Sunday 31 May 2015

German WW1 infantry and their Advance Guard tactical doctrines

Two new sections join the my Early WW1 German collection.
Minis from the new Mutton Chop Early WW1 German infantry blisters.

This week I’ve been adding two new infantry Sections (Korporalschafts) to my Early War German army, using new additions to the Mutton Chop WW1 German range, released at Salute. I couldn’t attend this year, so a big THANK YOU to Jesper for carrying home these minis from the Excel event, where Michael and he hosted a Medieval-themed participation game.

Attacking with colors flying was not uncommon in 1914.
Source: Preussischer Kulturbesitz.

Besides loving to paint greatly sculpted and cast miniatures (like these - Paul Hicks rarely lets one down!), one of my other big passions is German history from 1864 – 1945 and how it impacts European and World history. 

The section with Ensign.
The flag is from GMB's Franco Prussian range.

European history is a complex and bloody affair, and while much can, and have been said, about the atrocities of WW2, I feel it is equally important to highlight and separate the positive dynamics of German Unification in 1871, from what was a tragedy in the 30ies and 40ies.

Searching a German antique bookshop site,
I found the actual Exerzier-Reglement in its 1906 edition.

With that said, I look back at one of the things most fascinating to me from the period. The quality and independent ability of the German officers, and how they were supported by a doctrine granting them higher independence and on the ground flexibility – naturally with an imbedded German DNA to attack. Something that I my opinion sets apart the German army from all its adversaries in the wars of this era.

The section with bugler and officer.

The German Advance Guard doctrine fully accepted and integrated two mayor focal points: That wars were wages on the move, and the fact that Post-Napoleonic battles, with their enormous masses of troops, could not be directed centrally. The realization of these two important factors is best shown in the German Officer’s tactical doctrine Handbook – the Exerzier-Reglement.

Naturally the Exerzier-Reglement kicks off with a little greeting 
from Kaiser Willy. 

In the Exerzier-Reglement, officers are urged to take initiative and exercise independent judgment of the situation, often most crucial to a battle, namely the initial engagement between the Advance Guard of two forces. The priorities for the officer were to attack, defend or withdraw, and how best to deploy his troops to meet the required action.

Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Based on the limited information at hand, the Advance Guard commander would be expected to either a) brush aside smaller enemy contingents and allow the advance to continue, or b) when encountering larger enemy contingents, to act as a screen while the main German force formed up behind him, and finally c) while pursuing any of the objectives a or b, to collect as much information on enemy position and strength while securing key strategic points in the surrounding terrain, ensuring that the German army would have the best outset and initiative in the case of a ensuing engagement.

The composition of the German Advance Guard Regiment.
1: Cavalry reconnaissance screen.
2: A point company as spearhead
3: Advance battalion
4: 1st Battalion of the Regiment
5: Artillery Section
6: Rest of the Regiment

Here we must keep in mind that reconnaissance information, even in 1914, often travelled by horseback to the central high command, which had little chance of an overview, and even less time to act on the received intelligence. 

Early WW1 Germans on the march.

In many battles, like Königgrätz (1866), Mars-la-Tour (1870) and the early campaigns of 194, this gave the German doctrine some decisive advantages over their adversaries, who’s doctrines favored the Napoleonic approach.

Thank you very much for stopping by for a read. 
Any comments are welcome!

Friday 22 May 2015

Nach Moskau!

A rare sight in 1942 - the early war Tiger I.

As we return from a successfully concluded Lincon Gaming Convention with plenty of games for our 28mm Great Northern War participation scenario, I thought I might raise the curtain on what will be next on the painting desk. 

The Panzers rumble eastward under Operation Barbarossa.

The summer project will be setting a course straight East. Again the destination is Moscow, but this time its neither the French Grand Armée of 1812 or the “Karoliner” Swedes led by Charles XII, who we find intruding on the holy soil of Mother Russia. This time it’s a “guy with a red beard”

Frederic I of Hohenstaufen - Or Frederic Barbarossa.
Holy Roman Emperor and participant in two crusades.

Operation Barbarossa needs little introduction, but for the purpose of clarifying why I thought the project attractive, it will suffice to simply say – it was the largest land battle in all history. While the Eastern Front offers many interesting scenarios, my area of focus for this project will be from Barbarossa to Stalingrad.

A view of the rust weathering and scratches 
in the paint job from thrown up rocks and gravel.

In order to adequately play the historical variety of battles from 41 to early 43, I’ll need to paint up Blitz Krieg uniformed infantry along with early panzers, SdkfZ 222s, Zundapp MCs and one or two Stukas. For the Stalingrad and Moscow winter scenarios I’ll probably be painting up a collection on winter bases too. 

The Panzer Steam Roller gets bogged down 
outside Moscow in the autumn and winter of 41.

