Sunday, June 21, 2020

High Seas Incident - a test.

Facing west, the Aithiops coastline is a short distance beyond
the table's far edge. HRMS Blunderer in the forground,
ANV Kickapoo and Lafayette hugging the distant coastline.
Log of HRMS Blunderer:

"Date: Wednesday,14/Oct/1874  Time 1800 hours.
Estimated position: 11° 25' S, 41° 37' E, some 8 nautical miles SE off Cape Delgado (East Aithiops coast) 
Course: 0°  (due North)
Overcast cloud, clear skies on the north and west horizon, light to moderate breeze from the south, Visibility fair.
Barometer falling, weather thickening from the south, wind rising.
Smoke on the horizon close under Cape Delgado, thought to be ironclad vessels recently acquired by the Azeitona Colony.  Bearing down towards smoke to intercept and investigate..."

Looking directly south.  The faster Kickapoo leads the
two vessel Azeitinian squadron.

The arrival of two ironclad riverine warships by the Azeitona Colony had long been suspected in Table Town - a development that rather appalled the Governor of the Cape of Good Grief Crown Colony.  With his powerful coastal battleship, HRMS Blunderer, the Lord Hughnon Reddit-Allreddy's writ could be extended a thousand miles and more up western and eastern coasts of the Benighted Continent, with particular attention paid to the none-too-welcome intrusion of the Azeitonian colony at the mouth of the Limpopo River.  But the presence of even one ironclad on the southern Aithiops coasts would a constraint upon that writ.  True, they were unlikely to be ocean-going vessels, but they would be quite capable of effective harbour defence and inshore work...

'Upon due consideration, ' Lord Reddit-Allreddy declared in a missive to the Colonial Office back in Ruberia, 'the presence of Azeitonian warships upon the coasts of Aithiops is not to be borne...' 

The rules in use (GNW) and the context - Colonial Aithiops.
For their part, the acquisition of two ironclads was something of a relief to the Azeitonian Colonists and their Governor.  The pair would be a boon to coastal defence against the depredations of Zanzingabar corsairs and Turcowaz slave raiders, and assistance to expeditions via the Limpopo River into the unexplored Continental interior.  Only the longer established Ruberian colony, far to the south, might be apprehended.  There was no doubt their coastal battleship, Blunderer, was a formidable vessel.  He hoped that maybe Milord Reddit-Allreddy would quietly ignore the presence of two warships - designed solely for defence, of course...
'Hey, up! Here's a fight!'
'Milord' Reddit-Allreddy had no such intention. He ordered Captain Weatherby Jack, Commodore of the Cape Squadron, to take his flagship and investigate these two Azeitonian warships, with the view to determining their threat, and what subsequently to do to diminish that threat. So, the pink dawn of Friday, 9th October 1874, would have seen HRMS Blunderer slipping out of its anchorage in Fallacious Bay, and setting course eastward along the coast. A thousand miles later, towards the late afternoon of the Wednesday following, and about to raise Cape Delgado, the lookouts spied the plumes of smoke. The Azeitonian warships were at sea.
HRMS Blunderer finds the range, and scores an early hit!
This was, of course, to be a shakedown exercise along the coast, partly to exercise the crews, partly to test what really were riverine vessels in coastal waters, and partly too, to map the relatively unexplored coastline. The surprise appearance against the grey southern skyline of darker clouds of smoke heralded the approach of a large vessel.  Disappointed, the ironclad commanders were not altogether surprised to see the Ruberian battleship hove over the horizon. At once that vessel turned to bear down upon the little Azeitonian squadron. Themselves not unwilling to test their metal - Azeitonian sea-going tradition at least as antiquitous as the Ruberian, if a little less martial - the two ironclads turned to port, to meet the oncoming Blunderer.
ANV Kickapoo has to run a gauntlet before getting in range...

Before resuming the narrative, let us examine the vessels of both sides. We'll begin with the contentious addition to the Azeitonian Inshore Squadron.  They were two ironclads, one a twin-turreted Monitor class Azeitonia Navy Vessel - ANV Kickapoo. Its turrets housed smoothbore 11-inch guns within 8-inch protection, by far the thickest armour cladding the vessel. Its top speed was 8 knots (2 hex-grid areas).

