The Battle of Newhaven 17 September 1940

H Newhaven 17 06i burning warehouses

This engagement was fought using 3mm models on a grid of 10cm hexagonal landscaped tiles.  The rules were my own fast-play set.  One base represents a platoon or equivalent and the battle rules are of the “bang, you’re dead” variety.  However, actual casualties are recorded and companies can regroup with reduced numbers for the next action.

Newhaven: 17th September 1940, 06:00 – 08:20

The area of Newhaven was held by the 29th Infantry Battalion Group, consisting of four infantry rifle companies, an HQ company with AT Rifle and mortar platoons, supported by two engineer platoons and a battery of 25pr Guns.

The Royal Scots Fusiliers were occupying Newhaven Fort and a large warehouse complex at the port.  The Royal Welch were in Seaford to the east.  Between these two were the 2nd East Lancs. entrenched north of the railway line, and the 2nd South Lancs. were held in reserve on the high ground to the north.  The 25pr battery was further north and all the other troops were in Newhaven town, clustered around the railway station.

At 06:00 the two 88mm guns on a ferry offshore opened fire on the warehouses on the quay and the first barges began to move in towards the beach area between Newhaven port and Seaford.

The barge carrying part of 1st Company 28th Infantry drifted a little too close to Seaford and the riflemen of the Royal Welch defending the town opened fire, accounting for two men.  The Germans were stalled for some minutes.

H Newhaven 17 06h Seaford
The Germans land at Seaford

By 06:10 most of 2nd and 3rd Companies of the 28th had disembarked on the beach with the Battalion HQ.  They moved cautiously through the marked minefields which turned out to be dummies.  The 88s continued to shell the warehouses and set fire to one of the buildings.

The East Lancs. opened fire from their trenches against the German Infantry killing one and wounding two of 3rd Company.  1st Company took two more hits from the Royal Welch in Seaford.  They fell back towards the rest of the battalion on the beach.

As the main thrust of the German attack became clear the South Lancs. began to advance to support the East Lancs. in the centre.  Meanwhile the two platoons of the Royal Scots abandoned the burning warehouses and moved west towards the river.

The British commander ordered the 2pr AT gun stationed at the SE corner of Newhaven to move up to Newhaven Fort to try to do something about the ferry with the Flak guns.  The 3″ Mortar Platoon moved forwards to the Newhaven railway crossing.

H Newhaven 17 06c fort and harbour
A view of the fort and the harbour area with the main landing beach and Seaford in the background,

2nd Company 28th Infantry managed to get its MG into action against the East Lancs. trenches, but without effect.  The rest of 1st Company disembarked directly into Seaford at 06:15.  The Royal Welch fired from the houses, but no casualties were inflicted on the Germans.  The East Lancs. managed to wound one of 2nd Company.

German return fire, both against the British trenches and the Royal Welch in Seaford, was heavy but totally ineffective.

A second wave of barges began to make its way towards the beach.

A couple of minutes later the British rifles began to tell, a total of four Germans killed and five wounded.  1st Company 28th Battalion was forced back out of Seaford.

3rd and 4th Platoons Royal Scots managed to cross the river and halted under the lee of the hill on which the fort was built.  The 2pr AT gun platoon entered the fort and began to manhandle the gun onto the eastern wall.

At 06:20 the AA guns switched their attention to the East Lancs. in their trenches, but missed.  The German MGs had more success, killing and wounding three of the East Lancs. and killing one of the Royal Welch.  8th Pioneer Company disembarked with 4th Company of 28th Battalion and the MG Platoon of 3rd Company.  A 20mm AA gun mounted on a half-track also came ashore near Seaford.

At 06:25 the Germans concentrated almost all of their machine guns and the mortar on the trenches occupied by the East Lancs. Three men were killed and one wounded.  8th Pioneer Company and the remaining rifle platoons advanced to close with the East Lancs. while the SP AA gun moved up to the railway crossing at Seaford.

H Newhaven 17 06f
The German MGs begin to clear the British trenches.

The German flamethrower badly burned two men of 4th Platoon of the East Lancs., and the rest of the company fled.

At 06:30 the German infantry moved into the abandoned trench line.  They were now faced by the South Lancs. who had moved up to the main east-west road.  The German machine guns killed two and wounded two of them.  In an exchange of fire between the British 2pr gun and the German 88s, no hits were scored.

At 06:40 the Germans brought a 105mm howitzer ashore.  At Seaford 1st Company 28th lost its MG and crew to rifle fire.  The now exposed Battalion HQ retired to join the rest of the battalion in the centre.

