1 October 2014

Operation Market Garden (Part 2)

Operation Market Garden (Part 2)

Field Marshal Montgomery's goal was to force an entry into Germany over the Lower Rhine. He wanted to circumvent the northern end of the Siegfried Line and this required the operation to seize the bridges across the Maas (Meuse) River and two arms of the Rhine (the Waal and the Lower Rhine) as well as several smaller canals and tributaries. Crossing the Lower Rhine would allow the Allies to encircle Germany's industrial heartland in the Ruhr from the north. It made large-scale use of airborne forces, whose tactical objectives were to secure the bridges and allow a rapid advance by armored units into Northern Germany.

Several bridges between Eindhoven and Nijmegen were captured at the beginning of the operation but Gen. Horrocks' XXX Corps ground force advance was delayed by the demolition of a bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal. This caused an extremely overstretched supply line, and failing to capture the main road bridge over the river Waal before 20 September.

The Allied Airborne Army comprised of four divisions; two British and two American. Linked to it was the Polish Independent Parachute Brigade lead by Major-General Sosabowski.

The two most senior American commanders were Major-General Gavin of the 101st Division and Major-General Maxwell Taylor of the 82nd Division. Both men were knowledgeable in airborne warfare. The British First Airborne Division was lead by Major-General Urquhart. He was an unusual choice to lead the Airborne Division as he had never parachuted before, never participated in a glider landing and got air sick. He, himself, expressed his surprise when he was appointed commander of the division.

Robert Urquhart

The First Airborne Division had not taken part in D-Day. It had been kept in reserve and had remained inactive after June 1944. A number of planned operations had been cancelled at the last minute because they were not needed due to the success of the British armoured columns on the ground. By September 1944, the First Division was "restless, frustrated and ready for anything". Urquhart said that it was:"Battle-hungry to a degree which only those who have commanded large forces of trained soldiers can fully comprehend."

The First Division was given the task of capturing the bridge at Arnhem and holding it. The 101st Division was to capture the Zuid Willems Vaart  Canal at Veghel and the Wilhelmina Canal at Son. The 82nd Division was to capture the bridges at Grave and at Nijmegen.

The attack had to be planned in just six days. Urquhart's First Division faced two major problems; the shortage of aircraft and the belief that the bridge at Arnhem was surrounded by anti-aircraft guns that would make a landing by the bridge itself too difficult.

The Americans were given the priority with regards to aircraft. The capture of the bridge at Arnhem would be pointless if the Americans failed to captured their targets. Therefore, the Americans would be carried to their targets in one lift whereas the attack on Arnhem would be done in three separate lifts during the day. Any night time landings were considered too dangerous.

This posed a major problem for Urquhart. His first force would have the element of surprise and, if the German resistance was minimal, would hold the bridge and secure any landing zones for the gliders. However, any subsequent landings would be after the Germans would have had the time to get themselves organised.

Intelligence reports also showed that the flak around the bridge itself was heavy. This was confirmed by RAF bomber crews who encountered the flak on their regular flights into Germany. Urquhart decided to make his landings to the west away from the bridge even though he knew that this was a risk. If the German resistance was stronger than anticipated, there was the chance of the first landing not even getting to Arnhem Bridge and taking out the flak.

British Intelligence reports indicated that the German presence in Arnhem was minimal. It was believed that the Germans only had six infantry divisions in the area with 25 artillery guns and only 20 tanks. German troops, in an Intelligence report of September 11th, were said to be "disorderly and dispirited". A similar report was made on September 17th.

Arnhem, the Bridge too Far:

At Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division encountered far stronger resistance than anticipated. In the ensuing battle, only a small force managed to hold one end of the Arnhem road bridge and after the ground forces failed to relieve them, they were overrun on 21 September.

The rest of the division, trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge, had to be evacuated on 25 September. The Allies failed to cross the Rhine in sufficient force and the river remained a barrier to their advance until offensives at Remagen, Oppenheim, Rees and Wesel in March 1945. The failure of Market Garden ended Allied expectations of finishing the war by Christmas 1944.

Arnhem Timeline

September 17th 1944Operation Market Garden began. The British landing near Arnhem is met by heavy German resistance. The American 82nd Division captured its targets at Waals but met heavy resistance at Nijmegen.
September 18th 1944A German counterattack stopped the Americans entering Nijmegen. The British landing zone near Arnhem was heavily attacked by Bittich's SS in an effort to stop further British landings.
September 19th 1944The leading elements of the British 30th Corps reached the Americans at Nijmegen but all efforts to break through to the British at Arnhem fail.
September 20th 1944The bridge at Nijmegen was captured by a combined US/UK assault.
September 21st 1944The British paratroopers defending the northern end of the bridge at Arnhem were heavily attacked. Those British troops who did not get through to Arnhem formed a defensive barrier west of Oosterbeek.
September 22nd 1944The advance of British tanks to relieve Arnhem was delayed  as a result of German attacks.
September 23rd 1944Attempts by the Poles and troops of 30th Corps to cross the river at Arnhem failed.
September 25th 1944The surviving British troops were evacuated but nearly 3000 were captured. Over 1,200 British troops were killed in a plan that went a 'bridge too far.'

