Monday, 25 February 2013

German defenders of the Cotentin Peninsula

There were three primary German Divisions to defend the Contentin Peninsula against the Allied Invasion. These were the; 709th Infantry Division, the 243rd Infantry Division and the 91st Airlanding (Luftlande) Division. The 709th was positioned on the east coast of the peninsula roughly from the Utah Beach area upto Cherbourg. With the 243rd Inf. Div. covering the west coast of the Contentin, and the 91st Div. covering the central area. Besides the Infantry Divisions there were also four Coastal Artillery Regiments, to defend the coast line.

The main opponents to the 101st, 82nd Airborne Divs. and the seaborne units which made up the US VII Corps, were to be the 709th and 91st Divisions, on D-Day. The German forces on the peninsula were of the LXXXIV Corps, Seventh Army, Army Group B. The 709th and 243rd Divs, were static division. This mainly meant they were, made up of older conscripts, and foreign 'Volunteers' (the Ost Battalions (White Russians), and lacked much equipment, primarily transport. Their equipment came from a arsenal of captured weapons, French, Czech, and Soviet. This was evident in the artillery allocated to these units and the attached Panzer Battalions which reinforced them. Panzer Abteilung 101 and 206 were equipped with obsolete captured French tanks.

Captured Hotchkiss H-39
Though the 243rd Div did have a Tank Destroyer Battalion equipped with Marder III and Stug III self  propelled guns. These two Divisions each had three Infantry Regiments but the 91st Div had only two Infantry Regiments. though it had been reinforced with the 'elite' 6th Fallschirmjager Regiment. N.B. The 91st Luftlande Div was an Army not an Airforce unit. The 6th FJR was of course a Luftwaffe unit. The 6FJR was probably the best unit in LXXXIV Corps, but even it suffered from shortages in terms of equipment.

In the immediate vicinity of Drop C, there was the 795th Georgian Battalion, 1st Bn 919th Inf Regt (709th Div), and elements of the 1058th Inf Regt. of the 91st Div., including batteries from the 191st Artillery Regiment of the 91st Div.. It was one of these artillery batteries postioned between Le Grand Chemin  and St. Marie-du-Mont near to Brecourt Manor, which had caused the Paratroopers of 506th PIR to come to an unexpected halt.  


Sunday, 10 February 2013

German 10.5cm leFH Howitzer

First addition to my current project completed.

Warlord Games 10.5cm LeFH 18/40 gun.. Or the 10.5cm light field howitzer. This is an all metal kit which comes with four crew and some scenic pieces to add to bases if you so inclined. The model comes in multiple parts;

Some of the parts as can be seen are quite small and therefore awkward to place on the model, but my main gripe concerning this kit is the fact that like all Warlord models is it comes without an instruction sheet. Now I know Warlord are placing construction diagrams on their website, but surely it cannot be that expensive to add in a piece of paper detailing how to build the gun? N.B. At present there is no diagram for this model on their site. The scenic pieces are in the top of the photo.

I therefore had to do my own research*, which was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. There are contemporary photos of the gun, some modern photos and pictures of models of this artillery piece in various scales on the web which all helped in building the piece. But more often than not a photo did not show the gun from all aspects which meant I had to do quite a lot of research. I could not find any scale drawings of the gun, since these would have been more useful and helpful. So after some trial and near error the model was built.

Once assembled it is a quite solid model. As to be expected some of the holes for the small details had to be drilled out and the fit of the gun shield to the carriage was not that great. Took a little bit of work until I was happy with the fit. Next came the painting;

It was a joy to paint though. Did use this first gun as an experiment to try out some new techniques, such as hairspray and salt weathering technique. Overall I'm happy with the result. I also used AK Interactive 'Dust Effects' wash as finisher. It works but be careful, be sparing with it. It may appear more stark on the model  in the photos then actually appears in reality. I will use the dust wash again but may consider thinning and being less liberal in application (not that I went completely mad with it!).

The dust effects can be obtained from here SnM Stuff. I cannot fault the service from SnM Stuff, very good highly recommended.

*I'm not against research. I'm sure we all do it from time to time, particularly when starting a new project, but Warlord are one of the big hitters in the wargaming world (IMO). So not including an instruction diagram I think is a bit off (IMO). BUT it is a nice model and I cannot fault the service from Warlord Games either.          

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Mission Albany and Drop Zone C

T/4 J Gorenc. Boarding C-47 on 5th  June 1944

On the late evening of 5th June 1944, the men of of the 101st (Screaming Eagles) Airborne Division, began to board the C47 transport aircraft to take them to Normandy, France. The American 101st with the 82nd Airborne Divisions along with the British 6th Airborne Division were to form the, the airborne element of Operation Neptune. Neptune being the invasion plan for Northern France, part of the grand design which was Operation Overlord.

The two American Airborne Divisions were tasked with securing the west flank of the invasion beaches, and land behind Utah Beach. Mission 'Albany' referred to the delivery of the 101st Div..

The Screaming Eagles were the first to land at approximately 0100 to 0130hrs on Tuesday 6th June 1944. (N.B. Pathfinders had landed at approx. 0015hrs to mark the landing zones). Unfortunately due to dense cloud and then anti-aircraft fire on route to the drop zones the tight formations were scattered. This resulted in few of the paratroopers landing on their designated Drop Zones (DZ), of which there were three allocated to the  101st Div.; Drop Zones A, C and D.

