Whiteside Mountain Hike

In early October, 2021 we hiked Whiteside Mountain.  The trail head is on the road between Highlands and Cashiers, North Carolina.  After turning off the main road you meander up the mountain passing multimillion dollar homes.  There is limited parking at the trail head.

Trail Head Info

Last century Whiteside Mountain was a private tourist attraction.  A road wide enough for a bus was blasted out of the hill.  Today a wide graveled path follows the old road up one side.  The grade can be steep, but the trail is wide and smooth.  You can take your dog.

Old Bus Trail
Water Dripping Trailside Even During a Dry Spell
Wild Ginger

The views at the top are wonderful.  We plan to return once the leaves have fallen and the tourists have left to get better views of the mountains themselves.

“Smoky Mountains”

There is a plaque honoring someone who rescued a potential Darwin Award who fell off Whiteside Mountain.  You can creep down a narrow crevice to the spot which is surrounded by steel cables mounted to prevent new Darwin Award Winners.

Heroic Prevention of Darwin Award
Narrow Crevice to Darwin Award Central
Avery did not win a Darwin Award

Many of the mountains are Plutons formed 470 million years ago.  Plutons were where magma was forced close to the surface.  Over eons the softer rock and soil eroded away leaving huge granite outcroppings.

The overviews along the top have steel cables over the sheer drops.  There is another trail which goes down the other side of the mountain.  That path is steep with a couple of places that I had to sit on the ledge to go down.  Lynn has balance issues since she went deaf in one ear.  I provided a balance hand at many points on the other side of the loop.  Despite the help, she still slipped and fell twice (no injury) and the ground was as dry as it ever gets in this part of the country.  If you want to see the views with a much easier walk, ascend and descend the old bus road.

Whiteside Mountain is part of the Continental Divide. Streams from one side of the mountain drain into the Atlantic and on the other side into the Mississippi.

Continental Divide Plaque

The following pictures were taken at an overlook between Highlands and Cashiers about two weeks later.  The week before we had 8” of rain in Franklin which is located in the Eastern Rain Forest.   Almost all storm systems that head North from the Gulf, storms coming in from the Atlantic that reach the mountains, or any front moving West to East from Canada or the Great Plains will drop a large amount of rain where we live.  Even 50 miles to the East they will get less than half of the rain that we get from the average storm.

Rare Day with Very Long Views

Due to all of the rain, the waterfalls were just spectacular.  The seasonal waterfalls were all going great guns.  Unfortunately, the parking areas were full of tourists when we drove up.  We took these pictures at an overlook.  This was a rare day with very clear skies.  The mountains are nicknamed “The Smokies” for good reasons.

At the end of both of our October trips we ate and drank delicious beverages at Whiteside Brewing Co. in Cashiers.  They have good food and beer but are pricey.  They are dog friendly and you often see happy dogs playing in a small grassy park at the brewery.

Highland Gaelic and Ginger Beer with Lavender and Hibiscus

If you want more information on hiking Whiteside Mountain follow these links:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recreation/recarea/?recid=48664&actid=37

https://www.hikewnc.info/besthikes/nantahala-ranger-district/whiteside-mountain

A Few Things I’ve Learned Smoking & Grilling

In retirement I’ve been reading cookbooks on grilling and smoking. I’ve tried a lot of new things both smoking and grilling. Some from recipes and many things I’ve put together with Lynn’s input. Lynn does not do the “danger cooking” outside either on the grill or smoking.

I read several hundred customer product reviews before buying a smoker. I got an analogue electric smoker that uses the same sort of heating element that an electric frying pan uses. I have radio signal thermometers that run about $20 from Wal-mart and run off batteries. The smoker is about as inexpensive a smoker as you can get.

I drew the following conclusions about smokers from the myriad of smoker product reviews I read. First, if you use a smoker whose heat source is wood (pellet or log chunks) they have a slight taste advantage but you have to monitor them very closely. Since smoking can take as long as five hours for a large roast – I did not want to be tied that closely to the machine. Electric smokers give up some taste on the margins, but are far less expensive and less aggravating to use.

For electric smokers – according to all of the user reviews I read you need to spend about $1,000+ to get one with reliable digital temperature controls and wifi. You can get almost the same degree of control with a $200 smoker and a $20 radio signal thermometer – so I went that route.

When smoking anything I fill up the water tray so the food does not try out and only need the smoke to go for the first 30 minutes or so. Unless I’m refilling the smoker multiple times during the day with more fresh food, I do not refill my wood tray.

Wood – I’ve used chipped wood that I’ve purchased (apple, cherry, hickory) and Hickory Nuts from my Auburn house. Hickory Nuts work great – but take a little more work. I use a hammer to split (or quarter) the Hickory Nut. If the meat is dried out I remove the meat or discard the nut. Using the nuts has the additional advantage of not harming the trees. I’ve both soaked the wood (or nuts) prior to smoking and put the wood in dry. We cannot tell any difference in taste between soaked wood that you drain the water off of or just using dry wood. I’ve stopped soaking my wood.

