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  • in reply to: Armies that do not have identical squads? #197917
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    …and of course under Commando 21 the Royal Marine Commandos have a maneouvre support section in each close combat troop. The British Army used to have a maneouvre support section at platoon level, but now the Minimi has been ditched the GPMG has returned to being a section weapon rather than, as it briefly was, a platoon one.

    It seems to me that quite often having a weapons squad in a platoon means that the army in question believes that belt-fed MGs are platoon weapons, and rifle squads should have magazine-fed guns. I think it is better to have belt-fed guns in rifle squads, although a mag-fed LMG gives you the option of nicking mags from the riflemen if the gun runs out.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Armies that do not have identical squads? #197893
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Apologies for following up my own post, but I’ve found the other Jac Weller book, “Fire and Movement: Bargain Basement War in the Far East”, 1967.

    The further platoon organizations listed in this book with non-identical squads are for the South Korean, Philippine, and Thai armies, all of which seem to be based on the U.S. model. All have one weapons squad and three rifle squads.

    ROK Army: Pl HQ (6), weaps sqd (9) with 1 M1919A6 and 1 3.5-in RL, rifle sqd (9) with 1 BAR, 2 RGLs
    Philippines: Pl HQ (3), weaps sqd (9) with 2 M1919A6s and 1 3.5-in RL, rifle sqd (9) with 2 BARs, 2 RGLs
    Thailand: Pl HQ (8), weaps sqd (9) with 2 M1919A6s and 1 3.5-in RL, rifle sqd (9) with 1 BAR, 2 RGLs

    The ARVN is stated to run a platoon with an HQ of 3 plus two fire squads and one maneouvre squad of 8 men each. The fire squads have BARs, the maneouvre squad doesn’t.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Armies that do not have identical squads? #197882
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I have reference to Jac Weller’s splendid old book, “Weapons and Tactics: Hastings to Berlin”, 1966.

    The platoon organizations given in the back indicate that the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, and the US Army each at that time have a weapons squad in the platoon as well as three rifle squads.

    Netherlands: HQ (5), weaps sqd (9) with 2 84mm RCLs, rifle sqd (9) with 1 FN MAG
    Norway: HQ (5), weaps sqd (9) with 1 3.5-in RL and 1 MMG, rifle sqd (9) with 1 BAR
    Spain: HQ (3), weaps sqd (9) with 2 3.5-in RLs and 2 MMGs, rifle sqd (11) with 1 AR
    Turkey: HQ (2), weaps sqd (11) with 1 3.5-in RL and 2 M1919A6s, rifle sqd (11) with 2 Hotchkiss or ZB26
    USA: HQ (3), weaps sqd (11) with 2 90mm RLs and 2 GPMGs, rifle squad (10) with 2 ARs and 2 GLs

    Although it is not mentioned in the tabular data, the text also says that Red China used a platoon with 1 AR squad and 3 other squads.

    Somewhere I have a copy of his slightly later “Fire and Movement” which gives similar information for armies on the Pacific side of the world.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Your go-to tank books? #197672
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I forgot to add, I have a very large French book which covers every AFV they ever produced or thought about from 1900 to 1940 I can’t be bothered to look up the title or author, but it is organised by system type and explains why light tanks are classified armoured cars etc

    I’d be very surprised if that’s not Vauvillier’s “Encyclopedia of French Tanks and Armoured Vehicles 1914-1940”.

    All the best,


    in reply to: (Brag time) D&D can help kids #197639
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt


    Well done, that GM.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Your go-to tank books? #197634
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I will echo the support for Chamberlain & Ellis on Anglo-American armour, and Chamberlain, Doyle and Jentz for German. Both are now quite old, but I am not aware of anything better.

    For Russian AFVs, the best I know in English is Zaloga and Grandsen’s “Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two”, which Amazon UK has going for £26, a very good price, I’m sure it used to go for a lot more.

    For the Italians, I know nothing better than Pignato’s “Italian Armored Vehicles of WWII”, but it is not up to the standard of the others mentioned so far.

    For the French, Vauvillier’s “Encyclopedia of French Tanks and Armoured Vehicles 1914-1940” is comprehensive and colourful. It lacks the plate-by-plate description of armour thickness as found in Chamberlain, Doyle and Ellis, but they cover quite a few French tanks that were used in German service anyway.

    For the Japanese, I doubt you will beat Leland Ness’ “Rikugun” vol. 2.

    For people who can read a spot of German, it may be useful to get hold of Fritz Hahn’s “Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutches Heeres 1933-1945”; the AFV coverage is no better than Chamberlain, Doyle and Jentz, but it also includes extensive coverage of all other classes of weapon as well, including useful production figures. Germanophones might also like “Sowjetisch-Russische Panzer 1905-2003”, the German translation of Karpenko’s “Обозрение отечественной бронетанковой техники, 1905-1995 гг”. This is at once broader and narrower than Zaloga and Grandsen, in that it covers a broader period, but does not cover SPs. I would have preferred the Russian original, but have not been able to find a copy outside the Barrington Library in Shrivenham, and the German translation is at least obtainable.

    All the best,


    in reply to: The battle or campaign you always wanted to do? #197322
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Forgive me for a minor initial thread hijack with reference to John’s potential “Palembang Ramrod” but if you’re not aware already of the new Fireball Forward air rules John, they are designed for large air actions, battles with 5-6 squadrons a side. I cannot vouch for them, since I haven’t read them, but they do seem rather unique and interesting.

    Thanks for that. I’m not much of a fan of videos instead of writing, but this one is an agreeable watch, and the participants are clearly having a high old time.

    The thing that fails to convince me about using the kind if randomised activation sequences many rules seem to use these days is that, in the air and at sea, things are moving the whole time. I am now thinking along the lines of having perhaps a PIP-like activation roll for each side, with the proviso that anyone not controlled by the player carries on doing what they are doing at their standard cruise speed. It seems to me that aircraft will either be en route from one place to another, or else orbiting an established racetrack, say on CAP or forming up round the carrier.

    I like the idea of having the action follow the bomber formation, with intercepting formations nosing in at intervals from somewhat-unpredictable directions. One of the puzzles I have to make “Palembang Ramrod” into a game is how to give the Japanese a chance when their main type, the Oscar, has such utterly wretched armament, but it would be a victory of sorts if an intercepting formation managed to distract a portion of the escort and pull it away from the bombers, tempting into the “uncontrolled advance” beloved of WRG Ancients reaction tests. This seems to reflect an aspect of the real operation, where Corsair pilots were commended for obeying the command “Droppit!” rather than chasing Oscars for kills.

    “How Carriers Fought” written by Lars Celander and published by Casemate covers pretty much everything you might want to know about carriers in WW2.

    It’s certainly the best thing I’ve seen on the subject, but it still doesn’t give me the crunchy numbers I want on times for different servicing tasks below decks, how to manage movements in a hangar, and how long it should take to range a strike. Similarly I don’t really have any clear idea of how fighter direction was conducted, and how R/T was used. Did CAP in 1945 call “Judy” the way a modern GCI would, or was this a post-WW2 thing?

    All the best,


    in reply to: The Road to St. James Revisited #197321
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    There were five different editions of the WRG Armour and Infantry rules, so it’s not always safe to say that “the WRG rules” do something a particular way. The first edition of the 1950+ rules includes scout or observer teams of 2. All sets I think include provision for an individual acting as a sniper or messenger.

    The basings currently in “Gummipanzergrenadier” are:

    1. A 25m x 25m base representing an observer, commander or sniper, probably with an ack, runner, radio operator or spotter, or a light weapon with its crew, such as an LMG, light mortar, or shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon.

    2. A 50m x 25m base representing a rifle or engineer squad/section with all its weapons.

    3. A 50m x 40m base representing a mounted squad/section on pedal cycles, motorcycles, or horses.

    4. A 40m x 40m base representing an HQ of a company/squadron/battery, a heavy infantry weapon and its crew such as a mortar or MMG on tripod or wheels, the detachment of a heavier weapon, or a group of 2 to 4 similar light weapons such as a Japanese 50mm mortar squad or a Russian anti-tank rifle squad.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Beretta M1918 issue and doctrine #197271
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    The Small Arms Review has a short piece on this weapon:

    The Beretta Mod. 1918: Forgotten Weapon of the Italian Army

    All the best,


    in reply to: The battle or campaign you always wanted to do? #197064
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Operation Meridian, the British Pacific Fleet’s strike on the oil refineries at Palembang and Pladjoe in 1945. The biggest strikes ever flown off by the Fleet Air Arm, which knocked out a quarter of Imperial Japan’s aviation spirit production. Corsairs, Hellcats, Fireflies and Avengers doing the attacking, against Oscars, Tojos and Nicks intercepting, with CAP from Seafires fending off kamikazes. I have accumulated a mass of research material from the National Archive, and I have the best possible name for the game, “Palembang Ramrod”. All it needs now is for me to have the stroke of genius required to produce an interesting game on multi-squadron air operations, something I have not really seen elesewhere. It is surprisingly hard to find any information on fighter tactics at the wing level, the specifics of hangar and deck handling for WW2 carriers, and the way radio frequencies were allocated to control formations in the air.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Time to Plan/Organize a Battalion Attack? #196896
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Let’s start with a time and distance appreciation. Marching men on good level roads doing 120 30-inch (0.762m) paces to the minute cover 100 yards (91.44m) in a minute. Allowing 5 minutes’ rest per marching hour gives 5,500 yards (a little over 5km) or 3.125 statute miles per hour.

    Assume rifle companies are 120 strong, and HQ and S company twice that, for a grand total of 720 in the battalion. If everyone marches in 8-man sections in file with 1-yard spacings, with 25 yard spacings between sections, each company takes up 420 yards and the whole battalion 2,645 yards, or one and a half miles (2.4km) of road space.

    Assume further that the battalion is attacking two up, two back on a frontage half a mile wide centred on their approach road, and that movement cross country is two-thirds of the speed on roads. If the lead company wheels off the road at a fixed point and marches until the head of the column is a quarter of a mile (440 yards, 400m) from the road, its cross-country speed of 3,667 yards per hour (3.35 km/h) means it will achieve this in 7.2 minutes. The second company will then be able to do the same thing to the other side, so let’s say 15 minutes to shake out the leading two companies. If the third and fourth companies are to be positioned 420 yards behind the first line, they can deploy at the same time; if closer, add the time, at cross-country speed, needed to make up the difference.

