Saturday, August 1, 2009

Battle in Progress - Skirmish in the Hedgerows 3rd and Final Report

Hearing the exchange of light machine gun fire from the walled farm to his right, Sgt. Olive leads the British second section and the mortar section into the ruined cottage across the road from the farm. Unwittingly he leads his section into a minefield, and his men watch in horror as a sharp bang and flash leaves their section leader a tattered corpse on the ground. This is bad news for the British, as this section is now leaderless. Unless the platoon commander, Lt. Thornloe, can give it direction, or until it another leader can arise from within its ranks, this section will be unable to advance towards the enemy.

Alerted by the exploding mine, Gefreiter Uhl, commanding the German second section, has spotted the Tommies in the farmhouse and prepares to open fire.

Lt. Rupert Thornloe saw the second section going to ground after the mine strike. "Sgt. Olive, keep going!" "'Es copped it, sir!". Damn. He'd seen men freeze like this in 1940. Another minute and the Spandaus would be opening up, pinning the section further. He raced forward, eyes darting in the hopes he'd spot the mines. "Move to the left, take cover behind that hedge. Go, blast you!"

Lt. Thornloe is blessed by a good string of cards. Two initiative cards are in play, allowing him to use them and his own inherent initiative to have second section make a full move towards the enemy.

Lt. Thornloe directing his second section out of the minefield:

Second section double-times out of the minefield. They almost make it, except for the unfortunate Bren gunner, who has a leg blown off. Urged on by their lieutanant, heartless bugger that he is, his mates retrieve the undamaged light machine gun and keep moving, leaving him to be tended to by the stretcher-bearers.

By the walled farm, the firefight continues between Cpl. Tate's and Gefreiter Halle's sections. One of Halle's landsers has been dropped by Bren gun fire, and the MG42 team has been taken two wounds (the black things in the picture). Shooting through the thick hedge, the German return fire has not been effective.

"Bugger this hedge, can't see nowt", cries Cpl. Tate, reaching for a fragmentation grenade. "Come on, lads, let's give them a good stonk. One, two, three!" He and his rifle team send a flurry of grenades over the hedge, and hear loud cries and curses. They can't see the results, but Gefreiter Halle and another German are killed. (Big men are going to be unlucky in this game, Olive and Halle won't be the only ones to die).

"Give them a good stonk!":

Having spotted it watched its progress, Gefreiter Uhl was directing heavy fire on the British section with his MG42 team. Thornloe watched helplessly as the trailing rifleman was hit and tumbled over while the rest of the section went to ground, pinned. He would need more help, and waved up the sergeant commanding his "supporting" Churchill tank. The sergeant definitely had the wind up, but he couldn't afford to be left hanging back on the road. The tank responded, edging off the road to its left, and Thornloe beckoned his mortar team and third section to follow. He'd bloody well outflank those buggers.

With Gefreiter Halle down, Hans the sentry reluctantly took command of what was left of his section. Having retreated shakily down the road away from the farm, he had his three colleagues gather behind the next hedgerow on the left side of the village and set up their MG42. (The Germans are lucky, and roll a replacement for the deceased Halle. Hans even manages to remove some of the wounds his section suffered from the grenades.)

Thornloe brings up the Churchill on the centre, and on the right, the British third section comes off its blind and begins moving to outflank the Germans pinning second section. This puts Gefreiter Uhl in a difficult spot - should he stay and risk being outflanked or should he pull back?

Leutnant Muller saw the Churchill maneuvering off the road and correctly judged that it was intending to start laying down fire on his second section. He noticed that a Tommy light mortar was already beginning to take the section under fire. By steering off the road, the dammed panzer was going to avoid his few anti-tank mines. "Let's try for a shot", he urges his tankhunters, but their approach is noted. The British second section Bren gun opens up on them, and a moment later the Churchill fires HE and co-axial machine gun fire. Muller and his men are lucky, only suffering a few wounds, but with that weight of fire, he judges he won't get a good shot with the Panzserschreck and has his men pull back.

Muller's team (bottom of picture) takes fire from British infantry and tank (top) and decides to retire in hopes of a better shot:

Sergeant Watson watched section beginning to recover as the German fire slackened, and judged it was time. Leaving his Bren team to provide covering fire, he lead his rifle team from three section around the corner of the hedgerow, in time to see the Germans pulling back to avoid being outflanked.

Gefreiter Uhl has called a withdrawal, and his men are almost into a small copse of woods, but he's too late. As he urges his men to hurry and set up a new firing line, three section's Bren gun cuts him down. (The Germans are very unlucky to lose Uhl, a level 3 leader (with level 4 being the best) - there was a 1 in 6 chance of the Big Man being the sole fatality scored on the section, and Uhl snuffed it). Watson and his rifle team move to close assault the retreating, leaderless Germans. The cards allow the Germans to shoot, but since they were retreating, have just lost their leader, and are closely pursued by charging Tommies, I judge it a poor shot rather than a great or ok shot. Three section's rifle team takes some wounds, but is able to close assault the Germans. In the melee that follows, while the Germans have a slight advantage, they lose three men to the British one and take more wounds. The depleted rifle team is forced to withdraw, and taking more fire from Watson's Bren team, dissolves in confusion.

The only bright spot for the Germans. Hans and his three comrades have a good shot at Corporal Tate's first section as it advances up the farm lane. Two riflemen and one of the Bren team are cut down, and Tate has his survivors return fire.

The British respond, and while they are much reduced and the Bren gun only has one dice left (since it's down to one crew member, the British score a hit which turns out to be a kill. There's another 1 in 6 chance that it will be the Big Man and sadly, acting Gefreiter Hans is killed. AB figures casualty figure:

That pretty much decides the fight. Cpl. Tate's half section is going to hide behind its hedge as long as they are unsupported and that MG42 is across the lane. Leutnant Muller knows that Uhl and his second section are gone, so with his three tank hunters he follows the sound of first section's MG and retrieves the survivors. They slip away from the fighting. hoping to find others from their battalion. Muller judges that he's done his bit to stop the invasion - now it's time for the Panzers they were promised to come and roll the Tommies back into the sea.

Muller and his men slip away:

Final British positions - Tate's first section at the bottom, second section and Churchill tank in the middle, and Watson's third section, mortar team and Lt. Thornloe consolidate at the top:

British sniper (a Raventhorpe miniature) cautiously moves forward. He got a few shots off during the game but to no effect:

Second section and Churchill (an Esci kit) follow the retreating Germans:

Lessons learned:

This battle confirmed my admiration for the TWWAT system and for the Too Fat Lardies approach. For the British it was frustrating but realistic to have a supporting asset like the Churchill but for it to do relatively little without the leadership of the platoon commander (since the tank didn't have its own Big Man to supply it leadership). The system also reinforced basic infantry tactics (spot, pin, outflank and destroy the enemy). For the Germans, it was a mistake to separate the two sections so that they couldn't support one another, and a further mistake to attach Muller, a valuable Level 3 Big Man, to the tank hunters. He would have been more valuable directing one of the two MG42s.

Thanks for reading. MP+

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