Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Action at El Forte - Somewhere in Sudan, 1941

First time in action for my newly built early war South African / Kings African Rifles force

A demi-brigade sized force of South African & Kings African Rifles (KAR), typical of the ad-hoc forces used in the East Africa campaign, attempted to raid a major Italian resupply column to El Forte, an Italian fort. The strategy was simple - the KAR battalion, with a Marmon Herrington armoured car company and a motorcycle Recce company attached, would speed off and "cross the T" on the road between the column and El Forte, and attack it head on while keeping the El Forte garrison's heads down.

The South Africans would attack the tail of the column and roll it up, and with scouting Shifta irregular cavalry screening, the SA battalion moved off towards where the column (or at least a dust cloud) could be seen in the distance.

The Italians had other ideas Firstly, a company of Askaris ambushed the KAR trucks as they rode past a village en route. The KAR accellerated on past as they had a long way to go and a South African  company dropped off to deal with the Askaris, which it did, but delayed the SA advance.

This was possibly a good thing, as first a column of Italian motorcycle troops came out the dust, and though the Shiftas dealt with them well enough with some help from the SA Artillery reserve mortars,  they were then attacked by a squadron of Tankettes and 2 of light tanks sporting 20mm autocannonst. The Shiftas took losses from the Tankettes and did what every Irregular unit has done since time immemorial when in trouble - they fled.

Above - Italian convoy screened by motorcycle recce bottom right, SA/KAR forces  top right, El Forte top left

The arrival of the Italian armour stopped the SA advance in its tracks (or more accurately, wheels) and there was an undignified scramble as infantry jumped out their trucks and hunkered down, while the Boys AT squad was deploying as rapidly as it could. In the rear, the SA Artillery 2 pounder AT battery also started to unlimber the minute it could make its way forward enough to a spot where the Italian tanks were visible, but this took time. The South African commander could only growl in frustration as the convoy chugged off into the far distance. The KAR would have to deal with it, the Saffers had more immediate problems - in 1941 a tankette is near invulnerable to anything except the 2 pdrs and the Boys, and can play havoc on infantry and soft vehicles with its machine guns and autocannons.

Italian motorcycles (bottom left) contactt Shifta irregulars (bottom right) while Italian askaris in the village (top right) ambush KAR trucks as they race past.

Meanwhile the KAR force had problems of their own - en route to the Fort the Motorcycles in the vanguard were ambushed by a company of very motivated Blackshirts and more Italian motorcycle troops, and these proceeded to do a lot of damage to the SA motorcycle company, routing it. The  KAR was helped by the Marmon Herringtons arriving and these shot the Blackshirts up, and the remnant Italian motorcycle troops remounted and rode for the fort pursued by two of the armoured car platoons.

The other armoured car platoon fell into the range of the advancing Italian tanks and with some very good shooting were knocked out. The Italian tanks and tankettes were then fired on by the 2 pounders which had now been set up, and the tankettes and one tank platoon were knocked over, the other tank platoon retired at full speed and hid behind a large hill, where the 2 Pdrs couldn't see it.

SAA 2 pdrs open up and the Italian tanks and tankettes (blobs with orange flame top of picture) start to disappear

The SA troops, having no threat from the armour or motorcycles anymore, re-boarded their trucks - when they saw a SAAF Hawker Hartebeest ground attack aircraft fly overheads towards El Forte.


SAAF Hartebeest ground attack 'plane on way to El Forte overflying KAR forces moving towards the fort. Ford trucks and Marmon Herringtons in sight. East Africa was "the last biplane war" as both sides primarily used biplanes in this conflict.

In the meantime the KAR and remaining Marmon Herringtons had reached the road just as the head of the truck column passed by,  and started to shoot it up. Then they got a major shock - what was supposed to be a supply colums turned out to have an entire battalion of infantry at its head (clearly a replacement garrison for El Forte) and they debouched from the leading trucks and formed a battle line while the transport trucks circled around the rear of the firefight and raced for the El Forte.

