Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Battle of the Bulge: 62nd Volks-grenadier Division

A companion post to the 18th VG Division.

Reference is MS # B-026, Report on the Ardennes Offensive. The 62 VGD by Brigadier-General Friedrich Kittel. This study. at 32 pages is one of the longer ones I have come accross and is divided into three sections along with fourteen sketches and one annex*. This post will transcribe items I believe will be interesting to war gamers and those military history enthusiasts who want to know about the why behind what happened.

* The fourteen sketches were not part of the scanned documents received from the U.S. National Archives.


Notes

All of the Foreign Military Studies B series manuscripts are the results of interviews with German leadership relying on memory after still ongoing dramatic events (imprisonment, interrigation, etc.).  Thes statement by Kittel that his "..memory has become greately weakend by the events of the last twelve months" could serve for many of the others.

The 62nd VG Div was assembled in the last weeks of November 1944 in the area of Wittlich-Cochem-Gerolstein, then about the beginning of December drawn forward to Preum-Schoenecken-Densborn-Lissingen (i.e. close to their offensive starting positions) and subordinated to LXVI Army Corps.

The mode of bringing up the artillery and the amount of ammunition was to be alloted were decided by the Corps, likewise the plan of fire to be followed, in which the wishes of the Division had been taken into consideration.

One regiment of the 18th VG was positioned on the right and on the left the 116th Pz Division. "These formations were only loosely connected with each other".

Kittel's manuscript is more chronological oriented than the 18th VG one. At some future date I would like to map it out.

The rifle companies amounted to fity men on average.

Tactics

American air superiority forced German troops to keep away from villages.

Artillery and antiaircraft troops were used to repel enemy large scale attacks allowing disrupted  German regiments time to reorganize at night.

Weather conditions were favorable up till 22 December.

The terrain required the employment of troops furnished with mountain equipment.

I. The attack from 16 December 1944 to 28 December 1944

The 62nd VG Div was to move forward at 0530 hrs and, after the taking of strongpoints from the enemy, was to break through into the area of Gross Langenfeld-Cigelscheid-Heckhuscheid as far as the vicinity of St. Vith.

The main objective was to attack over a wide front in order to tear to piece the American defens and to clear the road along Habscheid-Steinebrueck up to St. Vith. In addition:

a. Breakthrough into the wooded area of the switch line near Cigelscheid ('551') up to Winterspelt (center of gravity), taking the clearing south of Gross Langenfeld ('538 to 540') and the plateau of Heckhuscheid to prevent a flanking attack by the enemy along the road toward St. Vith.

b. Then, take the bridge at Steinebrueck by a detachemnt, especially made mobile for this purpose, together with an assault against St. Vith (railway station and western exit) and the taking of Gross Langenfeld and well as the gaining of the railway-bridge north-northwest of Thren. 

Clearning up the eastern band of the river Our in the sector of Auel-Steffelhausen and the building of a bridgehead in the directino of Maspelt. 

The positions of hte enemy as we saw it: Facing us, the 106th American Division arrived from England three months previously. Twenty to thirty battery positions among which was a heavy one. Several groups of field forifications, mines.

The telephone network of the West Wall was to be made available at the beginning of the attack. 

II. The defense from 29 December 1944 to 9 January 1945

Up to 5 January: "Over and over again wide gaps had appeared on the front, owing to the merely moderate fighting strength of the infantry, in the first three day s of the defense all reserve troops had to be commiteed in the sector of the 164th Regiment. The only people who still were not committed for combat were engineers and 'Panzerjaeger' whose guns had been damaged. 

It was now essential for our troops to prevent the enemy from gaining access to the Valley of Salm and advancing from Trois Ponts and across Garonne-Lart. 

At noontime on 9 January, the command was passed over to the 326th VG Div to which the remaining portions of the 62nd VG Div (minus the 183, 190 Regts and one artillery battalion) remained subordinated. 

III. The defense from 16 January 1945 to 27 January 1945

During the month of January, after bringing up approximately 800 men as replacemetns of which the greater number were very poorly trained, and by drawing upon the "Fuehrer" Rese3rve in the Field Replacement Battalion - again it was possible to reorganize units which were fit for use. 

A rest from fighting from eigth to ten days was badly needed. In general, a sufficient amount of material was still at hand, above all there was once more completed the issueance of ammunition, there was a pronounced lack of signal equipment (cables), assault guns and crews. 


Supply

No winter clothing or special outfit badly needed for fighting amidst mountains was available. Winder equipment was only envisaged for possible employment on the East and remained behind in the area of assembly.

Material had been brought up to strength except for field glasses; we had only twenty percent of what was needed in this respect.

The Antiaircraft Company never arrived up at the Division.

There was always an ample supply of motor fuel. Renewal of supplies took place with two 30 ton columns (horsedrawn) assisted by one 120 ton truck column (of which 60 percent ran on wood-gas).

Captured American matieral was not part of initial supply planning so that "considerable surpluses occasionally were in hand". Above all, material was captured at Steinebrueck, Galhausen and in the valley of Salm.

"Supply was always sufficient".

Outcome

Ignorance of the configuration of the attack zone and of the strength of any possible resistance by the enemy prevailed; no useful data acquired ground and air reconnaissance was at our disposal (compare this to the 18th VG where local reconaissance located a gap in the American lines).

Resistance by the 106th American Division offered on the first day was strong, contrary to what we had expected. From documents captured on the second day, the thoroughness of preparations in the defense area of Heckhusscheid-Winterspelt and Steinebrueck was noted.

Giving up the advantage of fire by beginning the attack at 0530 hrs; for fire not obsrved the available supply ammunition was much too low.

Since 22 December daylight, supply routes were under control of the American Air Forces. Theire effect on the attack formations was not worth mentioning! (believe Kittel did not mean that American air power was ineffective as in his chronology he doesn't mention air power much but did say that American air power was "very lively" on the 23rd and later mentioned it was one of the many difficult obstacles working against moving forces forward).


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Battle of the Bulge: Report on German Army Group B Artillery

From the Foreign Military Studies series Manuscript #B-311 is the post-war report by Generalleutnant Karl Thoholte, General of the Artillery for Field Marshal Model's Army Group B. Some excerpts from the report below:

The artillery of the "Heeresgrupe" had no reserves at its disposal. Any new reinforcements were immediately spoken for and subordinated to Army units immediately.

Volks Artillery Korps


Comprised of only newly organized units.

The fighting strength was comparable to that of a weak artillery brigade.

Training and equipping of the troops had not been completed at the time of its commitment.

Only a portion was fully motorized.

Signal equipment was insufficient and only a few units had a battery with fire control equipment.

Due to the shortage of German guns some units were equipped with French and Russian guns. This caused supply problems in which there were too many types of ammunition to bring forward.

Actual combat strength of Volks Artillery Korps units was from sixty to seventy percent of normal.

