Showing posts with label battle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label battle. Show all posts

8 June 2015

KWC Open Day: Batrep of the Defense of Niedlingen

Open Day FoW in 20mm Game: Defense of Niedlingen, East Prussia (Winter 1944-45)


The  (fictitious) East Prussian Town of Niedlingen is situated a about 600 hundred kilometers east of Berlin, near Arnswalde.

Historical context:

In early February 1945, the 11th SS Panzer Battalion Nordland was ordered onto the offensive as a part of Operation Sonnenwende, the plan to destroy a Soviet salient and to relieve the troops besieged in the town of Arnswalde.
11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division „Nordland“.svg

The offensive had been conceived by Generaloberst Heinz Guderian as a massed assault all along the front but had then been reduced by Hitler to the level of a local counter-attack. Initially, Nordland's attack achieved a total tactical surprise and the division soon advanced to the banks of Lake Ihna in all sectors. However, as the Soviet forces realized what was happening, resistance grew stiffer and the advance began to slow. On 17 February, the division reached Arnswalde and relieved the exhausted garrison. Over the next few days the town was secured and the surviving civilians were evacuated.

Soon however, strong Soviet counter-attacks halted the division's advance, and Steiner called off the attack, pulling the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps back to Stargard and Stettin on the northern Oder River. The 10. SS-Panzer-Division "Frundsberg", led by Brigadef├╝hrer Heinz Harmel, also took part in the operation after being detached from the II SS Panzerkorps in December 1944 (at the time engaged on the Western Front).

Flames of War in 20mm

By 21 February the conclusion was arrived-at that no more useful gains could be made against an increasingly powerful enemy without incurring undue casualties, so Steiner ordered a general withdrawal back to the north bank of the river Ihna.

This is where our battle is set.


Elements of the 11th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg occupy the Town of Niedlingen, East Prussia


General Jaydovich advising Colonel Bruce-chev on the best use of the Soviet Guards Army Tankovy

Russian armour arrive on the banks of the frozen  Ihna River
German pioneers have laid a mine-field on the north bank. A pedestrian bridge (left) and a
single lane metal bridge span the river. The Germans have not had time to dig in, so swift has the Soviet retaliation and pursuit been.


The fuel dump (Soviet Objective 1) is defended by a Pak 40 and MG 42 along with infantry

Turn one:  Colonel Bruce-chev approaches the two bridges, and orders a unit of Cossacks and a unit of Partisans to clear the minefield. As the Don Cossacks had fought on both sides of the war, they are considered expendable, as are the partisans. 
Among their number is a group of nuns, possibly secreting hand-weapons under their habits.


Several groups of partisans succumb to the mine-field. Somehow the nuns survive, and keep moving forward. The Cossacks follow eagerly behind them on horseback.


The second Soviet objective is the town centre of Niedlingen. The only road approach is protected by two stugs and several Pak 40s. The town centre is held by a number of Panther tanks. In the fields beyond  the town is a unit of Nebelwerfers and an artillery battery of 7 LeFH 18 howitzers.

Her Oberst is ably assisted by Herr Leutnant Romlet in his first battle. Fresh out of Panzer schule he is very knowledgable on armour and eager for battle. 


The Soviets attack first, and drive for the bridges


IS-2s clearing a bank on their race for the bridge


Columns of Soviet Armour pouring towards Niedlingen

The German 1st turn sees the lead T34-85 and T34 Obr 1943 destroyed on the bridge. The Soviets are caught in a bottle-neck. They try to cross the frozen river on foot, but the infantry commander falls through the ice on a roll of a 1. (Roll anything but a one, Bruce!)

PTRDs move up to give defensive fire while the heavy IS-2s advance

The Nebelwerfers and LeFH18s take a heavy toll on infantry, mortar units  and 122mm Howitzers, almost all falling prey to the template of mass destruction


Turn 2 degenerates on both sides into an artillery slugfest, with almost all infantry in range being destroyed by artillery fire. Su76s, 85s and IS-2s all unleash a torrent of lead on the German defenders. Pak 40s, mortar units, MG crews, all fall to the murderous fire. 

