Excitement levels are rising at Lard Island as it is now less than a week until we travel to the Airborne Museum at the Hartenstein Hotel in Arnhem to deliver two days of demonstration war games telling the story of the Battle for Oosterbeek. Visitors to the museum on the 1st and 2nd of October will be able to get up close to games on four tables that recreate the fighting around the thumb-shaped Oosterbeek defensive perimeter to the West of Arnhem. Nick Skinner has been the chief driver behind this amazing project and he told Lard Island News “The thrill of taking a wargame to this prestigious location and recreating, in miniature, the actions that took place there 78 years ago, sends a tingle down my spine and feels like both a weighty responsibility and also a huge opportunity to show off our wonderful hobby.”
This event has been some time in the planning, with intense research and bespoke terrain building. Working collaboratively with the team at WSS magazine and the Museum, a small team drawn from the Lard community have worked together to deliver what we very much hope will be a very successful and memorable event.
Unlike most of our previous events, this day is not targeted at wargamers. It is, instead, targeted at the many visitors who will be attending the Airborne Museum that weekend, most of whom may never have seen a historical wargame. Luckily for them (and even more luckily for us) we will have a small group of Dutch, German and UK wargamers on hand to talk to visitors and encourage their participation. People attending the museum that weekend will be able to watch and even take part in the wargames by moving figures, rolling dice and perhaps even taking some important command decisions. Chain of Command is perfect for this, and the basic principles easily described for those who have never seen a wargame before.
So what games will they see?
Table one, primarily the result of the hard work of terrain maestro Alan Sheward and master wrangler Ade Deacon, will present a careful reproduction of the situation at the crossroads formed by the intersection of the Utrechtseweg (one of the main east-west main roads into Arnhem), with the north and south running Stationsweg and Pietersbergseweg. The British established their First Aid stations around this crossroads, a location which, as the British switched to the defensive, became the focus of heavy fighting. Here, German StuGs will add to the pressure created by advancing German infantry. Alan and Ade have used period photos to create a stunning table which contains numerous villas and the Hotel Schonoord and Hotel Vreewijk – complete with internal wallpaper – across whose once manicured thresholds a fascinating wargame will now unfold.
Visitors who are able to prize themselves away from this table will then be able to enjoy another three tables. Table two provides a representation of the action in the northern part of the perimeter, where German troops are attempting to infiltrate British positions in suburban streets around the Crum bakery, fighting street to street, house to house, garden to garden and even room to room. Visitors to TooFatLardies stand at shows or attendees at Lard Games Days in the past six months may have seen early versions of this table, as Nick has taken work in progress on tour to playtest the game.
Table 3 provides a representation of the fighting to the West of the Hartenstein Hotel, where German troops, supported by flammpanzer are attempting to push the British back towards the river. The bad news for the Germans on this table is that they will find themselves up against some nasty British anti-tank weaponry in the form of at least one 17 pounder anti-tank gun. This table will surely need lots of smoke!
The fourth and final table will be a smaller table holding a scale model of the Hartenstein Hotel itself, showing the bustling activity that would have been seen at the British command post. Whilst there will be no fighting on this table, we feel its inclusion is important to allow visitors to connect the tables together visually. It’s quite a pressure creating a building in miniature for a wargame when the game is being played inside the real version, but by positioning all four tables in correct positions relative to each other inside the large salon in the ground floor of the Hartenstein itself, we will demonstrate the geography of the perimeter and, we hope, give the visitor a deeper appreciation of the desperate defence that was carried out by the British 1st Airborne Division in September 1944.
Almost all of the buildings and terrain that will be on the tables, has been created specifically for the purpose. Alan Sheward has scratch built the key hotels and large villas that stand on the MDS crossroads and Paul Edwards, our 3D printing genie, has used the many photos we have provided to create a fabulous and quite unique range of buildings. All tables will be bursting with vignettes and superb eye-candy including some by expert craftsman and internationally reknowned Clogmeister, Jasper Oorthyus, and German brushmeister, Nick Moiterai, both of whom will be at the event. It should all come together to give a good flavour of Oosterbeek during its moment on the world stage.
You can keep up to date with what we are doing by following TooFatLardies on Facebook and on Twitter and the whole event will be covered on Lard TV so watch out for updates there in the week after the event.