Reports from the Dutch Resistance indicated beforehand that SS units had been seen in the Arnhem area. The First Airborne Division was only given this information on September 20th - three days after the attack on the bridge at Arnhem had begun.

Operation Market Garden began on Sunday morning, September 17th, 1944. Luftwaffe fighters bases had been attacked as had German barracks based near the drop zones. 1,000 American and British fighter planes gave cover as the gliders and their 'tugs' crossed the North Sea and headed over mainland Europe. The greatest fear was from flak and Intelligence estimated that the loss of gliders and transport craft could be up to 40%. As it was, very few of the 1,545 aircraft and 478 gliders were lost.

The 82nd Division landed without major problems around Grave and Nijmegen. The 101st Division was equally successful and by nightfall, the Americans and British armoured corps had met up in Eindhoven.

However, by the 18th September, fog had played its part. The glider and tug flights that were due to cross on the second day could not do so. This affected the 82nd Division in that Gavin had fewer men to attack the bridges at Waal, especially the road bridge that had held out for three days during the German attack on Holland in 1940. This bridge only fell in the evening of Wednesday 20th after a combined American/British attack. With this bridge captured, the 30th Corps armour could race towards Arnhem to relieve Urquhart's First Airborne Division there.

At Arnhem, the British met much stiffer opposition than they had been lead to believe. The IX th and X th SS Panzer Divisions had re-grouped at Arnhem - as Dutch resistance had warned. Both groups comprised of 8,500 men lead by General Willi Bittrich.

These were not the poorly equipped German garrison troops,  low in morale, that British Intelligence had claimed were stationed at Arnhem. Bittrich - a highly regarded general in the Waffen SS - sent in the IX SS Division to the British landing zones immediately. The X Division was ordered to Nijmegen to stop the 2nd Army group advancing on Arnhem. Bittrich was confident of success:

"We shall soon be able to discount the threat of the British north of the Neder Rijn. We must remember that British soldiers do not act on their own initiative when they are fighting in a town and when it consequently becomes difficult for officers to exercise control. They are amazing in defense, but we need not be afraid of their capabilities in attack." - Bittrich.

The men from the IX th Division quickly created a formidable defensive line to stop the British advancing to Arnhem. The British faced a number of serious problems in the landing zone. Nearly all the vehicles used by the Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron were lost when the gliders carrying them failed to land. Therefore the advance into Arnhem itself was delayed but also had to be done almost entirely on foot. The job of the Reconnaissance Squadron was to move off in jeeps etc. in advance and secure bridges and roads. This they could not do after the loss of their vehicles. The maps issued to officers also proved to be less than accurate.

The British paratroopers quickly came under German fire. Only the 2nd Battalion lead by Lt. Col. Frost moved forward with relative ease but even they were occasionally halted by German fire. Frost's men were the most southerly of the British units and the Germans had covered their route to Arnhem less well than the other routes the British were to use.

When Frost got to the bridge at Arnhem, he only had about 500 men. He secured the northern end of the bridge and the buildings around it but he remained heavily exposed to a German attack across the bridge as the British had failed to secure the southern end of the bridge. Around Arnhem, British troops, engaged in combat with the SS, took heavy casualties. By now, the Germans were being reinforced with SS crewed Panzer VI Tiger tanks.

Despite being short of ammunition and with no food or water, Frost's men continued fighting.

A German who fought in the final battle for the bridge wrote:

"(The fighting was) an indescribable fanaticism...and the fight raged through ceilings and staircases. hand grenades flew in every direction. Each house had to be taken this way. Some of the British offered resistance to their last breath."

The 2nd Army failed to reach Arnhem. In the final drive - just 10 miles - from where the 2nd Army was to Arnhem, the SS fought with great skill seriously delaying the forward momentum that the 2nd Army had previously developed. Those British troops who remained in the Arnhem area were caught in land that the SS called 'The Cauldron'. A decision was made to withdraw. Those soldiers that could be evacuated were but many wounded were left behind.

In all, over 1,200 British soldiers had been killed and nearly 3,000 had been taken prisoner. 3,400 German troops had been killed or wounded in the battle.

Why did the plan fail?

