Tuesday, 11 October 2016

100 years of tanks

The Brigands were were invited again by Black Wolf Wargaming to help out and play another game in St. Albans museum. B could not attend so it was only me who went along. This time we were commemorating one hundred years of tank warfare with a WWI game. The game was much like one B had played awhile ago with them. We had a huge selection of tanks to choose from and had to get them over the trench. 

The year was 1918 and the British were advancing. A small village in German hands, had been the target of a heavy British artillery bombardment. The shelling had almost entirely destroyed the village and the German trench on the far side had had to be abandoned. High command had then ordered that the trench be secured before the Germans could retake it. The Germans were known to still be very active in and around the village with field guns and machine gun nests all over the place. It was decided that to send an infantry attack into this perilous ground would be unsound. So British tanks were sent over to clear the way and cross the trench.               

The scene of the action was the little village of Cliché 
I decided on my first tank, the Mark IV male. Equipped fascine to be dropped into the tench for easier crossing. 
It was a more heavily armored version of the earlier Mark I, to better withstand the new armor piercing K rounds of ammunition.   
The bleak remains of Cliché lay wet and ruined before the British.
Then the grinding rumble of tracks broke the early morning silence, as the Mark IV rolled onto the field. 
Supporting the Mark IV was the much speedier whippet that bowled on down the road on the left at a fair pace.  
But as soon as the British appeared, the German commander rolled his field gun out of the remains of a wood on the Mark IV's left 
With the whole of the side of the huge tank to fire at the couldn't miss and landed a direct hit on the side of the tank. Smashing some of the ventilators were damaged sent flumes every where inside the tank. Fortunately the crew were in their gas masks rather then their splinter masks, as their was fear of gas in the trench they had to cross, and were unharmed they the noxious air.     
Unfazed the tank swiveled round and brought one of its 57mm 6-pounders to bare on the artillery piece. It fired and the shot hit the ground a few feet from the piece, a shred of shrapnel hit the field gun's breach and stuck fast rendering it useless until it's crew had time to fix it!   
The tank then hurriedly aimed up its second gun and fired, but hit off target. 
But the whippet was also in trouble. It was bumbling along the road at a good pace when a grenade from the window of a shelled house exploded in its way. A group of ready waiting grenadiers leaping out, rushed at its side, to hurl explosives onto its turret and tracks.   

A grenade hit its engine and sent somke all through inside rendering shooting impossible. Another grenade hit the turret stunning the crew while the last explosive blew out it's rear track. The crew bailed out and into the guns of the grenadiers. 
Another party of rifle men armed with antitank explosives were spotted by the crew of the Mark IV, dashing out from an knocked out tank.  
The lone British tank then fired another salvo at the field gun destroying it, before moving foward in between an pillbox and a house, to have a better shot at the advancing rifle men.  
But to the crews horror the house was alive with more Germans who charged out! The German officer run to an observation sight and placing his pistol to it, fired all his rounds. He killed the commander and injured one of the gunners, before his men stormed up broke into the tank an captured the remaining crew.
The first tank wave had been a disaster. High command had completely underestimated the enemy and had payed for it.         

.    To settle the matter a force of three of the best heavy British tanks available were sized for the mission. 
A huge Mark V* (Partly under my command) a viscous beast bristling with guns, a Mark C male a good all round tank with an excellent speed and the trusty Mark IV
The line of tanks set off, growling over the terrible landscape. The Mark V* was on the far right, while the Mark C took the left and the Mark IV was in the center. 
The Germans, keen after their initial success, immediately pounced on the Mark IV in the center. One of their grenades hitting the side of the tank but coursing little damage.   
The crew responded rapidly, mowing down several with one of its 8mm Hotchkiss machine guns, before running over and crushing one of the riflemen!
But the Germans had just begun their counter attack, an antitank rife team running out of the woods and falling to the ground to aim up their weapon.  
The Germans had timed their attack well, another field gun being rolled out and aiming up for the Mark V* that had picked the wrong time to stall!
The tank lay stranded in the open as the crew desperately tried to restart the engine, when the Germans fired. But to their horror their shot fell short! cursing themselves for missing such a chance they set about reloading the gun.  
A stretch of open ground lay between the gun and the tank.
Meanwhile they Mark C had been making good progress, chugging down the road by the Cafe unhindered, while the Germans were occupied.  
The antitank team fired, but their shot bounced off the heavy side amour of the Mark IV, and as they lay their looking at the tank in terror it screeched round and turned toward them! Revving up it's engine the tank drove towards the hapless gun team and fired both its cannons at them. The Germans fled for their lives as the shots it home just behind them!    
The Mark V*, racing the field gun's reload speed, started up their engine and swung round and delivered its full firepower on the artillery piece, hitting it and blowing it to sky high!  
The Mark C was already halfway across the battle ground, when its commander spotted the grey shape of a grenadier against the side of a pillbox. 
The tank wheeled round and fired its cannon, hitting the side of the pillbox sending chunks of it hurling through the air, the grenadiers were ripped to pieces by the shrapnel. 
But the antitank team had regrouped, and now from the cover the the destroyed church started again to aim up their weapon.
The Mark C was alone in the front, while the Mark IV was crashing through the remnants of a wood the Mark V* was having engine trouble back where it started. 

