domingo, 19 de agosto de 2018

A Wargaming trip to Bastogne 1944.

A few days ago I managed to visit Bastogne. It's an eternal place for any military history fan and wargamer or model collector. In Bastogne much of the Ardennes German campaign  was at stake as this city was the central point of  seven converging roads. The Germans of the 5th Panzer Army of Hasso Von Manteuffel tried hard to win the city with the 26 Volksgrenadier Division, 2nd Pz Division, Pz Lehr, the Führer Gebleit Brigade, 15th Pz Grenadier Division and elements of three SS Panzer Divisions but the stubborn resistance of the 101st Airborne Division, the 705th Tank Destroyer battalion and two Combat Command of the 9th and 10th Armored Divisions, among others, prevented so. The  German superiority in men and material was 2 to 1, but laws of war say it should have been 3 to 1 so may be the destiny of the battle was sealed from the beginning as well as the whole Ardennes campaign. 


While arriving to Bastogne from the south you understand that the Germans had some initial advantage as the city lies in a valley well at the range of artillery placed in a higher gradient. Seven days later this advantage was gone as this south entrance would also be the entry point of Patton's 3rd army relief force. 

In this picture you can see a Sherman M4A3 tank in the main square of Bastogne. It's the famous Barracuda destroyed by a 75mm shell from a PzIV on the side and a shot from a Panzerfaust on the rear that left scars that can still be seen. One of the crew members died and the other four were captured. 

Here the Duckbills (extended end connectors) on Sherman tracks can be seen to advantage. They were used in snowy or muddy ground and served to increase the traction and stability of the vehicle. Its a detail we often forget to model in late Shermans who operated in winter 1944. 

Not much of the city was left intact but in this picture the medieval Porte des Treves can still be seen relatively untouched. For a model of the city it is an important building as its one of the oldest in Bastogne. 

These were some of the positions of the of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Far in the picture at Mont, looking south east, elements of both the Pz Lehr and 26 VGD made several attempts to conquer the city.  

There are nowadays seven turrets of Sherman tanks in Bastogne. They stand were the German attacks were stopped. This picture was taken close to the previous one and this T23 76mm gun turret points to Longvilly/Neffe which is the approximate the same direction of the Bastogne War Museum.

This turret is also a memorial to CC B of the 10th AD and contains a short story of the events participated by the unit and its division into 'Teams'. 

This other turret points to Marvie and to Pz Lehr positions and stands in the Rue de La Chapelle. The road nearby is the Chaussée D'Arlon (nowadays N30). 

The thick mantlet of the 76mm gun. Attention at the inclination of the mantlet which many times is not correct on our 20mm models. 

The tough side port of the turret. Visible are also the layers of armour of the T23 turret. 

Close to the Bastogne War Museum you have this view to the North in the direction of Foy/Noville and 2nd Pz Div. lines. The US side was defended by elements of the 502nd and 506th PIR.

Inside the Bastogne War Museum you are greeted by Blockbuster, a 105mm support Sherman. 

Not so lucky was Absentee, completely ripped apart by AP shells. The idea of the side (or front) US stars was really a bad idea!

A nicely preserved Willys Jeep. 

Another well preserved Browning 1917 HMG used by the 101st Airborne. 

The black uniform of the Panzer units. I think this one belonged to a reconnaissance unit as it has some yellow piping. Damn reflexive glass!!

Volksgrenadier camouflaged uniform. The individual weapon is the Sturmgewehr 44 a weapon that the Germans used massively in this campaign providing some infantry companies with extraordinary firepower. 

The German M44 peas camo jacket associated with the SS but eventually used by the Heer's infantry in later stages of the war. This model holds the MG42 LMG. 

A German Radio operator. Note that the antenna folds at different angles.

A Sturmgeschütz crew member with its distinctive light grey uniform. 

A German Fallschirmjäger and an US infantry or paratrooper clad in winter dress. 

The 50mm German mortar. Not easy to make as a 20mm model ...

The Panzerschreck RPzB54 impresses by its lenght, the height of a man. Note the dark green ammunition. 

Transport boxes of Panzerfaust (small). 

The MG42 in its tripod acting as HMG and the company mortar of 8cm. 

The Fallschimjäger FG-42. 

The famous Hetzer used in great numbers for the first time in this campaign. Each Volksgrenadier division had a company of them and they were also allocated to other Anti-tank units.  This one is not a WW2 built as its a purchase from the Swiss army that bought them from the Czechs who continued its production after the war. 

