The Defence of Bilsington 17 Sept 1940

The Defence of Bilsington

17 September 1940. 09:30 – 13:00

This was an interesting engagement. Here is the battle map supplied to both sides:

map-11-bilsington-6mmThe commanders are asked to give orders using map squares for reference. The hex grid is for my use when creating the battlefield and fighting the battle.

The British commander had forces retreating from the south after a previous engagement. There were several depleted infantry companies and three intact batteries of 25 pdr artillery, with the Brigade and Artillery HQ units. He also had reinforcements from the north: a machine gun company of four platoons, an engineer platoon and a squadron of three troops of Matilda 1 tanks.

His plan was as follows:

“The broad plan will be for the fresh troops coming from the north to take up defensive positions in and around the village to cover the bridge. The depleted forces will fall back through the village. The force will look to hold the river line, their exact response will depend on the size of the enemy forces and the security of their flanks.

More specifically, the two infantry companies from C1 (road from the north) will take positions in the village and on each flank to cover the bridge. The Matildas will wait at the crossroads as reserve, particularly against anything crossing the river to east or west. The engineers will prepare the bridge for demolition.

The three RA batteries from D4 (road from the south) will pass through the village and unlimber on the hill in C/D1. The infantry coming up the road will rally at the crossroads and those elements not too battered will also form a reserve.

The remains of the two Somerset companies (arriving from the south-west) will move north to the river. If they can cross they will, and fall back towards the village. If not they will move east to the bridge. This will also give the British commanders information about the fordability of the river, and hence the security of their flanks.

Once all the force is on the north bank they will establish their defensive positions and await developments. They will leave the bridge intact is case further British elements appear, but at the first sign of enemy approaching the bridge should be blown. They should hold the river line unless threatened by overwhelming strength, especially from enemy who have crossed the river and approach from the flanks.”

He was unaware that the Germans would be attacking from the east, and therefore north of his defended river line.

Here is the German plan. The German player was aware of the retreating British forces that he wished to cut off, but not of the British reinforcements from the north.

“Expected arrivals in game terms, with draft orders:

Turn 1.  Artillery HQ, 105mm howitzer with 1/2 track and supply truck, 75mm infantry gun and two trucks. 3 x 37mm AT guns with 3 trucks, SP 20mm Flak gun, SP 47mm AT gun.

Orders: SP guns to move directly to the village, then swing south towards the bridge.  37mm guns to take up defensive positions in the village, covered by 75mm gun.  105mm to take position to cover both village and bridge, with artillery HQ.

Turn 5. (approx).  Infantry Regimental HQ, SP 20mm Flak, 150mm Howitzer with 1/2 track & supply truck, Bicycle Infantry Company.

Orders.  Artillery to take position with 105mm battery.  Infantry to move to village and then towards the river line taking defensive posture.  SP Flak gun to take post at crossroads.

Turn 13. (approx). 1 Infantry Company and 2 Rifle Platoons, 3 Pioneer platoons (one with flamethrowers).

Orders. To move towards village or river line as the situation demands.

Turn 17. (approx). 1 Infantry Company.  To be deployed as the situation demands.”

I played this game using my amended memoir 44 rules. The main changes, apart from weapon capabilities for 1940, were to the order structure. Memoir 44 is a card-driven game and players’ orders are restricted by the cards they have in their hand at each turn. Both sides were restricted further due to the fact that they initially had troops only in a limited sector of the battlefield, so cards ordering troops in the left, right or centre sectors could be useless. The number of cards issued to each player was equal to the number of HQ and Radio truck units available added to the number of flags rolled with all eight battle dice. As it happened, neither side rolled any flags, and so the cards were 5 to the British and 3 to the Germans.

Because I was using 3-D terrain (incidentally the models are from Odzial Osmy’s 3mm range and the terrain hexagons are based on Warbases’ 6cm hexagon MDF tiles), the deployment of model bases could not be the same as in the board game. I therefore decided that each base would form a “unit” in M44 terms for all combat purposes, but that for orders, each campaign unit would be treated as a “unit”.  Example: 8/RTS (8th Royal Tank Squadron – reduced scale from 8th Royal Tank Regiment) had three models, representing 1st, 2nd and 3rd troops. Each model could fire individually and take three hits before being destroyed. However, they could be deployed in separate hexagons, but commanded as one unit.

I also expanded the “Command Car” rule to include radio trucks, so that the potential orders in any one sector could be increased. This all helped to limit the sometimes stilted nature of the game where units with clear orders can fail to move for several turns while attention is diverted elsewhere according to the turn of the card.

And so to the battle. I kept a track of the time for each turn (1 average die x minutes per player turn) but will not report it as it seems disruptive to the narrative.

(Note: due to automatic corrective text editing, the expression “anti-tank” has been rendered as “Ant-tank” several times.  Apologies.)

Also the reference to 6th Dorsets in the narrative should be 6th Devonshire Battalion.