Heeres (regular Army) Artillery Units

Mainly composed of heavy field howitzer batteries and ordinary howitzer battalions (which lacked adequate towing capabilities).

Actual combat strength was about eighty percent of normal.

Mortar units were well equipped but were constantly short of ammunition.

Fighting strength for mortar units was one hundred percent.


General Observations

The total number of gun barrels employed in the Ardennes Offensive was about nineteen hundred and each army had about six hundred guns.

The late date at which the artillery was organized caused difficulties.

In Thoholte's opinion the artillery assigned to the offensive "was sufficient for the mission allotted it" but ammunition supply capabilities were lacking.

Observation detachments arrive late and reconnaissance for the offensive was not adequately conducted in order maintain the illusion that any German preparations detected by the Americans were for defensive purposes only. Additionally, there was "no air reconnaissance whatsoever".  The results was that the strength and organization of American artillery remained uncertain until the offensive started.

There were plans for two "Carl" guns (600 mm) and a 305mm howitzer battery for bunker busting missions.  Thoholte believes the Carl guns never were brought up in time.

Probably not in the context of the Ardennes Offensive Thoholte mentioned the promise of "Dora" guns (800 mm) but considered that both the Dora and Carl guns failed to be useful on either front and the ammunition they consumed "in no way paid back their actual effect". Railway artillery, being bound to the rails and sensitive to air attacks "was never capable of effective use".

Perception of American Forces


American artillery had no serious effect on either the 6th or 5th Panzer Army. Observed enemy fires: "..always come from a few batteries all aiming at one target and despite the great amount of ammunition they consumed - they were not effective enough to bring our attack to a standstill".

Unobserved enemy fire (i.e. fire according to plan): "usually concurred at given times and location and was so mechanical in manner that we were able to avoid it after getting used to it somewhat".

The American fire directed by air observation was exceptionally good. Any target aimed at by this method "was usually knocked out".

American radio communications between spotting aircraft and ground troops could often be intercepted and their intended targets warned in time.

American artillery units did not carry out any ground work to reinforce their positions but Thoholte states that lack of ammunition prevented the Germans from taking much advantage.

"The critical moment during the attack came on the third day of action. The American air force, namely, was master of the skies".










Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Interview With Author Stephen Beckett (Waterloo Betrayed)


I had the opportunity to talk with Stephen Beckett concerning Waterloo Betrayed and the multi-volume  Operations of the Armée du Nord : 1815, which can also be found on Amazon but if you choose to buy, it helps the author if you purchase them from Mapleflower House Publishing


Scott Cole: Please tell me what inspired you begin research for Operations of the Armée Du Nord? Did you begin planning to release a four-volume set or did research compel you to expand?


Stephen Beckett: In June of 2015, I released Waterloo Betrayed. This book documented that intrigue Napoleon faced in 1815. I accused Soult of betraying Napoleon based on Soult’s writings, the orders Soult issued on June 12 which are contrary to the orders Napoleon sent on June 10, and the fact that Napoleon was unaware of the position of 1 st Corps on June 16 despite the fact that there are surviving documents that demonstrate Soult was informed of the 1 st Corps’ movements.

When the book was published, I never stopped searching for answers. The fact is, only a
fraction of the French order books and correspondence have been seen.

In July of 2015, a month after publication, I discovered a book, Catalogue general des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France. In this book I found the following listing:

“Registre de correspondance et rapports du maréchal Soult à l’Empereur (9 mai-6 juin 1815).”

 I searched every source I had – nothing referenced this. This was a previously unseen registry of Soult’s!

As often happens with web research, a success leads to additional search terms, and over the
next year more registries (order books) and private correspondence was identified. These materials then needed to be collated with archival materials to fully digest them. Thus, this project of gathering transcriptions for the significant correspondence started without any real plan in mind.

Some of the key findings were in private collections. I went to Europe and spoke to many: how do we gain access to all these materials many of which have been identified, but are still out of view? I was told time and time again that it simply wouldn’t be possible. Most collectors would not speak to me – those that did were very guarded. I decided that an impressive book set might be the key – think of a half-done puzzle – who can resist not placing a piece if one sees where it goes? 

So here it is – a puzzle with over 2,000 pieces, but with hundreds known to remain in private hands. I hope these collectors will give access to their pieces.


SC: Do you mind giving a couple of examples of events that information in these privately held
collections could bring light to? 

SB: Half of Bertrand’s registry and notes from the cent-jours remains private – the half we found gave us Napoleon’s dictations and orders from June 10. Who knows what these might contain, but it could be just as dramatic. Bertrand’s materials are very difficult to read, and it took a team to decipher – the owner may have no clue what they say or their importance.

There are reports from June 15 and 16 in private collections. Might be routine stuff we know or might have details about d’Erlon’s movements and what the headquarters knew. Christopher Stoffel told his nephew, Eugène, that HQ did not know where d’Erlon was. I theorized this in WB, so it was nice to find this corroboration when I acquired Eugène’s notes/draft for his unpublished work on Waterloo.

Napoleon’s planning in late May, as recorded by Soult, is in a private collection. It appears Chuquet published this prior to it disappearing from the archives. A lot of materials found in the auctions were once in the archives and are stamped as such.

And finally, though hundreds of documents have been seen at auction, how many more have
not been publicly disclosed?


SC: The description for one of the volumes states that many important documents came to light in 2015 that allowed for new insights into the events of 1815. Were some of these discoveries the result of your work on Waterloo Betrayed?

SB: Without WB, there is no Operations of the Armée du Nord : 1815, but as described, the impetus
for the reference set came when discovering the aforementioned new sources after WB’s publication.

However, the motivation in all my work has been to answer the fundamental questions WB raised. Why did Soult change Napoleon’s orders? Why was Napoleon ignorant of his left’s dispositions on June 16? The combat operations dominate almost all the histories of Waterloo, but this is a campaign where the most critical events occurred before the French reached the Sambre. Further, even after hostilities began, there is a huge focus on what could have been at Ligny – but Napoleon’s plans were never executable. He had no clue where d’Erlon was and based critical orders on ignorance.


SC: How did you go about conducting research? Did you have to travel to Europe to visit the archives and if so, please tell about your time there.

SB: All my archival acquisitions have been handled by assistants, and some friends. However, I have visited Europe several times for extended stays, meeting with peers and recently collectors. It was on a trip to Europe that I toured numerous places and shared the original idea – online database of primary source material using Elasticsearch or similar to allow full text search. The initial transcriptions were for this purpose. But the response from collectors and historians was a big yawn. Most simply didn’t understand. But Books! Big, heavy books with thousands of pages!

On my last trip, I delivered the four volumes of transcriptions, and it was like the Red Sea parting. Since then, the collectors I have spoken with have made a 180-degree turn. Organizations that never responded to letters and email are now enthusiastic. I have real hope that a global effort can be organized to access the numerous private materials.


