Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Megablitz – France 1940 – Part 2

On the front line, French divisions continued to hold stubbornly, die bravely, and counterattack as the opportunities presented themselves. There was no hiding the fact though, that the speed of the German advance had short-circuited the French command structure.

Panzers stream past RACHELLE. Ground crew and a fighter squadron can be seen heading west.

Such French air missions as there were struck targets deep in the rear of the advance rather than supporting the defenders in the front line. The air situation was oftern chaotic, and in the picture below, Bombers heading east to attack targets can be seen passing fighters escaping west from  NICOLE.


Fighters returning from missions found themselves struggling back to overcrowded aerodromes in the rear, or landing on strips abandoned by ground crew in the face of the advancing enemy.

air11Burning fighters litter the dispersal bays at CLAIRE, long since abandoned by the ground crew.

Yet more aircraft had to be destroyed on the ground for lack of fuel. Nevertheless, L’Armee de l’Air struggled on until the end, losing aircraft to advancing enemy, dive bombing attacks and lack of fuel and spares. Individual groundcrew units made harrowing and heroic treks across enemy held territory, only to arrive at strips that were being abandoned in turn.

A bomber sortie from YOLANDE catches Korps assets in a stroke of good fortune.

YOLANDE in particular was defended long after CLAIRE had fallen, yet the airmen were frustrated by orders to pull back, rather than support their army colleagues.The final act came as mon General obeyed orders to fly out from SUZANNE, escorted by his two surviving fighter squadrons. Someone compared it to the scene on the ice planet from ‘Star Wars’. I can see now where Lucas got his idea from!

GENEVIEVE comes under heavy air attack.

Bout de Souffle gallantly takes a squadron into combat to buy enough time for surviving bombers to fly off south. He is not heard of again.

It was perhaps illustrative of the ferocious speed of the German advance that  a thrusting Korps commander, General Guderian (Phil Steele), arrived at SUZANNE, hotly on the heels of the departing French army staff, only to be dive bombed by his own Luftwaffe! Much firing of red and violet flares ensued and one can imagine the General calling his air liaison officer in for a long ‘interview without coffee’ afterwards. By then of course, General Rommel was paddling on the channel beaches, so all was forgiven.

Exploding supply dumps, approaching Germans and burning bombers frame mon General’s hurried departure from SUZANNE. Life as a French commander is never dull!

Managing the Air Game.
I had planned to be more formal on the logistic side in this game than the last, That plan survived only one minute of contact with the enemy, when it became apparent that to keep 19 other players engaged, I would have to fall back on the tried and trusted narrative approach. Rather more time was spent with the French than the Germans in a reversal of normal umpiring practice. The Luftwaffe game was relatively simple – one attack per day with every servicable aircraft. I would roll up with the flying circus, invite a handy French and German player to roll a few dice, then leave the ‘planes for photo opportunities.

YOLANDE was the last surviving airfield in French hands. By then all the aircraft seen above had flown west.

The French needed more nurturing to keep their spirits up, although they remained remarkably chipper and stoical throughout, and the narrative above reflects this. The main principle that getting the player interactions right was more important than the game mechanics held good.

I was , however, more formal than Tim’s admirably concise brief obliged me to be ;  “Just make it up as you go along!” This even extended to looking at what the rules actually said, which was a bit of a departure for me, I must admit. My life was made immeasurably easier by the excellent spirit in which the players approached the game.

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