Wednesday 24 January 2018

Fort Algiers

Fort Algiers

Just finished watching this 1953 B/W movie 
Starring: Yvonne De Carlo (Lilly Munster) and Raymond Burr (Ironside) 
On Talking Movies channel (Virgin 445, Freesat 306, Freeview or Youview 81 or on the Sky digital: channel 343)

Set in a fictional North African French colony where a local emir (Burr) has plans to take control of the areas oil and use its money and influence to get rid of the French and rule the newly created country.

De Carlo is a French fem fatale spy who uses her looks to gain access to the emirs palace and spy on him and his plans, there is also her long lost love interest who joined the Legion "to forget".

The story is OK, the acting so, so, Burr obviously isn`t Arab and De Carlo whilst stunningly beautiful, just isn`t convincing.

But the movie was filmed on location in Morocco and used French troops as extras, so you get to see Moroccan Spahis, Legion cavalry and mule companies plus mountain artillery and, uniforms and other kit - quite cool  :D 

The film climaxes with an attack by the natives (a massed mounted charge) against the oil filed where the hero, De Carlo and the workers defend with rifles, dynamite mines and thrown nitro filled bottled whilst the legion rides to the rescue.   

The final battle would make an interesting one-off game set during the Druss Rebellion in Syria in the 1920s maybe?

Monday 15 January 2018

Callan (1974)


Managed to catch this on late night TV Friday.

David Callan (Edward Woodward), top agent/assassin for the S.I.S., was forced to retire because he had lost his nerve. Now, Callan is called back into service to handle the assassination of Schneider, a German businessman (Carl Möhner). His former boss promises Callan that he'll be returned to active status if he follows orders, but as always Callan refuses to act until he knows why Schneider has been marked for death.

What makes this movie for me is that Callan is a wargamer as is Schneider (in fact Callan uses this as an "in" to get close to Schneider). The two discuss soldiers, battles and games (briefly)  and Schneider invites Callan to his home to play a couple of games, the first a Napoleonic bash, the second Gettysburg.

These games are the gems of this film as the figures and terrain were done by the late, great Peter Guilder, who to us wargamers of a certain age - is a God among men :)   

This last photo taken on the set has Catherine Schell (schneider`s wife in the movie) with director Don Sharp, Woodward and Peter Guilder obviously discussing the toys :)

Tuesday 9 January 2018

French Counter-attack at Kuneitra

French Counter-attack at Kuneitra
Syria, 15th-16th June 1941

Kuneitra was held by 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers commanded by Lt. Col. Arthur Gordon Orr DSO (part of 5th Indian Infantry Brigade of 4th Indian Division) less one company which had been detached; plus some personnel from the Brigades transport and supply, plus a couple of carriers and a single Marmon Herrington armed with a 20mm Breda. Col. Orr had roughly 600 men in total under his command.
The Battalion had little in the way of heavy weapons other than a few Boys anti-tank rifles; and a Hotchkiss MMG which they had found a few days earlier when they first arrived in Kuneitra. The battalion`s three 37mm Bofors AT guns had been taken by Brigade to support other columns in their attacks against Damascus (due to a general shortage of heavy weapons).

This small garrison faced a strong mobile force of around 1,500 men (a mixed force of Senegalese, Moroccan and Algerian infantry, Lebanese cavalry plus 27 medium and 12 light tanks; about 12 armoured cars, two field guns and mortars under Col. Lecoulteux.

The Game
Obviously a straight forward attack-defence game would lead to a crushing British defeat! I always prefer to run actual historic based scenarios; I usually tinker with the forces to give the both attacker and defender a chance to use their skills to alter the historic outcome.

British forces
1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Lt. Col. Arthur Gordon Orr DSO)
Battalion HQ with -
CO, 2IC, 3 officers, senior NCO, 2 RTO, 4 runners

2 rifle companies each with -
4-man HQ

3 x 10-man platoons (each with a Bren gun)

Marmon Herrington A/C with 20mm Breda *
Hotchkiss MMG + crew (see note below)
2 x Boys AT rifle teams
2" mortar team

* Each round the Breda fires there is chance of a fatal breakdown, this chance increases per round (1 in rd 1, 1-2 in rd 2, 1-3 in rd 3, etc) after turn 5 only a 6 keeps the gun firing, any other result means a breakdown.

5-man platoon of RASC personnel (rifle armed only)
Several trucks

Reinforcements (added to make this a fairer game)
Col. Gordon may call one air-strike (a single Hurricane) which will arrive 1D6 turns after calling and stay for 2 turns strafing designated targets

Arrive by road from Sheikh Meskine on turn 15 + 1D6
No4 company of 1st Royal Fusiliers with -
4-man HQ plus 2-man Boys AT rifle team
2 x 8 man platoons (each with a Bren)
Carried in 3 trucks
25pdr + tow

Vichy forces

Column 1
2 x R35
2 x Ft17
Company I/17th Senegalese Tirailleur Regiment

Column 2
2 x Laffly 50AM A/Cs
2 troops 1st Spahis (mounted cavalry)
4 troops Levant militia cavalry

Column 3
2 x Ft17
2 x Dodge Tanake
Motorised Company of 2nd Battalion, 6th Foreign Legion

75mm battery (towed) on table in direct support 

British orders
You were initially tasked with occupying the town of Kuneitra astride the Damascus highway as a supply base for operations further north. Unexpectedly your forward outpost was attacked and driven back yesterday and you find yourself and your command exposed to a serious Vichy counter-attack! All Allied units are committed and little in the way of reinforcements can be spared at the present time, but as things develop anything available will be sent your way. Kuneitra is a vital position, its loss to the enemy allows him to attack the rear of units already engaged to the north and also cut our supply lines to those units - you have to hold!

