Thursday, 27 November 2014

Final German Battalion for Stalingrad

Last night I managed to finish off the third and final German Battalion for the 544th Infantry Regiment/389th Infantry Division. It also marks the last figures from the Plastic Soldier Company's Early War German box set (except for some LMG crews and officers that I didn't need). This time, I remembered to paint the battalion HQ!

I ran low on SMG armed NCOs for this last battalion from the box, so I had to ferret out some Peter Pig figures to add to the bases. It gives you a good impression of how the PSC and PP figures fit together though.

The regiment get some support in the form of this 7,5cm le.IG 18, which is a Command Decision model kindly supplied by a chum (along with some more German guns and buildings) in exchange for a hundred or so Japanese figures I had left over. 

There are more support weapons to add to the mix, but that is something for later. And just in case you think that I have been reposting the same pictures of the same handful of figures for the last few months, here is a shot of the regiment as it stands:

I have broken the back of the German list from the Rapid Fire! Supplement I have been using, however, it's not finished just yet; there is still another battalion of Engineers to complete, a fair few tanks to add and some guns. As it's Christmas soon, it may be a couple of months before I'm able to collect these bits and pieces. Meanwhile, I will begin work on the Soviet forces.

Then, maybe in 2042 we can celebrate the 100th anniversary of the battle by actually being able to play a game...

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Stalingrad Support Units

Now the house move and Belgium have both come to an end, I am able to continue working on the Stalingrad project that I have steadily been chewing away at for a while now. The following support elements of the units I have already finished came from Peter Pig, these included these 81mm mortars, which I also crewed with some left over figures by Skytrex. There's one for each battalion here.

Also from PP were these six MG34 crews. There is two of these per battalion, enough to give the Soviets a serious headache.

And finally for this batch of figures are the Battalion HQ for the second battalion. These are some more Plastic Soldier Company early war Germans and I had forgotten to paint these when I completed the second battalion, so they were done in conjunction with the other support weapons.

The onslaught continues, more figures are being added to the pile and soon I will have the Germans done. There is another battalion to finish and some engineers. This is not to mention all the vehicles, but that is all for another day! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Archaeology of Wargaming

I was going through some old photographs and found the following pictures of my formative years as a wargamer. When I was first introduced to wargaming at school, I already had a massive collection of plastic Napoleonic figures, mostly Esci figures, but also some Airfix thrown in for good measure. One day, my friends and I put this collection to good use by re-fighting Waterloo and the pictures below are of that event.

First of all, the pictures need an explanation. I don't remember the rules we used, but I know that we were inclined to remove individual casualties, so none of the figures were fixed to bases, except by blu-tack. I got the idea of basing figures from an early book on Napoleonic Wargaming, (maybe the one by Charles Grant?) but missed the point that figures were not supposed to be taken off bases. So we would spend several hours before each game, blu-tacking the figures to the pre-cut bases that I had.

On top of this, I used to stick the figures to the bases in a specific order, each unit consisting of about 25 figures or half the box. This is why there is a some uniformity to the poses on the bases. Plus I never had the time to paint every figure in my collection and this is why the board is full of unpainted figures, a strict no-no these days. 

We had two chip board door panels that we used as boards, one of these had been painted with gloss green emulsion and had warped, the other, thankfully, remained flat. The terrain was all hand made but half-finished as I never had enough green paint to paint the polystyrene hills that formed the British ridge. All the buildings were hand made from cardboard, including a cut-out from an early copy of Miniature Wargames.  So with that in mind, let's have a look back at 1988 and the Battle of Waterloo.

Here, the French centre advance, behind a screen of cavalry, some of whom appear to have already taken hits...

This screen of cavalry was made up of Polish Lancers and Cuirassiers.Some of which were painted, some weren't.

This pictures gives you a good view of the entire field. We didn't play the entire stretch of battlefield, but the central part, so in the foreground the buildings are supposed to represent Papelotte. Look very closely and where the biro is circled on the bottom left corner is the back end of Napoleon's horse. The farm in the centre left is La Haye Sainte having just been captured by French infantry and the wall that can be seen on the very edge of the table is Hougomont. This also gives you a good view of how the boards were warped...

Another overview, looking from the British line back towards the French attack. In the centre right, the 95th Rifles have fallen back from the sandpit next to La Haye Sainte, just in front of the Brunswicks (painted in black uniforms). Rather than having actual figures in the proper uniform for both of these units, I just repainted the normal British infantry in Green and Black respectively.

The buildings on the edge of the British line are supposed to be Mont St Jean. The following picture gives you an idea of the amount of figures I used to own.