Smoking Squash

I’ve smoked three different types of squash with very different results. When smoking hard squash (Spaghetti Squash or Winter Squash) you split them in half and scoop out the big seeds before smoking. Below is an example with Spaghetti Squash.

I then lightly brush olive oil on the exposed squash flesh and heavily sprinkle large grain kosher salt. I put the squash flesh directly on the smoking rack (the rind is up and the flesh on the rack).

Spaghetti squash takes about 3 hours to smoke to tenderness. I usually smoke things between 200 to 250 degrees. You test tenderness by taking a fork and seeing if the spaghetti elements easily pull away from the rind. I’ve smoked spaghetti squash with strong wood (Hickory) and mild wood (apple or cherry fruit wood). It comes out great with all types of wood.

Spaghetti Squash Smoked to Perfection

My experiment smoking Winter Squash was unsuccessful. It took a very, very long time to smoke Winter Squash until it was tender – 4+ hours. Second, Winter Squash absorbed very little smoke taste. I think the only way Smoked Winter Squash makes any sense is to smoke it when you are doing a very large roast. Very large roasts take 4-5 hours to smoke. Next, I think the smoked winter squash is probably best used to make soup. As a stand alone side dish, Lynn and I did not think it was very tasty.

My Smoked Zucchini Squash turned out so-so. Zucchini readily absorbs smoke flavor. It gets tender quickly. However, the smoke flavor overwhelms the squash flavor. If you like the taste of smoky vegetables and don’t care for the taste of Zucchini – then smoking your squash will work out wonderfully. If you want some squash flavor – then don’t smoke the Zucchini.

Smoking Potato Wedges I tried smoking potato wedges. Lynn cut the wedges small and tossed them with olive oil, rosemary, and some other common roast potato spices. I put them into an aluminum chicken roasting pan and smoked them – seemingly forever (4 hours) at 225 to 250 degrees). They never got tender. I then tried a second batch at 400 degrees for four hours and they were edible, but not as tender as I would like. My conclusion is either I used the wrong cooking pan or the experiment was a failure. The heat transfer may not have worked very well since the aluminum pan reflects a lot of the heat and also runs it up the side of the pan. A flat, vegetable smoking tray would have probably worked better at transferring heat. I’ll probably attempt this one more time with a different tray.

Either the Potato Wedge Recipe does not work or I used the Wrong Pan

Smoking Chicken Thighs All of my recipe books recommend smoking chicken thighs because they have a high fat content, are unlikely to dry out during smoking, and are inexpensive. I’ve smoked chicken thighs about a half a dozen times now. After some experimentation, I’ve settled on a very simple recipe. First, peel back the skin on the thighs and cut off any excess fat. Next, heavily sprinkle coarse kosher salt on the thighs. Then lightly sprinkle strong black pepper on the thighs. Put the skin back over the meat. Smoke the thighs directly on the rack using a remote read meat thermometer. Pull the thighs when the thermometer hits 160 degrees. I’ve been smoking about 24 thighs at a time. I then food-saver and freeze most of the thighs in four thigh packages. They have frozen very well for at least two months.

Fat trimmed, skin pulled back from Chicken Thighs. Ready for the Kosher Salt & some Pepper

Smoking Roasts I have smoked Pork and Lamb roasts. All have turned out well, but after considerable experimentation this is my go-to recipe. Trim the excess fat off of the roast. Heavily slice into the meat about a half inch deep making a crisscross pattern on all sides. Generously sprinkle coarse Kosher salt over the entire roast. Then work in brown mustard with seeds (I use prepared, squeeze bottle mustard). You want to be sure to work the mustard and the salt deep into the cuts you made to prevent the mixture from falling off the meat while it cooks. Then, put the entire roast in a large ziplock bag and refrigerate over night.

Take the roast out about a half hour before you start smoking to bring the meat temperature up while you preheat your smoker. I take about a half a head of peeled, raw garlic and insert chunks into the meat. I place the chunks about an inch apart.

I’ve experimented on cooking temperature. If you want a crunchy bark, you will need to get an internal meat temperature of 165 to 170 degrees. If you want a more rare roast without the bark, smoke it to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. We have gradually moved to a temperature of 145 degrees, but with just two of us most of the meat is reheated in the microwave. Either way is good, just depends on your taste. We have fed lamb or pork roasts to many guests and everyone ate a lot and looked for more.

Note the Deep Cuts in the Meat Which Hold the Mustard & Garlic Chunks

Sausage – Smoke, Grill or Boil? I did not learn how to properly grill sausage until this year. We think sausages taste best when they are very crispy on the outside while being thoroughly cooked on the inside. Burned sausages taste bad.

