A Wargamer’s Guide to the Desert War 1940-1943 – Review

Daniel Mersey, a wargame author with an increasing number of publications, has written a few “Wargamer’s Guides”. Previous volumes have covered the Anglo Zulu Wars and the 1066 Norman Conquest. This volume covers North Africa and the Desert War between 1940 and 1943.

The book is paperback of 118 pages, published by Pen & Sword Military on 12 June 2017, ISBN: 9781473851085. It is one of the range of wargame books being published by Pen & Sword.

In many respects, I found this book a better “beginning wargames” book than Iain Dickie’s Wargaming on a Budget as it covers pretty much everything from figure size and model scale, through rules, and figures, and playing the game and setting scenarios.

The book contains six chapters:

  1. The Desert War – an overview of the war covering the early cumsy attempts of the Commonwealth and Italian forces, then the changes broiught about by the introduction of German firces and then lastly the American effect and concluding with Operation Torch and the collapse of the Afrika Korps
  2. Armies, Organization, and Equipment – covering, well, the armies, their organisation and equipment. A generalised discussion of the organisation of the four armies but with references to more detailed Order of Battle. A reasonable equipment list for wargamers is also supplied. There is also a general painting guide for figures and vehicles here
  3. Wargaming the Campaign – it is what is says
  4. Choosing Your Rules – a summary of a number of rules, including: Battlegroup; Blitzkrieg Commander; Bolt Action; Chain of Command; Crossfire; Desert Rats; Flames of War; Iron Cross; KISS Rommel; Operation Squad; Panzer Korps; and Rapid Fire
  5. Choosing Your Models – a look at some of the main manufacturers in various scales including manufacturers of 28mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10/12mm and 6mm. This chapter also discusses scale for each of those figure sizes
  6. Scenarios – setting up some battles to get a feel of the desert war

There is also an index and a list of titles for further reading.

Mersey relies on previous authors’ works as well, such as Don Featherstone, which is not a bad thing.

The book also has a number of colour plates illustrating the subject in the figure sizes of 28mm, 15mm and 6mm. Many of the colour plates are from the Perry Twins.

Being a wargamer and having grown up on stories of the Rats of Tobruk and el Alamein, I have always had an interest in the Desert War. That it was in the first half of the Second World War when the equipment was being developed that would later be used and characterise the late war was  a bonus. Who can not fail to admire the Italians in their tiny tanks or groan at the number of breakdowns of the early cruiser tanks and then marvel at the later Lee/Grant tanks.

This is a volume that should be on any wargamer’s bookshelf. Even now, I am about to post this review, make a coffee and sit in my favourite reading chair and flick through this book again, planning my next Desert War project. Will it be Chain of Command and 28mm or more 6mm and Blitzkrieg Commander? Perhaps even 2mm this time.

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An Increase in the Tank Park

I was out of Manila this weekend and discovered a model shop which had a supply of 1/72 scale modern tanks. There were also a few packets of 1/72 scale plastic figures as well but it was the tanks I was interested in.

I picked up a Challenger and a Merkava for the collection. I will get around to doing an unboxing of these later but a quick look has me salivating with the detail.

They go along with the M1 Abrams and the T-72 collection along with the lone T-80 and ZTZ-99.

What I would like to add to round out the modern collection would be a Leopard 2 and an AMX-56 LeClerc.

Now I just need to time to start to sit down and buid some of these (or buy some more early World War 2 tanks).

Peshawar – the American Ground Forces – Part 1

The Yanks are coming
The Yanks are coming

The Americans were the next to be prepared for painting.

They are organised along the lines suggested in the Land Ironclad rules. Ready for the sand and paint are a Battalion of Infantry (4 companies); two companies of marines; an artillery regiment (4 batteries); and 4 regiments of cavalry (three of then having a dismounted equivalent – two dismounted bases to every three mounted bases).

s with the Russians, the figure models represent 10 men so the infantry companies are about 400 men strong and the cavalry regiments around 300 troopers.

