Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Message from your Dogs of War boys...

Seasons greetings, Merry Christmas, and another inspirational New Year to all the wargaming, figure painting and collecting fraternity in the blogosphere from Doc's 'Art of War'.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The battle of East Kokoda, part 2

The battle commenced with a crescendo of mortar and mountain gun fire.  The eerie half light thrown off the mist by the star shells showed the fleeting ghostly outlines of the first waves of Japanese troops coming on - fast!
 The mist shrouded village comes under fire.

Templeton's men opened up first.  A D1 to acquire meant a 10% chance and Doug rolled well for his forward sections but less so for the Vickers which tried repeatedly to find targets.  Every allied volley was responded to with a hail of mortar and gun fire.  The Japs soon zeroed in on the Vickers and the mortar.

Templeton's men come under increasing mortar fire - the green marker indicates the mortar has been activated to fire.
In the distance at the end of a clump of jungle is the redoubtable Hajimoto-san, sniper extraordinaire.

Captain Bistrap's D Company consisting of 16th & 17th platoons (each of three 9-man sections, each with a Lewis LMG)  covered the Administration buildings at the end of the airstrip.  The Japanese were massed in a wide arc covering the end of the plateau and came on to our front and left flank. 
In order to shoot the Japs they had to be within 12" - but of course at that range, they can also see you!   Their natural inclination during the first half of the battle was to close in fast and attempt to overrun the position.  Which gave the defenders only one chance to cut them down before they got in amongst our foxholes.  Mercifully, Bistrap's leading platoon performed admirably and cut down two sections at close range.  But once their positions were revealed by firing, between the waves of advancing Japanese they were pounded by mortars, artillery and HMG fire and began to sustain heavy casualties almost immediately.

 The Japs close in on Bistrap again.  Note the Jap NCO on the edge of the Admin hut - 
the lone survivor of the 1st Banzai charge that came perilously close to getting into the position.

The Japs were now hitting us on three sides, having worked their way around in the jungle opposite the airstrip. Along with the infantry they infiltrated three snipers that began to cause casualties between the infantry assaults, picking out the officers and NCOs.  They proved to be devastatingly effective, taking out each of the Australian officers in turn.  The first to go was Bistrap.  Nice and safe in his foxhole under the Admin hut, he was forced to make a dash to his forward section to rally them after they began to panic under heavy fire (and casualties).  His 9" movement bought him agonizingly just short of the neighbouring foxhole. Here Greg and Ian rolled a D1 and BANG! - poor old Bidstrap gets it in the back.

This was the start of the disaster that was to roll over the Australian defences. 

 Bistrap's forward defence line - note the mortars observation team in the elevated hut - it didn't help as they couldn't see a thing!  Cut off by the flow of the battle they are now missing presumed dead.

Meanwhile B Company under Templeton (Doug) were coming under increasing pressure with Banzai attacks that made it right up to the edge of his position.  Together with the incessant Japanese fire, Templeton was called on to remove the suppression time and again.  Worse was to follow as the Vickers HMG - so effective in the Oivi battle - failed to acquire any significant targets before being zeroed by the Jap mortars and then taken out.
 The waves of Japs were getting closer all the time.  The lone survivor of an attack - the next overran the position
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake)

Ian's Japs now also closed in on Bistrap's now leaderless company (or what was left of it).  Somehow they acquired the target no less than four times and wiped out two Jap sections - but there were three times that number coming at them!  A third Jap section charged home and a vicious hand-to-hand ensued for the Admin hut with the remainder of the Australians holding it wiped out.

With the Japs holding the hut, the remaining section poured fire into it to wipe them out in turn (save for one crazed sword-wielding survivor).  

Doug (Templeton) beat off another charge on his position in front of the village also at heavy cost.  At this point disaster struck again for the Australians.  His position repeatedly lit up by star shells, the gallant Templeton repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to rally his exhausted men only to fall victim to the same sniper that killed Bistrap. The redoubtable 'Hajimoto-san' had struck again.
Hajimoto strikes again!
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake)
The attacks on the leading positions came in waves, interspersed with increasingly accurate fire of all kinds.  Jap commander Ian cleverly changed tactics, instead of charging in yet another section, got within the 12" and then used his numbers to win the fire-fight - outnumbering the opposing Australians more than three to one, the Japs were able to absorb their losses while at the same time pouring fire into the Aussie position.  The last remaining section of Bistrap's forward platoon were wiped out.

