My 2019/2020 Demo Game: The Cassinga Raid, Angola 1978 (Part 4): The Game!

At long last, all that research, scenario-writing, model-making and terrain-building finally paid off last weekend as our Carringa Raid game took the prize for Best Demo Game at Warfare 2019!  As regular readers will know, I only do demo games at shows for the celebrity status, adulation, free drugs and groupies, but where these are not forthcoming a nice trophy will do… 🙂

I’ll post the full scenario up later for others who want to play it, but here’s the report from Saturday’s game.  We actually played the game twice (when I say ‘we’, it was mostly Paddy and Richard who did the playing, while I did a bit of umpiring and A LOT of talking to people), but my phone used up all its photo-storage on the Saturday afternoon, so I didn’t get any photos of the sunday game or the rest of the show! 🙁

Rules used are Battlefront: WWII, which needs very little modification for such a low-tech engagement, beyond using the specific unit cards, which can be downloaded from the Battlefront: WWII Unit Card Generator.

The Battle of Cassinga was one of three main elements of Operation REINDEER, which was the first major ‘external’ operation conducted by the South African Defence Force (SADF) with the intention of attacking the People’s Army of Namibia (PLAN), the military wing of the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) in its ‘safe harbour’ base areas within Angola.  The assault was initiated by devastating airstrikes that coincided with SWAPO-PLAN’s morning parade.  This was then followed by the drop of a parachute battalion, which then performed a ground assault before being extracted by helicopters, but not before coming under attack from Cuban tanks and mechanised infantry.  While a military success for the SADF and a disaster for SWAPO-PLAN, the battle provided anti-South African forces with a propaganda coup and remains an extremely controversial and contentious subject to this day… But it does make a very interesting wargame…

Above:  The map for the historical South African assault plan.  The scattered drop, caused by poor planning and mis-scaled maps, caused the drop to be far more scattered (this was reflected in both our games) and this plan was heavily modified ‘on the fly’.  The scale for this map is 1 square = 1km = 2 feet of table.  Note that I’d originally planned to do this on a 6′ x 8′ table and drew the map accordingly, but then realised I could fit all the action happily onto a 6′ x 6′ table, hence the overlaid grid.

Above:  An overview of the battlefield at 0800hrs.  As Commander Dim Hamaambo’s SWAPO-PLAN forces hold their morning parade in Cassinga, the sound of jet engines approaches…

Above:  The initial air-strike, conducted by SAAF Canberra bombers carrying hundreds of 10lb ‘Alpha-Bombs’ (small, spherical anti-personnel bombs) lays waste to a 500m x 800m swathe of central Cassinga.

Above:  The casualties on the parade square are horrific, with around 50% of the assembled revolutionary cadres being cut down in this cowardly attack!

Above:  Further aerial death arrives in the form of SAAF Buccaneer fighter-bombers.

Above:  One section of Buccaneers attacks the tented training camp outside Cassinga and again, inflicts massive casualties on SWAPO.

Above:  A second section of Buccaneers attacks the anti-aircraft gun position on the western edge of Cassinga and succeeds in destroying some of the guns.  Tragically for SWAPO, the anti-aircraft gunners were caught napping by this surprise attack.

Above:  Not to be outdone, a section of Mirage III fighters dives down to strafe the parade square, adding to the carnage.

Above:  With Cassinga burning, a large formation of C-130 Hercules and C-160 Transall transport aircraft, carrying Jan Breytenbach’s Composite Parachute Battalion, climb to drop altitude and disgorge paratroops on to six Drop Zones around the town.

Above:  Due to an error of scale on their planning maps, some of the drops are catastrophically scattered, particularly on the eastern side of the town.  Breytenbach, along with most of the Battalion Headquarters, Mortar Platoon and part of Bravo Company, lands either in or on the wrong side of the river.

Above:  Alpha Company are probably the most scattered of all and one of its sections comes within a whisker of being lunch for a crocodile…

Above:  Some of Alpha Company land right on top of SWAPO positions around Cassinga, with the Company HQ landing right next to the surviving anti-aircraft gun position!

Above: Yet more of Alpha Company land close to the Training Camp and are intermingled with 11 Independent Platoon.  One section of 11 Platoon goes missing during the drop and is never found.  This means that 11 Platoon is one-third understrength right from the outset.

Above:  9 Independent Platoon land relatively well-concentrated near their objective at the northern end of Cassinga, but initially struggle to organise themselves in the moments following the landing.

