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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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Wednesday 20 August 2014

Commandos on Vis

Back to the Second World War and my recent trip to the Adriatic island of Vis.

Following the Italian capitulation on 8 September 1943, the Germans poured troops into the Balkans, with the 114th Jager Division supressing the Italian divisions. The partisans were not equipped to fight set piece battles so they harassed the Germans and then withdrew to the hills. The islands created a different problem for the Germans, who had limited naval assets in the region, to capture and then to hold them. None the less they eventually captured the islands closest to the coast.

While this was going on the allies, having landed in Southern Italy, were looking for an advanced base with a defensible harbour. This would be a base for RN Coastal Forces (MTB and MGBs) to raid the coast and as a base for the island partisans. A landing strip to enable close support for the partisan operations was also planned. The obvious place for this base was Vis, the furthest out of the islands, closest to Italy and with two natural harbours. The island was not new to the British, who had used it as a naval base in the Napoleonic wars.

The allied liaison officer with the partisans, Fitzroy Maclean, persuaded Churchill and Tito of the merits of his plan and got the Commandos of No.2 Special Service Brigade assigned as a garrison for the island with a remit to raid from it. This included Churchill’s son, Major Randolph Churchill.

So, having collected partisans and Germans in 28mm, I need some Commandos. Well, need is perhaps a little strong! Fortunately, Warlord do a very nice box of them, reasonably priced in plastic. Usual fiddly assembly, but they do at least provide a wide range of positions, appropriate for Commandos.

I’ll be developing some scenarios, based on actual raids, for Bolt Action. But if you want to read more, I recommend Michael McConville ‘A Small War in the Balkans’; Bill Strutton ‘Island of Terrible Friends’ and of course Fitzroy Maclean ‘Eastern Approaches’. For the naval war there is ‘Secret Flotillas Vol2’ by Brooks Richards.

There aren't a lot of WW2 sites on the island, but this is what’s left of the airstrip. It's just about the only flat bit of land on the whole island!

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