The  Germans return the favour with all their artillery capable of firing HE and rockets.
The Soviets used foresight, and brought a recovery vehicle with them. The burning T34s are swiftly moved out of the way, and IS2s and ISU 122s start crossing the bridge



Turn Three: CCCP: The Cossacks and Partisans advance through and clear the mine-fields. 
Seems some of the German soldiers are good catholic boys, 
and cannot get themselves to shoot at the nuns. 
They make it to the fuel storage tanks, habits flowing in the mid-winter wind.

The Cossacks cavalry charge the defenders, mowing them down with SMG fire. The last men standing are two artillery observers. They fall to merciless flashing sabres and flailing hooves in the assault phase. The nuns and the cossacks take the objective

Their Turn 3 sees the Germans leave the town centre, in an attempt to outflank the Cossacks attacking the fuel dump.
StugGs, Panthers and Jagdpanthers advance past the church. Reinforcements arrive, but fail to make any impact on the rest of the battle.


German armour rushing towards the Russian advance


Turn 4: The Soviets counter with armour to back up the Cossacks holding the fuel dump.
The T34s make it across the frozen river, but for some reason the assault gun commanders seem to think that their vehicles weigh the same as the medium tanks.

The lead SU 85 plunges to the bottom of the frozen river, with only a small splash and trail of bubbles to mark his passing. The rest stall on the bank.



Desperate to remove the nuns and cossacks from the fuel dump the SS bring up their heavy hitters. 
A King Tiger and Jagd Tiger with an Begleit Panther clank through the narrow streets. The bulk of the factory and station prevent them from drawing a bead on the cavalry troops. They are unable to shoot.


Unfortunately for them, they are now within the range of the tankbusters. 
The Panther is the first to brew up in Turn 5


During their turn 4 the Germans also bring up the balance of their Panthers 
and two tank destroyers of their own


Turn 5: The sole surviving PTRD fires from the farmyard


Hits the flank of the lead StuG who had not thought to wear schurtzen that day. 
This oversight creates a fatal bottle-neck for the German tanks


The assault guns continue to rain destruction, and this time it is the King Tiger that cops it. 
It is hard to stop a barrage of 122 mm shells dropping on your thin top armour


Source of the destruction: ISU 122s and IS-2s en masse, protected by SU 76s and T34-85s


Final moments of the 10. SS Tank Battalion at Niedlingen. 

The tightly packed German armour succumb to a whirlwind of Russian shells. The nuns and Cossacks hold an objective  by the end of the game, and the Germans fail in their attempt to deny the Russians and push them back across the river. 

A resounding victory to Colonel Bruce-chev and his Red Guard Tankovy

4 May 2015

Chunuk Bair ANZAC Diorama finally opens. A first look at the NZ Room

ANZAC Diorama and New Zealand Room finally opened

After many delays and much anticipation the New Zealand Room and the Chunuk Bair Diorama at the Dominion Museum (National War Memorial in Wellington) finally opened its door to the public today.



Opening of "Gallipoli: the New Zealand Story in Colour" (Photo  Mark Tantrum - mark tantrum.com)

I was again fortunate enough to share in a behind the scenes look at the New Zealand Room. On Friday night I joined the Campbell clan on a Night at the Museum tour with Rhys Jones. Thank you again Rhys for the wonderful opportunity to see the diorama and the personalised tour you gave us.

Like the rest of the experience, it was just priceless.




The Museum at Night

I will post photos and my impressions on the rest of the exhibition separately, but now the embargo has been lifted; the first look at the NZ Room:

The purpose of this room is to commemorate the New Zealanders' first taste of war, the disastrous WW1 Dardanelles campaign, and specifically the Gallipoli landings, and the attack on Chunuk Bair.

The topography of the terrain was lasercut from actual measurements by Weta Workshop and the terrain and emplacements based on air recce photographs taken in 1915.


Colourised prints of actual WW1 photographs make the distant memories spring to startling life.