SC: One of the main themes of Waterloo Betrayed is that Marshal Soult betrayed Napoleon and sabotaged the campaign. When Soult declared himself for Napoleon early in the 100 Days do you think he did this with the intent to sabotage Napoleon’s return or was it growing dissatisfaction during the campaign that led to the betrayal.

SB: In WB, I suggest a role play that as a prosecutor, I felt there was clear and convincing evidence
of Soult’s malfeasance. Continuing in this role, I would now drop the charges against Soult. Due to the new discoveries, we now know there was a plan to advance on Mons via Maubeuge, and that Soult followed this plan. I propose a couple theories as to why this happened, but regardless of what happened, Soult did not act arbitrarily on June 12. However, this does not change Soult’s feelings about Napoleon expressed in his own words, nor the inexplicable ignorance Napoleon operated under late on June 15 and throughout June 16. It is very telling, to me, that Napoleon said nothing of the mishap of the concentration. He either believed, or wanted us to believe, that the concentration was brilliant in concept and execution. His silence also may serve to hide his culpability in the confusion.

If Soult did work against Napoleon, it could have been very subtle – as in keeping Napoleon in
the dark about the progress of 1 st Corps on June 15 that would spill into June 16. Napoleon
revealed in exile that he had later realized 1 st Corps was not where he expected, and he blamed
d’Erlon.


SC: Did Soult act alone or as part of a conspiracy? If in a conspiracy, was there a unifying theme that united the conspirators or a wide variety of motivations?

SB: If Soult betrayed Napoleon, I believe he operated on his own. It is also possible some of his aides or members of staff acted on behalf of the King. But, as mentioned, this is not a central premise of my work going forward. I do not feel strongly for Soult, never met the man. If he did not actively undermine Napoleon, then the facts of June 16 demonstrate incredible incompetence. I wonder what Soult would prefer – evil genius, or bumbling idiot?

The royalists were very active in France and directly serving the King. Individuals may have been bribed, but the entire 19 th Century in France was dominated by the battle between the royalists, republicans, and Bonapartists. A 4 th much smaller faction was the individualists who worked for their own power or wealth. Fouché was an individualist who, for a few days after Napoleon’s second abdication, seized power. Soult was an individualist who had tremendous ambition. A week after Waterloo he left the army and thrust himself into the politics in Paris. He went into exile but returned under Louis-Philippe and was a dominant force in French politics.

Many have challenged me that there could not have been a huge conspiracy against Napoleon
in 1815 because it would be well known. But it was well known – it simply doesn’t make 20th
century histories of the campaign. 

Waterloo impacted the French psyche considerably. Royalist families who fought against the revolution, who fought against Napoleon, who had family killed in 1815, would, 30 years later, condemn the “traitors” who fought for the enemy that occupied France during the second restoration. No Frenchman became a hero for contributing to the loss at Waterloo. They became despised. I provide a translation of a defense of Bourmont written by his son which documents the family getting stoned in 1840. When the Bourbons were finally chased from France, those that worked against Napoleon in 1815 lost their platform. No longer in power, at personal risk if they bragged about their exploits, they have simply faded away.

The intrigue of 1815 was unique, and defines the environment Napoleon operated in. The walls had ears, every staff member was a potential spy, etc. Plans from Paris, real or fake, arrived in Belgium two days after they were uttered. One of my theories of the June 10 – June 12 failure is rooted in the possibility that the Mons plan was a ruse meant to deceive the Allies, but instead Soult was caught in the trap. I write extensively about this possibility, and it would explain why Napoleon buried the episode.


SC: Based on your research which books would you recommend Napoleon, his marshals and the Battle of Waterloo?

SB: There are many great books on the campaign and battle – testament that fiction cannot compete with real-life. However, the events of June 18 are no longer very interesting to me. The campaign had already failed. Many wargamers would disagree and have their favorite strategy where Napoleon has vanquished Wellington before the Prussians arrive. But had the French seized the Nivelles-Namur road early on June 15, after advancing on June 14 as planned, then Napoleon seizes Brussels without mauling his one maneuverable army. Had the Allies tried to stand, then Napoleon eats the army of his choice – which is why I doubt Wellington would have remained south of Brussels with Napoleon between him and Blücher preventing coordination.

For Waterloo, I recommend Pierre de Wit’s website that will soon be published in book form:


It is the definitive resource.



SC: What projects are you working on at this time?

SB: In the late 1980s, I worked on two computer wargames. 1987’s Borodino won the Charles S.
Roberts Award, and one can play Austerlitz today via online streaming at:


 I played it again for first time in 20 years just recently, and the Allies broke through the fog, hit the center of my line, and routed me off the battlefield by 10:30 am. Very cool.

This project started many years ago with the dream of the ultimate operational simulation of
Napoleonics. I started with Waterloo thinking the research would be easy – most written about
campaign, just download all the orders etc.

I found that due to the rout, most of the French materials were scattered. The archives only
have a fraction of what was sent. Hence, the campaign is poorly understood with many
questions. WB was written to address some of these questions.

The new discoveries led to the Operations of the Armée du Nord : 1815. So much more is
known, and in my final volume, The Analysis, I propose some bold theories. In the conclusion, I
point out that there are still hundreds if not thousands of documents in private collections.
We found two additional registries of Soult – yet another is still in private hands! And the
original of Registre du major-général that Grouchy published remains missing.

We found d’Erlon’s registry, but it ends on June 12. Vandamme, Gérard, Lobau – all never
seen.

I knew that with Soult on a mission and absent from Paris during the final concentration orders,
Bertrand was someone to pursue. And after a diligent search, we found Bertrand’s registry and
notes – which includes June 10, the Mons plan, and so much more. Yet 27 pages of Bertrand’s
notes from the cent-jours remains in a private collection. Are they about Theater budgets – as
that topic is covered in the materials found? Or, do they cover military events in June!?

That is the major project I am working on now – using the Operations of the Armée du Nord :
1815 as a catalyst to show key organizations, individuals, and the world, that we must access
these private materials to have an accurate history. Napoleon’s concentration on the Sambre
was a disaster. How many more truths are waiting to be discovered? This is the project I hope
unites everyone – we can debate our interpretations and conclusions later.

For now, let’s work together to gain access to these private collections – step one is awareness.

SC: How can folks help?

SB: Those interest can contact me via the Mapleflower Publishing web page.  Contact info with a mailto is at the bottom of the page.

Anyone who wishes to help I would love to have them contact me. I have thousands of documents scanned and friends with tens of thousands more. Processing, transcribing, translating these.....there will always be something to do.




Wednesday, June 5, 2019

r/LiechtensteinHistory


For those that frequent Reddit I have created a sub called r/LiechtensteinHistory.

My Liechtenstein project is still ongoing though research has been on hold. I'm going to get back into it but before I post updates here, a lot of thoughts, links and ideas will go up on that sub.

Here links to prior blog posts on the subject:




They all link back to Castalia blog posts which can be found here.





