A wargaming update

Today I have been writing the rules for my “Bomber” game, based on Len Deighton’s eponymous book.  It’s all coming together nicely.  The game was first played as a post-Christmas fun game in Chris Scott’s gaming room.  I am now expanding it for a weekend at the Wargames Holiday Centre. The new version is much better than the early picture below.

I also spent a little time basing some 6mm artillery pieces for my domestic campaign game set in 1702.  For these games I normally use Irregular Miniatures blocks of 3 x 6 Infantry (a company or a battalion as required) and 1 x 4 cavalry (a troop or squadron).  But I find their field artillery pieces less than adequate, so I go to Heroics and Ros for the guns.  Irregular siege guns are much better than their field pieces.

As an aside Ian Kay of Irregular Miniatures was kind enough a few years back to sculpt for me a bunch of “early 18th century routing infantry” as a marker unit, based on his ACW-Modern period models.

Battle of Britain. The game

Game 1 for this week has been played. This was the PSC/Richard Borg “Battle of Britain”. We played the first scenario “Kanalkampf”. The game only has four turns and the designers say that it should take 1-2 hours for experienced players. Well, we were “straight out of the box” players and it took almost four hours. This is in no way a criticism. The game mechanisms are simple, once you know what you are doing.

There are a huge amount of game cards and tokens to manipulate, so apart from the game board (about 70x50cm), or the larger game mat that we used (106 x 86cm), you have to find room for eight control mats about 35 x 17cm each, half a dozen piles of counters and somewhere to roll the dice. A table about half the size of Canada will suffice!

As for the game mechanisms, they are very much in the Richard Borg style, as in “card driven options, then chuck x number of dice and what you roll is what you score”. Each side has cubic dice with 3 of their own symbol, 1 enemy symbol and 2 blanks.

The German player has 7 “Flights”, each of initially 6 squadrons. Each is dealt a mission card (from a hand of 10) to bomb an airfield, a radar station or a city. It is impossible to cross the English coast without being detected by radar, unless you have destroyed the radar station. If detected the British player may choose to intercept with an entire flight (he has 12 flights of 3 squadrons) or to wait and “dogfight”. But he can only make 5 attacks each turn, so someone will usually get through, only to be attacked again next turn.

I started by concentrating on the two radar stations in my hand of cards, but was intercepted (Total defending flight value vs total attacking flight value) and only destroyed one of them. Those flights that got through (I only had 5 achievable targets*) were attacked by dog fights where you play off one squadron at a time until one side has nobody left. In both forms of combat you have a 1/2 chance of damaging the enemy, a 1/3 chance of no effect and a 1/6 chance of “friendly fire” adding to the enemy’s roll.

*When you have only 1 flight in Norway and 6 in France, and 5 of your 10 possible missions are Newcastle, Glasgow, Middlesborough, Preston and Creswell radar (N. of Newcastle) there is not a lot you can do about it!

The actual models are representative. Details of the squadrons for each flight are on the players’ control boards.

I managed to knock out the Worth radar station in Dorset, and one airfield, but the first thing the British player can do next turn is repair them or replace lost aircraft. German aircraft are out for good. New aircraft and new missions are available, but downed Germans count for the British final score.

Anyway, after the four turns I had with my seven flights achieved three mission successes and two aborted missions. The game ended with one radar station out, one city (Newcastle) damaged and one fighter ace to my credit. My British opponent counted three fighter aces, two aborted missions and innumerable downed German squadrons. The score was; Germans 15, British “too many to count”.

I nearly obliterated Nottingham but when I got there he had shot down all my Heinkels and Dorniers and left me with 4 squadrons of ME109s with no bombing ability!

I’ll hammer him next time! Iron crosses all round in place of this foray’s wooden ones. This is a game to play again when I get the chance.

Operation Dab-It-Off

Looking back on my blog it appears that I never got around to reporting the results of Operation Dab-It-Off from 27th December 2016.  Unfortunately all photographs are also untraceable.

The game was based on Len Deighton’s book “Bomber”, and I was lucky enough to obtain a flight manual for the Lancaster Bomber to help with the detail.

The operation was so named because it was the fun game played at Chris Scott’s place on the Day After Boxing-day.  For non-UK readers, Dab-It-Off is a form of home dry-cleaning fluid.  It erases unwanted stains, including the town of Irgendwo (somewhere) in 1943 Germany.

