Have you ever had the feeling that you’re juggling one too many things at the same time? A little like one of those plate spinners who used to be a staple of 1970s television on a Saturday night? I confess that I feel a little like that right now. I don’t think it’s a question of being a wargames “butterfly” – a very apt expression – but just someone who’s just not managed to finish everything they’ve started.
So, what exactly is on the painting table and terrain bench right now?
First up is the destroyed version of das Rattenloch which is currently on the terrain bench. You might remember the large bunker I built in the early months of this summer, based on and inspired by Phil Robinson’s excellent Rattenkeller model. I’d long planned the bunker itself as being a removable terrain piece, which could be replaced by a destroyed version.
For various reasons, my construction of the destroyed version has been delayed this autumn. But I’ve thought about it on and off for a few weeks, and as you can see from the photos (which show part of the destruction) the destroyed version is well under way. Hopefully it'll be finished and painted by the end of this week.
I’m going to cover the method and thinking behind the building design in more detail in another place (The TooFatLardies’ Christmas Special 2012). I feel that I‘ve learned quite a bit from designing a ruined piece of terrain into which I want to try and insert groups of figures designed specifically for that terrain piece. Perhaps a lot of this I should have learned a long time ago – but better late than never!
As for the bunker itself, I’ve spent a long time looking online for images of Great War bunkers which have actually been destroyed in battle. There is this famous image from Pozieres of the 'Gibraltar' bunker …
… and there are photos of other more modern bunkers (such as these from the Mannerheim Line in Finland) destroyed in action or shortly after …
But there seem to be relatively few photographs of destroyed bunkers from the Siegfried Stellung. I imagine that is because most bunkers were captured in battle relatively intact, or were invulnerable to all but the most heavy calibre artillery shell. Perhaps you may be thinking that I should have researched this before starting to build a destroyed fortification – and you would be correct! Hindsight is a wonderful thing, Ladies and Gentlemen!
I take some comfort knowing that the British did deploy heavy rail-guns on the Western Front to eliminate German bunker complexes, there being a pair of British naval 14 inch railway mounted guns used in the Passchendaele campaign for that purpose (as described in Peter Barton’s book on “Passchendaele: The Unseen Panoramas”). So, with this in mind, I’ve tried to replicate the damage to das Rattenloch from a direct hit from a heavy calibre shell fired from railway mounted heavy artillery. I’m not quite sure there would be as much left standing as I have modelled, but I also can’t find much evidence to tell me otherwise!
Also approaching completion on the painting table are several sections, or Zugs, of Stosstruppen to complement the destroyed bunker. The idea behind this force was that it could form a regimental or divisional Stosstrupp advancing forward in a counter-attack to retake the front line trench and bunker complex.
I got carried away with modelling these, and eventually used all my remaining 28mm German infantry to fill several bases. Some of these figures have been slightly converted, but I’ll cover that in later blog posts. Sharp-eyed amongst you may detect some dead French poilu on the bases, and that’s a clue where I’m planning to be heading in the hobby, terrain and figure-wise, next year.
Away from brushes and paints and on to pen and paper, I’ve been writing a longer article for Richard Clarke on the tactics, organisation and deployment of German Stosstrupps, and how to fit the quite varied tactical uses and deployments of these troops into tabletop wargames.
I’ve never really been happy with deploying Stosstrupps on a wargames table out of context, and I’m not sure I have really caught their particular attributes in the games where we have used them. Alongside reading “German Assault Troops of World War I” (which I mentioned in another post), I’ve been going back through some older books and material online to try and arrive at a credible pre-game session which involves and represents the use of Stosstruppen as they were used in battle.
My (far from radical) idea is to use a tactical-scale side-game to represent the deployment of Stosstruppen in battle before the tabletop action starts. I want to limit the side-game to no more than 15 minutes, so it can easily be accommodated into an evening’s gaming. I’ve found the article quite time-consuming, but (with a little help from my lovely wife in translating some German documents) I’m nearly finished with it. I’ll post a little more about what I concluded in writing the article in a future blog post.
So I apologise in advance at not being able to show anything actually finished. But I’m getting there…!