Saturday 28 February 2015

Book sale

Richard`s February Book Sale

With my bookshelves groaning under the strain, plus a desperate need to unload ahead of our potential move to Spain I find I need to sell off a variety of titles, there are some huge bargains here compared with the publisher prices.
All book prices include UK postage (overseas buyers pay actual postage).

If anyone is interested please email me

I`ll accept Paypal (friends and family) all books are good or excellent condition.

U-Boat War by Lothar Gunther Bucheim (Large hardback) £10

Steel Fist – tank warfare 1939-45 by Nigel Cawthorne (240 pages, paperback) £2.00

The Paint Guide for Figures of World War Two by Joaquin Garcia Gazuez (82 pages, Large paper back) £8.00

F-104S (Coccarde Tricolori Speciale) by RN Publishing (136 pages, large paperback) £6.50

US Army Insignia 1941-45 by Pierre Besnard (80 pages, paperback) £6.50

Liberty Roads – Red Ball Express 1944-45 by Nicolas Aubin (224 pages, large hardback) £10.00

Flight Gear (US Army Air Forces) 1942-45 by Mathieu Bianchi (176 pages, large hardback) £10.00

J’ai Survecu dans mon Panzer (12 Squadron, 24 panzer regiment, 24 PD) [French text] by Armin Bottger (168 pages, large hardback) £12.00

PK Cameraman (no1) – Panzerjager Abteilung 19(L) (94 pages, large hardback) £12.00

Battles That Changed Warfare 1457 – 1991 (various authors) 224 pages hardback (£8.00)

Generalissimo Stalin by Boris Gorbachevsky (349 pages paperback) £10.00

US Marine Vs Japanese Infantryman (Osprey Combat 8) £6.50

World War II US Navy Special Forces Units (Osprey Elite 203) £5.00

The Battle of the Bulge – Hitler’s Final Gamble by Patrick Delaforce (360 pages hardback) £10.00

The Devils General – life of Hyazinth von Strachwitz by Raymond Bagdonas (357 pages, hardback) £10.00

Moment of Battle – Twenty clashes that changed the World by James Lacey (478 pages, hardback) £8.00

Second Front – Allied Invasion of France 1942-43 (alternate history) by Alexander M. Grace (274 pages, hardback) £8.00

Assault from the Sky – US Marine helicopter operations in Vietnam by Dick Camp (264 pages, hardback) £8.00

Attack on Pearl Harbor by Alan D. Zimm (464 pages paperback) £8.00

The German Fallschirmtruppe 1936-41 by Karl-Heinz Golla (585 pages, hardback) £25.00

Set of two –
With Musket & Tomahawk Vol.1 & Vol.2 by Micheal O. Logusz (both paperbacks 418 & 262 pages) £15 total

Leipzig 1813 by Giles Boue (82 pages paperback) £6.50

A Magnificent Disaster (Arnhem 1944) by David Bennett (286 pages, paperback) £8.00

D-Day with the Screaming Eagles by George Koskimaki (366 pages paperback) £8.00

Strangling the Confederacy (coastal operations in ACW) by Kevin Dougherty (233 pages paperback) £8.00

Hitler’s Pre-Emptive War (Norway 1940) by Henrik O. Lunde (590 pages paperback) £8.00 (used condition)

The Battered Bastards of Bastogne by George Koskimaki (£519 pages, paperback) £10.00

At Leningrad`s Gates by William Lubbeck (258 pages, paperback) £8.00

Hells Highway by George Koskimaki (493 pages paperback) £10.00

Fighting Fox Company (the battling flank of the band of brothers) by Terry Poyser & Bill Brown (308 pages hardback) £10.00

Battle of the Bulge (Vol3 – 3rd Fallschirmjager) by Hans Wijers (193 pages paperback) £8.00

Ghosts of the ETO (US Tactical Deception Units in Europe 1944-45) by Jonathan Gawne (342 pages paperback) £10.00

Or go Down in Flames (a navigators death over Schweinfurt) by W. Raymind Wood (230 pages hardback) £7.00

