Monday 23 September 2013

Sidi Rezegh 1941 for Fiasco 2013

This scenario is for a battle based upon the events of 22nd November 1941 at Sidi Rezegh. The notes for this scenario were inspired by the scenario  "Broken Spearhead" in Benghazi Handicap by Frank Chadwick. They have been fleshed out with information from Sidi Rezeg Battles 1941 by Agar-Hamilton and Turner, and the members of various web forums. 

The game will be fought out at Fiasco later this year.


Dawn has brought the fifth day of Operation Crusader: The major British offensive to relieve Tobruk and throw the Axis out of Cyrenaica. Yesterday saw the hardest and most chaotic fighting of the operation so far. Between Tobruk and Gabr Saleh, British and German formations became jumbled like the layers of a cake.

From west to east: British 70th Division was trying to sally out of Tobruk; 7th Armoured Brigade and Support Group, both of 7th Armoured Division, was trying to break through to them from Sidi Rezegh to link up with them at Ed Duda; sandwiched between these forces, and fighting both simultaneously,  were Italian ‘Bologna’ and German 90th Light; 7th Armoured Brigade and 7th Support Group were facing both ways in an attempt to fend off a concerted attack by 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions travelling west out of the desert from the direction of Gabr Saleh; 15th and 21st Panzer divisions were, in turn, being harassed from flank and rear by 22nd and 4th Armoured Brigades (7th Armoured Division) which were chasing them westward.  All were west of yet another battle, at the frontier, being fought by Axis forces defending the frontier and British XIII Corps.

The fighting was intense, especially around the aerodrome between the second and third escarpments at Sidi Rezegh. Here DAK had come out on top and the British, in terms of material, had taken a pasting. However, the British had shown a good deal of tenacity and had, despite heavy losses, maintained the very important strategic position at Sidi Rezegh.

Note: As can been seen from the map below, the position commonly referred to as Sidi Rezegh, between the second and third escarpment, is strategically vital to any operation in the Tobruk area (the Tobruk perimeter is approximately 3.5 miles north west of Ed Duda). Looking north from the third escarpment (at Point 178), it appears as a flat bottomed valley with ground that rises only slightly on the far side to the ridge of the second escarpment; it is ten miles long by four miles wide; it slopes imperceptibly down from east to west; it allows the passage of large armoured battle groups, moving in formation, to freely traverse from the top of the third to the bottom of the second escarpments. The area maked L.G. is the desert aerodrome.  

The Battle Area. From a map in Sidi Rezeg Battles 1941 by Agar-Hamilton and Turner.
The Wargame Battle Area. It represents the second escarpment from, roughly Abiar el Amar to Point 163. This war game table is 12' x 6' and ground scale is 1": 50m approx.

Brigadier Campbell (7th Support Group), officer commanding at Sidi Rezegh, 22nd November 1941.

Your Support Group and 7th Armoured Brigade have spent the morning reorganizing and consolidating their position at Sidi Rezegh. 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps (less one company) with a company of 2nd Battalion, The Rifle Brigade attached, have dug themselves in on a two mile long stretch of the second escarpment with commanding views over the Trig Capuzzo. The guns of Support Group, alongside 7th Armoured Brigade, have taken up positions, in a northward facing arc, around the aerodrome. To the south of the aerodrome 22nd Armoured Brigade stands ready to support you.

Both 7th Armoured Brigade and Support Group are not in the best of shape. Jerry has caused a good deal of damage and yesterday’s losses cannot be made good. Brigadier Davy’s tanks (7th Armoured Brigade) have faired the worse: This morning he has reported that he has 28 runners, all that remain out of the 168 tanks with which he started the operation five days ago, and several of these have been hit more than once during the previous fighting. 22nd Armoured Brigade has suffered too: It is at two thirds strength following its foolhardy action at Bir el gubi against the Italians on the 19th of November and running battles with Rommel’s panzers ever since. It is a comforting thought that the Germans withdrew their armour, northward, down the wadis of the second escarpment, out of the immediate battle area this morning.  Only shelling by German heavy artillery shooting from Belhamed is currently, and sporadically, disturbing the peace.

Plans for further advances to link up with 70th Division at Ed Duda have been suspended until the infantry of 5th South African Brigade reinforce your position from the south. Major General Gott (7th Armoured Division) has personally given you orders to hold the Sidi Rezegh area at all cost. It will be the jump off point for units battering their way to relieve Tobruk. Following the arrival of the reinforcements, a northward advance on Ed Duda can be resumed. God willing, Jerry will leave you alone long enough to get things organised.


