Friday, 8 June 2018

Flames of War: Obrona Narodowa (National Defence) Reconnaissance Platoons

So now we come to the battalion level support platoons that aren't the kind of run of the mill hotchkiss and mortar affair.

Now we start looking at the bits and pieces that can breathe a little bit of life into our Obrona Narodowa footslogger army!

Today I would like to introduce you to a small project, but a nonetheless a vital one. The Reconnaissance troops of the National Defence Battalions.

A full Obrona Narodowa Oddzial Zwiadowcow (Scout Unit)

A blind military force is a dead military force and few armed forces were as aware of this possibility towards the end of the 1930's as the Polish, seeing their neighbours not only outspend them on the race to create a modern armed force but in fact probably lap them more than a couple of times.

Realising that the Obrona Narodowa would have to have at least some way of keeping tabs on whats going on around them they decided that all battalions of the National Defence would have to have at least a token reconnaissance force to keep them in the know.

Rather than the actual troops choice which will be included within another post I though I would
share the WIP for the Type III Battalion army list which has the reconnaissance platoon included in it.

The Type I and Type II battalions were seen as fulfilling functions behind the front lines and as such were omitted from being seen as needing scouts in their composition but the Silesian Type III battalions (probably the best that the National Defence had to offer) and the relatively new Type IV battalions were seen as being indispensable in fulfilling shielding tasks on the flanks of the front line troops. These organisations were both provided  scout formations in their battalions.

A top down view of the complete Scout platoon

They had a simple composition of only three sections of ten men each with their platoon command. They were lightly armed, being equipped with nothing more than their rifles and to aid their mobility they were all mounted on bicycles.

The command team
The modelling for these was, as with the majority of the rest of the Obrona Narodowa project was pretty simple. The majority of the miniatures are Peter Pig's Spanish Civil War Carlist Requetes with the obligatory head-swaps for Adrian Helmets, and the occasional Czapka. The czapka's are a shame as the Poles would never have worn them in the field instead wearing slouchy kind of field caps called Rogatywka...  but nobody sculpts them so ho hum!

the rear view of the command team
Even though the Scout Sections are 10 men strong I decided that I needed to put some cycles on the bases just to reinforce the 'mise en scene' so I dropped the total figures to eight per section at four per base. This allowed a little bit of space for landscaping and the addition of one cycle per base. The cycles are all Peter Pig by the way.

A complete Obrona Narodowa Scout Section
Just to add a final reinforcement of the whole 'Im a scout, hear me roar!' thing I decided that each base needed at least one figure looking through binoculars and this is the one figure that hasnt come from Peter Pigs SCW Carlist Requetes.  Each of the binocular toting miniatures is one of Peter Pigs French WW2 motorised 60mm Mortar team miniatures. The top of the head was shaved off and an Adrian helmet put in its place.

The rear view of the above Scout Section
Finally, the painting is pretty standard as per the remainder of the Obrona Narodowa so I wont bore you with it again...

A close look at one of the Scout Section bases
But the point is my Obrona Narodowa will now not be caught on the back foot!

The rear view of the above Scout Section base
... and that's it folks.

As they are armed only with rifles and carbines there is plenty of opportunity for BAYONETS!!!!

Friday, 1 June 2018

Flames of War: Obrona Narodowa (National Defence) Mortars and Grenade Launchers

Following up from the post that I did on the heavy machine gun support platoons that Poland's National Defence force was equipped with, its time to take a look at what small provision of mortars and grenade launchers they were given.

Often termed the poor mans artillery Poland could barely even afford to give its National Defence any. However, ongoing financial crisis of the 30's notwithstanding they were able to provide their National Defence with at least a token provision.

Polish Obrona Narodowa Granatnik wz.36 Section

Poland had only one version of the medium mortar, and that was a license built version of the French Brandt-Stokes 8cm  M27/31 in Polish service termed the 8cm wz.31. It was a simple but effective and highly influential design that was licensed by over a dozen countries. 905 of these mortars were produced by the outbreak of the war of which 150 had been produced in France.

The Obrona Narodowa practising with their 8cm wz.31 mortar

It consisted of a smoothbore tube attached to a base plate that served to absorb the recoil of launching the projectiles and a lightweight bipod that carried the aiming mechanism. The mortar could be disassembled into three loads and had a basic crew of three men although an entire mortar team consisted of seven. When a mortar projectile was dropped into the tube it would strike the bottom of the tube. The impact sensitive primer would make contact with the firing pin and detonate firing the projectile back out of the tube. The mortars could fire about 20 rounds per minute and were typically equipped with four types of projectile. Light projectiles wz.30, which would weigh 3.25kg, heavy projectiles wz.31, weighing 6.9kg, multi purpose grenades wz.AR27 and smoke projectiles.

