Operation Colosseum: Angola 1986

First apologies: As you know, it’s been a very slow couple of weeks on the blog.  This is primarily due to the arrival of a new Hairy Land Shark Under Training here at Fawr Towers, accompanied by constant demands for attention and lack of sleep…

That said, I did manage to get down to the club and get some wargaming in.  It occurred to me last week that it’s been ten years since I last did a game with my Angola ‘Border War’ collection, so it was high time we dusted off the models (quite literally) and do a small game.

Many moons ago, I converted a scenario by Johann Schoemann covering one of the many South African operations against SWAPO-PLAN guerrillas during the 1980s.  This scenario (Operation Colosseum) can be found in the Battlefront: WWII Scenario Page of the  Fire & Fury Games website.  Despite re-writing it for Battlefront: WWII I’d never actually gotten around to play-testing the scenario.

Note that the low-tech nature of African wars generally means that you can simply use the ‘straight’ Battlefront: WWII rules without modern modification.  All you need are the models and the Unit Data Cards, which can be downloaded from the Battlefront: WWII Data Card Generator.  Just scroll down the list and select the cards you want (keeping the Ctrl key pressed), then print them off.  South African cards are prefixed ‘SADF-‘ and the Communist cards are prefixed ‘FA-‘.

Note that in Battlefront: WWII, each vehicle or heavy weapon represents 2-3 actual items and each troop stand represents an infantry section or HQ section.  We are presently in the (long and drawn-out) process of developing a Cold War variant entitled Battlefront: First Echelon.

To précis the scenario: In November 1986, the South African special forces of 5 Recce-Commando, led by Commandant James Hill, were operating deep inside Angola, with the objective of destroying a SWAPO-PLAN guerrilla training camp about 30km north-east of the earlier battlefield of Cassinga and about 20km south-east of the Cuban garrison at Jamba.

Splitting his force into three groups, the first group designated 5/1 Commando under Major James Luyt, would be the main assault force and would at dawn, conduct a surprise mounted assault in Casspir APCs against the main camp.  Two smaller groups, designated 5/2 Commando under Major Buks Buys and 5/3 Commando under Major Nick du Toit, would infiltrate north across the river under cover of darkness, to establish cut-off positions on the main roads out of the camp, with the intention of ambushing fleeing SWAPO-PLAN guerrillas or Cuban reaction forces approaching from the north.

Above: Aside from a few sentries, Major James Chitepo and his SWAPO-PLAN freedom-fighters sleep peacefully, unaware of the danger lurking in the treeline.

Above: Captain Herbert Guma’s 1st Company sleeps in its tent-lines near the Motor Pool (ok sorry, I don’t have any tent models…), while Captain Duke Mafoka’s 2nd Company beds down between the trenches and the officers’ accommodation buildings.  Captain Raymond Mondlane’s 3rd Company is camped on the far side of the stores and headquarters buildings.  All three companies have heavy machine guns positioned in bunkers at the road-entrances and 60mm mortars in weapon-pits to the rear.

Above: Commandant Hill leads his HQ Group, plus two attached platoons from 5/1 Commando to the east, with the intention of rushing across the eastern road bridge, to assault the eastern gate of the camp.  His 81mm mortar platoon is deployed, ready to lay down the planned barrage on the unsuspecting camp.

Above: Major Luyts leads the rest of his Casspirs in a frontal assault across the ford.

Above: As quietly as they can, 5/1 Commando’s support weapons move into position along the treeline, ready to provide supporting fire for the assault.  The Fire Support Group has two Unimog trucks mounting ZPU-2 twin 14.5mm HMGs, another two Unimogs mounting B-10 107mm Recoilless Rifles (proxied here by Land Rovers) and a GAZ-66 mounting twin .50 Cal HMGs.

Above: At H-Hour, the 81mm mortars, recoilless rifles and heavy machine guns open up on the camp and the Casspirs roar at full-pelt across the river!

Above: As Luyts’ assault group charges the camp, the 81mm mortars manage to silence the DShK bunker guarding the south gate.  The truck-mounted heavy weapons meanwhile cause utter carnage among Duke Mafoka’s 2nd Company tent lines.

Above: Luyts’ leading Casspir crosses the river and then uses its second action to disembark two sections of Recce Commandos.  The following Casspirs move to either flank and close on the trench-lines.

Above: Hill’s assault group closes on the east gate.  The sentries desperately fire their weapons at the armoured beasts, but to no effect.  There is now utter pandemonium in the camp, as guerrillas attempt to extricate themselves from their tents!

Above: At the south gate the Casspirs, bristling with machine guns, lay down covering fire as two sections of Recce Commandos assault the DShK bunker.  A further four sections of Recces dismount and throw themselves into the cover of the trenches.

Above: At the east gate, Commandant Hill personally leads the assault on the dug-in sentries.  Aided by suppressing fire from their Casspir, two Recce sections dismount and assault the DShK bunker on the north side of the gate, while a further two Recce sections dismount and occupy the trenches on Hill’s left.

Above: The east gate a few moments later; Commandant Hill’s supporting section was suppressed by smallarms fire from the SWAPO sentries, but Hill’s HQ section successfully stormed the trench at bayonet-point!  On the other side of the road however, the Recces weren’t quite as successful, being beaten off by the suppressed DShK HMG section.  As his men die around him, Duke Mafoka’s position in the officer’s accommodation block looks increasingly precarious!

