|An aerial view of the table. Germans would be coming from the right.|
This is where my British Airborne platoon really needed to start consolidating their defence because so far things have all gone the Germans' way. In both Scenario 1 Patrol along the Ring Contour and Scenario 2 Probe among the Hedgerows the Germans had pushed aggressively and in force. The Paras were weak, with many men still missing, dispersed after the parachute drop. As a result, there was little option but to offer some token resistance and then fall back.
The Germans had suffered only a single man wounded and he had since returned to join his platoon. That meant my opponent Dave still had three full strength panzer grenadier platoons to call upon. The paras, on the other hand, have lost four men killed and three wounded from the single platoon available to them.
At the end of the last scenario I had the opportunity to roll once more for my missing teams. With much better luck this time around I saw the platoon sergeant rejoin Platoon HQ and a large chunk of #3 section finally make an appearance. That was a section that, until now, had been missing in its entirety. Things were looking a little brighter. That said, the British have the option from this new scenario to bring in a fresh platoon. It's tempting, but that platoon must then fight for the remainder of the campaign. It seemed a touch premature to bring them in now, so my preference was to try to stall the Germans and see if I can gather in the remainder of the original platoon. I was still missing a bren team, a PIAT team and the wounded from the previous two scenarios. That's not to include the dead, who would never return, but at least the wounded would. A wounded man from Scenario 1 had returned to duty, but there were another two wounded from the previous scenario who would have to miss the next game.
That made my planning pretty clear. I decided to use five support points and attempt to call on a naval bombardment to disrupt the Germans for this turn and advance to the next game turn. There is however, a one in six chance the radio contact fails. I was already down one support point, having displeased the CO with my performance to date, so I would draw on five of the meagre six available support points in the attempt. Should radio contact fail I ran the risk of facing the Germans with only one support to spend.
I rolled a 2 for radio contact, so the bombardment was successful and the German attack was postponed to the next game. This allowed me to roll once more for the missing teams and to get back the two wounded men from Scenario 2. The good news was the other bren team from #3 section showed up, but the PIAT team remained astray. Overall then, I was down four men killed from one section and missing the PIAT team, otherwise I had a full platoon. On that basis I felt I would hold off bringing in the fresh platoon.
With six support points for the new game turn I brought in a section of Paras to provide extra boots on the ground and a PIAT team, as I suspected we might see the Lorraine Schlepper turn up for this one.
I would be defending stone buildings in difficult terrain for the attacker and so felt a bit more confident I could put up stiffer resistance. My Force Morale roll was good and I started on ten. The Germans less so, with only eight. This gave a much needed edge to the Paras.
Before I start, just a quick note on the photographs. For this game I used my Cigar Box Mat 'Open Grassland' which gets a lot of use. For some reason, whether it's the dyes that have been used or the fabric it is made from (or both) it always photographs a pale, washed out brown colour, when to the naked eye it's a mix of pale greens. I've tried with and without flash; in different light and with different cameras, but it makes no difference.
|Start of the patrol phase from the German point of view|
|.....and from the British point of view|
The Germans had three patrol moves before the Paras. The phase saw us both move to cover either side of the main road into the village, with final jump off points as shown:
Dave had called in a Werfer pre-game barrage as one of his supports, which meant my deployment on turn one was going to be something of a gamble. From that perspective I felt pleased I had set my Jump Off Points (JoP) reasonably far back.
The Germans wasted no time deploying, intent on taking full advantage of the Werfer barrage. Two squads emerged on their right, behind the hedgerow, and then another two squad on their left, behind the high wall. They had a second senior leader as support, so each flank had two sections and a senior leader. That fourth section was also a support choice, which meant there wasn't too much else he could surprise me with (not that four squads of panzer grenadiers had me feeling complacent, you understand). The Werfer barrage was giving the Paras problems deploying and only a sniper turned up to keep a watchful eye on the German right flank. Dave used textbook squad tactics to move forward. On each flank a squad on Overwatch kept an eye out, while the other squad advanced and so, using classic bounding moves, he worked his way towards the village.
This effective tactic was made all the more so with the presence of a senior leader on each flank, giving great flexibility as to how he could use his command dice. With the Werfer barrage causing uncertainty to the Paras' deployment any rash attempt to show myself could prove fatal. The odds were I might inflict some token casualties, but end up on the receiving end of as many as four MG42s, possibly more. Those were odds I didn't fancy, so decided to keep low and wait to engage him at closer range.
|The German right flank, one squad on Overwatch while the other waits to advance.|
|The German left flank, a squad on Overwatch covers before a squad (behind the tree) prepares to advance.|
Then, just to ensure there was sufficient force to keep the Paras from deploying unwisely or prematurely, a Lorraine Schlepper showed up to cover the upper levels of some key buildings. Gulp. The PIAT looked like a good support choice.
|There's a 150mm HE round in that breach, just waiting to hurt some Paras.|
The Germans had wasted no time revealing their full hand and moving aggressively to take advantage of the disruption the Werfer barrage was causing the Paras' deployment.
|The view from the British right flank|
To add to the Paras' woes the Germans enjoyed two double phases in fairly quick succession. It seemed Dave couldn't roll enough sixes and I didn't seem to be able to roll any. I began to have a sinking feeling that this might be over rather quickly. That said, luck has a way of evening itself out, I just needed to be patient.
|German right flank makes steady progress|
As the Germans right flank came forward across the open field they made a very tempting target, but my best vantage point was upstairs in one of the buildings. Not a great option with the Lorraine Schlepper ready to blast away. I did finally manage to deploy on that flank, but decided to put a bren team on the ground level and leave the rifle team behind the building with the option to go over the wall if necessary.