The final Japanese assault overruns the Australian positions on the edge of the plateau.
The last series of turns effectively involved trying to disengage from the Japanese and effect a withdrawal but saw vicious hand-to-hand fighting in which most of the surviving Australian units were caught in the Jap pincer movement and destroyed. 
 Ian's Japs close across the airstrip, trapping the survivors of Bistrap's D Company.  The survivors of B Company including the attached HQ Support section are cut down by Greg's victorious Japs as they try to withdraw through the village.

After Templeton was shot, Major Watson had bravely left his shaky Papuans - earlier they had attempted to winkle out the Jap snipers across the airstrip but it ended in failure, with the section being shot down or fleeing after their NCO was killed.  Watson got into the hut at the end of the village and successfully rallied Templeton's men for the last time.  At this point he ordered a withdrawal but this was ignored by the surviving militia NCO (clearly out of his mind eh Doug? ;-)  The Japanese charged in yet again and further hand-to-hand saw most of the surviving members of B Company wiped out.  The brave Major shot two with his faithful Webley hand-cannon but was himself shot down as he left the hut to rejoin his Papuans and the surviving Australians.  The position well-lit by shells, sniper Hajimoto-san had no trouble dispatching his third officer! BANZAI!!!

The survivors withdraw - less than three sections out of two & a half companies. The yellow counter on the roof of the hut yet another of those @#$% star shells!

Some of the 39th HQ Support attached joined up with the remaining two Papuan sections.  Some, like the observer team, were cut off and  although not killed in the final round, nonetheless are missing, presumed dead.  The final butcher's bill was over 100 Japanese (similar losses to the Oivi battle) but over 50 Australians and Papuans including most grievously, irreplaceable heavy weapons like the Vickers and all LMGs save one.

So ended the battle for East Kokoda, the battle for West Kokoda, the airstrip itself, promises to be even more challenging especially in the face of the Australians heavy losses - fully half of the 39th Battalion - virtually the only troops between the Japanese and Port Moresby!

Another brilliant scenario from Andrew - one of the most challenging I've ever played - aided by the expert handling of the Japanese forces by Greg and Ian.  A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon - pity we have to wait until next year to complete the first Battle for Kokoda!

Had to add one last 'shot' of Hajimoto, deadly sniper!
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake, tinkered with by me!)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The battle of East Kokoda, part 1

 Jap standard bearer 144th Regt of the Nankai Shitai & local commander, Lt Col Yokoyama 
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake)

The battle started slowly.  We knew the Japs were there because of the incessant bombardment that went on all night.  In the dark the Japanese started to assemble around 1500 hours in the light jungle to the north of the Australian positions.  A heavy mist rolled in, further reducing visibility for the tired defenders.

 The Japs of the Nankai Shitai amass over the other side of the river. 
(Photo courtesy Greg Blake)

The Australian forces were actually pulled out by Bde commander Lt Col Owen who, realizing his mistake rushed them back to the airfield in the nick of time.  Consisting of D, B & E Coys, 39th Btn ('D' under Capt. Bistrap comprised of two platoons each of three sections of nine) they barely had time to dig in around the Administration buildings on the northern edge of the airstrip and on the plateau on the other side of the creek next to the native village. Each section is equipped with an antiquated Lewis light machine-gun (WWI vintage) and Stens with the occasional Thompson SMG for the NCOs.

 39th Btn Australian militia 
(photo courtesy of Greg Blake)

After the disastrous ambushed patrol previously (an entire section and LMG were lost), the Australians are on edge, realising that a large force of Japanese, at least a company and possibly battalion strength, is rapidly heading their way.

Behind them, facing the airstrip and dug in along the edge of the plateau is the remainder of the Papuan Battalion under Major Watson and Australian NCOs.  After battle casualties and desertions it consists of three small sections, one equipped with a Lewis LMG.  'Man long Yapan ekom' they mutter to each other in trepidation - most of their 'wontoks' and kin in the village have long fled into the jungle.  Many of the PB have since joined them.  The Australians, many former police or government administrators have to work hard with their native constables to keep the terrified remainder together.

 Major Watson's Papuan Battalion 
(photo courtesy of Greg Blake)

Attached to the Australian defenders to give them a little clout is the 39th Headquarters Coy HMG support section consisting of a Vickers HMG and a mortar (1 x tube plus observer team).