The team fired! their shot hitting the oil and sending smoke flowing out of the tank. The Mark Cs crew where not turning back and returned fire with their cannon, scoring a direct on the antitank team's position, and killing them both.   

The Mark IV had at last got it's engine going again and was crushing the remains of a house under its tracks as it roared over them. 
Then another group of grenadiers leaped from a blown out building and rushed it from behind! The V* replied with its 7.7mms!    
The Mark IV had made brilliant progress after its early battles. 
The tank had been through a heavy attack and got through it with little damage.
And now the trench was in sight.
The Mark V* having mangled up the grenadiers was racing up to the Mark IV, the trench was also in sight! 
The Mark IV hauled itself onto the brink of the trench, its engine screeching, and rolled over the top! 
The first British tank to cross was the Mark IV, it had run the gauntlet and made it, while the other tanks had cleared the way and both were not far behind. The British had at last made it across and had three of their best tanks on the other side of the trench.  

But high command decided that more tanks would be need on the other side to hold off an German assault until infantry could be brought in. Besides their were probably more Germans in their! 
This time a huge number of the biggest tanks were to be sent over and some of the best. They were another Mark V*, another Mark IV, the experimental liberty tank a huge machine,with a heavy punch to,it and a Mark IX personnel carrier, it had no main gun but was filled with British troops ready to leap out and set up a lewis gun when required.    

The troop carrier was of the far left.

While the other tanks took the center and right.

But as the British tanks started to creep forward a distant rumble could be heard as a German A7V trundled onto the road on the right.    
As the liberty ground forward a  dashed from a shell hole and aimed up for its side. 
But the Mark V*  settled it, before it could do any damage, with a shot from its right 6 pounder. 
The troop carrier was crashing through a wood on the left.
Breaking trees out of its way.
When a bunch of grenadiers run from their trees and started an assault on the tank.
The first grenade hit its track and blew it apart and disabled its searing.  
As the A7V reveled its self from behind a house, the liberty promptly aimed up its cannons and fired!

Although it was a risky long shot, its struck home hitting and destroying the A7V's main gun! 
The personnel carrier brought its two machine guns round, while the soldiers within used the sixteen loopholes, fired on the Germans. The Germans were shot to shreds, but the damage was done.  
The carrier was being left behind, while the other tanks were more or less level with each other as they rolled over the battle ground. 
The A7V although it was almost useless without its gun it continued down the road.
The Mark IV rolled past the cafe keen to engage the German tank. 

The carrier, manged to start forward, although it was stop start all the way.
The Mark V* came under fire from a field gun the first shot hitting just in front of it! 
But mercifully the second clear shot missed and hit the ground again short of its target. 
The field gun payed for its mistakes. The Mark V* firing its cannons, hitting the field gun killing its crew, before crunched forward through the wood.
The liberty was pushing forward at a rare pace, firing one of its guns on the move, but missing the A7V.  
As the Mark IV trundled down the road another group of Germans attacked, but they were torn to shreds by the tanks machine guns.   
The carrier was still having steering trouble reversing back the way it had come rather than pressing forward.  
On the right the liberty continued past a ruined house, the commander spotted some couching Germans and fired on them with their 7.7mms, gunning them down in droves!
The three heavy tanks were making great progress, keeping more or less in a line. 
The British crews were all keen to engage the A7V, the Mark V* was the first to come face to face with it and quickly fired both its 6 pounders into it, hitting the German tank and ripping through the front amour and sending shards of metal scything through the interior. 
The Mark IV cleared the side of a house, to have a clear shot at the A7V.  
The liberty was ambushed by a machine gun, sending bursts of K rounds at the side of the huge tank.
The amour of the liberty was to thick for the machine gun. The tank swiveled one of its cannons round and blasted the ambushes to kingdom come!  
The liberty was speeding towards the trench, while the other tanks dealt with the Germans.
The A7V was struck by the Mark IV 57mm, the shot hitting the ammunition load and blowing it up. 
The Mark IV after dealing with the only visible threat continued on its way. 
The German trench seemed deserted, but the British were sure there was some last defense left concealed.
The Mark V* rattled past the knocked out A7V, on towards the trench.
The Mark IV was also thundering froward past the church.
A German antitank team waited until the Mark V* had past by, before they crawled out to fire on it.
Their accurate shotting hit the engine in the rear.
The tank at once sent a burst of machine gun fire in their direction, killing one of the team and injuring the other.