Boiled sausages avoid burning but you don’t get a crispy outside layer. This is the fool proof cooking method but is far from the tastiest method.

I smoked sausages this week. I inserted a meat thermometer into the end of the sausage to accurately assess the internal meat temperature. They were completely cooked and tender. But the smoke did not penetrate the meat very well and I did not get a crispy exterior. I think the sausage casing limits the smoke penetration. Smoking your sausages works fine (better than boiling), but the meat texture is not optimal.

I’ve attempted to grill sausages for decades with mostly poor results. Sausages are very fatty, and if the fat drips onto the coals (or the gas flame) you get a heat spike which tends to char the exterior of your sausage. I could occasionally cook the sausage completely and not burn the exterior – but this was a rare happy event.

This year I learned how to grill using indirect heat. I have a three burner propane grill at both houses. To use indirect heat you turn one burner (or the exterior 2 burners) on high and have the middle burner off. Your grill surface heats up to a high temperature, but because there is no direct heat source under your sausage you do not get heat spikes which char the exterior. Now my sausages turn out wonderfully! I preheat the exterior 2 burners on high. I grill the sausages in the middle with no direct heat. I pull the sausages when the instant read meat thermometer hits the right temperature. The exterior has a nice crunch. They are thoroughly cooked (essential for sausages) and there is no burning or charring on the exterior.

I plan to cook sausages on the grill using indirect heat instead of boiling or smoking.

Salmon – I have had poor luck grilling salmon. This is probably something that needs to be cooked using indirect heat – a technique I only recently learned. Fish also tends to stick to your grilling surface. I’ve used fish baskets – but this tends to under-cook the fish and the flesh sticks to the basket everywhere.

I’ve smoked salmon a couple of times and it has always turned out well. I suggest smoking the salmon on a cedar plank. The cedar gives it a nice flavor. I’ve read there are different types of cedar and some of the Chinese “cedar imports” produce inferior results. So shop carefully.

I lightly brush the salmon steak with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with coarse Kosher Salt. I put the salmon steak on the cedar plank skin side down and use my remote read meat thermometer. It has turned out well every time, but the cedar plank does improve the taste. I’ve given up on grilling salmon and plan to use my smoker in the future.

Smoked Macaroni and Cheese I’ve made this once closely following the recipe in Bill West’s cookbook (reference below). It was just amazing! We used whole wheat pasta for diabetes reasons which is not to everyone’s taste. But Smoked Macaroni and Cheese done properly is excellent. Sorry I did not take pictures.

Smoked Boiled Eggs – I’ve done this once. It worked pretty well, but I think I can improve. I’m holding off writing specifics until I improve my technique.

I hope you have found my grilling and smoking results to be interesting and helpful. Not everything I’ve tried has worked, but some of my attempts produce excellent results for me every time. I’ve also found that using coarse Kosher Salt on my smoked foods tends to preserve the food longer than skipping the salt.

The most useful smoking cookbook I’ve read so far is The Complete Electric Smoker Cookbook by Bill West. I’ve read half a dozen smoking cookbooks and this one is my favorite. It is only $15 new in paperback with a plastic type cover.

Western Desert Conclusion: Order of Battle WW2 Allies Defiant Scenario 4

Turns 3 to 6

My holding force will destroy the remnants of the Italian infantry on the coast road.  The engineers will clear the minefield and the infantry will crush the Italians.  My fighters will both attack the damaged Italian bi-plane.  The rest of the force will advance to attack the position next turn – starting with the AT Gun which is the key to the entire position.  The key to this move is positioning the mechanized infantry so it can launch a dismounted attack on the AT gun. 

Turn 3 Start
On to Bardia
Conclusion of Turn 3

The dawn of turn 4 finds an unescorted Italian Bomber had hit my combat engineers.  Unfortunately, my Spitfires must drop the heavily damaged Italian bi-plane fighter to allow the Fairey Battle Tactical Bomber to hit the AT gun. 

Turn 4 Start

During the Italian part of Turn 5 their armor made an unexpected attack on my infantry.  This leaves their advanced armor unit heavily exposed.  During the British turn the Italian Bomber is almost destroyed by the Spitfire Squadrons, the lead Italian armor is mauled, and the Italian Infantry garrisoning the town is down to 50% strength.  The pesky Italian AT gun is almost destroyed.  The British AT gun covers some of the troops.

Turn 5 Start
End of Turn 5

The Italians should have withdrawn to Tobruk.  The British take advantage of this error.  First, the gunboat destroys the last of the anti-tank unit.  Next, the Matilda and the lead British Infantry take the town.  The British AT gun, tactical fighters and British Armor destroy both Italian Armored units.   By the end of Turn 6 the only things outside the Tobruk minefields that have been spotted are an anit-aircraft unit outside the landing field, two tankette units and some empty trucks. 

