Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Pride and Joy

Maggiore Sonni de Bono was lingering over the fifth course of breakfast when his adjutant interrupted his leisurely perusal of his mistress.

"Sir, the men need you."

de Bono blinked, "What men?"

"Your men, the soldiers under your command."

"Oh them, what's their problem?"

"I think you'd better see for yourself sir."

Ever the professional soldier de Bono departed for the front lines as soon as his breakfast was finished.  He even rushed the coffee. On arrival he noticed a bunch of figures in tattered Summer uniforms cringing in the snow.  Good, his men were still in position.  Just yesterday he had given them a rousing speech pointing out the hopelessness of their position, the inevitability of Greek vengeance and the need for all of them to die for the greater glory of Rome.  They had been so inspired that not all of them had deserted.  At least they hadn't when he had left them to have dinner and catch an opera performance in Tirana.  Now, however, those remaining stared towards the front with fear in their eyes.  de Bono peered in that direction and ice settled over his soul.

It wasn't the masses of Greek horsemen plodding through the snow that chilled him nor the wagons very slowly hauling artillery pieces forward.  There, on the right were not one, not two but three small, boxy shapes clattering and groaning through the slush.  de Bono stared in horror, surely they couldn't be...

"L3s!"  It was a dismal howl from one of the soldiers.  "The Greeks have L3s, our cause is doomed."

This was the moment when an officer proves his worth.  Covering his own terror de Bono spoke, soothing the fears of his men.

"Stand fast brave soldiers of Italy!  Yes they have L3s but fear not for our reinforcements are coming."  Hastily de Bono searched his memory, he had sent that memo hadn't he?  He was pretty sure he had.

"That's right boys, reinforcements are on their way and they're bringing, wait for it, another 45mm mortar.  That means we have two and can laugh the Greeks to scorn.  To your foxholes, fight hard in the certainty of victory and let me know how you get on."

With his men thus encouraged de Bono flagged down a passing taxi; it was almost time for brunch.

So this is ASL Scenario 90 - Pride and Joy.  Here I shall command a somewhat desperate bunch of Italians huddled in possibly the only Greek village they managed to capture as a combination of cavalry, wagon hauled artillery and, yes, imported L3s spearhead the Greek attempts to explain why invading their country was a really stupid idea.  

Mike Sexton's Greeks have to hold more buildings than the Italians and also make sure that no good order Italian troops are on or adjacent to only road leading out of this one horse burg.  Mike has twenty four squads (sixteen elite) mounted on horses and commanded by no fewer than five officers a couple of whom are reasonably good.  Packed into their saddle bags are a heavy machine gun, two medium machine guns, three light machine guns and an antitank rifle (the Greeks are the only ones with armour in this scenario but whatever).  Struggling slowly through the snow are wagons hauling three 75mm guns which may or may not turn up in time to cause a difference and rolling on in support are three L3 light tanks.  The L3s might not be a triumph of Italian industry but persuading the Greeks to buy them was certainly a triumph of Italian salesmanship.

Determined that this little corner of Greece remain forever Italian are my noble troops.  I have sixteen squads split evenly between elite and bersaglieri.  They are guided by four officers one of whom as at the upper end of mediocre and one of whom is at the bottom end of useless.  Support is not lacking as I have a heavy machine gun, two medium machine guns, four light machine guns, a fearsome 45mm mortar and a somewhat better quality antitank rifle than the crap the Greeks are stuck with.  Providing a little extra punch is a single 65mm artillery piece.  Between them sixteen squads have managed to dig eight foxholes.  In case this seems inadequate on turn five another seven first line squads turn up with a couple of officers, a pair of machine guns and another 45mm mortar.

 It's all about delay and making rational decisions as to what parts of your force are expendable.  I decided my bersaglieri were expendable and set them up forward guarding the hilltops that loomed over Mike's entry area.  I hoped I might be able to shoot a few Greeks off their horses and generally slow down forward movement for a couple of turns.  To help this forlorn hope survive the first shots they got most of the foxholes.  The only support weapons I wasted on them were a pair of light machine guns one for each squad on the far flanks.  While the others were to die in place it was my hope that these guys might be able to make a fighting withdrawal delaying Mike further.  In the centre were the remainder of my bersaglieri and a couple of elite squads manning useful looking buildings and hoping to get machine gun or atr shots at his tanks.  All of this was intended to delay the time it took Mike's forces to get the village proper which I stuffed full of elite squads, an mmg, the hmg and the only officer who could get his men's attention.  The 65mm gun was hidden in some woods just out the front.  This was my last stand position in as far as I hoped by the time Mike had captured it my reinforcements would hold the road and he would be out of time to drive them off.

  The first couple of turns would be good for me.  Men riding horses around in the snow proved to be a target even Italian soldiers can hit and Mike lost a full squad and a half killed while the others pulled hard on the reins and tried to find slightly less exposed paths forward.  Of course when I say "good for me" I'm speaking holistically.  It certainly wasn't good for the hapless bersaglieri who, having shot a few Greeks now found themselves ground zero for an immense number of furious men and largely disinterested horses.  Two turns was all it took for my front line to be slaughtered but it was two turns Mike wouldn't get back.  On the flanks my lmg teams did indeed manage to sneak away from the carnage heading towards the rear.  Meanwhile three sledges hauling guns inched slowly forward behind Mike's line to derisive comments from both Italians and Greeks.

A couple of turns in.  Mike has overrun my forward defenders and look on the left.  The L3s approach

Over the course of the next couple of turns Mike swarmed forward with a jingle of harness and crunching of hooves.  He was helped in this by the fact that I wasn't really trying to stop him too much.  My men waited, crouching beneath their concealment counters for the horsemen to get close.  Having had to disperse his men to take out my initial defenders on the hilltops Mike now found difficulty in concentrating them again.  Greek soldiers were spread all over the map.  Mike was a little concerned about this even though the general trend was forward.  Despite the lack of concentration Mike was definitely covering ground and on the right he pushed through my exiguous defences to threaten a serious flanking movement.

On the left Mike's L3s threaded their way through obstacles and rolled forward to dominate the open ground in front of the village.  Horsemen dismounted behind hedges and started assembling support weapons.  I was starting to get seriously concerned, it looked like my sacrificial bersaglieri might have died in vain.  My centre though decided to stand firm (apart from the mortar squad who broke without firing a shot).  Mike knew things were getting serious when an lmg team on the left immobilised an L3 leaving him with two runners (walkers really) while on the right a pair of Italian squads in buildings were about to cover themselves in glory.  Meanwhile, far to the rear, the gun sledges slowly struggled upwards through the snow.

The Greeks are coming.  Can my Italians hold?

By the end of turn four both Mike and I were starting to get seriously worried.  Mike was concerned about the number of turns remaining to achieve his objectives and I was concerned about whether I would be able to hold out at all.  Half my at start force were dead and on the right at least Mike was manoeuvring around the trees in what seemed like a menacing fashion.  My 65mm gun popped up, took a shot at one of his squads and was promptly broken by his hmg team.  That gun wouldn't fire another round all game.

Then time slowed down, or the game did at any rate.  The pair of elite squads I had on the right held their positions against an increasing number of Greeks (admittedly one of the squads did have a medium machine gun) while on the left my troops managed to sneak away from the Greeks trying to encircle them.  In the centre Mike had a pair of machine gun teams set up but no infantry conveniently placed to take advantage of any results they scored.  Things didn't improve for Mike when my mmg heroes managed to vapourise a squad foolishly moving in the open.  Meanwhile the gun sledges have pretty much reached the top of the hill and their teams are gasping purple faced from the effort.