The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) which made up part of the 101st Div, was allocated to two DZ's. The 1st and 2nd Battalion (Bn) to land at DZ C (nr. St Marie du Mont) along with Regimental HQ and 3rd Battalion to land at DZ D (nr. St Come Du Mont). The 2nd Bn's objectives were to seize Causeways 1 & 2  the Exits off Utah Beach. The 1st Bn was to protect rhe rear of 2nd Bn from any German counterattack. 3/506th was to seize two bridges over the Douve River.  

Of 81 planes tasked with carrying the elements of 101st A/B Div. to DZ C, only 10 dropped there 'sticks' over the drop zone. These ten contained mainly of the Reg. HQ., though minus the communications platoon who landed some twenty miles away near Cherbourg. Consequently Col. Robert Sink had no way of contacting other divisional units but had landed near to the site chosen for the Regimental command post at Culoville.

Col. R Sink

Throughout the night more men of the 1st Bn joined the HQ staff. With no 2nd Bn men in the area and no way of contacting them, the 1st Bn was ordered to seize the beach exits. As for 2nd Bn the majority had landed nearer to DZ A, towards St Mere Eglise. Amongst them was 1st Lt Richard (Dick) Winters, the Executive Officer of Easy Company (E. Co.), 2/506th PIR.

Dick Winters
Winters having collected together a small band of paratroopers some from 2nd Battalion 506th, joined up with Lt.Col Robert Cole of 3/502 PIR as they moved towards Exits 3 and 4 off Utah Beach. When the 502nd neared their objective the 506th men moved off South East towards Exits 1 & 2. Enroute they encountered more men from 506th PIR, and as the column entered Le Grand-Chemin it came to a halt due to heavy artillery fire to its front. Lt. Winters and the other ten men of E. Co settled down to rest.      

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Tao of Wargaming

It can not be hard to notice that we wargamers are a fickle bunch. Constantly changing periods, rules sets, figure scales etc. In the constant pursuit of that mythical perfection that can be obtained from the latest set of WW2, Napoleonic rules, or the latest in vogue game whether that be historical/fantasy/steampunk(?) the list goes for ever on and on.

A tour of blogs, forums, websites all dedicated to the many varied aspects of the hobby are full of reports of the latest new big thing. The new big thing could be that great set of Dark Age skirmish rules or that wonderful new set of figures for that obscure conflict which took place in some part of the world I have never really heard of and may just be able to find it on a  map!

Now before I'm lynched as some pessimistic naysayer, I'm as guilty as the next man for falling in to the trap of being swayed by the pretty cover on a rule set or the superbly sculpted range of figures. Without the dedication and commitment of the figure sculptors, rules writers, etc over the years this hobby of ours would not be a such a cornucopia of delights. Over the past thirty years or so I have been a wargamer (say it with pride) we have gone from A5 rule books with card covers and pencil drawings, to hardback sets filled with bright shiny colour photos of superbly painted miniatures. From using soft plastic figures, to metal ranges and now back to hard plastic figures with a quality which match the many metal ranges. So whats the problem?

Well the problem lies not in the quality and vastness of the products of what is out there but in what I want to get out of the hobby. I have found over the past few months I have been re-thinking the direction I want to take with my hobby. I no longer want to be chopping and changing periods/rulesets/figure scales but concentrating on what I enjoy and want to game.

Angus looking cool
I have for a while now be drawn to the idea of gaming only one period. Stop! ONE WARGAME PERIOD! Impossible? Probably not. There are several blogs I visit which are dedicated to a particular conflict. But it was the following post on Edinburgh Wargames concerning the Austro-Prussian war of 1866 Journal- August 2012 (its the second entry) which caught my eye and really made me re-think my wargaming strategy. (I can highly recommend the Edinburgh site full of interesting articles. I may not agree with Mr Angus Konstams views on what constituents a good wargame, but at times I don't think he does either!)

Taking a long hard look at the various periods of history I'm interested in (and have figures for) it was not hard to identify which one one held the most interest for me. That would be the Second World War. Narrowing it down further that would be the war in North West Europe in 1944, i.e. D-Day and just after.

Now I began a project a few years ago when I decided to move to 28mm WW2 figures (having previously gamed with 1/300th and 1/72nd). That project as sputtered along for a while and particularly over the last twelve months it  took more of a centre stage with me concentrating on building up my collection of terrain for the Normandy campaign. I have been painting US Airborne and Fallschirmjager to represent the conflict/skirmishes primarily between the 101st Airborne Division and the 6th Fallschirmjager Regiment. So how could I develop this?

I was looking at the period from 6th June 1944 to 13th June 1944. But could I narrow this down further? Whilst doing some recent research for suitable scenarios it quickly became apparent that the answer was yes. What about the engagements between the 506th PIR, and elements of 6thFJR et al. in and around St. Marie du Mont on 6th June 1944? So rather than build generic WW2 forces, so beloved by certain points based games, develop forces more aimed at what was actually there. Now where does that leave me?

Over the last couple of weeks I've been doing some research and making a few purchases in preparation for my next endeavour. Yes I'm staying with 6th June 1944. Yes it will centre around the airborne drop. What I've decided to do is concentrate on what has now become a very famous small unit action concerning elements of the 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR. So with out further to do I will for the forceable future be documenting progress to see whether or not it is possible for me to concentrate on one period or rather a much smaller time capsule of a much larger event.