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USS PT-105 running at high speed

PT Boats in the Med – a selection of 1943 scenarios for Cruel Seas


I have produced a few scenarios involving PT boats for the rules ‘Cruel Seas’ which I present here for your enjoyment. There is a certain commonality to all the scenarios which I will outline first followed by the specific conditions for each one. Almost all of the information in these scenarios comes from the book At Close Quarters – PT Boats in the United States Navy by Captain Robert J. Bulkley, Jr. USNR (Retired).

A supporting PDF can be downloaded here: PTs in the Med Ships.pdf


After landing in North Africa in 1943, American forces brought in almost every type of land, sea and air unit. That included two squadrons of PT boats, which set up in Bône, Tunisia. From there they struck east to protect the northern sea flank of the Allied advance.


Unless indicated, it is night time with average seas, all crews are Regular and all vessels start at Combat speed. All of the PT boats are Higgins class and have radar. All E-boats are S-38b (armoured wheelhouse) and the forward gun on all Fairmile Ds is 40mm AA (the 6 pdr was installed very, very late in the war). Some scenarios use ships not mentioned in the main rules. Such ships are detailed in the Appendix at the end of this article.

I envisage these scenarios on a six feet by four feet playing area. Scenarios with destroyers and larger ships probably need a six by eight area. Except when the ships start at close quarters, always try to start a scenario with markers, using the same number of dummies as real ships. If torpedo boats go against big ships, strictly enforce visibility rules. Don’t allow players to see the force list or specifications of their opponents. The emphasis is on recreating the historical events rather than creating an artificial balance. For such balance purposes tweak crew quality, weapon set and vessel count. Or the weaker force could inflict some damage for points and then run away!

There is no turn limit to any scenario. You decide when it is over. For victory points, use the points lost from each ship, divided by ten and rounded down. This gives value to damaging enemy boats in addition to sinking them. The side with the most points wins. Boats can leave the table to keep the enemy from earning more points.

Necessary Rules

1. If a vessel runs over a torpedo, roll for a hit.

2. If a vessel sinks before it moves in a turn, move its torpedoes when its die/chit is pulled.

3. In a minefield, roll once for every 10cms moved. Place 1D10 next to each vessel to track any leftover movement.

4. Turning when stopped – Large and Huge vessels can make only one turn.

5. Critical Damage Table – Ignore critical hits 1, 3, 4, 6, and 8 on Large and Huge steel vessels unless caused by three inch guns or larger.

6. “In a standard night scenario, you may not engage the enemy until they reveal themselves by moving above Slow speed, open fire, or are spotted. To spot, pass a Skill Test when you are within 80cms of the enemy.” (rulebook Scenario 6, page 42)

Use a marker if a vessel is out of sight. Use models when the vessels move into visibility range. Illuminated craft (lit by searchlights, fire, star shells, shooting) can be seen and engaged at any range. With good visibility (full moon) or in daytime, everything on the map is visible. With poor or obscured visibility, reduce spotting distance to 40cms. Radar can identify the general location, size and speed of enemy ships, but you can’t shoot at them using just radar. Remove dummy markers and consider using three sizes of markers.

7. Aircraft can strafe one vessel that they pass over during movement instead of conducting a bomb or torpedo attack. Treat as normal machine gun or cannon attacks. Ignore the -2 modifier for speed of shooter and the +2 for point blank range. Apply the damage bonus for the number of guns firing up to a maximum of +3D6.

8. One torpedo can be reloaded at the end of a turn if the vessel…

– is at Slow speed

– does not make any turns

– does not fire any weapons

– is not itself under fire and

– the crew makes a successful skill test (with a +1 modifier).

This rule is mainly for E-boats.
9. All lighters have very shallow drafts, so torpedoes hit only on a natural (unmodified) 1 or 2.

10. For surfaced submarines see page 58 of rulebook plus the following addition; when a submarine is declared to be diving, remove it from the game. Treat subs as Medium targets for torpedoes.

11. When a scenario includes a convoy, use Convoy Dice System (rulebook scenario 5, page 41).

29 April 1943 – Cape Bon (or not so Bon)

This is an incredible but true special, three-player scenario. Each player is trying to earn the most points by damaging and destroying the other player’s boats, regardless of nationality. The American PTs are heading home after completing a night patrol. They run into two British destroyers which are responding to a radio intercept of three E-boats attacking.


No radar for anyone.



HMS Laforey (L class destroyer) and HMS Harwich (Hunt class destroyer and Veteran)


PT 202 (DuBose), PT 204L (Clifford) and PT 205 (O’Brien)

MTB Squadron 15, Cmdr. Barnes (not veterans yet)


Three E-boats –the 3rd Schnellboot-flotille, KKpt. Kemnade (Veteran)


Place the PT boats in the centre of the playing area, in any formation, facing west. Place the destroyers in any formation 35cms to the north of the PT boats, facing east. Place the E-boats in a line abreast due east of the PT boats, facing west, within 45cms.

Exiting the board

Americans – western edge only. Germans – eastern edge only. British – any but the southern edge. The southern edge of the play area is land and impassable. If using a rectangular table make the east/west axis the longer one.

Historical Result

The PT boats turned and fired on the E-boats, damaging one. They then turned and fled west, chased by the destroyers, which fired with all weapons on the strange craft.

9 July 1943 – Operation Husky

The westernmost screen of the Allied landing in Sicily consisted of the destroyer USS Ordronaux and 17 PT boats. They were expecting attacks from E-boats based at Porto Empedocle in Sicily. They did not just wait out at sea, but attacked the town. Historically the nine remaining E-boats of 3rd Flotilla pulled out and left the area (mining the entrance to the harbor) so this is a ‘What If…’ scenario.


Day time.Choppy seas. American PT boats have radar (in all scenarios from now).



USS Ordronaux(Benson class desdtroyer) and nine PT boats


Four E-boats (Veteran), contact mines. May exit western edge.


The Americans enter from the eastern edge, in line abreast, with the destroyer to the rear. The Germans enter from the centre of the northern edge in any formation. Consider the northern edge land and impassable for the rest of the scenario. The German player places two small, light minefields at least 45 cm from the American entry edge.

27/28 July 1943 – Stromboli Island

The Americans run into F-lighters for the first time. Axis ships should remain as unidentified markers until they start to shoot. Do not tell the US players about Rule #9 above until after they roll for a torpedo hit.



PTs 202 (McLeod), 210 (Davis) and 214 (Olson)


Seven Motozattera (MZ) in convoy

The scenario can be scaled by removing two lighters for each PT boat removed. For balance, double the number of PT boats. With more PTs you can also use a mixture of ‘flak lighters’ and MZ.


The PT boats set up in the SW section of the map, in any formation, facing east. The Axis set up in the SE corner, in a line, heading north. Place a large round island between the Americans and the SW corner of the map. The map should be long north to south.

Historical Result

The PT boats closed to 300 yards, fired their torpedoes and left. The torpedoes passed under the lighters without impact. One PT boat was damaged.

28/29 and 29/30July 1943 – Mare Nostrum?



PTs 203 (Reade), 214 (Olson) and 218 (Henry)


Four MAS boats and two Motozaterra (convoy die)

Again, this can be scaled by removing 1 PT Boat and 2 MAS boats.


The convoy is attempting to cross the map, in any formation. The PT Boats come in 90 degrees to the convoy’s line of travel. Rule #9 still kept from US players until they roll.

Historical Result

1 MZ and 1 MAS boat sunk.

15/16 August 1943 – Patton’s Left Hook at Spadafora

General Patton sped up his advance along the northern coast of Sicily by launching amphibious attacks on Axis positions using Task Force 88. German schnellboote attempted to penetrate the screen of PT boats protecting one of these landings.



PTs 205 (Boebel), 215 (Steele) and 216 (Sanders)


Two E-boats (Veteran)


Germans start in the north, heading south. Americans start in the south, heading east. Germans receive the hull value divided by 20, in points, of each E-boat that exits the southern edge.

Historical Result

Damage to both sides, no sinkings. The Germans had to turn back.

19/20 October 1943 – Damn the Torpedoes!



PTs 208, 211 and 217 (O’Brien) (Veteran)


Two E-boats (Veteran), one R-boat, one flak lighter and the cargo ship Giorgio*, in convoy

*use ‘Merchantman’ specifications


Germans start in the centre, heading north, any formation. Americans approach from the south, heading north. The east side of the map is land. Map should be long north to south.

Historical Result

The PT crews adjusted their torpedoes to run shallow in an effort to hit the flak lighter. Most of the American torpedoes malfunctioned. No result.

2/3 November 1943 – South of Giglio Island



PTs 206 (Oswald), 212 (Sinclair) and 216 (Sanders) (Veteran)


Two E-boats (Veteran), Two R-boats, one corvette carrying cargo(use Gabbiano class, but with no weapons – 110 points) in convoy


Germans start in the centre, heading north. Americans approach from the south, heading north in line ahead. One modest oval island (long north-south) in the northwest, one large circular island in the northeast. The east side of the map is land and north-south is the long side.

Historical Result

The corvette was sunk with torpedoes.

22/23 November 1943 – North of Giglio Island



PTs 207 (Rosen) and 211 (Tulloch) (Veteran)


Two E-boats, one R-boat, one sub chaser UJ-2206(a converted French trawler – use trawler points and any model of the right size – speed: 4/8/12, 1 x three inch deck gun, three HMGs)

Special Use marker or a tanker model to conceal the chaser until it opens fire. Don’t tell the American players its specifications (they thought it was a tanker).