Things have slowed down a little

With, as he felt, the clock against him Mike marshalled his forces.  He sent a squad on a long trip towards the end of the board, in anticipation of my reinforcements.  Such was my confidence that I disdained to drop concealment by firing on him.  Well it was either confidence or inattention.  But Mike wasn't finished.  In his hour of need he turned to his L3s and rolled them forward to menace the rear of my centre holdouts.  There was no escape, the writing was on the wall and the only choice was to sell their lives as dearly as possible.  On the left Mike was pushing forwards through the trees delayed only by a dummy stack while my real troops heading for the stone buildings as fast as their little legs could carry them.  Up on the hill the gun sledges were still in the process of arriving, unloading, defibrillating and positioning.

The centre is doomed

With my machine gun team in the centre doomed beyond all hope of redemption I decided to take matters into my own hands and charged them into close combat with some conveniently adjacent Greeks.  We both survived to be locked in melee.  Since, despite his losses, Mike had a considerably larger surviving force than I did I will leave it to you to judge how effective that was.  The next turn Mike reinforced the melee but I survived again so Mike fired into it.  My boys shrugged off the morale check but one of his squads and an 8-0 broke.  A wounded 8-0 would limp away from the battlefield but honesty compels me to admit that his surviving squad finally took my heroes down.  Over on the right my other centre holdout had been exchanging fire with three Greek squads for several turns for no result to either of us but it couldn't last and finally the last Italian defenders went down.

But Holy Mussolini's Ghost, by the time Mike was ready to assault the village my reinforcements had arrived.  I didn't try anything heroic with them, they found the most defensible terrain they could as close to their entrance hex as possible and challenged Mike to throw them out.  Except for one squad with an atr which charged forwards through the snow to reinforce the village.  Mike promptly put a 75mm shell over their heads as they approached.  It didn't hit them but suffice it to say that it wasn't only snow soaking their trousers when they arrived.

Mike was ready now and naturally at this moment of decision it all fell to the L3s.  Forward they clattered, snow falling from their tracks, and as they turned my mmg managed to stun both of them.  Terrified they fled yelping for the exit.  Mike may have screamed in agony or I may have screamed in triumph, there was definitely screaming.  

Goodbye little L3s, you won't be missed

Mike's artillery had started to find the range now and despite the loss of his armour he pressed forward against the village.  He tried to put on a brave face but his head was hanging low.  We were playing on line so I couldn't see it but the lowness of his head made its way through the internet none the less.  He did manage to fight his way in to the village but time was running out and my surviving troops clung to the remaining buildings for dear life.  Eventually with one turn to go and my reinforcements barely touched he conceded.

The end; too many Italians, not enough time.

The only casualty among my reinforcements was the gallant team who manned the 45mm mortar.  Mike seemed to have a pathological fear of these weapons and went out of his way to kill those manning them at every opportunity.  I felt like telling him not to bother but then I realised while he was doing that he wasn't shoot at more important stuff and I let him have his head.  Much thanks to Mike for the game.  Next time I shall be attacking and it will be my turn to bash my head against his, no doubt, sturdy defences.

Maggiore de Bono stretched and rose slowly from the sunbed.  His mistress was standing there holding a letter.

"Congratulations," she said, "apparently your men fought off the Greek attack and held their ground with great courage."

"That's my boys," said de Bono vaguely, he'd actually forgotten their existence.  Something dropped out of the envelope and his mistress caught it before it hit the floor.

"What's that?" asked de Bono without interest.

"It's for you," she replied, "apparently its the Silver Medal of Valour for your heroic defence."

"Nice, put it with the rest."

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Travelling Pathetically - Eastern Suburbs Edition

 The other day I went to Kingsford.  In my defence I didn't know I was going to Kingsford until quite late in the day when it was a little difficult to back out.  Since my puffin still hadn't recovered from its exertions at Salt Pan Creek the previous day I left him behind to deal with the increasingly furious neighbours complaining about our arguments.  I would experience Kingsford by myself.

Ah Kingsford; the very name itself conjures up images of a person desperately googling Kingsford to find anything to say about it.  Named after one our nation's foremost aviators Kingsford's history is rich beyond compare, it was built in the 1920s and its still there now.  It may have been inspired by an aviator but it took nearly a century before it was decided the place needed any sort of transport link other than the occasional road.  Now, however, Sydney's latest stretch of light rail sort of peters out in the general vicinity of the suburb thus bringing public transportation well into the 1890s.

At this point you may be wondering why I went to Kingsford.  You may be wondering that although I suspect you're more likely to be wondering "why am I still reading this crap?" or "why hasn't this clown been committed yet?".  The answer (to the first question, not the other two) is I have friends who live in Kingsford.  On Sunday last they planned a small get together and at the last moment reluctantly decided they should invite me along as well.  I suspect they were expecting me to refuse but when I accepted they were too well mannered to suddenly change their minds.

My friend Tony has apparently spent the last three months tearing concrete and asbestos out of the ground with his teeth.  As a result he looks lean and healthy (and his teeth look like he's embraced cannibalism).  The entire concrete tearing episode has left them with a lawn of lush grass which they can't walk on yet.  Apparently its very young and needs to be coddled.  Giving them the benefit of my puffin rearing skills I pointed out that surgically applied cruelty produces far better results.  They smiled politely and scratched my name off the list of people they would entrust their daughter to (I'm not offended by that but I'm a little pissed off that my puffin is still on the list).

In addition to Tony and his wife Natali two other friends made their appearance, recoiled slightly at the sight of me, and cautiously said hello.  Jason and Idette are modern day gypsies moving from home to home at such a rate that I have completely given up trying to figure out where they're living at any given moment.  Rounding out this rogues gallery were two daughters (one for each married couple) and a cat which made a brief entrance and then vanished.

There was wine, there was conversation and some excellent cheese so that we could fill in the time before dinner by eating.  From time to time an expectant eye was cast skyward.  We were waiting for nightfall.  When it became dark the coloured lights in their pool would come on for our entertainment.  Coloured lights in a pool are an awesome idea if only because there's nothing like an epileptic fit to take your mind off drowning.  Eventually the Sun succumbed to our collective wishes and fled the sky pursued by our impatient cursing.  I sat back with a glass of wine in hand and watched the pool change colours entertained by the joyful sound of ten year olds pushing each other into the water.

With food and wine consumed, pool lights enjoyed and the realisation slowly growing that neither child was actually going to drown the other there was nothing left but to say polite goodbyes and leave.  I'm pretty sure I behaved myself and the psychological damage of my visit was nothing that a severe opioid addiction and a lifetime in therapy couldn't cure.  I'm hoping to be invited back again next year.  If he's good I might bring my puffin.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Silly After Action Report - Thrilla in Manila

 Corporal Horii Kawasaki pulled the fronds from a blasted palm tree a little further over his head.

"Join the navy they said.  See the world they said.  So far all I've seen is a low rent section of Manila."

"Stop whining," muttered his comrade I couldn't be bothered giving a name to.  "at the moment most of the navy is seeing the bottom of Leyte Gulf.  And this is actually a high rent section of Manila."

"You mean there are worse parts?" said Kawasaki in horror.

"Most of it actually.  Now share the palm fronds around we don't want to be hit by artillery fire."

"Isn't it the army's job to defend cities?"

"The army didn't want to, they've buggered off for the hills."

"I should have joined the army."

