Friday 30 September 2011

No Stone Unturned: AAR

Man in Suit: "Sit down Corporal Taylor. Now, I've read your after action report but I'd like you to go through the op in your own time".

Taylor: "Right. Er, Yessir.......we was patrolling down the lane from the Lydyard Road, when there was a movement in the barn just off the road to the left. I signalled to the section to halt and scanned the area right to left; when I spotted another flash of DPM in the barn doorway and indicated it to Terry, Ranger Jones, with the r/t. We all crouched, including Paxy".

Suit: Paxy?

Taylor: "Sorry Sir. Mr Paxman of the BBC."

Suit: "And?"

Taylor: "And, then we came under fire from the direction of the farmhouse and the barn; I ordered the gun group to engage the barn while Jones and me took opened fire on the farmhouse, well, the lean to, thats where the firing was from".

Suit: "And the rest of the section?"

Taylor: "I ordered them to move right towards a possible gap in the hedge, but then Ranger Wilson was hit and I decided to concentrate on shooting back".

Suit: "You did not bother to even attempt a flanking move?"

Taylor; "Ermm...I decided to win the initial firefight by means of aimed fire first as we had no idea where the other bad guys were".

Suit: "And You shot the man in the barn?"

Taylor: "Yessir. So then I told the rifle group to get a around wide on the left and head for the front of the farm. Terry and me and the Gympy kept firing at the guy in the lean to - and then he did a runner. Me and Terry legged it for the house while Den and the gympy kept fire up on the lean to. Then we assaulted the house and......

Suit: "How?"

Taylor: "Well, we shouted, "British Army!" and kicked the door in? 

Suit: "And once inside?"

Taylor: "Errr, after a couple of seconds....we cleared the kitchen, hall and front room. No upstairs, just beams. House was empty but we could see three men running down the lane".

Suit: "So?"

Taylor: "One was firing back at us. We opened fire and I dropped him one. Meanwhile, Lt Frisby had arrived in the Westland and apparently had a disagreement with his pilot who didn't want to fly too close, so...

Corporal Taylor with obligatory Tom Selleck moustache

Suit: "You dropped this suspect too? Good. And Meanwhile, Ranger Wilson was.....???"

 Taylor: "Receiving first aid from Mr Paxman, Sir. Did a good job too".

Suit: "You then saw the Scout try to land over towards the lane?"

Taylor: "No Sir. I heard the helo come in low, but then there was this long burst of automatic fire from what sounded like a Sterling. Full mag I reckon. The helo climbed, wobbled and clattered back over the house. then I could see the rifle group getting to the top of the mound and firing down into the lane.

"We was linked up with by Den. Sorry, gun group, and  followed the enemy with fire down the lane. This is when the rifle group slotted another guy. Final suspect disappeared into the coppice to the north east and by now Mr Frisby had arrived with his r/t and was told to go firm on the farm while Cordon Force took up the pursuit".

"Within minutes a civvie van, and a couple of Rovers pull up. Some heavily armed, hard bastards with long hair and jeans pile out. We're bundled into the Rovers and brought here 'til you arrived Sir".  

Suit: "Thank you Corporal Taylor. Yes, you can take the Jaffa cakes".


Alan Tate is on the run. Three members of the Clash Action Front shot and killed. Another body found in the outhouse. Ranger Wilson lightly wounded. Corporal Taylor awarded the Military Medal and promoted to Sergeant. Followed by two further Mentioned in Despatches for 14 Platoon. Section S get's it's "victory".

Army Heroes Turn Tables on Trot Murderers


Classic Platoon 20 Post War 1970's British Infantry vs ex-Hotspur minis playing Clash Action Front this time round. I continue to have a fondness for the original Platoon 20 modern figures. They remind me of the illustrations in Basic Battle Skills - can't get more 70's than that.

I put the table together in 10 minutes and the game took 30 odd minutes to play. Once Maff got his act in gear and stormed Ravensdale Cottage things happened really fast; at which point I lost track of time. Maff's left flank move only just managed to catch the fleeing Trots with the rifle group's SLRs banging out 7.62mm rapid!

Cold War: 1983 were once again the rules for this scenario. Unlike previous games, the dice consistently rolled really poorly with the exception of Corporal Taylor taking out the guy in the corrugated out house with a single aimed shot.

