German Colonial Railways Southwest Africa WW1

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From Battles With Modeł Soldiers by Donald Featherstone (p.169). The final sentence reads used its crew and guns as a shore party to assist in the campaign.
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From Battles with Model Soldiers by Donald Featherstone (p. 176)

Back in 1970 when Donald Featherstone wrote Battles with Model Soldiers, a chapter on World War 1  gaming was quite unusual. He admits in the opening sentence of his WW2  chapter that “If World War 1 lacks its wargaming devotees then World War 2 certainly makes up for the deficiency.”

In his WW1 chapter he notes that “This open warfare of 1914 is about the only period of World War 1 on the Western Front that lends itself to campaigning with Model Soldiers” (p.167) and ” … seems merely to be an extension of ‘horse and musket’ warfare plus the added involvement of machine-gun sale together with more numerous and longer-range artillery.” (P.170)

As a young gamer in the late Seventies the only WWI figures I had access to were a precious handful of lively posed Airfix OOHO WWI figures, which were frustratingly only occasionally available. These would suffice only for the Western Front, admittedly at different time periods of soft caps and steel helmets.

Fortunately in the mid 1980s and recently online, I have bought a small handful of 15mm Peter Laing figures that would suit a WW1 African or Colonial campaign.

I recently redound this Roy Link article  on SW Africa in WW1 in my scrapbook.

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A lovely article from my scrapbook, originally in Continental Modeller.

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An interesting scenario for colonial or WW1,  Zwillinge Twin locos and all.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_West_African_Zwillinge

These South African Railways photos give an idea of the dry terrain. More photographs of terrain, bridges, stations, Schutztruppe and South Africans  can be found in the German website http://www.klausdierks.com/Eisenbahnen/

and in English http://www.klausdierks.com/Namibia_Rail/annexure2.htm

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Interesting games scenario focus of a Plate girder bridge over a river for this Colonial German WW1 desert railway – easily demolished? Picture by South African Railways.

Lots of interesting games scenarios here, set in Southwest Africa, quite  similar to the Turkish Middle Eastern WW1 railway scenario that I played through recently in 2017.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/blowing-up-desert-trains/

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My 15mm “Blowing up Desert Trains” scenario set somewhere in WW1 in the Middle East. 

This German South West African area is also briefly covered in Railways and War Before 1918 (Mechanised warfare in colour)  by W.J.K. Davies and Denis Bishop, 1972. A superbly illustrated book, full of information, out of print but well worth tracking down second hand. A German Feldbahn o-8-oT  type loco developed in SW Africa and widely used in their thousands elsewhere  is shown (top) on the cover. A separate armoured water tender with ride-on troop escort was carried.

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Peter Laing 15mm figures produced a WW1 / Colonial range that would suit, sadly no longer available. I have some of these figures that would stand in for Schutztruppe, askaris and WWI British or South African troops.

Donald Featherstone mentions in his 1962 book War Games the possibility of an East African campaign scenario c. WW1  “Few collectors seem interested in World War 1, although there is much to be found in the Battles of 1914 and early 1915, before the war bogged down in a mass of trench warfare – a fascinating little campaign can be made of the German East African fighting in which native troops can be used.”

In reality and in any gaming scenario, the rail link to the SW African inland mines of copper and vanadium would be crucial to the allied of German war effort. 

What was the historic background to these Colonial German Railway in wartime? 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_Namibia

The Namibian railway system dates from the time when Namibia was a colony of the German Empire known as German South West Africa.

This arid part of the African continent was not very productive for agriculture. Initially, overland transport was operated entirely by ox-cart. A small mining rail line opened at Cape Cross in 1895. Soon afterwards, the ox-cart transport system totally collapsed, in the wake of a rinderpest epidemic in 1897.

As it was necessary to react quickly to the now extremely precarious transport situation, decisions were made:

1. to build a railway line from the German port of Swakopmund to Windhoek

2. to use existing, 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) gauge military Feldbahn material

3. to entrust a railway brigade with the construction work, which began in September 1897.