Germans start in the centre, heading north. Americans approach from the south, heading north in line ahead. One modest oval island (long north-south) in the southwest, one large circular island in the southeast. The east side of the map is land and north-south is long.

Historical Result

The sub chaser was sunk.

29 November 1943 – Heading Home, South of Genoa


Rough seas. Obscured visibility. Radar not working.



PTs 204 (Clifford) and 211 (Tulloch) (Veteran)


Three Minesweepers (there were also two late arriving E-boats, if you want to add them).


Americans are in line ahead in the north, heading south, PT 211 in the lead, out of sight of PT 204. The Germans are placed second, in the south, within 25cms of PT 211, heading north, two to the left of PT 211, one to the right. To balance the game, or if using the E-boats, addvistory points for the Americans exiting to the south – hull points divided by 40 for each ship exited.

Historical Result

PT 211 was badly damaged by a collision with one of the minesweepers.


In November 1943 Lt. Cmdr. Barnes, commander of the American PT boats, realised that British MTBs had better torpedoes and firepower than the PTs but also that the PTs had radar and the British didn’t. If all three types of boats were combined into a single force, you would get a more effective force. Future actions used such combinations. Also, by now, the Italians had surrendered, so all of the opponents from this point onwards are German.

Finally, the Allies started to fight the newly formed German 10th Flotilla, which used Italian torpedo boats that were built like destroyers. Spica, Ariete and Orsa/Ciclone class ships, usually referred to as destroyer escorts, were called Torpedoboot Ausland (TA) by the Germans. Choose the class of the TAs randomly if not given. Use whatever ship models you have of the right size.

18/19 December 1943 – ‘Able Was I Ere I Saw Elba’

The American ships were based at Bastia, Corsica. One night two German destroyers visited and bombarded the town. Two nights later the Americans and British set a trap for them if they returned. The island is the north end of Elba. The sea conditions are choppy in this scenario.



Force A – PTs206 (Oswald), 208 (Torrance), 210 (Davis) and 214 (Olson)(Veteran)

Force B – PT 209 (Eldredge), MGBs 659 and 663 and MTB 655M (Fairmile D) (Veteran)

An immortal Allied-controlled searchlight on the northern end of the island.


Two destroyers (type B)


Place a very large island (but less than 40cms long) pushing onto the eastern third of the south edge of the map. Spread out Allied Force A evenly between the island and the western edge, within 40 cm of the south edge. Place the two destroyers side by side, in the centre, 40cms from the north edge. Allied Force B enters in line abreast on the east edge on a turn of the Allies’ choosing, but no sooner than turn four.

Historical Result

Lots of shooting!

18/19 February 1944 – The Rockets’ Red Glare



PTs 202 (McLeod), 203 (Reade) and 211 (Tulloch) (Veteran)

The PT boats have rockets. They have a maximum range of 60cms.


Eight E-boats (Veteran), one flak lighter, two MZ in convoy and two shore batteries that fire star shells which will illuminate the whole area, starting no sooner than turn five.


The sea conditions are choppy in this scenario. Place the Americans exactly halfway between the east and west edges, 40cms in from the north edge of the map, heading south, in line ahead. Two sets of markers indicating four E-boats each in line ahead enter the south edge, heading north, one line 40cms to the left of the PT boats the other in line 40cms to the right. At the beginning of turn four the lighters enter at the centre of the south edge.

Historical Result

Apparently one E-boat was hit and sunk by friendly fire. One PT boat broke down and sat quietly to not be noticed until everyone left.

27 March 1944 – Operation Gun

To counter the Axis flak lighter, the British took three LCGs (landing craft gun), and put two 4.7 inch guns and two 40mm guns on each one. Then they made these ‘specials’ part of a trap.



Force A – PTs 212 and 214 (Veteran)

Force B: MTBs 634 and 659 and MGBs 660 and 662 (all Fairmile Ds), three special LCGs (14,19 and 20. Veteran)

Optional – add PTs 208 and 218behind Force B

Special Rulesthe LCGs have star shells


Two destroyers (type A) (Veteran), two flak lighters and four MZ in convoy


The map should be long north-south. Place the Germans in the centre, in two lines ahead, destroyers to the west, lighters to the east, heading south. The east edge is land. Force A enters on the west edge on turn one. Force B enters on the south edge on turn two. Force B is under orders not to fire until both of the boats in Force A have fired their torpedoes.

Historical Result

One destroyer was badly damaged and all six lighters were sunk.

24/25 April 1944 – Shopping for Destroyers



PTs 202, 212 and 213 (Veteran)


Two destroyers (type A) and one 1 E-boat (Veteran)


The Germans are placed in the centre in a line ahead, crossing the short length of the map. The PT boats enter on their left, down the long side. The DDs have radar and star shells.

Historical Result

One destroyer suspected sunk.

23/24 May 1944 – Wait Your Turn



1) PTs 202, 212 and 213 (Veteran) (DuBose)

2) PTs 302, 303 and 304 (Dressling)

3) PTs 201 and 216(Oswald)


Two Gabbiano class corvettes – UJ-2222 and UJ-2223


The Germans are placed in the centre in line ahead, crossing the short length of the map. Force 1 enters on their left, down the long side. The corvettes do not have radar. After Force 1 finishes and leaves the table, Force 2 may enter from the same edge. After Force 2 leaves the table, Force 3 may enter from the same edge. Most of the American crews are new.

Historical Result

One corvette sunk and one badly damaged. For balance use Force 1 or 2 only.

A similar battle occurred on 14/15 June near La Spezia between PTs 552, 558, 559(Elco class) and TA-26(Cicloneclass)andTA-30 (Ariete class).

31 May/1June 1944 – Does Size Matter?



PTs 304, 306 and 307 (Snodgrass)


One destroyer (Type A) and one corvette (Gabbiano class)


High visibility due to bright moonlight. The Germans are placed in the centre in line ahead, crossing the short length of the map. The PT boats enter on their left, down the long side.

Historical Result

The destroyer was damaged. Many casualties among the PT crews.

16/17 June 1944 – Landing Commandos on Elba

While covering a landing, the PT boats were approached by larger ships which they assumed were from the landing operation, since they gave the correct recognition light signal. The Germans opened fire at 400 yards. A two part scenario on a four feet square map..



PTs 209, 210 and 211 (Veteran) (Nugent)


One E-boat (Veteran) and two German flak lighters

Part A Set-up

Place PTs 209 and 210 in the centre, heading south. Place three German markers to their south in line abreast, at a distance of the German player’s choosing.

Special -The Germans choose when to reveal themselves and start shooting. The Americans cannot shoot or change speed until shot at.

Historical Result

Damage to everyone.

Part B Set-up

Clear the map.PT 211 enters the west map edge in the centre. Choose one of the F-lighters from Part A randomly (keep the damage from Part A). It enters the north map edge, within 40cms of the east edge, which is land. The landing force is off map to the south. If the lighter exits the south edge with any working weapon bigger than an HMG, the Germans win.

16/17 June 1944 – The Chase Scene

Two Italian boats are discovered trying to get back to a harbor on the north side of Elba.



PTs 308 and 309 (Newell)

Fascist (Repubblica Sociale Italiana) Italians

Two MAS boats


On a square map the Italians enter centre of north edge. The, Americans enter second in the centre of the south edge. Place a large island on the south edge, next to the west edge. The Italians receive one VP for each 20 hull points of their boats which exit the map within 15cms northwest of the island. Yes, the Americans start closer to that point.

Historical Result

One MAS sunk and one fled.

14 August 1944 – Faking It in Ciotat Bay, France

The Allies staged a fake landing at the Bay of Ciotat on the French coast to confuse the Germans regarding the Operation Dragoon landings. Special boats created for the operation are leaving the area when radar indicates two large ships to the east. The British assume the ships are friendly escorts. Their supporting US destroyer was some distance away, where it had overheated most of its guns trying to sound like many ships.



Ten British ASRC*, USS Endicott (DD) (Bulkley) and two British gunboats

*Air-Sea Search and Rescue boats. Use markers to represent these boats. They are unarmed and carrying equipment to make a lot of noise and light. 10/20/30 knots, 20 hull points each.

Only one of the Endicott’s five inch guns is working. Its smaller caliber guns are working normally. Use specifications for USS Benson.


Two corvettes (a converted yacht and a Gabbiano class)


The ASRC enter from the north map edge, heading south. The two corvettes enter from the east edge as markers. The British cannot fire or go above combat speed until fired upon. The two gunboats enter from the west 1D3 turns after the Germans open fire. The Endicottenters on the south edge 3+3D3 turns (i.e. between six and twelve turns) after the Germans open fire. The north edge is land.

August 1944 – Explosive Boats

The Germans attempt to interfere with the Operation Dragoon landings in southern France through the use of explosive boats. Every vessel must be spotted to be shot at.



Two PT Boats (215 and 216 or 206 and 214, Veteran)


Six Linse – five explosive and one control


The north edge of the map is land. The American boats start 15cms in from the south edge, in the centre, line abreast, heading north. The explosive German boats start 15cms in from the land, in the centre, line abreast, heading west. The controller is behind them.