14 Platoon, would in all probability been operating in 4 man bricks - 2 or 3 to each patrol. First brick with Gympy, second with LMG.  I deliberately reverted to the more traditional Gun Group and Rifle Group organisation to give Maff a taster of commanding these elements on the tabletop and still maintain some firepower balance given that the Trots had only recently gone through their first experience of combat and were facing N.I. vets.


Thursday 29 September 2011

A Place In The Country

 Just a little taster. This is the table setup for the game. After Action Report to follow.

BTW, the house is a must. It's an out of production Hornby Skaledale series Derelict House R8562. Certainly suitable for anywhere in the UK and even Ireland at a pinch, from the Victorian age onwards. Definitely the best Hornby purchase I've made. Bought on eBay for less than a tenner to boot which made up for some duffs early on!

The Derelict appears on eBay fairly frequently. Maff picked  up one himself earlier this week for his own Winter of 79 setup, and there's another currently on eBay today (Link). Right now it's £4.00. Be prepared to walk away if bidding rises above £13, as another will come along soon.


Wednesday 28 September 2011

Whitehall: One of the M.I.s....S Branch

"There's been a contact. Damn it Tom! The bloody hats have tipped our game too early."

"Any news yet sir?"

"No. The CO on the ground assures me the area has been sealed off. But this isn't good enough. How could this have happened!"

"Mmm, looking at the transcript of signals so far.....Larkspur.....I'd say frequency drift on their set. Over eagerness of the troops involved. Probably didn't pick up the 'go firm' order. Is the Hereford mob nearby?"

"Only the OP. Another 20 minutes before the assault teams are on the ground. Enough time for it all to turn to ratshit".

"We've still got the girl under surveillance. She could be bait. He risked contacting her before. We also have other members of the cell identified....."

Light blinks on phone. "Brigadier? I want to see arrests or bodies. And if there are any bodies on our side, yours better be among them!"

Right Tom! Get me the SAS commander on the spot. I've got tame journalists at the Mail and News of the World....

"Just the two....?"

"Whatever happens at that bloody farm. I'm going to ensure it's going to be a victory for us!"

Picks up phone again. "Pauline, get hold of Jerry Fowler urgently. He's to meet me in The Swan in an hour's time". 

"Tom, I want you to get down their as fast as possible. Take charge of the scene. Shoot people if you have to...."


Tuesday 27 September 2011

BBC Panorama 1979: Hunting the Insurgency

Panorama has been given unprecedented access to military operations in the Borcestershire area of operations. In tonight's programme we follow 14 Platoon of the Royal Wessex Rangers, as the Army and security services hunt the killers of what has become known in the papers as the "Bloody Cross Massacre".

14 Platoon were inserted into the countryside by helicopter five days go. Part of a battalion sized net  tightening around the suspected insurgents. The men of 14 platoon, the oldest private 22 years of age, and most veterans of The Troubles, have been living rough and sleeping when they can in hedgerows or the cover of a stone wall.

It's a daily routine of setting up observation posts, random snap vehicle checks on unsuspecting motorists and the painstaking searching outlying farm buildings and other potential hiding places where their prey may have gone to ground. But the 14 Platoon remain cheerful and eager to bring the killers of their fellow soldiers to justice.

At 19:04hrs on Tuesday evening they are tired, dirty and down to their last KitKat. Unaware that painstaking intelligence work has pinpointed the location of the terrorists. In No. 3 Section, Private Hooper 18, has spotted a glimpse of movement and a possible light at an abandoned cottage. Our camera team joined Corporal Gavin Taylor as he takes a closer look....

Corporal Taylor quietly whispers to us "It's them!"and gives a thumbs up hand signal to his men.
 CRACK! CRACK! Muffled shouts. CRACK!
"CONTACT! Gun Group, 100 metres - house doorway - bursts, FIRE!"........

Tomorrow night's game is No Stone Unturned. No.3 Section have rumbled the Clash Action Front ASU hiding out in Ravendale Cottage. The rest of 14 Platoon are hoofing it as fast as they can to the loc. Have they closed the net on Alan Tate?


