Saturday, December 4, 2021

Recent Acquisitions...

 


In the last few months - since July - I have been adding to my war games library, the four pictured volumes in order from left to right.  It perhaps behoves me to say something about each of them - as resource books, all very different from each other, and all with something new and interesting to say to me.

John Curry(ed)  and Paddy Griffith, Paddy Griffith's Wargaming Operation Sealion: The Game that Launched Academic Wargaming, The History of Wargaming Project, (2021). 

'I could do with some light bed-time reading,' I remarked when I first heard tell of this volume.  Not light reading, I was told.  Although I have twice read it from cover to cover, and have given some thought how I might 'do' Operation Sealion as a solo campaign, I'm here to tell you that 'light reading' it ain't.

It is a pretty comprehensive war games campaign resource - all four volumes are - but this one is really an account of a multi-player game conducted in 1974 by the late renowned Paddy Griffith.  This was something of an experiment - The Game That Launched Academic Wargaming - to examine a 'what if' campaign, to wit, Operation Sealion, the proposed German invasion of England in the Autumn of 1940. 

Taken from this series of articles beginning
https://www.beastsofwar.com/battlegroup/operation-sea-lion-invading-england-part-one/


It seems that in researching, gathering the materials and developing the project, Mr Griffith concluded before the game was actually played, that the invasion really had very little chance of success.  Not to put too fine a point on it, it was doomed.  Novels that take Operation Sealion as the basis of an 'alternate history' come in for some criticism on account of their underlying assumptions.

Now, it happens that I have a copy of the memoirs of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, commander of one of the Luftwaffe groups, Luftflotte 2, that were engaged in the bombing attacks on Great Britain during 1940-41.  He expressed the view that the thing might, given the right conditions and meticulous planning, have gone ahead to a successful conclusion.  At the time, the Luftwaffe overall were enthusiastic about the project; the Wehrmacht rather ambivalent; the Kriegsmarine didn't want a bar of it.  

Kesselring also expressed some surprise that the early planning hadn't begun back in 1939, as soon as the invasion of France was determined on.  This is possibly hindsight talking, but it seems not unreasonable to suppose that some such plan might have been begun, as a contingency upon France being overrun or forced to surrender (the value of a contingency plan - or the consequences of the lack of one - must have been brought home to the UK in recent years, with the Tory government permitting itself to become committed to Brexit with neither plan nor policy.  Amazing) .  The moment it was clear France was defeated, measures ought to have been set in motion.

Again, this may be hindsight, but Kesselring allowed that the moment the bombing switched to what he candidly called 'terror bombing' of cities, he knew Operation Sealion was 'off' the agenda.  Interestingly enough, Griffith allowed that in the context of the Operation itself, London, qua communications nexus, would have been a legitimate military target, to disrupt the transfer of reinforcements and supplies from north of the Thames.

Now, before the change of bombing policy, the Luftwaffe had engaged in an attritional battle against the RAF.  It appears that the German Army and Navy insisted upon total air domination as the sine qua non of the seaborne invasion.  This was of course an impossible demand, as Griffith and Kesselring would have agreed. About half of the UK was simply not reachable by the Luftwaffe; if the situation became sufficiently desperate, the RAF could have withdrawn north of the limit of Luftwaffe's range, and still been in a position to attack the beach landings and the Channel as well. 

As far as Kesselring was concerned, he thought air domination or even simple superiority were too much to ask for.  Rather he thought it sufficient for the success of the invasion that the Luftwaffe could contest the air above the invasion, and maintain that contestability until such time as airfields might be established on English soil.

I could bang on even further about this, but I found that the assumptions behind the war games project interesting in the light of Kesselring's own recollections.  But with one or two little tweaks (to give the invaders a fighting chance) Paddy Griffith's Operation Sealion is based upon conditions as they actually were.  To take just one small element, Admiral Raeder would not risk his capital ships in such an operation in such enclosed waters.  It has to be admitted, one battleship (Bismarck) and two battlecruisers (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau) weren't a whole lot  to throw in against the numbers of major units the Royal Navy could show!  Perhaps had the navy been prepared to risk the entire fleet of major units down to light cruisers...?

Now, I haven't said all that much about the John Curry edited book!  I hope readers will infer from this, though, that I found it a fascinating read: I read it through twice, cover to cover, within a fortnight.  If you want to run such a campaign, it's all there, up to and including the tides at two locations where landings might have occurred, weather conditions, phases of the moon, availability of military forces - all arms - and, in the British side, their states of readiness.  It really is a major project; a project for professionals.

