An even older Paraguayan River Gunboat!

The Paraguayan Navy’s Humaitá-class river gunboats may well be regarded as ancient by most modern standards, but their longevity pales into insignificance when compared to that Navy’s Capitán Cabral (ex-Triunfo, ex-Adolfo Riquelme), which was first launched in 1907!

She began life as a river tug, and was purchased and converted into a river gunboat soon after she was launched. She was originally armed with a single 3″ gun, but in the late 1980s this was replaced by a 40mm Bofors automatic cannon, two 20mm Oerlikon automatic cannons, and two 0.5″ machine guns.

At the same time as she was re-armed, the ship was modernised. Her original steam engines were replaced with new diesel ones, and her superstructure was completely re-modelled. She was certainly still in service in 2016 … one hundred and eleven years after she was launched!

Paraguayan River Gunboats

One unusual aspect of the Chaco War was that although both belligerents were land-locked, the Paraguayans had a navy that took an active part in the war/

A map of the area shows why.

Two rivers – the Paraguay and the Pilcomayo – effectively bordered the area claimed by Paraguay, and they were able to use them to supply and support their forces in the Chaco area. As a result, the Paraguayans had a small but very effective navy.

The backbone of the Paraguayan Navy were two river gunboats, the Humaitá-class gunboats. These had been designed in Paraguay with Italian assistance, and built in Genoa by Cantieri Odero between 1928 and 1931.

The ships were named Humaitá and Paraguay and they reached Asunción on 5th May, 1931.

Their characteristics were:

  • Displacement: 856 tons
  • Dimensions:
    • Length: 229.7′ (70m)
    • Beam: 35.1′ (10.7m)
    • Draught: 5.6′ (1.7m)
  • Propulsion: 2 x Parsons 3,800 shp (2,800 kW) geared steam turbines driving 2 shafts
  • Speed: 18 knots
  • Range: 1,700 nautical miles at 16 knots
  • Complement: 86
  • Armament: 4 × 4.7″ (2 x 2) Guns; 3 × 3″ (3 x 1) Guns; 2 × 40mm (2 x 1) Anti-Aircraft Guns; 6 mines
  • Armour:
    • Belt: 0.5″
    • Deck: 0.3″
    • Turrets: 0.3″
    • Conning tower: 0.76″

The two ships were used extensively during the war, and still exist today. Humaitá is now a museum ship and Paraguay is awaiting refurbishment that will include the replacement of her engines by new diesel ones.

Chaco War resources

My recent purchase of two Chaco War-related books prompted me to take a look at the printed resources I have in my collection. They include:

  • The Conduct of the Chaco War by David H Zook (1960)
  • Chaco by Frank Chadwick and Mark W Miller (1973) [An early Game Designers Workshop wargame]
  • Command Magazine: The Chaco War by Bruce Facau (1991) [Contains a game and informative article about the war]
  • Aircraft of the Chaco War 1928–35 by Dan Hagedorn and Antonio L Sapienza (2004)
  • The Green Hell: A Concise History of the Chaco War Between Bolivia and Paraguay 1932–35 by Adrian J English (2008)
  • The Chaco War – Bolivia v Paraguay 1932–35 (2nd Edition) by Adrian J English
  • The Chaco War 1932–35: South America’s greatest modern conflict (Osprey Men at Arms No.474) written by Alejandro M de Quesada and illustrated by Ramiro Bujeiro (2011)
  • A Scale Modeller’s Guide to Aircraft of the Gran Chaco War by Richard Humberstone (2015)
  • The Chaco Air War: The First Modern Air War in Latin America by Antonio Sapienza (2018)

As far as I can see this is a fairly comprehensive list of resources … and making it made me realise that wargaming the Chaco War is another project that I want to do at some time.

A Scale Modeller’s Guide to Aircraft of the Gran Chaco War

Very soon after making me aware of the recent publication of AIR WAR CHACO, Arthur Harman pointed out that a book entitled A SCALE MODELLER’S GUIDE TO AIRCRAFT OF THE GRAN CHACO WAR has also been published … so I bought a copy of that as well!

The book is a thin paperback (40 pages) but it contains numerous 1:72nd-scale colour drawings of all the main aircraft types used by both sides during the Chaco War. It also contains a brief history of the war as well as a chronology of the main air operations carried out by both sides. Whilst it was not cheap, it is a very helpful addition to my collection of books etc., about the Chaco War.