Turn 6 Part 1
Turn 6 Conclusion

Turns 7 to 10

The British capture the landing field after destroying the anti-aircraft unit on turn 7.  The gunboat, tactical bombers and Matilda unit all damage the Bardia fortress.  On Turn 8 the Bardia fortress is almost captured while my forces take reinforcements and the Spitfires refuel with the anti-tank gun on over watch. 

Turn 7
Turn 8

Bardia easily falls on Turn 9.  The tankette unit pinned by the minefield is almost destroyed.  Infantry and the anti-tank gun are positioned to guard the Spitfires taking reinforcements. 

Bardia Falls

Turn 10 sets up the Battle for Tobruk.  The damaged tankette unit is destroyed and combat engineers move up to remove the Italian minefield on the coast road.  British Armor and anti-tank gun maul the remaining tankette. 

Preparing to Take Tobruk

Turns 11 to Victory

Combat engineers eliminate the minefield on the coast road.  Armor moves to attack the Italian fortification guarding the approach to the port from the East.  Motorized infantry runs through the desert to take Tmimi in a sandstorm. 

Turn 12

By turn 13 the fortress has been destroyed and the anti-aircraft and artillery units are damaged.  Tmimi falls.  Isolating the rest of the Italians from resupply will be accomplished before the port of Tobruk is taken. 

Breakthrough to Tobruk Port

By the end of turn 14 Tobruk is isolated, the Italian anti-aircraft and artillery are almost destroyed, and all Italian units outside the port have been cut off from supply. 

Italians Outside of the Port Cut-Off

Since I have until turn 20 to take Tobruk, there is no hurry.  I conserve my forces and pound the port from the air and sea.  Tobruk falls on turn 16 with minimum British casualties. 

Tobruk Falls
Victory

Note that most of the Italian fortifications, minefields, and infantry guarding Tobruk were never attacked.  I had to take the port, not destroy all of the Italian forces.  My battle plan accomplished the tasks determined by HQ with minimum casualties (and reinforcement points).  Before the next battle I finally achieve the scrambling technology which will prove essential to taking the rest of Libya.

Finally Gain Scrambling Technology

Western Desert – Allies Defiant Scenario 4

Western Desert December 1940 – Allies Defiant Scenario 4

Italy declares war on the UK and invades Egypt.  Italy has a large North African army, but it lacks motorized transport.  The Italian supply chain breaks down after capturing the Egyptian border towns and they dig in and place minefields. 

Italy Joins the War

Your intelligence briefing suggests that the Italian Troops in Egypt are poorly supplied and may surrender if their logistics and communications are severed.  You are warned to protect your supply lines.  Winning requires capturing Bardia and Tobruk with a secondary victory for destroying the Italian positions in Egypt.

Possible Encirclement?
Be Careful About Your Supply Lines!
Victory Conditions

Amateurs study tactics and professionals study logistics.  Let’s look at the logistics situation in the Western Desert.  All supply points are on the coast and are connected by a road network.  The major supply points are the 15 point position on the Egyptian Coast, Bardia (30 supply); Tobruk (50 supply) and Tmimi (40 supply).

Italian Supply in the Western Desert

Early Turns Strategy

Scout planes spot an Italian Infantry unit at Sofafi guarding the pass through the escarpment.  An Italian Tankette unit is on the Coast Road.  I then place my troops to cut off most of the Italian Army in Egypt.  Please note that any competent commander would send scout planes out prior to battle and place troops to exploit perceived enemy weaknesses.  Thus, placing my initial troops based on what is revealed on a turn 1 move by scout planes is neither a cheat nor an exploit (in my opinion). 

Scout Plane Scouts Italian Positions

My first goal is to attack isolated Italian units to cut off supplies to the remainder of the Italian Army in Egypt.  Initial attacks will be on the Italian Infantry at Sofafi holding the pass through the escarpment.  A combined arms attack will be made.  First, tactical bombers hit the unit.  Next, a Cruiser tank unit will secure the southern flank while the heavy infantry moves to the North.  Heavy Infantry attacks first, followed by armor with mopping up done by motorized infantry.

This should open a route to attack the Italian light armor on the coast.  My initial attack will include my largely indestructible, but slow Matilda Tanks, one unit of fast Cruiser tanks and a motorized anti-tank gun attack the Italian light armor on the coast.   The gunboat and both fighter units will attack the Italian infantry holding the Egyptian port.

A holding force is on the coast road.  After destroying the Italian tankette and the infantry unit guarding the pass, one Cruiser tank will take the Egyptian port cutting the rest of the Italians off from their supplies.  The engineers on the coast road will then remove the mine field allowing the infantry on the coast road to mop up any surviving Italian infantry on the coast road.  Other troops will speed (or lumber in the case of the Matilda) towards Bardia. 

