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....


...to 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