Clotted Lard

Clotted Lard

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Stopping the Gap - I Aint Been Shot Mum (IABSM)

For one of our three games this month, Ian wheeled out his 15mm Normandy collection to stage a small fictitious battle from a free scenario designed by Richard Clarke using IABSM.

The scenario recreates what must have been one of many similar struggles going on in the closing days of the Normandy campaign in late summer of 1944 as the allies fought hard to close what became known to history as the 'Falaise Pocket'.

The briefing and our table set up sets the scene and the map below is based on the one I quickly scribbled together noting the opening positions of the German troops and with the red arrows indicating the likely path of the oncoming Tommies.

As the German commander of this scratch force the situation could only be described as a 'last man, last bullet' one with really the only objective to fight for as long as possible, causing as much damage and delay to the advancing British column before likely being overwhelmed.

The one possible hope of seriously damaging the British advance lay in the 105mm battery in support of my position in a similarly parlous state having lost its transport in the retreat and now resigned to delivering as much of its remaining ammunition in our support.

The picture below is seen from the eastern end (British) of the table with blinds laid and the card deck arranged ready to start.

The British blinds are placed on table ready to begin the British advance

As the British and German blinds became active, the usual pre-battle routine of spot the enemy began and Zug 2 together with the attached MMG under Obst.Fh. Christiansen got the drop on a British platoon advancing across fields to its front among a small group of houses at the front of the village.

Deploying off their blind, not placed on table as they were occupying heavy cover, the MG42 let fly with a long burst supported with additional rapid rifle fire from Zug 2 shredding the lead British section and sending it reeling back into the middle of the field.

Zug 2 and the MMG team open fire on the British in the next field

As the staccato of rapid small arms and machine-gun fire erupted on the German left flank, the unmistakable clanking and labouring engine noises from tanks were soon heard before being seen by Zug 1 occupying a shattered French cottage on the right flank beside the road and the hastily marked out dummy minefield.

Hopefully the appearance of mines across the road and the nearby ditches might hold the Tommies up long enough whilst they attempted to investigate it to allow the artillery observer to telephone back a fire mission.

Shock and casualties, the result of the German fire from the buildings beyond the hedges

The British tanks were soon identified as the lighter American Stuart types and understandably in such close terrain they were advancing in a cautious manner with supporting infantry either side of the road.

Unfortunately for Unst. Fh. Spielplatz and Zug 2 with their attention very much focused towards the road and the approaching tanks, they failed to observe the Tommy infantry moving in on their position on the extreme right through the hedgerows that allowed them to put in an immediate close assault that was beaten off but not without losing halve the men in the section.

The British tanks are soon spotted advancing cautiously up the hill road

With the battle well and truly under way, the British platoon caught in the field before Zug 1 rapidly fanned out attempting to get into cover behind the thick banked hedgerows as the 'plop, plop' puffs of mortar smoke rounds dropped in front of the German position severely restricting the visibility.

Meanwhile the centre British platoon coming abreast of their position opened up a lively fire on Christiansen's position and Zug 1 took early casualties, convincing their commander that now might be the time to pull back to another stop point, leaving the MMG team to cover the withdrawal.

Zug 1, their attention focused on the road about to be close assaulted by British infantry manning the hedges to their right

With an hour of battle already underway and British troops now clearly identified in front of the German position it became an immediate necessity to get some artillery support to reduce the pressure on the forward units and allow them to break off having caused initial casualties and now needing to relocate before becoming pinned and overwhelmed.

The British tank commanders nervously concentrating on scanning the nearby hedgerows with fingers firmly on the trigger

The British commanders were doing their best to stop the Germans identified to their front from escaping and feeling more confident that they had a better understanding as to where the initial threat was positioned brought the tanks forward to bolster the fire from the infantry with their 37mm guns firing small HE rounds at neighbouring buildings.

The British platoon rapidly reorganises after the shock of the first German attack issuing orders to the 2" mortar to lay smoke

The first attempt to call in artillery fire failed as did the second and thus both Zug commanders were forced to fall back as best they could without the cover of the German artillery and with the HQ in the village keen to keep the second MMG in reserve and undetected until the British closed in on the village itself.

