Operation Sealion – The Battle of Brighton

Hello followers,

Well, it has been a while since I posted, and here is why.

  1. Ongoing arguments between insurers and builders about the re-instatement of our house as it was before the fire of 4th July.
  2. Arguments with caravan insurers, purchasing a replacement caravan and trying to find someone who would insure the replacement.
  3. Finding somewhere to keep the new caravan while the builders – if we ever get any – repair the house and re-fence the garden.
  4. Sourcing a new garden shed/workshop.  Achieved as a local contractor will build a bespoke shed to fit the space available.
  5. Buying an awning that fits the new caravan, and, as yet not begun, selling the old one.
  6. Undergoing a biopsy to investigate my almost certain cancer.

and finally, the fact that I am running a PBEM wargame and anything that I post will be visible to both commanders.

So, with the game now poised at 07:00 18th September 1940, here are the battle reports for the previous 30 minutes from 06:00 to 06:30.

The situation is the German attack on Brighton, with the intention of capturing Shoreham harbour to allow unloading of armoured units.

Brighton 18th September 1940 British 0630

Brighton 18th September 1940 German 0630



A day of many parts

Today, despite being well into the second half of July, is dull and drizzly, following spectacular thunderstorms last night.

So I am confined indoors and catching up with several domestic and wargaming tasks.

I was inspired after listening to the latest Meeples and Miniatures podcast and after our recent fire to start documenting my wargame collection for insurance purposes.  It will be a long task.  It took me a week to collate from memory and photographs what we lost when the two sheds burned down.

Then I found a compiled list of unit values for Panzer Leader 1940 at www.imaginative-strategist.layfigures.com for use in my Operation Sealion games, which I began to incorporate into my game records.

Next task was the pile of ironing, helped along by watching a couple of episodes of “By The Sword Divided”.


This is a BBC drama series screened between 1983 and 1985, like a sort of 1640s “Downton Abbey” which coincided with my early years of  English Civil War reenactment, and later episodes included some of my oldest – and in some cases sadly departed – friends as “supporting talent”.  The DVD series was released by the BBC in 2004.

Then I turned to some figure painting, namely the 1790s 6mm MDF soldiers from Commission Figurines.  These little “toy soldier” style figures are a little fragile, and because I expect them to be handled by small people I glue them in ranks of 3 to form blocks.


During the course of this I managed to drop a paint pot lid onto the beige carpet.  I hope that after some immediate panic action and a steam cleaner I have (almost) got away with it.  Time for a second application of carpet cleaner now before the Memsahib sees it.DSCN0707

And it’s still only 1:30pm!  Plenty of time for more catastrophes before bedtime.

A poor documentary

If anyone wants to watch a highly oversimplified Germano-centric and, from my other reading, somewhat inaccurate documentary of the first part of the Second World War, I can grudgingly recommend the Lamancha Productions “Visions of War” series, Galaxy Film 1983 presentation of “Blitzkrieg” by Karl Ullman, directed by Wolfgang Richter.

On the other hand if you want to view some excellent archive footage of the same period I can heartily recommend the same film without the soundtrack.

In its defence I would say that it is good to see anything from the other side of the hill.


Three days after

So, here we are, three days after the fire that destroyed our new caravan, two sheds, one bike store and part of our house.

We are waiting for some chaps to clean up and remove the debris.  Just as well as I now own neither broom nor shovel for this task.

Meanwhile I am going through the database that I have created of what I remember being in the sheds and photographing everything recognisable for the insurance claim.  This is inevitably adding items that I did not remember to the database.

The loss adjusters will be here next Friday and I am sure they will not believe how much we claim to have owned and stored, which is why this photographic evidence is so necessary.

Several people, including my mother who lives 100 miles away, have seen the story on the TV, but we have failed to spot it, or find it on “catch-up” services.  Why are we denied this when everyone else can watch our misfortune.?  But I did find the local newspaper, who took the trouble to send a reporter to get some (but by no means all) of the facts correct.

Basingstoke Gazette website 1

Basingstoke Gazette website 2

Basingstoke Gazette newspaper article



Normal service will be resumed…

Everything has come to a grinding halt here since Tuesday afternoon.  Around 3:20 in the afternoon I was putting the finishing touches to some Morris 15cwt trucks for our next wargame when the doorbell rang.