Above:  At the top-left of the picture, Charlie Company lands concentrated and in good order.  they quickly move to establish a blocking-line near the cemetery.  Meanwhile, in Cassinga, Commander Hamaambo has survived the air attack and desperately tries to rally his troops.  Some run to defensive positions, while others jump into vehicles and attempt to drive to the safety of the Cuban garrison, 10 miles away at Tetchamutete.  However, the moving trucks become easy prey for prowling Buccaneers.

Above:  At the southern end of town, Delta Company and the Anti-Tank Platoon land well, though alarmingly close to SWAPO positions.  Wasting no time, the paratroops rally and launch an immediate charge on the SWAPO trenches.

Above:  Quickly overwhelming the defenders, Delta Company and the Anti-Tank Platoon clear the trenches and push on to storm the SWAPO Engineer Company HQ at the southern end of the town.  Some of the engineers attempt to escape by truck but are swiftly dealt with by the Anti-Tank Platoon’s RPGs.  However, some of the engineers manage to hold out in a trench and bunker complex beyond the HQ building.

Above:  On the western side of Cassinga, Alpha Company manages to destroy the remaining anti-aircraft gun, but comes under intense fire from the trenches and buildings beyond.  Captain Swart, commanding Alpha Company, is cut down by SWAPO fire and his men take cover while their mortars lay down smoke-screens.  The advance into town has temporarily stalled, though the rest of Alpha and Bravo Companies are finally starting to arrive following the scattered drop.

Above: On the northern edge of Cassinga, 9 Independent Platoon assaults a series of fortified brick buildings that are thought to be accommodation for Cuban advisors.  However, the troops in residence are actually the ‘elite’ SWAPO Reconnaissance Company who, while a cut above the rest of SWAPO-PLAN, prove to be no match for the paratroopers and are quickly pushed back along the trench-line.

Above: Back at the southern end of Cassinga, the Anti-Tank Platoon has dealt with another truck attempting to break out of encirclement.  Meanwhile, Delta Company has finally destroyed the SWAPO Engineer Company and stormed its fortifications, though not without loss, as a section of paratroops is killed while storming the bunker complex.

Above: With Dimo Hamaambo rallying the last of his surviving revolutionary cadres in the eastern trench-line, a Mirage swoops down to make a strafing-run along the trench-line.  However, the South African pilot hasn’t noticed a DShK heavy machine gun lurking among the sandbags… By the time the pilot sees the tracer it’s too late and his aircraft is riddled with .50-calibre bullets.  Trailing smoke and flame, the Mirage streaks over the town to explode in the bush beyond.

Above:  Dismayed by mounting losses and the sight of the Mirage crashing into the bush, Breytenbach orders his airborne reserve, Echo Company to drop onto Charlie Company’s DZ, with the intention of reinforcing the stop-line on the eastern side of town and closing the fist around SWAPO.  However, the addition of Echo Company to the force will now mean a third helicopter lift!

Above:  Echo Company lands well and moves swiftly to take up positions near the cemetery and prevent any escape from Cassinga.

Above:  The orbiting Cessna 185 Forward Air Control aircraft spots some SWAPO attempting to escape into the bush and calls in a Buccaneer strike.  SNEB rockets shred the fleeing guerrillas and the survivors are soon rounded up by Echo Company.

Above:  Dimo Hamaambo, with the last knot of SWAPO survivors, is still holding out in the trenches at the north-eastern corner of Cassinga.  9 Platoon has now cleared the northern villas and moves forward to assault an imposing bunker.  Charlie Company also now move forward, crossing the open ground to support 9 Platoon’s attack.  Alpha and Bravo Companies meanwhile, sweep through the town, clearing the buildings as they go.

Above:  As is always the case with our games, anyone is free to join in the fun and a young chap by the name of Nathaniel joined us to take command of Charlie Company for a few turns.  He had a challenging task ahead of him; assaulting SWAPO who were deeply dug-into a bunker.  Paddy (Breytenbach) passed him three dice to roll, as Richard (Dimo) looked on, confident that his sandbag and log walls would protect him… “Oh no!” cried Natahniel, “I’ve rolled three zeroes!” 🙂

Above:  Commander Dimo could only look on in despair as he rolled his customary ‘1’ and Breytenbach smugly scooped another SWAPO unit into the bag…

Above:  With SWAPO finally neutralised, the first wave of Puma helicopters arrived to fly out the casualties, the PoWs and the two Independent Parachute Platoons.  The rest of the battalion busied itself in searching the town for documents and heavy weapons, as well as with preparing a defence against the predicted Cuban counter-attack.

