With the British counter-attack fended off, the German squeeze of the Scottish Corridor could resume. The clatter of tank tracks moving along the main road told the British troops screening the flank of the corridor everything they need to know: a panzer kampfgruppe was coming their way! With the British defence still scrambling to go firm the Tommies knew they had to buy time!
The German forces in this campaign are well-supported, and in this game would be bringing a fresh panzergrenadier platoon and 17 points of support to the party:
- Extra Panzergrenadier squad
- leIG.18 infantry gun
- Panzer III Flamm
Knowing that the forces ranged against them would be pretty impressive and their own support options pretty paltry, British support choices reflected their spoiling battle plan. Having only five points available I opted for:
- Extra PIAT team
After all the action on the eastern flank of the Scottish Corridor, it’s time for Kampfgruppe Weidinger to get rolling again and put the pressure on from the west. Last time they went into action Weidinger crushed the surprised Brits pretty easily, can they keep up momentum?
Mondrainville is a small village along the Route Bretagne leading towards Caen. The action in this scenario centers around the local school, which has orchards to the east and west, and open wheat fields across the main road to the south. The Germans would be entering from the southwest (top left of the table in this map) and would have to move through and clear the school and surrounding orchards, before taking the open ground beyond.
The extra British patrol marker stuck to the school proved to be a real pain to the Germans, as they couldn’t get their chain of markers past it easily. The British punched one of their mobile markers up quickly to lock down a German one and really cramp their options, and the end result was the Germans somewhat penned in either side of the road.
Both sides started with a force morale of nine, which I was actually pretty pleased about, as the Brits had a -3 penalty on the roll, so this was a decent result for them.
As the British commander I was under no illusions about the battle ahead: German forces were larger and more heavily armed. With 17 support points available to the Germans I knew I could be facing 4 squads of panzergrenadiers (eight LMGs to my three!), plus a flame tank or Panther in support, and maybe other nasties like manpack flamethrowers and SFMGs. If I tried to fight that lot with my weaker core platoon and only five support points I’d simply take a lot of casualties and then lose. So the British objective wasn’t to hold the table (their orders are only to delay the enemy after all) but to try to harass them and inflict casualties while minimising their own. The key to that would be not committing a lot of troops, where the superior German firepower could hurt them. If I could pull off a Losing Draw I’d be very happy, as that might go some way to repairing everybody’s low opinion of the lieutenant.
The threat of German flamethrowers was a big issue, but by holding my own JOPs back out of infantry ambush range that could be lessened, while any flame tanks might have to trundle across the table to get in range and hopefully get bounced by a PIAT.
I did have a free preliminary bombardment, but in the circumstances I couldn’t see that being a lot of help. With luck it would slow the German advance a little and allow me to build CoC dice to use for ambushes or avoiding morale rolls when my JOPs got gobbled up.
So my objective as the British player was to use small teams such as snipers, PIATs and maybe scout teams led by senior leaders to pick away at the Germans. Hit and run, lads!
The Germans opened play with a double phase, and quickly brought on two squads. One of them was off the support list, and these men doubled through the orchards behind the school and quickly reached the hedge at the edge of the small piece of open ground. In the British phase the command dice didn’t smile on the idea of deploying a sniper to stop them, but the Germans were clearly expecting something to pop up in the opposite hedge as they put both teams on overwatch. Meanwhile, their second squad closed in on the wall of the school.
The British sniper who was indeed concealed a short distance along the hedgerow a chambered a round and squeezed off a shot at the Germans but managed to miss them completely. Rolling another double phase (and a turn end) the Germans decided not to let that bother them, and they bounded over the hedge and raced across the open ground to the opposite hedge. This put them within 4″ of the British JOP, shutting it down. The turn end also finished the effects of the British bombardment, although it had had no effect on German deployment anyway.
The sniper took offence at all of this, and promptly shot one of the SS troopers dead. Undeterred, the Germans squad leader sent one of his teams over the hedge to park on top of the British JOP and promptly spent a CoC dice to end the turn, removing the JOP and costing the British a point of force morale.
So far the German attack had been moving quickly and making good ground against only harassing fire from the British, but their aggression had left the lead team out in the open. Sighting along the hedgeline a Scottish Bren gunner opened up with a burst into the flank of the exposed Germans, creating a deadly crossfire with the sniper on their other flank. Another German went down with shock on the others. The Bren gunner’s section had deployed into the main school building, with their riflemen taking up positions in the three side windows. Those men spotted Germans at the school wall and opened fire, but their Lee Enfield rifles were drowned out by the racket from both MG42s returning their fire (as the Germans had been on overwatch).
