Thursday, 23 August 2012

Fighting Patrol, somewhere south of San Carlos

Yesterday evening we had our first foray into re-fighting the Falklands war. Using Cold War 83 rules, two fighting patrols clashed on a rainy night a couple of days after the British landed at San Carlos.
The British Paras force consisted of a platoon headquarters with a recently graduated 2nd Lieutenant, and a signaller both armed with Sterling SMGs and a veteran sergeant with an SLR, together with a rifle section with GPMG, Bren Gun, Corporal with Sterling and five toms with SLRs. All the Paras had bottle ratings of 8 (experienced regulars - they'd all done tours in Northern Ireland) and with the exception of the officer and sergeant who were rated at a bottle of 9, to reflect their leadership qualities, and a tactics skill of 2. Eleven men all up.
The Argentinians fielded a platoon command group of one pistol armed officer, a radioman and NCO, both with FALs plus four other soldiers armed with FALs. A sniper armed with a Mauser bolt action rifle completed the group.
A full strength section of ten men led by an SMG weilding NCO completed their force. One MAG LMG, a rifle grenade launcher and seven FALs equipped the balance of the section.
The Argentinians were rated at a bottle value of 6 as conscripts, with the exception of the officer and the NCOs who were rated at 7. The Argies lack of training and experience was partially offset by some better kit, particularly night sights and goggles.


The paras' platoon sergeant follows two toms as they advance to contact. The leading para is armed with a Bren gun.

I'd not had time to write up a formal scenario so the two forces were simply instructed to advance to contact and to try and inflict enough casualties to break their opponent. The Brits had to roll against their leader's bottle once they sustained 50% casualties rounded down i.e. six men and the Argies had to do the same at 33% or six casualties. A failure meant the force broke. Further rolls were to be made at 66% and 50% casualties respectively and so on.

The two little armies could only see one another at around 100m on a dark, wet night so we only diced against bottle for movement once contact was made. Until that point both sides were walking. There was a little positioning as this occurred - obviously the players could see their opponent's figures - but by alternately moving units no-one gained an advantage and we felt that the two sides knew the enemy was about and could probably hear them on the wind so this wasn't entirely unrealistic.

GPMG gunner Big Tony goes 'firm'.
Once contact was made the initial exchange of fire was brutal. Barry the Bren Gunner tried to fire the first burst as an Argentinian emerged out of the darkness in front to him - critical failure! Dud rounds meant he pulled the trigger and nothing happened!
After that debacle the paras reacted characteristically and got plenty of rounds down range and moved quickly and aggressively to close. Barry ran straight at a terrified Argie conscript swinging his Bren like a club and was promptly shot dead at point blank range...
Argies taking fire
The Argies were taking hits though and a number were suppressed and one killed- SMG fire being particularly nasty at short range. Our intrepid young para officer climbed up some rocks above three of Galtieri's finest and pulled the pin out of a grenade...which promptly exploded killing him instantly. Sergeant Watson immediately assumed command and the toms began working round the Argies right flank in a series of hand to hand fights. It wasn't at all a pushover - another para was down, wounded by a desperate Argentinian conscript literally fighting for his life. There was a nasty little episode as two paras bayoneted their opponent in revenge.
The action began to slow as both sides drew breath and nearly everyone went to ground. NCOs on both sides could be heard shouting orders and as dawn approached the Argentinian casualties reached their first break point. The bottle roll was duly passed but, using his night vision binoculars Lieutenant Tevez had spotted a para armed with a GPMG hiding in a cluster of rocks. He rightly decided that it was time to break off before the light improved and his men were both outgunned and out ranged.
The butcher's bill was two paras killed and one wounded and two Argentinian dead, three wounded and one missing. The missing man was later found hiding behind a gorse bank half way down the road to Darwin...
Thanks to Chris and Jeff for being so sporting and patient as we worked through the adaptations we'd made to the rules and learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing sides.
Next time we might introduce mortar fire and hidden deployment and once the slit trenches and foxholes arrive that I've ordered then the Argentinian prospects of survival will increase.
What was realistic was that with poorer quality troops the Argentinian ability to manoeuvre was heavily restricted and they did better if they simply got their heads down, stayed put and fired when they could.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Falklands Project Introduction

Corporal 'Dobber' Dodd off on a nice walk to Teal Inlet...

I have considerable ambivalence about gaming the Falklands War

Aside from the fact that a number of my contemporaries fought in it, I'm uncomfortably aware this short victorious war cemented Thatcher's second election victory and gave her Government the confidence to take on the miners.

The war is fascinating nevertheless, and as time has passed the jingoistic tub thumping has been replaced by what passes for a more considered analysis in the literature.

Also, I can't ignore the black humour - as exemplified by Private Eye's spoof 'Sun' front page. Apparently Sun editor Kelvin McKenzie's response to the 'Kill an Argie and win a Metro' strapline was 'why didn't we think of that?'...

So, I've been painting up some paras and marines in 20mm from Platoon 20, FAA and Stonewall miniatures as well as some Argies from for them to fight.

