Crisis in the Balkans 


The following photo report is from a fictional encounter wargame between Turks and Allied forces using the Great War Spearhead rules system set within the Great War in the Balkans. The game was played in November 2004 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Figures are 20mm plastics and are mostly from the collection of Robin Sutton. The report was written by Keith McNelly (who also took the photos), and it first appeared on his web site 'The Wargames Room'.


Background:

The battle involved a weak Turkish corps of two under strength divisions engaging an Allied division of three British regiments and one Australian regiment. 

The scenario was set against the back drop of mountainous terrain that seriously resricted movement options for both sides. Further, the Turks had suffered previously from desertion and casualties as a result of being badly equipped and supplied for the terrain and weather conditions that they had already encountered in mountainous parts of the Balkans. The table measured 8' x 5'.

Both armies were tasked with capturing a number of towns or villages, along with the more important bridges across a small stream. Further, artillery and ammunition for both armies was limited.

The Battle:

To the right, a regiment of British artillery deployed for action. The British artillery, including some heavy artillery off table, was to cause heavy casualties against the Turkish infantry in the open, especially on the Turkish right flank.

Turkish forces, supported by German artillery, was less effective and Turkish corps artillery completely failed to aid the Turkish attacks during the battle.

A British infantry battalion advances in relatively close order at the early stages of the wargame. Visible, in the right rear, is the battalion HMG stand. This battalion formed part of the British drive on a bridge and two sector town on the Allied left flank.

 

Another British infantry regiment advances over open ground. Unlike the figures above, in 1914 uniforms, these are in later war helmets. This regiment fought along side the Australians but was largely unengaged.

 

An Australian infantry battalion deployed for battle. Of note, are the different colours of the khaki shirts on these figures. Rumour has it that the Australians were recent recruits, having only recently arrived from the painting table, to swell the allied ranks.

 

Above, another view of the Australians, this time as the Australian regiment sweeps forward in attack across open ground in an attempt to capture a bridge in the centre of the table. During the game, the Australians from this regiment were to suffer casualties due to Turkish machine guns and German artillery in their sector. The bridge remained contested at the end of the battle.

 

During the game the Turkish infantry were reinforced by several stands of German artillery. Here German 77mm guns, brigaded in support of a Turkish regiment in the centre, prepare to fire on the advancing Australians. These models are from the collection of Andy Gorman as were the Turks. Note the shell cases on the bottom right of the bases.

 

Another British infantry regiment moves  forward past a small town on the allied right flank. This time in an attempted flanking movement on Turkish positions. Command range limitations however, resulted in the British brigade commander halting and requesting new orders before the attack was restarted. This command breakdown was to save the exposed Turkish left flank from a concentrated allied attack of some three regiments.

 

On the opposite flank, the Allied left, or the Turkish right, a further British infantry regiment was involved in a race for a two sector town. The Turks won the race for one sector and the British the other. The resulting battle around the town sectors resulted in the Turks suffering heavy casualties from off-table artillery. British infantry can be seen in one town sector while the Turks face them in another. Interestingly, in the determined battle neither side determined to assault the town sectors occupied by the enemy, prefering to fight a battle of attrition in the surrounding plains.

These town sectors are actually over scale and physically larger than the normal 3" square "Spearhead" town sector. The buildings are hand made in card by Robin Sutton.

 

As night drew in the Turks, having suffered increasing casualties in the area were forced to retire leaving the key objectives in Allied hands. Here, British brigaded artillery and infantry can be seen deployed following the battle around the captured two sector town. Between them and the town can be seen a small stream and bridge. The Turkish commanders had hoped this would have delayed and channelled the British advance more than it did.

 

A close up view of the British infantry, complete with Vickers HMG deployed for supporting the attack. No doubt the troops, along with the British commanders, were pleased with their performance against the Turks in this engagement.

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