Arnhem, 19th September 1944

Gaming information.

This report refers to various unit types. During the narrative I may refer to individual vehicles, guns or aircraft. Each mechanical model represents 3 to 5 real vehicles/guns/aircraft. One base of figures represents a platoon equivalent (30-40 men) at about 1:10 ratio. A wargame company is 3-5 platoons, normally 4.

07:00. It is 15 minutes before dawn. At Arnhem Bridge the 43rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, supported by a company of 1st Somerset Light Infantry, advances into the town of Arnhem. This is not good tank country. The area for about 1km around the north end of the bridge is a smoking mess of ruins. There is no sign of the British or Polish Airborne troops that should have been in possession of the bridge.

Fortunately there is no apparent German presence either.

The Somerset Light Infantry advance cautiously along the rubble-strewn main road, supported by Cromwell tanks of 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment.

To the north of Arnhem the remaining airborne troops had been ordered to regroup in the woodland at map square 1430. The company-strength group from 10 Para makes their way along the railway line towards the RV point, occupied by three companies of 2nd Bn. South Staffordshire Regiment.

On the German side, the remaining infantry of 9th SS Panzer Division have orders to move towards map square 1428, the area north of the bridge, and to continue to prevent British Airborne forces from linking up with the newly arrived ground forces. The machine gun platoon of 16th SS Training Battalion makes the greatest progress through the ruins.

Two of the 75mm anti-tank guns of 1st Artillery Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Division, are able to see and fire on the enemy.

The first gun fires at the Cromwell. The second gun fires at the infantry. Neither gun scores a kill.

The time is now 07:13.

Reacting to the enemy fire, the Somersets attack the enemy guns, supported by the fire from the tanks.

The Germans are disordered by the tank fire, and when attacked by the infantry they fall back, abandoning their guns.

10th Battalion Parachute Regiment links up with 2nd Battalion South Staffordshires.

9th SS Panzer Division continues to move south towards the north end of the bridge.

HQ 1st Artillery Battalion 10th SS Panzer Division calls in howitzer fire against the Somersets. Two 75mm guns and two 105mm guns open fire. Neither battery had any success.

The time is now 07:28

A British resupply drop arrives. 1st Airborne Division have been able to organise this by a radio link from 2nd South Staffordshires via 82nd US Airborne Division in Nijmegen. The aircraft fly in at low level to ensure that the containers are dropped in the designated area. But they fly over a battery of 88mm guns in the south of Arnhem. Taking avoiding action, the supplies are accidentally dropped about 250 yards short of the intended area.

One company of the 2nd South Staffordshires charges forwards into the northern outskirts of Arnhem to retrieve the much-needed supplies. The Machine gun and mortar companies remain in position in the woods.

10th Battalion Parachute Regiment closes up and occupies a large warehouse building.

The Somerset Light Infantry attacks the AA guns that fired on the supply aircraft. Already disordered, the gunners fall back, abandoning the guns.

43rd Reconnaissance Regiment tanks are unable to make any progress through the rubble-strewn streets.

16th SS Training Battalion Machine Gun Platoon opens up at short range on the Somersets in the ruins, but no casualties are inflicted.

One company of 1st Battalion, 9th SS fires at the tanks of 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment to no effect. A second company moves forwards into the church.

The company of 2nd Battalion 9th SS advances along the main road.

It is now 07:46

An RAF Spitfire arrives over the battlefield. The pilot has been briefed about the ground situation and will attack only the centre of Arnhem.

(Apologies for the crappy painting of roundels. This is a model from the new Memoir ‘44 expansion pack, hastily painted for the game.)

The company of 1/9SS in the ruins at the road junction dives for cover. The Spitfire flies off, job done. The pilot returns to base, reports a successful mission and enjoys tea and a tot of rum.

Meanwhile, back at the sharp end…

The SLI company attacks the 105mm howitzer company (2 guns) in the ruins to their east, but are beaten back with no substantial casualties.

43rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment are still unable to move through the ruins, but open fire against the enemy company at the crossroads, to no effect.

105mm battery of 10th SS Panzer Division fires over open sights at the Somerset Light Infantry company in the ruins.

The Machine Guns of 16th SS Training Battalion fire at the Somersets company at close (250 yards) range. HQ 1st Bn. 9th SS Panzer Division, with a spotter in the church tower, orders the mortar company to fire at the Somersets, who withdraw in good order to the main road junction.

The rifle company of the 1st Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Division advance south towards that road junction.

The company of 2nd Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Division attack the South Staffordshires as they are collecting the supply canisters. The attack is beaten back.

It is now 08:02

Behind the stalled 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment two more infantry companies of the Somerset Light Infantry are waiting.

The Somerset Light Infantry company in the city is ordered to move to the west into the ruins beside the river and attempt to outflank the enemy. The first part of the order is achieved. The tanks of 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment are still unable to pick a way through the rubble-strewn streets. However, they continue to fire on the infantry they see ahead, but do no damage.

