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.

Market Garden – preparation for day 2

Since the last Market Garden report, what has been happening?
In effect, lots of preparation for day 2.

Guards Armoured Division has moved into Eindhoven and faces opposition.
The British force consists of 7 units of 2nd (Armoured) Regt. Irish Guards, 6 units of 1st (Motorised) Battalion Grenadier Guards and 4 units of 2nd (Recce) Regt. Household Cavalry.

I fight the tactical battles with Memoir ’44 rules.
Using known troop types available I use the Memoir 44 battle dice to determine the exact available force composition for the local commander.   This gives me more interesting battles and my e-mail commanders extra tactical issues to consider.  I use a conversion from campaign strength to unit makeup as follows: One strength point = 1 die = 1 company or equivalent game unit.  Note that overnight lost strength points in the campaign may be recovered if the unit is resting.

The British order of battle  for the attack on Eindhoven thus became:
1. Arm’d Regt. HQ (Stuart, “Dingo”, Jeep)
2. 3 Sherman 75s + 1 17pr “Firefly”
3. 3 Sherman 75s + 1 17pr “Firefly”
4. 3 Stuart 37mm
5. 2 M10 17 pr “Achilles”
6. 2 x 17pr + 1/2 track
7. 2 x 17pr + 1/2 track
8. Inf.Bn HQ (Jeep, 15cwt Truck, WT Truck)
9. 4 Rifle Plns + 2 3-Ton trucks
10. 3 Rifle Plns, 1 6pr Gun, 4 1/2 tracks
11. 3 Rifle Plns, 1 6pr Gun, 4 1/2 tracks
12. 3 Rifle Plns, 1 3″ Mortar Pln., 4 1/2 tracks
13. 3 Rifle Plns, 1 3″ Mortar Pln., 4 1/2 tracks
14. 3 Daimler 1 2pr Arm’d Cars
15. 3 Staghound 37mm Arm’d Cars
16. 3 Daimler “Dingo” Scout Cars
17. 3 Daimler “Dingo” Scout Cars

And so I had to start creating some of the units. The Shermans and infantry were already in stock, but I had no Achilles tank destroyers – or so I thought – and no 17pr AT guns.
I set to work with my 3D printer, using M Bergman’s wonderful templates on Thingiverse.com.
Having printed, assembled and painted two Achilles models, I found that I had in the loft a pack of five GHQ models unopened, so I started again.

As for the 17pr guns, these things are always a problem for 3D printing in small scales.  The template provides them on end, standing on the trail. They are designed as 1:200 models, so I start by reducing them to 70% size for 1/285.

A couple of test prints gave me some plastic sclptures that will paint up nicely as trees or bushes!

I rotated the model to print in its normal deployed position. Therefore I needed to add supports for the barrel. After printing, cutting these away without destroying the barrel was a problem (see the header photo).  There is an idea to try to paint them draped in camo netting, but I am also considering removing the barrel and drilling a hole for a pin instead.

Meanwhile I have ordered at considerable expense some GHQ models (The very reason I bought a 3D printer was to avoid this sort of cost) and expect to be fiddling about with superglue some time next week.

Operation Sealion. The Battle of Brighton – 06:30-07:00

Eventually I have reached 90 minutes into the German attack on Brighton.  This battle is beginning to look like the representation of Stalingrad refought by Lionel Tarr in the 1960s and referenced in Donald Featherstone’s books “War Games” and “Advanced War Games”

The following are the reports sent at 07:00 to the German and British overall commanders in this Play by E-mail campaign.  The battle has now reached 07:30 but for security reasons I am publishing one half hour in arrears.

Brighton 18th September 1940 British 0700

Brighton 18th September 1940 German 0700

Operation Sealion – The Battle of Brighton

Hello followers,

Well, it has been a while since I posted, and here is why.

  1. Ongoing arguments between insurers and builders about the re-instatement of our house as it was before the fire of 4th July.
  2. Arguments with caravan insurers, purchasing a replacement caravan and trying to find someone who would insure the replacement.
  3. Finding somewhere to keep the new caravan while the builders – if we ever get any – repair the house and re-fence the garden.
  4. Sourcing a new garden shed/workshop.  Achieved as a local contractor will build a bespoke shed to fit the space available.
  5. Buying an awning that fits the new caravan, and, as yet not begun, selling the old one.
  6. Undergoing a biopsy to investigate my almost certain cancer.

and finally, the fact that I am running a PBEM wargame and anything that I post will be visible to both commanders.

So, with the game now poised at 07:00 18th September 1940, here are the battle reports for the previous 30 minutes from 06:00 to 06:30.

The situation is the German attack on Brighton, with the intention of capturing Shoreham harbour to allow unloading of armoured units.

Brighton 18th September 1940 British 0630

Brighton 18th September 1940 German 0630