Fabled Fifteen (the saga of Pacific Carrier Group 15) by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver (240 pages hardback) £7.00

Barbarossa Derailed (Vol3 – Smolensk, 10 July – 10 Sept. 1941) by David M. Glantz (628 pages hardback) £25.00    

Sunday 15 February 2015

Nasty Surprise at Smeysko (Eastern Front WW2)

Nasty surprise at Smeysko
Orsha-Smolensk highway July 1941 by Richard Baber

This is a fictional table-top action designed to simulate a surprise counter attack against a German column during the advance toward Smolensk in July 1941. Whilst the scenario and place is fiction, the unit types and strengths are historical.

I thought it would make an interesting scenario for the all conquering Germans to be caught by a sudden Russian counter-attack. Pitting veteran Germans against elite NKDV security units, make a nice change from the usual Soviet early war rabble.

The Scenario
The German commander is ordered to attack and seize the small village of Smeysko on the Orsha – Smolensk highway. Whilst the village itself has little strategic value, its location will prove useful as a forward supply and medical hospital as the advance moves towards Smolensk. The German player (or players) should be told that it is believed that the village is defended and combat is to be expected. The strength of the defences is unknown, but resistance has been sporadic in this sector.

Unknown to the German commander the Russians are about to unleash a new weapon upon his force the M-8 Katyuska rocket launcher. These weapons are so secret that even local commanders are not allowed to know about them! A battery of these launchers has been placed near Smeysko and together with some hastily gathered local troops, the Russian have prepared a nasty surprise.

The table should be set up with the village near to one end, with the highway down the centre; fields and wooded areas dotted around to hinder movement (see map). The German column enters from the west along the highway most of the Russian forces begin concealed, except for a token force left to defend Smeysko. Allow the Germans to deploy for their attack, at which time the Katyuska open up and the Russians launch their counter-stroke!

German orders
You are a Captain in 12 Aufklarung abteilung (Recon battalion) of 12th Panzer Division; as usual your units lead the way – like the cavalry of old. Your division is driving towards Smolensk, along the Osha-Smolensk Highway. Russian resistance has been sporadic but occasionally is stiff, sometimes their units fight to the end, other times they flee or surrender without a fight.

You have been given command of a small mobile battle-group, you will have to move fast and strike hard to achieve your objective. Your objective today is to capture the village of Smeysko which sits near the highway and will provide a useful base for future operations. Intelligence has informed you that it is likely the village will be defended, though they don`t expect resistance to be great.  

German forces
Elements of 12th Panzer Division (veteran)
CO, NCO, RTO driver in Horch field car
Artillery FOO, driver in Kubelwagon
M/C platoon
10 men (6 M/C, 2 M/C comb with MG34)
2 Armoured car platoons
1 - Sdkfz 231, 1 - Sdkfz 222
Motorised Panzer Grenadier Company with -
CO, NCO, 4 runners, 50mm mortar team, AT rifle team
3 - PG platoons each with
10 men (MG34)
All carried in trucks
Tank Company
3 - Pz38 (t)
PanzerJaeger Platoon
2 - 37mm AT + crew & tows
Off table support
1 - battery 105mm guns

Russian Orders
You are a major in the NKDV; you are in command of one of the highly secret M-8 Katyuska rocket batteries. Today your battery is set up near the village of Smeysko, a security unit is dug in and around the village, whilst the battery vehicles are concealed at the edge of a small wood close by. Your orders are to stop the fascists and drive them back along the highway, using the Katyuska to deliver a barrage of high explosive upon their heads. The local army commander has gathered troops for this counter-attack, but its you and your NKDV who will win the day for the Motherland.

Whatever happens you must not allow the Katyuskas to fall into enemy hands! Withdraw them from danger if the enemy look to be winning, sacrifice your entire command if necessary! If you cannot get the launchers to safety, destroy them to prevent capture as a last resort – you life and that of your family depend on you carrying out your orders!