    Of course this assumes that “across a frontage that’s, say, a half-mile either side of the road” means a total frontage of half a mile, centred on the road — that is, a quarter if a mile each side. This is, historically, a reasonable battalion frontage. However if it means half a mile each side of the road, for a total frontage of a mile, then using the same time and distance assumption our battalion would take half an hour to shake out for a one-up attack.

    All this is of course entirely artifical and idealised, but indicates what is probably a reasonable lower bound to the time needed to accomplish the necessary movement on foot, assuming no problems of terrain, weather, and enemy interference, and also, probably the biggest assumption of all, that everyone knows that’s where they are supposed to go. In an attack that has been prepared in depth, there might be all sorts of aids to let people know where they are supposed to go, such as white tape and soldiers acting as guides. Those are not at all likely in an attack off the line of march.

    This is also looking solely at the question of physically placing the riflemen where they need to be. Despite the training of staff officers in solving time-and-distance problems, it is not typically the movement of troops that limits the speed of an attack. As m’colleague Paul Syms has put it, “An army advances as fast as it can think”. It may be helpful to think of the thinking as consisting of three processes; doing the recce, making the plan, and issuing the orders. Recce (including specialist kinds, like engineer recce, and what is now called “Information Preparation of the Battlespace”) will be going on the whole time, but it is likely that commanders at each level may wish to make their own personal recce before finalising their plan. Not everyone does this — German junior leaders were encouraged to do their recce on the way in, to save time. There is always a balance to be struck between through preparation and getting things done quickly; Jim Storr has presented a simple but convincing argument that quick decisions dominate good decisions. Planning, on the basis of whatever information is available, can take any amount of time. Military analysts spend a lot of time trying to extract answers from soldiers to questions like “how long does it take to plan a battalion attack?” and always get the answer that it depends how much time is available. A good staff will make a quick outline plan almost immediately, and then spend as much time as they have available on refining it, with the idea of being ready to go if anyone suddenly brings H forward by two hours, or unexpectedly puts everything off until Thursday. The Royal Regiment of Artillery, incidentally, makes it a point of pride that the infantry should never have to wait for the gunners to complete their planning.

    Planning might be infinitely fungible, but there is a good planning principle called the one-third/two-thirds rule that says whatever the amount of time available for planning and orders, and HQ should take one-third of the time for itself, and allow two-thirds for its subordinates. This applies at every level. So, if we imagine that a battalion is supposed to get an attack laid on in 15 minutes (the time from the time and distance appreciation above), that would be five minutes for battalion planning and orders, three and a bit minutes for company, and six and a bit for platoons. I hope it is obvious that these timings are silly. It is true that during the Cold War Chieftain squadrons were expected to be able to issue squadron radio orders in three minutes, but that is merely dictating some quick orders over the air to the whole squadron at once, with no time for planning at all.

    Much more reasonable would be the sort of timing I experienced in the “I Have a Cunning Plan” game I put on at COW many years ago now. This was modelled on then-current British Army planning processes at battalion level. A battalion staff of quite experienced wargamers easily managed to fill up an hour creating the planning materials for a pretty simple battalion attack. There was then an additional time needed to convey the plan to the companies in an ‘O’ group; say another ten minutes if we’re quick. Using the one-third/two-thirds rule suggests that the whole planning and orders process should then have taken three and a half hours, which sounds a lot, but I don’t think is madly out of line. Note that that is seven to fourteen times as long as our above estimate of the physical time required to walk to the start positions.

    Of course there is an endless supply of other factors that could push timings up or down, and a lot depends on the broader situation and the command culture of the army in question. Plans aren’t made, and orders aren’t framed, in a vacuum; there will be some previously-issued operation order that sets the context, and may cover lots of things so that the staff needn’t worry about them. Having lots of drills makes it possible to take shortcuts sometimes. I have given section orders that took a good hour for the planning, poncho model and ‘O’ group (suggesting a battalion planning cycle of 3.375 hours). I have also been in section attacks where no orders were given at all, because we knew our contact drills and we always went right flanking. I understand that the Wehrmacht could, thanks to its drills, start a regimental attack off the line of march in 45 minutes, which is good going by anyone’s standards. Abbreviating things could also produce difficulties. “Killer Butterflies” mentions the WW1 experience that, because the plan had not been shared down to the very lowest level — soldiers were expected to do what they were told, not understand it — there were many cases where, having successfully captured an enemy trench line, the soldiers occupying it would come back for further orders, because their officer had been hit, and he was the only one who knew the plan. This was not a question of cowardice, but simply of not having been put in the picture. I expect a lot of second-rate armies continued the tradition of not telling the lower ranks what was going on until WW2, and even later. Even good armies don’t always manage it (“On the wagons… off the wagons… different set of wagons”).

    And there are all the wonderful elements of Clausewitzian friction that Mick Hayman is recalling with his mild paraphrase of the Prussian’s apothegm “in war, even the simplest thing is the most difficult”. I always like the saying that “The British Army fights all its battles on hillsides in the pouring rain where two maps meet.”

    Hope that has contributed some meaninglessness to the more-than-the-usually-meaningless rumination.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    My wargaming career started in 1971, about the same time as several other correspondents. A lot has changed in more than half a century. At that time, wargaming essentially meant WW2, ACW, Napoleonic, or Ancients.

    “Fantasy” wargaming at that time was pretty much limited to ancients wargaming with what would now be called imagi nations, as seen in “The Ancient Battle of Trimsos” in Featherstone’s “Wargaming”, which also mentioned Tony Bath’s legendary Hyborian campaign. Phil Barker brought fantasy wargaming into the mainstream with the fantasy appendix (with a decidedly Tolkeinish flavour) to WRG 4th edition ancients, published in 1973 and available as a .pdf at

    Things really took off with the publication of D&D the following year, although it took a couple of years for it to take root this side if the Atlantic; I started playing with “Greyhawk”, “Blackmoor” and “Eldritch Wizardry” in 1976. For all the profusion of bafflingly intricate rules (brilliantly parodied in “the sick kids” in the 1980s on one of the usenet groups), the basic idea of gamesmastering was easy enough for anyone to pick up; my school wargaming group simply dispensed with all the rules other than “the umpire is always right” and conducted completely free kriegspiels. We therefore spent very little of our pocket money on the profusion of RPGs that emerged in the next couple of years, including Tunnels and Trolls, Thane Tostig, Boot Hill, En Garde, Traveler, and, less seriously, Bunnies and Burrows. I played a couple of games of En Garde and Boot Hill, and one of Traveler. En Garde was fun; the others, meh.

    Also at about this time, Phil Barker kick-started another new genre with the first set of WRG modern rules, in 1974. These were as I recall much expanded from a set he had offered in an edition of “Military Modelling” (or it might have been “Battle for Wargamers”), and were the first serious attempt at a set of miniatures rules covering contemporary armoured combat. US boardgames were perhaps a little ahead of the game here. SPI’s “Tank!”, which included current vehicles, was also published in 1974, but there had earlier been “Grunt” (1971), a pioneering game in many respects including being the first squad-a-counter game, covering the Vietnam war, and “Year of the Rat” (1972), also on Vietnam, and unusual in being published while the military operations it protrayed were still running their course. Vietnam games never achieved great popularity at that time, as there was much greater compunction about playing games about wars still raging.

    I read a lot of SF in my early youth, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Aldiss; I never had much time, and still don’t, for space opera, though my tastes changed for the sillier as I got older (more Sheckley and Harrisson and of course Adams). As a faithful SPI fan I dutifully bought their first two excursions into SF, “StarForce: Alpha Centauri” (1974) and “Star Soldier” (1977), as well as their first fantasy game, “Sorcerer” (1975). All had interestingly-written back stories, but did not really grip me as games (though the maps of “StarForce” and “Sorcerer” are both creations of great beauty).

    Since then I have not had much interest in SF or fantasy wargames. Most seem to me to be derivative and lacking in imagination. Also I find that military history is so chock full of weird and wonderful events that there is no need to be inventing anything. I see from my spreadsheet that F&SF topics make up 7% of my boardgame collection, a smaller proportion than air (10%) or naval (11%) games, both of which are normally considered minority sports. I am, however, prepared to play games on any topic if they are really good games. Some from the F&SF genres that I count as good games above all are:

    Cosmic Encounter
    Illuminati (the card game)
    The Sorcerer’s Cave
    Firefly Adventures
    Awful Green Things from Outer Space
    Time Tripper

    The first two of these are battles for control of the cosmos or the world. The other four are all largely games of individual hand-to-hand combat, something that can be enjoyed in practically any setting.

    All the best,


    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    It makes my flesh creep to hear people talking about moves and ranges in inches, centimetres or millimetres. I always use the relevant real-life unit, so metres, yards, paces, cables, nautical miles or whatever is appropriate to the scale of the game being played.

    Of course there are some wargames rules that do not have a defined ground scale. I do not play with those rules.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Tank gun vs Anti-tank gun. Effectiveness? #196690
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    That is of interest. What was the error in the original?

    The original table has A/Tk weapons per km along the top and tanks per km down the side. The entry for 40 tanks against 15 guns shows a breakthrough probability of 65%. Plot the curves and it becomes very obvious that this does not belong with all the other points plotted, and it should be something more like 35%. It seems to me pretty easy to mistake a 3 for a 6 when transcribing numbers.

    Also, wondering a little about why you would go for a 3-tank platoon if that was what your calculations were.

    I think the Russian idea was to make platoon commanding as simple a job as possible. Tank platoons more than three strong tend to arrange themselves into sections, or at least do fire and movement within the platoon, whereas if it’s only three they all do the same thing. An early T-34 commander was severely overloaded anyway, without trying to co-ordinate fire and movement within his platoon.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Tank gun vs Anti-tank gun. Effectiveness? #196635
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    As usual for anything requiring a vaguely numerical answer, it’s a good idea to consult David Rowland’s “The Stress of Battle”, formerly available at eye-watering prices and now available on much more moderate terms now that it has been re-published by John Curry’s History of Wargaming project.

    In vague hand-wavy terms, it seems anti-tank guns are something like two or three times as effective in terms of casualty infliction as tanks in defence. Partly this seems attributable to the greater number of officers and NCOs per weapon, but Rowland suggests other factors as well, including the point that tanks have the choice of disengaging, whereas gun crews have little choice but to fight it out. This latter point is I think a large part of the reason the Russians have historically preferred towed anti-tank guns to give a stable anti-tank defence, and, unlike the Western powers, retain them to this day.