Italian column moves towards El Forte road, on top right the KAR in their trucks are also racing to "cross the T" ahead of  them 

Worse was to follow - for some reason the trip across the veld in the fine dust had jammed the KAR's rifles (my fellow player threw 4 "1"s for 4 different companies shooting) and they were then badly mauled by the Italian askaris reply fire. The shock was made worse when it was clear that a second battalion of Askaris was moving up from some halted trucks further behind in the convoy, and the troops in El Forte were satrting to get active . It was time for a sharp exit and the KAR re-bussed and scarper...  strategically advanced to the rear.

The SA battalion saw them retreating and being appraised of the situation also decided that a regrouping and re-appraisal may be required!

Duel of Eagles in the skies while on the ground (top left) a vicious firefight is starting between the KAR and Italian askaris

And the Hartebeest? Well, turned out the Italians had had a similar idea and no sooner had it seen El Forte than an Italian Fiat CR-42 appeared on the scene and both 'planes spent 5 bounds "duelling like eagles" and then going home as fuel ran low.

(Rapid Fire rules, 4 player game, and in the kingdon of the Boys rifle the Tankette is like a Sherman and a 2 pdr is an 88)

Saturday, 8 April 2017

East Africa 1940 - Finished

As mentioned in the previous post, I hadn't come to the blog for some time, life etc gets in the way sometimes and truth to tell I haven't built much new, just added to existing forces for various games.

But I thought it was worth noting that the South African/Kings African Rifles force I blogged about earlier in ts buildout is now done, and here are some pix to prove it.

Here is the whole force, in Rapid Fire scale - 2 battalions of South African infantry, one of Kings African Rifles (right hand battalion), loads of Ford 3 and (converted) 1 1/2 ton trucks plus a few Morris 1/2 tonners. In the rear also the  2 pdr AT and 18 pdr artillery batteries and (centre rear) a command group with command truck and Ford staff car. Also in support is an Armoured Car detachment  (left foreground) the Motorcycle company and an Armoured Car company with their trusty Harley-Davidsons and Marmon Herringtons respectively.


WW2 nerds may be interested to know that the South African army in the 1930's opted for a force built mainly around a close copy of the German Motor-Rifle brigade structure, as the distances involved and the relatively dry terrain favours a forec based around wheeled vehicles. That is also why SA took a leading role in Armoured Car development in the 1930's, arguably a skill it has kept going intol modern times. What this means is that its a 3 company battalion wiith more heavy weapons (in theory - not everything was available when WW2 broke out) compared to British and other Commonwealth forces'  4 companies and less generous heavy weapon allocations.

Also, what SA army of the era could be without a Hawker Hartebeest ground attack aircraft, a South African modification of the Hawker Fury/Audax family . Obsolete maybe, but it was there when needed and the opposition was of the same era - East Africa was the last great biplane war and the first test of the SAAF.


Of course no force is truly finished, there are new 1/72nd Marmon Herringtons now out, so I will just have to buy a company of those to join my new (came out last year, SHQ) lead ones. And my opponents has bought two Fiat fighters for his Italians, so I can see a Gladiator in the future.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

New Byzantine cavalry

Blogging has been a bit sporadic of late, mainly because I've not much new to say - mainly been playing with stuff I've already done (SA 1940 done, but not used yet). But, this being a New Byzantium blog, I thought I'd talk about the latest (later) Byzantine cavalry I've built and a picture of the whole Komnenan Byzantine army in action in a recent Sword & Spear game, it was 600 pts a side so a Big Game - stand by for serious gaming porn!

Latest units are the Vardariots (I used Old Gory Bulgars), re-done Turkopoloi (Perry plastic Arab light cavalry) and (for earlier Later Byzantine armies) a unit of Klibanophoroi (Gripping Beast). The old Old Glory Turcopoloi have been re-modelled as a border thematic unit, with Cilician flavour.

Below is the Byzantine army formed up....pesky Pechenegs and Cumans in the foreground....