All field artillery (25pdrs) units are veterans with elite morale status. The tanks of 22nd Armoured Brigade are green troops with high morale. The tanks of 7th Armoured Brigade are trained with high morale. All infantry are veterans with high morale. 

Note: The artillery present fought with a tenacity and discipline that was remarked upon by all . Consequently, I must give it elite morale status.
Note:The tanks of 22nd Armoured Brigade have been classed as green with high morale because of their enthusiastic, over confident ineptitude during the early phases of Operation Crusader. They were, to coin a phrase, fresh off the boat.

Brigadier Campbell is a heroic, average commander. All other commanders are average. 

The infantry of 1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps, less carrier platoons, start the battle in sangars. One battery of 3rd Royal Horse Artillery (2pdrs), may be attached to  1st Battalion, KRRC and be in sangars. FOOs can deploy anywhere above the second escarpment. All other troops must deploy in their designated deployment areas.

Batteries of 3rd Royal Horse Artillery (2pdrs) that are not attached to 1st Battalion, KRRC start the battle on their portees with guns facing east.

The guns (25pdrs) of 60th Field Regiment, RA are a brigade level asset. One battery of is prioritised to the battalion command stand of 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. They start the battle deployed for action.

The guns (A and B Batteries, 25pdrs) of 4th Field Regiment, RHA are a brigade level asset. They start the battle deployed for action.

C Battery, 4th Field Regiment, RHA (25pdrs) is attached to 22nd Armoured Brigade. This battery was assigned to the brigade from the outset of Operation Crusader (it is a brigade asset). The battery is prioritised to Brigadier Scott-Cockburn. It can start the battle on table and limbered, or it can be kept as off table support deployed for action. 

22nd Armoured Brigade starts the game inactive; it cannot be moved; it cannot shoot; it cannot direct a barrage. This ruling represents the Brigade actually being somewhat south of its on table deployment area. 22nd Armoured Brigade is activated on any one of four events; activation represents the brigade's arrival in the battle area.
  1. The formation is activated on the appearance of a Desert Rats (Event) card.
  2. The formation is activated on the appearance of an Afrika Korps (Event) card.
  3. An enemy unit (other than aircraft) comes within 20”.
  4. The formation is fired upon by any ground troops.
To achieve a decisive victory, at last light (end of turn 6) you must: 
  • Hold the two points of high ground currently held by 1st Battalion, KRRC. 
  • Hold the aerodrome buildings.
To achieve a crushing victory, at last light (end of turn 6), you must: 
  • Achieve the requirements of a decisive victory.
  • Get four companies (any strength) of tanks or infantry across the northern (German) base line west of the aerodrome track – they move onto Ed Duda. 
Major General von Ravenstein, officer commanding 21st Panzer Division, 22nd November 1941.

Yesterday was a successful day for 21st Panzer Division. At the end of the day there was no doubt that you had come out on top. However, the Tommies have shown a good deal of tenacity and, despite heavy losses, somehow maintain their position at Sidi Rezegh.

This morning, following receipt of orders from DAK, 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions moved north, down the wadis of the second escarpment, to take up defensive positions. 21st Panzer Division was ordered to concentrate at Belhamed and be ready to counter-attack any resumption of the British advance on Ed Duda from Sidi Rezegh. You have disposed your formation accordingly and it has refuelled and replenished without hindrance from an enemy who seem content to stick to their ridge.

Late this morning General Rommel arrived at Division Headquarters. He has personally given you new orders. You must advance and secure the second escarpment. This area is of vital importance to the enemy for their future operations to relieve Tobruk. He has ordered you to undertake a two pronged attack. Group Knabe will make a frontal attack from the north supported by the heavy artillery of Group Bőttcher (408th Heavy Artillery) on Belhamed. Meanwhile, Group Stephan will take a circuitous route via the by-pass road to Ed Duda then attack the aerodrome from the west. He assures you that the British at Sidi Rezegh are a beaten force with nothing more to offer than a stiff upper lip. One more sharp shock will send them scurrying for The Delta.

All German troops are veterans with high morale.

Major General von Ravenstein, Lieutenant Colonel Stephan, and the commander of 2nd Battalion, 104th Schuetzen Regiment are a skilled commanders. All other commanders are average.

FOOs can deploy anywhere north of Trig Capuzzo or with Group Stephan.  All other troops must deploy in their designated deployment areas.

Two 10.5cm batteries of 2nd Battalion, 155th Artillery Regiment are a division level asset. They are prioritised to Lieutenant Colonel-Knabe. They are shooting from Belhamed; from an elevation 25m higher than the Trig Capuzzo but lower than the escarpment.