All armor and mechanized units are initially positioned in the Southern Desert.  They include mechanized heavy infantry, mechanized regular infantry, mechanized combat engineers, a Matilda tank unit, two Cruiser tank units and motorized anti-tank guns.  Two Spitfire squadrons, a Fairy Battle squadron (tactical bombers) and a seaplane scout comprise the remainder of my forces. 

My troop placement has a secondary force along the coast road to prevent the Italians from moving down the coast road and capturing my supplies.  A unit of foot combat engineers has spotted the minefield and is backed by a foot infantry unit. 

Troop Deployment

Turns 1 & 2

I executed a combined arms attack on the Italian infantry at Sofafi.  In order it was attacked by tactical bombers, heavy infantry, Cruiser tanks and the remainder mopped up by mechanized infantry.  The armor moved opposite the heavy infantry before the attack to gain the benefits of attacking on opposite fronts. Result is annihilated Italian infantry at the cost of one point of damage to the British heavy infantry unit.

First Attack Phase 1
First Attack Part 2
Part 3 First Attack
First Attack Part 4
Initial Attack Complete

The pass through the escarpment is now open so the Cruiser tank attacks the Italian Tankettes at Buq Buq causing 50% damage to the Italians with no damage to the British.  The Cruiser unit does not advance to Buq Buq because it would have been cut off from supply by a counter-attack from the Italian “armor.”  The Matildas and mounted anti-tank guns advance to protect the flank of the Cruisers.  Last, the gunboats and two Spitfire units rake the Italian infantry in the port. 

Second Attack Part 1
Second Attack Part 2
End of UK Part 1

The Italian response was an ineffectual attack on the mounted anti-tank unit.  Scout planes reveal an Italian Fighter squadron has scrambled.   Note the entrenched Italian Infantry in Sollum is backed by anti-tank guns.  The anti-tank guns must be neutralized before Armor can attack Sollum.   The British goals this turn are destroying the Tankettes; attacking the Italian fighters; capturing the Egyptian Port through combined arms attack; and advancing towards Sollum. 

Italian Response is Poor

Both Spitfires attack the Italian biplanes heavily mauling them.  British anti-tank guns almost destroy the Italian Tankettes.  British Heavy Infantry mounted on Bren gun carriers complete the task.  Next the British soften up the Italian infantry guarding the port through bombing and guns from the gunboat.

Bombing the Port

British Cruisers rout the softened-up Italian Infantry seizing the port.  The remainder of the advanced Italian infantry and guns are totally cut off from supply.  The second Cruiser tank unit accompanies mechanized infantry and engineers racing through the desert towards Sollum.

End of British Turn 2

Almost all Italian defenders in Egypt surrender!  Plus, plans for the defense of Tobruk are captured!  Even better, there is a big gap in the Tobruk defenses.  Only a minefield and a fortification guard the coast road approach to the port.

Huge Italian Surrender!
Tobruk Defense Plan Captured
Tobruk Defenses

My results on the first two turns may seem impossible. I’ve destroyed a heavily defended position with almost no losses. But this is close to what happened in December 1940.  The Italians were caught by surprise with most units surrendering before entering heavy combat.  My results are better (10% losses on one heavy infantry, one anti-tank gun, one Cruiser Tank unit and one Spitfire squadron), but not wildly dissimilar to what the British achieved.  Furthermore, I’ve played this scenario more than 20 times and with this battle plan I get this result 95%+ of the time.  Try it for yourself and see.

Dunkirk Conclusion

Turns 4 Through 6

Lille held easily against the German attacks on Turn 4. 

Lille Holds

On Turn 4 for the Allies all troops save two units are withdrawn across the river from Lille and the bridge is dropped.  I used the railroad to evacuate units in town hexes with railroad lines.  There was not enough space to withdraw one French anti-tank gun and the heavily damaged British infantry unit could not move out due to multiple adjacent German units.

Successful Fighting Withdrawal From Lille

As a reward for holding Lille four turns, several British fighter squadrons are sent from England. 

Additional Fighters Arrive

WARNING! – Your fighter squadrons now reinforce/refuel quite differently.  Your core forces can fly to an evacuation hex.  You can then fully repair them and place them at sea or at the Dunkirk airfield if you hold it the very next turn!  This is not an exploit – this is how the scenario was designed.  IMHO there should be a turn delay and repaired squadrons should be placed on a sea hex, but we are working with the scenario as currently designed.  But noncore fighters will be removed permanently if you fly them to an air evacuation hex.   Noncore fighters must land at Dunkirk to refuel.  I recommend against spending the points to repair these fighters.  This is yet another reason to rename all of your core units to avoid such problems.

