14 May 2017

Sturmgeschutz III Ausf A

ALTHOUGH it was latterly famous as a tank hunter, the StuG began life as an assault gun; providing direct-fire support to infantry attacking defended positions. The concept was birthed in the trench warfare of the First World War, where it had been noted that Stoßtruppen lacked the firepower to tackle fortified strongpoints.  (Then) Colonel Erich von Manstein was a major advocate of the concept of Sturmartillerie ("assault artillery"), that is light artillery pieces that could advance alongside infantry on tracked platforms, and promoted it to his superiors. A June 1936 memorandum by the 2nd Department of the General Staff of the Army defined the use of such a weapon as thus: 'The task of the Stumartillerie is to destroy enemy machine-gun (MG) positions. This task will be performed within the scope of the infantry attack and at firing ranges of maximum 4km. Thus it is a weapon of the infantry and does not have to perform artillery duties. Therefore, there is no need for shooting ranges of 7 km or being fitted with indirect sighting devices.' That same month the Heereswaffenamt tasked Daimler-Benz AG and Krupp with creating a prototype based on these stipulations. Daimler AG used the chassis and other components from the new Panzer III Ausf.B  and Krupp provided the short-barreled 75mm StuK 37 L/24. The resulting prototypes met with approval. Following some modifications, between January and May 1940 36 production models were produced by Alkett - titled the Sturmgeschutz III Ausf A. These retained the main armament, but were based upon the Panzer III Ausf.F chassis, with  the frontal armor increased to 50mm and the sides 30mm - making it the most heavily-armoured German tank at the time. Interestingly the prototypes were open-topped, a vulnerability that had been addressed by the time it reached production. There was no secondary weapon, so the vehicles were entirely reliant on infantry to protect their flanks. Twenty-four Ausf As were issued to Sturmartillerie Batteries 640, 659, 660 and 665 in time to see service during the French Campaign. Each battery was comprised of three platoons, each equipped with six vehicles. Feedback from the front was favourable and the model's future assured. Miniature is from Pithead Miniatures.

21 March 2017

Sd.Kfz.221/2 & Sd.Kfz.231 6-rad

I MUST confess to being rather partial to German WWII armoured cars, particularly those of the 'early war' period. With their sleek, elegant lines and angles I consider them to be just as iconic as the panzers of the same era. This may in part be because they seemed to be a regular fixture in the Warlord, Commando,  Battle Picture Weekly and War Picture Library comics I eagerly read as a lad - usually as transport for a dastardly German officer, who would at the end of the strip perish with a cry of 'Gott in Himmel!' on his lips! Naturally I have used my 1939-40 project, of which this blog is a chronicle, as a chance to procure several models and variants to represent the Aufklärungs-Abteilungs (Reconnaissance Battalions) belonging to the panzer divisions, which were used to locate and probe enemy positions. Certainly from the histories I have been reading (I shall compile a bibliography shortly), it would appear that the motorcycle combinations and armoured cars of these formations were usually the first enemy forces encountered by Allied troops. 

First up we have two Leichter Panzerspähwagen, an Sd.Kfz. 221 and Sd.Kfz. 222. Born from the need for an armoured car with off-road capabilities, work on the Sd.Kfz. 221 was begun secretly in 1935, with 340 being delivered between 1936-39. The vehicle had excellent range (186 miles), speed (50mph on road) and reliability, but its off-road ability was quickly found insufficient on the backwards road infrastructure of the Soviet Union during the autumn-winter of 1941-42. In 1939 frontal armour was increased from 8 to 14mm, whilst sides and rear sides remained at 6mm. Handled by a crew of two it was initially armed with a single MG 13, although from 1938 this was upgraded to an MG 34. This armament was soon realised to be insufficient, so in 1936 work began on an improved model, the Sd.Kfz. 222. The engine was moved from the front to the rear and the chassis was completely redesigned, resulting in a heavier, but more durable vehicle. The internal structure was enlarged to fit three crew, as was the turret so that it could mount a 2cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon, alongside an MG 34. The former, which was also the main armament of the Panzer II, gave the 222 the ability to engage enemy armoured cars as well as increasing their anti-personnel potency. Between 1936 and 1943 almost 2000 Sd.Kfz. 222s were produced, making it the Heer's most numerous armoured car. Later developments included increasing armour and upgrading the main gun. 