One 10.5cm battery of 2nd Battalion, 155th Artillery Regiment is attached to Group Stephan for direct fire support. It is a brigade asset prioritised to Lieutenant-Colonel Stephan.

The three batteries of 408th Heavy Artillery Battalion, Group Böetcher are Corps artillery prioritised to the general support of 21st Panzer Division. They are shooting from Belhamed; from an elevation 25m higher than the Trig Capuzzo but lower than the escarpment. 

Group Stephan starts the game inactive; it cannot be moved; it cannot shoot; it cannot direct a barrage. This ruling represents the Brigade actually being somewhat north and east of its on table deployment area. Group Stephan is activated on any one of four events; activation represents the groups's arrival in the battle area. 

  1. The formation is activated on the appearance of an Afrika Korps (Event) card.
  2. The formation is activated on the appearance of a Desert Rats (Event) card.
  3. An enemy unit (other than aircraft) comes within 20”.
  4. The formation is fired upon by any ground troops.
Optional: Two Panzer III companies (one in each battalion) can be three stands (vehicles) strong. For aesthetic purposes, the extra tanks should be represented by Panzer II tanks.

To achieve a decisive victory, at last light (end of turn 6) you must: 
  • Secure the two points of high ground currently held by 1st Battalion, KRRC. 
  • Secure the aerodrome buildings.
To achieve a crushing victory, at last light (end of turn 6), you must: 
  • Achieve the requirements of a decisive victory.
  • Cause the destruction or retreat of all British armoured units.

For movement the escarpment is type IV terrain. It provides a superior position when shooting to lower elevations. Reentrants (breaks in the escarpment) are treated as wadi (except if in column on the aerodrome track, which is type I terrain). Reentrants reach the height of the escarpment in line with the back edge of the representation of the ridge.

The high ground is treated as escarpment on its northern face and type I high ground elsewhere. It provides a superior position when shooting to lower elevations.

Wadis are type II terrain. They provide type II cover to infantry in depth, line or column formation if all stands are at least 50% in contact with the wadi bottom (a little common sense may be required here). They only provide type II cover to vehicles and guns traversing them in column.

Broken ground is type II terrain. It provides type II cover to infantry ending a move with a successful Other Difficulty check.

Aerodrome buildings provide type II cover; they do not block line of sight.

All other areas are type I terrain.

 Note: Infantry, as per usual, will treat all terrain as one type better for movement. 

Sunday 22 September 2013

New markers for my WW2 desert games

Those who follow this blog will have noticed that we have been using plastic bases (for FoW) with home made sticky labels on them to indicate various things. Partly, this was because I couldn't think of enough different things to put on more scenic looking markers - the plastic markers would be a tidy stop gap until I could. I have been thinking about counters quite a lot recently, and I have come up with enough to get going.

I will, as usual, use small stones mounted on two pence pieces as casualty markers. These counters are very easy to make and do the job very well. At the moment I am using my less arid ones but in time I will make some new, less green ones. This photo shows a stone marker to indicate a 'compromised' stand. It also shows one of the old plastic markers.
Markers to show that a unit has fired are the most commonly used markers in our games. Consequently, they need to be kept simple enough to mass produce - I've made 32 so far and may need more. They take the form of shell craters mounted on two pence pieces. The crater is a thin layer (3mm) of Miliput with a hole pressed, and widened into it with the round ended handle of a big paint brush. The scoring on the crater sides was done with the side of a darning needle mounted into an Exacto handle. Sand and grit, glued with PVA, around the craters finished them off.

Markers to indicate suppressed units has been a little more difficult to come up with. Finally, I have settled on shell bursts.These were made on two pence piece bases. The bursts are made from nails of various lengths glued to the base with a glue gun. A glue gun is essential to make these simple and quite quick to make. After being made, the shell bursts were coated in PVA and dipped in a grit heavy sand mix. I made 16 in an hour and a half.

All counters were painted and dry brushed with household emulsion with a darker than usual base coat in the shell craters and on the 'sprouts' of the shell bursts.

Next up, I'm making up some 'used smoke rounds' markers. These are based on one pence pieces. They will be sand and gritted then have some cut up 28mm white metal spears sprinkled onto them - when painted a brass colour they will look like spent shell cases. I've used these on some of my artillery bases and they look very effective.

I am still to come up with markers for surrendered troops, and may need a marker for retreating (I plan on using two shell bursts until then). Current ideas are short lengths of barbed wire (for surrendered) and casualties (for retreating) units. Both must fit onto two pence pieces. If anyone has other ideas, please let me know, especially regarding markers for retreats - I hate painting figures that are just for markers.