H Newhaven 17 06b
The 105mm Howitzer approaching the beach east of Newhaven

The British commander ordered the 25pr battery forward onto the hill overlooking the beach.  The battery was suffering from the lack of an observer team and were forced to resort to direct firing.

At 06:45 the German 88s managed to destroy the 2pr gun in the fort, wounding one of the crew.  The 105mm howitzer unlimbered to fire at Seaford.  The British 3″ mortar shelled the German artillery and knocked out the prime mover.

At 06:50 the next wave of German reinforcements began their run ashore. Two companies of the 84th Battalion headed for the beach area, while the 88mm guns ineffectually fired at Seaford.

The combined MGs and mortar of 28th Battalion fired at 1st Platoon South Lancs. and wiped it out.  3rd Platoon of the Royal Welch took a hit from the 105mm gun.

The British Commander took stock of the situation.  His centre had collapsed and the Seaford garrison was down to half strength operational.  Newhaven town and fort were still held in some strength but it was clear that the Germans were bringing in more troops and vehicles in the centre.  His own main strength now was the mortar platoon and the 25pr battery which was preparing to unlimber.

At 06:55 the 88mm guns switched their attention to the Royal Scots outside the fort, killing one man and wounding a further three.  This was the last of their ammunition and the ferry headed back out to sea.  The 105mm gun and the SP 20mm failed to hit anything in Seaford.

The German MGs from 2, 3 and 4 companies of the 28th moved forwards towards the main road, while the 5th and 6th companies of the 84th Battalion landed behind them.

The British mortar platoon attacked the 8th Pioneer Company and drove it back with casualties.

At 07:00 the 105mm gun hit a platoon of the Royal Welch Fusiliers in Seaford.  One man was killed and two wounded.  The Royal Welch pulled back and headed towards Cuckmere Haven.  The remains of the German 28th Battalion began to swing towards the west and the harbour area.  The 81mm mortar platoon bombarded the 25pr battery which replied and disabled the mortar, wounding one man.

The British commander began to make preparations for a strategic withdrawal.  He sent the two companies of engineers and the transport companies towards the fort.  Meanwhile the 3″ mortar platoon shelled the German pioneer company near the warehouse complex.  One man was killed, two were wounded and the company ceased to function.

At 07:10 the 105mm battery redeployed to face the 25pr battery to the north.  5th company 84th Battalion consolidated north of the beach while 6th Company moved into Seaford.

The 25pr guns shelled the German artillery and spectacularly blew up the ammo truck.  The Germans now had only 3 rounds for the 105mm.  The 3″ mortar turned its attention on the machine guns of 28th Battalion, with a couple of near misses.

By 07:25 the British trucks arrived at Newhaven Fort.  The remaining two platoons of the Royal Scots embarked while the Engineers began to prepare the landward side of the fort for demolition.  Artillery exchanges were ineffectual.

Two more companies of 84th Infantry Battalion disembarked on the beaches with their battalion HQ and two vehicles, a SP AT gun and a towed 2cm FLAK gun.

At 07:30 another wave of German reinforcements began to approach the beach.

H Newhaven 17 06p
The landing of the 84th Battalion

The SP 2cm gun moved around the eastern flank of the 25prs.  The German infantry of 84th Battalion began to probe northwards, but the 25prs shelled them, killing a further three men.

At 07:45 the guns and 3″ mortar caused a further three casualties to 5th Company 84th Battalion, but at 07:50 the 105mm gun fired its last ammunition and knocked out one of the 25prs and its prime mover. 1 crew member was killed and 3 wounded.  The remaining gun prepared to move out of danger.

The Royal Scots began to move back from Newhaven Fort on the road to Newhaven Town.  The German infantry commenced their move on Newhaven using the main road, but the 3″ mortar laid down suppressive fire on them.  On the hill the 2cmm SP AA gun shot at the remaining 25pr, disabling the gun and wounding two of the crew.

At 08:10 the northern wall of Newhaven Fort collapsed with an almighty explosion as the Royal Engineers made their withdrawal towards Newhaven.  All British units commenced their move north from Newhaven towards Lewes, with the 3” mortar unit maintaining the fire for as long as possible.

At 08:20 the first German bicycle troops began to land and move forwards to occupy Newhaven.


Published by

General Whiskers

Wargaming butterfly (mainly solo), unpainted model figure amasser, and Historical Re-enactor of the black powder era.

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