Archive for March, 2013

I bought some Zvezda boxes at Alumwell … actually 7 boxes … 3 trucks, 2 tanks, an armoured car and a plane … which, as you all know, is not enough trucks!

Anyway, here’s some new stuff …

French (Vichy North African)

North African Armour

North African Armour

In the picture, newly painted Peter Pig FT-17, Command Decision Laffly 80-AM, Battlefront S15 TOE and a newly refurbished ex-QRF Laffly desert truck. ¬† Crossing the wire ūüôā

New French 02

Battlefront’s Laffly S15 colonial carrier is a great model if you can find one that is complete and unbroken in the pack. ¬† It took weeks to get all the damaged or wrongly packed parts replaced (the replacements were wrong as well as the originals!). ¬† It is, of course, an armoured truck with a turret MG and seating for half a section of infantry (just what you want for policing the colonies!) …

New French 03

I called this ex-QRF as the refit is quite extensive, and the running gear is from Battlefront rather than the original QRF. ¬† This truck is stripped down and fitted with twin AA MGs (all PP bits) for what seems to be a desert patrol vehicle. ¬† It’s based on this source photo …

New French 04

Give or take the sand channels I’ve added, I hope you can spot some similarities. ¬†If anyone knows more about the photo, I’d be happy to know. ¬†To me, I see a Laffly and a motorcycle looking like some long range patrol or scouting unit … not sure where, though, to me it looks like North Africa or the maybe Palestine? …


Though also French.

Chris K recently gave me a spare Zvezda Matador and rather than giving it to the French, I made it French and gave it to the Germans.

German Supply Truck

German Supply Truck

I’m pretending this looks a bit like a Renault 3.5 T truck. ¬† Although we see few of them in our wargames, Renault stayed in production after the fall of France and built thousands of trucks for their new masters, the Germans. ¬† I had long thought my Eastern Front supply column needed a few foreign marques.

Modelling-wise, of course, it is the Matador with the front removed, and refitted sloping backwards.

It required a few modelling tricks, of course (but basically that’s it … I also moved the rear wheels forward a bit, following some photos).

Ersatz Renault

Ersatz Renault

As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer open windows to filled in ones … and, in a perfect world, will open them up where possible. ¬† In this case I have kept the sides and lower front screens, but opened up the main screens and quarter lights. ¬† I think it looks good.

The Zvezda model has a ‘spider spar’ arrangement for snap fitting the cab panels on. ¬†This means there is a big bar across the interior behind the screens when you take the plastic out. ¬† ¬† I thought this might mean I could just glue some loose heads on the bar (like a coconut shy) as a way of putting the crew in. ¬† I’m very pleased with the result … though I’m sure, now I’ve told you, that you can see what has been done …

More Russians

Mostly, I’ve been working on 54mm medievals and Wars of the Roses flags for my Bosworth project … but with Chris doing his Gazala game, we’ve been on WW2 NQM duty every week of late. ¬† Chris is a constant source of inspiration, so the WW2 stuff is never forgotten. ¬† Not all of it suits the desert, of course …

KV demo 01(Early model KV tank)

It’s a Zvezda KV-1, of course … one of those I bought at Alumwell. ¬† It’s a very simple but nicely rendered model. ¬† If the odd looking gun/mantlet arrangement makes you scratch your head, I can reassure you … (being Zvezda, they have got it right) …

It is the very early ‘1939′ model with the L-11 gun (yes, I know the box says mod 1940).

KV demo 02

(Early model KV tank)

It is so simple I decided to use it to demo my standard Soviet vehicle finish on the modelling page

Gazala next …

Gaz A 06

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A-bt-S D Day Mus 01

The first weekend of March saw the Society of Ancients‘s annual Armati-by-the-Sea wargames tournament in Bournemouth … after which it has become a tradition to make a group visit to a south coast military museum or heritage attraction. ¬† Some travel for the event from overseas (so not everyone’s transport arrangements are completed on the Sunday evening) …

This year, we drove round to Portsmouth, and the D-Day Museum (link)

Children playing on the 3.7" AA gun

Children playing on the 3.7″ AA gun

Signposting to the Museum isn’t that great – but it is on Southsea seafront, so you genuinely can’t miss it (drive along the seafront and take the entrance by the AA gun and the Churchill Crocodile). ¬† ¬†There is a pay-and-display carpark (and, as at Spring 2013, 3hrs cost ¬£3.50, adult entrance to the Museum ¬£6.50 each).

