Sunday 31 March 2019

'Then the Red Soldier' - The Zulu War One Hundred and Forty Years On, presented by Ian Knight

Detail from the famous picture of the Battle of Isandlwana held in the National Army Museum, London and painted by Charles Edwin Fripp

The Zulu king, Cetshweyo kaMapande is quoted observing British involvement in South Africa as;

"First Comes the trader, then the missionary, then the Red Soldier!"

On Friday 29th March, I spent a very pleasant day in the company of friends, Mr Steve and Mike C travelling up to 'the Smoke' to listen to to Mr "Zulu War", Ian Knight present at the National Army Museum (NAM) an overview of how the British and the Zulu's view the war one hundred and forty years later and fifty-five years after the release of the British feature film 'Zulu' portraying events at the Battle of Rorke's Drift.

The closing stages of the Battle of Khambula and the 13th Somersets driving the Zulu attack back into the ravine.
My picture of the original work seen in the Taunton Museum last November.

The 29th of March was an historic day to choose for the presentation, not for all the hot air being given off by various parties in and around the mother of Parliaments, but for the fact that it was the anniversary of the Battle of Khambula that started about 13.30 that day in 1879, and recently mentioned in my previous post looking at Taunton and its association with the 13th Somerset Light Infantry who took part in the battle.

King Cetshweyo's pipe and the VC awarded to Major William Knox Leet VC for rescuing a fellow officer in the battle, as pictured in Taunton.

Battle of Khambula, 29th March, 1879

Before reporting on the details of our visit to the NAM and more particularly Ian Knight's presentation I should say I have had a long interest in the Anglo-Zulu War and always enjoy playing the period, perhaps more than any other of the British Colonial periods, but have never owned a collection of figures.

Zulus on the attack in one of Chas's big warm up games played at the DWG in recent years

Fortunately I have several friends in the Devon Wargames Group with a similar love for the period who do have some great collections in 28mm and I have played in most of the games run at the club and featured on the DWG club blog and here on JJ's.

Replicating the camp at Khambula, the Red Soldiers prepare to present arms.

Devon Wargames Group - Zulu Posts

JJ's Wargames - Zulu Posts

One particularly memorable game was using my mate, Nathan's, glorious collection of figures for our game replaying the defence of Rorke's Drift.

Nathan's lovely rendition of Rorke's Drift where we had all the characters in action and film quotations aplenty.

Sadly Nathan wasn't able to join us yesterday so I hope he enjoys listening to the recording I sent him and this post summarising the day.

Ian Knight  has established himself as one of the leading experts on the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 with forty books to his name of which I have three, and very good they are.

In addition he is regularly featured on TV documentaries covering the subject and in 2000 took part in the first archaeological excavation of the famous battlefield at Isandlwana.

Ian began his talk by referring to the historical significance of the day and a look at some of the interesting aspects of the second major battle of the war fought exactly one hundred and forty years previously, namely the Battle of Khambula in which 2,000 British Imperial troops under the command of Colonel Evelyn Wood VC,  held their ground and fought off an attack by about 20,000 Zulu warriors.

Ian described accounts from British soldiers on the day saying how they had observed the approach of the Zulu army over the hills and valleys beyond their camp for up to four or five hours after daybreak and describing the unnerving feeling that the Zulu army was forming up in the shape of a giant nut cracker in which they appeared to be the nut!

As the battle unfolded British soldiers remembered how, over the noise of the Zulu battle cry so memorably captured in the two British films, the soldiers could hear individual Zulu warriors calling out to them from the massed ranks.

The Boys from Isandlwana, if those recently acquired rifles are anything to go by. - The Perry artwork on their lovely plastic 28mm range of figures

On enquiring with their Boer translators what the Zulus were calling out, they were told that they were shouting;

"We are the boys from Isandlwana!"

A chilling thought to remember that Isandlwana had only been fought just two months before on the 22nd January and was very fresh in all the soldiers minds.

Ian then went on to consider why it was that the Battle of Isandlwana still captures the imagination so powerfully even to this day, and what that says about our views and thoughts about the war itself.

