Friday, 19 February 2021

Trabazond - New Byzantium's Enclave on the Eastern Black Sea

Old Trabazonde - pearl of the Eastern Black Sea

One of my gaming friends has started an Imagi-Nation somehere in Mesopotamia, and I thought it may in some way come into contact with the New Byzantine city of Trabazond, on the Turkish coast so it may be worth thinking about its forces as it is a "special case". 

The Turkish province of Trabazond was taken from them by Rssian in WW1 (This is true). To reward Russia for going all Bolshevik, and Turkey for being on the wrong side, it was given to Byzantium after WW1. The real reason was mainly to give the French and British navies a permanent base in the Eastern Black Sea. (This is Imagi-Nation)

The presence of these great powers kept it safe from acquitive hands in the Interwar years, but oddly being taken over by Germany when they overran Byzantium at the beginning of WW2, and then by the Soviets at the end, probably kept it "safe" for Byzantium during the war. It resumed its role as a Great Power naval base after WW2, with the US and USSR now also having access. It was to be returned to Byzantium in 1955, at the same time as German occuption stopped. This probably kept it out of acquisitive hands in that period as well, as Byzantium was in no state to defend it.

After the Suez Crisis in 1956 it was clear to Byzantium that the Great Powers were now the US and USSR and the latter were far closer to home, so it was time to cosy up to the Soviets a bit more. As part of this, a large part the naval facilities at Trabazond were offered to the Soviets for 20 years, the rest would remain "multi national". This probably kept Trabazond in Byzantine hands, and made it an "interesting" city in the peak Cold War years, (but that is the subject of a series of spy novels ;)   

At any rate, New Byantium managed to extricate the Soviets in the mid 1970's but then had the very real problem of keeping it from various acquisitive hands in the region. This mainly meant stopping attacks from over the mountains, along the shore, or from the sea.

Population was in the high hundreds of thousands, about half that of the European Themes, so the Thematic forces are about half that of the other Themes. Because of this (did I mention the acquisitive neighbours) there is always a part of the full time Tagmata stationed here, and it is a major Naval base and Air Force base.

Each Theme is supposed to have a full size full time Thematic Brigade and a divional size force of reservists. 

However, Trabazond hasn't that level of population, and a lot of hidden strong points in the mountains need are manning. so a lot of the military population is required for that.  

The area is essentially full of separate mountain valleys and passes, and each needs a fully capable force to defend it. So the resrvists of all stripes are organised in independent Demi-Brigades per valley area, and deach Demi Brigade has a force with most of the support functions elements of a Brigade.

Ditto, the standing Regulars may need to be split among a number of valleys so they too are organised into 3 self supporting Demi Brigades rather than a full Brigade. There is also a higher use of helicopters here to move forces quickly.

The structure of a Demi Brigade is essentially an allocation of Brigade level support assets into companies (eg of Armour, Artillery, AA, AT, Comms Recconnaisance etc) attached to a Battalion level of troops (and this Battalion may not have the standard 3+1 companies of infantry ). 


Sunday, 7 February 2021

More Czechoslovakia


(Alt-Czechoslovakia in 15mm begins - OT 66, OT 65 and OT-810s in front OT-64s and an OT-62 in reserve)

 Well,it's been a while since I wote something here - gaming hasn't stopped but its been the more pedestrian "use a set of rules/build some models/play" nature, not really the Imagi-Nation terrain of this blog. (OK, I built a British pith-helmeted Praetorian Guard outfit for 40K Epic - you can guess how the Leman Russes were done, Mother...)

But, with the increase in popularity of Cold War gaming, modern Imagi-Nationing in 15mm is now an option. The 15mm game is at a lower level than the Brigade+ level ganes we play in 6mm, so you're really looking at snapshots of TO&Es of c reinforced platoon size. So where to start with a 15mm outfit?