Please, don't tell me that I am doing something illegal with my two pence pieces. I looked up the legislation some time ago, and I'm not. It is a myth that defacing the Queen's head on coins, or despoiling coins of the Realm is against the law. The law only concerns the 'breaking up' of coins. Providing that you don't cut, grind or drill into the coin it is pretty much OK to do what you want. If you want to dip the Queen in PVA and then sprinkle her with sand and grit, you can!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Lobositz and Kolin photos from several years ago.

I thought that I had only hard copies of the photos I took on a trip to the Czech Republic several years ago. Then, whilst looking for a set of rules for Soldier Kings (that I think are permanently lost), I came across these photos on a disk. They are from 'negative thumbnails' only, but I thought I'd share.


 This shot was taken from the Austrian side of the field from just above the Morellen- Bach. There is a drop of several meters to what, pre-drainage, must have been very boggy ground; now the Morellen - Bach is allotments. The drop is steep - definitely a good place to form a defencive line. Across the valley is the Homolka Mound (left) and the Lobosch (right).
 Across the Holmolka Mound from just above Wchinitz.
 From the Homolka Mound: The Lobosch. The valley between the two is where Frederick deployed the bulk of his 10,000 cavalry.In this photo, they charged from left to right. It is great cavalry ground. 
 From the Homolka Mound: The town of Lobositz. In the mid distance (centre left), just above the strip of white buildings, is the Elbe.
 From the Homolka Mound: The southern end of the field. I believe that the built up area in front of the industrial complex is Sullowitz.
 Myself and Mark Dudley on the Homolka Mound. In the far distance, more volcanic mounds - any battle around these parts would probably feature one.
 From the edge of Wchinitz: The valley between the Homolka and Lobosch opens out onto a very flat plain. It must have been quite something, 10,000 cavalry moving forward on that misty morning. 
 ....and that volcanic mound really is quite an inspiring battlefield feature. This was one of the best visits to an unexploited (no museum, etc. - not that that is a good thing) battlefield that I've ever made. From the Homolka especially, you can 'see it all happening'.


 From the top of the slope - looking towards Brzistwi. The tops of the trees you can see are in a short steep sided gorge.

 These are the 30 Years War earthworks that must have been used by the Austrians and might explain why they were able to hold the Prussians so easily.
 From the earthworks looking down towards the Kaiser Strasse: It is definately higher, definitely a superior position from which to view the enemy, but it is not a slope that would impede movement. What a killing ground.
 More earthworks running around the church at Krezechorz.
The church.

The Kolin Monument. I can't rotate the thumbs on the disk.

Currently, my brother-in-law is living in Prague. I intend to revisit Kolin, next year perhaps. This trip was fleeting - perhaps an hour or so - and it left me uninspired. More exploring next time; next time without the (very bored) ladies. 

BTW, Chotusitz is also in the area and we went there on route to Kolin. You can see Chirkwitz Pond from the main road, but the rest is covered by a secured military airbase - can assume that it was always billiard table flat? This is one you should, if you have limited time, miss.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

Stop laughing at my smokes - It's the way I tell 'em

This week I've made some heavy duty smokescreen smoke.  Why on earth have you done it that way, I here you ask, surely cotton wool / duvet stuffing looks better?

Maybe it does to you, though to me it just looks like clumps of cotton wool. When I have used it in the past it has hung around for months and I can't count the time I've spent picking strands of the stuff off figures, bases, terrain, etc. And God forbid that anyone should wear a jumper. It tends to get squashed in storage, blows about in anything approaching Beaufort 1, and it mysteriously tends to get longer (to cover more frontage) during games. Also, after a while, given the other uses for cotton wool, it takes on the appearance of something you would rather not handle. With that in mind, and remembering the model hedges of times long gone, I decided to do 'cartoon' smoke to go with my 'cartoon' WW2 figures.

2 packs of cheap sponges were obtained from Boyes (69p for 6, but only 2 in a pack were white). I cut these in half, as shown. 

Then I pinched (between thumb and forefinger) chunks out of the sponge to give an irregular shape. 

Now I have to admit that I made a mistake here. Later, I found out that I had not pinched enough from the bottom edges - the smoke looked too firmly planted to the ground and I had to pinch out some more after some painting had been done.
I painted the sponge, with brush and a squeeze, a dirty grey colour using a mix of white emulsion and some cheap acrylics.
 Then, in three coats, the first whilst the undercoat colour was still damp, I stippled and dry brushed them with white emulsion. 

I decided to base the smoke screens on 5" long 2mm MDF bases, textured with sand and grit, and again painted with household emulsion.
This is what they look like on the table.