Monday 26 September 2011

Urban Redevelopment

I've been playing with ideas and come up with this amended plan for East Whittington. The most noticeable change is moving the viaduct to the left hand side of the layout, expanding the area available to 'the arches'.

East Whittington
Not to scale

Here, under or in the shadow of the viaduct there could be a mini-cab office (S&S Models portakabin office), a lock up garage (doubling as Don's Dodgy Motors) and a scrap yard. Opposite the warehouse there may even be space for a stand alone, up and down pub - bit like the Lion and Unicorn in The Long Good Friday. We could call it The Governor General (sic), where a rival firm hang out.

But before I take my ideas any further for this down at heel area, I need to watch Lock Stock... again, as apart from being a great laddish movie it has some evocatively seedy locations.

Turn one of the posh shops into a jewellers and all in all, I think we could film an entire series of The Sweeney on this layout! Also, plenty of roads for army patrols and corners for cover.

Now, where should I place the obligatory stacks of empty cardboard boxes for the car chases!


This is My Manor

I spent Saturday looking at older industrial estates using Google Maps Street View - and drew up some rough building designs and site plans.  On Sunday, I had a bit of a nostalgia trip and took a look around some of my old haunts across London. Bingo!

A composite image formed in my head of a generic inner city urban area that wasn't just row houses with backies and the odd corner shop. Using the Pub from the Metcalfe Low Relief Pub & Shops as the centrepiece - renamed The George, "a wretched hive of scum and villainy" - I envision a nucleated high street junction with a couple of streets leading off, providing a Hollywood style urban back lot for Geezers, Winter of '79 and the odd Zombie game.

Phase 1 of my new 'manor' will be created from off the shelf Metcalf buildings; with a little kit bashing here and there. For instance, two sets of PO205 Low Relief Pub & Shops will allow me to give the George a second facet and an extra shop and a Post Office. The Three storey tenements and two storey shops will be easy to construct and allow us to play a game or two centred around this small area. Rememeber that we are talking individual/character skirmish games - mostly shootouts and blags.

Phase 2 Extend layout, add a Bingo Hall converted from the Metcalfe or even possibly better, the Superquick low relief cinema kit.

Phase 3 Inspired by Maff's setup during our last Geezer's inspired game - a removable viaduct with railway station entrance, bus stops, lock ups and an arches garage - home of Don's Dodgy Motors. Extra shops with flats above and 3 storey tenements as required.

 East Whittington 'Manor'
Not to scale

I could mix in an old warehouse with the 3 storey shops/flats - maybe turned into a dodgy club or strip joint? Another option would be to swop the relative locations of the viaduct/arches with the tall shops/flats/tenements proposed on the left hand side of the board. This will turn the area behind the Bingo Hall into a seedier district. I'll play with those options once I've got the buildings for phases 1 and 2 completed.

I did seriously consider the Scalescenes downloads but they have to be printed, then cut and finally glued to card before assembly whereas the Metcalfe kits come printed and pre-cut. Less versatility yes, but Metcalfe are less fuss, have less chance for error and should be a quicker result on the table. And more importantly, more likely to get of the ground. I can pick up the Metcalfe kits this week.

So, I think it will work without becoming stale. What do you think?


Saturday 24 September 2011

Something for the Weekend Sir

Thought you might like a little something for the weekend.

Rolf  hopes to have pack URBMELTSLR (10 bareheaded civilian figures with SLR) in the mould this weekend. They are in the second batch to be made, so even if he can't manage this week, they will appear very shortly. It goes without saying that we are really looking forward to these miniatures as the backbone of our organised resistance along with the Urban Meltdown Support pack released during the summer.

Rolf is a good bloke and moved the URBMELTSLR production up the queue deliberately to aid our efforts on Winter of '79. So please support him in return and buy a pack or two yourselves.

I have to admit that those TQD Falklands British released back in August by C-P Models have been calling to me. I keep revisiting the pictures of them and am finding them hard to resist. In all probability due to the nature of the games we've been playing recently. Rural encounters between small groups of figures. Plenty of Spec Forces action and more to come in the next few weeks.

Add to that, I sent Mark at C-P Models an email query. He responded early the next morning and proved to be a real gent into the bargain. My great demon is over analysis. And anything that helps me narrow down options, like a manufacturer responding to my queries, so I can make my choices and spend my money and crack on, gains my support. 