  • The speed with which Bittrich organised his men and his tactical awareness were major reasons for the German victory. British Intelligence had ignored Dutch Resistance reports that SS units were in the region. This was a fatal mistake.
  • When the paratroops landed they found that their maps were inaccurate regarding the layout of the roads in the Arnhem area. 
  • Another major problem was that the radio sets issued to the men only had a range of 3 miles and thus proved to be useless when the various segments of the British army in the area were spread over 8 miles. Lack of communication proved a major handicap for commanders on the ground who rarely knew what other commanders were doing or planning. 
  • Landing was also planned to be spread over three days, The 1st Airborne Division was never up to full strength, and the element of surprise was lost

30 September 2014

Operation Market Garden: Fiasco to Equal Dunkirk ? Part 1 The Protagonists

Market Garden: The "Bridge Too Far" Fiasco

Battle of Arnhem: dropping in on a bridge too far

I first saw the movie of the same name (A Bridge Too Far, in 1975. I was 10 years old. The movie gripped me so much that I remember it too the day, and have seen it several times since then)

Having recently played the D-Day Landings, the natural follow-on would be the race and battle for Caen , the Falaise gap, and then Hell's Highway and The Bridges at Nijmegen, Eindhoven and Arnhem. I had occasion to visit the area in the late 80s .

Operation Market Garden (17–25 September 1944) was an unsuccessful Allied military operation, fought in the Netherlands and Germany in the Second World War. It was the largest airborne operation up to that time.

The Allied forces that had landed on the Normandy beaches on June 6 had already liberated Brussels and were hovering on the Belgian-Dutch border like those arrows in the opening credits of Dad’s Army.

Monty’s plan was for them to make a swift, narrow thrust up through the Netherlands, bypassing the Germans’ defensive “Siegfried Line”, then swing east to advance on Berlin. Airborne troops would pave the way, capturing and holding bridges for the ground forces to pass over. The Nazis would be crushed by Christmas.

Codenamed Operation Market Garden, it was an ambitious plan – too ambitious, feared Lt General Frederick Browning, who is said to have remarked (perhaps apocryphally) that Arnhem, the northernmost bridge the Allies were required to capture and defend, was “a bridge too far”.

Order of Battle:

Allied Forces

1st Allied Airborne Army
Commander : Lieutenant-General Lewis H. Brereton

1st British Airborne Corps
Commander : Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning

  • 1st Airborne Division and attached units
  • 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade Group
  •  52nd (Lowland) Division (NOT USED)
18th U.S. Airborne Corps
Commander : Lieutenant-General Matthew B. Ridgway

  • 82nd U.S. Airborne Division
  • 101st U.S. Airborne Division
Air Transport Forces
  • 38 and 46 Groups RAF, RASC Air Despatch Units
  • 52nd Troop Carrier Wing, USAAF
  • IX Troop Carrier Command (Less 52nd Wing), USAAF
21st Army Group
Commander : Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery

2nd British Army
Commander : General Sir Miles Dempsey

Dempsey, Front row 2nd from R
  • XXX Corps
  • VIII Corps
  • XII Corps

German Forces

Armed Forces Command (AFC) Netherlands
Commander : General der Flieger Friedrich Christiansen

II S.S. Panzer Korps
  • Kampfgruppe 'Von Tettau'
The Commander-in-Chief German Armed Forces In Holland at the time was Luftwaffe General Christiansen (above)  and it was he who ordered Lt. General Hans Von Tettau to form a 'Battle Group' to combat the Airborne landings.

Lt Gen Hans von Tettau

 In the initial stages of the battle, fought around the landing zones, Von Tettau was able to collect the following forces.
S.S.- N.C.O. School Arnheim (Col. M. Lippert)
S.S.- Training and Replacement Battalion 4 (Lt. Labahn)
Naval Manning Battalion 10 (Kapitan Lieutnant Zaubzer)
S.S.- Surveillance Battalion 3 ( Sturmbannführer Paul Anton Helle)
Tank Company 224  
Fliegerhorst Battalion 3  
Soesterberg Fliegerhorst Battalion  
Regiment Knoche 
S.S.- Battalion Eberwein 
Regiment 42 

Heeresgruppe B {Army Group B}
Commander : Feldmarschall Walther Model

Fifteenth Army
Commander : General Gustav von Zangen

  • LXVII Korps (General Otto M. Hitzfeld)

        346th Infantry Division (Generalleutnant Erich Diester)
        711th Static Division (Generalleutnant Josef Reichert)
        719th Coastal Division (Generalleutnant Karl Sievers)
  • LXXXVIII Korps

First Parachute Army

Commander : General Kurt Student

  • II Fallschirmjäger Korps
  • XII S.S. Korps 

German SS Polizei in position in the woods outside Arnhem ready to repulse Allied Airborne troops. 

