03 December 2017

The Heroes of. . . Boucharde??!!

One of the theater lobby posters used to promote the film in question at the time of its release 50+ years ago.  I actually have an original framed and hanging down here in Zum Stollenkeller.  My stepdad and I found it almost 30 years ago while digging through a stack of vintage movie posters in the basement of a junk shop in the Squirrel Hill Neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Kirk Douglas and the late Ulla Jacobsson.  the shape of her face and cheekbones clearly made an impression on the 11-year-old Stokes when I first watched the movie on TV late one Saturday night during Christmas Vacation 1977-78.  Remember when TV stations used to feature late-night movies?  Anyway, I now realize how similar the facial structure of the Grand Duchess, who is also of Swedish extraction, is to Ms. Jacobsson's.  Funny how the oddest things stay with you in one way or another.

Looking for something a little different to do during the upcoming Christmas break, I reread Steve Hezzlewood's 'The Boucharde Raid' yesterday (Saturday) afternoon.  I have always meant to give the scenario a try since first reading this particular issue of Military Modelling (actually the special wargame supplement with a dark blue cover) years ago.  

Now, I don't know about you, but whenever I read about a historical battle, or even a made-up scenario for a wargame, I always have a conversation of sorts with myself internally.  Kind of along these lines.  "Hmmm.  How might I spruce things up, personalize this particular scenario a bit, and make it fit into my own ongoing campaign narrative?" 

Dangerous thinking, right?  But of course!  You know precisely what I mean though.  Here is what I came up with.  

A similar raid to blow up an arsenal/powder magazine as in Hezzlewood and John Ray's small game of long ago, but make the location a bit more remote and the terrain a bit more rugged.  Kind of along the lines of the operations by the Norwegian resistance at the Vemork facility outside Rjukan, Norway during World War II.  But without the snow and skis. 

In addition, I plan to substitute four companies of dreaded Croats commanded by one (you guessed it) Major Frick (played by Anton Diffring in the movie) for the real life German defenders, and instead of the small party of Norwegian resistance raiders charged with blowing up the target, I'll use two or three green-coated jaegers with one engineer officer attached to handle the demolition.  I've already got two battalions of painted Croats in the collection, and there are some armed Minden civilians in the leadpile that might be just the thing for the latter.  I think I can paint up a few of them fairly quickly well in advance of the Christmas period.

There are still some details to work out, but the planned game will be an homage of sorts to the raid on the heavy water factory outside the town of Rjukan in southern Norway plus the 1965 Anthony Mann cinematic dramatization of those events.  Of course, his film departs considerably from what actually happened, but The Heroes of Telemark remains one of my all-time wartime adventure favorites right up there with Where Eagles Dare.  

Sadly, my own game will feature neither figures of Richard Harris and Kirk Douglas on skis, nor the fetching Ulla Jacobsson dressed in a highly flattering  Norwegian ski sweater for that matter, but there we are.  Stay tuned for more details as this small solo affair takes shape.

-- Stokes

The former Norsk Hydro Electrolysis Production Plant at Vemork, Norwat just a steep 11km up the road from Rjukan.  The building in the foreground was demolished in 1977, but there has been an interesting museum on the sabotage operations during the Second World War and another on the industrialization of Norway and the emerging working class during the early 20th century in the hydroelectric plant just beyond since the mid-1990s.  I visited in the summer of '96 and walked the distance from town and back to see the place and visit the museum as it existed at the time.  Had an interesting conversation (in Norwegian, thank you very much) with a couple of the young guys behind the admissions and refreshment counter.  Like so much of the Telemark region, the area is beautiful and very remote still.  I have read recently that the basement rooms of the building destroyed in 1977 have recently been excavated and found to be largely intact.  Plans are afoot to create a museum in this space that will be devoted entirely to the use of heavy water by the Germans to develop an atomic bomb as well as the various operations by the Norwegian resistance, aided by  Great Britain and the U.S., to stop the production of heavy water, which apparently was a byproduct of the fertilizer production that took place here in the 1930s before the war.


Gallia said...

Best wishes for the plan and creativity associated with it.
Satisfaction too.
Bill P.

A J said...

I've adapted scenarios from other periods for games. It's fun. Interesting to read about the project to restore those basement areas.

Stryker said...

Sounds like an interesting scenario. Personally I think action movies took a big dive down when Kirk Douglas left the screen...


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