Thursday, 25 February 2016

Hill 107-Origins

Thurs 25th February

                           People have been asking me why I have used the name Hill 107 as my blog title.Hill 107 in reality is a peaceful and serene part of Crete situated a couple of kilometers from the hustle and bustle of the main highway that runs between the west and east of the island.I have visited the island on a few occasions and still get entranced by its beauty and even although it is a tourist hotspot it still has an air of serenity especially in the west of the island far away from the young inhabited resorts of the eastern part of the island.
                                  The scene seventy odd years ago was a direct contrast to today's peace and quiet as the German invaders from mainland Greece had decided on a combined air and sea invasion of the island to deny its use as a staging point for bombers to threaten Germany's oil supplies.
                                   The German plan was to capture the airfields with paratroopers so that infantry could be landed by plane instead of parachute.The problem with German paratroopers at the time was that they couldn't jump with their main weapons as the German parachutes in use were not good enough therefore the paras were vulnerable until they could find their weapon canisters which could have landed anywhere.
German weapons container
                                    This combined with good intelligence obtained by the British forces meant they were dropping onto a very hostile area.The defenders held out until some form of Chinese whispers had made them leave their defensive positions on Hill 107 which had kept Maleme airfield in their hands.The Germans were struggling to take the airfield and were just about to attack the airfield when they found that the positions had been vacated.The airfield fell into their hands which meant they could bring in more troops with their equipment meaning the beginning of the end for British and Commonwealth forces in Crete.After a withdrawal to a southern port they were evacuated to Egypt and the Germans embedded themselves for the next four years.
                                      That's the very concentrated history lesson over with.I am sure that there are more intricate versions available in books and on line but if anybody wants to have a chit-chat about the campaign don't be scared to drop me a line.
                                         Nowadays the area is more tranquil and also very easy to get to with an excellent bus service which stops just at the turnoff for the German war cemetry which is now situated on the top of Hill 107.
                                          Bus services in Crete are amazing and very cheap with luxury coaches running up and down the main island highway very frequently.After the bus drops you off you can look forward to a nice stroll up a winding road through olive groves up towards the cemetery stopping to look occasionally over the Sea of Crete and to the start of the Aegean sea.Also the noise of the highway traffic diminishes minute by minute until the only sounds you can hear are the grasshoppers going about their merry way.
                                           Halfway up the path you come across an added bonus with the entrance to the Tholos tomb which is said to date back to the Minoan age.
                                            Before you arrive up to the cemetery you come to the Hill 107 cafe offering drinks and snacks.I had been reliably informed that their apple pie was amazing.It was that amazing that a group of American soldiers had beat me to the draw and finished it all off.So much for the special relationship.I had to content myself with a doughnut.There was also a lot of memorabilia lying about but I would peruse that later.
                                           Heading up to the cemetery there is an exhibition of pictures and maps outlining the battle in English,German and Greek which sets you up nicely to enter the cemetery and appreciate why it was there.
                                          The cemetery was amazing.As well as the stillness and the abundance of red flowers,the actual graves were marked by marble slabs as opposed to the Allied marble crosses that were found in Suda bay.In typical German fashion they were laid in neat rows,which after reading the map before you came in made it easier for families to find their fallen relatives.
                                          I spent a good couple of hours walking round noticing above other things the fact that the vast majority were killed over a two day period which I'm sure must make most people think that the invasion wasn't really worth it in the scheme of things but I suppose that can be said about a lot of military operations.
General Bruno Brauer who in my opinion was wrongly executed for war crimes when more guilty persons were let off.
  There are other memorials to sailors killed in the sea around Crete,soldiers who were killed in an abortive attempt to bring in soldiers from mainland Greece under cover of darkness and also a memorial to a 1975  West German military aircraft crash in the Cretan mountains which caused the deaths of 37 West German soldiers and airmen.
                                              Another positive comparison between the wargrave sites is that as I have said a lot in this piece is that Hill 107 is very quiet with the only noises coming from the local birdlife whereas Suda bay cemetery is stuck beside a ferry port.local docks and a busy highway making all told enough noise to wake the dead.
                                             I took a few pictures to back up my opinion of Hill 107 and after I had finished that task made my way back down to the cafe where there was an exhibition of memorabilia and artefacts which had been left over from the occupation( including a Bofors gun) and also some pieces which had been dug by local farmers.
Didn't defend the Apple pie from the Americans though
Greek helmet
Various German helmets
 I had a great day rounded off with a few bottles of the local amber nectar followed by a cheap and nasty local red firewater.I'll speak to you soon and I'll tell you a little about one of the German paras involved, Major Walter Koch who was one of the inspirations behind the character of Oberst Kurt Steiner from "The Eagle has landed".

