Sunday, 19 April 2015

Holiday in Cambodia

Umm, perhaps not a post title in the best possible taste, but fairly accurate. We've just come back from a whistle stop tour of SE Asia, taking in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Absolutely fascinating, and although the more touristy photos are up on Facebook, more of a wargamery type report here. Nothing quite like walking the terrain.

One of the T-55s which broke down the palace gates in Saigon in 1975. I think this is a Chinese made one, the other one is Russian made (No. 390).

South Vietnamese F5E, this particular example was piloted by a North Vietnamese agent to bomb the palace!

A rather fine Skyraider. 11.30 in the morning and already a tad warm.

This is not a small plane.

Jungle and river in the Mekong Delta

Cu Chi tunnel complex NW of Saigon.. The red bit is the free fire zone, the US base is the small blue bit under the red bit. Some of the tunnels go into and under the base.

Tunnel entrance, not really designed for large North Europeans.

Going OK so far.

Having got the lid down my elbows got stuck at this point.

Example of a simple panje trap.

Representative NVA soldiers. It is just possible I may have bought one of the boonie hats, but the sandals were a bit small.

A somewhat dangerous method for retrieving explosive from unexploded bombs. Don't try this at home folks.

Rice paddies (and surrounding jungle) almost ready for harvesting.

Wet rice paddies, plus optional water buffalo.

Rice paddies which are neither wet nor dry, plus village and jungle covered mountains (Laos).

The Mekong in Laos from a cave. This is a very big river.

Uncle Ho's tomb in Hanoi.

One of the numerous monuments to the sacrifices of the workers and peasants.

Red River in Hanoi. Also quite a large riiver.

Everyones favourite Buddha.

It was a fabulous trip, very interesting and very, very hot. It was marred somewhat by us both becoming ill with chest infections in the second week, and although mine cleared up, my wife developed pneumonia and spent a week in hospital when we were back. The air quality in Vietnam and Laos was appalling which probably didn't help, lots of pollution and dust, and in Laos the air was full of smoke as stubble was burned off.

I was fascinated to see the various stages of rice paddy, I'd always imagined them being rather wet, but as they get close to harvesting they are just like wheat fields. The jungle was also fascinating, visibility literally a few feet.

Having seen the terrain, and the somewhat warlike history of the Vietnamese, frankly no-one in their right mind would take them on in a war. They seemed very proud to have beaten France and the USA, but they'd also repeatedly beaten the Chinese, and I hadn't realised until I did some research, that they'd also beaten Ghengis Khan, which really is something.

I managed to come back with a couple more hats for the collection, and I was after one of the natty VC checked scarves but they seemed to be unobtainable. I also had a go on the firing range at Cu Chi, I wanted to try a Garand which I'd not fired before so I was a bit surprised to be handed a belt of ammo for an M2 Machinegun! My Vietnamese isn't really up to explaining the difference so I had a go on the MG. I hit all the targets with short three round bursts, which I was quite pleased about, but I would have preferred to try a rifle.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

BF Sdkfz 251/17

Some years ago I felt the need for some 15mm self propelled Flak, I can't recall what prompted it, possibly the repeated accounts of the use of SP 20mm guns in Normandy in the ground role. Anyway, at Triples I spotted this rather nice BF Sdkfz 251/17 which I thought would fit in well with my 251/9s as panzergrenadier support.

Not a bad little model although it suffered the usual curse of metal kits, no instructions. I had to consult a few books to figure out which way round the bits of the AA gun went together. Apart from that it went together fine

The finished vehicle, it looks quite top heavy.

Nice detail on the gun and tracks. Just one gunner is provided, there isn't a huge amount of room for any more in the gun compartment!

It looks even more top heavy from the front.

Nice sharp lines on the panels and doors which pick up drybrushing well.
The vehicle was finished in late war three colour camo, in this particular case a curious lattice pattern I came across in a photo, but it basically fits in with my other stuff OK. It also had an inkwash and a drybrush to pick out the detail and tone down the camo.

It has had a suprising number of outings in games over the last few years, far more so than some of my other 15mm SP guns (my Brummbar has never been out at all) and has been a very useful piece all round. The only thing I need to do one day is stick the gun on a bit more firmly with blu-tak as it has a tendency to fall over all the time as the hole is much bigger than the pin. Apart from that, a great model and highly recommended.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Mokre, August 1944

Having had a 15mm painting boost (see Panzer IVs and PSC 251s) I felt an outing to use the new toys was in order. This particular scenario I've run before in 6mm using NBC, but I now had enough kit to do it in 15mm with platoon sized elements. It is the Mokre scenario done by Bob Mackenzie, covering one of the counterattacks against the Sandomierz bridghead in 1944. This has an entire Panzer Division supported by a battalion of shiny new King Tigers attacking a whole Soviet Tank Corps. Don't get too excited though, all the units are at 30% strength or less, but even so, it is mighty collection of toys.

I ran it with Johns 'Battlegroup' rules, using my Eastern Front modifications. Unusually the Russians at this stage of the war (6th Guards Tank Corps) have a higher tactical competence than the green and shattered Germans formations. The scenario is essentially a huge ambush as the Russians managed to pull off a flank attack against the German counterattack.

Massed panzers and panzergrenadiers heading east. This is an entire panzer regiment plus PG battalion, but at hugely reduced strength. The Germans are constrained to deploying at least half their tanks on the far side of the ridge.

The remains of 506th Tiger Bn, the rest are littering the battlefield after a failed attack in the morning. Knocked out or broken down. Green Tiger IIs, that will be interesting..

A Soviet Tank Brigade, eagle eyed readers will note that this is also a bit understrength, but that it seems to have some IS-IIs attached. This is deployed in the Soviet centre, overlooking the German garrison in Jablonika.

Another Tank Brigade, a bit stronger but still only equivalent to a battalion. IS-IIs also in evidence here. This brigade is deployed parallel with the Panzer IVs on the ridge.

In the centre a Soviet 'rifle regiment' enters, supported by more tanks. The regiment barely has the strength of a battalion.

The Tank Brigade in the far west gets ready to open fire on the Germans.

The Germans scramble onto the ridge. Mark IVs and Panthers on the ridge, the Tigers skirt the end.

The long range gunnery duel is fairly ineffective, but inevitably the Tiger II takes a hit from the IS-IIs and blows up without firing a shot..

In the centre the Russians push onto Jablonika against the German infantry on the outskirts.

Meanwhile the panzers get tired of shelling the Russians and having knocked out the IS-IIs, conduct a hell for leather charge in the open. One of the Mark IV platoons has already been hit.
The outcome of the German charge was sadly not captured on film, but against 20 odd T34/85s at close range firing from cover, the field was soon littered with blazing Mark IVs and Panthers, at which point the Germans gave up.

This wasn't a hugely satisfactory game, I'd stretched Battlegroup to its limits and also didn't do a good job of keeping the players on track. Perhaps a few years ago we'd have managed to finish this (well we would, we certainly played bigger battles then) but these days we all seem to want something quicker and simpler. A shame really but a lesson learned. Next time I'll keep Battlegroup for battalion+ sized engagements, and use something else for brigade sized.

It was nice to get the toys out, first outings for a number of things - my new PSC Pz IVs and 251s, the IS-IIs and lurking in the centre but not on film, my BF SU-85s and an ancient Roco ISU-122.

For anyone with an interest in WW2 graqnd tactical gaming, I'd thoroughly recommend Bob Mackenzies site, an excellent source of  scenarios and gaming inspiration. Bob Mackenzies Homepage