Saturday, 26 December 2015

Flames of War: Polish Armoured Forces 1. TKS's, 7TP's (jw&dw) & FT-17's

One of the commonly held views concerning the Polish army of 1939 is that they had no tanks (or at least very few), this wasn't quite the case, and whilst the country was heavily outnumbered by Nazi Germany with regards to tanks and absolutely and utterly swamped by the disparity of the number of tanks that the Soviet Union had, Poland did in fact have a tank force of which at least a couple of hundred of them were some of the best tanks in the world at the time.

The least of them however were the TK's, TK3's and TKS's which were tankettes. Very little armour and typically only armed with a Hotchkiss Heavy Machine Gun, by 1938 the Poles had worked out that they could mount a 20mm Autocannon in the hull and these weapons were more than capable of penetrating the armour of almost any tank that the Nazis could field. Sadly by September 1939 the refits hadn't been completed BUT the ones that had been refitted gave a surprisingly good account of themselves.

3 full platoons of TKS's with a variety of armaments

A TKS armed with a 20mm Autocannon... a very dangerous cockroach as they were nicknamed by the Nazi's

A TKS equipped with only a Hotchkiss Heavy Machine Gun...

One particular person who experienced a considerable degree of success was Cadet Roman Edmund Orlik who was a platoon leader in the reconnaissance company of the Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade. In a series of ambushes he destroyed a total of 13 Nazi tanks also killing a member of the Prussian Military aristocracy (Prince Victor Albrecht von Ratibor IV)

Cadet Roman Orlik in his 20mm Autocannon armed TKS

The best of the armoured vehicles that the Poles had at their disposal was a redesign of the Vickers E 6 ton tank which was developed by Vickers in the United Kingdom and sold all around the world. On receipt of the Vickers E's that Poland had ordered there were numerous serious faults found with the design as well as the build quality and so Poland undertook a process of redeveloping and refining the design.

They came up with the 7TP (7 Ton Polish tank) which mounted the excellent Bofors 37mm Anti Tank Gun which the Poles were manufacturing under license as well as an excellent engine and a vehicle that demonstrated good reliability over extended operations. The armour was comparable to other similar vehicles of the time... and of course the European central powers had not yet had the opportunity to find out the fault with riveted armour plates.

In combat the two tank battalions that were equipped with the 7TP jw. (1st and 2nd Light Tank Battalions) gave a good account of themselves but were ultimately completely destroyed by overwhelming odds and unfavourable conditions...

Two complete platoons of 7TP jw's with the company commander at the back

The company commander for the 7TP jw platoons.

A platoon commanders vehicle for the 7TP jw platoons

At the time that Poland was buying the Vickers E 6 ton tank from Great Britain it was common practise to have tanks armed solely with machine guns in order to support infantry attacks. This policy was still being followed in Poland when the 7TP was being developed from the Vickers E.

It became apparent to Polish military thinkers however that the single turret gun armed tanks would become the mainstay of any military force in the field and as a result of this decision the twin turreted 7TP tanks that had already rolled off of the production line were kept in the strategic reserve ultimately finding their way into the Warsaw Defence Force.

A complete platoon of 7TP dw's

The Platoon Commanders Vehicle for the 7TP dw platoon.

Poland also had stocks of World War 1 vintage tanks that were pressed into service at the start of the war as well. This wasnt as unusual as it sounds however with both Germany, France, the U.K and the Soviet Union all deploying vintage vehicles into the front line as and when it became necessary.

Following Polands defeat of the Soviet Union in 1921 they were still in possession of a great number of Renault FT-17 tanks that had been provided to Poland by France. These were maintained through the twenties and thirties and owing to the lack of available armoured vehicles in Poland and the difficulty of getting France to complete delivery of a large number of Renault R-35 tanks in time for the outbreak of war the Polish high command decided to equip three tank battalions with the aged FT-17's. These were the 111th, 112th and 113th Light Tank Company's, again held with the strategic reserve. The 111th abandoned almost all of their tanks due to lack of fuel after their train transport was destroyed by German aircraft on the way to their assembly area whilst the 112th and 113th Light Tank Companys were totally destroyed in the defence of the Fortress and Town of Brest Litovsk on the Bug river. They did not give a particularly good account of themselves but did manage to block the entrance to the fortress with their hulls...

Two complete platoons of Renault FT-17's in Polish service

A platoon of Renault FT-17 tanks showing the variety of armament which the tanks in a platoon would carry

A close up look at a single Renault FT-17 tank armed with a Hotchkiss Heavy Machine Gun

So there you have it. In the near future I will do a blog post looking at the Renault R-35's, the Hotchkiss H-39's and the Vickers E tanks that Poland also had but this post shows the majority of the armoured forces that Poland had available to it...