Train services on the whole of the new line, which was called the Staatsbahn (State Railway), began on 19 June 1902.

The historical background (thanks Wikipedia) 

Construction of the railways connecting with the Staatsbahn was aimed partly at military strategic objectives (following the uprising of the Herero and Nama peoples) and partly at the economic requirements of serving the inland mines.

I had not heard of the Herero Wars and quickly realised that this was not a pleasant  period of history, certainly not something lightly suitable for gaming.

Herero Wars  history blogs do exist such as Tim Abbott’s extensive blog at http://omaheke.blogspot.co.uk

Askari Minis produce a range of 28mm figures including Hereros and Askaris but also other colonial types that could easily be adopted for a Colonial SW Africa scenario or Hollywood pulp B movie scenario. Straight out of Tintin or Indiana Jones!

http://www.askari-minis.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=53

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Certainly reading more about the Herero Wars / Genocide convinced me that this was not to be confused with the Hollywood style Wild West / Lawrence of Arabia type train ambush scenario that caught my eye when  I first glimpsed Roy Link’s article in an old issue of Continental Modeller.

The Herero Wars (1904-08) were particularly nasty, with German use of concentration camps (invented by the British in the recent Boer War), a conflict recently classified as one of the first genocides of the 20th century.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herero_and_Namaqua_genocide

World War 1 background

With the outbreak of World War I, the German Schutztruppe military units retreated from the coast, and withdrew into the inland.

In the process, as in the American Civil War, there was deliberate track and train wrecking to deny this route and transport to the enemy invaders.  The German  Schutztruppe destroyed the Otavibahn and the old Staatsbahn railways towards Karibib, as far as Rössing.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutztruppe

British troops immediately moved forward from the British enclave of Walvis Bay, and by the end of 1914 they had built a 37 km (23 mi) long 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) railway to Swakopmund.

The Otavibahn destroyed by the Schutztruppe was also reconstructed by British and South African engineers in 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) gauge  as far as Usakos, and the section between Usakos and Karibib was realigned.

Neighbouring South Africa was also on the Allied side, effectively forming a local enemy of the German Empire. From South Africa, a new railway was constructed  as an extension of the De Aar-Prieska railway. This was designed and built  to achieve a secure supply route for the South African troops. By 1916, the line was connected to the old German network at Kalkfontein (now Karasburg).

By chance, Tony of the Tin Soldiering On blog mentioned the savageandsoldier.com website which features material on the German military presence in Africa.

http://www.savageandsoldier.com/articles/africa/GermanWars.html

Tha is the web version of the Colonial Wars of Imperial Germany articles by Paul Beck, with very useful uniform plates by Nick Stern, webified by John Switzer.

http://www.puk.ac.za/hess/Koos4.htm

Another interesting WW1 in SW Africa blog at http://ww1blog.osborneink.com/?p=1437

As mentioned on my main Man of TIN blog, there is an interesting WW1 website called Away from the Western Front  which mentions Africa in WW1, but so far only a focus on East Africa in WW1.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/away-from-the-western-front-ww1-history-blog/

So I have some painting of WW1 Peter Laing 15mm figures to do to populate another scenario, inspired by these other desert railways. My trusty Train In a Tin has just acquired a German accent …

Blogposted by Mark, Man of TIN, 17 April 2018.

 

 

 

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Blowing Up Trains Part 2

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Original desert hexscape before I added more desert  hexes and features

Following on from setting up the game in the previous post

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/blowing-up-desert-trains-part-1/

This was my second chance to use my large new 192 Hexes of Joy board, set out as a railway crossing of swampy stream running through an arid desert region.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/192-hexes-of-joy-a-larger-hex-game-board/

I wanted to create a quick, not very realistic  Lawrence of Arabia style scenario using a train, a desert and a bridge crossing.