In another encounter, there was a smoke screen. Place a smoke screen west to east down the centre of the map. It will dissipate gradually. Split it up into four 30cms sections. At the end of the first turn, roll 1D6 for the first section. On 1-3 it is removed at the beginning of the next turn, on 4-6 at the beginning of the turn after that. Repeat this process for section two on turn two, section three on turn three and section four on turn four. The last possible smoke would be section four disappearing at the start of turn six.

13/14 September 1944 – To The Rescue?



MTBs422 and 376 (Vosper I and Veteran) and PT 559 (Elco class)


Two MZ, one F-lighter, one corvette, UJ-2216(a converted yacht – use Gabbiano class)


The lighters are placed in the north/south centre in a line ahead, within 30cms of the east map edge. The Allies enter from the west edge in any formation. On the first turn after a lighter is sunk, immobilised or has all of its guns knocked out, the corvette appears on the south edge of the map.

Historical Result

The corvette and at least one lighter were sunk.

16/17 December 1944 – Trawling for Trouble



Five specially armed trawlers

Replace the 3 pounders on the standard armed trawler model with 4 inch guns on three ships and 3 inch guns on two ships.


One R-boat, one merchantman, four flak lighters (all flak, no MZ) in convoy


The German convoy is placed in the centre in line ahead, within 30cms of the east map edge. The Allies enter from the west edge in any formation.

Historical Result

Much mayhem. Losses uncertain.

15/16 December 1944 – Point Monteglia

The Germans established heavy caliber shore batteries to support their convoys.



PT 310 (Wallace) and MTB 422 (Ilett) (Vosper I) (both Veteran)


Four MZ and three shore batteries


Lighters running in a column along a map edge coast. Allies enter at a right angle in any formation. Before the game starts, the German player marks three points on the coastal map edge as the starting points for shooting by the shore batteries.

Historical Result

Nothing definite.

Ship Types not in the Rules

HMS Laforey destroyer – 190 hull points. Speed: 12/24/36. Yellow turn

  • Three pairs auto 4.7 inch guns
  • One 4 inch AA gun
  • One quad auto 6 pounder AA guns
  • Two quad AA HMGs
  • Two quad torpedo tubs
  • 42 depth charges – two rails and two throwers

USS Benson class destroyer – 160 hull points. Speed: 12/24/36. Yellow turn

  • Four 5 inch guns,
  • Two dual 40mm guns
  • Seven 20mm guns
  • Five 21 inch torpedo tubes
  • Four depth charge throwers and two tracks

Spica class Italian destroyer escort – 80 hull points. Speed: 11/22/33. Yellow turn

  • Three 4 inch guns
  • Ten 20mm AA guns
  • Two AA HMGs
  • Four 18 inch torpedo tubes

Ciclone and Orsa class Italian DE – 160 hull points. Speed: 9/18/27. Yellow turn

  • Two 4 inch guns
  • Eight 20mm AA guns
  • Eight AA HMGs
  • Four 18 inch torpedo tubes

Ariete class Italian destroyer escort – 110 hull points. Speed: 10/20/30. Yellow turn

  • Two 4 inch guns
  • Four 37mm AA guns
  • Eleven 20mm AA guns
  • Six 18 inch torpedo tubes

British gunboat – 60 hull points. Speed: 5/10/14. Yellow turn

  • Two 6 inch guns
  • Two 3 inch guns
  • Six MGs

Merdjayoun Syria 16/17 June 1941 – Part of Operation Explorer, the Allied conquest of Vichy Syria

Following the capture of Merdjayoun on 10 June, the Australian 25th Brigade pushed on leaving detachments to hold the area. The Allied advance through Syria was over four separate routes, with little ability to shift troops quickly from one to another. The Vichy commander quickly realised he was facing far fewer troops than had been expected and, after a few days planning, took full advantage of the widely spread Allies to launch a series of sharp counter-attacks from 14-16 June 1941.

The Australian commander at Merdjayoun, Lieutenant-Colonel Monaghan, decided to launch a pre-emptive strike of his own. On the night of 14/15 June led his 2/33rd Battalion out of the town on a wide outflanking march to catch the French off guard. Unfortunately he inadvertently took his forces out of position and allowed the French to attack the town itself. As can be seen on the map below the Allied (mostly Australian) forces were set up along a line roughly parallel to Merdjayoun.

2/33rd Battalion moved to the east of the town to cover the two tracks/roads leading north (routes A and B on the map) but also Hasbaya and Fort Christofini – both of which were occupied by French troops. They were supported by elements of 6th Cavalry, Vickers machine guns from 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion, AT guns from 2/2nd Anti-tank Regimen, Bofors AA guns from 47th AA Battalion and 10th Field Battery of 2/5th Artillery (25pdrs) situated in Merdjayoun.

A company from the fresh 2/5th Infantry Battalion was moved up to occupy Merdjayoun itself with troops from the Royal Scots Greys and Staffordshire Yeomanry picketing the ridge above the town. Further west 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion dug-in along the banks of the River Litani to protect the left flank.

I decided to bathtub the Allied order of battle and created a straight forward attack/defence game, based around the French counter-attack on 16 June.

Allied Dispositions

Balate Ridge (north of the village)

One troop of eachRoyal Scots Greys and Staffordshire Yeomanry (dismounted acting as infantry)

Each comprising ten men including a Bren gun


One company of 2/5th Battalion Australian Infantry comprising

HQ (officer, NCO, RTO, two runners, Boys AT rifle team)

Three platoons each comprising ten men including a Bren gun

10th Field Battery

HQ – (officer, RTO, two runners)

Two 25pdrs and limbers, tows and crews

Junction of routes A and B (east of village)

HQ including a Forward Observation Officer of the 10th Field Battery (officer, NCO, RTO, two runners, Boys AT rifle team and FOO)

Three platoons 2/33rd Battalion Australian Infantry (each comprising ten men including a Bren gun)

Mixed battery 2/2nd Anti-tank Regiment (comprising 2pdr, crew and tow and 37mm Bofors portee and crew)

Vickers section 2/3rd MG Battalion (comprising Vickers MG and crew)

Ibels Saki (south of junction)

Elements 6th Australian Cavalry comprising

MkVI tank platoon (two Mark VI light tanks)

Carrier platoon (two carriers and eight men including a Bren gun)


One Hurricane sortie

French dispositions

Balate Ridge

Elements III/24th Colonial Infantry Regiment

One Infantry Company

MMG platoon

Mortar section

Two groups Levant militia

Route A

Composite column of 6th RCA

Mixed tank platoon (R35 and Ft17)

One platoon M/c infantry

Two platoons 2/3rd 6th Legion Infantry (in lorries)

Montée 75mle1897 (2nd RA de Levant)

Two troops of Levant Spahis (mounted cavalry)

Route B

Composite Column 7th RCA

Mixed tank platoon (one R35, one Ft17 and one Ft17 75bis)

One platoon motorised infantry

Two troops 8th Algerian Spahis (mounted)

Two platoons Syrian Gendarmerie


Battery B 86th RAA (two 75mle 1897s)

One sortie from a Dewoitine D20


Our Enemies the French by Greg Novak (scenario published in Command Post Quarterly issue 1, winter 1993) GDW

Les Chasseurs d`Afrique by Sicard & Vauvillier (Historie & Collections)

England’s Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy 1940-1942 by Colin Smith

Five Ventures by Christopher Buckley

Greece, Crete and Syria. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1 – Army. Volume II by Gavin Long – Chapter 20 (The French Counter-Attack)

Operation au Proche-Orient de l`Irak a la Syrie 1941 by Yves Buffetaut (Armes Militaria Batailles Magazine No. 50)

Invasion of Syria 1941 by Henri de Wailly

After Action Report

For this game we expanded our table which is now ten feet long and varies in width from four feet at the French eastern side to six feet at the Merdjayoun side. We played the game over three hrs (20 game turns). I played the Vichy and my lads Alex (21) and Chris (18) played the Allies. As always we used my time served version of Charles Grant`s ‘Battle’” rules.

The game began slowly with the Vichy infantry climbing up towards Balate Ridge and their columns advancing down both routes towards the waiting Allies. The colonial infantry struggled over the terrain, climbing the Balate Ridge under Bren and two inch mortar fire from the well dug-in British cavalry. The Vichy Hotchkiss and 80mm mortars found few targets initially among the sangers and slit trenches. The two columns were bracketed by the 25pdrs and then the lead vehicles were targeted by the dug in Australian AT weapons. As a consequence the militia/Algerian cavalry were forced to dismount and take cover rather than ride into concentrated Bren and rifle fire.

By turn eight the colonial infantry had reached top of the ridge, but were totally exposed to fire from the Scots Greys and the 2/5th infantry, which had moved out of the town up onto the lower ridge. The 25pdrs also added their fire. The ridgeline became a kill zone, forcing half the Vichy down into the westernmost valley, the rest unable to move forward or backward without exposing themselves to devastating fire.

The mobile columns suffered from 25pdr fire losing most of their armour but the infantry elements, supported by 75mm fire, slowly enveloped the Australians. The 6th Cavalry arrived on turn ten but almost immediately came under concentrated 75mm fire and lost both MkIV tanks in quick succession. Both sides received air support, but the two planes spent a couple of turns over the table in an inconclusive dogfight before heading for home.

Turns 16-20 saw the Vichy finish off 2/33rd and the 6th Cavalry, but without armour they simply did not have enough weight to threaten Merdjayoun as the game ended.