When I originally envisioned Winter of '79, it was going to be a discrete side project with a platoon's worth of Britannia Cold War BAOR Brits as the government regulars fighting ex-Hotspur (aka Combat Miniatures) insurgents and rebel army forces drawn from the Operation Corporate and Urban Operations ranges. Well, we can all have dreams!

If I was starting again today from scratch, same brief as before - discrete and small scale project - then in order to save myself tears of frustration and get off to a running start, with games in the bag, I'd simply buy a pack of  the TQD-MF1 SAS, one to two packs of TQD-MF2 British Army Infantry.

Why? Life is complicated enough! On reflection, the TQD  figures have the right cold weather 'sleeping rough in the field' look I wanted for Winter of '79, the separate heads provide variety and personalisation, the separate bergans allow further choice. Plus I can see pics of what I'm buying (which is important so that I'm able to visualise how I will convert/use the figures and whether I need to up the order to get more of a specific miniature etc), then purchase online painlessly via paypal. Done!

A couple of Airfix Land Rovers, a Scorpion/Scimitar or two, a Saracen; all picked up form the local hobby store. Gaming ahoy! And plenty of potential for expanding later on with the help of Shaun (S&S), Tony (Platoon 20) and Rolf (Liberation Miniatures).

Looking ahead to some more future releases, you may be interested to hear that I emailed Brian at Hobby Den recently. It was on a Sunday and I wasn't really expecting a reply till Monday, or more likely Tuesday. Nope, he responded later that same Sunday afternoon. Definitely impressed! Brian hopes to have a 1/72 Shorland armoured patrol car and Saxon APC ready in October and an SAS 'Pinkee' Series IIA available around December or shortly afterwards.

Must be getting soft in my old age. Anyway, chatting with Maff on Wednesday we agreed that while we should continue to strive to use correct period kit for Winter of '79 wherever possible - there's no harm in deploying mildly anachronistic kit on the tabletop, such as 110 Land Rovers or proxying a Snatch Land Rover for a Land Rover Series 3, VPK. Weeeeeeell, I've had plenty of time to reassess my priorities recently; and being anal isn't one of them.

We also talked through options for an urban tabletop, but have to admit that we are struggling to come up with a cost effective and versatile layout that isn't Metcalfe/Superquick brick terrace. I'm currently erring on an industrial estate as an interim solution for both Winter of '79 and associated Geezers games.

In part 'cause that's where most of the action in The Sweeney and The Professionals seemed to have been filmed and therefore nicely atmospheric for Winter of '79. But on a practical side, commercial/industrial terrain can stand alone or provide a transition piece from countryside to suburban residential housing or terraced inner city. It can also be put together and rearranged at will like a Middle East 'city' tabletop.

There was an industrial estate near me when I was a kid. Flat roofed 2 and 3 storied offices attached to two, three medium sized sheds or a single large warehouse. Plenty of roads and alleyways to duck down. Yards full of pallet piles, cable drums, containers.

The industrial estate can be as big or small as you want and you can mix and match architecture without it looking odd. Parked lorries, delivery vans, portakabins, skips and burger vans can all add to the visual and tactical impact. Add a couple of Dapol cranes and you have a docks or railway goods yard!

The simplicity of the buildings also make a good test bed for scratch-building your own and ScaleScenes have a free downloadable Low Relief Warehouse to start you off.

Have a good weekend!


Friday 23 September 2011

S&S Models September Update

I've uploaded Shaun's latest update for you to view or download. Lot's of inspired stuff. Just click on the link above. With Winter of 79 in mind, look out in particular for the Bedford RL 4 ton GS Truck.


Wednesday 21 September 2011

The Net Tightens

"......Thank you Mr Hacker. We can assure the public that no stone will be left unturned in our search for the murderers. They will have no resting place and will be brought to swift justice."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


 "Have you seen this vehicle as you were going about your business? An Army Land Rover taken during the murder of a country garage propieter and 6 young soldiers in Borcestershire?"
 "Remember. Keep 'em peeled"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

 "Alan! You're all over the news. I can't believe it. I love you. You aren't hurt are you?...... Jeff? Oh god no! His poor mum.......A martyr? Yes, yes, but his mum. I feel so sorry for her....... No, no, I'm fine. Just worried about you. Are you somewhere safe?.......No, no-one has been round. I don't think they know it's you........The party plans to put out an official communique......OK. Yes. Yes, I'll tell them. When will I see you?"

