Sunday 25 February 2024

Collecchio game 2

 Collecchio Game 2 

German Breakout Attempt

This is the second game based around the Battle at Collecchio, Italy 26-27 April 1945. I laid our my plan for a couple of games based on this late war action in an earlier post and suggest anyone reading this refers to that piece for a more complete background.

One last desperate throw of the dice and break through to Highway 62 and the way north. The Germans moved units around Collecchio through the thickly wooded areas, then launched an attack against the dug in Brazilians above the town. The victory conditions are simple – the Germans must break through and open the highway for their comrades bottled up south of the town. The Brazilians must hold the line preventing any German units escaping the valley.

 German force

Elements of 148th Infantry Division

Composite Battalion HQ:

CO, 2IC, 3 officers, 2 RTO, NCO, 4 runners,

8 man security platoon (LMG)

Note this photo includes the 75IG & tow

12 – Weak platoons with:

9 men each (weapons to be divided among platoons – 7 LMG, 1 Panzershreck [1D3 rockets], 3 Panzerfaust, 1 Flamethrower [3 bursts], sniper rifle, 1 grenade rifle)


2 – MMG (man packed 9 figures inc 4 ammo bearers)

2 – 81mm mortars (1D6 turns of ammo) (man packed 9 men inc ammo bearers)

75mm IG (1D6 rds) including tow

Support - the game starts with the Germans getting 3 turns of random 105mm fire off two guns onto the Brazilian positions.

Brazilian Forces

All troops can be entrenched

 Composite HQ

CO (Gen. Mascarenhas), 2IC, 3 officers, 2 RTO, FOO, 4 runners, 10 man security platoon (BAR) + transport and medical detail

6th Company, II Battalion, 11th Infantry

Coy HQ – CO, RTO, NCO, 3 runners

3 – 10 man platoons (1 BAR)

Support platoon - .30cal, Bazooka, 60mm mortar (10 men)

9th Company, III Battalion, 6th Infantry

As 6th Company above

Elements of 8th Company, II Battalion, 11th Infantry

2 x MMGs

Recon Squadron

M8 armoured car

M3 half-track w/.50cal - 8 man platoon (BAR)

Photo includes a deployed .50 cal

Off table

Battery 81mm mortars (8th company, II Battalion, 11th Infantry) 2 tubes

 My table

Initial deployment

The Brazilians deployed along the rough road leading out of Collecchio to the west, the centre of their line being the ruined farmhouse. They deployed 6th Coy on the left, 9th Coy in the centre one MMG was given to each company for direct support; the recce squadron was on the far right, they deployed a .50cal HMG off their half-track. The mortar FOO was placed dead centre of the table to give him the best overall view to call in support fire for either company.

6th Coy on the left, MMG position

Troops of 9th Coy in the ruined farm

Recce Squadron on the far right

The Germans elected to have wide deployment across the entire width of the table, though they held three platoons in reserve to follow the lead units on turn 3. The divided the MMGs among two of the lead platoons so they could be well forward and provide fire support during the assault phase on the Brazilian positions. They also divided the HQ into two units, one of which took direct command of the mortars, the other formed a command unit/platoon within the attacking platoons, so they could if needed rally or change platoon orders, both command sections had a radio link allowing them to communicate.

Turns 1-3 As the Germans advanced their 105mm guns dropped shells among the Brazilian positions

These caused some casualties among both companies, 9th Coy lost both its .30cal machine gun and 60mm mortar to this fire!

Brazilian 81mm mortars did cause a few casualties among the advancing Germans in return.

Turns 4-5 The Germans continue their advance, but are now within HMG and MMG range as well as continued mortaring. The platoon on the far left walks right into the recce Squadron and is decimated by .50cal and vehicle mounted MMG fire! The fail a morale check and break at the start of turn 6!!

Turn 6 The Germans deploy their MMGs and 75IG to support a direct assault on the Brazilians

Their 81mm mortars are now targeting the .30cal MMG position in the middle of 6th Coy`s line.

Turn 7 The .30cal is wiped out and the Germans press forward against 6th Coy, the German MMGs support this advance and the general attack on the centre and the ruined farm, which is also targeted by the 75IG

Turn 8 two German platoons are shot to pieces on the far right trying to turn the flank of 6th Company, but two others cross stone walls into the fields at the companies centre threatening a breakthrough!

On the Brazilian right the Recce Squadron finds itself without attackers so begins a move to strike into the German left flank  

The Germans are throwing everything at 9th Company and the farmhouse, which is being raked by MMG and again targeted by the 75IG

The German mortars are now out of ammunition, so the command platoon orders the men to pick up their rifles and move forward to support their comrades.

Turn 9 The Germans on the right are stopped dead crossing those open fields. In the centre supported by MMG and IG fire, two platoons make a desperate close assault across the road to the ruined farm. Their attached flame-thrower causes casualties and a morale check!

A combination of MMG, BAR and the Germans attacking over an open road result in them taking awful casualties! They too require a morale check……….

Turn 10 The Brazilian morale holds (just), the Germans fail their check and run back to the comparative shelter of the road side ditch, but it is at this point the Recce Squadron hits them in the flank causing more casualties and yet another check – which they blow badly and break!!

With both flanks exposed and the Brazilians still well entrenched, the Germans can do no more and withdraw.

A closer run thing than it looked in the AAR, a bit more luck with “to hit” rolls and one failed Brazilian morale check and the result could have been quite different.

As I wrote in my initial post (see link above) if you play Rapid Fire! or another battalion level set you could quite easily play both these two games as one on a single table with little or no re-writing.

Friday 23 February 2024

March or Die (film review)

 March or Die

Just randomly flicking through the freeview channels yesterday (22/02/24) here in Spain (we don`t have Sky or any streaming service) I stumbled across this piece of classic cinema. Now as many of you know I am a bit obsessed with the Rif War in Morocco, so anything remotely connected has me hooked.