A detailed illustration of the License produced Brandt-Stokes 8cm wz.31

After Poland regained its independence in 1918 the experiences of the First World War highlighted the need for the front line troops to have a supporting weapon that had greater range than a hand thrown grenade but could cover the distance up to the minimum range of the mortars.

In the early days the former German Granatenwerfer 16 and French VB (Vivien-Bessieres) Rifle Grenades found a lot of favour but by the end of the 20's they had become obsolete and a need for a new weapon became pressing. 

a WIP battalion support page with the Granatnik Section details on it.

Work on a new grenade launcher was began at the Central Artillery School in Torun. The primary criteria for a new design was set at being lightweight, compact dimensions, simple construction and with a range up to 400m. Major Roman Jarzabkiewicz developed a prototype with a fixed 45 degree angled barrel with a range between 150-400m. Tests were carried out in Torun in November 1929. Whilst showing a collection of design flaws the prototype still outperformed the other foreign competitors such as the Italian 38mm and 50mm Breda grenade launchers.

Granatnik Section Command Team

The next stage of development was undertaken in the Institute of Armament Material Research in Warsaw where in 1931 three more prototypes were constructed. They were passed over to the Infantry Training Centre for field trials on the back of which 412 copies were manufactured and handed over to the infantry in February 1933 and titled as Granatnik wz.30

A single Granatnik 46mm wz.36 team

The military still highlighted a small number of defects, the most serious being that the range finding would drift after each shot due to a faulty fixing of the sighting spirit level, a jammed gas regulators, impractical folding and unfolding of the weapon and a faulty trigger system. Finally the operators submitted complaints that the baseplate was too small to provide adequate support to the weapon when firing.

A rear view of the other Granatnik 46mm wz.36 team

The Institute of Armament Material Research continued to develop the weapon and provided a number of revised prototypes for testing. Eight models in four different types. After further field trials the final development of the weapon occurred with it subsequently reaching production as the Granatnik wz.36. This model was deemed so successful that all other projects were discontinued.

The Granatnik Section supply and transport wagon

Production of the Granatnik wz.36 took place between 1936-1939 at United Fabryka Maszyn i Wagonow L. Zieleniewski and Fitzner-Gamper SA in Warsaw. By August 1939 just under 3,500 had been produced and turned over to the armed forces.

Another view of the same wagon

The 36 calibre 46mm stromotor weapon threw an 8.6kg projectile between 100 and 800m. Mounted on top of the barrel was a cylindrical gas regulator by means of which it was possible to adjust the range. A part of the powder gas would escape through a triangular hole in the barrel, the size of which could be adjusted by means of an adjustment ring. In this way the total range of the projectile could be controlled by releasing more or less gas, thereby controlling the pressure in the barrel.

 A museum example of the Granatnik 46mm wz.36

The sighting mechanism was a simple bow tie sighting mechanism mounted on the muzzle bead and a frame sight which was mounted on the gas regulator. In addition the weapon had a spirit level. Firing was conducted using a trigger mechanism situated on the foot of the grenade launcher which enabled the granatnik to be operated from an horizontal position.

An illustration of the Granatnik 46mm wz.36 with one of its projectiles

The Granatnik wz.36 had a crew of four people, the operator, the aimer and two loaders. Several types of projectile were provided to the Granatnik operators, mostly they were Fragmentation grenades wz.35, Smoke grenades wz.35 and training grenades wz.35. At a pinch older grenades from the previous Granatnik wz.30 could also be used and these were Fragmentation wz.30, Phosphate wz.30, Smoke wz.33 and Training wz.33 grenades.

An old photograph of the original Granatnik wz.30 prototype

The different types of Obrona Narodowa battalions had different provisions of mortars and grenade launchers supplied.

The Obrona Narodowa Mortar Team with its single 8cm Wz.31 team, command team and transport wagon

On establishment levels the Type I battalions were supposed to be provided with a single mortar although it is unlikely that they ever received any before hostilities commenced.

A rear view of the same mortar and command teams

The Type II, III and IV battalions each had a single 8cm wz.31 team provided. In the Type II and III battalions this was as a constituent element in the battalion support platoon that also held the HMG's whilst in the Type IV battalions this was as a team in its own right.

A closer look at the mortar team

A rear view of the mortar team

The Type S battalions were the exception to all of this and were provided with two mortars held in two sections in a battalion support platoon held at battalion level.