The Vichy forces did not have enough strength. The colonial infantry could not come to grips with the ridge defenders quickly enough. Perhaps in a re-run we will give them a couple of turns of early movement before dawn, or some off table flanking moves.

Article by Richard Baber.

The Durham Light Infantry 1934-36: Part of the British Experimental 6th Infantry Brigade

Many of those interested in the British Army and the development of armoured warfare pre WWII have heard of British experiments in the 1920s and 30s with the Experimental Mechanised Force and the later Armoured Force. I suspect far fewer will have heard of the Experimental 6th Infantry Brigade which was formed in 1935 as an experiment in infantry reorganisation, being part of the 2nd Infantry Division. Some of the lessons learned certainly had an impact on British organisation and doctrine in 1940 and for some time thereafter.

The Brigade was based near Camberley, Surrey at Dettingen Barracks, Blackdown. At the time it was the Headquarters of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and is now better known as Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut – the home of the Royal Logistic Corps.

Its commander was Brigadier H. M Wilson D.S.O. late of the Rifle Brigade. In WWII he was better known as ‘Jumbo’ Wilson, serving as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of British Troops in Egypt in 1939-41, GOC Middle East Command in February 1943 and Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean in the closing stages of the war, from January 1944. He retired as a Field Marshal.

The 2nd Division, the Brigade’s higher formation, was at the time commanded by the then Major General Archibald Wavell. It was regarded as an elite division to be used as a test bed for new ideas.

Composition of the Brigade

6th Brigade comprised Brigade Headquarters and Signal Section, three rifle battalions and a machine gun battalion.

The three rifle battalions were:

  • 2nd Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment
  • 2nd Battalion, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
  • 1st Battalion, The South Staffordshire Regiment

The 1st battalion of the Durham Light Infantry formed the machine gun battalion. If it seems odd now to convert a light infantry battalion to the more static tasks of a machine gun battalion, this view was shared by the battalion itself at the time. However the Regimental Journal from January 1935 suggested that, having been selected, it was up to the battalion to ‘infuse MG tactics with the light Infantry spirit.’ There is some evidence that the 1st Battalion DLI was something of a showcase battalion, having already being chosen to trial the experimental 1932 infantry uniform (with ‘deerstalker’ hat), which, with modification, later evolved into the 1939 battledress.

The Rifle Battalions

Each was to comprise

  • Battalion Headquarters
  • Headquarters Company
  • Four Rifle Companies

The War Establishment of a rifle battalion was to be 26 officers and 705 other ranks: That of a company four officers and 118 other ranks. Sections were to fight at a strength of not more than one Corporal or Lance-Corporal and six men.

Each rifle company was to consist of four platoons, each of three sections. All the men of every section were to be armed as riflemen, with each section also having one light automatic weapon. This was to be the ZGB (original Czech precursor to the Bren gun) rather than the Lewis Gun. The ZG was a Czech manufactured weapon and ZGB was the designation for the version produced for trials with the British Army.

The Headquarters Company in the rifle battalion included a mortar platoon of four three inch mortars and an anti-aircraft platoon with four light automatics (ZGBs again ?) on AA tripod mountings.

The establishment for rifle companies included an MG (unspecified) on the OC’s armoured carrier and a Hotchkiss machine gun acting as a ‘token’ for an anti-tank rifle (the Boys Mk 1 ATR first entered service in 1937). This mention of ‘tokens’ illustrates the point that not all equipment specified in the establishment of the Brigade was, in practice, available to it and that proxies were used.

Certainly in the 1936 organisation for the 1st DLI MG Battalion, Austin cars stood in for scout cars, Carden-Loyd carriers for armoured carriers, Hotchkiss guns as anti-tank rifles and Vickers guns as proxy anti-tank guns. The DLI Journal for April 1936 states that ‘Unfortunately very little of the new material will be available for these experiments and there will be a good deal of improvision (sic) and use of ‘token’ transport and weapons.’

Mobility of the Brigade

The Brigade was not completely mechanised – i.e. not all personnel were carried in some sort of motor vehicle. The only completely mechanised sub-units were to be:

  • Brigade Headquarters
  • Brigade Signal Section
  • The anti-tank company of the M.G. Battalion.

Except for officers, who all had Austin cars to replace their horses, all the personnel of the MG and rifle companies would still walk.

It was necessary to lend lorries to the Brigade to carry its dismounted personnel, weapons and A and B echelon transport in order to enable it to increase its pace on the road from about 3 mph to 12 mph. This accepted that, tactically, any increase in its speed could still only be achieved by:

  • A higher standard of training
  • A higher speed in reconnaissance (for which the Austin cars might or might not prove suitable)
  • Reducing the load on the soldier (which the motor transport should facilitate)
  • A higher degree of physical fitness

Issues for Investigation

Special features of the new organisation (the Experimental Brigade) were to be:

  • The use of wireless in brigade communications
  • The mechanisation of all front line transport
  • The substitution of Austin cars for officers’ chargers (horses)
  • The concentration of all machine guns into one battalion – the Machine Gun Battalion
  • The inclusion of an anti-tank company in the Machine Gun Battalion
  • The introduction of a new type of light machine gun, the ZGB in rifle battalions
  • The arming of sections in rifle battalions so that they could function either as light machine gun sections or as rifle sections
  • In the Machine Gun Battalion, a machine gun company and an anti-tank platoon would each be self-contained, both tactically and administratively, so they could, when required, operate independently of their respective parent unit

The MG Battalion

My personal interest in the Brigade concerns the Durham Light Infantry, my local regiment. As briefly mentioned above this light infantry battalion was seleceted for conversion to become the Brigade’s MG Battalion. The remainder of this article will therefore concentrate on developments concerning that unit – in two phases as, in 1936 a new establishment was introduced for the MG Battalion, which was very different to the initial 1935 organisation.

Motor Transport of the MG Battalion

The vehicles shown on the War Establishment of the Machine Gun Battalion at the start of 1935 comprised:

  • One four seater car (Battalion HQ)
  • 33 two seater Austin cars (Austin 7 Tourers) – chiefly for officers
  • Motorcycles – signallers and AT coy
  • 49 tractors with trailers (guns, MGs and ammunition)
  • 16 lorries (cooks, greatcoats, petrol, fitters)
  • 4 12 cwt vans (one per anti-tank platoon for distribution of rations).

Of these, the tractors could move at walking pace without harm. The other vehicles could not. To drive and maintain these vehicles (and allow for a working reserve of trained drivers) required an establishment of 120 motor drivers in the unit. This quota of drivers were to be trained to drive and maintain the establishment of motor vehicles, which the battalion hoped to receive in June 1935. The types of vehicles with which the battalion was to be issued were not known and, in any case, were likely to be the subject of experiment.

On an exercise lasting ten hours in May 1935 the fully mechanised MG company covered no less than 160 miles.

The Machine Gun Battalion (1st Btn DLI)

Weapons Training

  • All ranks apart from the usual exemptions had to be trained in the use of the rifle
  • All ranks of the machine gun and anti-tank companies had to be trained in the use of the machine gun (whichmay suggest that the anti-tank company was, pro tem, equipped with MGs as proxies for their guns)
  • All ranks of the anti-tank company would have to be trained in the use of the machine gun, once approved and issued (see note above)
  • Many men of all ranks would have to be trained in the use of the revolver
  • No training would be carried out with the light machine gun in the machine gun battalion (the LMG was exclusively the province of the rifle battalions, in the same way as all Vickers Gun MMGs in the Brigade were concentrated in the MG battalion

Some points raised at the time for consideration

  • The machine gun battalion commander automatically became the Brigade Machine Gun Officer with powers of command over MG units. How would this affect his working with the Brigade Commander and rifle battalion commanders and what would his principal duties be?
  • How would the machine gun battalion be distributed for movement on roads? How and where would all the lorries and cars be moved which could not go at infantry marching pace?
  • Would the MG battalion depend on Brigade communications or its own? By wireless, line, visual, motor despatch riders or cyclists?
  • Would the Austin car satisfactorily replace the horse?
  • How, and under whose orders, would the anti-tank usually function? Would this be by a lorry, with the gun mounted on it, carrying the team or a number of small cars?
  • Would the mortars best be included in the machine gun battalion or, as present, in the rifle battalions?
  • Should the anti-tank company form part of the machine gun battalion? If not, where in the Brigade should the anti-tank guns be placed?
  • How would the new organisation affect Brigade tactics?

1936 reorganisation

Early in 1936 it was announced that the DLI had not been selected to become one of the fifteen permanent machine gun battalions and therefore it would revert to being a rifle battalion after the present(1936) training season. However this would see it carrying out further experiments as an MG unit prior to (re)conversion with a new establishment and with very different equipment and transport.

Types and manufacturers of vehicles

In 1936 it was expected that the Morris truck would be the vehicle in general use and some were expected to be in service by April, with at least as many as were needed to replace the utility tractors and Hillmans of A company. As Hillman did not make trucks in the 1930s these would have been cars – either the 16 or the 20. The Morris truck was almost certainly the new CS8 15 cwt platoon truck. The Noel Ayliffe-Jones article ‘Infantry Vehicles of the 1930s’ in Airfix Magazine of September 1979 includes a photograph of three Utility Tractors of B Company along with a Morris CS8 15 cwt platoon truck.

