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Posted on Oct 17, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

RAF Replay

By Terry Lee Coleman

Day 21 – August 31, 1940

Summer storms: In spite of the booming thunder, I sleep well for the first time in a fortnight.

Day 22 – September 1, 1940

September begins with some disturbing news. Our French Underground contacts have confirmed that Luftflotte 3 aircraft are being made available for raids with Luftflotte 2. So much for our wearing down the Germans.

They hit one airfield after the other, and eventually we lose the game of Russian roulette at North Weald. We might have escaped serious injury even there, had Jerry not used special reconnaissance aircraft as pathfinders to pinpoint the target.

Late in the day, my counterpart at Bomber Command rings to say they had a successful hit on German industry this morning. So, a number of enemy replacements will be delayed. One can’t say enough good things about inter-agency operation, can one?

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Day 23 – September 2, 1940

Clear skies again, but the mood at HQ is gloomy. Some are even whispering about my tactics thus far, but of course all conversation stops when I make eye contact. Morale improves somewhat when we intercept German bombers near Plymouth, with no damage to the port. I can’t repress a smile when I hear that a tired group of Hurricanes survive an encounter even though outnumbered by German fighters outside Poling; the Ju-88s and Ju-87s missing their bomb run is a pleasant bonus.

Day 24 – September 3, 1940

Given how the Germans have kept turning around raids, one after the other, I was starting to wonder, do they ever get tired? Today, however, consisted only of two major raids, where we punished the enemy bombers.

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Day 25 – September 4, 1940

Jerry seems to be going for the kill. Perhaps he thinks we are near our limit? Regardless, the enemy found it tough going today. No storms, but heavy clouds and some scattered drizzles cause mass rendezvous failures on two separate raids – both of which were victories for our side. Also, a snap raid by Me-110s failed to score a direct hit on industry in Yeovil.

The Germans do manage to hit Foreness – Damage Control expect it will take three days to effect repairs. But they finally make a critical error: An attack on Northolt which was outside the operating range of their Me-109 fighters. The escorting Me-110s were overwhelmed, and virtually the entire enemy force went down in flames.

Day 26 – September 5, 1940

For the first time, it feels as though we might be winning. More raids on northern targets: Debden and North Weald. The former is fine, the latter suffers only slightly. The climactic battle, however, occurs at Beachy Head radar station, where we annihilate the enemy force with practically no losses. Our victory more than balances out Jerry’s successful attack on Rochester industry.

Day 27 – September 6, 1940

I shift coverage to the ‘left’ since Groups 6/11 and 7/11 have been battered. Thinner than I would like, but what can one do?

Bournemouth is hit, but only sparingly, while enemy aircraft don’t even make it to Portsmouth, so tenacious is our defense. The one attack that does set us back is on Foreness, meaning the radar won’t be back on-line tomorrow.

Day 28 – September 7, 1940

Southend is not a particularly large city for a showdown. But it becomes a Waterloo for the Germans, with no less than 3 squadrons eliminated. The fatal mistake was the Germans splitting their force to try and hit Walton at the same time. I doubt they try that anytime soon.

Our spies tell us that there are rumblings Luftflotte 3 Command are not happy at their subservience to Luftflotte 2’s constant needs. Evidently one of the staff colonels made a comment about their fellow officers’ “constant whining, like over-indulged schoolboys”. Oh, my, how upsetting.

Day 29 – September 8, 1940

Storm clouds burst with warm summer rain, presaging the imminent arrival of autumn; a welcome day of rest.

Day 30 – September 9, 1940

The steady summer rain reminds me of a time before the war, when I went to Wimbledon to see the great Fred Perry. Despite the daily rain delays, he never seemed to be bothered, serving and volleying his way to his second of three straight titles. Of course, Wimbledon isn’t being played this year; I look forward to a time when it might recommence.

Day 31 – September 10, 1940

A long day begins with a couple of raids on radar stations. One is dismissed easily, but the second is a bit of an enigma. The second appears to be merely a minor raid, but Intel are unclear on what elements make up the raid; turns out to be a relatively small force, just a few bombers and escorts. My boys could just leave, but we blaze in with 3 intercepting squads.

Part of the reason I’m a little aggressive is that we have a slight chance of taking out the enemy, but ‘twas not to be. They end up suffering heavy damage, while I have one squadron of Spitfires sent off to rest with light damage; my other planes land without incident.

As the raids on our radar continue, however, the German luck runs out. We down a squadron of Do-17 bombers outside of Poling, maul some unescorted He-111s in sector 5/11, and in an encore performance at Poling, destroy 2 squadrons of Ju-87s.

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Day 32 – September 11, 1940

Our operatives sniffing around the ports where the invasion fleet is being assembled tell us that Sealion has been ‘delayed a few days’ – most interesting, if true. In any case, it is a very light day, though we do shoot down more unescorted bombers.

Day 33 – September 12, 1940

Horrendous storms prevent any flights by us or the enemy today. Despite the inclement weather, our technical wizards get Poling radar back on-line, a pleasant surprise.

Day 34 – September 13, 1940

The storms subside, leaving in their wake a thick cover of clouds. Jerry is trying to break us with one big push today, beginning with sending what must have been every available Me-110 to escort some Heinkels to Southend. In the ensuing melee, we gave as good as we got, and the bombers were so flustered that their bombs either fell short of their target, or failed to detonate.

The cloud cover dispersed enough that Observer Corps spotted a large enemy force headed toward sector 1/11. About half of this force split off to strafe and bomb the city of Farnborough; we let the splinter group go, and intercepted the group still headed toward Tangmere. Not only was the airfield spared any damage, we took out two squadrons of Me-110 fighters. One of our pilots told me that the enemy didn’t react as well as they had in the past – perhaps they are getting fatigued, finally.

Near twilight, Hornchurch is hit as our air defenses thin out. Still, this is only a small setback in a good day for us versus a tremendous onslaught.

Day 35 – September 14, 1940

It seems the rumours were correct. Our agents tell us that it seems very likely that the invasion has been postponed ‘indefintely’ – which is, of course, music to my ears. I tell Operations to be alert, in case this is a ruse – heaven knows, the news will wind its way through the grapevine to the troops, as good news always does. But somehow, I know this is the real thing. Not a decisive victory, but a turning point, I think. And inside my head, I can hear the Prime Minister’s voice ringing out that we shall fight and never surrender. England and her empire shall endure.

Final result: British Operational victory (same as the historical result)  

While I might have enjoyed playing this strictly in real-time, one turn per day, I didn’t have five or six weeks to devote to it. Moreover, I thought my trusty editor might like to have an article from me this month…

The game was certainly exciting, as the British started out well, fell behind, and ultimately turned things around. My victory was hard-earned, because the Germans, despite their heavy losses, never resorted to the ‘Terror’ bombing strategy, where they would target cities too often, rather than the more critical radar stations and British airfields. The outcome was in doubt up until the last turn. Not bad for a game which is 20 years old! For my money, RAF is still one of the best board wargames for solitaire play – invariably interesting and challenging, with a lot of replay value.

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2 Comments

  1. Nice review. Convinced me to try it, however, using search engines I cannot find where to buy it. Has the game been discontinued?

  2. David, It was out of print for some time. The fab news is that it has just been revamped and relaunched from WE Games – and now you can play solitaire RAF, or Luftwaffe or play 2P – it is called RAF:Summer 1940 and should be available imminently.
    And yes great review – brought me back to many a game of this my favourite ever solitaire game!

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