Interestingly the famous picture of the last stand at Isandlwana held in the NAM and pictured by me on our visit, with a close up of it on the header to this post, is the most sought after and enquired about artifact in the museum's collection.

The battle was the most most costly single day action fought during the Victorian era, putting aside more bloodier engagements such as the retreat from Kabul in 1842 which was fought over a period of weeks, and Isadlwana stands at the top of British Imperial "Stuff Ups" greater than Spion Kop (Great Boer War), Majuba Hill (1st Boer War) and the Charge of the Light Brigade (Crimean War).

In addition the battle caused a great deal of agonised reflection at the time which has endured over the years since, in that this was a modern army for that time, defeated by an army carrying shields and spears designed for close combat, leading to the thought, "What did we do wrong to suffer this kind of loss".

Ian pointed out that more modern academic thinking now views the battle rather as a great Zulu victory based on what they did right rather than a great British defeat and what was done wrong.

I have to say that I rather lean towards a combination of the two schools of thought that readily accepts that the Zulus played to their strengths in the battle and that once they gained the initiative, never let it go, but that Lord Chelmsford's command of his forces left a lot to be desired and displays a possible arrogance and contempt for the Zulu army combined with a an almost flagrant misapplication of the basic principles of war, namely concentration of forces and good intelligence and reconnaissance of and about the enemy faced.  

The fact that the Zulus themselves paid a heavy price for their victory in inviting a massive Imperial response in terms of reinforcements together with their casualties suffered in the battle and their lack of success after it seems to underline that better management may well have produced a less costly success, and their I think lies the basis for an excellent historical debate on the merits or not of Lord Chelmsford's command.

Ian then went on to look at the history of British involvement in South Africa that led up to the war in 1879 and rather jokingly suggested that, as with a lot of British history, it was something that could arguably be blamed on the French!

The two protagonists in 1879, Zulu King Cetshweyo and High Commissioner Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere sent to South Africa in 1877 to 'sort things out!'

The arrival of the British on the cape was a response to the wider war against Napoleon and the need for the Royal Navy to secure its routes to India and the far east that had to pass via the Cape of Storms at the tip of the continent of Africa.

Battle of Blaauwberg

The white settlers at the time were of mainly Dutch heritage who had arrived in the cape at the end of the 17th century principally to service port facilities for the Dutch marine operating with the Dutch East Indies.

The fall of the Dutch republic to Napoleon and the establishment of the Kingdom of Holland led to British forces landing at the cape in 1806 and defeating the Dutch forces at the Battle of Blaauwburg resulting in the colony coming under British control.

Cape Colony, South Africa from a map of 1809

The British retained that hold after the conclusion of the Napoleonic war and, as Dutch colonists sought freedom from British oversight by settling further and further into the interior, gradually saw British 'mission creep' as the Imperial representatives saw their role in following this emigration in an effort to assert wider control over the area as a whole.

First contact with the Zulus was in 1824 at Port Natal by ex RN Lieutenant Francis George Farewell, who, following meetings with the Zulu king Shaka, established a trading post there soon after and by 1843 the town had grown to include the outlying territory into the new colony of Natal.

Fifty-five years after its setting up, the British trading post and colony, Natal, pressed firmly against the frontier of the Zulu nation and its territories with, as Ian explained, a generally amicable trading arrangement, if leaving the Zulus a little concerned about a growing British influence in the region.

Francis George Farewell

As with other examples of British colonial activities in places like India, the presence of an independent sovereign people capable of asserting a military response never sat well with Imperial authorities in a neighbouring territory keen to assert their superiority and better still control; and the Zulu's soon found themselves subject to this reality when the new British High Commissioner for Southern Africa, Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere had concluded that to bring into being a British controlled confederation of the South African territories and peoples, an engineered confrontation with the Zulus was necessary.

Other pressures that influenced British thinking were several and varied from the Boer's setting off to establish their own independent republic, other rebellions by native populations requiring military intervention, to the discovery of major diamond deposits at Kimberly, all combining to drive a desire to get a firmer control of the area.

Lieutenant General Lord Chelmsford an establishment figure, experienced but
unimaginative commander whom Ian Knight felt sympathy for, in the situation he faced. 