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/charlotte-bronte-and-lawrence-of-arabia-blow-up-trains/

More Desert Needed

I ran out of Heroscape desert hexes, and the rest of my household judged the board not quite deserty enough and a little too much green showing.

The sand pit source of sand was flooded – too long to dry, a trial Woodland Scenics bag of desert grit was nowhere to be found.  Instead a quick trial repaint of some green and grey hexes with a desert colour sort of worked.

I had no desert sand Revell Aquacolor Acyrlic to hand,  so mixed their Matt Flesh with a little Matt Mud Brown and Gloss White to produce a pinky desert hue. Lots of deserts have a rusty  orange to pink  palette, as do desert animals like lizards and even the famous “Pinkies” or SAS “Pink Panther” desert camouflaged armed Land Rovers. http://www.eliteukforces.info/special-air-service/mobility-troop/sas-land-rover/

A quick PVA glue sand mix on a trial desert pinkie hex did not work well,  so I quickly wiped  this off.

 

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15mm Peter Laing Turkish and German troops on the marshy edges of the desert stream around  the railway  bridge.

some Astroturf marshy grass strips, brown railway moss and white shell gravel (salvaged from a failed Triops Sea Monkeys set) all added more desertness.

 

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View over the Turkish lines with some of the “desert pinkies” hexes mixed in with Heroscape sand hexes. 
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Indian troops detrain and deploy. More pinky hexes can be seen in the background.

 

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The brave Heliograph operator flashes back a signal “Track Blocked Ambush” from the highest point around, but also most exposed to rifle fire.
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French Foreign Legionaries and British troops in desert pith helmets detrain on the left, Indian troops on the right approach the river crossing. On the skyline, lurking horsemen beside the railway hut.  

The heliograph message prompted a rescue party of reinforcements, 2d6 dice rolls determining when they would be arriving – Turn 11.

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A closer foreground view of the pinky hexes, some still a little sand smeared.  
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Askari and Turkish troops line the marshy stream bank undercover to pour rifle fire onto approaching enemy troops.

After the first few volleys of ineffective rifle fire on both sides, British and Indian troops crossed the bridge to pitch in with bayonets in  melee around the log blocked track.

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Lurking German horsemen, military advisors to the Turkish troops  join the melee at the bridge.

The presence of the German horsemen, along the few supplies and barrels scattered around the hut  and amongst their hidden tent created the possibility (overlooked during the rapid set up of this scenario) that they could be engineers, ready to blow the bridge and derail the train. They were probably responsible for the blocking of the line with any available logs or rubble in order to halt and capture the train.

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At them with the bayonet! Indian, Turkish and German desert troops fight in melee  across the railway tracks.

Very rapidly, Allied rifle fire and repeated melee across the railroad tracks cleared the remaining German and Turkish troops.

The last two Askaris rolled d6 for their next action and wisely retreated along the stream bank off the board to safety.

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Askaris leave the game board out of rifle fire range. An Allied victory in this small desert skirmish. You can also see how the gap along the board edge is good for neatly storing casualties off the board out of sight. Melee point shield markers from the Heroscape set.

I also discovered during the game a novel use for the 2cm  gap along the board edge.  This little Valhalla strip is good for neatly storing casualties off the board, out of sight and out of the way.

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The final move … Askaris leave (F631?)

For those expecting reinforcements, it was sadly not Rolls Royce armoured cars racing across the desert or down the railroad tracks to the rescue.  I never bought the lovely A715 15mm ones made by Peter Laing, shown on the Tim’s Tanks website. http://timstanks.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/peter-laing-15mm-miniatures.html

Instead reinforcements arrive on horseback, the desert outback cowboys of the Australian Light Horse …

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The reinforcements if we had reached Turn 11,  a scruffy bunch of outbackers of the  ‘Australian Light Horse’ ready to dismount. (Peter Laing 15mm Mounted Boer M603 and leading pony M604)

I was quite in interested in the aftermath or what would happen after the last Askaris left the game board.

