In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

In which I blog about my miniature wargaming and whatever else takes my interest!

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Blandingshires at Grochstadt

A newly retired acquaintance said he'd like to come for a game and he'd never played either of the Two Fat Lardies WW2 rules. So after a bit of email discussion a date was set and I devised a scenario.

The objective for this game was two fold: introduce Don to I Ain't Been Shot Mum, and get some unplayed kit on the table. A straight forward set piece attack then. Late war, North West Europe, two understrength companies as the first wave of a battalion attack on a German defensive line. The two companies are supported by a troop of Churchill tanks, the battalions Wasps, a Churchill AVRE and a FOO. The British are hampered by the "Hesitant Troops" card but they do get "Heroic Leader" and "Rally".

The Germans have two understrength platoons, a pair of Pak40 AT guns, plenty of MG42s and entrenchments plus my new Brummbärs. The Germans are hampered by "Ammo shortage" and "Breakdown" but they get the "Bonus MG Fire".
View of the table from the German side
Artie crouched under a wet hedge with his company and surveyed the pile of rubble that the maps called Grochstadt. His friend from B Company came up beside him.

"All right, there Artie?"
"All right Bert. You?" Bert's company was to envelope Grochstadt from the right while he attacked from the front. They had tanks and flame throwing Wasp carriers, but he still didn't like it. The 4th Battalion, Blandingshire Fusiliers had lost a lot of men in Normandy and Holland. The companies were barely platoons.

"Righto, then. See you on the objective." Bert stuck out his hand. Artie shook it and they both repeated the Regimental cry "What ho, Blandingshires!" with a chuckle.

Bert disappeared into the predawn gloom to rejoin his company before the attack.

Artie checked his watch and looked to the platoons on his left and right. It was time. He waved everyone forward and they stepped off to cross another field.

First contact. Germans open up on 3 platoon
A company stalled at a line of bushes. Artie could hear smalls arms crackle to his right as B Company bumped the defenders lining the road. High velocity AT shot screamed over the Churchill tanks deploying from the woods.

Churchills advancing
Finally he got his men moving across the last field towards the still quiet town.

British attacking on town developing

A Company advances into the German MGs

German armoured support



Germans in the rubble
Where was the bloody artillery? His platoon on the far left started to go to ground in the middle of the field.
"C'mon! Keep going!" He waved them forward.
The young Lieutenant jumped up, waving his sten gun. "What ho Blandingshires!" he cried and charged forward. The rest of the platoon got up and followed straight into disaster.
As they neared the ruined town the rubble erupted with the sparks of small arms fire and the shredding paper sound of several German MGs.

2 Platoon about to get slaughtered
A vicious fight ensued but only a handful of the platoon came stumbling back dragging a few wounded with them.

Over to the right he could hear the sound of rifle and Bren fire answered by more MG42s.



A  big Churchill AVRE clanked up to try and blast the defenders out of their rubble.
1 Platoon presses the attack
With a whoosh and a godawful bang, a panzerschrek rocket roared out of the town and hit the big tank squarely, brewing it up.
Panzerschreck team brews up the AVRE
Their supporting armour started engaging some big German assault guns, with little effect to either side. Except they weren't supporting his remaining platoon trying to assault the town.

Churchills trade shots with the Brummbärs
Things were stalling, and his company was getting cut apart in front of the town. He grabbed the driver of his company HQ carrier. "Get up their and get the Bren on that fucking MG nest!" The corporal put the machine in gear and off it rattled, bullets pinging off it's sides. Soon the Bren gun was chattering away in answer. He then got his other platoon to press it's attack and after a vicious exchange of grenades and close range rifle fire they had a foot hold in the rubble.


More clanking behind him as the Wasps from the Carrier platoon finally got clear of the hedge.
"Where the hell have you been?"
He ran to each carrier, directing it's deadly flame onto the Pak nest and the MG42 nests that had caused him so much grief.
Wasps burn the Germans out of Grochstadt
Only a few Germans were left to surrender in shock or run away in terror.

And there's nothing left....
What remained of A Company dug in among the rubble and got a brew up started. B Company was still tangled up in the hedges along the road clearing the Germans out of  some trenches and bunkers. But C and D Company were coming up and the German SP guns were backing off covering the retreat of the surviving grenadiers.

God what a mess. Artie surveyed the damage as he positioned his men to defend the rubble. The Padre and the stretcher carriers were coming up searching for wounded and taking them back to the RAP. 3 Platoon had been pretty much wiped out on the far edge of Grochsadt, caught by fire from a bunker while trying to knock out a second German Pak. Good old Bertie had caught a bullet trying to cheer his lads on to the end.