...to take on the dreaded Seljuqs, who are over here


And here we are as battle is joined, Byzantines on the left, more Pechenegs in LH foreground


Sadly the Latinikon was routed, the Turkopoloi put up a dismal performance, my elite Archontopoloi ran - if it wasn't for the infantry centre standing firm and crunching all to fore and the Varangians protecting Our Glorious Emperor it would have been a disaster, another Terrible Day.

Good news was the Vardariots put in a good performance, a rare case for one's latest newly painted units. 

As it was it was just a big loss, more like Myriokephalon than Manzikert.....but getting all those toys on table was great fun. It is nice to have 400+ 25mm figs, mainly cavalry on a 12 x 5 table

Sword & Spear is a brutal game at 25mm with cavalry armies as they are on top of each other very fast and the rules really bias for decisive combat  - so you can get a big game like this done in an evening. But if you get on the wrong end of a few dice throws it's curtains, curses and collapse

Monday, 8 August 2016

East Africa, 1940

The next project - 20mm East Africa, 1940 - 41 is under way.

When Strelets brought out South African Union Defence Force infantry, this was a signal to start building something I've had in mind awhile -a South African / Kings African Riflles (KAR) force for East Africa. A friend of mine at the club has already built a colonial Italian army, so there is a ready opponent. If anyone is interested in raeding more about this Early War campaign, there is a very good web book by Neil Orpen over here.

Also, the S Africans fought with their solar hats a bit in early North Africa and Madagascar so can be used there, also they look quite a lot like early war British in the Far East, and African troops actually fought in the Far East from 43 to 45 (in some pretty major actions from Imphal on) so they are a decent force to give my Japanese a game - the African troops and Japanese had some major battles, including use of tanks (both sides).

The saga of provisioning the trucks is in this earlier post

Anyway, pix of progress to date

I've used the Strelets figures for the South Africans and Airfix Gurkhas and Australians for the KAR , backed up with a few SHQ heavy weapons figures for mortars, Vickers, HMG and also for Marmon Herrington armoured cars (still to be done).

(Below)- The Army as it stands so far. Two SA Battalions and a KAR one. Whole force is built to Rapid Fire Brigade size, the 2 trucks rear left are the HQ and Pioneer's trucks, still have to make the infantry models for them and get the small Tilly cars for the various Liaision vehicles and artillery spotting jobs that Jeeps took over. Also missing are a squadron of Marmon Herrington armoured cars which are on order, and a Motorcycle Recce Co for which I have no idea where to get models from.

SA Force.JPG

(Below) SA Infantry Battalion - In the 30's SA had based its army on the German motorised battalion model so used that at beginning of WW2. Most HW are done, 2" Mortars still on order. I'm quite proud of my Ford "15cwt" (ahem, prob looks more like a 20cwt SWB) conversion truck (left hand truck)


(Below) Kings African Rifle (KAR) Bn used the Britih organisation. Need to get a 2" mortar and a Boyes AT rifle for them, now that SHQ make them fo Gurhas and Australians.


(Below) Close up SA Infantry with solar hats, they used these in early desert as well (and at 20mm scale, 2 feet away v difficult to tell difference with a Tin Hat ;) )

SA Infantry.JPG

(Below) Close up - KAR with bush hats, used Gurkhas and Australians for them - not quite right but good enough in 20mm. Will build a 2nd battalion in time. Major question for both is what flocking to use so they can also be used in other campaigns (SA in North Africa, KAR in India/Burma).

KAR Infantry.JPG

(Below) The Guns - SA Artillery 18 pdrs with my converted Ford SWB "15cwt" 4x4 Marmon Herringon truck tows- still not sure of the gun colour, I think they were dark green but may have been dark Khaki. Shields were apparently stripped off for weight reasons. Crew are WW1 Brits with Wolsely Helmets, bought some time ago before all the Early WW2 minor Commonwealth countries' stuff was available - now you can buy SA gunners I suppose I will have to replace them with those sometime....