But the editor has included two other, much briefer sections to follow  the 1974 project run by Paddy Griffith (some of whose participants included persons who were involved in the 1940 operations, including the Luftwaffe ace, Adolf Galland).  One is a Wargame Developments game at COW 2008, designed by John Curry, among others.  If the Paddy Griffith operation was designed for something beyond the scope of a club project (though I think the resources offered could so be used), the COW version would be considerably more in a club's reach.  

The book concludes with an Appendix account of a 2009 Sealion game at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford.  These are Paddy Griffith's own 'debrief notes' of that event.  It's less than 5 pages long but an amusing read - an after dinner mint to round off a vast meal.

I do have one complaint, though: the thing could have stood a lot more editing than it got.  There is something definitely not right about the September 1940 tables on page 54, which had me looking up current tide times to get a better bearing on what they ought to have been.  There are other typos and glitches scattered throughout - always an irritant to me.

This ...erm ... review having taken up more space than I anticipated, I have added the other three volumes by way of foreshadowing future postings about each in turn. 

Andrew Rolph, Kharkov, May 1942: The Last Disaster, Self published? (2021).

Graham Evans (aka "Trebian"), Taiping Era: Tabletop Wargame Rules for land conflict in mid-19th Century China, Wargaming for Grownups Publications, (2020).

Bob Cordery, The Balkan League: A Matrix Game campaign including the Portable Balkan Wars Wargame rules, Eglinton Books, London (2021).

Monday, November 29, 2021

Woodscrew Armies Campaign: The Chinese Offensive

Union reinforcements:
 17th Brigade, 5th Army, Brig-Genl J. A. Early 
commanding

Situation

Strategic Situation July 24, 1889

'The Almighty blessed our arms with victory to-day.' So began the report of Major-General Thos. J. Jackson to the Secretary of the Army in the Union capital city. For all his praises to the skill, stamina and success of his Tenth Army - and there was no doubt the general took great pride (on the whole) in his officers and men - he was beginning to sense that, in the Chinese Army, they were taking on a veritable Hydra.  

Three separate columns had his army defeated, yet all remained in being and at large - and the reports he received two days after the battle at Liaoyang did nothing to set his mind at ease. His cavalry, having followed up - at a discreet distance - the defeated enemy, set about observing from south of Yangzigu village, where the enemy had halted. There they reported a considerable concentration of Chinese forces. A large column, descending from the north, had joined the two the Tenth Army had already faced. The three combined presented a formidable force, a good 40,000-50,000, the usually reliable Brigadier General 'Reb' Klamath reported. A lot for fewer than 20,000 to take on. Thank the Heavens for the 5th Army reinforcements coming up from the south.  


Not to be forgotten was the enemy column somewhere west of the turnoff just half a day's march to the south. His scouts there had reported, before being chased off by enemy cavalry, that this southern corps was holed up a day's march west of the Weshall Pass battlefield and fortifying. For the moment there seemed to be no indication of their moving, but he left the scout picket at Weshall Pass to keep watch along that road.
Tony Adams's sketch of strategic situation. 
'N' should actually read 'W'.


Meanwhile, the reinforcing brigades would be arriving at Camp Supply, Jackson's centre of operations a day's march south east along the 'main' road to the south east - Jube Early's 17th Brigade by late July 26th; Joshua Chamberlain's two days later. It would take a further day and a half from there to reach him at Liaoyang.
     
Reinforcements for Tenth Army.
19th Brigade, Brig-Genl Josh. Chamberlain commanding.


The Other Side of the Hill... 

T'ai Kun Wu, commander of the Chinese Army of the East - the Army to Recover the Lost Lands - sat musing in his pavilion just outside the ramshackle, semi-deserted town of Yangzigu. The East column conscripts had done much to place the town and nearby features in a state of defence should the Barbarians come, and the North Column arrived there shortly after his own defeated West Corps. The late defeat was unfortunate - he had thrown everything into that assault, and victory had seemed so within his grasp. How he wished for some of the devil's rifles the barbarians possessed!

But the combined columns now gave him a force of something over 40,000 troops. So far his information indicated that the enemy had less than half that number - surely even his superior equipment couldn't redress the difference? And what of the South Column? T'ai Kun Wu dictated his orders to two messengers to be sent by different routes to find South Column, to order them forward and take, if possible, the road junction to the east of them.  

Once he had reorganised the troops about Yangzigu - some badly depleted formations had to be disbanded and/or merged - he would begin his own push southwards. Something had to be done, and that right soon. In this depopulated wilderness, provender for his troops was hard to come by, but his ammunition position was the really problematic consideration. If ever the barbarians discovered his trains - it scarcely bore thinking of.