The other, ANV Lafayette, a dramatic-looking ship was of similar size, was of altogether different design. Its guns were all behind casemates, two 11-inch smoothbores forward, two 6.4-inch Parrott Rifles as stern-chasers, and three 9-inch smoothbore guns in the broadside. Its major weakness was its lack of speed - 4 knots only (1 hex-grid area). Though both were armoured, neither could boast the protection enjoyed by the Blunderer; not even the 8-inch turret armour of Kickapoo was a match.

Blunderer's second salvo even more destructive, as she
makes a sharp turn to port.  But Kickapoo manages to
put one aboard Blunderer.  Meanwhile Lafayette struggles to close the range.

HRMS Blunderer was a very formidable warship. Boasting four rifled 12.5-inch guns in 2-gun turrets fore and aft, this battleship was faster (14 knots - 3 hex-grid areas per turn), and better protected with heavy armour protecting the hull as well as the turrets.  It's one disadvantage in respect of the ironclads, was it much deeper draught, though that could scarcely weigh in the balance against its advantages.

To summarise:

ANV Kickapoo:

  • Flotation Points: 17
  • Speed: 2 hex grid areas
  • Gunnery Range: Broadside: 6 hex /7D6; Forward: 6 hex /4D6; Aft: 6 hex /4D6
ANV Lafayette:
  • Flotation Points 14
  • Speed 1 hex grid area
  • Gunnery Ranges: Broadside: 4 hex /5D6; Forward: 6 hex /4D6; Aft: 6 hex /4D6
HRMS Blunderer:
  • Flotation Points: 24
  • Speed 3 hex grid areas
  • Gunnery Range: Broadside: 8 hex /9D6; Forward: 8 hex /5D6; Aft: 8 hex /5D6

In developing these data, I used the method as prescribed in The Portable Colonial Wargame, but instead of dividing by 4 as Bob Cordery does for his 'one-hex' sized war ships, I divided by 8 for my 2-hex sized fellows. My vessels are twice the length of his, but represent much the same sort of thing.  I used the  Gridded Naval Wargames'  gunnery system.   It worked fine for this action, but whether it will for combined ops has yet to be tested.

The observant reader will have noticed the peculiar gunnery ranges of the Lafayette. This is due to its 10 guns being fixed in place, unlike the swivel turrets of the other two vessels. That ship's 2 forward 11-inch smoothbores would have the same firepower as one of Kickapoo's turrets. I had a feeling that Blunderer's rifled guns should have a much greater range than the smoothbores carried  by the Azeitonian gunboats, but could find no confirmatory data.  Only the Lafayette's stern chasers were rifled on the ironclads' side, and they were about half the calibre as the Blunderer's guns. Altogether I scaled down Blunderer's strength (or upscaled the ironclads) quite a bit. This action fell in the cusp between Bob Cordery's Ironclad and Pre-Dreadnought periods, and accordingly some compromises had to be made.