    Rather differently, the following figures give a Russian figure, based on GPW experience, of the probability of a breakthrough by tanks against an anti-tank defence based on the correlation of forces. I have extracted these numbers from a table I originally encountered in a copy of “Strategy and Tactics” magazine in 1979, and have since seen reproduced in Isby’s”Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army”, 1981, and in a couple of Soviet sources, although I regret that I cannot recall the name of the original author. In the earliest Soviet source I have seen, it contains a mistake which becomes obvious when the curves are plotted on a graph; nobody seems to have done this, for the error is faithfully copied everywhere I have seen the table reproduced.

    Anyway, here we are:

    Tks/gun P(breakthrough)
    1.25 1%
    1.50 2%
    1.67 5%
    2.00 10%
    2.50 30%
    3.00 50%
    4.00 75%
    5.00 92%
    6.00 98%
    8.00 100%

    This shows that you need three times the concentration of tanks as anti-tank guns in order to get an even chance of achieving a breakthrough, which seems quite consistent with Rowlands’ estimate of the superiority of anti-tank guns.

    Hope that’s of some interest.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Are all vehicle machine guns equal? #196591
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Fairly obviously, yes. reproduces a report on the effectiveness of bow MGs with and without sights. As far as I am aware, most bow MGs had no sights worth the name, and the opinion was offered that a “bow machine gun with no sight is merely a means of wasting valuable ammunition.” This must surely apply with even stronger reason to those MGs in fixed mountings, a curious waste of space seen on the M3 medium and M3 light and, weirdly late, in the boxes on the track-guards of the early model Swedish STRV 103.

    Contrariwise, a co-ax would be able to use the optics associated with the main gun, and so do a vastly better job of aiming.

    MGs mounted in their own cupolas or sub-turrets would presumably fall between these two extremes of effectiveness, as would free mounts as AAMGs using the guns’ own iron sights.

    There is a reason that the co-ax is the type of MG that has survived when all others have fallen by the wayside.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Alternate late war French platoon organisation #196566
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    My source for the following is the “Manuel du Chef de Section d’Infanterie” (Infantry platoon commander’s manual), Edition de Janvier 1918, Imprimerie Nationale, Paris.

    You can read the thing yourself at

    Organization of a French rifle platoon, 1918:

    Chef de Section
    Sergent serre-files

    1re demi-section de combat
    ___1 Sergent chef de demi-section
    ___1re escouade
    ______1 Caporal grenadier-voltigeur
    ______6-8 grenadiers-voltigeurs (2 throwers)
    ___2e escouade
    ______1 Caporal fusilier
    ______1-2 fusiliers-tireurs
    ______2 pourvoyeurs
    ______3-4 grenadiers VB
    2e demi-section de combat
    ___1 Sergent chef de demi-section
    ___3e escouade
    ______1 Caporal fusilier
    ______1 fusilier-tireur
    ______2-4 pourvoyeurs
    ______3 grenadiers VB
    ___4e escouade
    ______1 Caporal grenadier-voltigeur
    ______6-8 grenadiers-voltigeurs (2 throwers)

    The minimum number of men is supposed to be one corporal and six men per squad. Adding the sergeants leading the demi-sections and the file-closer sergeant (sergent serre-files) gives a total of 31 men under the platoon commander (chef de section). Additional to this supposed minimum are two men per squad, shown above by the range of possible numbers for a troop type, e.g. 6-8 grenadiers-voltigeurs. There would also be additional “hors rang” men from the company (tradesmen, runners, pigeon-handlers, musicians, cooks and so on) who would be shared out among the rifle platoons, at full strength maybe 9 or 10 additional blokes per platoon. So, even before we have people fiddling with the official guidance, the platoon could be anywhere from about 30 to about 50 strong.

    There were allocated 16 VB launchers, 16 self-loading rifles (FA 17), and 8 FMs per rifle company.

    That gives an allocation of 4 VB grenade launchers, 4 self-loading rifles, and 2 FMs (Fusils-Mitrailleurs, the CSRG or “Chauchat”) per platoon (section). The manual confirms the numbers for the FMs and VB launchers.

    All the best,


    in reply to: How late would you use a WW2 rule set? #195968
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    If the rules include assault rifles, which were in service in WW2 (and WW1 if you count the Avtomat Fyodorov) then they can go to the end of the last century for infantry combat. Later than that you might want to allow for combat body armour and personal role radios, and thermobaric rockets, but I don’t know any rules that do. Most people don’t bother with fighting at night, but night vision equipment has come on a good deal, and although IR systems were available at the end if WW2 I don’t know any WW2 rules that include them.

    Technological developments are most obvious in terrestrial warfare for tanks. Things change a good deal once one sees rangefinders, battlesight shooting, worthwhile gyrostabilisers, and anti-tank guided missiles, and again with smoothbore guns, composite armour and gas turbine engines. You could still get away with WW2 rules for Korea, or the 1948 and 1956 Arab-Israeli wars.

    Another big change for terrestrial warfare is the use of helicopters, which start making themselves felt at the tactical level in Algeria and the Suez invasion.

    Aeronaval warfare has changed pretty much beyond recognition with the arrival of jet engines, guided missiles, and, again, helicopters. One might perhaps be able to use coastal forces rules for small boat actions in the Indonesian War of Independance and for some actions as late as the 1972 India-Pakistan war.

    in reply to: WW2 Wargame Development #194309
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Yeah most sources seem to give 60 degrees for the front facing, running this through the formula for relative thickness only gives (47mm x 60 degrees) only gives 94mm, which would be “Heavy” in this system.

    Mmmyes, remmber that the line-of-sight distance understates the value of sloped armour for rounds other than HEAT.

    This means that only the Flak88 and the 50mmPak-38 have any chance of penetrating the front facing of a T-34 in this period, so should still fit the bill. Then from the side things get a little easier for the other german guns, and they can penetrate at ranges of 100m or less.

    There is more chance with turret hits, and don’t forget the Panzergranate 40 special ammo.

    Still, T-34s should be a real problem. It is perhaps worth providing details for the 10cm K 18 — AIUI in the early part of the war a battery of these in a Panzer division (normally part of the divisional arty medium abteilung) was dedicated to hunting heavy tanks.

    I think I will still tinker with this to make it more likely that infantry attacked from the flanks at close range surrender, rather than it being based on broad modifiers like “attacked from flanks”. Could add a ” Attacked from Flanks within 6″ ” modifer of +2 or suchlike.

    Yup — remember the phrase extracted from the 1919 tactics manual I mentioned 9 months ago:

    “Frontal fire seldom pays; flanking fire pays well; surprise fire pays best.”

    Aside from that I’ve been sorting out my ranges and conversion from real life range to in-game range. I settled on:

    [Real life Range] ^0.42

    I would very, very strongly advise against a non-linear ground scale. A ground scale of 1mm to 2 metres (1 inch to 50 metres) still works OK when you are only resolving infantry to squads. This will give you direct fire engagements up to 0.8m measured on the table, only a tiny but more than your maximum of 30 inches (0.75m), and leaving room for maneouvre on a British Standard Wargames Table of 6 x 4 feet (1.8 x 1.2 m).

    All the best,


    in reply to: Kampfgruppe Heller, Poland 1939: next fights #194214
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    This is very useful stuff, and I have been getting a steady stream of useful playtest points by e-mail.

    So far I find the results quite convincing, and very much the sort if thing I would like the rules to produce: hidden anti-tank guns are a bugger to shift, properly dug-in MGs likewise, and the attacker needs one or more of reasonable numerical superiority, a bunch of covered infiltration routes, or powerful fire support to make progress. The Germans don’t seem to have had any of those so far. I would recommend (and not only because I would like to see the artillery rules get a workout) a spotting patrol hooked up to the divisional 15cm arty Abteilung to soften up the Poles next time.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Kampfgruppe Heller: Poland 1939 #194062
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Though “Gummipanzergrenadier” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue…

    True, it needs a triple somersault and back flip.

    Any suggestions for alternatives will be actively considered. I do not want a name containing any of “fields”, “flame”, “glory”, or “victory”.

    As the game is about mobile troops, with an emphasis on the armour-infantry team, I quite like “Gummipanzergrenadier”. Naming the rules after other nation’s equivalent suggests perhaps “Motostrelki”, which provides an excuse to use Cyrillic on the cover, or “Mechanized Infantry”, which is at least a good tune.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Kampfgruppe Heller: Poland 1939 #194046
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Thanks, DSG. These are rules someone else is writing.

    I confess, the “someone else” is me.

    The current title of the rules is “Gummipanzergrenadier”. They descend from a set devised by my friend Paul Syms and used by my Horsham-based wargames group, a bunch of pals who share at least one of a school, a church, or a regiment. None of us still lives in Horsham, now being scattered from Swindon to Polegate, but we try to meet at Easter and Xmas at least for a wargame together. The latest Xmas game was on 29th December in Billingshurst, and supposed to be the first test of the rules in their current somewhere-fairly-near-complete state. I was unable to attend as I had a streaming cold, so I am still waiting for the playtest report. Meanwhile, Whirlwind has been going great guns in the playtesting, and raised numerous points for me to think about — the problem with trying to write rules in isolation during lockdown was the impossibility of guessing how another human being might interpret rules I thought I had written down clearly.

    Paul Syms’ set originated at our school wargames club in the mid-1970s, and its original aim was to give a couple of junior members of the club a simple game that, in constrast to most sets then available, gave the infantry a fair share of work to do in the combined-arms team, and represented them at the same level as armour (squad-sized elements) to avoid having to deal with a mass of fiddly individual figures or small teams. His chosen title was “Panzergrenadier”, an excellent name not then associated with any other wargame. The contemporary SPI boargame “Firefight” provided a few theftworthy ideas.

    Over the years we played rather a lot of “Panzergrenadier”. Somewhere, Paul still has the file containing the latest version of the rules. We were supposed to update it with better ideas from successive plays. Somehow that never really happened; as a bunch of old friends who all had some clear ideas of how we thought the battlefield worked, we tended to make things up on the fly rather than refer to the book. On one memorable occasion we set up a huge multi-battalion Chinese vs Japanese game, then realised that nobody had brought the rules folder, each assuming that someone else was bringing it. We played anyway, and had a great game based on folk memory, gentleman’s agreements, and a weird tendency for the dice to come up double one or double six, removing the need to consult the CRTs in any detail.

    Our attitude was well summed up by one of our number who said “I refuse to learn the rules, on the grounds it would violate my amateur status.”

    A few years ago I got fed up with the torpid pace of development of the rules, and branched my own version, with the obviously derivative name, sub-titled “The flexible rules we like to think we know”. Initially these were in the form of quick reference charts only; the first attempt at complete rules was, I find to my horror, in 2021. I went back to the rules’ “Firefight” roots somewhat, with what was effectively a WW2 version of “Gunner, Sabot, Tank”, my updated version of “Firefight” that received a distinctly tepid reception at COW in 2017.

