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Wednesday 14 January 2015

Kronthaler goes to the church, first game of a French vs German 1940 minicampaign.

St. Cyr, May 1940
 
 7th Panzer division in advancing and the motorized recon troops are prowling at the point. One of the platoons is lead by Leutnant Kronthaler, few years a go a doktor of engineering from Hamburg, now a motorcycle recon platoon leader. Several days of merciless driving, occasional sharp firefights and no rest, so he had very little idea where he actually was, some idea where the rest of the division was and inkling where he was supposed to go. Some hours ago, as platoon was napping and fixing vehicles, a French civilian vehicle had been stopped - a spy had been shot and interesting papers been examined: Frenchmen were trying to hide valuables at the church of St Cyr! Somewhat interesting tidbit, but most of all poor Kronthaler again knew where he was. A quick radio message to company HQ told him to go ahead - a single assault gun as lost as them and barrage from company mortars would support him, anything heavier was still marching.
 
 (He is leading a type B motorcycle platoon from here. Notably 2lmg per section.)
 
 Approach to the village was heavily forested and allowed defender ample ambush position. So the mortars were instructed to fire a preparatory barrage and platoon went in directly from marching order, allowing defender no time to deploy. (Patrol phase went as planned; defender took nice defensive positions but allowed me to gain initiative.)
 
The setup. German JOPS in red, French in blue. Most of the area is at least lightly forested.
 
 1st section dismounted and took strong firing positions from the heavy stone building. As soon as the machine guns were ready, French defenders were seen running from the forest towards the village proper - concentrated burst of fire from section was enough to immediately put them to ground on the open. A second French section revealed themselves from sandbagged position in the tree line, but their return fire was ineffective.

1st section taking position.

First mg salvo lands, lots of shock and a wounded JL.
 
 2nd section was meanwhile advancing towards the church, prompting the French to reveal their 3rd section. This went exactly as planned, as now enemy had revealed his hand, while Germans still had plenty of uncommitted troops. As the defenders on the German right flank were now in immobile position, FOO was called up. He came with feldwebel Ross, young Sturmabteilungsmann from Koln, a stern and stoic man. Under feldwebel's directions company mortars were dropping shells on the defender almost immediately - scoring some hits, but most of all pinning whole enemy flank in place, allowing Germans freedom of movement. On the other flank, Germans vaulted over the high church wall and took positions inside the church, machine guns hurrying to the tower. Of course, at this point company HQ decided that lone platoon would not need mortars anymore ((French player ended turn with 3*6)).

Barrage lands.
 
 As soon as dust from barrage lifted, machine guns took the hapless 1st French section under fire again and immediately broke it, killing the sergeant. At this point French morale was plummeting towards 0, Germans had suffered no casualties and were commanding the area from 2 stout positions, so French player decided to cut losses and withdraw.

The end
 
 I am quite happy with myself with this battle. I was able to ping whole enemy flank with combination of bait section and indirect fire and then use the other flank to start enveloping the enemy. That said, had the French player invested in tank or two, it would have been a completely different story, as now only had one StuG to deal with them.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Stonne campaign begins

14th May, 1940. North of village of Stonne.

The Maginot line has been pierced and the French defence is in shambles. Individual units are either putting up a fierce fight, or running away. No one knows what the French high command is doing and the BEF is just starting to understand the magnitude of the disaster at hand. German generals have pulled a trick that has few equals in the military history, but are now reigned in by the high command who fears a trap. Guderian was ready to resign, Rommel would cut his own communications so orders would not reach him and panzers are still on the prowl. German sickle cut is aimed at the channel coast to trap the northern part of the Allied armies, but Guderians' south flank is wide open, so he launches 10th Panzer Division to cover it. The French try desperately to seize the initiative. This is a fictional story about the battle of Stonne, also called Verdun of 1940.


Area of the Stonne, Germans are attacking from the north through the woods. First scenario depicts a fight at a small stream crossing.


The table. Stream is in a small depression, offering some cover. Similarly road and field side offer some cover in small ditches. This does not have the anti-tank ditch which was shown only at the start of patrol phase. In our games, supports are chosen after map is shown, but before patrol.


The unbreakable Maginot line has fallen and confusion is reigning. 3rd DIM (Division d'Infanterie Motorisée, motorized infantry) is moving towards Stonne along with 3rd DCR (Division Cuirassée, armour), but they are not yet there, so the enemy must be delayed. Fortunately some tank obstacles have been prepared in suitable choke points and your men have just arrived to reinforce one of them. Just a platoon of men and few recon troops from 3rd DCR, but your men are brave and your mission is important. Stop the attacker here if you can, otherwise fall back towards Stonne and make them pay for every inch of ground.  Artillery is just now setting up, but is unlikely to be able to support you. Your left flank is officially covered by 2nd platoon and there might be some pioneers on the right, but no contact to either has been made - make absolutely sure you are not surrounded, we cannot lose more men. There is a 25mm antitank gun carried en portee on a laffly truck further back the road in a concealed firing position.

Lieutenant Vernet St Mortimer, leading the 2nd platoon, 10th Company, 51st Motorised Infantry Regiment had entrenched himself along the tree line, covering the stone bridge spanning a small river. The engineers had mined the bridge and Panhards of the recon troop were screening him, when observers on the hill reported approaching German tanks. The Panhards were caught between the rock and hard place, in this case river and enemy tanks - St Mortimer was quite sure they would beat a hasty retreat, but was surprised to see how they drove forward to stop the German advance, driving through the mine field just as the last lanes were closed. Tankers had also examined the stuck Somua by the bridge, but declared it a loss, so engineers had mined in, too. ((French recon player had the option to crew the stuck Somua, German player did not know if it was active or not. Similarly, Panhards started the game deployed at each JOP, presenting a hasty recon screen.))

In the recon phase, French recon had 2 options, either to press forwards to stop the Germans, or withdraw and get more defensible position. He chose the aggressive option, pretty much dooming his tanks. All his Panhards would start the game deployed. Unfortunately the French infantry commander chose a static defence position, so they would fight piecemeal. French players were allowed to discuss tactics before the game, but not during the game, whereas Germans were allowed tactical discussions at any point - this approach was chosen, s during the Stonne battle French infantry and armour had great difficulties coordinating event the most obvious actions.


French recon and German JOPs. As can be seen, Germans were forced to start at the table edges after very aggressive French patrols. Small stream marks the ditch.


German lead with a dismounted recon squad and a lone tank. Landsers quickly took positions in the copse of woods, training their machineguns on likely French position and trying not to attract the attention of 3 enemy Panhards. The leading PzIII stopped while its' commander Grueber gleefully told the gunner to take aim and dispatch the puny armoured cars. The leading puny Panhard shook off 37mm armour piercing grenade and returned fire, knocking holes in the gun mantel of the panzer, slightly wounding the gunner. The rest joined and very quickly Grueber was forced to give orders to abandon the tank. Armour mostly held, but was spalling badly and any sort of cohesive reply was impossible. Platoon leader Kreutzfeld could barely believe his ears at this point. Mined bridge combined with a tank ditch and infantry informed his that pioneers were not necessary, his lead tank knocked out by a light car and Frenchies finally making a stand. This was not good.


Panhards giving and taking. The stuck Somua can be seen on the background.


First PzIII is abandoned, but more panzers follow.

The Panhards gave a very good account of themselves, but finally the heavier guns and armor of panzers begun to tell and one by one the recon cars were abandoned. After that the German infantry started a cautious advance, while sporadically grenades fell at their positions, causing few casualties. Unfortunately for the French, their position offered great field of fire both way, and German tanks took their time shelling each position. St Mortimer had no other option but to pull back, secure in knowledge that the Boche would be at least slight delayed by the mines.