The SS IX and X Panzer Divisions of the II SS Panzer Korps were, as Dutch Intelligence had reported, refitting and regrouping to the north and east of Arnhem and proved a formidable opponent despite the surprise of the airborne landings
  • LXXXVI Korps
  • Wehrkreis VI
Luftwaffe West

20 September 2014

FoW: Operation Barbarossa: A sneak Peak and Sale

Flames of War: Operation Barbarossa: Russia Invaded - 

A sneak Peak and Sale

All the Flames of War fans out there: Battlefront miniatures have made a sneak peak available on their Operation Barbarossa book, soon to be released. (Oct 2014) 

Preview Of Barbarossa

The Barbarossa book promises the 3rd Reich rampant:
  • History of the German invasion of the Soviet Russia in 1941,
  • Battle for Moscow and the Soviet counter-strikel.
  • It appears Stalingrad is left out (?) Probably material for a next book.
  • Options for German tank companies: 
    • Leichte Panzerkompanie, Mittlere Panzerkompanie, and Czech Panzerkompanie. 
    • Mobile infantry with a Panzerschützenkompanie, Schützenkompanie, and Kradschützenkompanie.
    • Motorised and foot infantry with a Heer or SS Infanteriekompanie.
  •  Options for Soviet Army: 
    • T-34 tank equipped Tankovy Batalon, 
    • Lend-lease tanks with Inomarochnikiy Tankovy Batalon
    • Motor infantry with a Motostrelkovy Batalon
    • Infantry: Strelkovy Batalon with three different ratings options.
More info on their website (Clicky below)

So, great news for early war fans. Even better news: They have a limited time special on all their early war goodies!

Early-war Sale!

Check things out on their website: Buy two get one free!
(Now wouldn't it be great if Games Workshop took a page out of BF's book -never in a month of Sundays!)

New model releases include:
 New sculpt  Pz III G/H and J, and Pz IV E and F 1/2
• New  range of German infantry with greatcoats Early and Mid War.
•  ZIS-30 - a Zis-2 57mm gun mounted on a Komsomolyets
• Plastic and resin early model T-34.
• Updated sculpts for KV tank series.
• BM-8 Katyusha option included with the BM-13 Katyusha box

Q and A from their site:

Q: When will we be charged for the orders?
A: Just like the Vietnam sale, orders will be charged once they are downloaded from the website. 

Q: Will the new Barbarossa book and releases be included in the sale?
A: Barbarossa is released after the conclusion of the sale. However this is a great opportunity to get your supporting units and figures in preparation for the release of this book.

Q: How is the discount calculated?
A: We will sort your purchases in descending price order and change every third sale item to $0. So if you ordered 2 BR702 BEF Rifle Platoons ($18 USD each), 1 BR310 Daimler Dingo ($14.50 USD) and 3 BR052 Matilda IIs ($13 USD each), you would get the blister of Daimler Dingos and 1 of the Matilda II blisters for free.

Q: Do books count towards the Buy 2, Get 1 Free deal?
A: Yes. If you add any of the four books to your order they will count towards the buying 2 and getting 1 free (at the discounted prices obviously). So if you buy 1 book and 2 other products you will get 1 of them for free.

Q: Will there be stock?
A: Yes, although if demand is higher than our stock levels we will get it made as soon as possible and have orders completely fulfilled in the same order that they came through the webstore. Orders will be fulfilled in the order that they are received so get in early to avoid disappointment.

Q: Will the webstore show the correct discounted prices and freight
A: Yes! Our gnomes have been busy over the past week reprogramming the store so it should correctly determine which products will be free and apply the correct maximum freight charge.

Q: How long does the sale last?
A: The sale starts on 19 September 2014 and ends 6 October. The front page of the website will be updated once the store has the sale pricing.

17 September 2014

Richard III Forensic report from the Lancet. Bosworth revisited

Richard the 3rd  was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire, central England, on Aug. 22, 1485.

Forensic Evidence confirms that Richard III died a violent death at Bosworth:

King Richard III likely perished at the hands of assailants who hacked away pieces of his scalp and rammed spikes or swords into his brain as the helmet-less monarch fell to his knees in in the mud after his horse sank into mud or was was killed under him.A forensic report published in The Lancet exposes the horrific demise of one of English history’s most controversial monarchs.It backs anecdotal evidence, made famous by Shakespeare, that Richard was unhorsed before he met his doom.
Bringing together 21st-century science and sketchy knowledge of 15th-century history, the analysis provides a chilling tableau of the brutality of warfare in late mediaeval England.

The monarch’s death was the culmination of a three-decade war for the throne, bringing the curtain down on the three-century dynasty of his Plantagenet clan, and ushering in the Tudors.

