Tuesday 31 May 2016

The centenary of the Battle of Jutland

Today marks the centenary of the first day of what was arguably the largest naval battle ever to have taken place.

The Battle of Jutland (or in German, Skagerrakschlacht [the Battle of the Skagerrak]) may or may not have been a victory for one side or the other, but the cost was tremendous. In the space of twenty four hours the British lost 6,094 killed and 674 wounded and the Germans 2,551 killed and 507 wounded. The losses in ships was also heavy.

British losses (totaling 113,300 tons):
  • Battlecruisers: Indefatigable, Queen Mary, and Invincible
  • Armoured cruisers: Black Prince, Warrior, and Defence
  • Destroyer flotilla leaders: Tipperary
  • Destroyers: Shark, Sparrowhawk, Turbulent, Ardent, Fortune, Nomad, and Nestor
German losses (totaling 62,300 tons):
  • Battlecruiser: Lützow
  • Pre-Dreadnought: Pommern
  • Light cruisers: Frauenlob, Elbing, Rostock, and Wiesbaden
  • Destroyers: V48, S35, V27, V4, and V29
The Battle of Jutland was not a repeat of the Battle of Trafalgar, although a lot of British people expected the Royal Navy to win just such a decisive victory. It did, however, prevent the German High Seas Fleet from seizing control of the North Sea - even for a day - and it failed to break the stranglehold of the blockade that the Royal Navy maintained from the beginning of the war. In the end it was the latter which helped to win the war for the Allies.

To mark this day, there have been quite a few re-fights of the battle, one of the largest of which took place at the US Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. They used the rules and equipment (but not the models) that the US Navy used to re-fight the battle during the 1930s.

The following photographs of this re-fight are all copyright US Naval War College.

Monday 30 May 2016

1864: A review

I watched the original TV series when it was broadcast on TV in the UK back in 2015, and recently I bought a copy of the DVD of the feature film version. I managed to watch it today.

In order to reduce the original eight part series so that it will be only two hours long, the numerous subplots from the original TV series have been omitted. The film tells the story of two brothers – Laust and Peter – and their involvement in the war. This makes it a much more focused and – in my opinion – a much better film to watch.

The first twenty minutes of the film relates the background to the lives of the two brothers, after which it concentrates on telling the story of the war through their eyes.

The quality of the battle scenes is remarkable, and in some of them one can almost feel that one is actually there. It is interesting to see how the film's director has referenced scenes from famous paintings and illustrations done in the aftermath of the war. The following stills give some impression of how impressive their achievement has been:

I recommend the DVD of the film version of this series to anyone who has an interest in The Second Schleswig War of 1864.

Below are some of the images produced after the war that were referenced in the film:

Sunday 29 May 2016

Zones of Control: A further progress report

I am still slowly reading my way through this book. I usually read books at quite a phenomenal rate, but so far each section and contribution in this book has given me something to think about, and in some cases I have felt compelled to re-read them before moving on to the next to ensure that I have fully understood what the writer was trying to communicate.

  • War Engines: Wargames as Systems from the Tabletop to the Computer by Henry Lowood
  • The Engine of Wargaming by Matthew B. Caffrey Jr.
  • Design for Effect: The “Common Language” of Advanced Squad Leader by J. R. Tracy
  • Combat Commander: Time to Throw Your Plan Away by John A. Foley
  • Empire of the Sun: The Next Evolution of the Card-Driven Game Engine by Mark Herman
  • The Paths of Glory Lead but to the Gaming Table by Ted S. Raicer
  • New Kind of History: The Culture of Wargame Scenario Design Communities by Troy Goodfellow
This section examined the development and use of what have become known as 'war engines'. In other words, the mechanisms or systems that drive the wargame along. Matthew B. Caffrey's contribution was extremely interesting in that regard, and provided an overview that I found easy to follow and which dealt with 'war engines' that I know something about. I did have concerns as I read J. R. Tracy's article that the chapter was going to become dominated by all things ASL, but once I began to read Mark Herman's contribution about card-driven systems I was reassured, and this was born out by what Ted S. Raicer wrote.

