Looking at the map this seems like a good location to mount a defence. An opposed river crossing is never easy. However I did need to consider the open terrain behind the river. The Germans have no entrenchments and so the house by the bridge is really going to have to be the anchor of the defence. While that doesn't offer the defender many choices, it's not easy to approach. I feel I can make a decent stand here and I'm pleased my platoon of Heer have decided to hold fast.
The German force will consist of the platoon of Heer supported by a Hitlerjugend Flak 38 team. The defence will hinge around the bridge and will make use of wire and minefields to attempt to delay the British advance. I plan to use the Flak gun on my right flank, deploying it to the rear of the table where I can take advantage of its ability to hit on a 4, 5 or 6 at any range (NOTE: since writing this and playing I've realised this is incorrect. The Flak 38 is a 20mm auto cannon and does not fire as HE. At ranges beyond 24" it would need a 5 or 6 to hit regulars just like small arms fire). It will make moving across the fields very dangerous for British infantry and with the boggy ground it will be risky for them to move any armour to support this flank. The German infantry will consolidate around the house and cover the minefields and wire I plan to place to block passage over the bridge itself.
The Germans have a -1 on their Force Morale roll and end up starting with FM8, the British start with FM9. The British, as the attacker roll for their free patrol moves and receive four. The bridge is clearly the focus and so the patrol phase unfolds with both sides looking to get their JoPs established in that area or the approaches to it. With JoPs in place the Germans reveal a strip of barbed wire and a minefield on each side of the bridge. That should require the British engineers to engage in some hazardous work to clear a way through.
The British 1D6 support roll was kept secret and so I have no idea what they will be bringing on the table. I fully expect at least one Sherman, possibly more, as well as some engineers. With that we start playing.
The British have a sprightly start rolling 66551. With that they deploy the 2" mortar team behind the hedge on their right flank and fire smoke onto the bridge.
The following phase the 2" mortar team are joined by a section who take up overwatch positions behind the hedge.
The 2" mortar fires off another smoke round, and while this drifts a little off target it contributes to covering the lines of sight to the approaches to the bridge.
For now the Germans see no benefit in revealing their positions and so wait patiently to see how the British attack unfolds. The British reveal some armour support in the form of a Sherman that appears on the road.
|A Sherman appears|
A section of engineers deploy behind the hedge on the British right. There's no surprise to see the engineers include a mine clearing team but a flamethrower team was an unpleasant addition.
|The engineer squad is ready to tackle the minefield|
The Germans remain concealed. Another British section deploys into the fields on the British left flank.
I see little reason to reveal the Germans just yet. The British section on my right flank in the fields is an obvious target for the Flak 38, but for the moment the ideal location for it to deploy is in line of sight of the Sherman, so I decide to hold off revealing its location just yet.
The next British phase sees a general move forward with the Sherman advancing down the road while the section on its left moves through the ploughed fields.
Meanwhile the engineers also make their way forward heading in the direction of the minefield. The 2" mortar drops another round of smoke to provide a solid shield around the bridge approaches, while the section in the field advances.
The moment to deploy the Flak 38 is fast approaching and when the German command roll delivers a double phase it's clear now is the time. The observant of you will note that the Flak gun model we used is the single barrelled version, but for this campaign the Flak 38 is a quad 20mm and that is how we will treat it.
As planned I deploy the gun to the rear of my right flank from where they can cover that entire side of the table. The British section in the field opposite is fully exposed but the Sherman has now moved out of sight behind the intervening orchard and will be unable to return fire.
The Flak gun opens fire on the section in the field and immediately inflicts two casualties and two points of shock. The next command roll sees another double six which means I'm quite likely to be able to pour at least three phases of fire onto that section. To cut a long story short, the Germans actually managed four consecutive phases. The end result was that the British section had its Corporal wounded and then killed; the Bren team was wiped out with the section suffering the loss of six men in total. The four surviving riflemen suffered two points of shock, but British force morale took the biggest knock (-2 for wounded leader, -1 for leader killed, -1 for team wiped out), taking it down to five. I was hoping the Flak could do some good work on this flank, but this was far more than I expected.
Dave is an experienced gamer who doesn't let events like this break his spirit, but it was a tough series of phases to cope with and effectively ended his move on that flank. To his credit he just took it on the chin as one of those wild misfortunes of war and moved on.