The lighting was not yet set up properly when we had our tour. WETA Workshop workers were still installing displays; and my photographs are so-so, anyway, here they are:


Peter Jackson snuck a little cameo of himself into the diorama; Brownie box camera in hand

I have tried to use the historical time-line to explain the battle as seen in the diorama:

The defense of the trenches at Chunuk Bair was the high water mark of the attack, and the diorama depicts the defense of Chunuk Bair on 8-9 August 2015:

The attack, which began on 6 August, was carried out by two columns of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade. They were to meet at Rhododendron Spur and then move up to the summit of Chunuk Bair. It was an ambitious plan that depended on speedy execution.


1. The operation started well – men of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the Maori Contingent successfully cleared the way for the assault columns. But delays meant that the attack on the summit was ordered before all the infantrymen had reached the Spur.





View North towards the Summit  and Apex from the South (Seaward side on the Map): Rhododendron Ridge and NZ  Mounted Rifles and Maori Contingent

2. The Auckland Battalion assaulted first and failed. The commander of the Wellington Battalion, Malone, refused to sacrifice his men in a daylight attack and insisted on waiting until night. Malone was a tough but respected commander from Taranaki who regularly put himself on the line for the welfare of his men. He allegedly told his superior, Brigadier-General Johnston: ‘We are not taking orders from you people… My men are not going to commit suicide.’




NZ Mounted Rifles holding Rhododendron Ridge


Looking South


Malone's command dugout


Colourised photographs bring the events to life


Auckland Rifles digging in after suffering horrendous casualties



The Assault on the summit meets with stiff opposition. 
 Corporal Cyril Bassett hauling telegraph line up the hill.  Under continuous fire Bassett succeeded in laying a telephone line from the old position to the new one on Chunuk Bair. He received the only Victoria Cross awarded to a New Zealander in the Gallipoli campaign. 




Another Cameo - Auckland Rifles: Rhys Jones pressing home the attack 



Malone closer to the summit. He was killed by Allied shells later in the day

The Wellington Battalion took and occupied the summit before dawn on 8 August. With sunrise came a barrage of fire from Turks holding higher ground to the north. 

3. A desperate struggle to hold Chunuk Bair ensued. It was not until after dark that the Otago Battalion and the Wellington Mounted Rifles arrived to reinforce the 70 Wellington Battalion men (out of 760) who were still holding the line. Malone had been killed by an Allied shell at about 5 p.m.






Thousands of Turks attack the summit next morning


The Wellington Rifles repel wave after wave of Ottoman attackers





 4. The New Zealanders were relieved on the night of 9/10 August by 2 British battalions, but these quickly succumbed to a counter-attack led by Mustafa Kemal, who was to become the founding President of Turkey. (http://www.nzhistory.net.nz)

I am proud to have played a small part in producing this awesome diorama. It is dedicated to the memory of the men who paid the highest price in Gallipoli. Lest we forget.


Rhododendron Ridge today, looking towards the summit




 For more (and better quality pictures) see the Roly Hermans' official blog page: ANZAC DIORAMA

and Fern and Sam's Napalm Elf and Rebel Scum












15 July 2014

Anniversaries of Major Battles

Battle Anniversaries: Bannockburne


This year and next year sees the anniversary of many significant historical battles.
In the last year we've marked a few major armed clashes:

Kursk, D-Day, with many other favourites of wargamers to come (Eastern and Western Front, Ardennes offensive, and the Battle for Berlin, and Waterloo to come too!

 (Oops, we somehow missed Anzio's 70th and Bannockburne's 700th anniversary ?!)

As usual distilled from the Internet: No copyright infringement intended, happy to credit and/or remove images

Bannockburne:


I opened my latest copy of Wargames Soldiers and Strategy, (BTW a great Dutch publication (in English); one of the few that also include 40K!); to find a fantastic write-up on the battle, and also it's playability with various rule sets! It turns out it was almost 2 battles rolled in one, and that the Scots employed tactics quite of character for the time, catching the over-confident English off-side!

The Battle of Bannockburn  (24 June 1314) was a significant Scottish victory in the First War of Scottish Independence, and a landmark in Scottish history.