"...... What do you mean? Of course I won't repeat this conversation!..... Why mustn't I let on we've met before?  I don't understand... Make out you're a stranger? A man I never saw?.......
 "...... But I love you and want to stand by you......" CLICK. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
"... Alan? Alan?"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


 "Sir? Got the bastards!"


Altaya Challenger £4.99 at Model Zone

In town yesterday for the first time since my hospital marathon back in August. Dropped by Model Zone in Aberdeen and picked up an Altaya Challenger tank for £4.99.

It's a decent model but not the best from Altaya. At £4.99 for a tabletop ready kit, I won't sniff at it. The first Challenger entered service with the Royal Dragoon Guards in April 1983, but in 1979 the then FV4030/2 Shir Iran/Khalid (essentially built for export) was being turned out at the (Vickers) Ordnance Factory in Leeds and individual examples may have been kicking around Military Vehicles and Engineering Establishment (MVEE) formerly the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RADRE), and the Armoured Trials and Development Unit (ADTU) at Bovington.

Interesting as a possible one off in 1979 but useful to have around for later Winter of 1983/2011, or Cold War scenarios.


Tuesday 20 September 2011

Bloody Cross: After Action Report


Never missing a chance for a brew outside of Neville's Cross Garage, run by proprietor Ted Povey. Four of the army's best stand around their Land Rover whilst the second Rover has popped down to the local shop as the 'Corp',  Bob, wants Wagon Wheels.

Turn 1 - Clash Action Front ASU break cover and bimble up road keeping up pretence of being a regular Para patrol. Alan Tate with his Sterling in the lead, uncertain and ready to empty the mag to cover a hasty withdrawal.

Turn 2 - "Get them!" A hail of shots are unleashed at the unsuspecting soldiers lolling around the Land Rover.

Turn 3 - Thick of the action. Return fire from government troops is largely ineffective - one soldier dead, one winged, one taking cover, one seeking a place to hide. Ted Povey is on the phone in the office. He can be heard shouting "They're bloody everywhere! Come quick!" Fingered as a grass by remaining PIRA cadre after Penny Pinch Farm, Alan Tate doesn't hesitate and squeezes the trigger.

Turn 4 - Second and third soldiers shot, fourth gone to ground. Alan "Get the guns and ammo into the jeep!" A flurry of activity is brought to a halt when Gary shouts "There's another Land Rover coming!" Alan calls back "Don't panic. Act normal. Waive them down"

Turn 5 - The Landie slows, Bob "What the bloody 'ell?.... wait one, they ain't Paras!" Another gunfight erupts. Driver and Bob killed instantly. The two soldiers in the back are more on the ball. Jeff , Alan's no. 2 get a bullet in the chest. But it's too little too late and both soldiers are shot dead.

Turn 6 - "Let's get out of here!" The triumphant Trots help Jeff into the original Landie and pile in. Alan puts the wellie down. As the Land Rover picks up speed Private Payne emerges from hiding and fires for all he's worth.... Jeff gets a second bullet and is killed instantly but the Landie makes a clean get away.

The Clash Action Front ASU is bloodied but shocked. Alan is shaking but quietly delighted. They've made their first strike against the oppressors and won. Killed soldiers, captured weapons, Jeff has become a martyr. Couldn't have been better.

Behind, Ted Povey and six squaddies lie dead. One is injured. Only Private Payne remains unhurt.


A cracking little game hosted by Maff, played over Skype (all photos are snapshots from Skype) and took 20 minutes to play in total. Rules were mostly Cold War: 1983 and a little bit of make it up on the fly as required (eg situational reactions by participants).

I chose to play the game more Devil's Own than Harry's Game. Alan strafing across the front of the garage firing his Sterling from the hip (is there any other way? Don't answer!). The dice were with  me!