Monday, 22 February 2016

Bohemian Alamo

Thursday 18th Feb.
       A hastily arranged game involving Russian units chasing the retreating French army with a  unit of Czech infantry holed up in a village guarding the only path between two mountains was on the agenda for this evening.Obviously from the chitchat round the table this stems from the new television version of War and Peace having just finished on the BBC.Not having watched it being more of a Hawaii 5-0 kinda guy I went along for the ride.It ended up as a very good evening's entertainment culminating in a rip roaring finale with our side the French edging it at full time but I think if there had been extra-time they Russians would have achieved similar results.
                                   The two sides lined up with Bill,Hugh and Dave O'Brien taking the Russian side with Bart,Ray and myself being French for the evening.Dave(Crockett)Mitchell had the unenvious task of holding out in the village until the Russian reinforcements could arrive.
                                     My fav skulker Donald Adamson was the chief instigator and umpire for this Napoleonic romp through the Bohemian mountains.
                                    Bart was given task of slowing the Russian bear whilst Ray and I chewed the fat on the other side of the mountain.Donald came up with the idea of his fav Frenchman Colonel Gerrard enjoying the carnal delights of a young barmaid in Dave M's village and on overhearing the Czech officers planning to switch sides jumped on his faithful steed and headed of to warn Ray and I's forces waiting like a coiled spring ready in true French style to come to Bart's aid.
Colonel Gerrard arrives with his information about the turncoat Czechs only to be that knackered he takes two turns to brief them.
           Bart's forces which contained the ubiquitous Polish contingent were hammered on all sides by a combination of Bill,Hugh and Dave O'b's forces and held on for a long time being whittled down from three sides and just as they were retreating towards the village Dave M's forces shot him in the back.After a last charge from Russian cavalry Bart's French forces were crushed to the last Pole.
We'll die to the last Pole!
  Up for revenge Ray's and my forces in true Gallic fashion slowly made our way towards the turncoat village ready to exact vengeance upon our one time allies.That we did with a full frontal assault on the village with artillery and cavalry for support at one time annihilating some Russian reinforcements who had the gall to emerge from the attacked village.
                            After a few horrific attempts to clear the village we eventually cleared the Czechs from the village only to be met with the sight of the Russian hordes staring us in the face.Luckily 10.00 had arrived and the full time whistle had blown or else it would have been curtains for the remaining French.
                          A great game put on at the last minute and kept us on tenterhooks right to the end.
                  Bill Gilchrist,Hugh Wilson & Dave O'Brien-the Uncouth Russian bear.

                  Bart Zynda,Mr Ray Neal and myself -les tres galant Francais.

                  Oh and Dave Mitchell-prebehlik!

           Scenario and figs-Donald Adamson
           Figures-Bill Gilchrist

           And to start it all off a nice afternoon tea of petit pain avec jambon et tomates.

           Bart's game report can be found on his blog both in English and Polish.

Friday, 12 February 2016

My kingdom for a horse!

Sun 7th Feb

                   My first wargame show of hopefully a full calendar found me at York racecourse without a horse.There may have been no horses but there were lots of games and traders to keep me interested  and that I was.I had ventured south to see what southern traders and clubs had to offer and I wasn't disappointed.

                      On arrival to the show the first game that I seen was a clubs interpretation of the battle of Prestonpans which to me was an eyeopener as it looked slightly different from my hometown.
By the look of the scenery it looked more like a Hollywood interpretation of the town and the battle.I believe the same mode of scenery was used for a previous attack on Leith,a suburb of Edinburgh.I'll let you be the judge.More photos of the battle can be seen at Bill Gilchrist's blog.
          When I go to these shows I look for the games that appeal to me and I could look no further than Back of Beyond.This time put on by the League of Extraordinary Kreigspielers who have created the Setting the East Ablaze rules which I find second best only to Bolt Action.
Another game that took my fancy was the game centred around the siege of the Alamo with every one of the defenders represented which amounted to nearly 200 figures.This game was put on by the Bunker.This I believe is a wargame centre which can be hired out and they put on some splendid games.
                On my rounds of the show I noticed a peculiar game based on a SBS attack on a Russian Krivak destroyer which allegedly contained the nephew of Leonard Brezhnev.
Whatever!This game was put on by MDK gamers and if my memory serves me correctly it was featured in an earlier Wargames Illustrated magazine.