The inevitable


The German scouts push forwards


And the French infantry abandons hopelessly exposed positions. It is over


So ended the first game of the campaign. French really took the initiative in patrol phase, but their deployment was piecemeal - armoured cars could only attack and were not supported by the infantry of the anti-tank gun and the infantry was in a very exposed position after Panhards were knocked out. German made a very serious mistake in not taking any pioneers, even if the map had an obvious choke point at the bridge - had the French deployed at covered position, German infantry would have been completely stripped of their support. It is a good lesson, open field offers good field of fire, but attacker can usually bring more guns to bear on the point of contact.


Open field like this would have been hell to cross under fire.


Next game will be entry to the village proper. German morale improved a bit and French dropped somewhat, but nothing serious yet. One German tank will miss next game due to casualties and maintenance.
All in all a bit lopsided game. French armour gave a good account of themselves, but overall the French fought and fell divided, unable to use their advantages.
Historical outcome: German attack on Stonne started only on 15th, as the resistance around bois du Mont Dieu was so strong. The woods itself were only finally cleared on the 20th. So much for the French army being unable to fight.

Sunday 9 November 2014

1940, somewhere near Hannut


May 12th, 1940, near Hannut, Belgium.  4th Panzer Divisions is tasked with securing the flank of 6th Army by taking the area around Hannut while the French Brigades Légères Mécaniques counterattacked and one of the biggest tank battles of the early war was on. This is a fictional scenario near the village of Dieu le Garde, just south of Hannut. A small German panzer force of 2 depleted platoons is pushing forwards, while French Somuas supported by recon armored cars counterattacks them to secure the village. Germans had 3*PzIII and 4*PzII in 2 platoons with full radion networks while the French had 4*Somua and 3*Panhard AC in 2 platoons with no platoon radios.

The German plan was simple: French would likely commit his armored cars to the village proper using their superior road speed, while the slower Somuas would likely support from back and take the leftmost hill overseeing the fields. It was highly likely that neither the PzIII nor PzII could go toe to toe against Somuas, so half of the PzII would either try to slow down the advance on left flank, or situation permitting flank the Somuas using the hills and woods. Meanwhile PzIIIs would bottle in the Panhards and rest of PzII would hit them in the flank.

Things don't alway go according to the plan. Brown circles are hills, blue lines German advance and red lines estimated French axis of attack.


This did not work completely according to the plan, as the enemy was not in the expected place and French gunnery was much better than expected. The leading PzIII went on overwatch to cover the entrance to the village and was promptly KO'd by the first shot from French Somuas. The second PzIII was a tad more cautious, inched to a hull down position on the central hill and immediately received a penetration through the gun mantel, losing the main gun. Not the best possible start to the attack. It was also clear that enemy was committing the Somuas to the village and using Panhards to screen their flank - so it was 4 Somuas against a lone PzIII in the village and 4 light panzers against 3 almost equally heavy Panhards on the flank.

First shot, first kill.

French show their hand almost immediately.

So much for showing only the turret..


Achtung, enemy panzer straight ahead, distance 100, fire!

On the left flank the leading PzII and Panhard fired almost simultaneously, both losing their drivers to first hits. Unfortunately for the Panhard, rest of PzII did not stand idle but forced the crew to abandon their well-ventilated armored car. Meanwhile the proud chevalier commanding the Somua platoon decided to take a shortcut through the cemetery, only to have his tank throw a track while crossing the heavy stone wall. Situation was still favoring the French, but getting more balanced.

Germans switching their attention to the village, fight will be decided there in the knife fighting range.

Wall was tougher than expected.

One of the Panhards decided to scout the village for the heavies and parked in good cover by the main crossing, exchanging ineffectual fire with PzII hull down by the central hill. Unfortunately, the lone remaining PzIII with platoon leader was flanking him. The poor Panhard was momentarily saved, as the lead Somua climbed the rightmost hill to start a duel with his German adversary and the AC platoon leader inched forwards to make sure that the PzII on the left flank would stay put. 


Hide and seek


Meanwhile behind the poor Panhard, hunter is approaching.


And yet another hunter arrives, French mad minute starts.

This started the French mad minute, during which they pumped endless amount of rounds towards the Germans (both French players got 2 phases and then 3*6 ended the turn, giving them one more phase.). Unfortunately for them, Somua was unable to score a single hit while the Panhards scored multiple hits with no penetrations. After this the Germans coolly opened fire, PzIII putting a round through the Somuas cupola, wounding the commander while the leftmost PzII knocked the Panhard platoon leader out - French morale took a big hit and initiative switched to the Germans. French tried to plug the gap with another Somua climbing the hill and shocking the PzIII into withdrawal by wounding the commander. They were unfortunately not able to capitalize on this, as the lone remaining Panhard went up in a ball of fire after a flanking move from the leading PzII.

Last 2 intact French tanks went into attack, on the German left by taking hull down on the hill, threatening the lightly armored PzII while on the right it was tank against tank in the village. At this point the advantage from German radio network was apparent, as the lighter PzII moved with great coordination. The driverless one took the hull down Somua under fire - well knowing that he would lose, but giving platoon mate time for a flanking maneuver and the 2 near the village moved in to support their heavier friend. Again the French gunnery failed, with both PzII and III remaining intact, while the Somua on the right was immobilized and the PzII that flanked it knocked out the one on the left. Somua platoon leader could do exactly nothing when all the enemies made absolutely sure not to show themselves to him. After this it was just the formalities, as all French tanks could be flanked from both sides.

PzII bounds from cover to cover and flanks the heavier French tank. 

While the Panhard in the village brews up. In the background, heavier tanks play hide and seek.

Peek-a-boo!

Almost embarassing flanking manouver, fortunately the Somua was not able to activate next phase.

Our first big CoC game, with 2 armored platoons per side. 2 players on the French side, 1 on German. The initial phases were a disaster for the German player (pure stupidity and underestimating the French guns) after which the god of dice decided that the French had had enough and abandoned them. First the Somua platoon could not get the necessary die combinations to activate much anything (1,1,4,4,6 is particularly useless when you radioless SL is stuck in the church wall.) and then they could not do any damage - multiple shots with 2d6 against 4 or 6 and no effect. The radio net allowing the German to keep at least most of the PzII active every phase was a great asset, as it allowed the German player to quickly shift the focus first to the left flank and center and afterwards to flank the lone Somuas. This played pretty much the same way as the memoirs from the period read - French tanks were not used massed but alone and while their armor and weapons were superior in any one on one engagement, they slowly succumbed to flank attacks and unfair numbers.  A great game all in all, many nail biters and showed how much fun big CoC can be - tank action has also very different feel to your normal infantry combat, with quick shifts of focus and jockeying for keyhole positions.

Friday 19 September 2014

Point platoon ready to dismount

The early war Schützen platoon is ready for games, just needed jump off point markers. I decided to go with mainly vehicles, representing troops that have hastily dismounted when contact is made. Vehicles quickly camouflaged with tree branches and zeltbahn shelter pieces, motorcycle quickly abandoned behind a rock and some ammo supplies.

Gentle prodding worked, as the high command intelligence department has reported that the French platoon are ready and itching for a fight. Last of armoured assets arrived from the painting line and unfortunately the dreaded Somuas and Char Bis are also ready, so we are ready to start. 


Truck hastily hidden under tree branches.


Kubelwagen camouflaged with a cut down tree, zeltbahn and an ad hoc air recognition panel on the other side warning friendly flyboys.


Motorcycle was just abandoned behind a rock when lead started flying.


