Thursday, 22 September 2016

Stalingrad - Hanging on

No resupply, no reinforcement and no hope of relief but the Germans are hanging on in the ruins of the, now carved up chunks of, city of Stalingrad. It started as a pointless political exercise to grab a city because it had Stalin's name and will end with the sacrifice of the cream of the Wehrmacht for no good strategic or tactical reason. The three fold boost to the Russians is a gift they are determined to capitalise on...no ideological pun intended
The two Russian tank brigades are heedless of losses
 The katyusha rains fire on the dwindling pockets of resistance
 With all the airfields gone, Gumrak, Pitomnik, Tatsinskaya and the rest, virtually no supplies are getting through by air...and the odd longer range sortie is a waste of time. Mainly it goes to the Russians now.
 Despite everything there is still fight in the scattered group of survivors
 A couple of T34 companies charge on through a convenient gap onto some open ground with the aim of deploying an adhoc gun-line...but plough into a mine field...oopski!
 Meanwhile, the last of the armour attracts a deluge of fire...
 ...plenty miss but a lot of hits too
 Churning through the months of debris...
 The infantry supports the armour by the occupied buildings. In RF you have to roll for morale if unsupported armour comes close to occupied positions
 Back up the embankment the ambush draws off some of the Russian infantry
 One battalion is now tasked with a sweep of the former German start line
 ...and they're keen...
 ...to get to grips...
 The Russians swarm back over their formerly defended ground

 ...and the Germans keep up their fighting withdrawal
 ...the Russians are capturing ground. Factories and houses are that in name only. Battling from one pile of frozen rubble to the next...
 Going out in a blaze of glory turns into going out in a blaze...
 The katyushas just keep turning the rubble over
 But there are still survivors
 There are signs of cracking now. This guy, the last of his unit, flees to a hole and stays there
 ...others slide down the icy ramparts...
 ...and into captivity

 German 81mm mortars put down more fire to break up yet another attack in the making...

 The Air Regiments' ground attack is surprisingly ineffectual...

 ..but the ground squeeze goes on...
 Reduced but still fighting, the flank defence gathers to make a break for relative safety if they can but disengage and put some distance between themselves and the angry Russians...
 ...but its not looking hopeful
 Crossing the main road between the marshalling yard and the workers houses
 Nice to have some moving cover...
 Passing the frozen remains of the previous engagements...
 Russian infantry...
 ...and Russian armour flow through the terrain like a lava flow...
 ...igniting and destroying all in its path...
 The barrage sweeps to the end of the factory...
 ...and the infantry stand to ready for the next wave...
 Back through the under pass...
 ...unless the flankers get a move on they'll be trapped with armour in their rear...
 The Russian Division clears pockets of resistance it passes through...
 ...they come at the Germans from every side...
 Stormovik's eye view...
 ...and again...
 Just about clear of the yard...
 Thomasov the tank engine!..the fat controller is gone, along with his family and his house...
Ah, yes! Where would I be without my war-hammer...er...any reference to something similar is pure fantasy and does not reflect the gaming habits of us as a group nor of my scenery making technique sometimes referred to, due to frenzy, as war-hammer hysterical.

Next time: Giving up - a thaw point.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Intermission - The Battle of San Daniele 1809

So that you can all get an ice cream and a drink from the lobby and go to the loo we're having an intermission.

Last weekend Kracken man joined me on a visit to the Potentate of Plastic's command bunker on his rabbit farm in the heart of the Ayrshire countryside . Following Kracken Man's lead we played out a scenario from a prolific Canadian Scenario Author Mr Michael Hopper who has produced a number of Napoleonic scenarios, in this case for 1809.

As always with our Napoleonic games we're using Shako 2 our rules of choice. What follows has been heavily censored to embarrass the guilty...

The French cavalry rode east towards Udine after the battle of the Piave River, looking for the Austrians. When the Austrians heard the sound of fighting from the south, they concluded it came from the direction of Udine. The Austrians pitched camp at San Daniele, thinking they had all morning to rest. They were surprised when the French advanced guard arrived southwest of their position.
 The baggage was tardy in its preparedness to move...having spent all night re-coating the pontoons with gloss...
 Johann had his Generals deploy along the forward slope and villages protecting the road through San Daniele and the high ground covering the entrance to the valley slightly right of the town.
 This front left flank shows the deployment of Frimont and Gallenberg. Across the road is Gajoli and Colloredo
 Glistening with sweat (I think that's what it is) the Austrians take up position...
 ...just in case.
 None too soon it seems! Eugene pitches up freshly out of a rain storm (I think that's what it is) and straight up the road towards a, now alerted, Austrian picket line.
 (This episode brought to you by Thickly Yacht Varnish - yes! when varnishing think 'Thickly!')
 The bowling starts from the Austrian end of the pitch at long range
 ...and finds its mark, Austria 1 France nil.
 The head of the marching column levels their muskets in a show of defiance
 and onward they slog...
 The bulk of the cavalry, the 23rd Dragoons and the 9th Chasseurs, lead off the road
 ...taking a substantial part of Dessaix infantry with it along with a battery of guns and a sappeur company
 Austrian deployment from above
 ...and looking towards the French deploying to their front.
 The French can clearly see their first objective from here
 Despite the steady looking line French throw themselves at the battery blocking the main road
 The French might is on the right...
 ...and they are determined to outflank led by the cavalry
 Confidently the French ride past the end line of the Austrian defence
 ...just as the French centre crashes into the main line of resistance in the Austrian centre

 Johann sees the threat to his right develop (see cavalry in foreground) just as he gives orders to counter the massive strike to his left
 Meanwhile, on the right of the French line the hammer blow of cavalry strikes the anvil of the Austrian cavalry's counter attack by 2nd and 5th Hussars. Witnessed by the rest of Frimont's cavalry the 9th Hussars standing uphill in reserve.
 French elan carries the first of the villages along the San Daniele road!
 There is now a real possibility of the Austrian line being split if the French can capitalise on this coup
 The French could be amongst the baggage in a trice...
 ...but Gajoli uses his reserve to counter attack the lost village from the Austrian right...

...and by a deployment into line from the formation holding the next village to the rear. The French are held in the centre in spite of all pressure.

 Far away under the spreading sunset of a Canada T-shirt the French cavalry are driven off but there isn't enough Austrian infantry to exploit the situation and so the withdrawal begins under the watchful eye of the reserve cavalry
 The relief will arrive too late to effect the outcome of the engagement. Colloredo cannot traverse the terrain in time to stop the ultimate French breakthrough. Further, the villages will soon become traps so the evacuation begins...

However, the baggage train has been able to get underway. Johann must now extricate his rearguard from contact in the centre and use this force to block the valley and road at the exit of the valley to give the baggage the best chance of escape.

Historical Outcome
Combat ensued between the two sides while the Austrian baggage retreated, along with elements of Johann’s two corps. Once most of the baggage cleared the defile northeast of San Daniele, Colloredo tried to withdraw. Gajoli’s defense collapsed as French troops streamed past on both sides. The French surrounded one of Gallenberg’s battalions as well as the Austrian pontoon bridging train. Johann formed a new rear guard which held the road in the defile till night.

French losses: 200-250
Austrian losses: 2,000

Thanks as usual to the chaps for sustaining consciousness for the duration of the game despite the best efforts of the Steinhauser cuirassiers. Thanks also to Michael Hopper for the opportunity to play out one of his historical scenarios.

Next time: Stalingrad the concluding moves as the disaster unfolds.