Monday, 2 June 2014

"Operation Gericht" at Partizan 2014




*****
Hauptmann Erich Mueller’s Roland C.II rattled alarmingly as it navigated through the acrid clouds of black smoke and dust rising from the battlefield below him. He had been flying the new reconnaissance aircraft for only a month. It was tricky to fly, with the lumpen air-frame rolling and barrelling alarmingly through patches of turbulence, but its upward visibility was excellent. From his pilot’s cockpit he could scan the sky over Verdun for signs of French scouts with ease. Only when he looked downwards was there a problem. His position above the upper wing made downward observation hard for the pilot. Not that he would want to look down into the valley between Fort Douaumont and Fort Souville. 




It was hard to imagine men were fighting over the cratered, burnt, flayed and devastated landscape. It was hard to think of men even existing down there. He could hardly glimpse the French positions in the village of Fleury. His aerial maps were useless. They showed a bucolic French village nestling by a deciduous forest. The valley he saw beneath him when he inclined his right wing, contained a blackened carcass of a shellfire-shattered wood, by the side of a greasy smudge of broken brickwork. This had once been Fleury, he thought for an instant, before his observer signalled that the photos had been taken, and he turned his aircraft slowly, and clumsily, for home.
*****

At the bottom of the valley leading to the village of Fleury, things looked very different to Leutnant Ulrich von Bek. He was tired of wiping the smoke and acrid chemical gases from high explosive shells from his red-rimmed eyes. If he was honest, he would admit to being exhausted with the battle altogether, which seemed to get worse every single day. He’d lost count of the toll the Bone Mill on the Meuse had taken of his comrades in the 157th Reserve Infantry Regiment. The furnace of the battlefields of Verdun was nothing like the fighting in the summer of ’14. The battles of the French frontiers had been terrible. But they had been child’s play compared to Verdun. The war he was fighting in the valleys, inclines, hills and forts north of Verdun was impersonal. Alienating. Industrial. Savage. 



The screech of German artillery landing about 50 metres in front of his Stosstruppen shook him out of his thoughts. He looked up and nodded to Gefreiter Max Adler, the determined and relentless NCO leading his Flammenwerfer section. It was time to advance.  The Fatherland had called him here to this black and broken place. It was now up to men like him to answer.

*****
Caporal Yves Deschamp picked his way through the carcass and entrails of the dead forest, struggling through the curious mixture of shell-stripped branches, iron splinters, indeterminate bodies of fallen soldiers and pools of oily water with a scum of grey slick grease on the surface. He tried to hurry past a couple of the pools over which a green film of gas still lingered, discolouring what was left of the vegetation and the corpses scattered around it. 




It was supposed to be simple to find the advanced machine gun position guarding the approach to what was left of the village of Fleury. At least it had been simple on the map which Sous-Lieutenant Gaston Monet had thrust into his hand in what passed for the battalion headquarters in the remains of the village cordwainer’s house.


 He spotted a hollow-eyed, grey faced Poilu before him, crouched, guarding in the shelter of a savagely decapitated oak tree. “It’s a bad one, this spot?” Deschamps asked.

“Yes mate, it’s the worst.”

“Where are the Boches?”

“They’re in front of you, mate. Now it’s up to you”.

*****
Uncle Max’s house was always so cold. In winter, when the river outside his small flat off the Aleksanderstrasse was running glossy with slush and ice, he never wanted to light the fire in his grate. It could be sharp with dead-cold on Aleksanderstrasse, the ground outside could be iron hard with frost, and ice might even be forming on windows of his flat, but Uncle Max never seemed to feel the cold.  Or at least he would never want to light a fire.

I suppose, old soldiers from the Great War like Uncle Max were just tough. VerdunKämpfer – a breed apart from the old Germany, before Weimar. Before the Fall. 