The obvious answer (to me) was to start with the Recce Brigade of the Alt-History Czechoslovakian TO&E (based on the 1938 Fast Division structure - see here) as no doubt they would be in the vanguard of finding trouble.. In 1938 it comprised an:

  • Infantry Company on motorcycles 
  • Armoured Car Company – using the big 6 wheel armoured car, not the light 4 wheeler
  • Light Tank Company – using older light tanks, while they waited for re-equipping with the new one (what became the Pz38t in WW2)

In the original discussion 2 years back on translating these into Cold-War speak, the plan was essentially as follows:

  • Infantry Company using the smaller OT-66s as the APC - the original idea 2 years ago was to also have an ATGW platoon in jeeps with ATGWs but gaming experience in 6mm showed these are a bit vulnerable so an OT-65 with AT missiles replaved it.. 
  • Armoured Car Company – modifying the big 8 wheeler OT-64 SKOT to carry something with more unch than a heavy machine gun
  • Tank Company - using the older "Letak" tank design (much like a Soviet PT-76 but with a more poweful anti-armour gun)

For 15mm I got the OT-66's and OT-65 from QRF, and Team Yankee do the big SKOTs in resin. Sadly QRF stopped doing  moderns in January so the PT-76s aren't coming (you can get them 3D printed but I don't like the surface finish at this sort of scale, so the replacement light tank has become more urgent :)

(Another reason for selecting the Recce force first is the gear is more "existing gear with a few mods" rather than the huge amount of modelling / bodging all the heavy armour and special weapons will need)

But anyway, the force is assembling (see pic at top), the existing elements are shown, basecoated in the best approximation I have of the Czech Grey-Green drab. I also couldn't resist converting some SdKfz251s into older OT-810s (aka "Hitler.s Revenge") for pre-OT-55/Reserve unit gaming plus getting an OT-62 for some odd-jobbing (yes it's plug ugly, but you name it, they've tried stcking it on the old waggon. Ditto the OT-810s sported all sorts of add-ons, so ideal for an Alt-Army.)

Another decision in 15mm is infantry uniforms - in 6mm I just have green-brown and brown-green blobs on bases, but in 15mm it is necessary to paint the little buggers. Given they didn't copy the Russian uniform in reality, I assumed Alt-Czechoclovakia would have come up with much the same uniform as they did in reality. (Conveniently, given of course the common stuff will be used for a Real-Cz army!)

Friday, 2 March 2018

Czechoslovakian 1938 Fast Division in 1988 - the Reconnaisance battalion

To recap - in 1938, the Fast Division was structured with 2 Tank Battalions and 2 Motorised Infantry Battalions, plus a Recconnaissance battalions and various Artillery units covering field artillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft functions. There were also plans to expand the 2 motorised Infantry battalions to a full Regiment (3 battalions) each.

Having structured the Cavalry Brigade in the 1938 Fast Division for an “Alternative History 1988” scenario (see this page for a fuller explanation), there remains the various Tank, Motorised Infantry, Reconnaisance and Artillery battalions to be done.
My “rules” for concerting 1938 to 1980’s forces are to use the 1938 structure as much as practicable and adjust as little as possible, to use actual Czech designed & built vehicles wherever possible, and if not available then to convert models to be future derivations of Czech equipment that was on the drawing board in the early 1950s (see my article on all this over here) before the Soviets closed it all down.

I decided to build the Reconnaissance battalion next, as it is fairly quick to build and a nice self-contained little force, good for some smaller games. In 1938 it consisted of a Motorcycle Infantry company, an Armoured Car company, and a Light Tank Company. So, how would it translate into the 1980’s? Here’s how I think it turns out:

Motorcycle Infantry

Motorcyle infantry largely died out in WW2, especially after the arrival of small 4x4 machines like the Jeep. The rise of air-power and fragmentation artillery meant a move towards light armoured transports in most European armies. Motorcycles never died out completely, but by the 1980s they are usually used in small numbers, in conjunction with more heavily armoured vehicles.
Therefore it’s likely the Czechs would have moved from motorcycles to using Jeeps and then APCs with maybe a few motorcycles and Jeeps still around. The Real World army used the OT-65 armoured car and OT-66 APC (the joint Czech-Hungarian FuG APC derivative) in these roles  so I have assumed they will replace most of the motorcycle troops with this.