    As you can see, development of the rules has not been rapid. Annoying aspects of real life have always taken priority, and most of us still have the handicap, from the time management point of view, of being in full-time employment.

    Does the world need yet another set of WW2 tactical rules? I hope and believe so. But the world mustn’t expect them in a hurry.

    If anyone has any questions, I might try to answer them, or I might try to create a spurious aura of mystery if I can’t think of a good answer.

    All the best,


    in reply to: WW2 Wargame Development #193981
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    There is an “A20” pre-production model – would that be closer?

    If you told me that was a 1940 model T-34, I’d believe you.

    Not sure if I follow you on the T-34 armor, the website I was using [snips] lists the armor as 45mm at 45 degrees from vertical (although the image below lists the armor as at a 60 degree angle?)

    It’s an impressive-looking website, but on this point it is simply wrong. The T-34’s glacis is probably the most famous sloped armour plate in the world. Check any other source and, like the diagrams you showed, it will give 60 degrees from the vertical.

    The system as it is does satisfy your “the T-34 glacis should be pretty much invulnerable to German AFV-mounted weapons at this epoch”, as only the Pz.IIIs 37mm and 50mm guns can really penetrate the front of the T-34, and only at close range:

    I think there should be no chance whatever of them penetrating the glacis at any range, apart from the long 5cm with APCR. They might, of course, get lucky, and post a shot though the MG mount or an open driver’s visor, but it’s not likely. Since it’s the nearest thing to hand, I refer to the penetration figures given on p. 129 of Hahn’s “Waffen und Geheimwaffen”. At 100 metres, the 3.7cm penetrates 34mm with Pzgr, 64mm with PzGr 40, nothing like adequate, although the PzGr 40 might do something against the turret. The short 5cm penetrates 54mm with Pzgr 39, wholly inadequate, or 96mm with Pzgr 40, which is closer to useful but still not really enough. The long 5cm does 69mm with PzGr 39, again inadequate, and it is only with PzGr 40 that it stands a chance against the T-34 glacis, punching 130mm with Pzgr 40, or 122mm with Pzgr 40/1. The latter is a slightly heavier, slightly slower version of APCR; I gather that the original Pzgr 40 had an alarming tendency to bulge the cartridge case and jam the gun.

    I do like the idea of horizontal deflection causing more difficulty to penetrate, and I remember seeing a nice game aide that can do that easily, can’t remember where I saw it, but it was something like this (set for 2D6) [Snips]

    Shades of the “tank stick” from Charles Grant’s “Battle!” The alternative is to list armour values not only for front, side and rear, but also for front and rear quarters, so the defence value used depends in which octant the AFV is shot at through.

    The orders will likely be the main area where Germans and Soviet differ I think, so getting that right will be the main challenge, and somehow incorporating the command units on the table into it.

    Indeed. Russian rigidity compared to German flexibility might be reflected in the number of commands each is allowed to change per turn. It would not be completely outrageous to have radioless Russians unable to change their orders at all, and have the Russian player dependent on releasing reserves if they want to do something not in the original plan.

    Nice idea on the limitations for units entering the table too, I think that will suit nicely once the lines calm down. I would like to playtest the free-for-all to start with and see if it’s feasible… might be nicely chaotic.

    It strikes me as perfectly reasonable to specify the wider situation as being “static”, “fluid”, or “breakthough”. For a static situation like Kursk, the defenders are on the table, with entrenchments and obstacles, before the game starts, and the attackers come from a known direction. For a fluid situation, use the rules I suggested. For a breakthrough, go for full-on chaos.

    Good point on the situational awareness too (I can rename this for flavor), I might keep that even for all infantry and most vehicles, except green Soviet infantry could have a lower rating, while German tanks would have increased situational awareness compared to Soviet tanks for their dedicated commander / 3 man turret.

    Certainly it would be good to be able to reflect the limitations of the early T-34’s two-man turret, with its fiercely over-worked commander.

    All the best,


    in reply to: WW2 Wargame Development #193903
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Yes, it’s a long one. I could have broken it into four postings, but I didn’t.


    The T-34s look like the 1941 model. Any reason not to include some 1940 model? They have a thinner turret front, and a shorter main gun.

    Similarly the T-26 and KV-1 have some variation by year model.

    The Sd Kfz 221s all seem to be toting the sPzB 41 (a modification started in 1942). The tables lower down do not seem to list any penetration data for the sPzB 41, but do list the Sd Kfz 222, which would (like the Panzer II) be armed with a 2cm cannon.

    The counter shows the Sd Kfz 250s as the /8 variant carrying the 7.5cm L/24 StuK, but the tables have the plain MG-armed 250/1.

    The tables also list a “5cm PaK 36”, which I assume is a misprint for “3.7cm PaK 36”.

    It seems a bit unfair to the sovs not to mention any of their 76mm guns such as the ZiS-3, deployed in enormous numbers. They would also have had a few 57mm ZiS-2s early in the war, before the idiot boys Voronov and Govorov cancelled it.

    It seems odd to give the soviets 37mm anti-tank guns when the 45mm was surely more common; likewise the 37mm spade-mortar is a bit of an oddity, and 50mm mortars were the usual thing. See the numerous wonderfully detailed and comprehensive organisation tables in Zaloga and Ness’ “Red Army Handbook 1939-1945”.

    I’m a bit baffled by the large number of loose LMGs. Are the squad counters supposed to consist only of the squad’s riflemen?

    Naming the squad leaders makes things a bit more personal, but gives no idea as to the command structure — who is in which platoon, and which platoons in which company?


    The armour bands seem to make much the same sort of distinctions between levels of protection as contemporary commanders would have. To take the Germans as an example, the earliest, lightest tanks were protected by about 15mm of armour, and frontal protection was successively upgraded to 30mm, 50mm, and 70-80mm. Add the Tiger and the Panther and this suggests that six armour bands is the minimum required to make the necessary distinctions.

    However, plotting the mid-range thickness for each band shows a strangely woobly curve. I wonder if it might not be a little tidier, if a little plagiaristic, to use the same bands as Phil Barker’s WRG rules, which make much the same distinctions, but with a more regular progression:

    Band	Thick-	Band 	Band	Thick-	Band
            ness    width           ness    width	
    I	20	20	Lt 2	19	19
    II	40	20	Lt  	44	25
    III	60	20	Med	79	35
    IV	85	25	Hy	99	20
    V	120	35	Hy 2	120	21
    VI	160	40	Hy 3	199	79
    VII	230	70	Hy 4	230	31

    For angle of impact, I see you are using the modern NATO and WW2 continental convention of measuring angles from the horizontal. Remember that in the English-speaking world angles were measured from the vertical. Some of the armour angles quoted seem badly wrong; the T-34 glacis plate is nothing like 45 degrees. Another worry to consider at this point is that, while the T-34 glacis should be pretty much invulnerable to German AFV-mounted weapons at this epoch, its turret front was considerably thinner and more vulnerable.

    Using simple trigonometry to calculate the effective armour thickness is fine for HEAT rounds, but underestimates the value of slope for conventional penetrators (and it doesn’t matter if you use degrees, radians, or for goodness’ sake, gradians, as long as you are consistent; but armour slope is always given in degrees). Niklas Zetterling’s “Normandy 1944” includes a set of German basis curves for their standard calibres which show that the effect of slope is greater for smaller calibres. I am usually happy just to use the general basis curve quoted in NA piece number WO 185/118, “DDG/FV(D) Armour plate experiments”, which gives the following thickness multipliers for different slopes:

    Angle   Multiplier         
    10 deg	1.01
    20 deg	1.06
    30 deg	1.25
    40 deg	1.52
    50 deg	1.89
    60 deg	2.50

    The angles are given according to the WW2 Anglo-Allied convention, from the vertical.
    Notice that this makes the T-34 glacis equivalent of 117mm thick, in the Tiger class.

    Now might also be a good time to mention the German use of special armour-piercing ammunition, namely Panzergranate 40, an APCR nature. I am not sure if the in-service date for Pzgr 40 on various guns, but Hahn’s magisterial “Waffen und Geheimwaffen des deutchen Heeres 1933-1945” shows it being produced in 1940 for 3.7cm, 1941 for 5cm, and 1942 for 7.5cm guns. Russian APCR I think would come later, but, as ever, it’s hard to find definitive information on in-service dates.

    It’s all very well modifying the effective armour thickness by a factor for the slope, but what about the angle of strike in the horizontal plane? This makes a considerable difference, and accounts for the shape of the Kleeblatter (clover-leaf diagrams) used by the Germans to visualise success envelopes for tank shooting in, for example, the Tigerfibel.

    The method of adjudicating penetration by calculating how far up the band a penetration figure is strikes me as a bit weird. I would tend to believe Phil Barker’s argument that most plates tend to concentrate about the middles of the bands he has chosen (I haven’t checked, but it would be remarkably convenient if true). I would tend to compare the penetration figure with the central value of the band, and, treating that as the 50% success point, calculate penetration probability with a small random wobble from the expected penetration.

    Now is probably a good time to mention that the effective thickness of armour plates presented from any given angle can vary considerably. It seems to me very difficult to gather the information needed to model this, but I believe Irishserb has managed something like it.

    Hitting seems to be assumed to be more or less automatic, so P(kill) is conditioned solely by penetration performance. This is probably not wildly unreasonable if you are considering a multi-shot engagement and ranges only as far as 800 metres. However there is some straightforward maths you can use to calculate P(hit) if you know the weapon’s ballistic dispersion and the dimensions of the target. 800 metres seems a bit short to me; I’d want to be able to do twice that, at least.

    Zaloga and Ness (op cit) give the following table of ranges at which Soviet tanks and assault guns were knocked out in 1943-44:

    Range		75mm gun	88mm gun
    100-200		10.0%		 4.0%
    200-400		26.1%		14.0%
    400-600		33.5%		18.0%
    600-800		14.5%		31.2%
    800-1000	 7.0%		13.5%
    1000-1200	 4.5%		 8.5%
    1200-1400 	 3.6%		 7.6%
    1400-1600 	 0.4%		 2.0%
    1600-1800	 0.4%		 0.7%
    1800-2000	 0.0%		 0.5%

    You could argue, if you capped things at 1600m, that you are only missing less than one per cent of 75mm kills and only a bit more than one per cent for 88s.