One should not go far without supplies. Gulash cannon, some ammo and a map for that proverbial young officer to figure out where the poor platoon actually is.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Near Chemont (Blenneville 3A)

2nd July, 1944

American OOB:

4th Tank Company / 21st Armored Division

Company Headquarters / Tank Company (3. Armoured Platoon)
BM 6: Captain Peter Williams (Level III)
2 x M4 Sherman

Platoon One (1. Armoured Platoon)
BM 7: 1st Lieutenant Hank Beuagard (Level II)
1 x M4 Sherman 76mm
3 x M4 Sherman

Platoon Two (2. Armoured Platoon)
BM 8: 2nd Lieutenant John Hendricks (Level II)
1 x M4 Sherman 76mm
2 x M4 Sherman

---

Company Headquarters / C Company / 830th Armored Rifle Infantry Battalion

Company commander BM: Captain Michael St. Croix (Level III)
BM 4: Staff Sergeant Bill Oakland (Level II)
FOO (in contact with your off-table artillery)
1 x Bazooka Team (2 crew)
1 x M3 Halftrack with 0.50cal AAMG
1 x Jeep


Platoon One
Platoon Leader 1 BM: 1st Lieutenant Erroll Allen (Level II)
2 x Rifle Squad (10 men each)
1 x LMG Squad (2 LMG with 3 crew each)
1 x 60mm Mortar Team (3 crew)

Platoon Two
Platoon Leader 2 BM: 2nd Lieutenant Hugh Travis (Level II)
2 x Rifle Squad (10 men each)
1 x LMG Squad (2 LMG with 3 crew each)
1 x 60mm Mortar Team (3 crew)

Platoon Three

Platoon Leader 3 BM: 1st Lieutenant Carlton Jenkins (Level II)
2 x Rifle Squad (10 men each)
1 x LMG Squad (2 LMG with 3 crew each)
1 x 60mm Mortar Team (3 crew)

Weapons Platoon (Support Platoon)
BM 5: Master Sergeant Hal Shannon (Level II)
2 x Bazooka Team (2 crew each)
2 x MMG (5 crew each)
2 x M2 Halftrack
2 x M21 MC Halftrack

---

Off Table Artillery
4 firemissions, 3 x M7 Priest (105mm gun)
Air Support
Roll D6, appears on a 5 or 6: fighters with rockets

German OOB

Abteilung Imgemberg / Kampfgruppe Engel

Abteilung HQ

BM 5: Hauptsturmführer Fritz Imgemberg (Level IV)
1 x Panther
2 x MG42 tripod-mounted MMG (5 crew each)

Panzer Zug (1. Armoured platoon)
3. Platoon Leader BM: Obersturmführer Walter Wensauer (Level II)
2 x Panther

Kompanie HQ (German Headquarters)
Company Commander BM: Oberleutnant Wilherlm Dorr (Level II)
2 x MG42 tripod-mounted MMG (5 crew each)

1. Grenadier Zug (1.Platoon)
1. Platoon Leader BM: Oberfeldwebel Hubert Hack (Level II)
2 x Rifle Gruppe (8 men each)
1 x Panzerfaust 30

2. Grenadier Zug (2.Platoon)
2. Platoon Leader BM: Feldwebel Otto Felzmann (Level II)
2 x Rifle Gruppe (8 men each)
1 x Panzerfaust 30

Panzer-Abwehr Zug (Anti-tank gun)
BM 4: Unterfeldwebel Hans Riesle (Level II)
2 x PaK 38 Anti-Tank Guns (5 crew each)
2 x SdKfz 10 as tows

Leichtes Infanterie Geschütz (Artillery 1)
1 x le.IG 75mm Infantry Gun (5 crew)
1 x SdKfz 10 as tow

Artillerie Batterie (off table artillery, Artillery 2)
4 x 15cm Howitzer (2 firemissions)

Granatwerfer Zug (off table artillery, Artillery 3)
4 x 8cm mortar (unlimited firemissions)


26 days since the Allied stormed the Normandy beaches. Allied forces have been trapped to their bridgeheads and Führer has given orders that they are to be destroyed there, thrown back to the Channel. In their credit it must be said that they fight on tenaciously and have started another big offensive to break out. Part of the attack comes along the Ribeaux river valley defended by the 750th Grenadier Division supported by the SS kampfgruppe Engel. This far the 750th has given ground and our forces in Pierrecourt are facing encirclement before our own counteroffensive can be launched to cut off the head of the allied attack. 1002nd regiment of the 750th has dug in around the Pierrecourt, with the 4th company defending the crossroads between Chemont and Pierrecourt.

Lacking motivation, poor leadership and insufficient trust in the general situation has weakened the morale of the company and Hauptsturmführer Imgemberg has been ordered to reinforce the company with a platoon of panthers and assume command of the defence. Enemy attack was imminent, recon indicating that enemy attack is spearheaded by a tank company supported with at least a company of mechanized infantry. Weather was unfortunately clear, so strong enemy air activity could be expected before own air forces arrive and clear the skies.

Initial plans, panther locations marked by ovals.

Young Hauptsturmführer was not very happy with his assignment, armour was not supposed to be committed piecemeal, nor support infantry in static defence. But one does not ask, one obeys. Upon arrival, he quickly readjusted the defence (as original defender has set up the defence in wrong direction, confused by French maps.), told troops to occupy more forward defence to lure attacker towards registered artillery targets and immediately received news that enemy scouts were sighted. The footsloggers were still running towards the church when first enemy tanks crested the nearby hill. So the plan required improvisation and aggressiveness. Infarry would pin the attacker while arty and panthers would deliver the finishing punch.

His own panthers guarding the left flank immediately opened fire, brewing one sherman and driving other 2 back with multiple hits. Enemy jabos were unfortunately awake, as one immediately swooped down and attacked his armour. Fortunately his troops reported no direct hits and no damage, so panthers were still free to operate. Young commanders aggressive training took over and he told the panthers to hunt forward, making sure that the infantry in church would be supported.

Shermans show themselves.

Big cats

Aggressive German recon by blinds.

More targets

On the other flank US infantry was spotted and as soon as they passed the last line of bocage, defending infantry opened fire, with one US squad gutted, platoon leader dying while  trying to get his men advancing and rest of the unit suppressed behind the bocage.

Lead US platoon finds MLR

Attacker tried to bring more of his troops forward, but unfortunately halftracks revealed themselves to the panthers and half of the 2nd US platoon was soon withdrawing between burning halftracks. Better part of a US company was either burning or dead and this far Hauptsturmführer had suffered no casualties!

One shot, one kill! Halftracks start to wish their commander was not so aggressive.

Stuck behind bocage, under 81mm barrage. Platoon had seen better days.

And supporting tanks suffer, too.

But the attacker pressed onwards, disregarding the mounting casualties. Jabos came screaming from sky time after time, but mostly failed to hit their targets. But slowly the amount of fire directed at the defenders started to tell. First Imgemberg's own tank lost its' main gun to jabo attack, next attack went wide and hit the PaK50 squarely, meaning that the right flank now had only on IG 75mm for long range anti-tank work. And the artillery observer in the church steeple was finally spotted and killed just before the spotting rounds from 150mm were to land.

Jabos! Where is the promised air cover?

And while the panthers on the left flank were turning to unleash their fire at the newcomers, another platoon of shermans made a glorious dash to flank them. (US player got exactly the right combination of cards and rolled very well for the movement, so suddenly the there were 2 shermans facing the vulnerable side of panthers. A vicious short range fire fight developed, with finally  one panther abandoned, 2 shermans ablaze and one panther with damaged main gun and broken track. (Turn ended with neither having fired and all within 9", so we let them fire simultaneously.)

