20 October 2015

And so, back to the future...

Happy Back to the Future Day!





Not Photoshopped. I was allowed to sit in the Southward Car Museum's De Lorean.
Its not what you know. It's who you know...



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

Soviet Arms Factory on my Table-top - Getting ready for KWC Open Day

Soviet Arms Factory

We decide to have Late war Soviet Push for Berlin game at the annual open day.

I realised that I had a great deal of unpainted and half-built Armourfast Soviet tanks and tank busters sitting under my work area, so out came the glue and paint:


Pretty soon Su-85s, T34-Obr 1943s and T34-85s were rolling off the production line



A lone halftrack makes a quick getaway, while tigers huddle in their plastic container.


Awaiting tracks, guns fitted


One model had been waiting so long that it somehow lost its gun mantlet. KV1 mantlet and green stuff to the rescue

3 June 2015

Kapiti Wargames Club Open Day 2015

Reminder of our club's open day this Sunday

I will be doing a FoW 20mm Defense of the Reich German Panzer vs Soviet Guards Demo Game


Kapiti Wargames Club to have open day after recent collaboration with Sir Peter Jackson

Table-top strategy games with miniature models have led to a number of Kapiti wargamers and modellers working with Sir Peter Jackson and the Weta Workshop on his World War 1 Battle of Chunuk Bair diorama project. The club has enjoyed local and international media exposure following their involvement with Sir Peter’s Gallipoli project. They offer the public the opportunity to come see for themselves how it is done:

The Kapiti Wargames Club (KWC) have their annual Open Day on Sunday 7 June from 10 am at the Paraparaumu Community Centre (Ngahina Street, Paraparaumu). This annual event (open to the public) showcases the modelling and painting talents of local figure painters and wargamers. The event offers the public an opportunity to try their hand at table-top strategy games.

Demonstration and display games this year will include a Maori Pa Battle Display, World War 2 Eastern Front (Attack on Germany) Tank Battles, Fantasy and Futuristic Science Fiction battle displays.

There will also be a display on the club’s involvement with the WW1 diorama at the Great War Exhibition.

The range of games played include those based on historical fact, fictionalised fact, fantasy and futuristic games. Popular genres currently include Warhammer, Warhammer 40K, Flames of War, Lord of the Rings, Warmachine, Firestorm Armada and Star Wars X-Wing. Many other genres feature from time to time. The club also offers strategy based board gaming and card-based strategy games, such as Magic, The Gathering.

The KWC is a youth friendly environment, with supervised introductory gaming activities for younger players from 4pm; and a session for more mature or experienced players from 7pm. Players of all grades, new and experienced alike are welcome to come try their hand.
The Open Day will run from 10am to 4pm on Sunday 7 June 2015. Entry is free.

21 May 2015

Cold Cats: Late War German Armour in the Snow

Cold Cats: Tigers and Panthers in the in the Snow

Some WIP photos (Still a fair wack of work to be done on them):


Following on from my post on the Hinterhalt (Ambush) Camo used in the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle for Germany, my thoughts swung to the conflict on the Eastern Front.

My proctrastination box delivered more Panzers in need of the brush. Tigers and Panthers came out.


The Heavy Tigers with their Begleit zug of Medium Panthers move out. 
The Russians have been sighted!

  

Panthers from 3 different 1/72 plastic model producers, and 3 different models (Ausfuhrungs). 
Italeri (L) and centre, Airfix 2nd from left and unknown manufacturer at centre. The Tigers are all from Italeri

I noted the 3 different exhaust configurations on the models, giving a hint that they were from differen production series. (apart from the driver, gun mantlets and commanders hatch configuration differences)

You may also notice that one Panther is slightly smaller - 1/76 I suspect, Airfix's ongoing cardinal sin, selling 1/76 as 1/72 ! It also happens to be the early (Ausf. D model) as used at Kursk. (2nd from left) The central model is an Ausf. A model, and the rest late war Ausf. G models, equipped with flame dampers for night operations, as in the Battle of the Bulge

Unusual picture of a dual exhaust, as seen in A Ausfuhrung (series), with flame dampers. 
Presumably this Panther A survived to late in the war. The series numbers were designated from Ausf. D to A the G, not alphabetically. 

 photo PantherDZimmeritJackBrackets04.jpg

Early (D) model exhaust configuration


Ausf. A configuration


Ausf G without flame dampers


First production flame damper (Large bore curved)


Final production Ausf. G flame dampers (Cylindrical)
This photograph also shows the crew compartment heater which was installed on the last production models.Some late models also carried infra-red sighting gear for night operations


Crew compartment heater attached to air intake on a knocked out Panther. These were not made in the M.A.N factory, but were assembled elsewhere and fitted in the last stages of production. This modification was evident on Panthers in the Ardennes and Wacht am Rhein.



My infantry are all set on autumn bases, some with a light dusting of snow terrain, so they can be used in late summer, autumn, winter or early spring. For a winter game I would need appropriate armour though.

My attention was drawn to one tank in my collection in particular that was a hand-me-down. It was painted in honey-comb grey pattern, almost reminiscent of WW1 disruptive  camo schemes, but less garish. It was based on the early to mid-war dunkelgrau paint schemes, with the occasional dark blue and green bit thrown in. I decided to give the Panzer force a similar look.


You can almost see the snow flying in this snap.



Weathering dust winterisation of a mottled PzKfw V Panther 

I base coated the Tigers and Panthers in German Grey (Dunkel/Panzer Grau) and applied the honeycomb in Rain Grey freehand. I rather liked the look of the end-result, without filling in any of the honeycomb bits. It looked rather like hand-applied white-wash,  hurriedly brushed on in the field (albeit with a little finesse)


88s swing to meet the enemy...

Next I decided to winterise the tanks. Tried two techniques, one being Humbrol's Winter pigment dusted on with a brush, and the other Spraypaint. The latter gave mixed results, mostly due to a malfunctioning, nozzle, leaving me more that just a bit miffed. That would teach me to be too lazy to clean the airbrush. The paint job was almost completely ruined. So a-weatherising, there we go...



Russian medium Tanks T34s await the attack. Obr 41s, 43s and T34-85s



Supported by some Su-76 tank destroyers


Pzkfw Vs in Battle of the Bulge Hinterhalt for comparison

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