Having made another sharp turn - to starboard this time,
Blunderer places itself on the opposite course to Kickapoo.
But the range!  Practically point blank!
In conditions of indifferent visibility and fading light, it is perhaps understandable that misunderstanding might lead to a shooting match, especially given such bellicose characters as Captain Weatherby Jack, and Capitão-de-Mar-e-Guerra Joaquim Marques.  Commanding Lafayette, Capitão-Tenente Luis Monteiro, was eager enough for any action that would advance his career...
At close range Kickapoo gives as good as it gets.  Blunderer scores
more hits, but Kickapoo gets in a more damaging strike.
As the ranges closed, the first salvos were fired - no preliminary salutes here.  First blood went to the Ruberians, who, with greater speed and firing range, might have stood off and shot the Azeitonians to pieces.  As it was, the latter's speed differential led to the two ironclads becoming separated. Turning to a southwesterly course took Blunderer out of the range of Lafayette's forward guns, but then she turned sharply back onto the northerly course to exchange short-ranged pleasantries with Kickapoo.  
Distant Lafayette gets off an ineffectual salvo from
its forward battery.
That the latter had already taken some heavy hits from Blunderer's guns, didn't seem to affect its gun crews. In the short-range exchange both inflicted considerable hurt upon the other. Fires broke out upon both vessels.  The longer ranged fire from Lafayette's forward battery was ineffective.
The range rapidly closes between Blunderer and Lafayette
and opens up between Blunderer and Kickapoo.
Perhaps one of Kickapoo's shells had affected Blunderer's steering, for she was to remain on the northerly bearing for the remainder of the action, apart from a slight change of course near the close. By the time Kickapoo had turned to larboard to cross the Blunderer's 'T' from astern, the latter had put a fair distance between itself and the monitor, and was engaging Lafayette closely.  
Blunderer thumps in a devastating salvo, 5 hits, two of them
'major' against Lafayette's two.  But Kickapoo's unopposed
fire is deadly accurate.
The first broadside from Blunderer wrought fearful damage. Quite apart from perforated funnels and splintered lifeboats, Lafayette took heavy casualties among its crew, and sprouted several leaks from holes and started timbers. In return Lafayette scored a couple of moderately damaging hits. From its position athwart Blunderer's wake, Kickapoo did rather more damage, further compromising, it was found later, the battleship's steering.
Effective fire at long range from Kickapoo.

Turning away, Lafayette presented Blunderer with the chance to cross in its turn an enemy 'T', having just enough control for a slight change of course to the north-west.  By this time, Blunderer was out of range of Kickapoo's guns, and was able to concentrate at close range upon the slow ironclad.
Blunderer manoeuvres to rake Lafayette.
Blunderer took good advantage of it, but the Lafayette's stern chasers proved to be well served. Every shot from its final two salvos struck aboard the battleship.
Lafayette is fighting hard a losing battle! 

By that time, though, Lafayette had been almost mortally hurt (11 FPs lost out of 14). As she tried to break off the action, Blunderer turned again to northward, having strayed too near the shore line for comfort. Both ships exchanged final honours as the distance increased between them. Once again, Lafayette's stern-chaser crews demonstrated that casualties among their number failed to diminish their gun-laying skills.  

But Blunderer's gunners had also served their guns well throughout the whole action. Its final salvo finally put Lafayette out of action, left dead in the water, in a sinking condition. Here I added a slight tweak to Bob Cordery's Portable Naval 'Wargames Pre-Dreadnought' rules. If and when a vessel's Flotation Points was reduced to zero - exactly zero - it was not sunk, but left dead in the water, where it might be surrendered, salvaged or scuttled. If reduced to below zero, then it was held to have foundered.  
Blunderer might have returned to the action to put Lafayette under - or accept her surrender - but by now the weather was closing in with the darkness of early evening.  His ship had taken far more damage than Commodore Jack had reckoned upon. As Blunderer disappeared into murk of a rain squall and the gathering dusk, Kickapoo drew up to Lafayette, and taking that vessel in tow, undertook the long, hazardous journey, back to Vertiginus City.

The state of the vessels at the close of the action might be imagined by the following:

ANV Kickapoo: 17SP reduced to 9SP (8 hits)

ANV Lafayette: 14SP reduced to 0SP (14 hits)

HRMS Blunderer: 24SP reduced to 8SP (16 hits)

In the Courts Martial that naturally followed, neither side was willing to find fault with their own commanding officers, not with their unprovoked aggression towards each other, the battle that followed, nor in the manner of its closure. Capitão-de-Mar-e-Guerra Joaquim Marques was treated as a conquering hero by the Colonists, and was to be awarded the Military Valour Medal in due course. The 'reprimand' Captain Weatherby Jack received was calculated more to expedite that officer's career than to retard it, naval judgement being held rather in less esteem than combativeness.

Meanwhile heads illumined by midnight oil in Table Town bent over ill-lighted maps plotting how they might take, sink or burn those plaguey Azeitona ironclads...