Unfortunately the pictures have disappeared into the mists of time, but the idea of the game was that each player was issued with three 1/600 scale Lancaster bombers to fly the length of a 16 foot table, bomb strategic sites in an enemy town (using tiddly-winks) and return safely home.  Each player also had control of a JU88 night fighter to shoot down the opposition.  Every aircraft had randomised skill ratings for each crew member, adding to the same total for every bomber or fighter.  During the flight damage and equipment failures* would be rolled for against the relevant personal skill of the person responsible.

The general game scale was 1 hexagon (6cm) = 4 miles and 1 height level = 2,500 feet.  In air-air combat this was telescoped to about 1/5 of the above.

In summary, the bombers took off in three waves, starting at 21:00.  Each game turn was 10 minutes of real time.  Points were awarded for successful navigation, so there was considerable jostling to fly over or near the first beacon.

As the bomber stream flew over the North Sea a convoy escorted by a FLAK ship was passing*.  The umpire had fun engaging the bombers as they flew overhead, and three aircraft were downed before reaching Holland.  After the first Lancaster crossed the enemy coast the German night fighters were activated.  (D6=6 each turn to activate).  During the approach run one Lancaster was downed for the loss of one JU88.

The first two bombers to arrive at the target decided to ignore the Target Indicators and flew across the target at 90 degrees to the planned approach.  X-XRay was hit by FLAK immediately after bombing and crashed with all the crew lost.

The remaining aircraft followed the TIs (the last one was dropped in the wrong place by the pathfinders*).

Eventually 168 x 1000 pound bombs were dropped.  Of these:

10 hit factories, 6 hit the railway yard, 4 hit the town hall and 4 the army barracks.  10 hit other parts of the railway, 46 hit residential districts and 68 landed in open countryside.  The church and hospital were spared, much to the chagrin of the umpire.

2/3 of the bombers reached the target.  40% of the bombs were wasted, 15% hit valuable targets and 45% hit domestic infrastructure.

Individual aircraft performance:

D-Dog.  Did not bomb.  
E-Easy. FLAK ship hit starboard wing.  Crashed, no survivors.
H-How. 60 pts vital, 90 pts other targets.  "A milk run".
I-Item.  105pts other targets.  Navigator killed.
J-Jig. 120pts vital, 90pts other targets, flew home on 3 engines.
K-King. 120pts vital, 30pts other targets, shot down JU88. Beers all round.
M-Mike. 45pts vital targets. Navigator and bomb-aimer not on speaking terms.
N-Nan. 180pts vital, 75pts other targets. Point-blank hits.
O-Oboe. Engine Fire, Pilot and Navigator bailed out over North Sea, others lost.
P-Peter. 45pts vital, 120pts other targets. Bombed across the stream.
Q-Queen. Hit by FLAK, exploded, all crew lost.
R-Roger. First to cross enemy coast. Hit by FLAK, crashed with all crew lost.
S-Sugar. Engineer dealt with 3 engine failures, aircraft hit by FLAK at low level.
T-Tare. 105pts other targets. Flight Engineer on Elsan throughout flight*.
V-Victor. 60pts other targets. uneventful flight.
X-XRay. 90pts other targets. First to bomb, across stream, but hit by FLAK and crashed.
Y-Yoke. Shot down after unsuccessful bombing run by JU88. Tail Gunner bailed out.
Z-Zebra. 75pts other targets. Last to reach target. Front Gunner killed.
-------
B-Bruno. No combat contacts.
D-Dora. Shot down in combat.
E-Emil. Destroyed 1 Lancaster.
F-Friedrich. No combat contacts.
H-Heinrich. No combat contacts.
I-Ida. No combat contacts.




The game ended due to time restrictions before the bombers could return to their now fogged-in airfield, but all agreed it had been a jolly good game.

Maybe other raids – Brest submarine pens, the Tirpitz, the Dambusters raid, etc. will be created for the future, but meanwhile I rest upon my laurels.

*Each turn I, as umpire, drew a “Gremlin” card to randomise damage, change of wind direction or strength, enemy shipping, and other similar effects.

A bit of TV nostalgia

Today I was relaxing and watching the 1970s BBC TV series “Wings”, which is based on the experiences of the Royal Flying Corps in 1915.

One of the BE2 crews was played by Michael Cochraine (pilot) and David Troughton (observer), clearly a well-established partnership and good friends.

The next time I saw these two together on TV was some 20 years later in the ITV “Sharpe” series, set in the Peninsular War, playing Sir Henry Simmerson and the Duke of Wellington, clearly the worst of enemies.