  • Operations Research, Systems Analysis, and Wargaming: Riding the Cycle of Research by Peter P. Perla
  • The Application of Statistical and Forensics Validation to Simulation Modeling in Wargames by Brien J. Miller
  • Goal-Driven Design and Napoleon’s Triumph by Rachel Simmons
  • Harpoon: An Original Serious Game by Don R. Gilman
  • The Development and Application of the Real-Time Air Power Wargame Simulation Modern Air Power by John Tiller and Catherine Cavagnaro
  • Red vs. Blue by Thomas C. Schelling
  • Hypergaming by Russell Vane
As one would expect, Peter Perla's contribution was succinct, informative, and well-written ... and I wish that it was more widely available than just through the pages of this book. Brien Miller's article may have a long title, but the content is an excellent exposition of the importance of validating the models one creates, and Rachel Simmons' explanation of the thinking that went into the design of Napoleon’s Triumph is one that will resonate with anyone who has every tried to design a wargame. Whilst I agree that Harpoon is a very good naval wargame, I'm not sure that it could be described as wholly 'original'.

The contents of Red vs. Blue resonated with me, and put me in mind of a wargame about the Cuban Missile Crisis that the Jockey's Field Irregulars played some years ago. The various teams were separated by a considerable distance (one team was in London and the other in Sheffield!), and had to communicate with each other and the umpires using texts or notes. When one is face-to-face with an opponent, one can 'read' their reaction, whereas when one has to do so by trying to read the subtext of their messages, miscalculations and misunderstandings don't so much creep in as hurtle in! Add in the additional problems of information and transmission delays, and one has a real cooking pot full of problems.

Russell Vance's Hypergaming describes Game Theory, what Hypergame Theory is, and then explains how it was applied to the First Gulf War. As such, it more than justifies the use of gaming to examine what one's enemy might do, why they might do it, and what the best counters to that would be.

Saturday 28 May 2016

Battle for Sevastopol: A review

I expected a good film ... but this was – in my opinion – an excellent one.

The story was well told, the characters believable, and the action scenes (including those created using CGI) were extremely good, as the following selection shows.

The German attack on Odessa

The evacuation from Odessa to Sevastopol

The evacuation of essential personnel from Sevastopol

As the story of a Russian sniper during the Great Patriotic War, I suppose that the closest film I can compare it with is ENEMY AT THE GATES ... and in my opinion this is a better film, and well worth the £5.00 it cost me!

Friday 27 May 2016

Seen overhead

During the course of Thursday our house was repeatedly overflown by pairs of Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey VTOL/STOL tilt-rotor transport aircraft flying from the direction of central London towards Kent. By 2.00pm three pairs had followed the same flight path.

The majority of these aircraft are operated by the US Marine Corps, but one wonders what they might have been doing flying over South East London.

Thursday 26 May 2016

Normal service will resume as soon as possible

Back when I was young (in what my wife calls 'back in eighteen hundred and frozen stiff') TV service was prone to breaks in transmission. When that happened, a notice would appear on screen with the message ...
Normal service will resume as soon as possible
Recently Sue and I had grown very dissatisfied with the service provided by our ISP (Internet Service Provider) and actually went as far as to cancel our existing contract and to sign up with a new provider.

This proved to be big mistake. The new ISP's service used a different cable system to deliver its service, and after several phone calls, a fair bit of stress, and several trips to the company's local branches, we ended up cancelling our new contract and returning the router that they had sold us. I then went back to our previous provider cap-in-hand and asked if the cancelled contract could be reinstated. (We had an overlap in the contracts so that the old contract still had almost a fortnight to run.)

Not only was our existing provider more than willing to rescind the cancellation, but they also reduced the monthly cost of our contract and agreed to send us a new and much faster router for free. I am now waiting for the new router to arrive today by courier. Once it has, I will set it up, activate it, and if everything goes well, there should be no breaks in our Internet connect.

The important element of that last sentence is 'if everything goes well'. I have been using IT equipment for many years, and I have yet to install a new piece of equipment or program without at least one or two glitches occurring. If I do have problems, and it takes a bit of time to sort them out, please could my regular blog readers imagine that the old TV screen message is there until the problems are overcome?

Latest news!

The courier finally delivered the new router a few minutes after 6.00pm, and by 7.30pm it had been set up, activated, and was working! Normal service appears to have resumed!

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Battle for Sevastopol

I am always on the lookout for interesting, cheap DVDs to watch, and today I seem to have struck lucky again. For the princely sum of £5.00 I have bought a copy of BATTLE FOR SEVASTOPOL, which was only released on film in 2012.

The film tells the story of Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a young Ukrainian who joined the Red Army and became one of the deadliest snipers in World War II. (She is credited with at least 309 'kills'.) She was eventually taken out of the front line and sent on visits to the other Allied nations. She first visited Canada and the United States, and was the first Soviet citizen to be received by a US President in the White House. She so impressed Eleanor Roosevelt that the latter persuaded her to tour America to tell people about her experiences as a soldier and sniper. In Chicago, she addressed a crowd with the following words:
'Gentlemen, I am twenty five years old and I have killed three hundred and nine fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?'
Whilst in the United States she was presented with a Colt semi-automatic pistol. This gift of a firearm was followed by a further one (a sighted Winchester rifle) when she visited to Canada. Pavlichenko also visited the United Kingdom, and during her stay she went to Birmingham and Coventry.