Supplies of the Granatnik wz.36 Grenade Launcher was a little easier to provide though. Each of the Rifle Companies in the Type II and Type III battalions had an attached Grenade Launcher section attached each provided with two grenade launchers. 

The modelling for all of this was relatively simple. The 8cm wz.31 Mortar is a standard Battlefront Mortar whilst the Granatnik 46mm wz.36 is only produced in 15mm by one manufacturer, and that's True North Miniatures now owned and produced by Old Glory. The command team is a couple of Peter Pigs Spanish Civil War Carlist Requetes with head swaps. All of the actual mortar teams are Peter Pig's French Motorised Troops with the obligatory head swaps and finally the wagon was provided by Museum Miniatures.

The paint schemes have been explained to death so I wont bore you with it all again...

...and that is, as they say gentlemen, that!

Thats the main support weapons for the Obrona Narodowa battalions dealt with. Now all that is left is the weird, wild and whacky troop types such as the extremely rare artillery pieces and anti tank guns, the sappers and the reconnaissance troops... but they are other stories for other times.

Fix Bayonets!

Remember: NOBODY loves a bayonet like a Pole!

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Flames of War: Obrona Narodowa (National Defence) HMG Support Platoons

So in our latest installment of our tour around the nuts and bolts of the Polish National Defence we are going to take a look at some of the company support platoon options that are available to a National Defence commander.

All in all there were three main types of heavy machine guns that came to be used by the Obrona Narodowa in 1939.

A Type I battalion HMG platoon with its two HMG sections, command and wagon transports

For the battalions that were either new or were not considered to have a combat efficiency high enough older retired weapons were supplied. The Hotchkiss wz.14 & wz.25 and the Maxim wz.08 were the two weapons that were most prevalent in the states stockpiles. For those battalions that were the oldest types which has been refined and trained to the point where there was little distinction between them and their regular counterparts supplies of the Polish home produced Ckm wz.30 HMG may have been made available to some of these, most likely in the Type III Silesian battalions which were considered some of the best National Defence troops in the entirety of Poland.

A WIP of the Intelligence Briefing Page for some of the HMG options

In 1939 Poland had about 2,600 wz.14's and about 1000 wz.25's. There were many supporters of the Hotchkiss in Poland mainly because of the air cooled nature of the weapon and its simple, reliable and robust construction. Many of the extant weapons were used in the States armoured vehicles but the remainder largely went to equipping the Obrona Narodowa. The downside was a relatively sedate rate of fire of 400 rpm.

A Polish owned Hotchkiss wz.14 tripod mounted HMG being operated by a member of the National Defence

The German Ckm 7.92mm wz.08 version of the Maxim was the most popular version of this weapon anywhere in the world. Manufactured at the Spandau and DWM plant in Germany before the first world war Poland was able to retain almost 6000 units when the State was reborn. Water cooled and highly rugged the weapon was installed on a four legged sled. Heavy but owing to its 500 rpm rate of fire by 1939 they had long since been withdrawn from the front line infantry and cavalry and were left for the reserve divisions, anti aircraft companies and some of the independent cavalry units.

A Polish owned German Ckm 7.92mm wz.08 on four legged sled

Owing to the less positive reviews of the upgraded Hotchkiss wz.25's at the start of 1928 Ckm held a state competition for the provision of a new HMG for the armed forces. The winner was Browning with its wz.1919. A simple construction, water cooled with the ability to change mid operation, it was resistant to dirt blockages and jams. Able to operate over long ranges whilst being able to retain a high degree of accuracy it also had a respectable 500 rpm rate of fire. It was produced in such numbers with such positive reviews that it ended up being used in almost all Polish vehicles where available and supplying almost all of the armed forces. Only the most highly rated Obrona Narodowa battalions would have received any of these however and they were a rarity within the formation as a whole.

A Polish license produced Browning HMG labelled as Ckm wz.30

The lightest formations with regards to both manpower and equipment supplies was the Type I National Defence Battalions which were largely established as a reaction to Polands deteriorating international situation, the collapse of the Czechoslovakian state and Poland becoming hedged in by the Nazi's on three of its borders. 

A typical HMG platoon command element with its horse drawn supply cart.

The Type I battalions were seens as only having to supply support services behind the front line fighting, dealing with fifth column activists and ensuring the civilian panic was not getting out of hand behind the lines.

Another typical example of a Type I battalion HMG platoon

Because of these facts the Type I battalions were only provided with what amounted to a token support platoon of just two Hotchkiss wz.14 HMG's transported in horse drawn carts appropriated from the local populace.

