working with my colours and I am planning to use this method in conjuction with some added 'flow enhancers' to see what additional effects can be gained.

Finally, a big congratulations to my son Will and his friends who completed the Three Peaks Challenge this weekend which, with a traffic hold up on the Sunday travelling to Mount Snowden, meant that they had to run up stretches of the last peak to complete the twenty-four hour target with just over a minute to spare.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to his charity pot for Parkinson's UK and the Just Giving site remains open for those who might feel compelled to make a contribution to a very worthwhile appeal, by using the link under the banner at the top of the blog page.