Kawasaki's companion was about to make a scathing comment about the Imperial Japanese Army in general and the portion of it currently based in the Philippines in particular when a sudden noise caught his attention.  He peered out over the wall and cursed softly.

"What is it?" demanded Kawasaki.

"Get back to the CO and tell him that half the American army is just about to cross the street."

"Why me?"

"I'm busy making bunkers out of palm fronds.  Come on Kawasaki, on your bike."

Kawasaki rolled his eyes, "was that joke really worth all of the build up?"

"Probably not," replied his companion, "but it's too late now.  Help yourself to a palm frond on your way out."

It is 1945 and Manila is about to be liberated MacArthur style ie the place is about to be razed to the ground.  It is possible that Hiroshima was "liberated" less thoroughly than Manila.  It shouldn't have happened like that.  The Japanese army commander in the Philippines suffered from a malady rare in the Japanese army; common sense.  He took one look at the city, realised it would be a deathtrap for any soldiers based there once the Americans brought up their firepower and declared Manila an open city while decamping with his troops for the mountains.  Unfortunately the Japanese navy attempted to compensate for mindless stupidity with more mindless stupidity.  They garrisoned Manila with their own troops and declared the city closed again.

We are playing scenario BFP-60 - Thrilla in Manila.  I shall command the soldiers (sailors?) of the 5th Naval battalion as they attempt to prove that drowning is only one of the mortality options the Japanese navy provided to its recruits.  I have to defend the Bureau of Agriculture and Commerce from the predatory grasp of the American 1st Cavalry division.  Despite the name I would like to assure readers that no horses were harmed in the making of this blog entry.

To defend said building I have thirteen squads ranging from elite (six) through first line (four) to second line (three).  I also have seven crews to man the spectacular plethora of support weapons available.  It has to be admitted the navy did its troops proud when it came to support.  I have a pair of 12.7mm twin barrelled anti aircraft guns, a .50cal machine gun, a heavy machine gun, two medium machine guns, three light machine guns, two demo charges and a 75mm gun.  I also get the option to fortify about half of Metro Manila. In addition to the fortified building locations I have a couple of wire hexes, two pillboxes, twenty four factors of mines and four factors of antitank mines.  Pretty impressive you might think.  You would be wrong.

Commanding the cavalry was Dave Wilson.  Dave has three elite squads and sixteen first line.  These guys have a pair of .50cal machine guns, two medium machine guns, two flamethrowers and four demo charges.  Lest this seem inadequate to the task at hand let us review the support available to our horse fondlers.  Two 155mm artillery pieces, two M4A1 Sherman tanks, two M-10 self propelled guns and a Sherman tank with added flamethrower.  I'm not surprised Manila was destroyed, I am surprised that the entire Philippines didn't sink into the sea.  

It's all about the Agriculture and Commerce Bureau.  Dave wins by controlling the building.  I win if by some miracle he falls short.  Below is the at start positions.  I have fortified the crap out of everything possible and while I have a fair few troops in the victory building I also have some squirreled away in flanking buildings hoping to spring a trap or two.  I left a set DC in the street in the hopes that a tank would drive over it.  Sadly by the time one did its owner was dead.

At start positions

 As can be seen from the above picture Dave didn't exactly go for subtlety.  Instead he just parked his entire force as close to me as humanly possible.  The red circle marks where a pillbox with one of my 12.7mm AA guns sits hidden.  Notice the three huge stacks of US troops hanging around in the open nearby.  Given the possibility for carnage inherent in that particular set up the results were somewhat disappointing for me.  Nevertheless the first turn was definitely my best.  Rate of fire was something that my troops had apparently never heard of but my 12.7mm did chop up a decent amount of Dave's infantry and send them fleeing for the woods.  Elsewhere Dave heaved an immense amount of high explosive and smoke in my direction with mixed results.

End of US turn 1.  Things look deceptively good so far

Apparently Dave's tankers and artillery support had doubled down on the HE shells at the price of leaving all of their smoke and WP rounds back in Hawaii.  Some smoke was brought down in that first turn but for the most part Dave was entitled to be disappointed with the results as weapon after weapon turned out to be smoke bereft.

Despite the lack of comforting billows of cover Dave moved forward on the left.  I had a hidden mmg team waiting for him to cross the open ground.  Cross the open ground Dave's troops did whereupon I cut loose with an 8-2 shot that did absolutely nothing.  Dave then advanced in, ambushed the Japanese and wiped them out.  If you want to stop reading now that is pretty much a description of the entire game.

In the centre I had a concealed squad and lmg team lurking in the palm debris behind a wall.  Next to them was a dummy stack sitting on a minefield.  The dummy stack was swept away by fire but the lmg squad was incremented down over a couple of turns, I think it was a conscript halfsquad when it took the fatal shots.

One turn in and I was in trouble on the left but I wasn't too worried as I had a pillbox with the other 12.7mm sighted down the street, a pair of elite squads in the rowhouse behind and a crew and .50cal guided by my best leader nestling in a fortified building location.  All seemed good.  It wasn't.

On the left Dave managed to sneak concealed troops up next to my pillbox.  Even with a concealed target a pointblank shot was a 12+2 or, to put it another way, not good enough.  I can't recall whether Dave blew up the crew with a DC or killed them in close combat but it has to be said they contributed nothing to the Japanese defence. My .50cal revealed itself, apparently for the specific purpose of demonstrating how useless a .50cal machine gun is under the direction of a 10-1 leader.  In the course of the game they fired three shots the lowest of which was an eight and one of which was boxcars.  Eventually Dave got tired of laughing at them and hit them with a critical hit from an M-10.

Things are bad and about to get worse

Things were slower in the centre and on the right as Dave needed to rally the troops mangled in the first turn which took a couple of turns.  The pillbox he dealt with by firing first a 75mm round through the entrance and following that up with a flamethrower attack.  The crew manning that gun gave up life's weary burden and my outer defences were gone.  Then he built up and rallied his forces.  I lost my other hmg when it unwisely fired on an American squad dashing across the street.  I say unwisely because with its presence revealed Dave parked his flamethrowing Sherman next to it and incinerated everything in the hex.

This was pretty much standard for the remainder of the game.  If I shot at anything Dave would simply retaliate with enough fire to wipe me out.  During slow periods his guns and tanks resumed their pounding of the victory building slowly but eventually getting the results that striped and then killed the occupants.  By the time turn four rolled around the only Japanese troops that survived were those that hadn't done anything yet and Dave's forces were monstering me on all sides.  

Things are not looking good


Rather to my surprise my 75mm gun did manage to immobilise a Sherman while it was in bypass in my hex, sadly the crew didn't abandon the tank with the result that my gun couldn't shoot at anything else.I really had a choice, I could hide under concealment counters and at least force Dave to go through the slow process of pounding me to nothing or I could shoot at the Americans and be killed instantly.  Dave knew the end was near and started moving his forces forward without fear.  I unveiled my last mmg and took a 4-3 shot at some Americans troops in the open.  I rolled an eleven and conceded on the spot.  This game is rated 9-7 to the Japanese on ROAR, I can only assume the people who took the Japanese were somewhat more skilled than I am (in fairness not difficult to imagine).  Dave quite literally dismantled me in about four turns.  The only Japanese left at the end were those who had spent the entire game under concealment counters.  Congratulations to Dave on the win, he went hard and early and it paid off big time.

