Taking all the courage he could muster, the boy who was no more than eight spoke finally, "Grandda, can you tell me a story?"
The head barely moved. The eyes tracked to the child. The face was imposing but the boy held his ground. He did not flinch or run from the gaze.
"I don't know any stories," was all he managed to muster.
The boy looked at him and frowned. "No, Grandda, I want to hear about what you did in the Big War. Daddy says you were a hero and did brave things. I want to hear about that." The old man was taken aback. He looked and reconsidered the boy for a moment. He then began a slow nod. "I was no hero, boy. But I did my duty. Your mother would not approve of such a story." "That is why I closed the door so careful Grandda. She does not need to know." The old man gave the boy his first real smile of the morning. He leaned back and looked slowly to the right and left. He then nodded his head towards the kitchen door. "Shut the door James and come here. I'll tell you a story." The boy's face lit with excitement. He quickly moved to the door, carefully opened the screen door and gently closed it with a soft click. Then he eased the screen door closed to make the least noise possible with the grouchy spring that wanted the door to slam. The old man patted his knee. The boy looked dubiously at the old man thinking he was to big to sit on the man's knee any more and took a seat on the edge of the back porch with his eyes glued to his grandfather. The corners of the old man's eyes crinkled with a smile. "OK, what to tell you. I know, It was back in 1941. The battalion ordered us to attack a Japanese position at the far end of some farmland. It was some terrible terrain. We had to cross this large field of Kunei grass to get at the Japs in the far treeline. My platoon moved up the left side of the field while Leftenant Luther and a Matilda CS tank moved up the road on the right."
My platoon Area.
Lt Luther's area.
"Leftenant Luther was senior to me and had a platoon sergeant helping him. He took the side with the road because of that bloody big tank that was supporting us. It could waddle on down that road as nice as you please. We were stuck slogging through that grass."
"I sent out scouts and they managed to press all the way up into the tree line on the far left. This allowed us to get in right close to the Japs. They were a wily lot. Luther's scouts were doing the same on his side of the field. He did not make it to the treeline. His fellows made it just a short way up the road and out in the field."
The old man shook his head remembering, "That grass was miserable. It made the hot day so much hotter. It trapped the humidity. Were were soaked with sweat before we even made 20 steps."
Approximate locations of the jump off points. The Aussies in Yellow and the Japanese in Red (at least I think its red).
"Once the Japs had spotted our advance, they began to move quickly. The first of their troops to appear was a big brute of a man yelling orders and getting one of their strange sections moving. They did not move like we did. We divided our troops into separate teams with the bren gun and a few fellows in one team and several blokes with rifles in the other. That gave the section leader some flexibility. The Japs on the other hand kept everyone together. Their light machine guns had nothing on the bren. But those cagey buggers put bayonets on everything. Even their light machine guns. That was a sight to see when they came close, let me tell you. ...er where was I?"
The boy frowned, "You said their sergeant pushed a section up Grandda."
"Right you are boy. They appeared in the tree line ahead of Luther's boys. They were in amongst some big trees."
"Now, Luther had that Matilda tank come rolling up the field. He kept it off of the road for some reason but it tore its way through that grass leaving an easy trail to follow. Up came a pair of sections to support the tank as well."
"The Japanese ran two more sections forward in reaction to the press of infantry and tank from Leftenant Luther. Now they had a section at the crossroads where the tree line intersected with the road and another section to their left and that first section in the trees."
"Now with the Japanese occupied on the right side of the field, I managed to get two of my sections forward to box them in. One of my sections penetrated the treeline and would remain there for the bulk of the battle. I am still convinced that Corporal Jenkins must have come across a stash of Japanese Saki. His boys held on to that miserable patch of Jungle much harder than I thought them capable." "I came in behind the section I deployed in the grass and pushed them up further and had them get careful as they were getting close to being in range of the enemy." I managed to get two phases in a row! The Japanese were getting rapidly boxed in.
Now Mister Nippon did not take kindly to getting boxed in like that. He took that first section he deployed and turned them to jump my boys in the bush. Corporal Jenkins told me he heard them coming up and saw them hunker down on the far side of a small clearing but they were being cautious."
"While they were crowding my fellows in the bush, they also sent forward a section out into the grass across from Leftenant Luther's men. This would be a fatal move for those men. Luther told me afterwards, that they moved into the grass and went prone. They really never did anything but die after that. Their other section in the crossroads took the first shots of the battle. Not sure what happened but we did not hear anyone cry out after those Arisaka's spoke."
The first shots of the battle all missed.
"For an infantryman, the best sound I ever heard was the chatter of a Bren gun. One of Leftenant Luther's bren's responded to the Arisakas. That is when I knew the first casualty took place. I heard a Japanese boy cry out."
The Japanese suffered one kill from bren fire with no shock. The next Japanese phase had nothing happen.
"Now Corporal Jenkins had his fellows pitch a couple of grenades and fire on the section that was facing them. Let me tell you, if you have to throw a grenade in the jungle, don't get your hopes up. With all of the plants and trees, they rarely go where you want. The only good thing is it makes the bangs a bit quieter. The boys marksmanship was a bit better than their pitching and Jenkins said he saw two enemy fall from this opening volley."
The Japanese section suffered 2 kills and one shock from the volley. Grenades did very little in this game.
"Now I could see the Japanese moving some fellows around out in the woods but I was not too clear on what was happening. The fellows in the road began to return fire on the bren team. Their section out in the grass also tried to move but really did not go anywhere."
The Bren team took 2 shock.