It was Dave, our neighbour.  He said: “Your shed’s on fire. I’ve called the fire brigade.”

I rushed out of the back door and to the summer house where I keep a large fire extinguisher.  By the time I got back it was clear that would not be enough.  I began to unreel the garden hose, but another neighbour appeared and dragged me away.  As we left the garden I saw that the garden fence was alight and the back end of our caravan had begun to melt, as had the guttering on the flat-roofed extension to the house.

My rescuer asked what was in the shed.  Apart from the usual collection of old paint tins there were 3 large gas bottles, propane and butane.  I and everyone else were forcibly retired to the other end of the street.

By the time we could hear the fire engines trying to battle with the traffic – at this time of day our area is crowded with “Chelsea Tractors” each with a doting parent and a brat who would benefit from walking home from school occasionally – the scene looked like this:  https://www.facebook.com/peter.tolson/videos/10155431633238149/

I will try to get a copy of the video posted directly here to avoid the Facebook log-on. Meanwhile here is a taster:

This is the scene my wife arrived to see. She was releived that the house was not gutted as she had seen the smoke on her dash home.

We had four fire engines, numerous police cars and two paramedic cars.  I was taken to hospital to have my burned face dressed.

When I returned from hospital, everything had died down and everyone had left we faced this sight:

What I came home to. This used to be a bike store, a garden tool shed, a larger shed/workshop and a caravan.
The house and garden. In fact there is little structural damage to the house, but the builders will need to be called in.

So, two days later, we are still waiting for the insurance assessor to call, and everything remains untouched.  We have come down from the adrenalin rush and the initial shock to a state of mild depression.

But it could have been much worse.  We have only lost stuff.  The caravan was fully insured for market value and there would have been littla depreciation since we bought it just three weeks ago.  I doubt if the home contents insurance amount will cover all the lost items, but many were d-i-y tools bought for a specific job in the past and stored in the big shed.

A massive thank you to the fire crews who saved the house and were so considerate – they even went into the our bedroom, under the part that was burning, chucked all the teddy bears from the shelves onto the bed, and covered bed and wardrobe with plastic sheeting to minimise water damage.

All the teddies are safe from drowning!

And where would we be without all our neighbours, who alerted me, called the fire brigade, saved me from severe injury, found our dog two streets away and gave physical and moral support, and have offered to help clean up the mess?

When this is all over we intend to hold a “thank you” party for them all – but probably not a barbecue!

And the cause of the fire is not yet known.

In the past few days I have added from eBay to my collection of ASL game boards.

I do not play Squad Leader because it is far too complex for my taste, but I do use the geomorphic game boards for my home-grown games.

The photo shows a Napoleonic battle in progress. Each infantry block represents a close order company of 60 men in two ranks or 90 men in three ranks. “Dotted” infantry are skirmishers, representing 30 light infantry. A French light Infantry battalion can be seen advancing through the woods on their right flank in skirmish order.

For cavalry a block represents three ranks of 10 men and artillery blocks each represent a gun and crew.

For these games I halve the Squad Leader claimed ground scale so that each hexagon is 20 yards across (could also be 20 paces or 20 metres according to period).

The plastic blocks are sourced from “Plastics for Games” with labels created in Excel.

I aim to eventually own the entire collection of ASL boards. My stock of boards is currently:

When I set up a game I take the stack of boards and roll three dice to select which three boards from the stack I will use. A further die roll decides the orientation of each board.

As I go through the stack to select the boards for play, boards that are not chosen go to the bottom of the pile, thus further randomising future selections.

Bomber – the Wargame. Part 2

I thought it may be of interest to publish the draft rules that we will be using.  After drafting the rules I found the booklet shown in the header photograph, and was very pleased to find that the technical specs for a Lancaster matched very well with my own performance estimates.  The booklet is very useful for extra information on such things as take-off and landing speeds and – something I had not previously considered – which engines also power which subsidiary functions like gun turret hydraulics.  This in itself has added an element to my game.

And so to the draft rules:

BOMBER – Draft rules.

Designer’s Note:  Regardless of the apparent detail in these rules, it is intended to be competitive fun in the spirit of “one for all, and every man for himself”.  I have been surprised how close my first draft was to the real capabilities of the aircraft.