While I’ve got loads of Blitz Krieg infantry, Panzer IIIs and Opel Blitz waiting on my painting desk, I decided to start out the project with a personal favorite – the Tiger I. This hi-tech panzer really doesn’t belong in any scenarios before later 42, and it will probably only see action in a very limited number of scenarios for the period I've chosen. 

Germans examining a non-penetrating hit.

The Germans had their problems with Russian tanks, especially when the T-34s started appearing on the Eastern Front. In order to counter enemy weapons development, the Tiger I (Panzer VI), was equipped with a hard hitting 88mm gun. According to test carried out by the Waffenamt-Prüfwesen, this enabled the Tiger I to penetrate the front armor of a T-34 at 1.500 meter, while the Russian tank would need to sneak all the way up to 300-500 meter before it’s 85mm gun could penetrate the Tiger I.

An early Tiger I getting some much needed engine repair.
Source: Bundesarchiv

Naturally German High Command and the Führer were eager to see this hi-tech monster in action, and thus it was pressed into service on the Eastern Front as early as Sept. 1942. With many technical issued not quite resolved and poor time to train the crew, these early Tigers would suffer from overheated engines or torn transmissions.

An early Tiger I's on the prowl.
Source: Bundesarchiv

In an engagement near Leningrad in the autumn of 1942, one of the Tigers had engine problems, and had to be abandoned. This resulted in the undamaged vehicle getting captured by the Russians, and thus offering them a precious chance to start making countermeasures to this behemoth Panzer. 

A close up of the excellent PSC tank crew 
that comes with the Tiger I sprue.

With this historical background as inspiration, I’m thinking that this early Tiger I should be used in the game with a special “break down” rule, and give the Russian side some serious victory points if they manage to capture it for their engineers to study.

More Ostfront to come – Thank you very much for dropping by!

Sunday 17 May 2015

Lincon 2015 Gaming Convention

After a few months of preparation it was finally time to head on down to Linköping and this year's Lincon gaming convention. So Jesper, Micke and I packed the car with our Great Northern War participation game in 28mm, based on a scenario of the Battle of Holowczyn 1708. 

For this GNW collection and the Lincon convention in particular, our club LittleWars have teamed up with Warfare Miniatures, in an attempt to promote this key period in Northern European history along with Warfare's recently launched excellent 28mm range for the "Karoliner" period.

Large portions of our GNW collection is based on Warfare Miniatures, and I recommend anyone interested in this period to check them out, if you're not already familiar with the quality of this brand. 

Here follows a gallery of two great days in Linköping:

We had two great days at Lincon! 
Met a lot of nice people eager to talk history, miniatures and of course roll some dice. 

A very big THANK YOU to all who dropped by our table and supported the range!

Sunday 10 May 2015

Charles XII and his Dalecarlians

Charles XII leading his Dalecarlians into battle.
All minis and flag from Warfare Miniatures.

This week I finished up the C-In-C command base for the Swedish army we’ll be fielding at next weekend’s Lincon gaming convention in Linköping Sweden. As we are hosting a Great Northern War participation game based on the Battle of Holowczyn 1708, I thought it would be appropriate choosing a scene from that dramatic fight as inspiration. 

Another great Cederström painting of Charles XII.
The warrior king always wore a simple, dark blue "Karoliner" uniform into battle.

The Swedish warrior king, Charles XII, had a taste for battle and enjoyed leading from the very front, sword in hand. During the Battle of Holowczyn, he personally led three battalions of his Guard and the Dalecarlian Regiment over the Vabitsch River and into an initial flanking sneak attack on the Russian camp.

Portrait of Charles XII.
Took inspiration here when adopting a similar hairline to the miniature.

This dramatic scene is what I’ve tried to capture here, on the C-in-C base. King Charles XII, pointing with his sword, directing men from the Dalecarlian regiment forward into the fight. Currently there is no really good Charles XII miniature available in 28mm, so I built this one out of parts from three different Warfare minis, filing away the hairline on the head to resemble Charles’ actual hairstyle.

A view from the opposite site, showing the conversion I did
to create a Charles XII miniature.

To add a little drama and further allude to Charles’ special relationship with his Dalecarlians, I’ve posed him here waving the Dalecarlian regimental flag, as he takes a gallant stand at the front line.

The special relationship between the Swedish kings and the Dalecarlian people has deep roots, going all the way back to when Gustav Vasa founded the Swedish Crown with the help and encouragement of the Dalecarlians in the 16th Century. Through the ages of the Swedish warrior kings and imperial expansion, the tenacious and proud people of the hilly woods and lush farmland in Dalecarlia have been the indicator of national spirit, whether it was for or against the king and his wars.

Gustav Vasa addressing the Dalecarlians in Mora, 
leading to the rebellion that would finally overthrow foreign suppression, 
and found the Swedish Crown in the 16th century.