Once the decision had been taken to cause a confrontation with the Zulus, the implementation of that decision was then handed over to the army under the command of Lieutenant General Frederick Augustus Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford KCB, commander of British Imperial forces in the colony.

Ian Knight's description of Chelmsford is of an experienced and capable General Officer if lacking somewhat in imagination, with recent success and experience in the territory conducting the Ninth Cape Frontier War.

Britain was the great world power in 1879, exemplified by its army carrying the latest Martini-Henry breech loading rifles.
Ian Knight's recent pictures of British reenactors in South Africa in January for the 140th anniversary commemoration of Isandlwana

He was somewhat forced to adapt to a political situation that saw the war declared without Frere alerting London to his intentions, hoping to see the conflict started and finished before any political authorisation from home could interfere with his plans.

Map illustrating the columns arranged by Chelmsford for his invasion of Zululand in January 1879, with No. III column advancing on Ulundi via Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana.

Thus the forces available to Chelmsford at the start of the campaign (eight regular infantry battalions, 800 men each and two batteries of artillery) were not ideal in terms of the numbers of regular troops, operating in broken terrain against a very mobile enemy, in a major war against the Zulus, however a feeling of quality and weaponry compensating for numbers no doubt influenced thinking to pressing on with what was available.

It was this situation that decided Chelmsford to split his army into three principle columns each with a core of regular infantry backed up by other auxiliary units invading into Zululand and converging at the Zulu capital of Ulundi.

The invasion started on the 11th January 1879 and Ian Knight referred to Chelmsford's bad luck, in that the month had seen particularly heavy rains flooding the dongas and putting the rivers into high spate, making his movements even more difficult than planned. It was this weather that slowed the approach of Chelmsford's army and allowed the Zulus more time to muster in readiness to oppose his troops.

A recent picture of the Isandlwana battlefield, showing the range of hills in the background behind which the Zulu army formed up to assault the British camp on the slopes of the famous mountain to the left. Chelmsford set off with his ambush force early in the morning of the battle to the right of picture to confront the Zulus who he missed as they had already moved to their new position ready to attack the other half of his army left at Isandwana.

The Zulu reaction to this invasion was one of surprised resignation, following a short period of negotiation attempts by them in an effort to avoid war and a gradual realisation that the British did not want a negotiated settlement.

The Zulu army was described as a 30,000 strong part-time citizen army or militia with men having to deliver military service to the king by joining one of the Zulu regiments in which they served during war, a sort of part time national service.

They were principally armed with shield and stabbing spear, with a greater proportion of warriors than previously carrying outdated and badly maintained firearms and were highly motivated looking to, as Ian Knight quoted one Zulu as telling him,  'be ready to chase the burglars out'.

Rorkes Drift today. The successful defence of this river crossing was the ray of light in a dismal situation that saved Chelmsford's command long enough for him to recover the situation, but although rewarded with high office and awards, he would never command in the field again after the Zulu war.

Lord Chelmsford accompanied and commanded the main Imperial column which arrived at Isandlwana on the 20th January from which he immediately went off, accompanied by his staff and eight mounted infantry escort, to reconnoitre for the Zulu main army which had been reported to be in the vicinity.

Ian Knight speculated what might have happened had the British commander found them and have been taken with such a small escort but Chelmsford returned to the camp at Isandlwana intending to move on the next day, thus not ordering any defences to be constructed.

On the evening of the 20th other Imperial troops discovered the Zulu main army and a dispatch was delivered to Lord Chelmsford at 2am on the 21st January informing him of this discovery and he immediately set out, before dawn, with about half his force in pursuit looking to force a confrontation and potentially surprise the Zulus.

In the camp at Isandlwana were left about 1700 troops, and although Chelmsford's information was correct he failed to intercept the Zulu army who slipped past his advance and fall on the camp, having manoeuvred behind a range of hills near it before launching their attack.

Battle of Isandlwana

The fighting at Rorke's Drift lasted from 4pm on the 22nd January, until 2am on the 23rd January 1879 with the Zulus withdrawing at dawn. Around 150 Imperial troops successfully defended the missionary buildings against 3,500 Zulu warriors and somewhat redeemed Chelmsford's failed campaign, and also demonstrated Zulu weaknesses against steady British firepower.

