The British forces in the Scottish Corridor were in serious trouble. Simultaneous German attacks on both flanks of the salient had swept all opposition before them, and morale was wavering among the defenders. A counterblow against the Germans was vital to stabilise the corridor and deliver a much-needed psychological boost to the troops.

The Highland Light Infantry moved up to their jump off points intent on settling the score…

The Forces

In this game the British are playing their “Skirl of the Pipes” wild card which allows them to snatch the initiative and counter-attack.

As usual they have a fresh platoon of infantry. For the first time in the campaign the British have access to a lot of support. Normally they’d get 20pts, but I was down one point due to being on the CO’s naughty list.

  • Vickers MG
  • Churchill VII
  • 2x Universal Carrier teams

The British also get a free pre-game barrage in support of their counter-attack.

On the German side they would be fielding the platoon that fought in game 1, which goes into action two men short and with a replacement squad leader. Well-supported, they’d have 12pts to back them up and chose:

  • Pak-40 AT gun
  • MG42 SFMG and an entrenchment to put it in
  • Adjutant

Campaign Progress

Hoping to retake some of the ground they’ve lost, the Scottish hit back at Kampgruppe Frey.

The Ground

This is the same area fought over in the last game. The narrow lanes and small fields with hedges are now in German hands and it would take gritty close-range fighting to pry them out.

Deployment

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The British are rolling for force morale with a -2 on their roll for this game, as casualties have been very high in previous games and the men are seriously unhappy. The Germans on the other hand get a +1 to their roll, as their platoon commander is in an “affable” mood. End result was a morale of only 8 for the Brits (somewhat expected) but a low roll for the Germans saw them only manage 9.

The Plan

Facing a near full-strength platoon of crack panzergrenadiers with plenty of support was always going to be a tough, so my aim was to get to grips with them early. With several fast-moving vehicles and a pre-game barrage my plan was to try to create some local superiority while the Germans were still hampered deploying all their troops. If I could get enough firepower onto the table quickly the plan was to isolate a German squad and bully it into submission.

Plan A was to drop smoke in the road near any German JOPs that a Pak-40 might pop up from, and rush the carriers and/or Churchill down the road to try to shut down a German JOP. Combined with infantry on foot  deploying from my JOPs I intended to put the pressure on early and hope Phil muffed as many deployment rolls as possible!

The Game

The first roll was to the Germans, but predictably they declined to deploy anything. The first British troops on table were a rifle section which moved up through the orchards on the British right, flanked by a carrier from the battalion’s carrier platoon.  The little carrier was perhaps being a bit brave advancing down the road, but it didn’t fancy crossing all the big hedges surrounding the adjacent fields.

The Germans had other ideas, and revealed the Pak-40 that was watching the road. A great bang rang out and the high-velocity 75mm shot streaked down the road and struck the carrier hard. It lurched to a halt, the engine spewing smoke and oil. Miraculously, none of the men on board were hit and they piled out the back of their stricken vehicle to count their lucky stars.

Undeterred, the infantry continued to advance through the orchard, a spot that had seen much bloodshed in the last game. With the exact position of the Germans’ AT gun now known, the British deployed their Churchill tank and a second carrier out of sight of it in the orchard behind the infantry.

The Germans were quicker off the mark though, and before the armour could move up to support the infantry the familiar sound of twin MG42s tore out from the opposite hedge. Bullets whipped through the undergrowth and men went down immediately. Setting up their Bren and opening fire with rifles the Highlanders tried to return fire, but their effect on the German squad was minimal. Helped by a couple of fortuitous double phases and some good dice the Germans quickly dominated the firefight, pinning the British before wiping out their Bren team and killing the corporal. British force morale dropped two points to six and they’d lost eight men for only one casualty on the Germans. Not a great start!

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To make matters worse the British 2″ mortar was now facing a ton of Germans alone, and having only got one round of smoke off it quickly changed its mind (ie: broke) and fell back into the orchard to have a restorative brew.

Despite all these setbacks the British attack continued, and a second section filtered forwards near the garage. The only Germans with eyes on them were the AT gun though, and with no armour in its sights it chambered a round of HE and sent it whistling down the road. The burst wounded a squaddie, and the section put on a turn of speed to try to get over the road and out of sight. They were slower than they should have been though, and a couple more 75mm HE rounds landed among them before they disappeared, causing more casualties.

Meanwhile, the Churchill had crunched its way through the orchard, shoving over trees as it went and the carrier followed not far behind. Not keen to face this behemoth, the Germans that had shot up the first British section moved sideways and tucked themselves in behind the farmhouse out of sight. From here they could cover the right flank, from which any move from the British infantry now looked like coming.

In fact, the British weren’t done with the frontal approach at all, and sent another section in, forming a fairly punchy line of a rifle section, a carrier and the Churchill. The Germans were obliged to counter this lot, or else they’d charge across the field and park their tank on the German JOP.

The Germans’ last squad deployed. This had a rookie squad leader with only one command initiative, but was otherwise at full strength. They opened fire on the British opposite, but all the hurt was coming the other way. The Churchill’s 75mm gun and hull MG raked the hedge. The HE rounds in particular were very deadly (since they reduce light cover to “in the open”) while British small arms fire joined in and the Germans quickly took several casualties. It looked like British luck was turning, and to make matters worse the rookie JL must have put his head up at the wrong moment and took a wound. This caused him to suffer -1 command initiative, which on a lad with only one to start with meant he was dead. Another round of HE killed more men and rattled the two surviving squad members enough that they took to their heels.