I sometimes wondered if something terrible had happened at Verdun to Uncle Max. Something he had seen, or remembered. Or possibly, something he had wanted to forget. I wondered if his experiences had involved fire in any way. I’d noticed that he always wore his sleeves long on his left hand, and I was sure I’d seen a burn scar on his left wrist once. But I might have been mistaken. Either way, I never asked him about the War. Some memories are best left to those who were there.



**********
So there you have some images from a very fine days gaming at Partizan in the Park, from yesterday! It’s tricky to umpire a game and then trying to create any sort of narrative from the rush of cards, dice rolling and questions which flash past you!. So I’ve not even tried. All of the above moments relate to the action on the table in one way or another. The conversation between Caporal Deschamps and the Poilu are authentic and are taken from an anecdote of Jean Meigneau of the 174e Infantry, quoted in Lieutenant Jacques Pericaud’s “Verdun” (1917) at page 378. I sanitised some of the original language for the blog!


I completely failed to tweet (@RoundwoodsWorld) any of the action as it was happening, mainly through been busy talking to players and passes-by, and also because the Partizan Big Top was steel-framed and seemed to block out all radio signals to my iPhone!  Sorry!

We played two terrific games (the second culminating in the terrifying flammenwerfer attack by Gefreiter Max Adler's Stoss detachment - unstaged, but timed with great precision), with an absolutely great group of players both times. Huge thanks to all of the participants, including Ian, Craig and the two teams who played in the afternoon (and all of whose names I’ve forgotten – sorry!). Thanks also to everyone who stopped by to say hello – it was great to meet you all.



Highlight of the day was having the chance to say a big thank you to Dave Andrews and Aly Morrison, who both stopped over late in the day. I have long wanted to say “thank you” to them both for creating such a wonderful range of figures for the Great War, which have provided so many hours of fun painting and gaming. I finally got my chance – thank you both again Aly and Dave!

So, next stop for Operation Gericht is Evesham on the 14th June. I’m hoping by them to have finished the French Battalion Command Group which I started, but didn’t manage to finish, before yesterday’s game. I’ll also post the scenario for yesterdays’s game here over the next few days, together with some of the hand outs used in the game.

And for those who are almost Verdun-ed out, thank you for sticking with me this long. Only a couple more weeks to go before we move the focus onto Berry-au-Bac and the Artillerie Spéciale

64 comments:

  1. Stunning table display! Pleased to hear that both participation games went off successfully.

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    1. Jonathan, thank you very much! It was a fine day and I think everyone had a good time.

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  2. Stunning, absolutely stunning! Must say that I like how you have done the table and miniatures. It is not good for me to see all this since I now want to start up a WW1 project to and I all ready have to many projects going on.
    But I say it again Stunning!
    /Conny

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    1. Conny, that's very kind, thank you! And apologies for tempting you into the world of Great War wargaming!

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  3. beautifully done! I love the flame thrower effect

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    1. Thanks Brian, and thanks so much for stopping by!

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  4. Really pleased to be able to view this in the flesh and have an all to brief chat, one of the highlights of the day.

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    1. An all too brief chat, Phil. But a pleasure, as always, none the less. Thanks so much for dropping by to say hello. Hopefully, you can join in a game next time, Sir!

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  5. A stunning game with amazing terrain and miniatures. Amazing little touches like the hand poking out the puddle really bring the whole piece alive. Would have been great to be able to see this live as I think the pics can't really do enough justice for the piece

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    1. Samuli, thank you very much. You'd enjoy it live, but then you'd have to suffer my umpiring ... so on the whole, you've not lost out tremendously!! :)

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  6. The game looked excellent yesterday. I also failed to get a Twitter signal either.

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    1. Thanks Paul! I had such plans for Twitter as well.....ah, next time...!

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  7. Stunning looking game. Wish I could have got there.

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    1. Thanks Paul. Next time, you'd be very welcome!

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  8. Great photos and an amazing table.

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  9. Absolutely sensational! Thank you so much for sharing this inspirational game with us.

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    1. You're are so far beyond "very welcome" Michael!

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  10. Incredible work, Sidney!

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  11. Simply beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by...much more to come as well...