Tuesday, June 4, 2019

M7 Priest versus Mk V Panther

On the always interesting Art of Manliness podcast an interview with author Adam Makos,  who has published a book about "one of WW2's greatest tank gunners", Clarence Smoyer.

After listening, I read Makos' Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II  and recommend it for the insight into daily life of a tanker on the West Front. The book features Smoyer's counterpart, Gustav Schaefer, a Panther tank gunner. Ultimately, both gunners meet up in front of the Cologne Cathedral in an encounter caught on film, then would meet again many years later on better terms.

Early in the book, an ambush of a column of Sherman tanks is described from Schaefer's point of view. I found this passage intriguing as the tables were turned on the Germans by the appearance of an M7 Priest which scored several direct hits on Schaefer's Panther, causing it to retreat then disabling it. I was surprised that the mobile artillery platform could engage Panthers and survive. It was not unheard of for artillery pieces to be used in direct fire mode, the Russians relied on this method early in the war and the German 88mm AA gun, while not technically artillery, was one of the most feared German weapons by both American tankers and infantry.

In my favorite WW2 simulation, the venerable Campaign Series, I live for a battery of Priests crossing into my line of sight and in range. American artillery fire is both abundant and deadly and there is definitely a satisfying element of revenge when the tables are turned. The game system assigns the M7 a very strong high explosive factor but limited armored piercing factors. In the book the Priest engaged the Panther at two miles away and was undetected until after scoring its first hit, which was a HE round of white phosphorus. Schaefer recalls another hit on the Panther's slanted front armor before the M7 was spotted. After two more hits in quick succession fissures started forming up and down the armor welds in the interior convincing the tank commander to retreat. In order to maneuver behind a grove of trees and out of the M7's LOS, the Panther's left side is exposed and the left track is hit. The Panther is still able to move but by the time the wheels roll off the last track the tank is safe behind cover.

In Campaign Series an M7 engaging a Panther from 8 hexes (two miles) will never get a retreat result and I'm not sure I would bother tweaking the combat system to allow for it but I'm glad to have read this account of what HE fire could do. The book mentions a statistic that most tank encounters on the West Front were won by the tank that was the first to spot and fire upon the enemy as what happened in this long range, one sided, duel.

Even though the M7 was outside of the Panther's "effective range" of about 1000 meters, if Schaefer had spotted the M7 first, a hit at two miles was not out of the question and the Panther's shells would not have an issue penetrating the M7's armor.



From David Porter's Allied Tanks of World War II:

105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage (HMC) M7 Priest

Crew: 7
Weight: 26.01 tonnes
Length: 6.02m
Width:  2.88m
Height 2.54 m
Engine: 298kW (400hp) Continental R975 C1 radial petrol
Speed: 42km/h (26mph)
Armament:
1 x 105mm (4.1 in) M1A2 howitzer
1 x 12.7mm (0.5in) HMG

No information on armor but Infogalactic comes to the rescue with a link to the American Fighting Vehicle database where we find it was lightly armored (from 0.5 to 1.5 inch except by the lower front which was around 4.25 inches).

http://www.modelersite.com/en/112316/academy-m7-priest-1-35-scale

From the Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two*:

Panzerkampfwagen V Ausf G (Sd Kfz 171).
I'll use the Ausf G model as it was produced from March 1944 to April 1945.

Crew: 5
Weight: 45.5 tonns
Length: 8.86 meters
Width:   3.4 meters
Height:  2.98 meters
Engine: Mayback HL230P30
Speed:  46 kmhr
Armament:

1 x 7.5cm KwK42 L/70
2 x 7.92mm MG34 (one in cupola, one lower front armor)

Armor (thickness in mm/angle in degrees)     Front         Side      Rear          Top/Bottom:
Turret:                                                              110/11      45/25   45/25           16/84
Hull (upper):                                                    80/55        50/30                        40 & 16/90                   
        (lower):                                                    60/55        40/0      40/30           30-16/90
Gun mantlet:                                                    100/round

There was an interesting note in the book when Clarence Smoyer was still a Sherman tank gunner in that feedback was distributed to all units that the Panther was vulnerable to the Sherman's gun from head on if the shell hit the Panther's gun mantlet but only at close range, i.e. <250 yards.  Shells fired from the Sherman's 76mm gun were always ineffective against the thick / sloped frontal armor.

Note that the gun mantlet armor is thicker than the hull armor but the 55 degree slope of the hull armor gave it a greater relative thickness.


http://www.modelersite.com/en/47/detailling-a-panther-ausf-g-tamiya--dragon-1-35-scale




* Finally, Barnes and Noble is competitive with a book price against AMZN. Unfortunately, "currently not available online" but may be worth double checking if you are thinking of buying.

Over at Castalia House I have a post on an book released in 1905 right before the end of the Russian - Japanese War

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Gnomes vs Orcs Battle Maps

Dwarf campaign map drafted during the Great Orc Raid.

Posted as a preview for a future series of posts on a decisive (for the Gnomes) battle (or skirmish for the Orcs) between the Gnomes and an Orc Regiment. A side show of a larger campaign.


The same territory with some place names translated into modern English. Flags are the banners for three Orc corps.


More later once the History of the Gnomes series is complete.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Civilization VI: Winning at Deity Level

The following is a high level overview on how I was finally able to win at Deity level.  There are a lot of guides online but most of them call for a "death match" on a small map against one opponent.

I used the advanced set up features to restrict the victory conditions to a Domination victory only (must capture all the original capital cities of all civilizations) as the AI's advantages make winning a Science, Culture and Points victory in time almost impossible.  There may be hope to win a Religious victory, as CIV VI has set it up to be won by theological "combat" but I was not interested in pursing this option as the AI advantages at Deity level usually mean that all major religions have been founded by the time a human player has accumulated enough faith.

My first go around I made the mistake of only setting the game for Domination victory, neglecting to scroll further down the Advanced Set Up Menu and un-click the No Term Limit box.

I selected a huge island plates map just for a Steam achievement but I attribute my victory to playing on this map (that and lots of luck). Initially, I thought my starting location was detrimental (see end of post at link above) but it turns out I had an almost island like refuge in an out of the way region.  My closest neighbor was a city state, which was the victim of my first imperialist aggression. 

The screen shot below of the Greek homeland  is from the last turn of the game. Please excuse the radiation and the fact that my capital, Pella does not have a higher population. It seems that the other civilizations will not go down without a fight and Pella and Dion were targeted for multiple nuclear strikes:


More on the next page.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Military Related Manuscripts Available at the National Archives

As a follow up to the Sturmpanzer post which mentioned manuscripts available at the National Archives I decided to use the browse manuscripts feature at the Archives's e-Services portal to gauge the availability of documents of interest to military historians, gamers, etc.