A Hotchkiss wz.14 supplied Obrona Narodowa HMG base

The Type II and Type III battalions had their HMG support platoons held at Battalion level and were parsed out amongst the companies that needed them as circumstances required. They would be supplied with a combined HMG and Mortar platoon with three HMG sections and one Mortar section within the single support platoon.
A rear view of the above Hotchkiss wz.14 supplied Obrona Narodowa HMG base

The Type IV battalions would have a single HMG platoon within each of the battalions three rifle companies with each of the HMG platoons having three HMG sections providing each of the three rifle companies with some instant call up clout!

A combined HMG and Mortar platoon typical of the Type III & IV Battalions

The Type S 'fortress' battalions (of which there were only three by the time hostilities commenced in 1939) had an abundant supply of HMG's with each rifle company having two rifle and two HMG platoons, with each HMG platoon having three HMG sections.

An example of the many types of local horse drawn wagons and carts that were appropriated for use by the ON.
 All of the wagons and carts came from the same supplier; Museum Miniatures. In order to create a little more variety within the models themselves I added a few tarpaulins sculpted out of Magic Sculpt.
The rear view of the above wagon.

A cart piled high with baggage
 The painting on each of the wagons is pretty standard using one of the Vallejo Wood Paint selections and using their instructional book in order to create a well worn wooden look. The wheel rims and other metal attachments on each of the wagons were painted with Molten Metal Steel with a red brown wash thinly washed over them to give the impression of rusty metal.
Another rear view of the above cart
 The rest of the colours are really down to personal choice, but I opted to go for the washed out drab look for all of the bundles that were piled into the back of each cart and wagon.
...and yes another cart.

...and just to add some variety a wagon... piled high with ammunition!

Where the Type K companies were concerned, whilst the troops were all mounted on bicycles the HMG platoon would be provided with a small provision of Motorcycle and Sidecar combinations with which to ferry around their weapons.

The complete Type K HMG platoon with all of its accompanying Sokol 1000 motorcycle transports.

The command base with its personal votive means
The motorcycles were provided by a couple of packs of spare True North Miniature Black Brigade motorcycle troops. All of the original crews had been repurposed leaving the motorcycles spare. This finally gave me the opportunity to use them.

An example of the 7.92mm wz.08 heavy machine gun
 The German 7.92mm wz.08's were Peter Pig Austrian Schwarzlose HMGs from their World War One range with the usual head swaps that I keep doing. I've gone over the way that I paint Polish so many times now that I wont bore you with it all again.
Antother view of the above HMG team

A closer look at one of the motorcycle transport bases

A rear view of the above seen transport team

Another view of the complete Type K HMG platoon.

So there you have it. Loads and loads of heavy machine guns of different types to play around with, a WIP of an Intelligence Briefing Page and buckets of modelling photos... and not a bayonet in sight!

Next time we will take a look at the Mortar and Grenade Launchers that were present in the organisations.

Until next time gents... Fix BAYONETS!!!!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Flames of War: Obrona Narodowa (National Defence) Infantry Platoons

The Polish Obrona Narodowa (National Defence) was the Polish Second Republics equivalent to our Home Guard and existed between 1937 and 1939.

In this time the manpower for the organisation as a whole was drawn from politically reliable individuals who initially did not have call up papers for any other organisation or who were not already serving members of the armed forces, although as time went by these restrictions were loosened.

Three platoons of a Type IV Battalion National Defence Company

Different areas of Poland had different forms of National Defence Battalions and all of them went through an endemic process of adjustment and refinement right up until the outbreak of hostilities in 1939. Not all of these changes were for the good however with the Battalion command structure being marginalised in favour of the command process being undertaken by divisional or other allocated coimmanders who neither knew the quality of the troops he was representing or else were unable to grasp the combat limitations that the structure of these formations imposed upon them.

Because of the staggered establishment of these battalions and the constant modifications that the troops went through on their way to war, the net result was that there was a massive variety in quality of combat value for these battalions which ranged from troops being able to conduct operations of no more complexity than glorified behind the lines police duties which was common around the southern borders of the country to Lwow in the Type I Battalions, right up to the formations that were so well trained and with such high elan that they were considered the equal of any of the regular troops (albeit lacking somewhat in arms and equipment) such as the National Defence troops to be found in Silesia and with the Coastal Land Defence along the Baltic coastline such as the Silesian Type III battalions and the Baltic Type IV battalions.