The battle and its results are well known and Ian Knight took a bit of time to refer to Fripp's stirring portrait of the last stand at Isandwana held by the museum, pointing out that Fripp was in Zululand at the closing stages of the war and knew enough about the realities of the fighting and the terrain to depict a very realistic painting of the hand to hand combat depicted in it.

Points highlighted were the total lack of officers present, suggesting an underlying message that this was the last stand of the common soldier due to the 'stuff up' of the officers commanding them.

The drummer boy shown pointing out from the portrait appears to be aged about eleven or twelve when in reality the average age of drummers at Isandlwana was  twenty-four.

Of the 1700 troops present, only four hundred escaped, mainly African auxiliaries who avoided the closing wings of the Zulu army but who are reported to have fought solidly beside their British allies throughout the battle. Only one hundred white men escaped the carnage. 

One interesting fact about the battle that was luridly portrayed in the film 'Zulu Dawn' and was asked about in questions to Ian afterwards was the reported habit of the Zulus to cut open the bellies of the fallen British soldiers.

Apparently this did happen, as the African heat caused the bodies to swell up and the Zulus believed that this was the spirit of the dead soldier looking to leave the body and that unless they aided that release they would be haunted by the dead man's spirit.

'Face your front, mark your target', the British reenactment group, 'The Diehards' go through their drills this January in South Africa.

The battle was very costly to the Zulus leaving them with a thousand dead warriors and an estimated further thousand who would die after the battle from wounds received, prompting King Cetshwayo to exclaim that a spear had been plunged into the belly of the Zulu nation.

With the successful defence of Rorke's Drift immediately after Isandlwana and the battle of Khambula two months later leaving another thousand Zulu warriors killed the first phase of the war effectively ended leaving both sides exhausted but with the British determined to successfully end the war by committing a large reinforcement to the region.

On the 4th July 1879 the war ended with the British army defeating the Zulus before the Royal Kraal at Ulundi with a display of disciplined musketry defeating the brave Zulu charges against their square and concluded by the Zulus chased from the field by the 17th Lancers of Balaclava fame.

Zulu dignitaries pictured by Ian Knight at the recent 140th commemoration of the Battle of Isandlwana with King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu seen right and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi who played King Cetshweyo in the film Zulu, now aged 92. 

The Zulus are rightly proud of their dramatic victory at Isandlwana and the 'bloody nose' delivered to the British empire with the battle seen very much as a defining moment in Zulu history and giving greater definition to the Zulus as a people to this day.

In Britain it seems, in the time following withdrawal from Empire, the battle is seen more as a deserved result of Imperial hubris, with the bravery of the common British soldier shining out in the defence of Rorke's Drift representing all that is best about the nation when the back is against the wall and it is down to the ordinary soldier to put things right.

It seems that the Zulu War forms a growing bond between the British and the Zulus formed around our common history born out of conflict most recently commemorated this January in South Africa attended by the King Goodwill kaBhekuzulu and Prince Buthelezi, with the King due to visit Brecon in South Wales, the home of the 24th South Wales Borderers in July this year where hopefully JJ's South Wales correspondent, Mr Steve, will send us a report.

Perhaps one-hundred and forty years after the conclusion of the Anglo-Zulu War the shots are really still echoing out from history but I know that the film Zulu will still be the nation's firm favourite Christmas viewing in many households for years to come, reinforcing that bond still further.

My copy of 'Nothing Remains but to Fight', signed by Ian on the day

Ian seen on the back of my book on one of his very many trips to the battle sites

A thoroughly interesting presentation was concluded with some questions and answers together with a book signing highlighting Ian's most recent title on the Battle of Isandlwana linked at the bottom of this post, but Ian generously autographed the title I brought with me on the day covering the battle at Rorke's Drift

Ian's signature appropriately opposite the pictures of two of the heroes of Rorkes Drift, Chard and Bromhead.

Following the talk, Mike, Steve and I set off for a quick look at the NAM galleries in the the new look museum building about which I will report about in a separate post, but for completeness I thought I should include my other pictures of Fripps famous picture, and the Zulu War items held by the museum.