To the north of the town the composite company of 10th Battalion Parachute Regiment and 1st Company, 2nd Battalion South Staffordshires and their 3” mortar company attacks the company from 2nd Battalion 9th SS Panzer Division.

This all-out attack eliminates the enemy company, but leaves all the attackers low on ammunition and unable to attack again without resupply. In the woods there is an unrecovered supply drop sufficient for one company. 10th Parachute Battalion takes over the road previously held by 2nd Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Division, but in a defensive mode only.

The Machine Gun Company advances from the railway southwards into the woods towards the warehouses.

The 88mm Gun battery personnel were reorganised without their guns to operate as infantry.

The 81mm mortar company of 2nd Battalion 9th SS Panzer Division fires at the Somerset Light Infantry, directed by the HQ spotter in the church tower, but again to no effect.

No other units are able to make progress through the ruins.

The time 08:14

1st Company, 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment advances southwards into the town of Arnhem.

A Squadron, 43rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment manages to move forwards, followed by the HQ squadron.

1st Company, Somerset Light Infantry advances through the ruins.

South of the Rhine, two more companies of the Somerset Light Infantry have arrived.

The mortar company of 1st Battalion 9th SS Panzer Division attacked the Somersets. The Somersets were shaken but not seriously damaged after taking shelter in the ruins. They were then assaulted by three platoons of the 1st/9th SS. The German infantry were pushed back.

16th SS Training Regiment attacked the advancing enemy tanks to no effect.

The time is now 08:29

South Staffordshires mortar company fires at the mortar companies of 1st Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Division. The bombardment is followed by an infantry assault, which is repulsed.

The Somerset Light Infantry and the lead squadron of 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment attack the disorganised infantry of 9th SS Panzer Division.

The Panzer Grenadiers flee. The tanks push on along the road.

The German 105mm howitzers fire direct at the tanks of the 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment, but no tanks are damaged.

The company of 1st Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Division in the church fires at the Somersets, but also does no damage. The commanding officer attempts to move to rally the fleeing company, but is unable to reach them.

The 16th SS machine guns fire at the tanks. The lead tank commander is shot and the others close down, throwing the squadron into confusion.

It is now 08:44

The South Staffordshires mortars on the railway line fire at the fleeing enemy infantry, directed by the officer of the rifle company in the town.

The Somersets then charge the disorganised panzer grenadiers. The company, surrounded, surrenders. One platoon of the Somersets is detached to guard the prisoners.

The South Staffordshires rifle company reorganises after the earlier repulse.

The company of 10th Battalion Parachute Regiment rushes forward to greet the Somerset Light Infantry, but the remaining 9th SS company opens fire from the church, spoiling the fun.

At 08:52 a joint attack on the church is mounted by 10th Battalion Parachute Regiment and the Somersets. The Church is taken and the last German infantry run. The Cromwells of 43rd Reconnaissance Regiment meet up with the airborne troops. Of the fourteen battalions dropped into Arnhem, little more than the equivalent of one battalion remains.

Market Garden. 18th September 1944, 18:00

Three battalions of Kamfgruppe von Tettau attacked the British re-supply drop zones.
The British had two light artillery regiments and a parachute battalion, who had been ordered to abandon the drop zone and move to the west to consolidate with troops in Arnhem.

The attack started with 1st Battalion, KG von Tettau, advancing on the right flank while the 2nd Battalion used their 75mm guns against the British artillery emplacements.

The British artillery fired on the attackers but with no noticeable effect. The Observation officer for 2nd Airlanded Light Artillery Regiment arrived and set up an OP on the forward slope from the road.

By 18:15 the German infantry had moved within small arms range of the British artillery positions and opened fire. the 75mm battery was disordered and unable to return fire. The 6pr battery fell back in disorder, abandoning their prepared positions. The German infantry continued to advance.

The 2nd Regiment OP called up fire against the Germans who had taken over the 6pr positions, but few casualties were inflicted.

The Germans now opened fire against the retreating British 6pr battery with rifles, mortars and 37mm AT guns. The British guns were eliminated. On the right flank an assault was mounted against the 75mm howitzer battery. One troop was destroyed Nd the second retreated.

2nd Airlanded Regiment RA began to move along the road towards Arnhem.

British artillery fire was inconclusive. The Germans made a few forward moves.

18:27. The Germans opened fire on the retreating British artillery and another 6pr troop was eliminated. On the German right flank the infantry attacked and destroyed one 75mm gun troop and forced a second to retreat. The British focus was now on getting as many units as possible away to the east.

The battle continued with the British trying to escape along the road to the east, towards Arnhem, as the Germans closed in from the south and west.