Russian Forces

Smeysko defenders
Elements of 27th Rifle Divison (morale - shaky)
2 - Platoons infantry (10 men each)
MMG + crew
47mm AT gun + crew
NKDV squad - 6 men SMG armed (fanatic)

NKDV Katyusha battery (morale - fanatic)
Major + 15 men
2 – launchers, 3 supply trucks

Counter-attack force
Elements of 27th Rifle Division and 16th Tank Brigade (morale – regular)
Tank Company – 3 BT-5
2 – Infantry companies with:
HQ – CO, NCO, Kommisar, 3 runners, AT rifle team
3 platoons with:
10 men (LMG)
NKDV squad – 6 men SMG armed (fanatic)
Support company (composite) with:
2 – MMG + crew
2 – 81mm mortar + crew
1 – 47mm AT gun + crew & tow

Once the Germans are deployed for their attack, the Russian commander can announce the Katyuska barrage. He may then place his fire template over two randomly selected German units and dice for effect as per your rules.

1 – MC platoon, AC company
2-3 – Pz38 (t) company
4-5 – Panzer grenadier company
6 – HQ, panzerjaeger platoon

This could of course effectively remove one or more units from the German order of battle before they even have the chance to fire! It may at least cause morale checks and casualties against the German units before the Russian mount their counter-attack.

On Tuesday 15th July 1941 the soviets un-leased a new weapon upon the German attackers – the M-8 “Katyusha” rocket launcher.

The weapons very existence was a closely guarded secret. Their crews were elite soldiers of the NKDV, the Soviet security police, who had to swear an oath that if threatened with death or capture they would destroy the launching devices and use every possible means to escape capture, if necessary by committing suicide. The security barrier surrounding the rocket-launch batteries extended even to the highest commanders. Only the supreme army commanders and members of the war assembly were allowed to approach the batteries – a precaution that considerably impaired their efficient deployment. 

The widespread blanket of fire emitted by the Katyusha meant it could be ideally deployed along the focal areas of the attack. The artillery commander of the Soviet Western Front – General I. P. Kramer, reported:

 “Reports from infantry commanders and artillerymen say that this sudden burst of massive fire inflicted heavy losses on the enemy and had such an effect on morale that whole units panicked and ran away”!

German troops were painfully surprised by the tactical manoeuvrability of the rocket launcher, due to their high road speed (up to 25 MPH), their rapid set up capability once they reached their firing position, the speed with which they could be brought to fire on the march and their high rate of fire – 320 rockets in 26 seconds. One of the first German reports of this new weapon from an officer of Harpe`s 12th Panzer Division read:

“Dark cloud over the launch point, then missiles resembling those fired by our own smoke mortars (nebelwelfers), the muffled roar of the flying projectiles, 30 to 40 of them impacting simultaneously, a loud explosion, widespread flames, small craters 12 to 16 inches deep. Despite the low fragmentation effect, the troops found bombardment by these missiles extremely unpleasant, not least because of their wide dispersion. Fragments of the missiles and the testimony of prisoners, aided our observations and soon captured launchers completed our information”.

Tank War 1939-1945 by Jabusz Piekalkiewicz (ISBN 0-7137-166605)
German Infantry in WWII – Order of Battle by Chris Bishop (ISBN 978-1-905704-85-9)
Operation Barbarossa 1941 (3) – Army Group Center by Robert Kirchubel (Osprey Campaign 186, ISBN 978-1-84603-107-6)
Hitler`s War on Russia by Charles D. Winchester (ISBN 978-1-84603-195-3)

Saturday 14 February 2015

Zabrodzie (Eastern Front, WW2)


18th/19th August 1944, by Richard Baber

Now many of you know I`m no great fan of “elites” on the wargames table and have never been an SS or “big cat” fan-boy, but whilst I was reading Ewald Klapdor’s interesting “Viking Panzers” which I was sent to review for Battlegames magazine I was struck by the number of highly playable small unit actions depicted in the text. This particular battle with a mostly infantry force defending against Soviet attacks seems like a challenging table-top battle.