This special position, perhaps at the very heart of all things Swedish, naturally reflected on the morale and fighting spirit of the Dalecarlian Regiment. This infantry unit was a personal favourite of Charles XII, and often given the most dangerous and demanding tasks in a given battle – simply because the king trusted the Dalecarlians to get the job done.

The beautiful and picturesque Dalecarlia region.

Holowczyn was no exception, and the Dalecarlians preformed the risky sneak attack with great discipline and vigor, resulting in the Swedish forces shocking their adversaries and gaining the upper hand and initiative for the rest of the battle.

A view from behind, offering a good look at the Swedish "Karpus".
The special soft felt hat, worn by many Swedish units during the Great Northern War.
The Karpus could be bent down over the ears, as protection during the cold northern winters.

One year later at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, the Dalecarlians would once again be dealt a most dangerous and demanding task. They were to form the spearhead of an suicidal attack on a well defended Russian redoubt system. Having been given a clear order to attack and conquer the redoubts, the regimental commander, Roos, ordered attack upon fruitless attack, until the regiment was canistered to pieces and all but annihilated. 

Swedish troops storming the Russian redoubts at Poltava.

The destruction of the Dalecarlian regiment and the monumental Swedish defeat at Poltava would also signal the fall of the Swedish Empire, and the rise of a new one. The Russian Empire under Tsar Peter I.

Thank you very much for reading!
P.S: Did I mention my fiancé is from Dalecarlia ;0)

Sunday 3 May 2015

Repnin's Grenadiers

Repnin's Grenadiers in a desperate fight against the 
well disciplined Swedish attackers. Models and flag from Warfare Miniatures.

Work continues on our club project for the Battle of Holowzcyn and the Great Northern War. This week’s output from the painting desk is a key Russian infantry unit, Repnin’s Grenadiers, participating in both Holowzcyn and the more famous Battle of Poltava. For those of you in possession of Osprey’s great book on Poltava, info on both Holowzcyn and this unit can be found in that volume.

The Uniform plate from which I took inspiration.

The unit is built using models from Warfare Miniature’s coming Great Northern War Russian range. These have not yet been released, but since we’re doing a rather large club project on Holowzcyn for the coming Lincon Gaming Convention, May 14-17th here in Sweden, Barry Hilton from Warfare Miniatures was kind enough to sell us a few spins from his master moulds. 

The mounted officer is trying to induce discipline into the line of grenadiers,
as they face a fierce "Gå På" doctrine charge by the Swedes.

Prince Repnin is an interesting character, and worth a few lines in his own right.
Anikita Repnin (Аникита Иванович Репнин) was born into a Russian noble family, and his friendship with Pater I would result in a career trajectory taking him to the rank of field marshal and in receival of a prince title.

Prince Anikita Repnin - 1668 to 1726.

At the age of 16 Repnin came in contact with Peter for the first time, as he was assigned to the only eleven years old future Tsar as his footman. Peter enjoyed Repnin’s company, and two years later, promoted Repnin to “Officer of the Playbuddy Battalion”.

The Streltsy - a conservative force in the face of Peter I's many innovations.

During the Streltsy Revolt in 1689, which was a reaction from the conservative forces against Peter’s many innovations to “westernize” Russia, Repnin was by Peter’s side as they took refuge in the Trotsky Convent. At this pint a strong friendship had developed, and after they both took part in the campaign against Azov, Peter promoted Repnin to the rank of General.

Executions at the Red Square during the Streltsy Revolt in 1689.

With the outbreak of the Great Northern War, Repnin was sent to the Baltics with 19 infantry regiments to honor the alliance with Poland-Saxony and August II. Repnin’s forces participated in the battle of Düna (Daugava), in which the Russian troops fought like lions, but were next to annihilated because they refused to surrender. 

In his effort to reduce the Streltsy Revolt, 
Tsar Peter took to refined methods of torture and mass executions.

After Düna, Repnin even took part in the battles of Nöteborg, Nyenskans and Narva, but it was in 1708 at Holowzcyn where his soldier-luck would run out. The overwhelming routing of his troops and his failure to stem the Swedish tide during the battle had enrage the Tsar. Peter court marshalled Repnin, and stripped him of all titles, demoting him to the rank of private in the army.

The Battle of Düna in 1701. 
The Russian force was next to annihilated as they refused to surrender.

The loyal Repnin took this standing up, and actually fought as a private in the subsequent Battle of Lesnaya in 1708. His colleague, General Golitsin, appealed to the Tsar, highlighting Repnin for promotion and the Tsar’s forgiveness. Peter eventually gave in, and reinstated Repnin with all his titles.

The order of Saint Andrew.

During the Battle of Poltava the following year, Repnin commanded the Russian center with excellence, and was awarded the Order of Saint Andrew. In 1726, after Russia’s main enemy for Baltic domination, Sweden, had been effectively beaten, Repnin died in the conquered town of Riga, having been promoted to Field Marshal the year before.

Thank you very much for reading!