Cavalry charges!

Big cat prevails, just.

And to add to the insult, the original surviving sherman had limped to the bocage, survived few hits from sIg with main gun barely functioning and finally shocked the remaining panther out of action. With no AT assets remaining, Hauptsturmführer Imgemberg had no other course of action but to withdraw his troops deeper to the forest. American attack was bloodied and blunted, but there was no question that they had the control of the crossroads.


After FOO died, mmg tried to use church as firebase. Bad idea with all those .50" hmgs around..

75mm infantry gun gave a good showing, but could not engange half a dozen shermans alone.

Until turn 12 it looked very clear that Germans would win a clean victory. But the US player kept pushing on, ignoring casualties and probing for weaknesses with great audacity. And that finally paid off, after the panthers diverted their attention for a moment. It took just one turn whole the whole defence to crumble as all AT assets were disabled. We almost played the game along the wrong table axis, as it never occurred to us that the topside of the map was not north..

Halfway through the campaign and I must say I like it more and more. This campaign also shows that regular games combined with a short debriefing sessions actually make players better. It used to be that many of our games were decided when a player first suffered a serious setback or first (and only ) defensive line was breached. So we are seeing players continuing as long as there is a chance (or as long as it is not silly o'clock) and there is at least serious thought for a reserve.

Avaux! (Blenneville 2A)

Spring has been very hectic, so very little time to write here, even if we have played 2 more scenarios from Blenneville pack and I have finally painted the early war German schützen platoon and some armoured support for them. But badly lagging behind with the AARs. So onwards to Avaux.

After the successful recon action near Pierrecourt, the allied force pushed forwards along both flanks of the valley. Main thrust was supposed to be with the armoured division, but the infantry decided that they would not be playing a supporting role and their feint turned to a real attack. A company of infantry under captain Stromberg supported by a company of shermans against unknown German force. More bocage than you can shake a stick at, so plenty of opportunities for the defender.

US player decided to do recon on a broad front with mostly dummies and then commit the main force where resistance was weakest. As soon as resistance was found, 105mm arty would start hammering it.

German kampfgruppe Steinhart had reasonably weak force of infantry squad, some support weapons and a platoon of StuGs. These held a broad frontage with the assumption that parts that were not under assault would form a mobile reserve.

US OOB

OOB:

3rd Tank Company / 21st

Company Headquarters / Tank Company (3. Armoured Platoon)
BM 6: Captain Bruce Hannigan (Level IV)
2 x M4 Sherman

Platoon One (1. Armoured Platoon)
BM 7: 1st Lieutenant Graham Osprey (Level II)
1 x M4 Sherman 76mm
3 x M4 Sherman

Platoon Two (2. Armoured Platoon)
BM 8: 2nd  Lieutenant Martin Belowitz (Level II)
1 x M4 Sherman 76mm
3 x M4 Sherman

---

Company Headquarters / A Company 1st Battalion 425th Infantry Regiment

Company Commander BM: Captain Bob Stromberg (Level II)
BM 5: First Sergeant John “Preacherman” Nolte (Level III)
Forward Observation Officer: Lieutenant Jack Woodpecker
4 x Bazooka teams (2 crew)

Platoon One
Platoon Leader 1 BM: 1st Lieutenant Wayne Churchmoore (Level II)
3 x Rifle Squad (10 men)

Platoon Two
Platoon Leader 2 BM: 2nd Lieutenant Simon Hightown (Level II)
3 x Rifle Squad (10 men)

Platoon Three

Platoon Leader 3 BM: Staff Sergeant Timothy Marchant (Level II)

3 x Rifle Squad (10 men)


Weapons Platoon (4. Platoon)

BM 4: Sergeant Bradley Whitaker (Level II)
3 x 60mm mortar team, (2 crew)
2 x 0.30 MMG team, (4 crew)
1 x Jeep with 0.50 HMG
---

Off Table Artillery

Unlimited fire missions from 4 x 105mm

Air Support

Roll D6, appears on a 5 or 6: strafing fighters with MGs

And Germans:

Abteilung Steinhardt /
1001. Infanterie-Regiment

Kompanie HQ
Company Commander BM:
Hauptmann Hans Steinhardt (Level IV)
2 x MG42 tripod-mounted MMG (5 crew each)

Grenadier Zug (1.Platoon)
1. Platoon Leader BM: Leutnant Karl Freimanis (Level III)
4 x Rifle Gruppe (8 men each)
4 x Panzerfaust 30 (one per gruppe)

Panzer-Abwehr Zug (Anti-tank gun)
3.Platoon Leader BM: Leutnant Arved Bercken (Level I)
1 x PaK 40 Anti-Tank Gun (5 crew) with SdKfz 11 tow

Sturmgeschutz Zug (1. Armoured platoon)
2. Platoon Leader BM: Oberfeldwebel Gottfried Karow (Level II)
2 x StuG III G Assault Guns

Panzer-Abwehr Kanone (off table artillery 1)
1 x 8.8 cm Flak (can shoot along the main road. Only targets tanks.)

Granatwerfer Zug (off table artillery 2)
3 x 81mm mortar

Plans, red showing German MLR, blue US real advance and dotted blue US recond effort. This picture  probably already shows where and how it will end.

The battle started slowly, with US recon pushing forwards but not finding much anything.

Recon on broad front, something moves in the orchard. Tigers?

Base of fire, contact imminent.

This made the commander of the first sherman platoon a tad careless - shermans cleared yet another wall of bocage, this time without waiting for scouts and StuGs behind the next wall opened fire.

1 brewed up immediately, second was abandoned and the whole platoon was saved only because Sgt Wilson believed in some extra armour and had hoarded anything looking like add-on armour to the front of his turret. (The sherman model with some track links as extra armour took half a dozen direct hits without as much as a point of shock..)

2nd lt Belowitz made a brave dash in his 76mm Sherman to outflank jerries, but was intercepted and barely got out of his burning tank.

It worked this far, but when you cannot get a penetrating hit, you cannot get one.


On the other flank, 2 blinds were staring at each other very menacingly, but nothing else happened. (1 US blind managed to tie the other half of German infantry, so no mobile reserve.) US player tried to push some recon troops through along the road in the middle, but was stopped cold by the hidden ATG.




To break the StuGs, US player brought forward another platoon of shermans and a platoon of infantry, only to find out that few squads of veteran Germans supported StuGs. 1st US section was mangled badly and others started to take casualties, too. 

US player finds more targets, unfortunately they shoot first.


Finally the breakthrough was achieved by spirited 2nd infantry platoon. They used the bocage and burning tank as a coved and dashed past the confused defenders to the next bocage. So now Germans were faces by a dilemma - their position was strong, but they had a platoon of infantry behind them, heading for the town, which was very lightly held. (At this point US player noticed that he had forgotten to hand out he bazookas to individual platoons, so he spearhead platoon had bayonets and grenades against StuGs..)

At the double, boys!

Spread out! Where are the bazookas?

So a command to withdraw was given, with one StuG heading to backfield to hunt infantry, another trying to duke it out with yet another platoon of shermans and hard-pressed infantry dealing with amis. This worked for a moment, as the StuGs seemed to be invulnerable. They shrugged off grenades, solid AT shots from 76mm guns and gunned the attackers down. (Even took a critical hit from 76mm, with no effect) Until the inevitable happened, the StuG helping infantry lost its' gun and US player launched an assault, clearing out the German infantry. And simultaneously 2nd lt Belowizt had found another tank, directed it to drive "just between those 2 burning shermans!" and finished the other StuG. 