Notes on what I found:


  • I stopped browsing after 2000 line items (browse 100 line items at a time). Not sure how large the database is.
  • I scanned through the entries so probably missed a lot of relevant topics.
  • Any entry starting with a "*" is either a publication or record group that on the surface is not related to military history.  Example are consular reports from Chinese cities or State Department records of internal affairs.  Sometimes the asterix symbol is a note to self, such as references to FBI case files.
  • I added Consular Reports from Chinese cities are there is bound to be information on military operations during the age of colonial outposts in China along with warlords and civil strife in the countryside.
  • I did not include letters to the service academy's superintendents, war criminal trials, and others but mention them here to give an idea of the broad range of record group titles available. 

The list on the next page is not meant to be a resource, just a visual tool to give the reader an idea of the extent of the archives.  It is best to use the links at top to find specific subjects.



Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Sturmpanzer.com


Sturmpanzer.com was mentioned in the post on the 18th VG Division. Taking its name from the Sturmpanzer (AKA Brummbär), this site is a serious resource, providing a wealth of documentation.

Sturmpanzer is organized into Research and Blog sections along with an online store where one can purchase PDF files on KStN's (tables of equipment and organization), panzer delivery schedules and divisional OOBs.

The Research section contains information on how to find manuscripts in the National Archives and offers some English translations for free (thank you Sturmpanzer for the 18th VG manuscript and the information on ordering other Foreign Military Studies (FMS) manuscripts. The Sturmpanzer Blog provides a wealth of knowledge on equipment, manuals, organization and even some field maps.

This is a good video on how to locate and order FMS manuscripts.

I'm putting up Sturmpanzer as a permanent link from this blog, long before this post is scheduled to appear.




Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Battle of the Bulge: 18th VG Division

A continuation on research into the Volks-grenadiers during the Ardennes Offensive.

I found reference to "Manuscripts of German Commanders" which were prepared for the Historical Division, U.S. Army Europe. The data gathered was taken from interviews held immediately after the war or from interrogations of prisoners.

In all, there were around 2,500 studies (not all translated into English) written between 1945 and 1959.  The studies were organized into nine series and I was able to locate two "B-Series" manuscripts (narrative histories of units on the Western Front) of the two VG Divisions in the St. Vith area of operations:

18th Volks Grenadier Division (1 SEP 1944 - 25 JAN 1945) by Oberstleutnant Dietrich Moll (MS# B-688)

and

462nd Volks Grenadier Division (12 NOV - 13 DEC 1944) questions presented to Generalleutnant Heinrich Kittel (MS# B-079).

The 462nd VG manuscript concerns the Germans defense of Metz but I will look into it for any insight on the VG formations.

MS#B-028 which is General Frierich Kittel's 62nd Volks Grenadier Division, 16 DEC 1944 to 27 JAN 1945 is on order and I'll post on the 62nd VG after receipt.

Credit for access to the 18th VG manuscript goes to the Sturmpanzer web site which is filled with excellent resources and I only wish I could find the equivalent for the Red Army.


Notes for the 18th VG Division

Oberstleutnant Dietrich Moll (rank equivalent to Lt. Colonel) was the 18th VG's Operations Officer. General Brandenberger (commander of the German Seventh Army) reviewed the report and an appendix is dedicated to his perspective on the narrative and issues raised by Dietrich Moll.

Activated 19 December 1944 near Kolding, Denmark the division was allocated a cadre of 2,500 from the 18th Luftwaffe Field Division and 3,000 men from other Luftwaffe and Navy sources. The manuscript describes how another 5,000 mean were drafted from the "indispensables" or men that had occupied positions vital to the war industry.  At least for the 18th VG, their cadre did not include many recent draftees so the age of the average Volks-grenadier was older than other field units. Despite the older age many of the officers and men had not seen much action (the exception being the veterans from the 18th Luftwaffe Field Division) and few men "had campaign ribbons or decorations". Most tellingly, the manuscript states that he original Luftwaffe officers and NCOs "seem to lack concern for their men" and "nearly all of the originally assigned Luftwaffe officers proved unreliable and had to be replaced".

It seems that the better weapons available to the 18th, to include infantry assault rifles, did not fully compensate for a reduced numerical strength (e.g. regiments reduced to two, vice three infantry battalions).

The division's anti-tank capability was lacking, due to a paucity of AT guns and panzerfausts issued.

Tactics


  • ..."higher headquarters should be reminded that the mobility of a unit is wholly determined by the rate of march of its infantry". Some units were provided with bicycles, but lack of spare parts and sever weather and terrain denied any appreciable increase in the unit's mobility rate.
  • "Unceasing combat reconnaissance" to make up for the German inferiority in the air.  This paid dividends at the start of the offensive as the 18th had located gaps in the lines of the 106th Infantry Division.
  • Artillery would constantly charge firing positions and fired single rounds from roving guns to prevent enemy counter-battery fire.
  • The Model 44 automatic rifle "proved an excellent weapons" and the telescopic sight rifle was also classified as good but "not used enough owing to the lack of trained marksmen".
  • The panzerfaust "proved an ideal weapon" for patrols and in close combat but the "bazooka" was not used in defense as it was "susceptible to damage from rust and sand".  My sense (later confirmed) is that the manuscript uses bazooka and panzerfaust interchangeably and does not refer to using captured American bazookas in defense. I have to wonder why rust and sand didn't impact offensive use but defensive use only.  My guess it that defensive use refers to strategic defense and not tactical defense situations, that is, the panzerfaust was good for combat operations but only for a limited amount of time and if kept in the field long, would become unreliable.
  • Medium and heavy mortars were good for defense, but were used sparingly due to lack of ammunition.

The Offensive

  • Based on the lack of response from the American artillery (no barrage fire and only scattered fire starting after 08300, the 18th had caught the defenders by surprise.
  • The first break through of American lines was reported by noon. Initial fight was conducted mostly by infantry and assault guns as the German's own anti-tank defenses prevented vehicles from crossing the bring and heavy support weapons had to be carried by hand.
  • By nightfall the number of casualties "was reasonable" and the number of American prisoners was low.
The initial American defense and eventual surrender of the 422nd and 423rd Regiments can be summed up by this passage:

"The behavior of the enemy on the second day of the attack was wholly incomprehensible. In the main, he did nothing. However, localized resistance was stubborn and eliminated only with difficulty. That is to say, the Americans fought bravely wherever fighting actually occurred. But their tactics were unsystematic."

Supply

  • Lack of trucks.
  • Ammunition supply "generally fair", with expenditure controlled by higher headquarters (such control judges as "hardly compatible with a conduct of battle..").
  • Serious shortages of mines, signal and tracer ammunition, and radio equipment.
  • Food, with few exceptions, was plentiful.
  • Supply of rough fodder for horses, "was wholly inadequate".
  • During the battle "no reissue of weapons or equipment".

Outcome

The smashing of the 106th Infantry Division by the 18th VG* was a terrible defeat but the American defense of St. Vith and the denial of the vital road junction for over 5 days contributed to the ultimate failure of the Ardennes Offensive. 

