Thursday, 27 July 2017

Cold War Czechoslovakia's own armour designs

Image result for TVP 51 Czech world of tanks

Rendering of the Czech TVP T51 design courtesy World of Tanks

Readers of this blog will know we quite enjoy playing with Imagi-Nations, from the 1700's to the Cold War.

One of my fellow gamers has conceived of an interesting  Alternative History scenario, where WW2 never happened. The idea is to build alternative 1980’s Eastern European armies based on what the real countries may have done in that scenario, and thus avoid the relative sameness of all the various Eastern European WarPac armies. 

He started with Poland, looked at who manufactured their equipment and then replaced it with 1980’s functional equivalents from the same countries. Now, one of my Cold War armies is Czechoslovakia, and I wondered what they may look like in this scenario - the answer has proven to be very interesting.

The first thing you realise with the Czechs is that in the 1930’s and 40's they built all their own equipment, they didn't buy it from others as the Poles did. They also were designing and building their own equipment until the mid 50's, when the Soviets effectively put a stop to it. And even then they almost automatically re-engineered all the post-war Russian equipment they were given, used a higher proportion of own designs than any other WarPac member  (their own wheeled APC  the OT-64  and various gun carriages plus co-operation with Hungary to build a scout car, the OT-65) besides their own trucks, guns and aircraft designs. 

So, it’s highly likely that with no WW2 and no WarPac, they would still have designed and built their own weapons systems. Thus with the Alt-History scenario Czechoslovakia it wasn’t so much about which other countries’ 1980’s equipment I would use, but more what would they have built and what may it have looked like (and then how to model and represent it).  

Usefully, it’s possible to get an idea of what was on their mind as their efforts were only finally stopped in the mid 1950’s. From the point of view of the noticeably different weapons systems (in 6mm scale armies) they had:

  • Planned how to update the Pz 38 series – the chassis had proven very reliable in WW2, the gun carriages and Hetzer tank destroyer had had a very good war (the Swiss carried on using a modified Hetzer into the 70’s). This new "Lehký podvozek" (Light tank) light tank was to use the Pz 38 running gear, the much better engines now available, and take lessons from angled armour in its design. The Skoda T-17 design was given a Czech high velocity 75mm gun. Given the success of the WW2 Hetzer & Marder,  Tank Destroyers and Gun Carriages were likely variants. An APC was also in prototype stage, and given the planned armour it would have been a proper IFV.
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T-17 Light Tank

  • Designed an amphibious tank, the U-9376 Leták, in 1954 - several years earlier than the not dissimilar Soviet PT-76 in shape and concept but with a high velocity 75mm gun, not the low power 76mm. There was already a previous floating tank project (VOŽ), and a suspension and floating system were already available. Given the Czechoslovakians used the OT-62 based on the PT-76 chassis it's not hard to imagine and an APC would have followed.  
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Leták Amphibious tank

  • Studied the later war tanks, especially the T-34 running gear and angled armour, and were designing a new MBT based on a number of lessons.  There were a number of evolutions of the “Tank for general use” - Tank všeobecného použití (TVP) - project. Below is the final form, c 1950/51. There are also drawings of a Tank Destroyer based on this hull with a German 128mm gun.
Image result for czech tanks cold war TVP 50/51

Rendering of the Czech TVP T51 design by World of Tanks

Tank destroyer based on TVP 51 hull - initially designed with a c 100 - 105mm gun in mind, allegedly it could carry a Czech version of the 128mm German gun

The For the Record blog has a more detailed discussion of various projects

Thus, in an Alt-History world the Czechoslovakians would very probably have built an entire family of light armoured vehicles in the 1950’s, plus an amphibious tank (and given their conversion of the BTR-50 into the OT-62 they would very possibly have built an APC option too), and a post war MBT and (less possibly) a derived Tank Destroyer with their version of the German 128mm gun.

The Czechoslovakian designs seem in general lighter or average weight with more powerful engines, and guns at the heavier end of the scale. All these tanks apparently would have had autoloaded guns. 

There is no record of similar Czechoslovakian post war armoured car or wheeled APC designs, but if one assumes they would have built the OT-64 and OT-65/66 wheeled vehicles and their various artillery systems anyway, that gives a good basis. In addition they experimented with using heavier weapons on the OT-64 and OT-65 (up to 30mm cannons, ATGW missiles and 82mm RRLs, and the SKOT is easily big enough to take larger guns - so that certainly gives a good set of wheeled weapons systems to go with in an Alt-Czechoslovakian force.  

All of these would have been both for home use and export. So, for my Cold War Alt-History army, all (all....) that is required is to work out how these designs would have evolved from entering service in the 1950's until the next generation vehicles used in the 1980's, and then what non-Soviet army TO&E they may have used, and finally how to represent them on the table - but that is for the next blog post...

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Battleship Hoche getting Steampunked

I have 2 other gaming interests not written about before - Victorian Sci Fi/Steampunk and Pre Dreadnought warfare, and the Dystopian Wars (DW) game and models satisfy this well enough (though the rules are a bit fussy for big actions, I hope the new Fleet Action rules help there). Anyway, I wanted to build a flagship for my fleet, and I just don't like the DW model for their biggest Dreadnought. I have also always had a yen to own a model of the Hoche, or "Grand Hotel", the most absurd battleship ever built. (I do have French in DW of course, but in my view the French "real life" pre-dreadnoughts are stranger than anything DW imagined).