In “Real” Czech service reconnaissance units used an 82mm RRL as an AT device, mounted on the armoured car turrets.  I assume that by the mid 1980’s the “Alt” Czechs have moved to a lighter ATGW

I have thus structured this unit as follows:
  • -          3 platoons of infantry plus Jeeps or (by 1980s) light APCs,  1 unit carries an ATGW
  • -          1 Motorcycle reconnaissance platoon with light ATGW

Armoured Car Company

The 1938 Armoured Car company used the big 6 wheeled OA vz. 30 Armoured Car, rather than the smaller Czechoslovakian scout cars of the time. Clearly this was intentional, so in the 1980’s I assumed the small OT-65 series of armoured cars were not what they would have intended in 1938. There was however no Czechoslovakian  heavy armoured car on the design boards from the 1950’s to adapt. So, what to replace the big 6x6 with?

However, they did have plans to put more armour and more powerful guns than the 14.5mm on the big 8x8 OT-64 APC, but the Russian stopped those developments. The OT-64, for its time, was very powerful. It had a maximum speed of 110 km/h - that was very fast in those days. It had a big frame and could easily handle bigger turrets and more armour.

Plans for heavier weapons included the T21 Recoilless Rifle, mounting a single barrel version of the 30mm vz.53/59 autocannon (used on the Ještěrka AA vehicle), and some were actually built with the 23mm Nudelman-Suranov NS-23 automatic cannon (normally used on early Soviet fighter jets such as the Mig-15) in the 1970s. It also could easily have handled a low pressure 90mm gun like those on the AML90 and Ratel 90, and ATGW missiles.

Ugandan SKOT with 23mm cannon

I rather liked the idea of a big-gunned OT-64 unit as well, so that was my solution, and the 30mm Czech autocannon was my shoo-in for this big Recce vehicle.  Thus was the OT-64 SKOT30 born.
The Armoured Car Company had 12 Cars, I don’t know if it was in 4 troops of 3 cars or 3 of 4, but in Fistful of TOWS scale it’s 3 models.

Light Tank  Company

Also in 1938 there was a light tank company of 4 platoons, each of 4 tanks (so 4 models in FFOT scale). I noted that these were older, lighter tanks than those equipping the Tank regiments in 1938, so I passed that structure through to 1988 – a light tank, and an older tank that the Cavalry and Tank regiments used. As discussed in my article on post war “Real world” Czechoslovakian equipment (see link above) they had designed both replacements to the Lt(Pz)38 family and an amphibious light tank, the Letak, not unlike the Soviet PT-76 in appearance and function (thought it would more likely have carried similar guns to the AMX13). These both would be old by 1988, so either would pass muster. So which to use?

In theory both the replacement Lt.38 and the Letak were to have an APC variant. The Czechoslovakians did in fact have an APC – the OT-62 – that was their main APC until the BMP. It was based on the Soviet BTR 50 which used a lot of components from the PT-76. I did think the Alt-Czechoslovakians could go the same route, i.e. the Letak light tank would spawn a Letak APC (the OT-63 of course) and they would use both in a Fast Division Armoured force for commonality of parts. (For what happens to the successors of the Lt38 read the article on the Fast Division linked above)

So after all that, in Fistful of TOW (FFOT3) terms the Czechoslovakian 1980’s Recce Battalion consists of:

·        HQ vehicle (OT-66)
  • ·        Infantry Company
o   3 Infantry Platoons, each 1 figure stand and 1 OT-66 model, 1 platoon has a Milan or similar ATGW
o   1 Motorcycle Platoon figure stand, with Milan or similar ATGW
  • ·         Armoured Car Company – 3 OT-64 SKOT30 armoured car w/30mm cannon
  • ·         Light Tank Company – 4 Letak tank models w/90mm gun

Quite a useful battalion, though  I suspect it would typically have been split into detachments to give the Armoured battalions some scouting capability in the field. It's interesting to compare this with the Polish Armoured Cavalry Regiment my club mate has done a similar exercise for.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Translating a 1938 Czechoslovakian Fast Division TO&E into the 1980's - Cavalry Division

Regulat readers of this blog may know that we have quite an active 6mm "Cold War Alt-History" contingent - ie "What If" WW2 hadn't happened? Especially in Eastern Europe.

Partly this is to allow us to create a non-Soviet  Eastern Europe and thus avoid the relative sameness of all the various Eastern European WarPac armies for our various Western nations to play against, partly it's to allow us to build What-If armies and fit in kit and organisations we like, within a context. The chap who kicked this off started with Poland, and other have take up the reins.

My WarPac Cold War armies is Czechoslovakia, and I wondered what Alt-Czechoslovakia may look like in this scenario. In the previous blog post I looked at what machinery they may heve built if the USSR hadn't taken them over (and stifled their own work) as pre (and during WW2) Czechoslovakia had first rate weapons design and manufacturing. The answer proved to be very interesting, they had a number of vehicles and guns in plans and prototype in the early 1950s, from light armoured "platforms" based on a successor to the Ps38/Hetzer/Marder II family, through amphibious AFVs to a first rate MBT, so one part of teh riddle was answered - tey won't use other people's kit, I have to "bodge" theirs.

This second article looks at how they may have organsed themselves in the 1980's. In the 1930's they were transitioning from a WW1 foot army to a Mechanised army. The majority of the army were still Infantry Divisions that were starting to motorise, but for the 1980's the most interesting structure was the Fast (aka Armoured) Division - 4 were planned, 2 were being built in 1938. So that's what I'm going to build.

Alt-Czechoslovakian army TO&E c 1988

 The TO&E for all Czech units is on the Niehorster website, below is the Fast Division TO&E for 1938

Fast Division TO&E from Niehorster

Looking at the top horizontal line, there are 4 main force components (ignoring the 2 HQ and Logistics functions on the far right) - left to right they are:
  • Cavalry Brigade, consisting of (again left to right, ignoring HQ):
- 2 Cavalry (Dragoon) regiments (battalions)
- 1 Bicycle Infantry battalion with 3 infantry companies, an MG Co (6 MMGs) and a Heavy Weapons Company with 3 x 81mm Mortars and 6 37mm AT guns
- Horse Artilley Battalion, this had 3 Batteries of 76.5mm guns

  • Armoured Brigade consisting of (again left to right):
- 2 Tank Battalions - at the time they had  LTV 35 and 38 Light tanks but they were supposed to be Medium tanks
- 2 Motorised Infantry Battalions - eventually the aim was to have 2 complete Motorised Regiments
- Artillery Battalion - this had 3 Batteries of 100mm Howitzers

  • Reconnaissance Battalion  (going down the line, ignoring HQ)
- Motorcycle infantry company
- Armoured Car company (12 armoured cars in 3 Troops)
- Light Tank Companty (16 tanks in 4 troops)

  • Divisional Artillery assets, again going down the line
- 3 x 20mm AA batteries (in FFOT scale)
- 3 x 37mm (other sources have 47mm) Anti Tank batteries

The first thing you notice comparing this division with an Infantry Division is the tanks and cavalry, obviously. The next thing is the lack of Divisional artillery (an Infantry Division has 3 more artillery batteries, including 2 heavy artillery batteries). I suppose the problem in 1938 was moving the big guns quickly enough. Other versions of this TO&E place the Tank brigade's Artillery Battalion at a Divisional level, which makes more sense as otherwise there are no Divisional artillery assets, but it would be still nice to have a complete medium artullery regiment of 3 battalions in the Division.