On her return to the Soviet Union the now Major Pavlichenko became an instructor and trainer of snipers. For her work both in the front line and as a trainer she was awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. After the war she completed her education at Kiev University and became a historian, working as a research assistant of the Chief HQ of the Soviet Navy.

The film was directed by Serhiy Mokrytskyi, produced by Nataliya Mokrytska and Egor Olesov, written by Maksym Budarin, Maksym Dankevych, Leonid Korin, and Egor Olesov, and stars Yulia Peresild (as Lyudmila Pavlichenko), Joan Blackham (as Eleanor Roosevelt), and Yevgeny Tsyganov (as Leonid Kitsenko).

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Airfix Battles on hexes?

Almost as soon as I had bought and used my copy of AIRFIX BATTLES, I began thinking about 'converting' the rules so that I could use them with my Hexon II hexed terrain and my existing collection of 20mm-scale World War II figures and vehicles.

The only major change I can foresee with regard to the existing movement rules related to turning vehicles. My current thinking (which appears to be in line with that of Ross Macfarlane, who is working along similar lines) is that vehicles should be able to turn 60° without suffering a penalty, a 120° turn at a 'cost' of one hex of movement, and a 180° turn at a 'cost' of two hexes of movement.

As most of my figures are mounted on multi-figure unit bases I am thinking of using two such bases for each standard AIRFIX BATTLES infantry unit, with magnetic numbered tiles on each base to show its current strength.

This is about as far as my thinking has so far progressed ... and until I can play-test my ideas in a battle or two involving three or four units per side, I cannot go any further developing my ideas.

Monday 23 May 2016

I have been to ... HMS Duncan

Over the past weekend HMS Duncan (D37) – the last of the Daring-class Type 45 Destroyers to be built and commissioned – paid a visit to London.

Whilst she was moored alongside in the Docklands area of East London, Sue and I were able to pay her a visit. We got our first glimpse of her as the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) train in which were we travelling passed over the dock in which she was moored.

We passed along the ship's port side ...

... and boarded via a gangway that led up to her quarterdeck/helicopter deck.

An Agusta-Westland AW159 Wildcat helicopter was parked in the centre of the quarterdeck/helicopter deck. (HMS Duncan can carry up to two Wildcats or a single Agusta-Westland AW101 Merlin helicopter.)

Our route around the ship first took us through the ship's helicopter hanger, ...

... past the officers' Wardroom (with its special 'Duncan' tartan tablecloth), ...

... part of the Sick Bay, ...

... a two-person berth, ...

... and into the ship's Operations Room.

We then passed out through a watertight bulkhead door onto the forecastle, where many of the ship's main weapons systems are located. These include the Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers, ...

... two pairs of anti-torpedo decoy launchers (there are one pair on both the port and starboard sides) that form part of the ship's Surface Ship Torpedo Defence (SSTD) system, ...

... the 48-cell Sylver (SYstème de Lancement VERtical) vertical launching system (VLS) for the ship's Aster anti-aircraft missiles (HMS Duncan carries a mixture of Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles), ...

... and her 4.5-inch/55 Mk.8 Mod 1 gun.

The forecastle gave us an excellent view of the ship's bridge and forward sensor mast, which is topped by a Type 1046 SAMPSON multi-function dual-face active electronically scanned array radar.

We then walked along the port side of HMS Duncan, passing under one of her DS 30M 30mm/75 automatic guns, ...

... and past a Chaff launcher. (There were a pair of these Chaff launchers mounted on each side of the ship.)

We then passed one of the two 20mm Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS) that are mounted on each side of the ship.

These provide her with a very effective close-defence capability against sea-skimming missiles.

Just above us we could see the Type 1046 S1850M 3D long range passive electronically scanned array radar, which is located atop a short tower above the ship's hanger ...

... and additional electronic equipment, which is mounted on a mast forward of it.

We then passed through another watertight bulkhead door which gave us access into the gallery around the upper level of the helicopter hanger. We descended into the hanger via a ladder, and as we left the hanger we could see ...

... the ship's bell, which is located on the starboard outer wall of the hanger.

Sue and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to HMS Duncan, and hope to visit further Royal Navy warships that pay official visits to London.