On Turn 5 an undetected German infantry unit penetrated within three hexes of Dunkirk.  Stopping or eliminating this unit is vital to winning the scenario.  Another German infantry unit attempted to cross an intact bridge SouthEast of Ypres, took heavy damage, and was stranded on the bridge.

Oops! German Infantry Within 3 Hexes of Dunkirk!

On the allies Turn 5 (not shown) the Brits maul and contain the German Infantry close to Dunkirk and destroy the Infantry stuck on the bridge.

On Turn 6 Germany masses infantry troops to attack Ypres from the North.  An armor unit attempts to ford the river South of Ypres.  The Allies destroy the heavily damaged German Infantry close to Dunkirk.  The vulnerable German Armor attempting to cross the river close to Ypres was hit by a strong French armored unit and a British AT gun.  The heavily damaged German Armor retreated to the Lille side of the river.  Other defenders dug-in close to Ypres. 

Turn 6 Part 1
Turn 6 Part 2

Turn 7 to Victory

Ypres needs to hold two more turns.  The only significant threat is an attack from the North, so the defenders have focused on that potential axis of attack.  The Ypres-Dunkirk bridge has been wired for demolition by combat engineers.  Two French and two British units have boarded ship and are moving towards England.

On Turn 8 British Fighters shoot down another German Squadron.  Another attack South of Ypres was repulsed with the remaining shattered infantry stuck on the bridge. 

Ypres Well Defended on Turn 8

Ypres holds and is evacuated during the Allies phase of Turn 9.  Some units have withdrawn to Dunkirk while the rest set up a defensive perimeter around the Ypres-Dunkirk bridge.  All secondary victory conditions have been achieved.  Dunkirk is well defended with armor, infantry and artillery.  I have seven more turns to evacuate three additional British ground units. 

Retreat from Ypres on Turn 9
Victory Progess

On Turn 10 the last bridge to Dunkirk is blown.  All remaining defenders have successfully retreated behind the river.  Two ground units have embarked on craft to sail them to England.  The rest of the scenario is easy and leads to a “victorious retreat.”

Turn 10
Victory!

One important reminder.  If you win this scenario all surviving core units carry over to North Africa.  You do not have to actually withdraw your core units to the sea evacuation hex.  If I had to withdraw all of my core units, especially my armor, this scenario would be considerably more difficult.

Dunkirk – Allies Defiant Scenario 3

Before Dunkirk, you can spend research points to obtain combat technology.  I had enough points to purchase some tech, but banked the points with the goal of purchasing the 10 point cost “scrambling” technology.  The best British Fighters have short ranges.  With scrambling you gain half movement on the takeoff turn.  Since Spitfires and Hurricanes can only stay aloft 8 turns, getting an extra half turn of movement is significant. 

Germany has more and better aircraft early in the war so getting the most out of your fighter coverage is critical to gaining parity.  For this reason, I’m saving up my research points for the scrambling technology.

Scenario Briefing and Setup

Your intelligence brief is grim. Germans surround your forces.  The Belgian army is on the brink of collapse.  This necessitates a fighting retreat.  Lille must be held four turns.  Ypres must be held nine turns.  You must evacuate by sea six British and two French units.

Belgian Surrender? Yikes!
Scenario Objectives

The following screenshot shows the map.  Key bridges, cities and the Belgian Army is highlighted.  There are significant French troops in the vicinity of Lille.  Some non-core British units including a unit of combat engineers are also present.

I plan to blow the bridge where the engineers are placed and then send them North on the coast road to blow the bridge leading to the Belgian Army.  A mounted unit of combat engineers from my core force will be placed close to the bridge near Lille so it can be wired for demolition.  Hopefully Lille can hold out four turns and the bridge dropped after the defenders have retreated over the river. 

Key bridges indicated on the map will either be defended or destroyed.  There are multiple areas that must be defended.  The most critical area is immediately North of Ypres.  This ground is flat and German infantry have penetrated within two hexes of Ypres.  If this German probe succeeds, the Lille defenders will be surrounded.

The next most critical areas are just over the river close to the town of Maulde and the open ground North of Lille.  The Germans have crossed the river in force close to Maulde.  A German Heavy Infantry unit has been spotted in the open plains North of Lille.  Last, a German Infantry unit is attempting to ford the river to the South of Lille.

If Ypres falls, everything is doomed.  Thus, both British Armor units and a motorized infantry unit are placed to turn back the German attack North of Ypres.  The slower Matilda unit is placed closest to Dunkirk.

Motorized combat engineers will wire the bridge close to Lille for destruction.  The non-core engineers will blow the Calais bridge on turn 1 and then advance to blow the coast road bridge to the Belgian sector.  Motorized infantry, heavy infantry and an anti-tank gun are placed South of Lille to hopefully stem the German advance from the Maulde bridges.