To be honest though there is surprisingly little change in Infantry formation structure between 1938 and 1988 even though equipment changes hugely. But direct translation falls apart with the Cavalry Brigade! Obviuosly therefore, the thing to start with is the Cavalry Brigade!

"What to do with cavalry" is a fascinating rabbit hole to go down, but I resolved to solve it by just trying to directly translate what they had in 1938 into 1980 terms, and see what I wound up with and  then "evolve" through the 80's based on gaming experience on the table.

Translating a 1938 Cavalry Brigade to 1980

To recap, in 1938 the Czechoslovakian Cavalry Brigade had 3 main components:

- 2 Cavalry (Dragoon) regiments (battalions)
- 1 Bicycle Infantry battalion with 3 infantry companies, an MG Co (6 MMGs) and a Heavy Weapons Company with 3 x 81mm Mortars and 6 37mm AT guns
- Horse Artilley Battalion, this had 3 Batteries of 76.5mm guns and 100m Howizers
First step was to translate the easier-to-translate stuff, namely the Bicycle Infantry and Horse Artillery.

Step one - Bicycle Infantry Battalion

In 1938 these were an attempt to mobilise infantry cheaply and without a need for a lot of maintenance overhead. I thought the simplest transition would have been to jeeps and then by 1980 to simple, small and  fast APCs. Going to motorcycles I rejected as no one in the 1980's has serious motorcycle forces, and besides they already had a motorcycle Recce unit in 1938!. So the structure became:

The 3 Companies of Infantry each have 4 Platoons of which:
- 3 platoons stay as Infantry, now in  APCs (older, well established APC required)
- 1 platoon is a "Special Weapons" platoon - over time this increasingly meant anti-tank. By the 1980's AT increasingly meant medium ATGW, so a platoon equiped with something like the Milan

The 1938 Heavy Weapons Company is well defined - Mortars, Machine Guns and Anti Tank weapons, so I directly tranlated them as follows:
- The 81m mortars are still around
- The 37mm AT was the biggest vaguely mobile infantry AT weapon and, being mobile infantry "Heavy" weapons I replaced it with a specialist Tank Destroyer vehicle with a weapon that could take out MBTs of the day. Initially gun based (a good opportunity to field a "3rd Gen" Hetzer ) they move to heavy ATGW over time.
- The MG platoon can go a number of ways, in many countries the MMG function was absorbed by moving to APCs (that had MMGs on them) and I assumed that would be the case here in the earlier post-war years, But it was noticeable that by the late 1970's,  armies started to sprout AA capability at a more local level again. The "standard" 1980 weapon would be some form of HMG/Autocannon AA, and maybe starting to transition to small Surface to Air missiles in the later 1980's.

Step Two - Horse Artlllery Battalion

Apparently there were 3 batteries per battalion, of 76.5mm field guns  In most WW2 armies these lighter guns went one of 2 ways - either replaced by similar sized but more portable mortars, got bigger, or evolved into Anti Tank support. I assumed that the Cavalry would deal with the AT role and that this force's job would be local artillery support so switched them to 81mm mortars, to match the infantry. I also cheated a bit in that I assumed over the years one Mortar battery would be dropped for an AA battery as tank-hunting aircraft became a more prevalent threat.

And finally - the Cavalry 

So, What To Do With Cavalry? In Czechoslovakia's case I thought there was a hint in that these cavalry were Dragoons, and had already been converting into mounted infantry, so they were Dragoons going "back to their roots" and there needed to be a strong "mounted infantry" component. What they needed was a good IFV, and the Czechs had an Lt38 based APC on their drawing boards in the late 1940's, so they were going to get (some derivative of) these..