“The most likely injuries to have caused the king’s death are the two to the inferior aspect [lower part] of the skull – a large sharp-force trauma possibly from a sword or staff weapon, such as a halberd or bill, and a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon,” said Guy Rutty, a pathologist at the University of Leicester.

A halberd was a mediaeval battle axe with spiked point, and a bill was a hooked-tip blade on the end
of a pole.

“Richard’s head injuries are consistent with some near-contemporary accounts of the battle, which suggest that Richard abandoned his horse after it became stuck in a mire and was killed while fighting his enemies,” said Rutty.

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, used X-ray computed tomography (CT) for a microscopic analysis of a skeleton found in 2012 under a car park at a former church.

After being lost for five centuries, researchers identified the remains as Richard’s, backed by DNA analysis and radiocarbon-dating.

The paper documents nine injuries to the head at or shortly before death, and two to the torso that were likely inflicted postmortem.

The two blows that probably killed the king likely came from a sword or spike driven into the brain at the base of the skull.

They are consistent with the victim having been “in a prone position or on its knees with the head pointing downwards,” the study’s authors wrote.

Non-fatal injuries included three cuts to the top of the skull that would have sliced off much of the scalp. A knife or dagger was stuck right through his face, from right cheek to left.

“Richard’s injuries represent a sustained attack or an attack by several assailants,” said Sarah Hainsworth, a professor of materials engineering at the university.

“The wounds to the skull indicate that he was not wearing a helmet, and the absence of defensive wounds on his arms and hands indicate that he was otherwise still armoured at the time of his death.”

Assuming that he had been wearing his royal armour, two injuries to the trunk must have been inflicted after Richard’s body was stripped, the team said.

One was a blow to the right tenth rib with what was probably a fine-edged dagger.

The other was a thrust, probably by a sword driven upwards through the right buttock that would have penetrated his bowels and other soft pelvic organs – a blow that would have caused fatal bleeding had he been alive.

Without any soft tissue to analyze, the scientists looked at sometimes tiny marks left on the bones – cuts, abrasions, punctures and so on – and compared them with the known impacts caused by the weapons of the time.

The gory reconstruction of his death is heavily dependent on assumptions about the wearing of armour and the loss of his helmet, but chimes with several contemporary accounts.

One version of events penned the year after Richard’s death, said his naked body was slung over his horse like a saddlebag and brought to Leicester.

“Insults” were directed at the corpse by the crowds – which could be when an onlooker inflicted the pelvic wound by thrusting a blade through the king’s buttock, according to the new investigation.

Further mutilation of his corpse would have been stopped – to display his dead body as a trophy, the defeated king had to be recognizable.

Richard died at the age of 32 after only two years on the throne. Contemporary accounts described him as generous and a good monarch, but his reputation was blackened by the victorious Tudors.

In Shakespeare’s play Richard III, the king’s spinal curvature was transformed into a hunchback, and his character was murderous and hungry for power.

England's King Richard III, whose body was discovered under a municipal car park, will be reburied near to where he was slain in battle 500 years ago, a court ruled on Friday, dashing the hopes of his distant descendants who had wanted his remains to be taken back to his northern stronghold.

The unearthing two years ago of the remains of the last English king to die in battle was one of the most important archaeological finds of recent years.

Richard was slain at Bosworth Field near Leicester, central England, in 1485, bringing to an end the rule of the Plantagenet dynasty after 300 years.

His death was the culmination of the Wars of the Roses, a bloody 30-year power struggle between Richard's House of York and the rival House of Lancaster.

The whereabouts of his grave had been a mystery until a skeleton with curved spine and head wounds was found by archaeologists from the University of Leicester, with DNA tests confirming it was indeed the king.

The university was given permission by Britain's Ministry of Justice to re-bury the king at Leicester cathedral.

But the Plantagenet Alliance, a group which included some of Richard's distant descendants, asked London's High Court to block the burial plans, arguing the decision on the final resting place should have been a matter of public consultation.

They wanted their ancestor to be reinterred in the northern city of York, his power base during his 26-month reign.

However, their case was thrown out by three of the country's most senior judge.

"Since Richard III's exhumation of Sept. 5, 2012, passions have been roused and much ink has been spilt," their ruling said. "We agree that is it is time for Richard III to be given a dignified reburial and finally laid to rest."

A tough soldier and popular in the north, Richard remains a hugely divisive figure in English history, seen by some as a monster who murdered two princes - his own nephews - in the Tower of London to take the throne, and by others as an enlightened ruler unfairly maligned by his enemies.

He was cast by Shakespeare as a power-crazed hunchback, who famously went down fighting to keep his crown from the invading forces of Henry Tudor crying out "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!".