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Game aftermath – Australian Light Horse arrive to reinforce the troops protecting the Iron Horse, as legionnaires attempt to clear the blocked track.  
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Indian and French troops surround the hut and concealed  tent, searching for hidden dangers.  The tent is from the old Atlantic HO/OO Wild West range.

This aftermath would make for a sequel game if required, a Turkish counterattack.

Checking out the hut and tent for hidden enemy soldiers or engineers would also be an interesting tiny scenario.

Overall I was happy with the look of the game, including the improvised extra  pinky desert.

It was a good fast game lasting only 7 moves, having started the game with troops already in place or detrained.

I also enjoyed the restrictions or challenges put on the game of troops being exposed having to cross the bridge and railway line due to the stream and marsh being impassable.

Peter Laing 15mm Figure ID – WW1 series 700 / Colonial figures series 600

  • M605 – Imperial  Yeomanry figures as mounted Germans in slouch hats
  • F650 – Indian Army Sepoy advancing
  • F743 – German Infantry advancing , SH Steel Helmet – desert sand colour
  • F754 – Turkish Infantry advancing
  • F632 – Egyptian Sudanese Infantry firing – as Askaris
  • F603 British Infantry advancing
  • M602 British Cavalry, horse walking
  • A605 British Heliographer
  • F651 French Foreign legion advancing  – not too sure of the French Officer F8004?

The Peter Laing troop types used are approximate to the WW1 era and of the right feel, rather than a game for uniform purists.

Ironic that the morning after the evening game I found the bag of Woodland Scenics buff desert coloured ballast  that I had been looking for to make some more trial desert hexes.

 

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN 5th August 2017.

 

Blowing up desert trains Part 1

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WW1 15mm Peter Laing Turkish and German Infantry with Askaris and German mounted troops defend or assault  the railway halt and blocked bridge.
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The Allied troop train column – Indian, French and British infantry – all Peter Laing  15mm figures – detrained and deploying onto the river bank. The heliograph operator sets up his equipement and later climbs to the top of the caboose for some height to flash back a request for help – ‘track blocked ambush’ – at great personal risk of enemy snipers.

The railway crosses desert sands, rock and marshy swampy rivers. The small railway halt is defended by Turkish troops and some German ‘advisors’.

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Are they trying to steal the train or destroy both locomotive and track?

How will the scenario on my lovely new 192 Hexes of Joy game board end?

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Ran out of sand hexes so not quite deserty enough …

Find out more  in my next blog post or part 2 (below), featuring a now even more deserty desert than shown here, as my family thought this initial game board not quite deserty enough.

https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/blowing-up-trains-part-2/

 

Posted on Sidetracked by Mark, Man of TIN, 3rd August 2017.

Charlotte Bronte and Lawrence of Arabia blow up trains

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Peter Laing 15mm WW1 Turkish infantry alongside the blocked desert train in a current Heroscape Hexes game scenario.  Crossing that marshy bridge could be risky. Will  it be BOOM time for my Train In a TIN? 

Seasoned railway modellers might not be inspired by seeing trains blown up or derailed.

However I spotted an interesting photo on the Not Quite Mechanised website by Chris Kemp of a detailed desert train in a diorama model at the ‘Shifting Sands:  Lawrence of Arabia’ exhibition at Newark’s National Civil War Centre.

https://notquitemechanised.wordpress.com/2017/07/30/a-civil-day-out/

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My hexed up desert and vintage Airfix desert warriors …. all I need add is train and track. Photo from my Man of TIN blog.

With my Train In a Tin, a bit of sand, some Tiger.com cocktail stick palm trees,  a scattering of  desert hexes on my Heroscape hex board and the old OO / HO  Airfix Bedouin Warriors and / or French Foreign Legion, this could be an interesting desert scenario variation of my recent ACW Battle of Pine Ridge River.