They also both have rôles in the long-running BBC radio series: “The Archers”, where David’s real son Will plays his son Tom Archer in the drama.

I spent a long time trying to remember where I had previously seen Tim Woodward (Sgt. Alan Farmer), until I spotted him in the next war as Squadron Leader Rex in Channel 4’s 1980s series “Piece of Cake” about the RAF in 1939-40. This series was based on one of Derek Robinson’s eminently readable books about the fictional “Hornet Squadron”.

(Incidentally, reverting to WW1, I can recommend “War Story” by Derek Robinson. He has an excellent command of black humour).

Spotting and cross-relating great British actors is not new to me. I remember years ago spotting Nigel Green as Colour-Sergeant Bourne in “Zulu” receiving rapid promotion to become General Wolsey in “Khartoum”.

A Voyage Round my Father – Part 6

After a quick visit to talk to the British Columbia Aviation Museum staff (see the previous post) I set off to search for the location of this photograph of three RAF types waiting for a lift back to base. (My dad is the middle of the three.

John Dean Park

I thought I had found it, but nowadays the road junction and its signage are far less impressive.

Dean Park 01

Saanitch and Dean Park

I continued up the road towards the park, and arriving at the car park spotted someone erecting a signpost.  “Aha,” I thought, “he might be able to cast some light on the picture.”  As it happens, he was not only a local park volunteer, but has written a history of the park and the area and confirmed that I had found the correct location.  I gave him all my spare copy photo’s from Dad’s album.  He was very interested in my pilgrimage and he advised me of a short walk that I could take if I had half an hour to spare.

Walking through this ancient forest land was almost like wandering into a location for “Jurassic Park”.  I have walked through ancient woodland in England, but it is totally different to this area.  Some pictures below:

John Dean Park 01

 

On my return to the car park, the park volunteer introduced me to a passer-by, who turned out to be an ex-pat “Geordie”, whose father-in-law served at RAF Patricia Bay at the same time as my dad.  He told me that he had a copy of the squadron photograph at home, so we drove the short distance to his house and took a look at it.  We were unable to identify either of our relatives – every man being dressed near identically does not help – but it was another unexpected bonus to my trip.

But can anyone explain this?

John Dean Park 13

Why would First Nation Cultural Activities involve the use of chainsaws?  I take part in historic cultural activities, but very few involve chainsaws, even for the evening cultural campsite conviviality.

Next post – a visit to Fort Rodd.

A Voyage Round my Father – Part 5

Having investigated my preferred option of public transport I decided to hire a car, which was a lot cheaper than I had envisaged.

I was now able to drive, within reason, wherever I wanted.  I had already discovered that Vancouver Island is a damned site bigger than expected and that I would not have time to explore as much as I had hoped.  In fact Vancouver Island is a tad larger than the mainland of Great Britain, so covering it in a week was out of the question.

So I set out to tentatively look at the area where my father actually lived in 1942-3.  My first stop was at the British Columbia Aviation Museum, which is on the edge of Victoria Airport, formerly RAF/RCAF British Columbia.  When I got there the museum was not yet open, but this place was:

Marys Bleue Moon Coffe Bar 01

The name “Mary’s Bleue Moon Café” is a tribute to the Blue Moon coffee shop that was demolished with expansion of the airport.

Here are the adverts from 1942.

Mary's

Blue Moon

Well, whatever else has changed, Mary’s Coffee Bar is still The House with the Friendly Atmosphere.  I was greeted as I entered, but was more taken aback by the decor:

Marys Bleue Moon Coffe Bar 05.JPG

Apart from the model aircraft over the bar, every wall was festooned with memorabilia in the form of photographs and documents.  I was soon moved to tears.  A selection below:

The staff here were so friendly, and so interested in my pilgrimage and what their coffee shop had added to it, that I admit to sitting in a corner and blubbing for a few minutes.

When the museum opposite was open I made a brief visit to ask permission for a later engagement and then went in search of more locations from Dad’s photograph album, of which more in the next posting.

 

 

A voyage round my father – part 1

Last week I visited Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada in search of my father.

As reference material I had his photograph album, luckily in the main annotated in his copperscript hand. As a backup I had the collection of his old RAF station magazines “The Patrician” from July 1942 to February 1944.

I flew to Vancouver Airport (My ideal would have been to cruise across the Atlantic and take the Canadian Pacific Railway to Vancouver, but alas it could not be achieved.)

This picture shows why, even on the approach, I could understand my father’s wish to return to live in this beautiful place after the War.

BC ferry 06

More experiences to follow…