Sunday 29 October 2017

Military History Through the Prism of Wargaming

Col Richard Kemp and John Weigold have been investigating Alderney, Channel Islands and found several previously unrecognised V1 launch sites. The key factor to me is the tunnel configuration is similar to those in mainland Europe. The conclusion of the two historians is that the launch sites were almost ready and using nerve gas they could have fired at Plymouth and Weymouth. They conclude this would have thrown the Allied invasion plans into chaos, D Day would not have happened on the 6th June 1944 and the whole course of WWII would have been drastically altered.

What does wargaming add to this analysis?

If a V1 had launched from the Channel Islands, the islands would have been subject to bombardment by sea and air. Based on my WWII bomber command games, I know that targets were selected in the morning for the night time raids. So it would take 10 hours to direct England’s heavy bombers to the new target. Based on my naval games I also know that heavy cruisers with 8 inch guns were available the RN Channel flotilla. They could get up steam in a few hours and they could fire from 17 miles away. It would take 24 hours to get battleships into position to hit the islands.

Alderney is approximately 100 km south of the English coast, so in 1944 the Allies would have achieved air superiority over the islands within hours. This would allow daylight bombing raids and daylight ship to shore bombardment.

The conclusion is the island of Alderney would have been destroyed within a few days and the threat of V1 rockets with Sarin from them would have been ended.

Wargaming experience also allows the history to be explored further. If the Germans used Sarin, they would fire it from as many of their V1 sites as the German chemical industry could supply. How would the Allies retaliate? Having explored this in a very dark committee game of the English War Cabinet in 1944 I would say Anthrax. The Allies would have dropped Anthrax on cities and random agricultural areas. This would have been likely to have created a panic such as the world has not seen in modern history. It would have ended the war in Europe quite suddenly.

To understand military/ political history requires, reading, lectures (for the stuff no yet published), seminars (to discuss the reading/ lectures) and I would also add wargaming to the list. Having sport with ideas is the way to wisdom and serious historical wargames are certainly having sport with ideas.