Charles Fripp's famous picture hanging in the NAM shows clearly the terrain of the battlefield and the nature of the close hand to hand fighting that occurred in the closing stages of the Battle of Isandlwana. Note the drummer boy left of centre and Ian Knight's remarks in my post.

No quarter asked or given. Of the 1700 men present, 1300 Imperial troops were killed at Isandlwana together with a similar number of Zulus, with probably another thousand Zulu warriors dying of their wounds afterwards.

Iconic weaponry from the Zulu War including the Martini Henry Rifle and bayonet, assegai, knobkerrie and shield, next to King Cetshweyo's walking stick. 

Zulu Rising - Amazon

Thank you to Ian Knight for a very interesting and well delivered presentation and to Mike and Mr Steve for their company on the day, on what was a great day out and one to remember.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Target for Tonight - Berlin

So following on from my previous post, the game went to the Devon Wargames Group mid-month gathering last weekend and several of the chaps volunteered to road-test the new rules around Target for Tonight.

I should say, that I am an inveterate 'rules tweaker' and have never subscribed to the rules as written being the final version so I like to write a draft of proposed changes and test and test and test until I have to stop and go away for a total re-think or until they start to look like something I had originally envisaged.

Thus this proposed series of games are test games and the results are only indicative of where the testing is at the moment not the hoped for end result, unless in the unlikely event I change nothing.

So the first thing we set up was the campaign which will be a series of eight games representing a campaign month for the Battle of Berlin, starting in August 1943.

To set up my groups for the target I had each of the players roll a DAve +1 to establish how many of their aircraft would be available for the op and then set up the Target Route Map seen above to show the weather over Berlin and back in the UK.

The target map for Berlin

The weather principally affects bombing results and landing risks and is part of the raid planning which the players, acting as Bomb Group Commanders, include in their deliberations over building the bomb lift for the op.

In the end we established that we had nine aircraft not available for this mission as shown at the bottom of the screen grab above.

In addition the players set up their crew rosters from a prepared list of sixty crews arranged in ten lists of six, that I put together that simply enabled the players to roll a D10 and a D6 to find out the quality of the crew.

The route to the target and back - a long flight

Then after a discussion on the merits of extra fuel or extra bombs on a deep penetration into Germany that a Berlin raid is, the players opted to increase the bomb load by twenty percent and reduce the fuel loads by just over a similar amount, with an equal mix of HE and incendiaries but with the Lancasters carrying the extra HE with their cookies

The bomber stream forming up over the English coast before setting out for Germany

The raid turned out to be a game of two halves with one aircraft aborting the raid due to technical issues on take-off and one turning back at the enemy coast with a pilot complaining of stomach cramps and two aircraft intercepted by night fighters over the enemy coast but shot down before they knew they were under attack.

Our first Sterling bomb run with flash markers all ready dotted about on the target

Then the RAF mosquito night-fighters took a hand clearing three of the five 'Over Germany' legs of the flight and the spoof raids doing their job in the other two leaving me the pleasure of scaring a few of the novice players with some 'monica' false alarms and mock night-fighter intercepts just to raise the adrenaline levels.

This was all to the good for our British bomber pilots as having the extra bombs on board not only meant reduced fuel levels but also meant that they would have been unable to corkscrew even if they had spotted an approaching night-fighter leaving them vulnerable to attack.

So through good fortune we had a sizable gaggle of aircraft arriving at the Berlin flak belt although with a fair number having burnt up that precious fuel wasted on navigation errors en-route.

The playing area with a bomb run in play and cards getting turned
The three flak zones over Berlin managed to take down two more victims, one with a direct hit in the bomb bay and another aircraft lost when forced to go around again having missed the run in to the target.

Because of the cloud cover over the target area the mosquito pathfinders were using Parramatta markers that would likely add to the deviation factors such as the wind, poor radar signature for H2S ground radar sets; with Berlin being such a large city area and beyond OBOE direction finding, mosquito crews had to rely on inaccurate timed navigational approach.

Thus the TI was placed on the aiming point square that supposedly contained the docks just below the Dornier aircraft factory but only the follow up recce flight would validate the accuracy of the raid.

