Monday 11 December 2023

Verdun 1916 in 54mm - Fort de Vaux

 Yet another 54mm Great War game now - and another (long-awaited) trip to Verdun!

This saw the debut outing for several 'new' toys, including a small batch of beautifully painted (and converted) figures I picked up at the Plastic Warrior show in May.

German officers pose for a photo shortly before the battle.  These rather splendid chaps arrived from eBay a few days before the game!  The real German generals were Martin, Pete and Graham, while French interests were represented by John and Russell.

In their pre-game briefings I gave the Germans and the French 300 and 100 points respectively to spend on additional assets.  The resultant 'shopping lists' were as follows:


40 - gas artillery shells to cover the beaten area chosen 

23 - 303 Rgt as higher quality troops 

20 - pioneers to improve the 301 and 302 positions

10 - contest aviation to achieve air superiority

2 - RFC recce

2 - AAA

2 - field telephones between the three starting positions and artillery

1 - any remaining assets to super heavy artillery 5km off map.



50 - super heavy guns

50 - air recce

30 - flamethrowers

50 -  field telephones

30 - hospital

30 - improved roads

30 - visit from a dignitary

30 - film crew

Once we had the terrain (such as it was) set up, the Germans made an artillery fire plan while the French laid telephone lines using red wool.  We couldn't resist de-colouring some of the photos for atmosphere.  Above are French trenches under heavy artillery fire.
Clash of bayonets!  
Germans approach the mighty Fort De Vaux.  It may only be badly carved insulation form but it looks pretty terrifying from this angle!
Another scary fortification was the Batterie de Damloup, but the Germans weren't deterred.
The field of Mars - a faithful* recreation of the terrain.

The horrors of war!  One of the more harrowing sights was the German players laying down a withering hail of er, matchsticks.
Speaking of German artillery.  Field and heavy batteries.

Stormtroopers er, storming forward.
The extensive network of French telephone cables was soon disrupted by....
...German artillery fire!

The lightly held French front line had been further weakened by artillery fire...
...and the Germans were soon in control of parts of the trench line.
Batterie de Damloup took a couple of attempts to capture

I've probably mentioned before - it's a comfortable carpet to kneel or sit on!

Eventually German forces closed on Fort de Vaux.  I represented the garrison by placing some figures in the courtyard.  The Germans attacked from the rear - the rotters!  The fort's commander, Cdt. Raynal was by now reduced to trying to dispatch his few remaining carrier pigeons to request help, as the telephone lines had all been cut.
The Germans lost no time in setting up a communications hub on the fort's roof, even while fighting continued inside.  Meanwhile Raynal's last pigeon finally made it to Verdun where like it's historical counterpart (Le Vaillant) it promptly dropped dead.  Many shoulders were shrugged back at HQ.

Combat in the fort's interior was resolved by the time-honoured 'stone/scissors/paper' method.  And some people think I make this up as I go along.

In the German rear area (sorry) the senior officers' latrine saw much action.
French ration party rushing forward with fresh supplied of bread and Pinard.

Eventually the fort was captured and the Germans were handed the keys.  Historically Raynal was taken to meet the German Crown Prince.
I was pleased that my gas mask-equipped stormtroopers happened to have been committed to the sector which saw (French) gas attacks.
As always, this was the key reference and inspiration, while the map has been used in several games.

The 'Otto Dix' photo.  Clearly the look of things to come!  Be afraid...

Monday 4 December 2023

Fort Vaux....sort of

 A few months ago I began working up another 54mm Great War game.  This involved another visit to Verdun - this time a bit further east, near Fort Vaux.  This meant I'd need a fort.  Big forts were very impressive fashionable things for late 19th century governments to build, but they were very expensive.

I opted to avoid the 'impressive' and 'expensive' elements, and indeed accuracy as I instead hacked about a slab of 2-inch insulation board with a bread knife.  Some of the offcuts were used to make the outer banks of defensive ditches.  Observation cupolas and a gun turret were added from mdf and the ensemble daubed with emulsion paint. It's pretty ghastly but I think it gets the point across.

Our other Verdun adventures include the left bank, Douamont and of course the real thing!

Thursday 30 November 2023

Bastogne Barracks museum

 During the recent trip to the Ardennes, Russell and I visited the Bastogne Barracks AFV collection.  I'd seen this in 2017 (see link here) when it was rather crammed into a single building.  Accommodation and visibility has considerably improved (although the lighting isn't great), with the collection spread between two buildings.  It's well worth a visit!  I'll let the photos tell the story.

Stug III
German 20mm AA
"Forward to the West!"  Russell and 'his' JS-3

Opel 'Funkwagen'.  Not a mobile disco...
Bedford QL
detail of the Sdkfz-7
Berliet recovery truck - still in use around the workshop!
Panzer IV
M-22 Locust
M-4A3E8 Sherman
AMX-VCI and M-75 APCs
The JS-3 again
Belgian 47mm AT gun
M-16 again
M-41 again
Humber Heavy Utility Car
Lloyd Carrier

Daimler Scout Car
Panzer IV

Sdkfz-7 with 37mm AA gun
M-32 ARV
and a Sherman.