A SCALE MODELLER’S GUIDE TO AIRCRAFT OF THE GRAN CHACO WAR was written and illustrated by Richard Humberstone and published by Blue Rider Publishing in 2015 (ISBN 978 1 32 055024 6)

The Chaco Air War

I have had a long-standing interest in the Chaco War, and when Arthur Harman saw that Helion & Company had just published a book entitled THE CHACO AIR WAR 1932-35: THE FIRST MODERN AIR WAR IN LATIN AMERICA, he contacted me to tell me. My immediate reaction was to order a copy … and from what I have read so far, it was an excellent purchase!

The book is a slim paperback (it only has eighty pages), but it contains over two hundred illustrations and gives details about the organisation of the air forces involved and the missions that were flown. Reading it made me wonder if at some time in the future I ought to consider producing a military source book about the war along the lines of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA … but I have a few other projects that I want to finish first!

Barbarossa Mini-campaign: Battle No.1 : Control the river

Finally – and slightly over a week later than expected – I began fighting the Barbarossa Mini-campaign I planned to fight to celebrate my sixty fifth birthday.

The organisation of the campaign was ‘stolen’ from the NUMBERS, WARGAMES AND ARSING ABOUT blog that is written by Old Trousers, and used a number of scenarios from Neil Thomas’s ONE-HOUR WARGAMES. All the battles were fought on Hexon II terrain set up on my new wargaming board, and the rules were a concoction of my own that use the combat system from Richard Borg‘s MEMOIR ’44 rules and my playing card-driven unit activation system.

Control the riverThis battle used Scenario 3 from Neil Thomas’s ONE-HOUR WARGAMES. Both sides had six units available to take part in the battle.

The invading Germans had:

  • Four Infantry Units (= 16 Strength Points)
  • One Artillery Unit (= 2 Strength Points)
  • One Machine Gun Unit (= 4 Strength Points)

Note: The German will become exhausted when they have lost 11 Strength Points.

The defending Russians had:

  • Three Infantry Units (= 12 Strength Points)
  • One Artillery Unit (= 2 Strength Points)
  • One Anti-tank Gun Unit (= 2 Strength Points)
  • One Machine Gun Unit (= 4 Strength Points)

Note: The Russians will become exhausted when they have lost 10 Strength Points.

The terrain looked like this:

The Germans were advancing from the side of the wargaming board nearest the camera and the Russians entered the battlefield from the edge furthest away.

The battle began with both sides sending troops forward to seize the bridges.

Supporting troops were then brought forward …

… and fighting broke out for control of one of the bridges.

One Russian Infantry Unit raced across the bridge, forcing one of the German Infantry Units to fall back …

… but at the cost of 75% casualties!

The Germans fought back with considerable ferocity, destroying the Russian Infantry Unit and forcing the Russian Machine Gun Unit to fall back.

Luck seemed to favour the Germans, who were able to bring their fire to bear on the foremost Russian Units, destroying a further Infantry Unit and forcing the Russian Machine Gun Unit to withdraw.

The Russians fought back …

… but to little avail, and the tide of battle seemed to be moving inexorably against them.

The fighting continued for some time, but eventually the Russians became exhausted and withdrew …

… leaving the Germans in control of the river!

This was a really fun little battle that took longer to write up that it did to fight. The size of the board and the number of units per side produced a fast but balanced game, and throughly vindicated my decision to follow the example set by ‘Norm‘ of BATTLEFIELDS & WARRIORS blog and to convert the whiteboard into a wargaming board for use with my Hexon II terrain.

Roll on the next battle in this mini-campaign!

I have the inspiration; all I need now is the perspiration!

Sue and I have been away for the weekend to visit Bristol. I am sure that it is a lovely city … but it has one of the most confusing road systems I have ever had to drive around. Even the locals I spoke to find it difficult to navigate, and in our case the lack of road signage that makes sense made it doubly so.

Whilst we were away I had an idea. (I do have some good ones occasionally!). Somewhere in the collection of Chaco War photographs that I have stored on my computer I remembered seeing an image of a Paraguayan troop train that looked rather like the toy train that I bought last Thursday. I did not have the opportunity to look through the photographs until this morning, but eventually I found it … and here it is!

As you can see, it is not that dissimilar to the toy train I have bought.

I now have the necessary inspiration; all I need to add is the perspiration (and time) to do something about it!