Monday, 25 February 2013

Zulu War Journal

Col Henry Harford, CB, edited by Daphne Child
Shuter and Shooter, Pietermaritzburg, 1978

The late David Rattray, conservationist, historian, storyteller and battlefield guide, counted Charlie Harford as his favourite amongst the cast of characters of the Anglo Zulu War. At the outbreak of the Anglo Zulu War, Lt. Henry Charles Harford was appointed Staff Officer to Commandant Lonsdale of the Natal Native Contingent. Rattray enjoyed recounting that Harford, an enthusiastic amateur entomologist, was seen to stop and capture a beetle specimen midway through the opening skirmish of the British invasion of Zululand.

His short journal is written in clear, engaging language – not without some humour – and reflects a careful honesty and – rare for contemporary sources – a fairly balanced view of the conflict. Its a fine read. Unfortunately, many AZW writers have quoted quite heavily from Harford's journal, and many of the key passages will be well known to readers familiar with the literature of the conflict. And with it being a fairly succinct text, I found there was not a lot of the journal I hadn't read before.

Still, I found the unfamiliar bits worth the price I paid for the book, and am glad to have it on my bookshelf.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Bolt Action: Test game

Test of the Bolt Action ruleset at a recent Peninsula Wargames Group midweek meeting: a motley crew of Soviet regulars and partisans, supported by a single T34, try to clear the fascist invader from the outskirts of a Ukraine town.

Being a test game, we ran roughshod over the force selectors and didnt bother calculating points until after the game (was about 950pts per side). The Germans took a few turns to  recover their composure after the Soviet preparatory bombardment, and after playing five turns, the Russian attack seemed to have stalled in the centre, despite solid advances on either flank.

The reaction to the ruleset was generally positive: its not a game for rivet-counters and historians, but its a good enough game for an evening - plays fast and flows well and has a very familiar "GW" orthodoxy of "D6 to hit, D6 to damage, criticals on 6s..." It remains to be seen if the rules reward historical tactics - that will only become apparent after a good few games.

Regulars, supported by a T-34, find the safety in the dead ground. Even mortar attacks and the attentions of a German Forward Observer didnt convince this squad to advance beyond the cover or the ruined house:

Partisans make a dash for the treeline:

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Finale 1945, abridged.

The appropriately named Battle of Finale, where recon units of the South African 6th Armoured division fought their last major engagement of the Italian campaign against desperately retreating German forces, has long been an encounter that I want to use as a wargames scenario. By way of testing options for the full-scale scenario, we (myself and members of the Peninsula Wargames Group) played an abridged encounter using the Operation Squad skirmish rules.

German forces were limited to three Heer squads with Panzerfausts, two Panzerschrek teams, an 81mm mortar and and an emplaced MG42 (sustained fire mode). They deployed on the North of the Panaro river (left in first pic), with one squad deployed on the South bank, entering the table from the East (top of first pic). Their objective was to extract the squad on the south bank over the bridge, and thereafter detonate explosive charges wired under the bridge. The South Africans deployed two squads, with a 2-inch mortar team and a Stuart M3 Recce, entering from the west edge south of the river, with instructions to secure the bridge.

The game began as a predictable dash for the bridge from both forces on the south bank, with the South Africans taking fire from their left flank across the river. Approaching the river, their Stuart recon tank, took a crippling blow from a Panzershrek team deployed south of the river. The loss of the vehicle so early in the game meant the game was reduced to an uneven infantry matchup, and the Saffa player conceded.

We reset the game with a Bren Carrier added to the Saffa forces, and an adjustment to the deployment zones, restricting the German deployment to east of the Bridge This swung the balance of the game firmly in the South African favour, with the German forces needing to split their precious anti-tank resources against two vehicles, reducing the threat considerably. The Carrier advanced aggressively to trigger any ambushes, and the Stuart and infantry advanced to engage the teams flushed out by the Carrier.

The Carrier took a direct hit from a 81mm mortar round as it deployed an intrepid Forward Observer, and for a moment it looked like the Germans would repeat their success in disabling the vehicles. But the Saffa infantry squads provided enough supporting fire to suppress the German anti tank teams and pin them in light scrub on the river banks. An aggressive drive forward by the Stuart to secure the bridge approaches meant the situation looked bleak for the Heer players, and they conceded. 

The next iteration of this scenario will be played with Germans aquiring some sterner defensive firepower: Pak40s, Flakvierlings, and possible a Stug or Mk IV, and the Saffas fielding some Shermans. There is plenty of scope for growth in this scenario: the First City/Cape Town Highlander official history of the campaign records the following destroyed German vehicles at Finale: one Tiger Tank, three Mk IVs, one vehicle-mounted 75mm recoilless rifle, two SPGs and two field guns.

Monday, 18 February 2013


Without too much of a plan, and with no clear goals beyond "to add to the gazillions of wargaming blogs out there", here begins my blog.

Hope to document my meandering through the wargamingsphere: through pix and reports of projects, games, scenarios, and reading lists.