The end, I have precisely three squads and two crews left

Corporal Kawasaki pushed a palm frond out of his eyes and looked around.  There didn't appear to be anyone left alive.  Correction, he thought.  There didn't appear to be any Japanese left alive.  Burrowing down amongst the rubble Kawasaki fished a recruiting poster out of his pocket.  The air force was looking for keen young men and you didn't even have to fly too well.  That was the life decided Kawasaki; smart uniform, beautiful women, stationed behind the front lines, perfect.  He hastily filled out the application and looked around for a post box.  As he did so he wondered vaguely why they'd decided to call the new air units Kamikaze.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Travelling Pathetically - Puffin Expedition Edition

 I was regaling my co-workers with tales of my adventures along a poisoned canal and through our city's smallest suburb (it was technically a work video conference so they couldn't just walk away) when one of them asked why I hadn't taken my puffin along for the journey.  Guilt crushed my mind.  I was a neglectful partner who had left my puffin behind (chained to the wall on one occasion) while I went out and enjoyed myself.  There and then I resolved to be a better companion and to take a small stuffed imitation seabird on my next journey out into the world.

The next journey out into the world as it so happened was informed by a previous journey out into the world.  On my journey out to Englorie Park I had noticed an unexpected smear of green as the train rumbled through an industrialised portion of the city's southwest.  A little research (hello wikipedia) informed me that this was Salt Pan Creek so called because despite all the talents possessed by our colonial forebears original and creative naming conventions didn't rate a mention.

Salt Pan Creek is a seven kilometre long stretch of water which rises to the west of some suburb I've never heard of and heads roughly southward.  Before it can really come into its own as a waterway it collides with the Georges River and is never heard from again.  Said collision happens at Riverwood a suburb formerly known as Herne Bay.  The name was changed in the fifties to removed the stigma associated with living in such a poor, wretched, crime riddled location as Herne Bay.  Apparently this worked, all people now have to do is overcome the stigma associated with living in Riverwood.

Despite flowing through a heavily urbanised environment Salt Pan Creek has a area of mangrove bedecked wetlands for the usual reasons such things remain in heavily urbanised environments; it was difficult to build on and it gave the locals (both residents and industry) somewhere to dump their rubbish.  Efforts have been made in recent times to spruce up the wetlands or at least increase the mangrove to rubbish ratio and it is known to be the home of no fewer than three endangered ecological communities of various plants and stuff.  You know; trees, plants, insects the usual things that make up an ecological community.  This was the green smear I had seen poking its head shyly from among the factories and motorways on my previous journey.

Since this was our first outing together I went the whole hog.  My puffin and I enjoyed a coffee at a local cafe before boarding the first of three trains necessary to transport us the twelve kilometres from Dulwich Hill to Riverwood.

Coffee is better with a puffin

Speaking of trains there was some difficulty with these for various reasons it would take too long to go into although my puffin insists it was simple incompetence on my part.  Nevertheless after a certain amount of time consuming back and forth I found myself strolling down a suburban street.  There were trees in peoples yards and suddenly there were more trees and no yards, plus rubbish.  We had arrived.

A pleasant surprise greeted me on arrival.  The "walking path" was actually a raised platform made necessary by the fact that we were walking through (technically, just above) a wetland.  Wetlands are vital ecological areas that strongly resemble overgrown slime pits and would be murder to walk through unless you are provided with a convenient walkway.  I stepped onto the walkway and away from the city into something that varied between wretchedly overgrown nature strip and genuine (albeit soggy) bushland.  The first thing we encountered were a pair of ducks that were risking their lives by disporting themselves in one of the creeklets (storm drains) that ran into Salt Pan Creek.  Puffins are of course seabirds but my puffin showed no desire to encounter this particular piece of water.

Our adventure begins

Patiently putting up with my desire for a visual record of our journey my puffin posed obediently looking over the ducks.  If the ducks felt threatened by the presence of a North American seabird they didn't show it.  They were too busy disturbing the contaminated sediment at the bottom of the creeklet, possibly looking for food and possibly in the hopes of poisoning the surrounding locals.

My puffin is keen to stay as far away from this particular water as possible

The beginning of the journey was rather low key but it rapidly got better as we left civilisation behind (about fifty metres behind but behind nonetheless) and struck out across the wetlands.  If one looked to the left one could see backyards, houses and on one occasion some discarded venetian blinds.  On the right was an expanse of marsh, grass and mangroves that looked like it had never heard of human habitation.  There was a stillness which I've noticed before when wandering through such areas.  It wasn't silent, quite apart from the fact that the area is surrounded by houses and industrial estates, a railway line and a major motorway pass over the creek.  Silent is not the term to use, very noisy is the term to use but it seemed muffled as though being filtered through (for example) an improbably surviving area of natural wetland.

The untamed wilderness was so exciting for my puffin I had to grab him to stop him flying away

I spent the next two and a half hours crossing and crisscrossing Salt Pan Creek, passing wetlands, mangroves, electricity towers and occasionally stumbling on to more disciplined patches of green where people were playing soccer, picnicking and, in the case of one young lady, enthusiastically straddling what I hope was her boyfriend and not a relative.  I shielded my puffin's eyes and hurried past.

Salt Pan Creek itself was actually quite an impressive piece of water and I was rather sorry that it got swallowed up by the Georges River before it really got a chance to make a name for itself.  Waterbirds carved majestic wakes through the water and in some of the lower rent mangrove areas I was astonished to find ibis stalking through the mud hunting for food in an area completely devoid of rubbish bins.  I honestly didn't think they still knew how to do this.  I tried to take a photo but the ibis were obviously concerned that if I documented this act of self sufficiency people would be less keen to let them raid garbage bins and they shied away from the camera.

Salt Pan Creek (or possibly the Georges River), there are ibis lurking in the background refusing to be photographed

I wasn't the only person out and about on this day.  Quite apart from the various park denizens I passed by a number of others on the walkway not one of whom said anything like, "excuse me, you seem to be carrying a stuffed puffin around." which I thought was very polite of them.  

When there is only one path to take it is very difficult to get lost and I suppose I didn't really although once I was a little way into the wetlands I had no idea of where I was. I just had to hope that the path would eventually spit me out somewhere not a million miles from civilisation.  As if to reassure me on this point I blundered under a vast expanse of heavily graffitied concrete which was gainfully employed stopping the M5 motorway from sinking into the swamp.  The creek, or some variant of it, trickled somewhat reluctantly under it while cars and trucks roared over our heads.  Of course my puffin couldn't let the graffiti go past without adding his own contribution.

I managed to get him away before anybody caught us

And on we went sometimes close enough to the outside world to enjoy the sight of lorries and carparks and sometimes surrounded as far as the eye can see by trees and wetlands.  Fairness forces me to point out that when you're surrounded by trees the eye can't actually see very far.  Incidentally I used the term "some variant of it" when referring to the creek in the previous paragraph.  This is the thing about wetlands, they're wet.  This makes it a little difficult to tell whether what you're looking at is open ground with a high water table. an overgrown creek or some variant of the two.  Suffice it to say that if you tried hard enough you could probably drown in most of it.

A puffin and a post to rest him on.  What more do I need?

From time to time there was an explicit stream but for the most part there was grass and trees and a distinct impression that if you got off the walking path you might sink and never be seen again.  I did point out one highly specific piece of water to my puffin in case he wanted to go for a swim but he preferred water that looked as though it had a lower urine content.