The Soviet offensive in the east was increasing in tempo all across the entire front, in places spearheads or advanced patrols managed to find weak-points or gaps in the fluid German defensive line. One such break-though occurred east out of Mieczyslawow and threatened the rear-left flank of 5th SS Panzer Division “Wiking” by cutting both the Wyskow-Warsaw road and the rail-line which ran about one kilometer east of the village of Zabrodzie.

Zabrodzie at the time was occupied by the train elements of 5th SS, gathered under the command of 1st Tank Battalion’s headquarters company; the officer in charge was SS-Obersturmfuhrer Senghas. Senghas immediately organized all combat elements from the trains and HQ company and set about setting up defensive positions along the rail-line and then fought a protracted defensive action over the next two days against Soviet infantry supported by tanks, artillery, mortars and anti-tank guns (firing directly). This action allowed panzergrenadier regiment “Westland” to pull back and link up with 3rd and 4th companies of the tank regiment and re-establish the lines. For his quick thinking and well-thought-out actions at Zabrodzie, SS-Obersturmfuhrer Senghas was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 11th December 1944.

Panzer Division battalion and train organizations 1944
Stab Command Staff
Signals and Recce (the Recce here is a platoon of tanks)
Engineers and Recce (the recce here is motorcycles and VW)

Supply Company Command Staff

Workshop Coy Command Staff
1st Repair
2nd Repair
Signals Workshop
Spare Parts

Abteilung Stab - 7 Officers, 41 NCO, 111 Men
Supply Company - 5 Officers, 51 NCO, 103 Men, 2 Officials, 20 HIWI
Workshop Company - 3 Officers, 39 NCO, 164 Men, 3 Officials, 21 HIWI.  

From the AAR we must assume that all of the battalion recce elements were not present at the time (presumably committed elsewhere). Now assuming Senghas had to leave enough men and specialists to guard or in the worse-case scenario drive away to safety those valuable vehicles and supplies, I would give him maybe 200 men to deploy as infantry. In addition he had two damaged Panzer IVs which were being repaired (the main armament seems to have been OK) plus a couple of SP 20mm flak. He also gathered together scattered elements of an engineer battalion and a penal company and combined them into a 58 man company armed with SMGs, rifles and pistols. From Senghas` AAR report we know his men had few LMGs and had to take the guns off the damaged tanks as extra weapons for his infantry.

To make this a table-top battle I decided to give Senghas’ force the following organization -

OC, 2 other officers, RTO, 4 runners

1st company
3 x 10 fig platoons (1 LMG, 1 Panzerfaust) *

2nd company
3 x 10 fig platoons (2 LMG, 1 Panzerfaust) *

Ad hoc platoon (engineers and penal troops)
12 men *

2 - Panzer IV (main gun & co-ax MG)
1 - SP 20mm Flak

* Infantry have a small supply of anti-tank rifle grenades and magnetic mines

 Now for an interesting twist or just esthetics you could have the village on the table-top and field all those interesting supply, repair and communication vehicles. These could be used as objectives for the Russians to destroy (or the Germans to save).

Now according to Senghas the Soviets attacked in company sized groups of 50 or so men. Each attack supported by mortar and artillery fire, including direct AT fire.

 Russian Infantry Battalion (about 600 men)
Battalion staff
3 rifle companies each with (12-LMGs and 3-50mm mortars)
Mortar company with (9-82mm mortars)
Machine gun company with (9-HMGs)
Anti-tank rifle platoon (6-14.5mm PTRD41 AT) 

 Russian Infantry Battalion (wargame version)
Battalion staff (CO, 2IC, RTO + 20 men)
3 rifle companies each with:
CHQ (CO + 5 men)
2 platoons of (10 men, 2-LMGs)
1 platoon of (10men, LMG, 50mm mortar)
Mortar company with:
2 platoons of (2 - 82mm mortars)
Machine gun company with:
2 platoons of (2 - HMGs)
Anti-tank platoon of (10 men, 2-PTRD41s) 
Action timeline

August 18th 1500
The first attack with a couple of infantry companies, directed straight at the German positions with little thought to cover or tactics, supported by mortar and direct AT fire.