During our game I used the computer to run a video of night operations over Germany on a screen facing the players as well as showing the target map for the bomb run and later in the debrief. In addition before we began our series of bomb runs I played the link above to illustrate the thing being done for real, with a series of three aircraft intercom recordings of bomber crews over Bochum, Stettin and Berlin, with the latter recorded being attacked by and shooting down a German night-fighter whilst on the bomb run.

Not wishing to indulge in a debate over the rights and wrongs of the allied strategic bombing campaigns in WWII it is still noteworthy and admirable how these chaps behave and conduct themselves under the most extreme circumstances and it is remarkable that their chat does not include the expletives that seem to populate the conversations of later generations in much more relaxed environments.

That said a game like Target for Tonight really brings home the reality of the Second World War and a total war that brutalised civilians and military personnel alike and an appreciation of the sacrifice made by a previous generation that means the subsequent ones have not had to face anything on a similar scale, something as wargamers we are probably more able to appreciate than many others in society.

In come the Hallibags for their run over the target

The Lancasters were the last groups to run over the target and the picture below shows the spread of flash markers from the previous aircraft with two areas having two such markers indicating a good concentration close to the aiming point.

If those concentrations were able to start multiple large fires then the accuracy would again be subject to creepback, dropping back other aircraft bomb drops relative to those fires.

Lancasters from 1 and 5 Groups provided the bulk of the HE with their cookies

The return flight was a reverse of the trip to the target with five night-fighter intercepts that revealed our bombers charmed life still persisted, with five of them managing to corkscrew and evade but with two of them subsequently succumbing to damage sustained during their evasion.

However the nachtjagd also had a difficult night with two of their number falling to RAF air-gunners.

The run back to home and the landings proved relatively uneventful despite fog covering the home bases and with all the returnees safely back on the ground we then considered the results of the attack.

When the wind and drift were calculated it was found that the TIs had drifted one square to the top of the map dragging up the other drops and having all the bombs dropped over the city and thus scoring.

The bombing results for our first game

As can be seen major fires were caused on the Dornier works and Siemens Plant north and south of the docks,with additional fires caused to the city centre and three suburban districts although it seems one of these was subsequently dealt with by the city's civil-defence services.

When the final calculation was done the British raid achieved 28 victory points which is an extremely strong result, but one I am not sure was down to some extraordinary results and good fortune, a combination of concentrated bombing, extra bomb load and shooting down two night-fighters, that all helped to cancel out the -10 victory points incurred through the overall loss rate.

Hopefully the next few games will give me a better marker for where the centre of the bell curve really lies with regard to the victory point allocation.

So as the poster declares we will look for another target in about another month to see if the RAF's good fortune still holds.

Target for Tonight is a truly immersive experience of a game and the core mechanics of that still remains.

Thanks to David, Stephen and Steve L for being the guinea pigs on this play-though and to my other fellow DWG members who had to contend with our rather noisy and enthusiastic table during our day's play.

Friday 22 March 2019

'Mainforcing' Target for Tonight

At the end of 2017 at the request of a few friends at the DWG, I dug out an old game system I had dabbled with over the years called 'Target for Tonight' (TfT) which at the time was out of publication and, following the games we played at club, generated a lot of interest and requests about how to get copies ending with me finding and contacting the author to see if that would be possible.

Our series of games can be found on the link belowto the Devon Wargames Group blog.

Interestingly at the same time John Curry stepped forward to announce he would be publishing an updated version of the rules which I subsequently picked up and now have alongside my original staple and photocopied set I picked up 'donkey's years ago'.

My original copy of TfT

The new version reflects the modern trends and demands of today's wargamer in being a much more presentable format but actually being fundamentally the same set of rules.

John Curry's glossy paperback version of TfT

On revisiting the game in 2017 I was immediately reminded of the high risk factors of intercept and shoot downs the games bomber crews risk in TfT, something the author was looking to model to get across the sheer terror the crews endured as they went out night after night appreciating that there was indeed a very high chance that this night was the night their luck ran out.

