THE FLIGHT OF ICARUS, 7 February 1942

Briefing: Sergeant Eric Thomason's first operation was a "Mandolin" - a small free lance intruder operation - by a single flight of 137 Squadron, whose callsign was "Icarus". His Flight Leader, Flight Lieutenant "Dusty" Miller, had spotted a small satellite airfield on one of these trips a few days earlier, but wasn't able to attack at that time. Tasked to fly over the same area again, he has carefully planned an attack, following twin railway lines at low level up a valley to emerge unseen and undetected only two miles from the airfield. Unable to bring their guns to bear on the line of Messerschmitts parked under the trees to their right on their first pass, Miller and Thomason whirled around at tree-top height for another run from a better angle.

Map: Ground Terrain (ASP)
Aircraft: Allied:Four Whirlwind IA
Axis:Two Bf109F-4/Z

Aircraft Set Up: Set up two of the Whirlwinds in 4020 and 4022, facing SSE, altitude 0.1, speed 6.0, banked level. The other two are set up in 4040 and 4242, facing W, altitude 1.0, speed 6.0, banked level. The Bf109s enter randomly. Roll the die at the start of each turn and double the result. If this is less than the current turn number, the lead 109 is placed on the 6 o'clock line of any chosen Whirlwind at a range of 6 hexes, altitude 1.5, speed 7.0, any desired bank angle, and having executed a steep dive on the previous turn. The second 109 is placed in formation parameters with the first, and with other details the same. They roll normally for initiative.

Ground Unit Set Up: The German places four 109E and two 109F counters, with the generic silhouette side up, in the woods 1928-1935, one per hex, facing NNW, and a Kubelwagen (from OTR) in 2332 (use a Truck but reduce Defence to 10 if you don't have OTR). The aircraft are all really 109F models, but the actual "F" counters represent those that are ready for flight. These may attempt Combat Scale take-offs (rule 20.2, p42 ASP rules), rolling the die separately for each to see how long it will take to start. They have already expended five turns attempting to start their engines at game start, and are already in take-off position. The German player does not have to declare an engine start, or reveal any other information about these aircraft, until they actually begin to move on-map.

Game Length: 20 turns

Rules of Engagement:
1. The Whirlwinds have already expended 1 point of ammo each attacking previous targets.
2. There is an unbroken continuous cloud deck from altitude 1.5 upwards.
3. Ignore all building and road depictions on the map.
4. Pilot Quality: Whirlwind #1 is a Veteran, #2 Green, #3 and #4 Regulars. Generate Luftwaffe pilots on the "Good" column.

1. The exact model of 109 encountered is not known, so players may wish to substitute the F-2 or F-4/Z/R1 models.

The plan was for the first element to attack while the other pair circled to provide cover, and then to switch roles. As they flashed across the field at 50 feet on their attack run, Thomason saw strikes on the 109s parked under the trees, and the now-stationary Kubelwagen which had been driving to the parked aircraft erupted in orange flame. As expected, this temporary field had no AAA defences, but as Cummings and Smith started their run, two 109s emerged from the low cloud and began to overhaul them. Miller called a warning and turned sharply towards them, getting behind them and firing on the leader at long range. The aircraft promptly vanished in a ball of smoke and flame. Following the other, Thomason missed with a one-second burst as the 109 turned violently away. Warned of another aircraft taking off, he broke off the pursuit, being closest to the field, and lined up the 109 which had barely retracted its undercarriage. At a speed of 100 mph it was helpless and Thomason opened fire at 300 yards with his remaining one second of ammo. The stream of shells severed the 109's starboard wing, sending the aircraft hurtling into the ground. The Whirlwinds disengaged, with Cummings flying on only one engine, and all returned safely to base.

The Whirlwind:
The Whirlwind's design dated from 1937. Advanced for its day, and intended to be an air-to-air fighter, its unique and troublesome Peregrine engines were not powerful enough above 20,000 feet to be successful in this role. The first British fighter to be armed with four 20mm cannon, these close-grouped weapons packed an enormous punch, effective against small ships, buildings, and - when the opportunity arose - enemy aircraft. The combination of low-level performance and heavy armament made it an ideal intruder aircraft. Unfortunately each gun carried a mere 60 rounds, only enough for about seven seconds firing. The two Whirlwind squadrons flew intruder missions and anti-shipping strikes, especially after fitment of bomb racks for 250 lb bombs.

Eventually, in mid-1943, supplies of this rare aircraft began to dry up, and 137 Squadron converted to Hurricane IVs, handing over its remaining Whirlwinds to 263 Squadron until the last 16 were retired and 263 Squadron converted to Typhoons.

Designer's Notes: As for Last to Fall, the source is the "autobiographical" Whirlwind Squadron by Eric Thomason DFC DFM. While the other scenario dealt with his last operational flight, this one covers his first, during which he was fortunate enough to score his first kill, albeit an easy target.

The data on the Whirlwind is mainly taken from his account, although some has been confirmed from other sources. Another curiosity of the Whirlwind was it only had the one throttle for both engines, however in game terms this has no effect.

Since originally designing this scenario, I have come to the conclusion that the source is actually fictional, albeit based on facts and found in the non-fiction section of the library! I have now removed a number of variant rules which I had previously presented, as I have not had the time to check them, and they add nothing to the scenario.

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Version History:
1.0 Initial Version
1.1 Added additional Designer's Notes.
1.2 Removed Variant Rules for Whirlwind, updated Designer's Notes.