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Archive for February, 2014

Festung Kharkov

Kharkov 42 2 01

The second session of the Kharkov game saw the Germans ejected from the city – followed immediately by news of a Fuhrer order that Kharkov must be held and that we must take not a step backwards.

That came as a shock – I had pretty much given up on Kharkov and seen Dnipropetrovsk as much more defensible.   But what do I know?

Kharkov 42 2 02(The road to Kharkov: 5 SS MD heads up to the front)

So, no sooner did the reserve of the reserves (5th SS Motorised) bus up for Kharkov than further Breakthrough Tank Armies rolled out of the East – piling onto the line of retreat (should my view of the realities be appreciated by OKW) …

The Viking Division would have to break down into smaller forces rather than be employed entirely in the assault on Kharkov.

Kharkov 42 2 03

The Division’s tank battalion plus the German infantry went immediately into an assault on Kharkov with all the air support the front could muster … meanwhile the rest of the infantry, led by the Finns, with an assault gun battery and most of the artillery set about holding the road behind the collapsing Hungarian army.

Kharkov 42 2 04(Half of 5th SS  Motorised crashes straight into the centre of Kharkov)

Against my expectations, the impromptu force bundled its way into the city, and the beaten Russians gave way.   Cooperating with the apparently spent Hungarians, the other force gained some temporary stability on the line of communication.

Kharkov 42 2 05

At this point it was imperative to hold what we had got so all forces began to drop back into Kharkov, or back to the bridgehead at Dnipropetrovsk .   If we could keep communications open, we would.  If we couldn’t, I had arranged a concentration of JU52s so we could open an air bridge until Manstein could organise a rescue mission (I assured my commanders that although we had committed our reserve, Manstein would always be able to improvise a reserve to the reserve and mount a counter-offensive … we had faith) …

Kharkov 42 2 06(the Kharkov air bridge)

Kharkov 42 2 08(Kharkov: holding the line)

Kharkov 42 2 07(Kharkov: transport flights attract attention from the VVS)

Kharkov 42 2 09

That was how the wargame finished.   We had clung on.   Maybe.

Breaking for coffee, I showed the players my latest attempt at camouflage, tested on a Battlefront Tiger …

Camo new 03

More of this on the Reviews Page

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One of the key options in preparing for an operation is to use artillery to suppress the enemy’s artillery.  Not easy for the Germans on the Eastern Front as their guns were generally outranged by the equivalent Soviet equipment … Giving them that option was a key function of the 17cm Kanone 18 and the similar 21cm Morser 18.

17cm k18 build 06

Despite the gun’s widespread use and iconic looks, I’ve never found a 15mm model (I guess because most 15mm models are dedicated to tactical wargaming at ranges that are below Counter Battery ranges …) …

So I added one by scratchbuilding around a 17 Cm barrel that comes as an option with BF’s sFH 18.  See the modelling page for some of the nuts and bolts of the build.    Finishing will find this model superdetailed, towed and crewed (and that will be ‘Part Two‘).

For counter-battery fire in Operational wargames like NQM or Megablitz I would apply the simple expedient of reducing the dice rolled by the enemy battery by the score on a die per supressing battery.   This will best achieve the suppressive effect (reducing the incoming damage on the troops the counter-battery fire is intending to protect, rather than inflicting damage on the supporting artillery itself which would all be too late for the troops under fire) …

17cm k18 build 05

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BP 43 Armoured Train

A rare chance emerged to complete a bit more work on my Armoured Train.  It’s a BP 43 .  This project has been dormant for a couple of years but is now within touching distance of completion.   I will do a proper modelling feature when it is all complete … but for now, here is the (new) AA carriage  …

AA carriage 03

Obviously, it needs the armour panels, basing and finishing to be done … and this will happen to the whole train as a harmonised final fix.  But the major build challenges have now been tackled.

The model consists of the flat backs from two toy trucks onto which I have fixed a couple of armoured boxes made from MDF (pre cut MDF bases, 40×15, so just the short sides needed to be cut.   The guns are old Minitanks bits from my junk trays mounted up on pennies and enhanced with PP/Skytrex drivers adapted as gunners.

AA carriage 01

Prepainting is necessary for the interior and for the gun modules … and I gave the exterior a coat of green so I could see where I was getting …

AA carriage 02(BP 43 AA wagon: carriage, underside and prepped gun modules)

BP 43 AA carriage

Looks like I will need to mount the guns a bit higher in the casemates but otherwise we need panels, hinges, rivets and odd bits of junk …

The whole train so far …

AA carriage 04(BP 43 Armoured Train … basic building complete)

As explained earlier the scale is that this represents one of the several  trains making up a Soviet unit and only one carriage of each type is shown on the model – the actual train would have 4 artillery (i.e. T-34) cars, 2 AA cars and 4 security (i.e. flatbed) cars.   For looks, I might do another security car so there can be one at each end.   Only the command/loco stand and the fighting cars actually count on the wargames table, of course.

One thing that did occur to me, looking at the Devon floods this week, is that the Engineering Points for these units would be quite useful … engineers and labour able to build and repair rail track, plus 4 carriages worth of materials (rail, sleepers etc.).   Unlike Britain’s Network Rail, they wouldn’t be quoting you six weeks to repair the tracks …

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Being the next evolution of Chris Kemp’s NQM … in which lots of toys are pumped into an area deemed by both sides to be of critical importance …

Kharkov 42 05

This was the first of a two part game, so here a some photos to add to what Chris and Treb have said … Map here, Orbats here

I was given notional control of the Axis commanders (though not much around which to construct a plan and, as a consequence we started in a fairly passive mode waiting for what seemed like an endless sea of Russians to bring the battle to us).  Once the attacks began, we moved forward to defend lines ahead of our key centres …

Kharkov 42 02a

That huge pocket of Russians behind Kharkov began a series of pinning attacks on the Hungarian army before hordes of infantry poured out of the Stalino sector, simultaneously with a mechanised assault on Kharkov.

We had to commit many of our reserves to stabilise the front …

Kharkov 42 01(Kharkov: the Red Army attacks the Hungarian sector)

Kharkov 42 04(Breakthrough Artillery at the disposal of the Soviet Reserve)

Kharkov 42 06(Dogfights harass the roving VVS – more numerous than during the previous Summer)

Charkow, Strassenkämpfe(Fierce action in the streets of Kharkov)

Kharkov 42 03(A Stuka dives in to support the defenders of the beleaguered city)

To be continued …

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