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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Friday 28 December 2012

Knight's Move

The Knight's Move (Operation Rösselsprung) was a combined airborne and ground assault by the Germans on Tito’s headquarters at the Bosnian town of Drvar in May 1944. Operation Rösselsprung involved the 500th SS Parachute Battalion (Captain Rybka) making an air drop on the town while several ground force columns (XV Mountain Corps) converged on Drvar, supported by the Luftwaffe.

Faulty intelligence meant the paras attacked the town rather than the nearby cave that housed Tito's HQ. By the time they realised the error, partisan units arrived to make the attack a costly failure. Tito escaped before the ground troops could close the trap.

David Greentree has written a very good history of the operation for Osprey in its Raid series. As you would expect from Osprey, it includes many photies and several excellent colour maps.

Santa has been good in providing some 28mm metal Soviet and partisan types to supplement my VBCW workers who can make the shift to Yugoslavia quite easily. Iain from Flags of War is working on the Paras and I have some ground troops. Any ideas for Prinz Eugen fez wearing figures would be welcome. We are considering this as one of GDWS display games in 2013, so expect more on this theme.

I have also written a longer piece on the operation for the New Year, Balkan Military History update. My holiday reading is 'Terror in the Balkans' by Ben Sheperd, so I am likely to bore the pants off my loved ones on the subject as well!


  1. Warlord games offer a sprue of fez wearing heads called waffen-SS handschar figure heads. I bought a bunch of the Handschar heads years ago and used them to do a head swap on a metal bolt action mg 42 machine gun team. They are in scale to the Bolt Action metal figure but haven't seen them on one of the Bolt Action plastic germans.


  2. David Greentree's Osprey book perpetuates a seriously misleading myth about Tito's escape route, which seems to have originated with Fitzroy Maclean.

    Anyone wargaming this needs to know that there was now secret passageway or rope ladder out the back of Tito's leading to the heights above. The only exit was out the front, so Tito really was trapped.

    Worse still, David Greentree has plagiarised the analysis of this battle given in a freely available academic journal article by a Canadian army officer called Wayne Eyre: Dissertation submitted to the US Marine Corps University in 2002 and subsequently published as an article for the Journal of Slavic Military Studies, vol. 19, no. 2 (2006).

    Please don't waste money on Greentree's misleading and plagiarised book. You're better off downloading Wayne Eyre's article and saving your money for 'After the Battle' Number 165 (August 2014) and the much better Osprey book on Tito's Partisans by Velimir Vuksic.

    1. You might be right although Fitzroy MacLean wasn't at Drvar at the time he was back in Italy. His account in Eastern Approaches is therefore second hand and a bit vague on the point. He talks about Tito using a rope to climb up to the high ground above the cave. I had planned on visiting the area on my last but one visit to Bosnia, but we spent too long en route and needed to get to the next overnight stop.

    2. I'm sorry you weren't able to visit Drvar: The original cabin was destroyed during the 1992 Bosnian War and the one there now is a reconstruction.
      Still, it is fairly obvious that there would be no way of fixing up a rope ladder leading to the high ground: The rope ladder actually hung down into the gully below.
      It doesn't help that Tito's own later re-tellings of the battle became embroidered with distortions.
      The most reliable account I've found is from one of the female secretaries with him at the time. This is the line taken by Wayne Eyre, who visited Drvar when stationed nearby with NATO forces.