Scout Company 1936

The main organisational change in 1936 was the inclusion of a scout company in the battalion achieved through the conversion of C Company under Major J.E.S. Percy MC. It consisted of three platoons, each of three patrols. Each patrol had two scout cars, each carrying a Bren gun and a motorcycle for communication and control. This was a genuine light infantry role and so drew some friendly jealousy from the other companies in the battalion. It is interesting that the Bren is specifically mentioned here in April 1936, rather than the ZGB, since the Bren Mk 1 did not officially enter general service until 1937.

M.G. Companies 1936

B Company (Capt. C.R. Battiscombe) and S Company (Major E. Dryden MC) each had four platoons. Each platoon had two sections of two guns, each on an armoured carrier, with an additional Vickers gun on the platoon commander’s armoured carrier. Each company would therefore have twenty M.G.s – all on armoured carriers.

The armoured carriers may have been intended to be the Vickers Machine Gun Carriers, which were introduced in 1937. We know the battalion received some Carden Loyd Mk VIs as proxies for armoured carriers around April 1936. The Vickers Utility Tractors were a stop gap, proxies in the experimental brigade for the intended equipment of an operational brigade. These may not have been entirely replaced by the Carden Loyds in 1936.

As Ayliffe-Jones points out, the Government bought 149 Tractors Light GS Mark 1 from Vickers between 1933 and 1936. They were powered by a 52 hp Ford petrol engine and had a top speed of 20 mph on the road. The combination of a very short wheelbase and narrow width made them unstable and the cross country ride was uncomfortable. They were not armoured and provided no protection for the machine gun and crew, either from the elements or from hostile fire. However, they only cost the taxpayer £375 each with no research and development costs, as they had been designed as a commercial venture by Vickers.

The Machine Gun Carrier Mk 1 was derived from a Vickers commercial project VA D50, which was intended to be able to fulfil the roles of both machine gun carrier and tractor to tow a light field gun. It was a prototype vehicle with Horstmann-type suspension with a solid idler wheel and two return rollers on each side. There was an armoured box in the front which enclosed the driver and front machine-gunner and a bench seat with folding back on each side behind this compartment, to carry the rest of the MG unit or the field gun crew. These seats were either side of the Ford V-8 engine, which was positioned centrally.

The MG carrier version had stowage bins fitted on either side of the armoured box for the driver and machine gunner and the engine was protected by steel plates mounted on a frame. This then became the MG Carrier No.1 Mark 1, which abandoned the idea of carrying an independent machine gun crew. The crew of the vehicle was reduced to three, dispensing with the folding sides and adding a compartment for the third crew member on the left side of the superstructure. A small batch (13) of these vehicles was built in mild steel and these seem to be the vehicles which entered service with 1st DLI in 1936.

The MG Carrier was the immediate precursor to the early war Bren, Scout and Cavalry carriers and, with further development, the Universal Carrier later in the war. The first operational use of the carrier was therefore in the experimental MG Battalion in 1936.

Anti-Tank Company

The anti-tank company (A company, Captain R.J. Appleby MBE) was reduced to three platoons but with a more powerful gun envisaged (2 pdr?). This begs the question of how the company was already equipped. They might possibly have had either Oerlikon tracked 20mm guns or Vickers MGs as proxies or even a mixture of both. Platoons were intended to consist of two sections each of two guns under a sergeant, who would ride a motorcycle.

Durham County Records Office holds an extensive collection of photographs relating to the DLI and a search of this collection using the term Blackdown (which is how the Dettingen Barracks is referred to in the contemporary records) turned up a number of photos of 1st Battalion at the time. These included several of individual companies of the battalion drawn up with all their transport. These of the anti-tank company show no anti-tank guns of any sort which reinforces the suggestion that perhaps machine guns were used as proxies.

Airfix Magazine, September 1979

Transport and equipment

The DLI Journal of January 1935 stated that little of the new material would be available for the 1935 experiments and therefore there would be a good deal of improvisation and of token transport and weapons.

  • Austins (Austin 7s?) as token scout vehicles
  • Carden Loyds as token armoured carriers (MG carriers?)
  • Hotchkiss guns as token anti-tank rifles (one each in the scout and MG platoons)
  • Vickers guns as token anti-tank guns

Nevertheless it was expected that the transport to be issued would enable the whole battalion to be ‘off its feet’. The Morris Truck (Morris Commercial CS8?) would be the vehicle in general use.

Contemporary Press Coverage

The Experimental Infantry Brigade was covered in the contemporary press in the period 1934-1936.

  • The reorganisation of 1934, resulting in the establishment of the Experimental Infantry Brigade, was reported on 17 August 1934, in the Western Morning News and the Dundee Courier. These reports were very similar, suggesting perhaps that they relied heavily on press briefing by the War Office
  • The Belfast Telegraph reported on 14 February 1935 on the introduction of the ZBG light machine gun and the motorisation of the machine gun battalion
  • The Sunderland Echo reported on 23 December 1935 on a reorganisation which included the conversion of fifteen rifle battalions into machine gun battalions; converting the Cavalry Division and Tank Brigade into a mechanized Mobile Division and that all mechanised cavalry units would eventually divided into three types (cavalry armoured car regiments, motor cavalry regiments and cavalry light tank regiments)
  • The Army Manoeuvres of 1935 and 1936 were heavily reported, for example in the Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer and the Western News. The role of the Experimental Infantry Brigade and its MG Battalion were prominent. In 1936 Wavell’s 6th Division provided the Westland forces and the use of 70 Sussex green buses to represent the new RASC troop carrying companies was particular noted, including the mobility provided, but also the dangers of road congestion and the need to reconnoitre routes.

Emerging Themes

The Experimental Brigade paved the way, among other things, for the introduction of the Bren gun into rifle battalions, the conversion of new machine gun battalions from existing infantry units, the introduction of the forerunners of the BEF carriers (Bren, Cavalry, Scout) and increased mechanisation of the infantry.

In the same way as the experimental mechanised and armoured force, it was marked by the use of proxies for some equipment and materiel – e.g. the issue of Carden Loyds to stand in as light tanks and, sometimes even, trucks labelled ‘tank’ on exercises. This ddoes not appear to have interfered with experiments with organisation and tactics but would have limited the Brigade’s operational effectiveness if deployed in action.

This need for proxies was partly because the vehicles required by the tactics of the new formation were simply not yet developed but also by the all-consuming pressure on the defence budget of the time. It would also be a result of the experimental nature of the brigade, which would be intended to reveal new requirements.

The 1936 reorganisation of the MG Battalion establishment demonstrates that lessons were being learned and implemented, even within the limited (two year) lifetime of the experiment.

Possible future avenues for exploration and research

Research into the experience of the three rifle battalions in the Brigade in 1935 and 1936.

Organisation Tables


Durham Light Infantry Regimental Journal

January 1935

April 1936

October 1937

Durham County Records Office

Photographic records of 1st Battalion DLI.

Noel Ayliffe-Jones, Infantry Vehicles of the 1930s

Airfix Magazine, September 1979 – includes photos of B Company Tractors Light GS Mark I

Faithful: The Story of the Durham Light Infantry

S. G. P. Ward, Nelson 1962

Reprinted Naval and Military Press 2005

British Pathé

Tommy Tries It Out – Uniform Trial 1932

Army Exercise in Sussex 1936 -includes B Company 1st DLI and MGs on Tractors Light GS Mark 1

AFV 1919/40 British Armoured Fighting vehicles

Edited by Duncan Crow, Profile Publications 1970


With grateful thanks to:

  • Peter Nelson, Lead Volunteer at the DLI Collection
  • The staff of Durham County Records Office
  • Jim Hale


A search for Blackdown (the name of the 1st DLI barracks at the time) at the Durham County Record Office catalogue brings up a lot of relevant images.

Article by Clive Smithers.

The Soviet BREM-1 Armoured Recovery Vehicle

In contrast to the German army during the Second World War, the Soviet army did not have specialised recovery vehicles or tactics for using them. They started to experiment with their use at the end of the war, initially using locally-modified versions of existing vehicles, often turretless T-34s. After the war, they began producing dedicated vehicles with specialised equipment. One of these was the BREM-1, based on the chassis of the T-72 main battle tank.


Introduced in 1984, the BREM-1 had a crew of three (driver, commander, and mechanic), all of whom were provided with day and night-vision equipment. It had a top road speed of 60km/hour, a road range of 700km, and an off-road range of 500km. Towing another tank significantly reduced the range, to just 220km on roads. Like the main battle tank on whose chassis it was based, it had long-range fuel drums at the rear of the vehicle, which could be jettisoned if needed. An unditching beam was mounted underneath the external fuel drums. A large-diameter snorkel was carried on the rear right of the vehicle, which could be used for deep wading at depths of up to 5m.

A crane was fitted on the left side of the vehicle. This had a lift capacity of 19 tonnes when extended up to 2m, or 3 tonnes at the maximum extension of 4.4m. The crane was powered hydraulically, normally using power from the vehicle’s main engine to run the pump. If the main engine was not running, the vehicle batteries could power the crane via an electrical pump. The crane was controlled from an elevated position, with a full set of controls. The crane turntable could be locked, and the vehicle could travel over level ground with a load suspended from the crane. When in transit, the crane was folded down along the side of the vehicle and secured in place with a clamp.