Stirling Castle, a Scots royal fortress, occupied by the English, was under siege by the Scottish army. Edward II of England assembled a formidable force to relieve it. This attempt failed, and his army was defeated in a pitched battle by a smaller army commanded by Robert I of Scotland.

The Wars of Scottish Independence between England and Scotland began in 1296 and initially the English were successful, having won victories at the  Dunbar (1296) and at Berwick (1296).

The removal of John Balliol from the Scottish throne also contributed to the English success. The Scots had been victorious in defeating the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, however this was countered by Edward I of England's victory at the Battle of Falkirk (1298).By 1304 Scotland had been conquered, but in 1306 Robert the Bruce seized the Scottish throne and hostilities resumed.


Robert the Bruce

Edward II of England came to the throne in 1307 but was incapable of providing the determined leadership that had been shown by his father, Edward I. Stirling Castle was held by the English, commanding the route north into the Scottish Highlands. It was besieged in 1314 by Robert the Bruce's brother, Edward Bruce, with a threat that if the castle was not relieved by mid-summer then it would be surrendered to the Scots.

Drawing of Edward the Second

Edward II

The English could not ignore this challenge and preparations were made for a substantial campaign in which the English army probably numbered 2,000 cavalry and 15,000 infantry, many of them the feared longbowmen. The Scottish army probably numbered between 7,000 and 10,000 men, of whom no more than 500 would have been mounted. Unlike the heavily armoured English cavalry, the Scottish cavalry would have been light horsemen who were good for skirmishing and reconnaissance but were not suitable for charging the enemy lines.The Scottish infantry would have had axes, swords and pikes, with few bowmen among them, not in separate units.


Scottish Cavalry, comparatively light and maneuvrable

The precise size of the English force relative to the Scottish forces is unclear but estimates range from as much as at least two or three times the size of the army Bruce had been able to gather, to as little as only 50% larger.

Edward II and his advisors were aware of the places that the Scots were likely to challenge them and sent out orders for their troops to prepare for an enemy established in boggy ground near to the River Forth, near Stirling. The English advanced in four divisions whereas the Scots were in three divisions, known as 'schiltrons' which were strong defensive circles of men bristling with pikes. Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, commanded the Scottish vanguard, which was stationed about a mile to the south of Stirling, near the church of St. Ninian, while the king commanded the rearguard at the entrance to the New Park. His brother Edward led the third division.


According to Barbour, there was a fourth division nominally under the youthful Walter the Steward, but actually under the command of Sir James Douglas. The Scottish archers used yew-stave longbows and though these were not weaker or inferior to English longbows, there were fewer Scottish archers than English archers, possibly numbering only 500. These archers played little part in the battle, as it turned out. There is first hand evidence from the captured Carmelite friar, Robert Baston in his poem, written just after the battle, that one or both sides employed slingers and crossbowmen.


The Battle
Site: There is some confusion over the exact site of the Battle of Bannockburn, although most modern historians agree that the traditional site, where a visitor centre and statue have been erected, is not the correct one. Although a large number of possible alternatives have been proposed, most can be dismissed leaving two serious contenders:
1. An area of peaty ground known as the Dryfield outside the village of Balquhiderock, about three-quarters of a mile to the east of the traditional site, and
2. the Carse of Balquhiderock, about a mile and a half north-east of the traditional site, accepted by the National Trust as the most likely candidate.




Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn

First day of battle:



Most medieval battles were short-lived, lasting only a few hours, therefore the Battle of Bannockburn is unusual in that it lasted for two days. On 23 June 1314 two of the English cavalry formations advanced, the first commanded by the Earl of Gloucester and the Earl of Hereford. They encountered a body of Scots, among them Robert the Bruce himself. A celebrated single combat then took place between Bruce and Henry de Bohun who was the nephew of the Earl of Hereford. Bohun charged at Bruce, hoping to make a name for himself and when the two passed side by side, Bruce split Bohun's head with his axe. De Bohun went down in history for a reason quite unlike he had planned!


