Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Bodged M16 halftrack

A few years ago I picked up a great bargain at Triples, a PSC US 1944 Tank Company army pack. The RRP on these is usually over 80 quid and iirc this went for about 25 so a great saving. It includes a dozen Shermans, three M5s and five M3 halftracks as well as a full companies worth of US Infantry.

I already have some M3 halftracks so I didn't need to assemble the ones in the box, but I had it in mind to do a few conversions as my US troops seem to be a bit short of AA weapons. Let the bodging commence!

The PSC halftrack is a quite a simple model, reminiscent of the old Airfix offering. It offers M3 and M3A1 variants with both .30 cal and .50 cal MGs.

There aren't too many fiddly parts, but to get things straight I put the body together in one go as there aren't any obvious locating pins on the parts.

That came out OK. Unlike earlier PSC offerings, the tracks are single piece mouldings and beautifully detailed. I'm glad they have stopped doing the multi-part tracks.

The halftracks also come with some passengers, and as my existing collection is a bit bare, I thought I'd paint a few up. I just did them in plain khaki (maybe they'd just got their woollen shirts on today) so at a glance they'd pass for US, Russian and maybe even British troops... I did think about doing some sort clever insert thing with different US, British and Russian figures on but in the end I couldn't be bothered.

I did three or four seconds of  extensive research on the internet and found a few grainy pictures of M16 AA halftracks. Good enough for a bodge. I first built a box out of plastic card in roughly the right size. The curved rails defeated me so I just cut curves with a pair of scissors.

Among other things, I have around seventeen PSC Shermans which yielded a plethora of spare .50 cal MGs. I've also got a load of spare metal PP and Battlefront ones, but the plastic is easier to work with. The guns are heaped up next to the mount. Only one barrel broke getting them off the sprue.

The mount sits OK in the back. I should have probably taken the seats out, but hey ho. The tops of the armoured sides were often folded down  on the real thing, but there are plenty of pics with them up too.

On the real thing, the .50 cals have a sort of semi-circular high capacity mag (possibly powered?) which sits above the breech. I didn't fancy scratch building those so I just chopped up the standard .50 cal mounts and put the ammo boxes on top of the guns. I'm sure that will be fine.

While the guns were drying I put a figure in the mount. For some unaccountable reason I used a US tank crewman, when I could have just used one of the passenger figures. Well, I don't suppose it matters. As he hasn't got any legs I had to build a little platform for him to sit on.

The really fiddly bit was sticking the guns on in a manner which approximates the original, and getting them all pointing in roughly the same direction. Not easy with big banana fingers, but thank goodness for plastic and the melting qualities of Revell Contacta glue. On the real thing the magazines overlap the guns above, but I couldn't work out how to do that in a study enough manner to survive handling. 

I was going to keep the AA mount free standing (like my Russian quad Maxims) but in the end I just stuck the whole thing in the back. It doesn't look too bad I think, and you can also see the exquisite detail on the PSC model.

After that it was just a matter of painting. Basic OD (VJ Russian Uniform with a wash of Bronze Green) then a good dollop of mud and dust. I did the crew the same as the passengers in plain khaki and didn't do any markings so it can pass for both US and Russian service.

I'm pleased with how that turned out, it sits like the real one. I do enjoy doing these little modelling projects, even if it is completely pointless, as I expect you can buy a model of one of these.

Here it is based up.

Funny how basing just makes things look better, even vehicles (although I know many people who don't base vehicles)

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Battle of Lodz, Galkow, 20th November 1914

On we go with the battles of the Lodz campaign. Avid readers will recall the first battle at Kutno, as recorded for posterity  here.

So, the Germans have encircled Lodz and XX Corps is facing west maintaining the siege in contact with Russian IInd Corps. 1st Reserve Corps and 6th Cavalry Div are maintaining a screen to the east, all to cover the the lines of communication of the German infantry and cavalry corps operating further south. Only a single brigade of 1st Reserve Corps is present, the rest are in an arc off to the north.

The Russians have meanwhile assembled a counterattack force around Lowicz to reopen communications to Lodz and isolate the Germans further south. Off we go to Poland, one wet and cold day in late November 1914.

We ran this using OP14 on my Hexon terrain with 15mm toys.

XX Corps defend Strykow, facing due west. Jerry took XX Corps. The weather is poor, which has grounded both sides aircraft.

This brigade was detached further south covering the road through Galkow. Lorries can be seen in the distance.

6th Cavalry Division in a screen facing east. John took 6th Cav and the single lonely brigade from 1st Reserve Corps. Lowicz is dimly visible in the distance, 8km away.