This is her below, enjoy...

Over-low freeboard, over high superstructure, lighthouse-like observation tower - and a ram to boot! The glorious Hoche (aka Le Grande Hotel) under way....

I saw that Spartan Games, who make DW, sell some of the key bitz for their models like the guns, funnels, bridges and heat lances etc that give their "look" to their models in game so I resolved to dust off rusty balsa-bashing skills and do a scratchbuild of a Steampunk'd Hoche. The deal was sealed when one of my fellow club members said he'd 3D print me the hull.(I later found I could have bought the model in 1/700 from a Russian company, ComBrig, as I found a plan on t'Internet from them - but I'd already started)

Anyway, started a bit of cutting and sanding, and here she emerges, basic superstructure blocks done and test fitted.Not an exact replica, but should give that ludicrous proportions feel!

DW Hoche - the white plasticard thingy going from front to rear superstructure at the top is her skywalk. And the main centre guns really did hang over the hull like that. Oh yes, Hoche had it all...(Fore is to the right by the way, there is an overhang over the front gun still to go on) 

Next - the plasticard rivet sheets over the wood blocks, more detailing superstructure....

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Action at El Forte - Somewhere in Sudan, 1941

First time in action for my newly built early war South African / Kings African Rifles force

A demi-brigade sized force of South African & Kings African Rifles (KAR), typical of the ad-hoc forces used in the East Africa campaign, attempted to raid a major Italian resupply column to El Forte, an Italian fort. The strategy was simple - the KAR battalion, with a Marmon Herrington armoured car company and a motorcycle Recce company attached, would speed off and "cross the T" on the road between the column and El Forte, and attack it head on while keeping the El Forte garrison's heads down.

The South Africans would attack the tail of the column and roll it up, and with scouting Shifta irregular cavalry screening, the SA battalion moved off towards where the column (or at least a dust cloud) could be seen in the distance.

The Italians had other ideas Firstly, a company of Askaris ambushed the KAR trucks as they rode past a village en route. The KAR accellerated on past as they had a long way to go and a South African  company dropped off to deal with the Askaris, which it did, but delayed the SA advance.

This was possibly a good thing, as first a column of Italian motorcycle troops came out the dust, and though the Shiftas dealt with them well enough with some help from the SA Artillery reserve mortars,  they were then attacked by a squadron of Tankettes and 2 of light tanks sporting 20mm autocannonst. The Shiftas took losses from the Tankettes and did what every Irregular unit has done since time immemorial when in trouble - they fled.

Above - Italian convoy screened by motorcycle recce bottom right, SA/KAR forces  top right, El Forte top left

The arrival of the Italian armour stopped the SA advance in its tracks (or more accurately, wheels) and there was an undignified scramble as infantry jumped out their trucks and hunkered down, while the Boys AT squad was deploying as rapidly as it could. In the rear, the SA Artillery 2 pounder AT battery also started to unlimber the minute it could make its way forward enough to a spot where the Italian tanks were visible, but this took time. The South African commander could only growl in frustration as the convoy chugged off into the far distance. The KAR would have to deal with it, the Saffers had more immediate problems - in 1941 a tankette is near invulnerable to anything except the 2 pdrs and the Boys, and can play havoc on infantry and soft vehicles with its machine guns and autocannons.

Italian motorcycles (bottom left) contactt Shifta irregulars (bottom right) while Italian askaris in the village (top right) ambush KAR trucks as they race past.

Meanwhile the KAR force had problems of their own - en route to the Fort the Motorcycles in the vanguard were ambushed by a company of very motivated Blackshirts and more Italian motorcycle troops, and these proceeded to do a lot of damage to the SA motorcycle company, routing it. The  KAR was helped by the Marmon Herringtons arriving and these shot the Blackshirts up, and the remnant Italian motorcycle troops remounted and rode for the fort pursued by two of the armoured car platoons.

The other armoured car platoon fell into the range of the advancing Italian tanks and with some very good shooting were knocked out. The Italian tanks and tankettes were then fired on by the 2 pounders which had now been set up, and the tankettes and one tank platoon were knocked over, the other tank platoon retired at full speed and hid behind a large hill, where the 2 Pdrs couldn't see it.

SAA 2 pdrs open up and the Italian tanks and tankettes (blobs with orange flame top of picture) start to disappear

The SA troops, having no threat from the armour or motorcycles anymore, re-boarded their trucks - when they saw a SAAF Hawker Hartebeest ground attack aircraft fly overheads towards El Forte.

SAAF Hartebeest ground attack 'plane on way to El Forte overflying KAR forces moving towards the fort. Ford trucks and Marmon Herringtons in sight. East Africa was "the last biplane war" as both sides primarily used biplanes in this conflict.

