"War is a drama, not a game of chess."
Gen Eisenhower

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Return of Captain Beesley and the East Southhamstershires

Following their initial action, the East Southhamstershires fell back to friendly lines. Captain Beesley of the Light Company was called into the Colonel's tent.

"AH! Beesley, there you are. I think we have something for you." The Colonel lazily points to a splendidly decked out officer of the Engineer service who is standing rather stiffly around the Colonel and Major.
"Lieutenant Swiven?" He glances back at the lieutenant to ensure he said the name correctly and presses on, "Swiven here is to conduct a survey mission of an area to our front. He is looking to find any suitable paths that the army can use and to ensure that the French do not have a route that we do not know about yet. You sir, are to be his escort. Take the young gentleman where he wishes to go and ensure that no harm comes to him."

Being dismissed as if these could not possibly be any questions that he could have with such clear and decisive orders, Beesley gathered his company together to move out.

The light company marched out on a lovely morning with Lieutenant Swiven and his survey party. They arrived at a small village near a river crossing. The survey party began their work. Beesley established a sentry post near some ruined walls just to the north of the town. The river is north of the sentry post.

Next, Beesley set a picket along a strong stone fence at the north end of the village. Here Sergeant Smallwood and eight men waited for sign of the enemy.

The light company enjoyed some rest for a few days while the survey was being done. On the third day, the sentry spotted an advancing french unit crossing the bridge. A small unit of carabiniers quickly chased the sentry away and occupied his position.

The warning of the sentry brought out Lieutenant Harthwaite with 8 men and Sergeant Langtree with twelve men from the houses and formed a line between Sergeant Smallwood's position and the northern most house.

The carabiniers and Lt Harthwaite's commands exchanged fire with little coming of it. The French moved across the bridge without any serious opposition. One blind headed to the top of the hill on their left while another ran towards the stand of crops on their right. Two more proceeded down the center of the road.

Captain Beesley and 8 men moved to support Sgt Smallwood along the stone wall. One french blind continued forward until it was spotted only 12" from the front of the British lines. Once spotted, it revealed itself to be a fast moving french column of 4 groups of nine men each. The British opened fire across their line against the column massing a significant amount of shock and some casualties. The blind following the french column stalled near the bridge.

In the fight that began against the column, the French commander, Lt Gerard managed to remove shock and charge the column into Sgt Langtree's line. In the resulting fisticuffs, both Langtree and Gerard were killed. Two rounds of fisticuffs saw Langtree's command break and fall back.

The luck of Gerard's column died with him as Lt Harthwaite, Sgt Smallwood and Captain Beesley's groups opened fire on the column at nearly point blank range. The fire shattered the column that was never able to recover and it routed off the board back where it came from.

At this point, Lt Harthwaite spotted the other blind. This was a french half company commanded by Captain Amaury and Lieutenant Ernest. Captain Amaury believed that his men could carry the day. Rushing his men in two separate formations of two groups of nine each they moved quickly up either side of the road. This time, the British were able to bring the advance to a halt 12" from their lines. The French were never able to overcome the mounting casualties and shock and were forced to withdraw. They lost another big man - Sergeant Laurent.

Once the smoke of the battle cleared, the British had suffered eleven casualties including Sergeant Langtree. Sgt Langtree managed to nearly stop the French column through his weight of fire but died galantly leading his men against the French charge. The French lost 29 men in casualties including two big men: Lt Gerard and Sgt Laurent.


The use of a column to charge the British line nearly worked. Had the French had access to a reasonable bonus card, they may have pulled it off. Instead they had drawn Water and Stand Fast. The British started with two Stand Fast cards. They then drew all of the French cards (Hop to It and Pas De Charge). The British used their two Stand fast cards well and received grasp the nettle cards as needed. The french always seemed to have their big men arrive before their GTN cards.

This was a fun solo game and I was able to play with using columns. Reading Cornwall's Sharp books it seemed that the French loved to advance in column. The tactic must of worked somewhere for them to continue to try it. Here it nearly worked and the column was able to reach the British line and did break it. They just lacked the power to stay in the fight after the initial clash.