This 1977 movie stars Gene Hackman, Terence Hill, Catherine Deneuve & Max von Sydow, set just after the end of WW1 in Morocco. 

The film opens with Major Foster`s (Hackman) Legion unit returning from the horrors of the WW1 trenches, the sight of the maimed and wounded legionnaires evokes feelings of pride and loss on the croud of civilians watching who break out in a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise. 

Whilst boarding a train volunteers and recuits for the legion join the company these include cat burgler Marco the gypsy (Terence Hill). Major Foster is later introduced to the archaeologist Francois Marneau (Max von Sydow) from the Louvre who wants to reopen a dig in hostile Morocco to find the resting place of  a Berber saint - The Angel of the Desert. Foster has been chosen to protect and escort the mission because he is one of the few surviving officers who had helped develope diplomatic ties with the tribes and their defacto leader "El Krim" played by British actor and future Bilbo Bagins Ian Holm.  

On the ship across the Med. Foster, Gypsy & Marneau encounter Simone Picard the daughter of another archaeologist lost and feared dead in Morocco, played by Catherine Deneuve at her ethereal best, just a stunning beauty and pure class. 

On the train ride to the Legion base, El Krim stops the train and warns his old friend Foster that the French are no longer welcome in Morocco he also returns the captured archaeologists (including Simone`s father) both blinded as a punishment, Foster shocks everyone by shooting them both dead. 

During the tough, brutal training Gypsy proves himself a leader, but incurs punishment at the hands of Foster in an attempt to break him.

After a brief period the company heads out into the desert to the ruins at Erfoud and the dig site, Foster immediately orders the site fortified against any future attacks. One of Foster`s men is taken by the Arabs leading to a tense stand-off at El Krim`s camp where Gypsy shoots an Arab violating the boys corpse.

Back at the dig, Marneau finds The Angel, but Foster steals her and gives her over to El Krim in an attempt to avert hostilities, but El Krim uses the French discovery and disturbance of the saint`s tomb to incite the tribes to holy war!

The final battle is something to see, waves of Arab/Berber/Tuareg charging in from all sides against the legionnaires defending Erfoud. The legionnaires have 65mm mountain guns, MG08 Maxim guns, 1917 Hotchkiss and Lewis guns plus their Lebel rifles. The enemy are just armed with rifles and swords, but they have the numbers and the battle is a close run thing. At the end Foster is killed and El Krim halts the attack, the few suvivors are sent back to tell the tale and warm the French of the rise of the tribes and they are no longer in charge.

The film ends with Marco (obviously promoted to NCO) taking command of new legion recruits whilst Simone leaves for France.

An interesting movie with a good story and a great cast. 

The writers were obviously trying to create a story around the Rif Rebellion of Abd el Krim, but set the date a little early (1918/19) and set the action in the desert (where all classic movies about The Legion are set). Weapons and equipment are pretty good, I`m not sure about MG08 or Lewis guns, but OK - the major issue for the period accuracy is the blue frock coat (again a classic prop used in every film about The Legion), by 1918 the blue coat had long been replaced by a brown/khaki one; which in this film are only worn by Foster and his Lieutenant!  

Thursday 22 February 2024

Da Nang Diary (book review)

 Da Nang Diary 

By Col. Tom Yarborough


Published By Casemate, 356 Pages, Hardback

Whilst my wargaming interests are wide and varied, I have little interest in modern periods and Vietnam in particular has never attracted me. I also avoid elites and special forces in my gaming, preferring company/battalion level games. Another aspect of war I rarely touch is aviation, planes usually only acting as on-call artillery in our games, etc. With all this you could expect me to be rather negative about this volume which is about a Forward Air Controller working with Special Forces in Vietnam.

This book is a revised and expanded edition of Yarborough’s original manuscript published 1990, new facts have come to light and documents declassified allowing him to publish a more complete account. The author arrived in Vietnam in April 1970 and was assigned to 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron to fly air reconnaissance over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The book, which is copied from his flight log and a diary which he kept, details his flights, observations, feelings and thoughts. It is a very absorbing read.

 The author flew dozens of missions (some quite scary) until he was “convinced” to join the ultra-secret “Prairie-Fire” mission. This was a secret war, the existence of which had to be kept from the American public, being carried out by MAC SOG across the border in “neutral” Laos and Cambodia. Most regular FAC pilots flew at “relatively” safe altitudes and only rarely suffered from hits from ground fire. Prairie Fire FACs however flew at treetop heights, supporting those small teams of Special Forces and indigenous personnel who were sometimes in close contact with their enemy. This as you would expect led to many hairy moments and the author’s aircraft often returned to base with bullet and flak damage.

 The author goes into great detail about SOG operations and rescues and evacuations. He describes how he and his observer would call in fast jets, propeller aircraft or choppers to support his ground teams or to attack targets of opportunity. There is a great deal of technical, military stuff here, which will prove highly useful to the wargamer who wishes to add FACs or SOG operations to his Vietnam era games. The text is illustrated with period photographs from the author’s collection.

 Beyond the military stuff, you also read Yarborough’s thoughts and fears, his feelings at the loss of friends and comrades, his bitterness at the failings of those above operational level to see what was changing on the ground as the war developed and as the North began to turn the tide against America and its allies. The author in this expanded edition has also been able to add footnotes telling the result of incidents of which, at the time, he had no knowledge. He is also able to give the results of searches made by Joint Task Force Full Accounting who still search the jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to recover the remains of US personnel. These footnotes are a sobering reminder of the true cost of war.

 This is an excellent book, well written and dramatic, highly recommended if you have any interest in Vietnam, Special Forces Operations or close air support.