This was it: crunch time. Having battled their way down the Utrechtseweg route into Arnhem and brushed aside a German counterattack 3 Para were now in position to assault their final objective: the crossroads at the Hotel de Bildeberg.
Both sides would be carrying over some losses from the previous battle, but the Germans were in by far the worse shape.
The German force now consisted of one mostly full-strength rifle squad and two 4-man MG teams, both of which had rookie junior leaders standing in for their dead or mission squad leaders. Gifted with 13 support points for the game I opted for a second regular rifle squad and entrenchments to dig them in with a view to putting them on board early and forcing the Brits to engage them. They’d then be hit by my next support choice; a mortar observer. Rounding out the support was the obligatory second senior leader and two more entrenchments to try to make those fragile 4-man LMG teams a bit more durable.
The Paras were down five men, so dropped their PIAT team, one sniper and a man from their weapons section. Using their 8 points of support they opted for regular rifle section and hedged against the presence of German armour with a PIAT team. This wasn’t a bad call, I had seriously considered opting for a 20mm halftrack to help batter Phils troops when they were advancing through the series of houses that I knew would be the main axis of his attack.
I rolled well for force morale despite the -1 penalty for the troops’ opinion and started on 10. The British were less lucky and got 8.
Now into the outskirts of Arnhem the woods had given way to houses on the south side of the road, with plenty of open ground on the north side. It didn’t take a tactical genius to work out that the Paras would be coming house-to-house along the south edge of the table.
Phil rolled the maximum four free moves for his patrol markers, which forced me to get a single marker up as fast as possible and I quickly locked one of his, limiting any further advance. After a bit of jockeying for position the remaining markers locked down nearby, and I was fairly happy with the result.
Phil ended up with one JoP right on his baseline near the road, with the others amongst the first set of houses along his line of march. I put one of mine up near a forward building so that I could deploy a unit to slow his advance, and kept the others further back to keep them out of harm’s way.
Phil’s plan for the Paras was simple: establish a base of fire along the road with his weapon section and move up house-to-house with his rifle sections, forcing me to deploy and get shot at.
As mentioned above I wanted to get the mortars on early, so planned to deploy a dug in section with the observer and a senior leader in a central position where they could fire on the whole south side of the road. With his attack bogged down under mortars I could deploy the other two dug in guns and the mobile reaction force squad to try to destroy an isolated section. At the very least the mortars would limit his movement and visibility.
As you might expect, the Paras kicked off their attack by deploying some men into the houses on the south side of the road, but Phil elected to keep most of them indoors for now. He then called up his extra section and sent them forward to take the next house up the road. The German response was to bring the mortar battery into play, which meant deploying a dug in section centrally, with a senior leader to manage the shock on them. Presented with a nice tasty target the Para weapon section and a sniper deployed up the road along the western table edge and began to trade fire with the entrenched Germans.
The mortar barrage arrived after a short delay and was near enough on target to catch quite a few of the advancing Brits. It was to be a short fireblow though, Phil had rolled really well for Chain of Command dice in the first few phases and by the time the barrage landed he was able to end the turn straight away without any reply from myself.
With the mortars no longer raining down and the twin Brens of the weapon section keeping the only German squad on the table busy the British renewed their attack, moving their support section up, but they were slowed by several garden fences. Seeing an opportunity the Germans committed one of their small MG teams to a dug in position where they could fire between the gap in some houses and caught the Paras in the open. Over a couple of phases several men and the JL were hit, and the section ended up pinned and sheltering behind the house they were supposed to be occupying.
Meanwhile the long-range firefight between the Bren guns and the dug in Germans had gone well for the British. They’d rolled a decent amount of 6’s when rolling to hit the Germans in hard cover and had caused a higher than expected amount of casualties. By now the 2″ mortar was on table and was trying to drop smoke in front of the Germans’ machine gun, with reasonable success.
To get his pinned section on the move Phil found they were still close enough to their JoP that he could deploy his platoon CO within 4″ of them, so he was able to start rallying shock off. When the next turn ended they were able to start moving into the house, and spread out over both floors, opening up on the small MG team in the garden below them. Now with the advantage of better cover they were able to avenge their earlier beating much more effectively, and a fierce short-range firefight broke out. With both sides in hard cover the four German man team with their inexperienced NCO were now at a real disadvantage against the larger British unit.