|Safe from harm but unable to hurt anyone.....|
On my right I deployed the support section and put them on Overwatch in the forward house at ground level, ready for any Germans who came over the wall. That plan looked like it might unravel when, with yet another double phase, the Germans closed in on both flanks. On his left Dave decided to risk going over the wall and facing the Overwatch fire, but at least he was doing it with the confidence of knowing he would have a subsequent phase to return fire.
|Taking advantage of a double phase the two German sections jump the wall|
|How it looked from the German perspective|
The Paras in the house opened fire from the ground floor, rolling ten dice yet only managing three hits. That was disappointing given there were plenty of targets in open ground, but finally some of the luck turned my way. Every hit was a kill and a Senior Leader took one of those, wounding him for the remainder of the turn and taking German force morale down by one. With their subsequent phase the Germans returned fire, but the Norman farmhouse was made of solid stone and the Paras survived with only some shock.
On the other flank the German squads moved towards the hedgerow and engaged in a fire fight with the bren team on the ground floor. Once again the number of British hits was relatively low, but it seemed every hit counted. A junior leader was killed and slowly German casualties began to mount as force morale went down. I might not be getting any double phases, or many CoC points, but I was inflicting losses.
Meanwhile on the German left the Paras continued to hold out in the house and return effective fire, but with the odds stacked against them it was clear how this would end up. To ease their plight the 2" mortar attempted to drop some smoke in front of the house, but without a good line of sight it fell wide.
|Smoke.....in the wrong place|
|MG42s and stick grenades make it very hot in that building....|
And so, no surprise, the inevitable happens. First the Paras accumulate enough shock to pin, then finally enough to break as it all gets too much. They fall back in disarray having taken five casualties.
|There's only so much combat men can take.|
All was not lost, at least they were out of German line of sight and near a jump off point. I planned to bring in the platoon lieutenant to rally them and hopefully get them back into action ready for the end game. But it was not to be. The only double phase I roll all game is a triple 6, so the turn ends, but so does any further participation by the broken section who rout off the table. British FM drops to 8. The German senior leader gathers his senses and gets to his feet, but at least the Werfer barrage has gone.
Time to call on the #3 section and their bren teams and make use of the double phase.
What follows now and in subsequent phases is a furious fire fight across the street. To my left (and just out of the picture above) I have also deployed a section of Paras and their bren team is targeted on the same building. With my lieutenant up in the front line and all junior leaders present I made full use of 'Concentrated Fire' the British national characteristic that allows the bren teams to direct their fire at a single team. It was a very effective way of taking out the MG42 teams, particularly given the German squad had already lost men assaulting the house.
The Paras' fire proved very effective, and finally in a single phase they killed a junior leader, wiped out an MG42 team and saw the remaining MG42 team (a single, shocked gunner) break. That's a lot of force morale rolls and Dave used up one of his CoC dice to avoid the roll for the loss of the JL, but by this stage his FM has dropped to four.
|A single broken MG42 gunner, the only survivor of the panzer grenadier squad flees the scene.|
While all this was going on his other squad had moved upstairs in the same building, where they now became the new target and began to suffer a similar fate. Despite returning the Paras' fire the Germans were finding the elite unit much harder to hit.
On the other flank the German pressure leads to the bren team being ordered to withdraw out of the building as the enemy are getting very close. The two front line buildings in the Paras defensive line have both fallen, but at some cost to the Germans. The Paras' elite status is paying off here, they are harder to hit and benefit from defending in good cover. Nonetheless, they are slowly being pushed back.
|From the German viewpoint.|
It really began to feel the game was on a knife edge. The German force morale was getting low, but they still had plenty of firepower. The Paras were dishing out punishment, but their defensive line was starting to fall apart. It could swing either way.
On the German right a squad advanced into the empty house to be met by a flurry of grenades from the Paras who were outside the window. In the excitement one grenade was fumbled and went off at the feet of the Paras, but harmlessly to no effect. Maybe luck was on my side after all? The Germans continued to lose casualties and in an attempt to swing the balance the Lorraine Schlepper came racing down the main road.
Before it could intervene the decisive moment came on the German left when the Paras, with sten guns and brens blazing, poured another phase of devastating round of fire into the building across the street. This caused the death of the senior leader and saw another MG42 team wiped out, as a result German force morale plummeted to zero and their force was routed.
A really good, tense game with a lot of action. The Paras finally put up a serious fight and gave the Germans quite a bloody nose. The Germans took 17 casualties, 15 of them from the core platoon and among them fell the Leutnant (Senior Leader) and two Obergefreiters (Junior Leaders). The British took ten casualties, but only five from the core platoon. With a British victory and a difference in FM of +8 in the Paras favour all of those casualties from the core platoon would return.
To add to German woes, all their remaining men on the table are more than 24" from a friendly JoP. On a roll of 1 they will be captured and added to the list of permanently lost. As we finished very late in the evening we will make those rolls in the coming days. If that sees the Germans lose a few more men captured then I feel confident I have managed to render one German platoon ineffective for the remainder of the campaign.
Fortune is a funny thing. Dave had three or four double phases and one triple phase and while it felt my luck had deserted me at times, I had several fire phases where a very high percentage of my hits translated into casualties. The reverse was true for Dave, who conducted one 36 dice fire attack from two squads that only resulted in three hits. Like I said earlier, the luck has a way of evening itself out.
So Von Luck's men must regroup and try again and with that we head into the next game with a sense of deja vu, you can follow the action here: Scenario 3 (again) Attacking the Corridor of Death