A full set of electric welding equipment, including a working position, was carried in a hermetically-sealed panel over the left track. Special tools were carried in portable containers on a load platform. This load platform was located at the centre of the roof, and was 1.7m long and 1.4m wide. It had removable side panels, and could carry a load of up to 1.5 tonnes.

The BREM-1 had two winches, a plough, a bulldozer blade, and towing equipment. The mechanical main winch had a 200m cable and a basic capacity of 25 tonnes. Snatch blocks could be used to increase this capacity to 100 tonnes. The winch was normally used at the front, with the bulldozer blade to anchor the vehicle, but it could also be used to the rear for self-recovery.

The bulldozer blade was 3.1m wide and hydraulically driven, using controls at the driver’s station. A BREM-1 could use this blade to create an MBT firing position in 12 to 20 minutes, depending on the state of the soil.

For towing, the vehicle had a pair of 1.68m towing rods, with internal shock absorbers, and a pair of 5.5m towlines. Loads of up to 50 tonnes could be towed for prolonged periods, at the cost of greatly increased fuel consumption.

Other equipment included a 30-tonne capacity hydraulic jack, R-123U radio, tank telephone system, navigation system, and NBC protection. Armour protection was the same as the T-72 MBT, although the only armament was a 12.7mm NSVT machine gun with 840 rounds of ammunition. Four smoke-grenade dischargers were sometimes fitted, and all vehicles could create a smokescreen by injecting diesel fuel into the exhaust manifold.

Specifications: BREM-1

Crew: 3
Weight: 41 tonnes
Length: 7.98m
Width: 3.46m
Height: 2.43m
Ground clearance: 0.46m
Maximum road speed: 60km/hour
Maximum road range: 700km
Gradient: 60%
Vertical obstacle: 0.85m
Armament: 1x 12.7mm NSVT MG (840 rounds)

Review by Russell Phillips.

Image credit: Vitaly V. Kuzmin (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Photograph of an M16A1

More bang for your buck!

A ‘might have been’ M-16 Rifle development

The M16 rifle had been a mainstay of the US infantryman for the best part of three decades. Developed from the Armalite AR-15 – itself in turn a redevelopment of the Armalite AR-10. Whilst a good rifle for its day, the normal infantry squad was always looking for more firepower, but from a lighter weapon. With this in mind, the designer of the AR-10, Eugene Stoner, took the idea of giving his new rifle more firepower from a chute feed system.

The chute feed system was not a new concept. It had been used on the .50 calibre waist gunner positions of the B-17 Flying Fortress during WWII. It was primarily designed for heavy machine guns rather than lighter squad weapons like the .303 calibre Browning then in use. This weapon was a standard belt fed machine gun but Stoner thought if his new rifle could give more firepower from its lighter weight, he would be onto a winner. He therefore set about redeveloping his own design from a standard box feed rifle, into a chute feed squad weapon. An adaptor was designed to fit on to the side of the AR-10, along with a bi-pod for greater stability when in use. The bullets would be fed down the chute from a magazine box carried on the back of the soldier.

Extensive testing with various sizes of cartridge, ranging from .223 inch (5.56mm) to 7.62mm (0.3 inch) proved promising, but the US Army didn’t seem interested and the idea fizzled out. Undeterred by this lack of interest Stoner moved to firstly to Colt and then onto Cadillac Gage, where he designed a modular weapons system, designated the Stoner 63. This system was configured to be a standard automatic rifle but, with slight changes, could be transformed into a light machine gun, a medium machine gun, or a solenoid-fired fixed machine gun for use on vehicles.

Some ideas for wargamers and modellers

As I can find no data regarding rates of fire or wear and tear on the barrel from sustained use, I suggest you use data based upon the Browning .303, if you wish to incorporate this weapon into your armies. As for modelling this weapon in the usual 10, 20 and 25mm ‘scales’, it should be fairly easy to convert a standard M16 armed figure. As you can see from the photos a simple bi-pod made from a folded paperclip glued to the front of the rifle should suffice. The back-pack ammunition box could be made from a converted Browning .303 ammunition box, but the chute feed system might prove a bit more tricky. One suggestion is to use an elastic band, cut to length and sprayed either with a primer, or dipped in diluted white glue, to add some strength. Another suggestion would be to use a laminate of wine bottle type foil caps and bend until you get the desired curves for the chute. Whichever way you do it, I hope this article has given you a new idea for a squad based weapon for use in your M16 armed forces.

Article by Grant Parkin.

This spice packs a punch!

Note on images: We were able to find images of the 44M, but without copyright information, so we can’t include them in this article. For photos and other images, see this page.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and this phrase is never truer than during wartime. As World War II progressed, armoured vehicles evolved to become more resilient to improving anti-tank weapons. Conversely, as tanks became better protected, newer ways had to be found to penetrate and destroy them. Anti-tank guns became larger in calibre and the shells heavier and more costly to produce. Many nations started to look at alternative ways to counter these more heavily armoured vehicles, whilst also controlling the cost of producing these counter measures. A range of hand-held or man portable weapons started to roll off the production lines of both the Allied and Axis nations. The Americans developed the Bazooka, the British the PIAT, (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) and the Germans came up with the Panzer Faust single use launcher. Whilst all these weapons could be effective against a large target vehicle in the right conditions, their short range would often be their downfall. One potential solution was the development of rocket propelled projectiles and one country which came up with an effective design was, perhaps surprisingly, Hungary.

Hungary was, however, no stranger to designing and developing its own range of military hardware. It produced reasonably effective Armoured Fighting Vehicles, such as the Toldi and Turan, and its motor industry also had a range of sturdy vehicles e.g. the Raba 38M Botond. Unfortunately the Hungarians were seen by some officers in the German High Command as being an unwilling and sometimes unreliable ally. This meant that weapons development and technology wasn’t always shared – including rocketry.

The arrival of the T-34 and KV-I on the Eastern Front battlefields came as a shock, not only to the Hungarians, but also to their German allies. Being denied access to newer designs of anti-tank guns, the Hungarian military had to look inward and turned to home grown designs. With little or no help from their ally in counteracting the threat of Soviet armour dominance, the Hungarian Institute of Military Science (HTI) began its own anti-tank rocket development program in 1942. After two years of designing and testing, it produced the 44M Buzoganyveto (literal translation ‘Mace Thrower’ – as the rocket head resembled a mace seed pod).

The rocket projectile was similar in appearance, although much smaller, to the later Stuka zu Fuss rockets. Its total length was 1100mm with a tube diameter of 100mm. Its warhead diameter was 250mm with a length of 410mm. Two types of rocket were designed for infantry use. One was for use against armoured vehicles, the other, against troops. The anti-tank version of the rocket was called ‘Buzogány’ (mace) and the anti-personnel, high explosive type was called ‘Zápor’ (rainfall or shower). The first prototype of the Buzogány was tested in the spring of 1944. The rocket was 215mm in diameter (I assume this to be the internal diameter of the explosive warhead) and contained a 4 kg shaped charge. Designed to be able to penetrate more than 300mm of armour or concrete, this rocket was able to destroy any kind of known heavy tank of that time at a distance of between 500 and 1200 meters. I assume here that the anti-tank version was a direct fire weapon but it is unclear whether the anti-personnel rocket was capable of use as an air burst weapon or whether it would just explode upon contact with the ground.

A three man crew operated the rocket launcher with a gunner/aimer lying or sitting to the left of a protective shield with two loaders to his right hand side. The launcher designed initially for the 44M Buzogányvető was to be a conventional tripod arrangement, but this proved hard to move in a fluid battlefield situation. The solution to this issue presented itself when the upper part of the launcher (the two rockets and the protective shield) was mated to a Soviet wheeled Maxim machine gun mount, plenty of which had been captured earlier in the war. This arrangement made the Buzogányvető easier to manoeuvre.

Main features of the 44M Buzogányvető rockets

Length without rockets – 970mm
Launcher tube length – 523mm
Launcher tube diameter – 100mm
Rocket head diameter – 215mm
Weight – 29.2kg
Rocket head weight – 4.2kg
Range – 500-1200m. Maximum – 2000m
Penetration – approx. 300 mm
Crew – 3

Operational use of the 44M Buzogányvető rockets

Records vary as to how many launchers were actually produced but sources claim somewhere around 600 to 700. Due to the rapid advance of the Soviet armies during 1944, the Buzogányvető system was never used against its intended target i.e. Soviet heavy armour. The launchers were manufactured in the WM Factory and none seem to have been sent to frontline troops. The factory was over-run in December 1944, when Soviet troops captured it, and nearly all the rocket launchers were deployed and used in the siege of the Hungarian capital, Budapest.

Had this rocket system been designed earlier, it was envisaged as either simply a ground launcher or mounted in vehicles like the Krupp Protze, Opel Blitz or Rába Botond flatbed trucks. At least one was trial mounted on a Toldi II light tank.

Modelling the 44M Buzogányvető launcher and its use in wargaming.

When I first started to research this article, I never thought you would be able to buy a 44M Buzogányvető launcher or the rockets for it but a Google search shows that there are 3D printed versions of the wheeled launcher in various scales. A number of the commercial 3D printing companies make them in 1/100th, 1/72nd and 1/56th scales and no doubt you would be able to order them in any scale you prefer to game in.

As for their usage…well this would have opened up a whole new dimension to Eastern Front games if they had actually been deployed in time. The basic data for the rockets is included in this article so if you like adding a bit of ‘what if’ to your games, then this weapon system might be useful to you.