 Obst.Fh. Christiansen leads the remains of Zug 2 back along the hedgerows having successfully broken contact

In the end both German infantry Zugs managed to break contact and start to work their way back into the village as best they could but not without casualties and the MMG team covering Zug 2 were wiped out in a close assault as the British infantry under cover of their smoke cleared the forward buildings on the German left.

As the British move up to the outskirts of the village the one remaining MMG team open up on the unsuspecting Tommy infantry

With both forward German positions cleared and with the minefield identified as a dummy the British troops together with their tanks advanced within site of the centre of the village aligned along the lane leading to the group of houses recently cleared.

As the British company commander assessed the situation and issued orders for the final assault to clear the small hamlet, the noise of battle was rent with the crashing and roar of high explosive as the German artillery battery finally joined in the fight.

With the forward German positions cleared and the minefield identified as dummy the British line closes in on the village

With the first marker round landing in the lane close to the British company HQ, the observer in the church spire called in 'fire for effect' and the British section closest to the fire lost six men and a nearby PIAT team was also killed, with the fire pinning the remaining troops.

If that wasn't bad enough a stay behind German sniper located in the rear most buildings vacated by Zug 2 attempted to take out the British company commander, missing the senior officer but killing two soldiers from a neighbouring section and leaving them in shock.

The British Company HQ sets up behind the lane just before first German spotting round lands in front of their position

Then to add final insult to injury the remaining German MMG team opened up on the infantry supporting the British tanks coming up the hill shredding another section and drawing HE fire from the tanks in response shocking the crew.

With two hours of battle completed the fight was entering the closing stages as the British reeling under artillery, sniper and MMG fire prepared to bring numbers to bear supported by their tanks with a section charging forward under fire to clear the MMG team after another softening up by the tanks.

With British troops manning the hedges and walls along the lane German artillery and a lone sniper firing from the roof on the right open up on the British and their command team

With the position under extreme pressure another barrage of artillery landed shredding the British platoon on the lane as the Panzerschreck team opened fire just as the British closed in on the nearby MMG team.

The German anti-tank round was devastating when it hit the Stuart dead centre causing a massive explosion in the vehicle as the ammunition and fuel 'cooked off' causing the neighbouring tank to test for shock from the explosion which effectively pinned it for the next turn.

However the explosion caused yet more casualties to the British infantry in and around the stricken tank.
As the British attempt to close on the village under German artillery and MMG fire, the Panzerschreck team open fire on the British tanks

With the MMG team lost and the Panzerschreck team about to share their fate the last shots were heard down on the German left as the sniper opened fire, again killing two men and shocking the section concerned.

Stmch. Fh. Fleischessen covering the extreem left flank and realising that no British tanks threatened his area ordered his men to ditch their antitank grenades and reverted to being riflemen opening up on the British section advancing through the orchards.

The final mini-battle saw one of Fleischessen's men killed with two Tommies killed in return, which pretty much seemed to sum up the day with the British set fare to clear the village but having been made to pay a heavy price in dead and wounded.

At the end of our game I couldn't help but think of the famous picture of Canadian Major David Curry VC, pictured at the close of a similarly seriously fought battle to clear the village of Saint Lambert-sur-Dives, blocking the final escape route of German troops out of the pocket.

Perhaps a fitting tribute of a game to the men who fought the Normandy campaign on this the one hundredth anniversary of Armistice Day.

Thanks to Ian for pulling our game together and to Dickie, and Andy for a fun afternoon.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Clotted Lard Support for Combat Stress

With next year's 'Clotted Lard' Lardy Day already booked into the club calendar we have just received a very appreciative acknowledgement from Combat Stress for the monies raised at this year's meeting.

I know club members will be very happy to see that the fun we had on the day has helped support a very worthwhile cause and one that has a growing need for continued public funding.

