Wednesday, 31 July 2013

British Voices On The Hills Part 1

This is an article I wrote for La Columna after a visit to the Jarama battlefield in February 2005. The La Columna web site is being closed down and replaced with a blog so I thought it would be a good idea to save this article from the archive.

El Grupo Inglés Con Sus Camaradas

British Voices on The Hills
Sunday morning saw us being transported by a convoy of cars to Morata de Tajuña along the Valencia road. The driver of the car I was in was Jesús Gonzalez, a member of the AABI. A man whom I met for the first time that morning but within a short space felt like I’d known him for years! On the way Jesús pointed out sites of Spanish Civil War interest including the Arganda bridge and the site of the Lincoln Battalion's HQ.

On arrival in Morata de Tajuna Jesús took us to the Museo El Cid a small agricultural museum behind the restaurant Mesón El Cid. The museum has a large room dedicated to The Battle of Jarama and The Spanish Civil War. The museum has an excellent display with many photographs and many artifacts from the battlefield. It is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

A Selection of Artifacts in The Museum

If you're not familiar with the area this map may help you. From Morata de Tajuña we moved up the San Martin road and then onto 'The Sunken Road', famous for being mentioned so often in accounts of the British Battalion's time at Jarama. We traveled along this for some distance, past Pingarron Hill, to the area held by Enrique Lister’s division. From here we headed back on ourselves to a Republican held hill opposite Pingarron. This is studded with prepared positions and the remains of chabola-type dug-outs. All of these post-date the Battle of Jarama but are of the Civil War.

Me at the entrance to a dug-out

Remains of a concrete pill-box

On top of the pill box

Remains of a prepared artillery position

There was also a curious tunnel that linked an artillery position with safe ground on the other side of the hill which was out of range of the fascist lines. Inside there was the remains of graffiti from the war carved into the soft walls. This tunnel was remarkably intact, and very dark!

Tunnel entrance

In the tunnel

Examining the tunnel walls

Republican grafitti

In Part 2 we travel to the battlefield of Jarama.

PS Welcome to new follower Grigork; I hope you enjoy the voyage!

All the best!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Train Of Thought #2

Well, I had a sit down and a think about how a loco-loco could be used in SAEaE. This jumbled stream of consciousness is what I've got so far:

Loco Loco

1.       A one-off event: ie once per game only and only in games where there is a track.

2.       Attacking Player declares his intention.

3.       Place loco loco on track on his baseline

4.       Throw 1D6 each time attackers have initiative: move that number of squares

5.       Loco-Loco not subject to activation but does count against number of units attacker can move each turn. EG if attacker rolls 2 on 1D6 then 1 unit plus the train can move.

6.       Train continues until it strikes target area or is de-railed.

7.       Defender can place mines on track: throw 1D6: 1,2 = 2 mines, 3,4 = 1 mine, 5,6 = 0 mines

8.       Place mines on track: marker of some kind

9.       If train passes over mine throw 1D6: 1,2,3 mine triggered; 4,5,6 mine failed.

10.  If mine triggered throw 1D6 to see if train derails or is going fast enough to jump the gap: 1,2,3 Jumps;          4,5,6 Derailed.

11.    If derailed throw 1D6 to see if explosives detonate. If explodes then damage occurs as in 12.

  12.   On contact with target train automatically explodes and all units within 1 square/3 hits, 2 squares/2 hits,           3 squares/1 hit. Hits apply to attacking and defending forces. No saves.

I will do some play-testing on this lot and report back.


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Mrs Bee Goes Down The Shops

Yesterday was another hot day with hours of brilliant sunshine here in Brum. Well, until the torrential downpours that started around 6pm and lasted all night. Still, the temperature dropped so I got a good night's sleep. Yesterday I managed to get some shots of the endless relays of bees which have been visiting my flat-roof garden. They approve obviously of my flower selection; one does what one can for the animal that keeps us all alive.

Spot the bee!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Get Ya Motor Runnin'!