That is one of the great aspects of TfT, in the drama created by a night-fighter intercept or the steady approach on the bomb run amid flak and wild boar loan German fighters hoping to swoop in at the most unexpected moment.

However if, as I wanted to do, you were looking to create a series of linked games in an attempt to 'bathtub' some of the concentrated campaigns of city attacks made by Bomber Command in the Rhur and Berlin Battles of 1943 the high combat attrition prevented a plausible simulation of the wider battle and there are several significant gaps in the simulation that needed addressing for the rules to accommodate the conflict as a whole.

My new target planning map with Nachtjagd zones and the UK that enable the weather to be pre-planned over the target and for landing.

During our first series of games we soon found a workable tweak to overcome the higher risk aspect without losing the drama induced in the original game and to this I started to look at layering other factors that a bomber crew and the raid planners had to cope with, namely fuel loads vs bomb loads, and the weather effects which became critical the further into Europe that Bomber Command pressed its attacks.

One interesting comparison in Martin Middlebrook's 'The Berlin Raids' is his look at the comparison between the Groups and how they loaded up their bombers for deep raids to Berlin and the struggle to keep the bomb load as high as possible whilst keeping fuel levels with a safe margin for emergencies.

The comparison looked at 5 Group and 1 Group with the former having the longest experience of operating Lancasters compared with the latter that had only just converted from other types into a group solely operating the powerful four engine bomber just before the opening of the campaign.

My new Cyberboard module to allow me to campaign TfT painlessly, but backed up with a mark one paper system as well

The statistics showed that 1 Group constantly overloaded their bombers, testing the maximum load on one aircraft that caused the wheel struts to bow under the strain of bombs and fuel. Despite this they failed to deliver more tonnage over the target than 5 Group which always flew with a much reduced load, allowing their aircraft a much better chance to gain altitude and to evade should an intercept occur and was reflected in their fewer losses that allowed more of their aircraft to bomb.

Thus I had got to a point where we could play, easily recording fuel consumption with mini dice, taking into account extra usage with events in flight that might cause a few nervous moments on the return flight and a wary eye on the fuel gauge.

The Bomber Groups by type for the Battle of Berlin when operating on Maximum Effort. This simple screen will allow me to record which types and how many were on a mission and losses, plus plan the bomb lift according to the types involved

However I needed to take some time to read more and better understand the bomb load, fuel load equation without the players having to use my pilots calculator and I eventually came up with a system to offer the same sort of choices facing the commanders of 1 and 5 Groups and the effects it would put on their aircrew based on those choices.

So now I have bomb loads for individual aircraft contributing to the bomb lift of the whole raid. The bombs are also delineated into HE, Incendiary and Blockbuster HE, allowing the players to design bomb loads designed to deal with different targets, by simply selecting counters representing the different loads and placed into a lift that is reduced through casualties and pilots dumping cookies.

One of my new TfT city maps

When the 'bombs gone' moment comes, the drop is marked with the planes identifying photo-flash and two counters representing the bomb drop are blindly drawn and placed face down in that area with different combinations able to start fires on different targets within the city being bombed but not revealed until all the aircraft have completed their bomb run.

The new TfT kit is just about complete and comes together in one 9ltr RUB 

The blind placing of bombs should give the players an indication of where they are hitting,without telling them exactly what they are hitting and with what ordnance - just like the real thing!

This links to the other aspect that I felt needed a tweak which was the bomb run itself which is always a highlight of the game as the players attempt to get a good grouping with their attacks and then see the results of their efforts in the debrief at game end.

The mighty but vulnerable Sterling. I now have the beginnings of my own Sterling group

The basic rules don't really offer enough detail to allow a good simulation of this process which when boiled down to its basics was about getting enough of a mix of HE and incendiaries on to a target built up area to cause multiple large fires that multiplied the damage and casualties whilst overwhelming the civil defence services.

To complicate this method of attack, Bomber Command relied on a selection of various ground positioning navigational instruments together with aerial target indicators that made the whole process subject to the vagaries of weather, the radar profile or position in relation to the UK of the target city and the skill of the crews to interpret all that data to help them deliver their bombs.