Unfortunately the consecutive phases didn't really present any other opportunities for the Germans to deploy. The mortar smoke has effectively concealed all British units across the river and so the phases were only used to activate the Flak 38. I did however roll a number of fives and so had one full CoC dice and another on the way.
|A Sherman arrives to support the engineers|
Meanwhile the platoon sergeant ran over to the ploughed field to get the four surviving riflemen and bring them back across the road and out of harm's way from the Flak 38.
With no targets in sight the Germans chose to remain concealed and wait for further developments. Unmolested by German fire the British engineers set to work on the minefield although progress was to prove frustratingly slow. While smoke kept them concealed, other units used the following phases to move forward taking advantage of the same cover.
With one British section down to only four men reinforcements arrived in the form of a section carried in a Kangaroo.
The engineers continued to make slow progress with the minefield but after several phases they finally managed to clear it. With that done the Sherman rolled forward slowly and crushed a path through the wire. The way to the bridge was now open.
With the smoke providing ample cover the British section on their right flank made its way to the hedge by the river bank.
The British now had a clear approach to the bridge and the added support of the Sherman and so it was time to consider some German deployment in case a run of luck for the British saw them make a dash across the bridge. A squad deployed into the house by the bridge and was placed on overwatch ready to deal with any advance over the river.
The British continued to move the engineers and infantry section forward to the river line. The bridge is a real choke point and I can see this is quite a challenge for the British. Patience is the name of the game for the Germans.
The Sherman is a little exposed in the road and so I take the decision to end the turn using a CoC dice and hope the command phase gives me plenty of options to take advantage of the clear line of sight. I'm not expecting any more double phases but perhaps there will be a chance to deploy the Panzerschreck and take on the Sherman.
With the smoke gone the Flak 38 opens fire at the Sherman. With AP4 against Armour 7 I'm not expecting much, but anything that can discomfit the tank or inflict some shock is better than nothing. The Flak fire is very effective with four hits. The Sherman's armour saves are only two, resulting in 2 net hits, this is enough to kill the driver and inflict 2 shock. The tank will need two phases to replace the driver. That's far more than I expected from the Flak 38, which has turned into a very deadly weapon.
So, feeling particularly lucky, I deploy the panzerschreck team into the road ready to take on the Sherman.
Before I can do that Dave uses a CoC die to interrupt and the Sherman fires its MG at the panzerschreck team. It kills one of them and inflicts a point of shock, but it's not enough to stop the remaining team member returning fire. The rocket has no problem hitting the Sherman, but with an AP strike of 13 it can only manage 3 hits, which is disappointing. Yet while my luck in this instance isn't great, Dave's is even worse, he fails to roll a single armour save and with 3 net hits his tank explodes in a ball of flame. His engineers are very close, but just beyond 4", so they escape harm, but the loss of the Sherman brings the British morale down even further.
|One surviving panzershreck man, one burning Sherman|
With morale so low and the German platoon having lost just a single casualty the British use the next phase to pull back to their JoPs and withdraw heralding a German victory for this scenario.
The British lost one Sherman destroyed and took six casualties from the section in the field, one of which was the Corporal. Three of those casualties are lost permanently and a man will need to be promoted from the ranks to fill the Corporal's role. The large difference between British and German force morale means the sole German casualty is returned to the platoon.
A good result for the Germans, certainly helped by some good fortune with the multiple phases that allowed the Flak 38 to make one British section ineffective for the remainder of the scenario. The Sherman was unlucky to suffer damage from the Flak 38, but it was less of a surprise to see it destroyed by the panzerschreck.
So we will return to this map again for what will be campaign turn four. This starts to put some time pressure on the British and opens up the opportunity for additional German support from campaign turn five. The Germans will receive no additional support for the replay and cannot replace the minefield and wire removed by the British. The British will get 12 plus 2D6 of support points with the additional advantage of being able to call on the Main Column support options as well as the Core support list. I suspect the Germans won't find it quite so easy next time around.
You can follow the next game in the campaign The Road to Bremen Scenario 3 (round two)
All the AARs for Chain of Command pint sized campaigns are here Chain of Command campaign AARs