The other day my dance teacher Alistair gifted me this rather splendid poster for James Motorcycles. I'm going to get the poster framed as soon as poss.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Train Of Thought #1

I've been incredibly slack this week; all my good intentions vis-a-vis rule writing have come to naught. I haven't been completely idle though. I have had an idea for an inter-war, re-armed too early, MB army but more of that later. My one wargames related success was making a loco-loco and some rails to run it on.

The body of the train is balsa and the train itself is off the Junior General site. Printed off the train, cut out and glued onto a block of balsa. The flat-car got the same treatment. The explosives boxes are balsa off-cuts painted red for danger. The wavy flag gives the impression of movement. In my mind at least.

As I said earlier I haven't written any rules for train movement so the orthogonally laid track may revert to right angles. In the photos below Los Federales have yet to spring any mines to derail the onrushing loco. Similarly the train crew's morale hasn't failed yet and even if they did abandon would the loco have enough power to crash home? Or would the loco fail an initiative/activation test? Or are initiative and activation immaterial to a loco at full tilt? So many questions for me to wrestle with over the weekend. While I'm doing that have a look at these staged-for-the press pictures:

Film Set

Don't worry, Pepe, it's only a model

La Maquina Loca


Monday, 22 July 2013

Oooh I Say!

Chris Kemp is not only now following my waffle, many thanks btw, he's also included one of my French farragoes on his site: Not Quite Mechanised. How splendid!


Forgotten War Graves Remembered 5

On this day in 1943 Private Samuel G Woodcock of The Pioneer Corps died. CWGC has no record of Sam so I've contacted them to try and get him properly registered. The Pioneers or Chunkies were considered a bit second rate as troops and yet they fought bravely during The Battle of France and then throughout the remainder of WW2. Pioneers gained many UK gallantry awards as well as medals from Allied nations. 2,800 of them died during WW2, Sam Woodcock being one of them.

Sam is interred with his beloved wife Phyllis. It is clear they were a devoted couple. Phyllis passed away less than ten years after Sam and now they are together. As before, the church has finally cut the bloody grass, I tidied up their grave and left a small floral tribute. White flowers for Sam and pink roses for Phyllis.

14341948 Private 
Samuel G Woodcock
Pioneer Corps
Died 22nd July 1943
Aged 29
Labor vincit omnia.

All the best.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Rules For Loco Loco

Or should I say the development hell that is rules for Loco Loco at the moment.

Loco Loco (Crazy Locomotive) or Maquina Loco (Crazy Machine) is the name given to the tactical use of steam trains as, well, missiles during The Mexican Revolution. The idea being that you load a wagon car with explosives, attach it to a locomotive and then drive it a full speed into the enemy position. When it worked the results could be both spectacular and bloody. It didn't always work as planned. Sometimes the fuze was badly timed and caused the explosives went off prematurely. Sometimes the train crew fled well before impact necessitating an armed guard to keep them on message. Occasionally the defenders were able to change the points and divert the train elsewhere.

So taking that into consideration this is what I've got so far:

1. It's a mobile bomb: derailment, diversion, boiler explosion?
2. Crew morale?
3. Blast effect on the enemy/target?
4. Speed of loco loco: from standing start to how many squares at full speed?
5. Premature explosion of the dynamite?

I'll have a play around with these ideas and get something on paper soonest. Any other suggestions most welcome!


Thursday, 11 July 2013

SAEAE Battle Report #3 ¡El Punto Final!

Goaded on by their commanders the Villistas return to the attack. And promptly lose the initiative to Los Colorados.

Counter-Revolutionary Dice Triumphant!

Emboldened by the barricade the Huertista infantry decide to mix it up with the Villista cavalry. They come off second best in the close combat and are forced away from their fortification. The Villistas follow-up.

Initiative passes to the Villistas and they activate a cavalry unit to attack the Huertista infantry amongst the buildings. There is fearful slaughter with losses on both sides. Sadly for the Huertistas their morale collapses as their last officers run off and they have no choice but to try and surrender. A few actually achieve this aim!

