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Monday, August 6, 2012

Raiding Forces --- SAS

Keeping in line with my series of reviews on the raiding forces, the next up are....the Special Air Service… the SAS!  Previously, previously we talked about the Autosahariana and the  LRDG.

For the SAS, let’ start our review with a quick look at Wikipedia ( for a summary of this unit in the Desert War.

“The Special Air Service began life in July 1941 from an unorthodox idea and plan … for small teams of parachute trained soldiers to operate behind enemy lines to gain intelligence, destroy enemy aircraft and attack their supply and reinforcement routes.

The force initially consisted of five officers and 60 other ranks. Following extensive training at Kabrit camp, by the River Nile, L Detachment, SAS Brigade undertook its first operation. Operation Squatter was a parachute drop behind the enemy lines in support of Operation Crusader, they would attack airfields at Gazala and Timimi on the night 16/17 November 1941. Unfortunately because of enemy resistance and adverse weather conditions the mission was a disaster, 22 men were killed or captured - one third of the men employed. Allowed another chance they recruited men from the Layforce Commando, which was in the process of disbanding. Their second mission was more successful, transported by the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), they attacked three airfields in Libya destroying 60 aircraft without loss.”

In 1942, they conducted an attack on Bouerat. “Transported by the LRDG, they caused severe damage to the harbour, petrol tanks and storage facilities. This was followed up in March by a raid on the Benghazi harbor with limited success, but they did damage 15 aircraft at Al-Berka. The June 1942 Crete airfield raids at Heraklion, Kasteli, Tympaki and Maleme caused further significant damage. In July 1942, Stirling commanded a joint SAS/LRDG patrol that carried out raids at Fuka and Mersa Matruh airfields destroying 30 aircraft.”

As part of the diversionary raid Operation Bigamy, the SAS, “…led by Stirling and supported by the LRDG, were to attempt a large-scale raid on Benghazi to destroy the harbour, storage facilities and attack the airfields at Benina and Barce. However, they were discovered after a clash at a roadblock. With the element of surprise lost, Stirling decided not to go ahead with the attack and ordered a withdrawal.”

Operation “Agreement was a joint operation by the SAS and the LRDG who had to seize an inlet at Mersa Sciausc for the main force to land by sea. The SAS successfully evaded enemy defences assisted by German speaking members of the Special Interrogation Group and captured Mersa Sciausc. The main landing failed, being met by heavy machine gun fire forcing the landing force and the SAS/LRDG force to surrender. Operation Anglo a raid on two airfields on the island of Rhodes, from which only two men returned. Destroying three aircraft, a fuel dump and numerous buildings...”

Two things of note:  first, is that the SAS were famous for their heavily armed jeeps; second, is the close relationship between the SAS and the LRDG.  Many of their successes were when these two organizations teamed up.  This atmosphere is captured in the SAS Army list in Flames of War. 

In our Raiding Aces campaign, our SAS player was John, one of the crew at our FLGS, The Foundry, in Huntsville, Alabama.  They were a nasty force on table during the campaign.

He used Battlefront miniatures for his force and Battlefront captures this iconic vehicle and crew in their BBX24 Box set and the BR412 Blister set.  John’s SAS, sadly, were not available for this article, but I was able to purchase a boxed set from my FLGS and paint those up for this review.  The box set allows you to field 7 jeeps with crew.  This gives you one platoon of 6 jeeps and half of the command section.  So, to make the minimum force, you will need 2 boxed sets for 2 platoons and the 7th jeep in each box goes to create the command section.  The blister has 2 jeeps (each a different body style).  The good news is that while the boxed set has been discontinued, the blister is currently available.

Accuracy:  Comparing a picture of a period SAS jeep with the Battlefront model shows that the vehicle bodies are spot on with Battlefront’s unique “chunky” style. 

The vehicle length/width/height appear to be very close to proportional for this model as well.  You do have certain elements being a little larger to allow for paintability.  One thing that does seem “off” is the .50 cal mount option.  Both the gun and mount seem scaled for a slightly larger figure.  It could be that the vehicle crew is actually a little smaller than a standard infantry figure and the .50 cal was scaled for a “standard” 15mm.  Overall 8/10.

Quality:  Not too bad over all.  The resin pieces were pretty free of defects. I had to do a little filing on the vehicle bases to smooth some edges on 5 of the 7 jeeps.  The only real issues were a fuel can that had the upper left corner broken off on one jeep and significant piece of resin in the wheel well on another jeep. 

I painted the vehicles up with the defects to show them.  They could have been corrected with a little patience.  For instance, the fuel can could have been removed with a Dremel and file and the wheel well resin could just be painted over or thinned out with a Dremel and file as well.  If I was a novice modeler and this had happened to me I would have called Battlefront’s Customer Service and have the resin pieces replaced.  The metal pieces did have some flash, nothing that a novice could not remove…nothing a novice couldn’t remove.  A few of the crew men did have flash on the face that wasn’t easily removed, but you do have spares.  The drivers, however, don’t have any spares and I did have one driver with flash on the face and lost a little detail removing the flash.  That was mostly my fault though as I was a little ham handed removing it, but you that could easily happen to a novice.  Overall 7/10.

Versatility:  Again, this is where I measure how easy it is to convert/model the figures.  The boxed set includes 7 resin jeeps in 2 body styles (one of each type in the blister) and 7 metal sprues to give each jeep a driver, a choice between 2 different passengers, a twin Vickers, a single Vickers, and a pedestal mounted .50 cal.  This allows you to field any of the options for the jeeps.  So this gives you 16 different possible configurations (different jeep body style, crew, twin Vickers, twin Vickers and Single Vickers, or twin Vickers and .50 Cal).  If you have your “big boy” modeling pants on, you can trim off a fuel can (maybe even a spare tire?) here or there to add even more variety.  This, however, requires A LOT of patience to get done right.  The walls of the jeep are pretty thin and taking a little TOO much off can have disastrous effects.  But it is doable.