Definitely not going swimming

After a couple of hours of blundering about the wetlands I blundered out of them into a large park.  The council had put up a sign listing all of the things that you couldn't do in the park.  They could have saved some money if they had simply put up a sign saying "Would everybody please just piss off!"  The park paralleled the wetlands for a while and I wandered along it because according to my keen reading of google maps if I followed it I would return to my starting point.  Along the way I took a photo of a galah because my companion is building a highly disturbing website that he won't let me look at and insisted that I take photos of every bird we encountered.

No galahs were hurt during the taking of this photo but I did smack the puffin about a bit

Following the park did not actually return me to my starting point but it got me close enough so that I could hail it as a triumph of navigation.  The puffin who had noted how many times I started walking in one direction only to turn around and retrace my steps rolled his eyes and said nothing.  Once back at my starting point short of doing it all again there was little to do but go home.  Along the way my puffin asked if this was really what I got up to while he wasn't around.  I acknowledged that it was.  He offered to send me some links to self help sites which he think I might find useful.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Plague Update #37 - Gaslighting Edition

 Apparently we are to have a gas led economic recovery.  That's the latest exciting news that was husked from behind the face mask of either our prime minister or a random stranger making a practical joke.  The government is encouraging private enterprise to build gas fired power stations on every street corner and has suggested that if private enterprise should be so shortsighted and foolish as to miss this brilliant opportunity then the government may well do it themselves.  Private enterprise will probably welcome this as it frees them from the expense and difficulty of building the thing and they'll be able to buy it anyway the next time the government conducts an asset sale.

I'm glad to hear that our economy is going to leap from its COVID induced slumber and start burning gas like its going out of fashion.  It's strange that this economic miracle wasn't thought of before given that the gas has been there for several million years at last count.  The government also promised to "hold energy companies to account" to ensure that the benefits of a gas well in every house are passed on to consumers.  I have to admit I laughed a little at that one but I do realise its the sort of thing that governments feel obliged to say.

Back in the Land of Disease (officially known as Victoria although possibly not for much longer) things are brightening up.  People in the less civilised parts of the state will be permitted within fifty metres of each other under strict (but long distance) supervision and as soon as the citizens of Melbourne agree to have a tracking chip embedded in their skulls they too will be allowed to enjoy the heady rush of freedom that comes with being able to tell their children to play outside without risking a visit from the police. 

Tragic news emanated from Queensland (a sentence you could probably use every day of the week if you wanted to) where their premier was forced to "work" from home due to a lost voice.  Losing one's voice is a terrible blow.  For a politician to be unable to speak is like a hagfish being unable to exude mucus (in fact the parallels are almost identical).  In addition to what was definitely not a COVID related case of throat huskiness someone also threatened to kill her.  And the state's Chief Medical Officer.  Fortunately they must have left their home address on the correspondence because the police have already arrested them.

Meanwhile the premier of my state fresh from her triumph in the Koala Revolution has attempted to sound understanding and responsible while simultaneously giving her northern colleague a serve for still refusing to let citizens from my undeniably magnificent state into Queensland.  Strangely there do appear to be a large number of people who want to go there.  COVID cases are cropping up from time to time in New South Wales but so far we seem to have avoided the citizens dropping in the streets levels that affected Victoria.  It's difficult not to feel smug even as one waits nervously for the other shoe to drop. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Plague Update #36 - Now With Added Koalas

 Relief surges through me like a tide.  All the signs are pointing to an improvement in the COVID-19 pandemic.  Well, not necessarily the medical signs; they're still pretty grim but the political and social signs are getting more positive.  Firstly the disturbing unanimity shown by our political leaders is starting to collapse as various levels of government bitch at each other.  State leaders are settling back into their normal routines of slagging off their counterparts and people are starting to query whether or not the grim death tolls in various areas can be at least partly traced back to incompetence on the part of the political leaders responsible for dealing with them.  Speaking as someone who found the sight of our nation's various governments working in harmony deeply disturbing I must say I'm pleased we're back on track.

Further evidence of business as usual can be found, strangely, in Victoria parts of which are still under lockdown and a curfew.  It turns out nobody will admit to having asked for a curfew and there are doubts as to whether it might even be legal.  The general public are assisting in the return to normality by gathering to protest about the fact that currently they're not allowed to gather to protest.

Good news aside the principal takeaway from this pandemic is that we're becoming a nation of home cooking alcoholics.  The alcoholic part was pretty obvious but I was a little surprised to learn that a large number of my fellow citizens are whiling away their hangover hours by preparing delicious food.  The next season of Masterchef should be amazing assuming our livers last that long.

On a personal note I should mention that my own cooking and drinking habits have not been affected by the pandemic which is why the major meal of my day consists of washing down dry weetbix with neat vodka while my stuffed puffin looks on disapprovingly.  It may upset him a little but if I don't have breakfast I'm useless for the remainder of the day.  The fact that I'm useless for the remainder of the day anyway is a total irrelevance.

I tried contacting my correspondents in Melbourne to see they're enjoying the police state but I didn't get very far.  One of them (the one without children) was busy setting traps in the backyard so the neighbourhood cats could add a little protein to his diet while the one with children was weeping hysterically into a soup bowl full of gin at 10 o'clock in the morning.  There was no evidence of the delicious meal media reports insist she should have prepared to go with the gin.

In my home state things have got so far back to normal that our government managed to have a koala induced political crisis.  Yes, koalas, the cute furry things that we store chlamydia in.  You may recall that the major bushfires we had which were our pre-COVID disaster burnt a lot of the trees in NSW which is unfortunate for koalas as they live in them.  Koala numbers were already under pressure due to habitat fragmentation and that entire chlamydia business.  Everybody loves koalas, they're cute and sleepy looking and you don't find out that they're short tempered death machines unless you spend a lot of time in their company which most people don't because we live in the city.  

Sensing easy publicity (or possibly genuinely concerned about our cutest native animal) the state government introduced new environmental laws which were supposed to help koala numbers bounce back from the bushfires and return to their previous rate of terminal decline.  This actually happened some months ago but suddenly farmers woke up to the fact that if there were koalas on their property they might not be able to shoot them or cut down all of the trees.  Fairness forces me to point out that farmers didn't necessarily want to go around committing koalacide on their properties.  They just wanted to keep the option open.

The political party supposedly representing said farmers waxed wroth.  Unfortunately this political party was part of the government that passed the "try not to actively kill koalas" regulations in the first place.  Despite this they threatened to stomp off and no longer involve themselves in the government thus removing said government's majority.  Our premier basically said "don't let the door hit your arse on the way out".  At which point the party that represents farmers decided that representing farmers wasn't quite as important as keeping their own jobs.  I'm prepared to bet that neither farmers nor koalas have been particularly impressed but it has given the urban population of the state something to laugh about in between day drinking and food preparation.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Travelling Pathetically - Scraping the Absolute Bottom of the Barrel Edition

 With another day's leave hovering over me like a vulture over some carcass on the Serengeti I wondered what I could do to improve on the previous day's Englorie Park triumph. I decided to go to work.  That's right, for a trip on my day off I went in to the office.  The reason was simple.  On the theory that no good disaster should be wasted my employers have taken advantage of the plague induced desertion of their offices to rearrange, rationalise and generally cut down on what must be a pretty impressive rent bill.  To facilitate that they cordially invited their employees to reenter the offices and (I'm paraphrasing here) "get rid of all of your shit!"

Since we had originally fled the building so swiftly that some of us had left children behind you can appreciate that there was a fair bit to get rid of.  At least I didn't have any infant skeletons to sweep up.  There was one slight issue, the central business district of Sydney had recently been identified as a coronavirus hotspot.  However the firm's redecorations brooked no delay.  China Syndrome levels of decontamination were promised (or threatened) to encourage a thin stream of terrified wage slaves to slink into the building, toss their personal possessions into the nearest garbage bin and then flee while simultaneous smearing hand sanitiser over every exposed body part.