The manner of conducting this phase of the campaign was to program the Chinese actions, and ask Tony Adams to indicate Jackson's orders. After the battle of July 22nd, West Column retreated through the next two days to Yangzigu. There, T'ai Kun Wu spent the next two days reorganising and preparing his army once more to advance southward - all three columns combined. Meanwhile, the South column, hovering a couple a days' march west of the Union line of communication, was fortifying in place.  

The duplicate messages were to direct the South Column to move against the Union LOC, sent by different routes. Both were diced for: a '1' meant the messages failed to arrive (the messengers got lost, were waylaid, or simply deserted); a '6' meant the messenger was captured and message deciphered. Both rolled a '1'! However, there was always a chance that the commander of South Column would take the initiative without orders. 
From July 24th I diced for their moving east, a '6' being required. Sure enough, on the morning of July 27 that corps emerged from its fortified position and pushed eastwards, reaching the Weshall Pass battlefield late the same day. They would reach the turnoff by evening of the 28th.

It was on this very day, the 28th, that the main Chinese Army launched its offensive from Yangzigu.


General Jackson had decided to wait at Liaoyang for the arrival of his reinforcements. At midday of the 28th, Brigadier-General Jubal A. Early arrived with 17th Brigade - somewhat understrength, but a welcome addition to Tenth Army all the same. But it was during the same forenoon that unwelcome news of greater import also arrived. The scouts at Weshall Pass, chased out of the place by hordes of advancing Chinese, reported that the latter would be up to the turnoff by evening. From his cavalry, a dusty messenger arrived. The main Chinese Army was on the move.  

At once, Jackson issued his orders. His army would march south. There was no question but that the road south had to be cleared. Sure enough, upon arrival at the turnoff shortly before sunset on July 28, Tenth Army found a Chinese force in place, astride the road. Clearly they hadn't been there long - and in fact had won the race by a bare hour. They had had no time to prepare field fortifications. With a large Chinese force close - maybe a day's march - behind, Jackson had less than a day to clear the road...  





Reorganizations:


Both sides have had to reorganise their armies, the Chinese rather more than the Union.  

Union 10th Army:
  • 37th Brigade: 19 Infantry, 1 Artillery (crew), 1 MG (crew) = 21 figures, 1 gun, 1 MG (228th Bn attached from 38th Bde)
  • 38th Brigade: 19 Infantry, 2 Artillery, 1 MG = 22 figures (228th Bn detached), 1 gun, 1 MG
  • 39th Brigade: 18 Infantry, 1 Artillery, 2 MG = 21 figures
  • 10th Cavalry: 13 Cavalry, 1 Artillery = 14 figures
  • 17th Brigade (attached): 21 Infantry, 2 Artillery, 2 MG = 25 figures
  • 19th Brigade (attached, at Camp Supply): 21 Infantry, 2 Artillery, 2 MG = 25 figures 
  • 110th Heavy Artillery: 4 figures, 2 guns
  • 210th Pioneer Battalion: 4 crew

Totals: 136 figures, 8 guns, 5 Machine guns (22,667 troops, 52 guns, 32 Machine guns.


Chinese Army of the East:

North Column: 
5th Regular = 28 figures
1st Cavalry = 15 figures
17th Conscript = 19 figures
18th Conscript = 19 figures
19th Conscript = 19 figures 
Artillery = 2 figures 

Totals: 102 figures, 1 gun (17,000 troops, 8 guns)

East Column:
6th Regular = 21 figures (merged with 13th Conscript, rearmed with recovered M/L rifles)
9th Green Tigers = 10 figures
15th Conscript = 19 figures
16th Conscript = 19 figures
Artillery = 2 figures 

Totals: 71 figures, 1 gun (11,833 troops, 8 guns)

West Column:
1st Regular = 21 figures (merged with part 2nd)
2nd Regular - disbanded (merged with 1st and 3rd)
3rd Regular = 21 figures (merged with part 2nd)
8th 'Blue Leopards' = 10 figures
10th Conscript - disbanded (merged with 11th and 12th)
11th Conscript = 18 figures
12th Conscript = 18 figures
Artillery = 2 figures

Totals: 90 figures, 1 gun (15,000 troops, 8 guns)

Total Army at Yangzigu:
263 figures, 3 guns (43,833 troops, 24 guns)

South Column: 

7th Regular = 20 figures
2nd Cavalry = 10 figures
20th Conscript = 14 figures (4 from 21st attached)
21st Conscript = 15 figures (4 attached to 20th)
22nd Conscript = 15 figures
Artillery = 1 figure

Totals: 75 figures, 1 gun (12,500 troops, 4 guns (4 lost at Weshall Pass)

Grand Total Army of the East:  338 figures, 4 guns (56,333 troops, 28 guns) 


Great Battle in the West

Chinese Army Heavily Defeated

More Work to be Done


August 1, 1889

This newssheet is pleased and honoured to report yet another victory to the credit of ours arms in the last week. The Chinese Emperor's attempt to recover the lands forfeited in the course of aggressive war twenty years ago, is being met stoutly by the sturdy hearts and polished weapons of our Tenth Army, led by the redoubtable Major-General Thomas J. Jackson. His command is being ably seconded by his Brigadier-Generals and a well-trained staff.  