39th HQ Support - Vickers & mortar - Maj Watson & his Papuans in the background 
(photo courtesy of Greg Blake)

On the other side of the creek along the edge of the plateau facing north are Templeton's B Company consisting of three platoons, one understrength from the clash at Oivi just a day or two before: they have the only Bren and three Lewis guns.  Thinking (correctly) that the main Jap attack will come right at them, they have the HQ heavy weapons support behind them.  

Shrouded in a heavy mist, the Australian forward defences at Kokoda 
(the yellow marker is the first of the incessant Japanese star shells that were used to light up the Aussie positions)

Jap 3" mortar and 70mm Mountain guns of the type that kept the defenders awake all night! 
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake)
The Japanese were the veterans of the South Seas Detachment - the Nankai Shitai - mainly the 1st Btn, 144th Regiment consisting of three full strength companies, each of  four platoons and with their own HMG.  The 3rd Coy also have knee mortars.  Attached also was the 15th Independent Engineers (3 x rifle platoons) So, at least four companies with artillery support coming right at us in the dark out of the mist and jungle. Terrifying not just for the native Papuan troops but for tired and inexperienced young Aussie militia too! 

The 1st Coy of the 1st Btn, 144th amass to the north directly in front of Templeton's position
- the Aussies can hear something, but can't see them. 
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake)

The Japs, hidden by the mist, close in on the Australian positions from the north

Soon the Australian positions on the northern edge of the plateau and at the end of the airstrip (part of Bistrap's platoon) were coming under increasingly accurate mortar and artillery fire.  The Aussies night vision was not helped by the incessant star shells which did help the Japs zero in on the Australian positions every time we opened fire.

Note the red 'suppressed' marker on the Aussie position - 
this became a constant problem with the continuous Jap mortar, gun and HMG fire 
(photo courtesy of Greg Blake - made 'misty' by me!)

The defenders faced rapidly mounting problems, not the least of which was the only 10% chance of acquiring a target firing into the dark and mist (only on the roll of a 1 on a D10).  This only got better for the Japanese as the game went on and the Australian positions, revealed by our firing, became continually lit up by b%*#$y star shells! 

From L - R: Andrew, Doug & myself: 
Andrew cunningly hiding in the jungle with his command while Doug and I try to figure out 
(unsuccessfully as it turned out) how we can actually get to shoot the buggers
(Photo courtesy of Greg Blake)

So that sets the scene for the battle:  the Japs have bombarded all night and are now getting their attack under way.  We know they're there - but we can't see'em!  Every time we shoot it attracts increasing volumes of fire of all sorts from the hidden Japanese.  

Diabolical scenario Andrew! 

Our opponents Greg and Ian who replaced Cameron for this round are veteran WWII gamers and know how to use all the tools in their well-equipped toolbox - particularly artillery, mortars and... snipers!   How they did so will be revealed in Battle of East Kokoda Part II!

All the figures and the scenery are Andrews' - take a look at the native huts he put together from cardboard and kebab skewers only a day or two before the game!  Amazing!  Being a former Papua resident I can attest to their accuracy: dispela man emi gut bikpela 'skills' - emi makim haus lon Papua tru!

I also have to thank the Jap commander Greg for sending me some of his marvelous photos to use.  I'm particularly impressed with the close-ups which put my old Fuji digital workhorse to shame (and a pending trip to the photographic equivalent of the knackers yard!)  

Hope you all enjoyed it - more on Kokoda in a few days.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

5th Hussars

Finally after no posts for almost a month, I finished the Perry's French hussars I started back in June. It has been quite a task even after finishing uni - work has been very busy and a few health issues and, well...  just not as speedy as I once was.  Old age is a bugger and at times its hard to get enthused. But Perry's are beautiful figures and as I've got boxes of 'em, I had to finish what I started.  So here are the results.  I've done them up as the 5th Regiment about 1809.  Probably should have done the shakos in black waterproof coverings, but that's something I can always change later, it is bothers me too much.

You can see the command stand I did earlier and the elite squadron behind them, also in kolpacks.  There are four squadrons each of four figures - roughly 1:30 figure ratio.  I have enough spares to add two figures per squadron if I want to expand the unit.

The regiment by squadron - turn to pages 4 & 5 of your Ospreys boys and girls (that's 'Napoleon's Hussars' by Emir Bukhari) - it can represent the colonne par divisions or serre' where the companies are expanded into a single line.