At the top of the picture Villista infantry and cavalry combine to drive the Colorado infantry from their positions in the orchards. In the centre the Colorados are also forced from their entrenchments behind the walls and retire to the hacienda's main warehouse.

Colorados fleeing for their miserable lives from heroic Villista cavalry and infantry.

Turn 5. Initiative was retained by the revolutionaries. They were able to bring their reinforcements onto the field in the top centre of this pic. Two cavalry units are engaged in a fire-fight with the HMG in the Hacienda; one unit of Colorados is in the hacienda's warehouse; the remaining Colorado infantry have made their way onto the hill to support the Huertista artillery.

Inititative and activation swayed back and forth as more and more units were drawn into the battle around the buildings and losses on both sides mounted. Most significant was the fall of the warehouse and thus the complete severing of the Colorado line. The hacienda is now completely surrounded and riddled with bullets. The Colorado HMG manages to fire occasionally to some effect: killing a unit of Villista cavalry.

The end, when it came, was rapid and complete. The Colorado infantry and artillery position on the hill collapsed in a welter of bullets, grenades, bayonets and machetes. This left the HMG unit inside the hacienda which was then systematically shot to pieces. Total victory to the Villistas!

Losses on both sides were heavy:

1 x cavalry unit killed
1 x cavalry unit @ 1 hit
1 x infantry unit @ 3 hits
1 x infantry unit @ 2 hits
1 x infantry unit @ 1 hit

3 x infantry units killed
1 x HMG unit killed

1 x artillery unit killed
1 x infantry unit killed

The rules are easy to use and follow. I particularly liked the tying in of morale to fighting effectiveness as opposed to reducing firepower. The game flowed well and any mistakes were my own from being forgetful. I felt the result was the right one given the balance of forces and the weaponry involved. Talking of weaponry the results of combat and the ability to downgrade FP for crap weaponry is a real plus. Similarly being able to upgrade better quality troops, and downgrade poor ones, is also realistic. The combat results really showed how once infantry are dislodged from entrenchments of any kind how vulnerable they become. I'd like to use vehicles and trains for my next game. There was a lot of dice throwing with a lot of dice but again I felt this added to the fun and that includes oversights on my own part. Great set of rules for solo play but even better with an opponent or two!


Wednesday, 10 July 2013

SAEAE Battle Report #2 ¡Lleva Ningún Prisionero!

......The revolution is continuous. After a galloping start to the game things continued at the same breathless pace in the subsequent turns of what is promising to be a ferocious toy battle!

Initiative is won by the Villistas. They take it and press home their attack. The dice are in their favour for activation too. First the infantry decide to pour rifle fire onto the Colorados. Unfortunately for the Villistas.....

.....A combination of elitism, being dug-in and great dice throwing sees the Villistas shot-up. And driven back one square. Careful now, you'll be off the board! I found a bag of coloured tiddlywinks and thought I'd use a traffic light system to show the collapse of a unit's morale. So, 1 green for the Villistas.

The Villistas managed to activate one further Infantry unit. Fired with revolutionary zeal they advanced boldly into contact with the Colorados. The Villista cavalry also benefited from good die rolls and three of the four units were able to move forward. The extreme left unit is almost at the church where a nasty surprise awaits them. The other two cavalry units move up to one square from the wood. Those Colorados in the adobes must surely be feeling the pressure by now!

I may or may not have rolled for Initiative at this point. 

The Villistas must have won the dice roll for Initiative, if it happened. The Colorados suffered a colossal amount of rifle fire which resulted in 2 MP leaking away and their being driven from their positions in the fields and into the adobes. 

At this point the Huertista artillery decided to get in on the action and landed a hit >BOOM!< square on the Villistas close to the edge (no Yes jokes please!).

 Toy bodies all over the place and one more MP gone west! Despite taking hits hatred of Los Colorados keeps them in the fight!

It's not over yet...........

Hello to new arrival Maximex! Thanks for following me!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

SAEAE Battle Report #1 ¡Mata Los En Sangre Caliente!