Next is a Schwerer Panzerspähwagen, more specifically a Sd.Kfz.231 6-rad. Built upon the commercial 6x4 truck chassis of a number of manufacturers (the Magirus M-206, Büssing-NAG G-31 and Daimler-Benz G3.6) development started in 1932 and continued until 1935, with some 123 vehicles being delivered alongside 28 radio versions designated Sd.Kfz.232 6-rad. It had a crew of four, similar operational range and speed as the Sd.Kfz. 221/2, and could be steered from either end, allowing for hasty withdrawals. The vehicle is instantly recognisable by its long sloping glacis plate, that ran up to turret  fitted with a 2cm KwK 30 L/55 and coaxial MG 13 (again later upgraded to a MG 34). As with most armoured cars of the period, armour was designed to deflect small arms fire and shrapnel and was between 8 and 6mm. Before the war broke out the off-road limitations of 6-wheeled vehicles was already apparent and by 1937 the Germans had begun producing models based on the Büssing-NAG 8×8 truck chassis, which resulted in the Sd.Kfz.231 8-rad. And I need to get one of those! All models from Pendraken Miniatures

05 March 2017

Pz.Kpfw. 38(t)

DEVELOPED by Czechoslovakian engineering company ČKD as a replacement of the earlier LT vz.35, production on what was then designated the LT vz. 38 was interrupted by Germany's annexation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. Impressed by the design, the Germans introduced some small alterations before continuing manufacture, rolling out almost five hundred Ausf.A-Ds between May 1939 and November 1940, although there were little visible differences between these variants. Initially re-designated the LTM 38, in January 1940 the Germans changed this again to Panzerkampfwagen 38(t).  Boasting as main armament a 3,7cm ÚV vz. 38 gun, it was both better-armed and armoured than German Panzer I and IIs and had a reputation for reliability, so-much-so that its chassis was later used for the famous Jagdpanzer 38/Hetzer tank destroyer. Some 57 Panzer 38(t)s were used in the invasion of Poland and 237 during the invasion of France and the Low Countries, with 91 of these serving in Rommel's 7th Panzer Division. It's undoing was in the east, where it was no match for the increasing number of T-34s and by 1942 it had been removed from front-line service. Models are from Pendraken Miniatures.

04 March 2017

Pz.Kpfw. I Ausf.B

ALTHOUGH initially conceived as a Reichswehr training vehicle, the Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf.B saw action in the Spanish Civil War and during the opening years of WWII. During Fall Weiss it made up about thirty-five percent of the total panzers available to the Heer and in Fall Gelb about twenty percent. It was quickly found to be woefully under-armoured and gunned (maximum armour was 13mm, and armament was turret-mounted twin MG13s), with even the maligned French 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun presenting a lethal threat, and certainly it was no match for the majority of period Allied tanks. However, when used in coordination with other panzers, against unsupported infantry or in reconnaissance roles it could perform well and its high speed (about 30mph on road) was an undoubted asset. Ultimately, like many early war tanks, it was fast rendered obsolete by the realities of modern armoured warfare, and was soon superseded by better-armed and armoured tanks like the Pz.Kpfw. III and IV. 

These models are from Miniature Figurines and, despite what I had heard about problems with flash, were a joy to assemble and paint, so-much-so that I currently have three Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf.Cs on order. Expect much more Jerry AFVs over the coming week!

24 February 2017

Morris CS9 Troop

HERE is a troop of Morris CS9s belonging to 12/Royal Lancers, who were equipped with thirty-eight of the vehicles, which I will use to recreate some of the regiment's hair-raising May 1940 actions. With their attached Royal Engineers they were tasked with blowing bridges in the face of the inexorable German advance through Belgium and were involved in the counter-attack at Arras on 21 May, where during a reconnaissance they destroyed a limbered battery of 15 cm sFH 18s. Although its armour was comparable to other armoured cars of the period, the CS9's armament (a Bren and Boys anti-tank rifle) was insufficient and the high profile made for a conspicuous target. The regiment were forced to scuttle their vehicles before being evacuated from Dunkirk on the evening of 31 May. I have also read that the regiment fielded up to six Guy Armoured Cars during the campaign, which were virtually indistinguishable from the Humber Mk.I, although sadly no-one seems to make one in 10mm. The models are from the ever-redoubtable Pithead Miniatures.