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Mobile inventory - WW2 Geman

What I intended to include in my previous posting, but had no room for, is the topic of this one. We'll start with armoured cars.  I have a certain fondness for this type of vehicle.

 The above lot comprise:

  • 5 x SdKfz222
     3 Airfix (one painted up when it front right mudguard had gone AWOL)
     2 two of a provenance I can't recall.  The little one in the middle of the row I built just a couple of weeks ago, from a kit that had been lying about unregarded since I don't know when.
  • 2 x SdKfz231 - Resin
  • 1 x SdKfz231 - attempted scratchbuild from the Airfix SdKfz234/4 about c.1990.  Unfortunately, at the time I had little information to go on. The resin vehicles I bought much later.
  • 1 x Airfix SdKfz234/4 about to be converted into a SdKfz233
  • An actual SdKfz233 model
  • A command vehicle made from the Airfix 234/4 chassis and lower hull, and the top half a command vehicle from another kit.  A rough marriage that will be disguised by added jerrycans and suchlike.
Back in c.1976, I bought 3 of those Airfix Armoured Car kits, not realising that the split mudguards were not historical. At the time it was my practice to buy 3 of anything, to form them into troops or squadrons. For these vehicles I quite liked the idea of a recon vehicle that could handle itself in a fight, but I think there I understood - probably wrongly - that one of the functions of recon units was to seize (note that I don't say 'carry') and hold ground.  

The next batch feature the later armoured cars. Now, finding that the Airfix model was unhistorical, I had pretty much decided to use them for other things. Meanwhile I had acquired 3 more, somehow.  So, one was in effect destroyed - regrettably - in an attempt to make it into a Russian BA64. Again, I had very little information to go on at the time. Another was built into the SdKfz231 seen earlier, one set aside to build a 233, and one more made into the command vehicle.

What of the remaining two? I decided that it was a pity these vehicles were to be abused into other forms, as, though faulty, I rather liked them as they were. They have been repaired and refurbished into their original form, one of them painted with that spectacular hi-viz 'camouflage'. I admit that camo design was somewhat experimental, and probably unhistorical, even as an impressionistic rendition, but I think it looks pretty. Which is why one of my 4 SdKfz234/2 Pumas got the similar livery.

The rest of the front row is two more Puma, and there is one more in the back. That one's slightly larger scale matches the SdKfz234/3 alongside it.

The next couple of pics is of my German cavalry. Most of these are 20mm metals that I bought second-hand, mainly as nice things to have, but the price was very reasonable. The finish is 'as received'. I saw no reason to modify it in any way.  
The above are my basic cavalry units - squadrons or battalions. The fourth row is made up of mounted figures from the Revell German artillery box. A few plastics have been added to form a fourth unit. In the rear those stray horses might fetch up as pack or draught animals. 
And this lot are my support weapons (MGs, Panzerschreck, with infantry guns and anti-tank guns to be added), and logistic support. Altogether it's a fine little formation, but I never really settled upon an organisation. In Command Decision terms, they represent about half a Division.

I really must knock together a scenario for these fellows...

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Unarmoured Inventory - WW2 German

My unarmoured stuff - well, nearly all of it...
After showing off my German AFV kit, I could hardly let it go at that, and decided that I would lay out my 'unarmoured' inventoryt.  Here it is: artillery, anti-tank guns, tractors, armoured half-tracks, kubelwagens, kettenkrads and motorcycle combinations; light trucks and lorries, and my eclectic Anti-Aircraft weaponry. The next few pictures is due to my self indulgence, looking at the whole array from several angles.
 I was going to include my armoured cars, but they can wait for another posting.

 Lots of artillery:
  • 5 metal 10.5 cm light artillery, plus 7 (H'mmm - there should be 8) Revell plastic artillery.  I reduced the Revell 6-horse teams to 4, giving me 3 (possibly 4) extra pairs of draught horses.
  • 3 15cm howitzers - 2 metal, and one scratchbuilt from balsa, cardboard and plastic tube.  
  • 6 7.5cm infantry guns: 5 metal, and one cardboard, scratchbuilt before I found any models in the right scale.  Actually, there ought to be a second cardboard gun, but I didn't find it.   Strangely, I never got around to build or acquire any heavy 15cm infantry guns, the one example being mounted upon a Pz I chassis.
  • 1 Nebelwerfer
  • 1 12cm mortar and limber
In this pic is also a metal RSO tractor (courtesy of the 'Sun of York') with limber.