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My desertified portable hex games board September 2016. Photo from my Man of TIN blog.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/my-portable-hex-games-board/

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My ACW Battle of Pine Ridge Valley game with Train In a TIN (Man of TIN blog)

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/acw-battle-of-pine-ridge-vintage-airfix-full-game-write-up/

Hmm, ideas, ideas!

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A different desert focus for a desert railway scenario – my Peter Laing 15mm  French Foreign Legion figures and desert hexes. Photo from my Man of TIN blog.

Interesting. Thanks Chris Kemp on the NQM Not Quite Mechanised website for another interesting blogpost that sparks some more gaming scenario ideas

Compulsory  research

Adding to the Wild West movie inspired  T.E. Lawrence myth, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia 1962 film features an exploding desert train on the Hejaz Railway. (Clips available on YouTube). 1962 – there was a year, Lawrence of Arabia in the cinema, Donald Featherstone’s War Games published …

Skim reading this Great Arab Revolt Project GARP website

http://www.jordan1914-18archaeology.org

http://www.jordan1914-18archaeology.org/NDpages/Hejaz/GARP%20HEJAZ%20RAILWAY.doc

This article  features the following interesting perspective:

“To understand why the rail line was never permanently closed by military action we need to know something of railway features. Once built they are: easy to maintain, environmentally friendly, difficult to destroy, easily repaired, seldom interrupted through accident, produce very little “road-kill”, require small manpower to operate, are inexpensive to maintain after the original capital expenditure and, rolling stock (the engines and carriages) is generally plentiful.

Railways can move large tonnages and civil or military passenger numbers over vast distances relatively quickly, including the return of casualties to hospital facilities. Although used with success earlier, the American Civil War 1861-65 proved the strategic and tactical use of railways.

Note, damaging or destroying one train has not destroyed a rail network.

From  The Hejaz Railway, GARP website article by Neil Dearberg, 2010

Running steam locomotives with their need for watering points through a desert is a considerable challenge, one that would have affected building parts of the Wild West railways too.

The GARP gallery also features ruined and intact station buildings.

More photographs of wrecked trains at:

http://www.withnailbooks.com/2015/05/blowing-up-trains-lawrence-of-arabia.html

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/archaeology/1.713171

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2587193/Secret-desert-camp-used-First-World-War-hero-Lawrence-Arabia-discovered-intact-rum-jars-campfire.html

http://www.nonesuchexpeditions.com/nonesuch-features/hijaz-lawrence/hijaz-railway.htm

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hejaz_Railway

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/rail-journeys/T-E-Lawrence-and-the-Hejaz-railway/

A Bit of Imagi-Native Distance: The Brontes do Lawrence of Arabia!

Without wishing to trivialise real past events and politics  in the Middle East over recent years and the past century, this is all fascinating stuff for the desert Imagi-Nation games scenario from the Brontes onwards to a steampunked early train Stevenson’s Rocket kit from Dapol /  Airfix. Hmm ..

The Brontes travelled on trains and featured Byronic Victorian desert nations loosely based on those Africa and Arabia. I’m sure that the Bronte sisters and brother Branwell would have found Lawrence of Arabia a fascinating and emotionally complex heroic figure for their novels.

https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/charlotte-bronte-as-gamer-1/

“From June 1836 to September / autumn 1836, Northangerland was in control of the new French style Provisional Government of the Grand Republican Union (formerly the Verdopolitan Union). He has direct control over Angria where his allies (Ashantees,French and Bedouin forces) wreak a reign of terror. The Arab troops are led by Lord Jordon, in Byronic ‘Turkish’ dress and known as Sheik Medina.” (From my Charlotte Bronte as Gamer post Man of TIN blog)

Zamorna’s European enemy Lord Jordan (in his Arabian guise of Sheik Medina) is the Byronic  head of an Arabian army invading, with a combined African, French and Scottish force,  the Bronte Imagi-Nation of Angria. He is defeated and killed at the ‘Battle Of Leyden’ in Angria in the Bronte Year of 1837.

Definitely  a possibility of being Sidetracked by that one …

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN, 31 July 2017.