Friday, 25 December 2015

Flames of War: Polish Anti Aircraft Battery

At the start of World War 2 Poland knew that it was going to be heavily outnumbered and ridiculously outclassed in the air.

Because of this Polish divisions were provided with their own integrated anti aircraft provision. In some of the more ad hoc organisations, or those that were not deemed to be a part of the front line, these provisions would often be no more than some old water cooled heavy machine guns mounted on a pintle, whilst in the front line divisions a provision of 40mm Anti Aircraft Cannons was more normal supported by sections with HMG's on pintles.

Owing to the lack of interest in carrying obscure miniature ranges there are no manufacturers in the world that carry a range of Polish anti aircraft weapons and as such I had to scrape together what I needed from numerous sources... all of which will be revealed!

A Complete Polish Anti Aircraft Battery comprising the Battery Commander and Two Full Battery Sections
 The battery commander figures were probably the simplest to obtain and is simply a Battlefront Miniatures command team and a True North/ Old Glory Lazik Staff Car. Not the best detail in the world BUT a great base for one of my projects next year.

A Complete Battery Section comprising the Bofors 40mm AA Gun, two HMG's on Pintles and the two attached C2P Light Artillery Tractors
Each section in an infantry divisions anti aircraft provision had complete sections with both Heavy and Light weapons to provide the hail of fire that was expected over the field of battle.

A Polish 40mm Bofors AA Gun
The 40mm Bofors that True North/ Old Glory provides isn't quite accurate as a model but its close enough. Here we can see that the AA gun is crewed by a mixture of Battlefront Miniatures, Quality Castings and True North/ Old Glory. All in all I think it gives a  good feel for what the piece would have looked like...

A Polish HMG on pintle mount with one of the battery's C2P Light Artillery Tractor
The pintle mounted HMG's and the C2P artillery tractors were the most problematic elements of the battery. I finally managed to find a manufacturer that produced the C2P's in 1/100 but unfortunately they weren't cheap and as they were only produced in the States the carriage costs were astronomical however as they were Quality Castings products I knew that the quality would be workable so I opted to jump in.

With regards to the HMG operators I was in a bit of a fix here as there are no manufacturers for this type of weapon for Polish troops. After some research I determined that all I needed to do for the weapon was to mount the actual machine gun onto its tripod via a length of brass rod at an angle. As I had some True North/ Old Glory Vickers HMG's laying around I opted to use these.

Because of how the weapons were supposed to be used I knew that just using normal Polish troops as crew wouldn't look very good so I had to go through miniature manufacturers ranges that were as easy to pull off as Polish 1939 mid work look as possible. After weeks of looking around I finally settled on Battlefront Miniatures Arab-Israeli War Egyptian Kateybat Moshaa AA troops. Not all of them were suitable but those that were only had to have water bottles snipped off and the rest of the uniforms would easily pass as a Polish one....

And there you have it! One full Anti Aircraft Battery....

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Flames of War: Polish Artillery

With the opening of hostilities of World War 2 Poland may have been a second place runner with regards to its development of armour and mechanisation but one area that Poland had not, perhaps fallen too far behind its more aggressive neighbours, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, was in artillery.

The most common piece in Polish service at the start of September 1939 was the venerable French Soixante-Quinze otherwise known under Polish denomination as 75mm wz.1897.

A fast firing and accurate piece, it would go down in history as one of the most reliable, and thus most prolific artillery pieces ever to go into production. In 1939 the Polish had access to 1374 of these pieces allocated to their divisions with the wooden spoked, steel rimmed, wheeled versions equipping the Infantry and Cavalry divisions and brigades whilst pneumatic tire versions equipped the pieces of the Motorised Artillery attached to Poland's two motorised divisions.

A full Piechoty Light Artillery Battery with Command Team, Spotter and Staff Team
30 regular divisions had 75mm wz.1897's allocated to them with a further 9 divisions mobilised in case of war having an allocation as well. Typical regiments had a 24 gun allocation in two detachments with a third detachment of 100mm howitzers.All batteries had an allocation of 4 guns each.

One of the exceptions to this was the Naval Infantry Gun sections organised in Gdansk to support the 1st and 2nd Naval Rifle Brigades which had a total of 4 guns in two platoons of two guns each.

Polish Artillery Staff Team

Looking at the business end of a 75mm battery

Another look at the staff team

Looking at the battery from above

By the time the Polish entered into hostilities with Nazi Germany the stock of 75mm and 100mm guns were about 70% through their lifespan... still time enough left to wage a war!