After the battle, the victor, the future King Henry VII, had Richard's naked body exposed to the people of Leicester to show the battle was won before he was buried in a monastery which was later destroyed.

In their ruling, the three judges said Queen Elizabeth was content for the dead king to be buried in Leicester, and did not express a wish for a royal funeral or for a re-interment at London's Westminster Abbey where many medieval monarchs were laid to rest.

The judges also said the Plantagenet Alliance, set up by Stephen Nicolay, the 16th-great-nephew of Richard, represented only a fraction of the number of his descendants.

The alliance said in a statement after the ruling: "We believe that the proposed location of Leicester is wholly inappropriate for the burial of King Richard III, who had no connections with the town beyond his horrific death, bodily despoliation and appalling burial in a foreshortened grave.

"It is fitting and respectful and in keeping with all of our national customs regarding treatment of the dead, to bury this king in a place 'appropriate to him' - that place is York."

The University of Leicester will now go-ahead with plans for the reburial, likely to be early next year, while the city council has unveiled plans for a 4 million pound ($6.6 million) visitor centre around the find, hoping that fascination with the monarch will prove to be a hit with tourists.

"This will be a momentous event for the city and county, and an opportunity to show the rest of the world that Leicester is the rightful resting place for the last Plantagenet King of England," said Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby.

Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the dig which found the remains, said it was right they stayed in the city.

"Ultimately a King of England by right of conquest - Henry VII - decided in August 1485 to hand over the vanquished King Richard's remains to the Franciscan Friars in Leicester for burial," he said.

"There they have lain for over half a millennium and have become part of Leicester's history."

A facial reconstruction gives us an idea of what he would have looked like in life:

Contemporary paintings seem to confirm the identity of the body, as does DNA evidence.

7 September 2014

Six weeks of low profile, the Boat club and the driveway

Low Profile August and September

The last 6 weeks have been pretty busy for me, work-wise and 1:1 scale project wise.
Finally got the retaining wall and driveway projects sorted with the help of my good mate Glenn.

Drivin' on it for the first time

My wife's catering business, PartyPerfect Catering, has also had a busy few weeks, having two events in the Visa Wellington-on-a- Plate, presenting Ocean to Table, Kapiti Style. I got co-opted to talk about one of my other passions, sea-life, in this case the edible sea-fishes of the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand, and got my name in the local paper (Kapiti News) in the process. She's furiously working away as I write, preparing for catering for the turning of the first sod on the loooong awaited Transmission Gully Motorway. It will be the second time in as many years that she's been selected to cater for the Prime Minister of NZ. I'm so proud of what she has achieved in the last 5 years.

While I was ranting on my fantasy blog about the direction that Games Workshop was taking, I focused more on my fantasy armies than WW2. Couldn't resist the July Military Modelcraft Magazine though, featuring a step-by step article on the T34, BDRM and the Marmon-Herrington armoured car:

Guideline Publications Military Modelcraft July 2014 vol 18 - 09

It seems that Napoleonics may not quite happen next year for me (Waterloo anniversary), as Nick, the other potential 28mm Shako enthusiast at our club, is following his heart to Hamilton. So my mind has wandered back to Saga, and its possibilities.

I've been buying an interesting bi-monthly magazine from the Netherlands, Wargames Soldiers and Strategy, enjoying it so much that I could hardly wait for the next edition. Rick Priestly has been writing a column, (now sadly in it's last installment) on the mechanics of wargames design.It also features an article on Jugula, the Roman Gladiator game, from the makers of Saga.

Last ed saw a discourse on the Battle of Bannockburne, and also some Batreps on playing Steppe Warriors (Mounted Mongols etc) in Saga and similar skirmish games. This edition is focussed on the 7 years war, Muskets and Black Powder, and an article on Osprey's new medieval ruleset: The Lion Rampant.

What I really enjoy about this mag is that it is neutral in terms of rulesets, and discuss the nitty-gritty of gaming, the models and strategies, and does not preach that one set of rules is better than another. I enjoy how they often discuss how, for example, say mounted Mongols, fits with many rule sets, how it compares with competitors in terms of size, finishing, quality, variety of poses, etc. The stuff my type of modelers and gamers want to know.

This has set me thinking as to what I could do with my Warhammer Fantasy Armies if I should give up on GW. The fantasy genre takes a huge amount of liberties with historical arms and armour, but I think I could well use my Empire Armies as late medieval/early renaissance.

29 July 2014

WW1 28 July 1918 A Century on since the first shots fell

WW1: A World at war. The Great War, the War to end all wars. Have we learnt anything?

