1/13/2012

Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Karpackich - Objectives

Every army in Flames of War should have two objectives to fight over.  Typically I've seen supply dumps, bunkers, and burnt out tanks, but I figured there's enough history around to try and bring some to the table.  I found two great historical photos on Piotr Jaroszczak's excellent SBSK site and got to work.

This picture finds General Wladysław Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Military in a Tobruk gun pit.  According to the Australian newspaper The Courier Mail:

GENERAL SIKORSKI AT TOBRUK FRONT LINE - CAIRO, November 17. - Polish forces at Tobruk Have been inspected by the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Army (General Sikorski). He said their ferocity and devotion to duty had deeply impressed him. His troops held the British and Australian forces in the highest respect and would fight with them anywhere. General Sikorski decorated men who took part in recent successful raids, and he accompanied a night patrol to within 400 yards of the enemy line.

 What a mensch... running around on night patrols within rifle range only days before the Operation Crusader breakout.  You, Sir, clearly deserve your own objective marker.


I've depicted the scene above with the General in a trench line with the Bren gunner and an officer pointing out some sort of item of critical importance.  Maybe it's a Panzer IV, or a really cool lizard, or an Aussie eating a really cool lizard.  Whatever it is, the Bren gunner has been looking at it for weeks and can't help himself but look over at General Sikorski instead.  It was a tough choice whether to model Sikorski wearing an iconic four-cornered rogatywka hat or the soft cap in the photo.  For whatever reason, the historic photo beat out the artistic license this time.  I recently found a photo of the General walking around with a gaggle of rogatywka-ed aides that make me want to do another head swap on that officer, though.  Or maybe just green stuff the corners...  But then I realize I have a lot of other crap to paint.

General Sikorski would die in a plane crash in 1943 sixteen seconds after takeoff.  Conspiracy theories abound and many Poles think he was killed by Soviet agents.

Poland's a pretty Catholic place.  These men celebrating mass are about to go win the Battle of Gazala and are spread out all over the desert so one lucky artillery shell doesn't take them all out.

After a little hacking and filing, I was able to recreate them using some British heavy mortar crews.  I found that spetznaz heads in soft caps need the least amount of filing to get to a bare head.  It would've been nice to keep the whole shorts thing going, but as you can see in the photos, even the desert isn't shorts weather in November/December when you're living and fighting outdoors.  I'd like to add some helmets on the ground to really complete this, and AJ suggested a bible which would be sweet.  Finally, both of these objectives have really highlighted my lack of skill in basing terrain.  When I figure out how to recreate the scrub and rocks in the photo, I'll use the same scheme on the rest of the army.

This completes the SBSK series for now.  When I get back around to it, I'll be adding more Matlidas for a fun mid war horde, some more carriers in caunter, and that last infantry platoon that mocks me from its popsicle sticks.  Battlefront was also kind enough to come out with some Bofors 37mm Portees this week, and since those are the only Polish portees I've actually seen a picture of, I should paint a few up.

The next force you'll likely see up on this blog are the SBSK's Italian foes, but painting all of their motorcycles has been brutal.

1/01/2012

Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Karpackich - Support


According to Sławek, the SBSK expanded its artillery regiment from 21 to 52 guns with captured Italian pieces.  I've modeled eight 25pdrs and have an additional four 100/17s that were ready to go until I got burnt out painting pecs and lats.  Unfortunately, the Italians on my workbench stole their guns back for now. (Stronzo!)

Since the Matildas are so terrible against enemy tanks, these are my best AT assets.  They're good and cheap in MW, but they're overkill and unbelievably expensive in EW.  I have yet to master the art of rolling them up to the front in attack without calamitous results.  Dawn always breaks at the worst time!

I was looking forward for the actual Tobruk Position rules to come out in Hellfire and Back.  These are HMGs and a captured Italian AT gun in Tobruk pits.

These painted up very quickly.  I've only brought these to the table twice, and both games were a horror show of figuring out what the deployment rules, reserves, and victory conditions were.  I'm a little embarrassed that I'm using the paper templates for barbed wire, trenches, and minefields but I have some defenses in the works.
 
The Polish airmen of the RAF covered themselves in a lot of glory during WW2.  There was a great bunch called the Polish Fighting Team or "Skalski's Circus" shooting down Germans all over Africa.  But I haven't been able to find anything about Poles in a ground attack role.  Actually, I haven't been able to find much of anything about anybody in a ground attack role in the desert.  So these are some generic Hurricanes painted to match the box art.

Ground attack is hit or miss in Flames of War.  For me, it's mostly miss.  It's even worse in EW, where these guys can only intercept Stukas and don't have a ground attack of their own.  If it's true that Version 3 is moving to use only one plane miniature, I'll miss having a flight painted up.  Maybe there's another game to use them in?

Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Karpackich - Vehicles

Matlida was the Queen of the Desert.  These are troops one and four, A Squadron of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment.  The white number in the lead tanks designate the troop leaders.  The names are a mix of names I'm sure were in the desert on Matilda II's, and names I'm sure were in France on Matilda I's.  I would've been happy to try my hand at the little desert rat marking but these guys never sported them.  I know the markings are shaky, but I think it's a more fun result to try to paint them than slapping on a better looking decal.  Plus Gordon told me I couldn't so that's that.

I had a Hell of a time trying to figure out what the caunter camo scheme was.  Nobody agrees!  The first time I heard of it, my reaction was joy that I'd never have to paint it since it had nothing to do with Poland.  That didn't last long.  "Drake" was the only one I had a decent reference for and then I randomized the rest.  I know better now that the lines are more predominantly front to back instead of across, and the result should be more like triangles.  I'll fix that for troops two and five when I get around to painting them.