The Germans could sense a chance at grabbing a cheeky quick win though, and instead of jumping back over the hedge their isolated team instead sprinted straight for the objective JOP, which was sitting unguarded in the open only a short distance away. Their sprint didn’t carry them all the way though, leaving the three men short of the JOP and right out in the open. The British reply was to deploy their second section right on top of the objective and open fire on the Germans, hitting two out of three of them immediately. The sniper tried to finish off the last man, but managed to miss again.
Meanwhile, down at the school, the British rifle team traded fire with the German squad behind the school wall, and despite being heavily outgunned were managing to hold their own. Largely this was due to the reassuring presence of their platoon sergeant, who had come forward to lead them and was rallying off any shock they picked up. The Germans on the other hand were starting to accrue shock and had taken a casualty to some accurate rifle fire. The longer the fight dragged on though, the more likely the heavy fire from the two German LMGs was likely to tell.
To help assure this the German platoon commander decided to reinforce the attack on the school, and onto the table rumbled the Panzer III flamethrower, which was the signal for a well-concealed leIG.18 infantry gun to also announce its presence in the wheat fields and punch a round into the school. The building shook, but the only effect on the occupants was a point of shock.
A short distance away along the hedge the German support squad were in trouble. The team which had tried to rush the objective were now pinned in the open, and another volley of fire from the British finished off the last man, while the British sniper earned his keep by singling out the German squad leader and putting a bullet between his eyes. German force morale dropped two points to seven, with his assistant squad leader out of action (presumably leading the other team that had been cut down) the men couldn’t get their act together. Or more accurately, Phil wasn’t managing to roll the 1s he now needed to activate them. With British fire still coming in hot they quickly became pinned.
Back at the school the British section holding it was standing pretty firm. Bringing their Bren back in from the doorway they brought it into action against the nearby Germans at the school wall, and heavy fire was being exchanged, with shock and a couple of casualties mounting on the Germans, while a Scottish rifleman had also been hit. A lucky shot also incapacitated the German squad leader, hitting German morale. Things were about to change though, as the infantry gun continued to hit the school building with 75mm HE rounds, wounding a British soldier, the flammpanzer rumbled closer and disgorged a huge gout of flaming fuel. The building burst into flame, and three of the defenders died a fiery death. Shouting at his men to get out of the building the platoon sergeant led the horrified survivors out of the doorway to seek shelter outside. Despite their shock they managed to make it out.
With the German tank closing in and about to tear a giant hole in the British defences the sergeant shouted for a PIAT, and a team rushed up and deployed right by him at the corner of the building. The tank was in the open and within range, but the team obviously rushed their shot and got snake eyes (cue groans from the British side). The German tank crew were clearly oblivious to this though, as they didn’t return fire in their own phase (bad command dice again) and the PIAT managed to get a second shot off. This time it found the mark and penetrated the turret armour of the German machine, panicking the gunner and inflicting some shock. The warhead of the PIAT and the tank’s armour were evenly matched, so it would be a tough job for the PIAT to get an outright kill. In reply the German commander told his bow gunner to hose down the PIAT (causing two points of shock) while he sorted out the gibbering gunner.
Meanwhile, along the hedge the other German squad had had enough. The British section facing them piled more shock onto them, and the sniper dropped another man, which tipped the three surviving men over the edge and made them break. They scuttled back to the orchard to lick their wounds.
German force morale had now started to sag badly to just three points, cutting their command dice down to just three. They’d deployed another squad into the orchard along with their platoon commander, but with only three dice their main focus was to keep activating the flame tank and get it to press the attack on the school. The PIAT managed to get its last shot off and scored another hit, but this time failed to penetrate and in return the tank hosed down the PIAT’s position with the flamethrower, incinerating one man and making the other run for his life (right off the board, in fact).
Led by the platoon sergeant the British survivors from the school had rallied off their shock and despite losing their Bren gun and being down to three riflemen, the corporal and the platoon sergeant decided to stand their ground. Moving along the school wall, they kept up an effective fire on the Germans across the school yard. With the rifle fire bolstered by burst of fire from the two NCO’s Stens they managed to put enough shock on the Germans to pin them, which went a long way to evening the odds in the firefight.