    Biryukov & Melnikov’s “Anti-Tank Warfare” says, based on Great Patriotic War experience, that anti-tank guns needed 1-2 shots to secure a hit at 300 metres, 8-10 shots at 1000 metres.


    If you like putting things in a bag and drawing them out, I very strongly urge you to take a look at the chit-pick command system in Eric Lee Smith’s “Panzer Command” boardgame

    Ignore the sneering Nazi on the box lid, this is a superbly well designed game, and very nicely produced. The emphasis on the command system, and the ability of players to stuff the pot with additional activation chits by expending some of their stock of dispatch points, do a lot of what I think you want to achieve, namely, show how early in the war the Germans were able to give the Russians a good thumping despite the Reds having, on paper, superior guns and armour. Essentially the Germans can usually do more in a turn, and recover faster from disorganisation, than their opponents.

    The question of how the Germans can beat the Russians in 1941-42 when they are so obviously inferior in weapons, armour and numbers is one that has exercised wargamers for decades. Often they have resorted to what looks to me like cheating, for example “Panzerblitz” representing German armour in platoons but Soviet armour in companies.

    I am intrigued by the idea that elements of either side can enter from any board edge. That sounds to me like a recipe for a right bugger’s muddle. It is, of course, true that a cautious commander should always maintain an all-round defence, and this may reflect certain chaotic situations that arise during armoured breakthroughs such as occurred during the initial stages of Barbarossa. I wonder if it might make more sense to stick with the tedious old wargamerism of each side having a baseline across the table from their opponent, but with the following provisions. Foot-slogging infantry can only arrive at their own baseline. Mobile troops (recce, armour, Panzergrenadiers, motor rifles, cavalry, aerosans) can also arrive on the side edges. Deep-raiding troops (paratroops, Brandenburgers, partisans) can arrive from the enemy baseline as well.

    A lot of the things that gave the Germans their edge come down to the effects of command and leadership. It is now generally accepted that the German idea of “Auftragstaktik” is a superior command doctrine to the more rigid approach pursued by the Soviets. Even if this were not so, the quality of the Red Army’s officer corps at the start of the GPW was dreadful, thanks to the depredations of the Yezhovshchina, one of Stalin’s more insane acts of totalitarian self-harm. Most early war Soviet commanders are likely to be extremely fearful of displaying initiative, and are not going to question their orders, no matter how insane. This is also the period of the war to include NKVD blocking detachments (from 12 Sep 1941) and punishment battalions (from 28 July 1942). Again, not something one often sees on the wargames table, and all rather grim, but, hey, it’s the Russian front. Graham Evans has had some interesting ideas on modelling the use of coercion in command in his games on the Russian and Spanish civil wars run at COWs over the years.

    Willz has already mentioned the German advantage in radio control; armoured forces are all very well, but without reasonably reliable VHF radios to control them, they will be slow and clumsy. This difference would be much less pronounced among the infantry, I believe that German infantry companies only got four radios each mid-war.

    The idea of having “situational awareness” (not a WW2 term) ratings that mean the Soviets never see anything to shoot at strikes me as one of those mechanisms that comes under the heading of “cheating”. A lot of Russians, coming from rural rather than urban populations, would I think be rather better at fieldcraft than the Germans.

    A feature of many Soviet defeats in mobile actions early in the war was their wretchedly bad march security. This explains their post-war obsession with it, and their habit of devoting a third of their strength to the counter-recce battle. In the early part of the GPW they took no such precautions, and suffered for it. I don’t know what mechanisms would be appropriate to represent it, but I think the Russians should quite often be “out-scouted” by German recce.


    I have already commented on the absence of Soviet 45mm and 76mm guns. There are other things I think it would be a shame not to include for this period of the war. Both sides will have anti-tank rifles, the Soviet ones being considerably more effective, but rare as hen’s teeth early on. The Soviets will also have that magnificent weapon, the Kartukov ampulomyot

    …we don’t see enough of those on the wargames table, in my opinion. For real novelty, maybe include dog mines, too.

    More seriously — and you might well already have thought about these, just not mentioned them above — there need to be rules for field artillery and field engineering. The Soviets considered that the result of a meeting engagement weas usually decided by which side got its artillery into action first. This is another area where German agility might give them and edge over Soviet mass, although as the war went on and the Soviets got more competent, the “Red God if War” became ever more decisive and difficult to counter. And it’s not the Russian Front without mines.

    Anyhow, good luck with the scheme, I look forward to hearing how it develops.

    All the best,


    in reply to: ‘Bandera’s Boys’ Some thoughts. #191503
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I would suggest further releases along these lines:

    “Lammerding’s Lads”, 2nd SS Panzer Div “Das Reich” marches from Tulle to Oradour.
    “Oskar’s Oddfellows”, fighting “partisans” with the Dirlewanger Brigade.
    “Les Gars de Degrelle”, adventures on the Eastern Front with Léon Degrelle and the Walloon Legion.

    However, as satire in the English-speaking world seems to have been dead for some years now, I shall merely point out that anyone who thinks any of this is a good idea deperately needs to learn some history.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Book Review from Mr. Picky #191311
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Strangely, my father. a veteran (to use the current term for working soldiers) of WWII 2NZDIV Artillery in North Africa *probably Tunisia but I’m not sure he explained*, told me of a dead Ghurka frozen in place next to a track. He was in a kneeling pose with rifle held at 45º as if he was guarding something, just off to the side of track they were travelling along; instead of passing by they stopped to check him- stone cold dead and not a sight of injury, though he acknowledged it was night and they were using torches.

    Such stories are widespread: there is no living doubt that there were many combat deaths whose cause was not at all obvious by visual inspection. The mistake people then make is attributing such deaths to air blast. The intensity of air blast produced by mortars and field artillery is not remotely enough. It was not widely appreciated until Zuckerman’s WW2 work on fragmentation casualties that quite tiny fragments — under a gram — can kill when driven at the velocities achieved by high explosive.

    An analogous myth from the Napoleonic era was belief in “death by wind of shot”, where people — usually sailors in the accounts I’ve heard — were supposed to have been killed by the near passage of roundshot. Absolute piffle, and the idea was exploded something like a century and a half ago, but if you hang around the wrong neighbourhoods of the interwebs you’ll find some people still determined to believe it.

    For people who enjoy stretching their gullibility muscles, one of the errors in “Mortars in World War II” — I didn’t by any means list them all — was the statement that the training standards of British airborne forces required them to run 200 yards in 16 seconds in full kit. If you would care to engage in a modest amount of calculation, that turns out to be 11.43 m/s, or a bit over 41 km/h, faster than Usain Bolt over a similar distance.

    How many impossible things can you believe before breakfast?

    All the best,


    in reply to: 75mm Recoilless Rifle in Korea #191303
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Interesting to read that the HE round was used in ricochet fire.

    A NAVORD report on HEAT penetration credits the 75mm HEAT round with 3.5 inches (89mm) of penetration, which is really not enough against the T-34/85 glacis (45mm at 60 degrees from vertical giving 90mm line-of-sight thickness), or turret front (90mm rounded).

    All the best,


    in reply to: Russian dragon’s teeth #191285
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    U S Army doctrine (of which there is lots) recognises distinctions between tactical and protective obstacles, and between hasty and deliberate ones.

    From the present discussion I wonder if we need a distinction between “proper” and “crap” obstacles. Proper dragon’s teeth are impassable to AFV and require a serious breaching effort by trained engineers; crap (Russian) dragon’s teeth merely slow progress, and can be breached and cleared by anyone. Similarly, proper buried minefields are a serious obstacle, surface-laid ones are easy to avoid if you pass through carefully at low speed, and easy to breach. One might similarly regard a wire fence as a crap obstacle (trained infantry lie down on it for their mates to cross, and wire-cutters will make short work of it) and a proper entangelement as a serious one.

    I would speculate that anti-tank ditches, sea walls, Czech hedgehogs and knife rests all require sufficient effort to make in the first place that no “crap” version of them exists.

    I’m also wondering how widely flame-traps were used in WW2. Mostly of the ones I’ve heard of (before the Iraq war) were British WW2 anti-invasion preparations, and never actually used. Any others?

    It would also be interesting to know if there were any other distinct obstacle types not covered by the types mentioned so far — now is the time to share your research on anti-tank jelly barriers, Slovenian wasps-nest booby-traps, and red fuming nitric acid baths.

    All the best,


    All the best,


    in reply to: Russian dragon’s teeth #191121
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Never mind the other parts of the web, the mention of dragon’s teeth prompts me to ask the opinion of the assembled masses about obstacles more generally.

    A set of rules I have been tinkering with lately (tactical WW2 because the world really needs yet another set of tactical WW2 rules, individual vehicles and squad bases) includes the following obstacle effects table, which is largely POOMA:

    Obstacle 			Personnel or 	Wheeled or 	Fully-tracked 
    				animals 	half-tracked  	vehicles
    Anti-tank ditch,
    rubble, abatis 			Bad going	Prohibited 	Prohibited
    Czech hedgehogs,
    dragon’s teeth, sea wall 	OK 		Prohibited 	Prohibited
    Dannert wire
    fence 				Bad going 	Bad going 	OK
    Wire entanglement,
    knife rests 			Prohibited	Prohibited 	Bad going
    punjis 				OK 		OK 		OK

    “Prohibited” means that crossing the obstacle is not allowed, it must be breached first.
    “Bad going” means the obstacle must be crossed at creep speed, and there is a risk of vehicles getting bogged or personnel getting hung up.
    “OK” means that the obstacle can be crossed at full speed, although in the case of mines and punjis with a risk of casualties.

    What do we all think? Any obstacle types I’m missing? Any disagreement on the effects? Contributions from people with assault engineering experience especially welcome.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Napoleonic Cavalry – what did they really do? #191052
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I thought everyone knew that the role of cavalry is to give tone to what would otherwise be a mere vulgar brawl:

    All the best,


    in reply to: Automatic Fire in RPGs #190890
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Thanks John, that is very interesting.

    Within 25 meters, the automatic mode was superior in time to first hit (Figure 5) although not in trigger pulls to first hit (Figure 7). The superiority of the automatic mode of fire within 25 meters is slight, but significant (p<.05) (Figure 5).

    I am slightly struggling to parse the first sentence here. Is the implication that both auto and SA fire hit on the first shot but the auto firer just fired first?

    Given that the number of trigger pulls to first hit for auto fire is so high even at the close ranges, I think it must be that the auto firers often managed to get off a couple of bursts before the semi-auto firers had got off their first shot. This strongly suggests to me that the accuracy of the first shot of a burst should not be the same as a single shot, as the burst is presumably got off more hastily and so more coarsely aimed.

