The Rich Clarke Normandy campaign juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down, and he’s recently published not one but two more “Pint Sized” campaigns for Chain of Command set in Normandy. We’ll be playing the first, “Operation Martlet”, where the British 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division attempts to push back the fanatical lads of the 12th SS Panzer Division (“Hitlerjugend”) near Caen.

The Ground

The British advance follows the road from Fontenay-le-Pesnel to Rauray, hoping to cpature the high ground west of Caen.

The British advance follows the road from Fontenay-le-Pesnel to Rauray, hoping to capture the high ground west of Caen.

 

The countryside t the west of Caen is mostly gently rolling fields, and some of the “hills” that bloody battles were fought over are just slight rises. Operation Martlet was intended to secure high ground on the flank of Operation Epsom’s planned zone of operations.

The Games

The six scenarios are:

  1. Probe (“Probe into Fontenay”)
  2. Attack/Defend (“Pushing On”)
  3. Attack on an Objective (“Attack on the Hauptkampflinie”)
  4. Attack/Defend (“Striking at St Nicholas”)
  5. Delaying Action (“Winning Your Spurs”)
  6. Attack on an Objective (“The Last Ditch at Rauray”)

The Germans also get a counter-attack wildcard, which they can play any time after they’ve lost scenario 3 and allows them to play an Attack/Defend game as the aggressor.

The actual campaign turns translated into the following games:

  1. Probe (“Probe into Fontenay”)
  2. Attack/Defend (“Pushing On”)
  3. No game, Germans gave ground
  4. Attack/Defend (“Striking at St Nicholas”)
  5. Attack/Defend (“Attack on the Hauptkampflinie” )
  6. Attack/Defend (“The Punch from Wünsche“)
  7. Attack/Defend (“Striking at St Nicholas Again“)
  8. Attack/Defend (“Another Attack on the Hauptkampflinie”)
  9. Attack/Defend (“Back to St Nicholas”)
  10. Attack/Defend (“Hauptkampflinie Deja Vu”)
  11. Attack/Defend (“The Last Gasp”)

Aided by a heavy bombardment and thick morning mist the British slipped through outer German defences and then brought up Churchill AVREs to smash the German line at Fontenay. Reeling, the Germans abandoned the town and fell back to their reserve positions in the open farmland to the south. Allied armour attempted to thrust through this screen but were stopped cold by deadly shooting from Panzer IVs, while the infantry assault on the farm at St Nicholas also failed. Seizing the initiative the Germans mounted a counter-attack, hitting British lines at Fontenay, but the attack was broken up by artillery and mortar fire and an aggressive defence as night fell on Day 1 of Operation Martlet.

Over night the Germans rounded up reinforcements in the form of Panther tanks and troops from the armoured recce battalion and hit the British again at dawn. Alas, the British line had been bolstered by 17pdr AT guns and the armoured forces were given a bloody nose.

The next morning the British went back on the offensive, but without their artillery support and facing a fresh German platoon their attack stalled around the dreaded farm of St Nicholas once more. The Germans swung once more onto the offensive, but were unable to find any chink in the rock-solid British defences at Fontenay, and neither could the British when they hit the area around the farm again.

The Germans launched their last counter-attack of the campaign in the next turn, as evening of the second day drew in. The British forces in Fontenay stood firm in the face of pressure from the SS men and would have one last chance to push the Germans back from St Nicholas and salvage some pride from what was turning into a bit of a disaster for them.

The last turn of the campaign saw a last-ditch attempt to capture the (now) ruined farm and make some progress down the road towards Rauray. Fierce fighting between Allied and German armour saw multiple Shermans knocked out by a Panther, and despite repeated desperate assaults on the farm by British infantry the 49th were obliged to withdraw and leave the farm in German hands.

Operation Martlet: Campaign Wrapup

With the British advance stalled at Fontenay and unable to advance further this left the flank of Operation Epsom wide open to German counter-attacks, which was the subject of the next campaign: The Scottish Corridor

 

Forces

Men from the 49th Div attempt to locate a sniper in Rauray.

Men from the 49th Div attempt to locate a sniper in Rauray.

On the British side are 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division. This was a territorial unit, although some men of the division had (briefly) seen action in Norway in 1940. This was to be the Division’s first fight in Normandy though. Personally I would have been tempted to rate them as “Green”, especially given the very high casualties they took in the fighting, but the campaign is a bit more generous and classes them as “regulars”. They field a standard infantry platoon, as per the CoC rule book, although during the first two games they will have to roll for each unit entering the table, with a fair chance of them getting lost or delayed in the morning mist.

Tank support is available in the form of Shermans and Churchill AVREs, with a very heavy prep bombardment severely hampering German deployment for the first five campaign turns.

The Germans field an understrength panzergrenadier platoon, with only 7 men per squad, but they do have an attached Panzer IV. The Germans have no wire or mines available, but are dug in and have built tank scrapes and prepared houses for defence (counted as bunkers in the game). Their wild card they can play half way through the campaign allows them to counter-attack with new force composed of two Panthers and two half tracks from the recce battalion. Sadly for the Germans the big cats will withdraw even if they’re successful and leave the PBI to follow up their gains.

Both reinforcements (one extra platoon) and replacements (once per platoon) are available for the British, while the Germans get one reinforcement platoon once they have been pushed back to a certain point.

Objectives

12th SS soldiers during a break in fighting. Both sides lost far more men than they could afford in the fighting around Caen.

12th SS soldiers during a break in fighting. Both sides lost far more men than they could afford in the fighting around Caen.

The British are playing against the clock. They have to push the Germans back as far as possible (hopefully all the way to Rauray on table 6) as quickly as possible. The campaign lasts a maximum of 11 turns, if the British are flying the Union Jack over Rauray at this point they win.

The Germans have to hold their line as far forward as as possible. This is potentially a much longer campaign than the other two we’ve played (5 Platoon and Kampfgruppe von Luck) which lasted four and five games respectively. The only way it can last less than 11 turns is if the British romp through the German defenders and even then the book notes 8 turns as “an outstanding feat of arms”. So there’s going to be plenty of trouble before we get a result!

Judging from other people who’ve started playing some of the early games can be quite brief, as the British struggle to get their teeth into the German defences.