Oddly I was somewhat looking forward to it and not just for hand sanitiser smearing reasons.  For starters it would mean I would get out of the flat without having to come up with half baked blog entry reasons and I would also get to visit my orchid that I hadn't seen for several months.  I must give a special thanks to Anoma who has been grimly risking disease every day to come into the office, she has been tending to my orchid since I abandoned it in my haste to leave the plague zone and it looks quite healthy.  It certainly looks quite healthy by comparison with me.

In response to my state government's urgings I have acquired some face masks and popped one on as I hopped onto the train.  They are really quite annoying but I sat there gasping quietly while the other passengers moved as far away from me as possible.  I've noted before how much more efficient our public transport service is now that almost nobody is using it.  Everything is on time, clean (or cleanish) and the number of raving lunatics has decreased to almost tolerable levels.  Unfortunately one of the remaining lunatics happened to be the train guard who insisted on trying to be funny.  Unsuccessfully.

I was whisked with uncharacteristic efficiency through the inner suburbs of Sydney until the metal tube spat me out somewhere near Circular Quay (although not close enough to get wet) and I struck out for the Temple of Mammon that houses the high priests of my particular cult.  Normally entry is a simple affair of a blood sacrifice and promising the eternal servitude of your first born but now I had to follow a piece of winding tape plastered to the floor which took me on a scenic tour of the foyer before dumping me outside the lift bay.  Sanitiser was applied, my skin was scoured with acid (that wasn't mandatory, I requested it) and fingernail clippings were taken for placing in the family shrine in case I didn't survive the visit.

Fifty six levels above the decontamination zone I was greeted with more sanitiser and an invitation to sign a (no doubt thoroughly disinfected) clipboard confirming my presence of my own free will.  That done I was permitted to proceed to my desk.  For the first time in months I came face to face with one of my colleagues.  She screamed and threw things at me until I backed off to what she considered a safe distance.  Even so her body language indicated she would have been more comfortable if I had gone out the window.

With the pleasantries taken care of I set to work.  After working for a while trying to sort the wheat from the chaff I just got a recycling bin and essentially shook my desk over it until it stopped rattling.  Then I secured a handful of things I actually wanted to keep (vodka, nail polish remover and a small bust of a skull in a pilots hat, you know; the essentials) and tossed them into the nearest plastic container that didn't look as though it was destined for the next garbage skip out of town.  Duty completed I bade farewell to my colleague but she was whimpering under her desk and didn't hear me.

The post script to this little sojourn into my workplace came a few days later when our partner in charge informed us that one of the people in the office that day had been in contact with someone suffering from COVID-19 and was currently undergoing testing.  The office was to undergo a deep clean and the suggestion was that we might like to follow suit.  Fortunately the person in question turned out to be free of disease so the only consequence was a widespread outbreak of hyperventilation on the part of those who had been present.

Silly After Action Report - Mohnke Business

 Two shabby German soldiers crouched in a pit they had scraped out of the rubble and stared suspiciously across the broad width of the Spree River.  A sound behind them made them whirl round raising their hands automatically.  To their surprise they saw an immaculately uniformed SS soldier holding a map with a hopeful expression on his face.

"Excuse me," asked this recruiting poster come to life in oddly accented German. "Do you guys know where I can find the SS Nordland division?  I've just got back from leave in Denmark and I'm having difficulty finding my way around."

"You were on leave in Denmark and you decided to come back to Berlin?" asked one of the soldiers in tones of disbelief.

"Yes, I should have been back yesterday but the traffic was murder.  I'm trying to find my command post."

"Fine, just go down this length of rubble, turn right at the rubble then straight on through the rubble, take the second rubble on the left and keep going until you reach the big pile of rubble."

"That's my command post?"

"No, its the tourist bureau.  Maybe they can help you out.  Buy a postcard, the city's economy needs the boost."

"What's on the postcards?"

"Mainly rubble."

Dave Wilson suggested we try scenario BRV 10 - Mohnke Business extracted from the Berlin - Red Vengeance campaign game without benefit of anaesthetic.  Here I shall take command of a somewhat eclectic group of defenders (Scandinavians from the Nordland division and some rather unenthusiastic locals) as they fight grimly to ensure that approximately three city blocks of downtown Berlin remains German.  My troops are hunkered down behind the Spree River and have erected do not disturb signs on the three remaining bridges.  To the north of the river is a decent percentage of the Soviet army clutching a red banner.  They either want to raise this banner over the Reichstag or get jobs as extras in a Sabaton video.

The game will be decided by Victory Points.  The Soviets need to get 1.5 times as many VPs as the Germans.  They gain points for every unit south of the Spree and they also get points for captured buildings.  If they manage to plant that red banner on the roof of the Reichstag they win automatically.  The Germans get VPs by killing Soviets.

My defence force consists of eighteen elite SS squads and eight second line definitely not SS squads.  These guys have two heavy machine guns, four medium machine guns, six light machine guns, three demolition charges, two panzerschreks and a partridge in a pear tree.  Sorry, I mean 88mm AA gun.  They are led by five officers and lurking in the background is a Nazi party official who functions as a Commissar to "encourage" laggards back into the fight.  In addition to the infantry three Panther tanks have been dug into the more friable bits of Berlin leaving just their turrets pointing at the enemy.  Five trenches, four wire counters and three barricades (bridges; for the blocking of) round out my at start force.  On the second turn a single armoured car turns up to assist.  Possibly of more assistance are the two King Tiger tanks that arrive on turn five assuming they can siphon enough fuel from wrecked vehicles to turn their engines over.  I also get to fortify a couple of building locations.

Leading the charge for the 3rd Shock Army Dave has six squads of assault engineers, ten squads of elite infantry and fourteen squads of first line infantry all urged along by six officers led by an awesome 10-2.  These heroes of the Soviet Union have two heavy machine guns, four medium machine guns, four light machine guns, a trio of demolition charges, two flamethrowers, three 50mm mortars and the aforementioned red banner.  This banner bestows fanaticism on any unit carrying it but does make it a little difficult to conceal.  A hidden radio connects Dave's troops to a battery of 120mm artillery.  Contributing the "crash or crash through" component of Dave's force are eight armoured vehicles; a pair of T34/85s, an IS2 heavy tank, a pair of the even more impressive IS2M tanks, three SU122 self propelled guns and in a classic case of overkill an OT-34 carrying both a 76mm gun and a vehicle mounted flamethrower.  In case that wasn't enough he gets another pair of IS2s on turn three (it wasn't my fault that Dave forgot about them until turn four).

Here's the problem.  The bridges are the only way to cross the river so Dave's attack has to be directed towards one or all of them.  That's the problem for Dave.  The problem for me is that the bridges are widely spaced which means that my defence also has to be widely spaced if I don't want Soviet troops running around behind me (for the record, I don't).

I set up three separate defence groups, one for each bridge. In the Reichstag I fortified a building hex and placed the 88mm in their facing out towards the Spree.  I also loaded the Reichstag up with my best officers and a fair amount of firepower.  Losing this building was an automatic defeat so holding it was a priority.  I placed a barricade at the end of each bridge and strung some wire around.  Over on the left I had somewhat subsidiary but still powerful forces covering the other two bridges. 