With the paint they are now quite rigid and will be easy to store. They have also lost all of their static charge; which worried me during the pinching out process.

I believe jumpers may well be in vogue again this season.

Saturday 7 September 2013

Sidi Rezegh - Set for an upcoming game.

Following two games, each with a slightly different layout and scenario plan, I have decided to play it for a third time. The main difference between this scenario and the other two is that I have done away with the arrival of reinforcements from off table (see previous posts on this scenario). I am lucky in that I have a table that is twice the length of the one the used in Benghazi Handicap by Frank Chadwick and I can use the extra space for reinforcements to be deployed on table and far enough away to still seem distant. In the previous games the battle has been fought as two separate actions at different ends of the table, one between the infantry and one between the armour, this has made complex arrival times, and so forth, redundant anyway. 

Hopefully, this scenario should now work much more cleanly (I hope), and if it does we will take it to Fiasco as a demo-game later this year. With that in prospect I have taken some steps to improve the terrain. I have made 16 feet of wadi sections (some of which is being used here); three new 'hills' for the escarpment; and a few more feet of road; I have also made the singular feature of the battlefield that is readily identifiable to those who know about this action, the feature that gives the battle its name, I have made a representation of the Sidi Rezegh Mosque (BTW, apparently, Sidi Rezegh was an Islamic holy man; something like a Christian saint). I may, at some point, try and make some more appropriate aerodrome buildings (a tin hangar and a control tower?) for the landing ground so that it looks a bit 'Hollywood'.

If this scenario does work, I will post full scenario notes and briefings. Until then.....

The Battlefield:


 German infantry of Group Knabe, 8th MG Battalion and regimental troops.
More of Group Knabe, 2nd Battalion, 104th Rifle Regiment.
 Group Stephan - 5th Panzer Regiment and its attached elements. It is deployed in a typical formation with artillery and infantry sandwiched between its two Panzer battalions.
Panzer II, III, and IV in roughly the right proportions with towed artillery and infantry .
The British. They are deployed in three concentric arcs. North to south: Infantry, then guns, then armour.
British infantry of 1st Btn, Kings Royal rifle Corps overlooking trig Capuzzo from their sangars. 
 Two regiments of 25pdrs (three of the 4 batteries) await orders.
Guns of Support Group and some of what remains of 7th Armoured Brigade.
22nd Armoured Brigade, fanning out over 4 km of desert. 
The tiny Mosque of Sidi Rezegh.

One last thing, have I shown you this? Is that unit behind the flank?
 I picked up this 'builders spirit level laser' from Woolworth's when it was open. It casts a straight line onto a surface rather than a one point beam. It is actually MUCH brighter than it appears here. It's great for LOS - £5 well spent! The photo is from one of the previous re-fights of this action. I was commanding the valiant 22nd. BTW, umpires call - Not Out.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Fortifications at St. Martin, Ile de Re

I've just got back from a holiday in France. I stayed in the old village of St. Martin, on the island of Ile de Re (Isle of Kings), off the coast of La Rochelle. The village is sited within Vauban fortifications which, except for two modern road entry points, is completely unspoilt. Most of the fortifications are accessible to the public - the one exception is the citadel, which is being used as a high security prison. 

The island has been subject to attack, most famously by the Anglo-Dutch fleet under the command of the Duke of Buckingham during the French Wars of Religion: He tried to capture the island. It was this fleet that caused the significant damage to the church - still partially a ruin. 

Here are some photos taken during my stay. There are a few more from the top of the church tower which give an idea of the area they cover. I will add them ASAP.

(BTW. The exact position of the rented cottage is at the small green space - a tennis court - between the Route de l'Omeau and Cours Pasteur. As a holiday location I can thoroughly recommend the island).

 The gate closest to the citadel. It is accessible. 
 One of the modern road entrances passes what must be a magazine. It lies just inside the fortifications, opposite the citadel, and the mound affords significant protection from incoming fire.  
 The bastion complex just two minutes walk from my holiday cottage. This shot shows one of the access points to the ditch - in this case the door to a very dark spiral staircase.
 From the same viewpoint, the ditch.
 The rear corner of the bastion from the ditch.
 Access to the bastion is a narrow stairway.
 A sally port in the inner wall.
 The sally port inside.
 The ravelin gate further along the fortifications. This is almost at right angles to the main gate which lies beyond a further bridge.
 A well inside the ravelin gate.
 The bridge from the ravelin to the main gate. It is identical to the gate at the citadel end of the fortifications. 
A side view of the looong bridge.
 The bridge is well covered from the inner defences.
 Inside view of the gate.
Just to show the symmetry, a shot taken from the other gate's bridge. Compare with above.