Oh what the heck, bugger the formation - just chaaaarge!!! 
The command.
The command (1st) and elite squadrons

Detail - Elite squadron
Elite Squadron - back detail.

Detail 2nd Squadron.  The one without his shako is a Victrix head with Perry's cadinettes!
 The 5th Hussars - back detail

That's the lot for Napoleonics for a while - too many other projects.  Must try and arrange a game or two with them but for the moment I've just finished the second Kokoda battle - or rather East Kokoda - the West portion will have to be early next year.  When I sort the photos and get Andrew's write-up(?) I'll post on it,  meanwhile, enjoy the hussars. Don't forget to click on the pics for enlargement and feel free to leave a comment.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

WWII Germans - Fallschirmjager

Walked into my friend Dean's wargaming emporium-in-a-garage (very well-stocked and comfortable it is too) and given my recent WWII gaming jag these boxes of figures immediately caught my eye.  They're boxed figures for 'Rules of Engagement' - all Artizan figures by Mike Owen for Northstar in the UK.

As I'm currently doing Kokoda and I and my mates have quite a  few Australians and Brits, the box of Fallschirmjager were particularly enticing.  Perfect for doing Crete (1941).  You get a 28 figure platoon with command (including radio) and four MGs and eight SMGs (for all the NCOs).  The figures are nicely animated with the leutnant in his Luftwaffe feldmutze barking out orders - achtung!

 There is only one figure (armed with a KAR) with camo netting on his helmet, which is a bit disappointing but you can team him up with one of the NCOs carrying binoculars and viola -  you've got a sniper team! Just got to find something appropriate to make a scope for the rifle.

To the right of the 'sniper' is the radioman, part of the 4-man command group.  In front is one of my favourites, the three-man LMG crew.  Again an NCO with a pair of binoculars completes the MG squad.  As its a light, there's no stand, so I've got the gunner bracing it on some rocks.  The flocking on the bases is my own mix of "Mediterranean" - nice and rocky and dry - just like Crete!

  The LMGs are great and with four to a platoon, there's plenty of fire-power.  These were all MG-34s, the fearsome MG-42s (with 1200 rpm!) not coming in until 1942.  Likewise you don't get the STG-44s or the later FG-42s - the world's first assault rifles - until later in the war.  I believe they had some STGs on Crete but I'm not sure.  The uniform was also going through a change. The camouflage version of the unique fallschirmjager battle smock was only just being introduced, with the green 'splinter' pattern camos starting to make an appearance.  By 1942 the brown version had largely replaced the others although the plain one was used right up until the end of the war.  For my platoon I've only given camos to the sniper.

All the NCO's are armed with MP-40 LMGs (8 per platoon).  The platoon consists of 2 x 12-man sections and a command squad of four.

My favourites are without a doubt the LMG crew lying flat.  I've got them firing from behind some rocks, with his MG-34 propped on them - better than one team where the loader has it balanced on his shoulder - you can have that job!

They're a great set and one I'll be adding to again soon with some support weapons and even an armoured car!  I'd love to fit a 1/48 tri-motor transporter model but I'll have to keep me eye out for that one - they're scarce as hen's teeth.  My next lot on the paint shelf are my French hussars, which I will be focusing on.  They're half-done and I feel guilty leaving them un-finished for so long.

Remember to double-click on the pics to see the enlargements  and feel free to leave comments on the blog if you like.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The start of the Kokoda Campaign - continuation of the first encounter battle

In the previous post we left off where we'd just (barely) beaten off the first wave of attacks.  The two squads of our 1st platoon just had enough time to dig themselves some foxholes before the Japs started to come at them.  As it was historically, the Japanese moved with astonishing speed and were literally on top of the Aussies before they knew it.  Seekamp's advance platoon was quickly surrounded by the Japanese scouting units.  Between the waves of assaults, the Jap mortars continually tried to zero in on the concealed Australian positions.  Almost from the beginning they were subjected to sustained heavy fire from mortars, MGs and even snipers, between the wave after wave of screaming Japs!

1st and 2nd sections 1st platoon dig in and await the next assault

The Japs directly in front of us formed up for their next assault and every man who could get a bead on them let loose.  Two things proved to be invaluable - the siting of the Vickers MG at the top of the track and the Papuan platoon who commander Doug (Templeton) decided to hold back in the jungle on the ridge.  Historically the ferocity of the Jap naval bombardment and landing terrified the poor local Papuans who took to the bush to hide - including most of the PIB!