In certain quarters we are being regaled to the carping criticism of our gallant army, most of it directed at their commander. Perhaps were are bearing witness to the senescence and debility of advancing age - the source of opprobrium claiming eighty years of establishment. But feasibly, and more charitably, we might attribute the intemperate language being used to the quite justifiable fears for the fate of our 'Guardians of the West'. No unpopular commander would wear the affectionate sobriquet 'Old Blue Light', bestowed by his loyal troops. We leave the reader to surmise the identity of those 'certain quarters'.

It is true that Tenth Army faces a formidable foe - and, by all accounts, a wily one: determined, ruthless, resilient. It is true that the so-called Army of the East has taken some very hard knocks, none harder than the rout at Liaoyang, where the enemy lost more than a third of his force. But instead of skedaddling west right out of the disputed country, back he comes, within a day or so, with an even larger force. In the face of this, and to the threat to the Tenth Army's line of communication back to his Centre of Operations, Jackson has had perforce to order a retrograde movement, and to brush aside as quickly as may be the enemy who has essayed to interfere.

This is a veritable David versus Goliath battle, and our heartfelt wishes lie with our Shepherd, that he drives the Philistine far from our frontiers.

Great Battle in the West

Chinese Army Still Undefeated

Fears Held for Tenth Army

August 1, 1889

It seems our General, 'Fool Tom' Jackson, has once again put his foot in it. Having left one of his Brigades to sustain the fight against the enemy's main Army, the General reaps some minor accolades by defeating and driving off an isolated enemy detachment. This subsidiary engagement this General elevates to the dignity of a battle - no modest hero, he - whilst for a second time, at Liaoyang, Brigadier Bidwell has had perforce to face off against a much more numerous foe.

So great the numbers - so furious the onset, withal - that Bidwell's isolated Brigade was fairly driven from the field, his guns overrun, whilst Jackson was still on the road. That the action turned into something resembling a Union victory must redound entirely to the credit of Bidwell's gallant command in standing off for so long and exacting such a fearsome toll before admitting, under duress, passage to the Chinese Army. The main body of Tenth Army, arriving not a moment too soon (indeed, we might say several moments too late), was able to reverse Bidwell's ill fortune and set the enemy to the rightabout. Not, however, without further cost to men and materiel. The General's claim setting the enemy's loss at three times his own we might justly take cum grano salis.

The tale endeth not there. All Jackson's Great Victory at Liaoyang achieved was to drive the Chinese main column onto his supports. And such supports! Reports tell of Jackson now directly facing double the numbers he recently defeated. Whilst he sits idle upon the late field of battle, his seemingly redoubtable adversary once more gathers his strength for an even more powerful blow. Catatonic as the hare transfixed in the glare of a torch, he then permits an enemy force to insinuate itself betwixt his army and his base! 

He has in the meantime been joined by 17th Brigade. It would appear that that formation must on the march have passed across the front of the insinuating column by not more than a day's distance. If by some miracle Jackson escapes the toils within which he finds himself inveigled, it will be to have fallen back to his 'Camp Supply' - a good 40 or so miles back from where he reached just over a week ago.

We think perhaps to say General Jackson has 'put his foot in it' is to select the wrong end of his anatomy; hence the wrong metaphor.  Perhaps the part so encumbered is that more usually associated with the noose.  The pity of it is that so many good men must share that fate.










Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Woodscrew Armies Campaign - Carnage on the Trail

Chinese 'West' Column approaching 
Following the twin combats of July 20th, Major-General Thomas J. Jackson hastily gathered his army in hand and issued his orders. Dispatching the cavalry that had been with him with him to march north at once to join Brigadier Bidwell's command, he sent with them an order to make a stand at or around a dilapidated place called Liaoyang on the road. Himself with the main body of Tenth Army he hoped to join with him before the pursuing Chinese column did.  
10th cavalry - horse holders at the rear.
For his part, Bidwell selected the twin hills northwest of the ramshackle town as a suitable defensive position.  Once the cavalry had recombined into a whole brigade, the 10th, he formed them up on the high ground to the right of the road. Thirty-seventh Brigade occupied the eminence left of the trail, with the machine guns covering the open flank.   
Main body, Tenth army: 39th Brigade marching 
through Lingyao
It was a full day and more before the Chinese column - the West Column - arrived, and could be observed on the heights during the afternoon of July 22nd shaking out into a line of columns.  Anxiously, Brigadier Bidwell began casting his eyes down the road south.  Were those dust clouds approaching?  