The result was an unexpected bloodbath, which left a taste in the mouth - but we rationalised that if we were playing gallant Marquis ambushing SS in southern France we wouldnt think twice about it. Nevertheless the events set up the next game very nicely. We wondered about playing out the resulting manhunt as a map exercise, but given our commitments will probably jump ahead to the net closing in on an abandoned farmhouse.

Excuse the lack of prose in the batrep, I returned to the office for the first time in 5 months today and am knackered this evening as a result.


Monday 19 September 2011

News Headlines......

Tonight, police and security forces throughout Borsetshire are hunting the murderers of Ted Povey, proprietor of a local garage and a still unconfirmed number of soldiers. The incident took place at the Nevilles Cross Garage, south east of Borchester. Security forces quickly cordoned off the scene but the assailants eluded detection in a stolen army Land Rover and are still at large.

Residents in Borchester are asked to immediately report anything suspicious and if they have any information relating to this incident at all, to contact their local police station. Superintendant Jim Hacker will be holding a press conference tomorrow.

In Paris, President Giscard d'Estaing met.........

Bloody Cross

Tonight's Scenario:
Ted Povey is an ex-RASC corporal who runs the Nevilles Cross Garage in South-East Borset. The area is "quiet" and has gained a reputation as a cushty number by govt forces; a daily landy patrol does however go past the garage. The squaddies have learnt that Ted is sympathetic and a good stop for a fag break (petrol pumps are defunct and a targets for local kids with air rifles) and a real cuppa while the radio is "tuned".

Sadly, Ted is not popular locally, he bores for Britain at the George having apparently beat EOKA singlehanded back in the sixties.  He is known for overcharging for his garage work and at least one regular has been told to pay up or else. A local kid knows someone in the local Technical College who knows someone else who actually knows someone in the local trot hierarchy.
Aware that recent failures mean that a success is vital, the Clash Action Brigade has put a team together to ambush the patrol at the garage. Following limited training received by Free Taff/PIRA cadre (before they were slotted by the SAS). A more organised structure is now in place, an armourer has stashed three SLRs and a Sterling along with some red berets; these have been collected and the ASU has simply walked across country mimicking an army patrol, to the site of the garage - in a mix of commercially available DPM gear they pass muster at a distance as a small Para patrol. They are now in position at the site. 

The first army landy has puttered  up and while the gun bunnies in the back are stretching and lighting up, the radio bloke calls in "One Four, radio check, over....." The second landy stops briefly and the driver leans out "Bob wants a Wagon Wheel. We'll pop down the shop and be back in five." Ted has the kettle on.

In cover, a nod and the safeties are thumbed to OFF. Power to the PEOPLE!

Armour for the People

Managed to pick up a couple of extra Airfix Scorpions on ebay. These little beauts are destined to join my rebel forces.

Citizen Smith (Tank Commander)

One will be the armoured contingent from  the Tooting Popular Front ("One word from me and the hills will be alive with the sound of Marxists!"). Need to find an appropriate tank commander figure to give a Donkey Jacket and Tooting FC scarfe.

The other will join a union backed militia armoured column of improvised armoured vehicles similar to the types that appeared during the early stages of the Spanish Civil War (based on commercially available OO scale vehicles). There is still a strong link to the Spanish Civil War in modern day trade union movements and I suspect the influences would have been stronger in 1979 as many of the veterans were in prominent positions within the trade union movement - a prime example being Jack Jones, but also too let's not forget those at the local regional and branch level.

With this theme in mind, Nigel at The Square has a set of modern 20mm Anarchist flags/posters and various revolutionary plus 'national' UK flags to bedeck your forces with displays of revolutionary zeal!


Children of Men

Children of Men was on TV last night. Whilst out of our timeframe, if you want get the feel for a dystopian future (or even past) then it has some good sequences urban rebellion sequences which include a Chieftain and Scorpion in Berlin Brigade style urban camo schemes.

Overall the plot doesn't provide me with the willing suspension of disbelief necessary to enjoy the film en toto but the urban scenes are cool and thought provoking for tabletop games.


Friday 16 September 2011

The Paras: 1982 Documentary

The Paras was a fly on the wall BBC TV documentary aired in November 1983. It follows the recruits from 480 (Training) Platoon of the Parachute Regiment, as they undertake basic training between January and June 1982.

The timing of the documentary was impeccable. The Falklands War took place during the course of filming and provides a sober backdrop of reality behind the training.