Vichy orders
Col. Lecoulteux with a mixed column of armour, cavalry and motorised infantry is ordered to take Kuneitra and cut the supply lines for the British troops attacking Damascus. It is hoped this show of strength may confuse and delay the enemy allowing General de Verdilhac time to shuffle forces east to face an expected new attack from Iraq. Orders are to take the town and dig in.  

Our table

British Force
Legion motorised company with Tanake and Ft17s
Moroccan Spahis and Levant cavalry plus Laffly A/Cs
Senegalese Company with tanks

British initial defences

French initial moves, Senegalese (in trucks) and supporting armour down the road with the cavalry (half Spahis & half Lebanese) down each flank.

The British opened up with their AT rifles, the Breda, Brens and Corporal Cotton`s Hotchkiss, initially this caused a few casualties among the cavalry only.
Cpl Cotton
For the next couple of rounds the advance and British fire continued (the Breda broke on turn two and it and its crew drove out of the village south straight away), the cavalry continued their flanking moves; the Senegalese arrived by truck and de-bussed, the `75 battery arrived and moved into firing position.

 Turn 5-6 luck goes with the British at first when a perfect AT rifle shot (12 on 2d6) kills an Ft17!
Now before purists start to shout I am a great believer in luck and do NOT support the theory that says a fluke cannot happen - maybe the round killed the driver through his vision slit, maybe it went down the barrel and the breech was open (both of which I have actually read of happening).
Anyway then a 2" mortar bomb hits an R35 and scores an 11 (which beats its armour value in our rules) so I declared engine damage - another French AFV gone!
On the downside, the Senegalese over-ran the outer trenches and Cpl Cotton was forced to run for his life with his Hotchkiss tucked under his arm. The two cavalry units were now engaged in rifle duels on both flanks, the `75s had began firing on any visible defenders and the Legion motorised company with yet more armour had arrived.......
Cavalry supported by a Laffly attack from the left through the date palm grove 
 On the right the cavalry work their way forward through the apple orchard

The outer trench-line occupied by the Senegalese supported by tanks
Turn 7 Hooray for the RAF! A lone hurricane fighter swoops in and straffs the very tempting road filled with Legion transport

Leaving behind burning trucks and general devastation - the Legion lost nearly a full platoon and a Tanake.......
Turn 8 the Hurricane circled around and came in again, this time parallel with the British lines, similar chaos but this time an Ft17 lost a track and the last Tanake just simply blew up! The Hurricane pilot now out of ammo flys off home to some well earned ham and jam :)

Same turn the Laffly A/C supporting the cavalry on the left MG jams (this proved a fatal breakdown and the vehicle withdrew on turn 10)
For the next few turns the French re-organised, sending their Ft17s down the flanks whilst the artillery plastered any British positions visible. The Senegalese were shot to pieces and eventually just went to ground in and around the British outer trenches. The cavalry on the left proved highly effective and dug-in in the apple orchard and from its stone walls caused many British casualties. 

On turn 10 the last R-35 smashed into the market square only to take a shot from the last AT rifle (11), I ruled a jammed turret and the R-35 retreated as fast as it arrived; but only to be replaced by an Ft17 supported by the last Laffy A/C both covered by a platoon of Legionnaires.
Turns 11-13 saw the British center crumble, the only saving grace was Cpl Cotton, even though he replaced his no2 several times (6 throughout the game); his calm presence and MMG kept the defenders together (my gamer kids proudly referred to Cotton`s survival as "hero armour").
The French made their move at this point - two truck mounted Legion platoons along with an Ft17 had just been casually driving down the right side of the table. With everything happening in the center of the village and the only British on that side already engaged with the cavalry, they arrived un-opposed and swept in to envelope the British CP.

Their flank turned, facing armour and infantry from the front as well, their reinforcements not due until turn 20 (bad roll that) the remaining British clambered aboard any available trucks and scarpered south; the last man on the last truck was of course Cpl Cotton who at the end was forced to abandon is faithful Hotchkiss as he jumped upon the already moving MWD........   

Cpl Cotton holding the rearguard

Great game, loads of fun, the British Hurricane evened the odds and made it a fairer contest. My allowing for luck and fluke hits game the British a fairer chance, and I think the boys understood and enjoyed that aspect. Cpl Cotton was fun and I may well add "real" characters into our games more often.