This passage from the manuscript provides some insight:

"The division's objectives were too distant. With an attack zone 19 kilometers wide and with only six available battalions, the destruction of an enemy at least equally strong was a task requiring the utmost skill. 

Perhaps, St.Vith would have been captured sooner if a motorized division, ably led and able to cling to the heels of the retreating enemy, had been moved forward through the gap which the division first opened. Whether the Fuehrer Escort Brigade had the march discipline, the drive, and the flexible system of command needed to execute this mission is a moot question".

Looks like I'll need to look into the Fuehrer Escort Brigade in a future post...

* The 424th Regiment stayed in the fight and acquitted itself well..

By 6 January, the 18th VG was depleted.  On 29 January Moll states there were only 138 men assigned as infantry holding a 9 kilometers wide sector.

The Americans


The manuscript not only gives insight into a VG regiment but also their American foes. American prisoner's physical stamina is compared favorably "with the Germans as they were prior to 1941".

American reliance on artillery, tactical excellence but also predictability is discussed:

  • Prior to the offensive - "The American defense consisted largely in laying down more or less constant artillery fire".
  • A set pattern of targets were taken under fire but any deviation from this patter indicated a change of units.
  • The accuracy of unobserved fire on the 18th's supply installations and road junctions "indicated that the enemy had skilled computors (not computers) and a method of accurate ballistic correction" which was "ofent adjusted by artillery observation planes".
  • Fire began every day at 0800 and ceased at 1700, with only a few rounds fired during the night.
More predictability:

"Artillery reconnaissance planes were active after 0900, disappearing for one hour at noon, and then building up to highest activity in the late afternoon, to disappear finally at 1700.".  To be fair, these were probably the only reliable daylight hours during the winter months.


From the manuscript











Venezuela: Juan Guaido Makes a Move 30 April 2019

Early Monday morning:


Translation:

The armed forces have made the correct decision, with the support of the people of Venezueal, endorsed by the constituion, with the guarantee of being on the right side of history. Deploying their forces to end the usurpation.

And:

People of Venezuela, it is necessary that we go out together to the street, to support the democratic forces and to recover our freedom. Organized and together mobilize the main military units. People of Caracas, all to la Carlota.



https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-48103858

Either Juan Guaido has found significant support in the military or the pressure was too much and he's risking it all on a long shot.  No clue how this will turn out.

If this turns out to be a small coup then the main arena will be around the airport itself.  Looks like the airfield is overlooked by neighbourhoods on hillsides to the south with a commerical area to the east.

By calling on supporters to rally at Carlota seems like Guaido is trying for a "people power" revolt with the help of the military elements instead of a full military coup / confrontation.

A lot of the video and photos are taken from the Altamira bridge which is located on the NW end of the airfield.


National guardsmen confronting and arresting others. Comments state that pro-Guaido guardsmen are the ones making the arrest.


Update: 1030 Caracas time - I'm wondering if Guaido's plan is to focus Maduro's attention and resources on the air base, wait and then have pre-planned military defections from around the country?  If not, not sure how long he can support crowds in an exposed area.

1314 Caracas time - My thought was that the "coup" was contained at the air field so this video is interesting with protesters and some troops headed west towards the palace. 

If the below is true then explains a lot:

1600 Caracas time - not looking for for Guaido.



Also, I think Guaido's cards at start were not as good as it initially seemed. I thought he had support within the airbase and his revolt started with a secure base but apparently he announced his "Final Operation" from outside the base and relied on crowds to break in.  Not sure if his forces ever had complete control of that base and probably did not have much support within. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Battle of the Bulge: 424th Infantry Regiment



St. Vith Lion in the Way

This book contains the best maps on the fighting around St. Vith I have seen so far and also gives a good account of the 424th Infantry Regiment's battle, to include the counter attack, late war missions and post war duties.

If you search on Amazon for an e-book copy there is a version on sale for .99c but it does not contain photos or, more importantly, the maps. I purchased this version which contains the maps.

The overall index for this series continues to grow and is located here.

Retreat and Counterattack

The maps below highlight the 424th's area of operations around St. Vith.  After the surrender of the 422nd and 423rd regiments, the 424th was effectively the 106th Division until they were sent to the rear for replacements and reorganization.


The above screen shot's taken fom the Campaign Series West Front scenario V Panzer Army The Campaign at start in the northern sector. Ignore the German units highlighted in red on the east side of the map as prior posts have discussed the scenario's starting positions are different than the historical ones (e.g. the initial German assault was not just to the west of Prum but fell right on Bleialf, in the perfect place to split the 424th and 423rd). 

- The approximate positions of the 424th taken from Lion in the Way
- Rectangles are companies.
- Small ovals are platoons.  The book's map has a platoon at Eigelscheid and a divisional
- Reconnaissance Unit at Grosslangenfeld. 
- This post discusses the German attack on Bleialf. The Germans smashed through the almost open space between the two American regiments. Troops from the 423rd were deployed further east and if you look at the grey arrow their right flank / southernmost troops were positioned in a straight line from the heights overlooking Bleialf to Buchet and even further east. The morning assault began the process of cutting off the northern American regiments but did allow the 424th to pull back towards St. Vith. 




Defense on the Our River at Auel on the night of 17 - 18 December. 

The 424th is positioned on the Our River but is having trouble linking up with the CCB, 9th Armored, who were defending the roads to St. Vith (just north of the icon) and were beginning to feel pressure from the Germans to the southwest. 

By 21st December the 424th reported it was at 50% efficiency after fighting for 5 days. 

21 to 22 December the 424th withdrew to hold the line at Beho. 

Here is a  first hand account of the 424th's actions from 23 to 30 December as the 424th was ordered to withdraw to the north west with the enemy on their heels. 

During the general counter attack, the 424th was assigned the Losheim Gap, just north of the starting positions of the 424th ill fated sister regiments.

After the Bulge and War's End

After participating in the counterattack at the Losheim Gap, the last combat assignment for the 424th was supporting the assault on the Roer dams (what the Americans were preparing for before the German Ardennes Offensive).  Eighty-one days after the start of the Battle of the Bulge, the 424th completed their final combat mission seven miles to the north-east of the ill fated 422nd Regiment's starting positions 

The 106th Infantry Division was removed from the front lines on 14 March and sent to St. Quentin, then onward to Rennes, arriving around 7 April. The mission at Rennes was to reorganize, training and serve as a tactical reserve for the 66th Division, which was still fighting the German pockets at Lorient and St. Nazaire.  

It was at Rennes that both the 422nd and 423rd Regiments were officially returned to service and Col. Tom Riggs of the 81st Engineers returned to his unit. Lion in the Way has extensive coverage of the stalwart defense of the approaches to St. Vith by Riggs and the 81st  but only mentions in passing his adventures after being captured. The book mentions that he escaped and went on to "fight with Russians".  This obituary for Riggs adds more detail but I'm not sure he saw much, if any combat with the Red Army. Maybe initally, after being taken in by the Russian tank commander. Combat with Russians or not, his adventures and persistence were admirable. 