Sorry for the lack of pictures as the camera (my cell phone) was absconded by my son so he could play angry birds.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interlude and Paranoia

Suffering over 50% casualties in one battle is enough to take the stuffing out of any unit. So, it was not surprising when the dice told me that it would be about 3 weeks before the next engagement. That should be enough time to get the replacements in, and at least teach them which end of a rifle to point at the enemy. Once again, it was consolidation time within the company. As each platoon is now down to basically one squad each, it only made sense to group the survivors together into the new 1 Platoon, and send the replacements into 2 Platoon. That gives 1 Platoon almost a full strength TO&E, with 2 squads of 10 and one of 8. 2 Platoon now has a squad of 10 men and a squad of 7, all of which are replacements. While going through the casualty figures, I discovered that the 50mm mortars had not been completely wiped out. There was 1 soldier left alive out of the two crews, so he went into 2 Platoon. That gave the second squad 8 men. 3 Platoon has ceased to exist. Oddly enough, this might benefit the company, as the attentions of the (too few) leaders will not be as divided among the company subgroups.

Since this is September 1941, there is a definite shortage of Junior and Senior Lieutenants out there to assign to the company. So, it is time for Captain Karpov to reach into the ranks for another big man. He does just that, and comes up with Junior Sergeant Zinoviev. Zinoviev is a scholarly type, whose motivation is religion. Maybe his family wanted him to go into the priesthood, or maybe he comes from a background like Jr. Lt. Lobachevsky did. Either way, it’s not something that is going to help him go far in the Red Army. As a squad leader, he is only a Level I leader, but has a D4 ability, which is better than both of the officers he is replacing. Apparently that scholarly personality, combined with some practical experience, has taught him a little bit about handling troops. He has an even temperament, and comes from an average background, so it seems obvious that Capt. Karpov has chosen him for his ability. Surely this is a relief instead of having to deal with what he was given, as was the case with Bartov and Lobachevsky. Since he is a Junior Sergeant, Zinoviev can only influence one squad within the platoon; however, that is all you can do once the shooting starts anyway so it shouldn’t be that much of a negative.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the 1941 RKKA without the paranoia mentioned in the title. Captain Karpov might not be in disgrace, but he is surely under a cloud. It doesn’t matter that he was outnumbered, undermanned and in a bad position. What matters is that he did not carry out the combat task assigned to him. While there is no evidence (yet) that he is a traitor to the Motherland, it seems clear to the upper echelons that the reason he lost this last engagement is that there was not a Commissar to provide the men with the proper fighting spirit. So, regimental HQ has sent one of their political officers down to ‘assist the Company Commander until Comrade Vlasov returns to duty.’ Enter Regimental Commissar Klimkinov. He is a generous type, just like Vlasov. However, he is motivated by the Government, so this political officer is one of the ‘true believers.’ He is a better leader than Vlasov, being a Level II officer but that is probably expected since he is higher up the political chain of command. He has an even temperament, and comes from a military background just like Karpov does. Klimkinov probably thinks this will help him get along with Karpov, since they have something in common there. I don’t think that is the case, though.

Let’s look at things from Karpov’s view. He lost half his command in the last battle, and lost the battle. He got reinforcements, but instead of more leaders he got a commissar from regimental to ‘assist’ him. For Karpov, there is no way this could be good. The flip side of this is that if Karpov can get past his paranoia, he might realize that having a contact on the regimental staff could be a good thing, even if it is on the political end. Since Klimkinov’s assignment with the unit is a short one, it will be interesting to see if Karpov comes to this conclusion, or continues to look for the NKVD squad to show up.

The next mission will be a screening of friendly engineers while they do some roadwork. Karpov will probably see this as a slight against his unit as well. After all, a regimental commissar looking over his shoulder AND a ‘milk run’ type of mission for the company’s return to combat can only add up to one thing. The obvious conclusion is that regimental HQ doesn’t trust him or his men. Given that he is an aggressive, revenge motivated type, there is no doubt that he will drive his troops hard in the next engagement. That way, he will get his revenge against the Germans, and prove to the new commissar that he is not a traitor. October 1, 1941 (the date of the next action) should be an interesting day for all concerned.