Chinese storming the heights
For his part, T'ai Kun Wu was determined from the outset upon an all-out attack, and issued his orders according.  The heights looked a deal more formidable than the enemy that stood upon them.  The slopes could be scaled; the enemy driven back and overrun.  See to it.

(This was the simplest possible 'programme' for the Chinese column: Lay out the columns, point them at the enemy, and say 'go get 'em.  Stop for nothing'.  Makes for plenty of tension!)
Attack upon 10th cavalry
'Saw to it' the Chinese columns did.  The sole rifled artillery in the Chinese inventory deployed soon into action at effective range, and even drew first blood in this battle, striking and causing casualties to the 37th Brigade line. For some reason, the two supposedly more efficient Union batteries in action took a while longer to get the range.
Pushing a little forward, the defenders' lines opening up a searing fire downslope against the attackers.  Yet, with men dropping everywhere, the columns pressed on, stepping over the dead and dying as they scaled the incline.  The Union lines seemed to be holding for a time, at least, but there was no stopping the oncoming tide of Chinese infantry.
Attack upon 37th Brigade
Not that the Union forces were emerging unscathed from the onslaught. Nor was 37th Brigade's machine gun fire proving very effective in stopping the more stately advance of the 'Blue Leopards' .  
39th Brigade infantry facing off against
Chinese 3rd Regulars (smoke premature - they aren't yet 
in rifle range),
Hoping to envelop the Union left flank, the 3rd Chinese Regulars had advanced towards the western end of the ridge, where the elevated ground descended into the level of the plain. There they encountered the infantry of 39th Brigade, arriving just in time to prevent that envelopment. The firefight that ensued kept the 37th occupied, but still left the 'Blue Leopards' space to force their way up the end the ridge.
Can 10th Cavalry hold...?
A further sinister development was unfolding in the gap through which the road passed. The sole defence was a gun battery, which, though causing casualties to an approaching column (11th Conscript) proved quite unable to stop them. Before they could extricate themselves, the guns were swamped by the Chinese and the crews that stayed with their guns were cut down. On the heights, both infantry and dismounted cavalry were being edged back, still cutting down the assailants in swathes, but themselves losing heavily.  
Chinese conscripts storming the pass defended 
by only a battery of guns
As the battle raged on for the ridgeline, the Chinese edging forward in the face of a terrific fire, the remaining reinforcements, 38th Brigade, were marching up the road towards the pass. They might have hoped to fill the gap in the Union line, but events overtook them.
38th Brigade arriving on the field

Battle rages for the heights, casualties heavy
on both sides.

Reinforcements arriving, but are they in time...?
Forcing their way to the hill crests, the attackers began to edge back the defenders. Although the line began to give a little, it still for the time being appeared to present a solid front. Yet despite appearances, it was scarcely possible that the thin line of cavalrymen could defend for long. Even with its artillery, the bluecoat cavalry - less their horse holders - were outnumbered nearly three to one by 1st Regular and 12th Conscript formations. Losing a quarter of their line in a matter of minutes, the cavalry drew back, briefly putting a short distance between themselves and their adversaries. Although giving out more than they were receiving, the respective attrition rates favoured the attackers.
Heights' defenders starting to give ground...
Such was the case on 37th Brigade's front, though there the Union was meting out a terrible punishment to the 3rd Regulars. That formation began the battle numerically stronger than any other in West Column. Confident in their numbers, they pressed 37th Brigade closely, ignoring their losses as they surged up the hill. Alongside them, 11th Conscripts pushed up just as confidently.    
... and rout
Then the Union line collapsed. Having taken heavy losses, and with the 'Blue Leopards' at last joining the battle, overrunning the machine gun company, it seemed nothing could stop the Chinese swarming over the hill. Even after the rout of 11th Conscripts, the surviving Unionists were left facing three to one odds. Their resistance broken, what remained of 37th Brigade tumbled down the hill onto the road.  There, appreciating that the hill line was lost, Brigadier General Lemar McKittrick formed the line of 38th Brigade east of the road where they stood, and directed his machine gun company around his right flank to link up with what was left of the cavalry.
The heights are lost; 10th Cavalry having lost 
heavily
The collapse of 10th cavalry was no less precipitate. The Chinese waves swept up the ridge and over the thin blue line. The close quarter fighting of bullet, blade and butt swamped the horse soldiers. Few emerged from the ruck to make it back to the horse-holder lines, the disorganised remnants galloping far into the plain. Not so hard pressed, the flying artillery limbered up and made off, where they were to form a gun line well to the rear.  
Chinese infantry swarming over the heights
and through the pass...
Having taken the heights, T'ai Kun Wu might have called a halt there, observing that a line almost as powerful as the one just overcome was facing him in the plain below. But the good T'ai Kun was not one to hesitate when there was a chance for a famous victory, and an end to a difficult campaign.  He ordered his troops onward - onward to victory!
... into the plain beyond
In this he was perhaps too sanguine. Two of his regular units (1st and 3rd)  were looking very tired, and the 2nd was about to enter fire fight against roughly equal numbers (39th brigade), and a huge deficit in firepower. The only really fresh unit was the 8th 'Blue Leopards', who were about to engage the newly formed Union line with their breech-loading rifles.  
10th Cavalry make off, leaving the flying artillery 
as rearguard.
Although it took time, the second Union line was reinforced with machine guns and artillery - the line teased out to the right by the 38th Brigade machine gun detachment, and farther off, the 10th Cavalry's flying artillery.  On came the Chinese: 1st and 3rd Regulars, much weakened, and the slightly fresher 11th and 12th Conscripts.  In raw numbers the Chinese might yet carry the day.
Tenth Army drawn up at the foot of the hill 

