Saturday, August 20, 2016

Idaho and Soulangy August 15th, 1944


Our annual Big Game on the weekend of the 72nd anniversary of this battle was fought out in the more friendly environs of my back porch. Although some of us had played the smaller Soulangy scenario we had yet to have fielded two entire battalions and two squadrons of Shermans in a game that encompassed both objectives.
The scenario, written by Paddy Green and Richard de Ferrars for the Battlefront WWII rule set, tackles a little known engagement that was part of the drive to close the Falaise Pocket in Normandy. We battled it out on a six by nine foot table with 20mm toys (mine for the Germans and half the Canadians and Phong Nguyenho who contributed a Sherman squadron and battalion of Canadians).

We played over two days and called the game on Turn 11 (of 16) with all in agreement that the outcome was reasonably foreseeable.
Merry warriors, from left to right: Phong Nguyenho, Ted Hodson (playing the Canadians) and Dawson Geldart and Bill Slavin (playing the Germans). Missing is Ted Dyment, also playing Canadians.


The Attackers

The Canadians had two battalions and two squadrons of Shermans at their disposal to seize the objectives. The 1st Canadian Scottish supported by B Squadron of the 1st Hussars (6th Armoured Regiment) were to take the high ground code named Idaho while the Royal Winnipeg Rifles supported by B Squadron of the Fort Gary Horse were tapped for the attack on Soulangy. The timing was such that the 1st Canadian Scottish attack was launched early while the Winnipeg Rifles, arriving later as a result of congested roads, was thrown in to the attack on its arrival. The timing of that was a big unknown but expected by both sides around Turns 5 to 7. 
The Canadians had outstripped their artillery support at this point in the battle for Falaise and were limited to organic mortars and attached 4.2" mortars.


The Defenders

The German defenders were Kampfgruppe Krause, and had a wide swath of territory to cover with only four reduced companies of 26th SS, supported by a pair of Tigers of the 102nd Heavy Tank Battalion and three Panzer IV's of II/SS Panzer Regt. 12. Although there were strict restrictions on the use and deployment of the armour, all the German units were rated "elite" for this encounter and had the support of four batteries of artillery including one battery of 150's which proved devastating.


The scenario map with German deployment and game maneuvering indicated.

The Battlefield

The battlefield seen from the west looking east. Soulangy occupies the low ground by the stream in the foreground while the high ground code named Idaho is in the upper right. The attackers entered along the left side of the table.

Soulangy as seen from the German side (south).

Soulangy from the west. As it turned out the town saw little action in our refight!


Idaho Soulangy AAR


1. To the skirl of bag pipes

To the skirl of bag pipes the First Candian Scottish A and B Companies move out from their start lines around Sur le Mont Farm.

2. Into the teeth

On the German right flank under cover of smoke and Firefly fire the Scottish carrier platoon dashes towards a pair of Panzer IV's. One carrier is brewed up as the crew bails out on the far side of the high hedge that protects the German tanks, moving to close assault.

3. C and D Companies advance on Canadian right

Using the cover of tall crops the Scottish C and D Cos. move along an axis of advance that will bring them up the right flank of the German defence around objective Idaho. A Sherman and the Vickers platoon move in tandem to give support.

4. German 150's zero in on D Co.

Although only suspected, D Co. falls under a deadly 150 barrage, loosing a patoon before they even get started!


5. First Tiger spotted

The first of the enemy Tigers is spotted in their deployment zone, hidden behind a small woods between the two Canadian objectives (Idaho and the town of Soulangy) by D Co. during their advance. The Tigers are released from their deployment zone early in the battle as one of the commanding officers dug in around Idaho requests their help against the enemy armour.

6. Second Tiger spotted

The second Tiger is spotted closer to Soulangy as it opens up long range on the Sherman that is supporting C and D Cos.' attack on this flank.

7. Fireflies on overwatch as A Co. makes contact

Meanwhile, back on the Canadian left Firefles hull down around Sur le Mont Farm cover the infantry as they make first contact with Germans dug in well in advance of Idaho. The German defenders have chosen to defend a series of features (woods, fields) that they suspect the Canadians will use in their advance. The plan is that each feature is defended with dug in platoon-sized units that will absorb the attacks and then fall back towards Idaho as the positions become threatened (see map above).

8. A Co. stonked causing first German casualty

As the Candians battle it out with the first platoon of Germans north of Idaho, the German FOO calls in random shelling in support. Although dug in one of the German sections gets caught in the pattern and is KO'd, the first German infantry casualty of the battle. The Panzer IV to the right is first disordered and then destroyed by Firefly 17 pdr. fire and suddenly the Germans are in trouble.