    For an RPG I wonder if it would be possible to come up with some kind of bidding system, whereby each turn players place a bid for each character to have first shot. Better bids (quicker times) can be made at the cost of sacrificing accuracy. Quickest shots are resolved first, and the target always has the option of becoming wholly or partially suppressed, sacrificing the accuracy of any shooting they still have to do or reducing their movement, in exchange for a lesser chance of getting whacked. I think player caution would lead to lethality much being lower than what the weapons are theoretically capable of, although unengaged shooters (including ambushers on the first turn of an ambush) could be brutally effective.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Automatic Fire in RPGs #190872
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Wait, there’s more. To add more blather I forgot the frst time…

    Tony Jeapes (author of “SAS: Operation Oman”) wrote an interesting piece I no longer have access to while he was in charge of the BATT in Oman, in either the British Army Review or the Army Training Quarterly (or whatever it was called). It described the section organisation he used of two fireteams, each with a GPMG and three AR-15s. In a phrase I hope I recall accurately, he said that people getting up to go forward had to do so against “Not the pop-pop-pop of rapid musketry, but the mind-shattering noise of automatic fire.” I think it was also Tony Jeapes, or perhaps Ran Fiennes in “Where Soldiers Fear to Tread”, who mentioned the need to replace the Trucial Oman Scouts’ Lee-Enfields when they started meeting Adoo armed with AKs, saying that against AKs “A soldier needs an automatic weapon just to make himself heard”.

    From “The Development of Combat Related Measures for Small Arms Evaluation”, Ronald D Klein and Charles B Thomas, US Army Infantry Board, Fort Benning, GA, undated:

    “The next effort was to examine the individual effectiveness of each round of the different burst sizes; these are shown in Figures 9 and 10. The highest single-round effectiveness for both weapons is achieved with the single round of a semiautomatic trigger pull. The second most effective round for Rifle A is the first round of a 2-round burst; the same phenomenon for the first round of automatic fire for Rifle B was not observed. It could be expected that all first rounds of a burst and the single round of a semiautomatic trigger pull would be identical in terms of the probability of achieving a hit. The effort required to acquire a target, position the weapon, align the sights, and squeeze the trigger are exactly the same regardless of the mode or the number of rounds that follow the first round. These data do not support this reasoning and, in fact, show that first-round effectiveness is related to the number of rounds that follow and the effectiveness of the following rounds. Generally, individual round effectiveness drops very rapidly as the burst of fire continues in a quick-fire enfgagement. Bursts of four or more rounds are relatively ineffective against point targets.”

    “An Experimental Review of Basic Combat Rifle Marksmanship: MARKSMAN, Phase I”, James W Dees, George J Magner and Michael R McLuskey, HUMRRO, Alexandria, VA, March 1971.

    Mode of Fire
    Mode of Fire (semiautomatic vs. automatic) was studied in Experiments 4, 11A and 111B. Against non-moving, single targets in the daytime, from most firing positions, the semiautomatic mode was superior to the automatic mode in both the time required for a hit and the number of trigger pulls required for a hit from 50 meters out. Within 50 meters, there was little difference between the two modes, either in time to first hit, or in trigger pulls to first hit, within 25 meters. The automatic mode was faster than the semiautomatic mode, in time to first hit up to 50m. Figures 4 through 7 illustrate the interaction between mode and target distance.
    Time to first hit is probably the more important of the two criteria examined combining both speed and accuracy. The time to first hit as a function of target distance in Experiment 4 is plotted in Figure 4. These values are the means for the “coarse aim” technique for all of the five firing positions tested. Beyond 50 meters, the semiautomatic mode was superior in both speed and accuracy, becoming more superior with increasing distance. Within 25 meters, the automatic mode was superior in time to first hit (Figure 5) although not in trigger pulls to first hit (Figure 7). The superiority of the automatic mode of fire within 25 meters is slight, but significant (p<.05) (Figure 5).
    Mean time to first hit data as a function of target distance for Experiments 11A and 11B is provided in Figure 5; the “aimed fire” portion of Experiment 11B was averaged across all firing positions for this graph. The differences between the positions used in Experiments i and 11B possibly account for some of the difference between Figures 4 and 5. Experiment 11A provided the only examination of the semi-automatic versus the automatic mode within 25 meters. The data for Experiment 11B on the same graph support the conclusion reached in Experiment 4 that semiautomatic fire is superior to automatic fire with the M16 rifle, beyond 50 meters (Figure 6).”

    Fig 4	Time to first hit, experiment 4					
    Range (m)	25	50	75	100	150	200	275
    Semi-auto	2.5	3.0	3.5	4.6	6.2	7.5	9.0
    Auto	        2.2	3.2	4.1	5.5	7.5	9.1	11.4
    Fig 5	Time to first hit, experiments 11A and 11B				
    Range (m)	10	15	20	25	50	75	100	150	200
    11A Semi-auto	1.25	1.52	1.81	2.01					
    11A Auto	1.07	1.38	1.58	1.83					
    11B Semi-auto					3.0	4.0	4.7	7.5	10.7
    11B Auto					3.3	4.8	5.8	8.2	11.3
    Fig 6	Trigger pulls to first hit, experiment 4
    Range (m)	25	50	75	100	150	200	275
    Semi-auto	1.2	1.4	1.5	1.8	2.3	2.6	3.0
    Auto	        2.9	3.8	5.7	6.4	7.4	8.8	10.2	
    Fig 7	Trigger pulls to first hit, experiments 11A and 11B
    Range (m)	10	15	20	25	50	75	100	150	200
    11A Semi-auto	1.14	1.21	1.29	1.54				
    11A Auto	1.05	1.14	1.29	1.46				
    11B Semi-auto					1.0	1.3	1.6	2.1	2.8
    11B Auto					1.3	1.6	1.8	2.6	3.6

    Mode of Fire
    In Experiments 4, 11A, and IIB it was determined that the semiautomatic mode of fire is superior in time to first hit and total number of hits as compared with the automatic mode of fire against single targets in the daytime. In Experiments 9 and 10 it was concluded that the automatic mode of fire is superior against single targets at night and in limited visibility conditions.
    It was reasoned that the automatic mode of fire was superior at night because the targets were indistinct, resulting in less accurate aiming, thereby increasing the value of maximizing chance hits by the use of automatic fire; further, where the target was visible, the semiautomatic mode of fire gave a higher hit rate than the automatic mode because it was possible to re-lay the weapon for follow-up shots more rapidly in the semiautomatic mode. Multiple targets and area targets in the daytime have characteristics of both of these situations, so it was necessary to examine them in the daytime to determine which mode of fire would maximize the number of hits and the number of hits per unit time.
    In Experiment 14A, the semiautomatic and automatic modes were compared at four target distances and two distribution densities for multiple targets. It was found that semiautomatic fire resulted in more hits per second than automatic fire. Furthermore, semiautomatic fire resulted in two to three times as many total hits as automatic fire, and resulted in better fire distribution as well. In addition, increasing the target density resulted in an even greater superiority for semiautomatic fire. Ammunition expenditure was held equal in both modes.”

    Mode of Fire
    In Experiments 9 and 10 semiautomatic vs. automatic fire at might was studied. It was concluded in both experiments that automatic fire using the three-round burst was superior to semiautomatic fire in total number of hits, and in hits per trigger pull. In addition, it took no longer to fire a three-round burst of automatic fire than to fire a single round in the semiautomatic mode at night. The conclusion must be that in a time-critical situation at night, automatic fire using the three-round burst is more likely to achieve a hit than semiautomatic fire. However, since automatic fire uses more ammunition than semiautomatic fire, the superiority of automatic fire at night will be compromised by the additional ammunition expenditure.”

    It makes intuitive sense that the advantage of high precision should fade and eventually pass to high rate as the ability to aim accurately decreases, whether through psychological stress, short aiming time, or uncertainty as to the target’s precise position because of poor visibility or cover. I suspect that in real close combat a lot of shooting is what the Rhodesians called “drake shooting”, that is, brassing up likely cover. All the comparisons cited are based on hits on target, and I suspect that the apparent advantage of semiautomatic fire would not be so great if suppressive effect could be included.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Automatic Fire in RPGs #190779
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    As a general rule, historical data on combat shooting (of which I can find very little) seems to show a pretty clear relation between precision and rate of fire in small arms, as explained in my presentation “Precision vs Rate” to the 2019 Close Combat Symposium at Shrivenham. Essentially, faster-firing weapons score more casualties per second, but fewer casualties per round. The presentation doesn’t seem to be available on the interwebs, so people who want their own copy should PM me with their e-mail address.

    To deal with the original question, I think there is a different answer for SMGs and for assault rifles.

    It probably makes sense to fire SMGs (machine pistols, machine carbines) on full auto the whole time. Two data points support this.

    The first is the report of results from trials in WO 291/476 “Comparison of rifle, Bren and Sten”. One trial involved snap shooting at a close-range moving target. The Sten scores similar numbers of hits per shot in burst fire as on singles, and fires more than twice as many shots.

    5-sec exposure of 1x4ft moving target making a 50ft run at 17 yds
    Weapon			Shots/run  Hits/run	Hits/shot  run P(hit)
    Bren (single)		4	   1.4		0.35	   0.82
    Bren (bursts)		6.8	   1.2		0.17	   0.72
    Sten III (single)	5.6	   2		0.36	   0.92
    Sten III (bursts)	12.1	   4.4		0.38	   1.00

    The same paper reports hit probabilities at longer ranges, these being for a man-sized target at 200 yards:

    Man-sized target at 200 yds
    			single shot	4-rd burst
    Rifle (unrested)	0.57		
    Bren			0.60		0.90
    Sten (unrested)		0.31		0.40
    Sten (rested)		0.40		0.68

    Singles here clearly get more hits per round than bursts, but the added P(hit) seems worth having against a fleeting target.