Here is to next year's day and an opportunity to raise yet more monies for this charity and once again thank you to everyone who contributed in 2018.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Chain of Command 1940

Leutnant Christoph von Rall looked up from his bowl of Erbswurst as shouts of alarm were heard. The Amis were attacking! He rushed over to his Panzer IIC and heard Oberleutnant Roth shouting to
advance and engage the enemy infantry. As the German infantry ran forward he ordered his driver to
advance. Gunfire came from the treeline ahead and German soldiers fell under a hail of machine gun

Following the release of the Chain of Command 1940 supplement I put on a game using the lists
from the book. The scenario was a meeting engagement. The Germans had a four squad platoon with a Pak 36 anti-tank gun in support, plus a mixed Panzer platoon of a Panzer 38t leading a Panzer IVC
and a Panzer IIC. To counter this the Allies had a French platoon of three squads with a Hotchkiss MG in support and a mixed Armoured platoon with a Char B1 in command, leading an R35 tank plus the British had sent along a Matilda II and a Morris CS9 armoured car. One major difference in the forces was that the German and British vehicles all had radios but the French did not, restricting the benefit of the French senior leader. I expected this to make a difference, but as things turned out it had little bearing on the game.

The French pushed all their infantry up on their right flank, relying on the armour to hold the left and
deal with any German tanks. The Germans deployed their forces evenly spread, with the Panzer IV
and Panzer II engaging the French infantry while the Pak gun and Panzer 38t engaged the tanks.

The Char B advanced in the middle of the table and was quickly engaged by the Panzer 38. The
German gunners aim was good, but the heavy armour of the Char deflected the shot. The French
tank commander then returned fire and the Czechoslovakian tank was no match for the French gun,
exploding in a ball of flame. First blood to the French and a significant loss of morale and command
for the German Panzer platoon. Meanwhile the Pak was firing at the R35 and Morris car on the
French left. The R35 shrugged off several hits but failed to return fire with any effect. The Morris was fired at once and promptly retreated behind a wood, where it stayed for the rest of the game. The
early loss of the German panzer senior leader completely wiped out their radio advantage. Oh well,
never mind.

On the French right things went well for the French initially. Sustained fire from two squads and the
Hotchkiss MG were effective in pinning two German squads as well as inflicting some casualties. The German infantry were struggling to get an effective response, until the Panzer II and IV arrived and started laying in accurate and effective fire. The two Panzers were very cautious of the Matilda II
loitering nearby, but managed to cause a significant amount of shock on the French infantry.

The fortune switched to the Germans when the Panzer commander decided to advance both his
tanks as fast as he could. The Matilda managed to hit the Panzer IV and kill its gunner, but the
Panzer II sped into the wood and drove straight over a French section. Despite only having three shock they failed to get out of the way and three men were crushed under its tracks. The Matilda II advanced and fired at the Panzer II, missing wildly. Then the Panzer drove off again, hitting another section of French infantry. These only had two shock on them, so surely they would get out of the way! Not so, a roll of '1' saw the French soldiers stand in amazement as they Panzer bore down on them, crushing a further six men under its tracks as it drove past the Matilda. A double '6' roll gave the Panzer another roll and it barrelled on towards a very battered unit. With too much shock to get moving these were also overrun and another four men fell.

The Matilda turned its turret and finally reacquired the Panzer II as it drove away. A beautiful rear
shot would put paid to the impudent little tank. Or not. the British gunner was obviously shaken by
the blood strewn sides of the Panzer and his shot missed, not by much but by just enough. The
Panzer II turned and fired back and, despite only have an AP strike of '3' against the Matilda's armour
of '7', he shot it through a vital spot and destroyed the British heavy tank.

On the left flank things were stationary as the Pak and R35 fired at each other while the Char B tried
to kill off the German infantry in the wood. All the focus, and most of the command dice, went on
the right flank.

The loss of so many men, including two junior leaders, from the French infantry platoon was enough to break their morale, so the Germans held and drove the Allies back in disarray. The Germans were
not unscathed with both platoons having lost several morale points, but the French had lost too
many to hold. The Panzer II was the overall champion of the battle with a Matilda II and seventeen Frenchmen falling to its mighty 2cm gun.

Thanks to Charlie, Chris, Colin and Ollie for playing in the spirit of the rules. Hopefully they enjoyed
it, I know I enjoyed umpiring and watching.