While the vehicle is pretty close to being proportional to an actual vehicle, it is a little smaller than other Battlefront vehicles.  Early Battlefront vehicles and crews are a tad smaller than the more current crew members and vehicles which are closer in scale to their infantry. 

Compared to a US Recon Jeep (an older sculp) --- Pretty equal

Compared to US Recon Jeep and newer Brit Para Recce --- Paras are bigger

Compared to SAS Dismounts---Infantry is bigger

Brit Para Recce compared to SAS Dismounts --- Pretty close to equal
As you can see, these SAS jeeps do look a little small in comparison with the newer vehicles and Infantry figures.  The thing that is important is the jeeps being in scale with the other vehicles in the force of which they will be a part. 

SAS Crew compared to Infantry and LRDG Truck

In the picture above, the jeep and crew are a close match to the LRDG truck and crew.  In fact, the driver of the jeep is the same driver for the truck.  So that is a good match.  Overall:  8/10.

Paintability:  Very high again.  Again we have lots of detail on the vehicles to make them stand out.  The fuel cans have good detail…the spare tires…the wheel lug nuts…the seams around the hood and other details on the jeep…everything is there with enough depth to easily take a shade and highlight.  The crewmen have nice detail as well…you can get a nice effect on the faces and the Arab headdresses and beards really pop.   Overall:  10/10.

Painting these I used Vallejo paints and the 3 layer approach of a basecoat, a shade layer, and a highlight layer.  Below is the “Paint Plan” I used (all ratios are drops of paint to drops of water):
Vehicle Paint Plan

Crew Paint Plan
Pictures: I did the 7 vehicles up with the twin Vickers MG and a .50 cal MG for the CiC and Section Leaders and a twin Vickers MG and single Vickers MG for the other jeeps.
All 7 vehicles

Coming up out of a wadi

1st Section

Overall: 8.25/10.  This is another great boxed set.  Everything you need for 7 vehicles with loads of options.  Regarding the SAS jeep, I don’t have the same concern as I did for the AS42 or LRDG as BF moves away from the older boxed sets to blisters as the blister for this unit/jeep is already available.  I feel comfortable giving the same rating for the blister pack as you have both jeep body styles with the same sprues.  You will need 2 boxed sets or 7 blisters in order to get the full 2 platoons and command section.  That’s on par with the other boxed sets.

Summary & Lessons Learned:  A lot of the tips from Adrian’s LRDG apply here as well.  Keep moving and use your MGs.  MGs seriously rock and roll in Raiding Aces. These guys get better mobility cross country than the LRDG as they have “Jeep” and the LRDG are just “Wheeled,” but they don’t have the LRDG’s ability to re-roll bog checks.  Incendiary Ammo is a blessing for their MGs as it lowers their Firepower to a 5+ when shooting at objectives.  You can use your MGs and take out objectives in the raid missions much easier than say the Autosahariana who have to rely on the 47mm or 20mm to do the deed from a distance (at least with anything better than a 6 firepower).  Dismounted, you get SMG teams and a Tank Assault of 4 due to the Lewes Bombs…these guys are Assault Beasts!  Get an enemy raiding vehicle inside that SMG’s 4 inch range and you have a dead vehicle in most cases.  Not saying I know this from personal experience or anything  ;-)

One thing John used to great effect with his SAS was the “Interdiction Raid.”  These are naaa-aaa-sty and represent strategic, “offboard” actions.  They are similar to air support in that you can get Sporadic Raids, Limited Raids, and Priority Raids.  Depending on the mission they have different effects.  For missions that allow reserves, an interdiction raid gives you the chance to delay enemy reserves.  Sporadic Raids give you a pool of 3 dice; Limited Raids give you a pool of 5 dice; and Priority Raids give you a pool of 7 dice.  Before your opponent rolls for Reserves you declare you will use an interdiction raid.  He then rolls for Reserves and then you can roll your Interdiction Raid dice and for every 5+ you roll, you remove a 5+ they rolled.  Every time you use your pool you reduce it by 1 dice to a minimum of one die.  Not sure how Version 3’s rule where you automatically get one platoon on turn 3 effects this though, but will ask that question.  I could see it go either way.  For missions that don’t have Reserves, you give up your pool of dice and instead force your opponent to put units into reserve.  The higher the level of Interdiction Raid you have, the more units go into Reserve.  Sporadic forces one platoon into Reserve; Limited forces two platoons; and Priority forces three platoons. Your opponent may always deploy at least one platoon on the table. 

Either of these can really mess with your opponent.  Nothing worse than thinking you FINALLY got reserves to show, only to have that elusive 5+ cancelled by an Interdiction raid dice…or think you won’t have to deploy any platoons in reserve only to have three of them placed there by a Priority Raid.  Well actually, there is something worse… facing Interdiction Raids and then rolling the “Lost” result on “The Will of the Sahara” where your Reserves only arrive with a 6 on the Reserve die roll.  I speak from experience on that one.  ICK!

Hope this was helpful.  I have always loved the SAS and the romance of the Desert War…I can see myself easily expanding this platoon into a full SAS Raiding Force to face off against my Autosahariana.

SonBae (AKA Jeff Flint) is a long time gamer and painter and runs a blog at Journey Back To The Table where he posts photos of his work, product reviews, BatReps and the “Painting Miniatures Declassified” modeling and painting tutorials.

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