The liberty was almost at the trench, roaring onward at its top speed of 6 mph.      
The troop carrier was also on the move again at last, starting to get its load of infantrymen to the trench.
The huge liberty rolled onto the trench.
cruising over it with ease. 
Now that high command had several tanks and a carrier of troops over the trench, they thought the battle for Cliche was over and recalled the liberty and the Mark C, when a wire arrived to say that more German troops had moved into the ground between the trench, from German held defenses farther down.     

The British tanks were again chossen for the job of clearing a path to the pesky trench. 
the liberty, a Mark C male were sent out again with a older Mark I male.
The liberty took the right on its own confident of success, charged off down the road. 
While the more courteous Marks kept together on the right, taking it slow and scouting out for enemies.

The liberty thundered off by itself leaving the older tanks on their own. 
The Mark I was having starting its older engine, stalling and unable to move forward. 
The liberty was falling deeper and deeper into a German trap that had been cunningly laid for the over confident tank. The antitank gun fired but was unable agin to break through the amour again, but when the liberty had swung round to fire the team had diapered. 
The liberty rolled on past, unworried and unaware of the Germans surrounding it.  
The liberty had just started to pass the church when a party of Grenadiers rushed from their hiding places!
One grenade landing on the top of the tank and blowing out the ventilators.  
The Mark C had pressed on alone, while the Mark I tried to start its engine. 
Another grenadier pressed his rifle to an observation sight and shot the liberty's driver. While another grenade struck the side of the machine, hurling splinters through the crew.  
The Mark C pressed on alone only to discover a group of riflemen.
A last grenade hit the tank's fuel tank and set the whole tank aflame, sending gusts of flame into the air.
The Mark C fired its cannon into the riflemen and sent them flying, before trundling on.
The Mark I got its engine going again and crawled on.
Crashing through the wood.
Only to discover a antitank team.
The lumbering tank charged forward onto the team, but the team lept under the view of the guns.
The Mark C discovered another party of riflemen only to blow them off the earth, with its cannon.
Although another group surrounded it from the house. 
As the Mark I wheeled around to find the team only to have them pop up at the side and fire a shot into its side. 
The Mark C was close to the trench when a field gun rolled out of a shell hole to aim up its gun at the Mark C.
The field gun struck a direct hit on the tank killing all its crew and sending a cloud of smoke into the air.
A group of grenadiers rushed to aid the antitank team. 
They charged forward only to be cut down by the tanks machine guns.  
But the antitank team fired another shot, and blew the tank out.
The way to the trench was still full with Germans and the first wave had failed.

So another four tanks were chosen 
This time a Mark V, Mark V*, Mark IV and a Mark C were chosen. 
The Mark V* trundled down the road, ready for any challenge.  
The Mark IV was set on as soon as it started off, by grenadiers.
They hit the IV with one of their grenades, the Mark c swung over to assist its fellow its machine guns blazing.  
The other to tanks were chugging along unhindered.
The grenadiers manged to strike the Mark C and damage the track on the IV, before they were wiped out by the Mark IV's guns.  
The Mark V* was also racked by rifle fire as another group of Germans attacked. They were however  quickly cut to pieces by the Mark V*'s 7.7mm's. 
They had only just killed the riflemen, when a flamethrower team strode from the bunker and sent a stream of fire on the tank!
The fuel tank caught flame and sent a pillar of black smoke into the sky, and one of the tracks was also damaged.    
The crew manged to put the fire out in time before the whole thing blew, they then let loose a stream of incendiary bullets into the flamethrower igniting it and sending it up into a burst of flames!  
Then to the damaged Marl V*'s horror a A7V rolled onto the nearest road. 
The V* reversed as far back as it could go, crushing an abandoned truck. 
The A7V fired its main gun, but mercifully it hit the entrenchment the British tank had hid behind. 
The only undamaged tank found itself ambushed by another group of Grenadiers and was struck by an explosive, sending metal shards over its crew.     
The Mark V* was at last struck by the A7V's gunners and had its ammunition load exploded. 
The last tank, the Mark C was almost their, crashing through the wire and rolling over it.
When suddenly a field gun, hidden in a shell hole brought its barrel bare on the side of the tank and shot a hole through it killing several and disabling the tank. 
The last British tank was knocked. The tanks had failed in the second waves, but a large number of tanks had been able to cross and hopefully would be able to hold out until aid came or fight their way back.  

It had been all very good fun with plenty of unreliable WWI tanks stalling all over the place and tracks falling off and sending tanks random directions. We had quite a few people coming over to have ago at getting a tank across, and they all seemed to enjoy it. With thanks again to Black Wolf Wargaming club.  
By M 

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