Artie sat down on a broken wall, suddenly very tired. He fumbled with this pipe as his driver shoved a tin cup of tea into his hand.
"All right there, Sir?"
"All right, Herb. Cheers."

It was a pretty bloody game. 2 Platoon rushing into the German MGs without support or suppressive fires was devastating. The AVRE would've been great for blasting the Germans out of their defenses but a stalking Panzerschrek team got it's card first. The Wasps once they finally showed up were pretty devastating, which was good for the Blandingshires, as the attack was running out of steam.

It's been a few years since I played IABSM, so it was good to dust them off and play something bigger. I forgot a few things of course. I need to make markers to remind me that units are pinned or suppressed.

You'll also notice some clear plastic markers with unit labels on them. These are to remind the players which units are activated by which cards.

The Blandingshire Fusiliers are my fictitious British regiment from my Colonial gaming with the BGen Sir Percival Gronville Wooster, VC KCBE.

My friends running the British managed to have fun. Don would like to give the rules another try. My Churchills, Brummbars, Wasps and AVRE all got some game time. So objectives met.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Leadership

Saw this on Facebbok recently.

It really resonates. My relationship with my Admin O at the Squadron is very much like Col Henry Blake and Radar on the old show M*A*S*H.

"What am I signing today, Radar?"
"Nothing you need to worry yourself about, sir."
"Okie dokie"
Working shifts I really can't be a micro-manager. I have to set the goals and let them get on with it. I try to put my staff in jobs they're good at and let them play to their strengths. So far it's mostly worked.

I'm really getting now the idea that when the unit does well it's the team that created success. But when things go pear shaped, that's on the Boss, because except in the most extreme instances, it's his fault if the wrong person was put in the job, or they were unprepared or he didn't give appropriate resources, assets, supervision and direction.

This makes me rethink a bit on the Great Captains of history. Hannibal, Frederick the Great, and company may have had the vision, but it was a lot of good staff work that put it into action.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Lunch With the General

Last Remembrance Day after the parade, my Support Committee Chairman (a retired artillery major), comes up to me "I found an RO (Reviewing Officer) for the ACR (Annual Ceremonial Review)."

Usually a Cadet unit might get the local Fire or Police Chief, or if they have an affiliate regiment an officer from there. Or a senior officer who is somehow connected to the unit (friend of someone on staff, alumnus of the unit, etc.). Or the mayor even.

He takes me to meet a Brigadier General complete with Aide de Camp festooned in gold aiguillettes. I put on my best smile and try to hide the quivering in my intestines. The General grew up in Stratford and had decided to attend the parade with his old Regiment. The husband of my Support Committee Secretary had been his Commanding Officer back in the day, and his ADC had been a young Bombardier under the Chairman. So when asked if he'd like to inspect some cadets, he said he'd love to.

Now you can't just invite anyone to be your RO.

For a Senior Officer, say the CO of the local Reserve regiment, the invitation has to come from my Detachment Commander.

For a General Officer the invitation has to come from MY Commanding Officer, the LCol in command of Central Region. Needless to say, everybody in the chain of command between me and the LCol, has to look at it. I get many questions. Of course some units have been cheeky and thought it'd be great to invite some Royal personage until they're told that they are the ones covering any expenses.

Fast forward seven months. Our ACR is fast approaching. Every unit has to have an ACR. Just like the inspections of 18th century regiments, the aim is to demonstrate that I have been spending the Queen's money wisely and actually training a Cadet Squadron. Due to some glitches in the training plan we ended up with only 4 nights to practice. And the cadets haven't had a lot of practice marching. Then just as we're getting on the bus for last weekend's trip, my SWO (Squadron Warrant Officer -i.e. the parade commander) hobbles up on crutches to tell me that he has injured his knee in school and can't do drill. So the next candidate now has one night to learn the position and his replacement also only has one night!

Lesser men would throw up their hands in dismay. Or maybe just throw up. But Per Ardua Ad Astra as they say.

It's the Big Day. The cadets have practiced and are breaking to touch up boots and have some lunch. I put on my tunic and go to move my car so the General has a parking spot (there are only 4 parking spaces in front of our Victorian era Armoury). I step out the door and there's the Brigadier General resplendent in red tabbed glory with his Divisional Sergeant Major looking down the street to see where the restaurant is. Fortunately it's only a block away.

