Sunday, August 27, 2017

A bloody morning on V-Beach

I recently managed to get a table set up to play the TFL If the Lord Spares Us scenario of the landings on V-Beach on 25 April 1915. V-Beach saw one of the costliest landings of on the 25th April 1915. 

V-Beach was a "...sandy strip some 10 yards wide and 350 yards long, backed along almost the whole of its length by a low sandy escarpment about 4 feet high, where the ground falls nearly sheer down to the beach." (Sir Ian Hamilton's Dispatch of the 20th May, 1915). Behind was a concave grassy slope rising  to the cliff edge between Sedd ul Bahr village and Cape Helles. The slope was lined with thick entanglements of wire set by the Turkish defenders.
 
Defenses of V-Beach, 25th April 1915

In the early morning of the 25th April, 1915, was to be made by boats containing three companies of the 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers, followed by the collier "River Clyde" with the rest of the Dublins, the 1st Royal Munster Fusiliers, half the 2nd Hampshire Regiment, and other troops. The place was very strongly fortified, and during the 25th the landing was partially carried out at the cost of very heavy casualties. On the morning of the 26th, Colonel Doughty-Wylie and Captain Walford, who were killed during the fight, led the survivors on the beach to the capture of Sedd ul Bahr village and the Old Castle above it. (Source: http://battlefields1418.50megs.com/v_beach_cemetery.htm)

The boats with the 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers row ashore while the SS River Clyde (bottom left) prepares to ground itself in the early hours of 25th April 1915.
Turkish machine gunners in Sedd ul Bahr fort survey the empty shoreline. A stove in Fort No. 1 send out a lazy plume of smoke in the cold morning air.
The Turkish wire entanglements and entrenchments behind V-Beach present a major obstacle
to anyone who gets off the beach.

The boats of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers make the final approach to the shore in the early light. The locations of the Turkish defenders are not yet known.
The Royal Dublin Fusiliers are under fire the moment their boats touch the shore as Turkish MGs sweep the beach from Sedd ul Bahr fort and the trenches beside Fort No. 1 (top left).

"Get ashore, Lads!"
The SS River Clyde runs smoothly ashore 'without a tremor' under the fort. Sally ports cut into the site of the ship are opened and gangways set in place. Commander Unwin and Able Seaman William Williams (of the SS River Clyde) climb down to set up the lighters to form a bridge between the ship and the nearby spit of sand under heavy fire.
The MG and shell fire was murderous as Unwin and Williams fixed the lighters in place while two companies of the Royal Musters stored out of the sally ports. Williams died in Unwin's arms later that morning and Unwin, severely wounded, was taken back onto the SS River Clyde. He later said:
I stayed on the lighters and tried to keep the men going ashore but it was murder and soon the first lighter was covered with dead and wounded and the spit was awful; the sea around it for some yards was red. (In Les Carlyon, Gallipoli, MacMillan, 2014)
The Royal Dublin Fusiliers take heavy fire from the Turkish MGs as they leave their boats.

The Royal Dublin Fusiliers can't get off the beach and the Turkish MGs are taking a terrible toll.
The remaining Royal Dublin Fusiliers push up the beach but Turkish rifle fire from the trenches halts them. One company is already annihilated.
The Royal Munsters charge out the sally ports on the SS River Clyde and are met with a hail of bullets.
Above the Ottoman Lines
The British just can't get the initiative - the Tea Break card comes up all to regularly and the Turkish MGs get to fire as they are within 'effective range'.
The Turks start to file down the trenches to a position in front of Fort No. 1
Another company of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers is lost.
The number of troops now exiting the SS River Clyde starts to give the British some hope of getting a toe hold on the spit. The Royal Dublin Fusiliers continue to fight for their lives.
'Keep going Lads!'

The bloody end of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
Finally, some of the Munsters get ashore on the spit - at a terrible price.
Fire from the Munsters and the British MG on the SS River Clyde starts to suppress the Turkish MG
in Sedd ul Bahr fort
The 2nd Hampshire Regiment finally makes its way down the gangways slippery with blood and littered with dead and wounded.

