Brittle in battle?

(Rob Morgan submits the following.)

There are lots of ways to extend and enjoy further the collections of figures and AFVs stacked up on the shelves, and this is one which occurred to me a long time ago, after reading an article in Fine Scale Modeller (July 1995) written by George R. Bradford (who may just possibly be reading this).

George’s article dealt with the research data behind Nazi Germany’s First Supertank. No, not the Tiger but the often overlooked Neubaufahrzeug (Nbfz) of which three armoured and two mild steel prototypes were built and used in action. Three went to the Norwegian Campaign in April 1940, and any of the “action” photos encountered of these beasts seem to date from then. They were far from being “supertanks” of course. They had a single 75mm KwKL/24 gun, and three 7.92mm machine guns, one in the main turret front and one mounted in each of two small one-man turrets fore and aft.

The armoured versions had 15mm on the turret front, 20mm on the hull front and otherwise 13mm. The two mild steel jobs were, well, mild steel. These tanks were slow too, capable of around 19 mph, with a six-man crew and weighing 23 or so tons in all.

One Nbfz was lost in Norway, and the other two quickly met their end at the hands of Soviet KV-1s during the opening phases of “Barbarossa.” Now, George Bradford ends his account of this odd AFV by saying of the two mild steel ( i.e., soft metal) prototypes that they served as training vehicles (which is fair enough) and also “confusing the enemy.” ( Hm?)

I wonder what they “confused” with them? Anyone know?

So, I thought, what if, in any conflict or battle using AFVs, one or two are not what they seem? I tried this in an encounter using some big Soviet jobs, the early war multi-turret types, and some Axis lighter stuff, Italian-made Cv’s with 20mm Solothurn guns and Pz-35s, that sort of thing. I tried it too with some Pz-I’s and British and French jobs. The idea that an attacking force had amongst its ranks a number of  prototype tanks, randomly chosen because there’s nothing else to throw into the battle, played havoc with all sorts of intentions.

Even an armoured car might take out the AFV, and an anti-tank rifle might prove to be just what it says on the barrel! It may of course persuade those facing the mild steel attackers that they are indeed invincible or armed with a wonder weapon. “Hey boys, these 0.5in Boyes a/t rifles are just perfect for knocking out those Panzers!” That sort of thing.

Of course, a smaller power might only have a few tankettes and the rest of its armoured force be made up of AFVs intended just to show a force on parade days, with guns, yes, but nothing else.

Choose something sensible. I could never imagine a T-34 or a Panther as being mild steel, but many of the Japanese tanks and tankettes quite possibly, and the little AFVs, the Marmon Harringtons and Cv’s used by the Chinese. Or some very small army in the Axis ranks.

In German terms or Soviet, I thought of a Penal Battalion, as in Sven Hassel’s books. Well, after all, you’d know that what you’re sitting in rings like a broken bell and doesn’t actually do much to repel shrapnel or rifle bullets. My uncle was at El Alamein and tells me that whatever people say, riflemen did fire at tanks hoping to get one through a vision slit, or whatever!

Of course, there’s a hint of science in the fiction. Wasn’t it the U.S. Sheridan tank which proved prone to split its hull when it hit a land mine? You could arrange for a dud job lot of quite modern looking AFVs to be handed over to a dubious ally.

Just an idea for a slightly different game.

— Rob Morgan

This entry was posted in Periods - World War II. Bookmark the permalink.