Overlord: the battle for Caen

Overlord: the battle for Caen

The Museum is not that big, but has a fair number of exhibits, and as a unique attraction, houses the famous Overlord Tapestry (actually patchwork embroidery) created as a memorial celebration in imitation of the Bayeux Tapestry from 1,000 years earlier.

I include a picture of the superb panel depicting the battle for Caen (my favourite).    Click it for a bigger image.  The Overlord Tapestry has a special place for my family as it was rescued from mothballing by Whitbreads, who put on display at their then headquarters in Chiswell Street.    Although no more than a curiosity, military buffs with needlecraft enthusiasts in their households may find it makes the D-Day Museum an outing that will be of interest for all the family.

D-Day Museum ... bigger stuff

D-Day Museum … bigger stuff

By mixing the bigger D-Day story (explaining the war itself) with the history of Portsmouth at war, the museum finds quite a bit to say for itself, and follows that style where you wind through corridors of exhibition cases and display panels which guide you through the topic.   I thought most of them were pretty good, the panel information was useful, and the cases were fascinatingly full of objects.

The Map Room at Southwick House

The Map Room at Southwick House

My favourite of the life-size reconstructions is the Map Room at Southwick House (Southwick House) … it’s pretty convincing, yes, but it also begs to be put into action as the control board for the D-Day megagame (or is that just me?) …

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach

There are a large number of smaller cases displaying models, sometimes built to illustrate parts of the story (so, e.g. a fascinating model of one of the Mulberry components), sometimes displaying donated collections of variable interest. ¬† ¬†Amongst these was a small Omaha Beach diorama built as a project by servicemen at Headley Court (good on them) …

Model displays

Model displays

A lot of this was around the same quality you would see at your local wargames show, but I quite liked the some of the aircraft (it gets you thinking …):

A-bt-S D Day Mus 07

Of course, it is the big stuff that is a real attraction with these places, and you’d have to say that D-Day, Portsmouth, could do with a bit more of it … they have a Churchill, Sherman and a 3.7 outside, and (notably) some jeeps, a Dingo, a DUKW, a Sherman BARV and a Higgins Boat inside. ¬† That’s about it (The Tank Museum it isn’t!).

Churchill Crocodile

Churchill Crocodile

I did enjoy being able to walk into the Higgins boat. ¬† Having spoken at length to one of the many who were delivered to Normandy that way many years ago, I shouldn’t have been surprised. ¬† Even so, they’re not big, and they don’t feel very secure. ¬† ¬†It is almost impossible to imagine being in one pitching and rolling in a rough sea, waiting for the machine guns to open up. ¬† Sobering.

Disappointingly, the book shop was a bit short on related military books (I do like to bump museum revenues by spending money in their shops, but, even with a will, it was hard to find anything here*), and we had intended to have lunch if they had a cafe (which they didn’t) … We’d have been happier with a better ‘retail end’, and would probably have increased our spending by around ¬£20/head had they given us the opportunity.

That said, I have to add that I enjoyed visiting the D-Day Museum and am glad I stayed over ‘the extra day’. ¬† I would certainly recommend it to anyone already visiting the south coast, or who wants to see the Overlord Tapestry anyway. ¬† ¬†Those considering a trip from further afield … yes, it’s worth a visit – just bear in mind it isn’t a big one (it took us around 2 hrs at a leisurely pace).

I’d also add that it seems to do a good job with Schools … there was a school party in when we walked around, and another de-bussing as we were leaving (so it felt quite busy, for a Monday morning in March!)…

Positives: good informative displays and well thought-out exhibits; easy to find (if poorly sign-posted); first time I’ve stood in a Higgins boat; clearly gets plenty of youngsters in (who seemed to be having fun). ¬† Negatives: could be bigger; you have to pay to park; book shop hasn’t got much military history stock; no cafe …

more big stuff: Canadian built Sherman

more big stuff: Canadian built Sherman

*I did get a small book on the Mulberry system, which was ‘on message’, at least …

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In the midst of all this we’ve had a crack at another couple of WW2 games … what you might call the alpha and omega of the WW2 table top game – PBI and NQM … both very good games, but trying to do different things ..