"I see you've found a parking space, sir" I say, throwing him a 'Big Five'.

But the General and his Sergeant Major are both thoroughly alright chaps and put me at ease. So my next major hurdles are the small talk and not getting my croque monsieur all over my tunic. Fortunately I was paying attention during napkins class.

After lunch the Cadets impressed all with a fine turnout. The General was quite game to pose for photos and spent quite some time talking to a Flight Corporal at the field craft display. He even told me a funny story about one of my predecessors. I offered to buy them a beer after the parade, but they needed to stop at the chocolatier across the street and be home for dinner. Even Brigadier Generals and Divisional Sergeant Majors​ have orders.


Presenting the Top Senior NCO Award


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In Which Capt Rabbitman Takes the Squadron to Look at the Things

Ah, the Squadron Year End trip.

As someone who's idea of a good time is to drink tea and paint miniatures, it fills me with dread. I have very little idea what young people would think was fun. Many units go to Cadet Day at Canada's Wonderland. Ugh. I dislike rides at the fair so the thought of a day of them with asphalt, sun and expensive, greasy food just gives me a headache.

Last year the previous command team took them to Toronto for a long weekend. I've seen the pictures, fun was had. So this year would traditionally be the  relatively low cost Wonderland day trip. But I wanted to do something cool. My very keen OCdt had the clever idea to go up to CFB Borden and visit 400 Tactical Helicopter Squadron and 16 Wing, the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering (CFSATE).

There was even a slim chance of getting up in a CH-146 Griffon too, so I said "hell yeah, let's do that!"

400 THS is a Heavy Maintenance Squadron doing all of the 300 and 600 hour inspections, overhauls, rebuilds and maintenance on the RCAFs fleet of Griffon helicopters. So we toured the shops and the big hanger with about 7 helicopters in various states of dismemberment.

Here MCpl Pigeon, an AVN Tech explains how the engines work:



This helicopter was finished so the cadets weren't allowed to touch the controls, but the MCpl is pointing things out to them.

We also learned that, yes, there are in fact $1000.00 bolts. The actual precision piece of high quality steel costs $50.00. The other $950.00 is all the inspections (x-ray etc.) to make sure their aren't any micro-fractures or other invisible flaws that would cause a helicopter to fall out of the sky. Because when you've only got one nut holding things together, it has to be perfect.


After lunch we toured 16 Wing, the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Technology and Engineering. After the 4 Technicians (AVC-air frame construction, AVN-avionics, AVS-aviation systems, AWS-air weapons) and the AERE (Aerospace Engineer) Officer each explained their trades, we toured the hanger full of cool training aides that the students practice on.



Of course everyone got a chance to sit in the cockpit of the decommissioned F-18 fighter. It was hard not to make airplane noises.


The AWS Tech, an enthusiastic young lady, got to show us her weapons systems and since she is also an EOD tech, we got to try on the bomb suit. Some of the cadets tried to do push ups in them (one young man broke their record of 45!). I didn't try. I felt like a Medieval knight being armed by his page, since these get ups require help to put on and take off..


Missiles

Discussing the 20mm rotary cannon

500 lb. bomb

Group shot
Everything else over the weekend was pretty flexible and to blow off some steam we took them to the Confidence Course. The young lady in the pink got stuck her first time over this obstacle but the next morning when we had some time to kill, she asked to go back and do it again, so we did. And she went over it several times again. Small moments like this keep me motivated.


Another amusing story. CFB Borden, being the birthplace of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps, has the Worthington Tank Museum. We had some time to kill so we go look at the tank park.

Cadet: "Sir! Can we go look at the T-34/85?"
Me: "Sure, why?" (Amazed that he knew what it was)
Cadet: "My grandfather commanded one in the Battle of Berlin."
Me: "Wow!"
Grandfather served from the Battle of Moscow in '41 until the Battle of Berlin. Then got sent East to fight Japan but was invalided out with an injury.



We stayed in the same quarters I used on my courses and ate in the same Mess, so the cadets were always learning new things from Friday night when the senior cadets demonstrated how to make their beds, getting breakfast and right up to cleaning their quarters (we had a kind of bitchy Leading Seaman as Duty NCM) before we went home. Between a taste of life in garrison and touring the CFSATE they got a good look at what life would be like if they joined the RCAF later.

So year end trip turned into a training weekend in disguise, and I was spared a day of headaches at an amusement park.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Full Battle Rattle Fire Team

I've just finished the pack of 28mm modern Canadians from Full Battle Rattle that I picked up at Hotlead. I'm quite pleased.