Each aircraft crew member has an ability level based on his training, natural skill and equipment efficiency.  These have been randomised, but every equivalent aircraft has the same total score.  Pilots cannot have the lowest ability rating.  Nobody’s ability can fall below level 1.

These abilities will be used to determine performance against problems.  Abilities may be reduced as the game progresses.  Generally you must roll below your ability to perform a task.  The exception is trying to fly higher or faster.

 Game Scales. (For reality checks)

The game is played on a 6cm hexagon grid.  Each hexagon is approximately 4 miles from side to side for strategic purposes, but for tactical engagements and bombing this is somewhat telescoped.

One turn is 10 minutes.

One altitude level is approximately 2,500 feet.  A Lancaster will normally cruise at and bomb from around level 6-8 (15-20,000 ft).  Maximum height is 11 (27,500 ft).

Flying higher will reduce vulnerability to Flak, but may make you more of a target for night fighters and will consume more fuel.  For aerial combat the difference between levels is assumed to be reduced to around 500 feet relative to the target.

One speed level is around 25 mph.  A Lancaster will normally cruise around level 6-7 (real = 160-170mph), but the maximum speed is 11 (real = 270 mph).

The minimum (stalling) speed is 4. (real =118 mph).

One fuel unit is 10 gallons.

Flak Guns have a range of 3 hexagons.  In reality the range is around 19,000 m level (3 hexagons) or 9,500 m vertical (12 altitude levels).  In the game the range for calculating shooting is the total of hexagons + altitude, but only up to 3 hexagons horizontal.

JU88 night fighters have a speed of between 5 and 12 hexagons (200 – 480 kph) and a maximum ceiling of 13 (9,250 m).

Combat ranges between fighters and bombers have been stretched, as the minimum space between models at the strategic scale is 4 miles.  Opening fire with a Browning .303” gun at 7,000 yards in the dark would be fairly pointless.  All combat between fighters and bombers is carried out at a range of 1 hexagon.

Aircraft will move in a randomised sequence determined by the draw of a card or a chit.

Flying a Lancaster bomber.

The Lancaster bomber can fly at a height between 1 and 11 (2,500 – 27,500 ft) and a speed between 4 and 11 (100mph-275mph).  If the speed is below 4 it will require a pilot ability roll to pull out of the uncontrolled dive.   The height is shown by one or two blue dice on the right side of the base.  The speed is shown by one or two red dice on the left side of the base.  At the start of each turn, the player may try to change either speed or altitude by one point up or down.

First declare the intention.  Roll a D6 and add or subtract the pilot ability level as desired.  If the result is higher than the factor to be increased then that factor is increased by one.  If the result is lower than the factor to be decreased then that factor is decreased by one.  Note that there is no trade-off of height for speed, to keep it simple.


A Bomber may turn by 60 degrees after each forward move of one hexagon.  The maximum number of turns in one move is equal to the ability of the navigator.  The minimum number of turns allowed in one move is one.  After damage to the aircraft it may be necessary to move two hexagons forwards before each turn.

Potential Collisions

An aircraft may pass through a hexagon containing another aircraft.  No aircraft may occupy the same hexagon as another aircraft at the end of the turn.  The aircraft that arrived last must reduce speed or turn away to complete its move.

After moving, the player deducts the total of the current altitude and speed from his fuel tally on the log sheet, also marking the heading, height and speed.

The cards

 At the end of each turn after the first aircraft reaches the enemy coast the umpire will draw a “Gremlin” card and advise the relevant player(s) of the consequences.

Damage cards are drawn when an aircraft suffers hits or if the Gremlin card indicates a systems failure.  Damage must be noted on the pilot’s log.

FLAK Batteries

FLAK takes priority over other combat.   At the end of its move each aircraft must dice for damage from all FLAK batteries within 3 hexagons.   Roll 2D6.  Subtract 1 for each hexagon of range and 1 for each level of altitude.  The result is the number of damage cards dealt to the player.  Damage is inflicted in the sequence of the cards dealt.

Night Fighters.

Each player has one JU88 night fighter.  The JU88 may be deployed at the player’s discretion, subject to the following:  Roll 1D8 and 2D6.  If the D8<2D6 the aircraft may be deployed.  It is placed on the table edge in occupied territory with an initial speed of 1D8 (minimum 5) and height of 1D8.