 Now for my half-track prime movers.  Not enough to draw all my artillery and anti-tank guns, even augmented by draught traction: 2 x Demag, 7 x SdKfz11, 6 x SdKfz7.  The vehicle at the rear with the flat-bed tray I designate a SdKfz 8, as it is larger than the others.  The Tiger variant, I'll talk about later.

A very strange beast...

Well, here it is.  I looked this thing up, and discover that only one example was ever found, there being no record of such a vehicle being factory produced in any kind of numbers - or even at all.  Although I have tended to call this an 'armoured recovery vehicle', I rather suspect it is more like an engineering or maybe a field workshop vehicle.  At any rate, it makes a 'different' sort of logistics element.

Here, surrounded by a whole lot of ordnance and tractors, is a pair of die cast RSOs with PaK40 AT guns in tow.  They came in plastic display boxes (as did some of my Tigers and PzIV tanks), but my collection is there to fight, and not just look pretty. 

Somehow, I always felt the need to beef up my anti-tank gun inventory to something approaching the number of tanks.

  • 9 PaK40 - 2 ESCI, 4 HaT, 1 Airfix, a couple scratch built using the Airfix PaK40 from its SdKfz234 Armoured Car.  I did them originally as 7.5cm field gun, then changed them again.
  • 2 PaK38 - metal
  • 3 PaK35/6 - plastic, unsure of manufacture.  Most of such guns I acquired, being 1:72 scale ESCI, fetched up in my Russian Army as 45mm L46 AT guns.   The 1:76 scale examples will remain as the Wehrmacht's door-knockers.
  • 2 ... PaK38 plastic?  Some Japanese company made these tiny anti-tank guns - woefully under-scale.  A while back I thought maybe they were 42mm tapered bore, but was to be disappointed.  They'll probably have their shields removed and replaced, and become yet more Soviet 45mm AT guns.

 On to the half-tracks, starting with just these three variants of the SdKfz 250.  Two are recon vehicles, the other a command vehicle - to wit, built from the ESCI 'Greif' kit.
 A bunch of SdKfz 251 variants - mortar, short 7.5cm support weapons, bridging vehicle, and one ambitious chap sporting a PaK40 AT gun.
But above is the core of the half track armada, each row of 4 being the transport for a Command Decision gepanzert panzergrenadier company. With this lot of armoured half-tracks I had transport for a whole panzergrenadier battalion.  Pity I never quite matched it with the wheeled transport.
 Small vehicles:

  • The leading black undercoated vehicle is supposed to be Hitler's parade Mercedes.  I am figuring may be suitable for an Army commander?
  • Two civilian pattern Volkswagen cars.  Another from 'The Sun of York'.  I have no idea whether the civilian pattern VW was ever used as a command or staff vehicle in the field, but as I imagine to be snugger than a kubelwagen, say, the thing seemed to me plausible.  Mind you, they might have been used by rear area commands or staffs.  No doubt I'll be corrected on this one.
  • 9 Schwimmwagens - a nice little amphibious vehicle.  I regret now not fitting tilts on all these Kubel- and Schwimmwagen models, as I wouldn't then have to fiddle around fitting drivers and passengeres, which, the eagle-eyed reader will have observed, I haven't done much of.
  • 9 Kubelwagens.  This includes an ugly, horrible little model in the rear row of the two.  But it looks like what it's meant to be, so that is what it is.
  • 5 Kettenkrads ( I feel sure I have more of them, somewhere)
  • 9 Motorcycle combinations.  As it happens, I have not included 3 HaT models (I'll show them next time).  They are quite a bit overscale, I believe, but I rather like them, for all that.  I also have 6 HaT motorcycles, and 3 Airfix bicycles.
  • 2 Horsch transports

 Wheeled transport:
  • 10 Krupp Protzewagen light trucks.  Actually I have 11, the odd one being visible behind the m/c combinations as an ammo vehicle or gun tractor.
  • 4-5 Opel Blitz trucks.  One got misplaced on the table to beside the 88 FlaK guns, and another is missing its wheels.  To be sorted.  Of the other three, one is an ESCI model, the other two recent imports from China.  They really are rather nice vehicles, but watch out for slopes...!