Above:  The second lift arrived and Alpha, Bravo and Charlie Company Companies embarked, leaving only Delta and Echo Companies, plus the depleted Anti-Tank Platoon, Battalion Headquarters and Mortar Platoon.  Before the helicopters have even lifted off, the sound of tank-engines is heard…

Above:  The Anti-Tank Platoon, holding the former SWAPO Engineer HQ at the southern end of Cassinga, have laid an anti-tank minefield in a narrow strip of open ground, just where any vehicles coming up the road would have to go off-road to avoid a burning truck… A Cuban BRDM-2 armoured car and T-34 tank pass through without incident, though the second T-34 strikes a mine and blows up spectacularly!

Above:  The mine-strike is quickly followed up with a full-scale ambush as the Cuban column is subjected to a volley of RPGs, though to little effect!

Above:  Cuban Motor Rifles frantically bail out of their BTR-152 personnel carriers and rush forward to support the tanks.  However, a Buccaneer appears and destroys a second T-34 with SNEB rockets!  As 60mm mortar bombs land among the Cubans the Buccaneer returns for a second pass, but is driven off by concentrated anti-aircraft fire from vehicle machine guns and some hastily-deployed ZPU-2 anti-aircraft guns.

Above:  Having circumvented the minefield, the survivng T-34 pushes forward, but comes under a heroically suicidal close-assault by the commander of Delta Company, accompanied by a section from the Anti-Tank Platoon and the Assault Pioneer Section!  The Mortar Platoon screens their assault with smoke, but withering fire from the tank and it’s supporting BRDM crushes the valiant charge.  However, their comrades are swift to take revenge, destroying the BRDM and a BTR with long-range RPG fire and driving off the T-34, which retreats back up the road in a state of some panic (somehw managing to traverse the minefield unscathed).  A FAPLA (Angolan Armed Forces) Motor Rifle Company moves forward to deal with the South Africans…

Above:  Meanwhile, on the eastern side of town, the Cuban Motor Rifle Company, supported by a truck-mounted FAPLA company, starts to clear the trenches and buildings in the south-eastern corner of Cassinga.

Above:  However, as the Cubans push forward, a steady trickle of casualties is inflicted by the combined efforts of Echo Company and the Mortar Platoon and the Cubans make slow progress.

Above:  The FAPLA Motor Rifle Company charges the dug-in survivors of Delta Company, but suffer a withering hail of defensive fire.

Above:  Having suffered heavy losses, the FAPLA Motor Rifles pull back to cover.  The T-34 has moved forward in cautious support, but somewhat unsurprisingly, can’t be persuaded to push forward.  Seizing the opportunity, the survivors of Delta Company and the Anti-Tank Platoon make good their escape and withdraw back to Breytenbach’s HQ north of the parade square.  However, they are forced to leave their wounded and the bodies of their comrades to the tender mercies of the Cubans.

Above:  Similarly on the eastern side of Cassinga, mounting casualties among the Cuban Motor Rifles means that they too are reluctant to push forward, despite the threats of their political officer!  The sound of returning helicopters can now be heard…

Above:   As the Pumas swoop in to land on the northern LZs there is a mad rush as the South Africans sprint for their ride out of Cassinga!  The Cuban and FAPLA troops are too far away to intervene and can only watch in frustration as their prey escapes!

Despite the loss of a Mirage and a last-minute flurry of casualties (exacerbated by leaving them behind for the Communists to recover), the SADF amply completed their objective and extracted with more Victory Points than SWAPO (just…).  However, there is the small matter of SWAPO’s automatic 500 VP Sympathetic Western Media Bonus to consider… 😉

My thanks to Paddy Green and Richard de Ferrars for being the prime-movers in running the game (twice!) over the weekend.  Thanks also to Steve Uden for providing the ‘front of house’ all day Saturday and thanks to all those old friends and new who we met over the weekend.

Thanks especially to Phil Chang and Dave Thomas for their excellent company, leading an innocent Welsh boy like me astray on the Friday night…

For once I was absolutely truthful when I told my wife that I was ‘only drinking in Moderation’…   😉


This entry was posted in 15mm Figures, Battlefront: First Echelon, Battlefront: WW2, Cold War, Cold War - Angolan Border War, Games, Warfare (Show). Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to My 2019/2020 Demo Game: The Cassinga Raid, Angola 1978 (Part 4): The Game!

  1. Pete S/ SP says:

    Well done- it was much deserved.



  2. Gary Richards says:

    A deserved award, cracking table and great AAR!

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