Friday, 25 October 2019

Section by section

Your bloggist likes a good talk/lecture. Apart from those that I've already written about I have fairly recently been to a number of others on subjects as diverse as Sir Walter Ralegh and Georgia O'Keefe. So I was a bit embarrassed and annoyed that I have only just discovered that The Royal Armouries runs a series of free lectures once or twice a month, especially as I lived literally next door to the place for a year. Now, if there is one type of talk that Epictetus likes above all others it's one for which he doesn't have to pay and so I took myself off to listen to the latest, given by Dr Alexander Shaw and entitled 'Band of Brothers'.

It was a comparison of the tactics employed by British rifle sections of the Second World War with those used by their German equivalents. This really isn't my area of expertise so I won't try to pass on his conclusions, beyond the general one that, for all the technological advances during it, victory in that war was still dependent on small groups of isolated men killing or being killed. It was a comprehensive run through explaining how things changed during the war and how, in the case of the British particularly, these tactics were adapted for the desert, the jungle and for urban warfare. It was fascinating stuff and I learned a lot, admittedly from a low base. Did you know that a 3" mortar could fire 60% more HE a minute than a 25pdr? Perhaps you did, but I didn't.

I'm afraid it didn't stimulate any long suppressed desire to wargame it. It's all a bit too close to home for me, a bit too recent. And let's be honest, re-fighting Sidi Rezegh one hundred and thirty seven times did nothing to endear the period to me. Nor am I really interested in small scale actions. But, I hear you say, what about gaming WWI with Through the Mud and the Blood? Well, interesting as the few games we had were, I don't sense any appetite from any of us to play it any more. And it is actually, despite one figure representing one man, at a somewhat higher level than what was discussed here. One of Dr Shaw's points was to illustrate the changes in British tactics between the wars, with the specialist sections of the Great War (rifle, Lewis gun, rifle grenades and bombers) being replaced by four homogeneous rifle sections each with a Bren gun.

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