                   One of the traders I spent my hard earned cash( huh says Lady Watson) was at Peter Pig's stall enlarging my Ak 47 army.
          I fancy doing this game as my main table is just about big enough for 15mm and I've always liked the concept of this game and the gameplay is nice and easy especially as I use the earlier rules.This is another game that has been wasted by the introduction of updated rules.I fancy a modern pirate army with RPGs and AK47s instead of muskets and cutlasses.Don't think I'll have to look far for inspiration.
          I also picked up some 28mm figures for the Congo in the 60's.Shades of Wild Geese.
          More pics can be seen on Bill Gilchrist's blog.
That's my roundup of my York trip so I'll speak to you soon.

Onwards And Upwards

Wed 3rd Feb

         Lady Watson turned 21+ today and in celebration we decided to head for the hills or in this case the mountains.The one we had in mind was the Jungfraujoch which is the highest accessible point in the European continent.To cap it all it started to snow for the first time since we had arrived.Snow it did-all day.
Happy Birthday to me
Another thing I like about the Swiss is that they just get on with it without any of the whinging we get in Britain.People just get out and clean paths and station platforms without even thinking about it and the trains still run on time.
I think it's a wee bit lost
           We headed up the mountain this time till we reached Kleine Sheidigg which is the changing point for the train up to the Jungfraujoch.By this time the snow was becoming more intense but onwards and upwards went our train.
             There are stopping points were one can get out and take some photographs.These photo points were situated in the long tunnel leading up to our destination.
               We arrived at the top once again to be met by scores of Chinese.Seemingly the mountain range is twinned with the Huangshan mountains in China.That would explain a lot as they were all over the place.They were even selling pot noodles in the cafe for about £6.00 a go!I saw the same ones for 69p each in Asda.Obviously the Chinese have more money than sense.
            The Jungfraujoch has exhibits about the construction of the railway up to the top of the mountain.There is an Ice palace contained within the complex with ice structures with ice penguins and even an ice igloo.
             Another selling point is the Lindt chocolate factory which is contained within the structure.This gives you the chance to make chocolate and also get to see the experts at work.
             All in all an excellent place to visit even on a snowy day as such.We headed back down the mountain to Wengen with a landscape which resembled something out of Where Eagles Dare.
Tim Watson-News at ten-Looking for Captain Oates
         The day was finished off with an excellent dinner in the hotel restaurant.It was also the chef's birthday so a toast was given to both of the birthday people with the aid of a rose hip liqueur before we headed back upstairs to pack our bags as it was an early start the following morning to catch the plane home from Basle airport.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Our Eiger sanction

Tues 2nd Feb

                  A rather sedate day today nestled between yesterday's climb up the Schilthorn and tomorrows trip up to the highest accessible point in Europe.Our plan was to visit the town of  Grindelwald situated on a branch line between Lauterbrunnen and Interlaken.Once again due to the mild weather there was not very much snow around,a problem that would be rectified the following day.
            Grindelwald is situated near the bottom of Mount Eiger and also near the bottom of a mountain called First which up till then I thought was a company that ran a fleet of gas spewing buses in East Lothian.One of the first thing I noticed was the amount of cars running through this village meaning we had to start thinking before we crossed a road.It has a modern sportscentre with a new ice-rink to replace the one that was used to portray the christmas village in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.Yes I know an alterior motive for visiting this village.
                                 We visited the Hotel Kreuz to partake in a couple of fortified coffees before perusing the locality and lookin around at the awe inspiring mountains
Maybe there's a Swiss info bureau in Tokyo
The rest of the day was taken up with daundering  through the village, taking photos and basically having a chill day.
Hotel Kreuz again

Looking for a few tips

Mount Eiger with not even a glimpse of Clint Eastwood

Funny advert for a pizzeria

Another building used in O.H.M.S.S
                              After an afternoon of looking around the village and buying the usual souvenirs we headed back down the railway towards Interlaken for some nice local food-and one of the best Chinese meals this side of Hong Kong.
Once again it was a relaxing day finished of with a sumptuous repast,getting us primed for our journey tomorrow to the highest accessible point in Europe without the use of climbing gear.
Something to finish with