The Cannons of Crecy

Another Open Day update from Stephen Tucker:

In 1346, at Crecy, historians have suggested that cannons were first used on a battlefield. Gunpowder had long since existed, and man-portable ‘guns’ had been in use since the 13th century, but Crecy marked the first use of field artillery pieces in a battle. Maybe (there are other nominees).

Since my game at this year’s Open Day will be set during the early part of the Hundred Years War I thought I would make a model of an early cannon.

These early cannon were little more than metal pots. What they actually fired is unclear. Some illustrations have them firing arrows, but whether they did fire actual arrows or that was just artistic convention is also unclear. Examination of surviving examples show heavy scoring to the inside of the barrel, suggesting they fired what we might consider grapeshot. Of course, they may have fired any combination of these.

My example was scratchbuilt from a variety of materials. The actual pot barrel was made from milliput. The carriage was made from balsa, and then plasticard fixings and fittings were added.
Now all I need to add is a crew to fire it.

If you want to have a go at manning the cannon and see how effective it is then, join us on June 23 for the club Open Day.

Pax Romana

At the last meeting we had a game of Sword & Spear – Romans against Sarmatians.

We decided to do one of the scenario games listed in the rules: Attack A Prepared Position.

The Romans (Andy King and Dave Sime) were defending which meant the Sarmatians (Tony Gibbs and Stephen Tucker) had to break them or they lose by default. After the sixth turn a dice is rolled each turn and depending on the roll that could be the end of the game.

So there was no time to lose.

The battle field was set up with a hill and wood on one flank, and on the other was another hill, an area of rocky ground, and a villa/farm. The Romans also had a fortified camp which they put in the middle of their table edge.

Since the Romans were defending they had to deploy first. They used their legionaries to form a strong line linking the farm and camp. They kept their cavalry in the rear as a mobile reserve, and put their auxiliaries in the farm with the wall to protect them. Their skirmishers – some light cavalry, slingers, and a few archers – they had out front in the open.

The Sarmatians deployed with their cavalry in the middle. On their left they put the light cavalry archers, and on the right they had a few skirmishers with bows and some Gepid mercenaries.

The game started with the Romans remaining stationary. There was no need for them to advance after all.

Tony’s Sarmatians on the left made good speed, advancing to threaten the Roman skirmishers and light cavalry. The right flank was somewhat tardy in its advance – the rocky ground and poor activation dice making progress difficult.

First blood went to the Sarmatians, who made short work of the Roman skirmishers. It was never looking good for them out there in the open against all that cavalry. There was a desultory exchange of bowfire between the Roman auxiliaries in the farm and the advancing Sarmatian skirmishers.

With the Roman light troops routed the Sarmatian left flank advanced on the Roman line. The Romans feared a mighty cavalry charge and moved their own cavalry into position where they might plug any gap should the inevitable happen. The Roman legionaries around the villa wobbled back and forth, unsure whether to make a charge or to hold their line (they chose to hold the line) and the Gepids finally managed to move up.

The turns ticked by. The Sarmatians were ahead on points but this game wasn’t about who killed most – the Sarmatians were against the clock and if they didn’t break the Roman line quickly that would be it. So in went the Gepids and in went the Sarmatian cavalry!

The Gepids delivered a whallop, but the Romans paid that back with interest. The cavalry charge wasn’t all it could have been and the Roman line held and pushed them back.

It hadn’t been enough.

Dusk fell, and time was up. Game end!

The Sarmatians had destroyed more Roman units but had failed to break them before the last turn.

Though bloodied, the Romans held the field and were declared victors.

From the Archive

Member Phil Richards recently unearthed a load of very old photos relating to show games in the 85-88 period. You’ll find them linked below (be prepared to be amazed at what some of us used to look like when we had hair…):

Unnamed 15mm Ancients Game – Tunbridge Wells ’85

The Vire Incident (WW2 54mm game) – SELWG ’86 and Tunbridge Wells ’87

Berlin or Bust (20mm WW2 Participation game) – Salute ’88 and SELWG ’88

Britain Will Not Last The Month

Obenstleutnant Heinze Siebenundfunfzig, Staffels 5.KG76 and 7.JG51

Aircraft: 9 JU88-1 and 8 ME109-3

Six ME109s stayed closely to the bombers for support while two fighters were allowed to roam. Three JU88s were assigned rail-yards as a target while six were assigned a group of oil storage tanks. The bombers and escorting fighters were to stay in a tight group until near their respective targets. Ten minutes before target we were met by a large number of Hurricanes who bore straight in on the bombers. Our fighters shot down one Hurricane in a head-on attack as they passed over the bombers. The British pilots bravely concentrated most of their effort on the bombers giving our fighters an advantage. The 20mm canons were especially effective since our pilots were shooting accurately. The bombers rear gunners were making steady hits with their 30 calibres, managing to down at least one British fighter. The bombers took numerous 30 calibre hits and all but one managed to return; three had serious damage and all had been hit at least several times. The fighter pilots claimed 18 kills.

