15th May 1940

Situation:
The French defenses in the woods of Mont Dieu have collapsed along the Stonne road, even if most of their infantry is stubbornly defending rest of the area. The forward elements of the German attack have reached the Stonne uplands in the early morning hours. The Pain de Sucre dominates the area, but for some reason the approaching Germans have not been shelled during the march. The Stonne area is a veritable fortress with heavily forested steep hillsides and sunken roads leading to the village. French defenders have apparently been surprised by German rapid advance, as civilians are seen scurrying back inside, as first German patrols enter the village proper.

Just a small strech of road to go..

German brief:

"Fight through the woods was surprisingly easy, it looked like the French were not expecting tanks and their morale collapsed. Many positions were found unmanned or defenders withdrew after a short fight. Now the price is almost within reach, as soon as Stonne highlands are secured, southern flank is secure. Men and machines are weary, gunners and radio operators are driving tanks so that commanders and drivers get a bit of sleep, some crossroads were not marked as scouts were so tired that they missed them, and the whole logistic chain is operating under huge stress. But now that the Pain de Sucre is visible behind the morning mist, everyone has woken up. One final push!

Yesterday Luftwaffe reported that heavy enemy armoured formations were identified in the area. It is unlikely that they are already in position seeing how surprised the enemy is, but be prepared for a counter attack. Morning mist has just lifted in Germany, so first Stukas will be here in an hour to support the attack, if needed. The pioneers are cleaning Pain de Sucre, so a forward observation post can be set up, artillery support will be available in half an hour by the battalion mortars.

It looks like the French were completely surprised, as civilians are scurrying to cover and soldiers are running back and forth, a non-deployed daisy chain mine field resting by the roadside. Push your men forward to capture a foothold at the village and secure the crossroads so that the following platoon can deploy via the southern road, too. "

German tanks were restricted to the road (sunken with steep sided and ditch by the road, so in game road was only 1 tank wide.) while the infantry was able to attack along the whole front. The French defense had finally awoken, and stopped German patrols before they could push too far forward. Germans had 2 options, to attack directly from the marching order or to wait for the supporting medium mortars to set up. They decided to attack immediately, giving the defenders no time to make plans.

Location of patrol markers and Jump-off points. German attacking from the top.

French platoon HQ.

View from the German edge.

And view along the road.

Obergefreiter Thalberg led the 1st section through the orchard at the left flank, only to be stopped by the first French section - this was to develop into an epic firefight and orchard would run red before long. Meanwhile the second section under Wulf dashed forwards from the small depression in the fields - French rifle grenadiers took them immediately under fire, while Wulf started pouring fire at the French section in the orchard.

Few meters of the orchard would see almost 30 men dead or dying.


The French committed their armour almost immediately - a platoon of Hotchkiss H39 tanks were small, but sported better armour than their German counterparts and packed quite a punch, too. (They actually should have packed even more punch. H39 in Stonne had the long 37mm instead of the more normal 37SA18, so their gun was pretty much equal to the German PzIII.) These demolished the wooden farm wall and started a rampage forwards. One covered the road and other two headed for the German infantry. (In this scenario, French armour could use any point of friendly edge as a JOP.)

Allez,allez!

The Germans knew that the beginning of the road was a bad place to be, but they only understood how bad, when the first shot from H39 penetrated the front hull of the leading PzIII, killing the driver. First shot, and the road was blocked. A quick smoke shell mitigated the disaster, but the poor PzIII was knocked out as it tried to dash forwards. The following PzJgI self-propelled anti-tank gun crept forward under the cover of smoke, while the German panzer commander tried to figure out what to do.

First one got this far.

Meanwhile in the orchard, heavier fire from 2 German sections (plus very annoying 50mm mortar) started to tell. The first French section was killed and the second one was committed to slow the Germans, only to suffer grievous casualties, too. German tanks at this point could do nothing, but they kept the H39s occupied, so full wrath of the tiny tanks was not unleashed at the leading German section, which probably saved the attack.

French defended a commanding position, but unfortunately it was open for flanking fire. The whole German right flank was pouring fire at the poor French section, while enemy was keeping it in place with frontal presence. Fights like these cannot be win and probably should not be reinforced. Hindsight is always perfect.

German supporting sections. Forward one has lost several men to the incessant rain of rifle grenades.