Playing Matildas has been strange.  They draw a lot of fire and laugh at it.  But their main gun is terrible.  In early war they are ridiculously expensive, and then there's the cheese factor of knowing some of the other players don't have anything that can kill them, so I've only taken a two-tank troop once (where miraculously, they were destroyed by Italian Engineers.  Stronzo!)

The SBSK had quite a few carriers.  The red/white striping was required for the Operation Crusader breakout because there was so much captured equipment floating around.  I had a great picture of a bling-ed out Polish carrier from Time or Life magazine or something but I never found it again.  There were white eagles just above the gun port that I've attempted to recreate.  The Polish checkerboard is artistic license.  I never saw any of those.

I really like the way these play.  It's nice to waste enemy fire by pulling them out of harm's way and I'm looking forward to using the rest of the recon special rules too.  I'm going to paint up another squad or two of them some day, and those will be in caunter. 

I haven't seen any pictures of SBSK Anti Tank trucks but I know they had them.  Ok, I did see one of a 37mm Bofors stuck in the mud or something, but I haven't been ambitious enough to convert one yet.

These 2pdr portee AT guns get one turn of shooting per game.  Then something throws a rock at them and they all blow up.  Ambush is nice when they can get it.  They are shiny because I'm still deciding what markings to paint on before I dull coat them.


Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Karpackich - Infantry

Two full rifle platoons are the core of the force.  I'd like to paint up a third and a fourth, but I'm a little burnt out on painting knees. 

Flames of War is a very tank-heavy game.  Unless you have a very good idea what you're about to face, Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) are pretty useless.  So these guys sat on the bench for months until I knew I was about to face a fallschirmjäger airborne attack.  That didn't go so well for the fallschirmjäger.

 
Mortars offer cheap pinning and smoke bombardments.  They look like they'll be even better at killing things in Flames of War Version 3.

Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Karpackich


The Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade was made of thousands of Poles who'd slipped out of Nazi/Soviet occupied Poland to continue the fight.  Organized by the Polish Government-In-Exile first under French control for the defense of France, and then under British control for the rest of the war, these men without a country were determined to fight their way back in. 

I bet the last place on Earth any of these guys thought they'd ever be fighting was the God forsaken Libyan desert.  But that's exactly where they found themselves in August 1941.  There they'd earn the title "Tobruk Rats" by keeping the Italians and Rommel at bay until the Operation Crusader breakout in November. They'd keep fighting in the desert until March 1942, when they were pulled out to reorganize as a core division of the Polish II Corps.

Some excellent resources on the SBSK's contribution to the Tobruk Siege are:
A fantastic dedicated SBSK page. (Most pages have an English link up top.)
A Youtube slideshow. (Terrible music)
Nice pictures towards the bottom of this page.
Interviews with Veterans. (Polish documentary)

Of all the flavors of Polish WW2 forces, I thought I'd be modelling the Tobruk Rats last because I didn't really know anything about the North African theater.  But that was before I discovered Gordon at Adler Hobby, who made the decision for me by holding two desert-themed Flames of War leagues in a row spanning the summer, fall, and winter of 2011-2012.

My philosophy for building armies is to find out what the Poles had historically, or what was around them while they were there, and only use that.  Their service in Tobruk was just at the place Flames of war breaks up Early War (EW) and Mid War (MW) so things get interesting.  For instance, the 6pdr gun didn't make it into the desert before the SBSK was already gone.  So these guys are stuck with 2pdrs in MW potentially going against Tiger tanks.  Even when I paint up some Crusader tanks, they'll be using the bad guns.

There is no official SBSK army list so I use Fearless Trained (FT) Indian infantry lists in MW, or FT Australian lists in EW.  If I use the infantry in support of the tanks instead of the other way around, the only option is to take them as Confident Veterans.  Using MW lists, this army spent the summer pasting anything that came its way using nearly obsolete (but cheap and plentiful) weaponry, but using EW lists has been much harder.  All of the support is dramatically more expensive, and I've had to attack fortified companies numerous times.  No whining here though, I'll get it figured out.


Here you can see the HQ teams for an infantry or tank company.  Someday I'll do an article on General Władysław Anders' autobiography Army in Exile, but one sentiment that stuck out was how strange he thought it was to see a British officer in shorts.  

The dashing mustachioed hero on the left is the Company Commander and the man to the right with the paperwork looking kind of annoyed is the 2nd in Command.  To his right is a jeep they can use to furiously ride into the gaping maw of death.  

The SBSK didn't have its own tanks, but the Matilda II's of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment were known to be in the area acting as bullet magnets.  The commanders are up front, with the Company commander being the only one foolish enough to stick his head out of their ridiculous armor.  Of note, behind the two lead tanks are two Close Support (CS) tanks.  These have main guns that can fire at infantry and bunkers.  All of the other 2pdr armed vehicles don't have High Explosive ammo because it never made it to the desert.  I hope somebody got fired for that.

Subsequent articles will feature closeups and commentary of the rest of the army.

12/31/2011

Witamy!


Welcome!  The purpose of this blog is to bring you the glorious history of Poland through miniature fighting men.

My last name ends in "ski."  I've eaten a kielbasa or two in my day.  I play a mean accordion. You will find me unapologetically biased.

In January 2011 while researching Armia Krajowa, I was shocked to find they were an official playable force in a wargame called Flames of War.  With a little digging I found a lot more where that came from and acquired a lifetime of lead to paint.