The artillery OP was overrun, but most of the remaining troops managed to evacuate the area. 156th Parachute Battalion suffered no casualties, but the airborne light artillery lost their HQ, 3 75mm troops and 2 6pr troops (approximately 30% casualties). The Germans came away with negligible casualties.

Positives and negatives

While I am quite pleased to find that I have almost enough buildings to cover three quarters of my table with ruins and intact buildings representing Arnhem after two days of conflict, at the same time I am disappointed that some of my more appropriate models still languish in the “to paint” box.

Final details like walls, gardens, trees, telegraph poles, etc. are to be added tomorrow before I attempt to introduce some local kids to the joys of “real” wargaming, rather than just pushing 1:35 tanks around the grass verges on the estate.

Apologies for the photo’ quality. Taken using an i-pad, floodlit by 3 multiple-LED work lights just after dusk.

Arnhem-Oosterbeek Road, 18th September 1944

Battle Report

Arnhem-Oosterbeek, 18th Sept 1944, starting at 08:00.

Three Companies of 10th Parachute Battalion from 4th Parachute Brigade, advancing from the Oosterbeek area towards Arnhem, encountered a blocking line consisting of three companies of 2nd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Regiment and two companies of 9th SS Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion.

The Panzer Grenadiers were astride the main road, while the railway line was blocked by a company of obsolete French S-35 tanks “liberated” during the retreat from Normandy.  To the rear was Hauptsturmführer Gräbner’s HQ, including his captured Humber armoured car.

The Para’s deployed and halted, calling for reinforcements from 1st Airlanding Brigade, holding the drop zones to their rear.  Pushing on to Arnhem was paramount, but they had insufficient strength on their own.

German deployment, viewed from the East

Gräbner assessed the situation and also called for support from 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, holding the Rhine railway bridge to his left.  At the same time he ordered the tanks to probe forwards.

Luckily for the paratroopers, they had a troop of 17pr Anti-tank guns in tow, which deployed  and made short work of two platoons of S-35s.  The third platoon was caught by a mortar “stonk”, which put them out of action too.

So much for the tanks! The ciows seem undisturbed by the noise.

10th Parachute Battalion deployed their 3rd company, with Vickers MG support, to their right to guard the railway line.  The intention was to use the support weapons to keep the enemy’s heads down until reinforcements arrived.

The Germans had no intention of letting that happen, so one rifle company was moved to the top of the low hill to their left flank.  Opening fire on the British before they could deploy the Vickers guns, they forced them away from the railway line.

However this forward move put the German company within range of the British mortar platoon, which swiftly retaliated.

“That’ll teach you to stand on top of a hill in a battle.”

The remains of the company moved down to the road to take some shelter in the trees that lined it.  A second company, with a MG platoon, advanced to the railway crossing near their centre.

By now the British had established their own machine guns and fired at the company in the roadside trees, causing some damage.  But this success was short-lived, for just after 08:30 two companies of 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion arrived across the railway bridge to the British right flank.

The British mortars fired again at the enemy sheltering beside the road and put the last platoon out of action.  Things were going well for the Para’s, if it were not for this new threat from the south.  But where the hell were the glider boys?

German reinforcements swarm across the bridge

The two newly-arrived German companies used their machine guns to great effect against the enemy machine gunners.  The parachute company fell apart.

The Germans were now able to advance and deploy, allowing two more reinforcing companies across the bridge.

It was now 09:00.  Three companies of the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment arrived on the northern road (British left flank).

Gräbner took control of the situation.  Spotting that the advancing British could outflank his position and march on into Arnhem, he ordered the 3rd Panzer Grenadiers to take over blocking the left flank while he shifted the two companies of the 2nd Battalion to the right, including the mortar platoon which was in the farmyard.  He moved his own HQ swiftly to block the roadway on his right flank.  Although unable to take serious offensive action he hoped this might delay the enemy long enough for 2nd Battalion to get to grips.  He also called Division HQ for support.

While the South Staffs. made their best speed along the road a company of 7th King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSBs) arrived along the Utrecht railway line in the British centre.   A few minutes later a second company of KOSBs arrived.

Under fire from the Germans moving to block them, the follow-up companies of the South Staffs abandoned the road and moved up the hill into the heavily wooded area.  

The mortar platoon of 10 Para shelled the nearest Germans in support of the KOSBs.

At 09:30 three batteries of 10th Panzer Division field artillery in Arnhem were released to Gräbner for support.  Spotting for them from his armoured car he was able to halt the South Staffs.  The whole battalion made for the woods, but continued to advance slowly around the German right flank.

They now received the attention of the German mortars, but only a few casualties were suffered.

Effective artillery and mortar fire strikes the South Staff’s.

10 Para, on the right flank, now attacked the 3rd Battalion Panzer Grenadiers

In support of the the lead Company of 7 KOSB, who swung right and took the road toward the now abandoned farm, reaching the eastern level crossing.