    My other data point comes from a bunch of P(hit) calculations I did based on some remarkably comprehensive Soviet small-arms data I happened to find. The source for most of this is GRAU firing table No. 61, “Firing tables for 5.54 and 7.62mm weapons against ground targets”, USSR Ministry of Defence, Moscow, 1977. Data for the PPS-43 comes from a table at The Russians do their ballisticking a bit differently from Western gravelbellies, giving dispersions by the 50th percentile rather than the standard deviation, and having 6000 mils in a circle rather than 6400 for NATO. Data for BKs (boekomplekti, ammo basic loads) comes from various sources. After torturing all these data sufficiently I come up with the following summary table, based on “average” shooters:

    Weapon	CEP (NATO mils)	RoF (rds/min)		Fire time (min, s)	
    	Single	Burst	Single	Burst	BK	Single	      Burst
    PPS-43	1.16	1.61	30	100	210	7 min	      2 min 6 s
    AKM	0.34	1.70	40	100	120	3 min	      1 min 12 s
    AK74	0.23	1.26	40	100	180	4 min 30 s    1 min 48 s
    RPK	0.33	0.94	40	150	320	3 min 45 s    2 min 8 s
    RPK74	0.23	0.74	50	150	360	7 min 12 s    2 min 24 s

    I include the “fire time” figures showing how long a BK would last if pooted off at the doctrinal rates to adumbrate (good word, adumbrate) the conservation problem. Incidentally while collecting this stuff I noticed that Soviet official rates and BKs seem to be a very good match for the amount of ammunition that would just bring the barrel to the point if overheating. It’s hard to believe that wasn’t deliberate.

    P(hit) calculations using these data produce some grossly over-optimistic P(hit) figures (as you’d expect, this is range firing). The Russian tables give one dispersion figure for the first shot in the burst, and another for subsequent shots. Obviously if a single shot and a burst are aimed with the same precision, the first round of the burst makes its effectiveness equal to a single shot, and subsequent rounds are just gravy. I suspect that in real life bursts are less accurately aimed, but have no figures on it. If we glom up the expected dispersion of the first round and two subsequent rounds, I get results that show single shots always produce a greater P(hit) than 3-round bursts for all weapons except the PPS-43, were bursts are always better. Having a lower P(hit) does not necessarily mean fewer expected hits for a burst, and this might be a factor where prompt incapacitation is urgently desired.

    We’ve had three tables full of numbers, so the innumerates should have been scared off by now, and I turn to more anecdotal evidence.

    No less a personage than Heinz Guderian tells you how to use your MP-44:

    “The principal value of the MP-44 lies in its accuracy and high rate of fire (22 to 28 rounds per minute) as a semiautomatic weapon, and in its alternate use as an automatic weapon, when it is fired in short bursts of 2 to 3 rounds (40 to 50 rounds per minute). Generally, the weapon is set for single fire. Bursts will be fired only when beating off an enemy assault, making a counterthrust against a penetration, in close combat, or at very short ranges during combat in trenches, towns, or woods. Strict fire discipline must be observed. Conserve ammunition!”

    The US Marines seem to agree:

    From “Analysis of M16A2 Rifle Characteristics and Recommended Improvements” May 1983, Osborne and Smith, Litton Mellonics, Fort Benning GA, we read:

    “The M16A2 has less combat capability due to the elimination of full automatic fire. Full automatic fire enhances the ability of Army units to clear and defend buildings, to conduct final assaults on enemy positions, to defend against an enemy final assault, to conduct an ambush, to react to an enemy ambush, to engage an enemy helicopter or fast moving vehicle, etc.”

    The elimination of automatic fire is considered to be a mistake. It solves no problem and creates many. There should be a very careful analysis conducted to determine just what the issues are. One of the reasons the M16 was acquired was because soldiers in combat felt they were being outgunned by an enemy armed with an automatic AK47. Many times it is a very close call as to which side has fire superiority. The psychological impact of fully automatic fire can often make the difference in the unit’s perception of how effective their fire is. There are also some data to suggest that a soldier is more willing to expose himself and return fire if he has a fully automatic weapon, as opposed to a more controlled way of delivering fire. It has been well established that, during World War II and Korea, a large percentage of soldiers failed to fire their semi-automatic weapons during some enemy contacts. In Vietnam, armed with a fully automatic weapon, almost all soldiers returned fire. Much of the Vietnam firing was “wasted”, i.e., it didn’t hit anybody, however, it was a rare exception when individuals or units got into trouble because they had expended all of their available ammunition. The point can be made that there is nothing wrong with firing a lot of bullets if ammunition stocks are retained at safe levels. Considerable ammunition is conserved when 85% of a unit fails to fire their weapons, and considerable ammunition is expended when all unit members engage targets with full automatic fire. While good training and good leadership should keep the Army between these two historical extremes, the question of which alternative is wiser should be addressed.”

    Does that answer the question?

    All the best,


    in reply to: Squad Leader-style games set in the Cold War #190389
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Mr. Picky thinks there are some pretty weird suggestions there. I should have thought the minimum requirement to be “Squad Leader style” would have been to use a squad-a-counter level of representation. I would also expect a combat resolution mechanism based on morale checks.

    “MBT” is similar in scale to SL, but uses 100m hexes.

    “Firefight” is similar in scale to SL, although it was published before it, and uses 50m hexes and fireteams as the basic infantry element instead of squads.

    Neither game uses mechanics anything like those in SL.

    “Mech War 77” (like the later “Mech War 2”) is part of the extended Panzerblitz family, and counters represent platoons, not squads.

    In “Sniper” and “Patrol”, counters represent individual soldiers, not squads.

    Games that use squad-leader-like mechanisms, set in the period 1947 to 1991, include:

    “’65”, from Flying Pig games. Contains numerous recognisable Squad Leaderisms, but for my money entirely fails to capture any of the atmosphere of Vietnam, where the game is set. I have not seen the companion game “’85” set in Afghanistan.

    “Fireteam”, from West End Games. Long out of print. Obviously based on Squad Leader, but the setting is US vs Sovs in central Europe. LMGs are represented by separate teams, I think a more sensible approach than the “gun only” counters in SL. The game also uses a command point mechanism, so unusual in wargaming terms in modelling motivation and command with entirely separate mechanisms.

    “En Pointe Toujours”, a Vae Victis magazine game, set in French Indochina. Very SLish in flavour, regardless of what the designers might say, and I think offering some useful improvements. Has produced a couple of sequels, set in Normandy in 1944 and Kursk 1943. There is a bunch of other material available, covered at

    I suspect “Fireteam” is closest to what you have in mind, and of course you’ll need to be able to get by in French for the “En Pointe Toujours” family. If I’ve missed any, they will surely be listed on Mike Dorosh’s marvellous “Tactical Wargamer” site:

    Given the sheer quivering genius of John Hill’s original “Squad Leader” design, it is an enduring mystery to me why it did not spin off a myriad of companion games in different theatres and periods using substantially the same basic mechanisms. This is what “Panzerblitz” did, with its offspring covering the Blitzkrieg years, NW Europe, the Western Desert, central Europe in an enhottened Cold War, and the Arab-Israeli wars. Given that there are many more wars that have involved squad-level infantry combat than have involved platoon-level armoured combat, I am at a loss to understand why nobody ever seems to have thought to try SL variants for the CBI, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Dhofar war, the Falklands, or, going earlier, the Spanish Civil War, the Russian Revolution, and the Great War. The human factor of morale remains the same, and the important technology has not changed much. Regrettably SL evolved in depth rather than breadth, and became perhaps the greatest folly of overcomplication in the history of wargaming, ASL.

    This is so depressing I think we need some music to cheer us up, so here is the song after which “En Pointe Toujours” is named:

    All the best,


    in reply to: Area presented by a human target #189793
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I tend to reduce it to more of a base probability of hit being modified by type and or magnitude of cover.

    Well, yes, but where do you get the base P(hit) numbers from?

    And, the base probability has to be built out of more data than simply cross sectional area v. weapon’s grouping at range on the range.

    Agreed, but only because of that “…on the range” qualification. Range firing hitting rates, as I hope we all know by now, are about two orders of magnitude worse than happens on the battlefield. But you can produce P(hit) numbers from a mere two inputs, the target size and the weapon’s dispersion.

    I mean some soldiers are vetaran snipers, warm and well fed, other times they are green, using an unfamiliar weapon from the dead guy in front of them, hungry, tired, freezing and lost their glasses. Their groupings probably arean’t the same. And even if both are 50th percentile within their racia,l cultural, and whatever other groups, they may not represent the same size target in in the same pose.

    Snipers can probably shoot well enough that the crude approach I am going to outline here is badly inadequate, but it will do for most battlefield infantry shooting, where accuracy is so poor that “trivial” things like crosswind and sight setting can safely be ignored.

    The great thing about the factors affecting dispersion is that they can all be wrapped up into a single overall number. The business of estimating the magnitude of each element of an error budget can get honkingly complex for tank shooting, but for infantry work I think we can use more of a “big handfuls” approach, as other factors tend to be swamped by the soldier’s ability to point the weapon at the target. No matter, you can have as many factors as you like contributing to dispersion, just remember that you combine them by summing the squares and taking the square root.

    Join me now on a magical journey of discovery on how to make crude P(hit) estimates from just two numbers, target area and weapon dispersion. Have your spreadsheets ready. There will be a test later. Try to imagine Rachel Riley telling you all this if it helps.

    The measure of weapon accuracy I intend to use here is CEP, Circular Error Probable. This is the radius of a circle containing 50% of the projectile impacts. If someone has given you the standard deviation (sigma) of miss distance instead, convert this into a CEP by multiplying by the magic number 1.1774.

    The measure of target size is the radius if the target, which is treated as being circular (“assume all chickens to be perfectly spherical”). Again, of someone has given you the target area, convert it to a target radius by doing A = pi * R^2 in reverse, which is R = sqrt(A/pi), where A is the area and R the radius.

    Given the target radius, R, and CEP, the P(hit) can be calculated as 1.0 – (0.5^(R/CEP)^2). Why, yes, this is the method they use for nukes.

    A worked example: consider a kneeling soldier being shot at from a range of 200 metres.

    The weapon dispersion we will set equal to the AMSAA aim error function, which in effect assumes a perfect rifle, but a shooter whose skill-at-arms is in the bottom third of those observed in 8 different US Army experiments. The aim error at 200 metres is expected to be 3.67 mils. This corresponds to 0.734 metres at that range, using the mil relation (multiply the angle in mils by the range in kilometres, 3.67 * 0.2 = 0.734). Those AMSAA swine have given us a sigma, so we convert it to a CEP, 0.734 * 1.1774 = 0.864.

    The target area we’ll take from Nimier and Laval, the first of my sources in the initial posting: 0.3248 square metres (one must admire precision to the nearest square centimetre). To convert this to a target radius, sqrt(0.3248/pi) gives 0.322.

    P(hit) is then 1.0 – (0.5^(0.322/0.864)^2), which is 0.0918, or a gnat’s tadger north of 9%.

    You can do all this on a calculator (how I did the worked example), and it is not at all hard to stick the formulae into a spreadsheet (how I checked it).

