Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Cold War turns hot

The Backround

Recent posts have been about the "Cold War" Byzantine project - the genesis of this is that my club mate Iain has invented an Imagi-Nation force for Poland, set in the "Cold War" of the 80's. Except not only has he imagined a New Model Army for a New Poland. he has also posited an entire Alternative History based around WW2 not happening, but a seperate series of events moving off from a 1930's Europe.

Well this dovetailed into 20th Century Byzantium's imaginary history quite well - created as a Class C Mandate after WW1, parts of various defeated powers' territory - Turkey, Bulgaria and Austro-Hungary - were ceded to the new state - more details here, and the Byzantine Cold War forces are discussed in a series of posts ending with this one.

Anyway, the lack of a major war did not prevent all the various frictions endemic in post WW1 Europe causing a large number of local wars and incidents (cue lots of wargames opportunities....), but also shifting alliances and intrigues that make the history of the past decades rather, well, Byzantine.

The Encounter

Fast forward to the 80's, this means that, via various shifting alliance commitments, a Byzantine force was sent deep into MIttelEuropa to back up Our Peace Loving Allies against the Polish Expansionist Regime and its Lackeys. Trying to get away with as little contribution as possible Byzantium sent an Armoured Brigade, a Mechanised Brigade and a Light Infantry demi-brigade, a Position Artillery Battalion and a small air contingent, and this force has been operating on the Eastern flank of our Glorious Peace Loving Allies' advance into the disputed region of (the translation device fails here, there seem to be no vowels in the name), with the objective of seizing the market town of (Vxwzytu - translation fail) which sat at the head of a strategic valley..

Following Byzantine Doctrine from Leo's Tactica (revision No 1,453 published 1974) the 3rd (Thracia) Evzones (Light Infantry) demi brigade was sent ahead to take the town, while the 5th (Rhodope Theme) Mechanised brigade advanced on a broader front. (Byzantine  Demi Brigades are modelled on the French - a battalion of light troops with attached artillery and a light armour company of the famous Trapezitae). The first Evzone company is always designated as Recce, and is motorcycle and jeep borne, and their 3 platoons fanned out, one going north towards the town up the road, the others bouncing over fields to come in from each side (and see what may be out there). The ATGW platoon followed behind in its jeeps. Behind them the other 2 platoons in light trucks moved up, and behind that the Trapezitae Company of AML 90's trundled up the road while the Artillery Company set up its 2 Mortar and the AA Platoons and FAO in a hamlet about 1 km from the town.

The first inkling that something may go wrong with this plan was when autocannon fire raked the jeeps bundling up the road, setting a few on fire. The remaining infantry made a beeline for the hedgerows and hunkered down in the shrubbery for the rest of the game with their heads down. The jeeep ATGW platoon moved into the same bocage, and opened fire on enemy armoured cars visiible in the town. The enemy were clearly not expecting missiles and hadn't really hunkered down so a few armoured cars were brewed up in fairly short order..

Meanwhile the other Recce platoons had reached a wood on the left of the town, and a hill on the right respectively and both reported advancing enemy armoured cars plus troops moving up the road into town - an enemy Armoured Cavalry force  was trying to seize the same town, and had got there first!

The Demi Brigade has one company of armouerd cars as noted, but it looked like the enemy had 3, so the decision was made to dismount the infantry in cover and set up the ATGW platoons to prevent the enemy from sweeping either side of the town, while "our" armoured cars would see if they could rush the town with infantry following.


Byzantine Light Infantry debussing in woods to bring ATGW to bear

The Mortars started pumping smoke onto the approaches so this manouevre couldn't be spotted and hot at. However it transpired that the enemy infantry also got into town first so the plan of a rapid assault was scotched. Plan B was to blast the sh*t out of the town with artillery while formimg a line to prevent the enemy armoured cars from sweeping through either side, while seeking permission for Plan C - bring up some of the Mechanised Brigade as reinforcements.
Well, this was executed as flawlessly as possible in the fog of war by our Most Excellent Forces, and the enemy infantry spent most of the afternoon suppressed while the Byzantine ATGW's teams whittled away at enemy armoured cars, who vainly tried to hit teams of infantry spread across hedgerows and woods.

At <deleted by military censors> p.m. the T-55s of the Mechanised Infantry's tank battalion streamed up the road, swinging to both sides of the village to clear the enemy armoured cars and allow the Byzantines full freedom to smash the Poles in the village.

Except....the Recce jeeps reported more infantry and enemy tanks rolling up on their side of the village.... 

Here comes trouble - Polish Vickers tanks roll up - their 120mm guns hugely outperform our T-55s guns and armour, This ensured the town stayed in Polish hands despite their Armoured cavalry unit taking sever losses

....and soon their tanks rolled around the village as their infantry entered it.. This seemed to cheer up the battered enemy in the town and a flurry of their ATGWs flew out, causing consternation among the conscripts in the lead Squadron of T-55s, and they promptly pushed oil into their tank exhausts creating a ton of smoke while they reversed tactically withdrew their tanks at full pelt.

 The end situation - for some reason the picture rotated and I can't un-rotate it :(   Anyway the white streaks show ATGW action at longer effective range than the tanks have, the blue lines are the Byzantine Retreat Strategic Withdrawal when the Vickers tanks (red arrows) moved up.Iinfantry in the hedges are very hard to get rid of, so the Polish armour was not that keen on pursuit -they had achieved their objectives anyway.

But the more worrying sign was seeing Polish Vickers tanks swinging into action, their 120mm guns effectively outranged the T-55's 100mm gun by a good 1000m, this was not a fight to be had for a village that the enemy clearly now occupied in strength anyway. Besides, Byzantine Doctrine is strong on the "He who runs away" bit, especially when its not really your war, and calling a massive barrage of smoke from the rocket batteries, the Byzantines armour retired into the gathering darkness. The enemy tanks didn't really want wnat to advance farther as they had already taken a few jits from Byzantine ATGW, so contented themself with reinforcing their position.

The Wargame Rules, OK

Fought with Fistful of Tows using Iain's initiative and C&C modifications

This was a very interesting and surprsingly entertaining game - essentially two quite strong recce forces going for the same objective. Both being totally made up, it was interesting to see how our respective TOE's fared. Infantry nunbers about the same, Poland had more armoured cars, Byzantium had fewer but had supporting mortars and more ATGWs. Both sides' armoured cars & missiles would KO the others if they hit, so it was a game of careful manouvering , playing cat and mouse and trying to snap at enemy assets while avoiding losses yourself before your heavier forces arrived. Byzantium got better dice C&C calling our off table Artillery in, so the Polish advantageous position in the town was partly neutralised by landing HE on their heads all game- until our FAO had a Blunder (double 1) and called it on himself, and a battery of 122m guns duly obliged..Parts of him and his Dingo are widely spread around a number of foreign fields. Also the Byzantine Light Infantry are crack troops so designated as "Good" which makes their shooting with ATGW better than the "Average" Poles's shooting (especially once they are suppressed!). However the Byzantine conscripts in their T-55s are "Fair" - quite fragile when taking incoming, and bailed as quickly as they could.

The Outcome

Byzantium had won the skirmish (it's official, its in our Military Archives, we won!), knocking out a lot of Polish armoured cars with relatively little loss to themselves, but ultimately the Poles had won the game by occupying the village. Their armour arriving gave them a superior position and forced us to retire.

An urgent request has gone back to Constantinople HQ to get some of the newer refurbed T-55s here PDQ, these older ones are not going to cut the mustard

The outrageously false propaganda account by the Poles of this battle is over here