3rd Bn Panzer Grenadiers retaliated against 10 Para with concentrated MG and rifle fire and the Para’s gave up after severe casualties.

Two companies of South Staffs. advanced to the edge of the woods, from where they opened fire on the German HQ.  No serious damage was inflicted, but Gräbner pulled back 250 yards.

On the German side 2nd Battalion continued to attack the enemy in the woods, while a company of 3rd Battalion raced to cut off the advance of the KOSBs.

They were too late as the determined glider troops beat them to the farm.

A second company of KOSBs advanced to attack the intercepting Germans.

One company of South Staffs managed to get past the Germans and moved on towards Arnhem.

Shortly after 10:00 a second artillery barrage drove the remaining South Staffordshires back into the woods with further casualties.

As the lead KOSB company continued to advance down the main road Gräbner realised that he was outflanked and pulled the rest of 2nd Battalion back to form another blocking line further east.

3rd Battalion dug in to defend the rail bridge from further attack from the north side.  Firing could now be heard from the south bank of the Rhine, but that is another story.

Total losses during this engagement (killed, wounded and missing)

Germans: 27%, British 33%

The cost had been high, but the British were one step closer to relieving their friends on the road bridge.

Serendipity and repurposing

It is a well known fact that in our household very few purchases (except food) are used for their intended pupose.  So it was no surprise that when I spotted in the centre aisle of our local Lidl a pack of brown felt pads for the protection of shiny floors against furniture legs for less than 2 pounds/dollars/euros that I snapped them up for potential wargames use.

(I since bought a supplementary pack of beige ones, which have vanished after arriving home.)

The pack has circular pads of 32x10mm, 36x15mm and 48x20mm; square pads of 20x20mm and one sheet 200x200mm.  All are about 2mm thick.

Felt pads. 15mm versions used up.

Coincidentally, within a week I needed to create for the Market Garden campaign a wargaming area of heathland in 6mm.

Some time ago I bought from eBay some Chinese model trees as an alternative to the “flocked bottle brush” type of which I already have plenty.  Examples below.

In the pack were lots of tiny trees which remained in the box for potential future use.

“Aha!” thinks I, “This is my serendipitous moment.”

By twisting the miniscule tree trunks together and pressing them onto to the sticky side of the felt pads I managed to create  clumps of bushes.  The felt underside helps prevent them from being inadvertantly moved against the flocked base terrain hexagons.

I may decide to use my previously described method of coating the bushes with diluted PVA glue and baking in the oven at a low heat to solidify the models, but for the time being they will suffice, when properly placed, interspersed with occasional trees, to represent my heathland.

Anachronisms and organisation

Someone on Channel 5’s “Great British Model Railway Challenge” first episode commented that in the recent film “Dunkirk”, the characters boarded a 1960s train.

Sorry, but that film began to lose me within the first two minutes when our hero walked past an obviously late 20th century building. I think the producers or directors may have been too caught up in the actual location to seek a realistic location.

And today, while clearing up and meticulously filing (yes – I am getting organised) models from my most recent wargame I have “The Cockleshell Heroes” on the TV in the background. A gratuitous and unnecessary* side shot of a German warship clearly bearing a British frigate reference number. Showing the crew wearing German hats a few moments later does not rectify the glaring error.

But while organising my 1:285 and 1:300 scale models I see that I have far too many 1940 Germans representing 1944 types – exactly like most film costume designers.
And I have created Arnhem with British church ruins and Normandy shops. Who am I to criticise?

Incidentally, during a TV advertisement break in the film I was informed that Colgate toothpaste is created by professionals. Well, that’s another worry resolved!

*Gratuitous and unnecessary. Is that tautology? I stand open to correction from fellow pedants.

Arnhem 18th September 1944: forces

It is 06:00, dawn on the second day of Operation Market Garden.  The British airborne forces hold the main road bridge at Arnhem, but are under severe pressure from German forces of 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions.

Forces deployed are as below:

British forces.

1st Airborne Recce Sqn. with machine guns, 1 rifle company of 2nd Bn, Parachute Regt., 2 rifle companies of 3rd Bn, Parachute Regt. (one supported with 3” mortars).  These forces hold the northern approach to the road bridge across the Rhine.

1st and 11th Battalions, Parachute Regiment, approaching from the west.

German forces

1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Regt., approaching from the north:

16th SS Training Battalion, now including the Bridge Defence Company,  in the centre of Arnhem:

1st Artillery Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Division, in the east of Arnhem, north of the Rhine.

Purists will note that many of the German forces are equipped with 1940 period uniforms and vehicle paint schemes, and that some of the British airborne forces, particularly machine gunners,  are represented by regular infantry.  Also that many bases still need to be scenically completed.

In the interests of pushing the campaign forwards, I intend to overlook these minor issues for the time being.