JU88 night fighters have a crew of 3.  They fly under the same rules as a Lancaster, but at a speed of 5 – 13 hexagons and an altitude of 1 – 13 hexagons, using a D8 instead of a D6.  If the speed falls below 5 it will require a pilot ability roll to pull out of the uncontrolled dive.

A JU88 starts with 200 fuel points and marks off the tally as for Lancaster bombers.  It must leave the table before running out of fuel.  It may be refuelled and rearmed after 2D6 turns.

Aerial combat

Each aircraft may fire before moving, after moving, or both. When the JU88 has moved within one hexagon of the Lancaster:

Lancaster gunners (depending on angle of attack) roll against their ability.  If 1D6<ability the gunner saw the JU88 approaching and warns the pilot.  The pilot rolls against his ability.  If 1D6<ability, the aircraft may move 1 hexagon in any forward direction and 1 level up or down.

The JU88 has:

4 x 20mm cannon firing directly forwards.  If the target is within 1 hexagon and directly in front of the JU88 and at the same altitude, roll 2D6.  Subtract the die roll for each die from the Pilot ability.  The result is the number of hits.  Take 2 damage cards on the target for each hit.

2 x 20mm cannon firing forwards and upwards.  If the target is within 1 hexagon and directly in front of the JU88 and 1 level higher, roll 1D6.  Subtract the die roll from the Pilot ability.  The result is the number of hits.  Take 2 damage cards on the target for each hit

1 x 7.92 MG firing directly to the rear.  If the target is within 1 hexagon and directly to the rear of the JU88 and 1 level higher, roll 1D6.  Subtract the die roll from the Navigator ability.  The result is the number of hits.  Take 1 damage card on the target for each two hits, rounding down.

FLAK and JU88 Night Fighters.

If a JU88 strays within 3 hexagons of a FLAK position, roll 2D6 for identification.  Subtract the range in hexagons and the altitude.   If the result is positive the FLAK guns have misidentified the aircraft as a Blenheim and open fire, as for Lancaster bombers.

Lancaster Bombers – Combat

May shoot before moving, after moving, or both.  Lancasters are armed with:

Front:  (Bomb Aimer is also Front Gunner.)  2 x .303” MGs.  May fire at targets within one hexagon ahead, to left or right at the same altitude, one level above or one below.  Roll 1D6 and subtract from the gunner’s ability.  Remainder is hits.  Target takes one damage card for each hit.

Mid-Upper: 2 x .303″ MGs.  May fire at any target within the same altitude or one above and one hexagon range, except directly to the rear at the same altitude.  Roll 1D6 and subtract from the gunner’s ability.  Remainder is hits.  Target takes one damage card for each hit.

Tail: 4 x .303″ MGs.  May fire at targets within one hexagon to the rear, to left or right at the same altitude, one level above or one below.  Roll 1D6 and subtract from the gunner’s ability.  Remainder is hits.  Target takes two damage cards for each hit.


When the aircraft is lined up on the target and one move away from overflying it, bombing will take place.  The bomb-aimer rolls 1D6<ability to move the aircraft one hexagon in any direction.  The launch point is the new position of the aircraft, moved back one hexagon for each height level, and forwards for each speed level.

The player now shoots seven tiddlywinks from the launch position. (Each represents two 1000lb bombs).  The umpire adjudicates the fall of bombs, scores the bombing and places fire and smoke markers.  The aircraft is now returned to control of the pilot who must fly straight and level on the next move (for the photographs to be taken).


Landing a Lancaster is achieved by reducing the altitude to 0 and the speed to 100mph (speed 4) at the point at which the aircraft reaches the runway.  Depending on damage sustained this may be easy or very difficult.

A note about the cards.

Anyone who has played Monopoly will be familiar with the concept of Chance cards.  In my game the umpire draws a card at the start of each game turn.  A few of the Gremlin cards may be beneficial, but most will infove a frustration factor.  maybe the predicted weather has changed.  Maybe a vital piece of equipment has failed.  Most of the cards require one specific aircraft to draw a damage card and if that card refers to a system (as opposed to generalised structural damage) the effects are applied.

The Damage cards are drawn either as a result of a Gremiln card or from Flak or anemy shooting.  These range from crew casualties to structural or systems damage.  After damage the aircraft will be harder to fly and perform bombing, shooting, navigation, etc.  These effects are generally indicated by reducing one or more crew abilities, requiring a lower die roll to succeed in any task.