Firefight between Chinese 3rd Regulars and
39th Brigade 
It all went wrong for the Chinese army. For a space the 2nd Regular formation held its own against the firepower of 39th Brigade, even after the latter's machine guns joined the action. Not for long. At medium range, the muzzle loading rifles were no match for magazine rifles and machine guns. Losses mounting at a catastrophic rate sent the 2nd Regulars - such as who remained standing - reeling back in rout. At once, 39th Brigade wheeled to their right - right athwart the flank of the ridge, and consequently, of the Blue Leopards.

3rd regulars routed, leaves Chinese flank open...
Suddenly the Chinese 8th and 3rd formations found themselves in a desperate struggle with their inferior firearms against the vastly superior Union weaponry and supporting equipment. Their right flank enveloped, the Blue Leopards were massacred within minutes. Trying to press home against 38th Brigade, 3rd Regulars were simply swept aside.  On their left, the Chinese enjoyed some success. Braving machine guns and canister fire, they actually reached the gun lines, inflicting heavy losses among the crews. Though defending themselves with trailspike and rammer, pistol and Bowie knife, they had no chance against such fearsome odds.   
Chinese storm the Union gun and MG lines 
east of the road...

At the full tide of their onset, the Chinese column abruptly collapsed.  Abandoning the artillery and machine guns just taken, the assailants became hordes of fugitives. The tide receded far more rapidly than the onset, all but one formation, 1st Regulars, reduced to a fleeing mass.

There was no pursuit. For one thing, the Cavalry had been roughly handled, and was in no condition to pursue. Thirty-seventh Brigade had been almost destroyed, its artillery and machine guns overrun, its survivors routed. Torn between the bitterness of defeat and rage at the tardy support, Brigadier Bidwell was at least somewhat encouraged by his commanding general's soothing words, and subsequently by the unstinting mention in dispatches. As far as General Jackson was concerned, Bidwell's adamant defence had gone far to win the battle once the reinforcements arrived...

The Union victory had come at a very high cost, over 3000 casualties. The ambulance wagons and the hastily set up field stations and temporary hospitals two days' march to the southeast were going to be busy. The artillery and machine guns overrun were in turn abandoned by the retreating enemy, and some could be recovered and brought back into service. All the same, eight guns and four machine guns had to be written off as unserviceable. A certain amount of reorganisation was clearly indicated.

This was no Pyrrhic victory. There was no question but that in the eyes of most, this had been a shattering defeat for the Chinese West Column. Even in the tide of success, the losses had been great, and much of the army exhausted just in storming the heights. They could count themselves fortunate perhaps in achieving as much as they did by way of exploitation. Well over 9000 casualties that battle had cost - three times, as it transpired, the Union losses (actually 9500 [57 figures] to 3167 [19 figures] being the net losses respectively).  

Though disappointed,  T'ai Kun Wu, characteristically, was inclined to take the optimist's view. With anything like equality in materiel, he would have won that battle. That would be a matter to take up with the emperor upon the termination of this campaign. And he still had the whole of North Column in hand, as well as what remained of East Column. A little bit of rest and reorganisation - a few days only was all he needed - and he'd be ready to take the field once more.  

He would need to move fairly quickly. Already there was a trickle of traffic westward upon the long road to the Empire, some of it comprising members of the state service nobility.  Intriguers to a man, they would be ready when the time came to whisper into the Emperor's ear the words to bring T'ai Kun Wu's career to an abrupt end.