This now left a fair hole in the German line. One squad was busy on overwatch in case the Brits near the garage darted into their right flank, and right now nobody was covering the front. The British seized the opportunity, and the platoon CO himself grabbed the nearest rifle team (whose Bren had been knocked out) and led them over the hedge into the field beyond. This presented too tempting a target to the Germans, and they played an ambush at the end of the British phase, setting a tripod MG42 up in the hedge beyond and raking the British troops, although miraculously only causing one casualty. It was now the German phase, and there would be another ten dice of shooting coming for that exposed team, so I played an interrupt to move them out of sight behind the nearby farmhouse. Out in the open in front of an MG is not the place to have one of your SLs!

This left the German gun with relatively few targets, and indeed in the British phase it became a target itself. The Highlanders also brought up their own Vickers gun, and it set up behind the garage and clattered into life, bullets pinging off the gun shield of the Pak-40 up the road. The fire coming in on the Germans from multiple angles was starting to tell, and in fairly short order the newly arrived SFMG took some very accurate fire, and the dice gods decreed that not only would the small team break, but the nearby German platoon commander would be wounded!  This cost them another 3 points of morale, dropping them from five to two and reducing them to three command dice.

Things were looking bad for the Germans, but there was plenty more drama in store before the end.

The German CO now standing on his own in front of the British made a very tempting target, but unbelievably neither of the two British units that could see him had the right command dice to blat him (I needed 3’s to activate the vehicles, but had none nor enough 1s and 2s to add up. Argh!) However, what the British did have the dice to activate was their rifle team with the CO. They were within charge range of the German officer, so fixed bayonets and charged around the corner of the house to go and stick him!

Clearly unwilling to take on half a dozen men by himself, the German officer used an interrupt to leg it towards the nearby squad that was still covering the right flank. The British were undeterred though, instead of piling into the stranded officer, they took advantage of a good movement roll and hit the whole German squad in the rear!

The Germans had two leaders with SMGs and they had more men, but with both their LMGs facing the wrong way and being hit from behind they had their close combat dice cut to twelve. The small British team managed eleven dice, so it would be a pretty even fight! When the dust settled four Germans lay dead, and three Brits! Crucially the German officer had taken another wound in the fight and this chopped German morale down to only one. The Germans gave up their position and fell back across the field, while the British declined to advance and held their position behind the hedge.

Showing some serious grit, the battered German squad turned to face their attackers and incredibly the wounded SS officer called on his bleeding and battered men to launch a charge of their own! With only a couple of squaddies still alongside him the British officer decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and like his German counterpart used an interrupt to bravely run like hell, getting himself and his men back behind the farmhouse and out of danger.

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This seesaw charge and counter-charge had meant the Germans had held the line and driven back the British attack on their position, but at huge cost. They were now desperately short on command dice, while the British still rolled four each turn and were managing to keep firing on their remaining units. The Vickers gun by the garage had been concentrating its fire on the Pak-40 throughout, and despite the benefit of the gun shield it had managed to hit several crew (including three in one burst of fire). With only one man and the gun’s JL still standing the writing was on the wall, and when the shock got too much the gun broke, taking the last remnants of German force morale with it.

After an inauspicious start, the Highland Light Infantry had persevered to inflict the first defeat on the SS so far in the campaign! But at what cost? The scene in the British lines was one of devastation and bloodshed…

The Butcher’s Bill

All our games in this campaign have been very bloody, and this was no exception. The only difference was that this time both sides had taken a mauling.

British casualties were tempered slightly by their four point morale advantage when the Germans withdrew, but were still pretty ugly at 8 dead, 4 wounded.

On the German side the core platoon lost a squad leader and five dead, three wounded (supports lost another 4 dead, 2 wounded).  Additionally two men went missing, but they’ll turn up again before this platoon has to fight. The British also picked up a couple of POWs from the SFMG crew.

Campaign Post-Match

The British leadership was pleased with the successful attack, and the CO’s opinion rose a point to -2, which has the effect of removing their support penalty. This is handy, as the Brits only get six points in the next game (another counter-attack into the Scenario six map). The men were much less happy. Although they’d inflicted heavy losses on the Germans they’d lost too many men of their own, and an NCO. Overall their opinion sinks further from -7 to -8. This is already pretty bad, if it keeps dropping it’ll be a carpet parade for the young officer, and after that he might meet with a nasty “accident”. The platoon leader seems to be self-medicating to deal with this, and his opinion swooped to the right into the region of the table where he’s drinking too much and behaving erratically. Although bizarrely his “Assured” mood actually goes some way to boost morale and cuts the penalty on the next game’s morale roll to -1, which could be a lot worse.

The Germans were tasting the bitterness of defeat for the first time in this campaign, and lost a point of CO’s opinion. The men were severely bloody unhappy, with high casualties and the loss of an NCO causing a whopping 5pt swing down to -3, which is now hurting their force morale too (-1 on the roll). The German platoon CO took a bit of a personal beating in this game being wounded twice, and his mood drops from “Affable” to merely “Happy” which means he’s no longer boosting morale.

All up the British forces are in marginally better shape after this game, although the men’s opinion is still borderline mutinous. The Germans have suffered a real blow though losing all their bonuses and actually picking up a morale penalty.

Lessons Learned

  • The big lesson here: stick at it! Games of CoC can swing pretty wildly, and even if you’re getting hammered things can still turn around. It was all one-way traffic in the early game, with the Brits losing 12 men for only one German casualty, but then my luck changed and all of a sudden the Germans were losing loads of guys and their force morale fell from the sky like a brick. This is not the first time we’ve seen a platoon fight its way back from a bad situation.
  • Once again, panzergrenadier squads proved able to quickly dominate British ones in a one-on-one fight. You’ve got to have that fire support on the spot before you engage. The first British section tried to go toe-to-toe with the Germans while their armour was still moving up, and got savaged before it could arrive.