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  12. Great to meet up again , the table looked wonderful. I look forward to get game another time.

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    1. Dave, you'd be very welcome, any time! Good to hear about your holiday as well.

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  13. A great read thanks for sharing

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  14. The game was a significant topic of conversation among the group I was with. Figures and terrain were both at the high end for quality and gave a fantastic impression. Likely to be the next project for a couple of them.

    Oh yeah, and it was nice to see you too!

    ;O)

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    1. A great pleasure to see you as well, mate! If anyone needs any tips, send them in my direction!

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  15. Nice to see it for real and in such good light!

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  16. It was not only stunning to look at but was fantastic to play. My two kids played as the French in the first game and whilst my daughter was overawed by the heat my son at 7 had a fantastic time and can't wait for his next convention.

    Thanks for helping make it a great day for them and also for understanding the photo thing

    Ian

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    1. Ian!! Thank you so very much for playing, being a GREAT player and for bringing the two helpers. I'm really chuffed they had such a good time. Thanks for everything. Best regards.

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  17. Excellent work and a great read as well, Sidney. That flammenwerfer attack looks immense!

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    1. Thanks Alex. It was pure skill that the afternoon German team lined up the flammenwerfer team perfectly. I was very relieved from a photography perspective!

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  18. I am salivating at the idea of playing on this. Looks great and once again the supporting material is top notch.

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    1. Phil, I'm looking forward to Evesham (and on which, please see the later blog post today...!)

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  19. Truly impressive looking game !!!

    Best regards Michael

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  20. Great report, and very atmospheric pics.

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  21. Simply spiffing, sir! A lovely looking game. I'm glad you all had a super time.
    Partizan is a long way from deepest Wessex, but perhaps next year we'll make the trek.
    Cheerio
    Matt

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    1. Ah, Matt, you'd have had fun playing the game. Never mind....there is always next time!

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  22. Absolutely awesome! I'd love to have a game on this stunning table...

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    1. Moiterei, thank you very much, and I hope so too!

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  23. Lovely table Sidney, and a fine bit of writing as well! It really helps to set the mood. Brilliant! (I hope I get a chance to play this next time we're in your neck of the woods.)

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    1. Thanks Curt. Gosh, it was touch and go getting it all ready, but it came together in the last 72 hours! And yes, you're welcome any time!

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  24. All I can do is echo everyone else and say "stunning!" The flamethrowers made me wince, as did the dead pools.

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  25. This table is so atmospheric I could literally see hundreds of pictures of it without getting bored.
    Simply gorgeous!

    Especially the tiles with this muddy pond terrain. Very inspiring.

    Cheeers
    Stefan

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    1. I'll be blogging the "making of" various bits shortly, including the pools. So hope you like what's coming Stefan, and thanks for dropping by!

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  26. Wonderful stuff. You are a league of your own.

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    1. HA! That's CRAZY coming from you!!! Brian, thank you SO much for dropping by. Very, very best wishes to you, Sir!

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  27. Sidney
    Many thanks to you for letting us play on your wonderful table and with your beautiful figures - going 'into battle' with Ian ( an old re-enactment chum') and his kids was a wonderful 'all-age' experience, and testament to this fun hobby of ours! Having followed your blog for a while, it was great to meet you and see the 'goodies' in person. Here's to the next time, and keep up with the amazing work! I'll have to get to work again on my blog now! :0)
    Best wishes, Andy

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    1. Andy, it was a great pleasure and you were, and are always, very welcome. Here's to the next time....absolutely!

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  28. What a glory of a terrain! Speechless

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    1. Thanks Benito. It really wasn't that hard....just took a bit of time and a lot of help from friends!

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  29. Outstanding table and figures. Looking forward to more.

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  30. The table looks amazing. The flamethrowers looks very terrific and very real too. Well done!

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  31. Absolutely fantastic! Great post, thanks for sharing.

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  32. Beautiful just beautiful Sidney!

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    1. Fran, that is very kind indeed, mate! Thanks so much!

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