By searching for Col. Riggs I came across this web page dedicated to touring the St. Vith battlefield, which includes the Prumerberg heights, where Col. Riggs and the 81st Engineers made their stand. 

The 106th was ordered back east and was on the Rhine on 25 April. Here they received their final assignment, guarding all the prisoners taken by the 1st, 3rd, 7th and 9th armies.  The responsibility was to process and guard close to a million German prisoners up and down the West Front.  It quickly became apparent that this task was beyond the experience and numbers of personnel to properly tackle this mission and three Provisional Guard battalions were sent to augment the 106th.  

By the end of June the 106th was relieved of its guard role and were assigned regular occupation duties. Eventually, the 106th's turn came and they embarked for home in September. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Art of Sculpting Miniatures


While researching a Castalia House post on gnome themed games and fantasy miniatures I came across Old School Miniatures and found someone whose fascination with one of the least known and played fantasy races exceeds mine.


This post is not a review of Old School's gnomes (though I have an order en route) but a Q&A session with Byron Harmon, a miniature sculpture for Old School Miniatures and someone, though relatively new to miniature design and sculpting, produces great work (at least good enough for someone like me with a solid collection of fantasy figures, already including gnomes, to go ahead and order his Alpine Gnomes).

The Q&A below is lengthy but filled with good information and has a couple of links new artists will find useful. The topics not only include sculpting but also the art behind figure design. My tastes in fantasy figures are old school and agree with Byron's comment on "spectacle creep".

At very end Byron has provided a link to a survey soliciting input on Kickstarters stretch goals. If you like their line of figures, they also have other surveys on their blog.

Update: Figures arrived last week, quicker than expected. They look good and once they get painted I'll post about them. Most of the gnome figures are sold "slotta tabbed" meaning that instead of a small base (as seen in the photo on top), the figure has a small tab on the bottom, designed to fit into slots on standard square bases. The foxes come with small bases as well as a few of the individual gnome figures but best to check on the Old School site first before ordering.


                                                                          Q&A

Scott Cole: When did you start sculpting miniatures and what prompted you to give it a go?

Byron Harmon: There are two answers to this. I had generally used green stuff as part of my wargaming hobby for years, but never really got into it. I did a few beards and fur here and there. And, one time I converted some space marines to space frogs sculpting some simple frog heads, but nothing especially complicated. Then in the spring of 2016, by girlfriend broke up with me and I found myself with a lot of free time. So I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to sculpt my own miniatures? And I just jumped into it. Like that. My first miniature was an attempt at an old Ruglud’s armoured orc, then I tried my hand at a druid. From there, I leapt into sculpting the unit of gnome halberdiers.

The best advice I could give for sculpting is that you shouldn’t think of it as sculpting the entire mini in one go. One doesn’t master mini sculpting. Instead think incrementally as a continuous process of learning, and mastering each texture. The easiest things to sculpt are fur, beards, and rudimentary chainmail.

For beginners, a good first step is doing basic conversion work applying simple textures. Often these textures are simply permutative, that is it’s usually just one or two simple motions, and then you repeat that motion many times. I also highly recommend the YouTube videos created by Tom Mason - he gives great tutorials on sculpting faces, hands,  and other useful skills. I sat down one afternoon and sculpted 4 or 5 faces until I felt comfortable with it.



SC: Please elaborate on mastering textures.

BH: I was referring to the physical texture of the mini itself. This link contains great examples of what I am referring to and has step by steps for achieving various textures.

A brief comment on textures. If you were to sculpt models realistically, most textures would disappear and be rendered smooth if the model were only 28mm big or profusely over-textured. I think this is boring and doesn't help our painting hobbyists one bit. So, when I sculpt I exaggerate textures so that they are easily identifiable. Wood grain becomes a surface of undulating, waving forms that flow in a single direction. Fur and beards get lots of swirling hairs. But with cloth  i usually just pick out a few folds that give the right overall impression and flow of the garment. I think having the textures easily identifiable makes them come to life for the player. There are shortcomings to this. Some painters like the ambiguity so they can choose whether something is metal or cloth for example.




SC:  Looking at your workbench posts I’m wondering about the skill set required for sculpting.  Do you have a sculpting or carving  background using other mediums or maybe experience as an illustrator?


BH: My background is relatively limited. Growing up I had always done crafty things. I’m poor at drawing, but I am great at doodling. The real experience I had going into it was using putty for gap filling and minor conversion work - beards ,fur, and the like. But, miniature painting informs a lot of my sculpting. I often try to anticipate how a model will be to paint and I try to model to make them easy to paint. Some model textures are nearly impossible to paint well I wanted to avoid that.

I also played a lot of legos as a young child and took a lot of engineering courses in high school. These aren’t so much artistic skills, but I think they certainly helped me think out the process for my miniatures. I often mentally map out all of the potential layers of putty and how they will interact, well in advance. If you do the layers out of order you can quickly get into trouble.




SC:  What are the differences in producing art in two dimensions (painting, drawing) versus three dimensions.


BH: A lot of my process starts in two dimensions. My law school notebooks are filled with marginal gnome doodles - poses, material culture (what types of objects populate the gnome’s world/culture), motifs, layering, expressions, lists of new ideas etc etc. Most of my poses are in a sense very 2 dimensional. In the sense that I think that every model needs  a clear line of motion. This is a great video that I routinely return to.

A line of motion is an abstract line that you can draw across an image that shows where the eye follows, the movement of the model’s mass, or the line that telegraphs the model’s action. So when I design my gnomes, most poses are the result of me studying the good poses from back in the day that worked well and stick figure poses, where I break down the essential elements of the pose (you can see examples of these doodles on many of the corks that I use for sculpting.) These 2D doodles of poses are often the basis for my armatures. As such most of my models tend to have a planar aspect to them… imagine drawing a fencer in a lunge. There is a clear line of action. It starts with the back left foot, follows up the outstretched leg, across the body, out the right arm and down to the tip of the rapier. When you translate this to sculpting, all of that is broadly going to fall on the same plane. … at least that’s how I imagine it in principle.




SC: Please give the readers a short summary of how the miniatures are produced?  I see you use a green putty and notice that even when you sculpted some swallows using sheet copper you add putty. I’m guessing the putty allows you to easily sculpt small details but does the putty have special properties needed when making a mold?


BH: All of the miniatures are sculpted using “Green Stuff” or Kneadatite. Some sculptors use milliput, prosculpt, or even oven hardening clays. My use of green stuff isn’t a principled stance or a wisened choice. There is a lot of discussion about which material is best. I use green stuff because it is what I am most familiar with and I haven’t tried other products.