This ex-Swiss Hetzer (called G-13 by them ) has the Hinterhalt camouflage used extensively in the Ardennes campaign. 

Detail of the rough seam on the Hetzer welded armour. Germans were famous for the quality of the finishing of their armour plates but remember that this one  is a copy. There are at least two more Hetzers at Bastogne, one in the Rue de la Roche and another at the Bastogne Barracks under restauration. 

Yes, we should paint our model tracks rust iron... 

A late war Kübelwagen with the new 1,131cc engine. 

The country side around Bastogne is made mainly of rolling hills permitting the close proximity between US and German lines in the week of 20 to 27 December 1944. This picture was taken from US lines looking at Marvie direction and to Pz Lehr Div. lines. The defenders were probably elements of the 326th Glider Infantry regiment.

Next: More German armour for the late war period. 

quarta-feira, 8 de agosto de 2018

Daimyo set of Rules in 20mm - Japan's Sengoku period/Sekigahara 1600: Otani Yoshitsugu clan

Otani Yoshitsugu was a very famous general of the period and a close friend to Ishida Mitsunari. He tryed to convince Ishida on not going to war against Tokugawa Ieyasu but as a true and loyal friend he fought at Sekigahara were his tactical skills were showed once again. He had a small army as his son was in charge of a much bigger one. Otani Yoshitsugu was also suffering from leprosy and his health was deteriorating forcing him to be transported in a palanquin. At the end of the battle he committed seppuku  and instructed that his head would be cut off and buried. Even today it couldn't be found.

The palanquin were Otani seats is made of plastic card. The Otani figure is the Zvezda General of the Samurai Army Headquarters. The head was worked with putty in order to make the white headdress that covered his sickness. The seated Ashigaru are conversions from the same box with new heads. All other figures are a mixture of Zvezda and RedBox as usual.

Next: Sturm-Panzer Abteilung 217 for Normandy 1944. 

terça-feira, 7 de agosto de 2018

Rapid Fire! Late WW2 Germans in 20mm: 88mm KwK43 SPG's.

As I told you before the idea of having all Mortain units was to have the ability to wargame any of the big campaigns in the West and even in the East. Before the Mortain series of posts I already had showed  a number of full units that had the Goodwood operation as background like the 21st PD, the 16th LFD, the Tiger Tank Abt.503, or the British 7th AD, a Sherman based Division or a Churchill Tank Brigade. Having the 21st PD in particular, which had over 100 Pz IV (20 + in RF! terms) allows you to have enough Pz IV to distribute along the Germans divisions at Mortain (21st PD was not at Mortain) or any group of divisions for many other campaigns of late WW2. 

But Normandy is not over with Goodwood and Mortain. And if you want to be able to play all late war possible scenarios you need a few more things. Today I'll show you my German units for other sectors of the Normandy front and a few for late 1944. 

The s.Pz.Jag.Abt. 654 was equipped with one of the most deadly SPG's of WW2, the Jagdpanther, and became famous both in the Eastern and Western fronts. In the latter its first action was against British Churchills in Normandy which could do little against the terrifying 88mm KwK 43. The battalion never acted as a full force so I'm representing it with two companies of 2 models each with a Befehlspanzer Panther as the command vehicle of the unit. 

The models are a mixture of Esci (L) and repainted Altaya (R). Both are 1/72nd scale and the only visible small difference between the two brands is the length of the main gun that is slightly longer in the Esci version. 

Another interesting characteristic of this unit is the German AFV cross painted at the front. I'm not sure if it was used in Normandy but it shows up in pictures of this battalion later in the war. 

The Befehlspanzer Panther is an Hasegawa model with a new scratch built star antenna. 

These two Nashorn are Britannia. The Nashorn was the first solution the Germans used to place the 88mm Kwk 43 in the chassis of a tank. Used at Kursk for the first time it was built up to the end of the war due to its success as a Tank-killer.  This SPG was not used in Normandy but Italy, Eastern Front and Western Front closer to Germany's border are all possible scenarios for these models. 

Just based and crewed and slightly weathered this Altaya Nashorn is ready for Winter war against both T-34 and Sherman or even against late Pershing tanks like the one destroyed at close range in March 1945 close to Cologne...