The Russian IInd Corps appears from the west, with a lot of lurking in the woods. Simon was in command here. This Corp is quite weak, certainly not strong enough to take Strykow on its own.

The rather stronger Lowicz group rolls on, commanded by Tim C. They also have a cavalry division. These all came marching on in fine style.

6th Cav pushed forward its screen tl slow them up. The Russian cavalry deployed from march into a tactical formation.

And pushed back some of the German cavalry while the Russian infantry deployed into combat formation.

The German cavalry formed up into combat formation as a tide of Russian infantry (some 25,000 of them!) rolled forward on a 6km front.

Things weren't going so well for IInd Corps as they pobed the German defences, suffering losses from German artillery fire. The German HQ rapidly evacuated Strykow when it came under area fire the Russian artillery though.

The Russians shelled the German cavalry who fell back as the Russian infantry followed up. The Russian cavalry meanwhile dismounted and set about deploying their MGs. What were they up to? The Russians were now firmly in control of the ridge.

After this success the Russians pushed on relentlessly. It really was a Russian steamroller. The German cavalry shook out into a screen again, while the Russian cavalry remounted and rapidly changed flanks.

They came up behind the Russian HQ which had a nice view from the ridge. The weather cleared up in the afternoon but the airforces of each side added little to ongoing action.

Night fell shortly after (the days are short in Poland in November) and both sides reorganised. The cavalry fell back to water and feed the horses, and the infantry frantically reinforced their hasty trenches while some losses were recovered.

The day dawned bright and clear and German airforce was first to respond and a spotter plane called down fire on the deployed IInd Corps, braving a hail of Russian MG AA fire to do it. (Yes, I know it is an Albatross, but Tim G wasn't around to bring his early WW1 planes). The unsightly white trenches are temporary ones which weren't built up overnight. I didn't bring my other trench markers.

The Russians are suddenly getting very close to the XX Corps rear areas, despite the best efforts of 6th Cavalry Div. The leading Russian brigade is only 4km from both XX Corps logistics train as well as the critical supply route leading south.

1st Reserve Corps decides it is time for a heroic sacrifice to slow up the Russian juggernaut. Its lone German infantry brigade leaves its nice snug trenches and attacks the flank of the Russians. The Russians don't have any artillery or MGs deployed as they are busy marching forward. To everyones amazement, the Germans succeed in pushing back the Russian flank guard, although taking some losses in the process. Iron Crosses all around!

The Russian respond forcefully. Every gun in range unlimbers and plasters the Germans, and the Russian infantry counterattack, causing enough losses to break the surviving Germans who turn tail and run. The Russian brigade is reduced to 50% strength in the process.

The Russians continued to press forwards, they've actually got units next to the German supply train and they are only a couple of km from the German artillery positions, who are rapidly turning around to face the oncoming threat. At this rate XX Corp is going to go into the bag as only 6km seperate the leading elements of Lowicz Group and IInd Corps.

The Russian steamroller pressing up against 6th Cavalry Div. Sadly we had to call it a day at that point as the Manchester-Sheffield Wednesday football match promised gargantuan traffic jams and various people dived for the lifeboats. Jerry proposed that perhaps we could set up these positions and finish it off (hence the detailed photos of where everyone is) but we'll see.

XX Corps detached brigade are still dug in covering Galkow from the west, apparently oblivious to all those Russians behind them.

Historically the Russians captured Galkow, diring a corridor through to the encircled Russian troops in Lodz.  XX Corps fell back to the north but retained a hold on Strykow. All the German troops further south were cut off however, which posed something of a problem for von Mackenson

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Peter Pig 1/100th scale 10.5cm LG 40

The 10.5cm Leichgeschutz 40 was developed by Krupp after the success of the 7.5cm LG 40 on Crete. The weapon entered service in 1942, and although intended as another paratrooper weapon, it ended up equipped two Heer artillery battalions.

I made this up from a Peter Pig model, acquired many years ago from an ex-member of the club. It has been languishing in my spares box ever since, but given my recent spate of artillery modelling, I though it was time to give it a go.

Here it is, a squat little weapon as befits its air portable heritage. Amazingly this fired the same shells as the 10.5cm LeFH 18, albeit with different propellant charges Which was why it ended up in regular artillery battalions.

Eagle eyed readers will note that the crew don't look much like Fallschirmjager, and that is because they aren't. The 10.5cm LG40 battalions were assigned to Gebirgsjager units which fought in the Arctic and with Army Group Centre. Very eagle eyed readers will note the little 'Eidelweiss badges' on these chaps caps and right sleeves. Well, little blobs of silver paint anyway.