 To round off: my FlaK capability:

  • 4 half-track mounted AA.  The nearest of them was a commercial model bought second hand in slightly munted condition.  I managed to sort it out into a very nice model.  
  • 2 towed Quad 20mm AA
  • 1 Wirbelwind Quad 20mm AA
  • 1 Mobelwagen Quad 20mm AA.  Some researches into this vehicle seemed to indicate that very few AA tanks of this configuration were ever built or went into service. On the other hand, I notice several manufacturers make models of these.  So I accept it as is.
  • 5 8.8cm FlaK18 towed AA.  One of these is fixed in anti-tank mode, but the other four may be used for either AT or AA.

Taken overall, a fairish bunch of stuff to play with, though there are shortages of transports for some of the heavy weaponry and the motorised infantry.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Armoured Inventory - WW2 German

Whole inventory of my German AFV fleet.

In a recent Not Quite Mechanised posting, Chris Kemp laid out his German armoured fleet, including SP artillery, and, by way of comparison, tabulated his list with the German production by early, middle and late war, plus overall total. He then invited readers to lay out their own inventories. Hence this posting.

Overnight I tried to recall just what I had. I could just about recall my tanks and self-propelled artillery, but rather underestimated the 'tank hunter' type of vehicles in my inventory. Here is my list, with, by way of comparison, the German overall production at, if I understand Chris's figures correctly, are 1 for every hundred. That is to say, German war production is given, rounded, in hundreds.
So, as a proportionality exercise similar to Chris's, let's see how my fleet looks:

The core of the fleet: Panthers and Panzer IV -
about 40% of the whole.

German AFV Inventory 
Model    War Total    My Fleet     Notes
Pz I 6 1    GwI SP sIG
Pz II 7 1
Marder II 7 1
Wespe 6 3    Or 4; excludes Ammo       carrier
All Pz I and Pz II chassis: 25 6    Or 7 - unmade kit
Pz 38(t) 14 0
Marder III 15 4    I've merged all these types
Grille 5 0
Hetzer 30 0
All Pz 38(t) chassis: 64 4

The Marder III M at the rear sports a rather bad camo
(a failed experiment) that is to be redone.  Soon.
Pz III A-F 5 0
Pz III G-J1 24 3
Pz III J2-M 20 5
Pz III N 7 2
Pz III Flamm 1 0
StuG III A-E 8 1
StuG III F-G 85 5
StuH 42 12 1
All Pz III Chassis: 156 17

Pz III chassis and Marders.
Pz IV A-F1 9 3
Pz IV F2-J 74 19
StuG IV 11 2
Hornisse/Nashorn 5 0    Might have enough to
   scratchbuild from bits
JagdPz IV/48 7 2
JagdPz IV/70 12 3
Sturmpanzer IV 3 0
Hummel 7 2    More produced than Wespe?
Mobelwagen 2 1    Of a type (Quad 20) not     much
produced past prototype
Wirbelwind 1 1
All Pz IV Chassis: 131 33
Pz V Panther 61 16
JagdPanther 4 6
All Pz V Chassis: 65 22
Tiger I 13 7
SturmTiger 0 0   18 produced by Germany
BergeTiger' 0 1   Die cast model.
Tiger II 'King Tiger' 5 3 2 x Henschel, 1 x Porche turret
JagdTiger 1 2
Ferdinand/ Elefant 1 0    Used to have one.
   Should have kept it.
All Pz VI Chassis: 20 12    Excl 'BergeTiger'
Overall Totals: 361 94
All the really heavy, scary stuff - cats on the prowl.