A small detachment of Turkish infantry below Sedd ul Bahr fort also slow the British advance.
Having decimated the Royal Dublin Fusilier, at the far end of V-Beach the Turks file down and deploy their MG to the commanding walls of Fort No. 1.
The MG in Sedd ul Bahr fort is suppressed by rifle fire from the spit and the MG on the SS River Clyde, but the MG in Fort No. 1 now sweeps the beach.
The Munsters are enfiladed by the MG at the other end of the beach and take heavy losses.
Push on! Push on! The British MG returns fire.
The tide turns! The Turkish MG in Fort No. 1 is suppressed. The remnants of the Munsters and the Hampshire's push up the beach having driven the Turkish infantry and MG from Sedd ul Bahr fort
The suppression among the Turkish infantry below Fort No. 1 up, and they eventually break and
start to drift away.
One last push to the trenches, boys!

Despite a stubborn defense, finally the pressure is too much on the Turks and they abandon their trench-line.
We've done it boys!

V-Beach after the landing - a costly piece of real estate.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ottoman fort for V-Beach

Preparations continue for the next game - A Bloody Morning at V-Beach. This is based on the 2010? TFL Christmas Special scenario using the If the Lord Spares Us rules. It covers the Cape Helles Landings at V-Beach on 25 April 1915.


I have the board pretty much set up having (since the picture above) added a considerable number of barbed wire entanglements to the collection (you can never have too many!)  leaving only the two forts at either end of V-Beach to be completed, something to represent the SS River Clyde and some landing boats.

Tonight , I finished a very quick scratch guild (in cork) of a small, rather generic, Ottoman fort that will act at Ertogharal Fort sitting above the low cliffs at the west end of V-Beach. The above map suggests the fort was largely a gun emplacement so I'm looking into converting it to include some large naval guns to give the right feel.

However I've kept it pretty generic as I want to use if for my other ITLSU scenarios in Palestine and Mesopotamia. And who knows when I might need a fort in Belgium for some Western Front action!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Skirmish Sangin - A bad morning in the Sangin Valley

Sangin Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, October 2010

Having taken over northern Helmand from the British in September 2010, Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, began aggressive clearing operations by October. 
Sangin Valley Green Zone (Source: http://www.talkingproud.us/)
Late one October morning, after three hours of patrolling the streets and fields surrounding a village in the Green Zone of the Sangin Valley, Bravo Section is returning to base. While crossing open ground at the edge of the village, the section is engaged by a force of about 20 insurgents.

The section breaks contact and retreats towards the rest of the platoon but in their rush to find cover, one of Bravo's fireteams take a wrong turn and finds themselves separated from the section in a corner of the village that seems very quiet ... a little too quiet!
[Adapted from Skirmish Sangin 'Recon Patrol' scenario pp. 142-144]


Fireteam Leader Cpl. Lewis 'Chesty' Puller whispers into the comms:
"Stay Frosty Oscar Mike, it's too quiet around here."


"Stay Frosty Oscar Mike"
Chesty gives the order to "Freeze!". Five marines hold their breath. Then the order comes, "Fireteam, to the front, two troops, irrigation ditch, one hundred, commence firing!"

The Taliban spring their trap!
The local warlord had been reinforced by some Taliban - these veteran fighters saw the opportunity to bottle up the lost marines in the laneway. The radio chatter heightens as the Taliban leader deploys a team in the irrigation ditch to cover the north end of the lane, while he leads a flanking maneuver to the left through a compound. Meanwhile, he calls the local warlord's men in to close of the south end of the lane.
The quiet is shattered by two AK-47s opening up sending the marines into cover.
The local warlord's men close off the line of retreat to the south.
The marines are trapped!
As the two Taliban, prone in the irrigation ditch, continue with their suppressing fire (orange arrows), their leader and another fighter swing left through the compound hoping to flank the marines (blue arrows). 

'Chesty' Puller barks the order "Far ambush" sending his men into cover from which they will return fire and look for the opportunity to maneuver. But, the kill zone ahead leaves no chance of assaulting the enemy. 