Concise history from Wiki:

World War I (WWI or WW1), the First World War, was a 'global' war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. From the time of its occurrence until the approach of World War II, it was called simply the World War or the Great War, and thereafter the First World War or World War I. In America, it was initially called the European War. More than 9 million combatants were killed, a casualty rate exacerbated by the belligerents' technological and industrial sophistication, and tactical stalemate. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, paving the way for major political changes, including revolutions in many of the nations involved.

The war drew in all the world's economic great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (based on the Triple Entente of the United Kingdom, France and the Russian Empire) and the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Although Italy had also been a member of the Triple Alliance alongside Germany and Austria-Hungary, it did not join the Central Powers, as Austria-Hungary had taken the offensive against the terms of the alliance. These alliances were reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war: Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, and the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria the Central Powers. Ultimately, more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised in one of the largest wars in history.

Although a resurgence of imperialism was an underlying cause, the immediate trigger for war was the 28 June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia, and international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world.

On 28 July, the Austro-Hungarians fired the first shots in preparation for the invasion of Serbia. As Russia mobilised, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and Luxembourg before moving towards France, leading Britain to declare war on Germany. After the German march on Paris was halted, what became known as the Western Front settled into a battle of attrition, with a trench line that would change little until 1917.

Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front, the Russian army was successful against the Austro-Hungarians, but was stopped in its invasion of East Prussia by the Germans. In November 1914, the Ottoman Empire joined the war, opening fronts in the Caucasus, Mesopotamia and the Sinai. Italy and Bulgaria went to war in 1915, Romania in 1916, and the United States in 1917.

The war approached a resolution after the Russian government collapsed in March 1917, and a subsequent revolution in November brought the Russians to terms with the Central Powers. On 4 November 1918, the Austro-Hungarian empire agreed to an armistice. After a 1918 German offensive along the western front, the Allies drove back the Germans in a series of successful offensives and began entering the trenches. Germany, which had its own trouble with revolutionaries, agreed to an armistice on 11 November 1918, ending the war in victory for the Allies.

By the end of the war, four major imperial powers—the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires—ceased to exist. The successor states of the former two lost substantial territory, while the latter two were dismantled. The maps of Europe and Southwest Asia were redrawn, with several independent nations restored or created.Colonies in Africa and the east were divided amongst the victors.The League of Nations was formed with the aim of preventing any repetition of such an appalling conflict. This aim, however, failed with weakened states, renewed European nationalism and the German feeling of humiliation contributing to the rise of fascism. All of these conditions eventually led to World War II.

Some food for thought (Albeit Anglo-centric)
"Much of what we think we know about the 1914-18 conflict is wrong": 
(BBC report, Historian Dan Snow)

No war in history attracts more controversy and myth than World War One.
For the soldiers who fought it was in some ways better than previous conflicts, and in some ways worse.

By setting it apart as uniquely awful we are blinding ourselves to the reality of not just WW1 but war in general. We are also in danger of belittling the experience of soldiers and civilians caught up in countless other appalling conflicts throughout history and the present day.

1. It was the bloodiest war in history to that point
Fifty years before WW1 broke out, southern China was torn apart by an even bloodier conflict. Conservative estimates of the dead in the 14-year Taiping rebellion start at between 20 million and 30 million. Around 17 million soldiers and civilians were killed during WW1.

Although more Britons died in WW1 than any other conflict, the bloodiest war in their history relative to population size is the Civil War, which raged in the mid-17th Century. A far higher proportion of the population of the British Isles were killed than the less than 2% who died in WW1. By contrast, around 4% of the population of England and Wales, and considerably more than that in Scotland and Ireland, are thought to have been killed in the Civil War.

2. Most soldiers died
In the UK around six million men were mobilised, and of those just over 700,000 were killed. That's around 11.5%. In fact, as a British soldier you were more likely to die during the Crimean War (1853-56) than in WW1.

3. Men lived in the trenches for years on end
Front-line trenches could be a terribly hostile place to live. Units, often wet, cold and exposed to the enemy, would quickly lose their morale if they spent too much time in the trenches.

As a result, the British army rotated men in and out continuously. Between battles, a unit spent perhaps 10 days a month in the trench system and, of those, rarely more than three days right up on the front line. It was not unusual to be out of the line for a month. During moments of crisis, such as big offensives, the British could occasionally spend up to seven days on the front line but were far more often rotated out after just a day or two.

4. The upper class got off lightly
Although the great majority of casualties in WW1 were from the working class, the social and political elite were hit disproportionately hard by WW1. Their sons provided the junior officers whose job it was to lead the way over the top and expose themselves to the greatest danger as an example to their men.

