Yesterday evening we had our first foray into re-fighting the Falklands war. Using Cold War 83 rules, two fighting patrols clashed on a rainy night a couple of days after the British landed at San Carlos.
The British Paras force consisted of a platoon headquarters with a recently graduated 2nd Lieutenant, and a signaller both armed with Sterling SMGs and a veteran sergeant with an SLR, together with a rifle section with GPMG, Bren Gun, Corporal with Sterling and five toms with SLRs. All the Paras had bottle ratings of 8 (experienced regulars - they'd all done tours in Northern Ireland) and with the exception of the officer and sergeant who were rated at a bottle of 9, to reflect their leadership qualities, and a tactics skill of 2. Eleven men all up.
The Argentinians fielded a platoon command group of one pistol armed officer, a radioman and NCO, both with FALs plus four other soldiers armed with FALs. A sniper armed with a Mauser bolt action rifle completed the group.
A full strength section of ten men led by an SMG weilding NCO completed their force. One MAG LMG, a rifle grenade launcher and seven FALs equipped the balance of the section.
The Argentinians were rated at a bottle value of 6 as conscripts, with the exception of the officer and the NCOs who were rated at 7. The Argies lack of training and experience was partially offset by some better kit, particularly night sights and goggles.
The paras' platoon sergeant follows two toms as they advance to contact. The leading para is armed with a Bren gun.
I'd not had time to write up a formal scenario so the two forces were simply instructed to advance to contact and to try and inflict enough casualties to break their opponent. The Brits had to roll against their leader's bottle once they sustained 50% casualties rounded down i.e. six men and the Argies had to do the same at 33% or six casualties. A failure meant the force broke. Further rolls were to be made at 66% and 50% casualties respectively and so on.
The two little armies could only see one another at around 100m on a dark, wet night so we only diced against bottle for movement once contact was made. Until that point both sides were walking. There was a little positioning as this occurred - obviously the players could see their opponent's figures - but by alternately moving units no-one gained an advantage and we felt that the two sides knew the enemy was about and could probably hear them on the wind so this wasn't entirely unrealistic.
GPMG gunner Big Tony goes 'firm'.
Once contact was made the initial exchange of fire was brutal. Barry the Bren Gunner tried to fire the first burst as an Argentinian emerged out of the darkness in front to him - critical failure! Dud rounds meant he pulled the trigger and nothing happened!
After that debacle the paras reacted characteristically and got plenty of rounds down range and moved quickly and aggressively to close. Barry ran straight at a terrified Argie conscript swinging his Bren like a club and was promptly shot dead at point blank range...
Argies taking fire
The Argies were taking hits though and a number were suppressed and one killed- SMG fire being particularly nasty at short range. Our intrepid young para officer climbed up some rocks above three of Galtieri's finest and pulled the pin out of a grenade...which promptly exploded killing him instantly. Sergeant Watson immediately assumed command and the toms began working round the Argies right flank in a series of hand to hand fights. It wasn't at all a pushover - another para was down, wounded by a desperate Argentinian conscript literally fighting for his life. There was a nasty little episode as two paras bayoneted their opponent in revenge.
The action began to slow as both sides drew breath and nearly everyone went to ground. NCOs on both sides could be heard shouting orders and as dawn approached the Argentinian casualties reached their first break point. The bottle roll was duly passed but, using his night vision binoculars Lieutenant Tevez had spotted a para armed with a GPMG hiding in a cluster of rocks. He rightly decided that it was time to break off before the light improved and his men were both outgunned and out ranged.
The butcher's bill was two paras killed and one wounded and two Argentinian dead, three wounded and one missing. The missing man was later found hiding behind a gorse bank half way down the road to Darwin...
Thanks to Chris and Jeff for being so sporting and patient as we worked through the adaptations we'd made to the rules and learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing sides.
Next time we might introduce mortar fire and hidden deployment and once the slit trenches and foxholes arrive that I've ordered then the Argentinian prospects of survival will increase.
What was realistic was that with poorer quality troops the Argentinian ability to manoeuvre was heavily restricted and they did better if they simply got their heads down, stayed put and fired when they could.