A navigational problem caused the bombers to continue past their targets before turning for home. This error was caused by my failure to submit sufficiently detailed orders. Fortunately, it had little effect on the mission or the casualties. This will not happen again (if I still have a command). Heil Hitler!

Nine bombers completed their run on their targets; two failed to release because they were not aligned. The results from above looked promising, especially on the oil tanks.

With more raids like this one Britain will not last out the month.

A Very Bad Day

Squadron Leader Duncan MacDonald, CO 213 Sqn, Tangmere

Scrambled by sector in response to a German raid, the Hurricanes of 213 Sqn climbed to maximum altitude and spotted a formation of Ju88s escorted by Me109s below them, heading North. A similar formation of German Do17s and escorts to the East was engaged by 602 Sqn. In accordance with doctrine 213 Sqn pressed home the attack against the bombers, diving to engage the Ju88s head on; passing behind them and then turning to pursue them.

While our aircraft attacked the bombers they were in turn attacked by the Me109s; the German cannon reaping havoc among the Hurricanes, with many of the squadron’s aircraft being shot down.
The Ju88s pressed on towards their targets, a railway marshalling yard and a fuel tank farm, with the remaining Hurricanes in pursuit. One Ju88 was brought down, but most of the rest unleashed their bombs on target.

As the Ju88s turned towards RAF Linton the last of the Hurricanes was brought down.
A very bad day for the squadron.

Achtung – Spitfire !

From officer commanding 9.KG76, Hauptmann Joachim Roth.

Two flights of bombers (6 x Do17) from 9. KG76 were designated to target the power station and one flight (3 x Do17) were assigned to the sidings; all escorted by 4 Bf109E from 8. JG51with another 4 Bf109E flying independently.

As we neared the targets two fighters broke off to get behind the approaching Spitfires. However, we were surprised that the Spitfires grouped up and attacked the fighters and not the bombers as expected.
Our fighters were soon losing numbers fast however this gave the bombers a clearer run at the targets. All of the bombers released their bombs over the assigned targets; however accuracy was not particularly good.

Our fighters took a number of wrong turns and were not as effective as they should have been especially against the tight turns of the Spitfires. Eventually 3 of our Do17s assigned to the power station attack and all our fighters were destroyed; the remaining bombers, one of which was severely damaged, broke off and headed for home.

Scramble Spitfires

Squadron Leader Hetherington – Smythe, CO 602 Sqn – Tangmere

The squadron was scrambled along with Hurricanes from 213 Sqn to intercept a raid into southern England. We were vectored onto the raiders numbering some 18 bombers with numerous escorting fighters.

We climbed to high altitude with two flights providing top cover. The Hurricanes were at lower altitude to the west. The raiders were in two more or less equal groups. The Hurricanes went for the western group, whilst 602 moved to engage the Eastern group. Initial contact with this group was on our 11:00 someway below us. The initial contact made interception tricky as we would approach nearly head on. Using our height and speed advantage the squadron moved to the SW with a view to engaging from the beam and stern of the group. However, the loose escorting fighters were going to be a problem. Therefore, the squadron was kept concentrated and focused on the escorting fighters. We managed to overwhelm them destroying seven and damaging one for two damaged Spitfires. This took time and the bombers were able to reach their target with minimal losses, one destroyed and one lightly damaged. The Hurricanes trying to concentrate on the bombers suffered at the hands of the escorting fighters.

It is suggested that the Duxford Big Wing concept is developed so that our fighters engage both the escorts and the bombers. I considered joining the Hurricanes in engaging the western group, at the time going for the closer group seemed the way ahead. On reflection the Spitfires concentrating on the western fighters would most likely have allowed the Hurricanes to deal with the bombers more effectively.

Paul had to leave early so Andy took over 602 Sqn.

The squadron continued to attack the Do17s and their escorting Me109s as they turned for home, eventually shooting down the last Me109 and three of the nine Do17’s. Part of the Squadron headed west to assist the Hurricanes of 213 Sqn. Only one plane from 602 Sqn was shot down, LO-J.

Vapour Trails Over Linton

A WW2 battle report from Andy King

Introduction

This game was staged a short notice to fill in for another game that had been postponed.

The scenario was a raid by two squadrons of German bombers with fighter escort, with two squadrons of British fighters opposing them.

We used Majestic 12 Games’ Spitting Fire rules with some additional home-grown rules for bombers and flak. Although, typically, I forgot to bring the scenario rules and the flak and target record sheets with me, so these had to be improvised.

Forces
Luftwaffe
Bob commanded two squadrons:
• 5.KG76 (F1+XN) consisting of 9 x JU88A-1s
• 7.JG51 (# + I) consisting of 8 x Bf109Es.
Kim commanded two squadrons:
• 9.KG76 (F1+XT) consisting of Do17Z-2s
• 8.JG51 (# + I) consisting of 8 x Bf109Es.

RAF
Paul commanded 602 squadron (Code LO) with 12 Spitfire Mk 1s.
Andy commanded 213 squadron (Code AK) with 12 Hurricane Mk 1s.