I'm tempted to get a battery of 3.7" Mountain Guns too as I understand it both were used in direct fire mode so can be on table.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

A Truck for all (WW2) seasons

When Strelets released their box set of South African WW2 Union Defence Force (UDF) 20mm plastic figures, this was the sign to set out on a project I have long wanted to do - the SA and KAR (Kings African Rifles) forces that fought against the Italians in East Africa in 1940/41 (a friend of mine at my club has just such an Italian army....) and they are also good for the early desert war (so long as you add in a decent no. of Men in Tin Hats)  and the little known invasion of Madagascar.

The next problem was to source the trucks. I needed many, the pre WW2 re-arming UDF had based itself on the German motorised divisions as the best solution to move forces fast over large expanses of usually fairly dry terrain,  and so had a LOT of trucks. The main infantry transport trucks were Ford 4x2 30 cwt (1.5 ton) trucks, the UDF commandeered nearly the entire production of trucks in 1940/41. Chevy and Dodge produced most of the 15 cwt trucks for the UDF.

The Great WW2 Truck Conundrum

But while rooting around for a model to use, I noticed something else. Every other country with Ford (and Chevy, Dodge et al) plants in country, started to turn these trucks to military use. This included Germany, who also had Ford plants. Not only that, they were supplied to the Soviets in large numbers.  

But here is the Great WW2 Truck Conundrum. This truck was used by nearly everyone in WW2, yet apart from a few (pretty expensive) resin models and a (very) few LRDG models with cut off cabs, you just cannot get these models in 20mm scale. You'd have thought something that you can use for every darn army in WW2 in every tear and sector would be a popular kit, but no.


The Ubiquitous Truck - The UDF Entering Abyssinia 1941 (above) and (below) in Italy 1944/5 (below)

South African 3-ton truck

(Below) Australian Artillery tractor with 4x4 Marmon Herrington transmission , then Ford in German service, then Russian. The Russian one sports teh 1942 -onwards grill shape, and (to quote) "Together with his civilian ancestor, the 2G8T, from which he differed in the engine type and some minor modifications, the total amount of delivery sums up to 61,000, making the »Ford-6« the second most delivered truck."


Anyway, I happened to notice that a Russian kit manufacturer, PST, makes the Long Wheelbase Ford in Soviet service with exactly the right shape but has the the 1942-onwards grill, and for a reasonable price. I decided that (given the entire lack of these very common trucks in any wargames army, and thus the total lack of demand) that only the most rivet-counter wargamers would notice the difference between the '41 and '42 grills, or tell the difference between a '42 Ford or early war Chevy, and brought PST trucks on board in big numbers for my UDF army.
Converting from 30cwt to 15-20 cwt truck

Its just a matter of changing wheelbase length and back of truck, and the PST kit lends itself to an easy conversion - bringing the back wheelset forward, chopping the flatbed off at the 3rd stanchion, and ditto the side boards and tarp cover is a very simple operation 

Conversion from 30cwt LWB (left) to SWB (right), the SWB model can also be used for 1 tonner (20 cwt) that can (ahem) proxy for 15 cwt trucks without looking too out of place. More of the UDF truck park being built is in rear of photo...)  
The Truck for all seasons 

Having now built a bunch of these trucks, and looking at the meagre collection of trucks in my collection of US, later Commonwealth and Soviet 20mm armies it also became clear that, if painted with a suitable brown-green-dusty paint scheme all of them could use it as well. (Germans a bit harder as Ford Germany was cut off and never upped to the '43 grill, but hey who cares - could be captured ones right?)

As to colouring, this a picture of a South African truck in Italy 1944/5 (Dodge, as it happens - Chevies & Dodge's had a similar experience to Fords) - generic green-brown + dust s probably OK for all Allied armies at any rate, Jerry will just have to have captured ones when I play them :)

Thus I now have the Truck for All Seasons, for all my armies, (albeit with a little bit of licence....) 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Saxe-Märchen's forces take Honours of War

We were trying out the new Osprey Honours of War 7YW rules, using one of the scenarios in the book, and using my armies - so Saxe-Märchen's forces were one side and my French the other, and one of the other club members took some pics of the game - so here are some pix of my Imagi-nation in action:

Regiments Wahlheim and Driebrucken advancing


Sarkozy Hussars (still being re-based but sent into action anyway) backed up by the Malthus Dragoons 


 Here comes trouble - French Horse en avance!


