Thursday, 29 November 2012

Siberian landscapes

 Irtysh River - Khanty Mansiysk is built on a set of low sandy hills - this is the view of one of the main rivers - it's navigable by relatively large ships, but only because they work at it constantly with dredgers, otherwise flat bottomed barges and rafts would be the norm.
 Large expanses of fir woodland cover most of the areas with any topography.
 An artists impression of the local wildlife c. 10,000 years ago.
 Wooded sandy hills, only open areas are man made or the cut banks of rivers.
 Birch forest - these are really tall, but spindly.
 Really nice Eastern Orthodox church on the edge of town
 Even big monuments like this prospect tower are lost in the trees more than a 100m or so.
The town itself - the old part by the docks and river wharfs.

Unfortunately, I couldn't photograph much on the lowlands (i.e. everything the other side of the river).  When we flew over it it comprised roughly circular lakes up to a few kilometers across surrounded by marshes with standing pools, crossed by anastomosing stream/small river channels, lined by small trees and scrub.  Any road or rail lines crossing the area were ruler straight and most looked to have been embanked or piled to raise them above the marsh.,69.049072&spn=0.712954,2.705383&safe=off&client=firefox-a&channel=np&hnear=Khanty-Mansiysk,+Khanty-Mansiysky+District,+Khanty-Mansi+Autonomous+Okrug,+Russia&t=h&z=9

If the link works it takes you to a googlemaps image of the area which gives a good impression.

Just to give you some idea of what the Siberian landscape is like.  Of course, a couple of weeks after these pictures were taken the temperature was -20C on average, dropping to -49C in extremes.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Soviet T34 and Great Patriotic War Memorial - Siberia

In the spirit of sharing, begun with modern vehicles, here's some photos of a salvaged WW2 era T34 that we found in Victory Park, Khanty Mansisk, Siberia.  The park is a Great Patriotic War (WW2) memorial to the fallen.  The plaque suggests this was an early production T34/76 produced in 1942 from a factory hastily evacuated east of the Urals.  In winter they drove the tanks to a railhead across a frozen lake but this one went across in the thaw and broke through.

The T34 through birch forest - typical of huge tracts of northern Russia.
 The tank on its plinth
 I don't think I'd like to be a German soldier viewing the thing from this angle!

Avenue of Heroes of the Soviet Union.  All these guys were locals from this region of Siberia who made the ultimate sacrifice doing heroic deeds.  The memorial is treated with considerably more respect than our war memorials - no dregs stealing the plaques for scrap here!

Mother Russia weeping for the fallen.

  Last view of the T34.
There were some other bits of equipment on display including what looked like a WW1 era field gun and a lend lease British (or Canadian?) made 4.2" mortar - if we could deceipher the Russian plaques correctly.

Soviet era vehicles in Siberia

Well, new projects continue to beckon.  I'm now setting out on a USMC brigade group for a cold war turned hot in 1985 - thinking the unthinkable.  This would have been my peak time for call up had things gone a different route, although I might have been tempted to preempt call up at the time by volunteering for the RAF - it's the path my dad followed at 18 in WW2!

Anyway, having developed an interest in more modern equipment, I thought I'd share some photos that I took when I was working on a project in Siberia back in 2010.  We were visiting Nyagan and stumbled across these vehicles forming a war memorial - we thought to Soviet casualties of the Afghan conflict of the 80's, but my Russian is scant to say the least.

Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong with the vehicle ID.

I think this is a BMP-1

BMP-1  again
 And again
 ZSU23/4 Shilka
 and again
All 3 in the memorial
 The image quality isn't the best but we were visiting in late September and only had a brief chance to look around the town so the sun was very low in the sky.  The week after we left temperatures were -10C and falling!

The cammo pattern on the Shilka is a base of bright green with olive green sploges outlined in black or very dark green.  The BTR-60 is similar although the edges of the spots are less well defined and the BMP seems to be just in bright green with olive green splodges.

Thanks to Richard (cardophillips) for correcting my ID on the BTR-60.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

British paratroopers

Well, I've been progressing the Adler 8th Army troops that I purchased at World Wargames in October.
However, in the meantime, I was invited by Ian Shaw to join Deeside Defenders, which I did last week.

Last week, Ian and I fought a Normandy scenario, using Blitzkrieg Commander II (BKCII) involving a British Paratroop  Brigade, plus divisional supports and an attached Churchill tank regiment, taking on a three batt German Panzergrenadier Brigade plus a batallion each of Panzer IVs and Tigers, plus relevant supports.  The scenario, I was British, involved a Paratroop batt holding a town and river bridge, with the remaining Paratroop batts and Churchill Regt coming on board to relieve them.  Ian chose to place two of his Panzergenadier batts as a screen on hills across the moddle of the board, with his armour and armoured Panzergenadiers attacking the town and bridge.  Both the German attacking force and British relieving forces came on table using mobile deployment at random points decided by a dice throw, the Germans close to the town and the Brits on the opposite side of the board.  We only managed c. 4-5 turns, with Ians Panzers forcing their way into the outskirts of the town, despite some nasty artillery deviation onto his own Panzergrenadiers, with my Churchills and Paratroopers more or less eliminating one of the screening Panzergrenadier batts, chiefly through the extensive use of artillery and some good old Paratrooper close assaults supported by Churchills.  This left the way clear for the Churchills to advance into contact with the flank/rear of the Tiger batt taking on the village.  I think we were fairly liberal with the rules as written, but it made for an enjoyable game and my first in many years against a real live opponent.  I was astonished to discover just how devastating artillery barrages were in the game, something which compares well with actual accounts (e.g. John Keegan's "Six Armies in Normandy").  It was a fun game, played in a friendly atmosphere - the Deeside Defenders are a great bunch and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I didn't take a camera along to the game, which is a pity, but I have pictures of my forces involved.

The whole battle group, rear left Paratrooper Batt tasked with holding the town and bridge, rear centre and right two Paratrooper Batts tasked with relieving the defenders.  Front left, Churchill Regt spearheading relieving force, front right 6pdr AT battery plus two stands of 75mm Pack Hows.  Centre, Brigade CO, FAO and FAC.

Typhoon air support - Tigers beware!

Churchill Regt - these guys are tough - flanks don't reduce the armour save - I still managed to loose two to long range AT fire from a PAK Co - they paid for it with a strike from three 25pdr batteries.

 1st Paratroop infantry batt - the defenders of the bridge.  These are the most recently painted and I'm pretty happy with the results - I used a white gesso base coat and this seems to make the uniform colours really pop.  Compare these with the 2nd and 3rd batts, where I used a black base coat.  Rear row are two 3" mortar and a Vickers MMG platoon.  Middle rows are 9 paratrooper infantry platoons in three Cos and front left is a pioneer platoon, the HQ and a Paratroop recce platoon.
 2nd Paratrooper Batt - black undercoat
3rd Paratrooper Batt

 6pdr Airlanding AT battery
 75mm Pack Howitzer support

 From left to right, Forward Air Controller (FAC), Forward Artillery Observer (FAO), Naval Gunfire Support Observer (NGSO) and Paratrooper FAO.
Divisional Co, Defence platoon and Brigade Co.

OK, so the 8th Army are progressing and at least some should be photographed soon.  I'm also thinking of looking at Cold War Commander and putting together an East German Motor Rifle/Panzergrenadier Division.  The guys at Deeside also play Dux Bellorum, which I've ordered from Amazon so might be dabbling in the Dark Ages again soon!