German resolve to fight on was now circling the drain, and if the Brits could knock out the tank they might actually be able to pull off an improbable victory. The second PIAT took up the position the first one had abandoned, and got a hit but again the small bomb failed to open up the Krupp steel. The flame tank swung its turret to face the PIAT, but the crew must have been snappy on their reload (I played an interrupt) and got the shot off before the Germans. Another hit saw another fail to penetrate and the burst of flaming hate from the tank saw the PIAT team burnt to a crisp.
Still holding desperately on, the British section at the school were now down to three men but had managed to avoid being pinned thanks to constant rallying efforts from the sergeant, and they finally managed to see off the German squad attacking the school. Another excellent bit of shooting saw the badly wounded German squad leader killed and German morale crashed to just one point, costing them a JOP and cutting their command dice to a measly two. Sensing a chance, the Scottish section on the objective had started to push forwards with an eye to sweeping the orchards and putting an end to the German attack, behind them the last British section deployed in support.
The flame tank was having none of this at all though, and continued to attack. Spotting the stubborn British defenders of the school it jetted more fire in their direction, killing a man and loading enough shock on the rest to break them. Again, the two British NCOs managed to avoid serious injury, but the breaking team did take British morale down to four points and cost them a command dice.
While the school burned the German platoon commander organised his remaining men in the orchard. His attempt to flank the school on the left and rush the objective had been decisively broken and the British were actually advancing from that direction, but the British defence of the school had finally been flattened, although at a high cost in infantrymen. The aggressive flame tank pressed on though, surging down the main road to where it could turn the corner around the school building and roll up the British position from the flank.
With both PIATs destroyed the British had nothing left to stop this monster, and further casualties were the last thing they needed in this campaign. Reluctantly, with German morale on only one point (but no quick way of getting that final roll on the morale table) the British commander signaled the withdrawal.
All was not lost though, they may not have actually stopped the Germans, but the British had definitely achieved their aim of giving the attackers a very bloody nose.
The Butcher’s Bill
The British withdrawal was a little messy. One man got separated and was later picked up by the Germans, while another five went missing for a short while. Despite the attentions of the flamethrower their casualties were reasonably light, with four dead and three wounded.
Though the Germans had won their force morale had ended up lower than the British, meaning they took the full brunt of their losses. This was six dead, three wounded, and two of those dead were NCOs. Luckily for the core platoon, many of those casualties had been on a support squad, and they would only be two men down next time they fought.
Crucially though this would mean the British could claim a “losing draw” for the game, limiting the effects of the loss.
The British commander wasn’t pleased to have lost more ground, but the high German casualties meant he wasn’t upset either, his opinion remains at -3, meaning the British are still down one support point.
The men were much more pleased with results, and restored one point of opinion to their platoon commander. Although the guy is still seriously hated on -8, this does push it up into the next higher bracket of unpopularity (he goes from being a “butcher” to merely “dangerous”, lucky guy!).
The SS leadership seemed unbothered by the cost of their gains in blood and increased their opinion by two points to 6, which now gives a bonus of two extra support points per game. The same couldn’t be said about the men though, who were extremely unhappy about the high casualties in NCOs and men and dropped their opinion three points to -5, which will hurt German force morale roll next game.
Man of the match has to go to the German flammpanzer. The rest of the German force failed to ignite, with both infantry squads sent packing and the infantry gun seemingly unable to hit the barn-sized school building from about 100m away, but the flame tank had carried the day. It caused almost all of the casualties, broke two teams and a section and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. If one of the PIATs had killed it the German attack would have failed, but they didn’t and it was the tank that ultimately forced the British decision to withdraw.
- If you’re outgunned as a defender, holding off deploying really can work. If you can tempt the attacker into pushing up unsupported it can be easier to bite them off in chunks.
- The two Germans squads attacked without being able to mutually support each other, and both ran into trouble. It was only when they committed heavy support to the attack on the school that they started to make ground.
- Flame tanks: oh my god. These are horrendous. If you don’t kill it pronto it will just clear the table.
- PIATs still suck. I had two, and they hit the Panzer III four times for no real effect.
- Snipers are still pretty iffy, but in this game he did ok. He killed a squad leader and a couple of troops, and helped break the squad. They’re still pretty ineffective on their own, but can provide a useful bit of supporting fire (sometimes).