Archive for June, 2011

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Either side of the busy weekend trip to Phalanx, we had an interesting game of PBI in which the Russians saw off a tooled-up German platoon, and Graham got out the latest version of Send Not To Know, and some new toys.  I have managed to get some catching up done round here, too.

The Reviews page looks at some Jeeps

an adapted Peter Pig Jeep

(beware the NKVD when they have a Maksim in the back of their jeep!)

The Modelling page has a Truck built out of bits from the junk box …

Panzer Division Logistics

And Graham let me try out his latest toy in the Spanish Civil War development game

Zvezda BT5: Combat Debut in Spain


In the PBI game the Germans were given the task of hanging on to a square with that new supply truck in it (the objective), long enough for support to rescue them.   One step ahead, a, usually quite fragile, Soviet Cavalry detachment had decided to cut them off and destroy them.   The balance heavily favoured the Russians, but normally a few enhanced bursts from the MG42s can put paid to that.

The Red Cavalry used the blocking terrain very well, and quickly got into good positions to shoot into the German squares.   Light Mortars were used to pin the enemy down, and their usually clumsy PTRD Anti-Tank Rifles proved adequate to take out the German half-tracks.   The first German platoon was nearly wiped out, the second platoon could achieve little more than a valiant rescue attempt (and it was all the Company Command could do to try to co-ordinate this and them help the survivors limp off table) ..

In this operation, the Russians lost scarcely a man, and, rather demonstratively delivered the coup de grace by charging a mounted cavalry section into the objective square, then held by the last surviving NCO defending an immobilsed half-track!It may look like cavalry charging armour, but it worked, and was the culmination of a smooth tactical exercise that had gone entirely the way of the Russians.


In the Spanish Civil War game, my main objective was to hang on to a couple of villages and take out the Nationalists’ Panzer Is.

Send Not To Know

My first shot at the tanks was out of AP range, and the gun’s HE proved useless (the tanks just drove out from under it the following turn): they drove in to the AP range and that proved better.  Two shots from the anti tank gun were enough to take out one of the tanks … and by now, the BT was up at the crossroads … with just one enemy Panzer, the crew were brave enough to drive up to close range, and on their second shot, got that one too …

A '10' required at longer ranges; a '8' will do up close ..

Meanwhile, the Asaltos were making the best of the new Mortar rules, and when the much higher initiative Nationalists decided to take a chance crossing the open ground (finishing a turn in the open, and so needing to win the initiative to keep going) I think we all know what would happen next.   The Republicans won the initiative and the machine guns opened up.

To complete what turned out to be a fairly brief game, the Nationalist air support turned up, just too late to save the Panzers … but with a chance of retribution on the BT5  … failed to spot it and flew on by, strafing a nearby empty field – it clearly being the nearest thing to a Republican tank they could find….


A ‘Target Acquisition’ roll it wasn’t …

Actually, the abortive attack seemed a good demonstration of how the mechanisms of the game can disrupt the best planned of attacks.   With the odds pretty reasonable, each Nationalist thrust seemed to follow its own unique path to disappointment, yet at no point did the Republican position really feel that strong.

Given that the author intends catastrophe to be integral to the game, I think he has done a good job.

Send Not To Know is virtually done, and will get its first public outing at COW in a couple of weeks.   I’m sure Graham will then publish it on the net, and I will post a link to where you can get it.

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Battlefront Tiger

Battlefront's Tiger I E about to break cover

I picked up a Tiger at Phalanx.  I’ve added it to the review page (read more …)…

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The Defence Academy, Shrivenham

Many thanks to Tom Mouat for hosting a small band of fellow WDer friends and enthusiasts.  I was a first time visitor to Shrivenham, and got full value for my Bank Holiday weekend trip out on the M4.

The Defence Capability Centre is a like small Bovington, and has a great collection of vehicles – but unlike Bovington, you can get at them … on them, and in them …

Inside the turret of that T34

Gunner's position

Better still, there was the Armoury – OK, you can’t better armoured vehicles, but the opportunity to pick up – indeed strip and reassemble – such an extensive collection of weapons is unparalleled (for civilians, anyway).

For instance, I had heard that the reliability problem with the Soviet SVT auto/semi-auto rifles was mostly down to the light weight barrel (which tended to overheat too quickly): but they didn’t just beef the barrel up because the intention was not to build a heavy rifle.

Russian rifles: Kalashnikovs, Mosin Nagants, Tokarevs ...

It sounds good, but you can really feel the difference when you hold a Garand in one hand and a Tokarev in the other (despite being shorter, the reliable Garand is noticeably heavier) …   By the 1940 model, the Tokarevs were detuned to ‘self loading’ only, and the ‘light automatic universal weapon’ design brief was really only fulfilled with the later AK47 (and yes, we did get to pull apart some those Kalashnikovs) …

Nevertheless, the Soviets built and issued over a million SVTs by the outbreak of war: and although the were many more Mosin Nagant bolt-actions in the whole army, the standard weapon for the fully equipped rifle section soldier was a semi-automatic SVT (so much so that the Finns catalogued more than 30,000 just captured in the Winter War, where they were much prized ‘state of the art’ trophies).

stripping modern assault rifles

It is a pity there are so few wargame figures with this advanced weapon: if you were to believe what every wargamer knows, every US soldier had a self-loading Garand, and every Soviet soldier either a bolt-action Mosin Nagant or a Tommy gun!  This suits the ‘backward communist technology’ myth, but we know better these days – the Red Army of the 1930s was introducing advanced small arms, rocket artillery and innovative tank designs (it was the survivability of a career in the Officer Corps that was the problem, not the state of the technology) …

a vintage weapon for Jonathan's album

And for those still interested in the Red Army, here are a couple of bigger Soviet Machine guns …

Gorynov SG43 in an infantry mode

DshK 12.7 mm HMG on AA mount - gunner's view

Also for WW2 enthusiasts, I’d draw attention to this Le.IG18 in the gun sheds … a much smaller, lighter piece of kit than its model – especially metal – versions would have you believe …

IG 18 standard model with solid wheels

With wooden spoked wheels and a shortened, tubular split trail, the mountain gun version (a Gebirgsjaeger project update is on its way soon) would have been really light and compact, I think.

Back with the big boys toys, here are some cold war warriors …

T55 Main Battle Tank

T55: inside the commander's hatch

Challenger 2

crawl space: inside a BMP

Warrior: every possible comfort

Now I have to own up that although it was unpleasantly claustrophobic in that BMP, I was sitting in it, chatting about that, with JB … both of us probably more substantial frames than the average Cold War Warsaw Pact squaddie … Nevertheless, it would not have been the job for me.  The fuel tank doors wouldn’t have helped!   I’d have much rather had a berth in one of those dinky British scout cars …

Fox ... a Ferret with attitude?

The iconic Ferret Scout Car

The great thing about the Ferret is that it’s actually a Rolls Royce (under the bonnet, as it were …) and it makes you think if your bonds really did come up you actually could enjoy buying yourself a proverbial Roller (one with some off-road capability and a certain durability when it comes to parking at Sainsbury’s!) …

I’m sure I don’t need to say it – if you get the chance to visit the Defence Academy, say ‘yes’.  Many thanks to all concerned for great day out.

Thanks to Tony Hawkins for the extra photos.

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