The PP model came with three FJ crew, but I dug out some Afrika Korps gunners and filed their cap peaks down a bit so they looked more like GJ.

View from the back. There isn't much of a trail at all, I guess because there isn't any recoil. Judging by the size of the gas aperture at the back, you don't want to stand behind one of these.

It only had four parts and went together very easily. I should have held the wheels in place with a bit of blu tak, but instead I had to use my fingers while the glue dried. Once it was all done, I just gave it a rough coat of dark blue grey, a heavy drybrush of field grey (RAL 6006) and then a dust drybrush.

It can join my ever increased collection of mountain artillery. A 105mm mountain gun! No wonder the GJ grabbed them all.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

The virus, gaming and the Battle of Actium

With the current virus lock down, I suspect I'm not going to get much face to face gaming done in the next few months. There has been some talk among the chaps about doing things via computers, but as I'm currently spending hours every day in video conferences, it isn't hugely appealing. I want the feel of lead in my hand and the social contact, but perhaps I'll come around to virtual gaming in time once I've adjusted to the new situation.

So, I shall continue to work my way through my backlog of game posts, and if I have the energy, perhaps run some solo games and write them up. I've painted all these toys and I'm damn well going to play with them.

I wish all my Internet pals well and hope that we all get through this OK. It rather reminds me of the oil crisis, the three day week and ensuing severe stagflation of the mid 1970s in terms of social dislocation, whereas my mum says it reminds her of WW2 breaking out! (in particular when men came to cut all the railings down, which she found very jarring).

Enough of that, and back to gaming.

John had come across interesting One Hour Wargame variant for ancient naval warfare, which bore some resemblance to our Dreadnought game. He put on a game of the Battle of Actium using his collection of 1/1200th scale galleys.

Mark Anthony and Cleopatras fleet floating around off the western coats of Greece. These were mainly rated as heavy battle galleys(Quadriremes? I'm very ignorant about this stuff), although Mark Anthony had a very big Grand Galley (a Quinquereme maybe?). Jerry and Tim took on the role of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra respectively.

Ah, the good guys. A bunch of 'fast galleys' (Triremes), decent at ramming but somewhat lacking in the boarding department compared to the Egyptian galleys. Our ships had professional crews which helped a bit. Simon was Agrippa, Graham was Arruntias and I got to play Octavian riding one of Lurius's ships (left, centre and right wings respectively). At some point in the future I will no doubt turn into Brian Blessed.

The well defined shore of Greece, I guess this is Actium. I'd always thought the battle was fought near Egypt!

The Egyptian left wing.

Roman centre.

The Antonine fleet set off towards our left flank. They obviously had some sort of plan. Cleopatra hung back in the rear.

We just rolled forwards in a big long line. Typical Romans, no imagination.

We used our superior speed to get within ramming range, and then things went a bit pear shaped. In this variant, initiative is rolled each turn, and naturally the Egyptians rolled a six to our five, and go the first strike in.

The first strike was pretty devasating as not only did the rammer get a ram attack, they then conducted a boarding attack too. Our ships were soon covered in hit markers. What we should have done was hung back and used our superior speed to close the distance when we did eventually get to play our turn.

The Egyptian right wing smashed into our left as well.

Our right however soon swung around the Egyptians exposed left and proceeded to conduct a series of flank and rear ramming attacks on the enemy ships pinned in boarding actions. That was a bit more satisfactory, you get double hits on a flank ram, which made up for the smaller size of our ships. Now it was the Egyptians turn to take some serious damage.

A particular success was sinking Mark Antony's Quinquereme (I rolled a six which with a professional crew meant a whopping 14 hits on a rear attack). In the real battle he'd already skulked off by now in a lighter to join Cleopatra.

Some of the Egyptians managed to batter their way through our left.

My chaps set off in pursuit, and as we were undamaged, easily caught the crippled Egyptians. While may chaps may have been good at ramming, they were utter rubbish at boarding, rolling a series of ones.

Cleoptra was meanwhile making good her escape. Jerry is helpfully pointing out that they can outrun our crippled galley.

And off she goes.

The rest of our fleet in some disarray sets off after the retreating Egyptians.

The initiative dice cruelly roll a series of draws.

But we do eventually manage to catch the last of Mark Anthony's retreating ships.

And down it goes, that is the end of Anthony's fleet, although Cleopatras Egyptians have made good their escape. So, despite the vicissitudes of fortune, the good guys won in the end and it was a remarkably historical result. I expect when I become Emporer Augustus someone will write a great poem about that one.

I'm relatively ignorant about galley warfare, but that seemed to capture the essence of the thing and was a tense and very enjoyable game to boot. One Hour Wargames triumph again.