Intro: Back to Operation Market Garden for the first batrep for 2019. Our previous battles in this campaign have involved the Airborne pathfinders successfully marking a drop zone, an unfortunate platoon of the Airlanding Brigade landing in the wrong place and attempting to fight their way out as well as a small patrol that devolved into an inconclusive firefight. This time around it's the turn of the ground forces as a reinforced platoon from the Guards Division of XXX Corps attempt to smash a way through to Arnhem along a single road in the face of stiffening German resistance.
I was particularly looking forward to this one as it had given me an excuse, if ever one were needed, to put together the particular force outlined in the scenario, too whit; a troop of three Sherman Vs and a Sherman Firefly and two full strength platoons of armoured infantry.
The Forces: In the book, the entry for the British forces, unlike that of the Germans, is a bit vague. It doesn't say what quality the various troops should be so, for the spearhead of the XXX Corps advance, as it was supposed to be the Irish Guards we agreed I should take two platoons of the three Veteran 8 man sections each with two LMGs in each ( I think I could've have justified taking 10 men per section but I thought that might weigh things in the British favour a bit too much; boy, how wrong was I) Each had a platoon commander and runner. Each platoon had a section on the back of a Sherman, a section and platoon HQ in one of the two M5 half tracks whilst their third sections were transported by truck. As all infantry units had to have transports, two of the sections were allowed to travel on the back of two of the Shermans (something they are allowed to do in this book. It does stipulate that they are not Tank Riders, they are merely hitching a lift).
I had also attached a captain to the force, a medic, and a Forward Artillery Observer in a Daimler Dingo (we just treat this as command vehicle of sorts as I wasn't splashing out on another M3 halftrack just for a bloody artillery officer and his Ack Ops!!) and a 6 pounder towed by a Universal Carrier.
All the infantry we rated as Veteran, the other units were rated as Regular.The keen eyed among you will no doubt spot Tam O'Shanter wearing troops amongst the ranks of the Irish Guards sections and wonder at this anomaly. This was due to a man power shortage in the Irish Guards and the British Army in general at that point in the war. A few men of the 1st Glendarroch Highlanders were drafted in to the Guards to fill out the gaps in their ranks; indeed Sgt Amos Grouse of the Glendarrochs led the point platoon of the spearhead.
Intending to blunt the spearhead were four 10 man Waffen SS squads with 2 LMGs and two medium anti tank guns led by the very experienced Leutnant Helmut Schiener.. The four squads could be split down into 5 man units, each with an LMG and a panzerfaust. This Richie, my opponent, decided to do and quite rightly too.
Scenario Specific Rules: There were a couple of scenario specific rules. The British preliminary bombardment was (potentially) very powerful as it came in twice.
Though the terrain was fairly open, infantry units in lining the edge of the road count as being in a drainage ditch and also count as being in hard cover.
One German PAK that fired at a target continued to be Hidden till it fired it's next shot but only if it has hit it's first target..
Any British infantry section reduced to 50% of it's starting strength was counted as having shot it's bolt and was removed from the table. However, it could be replaced by a fresh section in the next turn. (As I didn't have vehicles to carry on fresh troops each time a squad was taken out of battle, we decided they had dismounted from their transports off table and came on on foot)
Finally, any German unit that had suffered only 1 pin from the preliminary bombardment(s) received a "free" orders check.
The scenario called for this spearhead British force to advance along a single track road into the unknown. The troops on the ground knew the Jerries were in hiding up ahead but had no idea where
The Boche meanwhile, though thin on the ground, were dug in and hidden; intending to hold up the British for a long as possible.
|The battlefield. The British would advance down the road |
from the right. The Germans were scattered about, unseen, in
the wooded ground on the left. This wasn't going to be a pleasant
Sunday drive along the club route
Crouching in a shallow slit trench in the woods, Leutnant Helmut Scheiner took a last, swift look around his platoon's position. It wasn't much of a position for his men and their guns, a few hastily dug foxholes backing up two PAK38s, which were somewhat better dug in, but all the same, he only had these two to stop the Tommies and once their ammo was gone they would be disabled and left behind; all the regiments transport having been either destroyed or left behind in the retreat from France.