US infantry takes a belting

But cavalry arrives

And casualties are light


German managed to stabilize the situation for a moment by bringing the ATG to village plaza and withdrawing some remaining grenadiers. Cafe by the plaza was declared a festung and men prepared to sell their lives dearly, as long as there was wine remaining. (It did help that ltn Hightown leading the US assault lost his head to scattering 105mm artillery at the moment of his victory.) But unfortunately 60mm mortars got a fix on plaza and after an order for "rapid fire!" knocked out the ATG and shocked the remaining infantry so badly that they routed.

Preparing a last stand.

Not a step more, we drink and die here!


Heading home.

The end. Germans had 2 almost full squads on the other flank, but they were pinned by a single dummy blind.


This time the game was not so lop-sided, both sides fought hard. German tanks had hard time hurting anyone, but their armour also kept the crews safe, so fortune favoured both. The decisive action was the brave outflanking manoeuvre by the infantry, which forced Germans to create ad hoc reserves in a situation where there were none available. So the lesson probably is "no matter what the situation is, part of your troops form reserve behind MLR."

Monday 13 January 2014

The last stand

The Italian recon unit "Falcon" had received orders to double back and attack suspected enemy supply depot - little did they know that the small fishing village of Mait hide the HQ units of the Sikh battalion amongst the small brick huts and white washed mission. Italian had sent small blockading/piquet units along the road to both directions and on full platoon of gun trucks supported with a dismounted platoon would make a lightning raid - or so was the plan.

Attacker had
  • 1 company HQ gun truck
  • 1 platoon of AS 37 gun trucks with various weapons (regular, 4 trucks)
  • 1 regular infantry platoon supported by an armored car.

while the defending force had:

  • 3 senior leaders (presenting the battalion command)
  • 1 team of smg armed troops (few Sikh volunteer NCOs, elite)
  • 1 Sikh section (elite)
  • 1 A militia platoon (4 sections, of which 3 had lmgs) - green. Of very low initiative/motivation, so did not have any integral junior leaders
  • 1 boyes ATR
  • 1 sniper (elite)
  • Ample supply of barbed wire

Most houses looked like only light cover, but were internally supported with sandbags, so actually offered hard cover A system of slit trenches connected houses, so defender could use most of them as jump-off points.


Gently rolling sandy hills, beach immediately behing the stone building. Smoke presents burning gasoline/dung pits. Outer perimeter of the village had some barbed wire and the "almost road" leading in from right had 2 improvised mine fields. Italian infantry had jumpoff points at the far side.

This basically pitted 2 regular platoons with huge amount of firepower against one very green platoon with very motivated commanders.

The attackers' plan was to envelop the village from 2 sides, using infantry to lead the attack while gun trucks provided cover. Defender was hoping to lure the attacker inside the village and then blunt the attack, hoping to break attacking commanders' morale. Trenches and gasoline-soaked burning dung provided lots of cover, forcing the attacker to close.  (I never thought I could break their force morale, just to make the attack too costly in campaign terms. This had worked twice before.)

We played the patrol phase twice, as one of the attackers was unfamiliar with the system and flanking attack scenario gives attacker somewhat hard situation with 2 sets of patrol markers. As expected, during the first run defender very quickly locked his markers, forcing all jump off points for attacker to remain at the table edges. The second go saw the defender to fall into a trap, locking his flank markers, keeping the center unlocked but unable to move much. This allowed the attacking infantry to gain a nice flank position - the attack would now come from 3 directions, with the closes jump-off point almost in the village.

Italian infantry advanced quickly, taking positions by the building on the British left flank. This gave them view over the whole village and easy access to push further. When planning defense I had not foreseen them getting a jump off this far, so this called for some drastic measures - I committed my elite Sikh section to counter them, machine gun teams on the open were an easy target. Both the Bren and rifle sections fired from close range - inflicting a whopping total of 1 casualty! The return fire was not much more effective, but the Italian rifle section was now inside the outer barbed fire and initiated a charge with AvantI! Savoia! - their grenades scored multiple hits and combined with the fore from 2 mg teams allowed the attack to close. The Sikh rifle team fought well, killing 5 of the attackers but were themselves cut down to a man, their leader being wounded and taken prisoner. First victory to the Italians!


Both sides starts deploying troops. Fortified buildings come as a surprise. At this point attacker is joking about every building being fortified..


Italians go in with grenade and bayonet. Savoia!


Militia deploys to plug the gap. A lewis team and rifles.

On the other flank, a gun truck with platoon leader was a tempting target and the Sikh sniper was deployed. He promptly missed a clear shot, was instantly spotted and first machine gun burst killed him. So much for that ace..

So I started deploying the militia sections - they did not have junior leaders, so I had to commit one of the battalion staff to both flanks to keep the morale up. On the right flank they mainly died in hail of machine gun fire, but a brave boyes gunner bagged 2 gun trucks, both going up in flames. Some measure of vengeance, ATR was finally useful! Unfortunately flanking fire from the Italian infantry cut down the brave ATR.


Militia starts deploying, many a men lost their lives arond those huts.


And against them Italian base of fire, very effective. Taking cover at the reverse slope of the hill.

On my left flank, militia section shocked the Italian assault troops and it was time to commit the smg team. They easily deployed to close combat from jump off and a ferocious attack had no problems wiping out the depleted Italian team, freeing the captured NCO and capturing an Italian caporale. For a moment it looked like I could grasp even victory, as I next caught the mg teams running in open within very close distance from 4 smgs. Multiple clips later all the mg teams were safely behind the hill, only their platoon leader slightly wounded. So much for that victory..

"Easy target ahead, boys! Fire at will!"

And then the Italian mg sections opened fire against the militia section and the Sikh officer leading them. 12 dice scored 11 hits, which resulted in 5 kills and 6 shock. It was a small consolation that one of the bullets killed the officer, so he did not take part in the ensuing rout.

At this point the remaining British senor officer, battalion CO dubbed "Indian-Jack" deployed himself in the stone house acting as the HQ and recalled the few remaining Sikhs to him. The defenders hunkered down with one Bren team and the smgs remaining, daring the attacker to come and root them out.

At this point the Italian CO almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. He had been trying to get the dismounted scout patrol to move rapidly and apparently his own driver mistook this as an order. (He forgot to specify how far to move, so 12 rolled on a driving roll brought him to open. Every remaining British weapon opened fire at his unarmoured truck - smoke cleared and some of the crew were mildly shocked and none worse for the wear.. At this point we called the game a clear victory for the Italians. They outmanouvered the defenders, they outshot him and they outlasted him.

"You said fast forward, boss!"


Then come and get us!


Well ventilated but alive.


The player commanding the Italian infantry gave Chain of Command very high praise. "I had no idea about the rules. I just started applying tactics as I have been taught and they worked. These chaps are doing something right here."
 
The first part of the campaign is closing fast. The Italians have punched through the hasty line of defense, but the cost was high and it took a while. We'll have a debrief a bit later, at this point it looks like a draw or marginal victory for the Italians.

Monday 16 December 2013

Avanti,avanti!

As the both armies along the Somaliland shoreline drew back for a breath and regrouping, it was time to try Chain of Command for some smaller scale action. The Italians were pretty sure the British commander would try to withdraw from his somewhat exposed blocking position as soon as night fell, so sent a reinforced platoon to flank them in effort to cut the blocking platoon from their support and maybe catch the heavy weapons on the move.