Further research.

I have used Google extensively for this article. I have no personal connection with Google at all, I just prefer it as my main search engine. If you would like to see more, type in something like;

44M Buzogányvető
Hungarian 44M Buzogányvető
Hungarian Mace Thrower

and you’ll find some further reading.

I hope you like and enjoy this article and it’s something different to read.

Article by Grant Parkin.

Dewoitine D.520

Pierre Le Gloan: The Frenchman who was a double Ace!

Pierre Le Gloan was from Brittany, born in the Breton town of Kergrist-Moelou on 1 June 1913. He joined the French Armée de l’Air in 1931, as soon as he was old enough to enlist. Before his death in 1943, he achieved Ace status (five kills) in the French Air Force twice — before and after France’s surrender (under the collaborationist Vichy regime). With 18 kills to his name, France’s fourth highest-scoring ace of World War II remains the only pilot in history to become an Ace on opposing sides of the same conflict.

When war came he was flying a Morane-Saulnier MS 406 and, on 23 November 1939, he claimed his first kill, a Dornier Do 17 reconnaissance aircraft. A second Do 17 fell to his guns on 2 March 1940.

Le Gloan’s squadron were then re-equipped with the newer and better Dewoitine D 520. Le Gloan (in plane number 227) lost no time in taking full advantage of the better fighter. During the Battle of France in the summer of 1940 he had a hot streak. In June, he shot down two German Heinkel He 111s and two Italian Fiat BR 2 bombers. The highlight of Le Gloan’s career was to come on 15 June. His squadron encountering a squadron of Italian CR 42 fighters, he attacked with enthusiasm, shooting down no fewer than three of them. On his return to base he came across another CR 42 and a BR 20. He attacked and shot down both of them.

Taking down five aircraft in one day has seldom been achieved by even the highest-scoring fighter Ace and Le Gloan was justly rewarded. His five-kill streak brought him up to 11 kills, well above the five required for Ace status. He was also promoted to 2nd Lieutenant to acknowledge his remarkable feat.

On 20 June his squadron was transferred to Algeria and, with the fall of France and the installation of Marshal Petain’s Vichy government, the French forces in North Africa were under Vichy command.

His squadron was transferred to Syria and in June and July of 1941 took to the air to defend the colony from the British Le Gloan shot down six of the RAF’s Hurricane fighters and a Gloster Gladiator bi-plane. In Syria his plane No. 277 was lost after a bad landing caused by combat damage. He had taken down 11 for France and had added another seven for Vichy. At the war’s end only Jean Demozay (21 kills), Marcel Albert (23 and two probables) and Pierre Clostermann (33 kills) ranked higher among French aces.

The Allies launched Operation Torch in November 1942, invading Vichy controlled Algeria and Morocco. After just a couple of days the French forces returned to the Allied side, including Le Gloan’s fighter squadron. The squadron was re-equipped in May 1943 with American Bell P-39 Airacobras, newly promoted Capitaine Le Gloan flying one of them. Unfortunately on 11 September, whilst on a training flight, Le Gloan’s aircraft developed engine trouble and he was forced to return to Algiers. Attempting to belly land his failing craft he forgot about the belly tank which Airacobras carried to extend their range. This tank should have been jettisoned before any attempt to land was made. This lapse led to the plane exploding upon impact killing le Gloan instantly. He was 30 years old.

Article by Richard Baber.

I’ve started… so I’ll Finnish

The Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland began with the Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939. Thinking the Germans were his new friends (and weren’t going to attack him) Stalin turned his eyes towards Finland. Just three months after the outbreak of World War II, Soviet forces crossed the Finnish border hoping for a Blitzkrieg of their own. The Finns, however, had other ideas. The war raged for three and a half months but, following an initial setback, the Soviets’ overwhelming numbers (and change of tactics) won through in the end. The war ended with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940 by which the Soviets conceded Finland’s independence in return for some territorial concessions.

Harness attached to the Model 1937 gun

During the relatively peaceful period thereafter the Finnish Armed forces began to reorganise and to re-arm. When Nazi German forces invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Finland saw an opportunity to strike back to reclaim the territory lost earlier. The Finns were now equipped with many captured Soviet vehicles and weapons, via their German co-belligerents, along with others obtained from Sweden. They did not, however, have sufficient vehicles to move them all – the heavier artillery and anti-tank guns taking priority. So, it was back to the drawing board in addressing the issue of tows and their solution was quite a simple one – horsepower.

Having been supplied with some Bofors M-38 37mm AT guns from Sweden and quite a lot of captured Russian Model 1937 45mm AT guns, the Finns designed a simple harness arrangement to be adapted for each gun.

Horse and rider with Bofors M-38 gun

In total, the Finns received several hundred captured Model 1937 guns from the Germans, although not every gun was able to be brought back into service. In terms of standardising the means of transportation, and minimising its cost, the Finnish armed forces seem to have come up with a novel approach. All these pictures were taken in the ‘research and development’ department in the military citadel of Helsinki in February 1944. Whether these adaptations were ever used is not documented.

Some ideas for modelling

In the popular scales of 10, 15, 20 and 25mm it should be possible to make something similar, if not an exact replica, of the two harnesses shown in the photographs. As can be seen from the Bofors M-38 photos, the apparatus is simply two parallel bars with two attached cross braces and a seat for the driver. This could easily be replicated with plastic rod and card.

The harness for the Soviet Model 1937 seems to be an elongated ‘U’ shape. Again, this could be fabricated from plastic rod gently heated and bent to shape or from a piece of wire, shaped around a suitably sized tube. The seat poses more of a problem as it appears to be some kind of tractor seat. As for the riders/drivers, the one sitting ‘side saddle’ on the Bofors gun would be harder to re-create but the one on the Model 1937 gun could come from a horse rider with his saddle still attached. And if you really want to ‘mix it up’ why not replace the horse with a reindeer and the driver with a winter greatcoat and steel helmet.

Horse and rider with the Model 1937 gun

I hope this article has given you some inspiration to add something different to your Finnish forces for your Winter War/Continuation War scenarios.

Article by Grant Parkin.

Image Credits & Editor’s Note

All the photographs in this article were downloaded from the Finnish Wartime Photograph Archive (SA-Kuva), with whom their copyright resides. You can visit it at It contains over 100,000 photos of the Finnish military between 1939 and 1945. It’s really quite interesting but, although the website is available in English, searches can be conducted only in Finnish. Finnish is a notoriously tricky little devil (what with being unrelated to all the European languages with which most of us will be even a little familiar) and this does lessen its ease of use. Worth a browse though.

Operation Outward: Military Success For Very Little Outlay

In the dark days of September 1940, Britain and the Commonwealth stood alone. The Nazis occupied most of Europe, the Japanese were on the offensive and had the upper hand in the Far East and even Egypt and the Middle East weren’t safe. Fear of invasion from Italian forces in North Africa had stretched the British Army to breaking point. The fiasco that was the rout at Dunkirk had had a positive spin put on it by politicians and was made to be seen as a victory. In reality, it was a defeat — most of the modern tanks, vehicles and heavy weapons that had gone to France with the BEF had been left behind. Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for action but what action could the country take when so thoroughly on the back foot? Then on the night 17/18 September 1940, Britain conducted a stealth raid into occupied Europe. A raid so stealthy, they didn’t know they had done it!

Strong winds had broken loose a number of barrage balloons from their moorings. These balloons drifted across the North Sea and (crash) landed in Denmark and Sweden. The sturdy steel cables trailing from the balloons caused damage to power lines, careered into railway traffic and collided with the antenna of the Swedish International radio station, causing it to go offline for a while. Five balloons (but maybe more) were reported to have drifted as far as Finland.

How many balloons had ‘escaped’ was never reported but upon hearing the news of the damage and confusion they caused, Churchill was jubilant. He reasoned that if such a low cost ‘weapon’ could do this, then a further, more detailed study should be taken with a view to doing something along the same lines…but deliberately.

In fact the matter had already been investigated a few years earlier. The British Air Ministry had begun producing barrage balloons as far back as 1936. Forward thinkers had seen the war clouds gathering so in 1937 the Air Ministry conducted a study to determine how much damage a balloon could cause if it broke free from its mooring and its steel cable was dragged across the countryside. The study showed that, if the steel cable were to short out power lines, electricity supplies would be out for at least six hours. This study had been undertaken as a Civil Defence measure — to determine how long people and industry would be without power in the event of an accidental balloon drift over Britain. The use of barrage balloons as an offensive weapon had not been considered — until Churchill became involved.

Initially the Air Ministry opposed it on the grounds that the balloons would interfere with flight operations. Friendly balloons floating about in the darkened skies might become entangled with RAF aircraft. It also argued the point that these balloons were unguided and uncontrollable and any success would be more by chance than design. Retaliation in kind by the Germans from the occupied coasts of Europe could not be ruled out either.

