Sunday, 24 March 2019

Smolensk 1943: The Red Army's Relentless Advance

I've been buying each of the Osprey Campaign series books that deals with the Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War as they have been published. The latest is SMOLENSK 1943: THE RED ARMY'S RELENTLESS ADVANCE, and it arrived in the post several days ago.

The book is divided into nine chapters, a glossary, and an index, arranged as follows:
  • Origins of the campaign
  • Chronology
  • Opposing commanders
    • Soviet
    • German
  • Opposing forces
    • Soviet
    • German
    • Orders of battle
  • Opposing plans
    • Soviet
    • German
  • The campaign
    • Preliminary moves, 1 – 6 August 1943
    • The opening round, 7 – 21 August 1943
    • The second round, 23 August – 7 September 1943
    • The third round, 14 September – 2 October 1943
  • Aftermath
  • The battle sites today
  • Further reading
  • Index

SMOLENSK 1943: THE RED ARMY'S RELENTLESS ADVANCE was written by Robert Forczyk, illustrated by Adam Hook, and published in 2019 by Osprey Publishing (ISBN 978 1 4728 3074 6) as part of their Campaign series (No.331).

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Initial thinking about a Portable Colonial Wargame book

As I have recently finished one project – publishing MASTERS AT WAR VOLUME 2: 1920 TO 1970 – and I am on the verge of finishing the centenary history of the Hertfordshire Masters' Lodge No.4090, my thoughts have been turning toward my next writing project ... which is likely to be THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME.

It is true to say that I have already written a set of PORTABLE WARGAME rules that can be used to fight Colonial battles, and that these – along with an explanatory battle report – are included in the first of my books. However, since they were written, my thinking has evolved somewhat, and whilst they are still more than usable, I think that they could be improved upon. In particular, some of the more developed rules in the later books (e.g. THE PORTABLE WARGAME RULES: ANCIENTS and THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME: BRIGADE RULES) contain mechanisms that I would include if I were writing a set of Colonial rules from scratch.

One area that I want to look at is creating a set of rules that can be used both with multi-figure bases and individually-based figures. I have both in my collection of Colonial wargame figures, but I know that many wargamers who have come to this type of wargaming recently (mainly as a result of Daniel Mersey's excellent THE MEN WHO WOULD BE KINGS rules and in anticipation of Howard Whitehouse's soon-to-be-published A GENTLEMAN'S WAR) have collections of individually-based figures.

Following on from the above, I am also thinking about changing the allocation of Strength Points (SPs) as follows:
  • Infantry units: 6 SPs
  • Cavalry units: 4 SPs
  • Artillery and Machine Gun units: 2 SPs
This reflects the fact that I am thinking along the lines of one figure = 1 SP.

One result of this change is that games should last somewhat longer (something that quite a few players have asked for) and artillery will not be quite as dominant on the battlefield (again, something that players have asked for).

I have jotted down a basic plan for contents of the book:
  • Organising and basing units
  • The rules (including aspects of coastal and riverine naval combat)
  • An explanatory battle report
  • Colonial campaigns
  • An explanatory Colonial wargame campaign (probably set in Zubia, my Egypt/Sudan-like imagi-nation)
  • Appendices that cover some of the same ground as those in my PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book so that readers do not have to buy both books
Experience has shown me that this plan is likely to change and evolve during the play-testing and writing process, and that my present, self-imposed deadline for completing the book will be November/December of this year may not be met.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: The Zulu War

At the recent LITTLE WARS REVISITED day run in Woking, Surrey, Anthony Morton staged a Zulu War battle using some wonderful 54mm figures and THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

I'm not sure about the outcome of the battle as I have only got the photographs to go by, but it looked like a hard-fought affair, and yet again proved how attractive wargaming with 54mm-scale figures can be.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Mike Lewis' Little Wars Revisted.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

My batch of renovated 20mm-scale Spanish troops

During the sort out before I began the process of renovation, varnishing, and re-basing my collection of 20mm-scale World War II figures, I found some Spanish Civil War figures manufactured by Irregular Miniatures. I had previously used them to represent German engineering troops, and decided to renovate them so that they could represent troops of the Spanish Blue Division (in Spanish: División Azul; in German: Blaue Division) that fought on the Eastern Front.