The area was mostly open, with gentle hills and some bushes on the valley floors. The area presented the extreme flank of the Sikh position, so they had some foxholes available. The defending platoon had taken quite a beating in previous attack and the artillery barrage between the games, so could muster only 2 full sections and some support - namely 2 ATR rifles (just in case someone got close enough so that a stout club was needed and something useless was needed as a blunt battering object.) and a captured Breda AA gun mounted on a truck. (These troops were classified as elites, due to their relative experience and high fighting spirit.) Facing them was a full Italian platoon of bersaglieri regulars, supported by a Breda mmg team, a m13/39 medium tank (cunningly disguised as the newer model.) and pregame barrage.

The British plan was a simple one - using fortifications to completely deny one flank (as elites in good cover are very hard to kill or assault) and then pin the assault force with another section, with AA truck and the extra bren used as reserve for actually killing the assaulting troops.

The Italian plan was to use the blue section with mmg as firebase, with the rifle team acting as the platoon reserve. The red team would use the cover of hills to advance along the wadi bottom and then use the hilltop along the British flank as a base for final assault. The tank was to be a mobile reserve.


We played the patrol phase twice to get some idea how it works - it is simple, but quite elegant in its' approach. The Italians tried to push forward to get at least some forward jump off points, but the ever alert Sikh patrols outmanoeuvred them and forced the attack to start from behind the hills. The attacker was told to breach the defending line no matter the cost, so the reserve platoon and more armour could be committed for a break through. So the Italians immediately deployed both squads, one along the hilltop for a firebase and another on the flank for assault duties. The defender was greatly hampered by the interdiction barrage and after deploying first section in the fortified position, really struggled to get anything more on the table - runners would be dispatched and curses yelled almost to no avail.


The attack begins, Italian firebase is taking casualties and first smoke is landing. The Brits benefitted a lot from using smoke to limit the amount of incoming fire.

Fortunately one sections of elites was almost enough for the start. They took the Italian firebase under fire and quite quickly decimated one lmg team and badly hurt the other - return fire came by the buckets. (10 team + 4*lmg meant the Italian player threw a lot of dice, but was completely unable to score any hits, with the British BM easily rallying the occasional shock.)

The attack really got off only when the Italians committed their mmg and tank, too. Mmg found a good position between heavy rocks, while the tank crested the hill and took the foxholes under fire.

The Italian assault section, moving slowly with tactical moves. Took a long time, but very few casualties were sustained, so worth the effort.

At this point the defender was finally able to deploy his second section to cover the right flank and AA truck to play cat and mouse with the m13/39. Deployment went perfectly, and all was good and well as the 2" mortar was keeping the mmg and tank smoked. Unfortunately a well places CoC dice ended turn and cleared the smoke - the British section on the right flank was suddenly in quite vulnerable position and broke - few casualties meant that a section became 2 teams and shock mounted quickly. The platoon sergeant was able to rally the few remaining men at the baseline, where they covered looking useless. (This actually worked quite well, I wanted to give the Italian the feeling that they were done and then clear shock and open fire when the attacker was closer - worked nicely.)

Ok, boys, yell as the tank clear smoke. AA gun actually got 4 hits against the tank with a flanking shot, but he made 5 armor saves..

AA truck and tank traded few shots and then broke off, the AA truck heading to cover the exposed right flank and tank shocked by ATR of all things! The reserve bren team and 1st sections bren were both also dispatched to right, as the 2 jump-off points there looked quite vulnerable. At this point morale was 7-4 to Brits and the lack of command dice was starting to hamper the attack.


Italians are bleeding, but the British right flank is in pieces, too. AA truck is coming to help.

At this point the assault squad got into position with both lmg teams shot to shreds. But the lone gunner remaining by the mmg was able to wound the sergeant organizing the British flank defence, so a command of Avanti! Savoia! was give and the lone Italian rifle team charged after a hail of grenades. The grenades alone were enough to wipe out so many defenders that the rest broke and attackers were able to reach the British jump-off points. An another CoC dice ended turn (turn 5 at this point) and with loss of 1 officer, 2 teams and 2 jump-off points the British morale dropped to 1 and I had to admit that defenders were beaten.

And so it ends.

The brave bersaglieri team and  attached militia reserves to give some color.

Looking at the casualties, most of the Italian platoon was massacred, having lost most of lmg teams and many a brave riflemen. But they hanged on and grimly pressed on. The defending Sikhs did not have that many casualties but were so badly outmanned that losing one squad was way too much.

It was our first game of CoC, so some mistakes were made, but overall game flowed nicely and system very nicely differentiated the Italian and British organizations and provided a smoothly flowing game. (We had some confusion about the Italian sub-squad composition, but managed to play it right. It does not help that the translation for both team and section/squad is ryhmä in Finnish.) Both pretty much played along the original plan - the defender had used too many troops at the fortified hilltop and had to commit his troops to other flank piecemeal due to very nasty pregame barrage, so his reaction was a tad late and Italians were able to take advantage of that. Another stumbling block was the scale, we are both so used to skirmish scale games providing very unrealistic firing ranges (Warhammer, BA etc, I am looking at you.) so there was a tendency to reach for a ruler to check if something was within range. Figure and ground scale were both roughly 1:100, so 1 cm on table is one meter. This means that the whol board is around 200m*100m, so shortish range for any rifle calibre and almost touching distance for 20mm+ weapons. It also meant that initially our troops were very badly bunched up, before this realized this. I almost could hear my old company commender from conscript service yelling "Mikkola, spread out those men!"



Monday 4 November 2013

Green smoke marks the target!

Italian military court opens to discuss the failed attack upon enemy position at the well of Bandar Harshau, Somaliland.

Dramatis personae:

  • Tenente Adriani - pilot who managed to bomb friendly troops
  • Tenente Zepeda - cautious pilot
  • Capitan Trouhet - captain of the 1st infantry company
  • Tenente Roma - tank platoon leader
  • Tenente Frederico - platoon leader of 1st platoon

Initial setups. 2 tanks platoons and an improvised infantry company attacking the British position directly, while 3 platoons flank it. Attack starts with 2 stonks and light fighter-bombers.

"At 12.00 hours, after the initial barrage, I initiated a bombing run towards Bandar Harshau with tenente Zepeda. Artillery had completely failed to suppress enemy anti-aircraft weapons, so we had to turn back and attack along the road. As we approached the target, green smoke went up as promised. Enemy was not supposed to have armoured assets, but seeing how ground based recon had failed time after time during this campaign, I assumed it was another recon snafu and initiated bombing run against marked target. I am very happy to report that first run left 2 smoking tank wrecks and platoon worth of infantry destroyed, while the second run bagged another enemy tank and another squad of infantry. After this, I headed back to home, leaving tenente Zepeda to finish of the enemy. Tenente Andriani."

"Tenene Andriani, will you in front of this gathered court martial and your peers swear upon you honour that this is your truthful report about the attack upon Bandar Harshau 11th August 1940?"

"Yes, sir."

"Capitano Trouhet, would you please give your own account about the event on said day?"

"Sir, 1st company of the Grande gruppo speciale di Africa Orientale Italiana was reinforced with the battalion recon and combat engineer assets and 2 platoons of tanks were attached. Tanks supported by one platoon of infantry were to pin the enemy with a frontal attack over the wadi, while 2 bersaglieri platoon and motorcycle recon troops were to flank the enemy position from south. 100mm artillery strike was to land 12:00 sharp on the suspected main enemy AA position and 81mm mortars were to strike enemy rear assets - as soon as the barrage was lifted, air force was to fit the village after which the main attack started. The artillery hit on time, but went wide and the aircraft turned back as soon as enemy directed AA fire at them. The intel we had said enemy had at most 2 dug in platoons and some sandbagged bunkers with light AT assets. While the flanking force was getting into position, Tenente Roma spearheaded the attack clearing path through the barbed wire. Enemy machine gun position on the hill caused light casualties, but was quickly suppressed and eliminated by our combined firepower. Likewise for the enemy platoon protecting the mouth of the wadi. At that point a green smoke popped amidst our formation and.."