Feb Far East 01

PBI puts you in command of a Company (though usually not all of it) …

NQM Gazala 1 01

NQM puts you in charge of a corps or an army (generally) …

The PBI game took us to Burma and Treb’s Japanese/XIV Army match up … and some trial jungle warfare tweaks. ¬† Here’s an extract from my club report … (I took the Japanese)

Graham’s jungle tweak was only to cost 1AP to move from connecting closed to¬†closed (and likewise on the cost of motivation from the commander) … with the¬†2AP hitting when you break cover. ¬† It needs more moulding (especially on how much for armour) but actually¬†worked quite well .. ¬†¬†

Feb Far East 03

I managed to box the Brits in by pushing lots of bodies into a front line which ¬†kept my hands on all the objectives … passing 2 break tests with a raw platoon¬†(and an earlier one with an average platoon) … and as I had also managed to blow¬†up a Grant by having lunatics jump all over it, I suspect the maths might have¬†given the Japanese a win.

Final Positions

Final Positions

(the XIV army company is held in the north east corner defined by the river – but the Japs hold the buildings and the jungle between the two Grants)

Not only were the Japs finishing the game all present despite break test¬†threshold casualties (some of which had been tidied up, of course*), my¬†reinforcement platoon had raced up to the front line with its officer in front¬†waving a ceremonial sword … a ceremonial sword which proved no protection at¬†all against machinegun fire …

So a small CC on a can’t advance morale fail, 2 platoons with heavy losses, a¬†fresh one without a commander … and a gun platoon whose weapons were less use¬†against a Grant than a brave man with a satchel full of grenades! Yes, a¬†natural game ending roll would have been about right.

General in distress ...

General in distress …

(in that ball of smoke is the Grant that the Japanese ‘grenade and satchel bomb’ team have just ruined …) …

The XIV would have easily walked into the positions had I failed the above break¬†tests. The Banzai rule wasn’t used (it would have needed looking up and anyway, I¬†recall thinking it was a bit ‘comic book’) …

A very absorbing game and much content to think about ..

Gazala/Bir Hakeim

This game was really the pre-amble … our session included a lot of set up plus some of the early moves and assaults. ¬† The meat of this battle awaits us and will doubtless be the subject of posts to come …

Out of visible range, Panzer columns by-pass the French at Bir Hakeim

Out of visible range, Panzer columns by-pass the French at Bir Hakeim

But … the story so far … A strong force of Free French were dug in at Bir Hakeim, and the Axis lead echelon decided to by-pass them, out-flanking the position ( (an Italian division bumping into a much less well defended area held by the 3rd Indian Mot brigade ..).

The Italian attack on 3rd Indian Mot.

The Italian attack on 3rd Indian Mot.

The Indians fought with their usual tenacity but simply did not have the numbers required to hold their position against the Italian Trieste division.

Meanwhile, the Ariete diverted north of the French position and smashed into the Northumbrians … again, here, dug into a fully prepared position. ¬†Despite some successes, it was not carried in the first phases.

21 PD arrive on 4Tk's flank

21 PD arrive on 4th Armoured’s flank

By this stage, the 4th Armoured Brigade had spotted the main force (15th and 21st Panzer divisions) and decided that an old fashioned cavalry charge on 15th was the required preemptive medicine.   It was able to drive through the Germans doing much more damage than expected before 21st was able to join in on its flank.

21 PD follow up through the wrecks of 15 PD's armour

21 PD follow up through the wrecks of 15 PD’s armour

This was essentially buying time, of course, and at cost – however, the Panzer columns were burning both their armour and their fuel in these chaotic actions, and what little of it that could be understood in the allied headquarters was broadly met with approval.

NQM Gazala 1 05

(The swirling armoured battle late on day one of the Gazala offensive)

How much influence these events have on the outcome of the operation will only reveal itself as subsequent actions unfold.

More on the first game: NQM BlogWargaming for Grown-Ups

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