In the centre of the table the duel between the Para weapon section and the dug in German rifle section had started to go badly for the Germans. They needed to hold their position while their mortar observer repeatedly made requests for fire support, so the second of the dug in 4-man gun teams was deployed near them. Some of their fire was quite effective, and casualties on the weapon section were starting to stack up, including the British section leader shot dead.
I now had only one rifle squad in reserve, but British force morale had plummeted while mine was still high. I was beginning to think that a couple of hits on leaders or a single unit beaten up might swing it for me. What I was running out of was men, the rifle squad in the centre was looking sadly depleted, and neither of the small MG teams on either flank could hold out forever. The terrain didn’t lend itself to throwing my last rifle section into a counterattack so I elected to hold on and try to trim those last couple of points of morale off the British.
Sure enough, the MG nest on the German left eventually succumbed, but not before putting some more hurt on the forward British rifle section including a another wound on their corporal that reduced British force morale down to 2. The Paras lost their forward JoP and were down to four command dice, and still had a lot of ground to cover to get to the objective.
The mortar observer finally managed to get the tubes firing again and they thumped down into the middle of the British attack, but Phil again had a CoC die in hand to end the turn and the barrage only lasted a single phase again.
The German defence was starting to look pretty broken by. The rifle section in the centre was wiped out, forcing their JL, SL, and the attached mortar observer to double back into the garage building for shelter. The MG team vainly trying to hold the line on the right also got finished off by the ever-deadly Para weapon section.
There were now no German units holding the line, and the British brought up their third and last rifle section in the open ground to the north of the main road. Their platoon sergeant made his way back to the leaderless weapon section to take charge of them and rally them from their pinned status.
British sections everywhere started to advance. Trapped in the garage building in the centre the two German NCOs checked their MP40s and steeled themselves for the inevitable. I now brought my last rifle section on in a barn by the crossroads and they stood by to make any British trying to approach the objective pay. Using a CoC dice I pulled my forward JoP back to avoid its capture.
The Paras advanced boldly across open ground, picking up shock from their fast pace and a couple of phases of shooting from an MG42 firing from the barn’s hayloft. As usual the elite’s proved tough to hit and were able to cross open ground swept by machinegun fire in reasonable order. As the British ran down the side of the garage the two German NCOs within opened fire from the windows at point-blank range, and even though I rolled three phases worth or firing I only managed to kill one man and inflict one shock (one of those phases rolled nothing by 5’s and 6’s for command dice, argh!).
Despite their mounting shock the Paras managed to charge into the garage and assault the Germans. My luck wasn’t proving any better and from 11 dice I only managed to kill one Para, while Phil managed six kills from 16 dice, which is more like what you’d expect. I didn’t bother rolling for wounds on each leader, I figured six kill results on two guys means they should be about as dead as you can be.
German force morale had been steadily chipped away by now, and the simultaneous loss of a junior and senior leader now took me down to level pegging with the Brits on 2.
I still held out some hope though, as I had a full healthy section, the enemy was obliged to advance and it only took one good wounded leader roll to save the day. Alas the British 2″ mortar suddenly decided they were actually a sniper and dropped smoke perfectly covering both windows of the barn my squad was in. For an encore they tried to clever and drop HE onto the barn, only to find they were out of ammo (good!).
The end was clearly coming, with both sides teetering close to morale collapse. The Germans hid in the barn, unable to see out but squarely on overwatch covering the doors, while the British advanced unmolested. I rolled my two command dice each phase, hoping to roll enough fives to end the turn, clear the smoke from the windows and catch the Paras in the open with an MG42. Phil kept bounding his lads across the open hoping I rolled anything except a five! Alas it wasn’t to be my lucky day, and the Paras reached the German JoP outside the barn and ended the turn themselves, knocking off the last two points of German morale and claiming the game and the campaign! It was a clean sweep for the British, their elite paratroopers proving just too much for the raw recruits of Kampfgruppe Krafft!
- Mortars are unreliable. Great when they work, but if your opponent can roll more 5’s than you during a game then he can silence them pretty easily.
- Forces with six command dice are still able to fight very effectively even on very low morale. The British successfully advanced the full length of the table when they were on 2 force morale.