9. First Sherman KO'd

The Tiger on the German left flank of Idaho KO's the first of a number of enemy tanks that it will kill at long range.

10. C Company storms woods

On the Canadian right C Company leaves the protection of its field to storm the woods. Supported by armour it is caught in a deadly crossfire of small arms fire from the woods and a heavy machine gun hidden in enfilade behind the hedge row. The company is savaged and forced to fall back to the field.

11. Panzer IV driven off in close combat on Canadian right

To the right of C Co., D Co. moves in under cover of smoke to close assault the Pz. IV on this flank. The German HMG that caught the attacking C Co. in crossfire can be seen in the background.

12. Early game overview

In this overview A and B Co.'s can be seen on the right battling it through German dug in troops towards the objective. Markers in the fields indicate possible German positions although well more than half are dummy markers.
C Company can be seen storming the small woods infested with Germans (center left) while one of the Tigers takes up position behind the woods to engage enemy armour around Sur le Mont Farm in the upper right.
D Co. is preparing to assault the Panzer IV from its forming up position in the field (center upper right) while the Vickers platoon has taken up positions in an adjacent field to cover the attack.
The second Tiger is to the left of this photo and not shown.

13. Panzer IV on Canadian right driven off

D Co.'s close assault on the Panzer IV successfully drives it off disordered but the Scottish are decimated by a volley of small arms fire from the German platoon dug in in this field. The survivors fall back to the previous field and the German left flank holds.

14. Second Pz. IV KO'd
Having lost one tank to Firefly fire (off frame upper left) the second Pz. IV on the German right succumbs to close combat, but not before taking more of the carrier plaoon with it. A further mortar stonk causes even more casualties to this invincible platoon but it soldiers on, and the German right is now wide open to exploitation.

15. A Company battles to clear the way forward

A Co. finally clears the first field of defenders with a survivng German section falling back to their next line of defence south of the high hedgerow. In the foreground can be seen a burning carrier, a casualty of the brash but successful assault on the Panzer IV.

16. Tiger bags Sherman at long range

A 1st Hussar Sherman and Firefly exit from the comparative safety of Sur le Mont Farm to reinforce the breakthrough on the Canadian left, only to lose the Sherman to long range Tiger fire.

17. And Firefly too!

A second shot holes the Firefly and sets it on fire, bringing the Tiger's bag to three!

18. German right flank starts to be turned

But more Hussars are pushed up the Canadian left flank with nothing more than a lone heavy machine gun nest (and a Tiger!) between the attackers and the objective.

19. Overview from German positions

The Germans still keep a firm grip on Idaho (high ground at bottom) with infantry guns, mortars and an hmg backing up the still hidden troops in the fields above.
Responding to the threatened German right flank (enemy armour off screen to right), the Tiger at Idaho pulls back, trying to keep the enemy to its front.
Scottish A and B Co. battle forward in the fields on the far right while top center a dimished C Co. has once again been driven back form the woods. The far left German flank holds solid against the remnants of D Co.

20. Third Panzer IV destroyed

The third and last Panzer IV, previously driven off by D Co's' close assault never regroups and is knocked out by the Hussars roaming around the woods. Now the Germans are down to their two Tigers, with the Panzer IV's, never very effective in this battle, totally destroyed.
In lower left Panzershrek fire keeps the tanks from drawing overly close to the woods.

21. Hey! Look what's back here!

The defenders worst fears are realized as a bren carrier emerges from behinsd Idaho on their unprotected right flank! The Schwimmwagen is knocked out as the transport fleas this threat, and then the carrier turns its mg on the helpless mortars, eventually KOing one of these as well before retreating.

22. View of the battle from the objective Idaho

Harrassed by the carrier fire to the rear, the German mortars and FOO keep their attention focussed on A and B Cos. who have now seized another field. Only a thin line of infantry stand between them and the Canadians as the Germans scramble to shift some of their left flank defences to the center and right.

23. Firefly exchanges with Tiger at long range

From a hull down position by Sur le Mont Farm, the surviving Firefly continues to trade shots with both Tigers.

24. Canadian mortars in action from Sur le Mont Farm


25. 4.2" mortars keep Tigers smoked


26. A diminished C Co. once again assaults the woods

C Co. regrouped and supported by the remnants of D Co. once more tries to carry the woods - and are driven back for a third and final time.

