The German attack on The Scottish Corridor is on the verge of victory. The hard pressed Scots have given ground to buy time to scrape together a defence, but there is no more ground to give.

If the Germans capture Colleville the armoured forces to the south will be cut off and yet another offensive around Caen will have been defeated. Can the last line of defence hold, or will history be rewritten today?

The Forces

The Germans, well-equipped throughout this campaign had a handy 22 support points and opted for:

  • Not one, but two Panther tanks!
  • Extra Senior Leader

Finally getting the support they need, this final British defence could count on 19 support points, plus a free barrage and a free trench due to giving ground in the previous campaign turn.

  • 6pdr AT gun
  • Churchill VII
  • Vickers SFMG
  • 3x entrenchments (Vickers gun and one rifle section)

 

Campaign Progress

Since the last battle the British gave ground against Kampfgruppe Frey, abandoning the town of Mouen and falling back to Colleville. Looking at the forces involved the battle would have been a pretty bad mismatch and wouldn’t have been that fun to play. This has allowed both sides to lick their wounds a little and move on to the battle at Map 4: “Capturing Colleville”. This is taking place on campaign Turn 11, if the Germans capture this last table they’ll claim an outright victory in the campaign. If they fail the British will be able to launch a counter-attack on Turn 12 and would be in to claim a draw or a narrow victory.

So everything to play for in this game…

The Ground

The Germans have already captured the outskirts of the town of Colleville but need to move into the town and clear it in order to fully cut the British supply lines supporting their forces advancing to the south.

The terrain is close, with buildings and hedges cutting the lines of sight down to knife-fighting range, especially on the south side of the road.

Deployment

The Germans got a couple of quick free moves, but then it was a race to occupy the orchards on the south side of the road. The Germans were keen to get their JOPs up into cover instead of being forced to make a suicide rush across the open ground on the north side. The British patrols anticipated this, but were unable to prevent the hun from getting the foothold they needed.

 

The Plan

With some open fields at the German end of the table it was tempting to try to push up hard and catch them in the open if possible, but Kampfgruppe Weidinger is well-equipped with both manpack and tank flamethrowers which they’d be quite happy to use in the orchards. I know my opponent Phil is a big fan of setting fire to my guys, so getting too close to German JOPs and vehicle entry points is likely to only earn you a face full of burning napalm.

So the plan was to hold the line further back (beyond 24″ from the nearest German JOP if possible) and dig in. The 6pdr would be able to slow the Germans down if they tried advancing up the road and the Churchill could lend its weight to whatever flank needed the firepower. The plan was to let the Germans come on a bit and throw a section + Vickers + Churchill at their lead squad, hopefully the close terrain would cut down their ability to mutually support each other and I’d be able to batter a German squad to death in isolation.

The Game

The German attack started quietly, with Phil seemingly happy to wait until the stars aligned and the right command dice were available. For a while both sides were happy to roll their dice and build up some Chain of Command dice and for once the British side were rolling well and building up dice faster than the Germans (who have a bonus ability to add pips from a single 6 in this campaign).

Eventually though, two squads of Germans deployed near the southern orchard, the British barrage having no effect on them. This was the obvious axis for the German attack as it had the most cover, but for now the Jocks did not react, as the plan was to let the German infantry get closer.

What did trigger a reaction though was the rumbling of a Panther tank clattering along the road. A concealed 6dr AT gun  readied itself to fire but was spotted by the eagle-eyed German tank commander before it could (Phil played an interrupt). The Panther got its shot off first and an HE round stuck the gun crew, killing one gunner and the gun commander! So first blood to the Germans, and an immediate drop of -1 force morale for the British. The bloodied 6pdr crew managed to get their shot off, but it bounced harmlessly off the big German tank. In its own phase the Panther fired again and killed another gunner. Bad start for the defenders!

The German infantry started to work their way forwards over the hedge and into the orchard while the tank and AT gun were trading fire along the road. For now the panzergrenadiers moved unopposed and with both squads in good contact with each other. The German CO tried to send up his third squad behind them, but at this point the disruption from the barrage started to bite and both the rifle squad and the officer himself failed to arrive.