 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Woodscrew Armies Campaign: Strength Returns

After the battles of the 17th and the 20th of July, the staffs of both armies compiled their strength returns, to determine (in part) their capability of sustaining the campaign. 

This sort of thing I used to find quite an interesting element of a wargames campaign of this type. As units got worn down, quite often one would look to disbanding some and merging others. Once an army was reduced to half the strength it began with (taking into account recruits and reinforcements and what have you) then its political masters would be suing for peace. Thirty years ago, a fictitious Napoleonic campaign (set in early 1816, Napoleon having escaped from St Helena) that I ran came to an end at the gates of Paris when all three armies (French, Austrian and Anglo-Russian) at the one battle succumbed to that criterion.  Of course it really set the scene for a summer campaign...

Union Tenth Army:

37th Brigade (figures): 20 inf + 2 arty + 2MG = 24 figures (4000 troops)
38th Brigade: 24 inf + 2 arty + 2 MG = 28 figures (4667 troops)
39th Brigade: 20 inf + 2 arty + 2 MG = 24 figures (4000 troops)
10th Cavalry Brigade: 19 cav + 2 arty = 21 figures (3500 troops)
110th Artillery: 4 arty = 4 figures (667 troops)
210th pioneers: 4 figures (667 troops)

Totals: 105 figures, 6 guns, 3 MGs (17,500 troops, 48 guns, 24 MGs)

Chinese Army of the East:

East Column (at Yangzigu):

6th Regular: 13 figures (2167 troops)
9th 'Green Tigers': 10 figures (1667 troops)
13th Conscript: 8 figures (1333 troops)
15th Conscript: 19 figures (3167 troops)
16th Conscript: 19 figures (3167 troops)
Artillery: 2 figures (333 troops)

Total East Column: 71 figures, 1 gun (11,833 troops, 8 guns)

East Column at Battle of Yangzigu

South Column (about 3 day's march southwest of Yangzigu)

7th Regular: 20 figures (3333 troops)
2nd Cavalry: 10 figures (1667 troops)
20th Conscript: 10 figures (1667 troops)
21st Conscript: 19 figures (3167 troops)
22nd Conscript: 15 figures (2500 troops)
Artillery: 2 figures (333 troops)

Total South Column: 75 figures, 1 gun) (12,500 troops, 8 guns)
South Column at combat of Weshall Pass


West (Reserve) Column (on the road southeast of Yangzigu) :

1st Regular: 21 figures (3500 troops
2nd Regular: 22 figures (3667 troops)
3rd Regular: 28 figures (4667 troops)
8th 'Blue Leopards': 19 figures (3167 troops)
10th Conscript: 19 figures (3167 troops)
11th Conscript: 18 figures (3000 troops)
12th Conscript: 18 figures (3000 troops)
1st Artillery: 2 figures (333 troops)

Total West Column: 147 figures, 1 gun (24,500 troops, 8 guns)

West Column at action of Midla Nowhere


North Column (somewhere within a day's march northeast of Yangzigu): 

5th Regular: 28 figures (4667 troops)
1st Cavalry: 15 figures (2500 troops)
17th Conscript: 19 figures (3167 troops)
18th Conscript: ditto
19th Conscript: ditto
Artillery: 2 figures (333 troops) 

Total North Column: 102 figures, 1 gun (17,000, 8 guns)

Total Chinese Army of the East: 385 figures, 4 guns (64,167 troops, 32 guns)

From these lists, it is plain that after three combats, the Union Army is still up against it, rather!


 




Friday, November 19, 2021

Ulrichstein Campaign - Table of Links

 

The Ulrichstein Campaign

This campaign, beginning in 2011, was resumed, after an interval forced upon us by local earthquakes, in 2013.  It has been eight years since it concluded.  It was intended to be something of a curtain raiser for a much larger campaign, but for a number of reasons, the said earthquakes contributing, that never quite got off the ground.  Methought it time that the thing be 'consolidated' under this table of links.  I hope readers will find it sufficiently entertaining.  


Barricades of Zerbst

Barricades of Zerbst continued

An Epistle from Ulrichstein

Affairs of State; A Breakfast Conversation

Action of Lobrau

Action of Lobrau 

Action of Lobrau: Concluded

Ulrichstein Revisited

Rebellion: Bloodied but Unbowed

The Campaign Resumes



Battle of Schlangewasser

Battle of Zaltpig: Rebels Clash with the Army of the Elector



Battle of Zaltpig 2

Battle of Zaltpig 3

Battle of Zaltpig Concludes



Interlude in Zerbst

Allerednic

Battle of Zerbst 1: The Gathering Storm



Battle of Zerbst 2: Morning

Battle of Zerbst 3: Afternoon



Last Stand of the Rebellion 1



Last Stand of the Rebellion 2 


Last Stand of the Rebellion 3

The Final Chapter

 

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Wot I bawt at the Bring-n-buy.