But dammit, they were still cavalry, and had to have speed and elan and impact, and if there ever was a country with a proud tradition of making hard hitting light AFVs it was Czechoslovakia - and they had some designs on the drawing board in the 1950's that just had to see the light of day, albeit in 6mm. So that was it - a combination of mounted infantry in tough, fast, hard hitting APCs and tough, fast, hard hitting light tanks.

I can't find the number of squadrons in a cavalry regiment anywhere, but there were 3 squadrons in a tank Regiment so I assumed that held true in a Cavalry regiment. As the Brigade already has an infantry battalion, I weighted the Cavalty Battalions as 2 light tank squadrons and 1 mounted infantry squadron each. All 1938 squadron/company formations seem to be of "3+1" structure so I asumed 3 of the predominant type (light tanks or APCs) and the +1 was a support weapon type - which in 1980's Europe usually means AT capability.

Putting it together - the 1980's Czechoslovakian Cavalry Brigade

We use the Fistful ot Tows ruleset, it's scale is roughly 1 model = 1 infantry platoon, tank troop or artillery battery. In the 1980's therefore the above logic yields the following TO&E (numbers refer to models used. The structure below is how the above changes come out for the beginning of the 80's. Pplaying experience will quickly inform me as to what evolution over the 80's needs to look like :)

Czechoslovakian Cavalry Brigade, early 1980s

  • Brigade HQ
    • 1 Command IFV
  • Brigade Artillery Battallion
    • 2 81 mm Mortars + APC
    • 1 30mm AA  SPG
  • 2 Cavalry Regiments (battalions), each comprising
    • 2 Light Tank Squadrons, each of 3 Light Tanks, 1 ATGW (Milan Equivalent) Jeep/AFV
    • Mechanised Infantry Company - 3 IFVs + 1 AT Jeep/APC
    • 3 Infantry stands + 1 ATGW (Milan type) stand
  •  Motorised Infantry Battalion
    • Heavy Weapons Company
      • 1 81mm Mortar + APC
      • 1  Mass-HMG AA + APC (May convert to small AAM over time)
      • 2 "Heavy" ATGW APCs or Tank Destroyers
    • 3 Infantry Companies, each of 3 APC + 1 AT Jeep/APC/IFV
    • 3 Infantry stands + 1 ATGW stand  

I imagine that over time Jeeps will be replaced by more protected APCs.

As to what vehicles these are, that will be the next blog post, but in short I assume the following:

  • Any own-design or non-Soviet vehicle the Czechoslovakians had will exist in Alt-History - so OT-64, OT-65, DANA, Praga etc (ie models I have already should be usable....)
  • A number of improvements/evolutions they wanted to make to these can now occur - bigger guns on SKOTs and OT-65s etc 
  • Any vehicles they had on their own drawing boards (see previous blog post) in the 1950's will be used and evolved into a 1970's/80's successor. This includes:
    •  Replacements for the Lt38 family of fast, light AFVs (Pz38, Marder III, Hetzer) including an armoured APC they had in the works.
    • The Letak amphbious AFV, similar to the Russian PT-76 - I assume the OT-62 APC equivalent will be less influenced by the Soviet BTR-50 and have a more "Letak" look and thsi will also be reflected in their BMP-era 80's APC/IFV.
    • The TVP 51 MBT (and upgrades/a next gen successor)
  • Artillery, tank guns wtc of the requisitre calibres will be available
  • They are capable of buying or building comparable ATGW and AAMs to anything the West or Soviets have (or the French will sell it to them - did I mention I also have a French army....
As far as air support goes, in the 1930's Czechoslovakia had an aircraft industry building fighters/light ground attack and trainers but for bombers and fighter bombers they used Soviet and French equipment, In the 1970's/80's they still built their own trainer/light strike aircraft, so why change anything- still using Soviet & French heavier equipment seemed a perfectly reasonable path to continue (I mentioned I already have Cold War Czechs didn't I....)

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.
 Posted Image
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.  
Posted Image

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)