Meanwhile the 6pdr and the Panther duked it out. Despite their casualties the gunnery from the 6pdr was good and they hit the panzer several times, but the weak 6pdr shot failed to have any real effect except some shock, which the panzer commander managed to keep under control. To keep the 6pdr firing I had taken a gamble and sent the British platoon CO forward to command it, since their own NCO had been killed. The young subaltern did a great job, and managed to keep the gun firing every phase while also rallying off the shock caused by multiple close shots from the Panther’s 75mm gun. The gun crew was soon down to two gunners and the officer though, with dead and wounded Scottish gunners strewn in the road and it looked like it wouldn’t be long before the plucky little gun was silenced. Sensing the time to press the attack, the Germans brought up their secret weapon: a second Panther!

While this obviously wasn’t great news, I’ve got to admit it was cool to see two of the big cats on the table in a normal CoC game, so good on Phil for picking them!

The second Panther wasted no time and roared across the open field up to a hedge. It was out of sight of the 6pdr, so that would have to continue its duel with the first tank. The Scots did have a JOP in the orchard near the new threat, and it had no supporting infantry so if it came over the hedge my plan was to use one of the CoC dice to launch a PIAT ambush. I felt pretty certain I could hit it in the flank armour at close range, so maybe even the ridiculous PIAT might stand a chance of hurting it.

So far though the German attack was going  well, and the infantry continued to push forward on the other side of the road. The third infantry squad had finally got their act together and along with the platoon commander they were following the two lead squads. One of those squads moved up through the yard outside the barn and made a dash towards the next hedge, with their other squad nearby.

The Jocks chose this moment to strike. The advancing Germans must have missed the well-camouflaged machine gun nest on their right, as the British deployed a dug-in Vickers gun with a clear shot catching the Germans in the open. The Vickers fired a vicious burst into the unprotected Germans and cut down two of them straight away, while also wounding the leader of the front squad.

A minute ago the German position had looked good, but now they found themselves with two squads caught in the open by the British gun. Decisive action was needed and the machine gun was at near point-blank range. Panzergrenadiers don’t like to retreat, so they did the most aggressive thing they could to silence the gun: charge!

To be honest, I had half expected this when I deployed the Vickers so close to them, but I trusted in the fact that a frontal assault on the gun pit would be incredibly costly for the Germans.

German dice had been pretty good up until this point in the game, but now they made one roll which probably had the biggest effect on play so far: rolling 3d6 one of the two charging German squads failed to get within 4″ and join the combat. The other slightly closer squad did score high enough, but being a whole squad short hugely changed the odds in the combat. Just to pour salt on the wound the Vickers gun played an interrupt and hosed down the charging Germans, dropping another couple of men.  The survivors piled in on the Vickers team and adding up all the dice the Germans could only manage nine, but the Vickers crew had an eye-watering 23 dice in reply. Rolling for effect the Germans managed to kill a respectable three machine gunners and inflict three shock, mean the two remaining men would be pinned, but the reply from the gun crew wiped out the entire German squad (nine kills on seven men). A carpet of bodies lay in front of the smoking Vickers and German morale crashed three points down to four, meaning they’d be rolling four command dice now.

With the German vanguard suitably mauled the British felt it was time to commit their reserves and counter-attack on the southern side of the road. An infantry section deployed from the southern JOP with orders to move up in support of the Vickers and push back the surviving Germans at the point of the bayonet if need be. A Churchill tank also moved up to support the 6pdr and the hard-pressed AT gun crew cheered when it joined their own fire, hitting the Panther in the main road. Neither British gun could have much effect on the well-armoured German tank though.

Reeling from the murderous ambush of the Vickers gun the lead German squad traded fire with it. The Vickers hit one German who rather unluckily was the last man left in his team, and cost them another point of force morale. They were now on a very shaky 3 points and lost another command dice. In reply the surviving German LMG took a ragged shot at the two men on the Vickers and managed to hit one. This left just one man with four shock, so abandoning the gun he legged it down the road, taking two points of British morale with him (they were now on five). So the Germans had finally silenced the Vickers, but it had torn up both squads the Germans were leading their attack with.

One of those squads had only a pinned team left, and so the British moved up towards it. Suddenly remembering its job description of infantry support the Churchill stopped messing about lobbing shells at the Panther and trundled up behind the advancing rifle section. Those riflemen tried to do a nifty “move d6 and fire” up to a nearby hedge but didn’t roll high enough to reach it and blat the poor Germans in the opposite hedge. The Churchill driver decided to show them how it was done and floored it, swinging around the end of the hedge and allowing his gunner to take a quick rattle with the coax. Somewhat improbably the gun put enough hurt on the Germans hunkering behind the hedge to break them and off they scampered, knocking German morale down to two and costing them one of their nearby JOPs

Another blow came when a lucky shot from the 6pdr wounded the commander of the Panther in the lane and all of a sudden the Germans were down to only two command dice. The German officer had gone well forward himself, and still had one infantry squad and two Panthers in the fight, but his force was dangerously close to breaking and he wasn’t helped by some of the command dice rolls, such as when both dice came up with 5’s, leaving nothing able to activate.