My at start set up

Dave decided bugger subtlety, and simply looked at the bridge closest to the Reichstag and threw his forces at that.  He did have some troops to occupy the attention of my other defenders.  He needn't have worried too much.  There was so much open ground that the likelihood of any of my left hand defenders managing to reinforce the Reichstag were pretty low.

I cringed as I saw the amount of firepower Dave had amassed but there was one comfort.  Until he had battered or blasted his way through the barricade they weren't getting far.  Dave started proceedings by contacting his artillery (red chits, what are they?) but his spotting round landed some distance from where he wanted it (although it did scare the crap out of one of my dug in Panthers).  Then having plastered the bridge approaches with smoke he moved forward.  

It has to be said things did not go his way.  His kill stack of two squads, two hmgs and the 10-2 leader was shot up by my kill stack in the Reichstag and both squads fled for the rear with the 10-2 following screaming obscenities.  Attempting to cross the open ground to the bridge cost him another squad and a half including one carrying a flamethrower which lay unloved in the street.  Dave rolled his flamethrowing tank forward to protect it.  At the centre bridge a critical hit on a panther turret had seen the thing go up in flames without firing a shot but attempts by his infantry to get across the bridge fell to German musketry (or, more accurately; German, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and occasional French musketry).  On the far left Dave only had token forces backed by a single T34/85 tank.  Faced with a barricade and a strong defence force there was a tacit agreement that we would leave each other alone unless and until the tank managed to blow up the barricade.

End of Soviet turn 1.

In my turn Dave corrected his spotting round and brought down his FFE unfortunately it drifted by a small but significant margin and his artillery just wound up tearing up the already lacerated soil of Berlin.  I for my part was content to hide behind walls and concealment counters for as it turned out very good reasons.  Although Dave and I had command of some impressively elite forces experience showed that neither of them was particularly keen on passing morale checks.  This was frustrating for me but more so for Dave who was attempting to move forward under heavy fire.

To attempt to smooth his path Dave sprayed even more smoke about the place but while his troops could get on to at least two of the bridges (over on the left he settled for banging away at the barricade from a distance) all they could do was claw feebly at the barricades with their fingernails.  Meanwhile my 88 scored its first kill of the day frying a SU-122 in a building, the subsequent billows of smoke causing Dave more problems when trying to set up an effective kill stack.

The defence is holding

 Two turns in and I was mildly cockahoop.  So far Dave's attack had got nowhere and the occasional squad break notwithstanding my boys were holding all along the line.  I dealt with my success in a restrained and civilised manner, any comments from Dave to the contrary are filthy lies.  Having given the dirt of Berlin a vigorous pounding Dave's next artillery mission was bang on target raining down fire on the Reichstag, rubbling a rooftop (which fortunately didn't drop through to the floor below) but my units safely tucked into fortified locations laughed at the 120mm shells dropping all around although the laughter may have got a little strained at times.  If nothing else the artillery meant an extra +1 for my troops shooting out of it.  Incidentally on the next picture you'll see a lot of Kilroy markers, this is because we couldn't figure out how to get rid of the FFE overlay.  We worked it out eventually.

 Dave's formidable IS-2M broke its MA and I must admit I was delighted.  Little did I know this was what Dave was waiting for, he may have even rolled that boxcars deliberately.  In the next turn the toothless beast rolled forward, its armour sneering at even attempts by my 88 to scratch the paint. Over the bridge it moved and slammed headfirst into the barricade.  Pretty soon there was an IS-2M shaped hole in the barricade and a detachment of infantry that had been waiting amongst the smoke for this opportunity moved forward. What with all of the smoke I didn't bother firing at them and slunk away except for one DC toting half squad which cringed under a concealment counter and hoped for the best.  Staring straight down the road at Dave's recently victorious tank was a dug in Panther which did its best under the circumstances and shocked the IS-2.


Over on the far left and unexpected critical hit had evaporated the barricade there as well but Dave didn't really have the troops to exploit it.  Still two barricades were now gone and near the Reichstag Dave was doing his best to exploit the hell out of the breach.  His flamethrowing tank followed where its hulking brother led and then for reasons neither Dave nor I can explain wound up parking in front of my 88.  In the next turn I would brutally punish such presumption.


Presumption brutally punished

 Dave's infantry was starting to trickle through the breach and push through the (admittedly thinly defended) buildings between the bridge and the Reichstag.  Perhaps not a danger yet but Dave's troops were queueing up to risk the bridge passage and the trickle threatened to become a flood.  My DC halfsquad covered itself in glory and also blood and tank components.  Dave advanced a squad against them confident of success only to be wiped out in CC.  In the next turn this half squad would carefully glue their demo charge to the back of the IS-2 and blow it up.  After that in a fury Dave threw a pair of squads against it in CC and my halfsquad locked them up in CC for two full turns.  Posthumous iron crosses to the lot of them and free passage for their bodies back to Scandinavia or France assuming the locals let them in.

While Dave mourned his IS-2 it had to be admitted that things were starting to swing in his favour.  He finally managed to take out the last barricade and assault engineers started to pick their way across the smoke shrouded centre bridge.  Fortunately I had an hmg/lmg stack waiting for such a move (well it just happened to be there actually it was supposed to be a last line of defence for the left hand bridge). For a couple of turns I cheerfully shot up his troops as they tried to cross the bridge. 

Meanwhile back at the Reichstag Dave decided to forget about HE artillery strikes (which had so far managed to break one squad, swiftly rallied) and dropped a smoke concentration down onto the building instead.  With my defenders blinded he swiftly reinforced his troops across the bridge and soon was building up a powerful force.  As much to reassure myself as anything else I promised my King Tigers would redress the balance.  I should have kept my mouth shut, that reminded Dave that he had forgotten to bring on his reinforcing IS-2Ms a turn and a half ago.

Frankly I was of the opinion that Dave had quite enough armoured vehicles already.  Despite the heroics of my halfsquad and the 88 my defences were being swarmed.  Things didn't improve when I intensive fired my Panther turret and disabled the gun.  My armoured car had had an unfortunate encounter with a 122mm shell at pointblank range not that it had really contributed to proceedings much up until then.  In the centre Dave rolled an SU-122 across the bridge to give support to his flagging infantry. Unfortunately it got bogged on the wire and stuck there for a while.  Meanwhile a disturbing number of Soviet squads had made it across the bridge near the Reichstag including the halfsquad (formerly a full squad) clutching the precious red banner. 


Things are starting to look bad

Just when things looked their bleakest my King Tigers arrived.  Which was fortunate as a critical hit from an IS-2 wiped out my 88mm in the same turn.  I took this calmly and once Dave had coaxed me in off the window ledge I applied myself to the battle.  Unlike the unimaginative lettering system Dave had used to identify his vehicles I christened my Tigers Helga (after the character in 'Allo 'Allo) and Barbara (after a rather attractive Transylvanian German of my acquaintance).  Rolling through the streets of a ruined city CE is risky to say the least but these were possibly the last Tigers available and I didn't plan to save them for a museum.  I sent one up behind my armoured car (which only had seconds to live) and circled the other around behind the SU-122 that was giving the armoured car grief.

Seeing that desperate measures were needed to salvage the situation Dave sent an IS-2 looping around behind Helga (the one behind the armoured car) but I needn't have feared, as the monstrous beast approached Helga spun her sixty tonne bulk around in her own length and smashed it in a gun duel.  The next turn Barbara would crucify the nearby SU-122 thus gaining a measure of revenge for my armoured car.  But this was only the start, with the immediate armour threat averted Barbara rolled around behind the IS-2 that had killed my 88 and took that out too.  Meanwhile Helga guarded the street Dave's troops would have to cross if they wanted to enter the Reichstag.