All the episodes are available on Youtube. Just follow the link in the embedded video above. The episode I've chosen shows the recruits towards the end of their training on a live firing exercise. All scrimmed and cammed up, as per true Tom of the Cold War period.

Parts 1 & 2 of this episode give a very close up and gritty idea of British Army tactical training for the individual soldier. Following the 'action' you don't need a commentary to spot the greeness of the 'trained' recruits. Highlighting the real differences between an experienced soldier (listen to the DS instructions and examples) to green soldiers and what then of untrained civilian militia?


Thursday 15 September 2011

Panorama - the Winter of 79 in 1975

In September 1975, the BBC's Panorama takes a look inside Sandhurst. We find the then officer cadets preparing for a Winter of '79 scenario on the streets of Britain under no less a tutor than Brigadier Frank Kitson.

Winter of '79, courtesy of Sandhurst in 1975

The documentary was aired a just over a year after the Miners Strike, the three day week and Edward Heath asking "Who rules Britain?" Almost 3 million are unemployed. Chief Constable David McNee, warned the government that if shipbuilding on the Clyde went under, he would need 15,000 extra police officers to cope with the resulting civil unrest.

"Filmed at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, this programme offers a fascinating insight into officer training. Six years in Northern Ireland have given the British Army unique experience in counter insurgency and internal security techniques. Sandhurst recognises that the Army's Ulster experience could - one day - have to be used in Britain, and there is a need to train officers for that possibility. So imagine a world where Scotland has left the United Kingdom, where some English cities are thinking of following suit and where law and order is breaking down in our towns. It may seem far fetched, but the recruits of Sandhurst are presented with just such a scenario."
An impressive historical document of the time. Available to watch in full on BBC's iPlayer.


Monday 12 September 2011

Battlefield Evolution: 1979

In between swapping heads and pushing putty this weekend, I've  been working on some point values for Battlefield Evolution: Modern Combat.geared towards Winter of '79

I started this back in the spring but found it was just too much for me to deal with then. In the interim I had considered just using the points system straight out of Cold War Commander or from my old copy of WRGs Armour & Infantry 1950-1985.

I thought I'd give Bevo: Modern Combat one more chance and luckily found myself more in tune with their points structure and able to make some headway. I established a baseline using the existing points values of the British Army soldiery, AFVs and weapons given in the rules to approximate the placement of troops and kit common to the 1979-80 era. The point values of broadly similar foreign hardware also proved useful for guidance - eg the Spähpanzer Luchs at 110 points equates nicely to a Fox CVR(W) in role and combat value.

Still a little rejigging to do, but the hard work is done. I'm not a slave to points, preferring to use knowledge and judgement to make sure a scenario is not wildly unbalanced. However, with both Winter of '79 and Crisis in Alcovia, a points based system will provide focus to collecting our forces and allow us quickly and simply to create ad hoc, off the shelf games.


Friday 9 September 2011

Nine Eleven

I was working in education on 11 September 2001. It was the afternoon session. A teacher was taking her class in the school library, where they were watching a School's programme on TV.

She came through to get me. "Mark, can you help. There's something wrong with the television. Its just showing a disaster movie."

I followed her through and sure enough there on the TV was a Die Hard or similar on the screen but I didn't recognise the burning building from any movie I knew. For a moment I was confused. The picture on the screen was simply completely out of context.

Then it dawned. My stomach churned. This was real. This was happening now. I said something like "This is not a movie. It's a newsflash". The news spread quickly - the Headdie and other staff started to come through and watch in silent horror.

I phoned Heather at work. She answered gaily but quickly shussed into silence as I blurted out the news. She told me later that a sudden quiet descended on her office as they watched her equally struggling to come to terms with the importance of the commentary I was giving her, yet without themselves yet knowing what was going on.

Then suddenly it happened..... "a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced." A moment of complete shock, of horror and disbelief as the South Tower collapsed. A moment burned into my memory.

One of the vivid memories I have of New York back in the 80's is standing on the roof of one of the towers. A brilliant sunny afternoon like this one, looking down on helicopters flying below. One of the greatest views in the industrialised world. History, culture, life and dreams laid before me in every direction.