These are wonderfully detailed sculpts and nicely cast. I didn't have much flash to clean up. The weapons are really fine and I was worried about breaking a few muzzles off.

I painted them in much the same way that I did my 20mm figures except I tried to do some highlights on the weapons and ballistic eye wear. I also tried doing their patrol packs in temperate climate cadpat to give a bit of relief from all the arid pattern tan.





They were fun to paint up. I'm not going to switch scales though. I'm too far down the 20mm rabbit hole to go back. So these have been deployed to the modern section of my bookshelves.

But if you're already a 28mm modern gamer and already have vehicles, insurgents etc. then these are really gorgeous figures and highly recommended. Next year I may ask Alex if I can buy just the radio operator and leader from his command pack though.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Middle Earth Wave 3 Arrives

A while ago my friend Pete, who is always prowling for bargains, spotted a fellow selling some Vendel Elves on the Lead Adventure Forum Marketplace and sent me the link alerting me. He also suggested that to save postage, I have them mailed to his parents and he'd collect them when he went to visit. He visits every year and takes in Salute while he's at it.

After a few messages and a paypal transfer I was the happy owner of a goodly pile of Elves for about half what I'd have paid to buy them new. This lot comprises:
  • 1x Elf King and command group
  • 1x Elf Nobles
  • 3x Armoured spearmen
  • 4x Elf Archers
  • 2x Unarmoured spearmen
Each pack is 4 figures. So that's going to add another unit of Light Bows, and a unit of Light Foot with Missiles, plus 2 or 3 units of Elite armoured spearmen (depending on how many of the Nobles I want to use). Even though there'll be some figures going straight to the leadpile, there is one more bag of archers than I thought I was getting so I'm pretty happy really.

In other news my new Soviets got trashed in their first outing under the Chain of Command rules. A platoon of Rifles tried holding some swampy pine woods against the advancing Fascists. But an 80mm mortar barrage pinned my Maxim gun and half the force while a StuG rolled up to hammer the other half.

I also got this surprise in the post:


My friend had tried to order some 20mm samples from Butler Printed Models and got this 15mm Archer by mistake.

It's not bad on first look. I'll comment more when I paint it up.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Interconnectivity





My wife has been observing me trying to command my Air Cadet Squadron this past year, as myself and my two key staff members all work shifts. I see my Training Officer only about once a month. It makes it hard to have those running conversations that really help get things figured out.

But when I came home from a tour of Toronto International Airport the other week, she with Daughter Number Two's advice and assistance, had purchased for me a low-end Samsung cell phone as a birthday present.
No automatic alt text available.

This caused great shock and amazement among my young staff, who all think of me as a lovable dinosaur.
Image result for lovely dinosaur

It's not that I don't like technology, I just can't see the point of rushing out to buy an expensive item if it won't make my life better in some way (it's money that can be better spent on miniatures or dinners out). So far the home phone and answering machine have been working fine. Our old cell phone (complete with antenna) was good for emergencies when out with the car. Looked at flip phones and having to push the number 3 nine times to get the letter 'i' seemed like a waste of life span.I need a proper key board to text. Anything important could wait until I got home. If someone needed to talk to me they could leave a message.

Until this year.

And now to facilitate being connected to my cadets I have enabled Facebook (for real time posting to the Squadron Page) and Remind (an app used by teachers to send out class announcements) on the cell phone as well. Thus the tentacles of the Big Machine get more of a grip on me.

But my young staff officers are really enjoying being able to get hold of me more quickly when I'm not at cadets.

I think the present was more for them than me.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tying Up Loose Ends

Got a few more things checked off this weekend.

The terrain bits/set-dressing I got at Hotlead are table ready now.

The Lord of the Rings statue I redid with autumn leaves, so still bleak and giving a sense of faded Numenor, but I can use it on more than the snow table. The autumn leaf mix is some really old ground scatter that I've had since I was a kid. It is a mix of green, red and yellow dyed wood shavings plus some tea leaves from some really crappy low-end tea I got for free somewhere.



Basically just tried to be mindful of where dead leaves would collect.

The pots and sacks are also painted, based and with my mediaeval village.

And last night I assembled the pack of Renedra gabions. The circular ends (you only get one per gabion) are plain, so I had to glue some sand on top to make them look full of dirt. You end up with 20 from the pack.

Here are some with the Wars of the Roses cannon I got at Hotlead 2016, which is getting slowly painted in between other projects.