(De BoHun's Livery is incorrect in this image, correct below)



Models with more accurate colours: His son Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, captured 
Coat of Arms: Azure a bend argent coticed between six lions rampant or Source: The Falkirk Roll 


The Scots then rushed upon the English under Gloucester and Hereford who struggled back over the Bannockburn. The second English cavalry force was commanded by Robert Clifford. They advanced on the flank of the Scots, towrds St Ninians, coming up against the schiltrom that was commanded by Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray. The English were unable to break the barrier of spears and pikes, and the English withdrew in confusion, unable to break the Scottish formation.


Modern re-enactment



Second day of battle


Under nightfall the English forces crossed the stream that is known as the Bannock Burn, establishing their position on the plain beyond it. A Scottish knight, Alexander Seton, who was fighting in the service of Edward II of England, deserted the English camp and told Bruce of the low English morale, encouraging Bruce to attack them. In the morning the Scots then advanced from New Park. The English archers should have been able to counter this advance but they were neutralized by a Scottish cavalry charge led by Sir Robert Keith.

 The English responded to the Scots advance with a charge of their own, led by the Earl of Gloucester. Gloucester had argued with the Earl of Hereford over who should lead the vanguard into battle, and argued with the king that the battle should be postponed. This led the king to accuse him of cowardice, which perhaps goaded Gloucester into the charge.  Few accompanied Gloucester in his charge and when he reached the Scottish lines he was quickly surrounded and killed.


 Gradually the English were pushed back and ground down by the Scots' schiltrons. An attempt to employ the English and Welsh longbowmen to shoot at the advancing Scots from their flank failed when they were dispersed by the Scottish 500-horse light cavalry under the Marischal Sir Robert Keith

 The English cavalry was hemmed in making it difficult for them to maneuver. As a result the English were unable to hold their formations and broke ranks. It soon became clear that the English had lost and Edward II needed to be led to safety. However one of Edward's knights, Giles de Argentine, declared that he was not accustomed to flee and made one final charge on the Scots, only to die on their spears.

Edward fled with his personal bodyguard, ending the remaining order in the army; panic spread and defeat turned into a rout. He arrived eventually at Dunbar Castle, from which he took ship to England.

From the carnage of Bannockburn, the rest of the army tried to escape to the safety of the English border, ninety miles to the south. Many were killed by the pursuing Scottish army or by the inhabitants of the countryside that they passed through.

Historian Peter Reese says that, "only one sizeable group of men—all foot soldiers—made good their escape to England." These were a force of Welsh spearmen who were kept together by their commander, Sir Maurice de Berkeley, and the majority of them reached Carlisle. Weighing up the available evidence, Reese concludes that "it seems doubtful if even a third of the foot soldiers returned to England." Out of 16,000 infantrymen, this would give a total of about 11,000 killed. The English chronicler Thomas Walsingham gave the number of English men-at-arms who were killed as 700, while 500 more men-at-arms were spared for ransom. The Scottish losses appear to have been comparatively light, with only two knights among those killed.

Aftermath
The defeat of the English opened up the north of England to Scottish raids and allowed the Scottish invasion in Ireland. These finally led, after the failure of the Declaration of Arbroath to reach this end by diplomatic means, to the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton. It was not until 1332 that the Second War of Scottish Independence began with the Battle of Dupplin Moor, followed by the Battle of Halidon Hill (1333) which were won by the English.

Notable casualties
Deaths
Gilbert de Clare, 8th Earl of Gloucester:



Sir Giles d'Argentan:



John Lovel, 2nd Baron Lovel



John Comyn, the Red Lord of Badenoch

Robert de Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford

Sir Henry de Bohun




William le Marshal, Marshal of Ireland
Edmund de Mauley, King's Steward
Sir Robert de Felton of Litcham, 1st Lord

Captives
Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford
John Segrave, 2nd Baron Segrave
Maurice de Berkeley, 2nd Baron Berkeley
Thomas de Berkeley
Sir Marmaduke Tweng
Ralph de Monthermer, 1st Baron Monthermer
Robert de Umfraville, Earl of Angus
Sir Anthony de Luci
Sir Ingram de Umfraville