The second attack, identical to the first

Two companies attack out of the woods on the German right, one from the woods on the German left. Both attacks supported by artillery and mortar fire.

Fourth and final Russian attack of the day – Russian infantry attacking out of the woods as their earlier attempt

August 19th 1030
After a quiet night the next morning the Russians attacked again covered by heavy support fire directed at left side of the line. They attack from both patches of woods (in company strength), this time supported by four tanks coming from the right (2 Sherman and 2 T-34/76).

Russians attack again from both sets of woods (2 coys each), they bring forward a 76mm AT gun to the edge of the right hand woods to try and knock out the Panzers and support their infantry.

Senghas was informed that the Russians had broken through in the sector north of Zabrodzie on his right! From this time his men receive constant harassing fire from the rear right flank.

Senghas organizes his men and pulls out. By forcing a march via a circuitous route around enemy held villages (in his rear), he managed to get the entire train and units to safety and back into German lines.

I`d like to thank Alan McCoubry and Ashley Ralston for their help with Panzer HQ TO&Es.


Scenarios & writing

I write a lot, since I started editing The Journal I`ve written pretty constantly including reviews, articles and wargames scenarios.

Recently I`ve found the move toward "rule specific" articles (or adverticles) in wargames publications have limited the publication possibilities for my stuff in the glossies. In fact one editor told me, my stuff was too historical and dry for a wargames magazine?? Obviously with The Journal not being so tied to commercial rules (and I was the editor) I still continued to write stuff for it, but of course only the membership got to read those pieces.

I have now decided to self-publish the tabletop scenarios here on this blog, feel free to give them a go and let me know what you think.   

Unlike the scenarios/games I post, some of these have never been played in anger on tabletop and are outside the scope of my usual wargaming. 

Monday 9 February 2015

Republican militia HQ

Republican Militia HQ
2 officers, Brigada (senior NCO), 2 runners and a standard (plus an odd extra trooper)
A mix of Bandera and Irregular Miniatures

Superga Italians

Another 20 foot to add to my Superga Division troops for Tunisia
A mix of Bandera, Irregular and Warrior Miniatures SCW figures


2 solo motorcycle for my Italian recce
The left one is by Raventhorpe, the other is a bit of a Frankenstein's monster - body was a Jacklex American, the head is Raventhorpe, I added the rifle and the bike comes from Britannia

Africa Korps

More additions for my Tunisia/10th Panzer Project
31 figures a mix of SHQ, Britannia and even an odd Airfix guy

Desert British

28 desert British by Battlefield Miniatures (just excellent) plus 4 resin Free French figures from Brian at Hobbyden

Sunday 1 February 2015

The Karachoum Gap (Tunisia, January 1943)

Operation Eilbotel scenario 3
Note: this action begins the same time as scenarios 1 & 2

As part of the overall strategy of Eilbotel, whilst the 756th Mountain Regiment supported by elements of 10th Panzer Division forced the passes south of Pont-du-Fahs, elements of the Italian Superga division plus supporting armour are to drive up the Karachoum Pass and seize mouth of the pass where it opens into the Ousseltia Valley (this known locally as the Karachoum Gap).

The Italian command have been assured that French resistance with be negligible to nothing as the German attacks further west will draw off any reserves and German close air-support (Stukas) would be available.