The gun barrel of the Britannia model is much shorter and thicker than the one from Altaya. The Britannia model is typical of the brand with a model that captures the main characteristics of the real thing and then uses sturdy details almost indestructibles on the table. On the other hand the Altaya version is all about accuracy and elegance. 

Next: a return to Sekigahara 1600 before more late Panzers. 

sábado, 4 de agosto de 2018

Rapid Fire! Operation Lüttich (Mortain Counterattack) 1944 in 20mm, Part 6 and last - Panzer Lehr

This series is finishing in the beginning of August, about the time of the Mortain battles just by mere luck not on purpose. Here you have the two Kampfgruppe in which Panzer Lehr was divided after Operation Cobra, KG Von Hauser and KG Ritgen. The CO of Pz Lehr. Generalleutnant Fritz Bayerlein reported catastrophic casualties from the carpet bombing of Cobra and the following assault by two US tank divisions. But it seems they were exaggerated as other officers from the division reported much smaller casualties. Apparently Bayerlein was trying to save the division from further damage. Thus the two KG of the division played only a small role at Mortain with Von Hauser behind the main assault and Ritgen  much to the rear. 

In the top picture the two KG are forming. The Panther battalion is reduced to 3 (RF!) tanks, same with the PzIV battalion as the Lehr tanks were only a bit more than 30 around the 5th of August. On the right you have the AA assets of FlakAbt. 130 close to the remnants of the Pioneer battalion. In line at the rear the Recce bat.130 has its eight wheeled vehicles ready for action. To the left the SP's are providing some fire support while the AA half-tracks of the Pz.Gren. regiments are waiting on the side of an hedgerow. The Fallschirmjäger of II Corps gives the necessary infantry and PAK for this advance with Pz Lehr being subordinated to this Corps during the Mortain actions. 

This Nitto/Fujimi Panther has its big white and red number painted over the turret protective track pieces. Another typical characteristic of Pz Lehr Panthers were the white painted front mudguards. A PSC crewman was the only addition to the model. 

Now this one is a work of art. It was gift from my friend Jorge Faria, the 2nd biggest wargamer and model maker of this country. He carefully used a hot steel to carve the Zimmerit on this Matchbox model, something that many of us thought about but few had the ability to do. I only repainted it in order to have the same tones of colour in all models. 

The PzIV are Esci built straight from the box with the usual add-ons.

The Pz28t are Altaya with plastic crews.

This Bergepanzer III is a conversion from the Matchbox Pz III. 

Two Hasegawa Sdkfz 7/1 and 2 from the Flak Abt.311.

Probably Pz Lehr still had some of the 25 Sdkfz 234/2 'Puma' of Panzeraufklärungs-Lehr-Abteilung 130. I used three to represent approximately half of 4th company still  in existence a number probably exaggerated as the reconnaissance units of WW2 had the higher percentage of casualties.   

Another asset of the Recce battalion is this Britannia Sdkfz 233 with SHQ crew. 

Two more Britannia Sdkfz 10/4 makes the Flak for the 901 and 902 Pz Gren. regiments. One day I will make this figures from the available ones in the Valiant box. 

Panzer-Artillerie-Regiment 130 still has these two matchbox Wespe.

General Bayerlein watches the direction of the attack he thinks being a total mistake. But its Hitler's orders so its better to do something about it. The light car and Stoewer are Frontline Wargaming. 

The FJ manning this Airfix Pak40 are also old Airfix and Preiser. 

The main body of the two battalions of  FJ are Esci with a few Valiant conversions. 

The MMG are Armourfast with Airfix heads. The Radio stand is Revell. 

Now for some bibliography used in this series. To the right you have the Victory at Mortain book from M.J. Reardon. For me its the best account of the battles of the Mortain counteroffensive even if lacking detail on the German OB's. To the right  R. Weiss Fire Mission book centers its text on the 'lost Battalion' actions around hill 314. 

The 1947 Michelin map of Mortain is a very useful guide for the terrain were everything happened. I used this one I found in the internet. When all pages are placed like this and wrapped with tape it measures around 70cm X 40cm.

A quick map of the actions make you understand you need a table around 8 meters X 4 meters to cope with all units involved. 

Along the years I built these helpful charts to keep a registration of all details I could find of the six big German units present at Mortain. Also wrapped in tape it was essential to add constant changes in numbers and weapons to the German lists as I was finding more references on this difficult matter and far from conclusion.

Next: More German units for late WW2.