"Achtung! Panzers!!" shouted one of his men just as the sound of the approaching armour reached his ears. Scheiner picked up his binoculars and looked down the road in front; the only road that could bear the Allied advance, and saw sure enough, the large,ugly outline of a Sherman tank, swathed in blue exhaust smoke, advancing down the road, with yet more tanks and half tracks following on behind. He opened his mouth to issue an order to stand by for action but swiftly changed it to a bellowed "Take cover" as the air overhead reverberated to the sound of an incoming artillery barrage.
|Germans dug in either side of the road. They start the game |
hidden and the British are given not one but two preliminary
barrages at the start of the game. Naturally I rolled a 1 for
the second barrage....bloody artillery!
|XXX Corps' spearhead. I was a bit too cautious in my|
approach and should have pushed down the road as far
as possible in the first turn
Puffing on an American cigarette, one of a packet he had received from Captain Farrell, the Irish Guards company commander, he considered the recent events that had led to him and 20 or so of his fellow Glendarrochs being sent to fill out the gaps in the Irish Guards ranks and, more ominously, his being placed in temporary command of the point platoon; a dubious honour indeed, and one that some of the Irish Guards were none too happy about. However Grouse had been the nearest and, indeed, only available person of any rank to take over the platoon after their young platoon commander had tripped over his Sten Gun sling and shot himself in the foot, just moments before mounting their vehicles. The young officer was carried back in tears, remonstrating and demanding to be allowed to stay with his men.
Still staring absently toward the treeline, he saw a flash that was instantly followed by the crack of a high velocity shell and an explosion. From beneath the leafy canopy machine gun and rifle fire erupted in concert with the anti tank gun. Up ahead the column juddered to a halt as the lead tank started spewing smoke, it's crew scrambling out and the men travelling on it's back jumped towards the drainage ditch by the road side as tracer rounds zipped around them, chewing up the road surface and ricocheting skywards off of the tank.. Most of the section made it to the drainage ditch however two figures lay sprawled out on the road; inert, crumpled heaps of khaki.
"Driver; steer right" called out Grouse as the second of the Shermans turned right off the road. He held on tightly as the driver responded to his order. It wasn't a nice thing to contemplate but if he could keep the tank between him and the German fire, particularly the anti tank gun, he might have a chance to get to grips with the square-headed swine in the trees up ahead..
|The Germans get ready to spring the trap|
|With all eyes straining and stomachs knotted tight with tension,|
the Guards Armoured force heads for Arnhem
|The ambush is sprung! Though not destroyed, the leading Sherman |
soon catches fire and the crew wisely abandons it. The infantry
riding on it's back dismount rapidly into the cover of the road side
|The Guards advance stalls momentarily before their training|
|Lacking air ground communications, the RAF can only look on|
|The British leave the road in an attempt to clear out the Germans|
|Sgt Grouse and his platoon deploy and prepare to try and|
winkle the Germans out of their position...
|Captain Farrell, Company Commander, rushes forward to |
|The FOO moves his Dingo forward onto cover|
|The staunch German defenders hold their ground against |
|An incredible though not rare occurrence for me was this |
veteran 6 man section charging down half their number
and not inflicting one wound in combat. The German
gunners scored two wounds...By by Micks!!
After applying a bandage to the unconscious officer, Donohue found a nearby discarded rifle and stuck it barrel first into the ground.then placed the captain's helmet on top. This done, he then checked the captain's pockets and, extracting a full packet of cigarettes, lit one, picked up his rifle and started crawling towards the German lines, hell bent on revenge.....
|The Guards push forward into the German fire..|
|The German right flank, still hidden and still not committed|
|It's all or nothing for the Irish Guards|
|The troop's Firefly gets in on the act. Oh for a hull mounted|
|Sgt Grouse leads the remains of his platoon forward.|
|Sgt Grouse and Pte McKenzie 49 suppress the enemy gun position|