27. German left pulls back as Tiger goes hunting Shermans

The platoon on the German left, no longer facing any threat from enemy troops pulls back towards Idaho in a bid to shift its defences to the right. The Tiger on this flank creeps forward to engage Shermans.

28. Infantry guns in action

Dug in on Idaho the infantry guns continue to lend their support to the infantry, firing at any enemy that dares move from the cover of the tall crops.

29. Overview

C and D Cos.' attack up the German right has petred out while A and B Cos., still in reasonably good shape, form up for a final push on Idaho. Five of the Hussars' tanks survive, two by the woods (center left), the Firefly by Sur le Mont Farm (top) and two more Shermans (out of the frame) advancing in enfilade on the right while staying away from fire by the Tiger.

30. And finally the Soulangy force arrives!

As the Soulagny attack continues the Winnipeg Rifles, supported by a squadron of the Fort Gary Horse, finally arrive north of Soulangy. A Co. takes up positions behind a tall hedge out of sight of the German guns.
The Rifles elect to enter the board on a broad front, spreading out to avoid the devestating stonks that tore up the 1st Scottish's attack. But still C Co. attracts enemy fire as they form up and take a serious hit, loosing a plaloon before leaving their start line.

31. Firefly KO'd

One of the Fort Gary Fireflies is KO'd by one of the Tigers as the Canadian armour pours in via the paved road north of Soulangy, bringing that tank's total to four kills.

32. Hey diddle diddle

In a bold and unexpected move the Fort Gary Horse in conjunction with the carrier platoon make a mad dash down the paved road that runs by the east side of Soulangy. Three of the carriers are stopped by Panzershrek and Panzerfaust fire as their crews bail out into a maelstrom of small arms fire where they are wiped out to the man.
Above two of the Shermans peel off to support the emerging infantry attack on Soulagny while the others move off to the east to engage the nearest Tiger.

33. And push out to the far side

But the carriers' sacrifice allows the surviving carriers and two Shermans to weather the mad dash past Soulagny and then turn east away from their objective (Soulangy) and towards Idaho.

34. Fort Gary Horse move to outflank German defences

The German mortars (right) panick when they spot the Canadian armour baring down and sprint back towards the safety of Soulangy. But it quickly emerges that the carriers and tanks have a different quarry in mind as they push right past and towards the Tiger holding the high ground at Idaho.

35. Fort Gary push towards Idaho

Winnipeg Rifles' surviving carriers and two Shermans move towards Idaho. The Canadian plan is to eliminate the threat of the Tigers and then switch their focus to capturing Soulangy.

36. German centre harrasses advancing Winnipeg rifles

As the Shermans and carriers scramble to engage the enemy Tigers, D Co. on the Winnipeg's left flank cautiously advance through the fields in the center. The German defenders on this flank, spotting the emerging threat, return to their fox holes to deny this approach to the enemy.

37. B Company moves in to support and is brassed up by German artillery

North of Soulangy A Co. begins to push forward to a low hedgerow north of the town and takes fire from enemy dug in in the small woods north west of the village (top). B Co. (bottom) moves in and joins the remainder of A Co. still sheltering behind a high hedge as German artillery brasses up the hedge with random fire.

38. Overview

This overview shows the emerging Winnipeg Rifles' attack on Soulangy, feeding their units in widespread to avoid enemy artillery. D Co. enters at the top and comes under small arms fire from the Germans defending the west flank of Idaho. C Co. savaged by artillery, moves towards the fields northeast of Soulangy while A Co. runs into trounble (bottom) from enemy infantry dug in the woods. The rest of A Co. and B Co. follow (lower left, off screen).
A Sherman (center) ventures too close to an enemy held field and is KO'd by a hidden Panzershrek. A second is fired on (center bottom) from a Panzershrek in the town itself. Hand held infantry AT weapons are all that are needed at this point to keep the enemy armour at bay. As it develops, this is the highwater of the attack on Soulangy.

39. Germans firm up Idaho defence

Meanwhile back at Idaho the Germans have successfully shifted their left flank infantry to support the center against the emerging attack by the Scottish A and B Cos.

40. Second Tiger pulls back as Shermans move to enfilade

As the Fort Gary Shermans press in, the Tiger closest to Soulangy begins to pull back towards its deployment zone, trying to keep the Shermans on its front.

41. Left Tiger fending off attacks

The Tiger is driven back from the field in close assault but then KO's the attacking Sherman when it fails to move out of enfilade. A second Sherman is disordered as it too approaches.