Christoph climbed out of his turret amazed that he had survived. As the infantry gathered around his
tank cheering he looked back along the path of his tank and saw the dead infantry next to the
smouldering British tank. Beyond that he could see his commanders shattered and burning Panzer
38. Who knows, maybe he would get promoted.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Nelson Who? - Trafalgar re-fight using Grand Fleet Actions in the Age of Sail

Battle of Trafalgar by John-Thomas Serres

This is a report of our victorious action against the English pirates under Admiral Lord Nelson and his nefarious bunch of vagabonds. We in the glorious Spanish Fleet under Admiral Don Federico Carlos Gravina, shamelessly made second to a mere Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve by the Beast Emperor Napoleon, managed a magnificent victory over the not so glorious Royal Navy of England.

The rules used in this Trafalgar re-fight

Following the instruction of the Beast to form a fleet to threaten England Admiral Villeneuve fled his
usual hiding place Toulon. With us meeting with him after he left the Mediterranean and
accompanied him on his summer cruise to the Caribbean. Why he went there rather than taking on
Adm.. Lord Nelson we have yet to determine. Probably French cowardice.

We eventually made it back to Cadiz in September 1805.
After much vacillation and 'noncing about', the Beast’s lap dog Villeneuve finally gave orders to leave port. Leaving port, in as much disarray as only the French could arrange, we made to sea
heading for the Mediterranean and hopefully the glory of Spain. We shook ourselves into proper
order thanks to the efforts of the professionalism of the Spanish commanders and headed south.

Early on the 21st October 1805 the English Fleet were spotted to our west and we hoped for a
chance to best the English. Only to have the Beast’s coward order a retreat to Cadiz, yet again
throwing the French into total disarray, with the English twenty miles away. This was compounded by the wind shifting against our fleets and giving the damnable English the weather gauge!

The mad English, ever impetuous for action drove straight at our lines. Slowly as the wind was light.
Our gallant R. Adm. Baltasar Hidalgo de Cisneros on the Santissima Trinidad, his flagship, was first
into the fight [The Coward Le Pelley still pushing hard for Cadiz]. A few smart broadsides from our
heroic ships in his squadron and the English formed line in accordance with the English Fighting
Instructions. The lead ship HMS Victory having enough of the hot fire and, as the English would say
‘bottled it’. As our squadrons passed each other in opposite directions, more hot fire was poured
into the English ships. The Victory leading it’s squadron and wing of the English fleet passed Adm.
Villeneuve’s squadron where more shot was exchanged, again the gallant Spanish taking the lead in
the action.

During this time V. Adm. Collingwood of the English fleet also tried his luck in a headlong charge,
again to be blunted by V. Adm. Ignacio Maria de Alava y Navarrete in the Santa Anna. Again the
English wing resorting to the English Fighting Instructions and trading broadsides with limited effect.

It was only with V.Adm. Alava putting the Santa Anna [112] in the path of the English Victory
[literally] that the English were brought to action. Adm. Lord Nelson veering off with most of his
squadron with only HMS Conqueror [74] courageous enough to come to close quarter action. With
the 2 ships thudding together the action was led by our heroic sailors in sweeping on the conquerors
decks. With a fierce and hard fought action our heroes being beaten back to our own ship, only for
the ferocious English to take the fight back to the Santa Anna, within the hard fought action V. Adm.
Alava was struck down dying on his deck. The Santa Anna was taken as a prize by the English.

During these actions V. Adm. Collingwood and Adm. Lord Nelson of the English fleets, whilst still
firing broadsides were heading to the south and I’m sure trying to escape the battle. It was only the
English Commodore Conn in the Dreadnought bringing up the rear of Collingwood wing that ordered
his whole squadron to close and attempt to board our ships under R. Adm. Charles-Rene Magon de
Medine. All attempts being hotly contested by both the French and our heroic Spanish sailors.

Unfortunately in the hard fought action Montannes [74] fell as a prize to the Thunderer [74]. All
other actions being fought to a stand still and all other ships breaking off.

At this point the English declared they had had enough, time for their afternoon tea I think, and they
broke off and heading for Gibraltar to lick their wounds and contrive a report of a victory.