Every year, the War Games section arranges a bring and buy weekend at the Woolston Club.  This year it was limited to one day, and delayed a couple of months on account of the Alert Level 2 still in force in this town (Christchurch, New Zealand).  Every year I manage to spend some money - as a rule, not very much.  This year perhaps a little above average, especially if I add in the enormous lunch...

I went in with a couple of 'will-buy-if-I-see- 'em' notions, but, not seeing 'em, I didn't buy 'em. Pity.  Never mind.  What follows were some serendipitous finds.

So, here's the damage:


Here, some playing pieces for Memoir '44.  I can't think why I bought the Panthers, except forgetting that the Panther was the standard German playing piece.  For the rest: Tigers (for an elite unit), and StuGs (for a pair of mobile anti-tank units).  

Seeing these brought me to mind my Blackland Wars and Chromatic Wars projects.  These struck me as vaguely suitable as mountain or light field pieces in the service of one or more of my armies.  As there are 4 guns to the box, but 32 artillery crew figures in the other box, I opted from the Austrian crew figures, but they won't end up as Austrian, but as other things.  It so happens that some of the figures are horse teams or limber riders.  That is no bad thing, so some of my 'spare' limbers will now get actual riders.
A couple of Deport guns assembled.  Although both types, Deports (French) and Skoda (Austrian Emire) came into service in World War One, they have to my mind the look plausibly of earlier provenance.
Now, a couple of books with a naval theme.


Richard Woodman's The Battle of the River Plate, published 2008, turns out to be an account of the whole voyage of the panzerschiff, Admiral Graf Spee, and the hunt to end her commerce raiding.  Apart from the overall narrative, there are biographical snippets of the main characters (including the three British cruisers) and quite nice sketches of the merchant vessels involved in the story, most of which were taken and sunk by the raider. The battle itself occupies just 32 pages of the 150-odd page account, and the only map of the battle is of the Graf Spee's late afternoon run for Montevideo and the pursuit by HMS Ajax and HMNZS Achilles.  It's an engaging read, though it seems to me unclear what is (or was) the 'grand delusion'.  On the other hand there's a good deal in the story that I had never before heard of.  

It is my belief that Kapitan zur See Langsdorff knew very well before the battle was over that his ship would never make it back to Germany. Graf Spee had the better of the morning's battle, effectively halving the firepower ranged against it. But the ammo stocks for his main battery had been more than halved, and, apart from the battle damage taken, some of Graf Spee's machinery was compromised even before the battle. Langsdorff might have fought it out with the two light cruisers once HMS Exeter, reduced to little more than a smoking wreck, crawled out of the battle, but perhaps he was indeed as humanitarian as his reputation suggested - and declined in the event to put his young crew, and the prisoners he was carrying, to any further hazard. Further, had he sunk the the other cruisers, he might have incurred greater hostility on along the South American coast than he in the end did. It's possible - even to my mind plausible - that figuring that honour had been served, he thought it time to call quits.  

The other volume, quite slender, is a Time-Life publication dating from 1979. The Dreadnoughts, part of a Seafarers series, I gather, is a brief account of the dreadnoughts leading up to and including an account of the Battle of Jutland. It really is a nice book, with a handsome hardcover binding. At five bucks, a bargain.  I've added a photo of the front end papers, and one of the artist impressions of the Jutland action.  This one shows the fate of HMS Warrior, which, attempting to find its way home during the night, blundered into the German High Seas Fleet battle line.


Finally, one last pass around the room unearthed these five items, in a small box, going for $5 the lot.  Done!  They go straight into my Army Men project.  They are 3D prints, the Centurion being in one piece, the others two or more.  I think maybe there is a piece missing from one of the APCs but I'm not complaining.  Although my Army Men gig supposes a technology of c.1943, a few slight anachronisms aren't going to worry me.  It's an imaginary world anyhow.  I'm not sure why these were going so cheaply - maybe the vendor was dissatisfied with their quality, though they looked fine to me.  




The Patton tank is very nearly the same size of the two toy tanks I already have. A whisker larger, maybe, but quite unnoticeable. On the other hand, as I suspected it would be, the Centurion is a deal bigger than my others of the same type. But among the four the scales weren't consistent anyhow. So these will form a small, composite battalion of Cougar tanks, ranging from Mark I (light medium armour, medium anti-tank) through to the Mark VI (extra heavy armour and anti-tank)

Altogether, a satisfactory morning of hunting and gathering...