In contrast, the Admiralty Board was more open to the idea, arguing that it was a ‘cheap and cheerful’ way to strike back at the enemy. Comparing the cost of a balloon to a front line bomber was persuasive and, as there was also an ample supply of hydrogen gas for the balloons, the program started in earnest. Meteorological studies had shown that more winds blew from Britain towards the continent than blew from the continent towards Britain. In an average year the prevailing wind was west to east 55% of the time and only east to west 38% of the time. This made the idea of German retaliation highly improbable and probably less effective if implemented. More importantly an engineering study had shown Germany’s power grid was considerably more vulnerable to damage by short-circuit than the British system. Coupling this with the fact that large pine forests (which were considered more vulnerable to incendiary attacks than British hard wood forests) covered many parts of the German heartland and continental Europe, the program was begun. However, as with all things involving two branches of the British military a long, bureaucratic struggle between the Air Ministry and the Admiralty began. The programme was held up until September 1941 when the go-ahead was finally given: Operation Outward would commence.

Standard British barrage balloon. This is the type employed to use the trailing cable in offensive operations.

The Balloon Goes Up

The first launch site was Landguard Fort south of Felixstowe situated in a remote southern part of Suffolk. Originally built as one of a string of Napoleonic Forts for home defence, it was situated at the mouth of the River Orwell. Designed and built over a century earlier, its purpose was to guard the entrance to the port of Harwich (and the surrounding area) from the perceived Napoleonic invasion threat. An old imposing structure with high, thick walls, it would be able to store the balloons and their associated equipment, whilst keeping prying eyes at bay.

Following detailed studies and tests of balloon designs, two types of balloon were to be used. The first type was a typical eight feet round weather balloon modified to carry three six pound incendiary ‘socks’. These socks were designed to set fire to pine forests and heathland. A second balloon tested was similar to, but not as large as, a standard barrage balloon. This smaller barrage balloon would trail a long steel cable which, it was hoped, would hit power lines and create a short circuit. Tests were conducted on the balloons regarding duration of flight and with a timed ‘burn fuse’ attached. This saw their ceiling height set at about 16,000 feet, give or take a few hundred feet for wind and other atmospheric conditions. Natural leakage of the hydrogen gas from the balloons, along with a timed deflation valve obviated the need for any ballast or pressure-control systems to control and maintain altitude. As the Spitfire fighter and Lancaster bomber could fly in excess of 20,000 feet, the balloons should not interfere with any normal RAF flight operations.

With the balloons simple and easy to operate, no expert crew had to be employed in their usage. Fighting men could be freed up and used elsewhere so the role of balloon handlers fell mainly onto the shoulders of the WRNS (Women’s Royal Navy Service) or WRENS (as they were commonly called). These personnel were supervised by a few (male) NCOs and technicians! A detailed plan for launching the balloons was introduced so as not to conflict with either incoming or outgoing RAF flight operations. Times were set for balloon launch operations but these could be changed if RAF aircraft were grounded due to bad weather. The balloons could fly even if the aircraft could not.

The first launches took place on 20 March 1942 and, within a few days, encouraging reports of forest fires near Berlin and in East Prussia were received. Radio intercepts showed that the Luftwaffe was sending up fighters to try to destroy the balloons. This was very encouraging news to both Churchill and the combined RAF and Admiralty operation. It would appear that the Germans were spending far more resources trying to destroy the balloons than the British were by launching them. Sending up fighters to try to destroy the balloons meant they were using extra fuel, putting more strain onto airframes, increasing aircrew fatigue etc. Whilst the Germans did their best to intercept as many balloons a possible, they soon realised they were fighting a losing battle.

Reports from French Resistance cells and other, neutral sources claimed that the balloons were causing a lot of disruption to rail, road and agriculture operations and services. These encouraging reports reached the ears of the French Government in exile in London, and they wanted more released to help tie down enemy forces.

The balloon operation had proven successful — for very little outlay a lot of disruption had been caused. These initial successes led to two other launch sites being set up in April and May 1942. One site chosen was on the coast at Oldstairs Bay between Dover and Deal in Kent, the other being Waxham in Norfolk. The latter site was an isolated coastal village north of Great Yarmouth. These sites brought anywhere from Northern France to Scandinavia within a balloon’s sphere of operation with a good wind blowing to the continent.

Success for the Balloons

Whilst the balloons proved to be an economical way to strike back at the enemy in the short term, they were never intended to be a realistic military weapon to cause mass damage or destruction. Their launch was seen as being of a nuisance value. Although they did tie up a lot of enemy manpower resources, in reality they caused very little military damage. People in the higher chain of command began to doubt that the effort put into this operation was worth it. However, the night 12 July 1942 began to change a some minds. A cable-trailing balloon struck a 110,000 volt power line near Leipzig. The overload switch in the nearby Bohlen power station did not trip quickly enough and this resulted in a fire which spread and destroyed the entire complex. The damage was estimated at £1,000,000 compared to the £220,000 spent on Operation Outward.

By August 1942 up to a thousand balloons per day were being released, weather permitting. The Germans were now tied up fighting in the east and the balloons seemed to have free rein over the skies of occupied Europe. Some reports even state they reached as far as Hungary. The German military were engaged in fighting in the Soviet Union leaving it to the German civilian services to try to fight the ‘balloon war’ on their own.

Own Goals

The balloon offensive had proven a success but this success did come at a price. On the night of 19/20 February 1944 a cable-trailing balloon shorted out a Swedish overhead rail lighting system. This short circuit of the system resulted in a collision between two trains. The number of people injured or fatally wounded was never revealed but a diplomatic protest was issued by the Swedish government. Other than to say sorry and perhaps compensate a neutral country for any material loss, there was little the British government could do. This unfortunate incident did prove without doubt the potential of the balloon campaign, raising the question of how much damage wasn’t being reported by the German authorities.

End of Operations

With the tide of the war turning in the Allies’ favour and having achieved virtual air superiority over occupied Europe, it was decided that the number of balloons being released should be cut back. From May 1944 a change of tactics was also implemented. Mass balloon launches were stopped and replaced with a trickle of balloons launched from the three sites at ten-minute intervals throughout daylight hours. Only 2% of these balloons were to be of the trailing wire type — a type which could have caused major damage to allied aircraft. The remaining 98% carried of incendiary bombs. Cutting back on balloon launches increased the availability of hydrogen gas for use elsewhere and freed up much-needed transport vehicles and compressed gas cylinders ready for the planned Normandy landings. With the success of the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944 and with the Allies making gains into Occupied Europe the last offensive balloons were launched on 4 September 1944.

Further Research and Reading

Thanks to something Alan Hamilton said on the SOTCW Forum I set off to research this unusual operation. Using Google as my first port of call most of what I have written here is gleaned from various sources online. There is still a lot of technical, detailed information about Operation Outward that I haven’t included. I haven’t set out to write a complete history of the Operation but just to give the reader a taste of something unusual that happened in the darkest days of WWII. It would be advisable to read this article in conjunction with online maps and images of the locations mentioned. That way (hopefully) you’ll be able to see how remote and secretive the chosen balloon release sites were. I hope you enjoy it.

Featured image: The National Archives UK [OGL v1.0]

Article by Grant Parkin.

MT-12 firing

Soviet 100mm T-12 & MT-12 Anti-Tank Gun

The T-12 was developed as a replacement for the D-48 85mm anti-tank gun, and was the first smoothbore anti-tank gun to enter service, in 1961. The decision to adopt a smoothbore barrel led to improved HEAT performance, higher muzzle velocity, and longer barrel life than an equivalent rifled barrel. The kinetic energy penetrator was very long and thin, further improving penetration.

Production of an improved version, the MT-12 (also known to NATO as the T-12A), began in 1970. This had a new improved carriage, which was less prone to turning over whilst being towed. Both models had sights for indirect fire and direct fire, but indirect fire range was limited by the maximum elevation of only 20º. The T-12 was normally towed by a lorry, the MT-12 by an MT-LB.

T-12 being towed
T-12 being towed

The crew of six consisted of commander, towing vehicle driver, gunlayer, loader, and two ammunition numbers. The barrel had a perforated muzzle brake, and was clamped to the trails when in transit. The loader had to open the breech manually to load the first round, after which a semi-automatic loading system would open and close the breech, so that the loader only had to load shells. Image intensifier night sights were fitted. A shield gave the crew some protection from small arms fire and shell splinters.

The T-12 and MT-12 both fired APFSDS, HEAT, and HE ammunition. The APFSDS round had penetration of 230mm at 500m, 140mm at 3,000m. The HEAT round could penetrate 350mm. From 1981, the MT-12 was able to fire the new AT-10 Stabber laser beam-riding ATGM, which had a maximum range of 4,000m and penetration of 550mm. The laser designator was mounted on a tripod to one side of the gun.

Photograph of an MT-12 firing
MT-12 firing

The MT-12 was the last towed Soviet anti-tank gun to enter production. Development began of a 125mm towed gun, the 2A45 Sprut, but this never entered production.

Specifications: T-12 (MT-12 in brackets)

Calibre: 100mm
Barrel length: 6.3m
Weight: 2,750kg (3,050kg)
Length: 9.48m (9.65m) (travelling)
Width: 1.8m (2.31m) (travelling)
Height: 1.57m (1.60m) (travelling)
Elevation/depression: +20/-6º
Traverse: 27º total
Rate of fire: 14 rounds/minute
Towing speed: 60km/hour (70km/hour) (road)
 15km/hour (25km/hour) (cross-country)
Maximum range, APFSDS: 3,000m
 HEAT: 5,995m
 HE (indirect): 8,200m
Crew: 6

Review by Russell Phillips.

MT-12 photograph by Юрий Кучинский via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0 unported). T-12 photograph from Army Technical Intelligence Review No. 100.