Table looking to the south and the French positions:

French positions looking from the north-west

Looking towards the shrine at the head of the pass

Shrine & French HQ

Facing the Italians are elements of Groupement Lagarde

Initial French forces (all units can begin dug-in, except Goumiers)
HQ + 1e Companie du I/1er REI
Mitrailleurs peloton du I/1er REI (2 x MMGs)
Mortar peloton du I/1er REI (2 x 81mm mortars) plus FOO
Batterie du 5e RA (2 x 75 mle 1897) emplaced without transport
2 pelotons du 3e Goumier (acting as recce platoons)

Reinforcements arrive on turn 5 + 1D6
2 pelotons de 3e Goumier
Mule train carrying ammunition/supplies (allows guns/mortars to fire for 3rds)

Special rules
French ammunition shortages – each turn after turn 5 the French must roll each time they wish to fire their `75s, if they get a “1” the gun is out of HE shells (though they will have limited AP stocks).
After turn 8, the same roll must be made for their mortars too.

Italian deployment
To simulate the disorganised nature of the Italian command, their forces will arrive in a piece-meal random fashion (indicated by dice).
Italian recce company

Italian rifle company w/transport

Italian motor transport and tanks awaiting deployment

Turn 1
Recce company
1 x AB41, 1 x M/C platoon, 1 x truck mounted infantry platoon
Italian recce enters the table

Turn 3 (1D6)
Motorised infantry coy with –
3 x 10 man platoons (2 x LMG, 1 x Brixa mortar) in trucks
Regimental Gun section
75mm deport gun + tow
Infantry company plus gun section
Turn 5 (1D6)
Any units which didn`t arrive on turn 3 plus -
Battalion Support platoon
2 x Breda MMG, 1 x 80mm mortar in truck
Gun section from - Divisional Artillery Regiment
100mm Howitzer + tow
All units above
Turn 7 (1D6)
Any units which did not arrive on turn 5 plus -
Battlegroup HQ
HQ staff + security platoon (staff car, radio truck, TL37)
Regimental AA section with -
20mm Beda AA + tow
Assault gun battery
2 x Semovente 75/34
All units above
Turn 8 (1D6)
Any units which did not arrive during Turn 6 plus –
Regimental AT platoon
2 x 47mm AT (portee)
Tank company
2 x M13/41
All units above
Turn 10
Any remaining units not already committed.

Reinforcements start on turn 12, roll 1D6
1 - Artillery strike (2 salvos of 105mm shells)
2 – Air strike (Me109 strafing run)
3 – Air Strike (Ju87 bombing attack)
3-4 Battlegroup from 21st Panzer with –
Sdkfz 247, DAK infantry platoon in truck, Marder III    

The game was fought over 15 turns with me as the French and my lads Alex (16) and Chris (13) as the Italians.

The game started with the Italian recce splitting left and right, coming under `75 and 80mm mortar fire. By turn 3 they were joined by a 75mm depot gun, but both recce platoons had taken casualties, the motorcycle one on their left, failing its morale on turn 5 and withdrawing to cover.
French mortars

Depot gun & crew

Right recce platoon

On turn 6 the recce were relieved to see a motorised rifle company coming up the road along with a Fiat 626 carrying a couple of Breda MMGs and an 80mm mortar. These again split left/right, but unfortunately the infantry platoon drove past the depot gun as it was obliterated by some accurate `75 fire, which also smashed the platoon in their truck……Ouch!!!

The Italian build up continued, with their infantry supported by mortar and artillery began to move (slowly) up the valley.
Italian infantry move to back-up the recce troops

Italian force HQ arrives with a 100mm gun section from Regiment

Italian recce troops storm “watch tower hill”

On turn 9 two groups of Goumiers suddenly appeared on the Italian flanks and caused some discomfort, the Italians rallied splendidly and annihilated them in a couple of turns with little lose of momentum to their main attack……
French Goumiers surprise the Italians

Italian M13s turn up just in time to finish off the last Goumiers

The French `75s score another success bye-bye AB41

By now however the Italian 100mm and the two Semovente were wasting any French positions who showed themselves and the two `75s were soon knocked out…..

The M13s and Semovente surged through the centre and the 47mm battery limbered up to join them as the infantry cleared out the remaining French either side of the track.

By turn 15 it was all but over, the French still had their mortars (but limited ammunition), with about a platoon of Legionnaires and Goumiers left, they were forced to withdraw as the DAK battlegroup entered the table.

Final French positions