42. King of the Hill

The carriers and Fort Gary Shermans move in on the Tiger sitting on Idaho, but casualties cause the carriers to flee along with one of the arttacking Shermans. The Tiger knocks out two more Shermans at close range and disorders a third and the attempt to dislodge this tank and its partner fizzle out.


At this point the game was called. With Idaho still firmly in German hands and Soulangy not even remotely threatened the win is given to the Germans. With German casualties at only six stands of infantry compared to over twenty for the Canadians, even the relatively intact Winnipeg Rifles deem that, with over half their Shermans knocked out and the two Tigers still operating and dangerous they will have no chance to seize Soulangy from the well-entrenched enemy . Although the final outcome would be open to speculation the thrust of the game would imply a German Major or even Total Victory.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Homemade Decals for Spanish Grenadiers

So I was all set to paint up a box of 1/72 Hat Spanish Grenadiers thinking, white on white - okay not my favourite thing to do but they should go quickly, when I turned them around and noticed the banner-like thing hanging off their bearskins. Hmmm, I thought to myself, I wonder what colour that was? A quick Google and –

Yikes! How did others paint them? Again, a quick Google (not too many to be found) and I find various attempts from the basic to the sublime. But me, I'm thinking life is too short for this, yet I don't want to slough this off.
So…
I wonder if my handy little decal-making system will come to the rescue. I'm pretty new to Napoleonics but I have used this to make homemade tac signs for some WWII armour I've built, so I gave it a try.

Here's the step by step:

1. Get the reference

A bit more Googling along with some good success on Pinterest found me four designs I could go with. I found each regiment had their own specific colours and embroidered designs for the flame (for lack of a better word). Steve Balagan's site was invaluable for tracking down the associated uniform colours.
Here is an example of one of those Pinterest references:


2. Create the master sheet

I then took the reference, erased the extra bits in photoshop, scaled it down to 3/8" (but a highish resolution, 300 dpi) which matched the length of the grenadier's flames, and then duplicated it so that I ganged up a dozen or so of the four regimental flames, giving me a few extras in case of the inevitable screw ups. I printed this out on a good quality colour photocopier (at a print shop - home printers may work as well, but I can't guarantee it!) on a simple uncoated bond paper.
Flames for four Spanish regiments found on the Internet. And yes, I know the first should be Fijo de Ceuta!!

3. Coat the paper with matte medium.

Using Golden Matte Medium (an acrylic product found in art stores - there are doubtless other makes that would work equally as well) I brush a layer over the images. I let this thoroughly dry and then apply three or four more coats, letting it dry between each one. Don't rush it, although I found 15 minutes to half an hour between coats was fine.

4. Flip it over and rub off the paper.

Interestingly enough, this works because the colour adheres to the matte medium rather than the paper. Some people use a soft wet brush and go at it gently, but I just wet my finger and rub away at the paper, which comes off layer after layer until eventually all you are left with is the colour that is adhered to the matte medium. Because the image is small the transfer is unlikely to rip. It's important to note that the white in the image was the paper itself so there will now be no white in the transfer, giving it a washed out appearance. This is the main way in which these differ from normal transfers - that and the way they are applied.
Here is the paper flipped over and rubbed off. The image has transferred to the transparent layer of matte medium.

Here is the paper seen from the top. The Princessa flames have not yet been rubbed off.

Here are the same close up. You can see that with the loss of the white paper the decal looks dull, but once it is underpainted (in this case on the figure) it pops back.

5. Cut out the transfer

With a sharp scalpel I cut out the decal as close as possible to the image. When I'm applying these decals to coloured backgrounds I paint the back of the decal white before cutting it out. But in this case they are going on a white background, the flame on the back of the bearskin which I have already painted white.

6. Apply decal

I apply the decal by putting a layer of matte medium on the area to be applied (this dries clear - in fact I use the medium as my first protective coat when I finish painting the figure), then, while it is still wet, pick up the decal (I use the tip of the same brush that has the medium) and place it in position. I then apply a coat of medium over the decal, making sure it is lying flat to the figure. I usually add a second coat when the first is dry to insure good adhesion. It's important to remember that the matte medium is really just another acrylic medium, so in essence you are applying layers of transparent paint to hold other layers of transparent paint in position!

And here are some photos of the results:
Eight stands of grenadiers from the front.
Eight stands from the rear with their identifying flames.
A close up of the Fijo de Ceuta Regiment with Zamora in background.
A close up of the Guadalajara Regiment with Princessa in background. The Princessa (a bit blurry here) probably turned out the least successfully because the yellow on light purple was less contrasting, but you can see how the Guadalajara flame has renewed its punch now that it is on a white background.