 There was a brief flurry of activity over on the left.  With the barricade destroyed Dave had managed to stun the panther turret guarding the approaches and rolled his T34/85 forward to capitalise on this apparent advantage.  Whereupon a HIP halfsquad put down their sandwiches, picked up a panzerschreck and incinerated everything within a twenty metre radius including themselves.  At the end there was a burning tank and a panzerschreck sitting alone in a building.  After that the left flank went back to sleep for the remainder of the game. 

And suddenly things are looking better again

 Dave's armour losses weren't really important in the grand scheme of things (it wasn't like the Soviet Union was running out of tanks) but he missed the added punch to help his troops forward because it has to be said these were the most pusillanimous storm troopers you've ever seen.  Admittedly they were trying to get forward against a ferocious defence led by a newly promoted 10-2 and a Nazi party official who managed to swiftly rally any backsliders without killing any of them.  Just to add insult to injury (well injury to injury actually) my sniper who had spent most of the game partying with Fegelein in a cellar stumbled upstairs long enough to shoot Dave's 10-2 in the head before passing out in a pile of bottles.

With casualties mounting and the Reichstag staying defiantly unconquered Dave tried one last trick.  He raced another tank across the centre bridge and pounded down the road heading for the Reichstag.  If he made it Helga would be in danger and what was left of his assault force might be able to get forwards.  Remember what I said about the risks of driving CE through the streets of a ruined city?  A volley of fire from the Reichstag windows terrified the crew of his tank which ground to a halt in an area I had affectionately named "Helga's killing zone"

End game


At this point Dave conceded, he had four armoured vehicles left one of which was bogged and at least another of which was doomed.  His troops were cringing in ruined buildings weeping in fear while my principal defences had suffered barely a scratch the occasional 88mm AA gun notwithstanding.  Thanks to Dave for the game.  In fairness it has to be said that Dave could have expected a little more resolution under fire from the troops hand picked to capture the Reichstag.  Especially given that my forces had a nationality mix more appropriate to a UN peacekeeping force than the last desperate defenders of the Reich.

"Well that was surprising." said one of the scruffy German soldiers we met earlier.  "I would have sworn we'd all be on our way to Siberia by now."

"There's always tomorrow," replied his comrade.  "Oh look, there's that crazy Dane again."

The SS man stepped forward his eyes shining.

"That was glorious, a magnificent triumph.  Who says the Reich is doomed?"

"Oh for Christ's sake man, are you serious?" demanded one of the soldiers in exasperation.

"Not really," replied the Dane wearily.  "It's just that sometimes one's life choices turn out to be fucking stupid and then you have to try and make the best of it."

The two soldiers exchanged glances and one of them nodded.

"We've got a set of civilian clothes here, and what's left of the Danish embassy is just down the street."

"Do you honestly think they'll want me back in Denmark?"

"Not as much as they'll want you in Siberia."

"Good point," replied the SS man and started to change.  After he had gone one of the soldiers turned to the other.

"Do you think we might have helped a war criminal escape?"

"It's always possible, I'm Martin Bormann."

"I know, I'm Walter Schellenberg."

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Travelling Pathetically - Pocket Suburb Edition

After yesterday's raging success where I walked several kilometres for the occasional glimpse of a derelict waterway I was eagerly seeking a way I could keep this record of achievement intact.  Not difficult you might say but you don't know my usual record of achievement (unless you've been reading my after action reports).  I applied my mighty brain to the subject.  Five minutes later I realised that was a waste of time and watched television.  As I giggled at the antics of the paid buffoons on the screen (I think I was watching the News) the thought suddenly popped into my head "What is the smallest suburb in Sydney?"

Immediately the plan was born.  I would find out this smallest suburb and travel to same and then report what I had seen on the pages of this blog.  I honestly expected it would be somewhere in the heart of the city.  Some little colonial relic with old buildings, cafes and a diverse array of interesting people.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the town of Campbelltown in Sydney's southwest has apparently been shedding minor suburbs like a leper does body parts.

Somewhat to my horror I realised that I had committed myself to travelling to Macarthur (a suburb of Campbelltown) and then striking out for the little known suburb of Englorie Park home of a little over four hundred people.  Englorie Park takes its name from a prominent former resident of the area, a greyhound breeder by the name of Park.  The Englorie aspect is actually a corruption of Euglorie and was named by someone from Condobolin a town some four hundred odd kilometres from Englorie Park.  No attempt has been made to explain this.

Campbelltown, the urban sun of which Englorie Park is the most modest satellite is the major town of southwest Sydney. It is noted as having a great sporting tradition.  As in most similar places "having a great sporting tradition" is code for high unemployment and cases of crimes against property.  Despite this there is apparently a strong community feel to the area (I guess its difficult to stay mad at the guy who stole your car when you play football together).

I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised when I got off the train at Macarthur.  I won't say I actually expected to alight in the middle of a gang war but I didn't necessarily expect it to be pleasant.  And it was pleasant, the station is adjacent to what must be the least benighted and godforsaken shopping mall I've ever encountered, Macarthur Square.  The pleasantness of the shopping precinct surprised me.  Surprise turned to astonishment when a sign informed me that the owners were an Australian property development company most famous for creating buildings of stupefying ugliness.

Macarthur Square is the preeminent shopping centre (it really deserves the term precinct) in the region and a good part of Englorie Park's reputation as a "desirable" part of Campbelltown can be explained by the suburb's proximity to the shopping centre.  In fact the only complaint I have about the shopping centre is it took a fair amount of time to get through it onto the road that would lead me to Englorie Park.

It would be more accurate to say that the road led me in the general direction of Englorie Park. Getting there was a little more problematic, I had to go down a side road, through what appeared to be some natural bushland, across a creek, under a road, past a football field, up another road to get back onto the road I had been on originally and then I had to nip up a path behind a bus stop.  The road itself ran right past the suburb but didn't go in.

Here's the thing.  Englorie Park is one of those suburbs that presents a solid ring of houses to the outside world.  A single road (on the other side of the suburb) provides access, circles around the houses on the inside and meets up with itself.  If you're driving this is the only way of accessing the entire suburb.  On foot as I was there are a couple more options such as the path I mentioned.

Having circumnavigated half the suburb I finally stumbled gasping into its very heart and gazed around to see what the place had to offer.  Since the entire suburb is only eleven hectares in size the answer is not very much.  The Campbelltown city website extols the reserve, which seems to take up about half of the available space, in terms of almost gushing enthusiasm.  I have to admit that if you like grass well, there definitely is some.

In fairness there is nothing wrong with the reserve.  There is grass, the occasional tree and a nice view down to the aforementioned bushland and football field.  However I don't think it's going to make Forbes top 500 reserves any time soon.  In terms of amenities the suburb has precisely one; a childcare centre for the benefit of those parents for whom abandoning their children in a reserve is just a little too blatant.  The centre is actually based in Mr Park's old house which is heritage listed and probably quite nice but there were trees in the way and you don't want to be caught peering into a childcare centre if you aren't actually a parent so I passed it by with only a cursory glance.

With that unless I actually wanted to bang on people's doors and demand access (I didn't) there was nothing more that Englorie Park could show me.  I think it took me half an hour to walk through the suburb and ten minutes of that was spent trying to find a way back in when I inadvertantly wandered out into neighbouring Glen Alpine.