I purchased a third Spitfire fighter squadron.  All of the fighters are airborne at Lille to hopefully draw in German fighters where the French anti-aircraft gun is placed. A strategic view after troop placement is below. 

Strategic View

Troops can evacuate either at a port or when a unit is adjacent to an allied naval unit.

Evacuation Procedures

German Stukas are the primary air threat against troopships and other naval targets.  Hence, my fighters will concentrate on damaging and hopefully eliminating Stukas.

Turn 1 – Germany moves first.  There are land attacks towards Ypres from the North.  There are attacks targeting Lille from the South, North and East.  One French infantry unit is destroyed East of Lille.  

During my turn I decide to reinforce the 2 strength British unit on the beach to 7 points so it has a better chance to survive evacuation.  Next my unmounted and noncore combat engineers blow the coastal bridge at Gravelines.  My fighters and AA guns concentrate on knocking out Stukas wherever possible.  My mounted, core engineers move to wire the bridge West of Lille for destruction.  Multiple, limited counter-attacks are executed East of Ypres and South of Lille to maul the relatively unsupported lead elements of the German Advance.  Still, my forces retain anti-tank protection close to Lille.  At Ypres I am careful to keep my troops in a formation that makes encirclement difficult.  Note also that both Ypres and Lille are garrisoned by entrenched, heavy infantry in case I made a mistake in my defenses.  All is lost if either city gets taken before the evacuation order.

German Attack Towards Lille Turn 1
Gravelines Bridge Dropped
Targeting Stukas
End Turn 1

Turn 2

German attackers on turn 2 around Ypres are left in a horribly exposed position.  They will pay for their daring!  Close to Lille the Germans are quite conservative bringing up top tier armor units and putting a pincer movement on a French infantry unit.  It will be difficult, if not impossible for the Southernmost French unit close to Lille to survive long enough to be evacuated.

German Attacks Turn 2

The British with help from a unit of French armored cars destroy both over-extended infantry units attacking in the vicinity of Ypres.  British fighters converge and heavily maul a German bomber.  Around Lille units are reinforced and make a slow, fighting retreat. The 7 strength British infantry unit on the beach boards small craft and starts the trek across the English Channel. 

Allied Counterattacks on Turn 2
Strategic View End of Turn 2

Turn 3

Belgium surrenders!  This opens up the Northern flank.  On a prior turn I had put the British infantry unit in Dunkirk on a train and moved it to the bridge.  It will dismount, occupy the city south of the bridge, and stand guard until the engineers can blow it.

Noooooooooo!

The Germans continued their slow advance towards Lille.  However, if they do not take it next turn I can (hopefully) evacuate everything over the river and blow the bridge.  The Ypres sector is largely quiet.

End of German Phase

A German Schnell Boat (think USA PT Boat) attacks North of Dunkirk.  Two gunboats and a French bomber attack it while the British Infantry have moved to one of the evacuation hexes.

Schnell Boat Attacks & British Infantry Evacuates Successfully

British Fighters splash two Luftwaffe squadrons!

Victory 1!
Victory 2!

British and French units retreat towards Lille.  Almost all units are under anti-tank gun over-watch. It will be very difficult for German forces to take Lille next turn. 

Withdrawal Towards Lille

Smoked Spaghetti Squash

I smoked a Spaghetti Squash today. It turned out better than any Spaghetti Squash I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve had it prepared by my Mom growing up, my wife, and one sister-in-law.

What I did was very simple. I split the Squash length-wise. I lightly basted it with olive oil using a brush. I left it on the counter for three hours or so while my salmon steaks were smoking.

After taking the Salmon steaks out, I changed the wood to apple in the smoker. I had soaked the apple wood for two hours, then drained the water and let it sit for another hour or so before starting the squash.

I gave the squash halves one more light basting with olive oil and put a small amount of kosher salt on the halves. The amount of salt was perhaps a teaspoon total for the two halves. I smoked it for 3 hours at around 225-250 keeping the water dish filled. The squash were placed meat down on the rack.

I removed the squash and let them cool. Then I used a dinner fork to remove the meat and discarded the rinds.

They came out very tender and flavorful.

I think you can do two to four spaghetti squash as easily as you can do one – something to remember for next time. I would not use a strong wood for the smoke – a fruit wood is probably best.

I did not use a remote or instant read thermometer for the squash. I tested one half after 2 hours with a metal probe and it was not quite tender enough. So I put it back in for a total of three hours. I think that testing it after 1.5 to 2 hours is probably best.

In summary:

1] Split the squash in half lengthwise.

2] Lightly baste the interior flesh with olive oil.

3] Use apple or another mild smoking wood. Soak the wood six hours or so before cooking. Thoroughly drain the wood an hour or two before smoking.