Holding them back at the ridge proved to be a very smart move as it gave them a chance to do what they  actually do best - shooting.  They may have been very poor infantry but were natural hunters and very good shots.  Their shooting and the Vickers helped whittle the Japs down sufficiently to enable the 1st platoon out front to repel all but the final assaults that day.  Had they have not done so, I reckon my position would have been overrun by about turn three.

The northern (Aussie) end of the table, looking across.  The Papuan militia are in the jungle closest.  The picture was taken before the final turns of the day: the Vickers came under accurate mortar fire and the remnants of the 1st platoon & mortar section are sheltering in the jungle to the other side of the MG position.  Last assault of the day is going in on the 2nd platoon on the far side of the table.

The southern (Japanese) end of the table at the final turns of the day.  The remnants of 1st platoon have been pulled back over the river and the Japanese are just about to launch their final assaults for the day on 2nd platoon dug in on the slope on the other side of the river.  The river like the creek is shallow and no impediment to the Japanese movement!

The assaults on the 1st platoon were continuous and both squads were subjected to an endless barrage of increasingly accurate mortar and MG fire.  Unlike the clear field of fire enjoyed by the 1st section, the 2nd faced some light jungle which provided open cover for the Japs to approach much closer.  Desperate shooting mowed down the first Jap squad but was not as successful against the second, only inflicting about 30-40% casualties!

In between assaults the 1st section came under sustained and heavy mortar fire

The Japs did their 'gut check', decided to ignore the heavy casualties and BANZAIIIII!!!

Light cover afforded by the jungle enabled the Japs to get much closer to 2nd section

The Japanese ran straight at 2nd section's position.  You have a choice - bug out immediately or snap shoot and hope you get most of them before they get you.  I decided on the shooting option.  Half the remaining Japs were gunned down but at the crucial moment, the damned Lewis gun jammed - didn't get a shot off!  Enough Japs survived to go one on one with the Aussies in their foxholes.  A desperate hand-to-hand ensued where the remaining Japs were finally wiped out.   But the damage was done.  Only two men remained of 2nd section.  

 Aftermath of the assault on 1st platoon.  After loosing nearly half their men, 1st section is rallied by their officer in the cover of the jungle after mortar fire virtually obliterated their position.  The two survivors of 2nd section in their foxholes after beating off a frenzied banzai charge await the next pasting from Jap mortars and machine guns.

Once the bayonet fight was over, the mortar and MG fire resumed, killing the corporal which left the hapless Lewis gunner.  He had no choice but to try and make back over the river to 2nd platoon's position.  Halfway across - CRACK! - a Jap sniper took him out.  2nd section destroyed to a man in two turns.  The clapped out but invaluable (when working) Lewis gun ended up at the bottom of the river.  Damn!

The 1st section fared a little better, having failed their gut check twice and getting pinned in their positions, getting hammered by Jap mortars and then making a strategic sprint to the cover of the jungle where their officer and sergeant 'persuaded' them to hold before withdrawing over the river to the safety of the jungle on the other side.  Actually we just wanted to make sure we saved the SMGs and Bren!  Again accurate firing from the Papuans and Vickers MG kept the Japs at bay and enabled the remnants of 1st platoon to withdraw safely.

Meanwhile on the other flank the Japanese had emerged from the jungle.  The Jap heavy Juka MG proceeded to paste the 2nd section position, immediately inflicting casualties.

 As can be seen above, the Australians were forced to withdraw to the other side of the river, preparing themselves for a final stand!  They didn't have long to wait before the next wave of Jap assaults went in.

After wiping out another two squads of Japs the third managed to close with 2nd platoon in what was to be the last Banzai attack of the day.  Fortunately for 2nd platoon their shooting was accurate, aided by enfilading fire from the ever faithful Vickers, who had been manned by PIB after the crew were killed by increasingly accurate mortar fire - mercifully the Japs only managed to zero in for the last few turns of the game.

At this point Jap commander Cameron announced that frontal assaults on the Aussies had been halted as a battalion was now in the process of outflanking the Australian position.  Templeton and his men are now in real danger of being completely cut off from 39 Battalion at Kokoda.   Will the Aussies manage to get out of it?  The next scenario/battle to decide this will be held in about a month's time.