 "Captain, where did this smoke originate from?"

"Sir, I would say it was fired from the enemy position, as it landed along several light calibre mortar rounds. As soon as the green smoke popped, we launched our own marker smoke towards the enemy position. At this moment, tenente Zepeda had gathered his courage and made a bombing run at us, despite frantic waving and all tanks marked by our own flags. I hoped that he was diving for the enemy, as all pilots were specifically briefed that enemy had no tanks. He dropped bombs directly on our position and after that I woke at battalion hospital a few days later."


After a bombing run, 2 squads and company commander are down, tanks escaped with scratches.

"Tenente Andriani, were you briefed about the tanks?"

"Sir, yes, I was. But it was also a known fact that ground troops security was very lax and enemy had stolen several trucks from them. I assumed that the FO on ground knew what he was doing and tanks were captured equipment. After.."

"Tenente, you know that trucks being stolen was malicious rumour spread to confuse our troops?"

"Eh, sir, I.."

"Tenente Zepeda, you did not attack our own troops, why?"

"Sir, As soon as I saw several green smokes, I assumed a trap. I made a fly by and saw that at least one smoke was amongst own tanks. So I made another pass, identified another target and bombed them. I also tried to signal to Andri that he would abort the attack."

"Was it obvious that tanks were friendly?"

"Sir, they had all our own air id flags and did not fire back. Plus they were attacking from the direction our own troops were supposed to come from. So I just assumed there was a SNAFU."

 

"Tenente Roma, you assumed the command of the pinning force after captain went down. Would you please tell us what happened then?"

 

"Sir, the blasted plane made few more passed at us, wiping out most of our infantry support. As the command was to advance at all cost, I pushed a half platoon forward after our mortar barrage had landeds and used rest of the tanks to keep enemy heads down. As expected, enemy infantry counterattacked the exposed half platoon and managed to damage both tanks, so they had to withdraw. At this point tenente Frederico signalled a general withdrawal, so I pulled my tanks back and kept enemy down with machine gun fire."


Half platoon tries to overrun infantry, withdraws after a rain of grenades. British plays commit reserves from the flank.

"Tenente Frederic, would you please let us know what happened to the flanking force?"


Recons finds a concealed AA position.

 

"Sir, we took the force over the wadi via the route marked by the recon. The recon then mounted again and covered our left flank, while we pushed towards the low hill overlooking enemy position. At some point recon uncovered enemy AA position and for some reason charged it directly. This worked as well as could be expected and the AA gun cut them to ribbons, fortunately the survivors were able to suppress the gun from a safe position. Meanwhile, my men knocked out enemy AT gun with some damn nice long range rifle fire and then advanced to the hill crest. We uncovered an enemy dug in platoon - quite many of them in the area, particularly as enemy was supposed to have 2 platoons in the area. We gave as good as we took, waiting for the 100mm to land. At this point the battalion gave the signal to abort the attack. Impossible to say if we could have taken the enemy position, but at least the follow-up attack by the 2nd company reported that enemy position was well and truly hammered by us and arty by the time they arrived."

Yet another platoon of Sikhs.


"Thank you, gentlemen."


The end.

Like one participant said, Italian air force guaranteed that both sides won a bloody victory. British forces stopped the Italian advance and Italian air superiority stopped Italian tanks cold. This was due to two things happening in the campaign:

  •  British player acquired information that Italians used green smoke to denote priority air targets.
  •  Italian recon did not communicate very well to higher ups. So an enemy position with 2 identified dug in platoons and some AT assets, plus 2 inbound truck borne platoons became 2 platoons in total. This led to situation that in manpower alone defender actually outmanned attacker. Of course he was still sorely lacking in AT power.

 Attacker had a reasonably solid plan of utilizing air assets to maximum and then pinning the enemy from front while rolling up the flank. This failed as the pinning force got a bit too greedy and advanced after losing the infantry cover - 2 lead tanks had to withdraw after a spirited close assault by the Sikhs. Few more rounds of mg fire and this probably would have fared much better - time was on the Italian side, as British player had no AT assets to speak of.

 On the flank, the recon platoon was bit to eager for glory and frontally charged enemy AA position without any suppressive fire. They were cut to ribbons, as expected by everybody else. Otherwise the flank attack worked ok, they took more damage than they dished out, but the arty was hitting squarely on the defenders when command to abort came.

This time the Brits had a more forward defence and it cost them dearly, as infantry had very few tools to deal with even light armoured cars, let alone tanks. The lone AT gun made a brave effort, but was knocked out by a lucky 17 almost immediately. 

Brits are still holding their position, but Italians are launching another attack to turn the flank. That will be our first CoC scenario, so stay tuned.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Blenneville or bust #1 aka "Greenhorn, this is nothing compared to Kursk"

The panzergrenadier recon platoon for Kampfgruppe Engel had arrived at the small maison earlier during the day. Bridge over the small stream was one of the points where the Amis might try to cross and battalion commander had sent his east front veterans to secure the area. Their task simple, either to stop Amis cold or blunt their advance and then withdraw in good order. Hauptsturmführer  Gudelius had 2 platoons of veteran panzergrenadiers and a small platoon of armoured recon. A section of 81mm mortars were on call a kilometre behind the lines. His only concern was the platoon leaders. Obersturmführer Ernst Kaltwasser leading the first platoon while having a long service record, had not previously been leading front line infantry, while Untersturmführer Arno Rost was straight out of the school, way too keen to impress everyone. At least Dieter leading the armoured platoon was an old hand, veteran of countless battles and most of his infantry squad leaders had already earned at least their bronze close combat clasps.


Map, as seen from the German perspective

His plan was a simple one, infantry in the front would stop the Amis and armour would provide a mobile reserve ready for a counter attack. Intelligence had no idea what kind of forces where facing them, but allies rarely lacked tanks or artillery. Rost had volunteered to lead the right flank with the expected main approach for enemy. He did not still trust the blue eyed youngster enough, so Klatwasser took the forested hills and Rost was tasked with defending the bocage, line stretching from the stream to the maison.


Main line of defense, from the wooded hill to the stream.

Achtung, enemy armour!

To the Amis' credit, their attack came in hard and fast, spearheaded by Greyhound armoured cars and jeeps. Kaltwasser's zug was well camouflaged and but their leader too inexperienced - Obersturmführer revealed his position by staying too exposed with binoculars. He had just given the orders for everyone to open fire and then at his mark withdraw deeper. The mark never came, as the first burst from the .50 cal AAMG from the leading Greyhound neatly decapitated him. His men returned fire, driving one greyhound back and causing some casualties to the leading jeeps and their teams. One greyhound tried to flank the defenders, but a fireball caused by a 'schreck rocket hitting the side of a paper-thin armour quickly discouraged the rest of recon platoon.

 

Panzerschreck hits, US big man plays hero.

By the streamside, another US recon platoon, on foot was slowly advancing, when their patrol came running back. A some sort of tank with a huge gun had been sighted at the field by the next gate. Cries of "Tiger! Tiger!" went up as a german vehicle rounded the corner. 2nd lieutenant Cork's assuring "Hey, boys, that is just an armoured car!" fell to deaf ears as SdKfz 234/2 Puma opened fire with 50mm gun, thoroughly suppressing the first squad, driving men to ground.  Cork saw his chance and started running forward with the second squad. His platoon lacked proper AT weapons, but the hunting cat did not have that much armour and might be taken out from close. Unfortunately for him, Untersturmführer Dieter Leimbach had plenty of practise with human waves and few bursts from co-axial machine gun pinned Cork's squad. His new drivers screams of "They are going to overwhelm us, we must withdraw!" was met with a laconic "Greenhorn, this is nothing compared to Kursk."