Pictures to follow.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Islands of No Return

War for Slow Readers is tabbing out of Angola and fighting fascists in the southern sea - check out our new page 'Falklands 1982'...

We're still going to be fighting in Africa, but expect excursions to Goose Green and Longdon as well...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The People's Tank

The T-55 is the VW Beetle of tanks: as far as I'm aware more of these behemoths have been built than any other tank.

This weekend, thanks to a birthday present from my wife, I had the opportunity to drive one. Specifically a T-55 AM2 of doubtful provenance. Possibly built under licence in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and upgraded in the 1980s, this vehicle had instruments with Czech, Polish and Magyar language writing on them.

Wherever it came form and wherever it served it is uncompromisingly  a piece of classic Russian Cold War armour. This T-55 is 42 tonnes of  powered by a supercharged 39 litre V-12 diesel putting out 620bhp. Armed with a 100mm gun and kitted out with a laser rangefinder and spaced armour it it very similar to the tanks that took on the SADF in Angola in the 80s.

Driving it was an experience. Not built of comfort, the driver's compartment is very cramped. The pedals and levers are heavy and unforgiving but once you get used to using both hands to change gear and bracing your back against the seat so you can get enough leverage to depress the clutch, the overwhelming impression is one of power and manoeuvrability.

Me in the driver's seat. Spaced armour on the turret makes access and egress very difficult. Note the laser range finder above the main gun, the co-axial machine gun and the smoke discharger.

And we're off,.Matt instructs me in the finer points of steering - to turn you pull one of two levers which, when it goes into a 'notch', disengages the drive to that track and you abruptly start to turn. It's not graduated or smooth - but it works...

 Full speed ahead and damn the ATGMs!

We're heading for the treeline across a muddy field. The T55 takes bumps in it's stride - it was surprisingly well sprung - and mud poses no problem - as you'd expect from a Russian design.

 This shot could well be described as a NATO gunner's eye view - the exhaust smoke and noise is a bit of a giveaway - you're not going to sneak up on the capitalists in one of these.

Side view - gives a good impression of the low profile of this tank

Slowing down to stop. At this point I was very disappointed Matt didn't do an impression of Oddball in 'Kelly's Heroes'...
Off to celebrate with some Havana Rum and Cuban Cigars...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ambushed on the Way to the Border AAR

The day job has been getting in the way of gaming lately, although I have been doing some painting for a project that will see War for Slow Readers move into another this space.

Three of us did play a game using the modified Cold War 83 rules a couple of weeks ago though. This pitched a mercenary led platoon of the FNLA against an advancing Cuban company.

The Cubans were spearheading the FAPLA offensive in northern Angola and their objective was to cut the dirt road that can (just) be seen on the extreme top left of the picture below. The FNLA had three entrenchments located on the low ridge between the road and the advancing communists. HMGs were positioned in the flanking trenches and a couple of assault rifle stands were in the central trench. Behind the ridge the mercenaries, armed with FN SLRs were positioned so they could co-ordinate the defence. The only reserve was a stand of assault rifles and a GPMG armed technical.

None of the FNLA were revealed to the approaching Cubans until they opened fire or moved while in line of sight.

Comrade Chris duly tried to walk his troops on the table in a two up one back formation right into the killing zone. One platoon took casualties in a hail of .50 cal fire straight away, the survivors were suppressed.

It looked like it was all over for the Cubans. One platoon was decimated and had gone to ground, their comrades on their left knew someting very bad was happening and the third platoon hadn't even got over the start line i.e. on the table.

Chris kept his cool though and got his left flank platoon moving using the cover that was available. He managed to reconfigure his advance and push his third platoon up on the extreme right where thick bush gave some shelter from FNLA spotters.

Jeff opened up with everything he had and what followed was a desperate firefight as the relatively poorly trained FNLA attempted to get rounds down from the security of their trenches while the Cubans tried to suppress their tormentors and move forward.

The FNLA committed the Technical on their right when the .50 cal entrenched there was suppressed. A couple of Cuban RPGs went astray and it looked like another Communist platoon was going to be shot up as the FNLA gunner prepared to fire. He got off one burst before his weapon jammed, and then the technical exploded! One can only assume that the crew was careless with a cigarette butt in a vehicle that was loaded with live ammunition and gasoline...

By now the Cubans had abandoned all pretence at battle drill. Instead of fire and movement it was a case of pouring as many rounds into the FNLA as possible and anyone who could move was running flat out at the ridge.

Not subtle and not pretty, but it worked.

The Cubans suppressed each postion in turn and when they got into close quarters they were not taking prisoners.

I'd placed a 10 turn limit on the game as an arbitrary way of modelling exhaustion of ammunition and men. It was close but the Cubans got a fireteam across the road on turn 10, having killed or routed all but two the FNLA stands.

Another Cuban victory but at a high cost - a whole platoon's worth of Havana's finest were killed or wounded. The FNLA took another pounding - their poorly trained troops failing to old their ground. Another blow to FNLA morale and four more mercenaries were killed along with a dozen Angolan fighters.