Some 12% of the British army's ordinary soldiers were killed during the war, compared with 17% of its officers. Eton alone lost more than 1,000 former pupils - 20% of those who served. UK wartime Prime Minister Herbert Asquith lost a son, while future Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law lost two. Anthony Eden lost two brothers, another brother of his was terribly wounded, and an uncle was captured.

5. 'Lions led by donkeys'
This saying was supposed to have come from senior German commanders describing brave British soldiers led by incompetent old toffs from their chateaux. In fact the incident was made up by historian Alan Clark.

British commanders were thrust into a massive industrial struggle unlike anything the Army had ever seen
During the war more than 200 generals were killed, wounded or captured. Most visited the front lines every day. In battle they were considerably closer to the action than generals are today. Naturally, some generals were not up to the job, but others were brilliant, such as Arthur Currie, a middle-class Canadian failed insurance broker and property developer. Rarely in history have commanders had to adapt to a more radically different technological environment.

British commanders had been trained to fight small colonial wars; now they were thrust into a massive industrial struggle unlike anything the British army had ever seen. Despite this, within three years the British had effectively invented a method of warfare still recognisable today. By the summer of 1918 the British army was probably at its best ever and it inflicted crushing defeats on the Germans.

6. Gallipoli was fought by Australians and New Zealanders
Far more British soldiers fought on the Gallipoli peninsula than Australians and New Zealanders put together.

The UK lost four or five times as many men in the brutal campaign as its imperial Anzac contingents. The French also lost more men than the Australians. The Aussies and Kiwis commemorate Gallipoli ardently, and understandably so, as their casualties do represent terrible losses both as a proportion of their forces committed and of their small populations.

7. Tactics on the Western Front remained unchanged despite repeated failure
Never have tactics and technology changed so radically in four years of fighting. It was a time of extraordinary innovation. In 1914 generals on horseback galloped across battlefields as men in cloth caps charged the enemy without the necessary covering fire. Both sides were overwhelmingly armed with rifles. Four years later, steel-helmeted combat teams dashed forward protected by a curtain of artillery shells.

They were now armed with flame throwers, portable machine-guns and grenades fired from rifles. Above, planes, which in 1914 would have appeared unimaginably sophisticated, duelled in the skies, some carrying experimental wireless radio sets, reporting real-time reconnaissance.

Huge artillery pieces fired with pinpoint accuracy - using only aerial photos and maths they could score a hit on the first shot. Tanks had gone from the drawing board to the battlefield in just two years, also changing war for ever.

8. No-one won
Swathes of Europe lay wasted, millions were dead or wounded. Survivors lived on with severe mental trauma. The UK was broke. It is odd to talk about winning. However, in a narrow military sense, the UK and its allies convincingly won. Germany's battleships had been bottled up by the Royal Navy until their crews mutinied rather than make a suicidal attack against the British fleet. Germany's army collapsed as a series of mighty allied blows scythed through supposedly impregnable defences.

By late September 1918 the German emperor and his military mastermind Erich Ludendorff admitted that there was no hope and Germany must beg for peace. The 11 November Armistice was essentially a German surrender. Unlike Hitler in 1945, the German government did not insist on a hopeless, pointless struggle until the allies were in Berlin - a decision that saved countless lives, but was seized upon later to claim Germany never really lost.

9. The Treaty of Versailles was extremely harsh
The Treaty of Versailles confiscated 10% of Germany's territory but left it the largest, richest nation in central Europe. It was largely unoccupied and financial reparations were linked to its ability to pay, which mostly went unenforced anyway.

The treaty was notably less harsh than treaties that ended the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War and World War Two. The German victors in the former annexed large chunks of two rich French provinces, part of France for between 200 and 300 years, and home to most of French iron ore production, as well as presenting France with a massive bill for immediate payment.

After WW2 Germany was occupied, split up, its factory machinery smashed or stolen and millions of prisoners forced to stay with their captors and work as slave labourers. Germany lost all the territory it had gained after WW1 and another giant slice on top of that.

Versailles was not as harsh as it was portrayed later by Hitler, who sought to create a tidal wave of anti-Versailles sentiment on which he could then ride into power.

10. Everyone hated it
Like any war, it all comes down to luck. You may witness unimaginable horrors that leave you mentally and physically incapacitated for life, or you might get away without a scrape. It could be the best of times, or the worst of times. Many soldiers enjoyed WW1. If they were lucky they would avoid a big offensive, and much of the time conditions might be better than at home.

For the British soldier  there was meat every day - a rare luxury back home - cigarettes, tea and rum, part of a daily diet of more than 4,000 calories. Remarkably, absentee rates due to sickness, an important barometer of a unit's morale, were hardly above those of peacetime. Many young men enjoyed the guaranteed pay, the intense comradeship, the responsibility and a much greater sexual freedom than in peacetime Britain.