Next off will be the conventional forces of one of the newcomers to Peshawar but an old power – the Prussians.

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USAAF Spitfires in World War 2

In one of those usual oddities of Google and the Internet, I was hunting for some information the other day on Soviet World War 2 aircraft camouflage and, as you do at a time like that, came across a reference to the USAAF flying Spitfires in World War 2. “Tally ho”, I thought,  “here’s an oddity to look further into”.

Look into it I did.

Well, not only did the USAAF flying some Spitfires but the US Navy also managed one squadron. There were four groups in the USAAF flying Spitfires for a time, initially out of England and then in the Mediterranean. They were:

United States Army Air Forces

4th Fighter Group

  • 334th Fighter Squadron
  • 335th Fighter Squadron
  • 336th Fighter Squadron

7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group

  • 13th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron
  • 14th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron

31st Fighter Group

  • 2d Fighter Squadron
  • 4th Fighter Squadron
  • 5th Fighter Squadron

52d Fighter Group

  • 307th Fighter Squadron
  • 308th Fighter Squadron
  • 309th Fighter Squadron

United States Navy

Supermarine_Spitfire_Mk.Vc_USAAFI’ll freely admit that this was news to me. I had always associated the USAAF pursuit (fighter) groups with P-40s, P-47s, P-38s and P-51s, never with the Spitfire.

The 4th Fighter Group was fairly typical, It was constituted and activated in 1942, Activation was in England and the core of the Fighter Group were formers members of the RAF Eagle Squadrons. They commenced operations with Spitfires but moved across to P-47s in March of 1943 and P-51s in April 1944. 

Of course, the US Army Air Force was not the only non-Commonwealth country operating Spitfires in World War 2. I mentioned 1942 above. In 1942 Spitfires were being sent to the Soviet Union to assist that war effort. I can see I will need to add some to my Soviet mid World War 2 army. The picture below is of a line of Spitfires, camouflaged and marked with a red star ready for export to the Soviet Union.

USSR_Vb_1942

Vinh Long

vinh long 100 Jim at the War Times Journal has released some more models of ships from around the end of the 19th Century. This latest release includes:

  • Collingwood
  • Monmouth
  • Drake
  • Highflyer
  • Dupleix
  • Vinh Long
  • Wittelsbach
  • Braunschweig
  • Cormoran
  • Arcona
  • Umbria
  • Etna

Along with two shore batteries.

The Vinh-Long particularly interested me as I recalled reading somewhere about the USS Bainbridge (DD-246) having rescued a large number of passengers and crew from the vessel in the 1920s and the skipper of the Bainbridge being decorated for his efforts. A little research was therefore in order.

Off to the US Naval History and Heritage website – one of my favourite sites, especially for US Navy vessels history.

vinh long 105 The Vinh-Long was a 5500-ton screw steamship and was built in 1881. I was one of several military transports needed to support France’s colonial empire. During the First World War the Vinh-Long server as a hospital ship. After the November 1918 Armistice she returned to her previous role as a troops transport.

On 16 November 1922, while carrying 495 persons, including civilians as well as military and naval personnel, the Vinh-Long caught fire in the Sea of Marmora, Turkey. She was carrying armaments in her magazines and as the fire spread, eventually it reached her after magazines causing explosions. This caused the fire to intensify and spread throughout the rest of the ship.

Even though the blaze as intense and there were known risks of further explosions (the forward magazines for example. The USS Bainbrdge (DD-246) pulled alongside the bow of the Vinh-Long and managed to save 482 of the passengers and crew. Thirteen people, among them two women and four children, lost their lives in the fire and subsequent efforts to abandon ship, some having life boats fall on them when they were in the water. One other man died of exposure on board the Bainbridge.

vinh long 106 The Bainbridge was approached eventually by HMS Sepoy but by that time the Bainbridge was underway to Istanbul with the survivors so needed no further assistance.

The rescue of Vinh-Long‘s passengers and crew was widely celebrated at the time. The Bainbridge‘s officers and crew were officially commended for their performance and the captain of the Bainbridge, Lieutenant Commander Edwards, was subsequently honoured with the United States’ Medal of Honor along with the French Legion of Honor and the British Distinguished Service Order.

