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.

Market Garden. Feeling pleased

I have had a major clear out and tidy up of the Shedquarters, because tomorrow a group of young local lads will be visiting the Shedquarters to try their hand at a wargame for the first time. I am chucking one of them in at the deep end, as he has one company of Polish paratroopers with a 20mm AT gun against three companies of PanzerGrenadiers, one company of recruits and three batteries of medium/heavy artillery.

But they are hiding in the ruins of what used to be Arnhem. some pictures follow:

But still somehow this all looks too neat and tidy. I have to leave room to place the troop bases, but I would sill prefer a more “organic” look, especially after the destruction. The “aerial” shots make it look like the bulldozers have been in and it’s at least a month after the battle.

Ideas anyone???

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.

Market Garden: Action at Arnhem Railway Bridge

I played a quick action today of a German attack across the railway bridge at Arnhem.
The rules were my adapted version of Richard Borg’s Memoir ’44.
The only adaptation in use today was that the number of command cards held was a factor of the number of platoon-sized bases on the table. As casualties are suffered or re-inforcements arrive the number of cards held will fluctuate.

The picture shows the view from the south (German) side of the bridge.
3rd PanzerGrenadier Battalion was attacking across the bridge against 7th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSBs). They were supported by 2nd PanzerGrenadier Battalion attacking from the east, on the north side of the Rhine.
7th KOSBs had the potential support of 10th Battalion Parachute Regiment from the north, but at the start of the action, at 18:00 on 18th September, the British were outnumbered 2:1.

At this point I must apologise to my PBEM generals for a basic error. The actual forces on each side were company sized, but I forgot and placed them at battalion size. However, it made for a more interesting battle and the result is perfectly acceptable for the campaign.

The Germans commenced with a mortar attack in support of an infantry assault across the bridge. At the same time 2nd Battalion advanced from the east. The British responded by a double counter-charge supported by mortars. The counter-attack across the bridge was partially successful but on the east flank the enemy was driven back with heavy casualties.

2nd PanzerGrenadier Battalion recovered and attacked again, surrounding the British company and eliminating it. 3rd PanzerGrenadier Battalion, with the help of their mortar platoon, gradually wore down the British on the railway bridge, then after around 45 minutes fighting both battalions surged forwards, surrounding the last elements of the KOSBs, who had been unable to withdraw to the comparative safety of Oosterbeek.

10th Battalion Parachute Regiment never appeared.

Casualties (dead,wounded and missing): British 100%, Germans 26%

Unexpected Consequences

It is very easy when playing a wargame to lose sight of the objectives.  When playing a campaign it is easier to focus on what needs to be acheived rather than the obvious quick results.  When playing a game within a campaign to other people’s instructions it focuses the mind even more.  When the game involves a card-based order system this complicates the situation.

This was my latest challenge, west of Arnhem on 18th September 1944.

Orders:

The British troops [green tokens] from 1st Airborne Division have an overall objective to push through the town towards the Arnhem road bridge in support of the troops holding the bridge.  They were also tasked with doing maximum damage to enemy armour.

The Polish battalion [yellow tokens] was in defensive mode, protecting the southern end of the railway bridge across the Rhine.

The Germans [black tokens] were initially on the defensive.  Their objective was to destroy as many allied units as possible, and to retake the railway bridge.

Allied forces:

2nd Bn South Staffordshires (Glider Infantry):

     1 HQ Platoon, 3 rifle platoons, 1 MG Platoon.

10th Bn Parachute Regiment:

     1 HQ Platoon

7th Bn King’s Own Scottish Borderers (Glider Infantry)

     9 rifle platoons, 3 mortar platoons

1st Battalion Polish Independent Parachute Brigade

     11 rifle platoons, 1 MG platoon.

Off-table artillery support from two batteries of 75mm Howitzers of 1st Air-Landed Light Battery Royal Artillery.

German forces:

9th SS Armoured Recce Bn.

     3 platoons SdKfz222 scout cars.

2nd PanzerGrenadier Bn, 9th SS Panzer Div.

     9 rifle platoons, 2 mortar platoons, 1 panzerfaust platoon.

3rd PanzerGrenadier Bn, 9th SS Panzer Div.

     1 HQ platoon, 11 rifle platoons, 1 MG platoon.

I use the Memoir ‘44 game system, with some house rules for equipment types not covered in the game.  For example, light armoured cars move like supply trucks but fight like half-tracks. Off-table artillery is activated by “barrage” cards, and if appropriate by artillery order cards.

Game set up

For campaign games I allocate command cards by dividing the number of platoon elements by three.  As casualties are suffered or reinforcements arrived, the hand of cards is recalculated.   This reproduces the friction of battle: as casualties are suffered the number of command choices is reduced.

Victory points are calculated by the number of company units of the smaller force divided by two.  But points are won by achieving goals for the battle or campaign as set by the remote generals.For this battle, Victory points were set at 4.  Allies win 1 VP if the enemy armoured unit is destroyed, and 1 VP for each company that leaves the board by the eastern edge, towards the Arnhem road bridge.  Germans win 1 VP for every allied company destroyed and 1 VP for possession of the rail bridge.

Battle Report

The South Staffordhire’s opened the action with a surprise assault against about a dozen light armoured cars (SdKfz222) in the yard of the Arnhem railway station.  Leaving three or four ablaze they then moved on into the town itself, heading for the road bridge.

South of the river the 3rd PzGren Bn charged the Polish paras south of the bridge.  The Poles fell back with light casualties.  They called in artillery support which pounded the Germans and caused heavy casualties.  The Germans attacked again at close range, this time inflicting heavier casualties, and the Poles retreated, followed up by the victorious Germans.  One Polish platoon counterattacked, inflicting light casualties on the Germans and halting their chase.

Back to the north of the Rhine 2nd Bn commenced mortar fire on the KOSBs. Light casualties were inflicted.  The KOSB mortars replied, and the Germans lost about one third of their number.

The Germans’ answer was to advance to closer range and use the rifle platoons against the KOSBs.  One British company fell back with light casualties and another took several hits.

South of the river the 3rd Bn kept up the pressure on the Poles, effectively wiping out two of the three companies defending the bridge.

\With the situation south of the river getting desperate the KOSBs pressed on with their objective.  The mortars fired again causing very heavy casualties on the enemy and opening up the possibility of breaking through.

In the Polish sector the Germans attacked again and drove the remaining Polish paras away from the bridge, taking control of the railway line.

The KOSBs pushed eastwards and fired at the defending Germans with minimal result.

The Poles charged the Germans on the railway line and retook the south end of the bridge.

The Germans now launched an all-out assault, wiping out the last of the Polish defenders and driving the KOSBs back.  The KOSBs began to dig in where they stood.

In the final act the Germans moved their last remaining company south of the river onto the railway bridge, achieving their objective.

Summary

A battle which the British initiated, with the idea of pushing forwards north of the Rhine, but which was ultimately lost to the south of the river.  Each player started with a wide range of options from the command cards (10 and 9 respectively), but the Germans managed to play aggressively on the south flank, forcing the Allied player to respond to his moves.  When the allied player had a chance, his cards were used well to break down the enemy force, but that, in this battle, did not score him any points.  It may help for the future, but we shall see…

Eventually both sides were reduced to only 4 command cards.

Casualties:

Allies 18/30 = 60%

Germans 16/28 = 57%

Not good news for the newspapers on either side!