His men implement their counterambush drill like clockwork. As the SAW gunner, PFC Sipple, and the his assistant Pvt "Chuck" Robb, on the other side of the lane, prepare to cover their line of retreat, Chesty signals his rifleman to follow him over a shattered compound wall to look for some cover (yellow arrows).

The local Warlord's men have closed off their retreat, the SAW gunner falls prone beside a shot-up utility hoping to lay down some suppressing fire, "RPG!" someone yells ...

RPG! An ear-shattering explosion sends a shock-wave down the lane followed by red hot shrapnel and a shower of masonry.
Chesty Puller and Rifleman Miller feel the concussion of the nearby RPG blast shake the mud walls of the hut they have entered. They quickly decide to climb up to the roof to assess the situation ... "Miller, stay low and find cover when we get up there!" Chesty barks as they climb through the choking dust into the light.

When 'Chesty" gets his first sight of the lane his worst fear is confirmed. The SAW gunner Pvt Hasford, has been badly wounded by the RPG. His assistant, "Buzz" McCloskey is under heavy fire. It doesn't look good for Hasford, Chesty knows his mission is now focused on extracting his wounded.
But the fleet footed Taliban leader and his comrade are already in the compound opposite. The marines have lost the initiative. 

The fire from the irrigation ditch shifts to the marines on the rooftop, which proves to be devoid of any effective cover. Chesty goes down in a hail of automatic fire. Rifleman Miller, already halfway through the hatch, is hit too - both slump on the rooftop, motionless.
Automatic Rifleman PFC "Jim" Webb dives over the shattered wall into the compound hoping to assess and stabilise Chesty and Miller. With Chesty down, the fireteam is now under his leadership. He can hear movement coming up at speed through the compound he's just entered - he's not alone! From the compound opposite he hears an order barked in Arabic, he swings around and sees the Taliban leader on the rooftop - Webb takes a bead on him with his M249.


The Taliban now charge into contact from the north end of the lane. Chesty and Miller are seriously wounded and trapped on the rooftop, the SAW gunner, Hasford, is possibly KIA. Things are looking grim for the marines.

Webb gets some rounds away in the direction of the opposite compound roof and fumbles for a grenade. He's keenly aware the compound he is in is not secure.
"Buzz" McCloskey is in desperate measures in the lane - cut off with Taliban approaching from the north and the local warlord's men from he south. He grabs a grenade and tosses it at the insurgent with the RPG who is struggling to reload while keeping cover. His training tells him to 'cook it' for a few seconds, the target being so close, but under pressure he throws early. The RPG operator drops his tube, picks up the smoking grenade and tosses it back!

The grenade bursts at Buzz's feet, shrapnel tears into the marine and, unbeknownst to him, the Taliban fighter taking aim behind him.


Buzz McCloskey's grenade is tossed back by the RPG operator with terrible effect.
Back in the compound, PFC "Jim" Webb, now the last marine standing, reaches for a grenade and pitches it towards the Taliban leader who is on his radio calling his men into a final assault. He cooks it but fumbles the throw and it bounces onto the rooftop above him and explodes seconds later. Chesty, Miller, and the Taliban leader opposite, all receive mortal wounds from the grenade.


Webb's grenade sends shrapnel scything over the compound rooftops

Webb has no time to think, an AK-47 rattles behind him and rounds smash into the adobe wall by his head. He swings around to see one of the warlord's men crouched behind some pallets of grain. A quick burst of his M249 takes out his opponent as shouts from the lane tell him he needs to scram if he's going to get out of this alive.


Sick to his stomach at the thought of leaving his buddies behind - alive or dead - Webb dives for a window in the compound wall and dashes towards the, now empty, irrigation ditch. His first thought to take cover and assess the situation.

But as his aching feet hit the dirt on the other side of the narrow, but deep, ditch, something tells Webb to keep going. He dashes for the cover of the wheatfields. No time to think of what he has left behind, if he's going to make it to lunchtime, he needs to find the rest of the squad. It had been a bad morning in the Sangin Valley.



Coming up next ... V-Beach, Cape Helles, Gallipoli, 25th April 1915. A TFL If the Lord Spares Us scenario.
V-Beach, under construction