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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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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Attack at Dawn - Narvik WW2

I have always been interested in the Norwegian campaign of May 1940, and I suspect it will attract new interest as the 80th-anniversary approaches next year. I have visited some of the battlefields and the fine museum in Oslo. It would also make a great, if challenging, demonstration wargame for a show.

I, therefore, picked up a copy of Ron Cope's book, 'Attack at Dawn: Reliving the First Battle of Narvik in World War Two', with some interest as I know very little about the naval aspects of the campaign. My recent games of Cruel Seas has sparked a bit more interest as well.

This is a very personal book, inspired by the author's father who served as a Torpedoman on the destroyer HMS Hardy. He was the first to fire a salvo of torpedos in Narvik harbour. He has done a huge amount of research, assisted by his own naval service, including interviews with other sailors serving on the ship.

HMS Hardy was commanded by Captain Warburton-Lee, who was also the flotilla commander of five destroyers who attacked German shipping in Narvik during April 1940. Their repeated attacks on the harbour were very successful, sinking German destroyers and merchant ships. However, on the way out of the Fjord after the attack they ran into a much stronger German fleet including cruisers. Hardy was heavily damaged and the decision was made to beach the ship. Many of the crew made it to shore and were picked up during later attacks.

This is a micro-history of the battle, with the narrative painstakingly developed. In wargames, we abtract such a lot that it comes as a bit of a shock when you read the detail of how a destroyer operated in battle.

The detail means this is not an easy read and I did struggle on occasions.  I understand the temptation to include all your research in a publication, but this book would have benefitted from a bit more editing.  It is quite difficult to follow the bigger picture of the battle.  

None the less, if you want to understand how WW2 ships were fought, in pretty difficult circumstances, this is a good book. For a general understanding of the campaign, there are better options, including Maurice Harvey's 'Scandinavian Misadventure'.

Below are a couple of life-sized dioramas from the military museum in Oslo.

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