Although the uniforms are by no means accurate (they are, in fact, totally inaccurate!), I'm happy with the result.

Whilst in Spain, the troops wore large red berets (as worn by the Carlist Requetes), green khaki trousers (as worn by the Legion Extranjero or Spanish Foreign Legion), and blue shirts (as worn by the fascist Falange). The latter led to the units being called the División Azul.

Whilst serving with the German Army, the troops wore normal German uniforms with a shield on the upper right sleeve in the Spanish colours of red and gold, surmounted by the word España.

My figures have been painted in uniforms that are similar to those worn by the Legion Extranjero or Spanish Foreign Legion, including the fore-and-aft forage cap (gorillo or isabelino with a tassel in the branch-of-service colour at the front.

Whilst this uniform was not worn on the Eastern Front, it does make the unit look different from the other Axis units, which is why I have chosen not to repaint the figures.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Hr Ms Zeearend

Whilst I was researching my latest book, I came across the story of the ship that became HMS Western Isles during the Second World War.

Batavier IV and her sister ship Batavier V were built in 1902 by Gourlay Brothers & Co. of Dundee for Wm. H. Müller & Company's Batavier Line. They were passenger/cargo ships, and were used on the Rotterdam to London route alongside the other ships owned by the company. They were designed to carry 75 First-class and 28 Second-class passengers, plus up to 325 in Third or Steerage class.

Batavier V, Batavier IV's sister ship.
Unlike her sisters ship (which was stopped and seized as a prize by the U-28 and subsequently released by a German Prize Court, only to be sunk by a mine off the British coast in May 1916), Batavier IV had a relatively uneventful war.

In 1922 the Batavier Line moved its London terminal from Customs House and Wool Quays near the Tower Bridge to Gravesend. Although called the Batavier Pier, it was actually owned by the London Chatham & Dover Railway, which ran special boat trains to and from the pier to Victoria Station in central London. (The year after the Batavier Line moved their terminal to Gravesend, the London Chatham & Dover Railway, the South Eastern Railway, the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, and the London and South Western Railway amalgamated and became the Southern Railway. The change of ownership did not affect the Batavier Line's continued use of the pier.)

The Batavier IV continued to operate on the Rotterdam to London route until the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940. The ship was almost immediately chartered by the British Ministry of War Transport and she was sent to Guernsey to collect children who were being evacuated in case the Germans managed to reach and occupy the Channel Islands. In June of that year Batavier IV was transferred to the Royal Navy, and in September 1940 she was commissioned as HMS Eastern Isles to act as the floating headquarters of the Western Apoproaches Anti-Submarine School. She was subsequently renamed HMS Western Isles in March 1941, and served under that name until 1946.

HMS Western Isles.
At the end of the Second World War, HMS Western Isles was not returned to the ownership of the Batavier Line. Instead she was sold to the Royal Netherlands Navy, where she was renamed Hr Ms Zeearend (A892). (Zeearend means White-tailed Eagle.) She then served as an anti-submarine warfare training vessel until October 1970, when she was finally decommissioned. She was then sold and scrapped in late 1972.

Above and below: the hulked Hr Ms Zeearend serving as a static anti-submarine warfare training vessel.