With the German infantry attack stopped cold, the British rifles moved up swiftly, advancing across the small field behind the Boulangerie under the watchful eyes of the Churchill. Meanwhile the 6pdr gun kept firing as it had all game, firing round after round down the road even though most of the crew lay dead or wounded. Most of their shots had hit the Panther, but most had barely scratched the steel beast.

Most that is, but not all. Finally a shot struck a decent number of hits, and the Panther failed to save three of them. Knocked out!

With a final shot, the wheels fall off the German attack in spectacular style

With German morale on only one point and the loss of a support costing at least that we shook hands and the Germans broke off their attack, dragging away their wounded and wondering just what went wrong.

The Butcher’s Bill

German casualties were heavy, but they’d managed to hurt the British too. The Vickers crew and the AT gun each lost four men, but after factoring in the five point advantage in force morale at the end of the game actual British casualties came to one dead, 2 wounded. All of these were on support units anyway.

Things looked a lot worse on the German side. They took a whopping 8 dead (including a junior leader) and 5 wounded. In the rout one man and another JL were captured by the British. This leaves the platoon down to two squads with rookie JLs in charge of both.

This is also the first AFV they’ve lost in the campaign. Finally got one!

Campaign post-match

The British CO was thrilled about the success of this last-ditch defence and boosted his opinion two points to -1, which removes the support penalty they’d been suffering from. The men were pleased with their light losses and the hurt they’d dished out to jerry and buffed their opinion two points, but this still leaves them on a very grouchy -6 and still gives a morale penalty and reduces the platoon CO’s influence.

The German CO clearly felt defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory and dropped his opinion a point but that still leaves him on a very healthy +7 and gives a 2pt support bonus next game.

The men were less forgiving about the loss of so many men and two NCOs, chopping their opinion by four points to -8. This earns the platoon commander the “Dangerous” nickname and subjected the man to an “interview without coffee”. All this shifted the young officer into a “short-tempered” mood, so the platoon is not a happy place, and that’s where we’ll leave them as they won’t be fighting in this campaign again. There’s only one campaign turn left and it’ll be a different platoon facing the British counter-attack that will try to clear the Germans out of Colleville altogether, leaving the Scottish Corridor open.

Lessons Learned

  • What broke the German attack was the frontal charge on the Vickers gun. They were extremely unlucky not to get the second squad to charge home. If they’d made that crucial roll they would almost certainly have bumped the casualties they inflicted from three up to the five needed to wipe the Vickers out. But the Vickers did score nine kills, so the fight would have ripped the guts out of both squads and left them very vulnerable afterwards.
  • Once they’d lost the close combat the Germans were just too short on command dice to reliably press the attack with their Panthers and remaining infantry. The second Panther never fired a shot. Both sides had started the game on the bare minimum force morale, and when you do that a single action like a squad breaking or being wiped out can cost enough FM to cripple your command dice.
  • Yet again SLs proved they can keep a hard-pressed unit in the fight. The British SL spent the game attached to the 6pdr after their own NCO was killed and he kept the gun in action and firing right through the game. They fired a ton of shots at the Panther, most bounced but eventually they hit the tank commander and knocked out the tank, which were the final blows that finished the Germans.
  • Deploying the Vickers on its own was risky, I had intended to use it bolster a whole dug-in section, but there ended up being not enough room to deploy the rifle section with it (nor the right command dice). Deployed unsupported like this the Germans did manage to break it, but not before it had shot half their platoon to bits. Should they have taken the time to work round onto its flanks instead of charging frontally? Maybe, but doing so probably would have given me the time to deploy the dug in section to protect it. Phil’s snap decision to charge was always going to be horribly costly, but I’m not sure it was wrong.
  • Man of the match? Clearly the Vickers team. They turned up at the right place and time, absolutely chopped up a ton of German infantry, then fought off a vicious close assault, and even kept the gun firing despite terrible casualties while friendlies moved up to support them. We’ll just overlook that last bloke running away from the gun, honestly the poor lad had done everything expected of him up till then.