I took Heather to New York in the 90's. We visited the Empire State Building, but it was a druick day and frankly unimpressive after you've been to the top of the World Trade Centre. I asked Heather whether she wanted to visit the World Trade Centre but she said "Next time". As it happens, I would have been disappointed. Not just for me, but for her as well, as the authorities had stopped access to the roof by then. And, well, there would be no 'next time'.

I'm reminded of the WTC every time we watch Ferris Buellers Day Off. The scene where Ferris and Sloane, the delectable Mia Sara, are in the observation deck of the Sears Tower in Chicago, looking down on the city. It brings back the memory of the observation deck of the WTC, which I recall had silhouette outlines stencilled on the glass to help you identify key landmarks.

That was another life ago. Another Mark. It was also a different world. One that would change for all of us on 9/11/2001.


Thursday 8 September 2011

Operation Angel Watch: After Action Report

A sunny morning greeted those protesters who had camped out over night at Borchester Abbey. There had been a bit of holiday spirit around the camp fires. Numbers swelled as more protesters turned up in one's and two during the morning, though not as many as expected. Seems the local bus company had a break-in the night before and the Borchester Green Line was cancelled today. Never mind, the mood was one of firm but good natured resistance.

Don Clough felt uneasy about the car tailing him. The day hadn't started well as Brian's missus had phoned to say he was sick. That left him and Ted to meet the bloody army. Now it looked like another firm was in on contract. As the last houses of Borchester were lost from sight he passed a police car and army Land Rover in a lay by - both pulled out as he passed. The Police Car overtook and as it did so the passenger leaned out and shouted at them to pull over.

Price, made sure the transfer took place quickly. The civvies were ushered into the police car whilst Mick and Taff in suitable builders attire took their place. The fact that the third one 'hadnt turned up for work only confirmed that the mission was on. Gaz and Baz took their positions on the floor of the Army Rover, cushioned only by rolled cam nets and hessian.

As they drew up to the Abbey placards could be seen before the people. "Concentrate fellas. Plenty of the unwashed around who we don't want to hurt". Price got out to face a fusillade of shouts "Army Out!", "Save our Abbey!". In true Rupert style he tried to reason with the protesters. Meanwhile Gaz and Baz had got out either side of their Land Rover and did their best to look like builders non-chalantly enjoying the spectacle.

A banner was hurled at Price. Another hit his Rover. The crowd surged. Ginge ghillied up on some high ground shouted on the mike "Gun! Gun! Gun!". Armed men in red tops appeared from the crowd. There were screams. A shot rang out and suddenly the scene had descended into mayhem.

Time for pretence had come to a crushing end. Price shouts "Give up! You're surrounded by armed bastards!" but is winged in response by a bullet. He gets a shot off in return that wounds the Tango. Baz is hit as he emerged from the Rover and falls to the ground. Taff slotted one Tang on the right. Daz opens the drivers door of the Rover and rips into another Tango with a full mag. One of the red tops bottles it and makes a run for it using the crowd as cover. Ginge holds his breath. Squeeze. Tango down.

At this point, two Tangos in the Abbey open fire with automatic weapons Carol Neave (black leather jacket and jeans), a nurse at Borchester Childrens Hospital is hit during the exchange of gunfire. Her boyfriend runs and Price dashes to her aid.

Gaz and Daz go after the shooters. A flurry of shots and the shooters run for it, with Gaz and Daz in hot pursuit through the Abbey. One shooter goes down but the other in green tracksuit seems to be making a clear get away.

Gaz catches his breath and calls out "Army. Stop!" The runner keeps going flat out. He makes it to the gorse. Bang! Bang! Tango down.


20 minutes of adrenalin and quick fire decision making. Personally, I loathe skirmish games that are supposed to be no more than 10 minutes in real time but take 2 hours to play. I degraded the shooting abilities of the SAS but there were still some cracking dice rolls that saw several single shot kills. Rules, once again COLD WAR: 1983. Figures in play are all ex-Hotspur. If you haven't viewed it already, take a look at the mission briefing in the previous post.  


Brian Wright is arrested at his home. He is the brother in law of Michael Benson, one of the bodies identified following the action. Price and Ms Neave go out for a curry at The Bombay Nights Restaurant in Borchester.