My purpose built tray to hold the larger scale models at the bottom of the box with trays to hold the game components and the smaller models

Thus the game allows the players to direct their attacks against a simple grid that rather assumes all the other factors are in their favour, whereas my changes now mean that what looks like a good grouping of bombs on where the players thought the target was may or may not be the case, either leaving bombs to explode in open countryside or end up causing multiple fires or potentially a firestorm in the right conditions, all this to be revealed at the debrief.

This process will even allow for the well known effect of creep-back modelling the bombing concentration dropping back from a well bombed aiming point with bombs dropped moved back a square if a major fire is created in the square ahead.

The fighter intercept board has had a lick of paint

Bomber Command in the period when it reached its zenith in potential, namely 1943, was a force in perpetual change moving from the four types it started with at the beginning of the year, Wellingtons Sterlings, Halifax's and Lancasters, to one based around the three four engine types at the end of it and gradually reforming more of the squadrons around the Lancaster through the following year as supply of aircraft allowed replacements and reequips.

TfT is all about the Lancaster but to model Bomber Command's campaign it needs to include the other types into the core system with differences in the capabilities between the different aircraft.

My main force bomber fleet is ready to do the Berlin campaign and with the addition of six Wellington's and four Sterling's will be ready for the Rhur.

Thus I have modelled the principle differences in the bomb carrying capability and risk profile of being intercepted at lower altitude slightly different between each type but all generally inferior to the Lancaster.

However if the bomber force is to achieve its objective it needs all its bomber types to contribute and to tailor its force according to the particular mission and the players will have to plan their raids in such a way that gets the best out of all the aircraft involved.

The night-fighter force has also been beefed up with other options including the odd Uhu and Dornier 

Which leads me to the final part of the rules refit, namely to build in a way of measuring each raid mission in terms of victory points that allows an assessment of how well Bomber Command is performing at any given time.

For this aspect I have turned to a board game, 'Bomber Command' written by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood and published by GMT Games, which gives an excellent model of factors for scoring and measuring against the historical result.

The Berlin Campaign is presented in his game as either the full five month battle comprising forty raids or a shorter option of one particular month and eight raids with both presenting a perfect model to run TfT scenarios against and a ready made victory point system that I hope will transfer relatively seamlessly across, something our games will reveal.

I have added the Sterling to complete my four engine trio complete with nice new decals, here representing
75 (New Zealand) Squadron

To make it easy to plan and record raid results I have put together a Cyberboard module that has the maps and orders of battle I have created alongside this tools to allow a quick set up of target selection, aircraft participating, bomb loads and bomb plotting against target maps, all of which makes it simple to pull together when posting blog posts about games completed.

My new Uhu, rare but deadly

Alongside Cyberboard I have also put together simple tokens that allow the same process to be completed without the computer, but I think the former method will prove to be better.

The Whimpey will feature in the Rhur battles, this one from 156 Squadron, 3 Group, later converting to Lancasters in August 1942 and joining 8 Group Pathfinders

My 'Hallibag' has had a new paint job and decals and represents an aircraft from 76 Squadron, 4 Group and led by the famous Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire

The work to pull this together has been a project going on in the background to other ones, with little bursts of work now and then, but brought to this stage of completion after several of the chaps at club requested to have another go with TfT, that required me to get the proverbial finger out and finish the paint jobs on my model aircraft.

One of my two Lancasters has had a new paint job and decals representing 106 Squadron, 5 Group and lead at one time by a certain Wing Commander Guy Gibson

So this weekend I will be taking the new 'Mainforce Target for Tonight' out on its first road test or should I say mission and hope to have created a different game, whilst retaining the best of the original.

In addition, I have ordered up the last bombers I needed to complete my orders of battle for 1943 and will be picking up the last few Wellingtons and Sterlings at Salute this year.

With the planes mustered and the rules refitted, Bomber Command are ready to start the whirlwind

I am really looking forward to putting the new game into effect and will post some AAR's as we play, here and on the DWG blog.

Once this system has proved a playable alternative to the basic rules, I can then possibly think about adding in British and German intruders alongside the last gap in the system that I would like to change which would be having 8 Group Pathfinders leading the raids and attempting to get an accurate target marking, but that stuff is for later.