Just a Puma, boys. Nothing to worry.

On the other side of the field, Kaltwasser's platoon was eagerly waiting for the signal that was not coming. .50 cal machine guns and 60mm mortars were hammering their positions and now 2 75mm howitzer carriages had passed the Ami column and were adding their considerable punch to fray. 1 rifle gruppe took the initiative and withdraw to a better position, but mmg team and two other squads stuck to their positions. Their fire only slowly slackening and more and more vehicles came forward. Where was the promised artillery support?


Beginning of the end, howitzers arrive

As the panzerschreck team abandoned their position and weapon after receiving several almost direct hits, another greyhound felt brave and came forward, only to find out that the long stretch of road was guarded by an 8 wheeled SdKfz 231 armored car. Service was long overdue for the gun and sights of the old recon car, but the first burst found its' mark and greyhound disappeared in a ball of fire, taking the whole crew with it. Later the commander of SdKfz 231 swore that a very strange sound came from the sights mechanism as the recoil struck, jamming the optics to a weird angle.

 

Hans, what was that sound?

The ever-present Ami jabos also arrived to the field, making a strafing run against Rost's platoon, fortunately not causing any damage. As soon as the jabo disappeared, Rost left his position and ran to his second squad, ready to take control of the mortars. Stopping the Ami advance with a brave dash and well-placed mortar barrage would surely earn him the iron cross so many of his men and officer comrades were already carrying. "Sir, too much incoming, come down. You want to water that iron cross with only a drop of blood, you'll get wooden cross by drowning things with blood." was met with "Nonsense, motherland demands courage! Now, give me the rangefinder." And then the bocage wall shook with a direct hit from 75mm howitzer. Gefreiter Schmitt shrugged with a "told you" and pushed what little remained of his platoon leader to side, so the corpse would not block machine guns line of sight. He could not even remember the name of the youngster, did not really care.

 

Tempting target for a would be hero.

While on the left defenders were slowly attritioned by overpowering firepower, on their right flank the Amis were faring much worse. Cork and his men were pinned down and when they rose to close assault the tank, most of the second squad was cut down and the whole platoon ran as the survivors lost their bottle and ran past their comrades. Leimbach kicked his driver and told him to reverse back: "This truly is not Kursk, there they came by battalions, did not run. Let's go hunt some Ami tanks, shall we." A sharp eared listener might have heard a muttering to the effect of "Kursk this, Kursk that." from the direction of driver's seat.

 

Nothing compared to Kursk, only a company of them

After the puma disappeared between the bocage, some running survivors from the American recon platoon reached their company commander and the Stuart platoon in reserve was ordered to clear the riverside, while the attached armoured infantry was committed to the main road.

 

Stuarts arrive by the riverside. A plan to bottle them up   by killing the first fails.

At this point, seeing even more Amis emerging from the sunken road, the remaining troops from Kaltwasser's platoon decided that they had done enough and withdrew, abandoning heavy equipment to carry at least few wounded friends back with them.


A well oiled machine starts to work

On the both sides of the field, the disrepair of the defenders' equipment was starting to show. By the riverside one SdKfz 231 has a clear shot at the approaching Stuart platoon, but despite frantic corrections, all burst missed and the leading Ami tank calmly put shell after shell through the armoured car's front, knocking both gun and engine out. And by the main road, the other SdKfz 231 was keeping the fire up, but only succeeded in hitting the barn behind approaching American vehicles. (Germans used few turns, several cards, upwards of 15 actions to fire and aim. Odd of rolling at least one 5+ on 2d6 on 10 or so tries are bad when dice are against you.) Leimbach's own Puma was calmly gunning down targets of opportunity, but did not want to risk a gunnery battle with multiple targets at once.

When the 60mm mortars, after cutting down Rost's second squad, zeroed on his armoured reserve of light Luchs tanks and SdKfz 251/10 with a 37m AT gun, immediately immobilizing the halftrack, Hauptsturmführer Gudelius called the battalion and asked for a permission to withdraw. He had not yet suffered too bad casualties, but his capability of stopping the enemy's armoured might was nearing zero. And after a long agonizing moment, Engel came back on line, granting the permission to withdraw.

 

Last reserves, already under fire.

This was done in good order, with Hauptsturmführer Gudelius ordering mortar barrage to cover the bent on the road by the maison, infantry withdrawing in bounds through the bocage.


 Withdrawal in a good order.

A clear victory for the attacker. Defender had a solid plan of stopping the attack at the jump of point, using the crossing as a choke. Mortars would drop barrage on bunched up attackers and light tanks would then counter attack. This unfortunately did not work, as the infantry big men died as soon as they came to view. This combined with German player's complete inability to hit any armoured target with his tanks meant that the game was over. A good game, this time decided by the lady Fortuna. Of course, it did hurt even more that the attacking player was moving slowly and methodically after first explosions, utilizing his firepower to the fullest. After the American machine started rolling, enemy squads in cover disappeared in a turn, first pinned by .5 cals, then pummelled by 75mm and finished by multiple 60mms mortars. Infantry just walked behind the barrage.

This was a modified first scenario from the Blenneville or Bust campaign for IABSM - we are still building forces for the theatre, so had to use what was available. We were not sure if light mortars, 60mm in particular, should be allowed to shoot at armoured targets, but after a brief discussion ruled so that they can shoot at soft skins and open HTs, using the arty die to check if they actually hit.

More pictures can be seen here.

The modified OOBs were:

Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop / 21st Armored Division

Recon HQ

BM1: Major Herbert Cartwright (Level IV)
1 x Jeep with AA 0.50cal HMG

Recon Platoon 1
BM 2: Captain John Fontanelli (Level III)
3 x M8 Greyhound armoured cars
3 x Jeep with non-combatant driver and 0.30cal MMG
3 x 60mm Mortar Team (2 crew)
1 x Bazooka Team (2 crew)

Recon Platoon 2
BM 3: 2nd Lieutenant James Cork (Level II)
3 x Scout Squad

Cavalry Assault Gun Platoon
BM 5: 1st Lieutenant Chris Townsend (Level II)
2 x M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage (HMC)

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1st Platoon / C Company, 830th Armored Rifle Infantry Battalion
1st Lieutenant Erroll Allen (Level II)
2 x Rifle Squad (10 men each)
1 x LMG Squad (2 LMG with 3 crew each)
2 x M3A1 Halftrack with 0.50cal HMG
2 x M3A1 Halftrack with MMG

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Light Tank Platoon / Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (reinforcement)
BM 6: Sergeant William Salisbury (Level II)
5 x M5 Stuart Light Tank
Air Support
Roll D6, appears on a 5 or 6: strafing fighters with MGs

 

Aufklärungs-abteilung, Kampfgruppe Engel
Kompanie HQ
BM 1: Hauptsturmführer Heigel Gudelius (Level IV)
1 x SdKfz 251/10
2 x Panzerschreck Team (2 crew)
1 x MMG (5 crew)

Erste Zug
BM 2: Obersturmführer Ernst Kaltwasser (Level II)
3 x Rifle Gruppe (each 8 men with two LMGs)

Zweite Zug
BM 3: Untersturmführer Arno Rost (Level II)
3 x Rifle Gruppe (each 8 men with two LMGs)

Schwerer Spahwagen Zug
BM 4: Untersturmführer Dieter Leimbach (Level II)
1 x Panzer II Luchs
2 x SdKfz 231 or 232
1 x SdKfz 234/2 Puma


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