Another shot across the British positions, showing the cavalry waiting behind the crest and the thin red line. Wellington's horse can also be seen on the right edge of the photo, circled in pen.

Finally, another picture of the British positions, you can also see the reserves waiting off table to be brought on at some point.

I didn't take any more photos during the game, so all I have a record of what happened about half way through. However, I do remember that it was a French victory and as we didn't have rules for morale, the entire British army was wiped out to a man. Most games were fought to the death in those days. Also, I don't remember if this was part of a campaign, but I know we re-fought Quatre Bras, Wavre, Ligny and some of the rear guard actions of the 100 Days campaign, so this may have been part of that ongoing effort. These were great days and my only regret is swapping the entire collection of figures for some plastic WW2 figures!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Remembrance Sunday Mons Trip

On Remembrance Sunday I was taken over to Mons, a place I have never been before and somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time. Dave was our tour guide as he had been several times before and was able to point out the sights from the First World War. First stop was the town hall, this is the point that part of the British Army had reached on 21st August after landing in France a few days previously.

Just inside the hall was a memorial to that event.

On the outskirts of the town was the memorial to the first clash between C Squadron, 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards, who led the first attack on the German vanguard and Corporal Thomas who fired the first shot of the entire BEF in the First World War on 22 August 1914.

Literally on the other side of the road is a memorial to the 116th Canadian Infantry Battalion, who had halted there on 11 November 1918. This is a neat little summing up of the war for the 'futility' school of thought. The idea that the armies didn't move in four years of fighting seems to be born out by these two memorials and is very deceiving for those that know little about the war. These memorials are for two specific events in a very long and complex war, and do not take into account the 500 miles of front line, where other events took place, including a massive and successful Allied offensive beginning in August 1918.

Next on the itinerary was the holding action at the Nimy Bridge where Lt Dease and Pvt Godley held off German attacks on the original rail bridge on 23 August 1914. The action earned them both the VC, Dease posthumously.

Where the VC action took place:

Over at Ourburg station, we saw the memorial to the 4th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, one of whose soldiers fired the first shots of the Battle of Mons. His name is unknown, but he fired them from the roof of the original station building, which has now gone.

This new bridge replaced the original road bridge that the Germans were attempting to cross when they came under fire from the station.

The memorial now stands where the original station building was, little has changed, expect for a new bridge and a new trunk line running off the main rail line outside Mons.

Later on we visited St Symphorien CWGC cemetery, where some of the men from 1914 were buried.

The cemetery was originally started in 1914 by the Germans under the agreement that British soldiers were to be buried there as well. This fact makes it starkly different to the many other CWGC cemeteries, and indeed, other German cemeteries. The German graves are individuals, a privilege not afforded to those in some of the larger VDK cemeteries, for the sake off space.

Lt Dease VC is buried here.

And in a strange quirk of fate, almost directly behind Dease's grave is the one of Private George Price, the last Canadian to be killed by enemy action before the 11 O'Clock armistice on 11 November 1918.

Also buried here is John Parr, the first British soldier to be killed on the Western Front. Parr was a reconnaissance cyclist who encountered German forward units on the 21 August 1914.

And opposite Parr's grave is the grave of G. Ellison, killed on 11 November 1918, the last British man to be killed in enemy action on the Western Front.

You can see how close the two graves are, Parr's is the one in the foreground, Ellison the background, surrounded by wreaths. I am not sure if this was an absolute coincidence or that the graves had been moved after the war. I suspect the latter.

Mons town cemetery also held many interesting features, such as these graves to French soldiers and Resistance fighters during the Second World War. Many had died after the war and were buried with their comrades.

We found some Russian Expeditionary Force graves, in amongst BEF graves.

And Romanian soldiers fighting on the Western Front.

The cemetery even has the grave of a CWGC worker.

And British and Canadian men who died long after the war had ended, but wanted to be buried with their comrades in arms.

C.H.V. Crichton had reached the rank of Major and won the MC by the age of 22. He died a month of the armistice in December of 1918, possibly of wounds.

Another man, Major H.H. Robinson RMAC had been on active service since 1914, dying in May 1919. Possibly of wounds, or Spanish flu.

On 11 November, Belgium has a national holiday. They also hold a memorial service at the Menin Gate (and other places in the Salient). Entrance to the gate itself is by ticket only, but they erected a large screen in the market square for others to watch. The following photos are of that event, including the Australian memorial at Polygon Wood, Black Watch Corner and aircraft over Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Lest we forget.