17 February 2017

The Lay of the Land

AS I mentioned in my first post, I've been tinkering with some homebrew rules for my WWII project. They are based on a set I had originally started writing for WWI gaming back in early 2015, but by the end of that year had been pressed into service for the Falklands War! Now they have been converted again, this time for WWII, and are almost finished. I had a number of criteria when I started writing them and these were that they (1) would be company-level, with one infantry base representing a section and support weapon/AFV bases at 1:1, (2) would be built around each side generating a random amount of commands per turn, (3) would amalgamate most weapons into broad groups or "types", (4) would treat infantry and armour similarly, (5) would merge damage and morale and make them cumulative like "wounds", and, lastly (6), that all this would fit comfortably onto no more than four A4 sheets. Rather a tall order of myself, I know, but I am pleased to relay that all these principles have been met and tentatively reside under the snappy title of Forward Command (or "ForC" for short).

I feel I must point out that although the core rules are indeed contained over four pages, there will be separate "army lists" for nations/periods/theatres. As it is the period that currently most interests me, I am presently drawing up lists for Europe 1939-40 with the following nations to be covered: Germany, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, France, and Britain (no Luxembourg, sorry!). In fact I would say that this latter task is proving rather more demanding than designing and writing the rules themselves! To give curious readers a inkling of what I am up to, I include below the Dutch Army List as it currently stands, although no doubt this will be subject to revision before the end. As previously stated, despite the fact that I am writing them primarily for myself, when the rules and lists are ready I shall make them freely available via this blog.

As you might appreciate, then, the last month has seen heavy play-testing and revision - including a complete overhaul of the aforementioned AFV rules so that they harmonise with the infantry rules more-or-less completely. So that this post isn't solely comprised of my febrile wittering, I have included some quick pictures of these play-test games to showcase the scenery I have been building. As can be seen I still have some way to go in this department, although I hope to add mastic roads and rivers in the coming weeks. However, there are also lots of miniatures and buildings to be painted too, so we shall see about that. Have good weekend readers. 

Addendum. Moments after I posted this piece the following book was delivered. At some 650 pages it is a hefty (and somewhat pricey) tome, but is more than worth it for the plethora of rare photos with which every page is adorned. I can foresee much of the weekend spent in a comfy armchair with Jean-Paul Pallud's Blitzkrieg in the West in my hands and Chopin's Nocturnes on the stereo, courtesy of Vladimir Ashkenazy!

29 January 2017

Situation Report

WELCOME to We Stand and Fight, dear reader, which I intend to use to document my ongoing wargaming projects. Currently I am building forces and terrain with which to recreate the 1940 German invasion of France and the Low Countries in 10mm. For this I am also writing my own rules, which I am still in the process of testing. These are company-level and I hope to be able to make them available here when they are in a more presentable state! Concerning miniatures, over the preceding year I have gradually amassed and painted the best part of a BEF infantry company with various optional attached support elements. These are drawn exclusively from Pendraken and Pithead Miniatures and may be seen in the photographs below. To these I am to add:

  • 1x company and 3x platoon HQ stands
  • 2x Matilda A12s 
  • 1x Cruiser I A9
  • 2x  QF 2 pounders
  • 3x Morris CS9s

I have also started work on ze Germans and should be able to share some of my efforts in this direction over the coming weeks. As far as the future goes, I should like to add some French and then perhaps look at Poland 1939, but let's not put the cart before the horse! Regarding the former I have it in mind to recreate some of the desperate actions south of the Somme from late May-12 June 1940, where two Brigades of the 51st (Highland) Division were annihilated along with French 9th Army Corps. The Highlander's valiant stand is well documented in Saul David's excellent 'Churchill’s Sacrifice of the Highland Division: France 1940', which shines a light onto this obscure post-Operation Dynamo action and the rather grubby political machinations that lay behind it. A much recommend read. Anyway, that's enough waffle: on with the pictures!

Platoon 1 (Pendraken)
Platoon 2 (Pendraken)
Platoon 3 (Pendraken)
2x Infantry Tank Mk.I (A11) (Pendraken)
Cruiser Mk III (A13) (Pendraken)
Vickers Mk VI and Mk VIc (Pendraken)
3x Bren Carriers (Pithead)
Daimler Dingo (Pithead)
2x 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank guns (Pendraken with some Pithead crew for variety)
3x Vickers medium machine guns (Pendraken)