One of the house rules concerning bombers was to require them to stay at a set altitude until they had released their bombs; another was to require that some of the fighters remained as close escort to the bombers, rather than having all of them performing fighter sweeps ahead of the bomber force.

With the terrain laid out (a mixture of Irregular Miniatures, Navwar and Brigade Models) five potential targets were defined: an airfield (RAF Linton), a power station, a fuel tank farm, a railway marshalling yard and some railway sidings. Each of the German players were asked to make a note of their allocated target(s), but not to let the British side know which had been selected.

Victory points would be awarded as follows:
Fighter shot down: 2 VP
Bomber shot down: 4 VP
Each damage point inflicted on ground target: 1 VP

The players deployments left Paul (602 Sqn) facing Kim (9.KG76 and 8.JG51) and Andy (213 Sqn) facing Bob (5.KG76 and 7.JG51).

Individual reports from the players will follow, but in the end the game was a German Victory, 48 VP to 32 VP. All aircraft are from Tumbling Dice with decals from Dom’s Decals.

The Raid on Owain the Cantankerous

We recently published a report on one of the actions from our SAGA:Age of the Wolf campaign. In the spirit of balanced reporting, here’s the view from the other side of the battlefield…

Andraes Vilhelmsson and Uhtred Beornson let it be known that they would form an alliance.

Andraes gathered his men and went forth to teach that Welsh curmudgeon Owain the Cantankerous not to meddle in the business of the rightful rulers of this land.

Leading the way was Berwulf’s Levy, followed by Wynbald and his Warriors and the Hearthguards of Beorhtel and Ordlaf escorting Andraes himself.

Making their way through the valley they came across Owain’s men hiding among woods and tors. Berwulf’s Levy lead the way showering the Welsh with arrows, but the trees gave them protection, and few fell.

Wynbald’s Warriors then entered the woods and drove out some of the Welsh, while more Welsh knaves, knowing the secret ways of the woods, attacked showering them with javelins.

The Welsh sent some of their better men against Berwulf’s scouts, perhaps with some druidic sorcerer among them, as against their will the scouts were drawn towards the Welsh swords and axes. Many of the Scouts fell in that unequal fight, but a few survived and managed to resist the Welsh siren call, falling back to engage the Welsh with their bows.

Ordlaf’s Hearthguard charged from the woods, attacking a group of Welsh warriors in the rocky ground, surely the skills of the experienced blades would carry the day, but Welsh sorcery struck again and Ordlaf’s men were beaten back with heavy losses.

The Welsh sorcerers then tried to cloud Andraes’s mind and draw him away from his Hearthguard to attack a group of Welsh warriors, but he proved to be of stronger mind than the scouts and stood his ground.

As the battle progressed, casualties mounted on either side with the Welsh benefiting from the cover of the woods and rocks. It came to the point where the weasel Welsh sensed they had perhaps inflicted enough damage on Andraes’s men to carry the day and began to withdraw as fast as they could to save themselves from the cream of Andraes’s Hearthguard.

And where was Owain during this battle, you ask? He was fleetingly seen from time to time, hiding behind his men.

On returning to his hall, Andreas received word that Uhtred Beornson would continue the campaign against Owain, and sought aid under our alliance. Ordlaf’s Hearthguard were sent to join Uhtred’s raid, but that story is another man’s to tell.

Scenario Note

The Scouts Scenario starts the game with each side having one unit on the table, this must be Levy, Mounted or missile armed Warriors. The remainder of the Warband’s units enter the table one unit per turn, determined by the roll of a die. It requires opponents to keep track of VPs inflicted during game, when a side suffers 10 VP it must roll a number of SAGA dice, the same as would be rolled during the orders phase, needing at least one “6” to continue fighting. Stephen (Owain) inflicted 10.33 VP on me while I had inflicted 9 VP on him. I passed my first morale roll, but failed the second, ending the battle.

What Have The Romans Ever Done For Us?

At the next meeting we are having a game of Sword & Spear. We’ve played it couple of times and really enjoy the game. What’s so good is that both sides are involved in the game at all times, so you don’t have to just sit back and take a good kicking without being able to do anything about it.

It’s going to be a 15mm game with Romans against Sarmatians. So ahead of the game I’ve been building some Roman buildings – a camp, a villa, and a couple of houses. All to help create that Roman feel to the games table.

All buildings are scratchbuilt to 15mm scale/height/however-you-want-to-think-about-it. Made from a variety of bits and pieces – cocktail sticks, milliput, balsa, card, foamboard, and some filler.
Then just a matter of slapping some paint on. I decided to give them a bit of external colour. We know the Romans painted the inside of their buildings and I decided to elaborate on that and give the outside some decoration as well. I’m pretty sure they would have done as well.

If you fancy giving Sword & Spear a go then pop along and you’d be more than welcome to join in – whether you see yourself as a mounted barbarian from the Black Sea, or a Provost from the hills of Rome!