The French hold the high ground - on the right is a French "Imagi-Regiment", the Swiss Regiment Valaise  (all my French army units come from wine producing regions, so I made up a Swiss one from the Valais as the French seemed not to have one from that area)

The assault on the heights - The Duchess' Own Fusiliers (magnificent in their pink mitres) supported by a  light brigade formed of the Grimmwald jagers and Feeland Freikorps, the English regiment in the rear is proxying the Regiment Schonberg, I just haven't finished painting it yet....) advance into the firestorm of the French regiments Champagne, Medoc and Beaujolais. Ouch! See the losses (pennies) dropping!

It was an extremely balanced scenario, the Saxe-Märchen troops were attacking and took the crossroad objective but were unable to shift the French from the heights controlling the main road so a stalemate occurred, both sides exhausted (both would break on another loss or 2).
As to the rules - they play fairly fast, it's not a complex ruleset, be interesting now to push it to the size of forces we play in Black Powder, typically c 6-8 brigades a side, double the size of the forces on table. This ruleset gets very bloody at close range, clearly aim is to get to a decision fast which bodes well for bigger games. Also cavalry combat is brutish and short, and the side with the last reserves won.

We thought the artillery and skirmishers were a bit overpowered, but everything else seemed more or less accurate. Will check with the rules forum on those.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

A side project - WW2 SA 6th Armoured Division

Got diverted by another hobby horse of mine - the 6th (South African) Armoured Division that fought in Italy 1944/5. I had wanted to do a small Bolt Action 28mm force and decided to get it done over the Xmas break (One can only paint so much 7YW lace before simple khaki is required for a break... )

Why the 6th SA? Well, I had built it as my "main" Allied WW2 force in 20mm quite a few years ago for Rapid Fire gaming, to fight my son's Germans. There were a bunch of reasons for that:

(i)  I'm South African....
(ii) The Allies and especially the Axis powers in Italy used a huge range of equipment (ie whatever they could get their hands on), so we (especially my son) could use a wide range of toys in our games if we played Italy
(iii) The 6th is a fascinating unit in its own right for gaming with, as it is quite a mix of interesting things - consider that:
- It fought under both the British 8th and US 5th Armies, no other Commonwealth force did that.
- It used an interesting mix of Commonwealth, US and SA equipment, for e.g. combining 76mm and 17pdr Shermans, Dodge 3/4 tonners ("Beeps") not British gun-tows, and their own armoured cars and trucks
 - At various times British, Indian and US troops fought under its command, so you can "legally" mix Commonwealth and US forces on a tabletop.
- "Uniform" was at best a style guide, they mixed British battledress, SA summer gear, US gear (and anything they could find on campaign) so mixing British 8th army and later figures with a few bush hats, US helmets etc is de rigeur
- It had a fairly unique camo scheme well into its time in Italy, blue/black splodges on a light mud brown hull.
- Finally, its final battle in the campaign was the battle of Finale!
(BTW the Flames of War website has a decent writeup on the 6th)

Anyway, I decided to do it in 28mm as well for Bolt Action et al , so built a platoon of the Imperial Light Horse/Kimberly Regiment, the Motorised Battalion that was part of 11th Armoured Brigade. This unit had halftracks, not trucks (The 6th used SA made trucks that you can't get models of in 28mm/1:48 in its Motorised Brigades, so a halftrack unit it had to be ) .

Of course, the infantry was often operating in conjunction with its tanks so a Sherman was an essential addition. I also read they used their M10s (called the "Grouse" ) in close support too for bunker busting and battlefield artillery as well as TD duties so I added one of those too.

The project so far has completed:
- two infantry sections, (last one on the way)
- halftracks for all 3 sections
- the armour
- 2 jeeps, to be allocated to various ancillaries as required

Still to be built are a 2" Mortar section, 3" Mortar section, PIAT team, Sniper Team and the impedimenta of the platoon HQ.