Above: It has now only been twenty minutes (two turns) since the first shot was fired and the situation already looks desperate for Major Chitepo’s beleaguered command.  Chitepo orders his HQ section to load up into one of the GAZ-66 trucks and to make for the Cuban garrison at Jamba.  Duke Mafoka’s 2nd Company has virtually been wiped out and the few survivors, including Mafoka, are fleeing for the north gate.  Herbert Guma’s 1st Company is still relatively intact, though is falling back toward the Motor Pool.  Their HMGs, which were originally positioned on the west side of the camp, are moving to engage the South Africans.  Guma himself however, finds himself trapped in the officers’ accommodation.  He succeeds in breaching the fence to the Motor Pool and immediately jumps into a GAZ-66.  Raymond Mondlane’s 3rd Company is still intact though, and while some of the company move to commandeer vehicles, the rest of the company attempts to establish blocking positions on the north side of the camp.

Above: Seeing movement in the truck-park, Major Luyts calls the 81mm mortars down on the parked rows of GAZ-66 trucks and watches with grim satisfaction as some of them go up in flames.  James Chitepo and Herbert Guma now find themselves fleeing for their lives as their transport goes up in smoke!  On the south side of the camp, more of Guma’s 1st Company fall victim to South African fire.  Guma’s DShKs and 60mm mortar attempt to keep South African heads down, but to little effect.

Above: At the east gate, the heroic Commandant Hill, with help from his Casspirs, successfully knocks out the machine gun bunker and pushes on into the officers’ accommodation buildings.  Duke Mafoka attempts to flee across the road, but tragically becomes road-kill as a Casspir charges down the street in pursuit of the fleeing guerrillas!  Hill’s HQ Casspir meanwhile, drives into the forest on the north side of the camp, in an attempt to cut off the fugitives’ escape.

Above: With the eastern side of the camp now cleared, Commandant Hill calls his Fire support Group forward across the river in order to more closely engage the remaining DSHk HMG teams and bunkers.

Above:  The Casspir in the street luckily manages to spot and destroy a B-10 recoilless rifle team before they could engage the Casspir.  A guerilla section does manage to fire an RPG at the Casspir and suppresses it, but those guerrillas too are soon eliminated.

In the woods near the north gate, the SWAPO 1st Company spots an opportunity and launches an assault on the command Casspir.  Unfortunately for the South Africans, the command Casspir isn’t a fully ‘tooled up’ K-Car model, so doesn’t have the same level of firepower when compared to the other Casspirs.  However, it still manages to disorder one of the three attacking guerilla sections.  The combat is close, but the Casspir gets the worst of it and is forced to retreat.  This is a nail-biting moment for the South African commander – there is a possibility of bogging down in the woods and if it does so while retreating it will be captured and will hand a massive 50 Victory Points to SWAPO!

However, Commandant Hill makes a successful bog-down check and his Casspir escapes!

With this threat to their lines of retreat temporarily beaten off, the surviving SWAPO guerrillas make good their escape down the northern and western roads… Straight into ambushes, courtesy of 5/2 Commando and 5/3 Commando…

As the Recces swept through the camp, mopping up any SWAPO units that resisted and driving the rest toward the waiting ambushes, it was clear that this had been a resounding victory for 5 Recce Commando and an utter disaster for SWAPO-PLAN!  The South Africans had not suffered a single loss, while SWAPO-PLAN had suffered the loss of their entire HQ, 2nd Company and motor pool, as well as 75% of 1st Company and 50% of 3rd Company.  Major James Chitepo, Captain Duke Mafoka and Captain Herbert Guma were all dead or missing.

It had also been one of the most catastrophic hoofings that I’ve ever suffered in a wargame! 🙁

Conclusions

In terms of how it performed as a scenario; it actually worked out pretty historically, though could use a few tweaks to improve ‘balance’ and make it more of a fight.  It would also be an idea not to completely forget to place barbed wire, like I did… 🙂 With a wire barrier in front of the trenches, the South Africans would have been held back for one or two more actions as they breached the wire.  This might have given the SWAPO forces a chance to occupy their own trenches before the South Africans did!  I’d also perhaps only place restrictions on SWAPO for Turn 1.  Making SWAPO stay put through Turn 2 gave the South Africans a massive advantage and they had essentially won the game before SWAPO was able to fight back.

Nevertheless, Chris and I had a highly enjoyable game and Chris did a remarkable job with his superb, text-book assault, despite never having played Battlefront: WWII before.  The game did demonstrate clearly the massive advantages and disadvantages that troop quality gives a unit over raw stats over weapons and firepower – something that Battlefront: WWII simulates very, very well.

Models

The models used were all 15mm models from my own collection:

The troops, heavy weapons, Unimogs, UAZ-469 Jeeps and Ural-375 trucks are all from Peter Pig’s ‘AK-47’ range, while the rest of the vehicles (including the Casspirs, which were originally designed by our own Martin Small) are by QRF.

I should have said that the terrain cloth is by Tiny Wargames, the trees, bunkers and trenches were home-made by Al Broughton, the rubber roads and rivers are by TSS, the fences are by Timecast and the hooches are by a long-forgotten company that used to make 15mm Vietnam riverine stuff.

This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Angolan Border War, Battlefront: First Echelon, Battlefront: WW2, Cold War, Scenarios. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Operation Colosseum: Angola 1986

  1. Rod Robertson. says:

    Great game JF. A pleasure to read and the pictures were great eye-candy. Thanks for taking the time and effort to post this despite, the all-consuming demands of canine fatherhood.

    How did you get the Casspirs together? They are the devil to assemble I hear.

    Cheers.
    Rod Robertson.

    • jemima_fawr says:

      Hi Rod,

      Thanks! I was very fortunate in that the model-designer was the one who actually stuck ’em together for me! All I had to do was paint them! 🙂

      Yes, they are fiendishly fiddly models, but then they (along with the Buffel) were the very first master-models he ever made for production. I’m sure he’d simplify them a great deal if he was doing them now.

  2. Juergen Olk says:

    Great looking game.

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