There were two main formats that the infantry platoons of the National Defence took. Both types had three sections (or teams as they are termed in Polish) but the sections for each type took different shape.

A WIP of the Intelligence Briefing's Combat Platoons page...

With the first type of platoon, found in the Type IV and Type S battalions, there were three sections of equal size, 14 men apiece and with no LMG's although just before the outbreak of war it seems that some of these battalions started to have LMG's provided to them in order to give them more clout in the field. 

Three platoons of a Type I, II and III Battalion National Defence Company

The second type of platoon that was prevalent in the Type I, II and III Battalions also had three sections in each although in this case each section only had 10 men. In the second phase of the National Defence development these platoons were each supplied with one LMG fire team which was added to the first section of each platoon. This gave an overall structure of one section of 14 men with an LMG and two sections of ten men armed only with rifles.

A typical command base for my National Defence... defenders of faith and fatherland!

The next area to be looked at in a little more detail could perhaps be the weapons that the Obrona Narodowa infantry platoons were provided with then they were founded.

If anything told a story of how the ON fared in 1939 a lot of their troubles could be boiled down to this!

A typical Type IV infantry section. Nout but rifles!

Poland, by 1937, was very happily producing its own small arms but, being a largely agrarian country with a significant dirth of industrial capacity they were simply incapable of adequately providing for the needs of its regular armed forces let alone a new experiment such as the National Defence.
frontal view of the above
As a result of this when these battalions were initially established they were forced to supply them with weaponry gradually, and even then from retired stocks of ex world war one weapons such as the Austro-Hungarian Mannlicher M1895 which was widely regarded as having little practical use and were mainly retained by the Blue Police (Policja Państwowa ) or else the French Lebel wz.86/93's or Berthier 07/15-16's which were the most common weapons available to the National Defence due to the large amounts that had been purchased for use when Poland was fighting with the Communists in 1920.

...and the obligatory rear view of the above above!
One of the biggest problems encountered by the National Defence in 1939 was the supplies of ammunition with which they were given. Frequently they discovered under combat conditions that the ammunition that they had been provided with was the wrong type and couldn't therefore be used.

They would have to have a mad scramble to dig up usable ammunition from somewhere as a result of this...

A typical command section of a Type I infantry platoon. A blue Christ because they are feeling pretty blue about things!

Where the light machine guns was concerned the choices were limited here as well to retired stocks of barely functioning weapons.

The majority of the National Defence light machine gun requirements were fulfilled with the heavy but accurate and fast rate of fire German Lkm 7.92mm wz. 08/15 "Maxim" or in much reduced numbers the Rkm 7.92mm wz.15 "Chauchat". The Chauchat could fire both single shot and fully automatic although its rate of fire wasn't great. The benefit of this however was that this quality gave the weapon a greater longevity than other weapons accessible to the National Defence although the complexity of the weapon itself caused difficulties in cleaning the weapon and thus frequent jamming.

A view of a full Type I, II & III infantry platoon
There were very few handguns issued to the reserve officers and NCO's of the National Guard unless they were provided for by themselves and were instead usually equipped with the same rifles as their men.

A Type I second phase infantry section with its additional LMG team

A rear view of the same infantry section
Where uniforms are concerned the National Defence suffered the same problems as with their weaponry. There simply weren't enough stocks of modern pieces to equip this second tier force.

A view of a normal Type I, II & III infantry section of only 10 men.
At inception, they were frequently issued with the old pre 1936 uniforms with the characteristic leg wrap puttees and adrian helmets. It is this particular uniform that I have chosen to model my company on.

A rear view of the above infantry section
As time went by and new battalions were raised and established they would be provided with more up to date equipment as it became available. This meant that by the time the war started the majority of the National Defence would look almost identical to the regular army having been kitted out with the wz.1936 uniforms.

A close up look at one of the LMG bases
The two main things that these new battalions would be missing however, which were to have a sadly significant impact on them under combat conditions in 1939 is that they were not supplied with either helmets or entrenching tools.

A rear view of the same base.

Those battalions that were raised at the start and were later reorganised and upgraded were able to retain their adrian helmets, although they still had no entrenching tools provided.

If you want to field a force of Obrona Narodowa for your games its a simple case of just modelling the usual piechoty models that are wearing the Rogatywka. Even the Baltics Naval (Morska) brigade wore regular army uniforms by 1939 signified as ON and Naval only by the anchor on their collars.

So there we have it. Buckets of meat to throw on German, Slovakian and Soviet bullets!

Fix Bayonets gentlemen! I feel a charge coming on!