At this point, Thalberg reported a break-through and led his men forwards, only to be cut down by machine gun fire from the French tanks - he would earn an Iron Cross, 2nd class, post mortem for this. His men, supported by the fourth German section crept forwards, ever so slowly. As the runner from platoon HQ inquired about the breakthrough, they were informed that this was a very likely break-through, about to happen at any moment now. Attack was stalled once again. It did not help that the first of Stukas arrived at this point, made a pass to identify targets and flew away, causing everyone to either freeze or seek shelter. (Random event with 4*6 rolled, random jabo prevented all movement for 2 phases.)

2nd French section and accompanying platoon sergeant run.

Almost a break-through, hastily deployed 25mm gun and H39s keep the German infantry at bay.

Meanwhile, the German panzers were fighting very different kind of Blitzkrieg. PzJäger crept through the smoke, forgot that on the top of a hill there was a H39 on overwatch and was abandoned after a few hits. And the command tank dashed forwards, received a hit and reversed, dashed forwards, received a hit and so on. (11 inches to the safety of the crossroad took 3 activations with Full Speed to reach. Several times it looked like the command tank would be abandoned, but every time the SL was able to remove just enough shock.) Finally the road was clear and Germans sent a StuG forwards, hoping that heavier armour would prevail - time was running out, as the infantry in the orchard was being shelled by 2 H39s and a lone 25mm AT gun. (25mm AT gun was pretty much the lone remaining functional force for French infantry, as the grenadiers had no targets outside their minimum range(*) and the section guarding the central woods was happy to stay in cover. (*) We play so that mortars and rifle grenadiers can shoot targets that someone from the platoon can spot.) Finally a shot from the StuG managed to knock out the gun from H39 guarding the road - it was a close run affair. (Had the H39 used correct AP5, it would have ended as French victory, I'd guess. H39 scored several hits for minor damage.)

A StuG to rescue!

Usually, traffic near Stonne is not this bad during the morning hours. Black chaps mark crews abandoning their tanks.


The remaining 2 French tanks started to withdraw, as it was clear that they could inflict severe casualties to the attackers, but would be cut off as a result. A bloody victory for the Germans. German CO is very happy with his favorite panzer commander while infantry earns a pat on the shoulder. The men of the German platoons are not happy with the casualties, but are holding together. French commander is unhappy with his platoon leaders, saying that they withdrew too easily. Men of the tank platoon are very happy with their leader, while the morale of the remaining infantry is plummeting.

Final tally of morale and CoC pips.


The end


The hero of the game, H39 platoon leader.

This was a very close run game, probably decided by the fact that the French decided to make a stand in a place where they could be seen by the flanking German sections - had the second section deployed slightly later, the flanking German fire would have been mostly prevented by the French armour. Of course, their JOP was wide open for an attack at that point, so it would have been a gamble. French were also hampered by the fact, that they were not allowed to coordinate before the game, while Germans were allowed to have a private talk at any point. The French infantry was fighting a delaying action, while their armour was making a counter attack towards Pain de Sucre. German discussions were mainly about abandoning the attack and comments about the true dash shown by panzers - at no point there were ahead of the poor infantry.

French armour performed very well, making the road a deathtrap. They were greatly hampered by not having a radio-network, so had very limited activations. Germans, on the other hand, made a mistake by not having any infantry anti-tank weapons and trusting their armour to deal with French counterparts. German tank commander knew he would have to enter by the road, but forgot to communicate this. Plus leading by a PzIII instead of a StuG meant that H39 had an upper hand. (Having abysmal luck with dice does not really help either. Roll 3d6+3, go forwards 7 inches, the reverse 6 from 1d6 and so on..)

What happened in real world:
The village was defended by 25mm at-guns, some infantry and Panhard armoured cars. 25mm gun knocked out several Germans tanks (PzIV etc) and was forced to withdraw when supporting infantry was not there. Panhards knocked out PzIIs, but the damage was done and the French withdrew. A couple of uncoordinated counter attacks followed, all pushing the Germans back and then failing as support was not there. In the game Germans had PzIII instead of PzIIs, so I also upped the defenders to H39 instead of Panhards. The historical setup would probably play as well, I have no idea why I originally went for PzIII.


Road leading to the village.