4] Preheat your smoker to around 225-250 degrees.

5] Lightly baste the squash flesh a 2nd time with olive oil. Lightly season with coarse kosher salt.

6] Put the squash flesh down (rind up) on directly on the grill rack.

7] Check squash after 2 hours or so of smoking for tenderness using a knife or fork.

8] I smoked it a total of 3 hours.

Hickory Nut Smoked Lamb Roast

We were delighted to have Brian & Lisa Anderson visit us in Franklin over the weekend of June 13th. I asked Brian if he wanted me to smoke a pork or a lamb roast – and he enthusiastically said “lamb.”

The night before I rubbed it with large chunk, kosher salt and cut off any excess fat. I also cracked the hickory nuts and immersed the broken parts in water.

The next morning I was up early preheating the smoker, getting the lamb on the counter to raise its temperature, and cutting up half a head of garlic into chunks. I made incisions about a half inch apart throughout the lamb and inserted the garlic chunks. Last, I scored the meat about 1/8th of an inch deep and rubbed in brown mustard with seeds ensuring to get the mustard into the scores on the lamb roast.

I smoked it around 8 hours at 250. I got a good bark on the roast after letting it creep up 10 degrees from 150 to 160 for three hours while the fats and the cartilage melted. When smoking, you will get a steady rise in meat temperature up to the point where the fats and cartilage melt – which cools the meat.

The ingredients are nothing special: good lamb roast, fresh garlic, kosher salt, brown mustard with seeds (I used squirt bottle brown mustard) and hickory nuts.

Gulf Fishing Trip

We went on a 12 hour fishing trip out of Panama City on June 9, 2021. We caught 199lbs of fish – mostly in the Red Snapper family. Our fishers were myself, Lynn, Sam, his friend Ben, Tom Nixon, Danny Butler, Richard Biel and Dan Padgett. Tom’s Granddaughter had a good time also.

Due to the plague, last year was the first time in a decade I did not go deep sea fishing.

We had a very nice day and I think I’ve figured out a way to handle the diabetes dehydration problem. I felt better this trip than I have in the last six or so.

Low Countries Conclusion: Scenario 2 Allies Defiant Order of Battle WW2

Turn 15 to End of Scenario         

Woops!  A German Army advanced through the Ardennes, broke through at Sedan, and is threatening Allied troops in Belgium and Northern France.  Destroying most of the advance units arriving somewhere South/Southeast of Lille is a new secondary objective. 

The last road bridge in the North is blown.  French forces broke contact with the pursuing Germans and another bridge is wired by British Combat Engineers for demolition. 

French forces continue to retreat towards Lille on turn 16.  Since no German bombers have been reported on the front, two fighter units are scouting in the South and Southeast for approaching German units. 

Pursing German units fail to catch up with the French rearguard by turn 18.  A bridge is blown on the approach to Lille making the French defenders task easier.  There are only seven turns left.  All of the road bridges from the North towards Lille have been blown.  The railroad bridge has been mined.  There are a significant number of defenders blocking the approaches to Lille from all directions. 

On turn 19 the lead German spearhead from Sedan attack British forces South of Lille capturing Arras. 

Allied counter attacks near Arras destroy all of the lead Ardennes force spearhead excepting two units on turn 20.  German armor attacks on turn 21 destroying a unit of French armored cars.

However, the British main force with support from French Armor and Infantry attacks on turn 22 destroying the initial spearhead from Sedan giving the Allies a major victory. 

In sum, I’ve played this scenario about a dozen times on the First Lieutenant level of difficulty.  By chance, when I played this scenario for the AAR and screenshots the Allies got very lucky.  Both German Stuka Units blundered into French AA guns without fighter support in the first couple of turns and were destroyed.  Then, a Bf-109 unit made the same mistake and was destroyed.

Next, German Armor pursued without adequate infantry support which enabled the French defenders to effectively use anti-tank guns to severely damage most of the armored units.  This made it easy to pick off the heavily damaged units or to surround and destroy German light armor if it advanced too far in advance of the infantry.

Overall, the strategy was sound but the Allies benefitted from a lot of luck this play through.  I’ve never had this battle nearly this well in a dozen attempts.

Would this strategy work on a higher difficulty level?  I played Norway on the Captain level of difficulty and had no problems.  The Low Countries scenario is more difficult on the Captain level of difficulty – the basic strategy of carefully blowing bridges and having units covered by anti-tank guns is sound. 

This scenario’s AAR contains 69 annotated screenshots and five pages of text.  I’m not redoing the AAR on a different level of difficulty.  However, I did pare down the screenshots from a level 3 difficulty to about a dozen that I will post in the upcoming week on the Slitherine website to demonstrate how the strategy works on a higher difficulty level.