Following on from here are pictures of Lt Commander Edwards receiving his medal from the US President, Calvin Collidge and then the last three photos are of Edwards’ actually report of the incident.

I can see I will need to prepare and order for Jim shortly.

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Pentagon computers attacked with USB flash drive

Knowing this, many militaries are developing offensive capabilities in cyberspace, and more than 100 foreign intelligence organisations are trying to break into US networks,

he [US Deputy Defence Secretary William Lynn] said via Pentagon computers attacked with USB flash drive.

Gee, it’s nice to have friends. There are what, 200-odd countries in the world? Allowing for some having multiple intelligence agencies, but also allowing for some to be so small or so poor as to not have any agencies or the abilities to mount this sort of attack, Lynn is suggesting that pretty much everybody with an intelligence agency and technical capability is attacking the US.

Anyway, if those foreign organisations really wanted to break into the US networks, all they need are a couple of 16 year old geeks with laptops, a carton of red bull and a couple of home delivered pizza supremes

Paranoia? Nah, couldn’t be … could it?

Aussies Beat Americans Again!

Yep, Aussies have beaten the Americans again in yet one more thing. The Sydney Morning Herald noted on 20 June 2008 that Australia pips US as world’s fattest nation. Yes, goodly reader, us Aussies have managed to outweigh the Americans.

Fat Happy Thomo reports that he is also one of the sportsmen contributing to this victory … but has plans to retire from this competition as soon as he leaves Saudi Arabia.

Sending an S O S for a PC Exorcist

Harry Hurt III in the New York Times commented on PC problems in a piece called Sending an S O S for a PC Exorcist on 9 February 2008.

Harry noted

AT high noon on a recent Monday, I leaped up from my desk vowing to commit the most sensational attack of revenge in the history of the personal computer industry. Just 72 hours earlier, I had taken delivery on a Dell Inspiron 1720 laptop loaded with Microsoft Windows Vista. It was already on the blink. I couldn’t open a Word document. I couldn’t run a Google search. I couldn’t even send e-mail. I vowed to shave Michael Dell and Bill Gates with a broken beer bottle.

Harry then went on to note

John guessed that the problems might have been caused by resubscribing to the antivirus program. He told me he needed to take the computer to his shop to exorcise the evil spirits. I would have to go back to my worn-out old Toshiba, which had a nasty tendency to overheat and shut down without warning.

further noting

John and his two-man staff spent an entire week working on my Dell. “You fell prey to a cutting-edge disaster by subscribing to Norton Anti-Virus twice,” he informed me over the phone near week’s end. “That caused the computer to spit up a general error message. We all scratched our heads and glared threateningly at the machine for hours. Then we figured out that instead of two or three potential remedies, there were about 25. We decided it was time to cut our losses, and start from scratch.”

John ultimately had to remove the data on the hard drive, wipe it clean, and then reinstall all the data and Vista. The total cost of these surgical procedures was about $800, over half of what I had originally paid for the Dell. But I was so happy to hear the crunch of S.U.V. tires on my driveway when John returned with my newly repaired machine, I told him I didn’t begrudge paying the tab.

Oh my God – did they see him coming or what? $800 to fix an error like that, removing all the data from the hard drive and reinstalling everything, Vista included?

When Harry vowed to “commit the most sensational attack of revenge in the history of the personal computer industry” I think he got the wrong end of it and rather the computer industry committed the most sensational case of pre-emptive revenge on Harry!

Many of these “independent service providers” make a very nice living out of the ignorance of those who know little about computers. This is like taking your car to the mechanic and having the mechanic say “what’s wrong with it” to which you reply “it’s broke, fix it”. You wouldn’t do that with a mechanic, so why would you do the same with your PC?

Jeffro – this independent service provider has to be the business to get in to – we could write our own salary cheques week on week! There are enough blokes with soft parts to their anatomy to make it worthwhile. 😆