The ship's characteristics as built are:
  • Tonnage: 1,568 Gross Registered Tonnage
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 260.2ft (79.31m)
    • Beam: 35.1ft (10.7m)
    • Draught: 14.4ft (4.39m)
  • Propulsion: 1 x 3-cylinder triple expansion steam engine driving one propeller
  • Speed: 14.5 knots
  • Passenger Capacity: Total = 428 passengers (75 × First-class; 28 × Second-class; Up to 325 x Third/Steerage-class)

It is interesting to note that the Netherlands Customs Service operated a Damen Stan Type 4207 Patrol Vessel named Zeearend from 2002 onwards. (The UK Border Force currently operates four ex- UK Border Agency Damen Stan Type 4207 Patrol Vessels, Seeker, Searcher, Vigilant, and Valiant.) Zeearend was subsequently been handed over to the Dutch Coast Guard, who continue to use her.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Callan: Wargaming on TV

If you have access to the TALKING PICTURES TV channel on Freeview, Sky etc., you might want to watch tonight's episode of CALLAN. It is entitled AN ACT OF KINDNESS, and features a visit to a wargame show, and two Napoleonic wargames.

I have been to ... Cartagena Military Museum: Miscellaneous Exhibits

The Cartagena Military Museum has some interesting exhibits that do not fit easily into a category.

40/70 Powder Testing Cannon
This unusual weapon was created by matching a 40/70 Bofors 40mm Anti-aircraft Gun barrel with the carriage of a 45/44 Soviet 45mm Anti-tank Gun. It was used to test batches of propellant powder produced at the National Factory of Gunpowder and Explosives, El Fargue, Granada. (The powder mill is now owned by Santa Bárbara Sistemas (SBS), an arms company that is part of the multinational General Dynamics group.)

RIM-7 Sea Sparrow Surface-to-Air Missile (left)
Aspide Surface-to-Air Missile (right)

The RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile was developed in the early 1960s from the AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missile as a lightweight point-defence weapon that could be quickly and easily fitted to existing ships. The missile has been upgraded over the years and remains in service.

The Aspide Improved surface-to-air missile uses the same airframe as the RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile, but uses different electronics and an improved warhead as well as a new and more powerful engine.

483mm/19-inch Mark 32 Torpedo
The Mark 32 torpedo was the first active acoustic anti-submarine homing torpedo to be built and used by the United States Navy. It was designed in 1942, and introduced into service in 1944. It was withdrawn from service in 1955.

Monday, 18 March 2019

I have been to ... Skirmish

SKIRMISH takes place twice a year at Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, Sidcup, Kent.

As it is by far and away the closest wargame show to where I live, I always try to attend, and despite a few domestic problems (the need to take my wife to have her glasses urgently repaired after she had fallen over in Faversham. Kent, on Saturday), I managed to spend just over an hour there yesterday morning.

There were several traders in the entrance hall ...

... but the majority were concentrated in the main hall.

The school's dining room was the location for most of the wargames that were taking place as well as the bring-and-buy stand.

This particular show took as its theme EGYPT AND THE SUDAN, and in the main hall Replica Metal Models staged a re-fight of the Battle of Tel el Kebir using 54mm toy soldiers. It was magnificent, as the following photographs show.

The Rainham Wargames Club also staged a re-fight of the battle (but in a much smaller scale) ...

... whilst the Old Guard fought a skirmish between British and Egyptian troops and some Mahdists.

Skirmish Wargames put on the wonderfully named 'What A Carry On Up The Nile' using some stunning terrain, buildings, and a huge model paddle steamer ...

... and the Maidstone Wargames Society fought a battle between the British and the Mahdists.

Some non-Colonial games were also put on. These included several post-apocalypse and fantasy games by Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society ...

... the Medway Wargames Society, ...

...and The Emperor's 10th Gamers Club.

Milton Hundred Wargames Club ran a participation game using the 'What a Tanker!' rules ...

... and the Privateers of London recreated the Battle of Havana, which took place during the War of Austrian Succession.

One of the joys of going to shows like SKIRMISH is the opportunity to meet and talk to other wargamers. On this occasion I was able to spend some time with Big Lee, Postie, and David Crook.

It was great to see them, and I only wish that had been able to spend longer at the show.