"As an infantryman, I really like tanks. For one, they take much of the attention off of you. Next, they can make a real mess for the enemy. That tank moved to the road to get a clear shot at Japanese at the end of the road. The bren was just pouring fire down range. He must have kept his loaders hopping. The tank began to fire that big main gun. Now I spoke to the tank commander after the battle. He told me that the entire crew of the tank was hungover for the entirely of the battle. Tanks back then were not for sissies boy. They had no air conditioning. It was hot, noisy and not a place to be with a hurting head. ...er... do you know what a hangover is?"
The boy smiled brightly, "Yes, Grandda, its a headache you receive from the over use of alcohol the previous day. Ma once yelled at Daddy for having one last year. While he said his head would split open it never did. I watched for it. I think he was just saying how it felt not what was going to happen."
The old man grinned even bigger. He leaned forward and tousled the boys hair. "You are a sharp one. Well that tank's first shot blew the top off of a tree. I could see it from where I was in the grass. Completely useless. Take my word for it, gin is not your friend. Ever. That bren kept on chattering. The gunner was magnificent. He caused three casualties among the Japs while the tank was shooting trees."
The Japanese took 3 killed and 3 shock on the force in the road from the Bren gunner. Mark would have 3 phases in a row. Great die rolling on his part.
The old man spit in disgust.
"Now, the tank redeemed itself on its second shot. That one hit in the right place and you could hear screams following the explosion. The Bren gunner added his fire and the Japanese started to run backwards."
The section caused two kills and one shock. This broke the section. They were restored by the senior sergeant. Actually this part is a bit fuzzy in my memory.
"The Japs looked to be on really shaky ground at this point. They started to move their sections around and getting cautious in general. I had a Vickers MMG team assigned to my platoon. The battalion adjutant pushed them forward to give us a hand. I was pleasantly surprised to see them behind me. I took to shouting and got my third section to show up as well. The ones in the bush cheated forward a bit and the ones in the grass did the same."
"Grandda, where were you when all this was happening?"
"Me, well I was standing up in the grass. To make sure my boys could see and hear me I was standing and jumping, yelling and pointing. Now that I think about it, I really should not have been carrying on so."
"Oh," said the boy with a measure of disbelief.
"Now where was I, oh yes. The Japanese across from Corporal Jenkins got all worked up. They had moved a machine gun up with their section and commenced to fire on Corporal Jenkins. Despite their best efforts, amazingly we only lost two men to that brutal fire."
"But Jenkin's did not get the worst of it. The Japanese in the grass got pounded. In a couple of seconds of firing, they were reduced to a single man and the sergeant. Those two did the most sensible thing that I saw in the whole battle, they ran screaming back towards their lines."
The Japanese used a Chain of Command die and avoided the morale roll. The Japanese in the woods caused 2 kills and 2 shock on Jenkin's section.
"The tank bellowed again to no effect. The top of one of the palm trees exploded. A large coconut landed at my feet."
"Grandda! That didn't happen, did it?"
"Well, he did kill another tree," he said with a frown. The man was grumpy that his embellishments were not holding water with the child. He better stick to the truth.
"The Jap platoon has a whole section dedicated to their 'Knee' mortars. They have three of them in the section. They appeared in the tree line and commenced to bombard Leftenant Luther's squad in the grass. Also arcing up from the trees came a rifle grenade. The combined fire cost his squad two men down."
They also took five shock.
"I continued to push forward the Vicker's team and the squad next to them to ambush the fellows picking on poor Corporal Jenkins. Jenkins moved his men back a bit to get some distance from the Japanese."
"The Japanese knee mortars continued their barrage of the squad in the grass. From what I understand, they accomplished very little. At some point the bren team that had done such excellent work against the Japanese lost a member and eventually took enough fire that they broke and fled for better cover. Up to that moment, Leftenant Luther said they were well on their way to the military medal. Once they run he could not recommend it but he did shelter the men from getting criticism for running from battle."
"The battle was started in the afternoon and we were rapidly running out of light. I managed to close my men in on the Japanese in the woods and exchanged fire with them. I lost a man but the Japanese lost more. As it grew dark, the firing dwindled and both sides took their wounded and left the field. I lost 4 men that day. Leftenant Luther lost but two men dead and two fled. The Japanese as far as we can tell lost close to 16 men. It was hard to be sure but they were not beaten." The boy had hung on to every word but both grandfather and child ceased all talking as they heard footsteps inside the house. The mother's voice was heard calling for breakfast.
What a great game of Chain of Command. Mark and I each took a platoon of Australians and attacked an understrength Japanese platoon run by Brian.
Brian examines one of his Japanese figure while Mark talks about his his Australian figures. Other than being in 20mm, they are fantastic.
We had separate force morale for each platoon and Brian got 4 Jump off points while the Aussies got 3 per platoon. At the end of 28 turns (which would have gone faster if we did not get distracted and chatty) left all three sides still in fighting shape. I lost 4 men but my morale was the same 9 that I started the game with. Mark lost 2 morale points but was still at a 7 by games end with a mere two men lost. Brian, while suffering 16 killed only lost one morale point putting him a 9.
Had the game continued a bit longer, I think we would have broken the Japanese. I was pretty sure I was going to shatter the one squad with three squads surrounding it and a Vickers team. The Japanese squad was well on its way towards breaking. Facing Mark, he only had a near ruined squad and some mortars to contend with that could not hurt him much. Mark had advanced his squad inside both the rifle grenadier and Knee mortar's minimum range. The Japanese did have a sniper but I got too close and ran him off. They also had an anti-tank team but they needed to move into contact with the Matilda CS tank to do any good. Given that he was vastly outnumbered, Brian earned the draw result.
There are some subtleties of the game we all need to learn a bit better but it was sure fun to play.