What I like about the putty is that it cures on its own. So when I sculpted the feathers, I could sculpt one layer of feathers and then walk away. They would cure and then I could return and add another layer. As you saw with the pike gnomes workbench post, my models take many layers. I rarely do more than 2 layers in a day. The putty cures hard and allows me to take my time.

As for mold making, I am largely ignorant to that end of the process. I sculpt my doodads then mail them off to Jamie. I’ve seen a few videos about miniature casting, but I don’t know how the molding process works with any specificity.




SC:  I enjoyed your post on “What Makes Old School Miniatures So Good?”, especially the discussion of natural poses. You mention awkward poses occupying a box space making it difficult to paint.  Earlier you mentioned anticipating how a figure will be painted.  This question is coming from an “just OK” painter that finds my skill set limited when confronted by a “busy” figure, especially in the crowded space around the stomach area (belt, belt buckle,  dagger, sword scabbard, pouch, etc, etc.). How does anticipating how the figure will be painted translate into your designs?.


BH: I concentrate on how well a detail will respond to paint; will it be easy to dry brush or ink? So I generally try to avoid large open surfaces that invite freehanding. Sometimes my sculpted details are too tiny for me to paint well. I sculpted some shields with trees or deer on them, and they are a dickens to paint.

Regarding fiddly bits. I really don’t like fiddly bits on my miniatures. I am a bit of a lazy painter myself. I painted the gnome army that we use for our advertising, but I cut a lot of corners. And this influences my sculpting. I mostly try to avoid unnecessary pouches and nicknacks. I know that each thingamabob that a model has means more colors that you have to paint, and that bugs me too. I want my gnomes painted efficiently! I have battles to fight! But there are a few circumstances where I add bits. With the new mounted characters I mostly took the unmounted characters and sawed off their legs and plunked them atop rider legs. In a few instances I added bags to cover up where  things didn’t mesh up well. Or in the case of the Cantonal standard, I gave him a little bag on his belt since he didn’t have much else going on.



SC: I have mixed feelings about painting complexity versus historical accuracy. My intro to the hobby was with fabulous Napoleonic armies and the intense attention to historical detail those hobbyists paid right down to the correct number and placement of buttons and shades of color for regimental distinctions when painting collars, cuffs, plumes, etc.

BH: Right. I’ve never played a traditional historical game (though, a law school friend and I are taking a stab at designing our own Red Dawn themed Cold War skirmish game set in the 60’s) but I do have a certain curiosity for it. Obviously painting accuracy doesn’t directly apply to my gnomes (there is no best way to paint my gnomes), I love seeing how my fans interpret my work. But what I can say that relates to your comment is that I sometimes feel the opposite type of pressure from folks who comment on my work. The aesthetic that I have tried to create for the gnomes is a sort of low-fantasy semi-historical realism. I often seek comments from the community about what I should add to the range next, and there are often requests for steampunk, clockwork, and other high-fantasy tropes. I feel torn. On the one hand people want that content, but on the other it would disrupt the overall aesthetic I am aiming for. I don’t know exactly what balance to strike between the two.


SC:  What are your favorite old school miniature lines?


BH: My favorite line of miniatures from back in the day? I think it’s the old citadel miniature savage orcs from 1988.  I love how gangly and characterful they are. They look very opportunistic and scheming:




BH: One thing I would add, about my attitude about sculpting is that I want to push back on spectacle creep. Sometimes it feels that we have a sort of addiction to spectacle or epicness in the nerding community and this means we have to have ever increasing spectacle to get our fix. Things have to be grimmer and darker, pauldrons have to be bigger, etc., & etc. This is often reflected in gameplay and game rules where newer models have to be better in the rules so that players will buy them. In the original 1980’s  Warhammer, humans were essentially in the middle of the spectrum. They weren’t puny relative to all of their foes, nor were they overpowered. If you look at say 40k the men of the Imperium are nearly categorically outclassed by every opponent (perhaps this is to reinforce the narrative of nihilistic struggle against cosmic forces that dwarf individual humans). I see my gnomes as pushing back against this trend. They are the opposite of spectacle creep. They are smaller, diminutive and low-fantasy. They aren’t ruthless killers like the current orcs nor graceful efficient killers like the elves. They are frumpy little gnomes, with villagers, nappers, wagons, and tiny fox pals. Nearly the opposite of grimdark epicness.

I try to play this up in the flavor text that I use to describe their forces. This is an excerpt from my version of the WHFB 4th ed Bestiary entry for foxes:



Foxes are playful woodland predators. They resemble our real-world foxes in manner, including their diminutive size. They are a great menace to farmers, snotlings and small birds.  Foxes are wily and lithe in their forest homes, easily evading the commoner, avenging his murdered fowl. Consequently, they are often hunted by human nobles with great gusto and pomp.

Foxes are not ferocious predators like giant wolves. They are comparatively small, with paw-like claws and teeth as dangerous as the tines of a table fork.

Gnomes riding foxes have an advantage over a typical gnome in both speed, and the savage nibble of the fox. However, this valiant duo is still outclassed by common cavalry of most other races. For this reason, foxes and their gnomish riders prey on skirmishers and loners while keeping to the woods where they can easily escape.





SC: What are you working on now?



BH: I just finished up the figures for our next gnome kickstarter. It includes Pikegnomes, a baggage train pulled by goats, mounted characters, swallows, sappers, and a pair of little sleeping napping gnomes. I am very excited about it! Mostly because I want some Pikegnomes for my own gnomish army. Hahaha.

Right now I am finishing up our Medieval Marginalia project. We already had a successful kickstarter and I am sculpting up the stretch goals. The gnomes won’t get mailed to Jamie until I am done with the Marginalia.

In the meantime I sent some “evil gnomes” to Jamie. I believe these will be released soon with our line of Chaos  Thugs (not sculpted by me.)


SC: I like the sleeping gnomes.  Are they for use in a diorama or is a good nap an essential part a successful campaign?

BH: The old warhammer rules encouraged players to include baggage trains. It felt natural that a baggage train would include various camp accessories, and by corollary gnomes using those facilities. Sleeping gnomes felt appropriate and adorable for that purpose. I think having a little gnome with a teddy bear really helps to demystify the army and pull it out of the grimdark genre. Many oldhammer enthusiasts make elaborate baggage trains and set up dioramas when they play their battles.

Below are some snips from the Warhammer Fantasy and some blogs where hobbyists have made wonderful baggage trains:







Also here is the link to our stretch goal survey. I have a lot of ideas for the gnomes, and I always like to hear which ideas resonate with our fans so I can start putting my mind to them. I already have lots of sketches and doodles in the works for ideas. More feedback lets me focus my ideas though or opens me up to new ideas.




SC: Thanks Byron, excellent information.

Battle of the Bulge: 62nd Volks-grenadier Division

A companion post to the 18th VG Division . Reference is MS # B-026 , Report on the Ardennes Offensive. The 62 VGD by Brigadier-General ...