    Additional sources to show where I got the CEP P(hit) calculation and the AMSAA aim error function, both available from DTIC:

    DARCOM-P 706-101, Engineering Design Handbook, Army Weapon Systems Analysis, part 1, US Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command, Alexandria, VA, Nov 1977.

    AMSAA Technical Report No. 461, System Error Budgets, Target Distributions and Hitting Performance Estimates for General Purpose Rifles and Sniper Rifles of 7.62x51mm and Larger Calibres, LTC(retd) Jonathan Weaver, May 1990.

    And I don’t mean any of this in an argumentative way. Reading my type sounds a lot drier than the tone and inflection of my typing.

    Don’t worry, Mr. Picky can pick an argument anyway, and will argue with himself if nobody else wants to play.

    All the best,


    in reply to: U-boat hunting in the Beaufighter #189504
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    4 20mm does the job, tho I needed several re loads to finally sink it.

    That’s pretty impressive for 20mm, when you consider that U-boat pressure hulls used to bounce 3-in HEDA. I don’t suppose the game lets you load 3-in rocket spears on your Beau? That would fix things pretty quickly.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Italian artillery doctrine #189441
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Oops. Missed a bit. Edited to add a missing paragraph on fire for desruction.

    (I regret I am clueless as to what gali. fianch. may be in context

    My machine OCRed it as gali. fianch. too, but looking at it by eyeball it looks more like gall. fianch.

    Googling “words beginning with ‘gal’ in Italian” suggests that with one l there are quite a few words about gallantry or galeries or galleons, but with two ls it does seem to be mostly about chickens.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Soviet radios? #188471
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    Does it matter that much below battalion level? I recall one exasperated British battalion commander stating that the first thing that happened in battle was that all communications immediately broke down. In WW2 runners, flares, O groups and field phones were far more reliable than manpack radios in tactical combat. Vehicle mounted were OK.

    NA piece number WO 232/77 “Communications within the Infantry Battalion” quotes 21 Army Group/2064/2/OPS/(B) of 16 August 1944, “Lessons from Battle” by the Staffordshire Yeomanry:

    “2. Bad Infantry Communications. These are without exception deplorable. There is the general defeatist attitude amongst infantry that their communications are bound to fail once the battle starts. The attitude is justified as they always do. The result is that the plan has to be too rigid, and once troops are committed it is impossible for them to adjust themselves to the enemy’s reactions. The whole system of infantry communications seems to require a complete overhaul.”

    One of the benefits to the infantry of having accompanying tanks and artillery observers is that tank and gunner radios are much more likely to work, and I understand the artillery net was often used to pass messages for the infantry. It’s an aspect of combined arms that isn’t shown in any wargame I can think of.

    Having used a Larkspur manpack radio on one memorable night exercise — I could hear Radio Luxembourg and a navigationally-confused Chieftain troop somewhere near us, but never the people I wanted to talk to — I imagine it must have required enormous skill and patience to get WW2-era radios to work adequately.

    Before pointing out all the shortcomings of the Russians, in the first half of the war, radios were a vanishing rarity in German infantry formations below company level and many German tanks only had receivers, and some didn’t have a radio at all (typically Panzer Is in mixed panzer platoons).

    From my recollection of the KStNs available from I think a good hand-waving rule for German infantry is four sets for an infantry company from mid-war on — not enough for one per platoon and a rear link without using a flick frequency — and prior to that a similar number of K-Blinks, another thing I never see represented in wargames

    AIUI even the mighty US of A started their particiaption in the war without a transceiver in every tank, some vehicles having receivers only.

    All the best,


    in reply to: Soviet radios? #188445
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    The following snippets are from “Communications on the fronts during the Great Patriotic War”, zooshed through google translate with a couple of minor corrections.

    The increasing role of radio communications


    Ground forces in the first year and a half of the war mainly used portable radio stations of pre-war development – first 6-PK, then the battalion radio station (RB) and its modernized versions. The RB was widely used during the war for communication at the grassroots (tactical) level in infantry and artillery regimental networks. It worked in three subbands in the frequency band from 1.5 MHz to 6 MHz, providing communication in both telephone and telegraph modes, with an output power of 1.5 watts. A modernized version for cavalry units was produced under the name RBK.

    In order to expand the used frequency range, in the interests of the tactical command and control level, the range of ultrashort waves (VHF) is being mastered. In the first war years, VHF radio stations with frequency modulation A7 began to be produced, which became widely used in rifle regiments and battalions, in artillery battalions and batteries. At the same time, the stations were continuously modernized, and at the beginning of 1944, the A-7-A radio station was created, in which the number of valves was reduced, and energy consumption was reduced by a third. At the end of 1944, the VHF radio station A-7-B began to arrive at the front, which had a greater range. In 1943, deliveries to the front of RAT radio stations for communication with the headquarters of large military formations and RB radio stations for communication in regimental networks almost doubled.


    In the armoured forces, the number of command vehicles did not exceed 20% of the total number of tanks. The increased requirements for the command and control system indicated the need to install a radio station on each tank. At the same time, the need for radio stations increased sharply.The production of stations 71-TK-3 and KRSTB in the required quantity was difficult due to the rather high labour intensity of production. The possibility of using RSI-4 aircraft radio stations with minor modifications, the production of which was established in the country, was experimentally shown. Since March 1942, the production of such tank stations 9-R and 9-RM began, in the same year the industry began the production of quartz radio stations 10-R, 10-RK, 10-RM (KRSTB modifications).


    During the war, the radio communication organization system made it possible to use communication not only with the directly subordinate headquarters, but also one step (command level) lower. The Headquarters of the Supreme High Command had direct radio communications with all active armies. In addition to communication through the headquarters of the fronts, the front commander, in turn, could directly contact the commanders of corps and divisions. The division commander had direct communication not only with the headquarters of the regiments, but also with the commanders of the battalions. Such a system of organization of radio communication justified itself not only during the period of temporary withdrawal of our troops, but also during offensive battles.

    General strategic leadership of the partisan movement was also carried out from the Headquarters of the Supreme High Command, while at first the lack of established radio communications was acutely felt: in the summer of 1942, only about 30% of the partisan detachments had radio communication with the Central Headquarters of the partisan movement in Moscow. However, by November 1943, almost 94% of the detachments maintained radio contact with the organs of the partisan movement through the radio stations of the partisan brigades.


    The number of radio stations in a rifle division increased during the war years from 22 to 130.


    In the conditions of an acute shortage of military communications in the Red Army in the first years of the war, much attention was paid to the use of captured equipment. For the operation of captured means, special memos were issued for the troops.


    The total volume of Lend-Lease deliveries did not exceed 4% of the volume of production at domestic enterprises, and by means of communications – no more than 5%.


    Insufficient quantities were supplied with means intended for radio communications at the forefront, that is, at the level of companies and platoons.


    The main American deliveries of communications equipment included: SCG-299, SCR-399 quartz-stabilized vehicle radios on the chassis of Chevrolet and Studebaker trucks, EE-8A telephone sets, chargers based on the Wisconsin engine, field communication workshops on a vehicle chassis and others. Under Lend-Lease, scarce field cable was also supplied (about 1 million km per year).

    All the best,


    in reply to: Shaping the Battlefield #188276
    Avatar photoJohn D Salt

    I’d like to take a step back and ask what is ‘Shaping the Battlefield’?

    An excellent question. However I’m afraid Lt-Col Fashionista McCool is going to have to deduct a couple of style points for saying “battlefield” (a nasty muddy place where people get stabbed up with bayonets) where you should have said “battlespace” (a more airy and intellectual conceptual space where we can contemplate the intricacies of AI drone enabled cyber tech hybrid Nth-generation multidimensional postmodern conflict, and definitely not the old Triang Hornby OO railway set with the exploding ammunition wagon and helicopter truck).

    Less snarkily, your run-down of all the stuff “shaping” includes seems to me pretty much bang on the money, and the only thing I would do is fling in a mention for the oft-neglected sappers. A lot of “shaping” at the tactical level will involve the mobility and counter-mobility tasks that make up about half of what engineers do, and will notably include implementing your own obstacle plan — sticking mines and things in places that will funnel the baddies neatly into your prearranged kill zones (“engagement areas” for the squeamish) and breaching enemy obstacles so that they can’t do the same to you. This ultimately includes the “always on” task of Battlespace Area Assessment (BAE), part of Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace (IPB), which used to be done by the Battlegroup Engineer and his pals poring over an overlay on an ordnance survey map and hatching in the “no-go” and “slow-go” areas with green pens to help the commander decide on suitable avenues of approach, of which there are often disappointingly few.

    When you are suddenly dependent of ‘just in time’, we’ve seen with the supermarkets that this can become ‘just too late’ remarkably easily.

    This is why military logistics are usually “just in case” rather than “just in time”. It does rather spoil the scheme you outlined in the original post, but a unit will typically carry three days of supply (DOS) on the fighting wagons and unit transport. You are right to identify ammunition as the one type of supply that has the potential to become critical quickly. People can burn up a week’s allocation of ammunition much more easily than they can use up a week’s fuel or eat a week’s rations. In particular, this applies to artillery ammunition, which typically accounts for half the total tonnage of logistic lift in a division. Artillery reconnaissance is an important part of “shaping” — although counter-bombardment (CB) is normally planned above Division level, everyone should hand in SHELREPs and MORTREPs to help locate the enemy’s indirect fire elements, and any worthwhile plan will include a fireplan which, if it is of any weight at all, will in turn need a dumping plan for ammunition. Really modern SP artillery (or MLRS) fighting a mobile battle won’t sit around in old-style gun lines, with ammo coming up from the waggon lines. Instead, ammunition will be dumped at planned points around an artillery maneouvre area (AMA) covering several map squares. When the time comes to rain exploding steel on the heads of the enemy, the SPs will come roaring out of their hides, screech to a halt next to an appropriate dump, and have the gun-bunnies shovel the ammunition off the ground and into the breeches of the guns as fast as possible. Everyone then clambers back aboard and drives off giggling before the enemy counter-battery fire arrives.

    Certainly treating the infantry as the people who exist to shovel the stuff out of the back to ensure it doesn’t build up in warehouses has a certain charm 🙂

    It’s an improvement on the old days, when an important part of logistics (A rather than Q) was to shovel infantrymen through the system and into the mouths of the enemy guns. That’s what all those “march battalions” in German orders of battle are for.

    Growing old is mandatory, growing up is entirely optional! 🙂

    The rule as I understand it is “If you haven’t grown up by the time you’re forty, you don’t have to.”

    All the best,


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