The battle was a raging success to our heroic Spanish fleet. It is hoped that a square in Madrid will be
named after this battle with a statue to the true hero of the battle V. Adm. Ignacio Maria de Alava y

Trafalgar is always a difficult battle to recreate as there is so much expectation on the Royal Navy
side due to the legendary colossal victory Adm. Lord Nelson achieved and his death in bringing it
about. Psychologically this is always perceived as an easy win for the RN. However it’s anything but.
In this action, with the Royal Navy team deciding to follow the English Fighting Instructions and not
do as Adm. Lord Nelson did, break the line, board and destroy everything in sight. This resulted in a
very inconclusive win to the English side. With most of the allied fleet making it back to Cadiz. Adm.
Villeneuve will undoubtedly try and claim a victory and still be cashiered by Napoleon.

So, in this alternative universe we have to ask; Nelson who? With there being a Trafalgar Square in
Madrid with Alava’s column in the centre of it.


Saturday, 20 October 2018

Battle of Convent Bay, Haitian Revolution - Sharp Practice II

With 25,000 dead and 30,000 wounded British troops (more to disease and the jungle than battle),
the Crown forces decided to abandon all but Port St Nicholas and Ile de Tortue to the revolutionaries
under Toussaint.

As part of that withdrawal, a force of Royal Marines and black chasseurs, were sent to secure the
Convent of Perpetual Motion and cover the evacuation of the nuns to a waiting Royal Navy sloop.
With this force in position, French trained black infantry could be seen advancing on the convent and
the jungle was alive with freed slaves and Maroon skirmishers. Judging the situation critical, parties
of sailors, more native chasseurs and local militia advanced from the small port to cover the nun's
route to the waiting ship.

As the revolutionary line infantry shook out into line, they delivered an effective long range volley
into the face of the British marines. Not ones to let such a slight go unchallenged, the steady British
line returned the favour. As these two forces settled into exchanging volleys, a mass of freed slaves,
led by a Voodoo shaman, rushed out of the woods. Seeing the threat, the British deployed their
native chasseurs, who settled down to skirmishing with the advancing mass of former slaves.
Maroon skirmishers were now firing on the "Jolly Jack Tars" advancing from the port and taking fire
from more native chasseurs supporting their efforts. After a short exchange, one party of Maroons
remembered an important appointment elsewhere, but three more groups continued firing from the
jungle and swamp.

The tars were starting to suffer, but pressed on. Seeing the flank of the enemy line troops in the
distance, they made a hopeful charge. Their dander must have been up, as they flew forward like
demons, sweeping away a group of revolutionary uniformed troops and forcing the rest of the line
into melee. Loses were heavy on both sides and the Tars were routed, but not before they had
severely mauled the best troops the enemy had.

Meanwhile the freed slaves were starting to fatigue as they approached the marines. Skirmish fire
from the chasseurs had caused considerable "shock" in the irregular tribal mass and their advance
slowed to a crawl. The shaman saw the danger, slit a chicken's throat and smeared himself in its
blood, whilst invoking the help of the spirits. His men were greatly encouraged and with their morale
restored, charged. Well I say charged, more strolled really. A result of 5 on 3D6 is not a great roll and
the British line had time to turn to face, but not reload. With the situation critical, the free men were
encouraged to renew their efforts and got into hand to hand combat with the supporting chasseurs,
sending them running.

Meanwhile another party of sailors was suffering at the hands of the maroons and decided to fall back.

With the situation critical, the British line saw off the charge of the first group of former slaves, but
took loses and fell back.

On both sides force morale was a dangerously low levels. The next activation looked critical and a
group of Maroon skirmishers got the drop on the retreating Tars. One volley later, the sailors were
running for their ship and British morale collapsed.

An interesting game to Sharp Practice 2 rules. To be fair things could have gone either way and at
one point the revolutionary side looked to have lost, when the sailors charged their firing line in the
flank. At the end of the day one point separated the two sides morale rating, but it was one point
that counted.

All in all not a good day to be a nun.

Many thanks to Chas for putting on the game. Thanks also to Bob & Chas for gallantly playing the
British and to Nathan for manfully joining me on the side of the valiant free.