Poland's other artillery mainstay was the Czech Skoda 100mm Howitzer which was purchased in bulk during the Polish War of Independence and subsequently produced under license from 1928 with a few modifications making them more suitable for Polish operations doctrine and named 100mm wz.14/19.

A complete 100mm wz.14/19 howitzer platoon with associated command team, staff team and spotter team

Poland had access to about 900 of these howitzers in 1939 and was organised in batteries, platoons and sections just as the 75mm wz.1897 were.

A look at the business end...

A close up look at the front of one of the 100mm wz.14/19 Howitzer

A close up look at the side of one of the 100mm wz.14/19 Howitzers

A look at a complete gun platoon from the rear.

Along with the Field Guns and Howitzers of the light artillery batteries which were all attached to the front line and reserve divisions the Polish could also call on a selection of heavier artillery pieces which were organised into Heavy Artillery Detachments of the Infantry Divisions which were equipped with 105mm, 120mm and 155mm Field Guns and Howitzers. They were also found in the Army Reserve artillery parks as well.

Polish battery of 155mm wz.1917 Howitzers

There we have it... some pretty meaty artillery pieces to pound the Fascist and Red scum into the dirt... the question is, how quickly can you get them into position if they are being dragged everywhere by horse?

Alea Jacta Est!

Flames of War: Polish Objective Markers

Modern warfare, and indeed most periods of warfare is generally centred around taking and holding specific locations on the field of battle in order to gain control of the field by days end. It is by using this measuring stick that the victor is commonly decided.

The wargame Flames of War is no different. Games centre around taking and holding objectives.

Typically a player will have markers with their national flag on  BUT I wasn't too keen on this. The idea of draping an enormous red and white flag with a Polish Eagle on didn't seem realistic enough for me.

I manage to come across a company called Mierce Miniatures because of their resin miniatures for a Celtic mythology war-game BUT as a side line they also produce objective markers for Flames of War Early War games and as such I bought the three Polish ones that they had available to add some more jazz to the table.

With a slap of paint and a smattering of static flock they brushed up nicely!

A destroyed 7TP jw.

A destroyed 7TP dw.

A second view of the one above

A destroyed TKS Tankette...

Flames of War: Polish Armoured Cars wz.28 and wz.34

 Following the Polish War of Independence from the Soviet Union in 1921 Marshall Pilsudski turned Poland into an armed camp in an effort to proof the born again country from the aggressive policies of the Soviet Union who were initially seen as the prime aggressor and of Nazi Germany.

The military expenditure of Poland through the 20's and early 30's allowed Poland's military to keep pace with its enemies but following Hitlers rise to supreme power and the diametrically opposing positioning of the ideologies of Socialism and National Socialism Poland struggled to maintain pace.

Within 5 years, and subjected to a lot of internal resistance to development and progression Poland was left far behind both of its hostile neighbours.

One area that Poland did attempt to develop was in the area of armoured cars. Following World War 1 a lot of Peugeot armoured cars were retained although it was recognised that these were really only suitable for the State Police forces (ostensibly a paramilitary police force).

The military sought to develop other designs and one of the first internally developed designs was the wz.28 which was developed from a Citroen-Kegresse P14 half track armoured car. The performance of these vehicles was woefully inadequate and by 1939 only 3 had been retained in service with their part being superseded by the wz.29 and the proliferate wz.34

wz.28 Platoon Commanders Armoured Car

wz.28 Armoured Car Platoon

There are no 15mm models of the wz.28 available anywhere and as such these had to be scratch built. The majority of the wz.34 armoured cars however were the original chassis of wz.28's and as such I only really needed to modify these. The spare wheels and ammo crates were filed off and the body streamlined and made ready for the wheel and track assemblies.

The tracks were made of a composite of pieces. A pair of QRF Citroen-Kegresse tracks were taken with all of the suspension arrangements cut off of them. The forward idler bogey was filled with Green Stuff, the tracks were trimmed and rolled together to make the track arrangement shorter and new suspension arrangements built out of plastic card and inserted into the tracks. The final units are a little larger than they should be but I deemed them good enough to use so happy days!

The forward wheels were taken from spare wz.36 anti tank guns with a single brass rod between the two and then mounted on the front of the car body.

Was it worth it?

Totally! I believe these may be the only 1/100 versions of these anywhere in the world...

The armoured car that was most prolific in the Polish army of 1939 was the wz.34. Many of them had been upgraded from the old wz.28 Half Track armoured cars and despite the fact that they were supposed to be a leap forwards from the wz.29's they did not in fact perform as well.

Weakly armoured with totally inoffensive armament they were, nonetheless,when used intelligently, capable of halting the advance of hostile forces for long enough to bring up some big hitters!

wz.34 Armoured Car Platoon

wz.34 Armoured Car armed with a Hotchkiss HMG