In the meantime the KAR and remaining Marmon Herringtons had reached the road just as the head of the truck column passed by,  and started to shoot it up. Then they got a major shock - what was supposed to be a supply colums turned out to have an entire battalion of infantry at its head (clearly a replacement garrison for El Forte) and they debouched from the leading trucks and formed a battle line while the transport trucks circled around the rear of the firefight and raced for the El Forte.

Italian column moves towards El Forte road, on top right the KAR in their trucks are also racing to "cross the T" ahead of  them 

Worse was to follow - for some reason the trip across the veld in the fine dust had jammed the KAR's rifles (my fellow player threw 4 "1"s for 4 different companies shooting) and they were then badly mauled by the Italian askaris reply fire. The shock was made worse when it was clear that a second battalion of Askaris was moving up from some halted trucks further behind in the convoy, and the troops in El Forte were satrting to get active . It was time for a sharp exit and the KAR re-bussed and scarper...  strategically advanced to the rear.

The SA battalion saw them retreating and being appraised of the situation also decided that a regrouping and re-appraisal may be required!

Duel of Eagles in the skies while on the ground (top left) a vicious firefight is starting between the KAR and Italian askaris

And the Hartebeest? Well, turned out the Italians had had a similar idea and no sooner had it seen El Forte than an Italian Fiat CR-42 appeared on the scene and both 'planes spent 5 bounds "duelling like eagles" and then going home as fuel ran low.

(Rapid Fire rules, 4 player game, and in the kingdon of the Boys rifle the Tankette is like a Sherman and a 2 pdr is an 88)

Saturday, 8 April 2017

East Africa 1940 - Finished

As mentioned in the previous post, I hadn't come to the blog for some time, life etc gets in the way sometimes and truth to tell I haven't built much new, just added to existing forces for various games.

But I thought it was worth noting that the South African/Kings African Rifles force I blogged about earlier in ts buildout is now done, and here are some pix to prove it.

Here is the whole force, in Rapid Fire scale - 2 battalions of South African infantry, one of Kings African Rifles (right hand battalion), loads of Ford 3 and (converted) 1 1/2 ton trucks plus a few Morris 1/2 tonners. In the rear also the  2 pdr AT and 18 pdr artillery batteries and (centre rear) a command group with command truck and Ford staff car. Also in support is an Armoured Car detachment  (left foreground) the Motorcycle company and an Armoured Car company with their trusty Harley-Davidsons and Marmon Herringtons respectively.

WW2 nerds may be interested to know that the South African army in the 1930's opted for a force built mainly around a close copy of the German Motor-Rifle brigade structure, as the distances involved and the relatively dry terrain favours a forec based around wheeled vehicles. That is also why SA took a leading role in Armoured Car development in the 1930's, arguably a skill it has kept going intol modern times. What this means is that its a 3 company battalion wiith more heavy weapons (in theory - not everything was available when WW2 broke out) compared to British and other Commonwealth forces'  4 companies and less generous heavy weapon allocations.

Also, what SA army of the era could be without a Hawker Hartebeest ground attack aircraft, a South African modification of the Hawker Fury/Audax family . Obsolete maybe, but it was there when needed and the opposition was of the same era - East Africa was the last great biplane war and the first test of the SAAF.

Of course no force is truly finished, there are new 1/72nd Marmon Herringtons now out, so I will just have to buy a company of those to join my new (came out last year, SHQ) lead ones. And my opponents has bought two Fiat fighters for his Italians, so I can see a Gladiator in the future.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

New Byzantine cavalry

Blogging has been a bit sporadic of late, mainly because I've not much new to say - mainly been playing with stuff I've already done (SA 1940 done, but not used yet). But, this being a New Byzantium blog, I thought I'd talk about the latest (later) Byzantine cavalry I've built and a picture of the whole Komnenan Byzantine army in action in a recent Sword & Spear game, it was 600 pts a side so a Big Game - stand by for serious gaming porn!

Latest units are the Vardariots (I used Old Gory Bulgars), re-done Turkopoloi (Perry plastic Arab light cavalry) and (for earlier Later Byzantine armies) a unit of Klibanophoroi (Gripping Beast). The old Old Glory Turcopoloi have been re-modelled as a border thematic unit, with Cilician flavour.

Below is the Byzantine army formed up....pesky Pechenegs and Cumans in the foreground....

Image take on the dreaded Seljuqs, who are over here


And here we are as battle is joined, Byzantines on the left, more Pechenegs in LH foreground


Sadly the Latinikon was routed, the Turkopoloi put up a dismal performance, my elite Archontopoloi ran - if it wasn't for the infantry centre standing firm and crunching all to fore and the Varangians protecting Our Glorious Emperor it would have been a disaster, another Terrible Day.

Good news was the Vardariots put in a good performance, a rare case for one's latest newly painted units. 

As it was it was just a big loss, more like Myriokephalon than Manzikert.....but getting all those toys on table was great fun. It is nice to have 400+ 25mm figs, mainly cavalry on a 12 x 5 table

Sword & Spear is a brutal game at 25mm with cavalry armies as they are on top of each other very fast and the rules really bias for decisive combat  - so you can get a big game like this done in an evening. But if you get on the wrong end of a few dice throws it's curtains, curses and collapse