Today I set up and ran a solo game using Kaptain Kobold's rule-set for The Mexican Revolution: 'Struggle Against Everything And Eveybody (SAEAE)'. The figures and buildings are from that wonderful site The Junior General. The board is 2 foot square and gridded one side; t'other is blank for games of HotT.

So, Tin-Head, what's with the rather violent title? Well, it means: 'Kill them in hot blood' or to put into English: 'Kill them in cold blood'. The game is set during the period of The Revolution after Victoriano Huerta seized power and then allied himself with Pascual Orozco and his Colorados. Los Colorados were double traitors having fought against Madero and then sided with Huerta. Consequently they were seldom, if ever, taken prisoner.

So, the game set up. I decided that given their circumstances Los Colorados would fight to the death and also be considered elite troops; giving them an extra Morale Point. They are defending a hacienda and the surrounding area. There are 3 Colorado infantry units, 1 Colorado HMG unit. They are supported by 1 unit each of Huertista infantry and Artillery. The Huerta troops are below average and will collapse after 2 MP are gone.

The Constitutionalistas are from Villa's El Division del Norte, not commanded by The Great Man himself. They consist of 4 infantry units and 4 cavalry units. A supporting column of 3 infantry units and 1 HMG unit are en route and will arrive from the north, ie from behind Los Colorados from turn 5. All Villista troops are rated normal for MP.

The board itself. In the SE corner peons' dwellings and fields. NE corner is a hill with the Huertista artillery unit. Between these 2 points is a wooded area. Dominating the battlefield is the hacienda. Two large buildings, a church and a large, partially walled, area of cultivation.

North is the RH edge. Villistas along the southern edge. Colorados dug in around the hacienda.

Turn 1 Initiative: Villistas (Red), Colorados (Green). The Colorados decide to sit tight and initiative passes to the Villistas. The Villistas roll for their infantry first and activate one unit which hares off up the table towards the peons' adobes. 

The gallant and not at all impetuous advance by the lone Villista infantry unit. They took their full move and halted opposite the Colorados, who are, despite being elite, are bricking it, in the adobes and soft cover of the fields. Combat imminent!

On the the Villistas western flank two of the four cavalry units were activated. They also advanced their full movement towards the Colorados. They came to rest on the western edge of the wooded area. Foolish because they assumed the woods to be empty. As it turned out they were right this time.

To be continued.......

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Forgotten War Graves Remembered 4

A beautifully sunny day here in Birmingham. Clear blue skies and high temperatures: is summer here at last? Today is also the 70th anniversary of the death of FG Hawkes a Royal Navy motor mechanic. As usual I tidied up the grave, the church's grass cutting programme leaves something to be desired, and left a simple floral tribute.

His headstone inscription is in the first stages of wearing away so I'm glad I was able to record his details. There is also an inscription at the base of the headstone from his parents.

Motor Mechanic
21 years old
Royal Navy
HMS Pembroke

According to wiki HMS Pembroke, as far Hawkes is concerned, could have been any one of four shore establishments:

HMS Pembroke II: an accounting base at Chatham between 1940 - 1957
HMS Pembroke III: an accounting base in London between 1942 -1952
HMS Pembroke IV: an accounting base at The Nore between 1939 - 1961
HMS Pembroke V: a secret base at Bletchley Park between 1941 - 1945

As always any input, comments or help will be gladly received and acknowledged.

All the best.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Forgotten War Graves Remembered 3

On this day in 1947 Cpl Robert F Mills King's Shropshire Light Infantry died. Note the date:1947. Two years after WW2 but proof, if ever there was any needed, that British service men and women do not just die in world wars 1 and 2. I remember reading somewhere (Keegan's 'The Face of Battle?) that between 1900 and 1976, the book's publication year, that only in 1967 did no British service person die on operations. I would suggest from 1976 to 2013 that year remains unique.

I have no other information about Corporal Mills other than that stated below. What I can tell you is he died in service and was therefore entitled to a CWGC headstone. As before I've tidied up the grave site and left a simple floral tribute and card.

Corporal RF Mills
King's Shropshire Light Infantry
Died: 4th July 1947
Age: 24