Word version:


PDF version


An engagement at Postling

Continuing the saga of Operation Sealion, it is now 10:00 am on 17th September 1940 and British reinforcements moving towards Lympne run into a German Parachute Battalion near Postling.

Here is the battle report.  In hindsight it appears from the photographs that the spitfire mentioned in the report is actually a hurricane, but as far as the Germans were concerned it felt like a spitfire!

Word document: battle-report-j-postling-17-sep-1000-1200

PDF: battle-report-j-postling-17-sep-1000-1200



Defence of Lympne Airfield 17 Sept 1940

The latest action in my PBEM campaign of Operation Sealion – the German invasion of Britain in 1940.  The campaign is fought using the rules supplied by S-2 Shop Productions, which is a useful guide with orders of battle, but also has several failings in accuracy.

Background:  At 01:00 on 17th September 1940 3rd Fallschirmjaeger Battalion landed and captured Lympne Airfield in Kent.  The attached reports document the first British counter-attack.

I have created the report in a PDF format for quick viewing and also a Word document for those who wish to view the photographs in greater detail.

Word  Battle report K Lympne 17 Sep 0920 – 1140

PDF  Battle report K Lympne 17 Sep 0920 – 1140


A Blast from the Past

One of my roles in re-enactment is that of a pensioner of les Invalides at the time of Napoleon I.  It is a totally inaccurate representation as I still own two arms and two legs, and thus would be disqualified!

In that role I like to demonstrate, and to encourage visitors to play, a small game whereby I relive my past glories and try to rectify the errors of the past. This game has evolved over the years and is now played in a form akin to chess, on a card table ruled into 144 squares.  I can set up a fictitious battle or a stylised representation of any of the battles of “my youth”.

Today I played a solo game of an actual battle – or as near as I could represent it.  The original battle was fought between less than 700 troops, so it could be represented on my table almost on a 1 figure:1 soldier basis.

Here is the latest version of the rules, updated after this battle ton reduce infantry firing range.  The latest version restricts infantry shooting to one square range, but differentiates between moving to attack or shooting without moving.  Unlike many wargames, shooting without moving is less effective than when moving.  This is because the first reperesents trading volleys while the second represents a column attack.Battle Chess 1800

And here is the report of the skirmish at Rumégies in May 1792, played to the above rules. Rumegies 17920519

An interesting exercise, taking a couple of hours from start to finish including the reporting and photography, all done on an i-Pad in my ManCave.




Battle Report – Cuckmere Haven

As a departure from the normal games in my Operation Sealion e-mail campaign, this was a relatively small, company level, skirmish.

The report is attached as a PDF and as a Word document which should allow expansion of the pictures.

PDF version Battle report G Cuckmere Haven 0900-0935

MS Word version  Battle report G Cuckmere Haven 0900-0935

Sealion: Winchelsea 17 September 1939 07:30-09:00

Here is the report of the battle at Winchelsea on 17th September 1940.  This was an opposed landing, actually opposed only by a single Vickers Machine Gun team in a pill box.

Battle report D Winchelsea 17 Sep 0730-0900


Battle report: Rye, 17 September 1940, 08:17-10:15

This battle, part of my Play By E-mail campaign of Operation Sealion, was fought using 3mm models by Osmy Oddzial on scratch-built terrain built on Kallistra Hexon tiles.

08:17. 62nd Infantry Battalion suffered from Communications issues.  The 88mm guns offshore and the supporting destroyer had no visible targets.  However the 81mm mortar platoon of 4th Company, 19th Infantry Battalion was able to see the 1st machine gun platoon of 7th Devons, but unfortunately unable to hit anything.  2nd Company 19th Battalion also fired on them but also missed.

The machine gun platoon of 1st Company 19th managed to hit and wound one of the gunners of 4 Platoon 7th Devons further along the main road.  The 19th Battalion continued to press westwards towards the stream running west of Camber Castle.

62nd Infantry Battalion’s task was to advance from Rye Harbour towards Rye Town along the minor road, but first most of them had to pass through the now blazing village.

On the northeast flank the pioneers who had landed east of the river began to clear the barbed wire from the beach.  Offshore the barges were milling about, but one more barge with two 75mm infantry guns landed at the beach where the pioneers were working.

08:18 The Royal Artillery spotter concentrated the fire of all six 25pr guns on 5th and 6th companies of 62nd Infantry Battalion moving out of Rye Harbour along the road.  Despite the cover from the hedgerows one man was killed and three wounded.

C Rye 17 08 a The road to Rye

2nd Platoon 7th Devons fired at the pioneers near the destroyed bridge wounding one of them.  All available British infantry, including the motorcycle platoon, were rushed towards the southwest flank where the Germans were approaching in force.  The Royal Irish Fusiliers north of the river moved into the northeast end of Rye.

08:24 The 62nd Infantry Battalion around Rye Harbour gathered in stragglers to their respective companies while the 19th Battalion was ordered to move westwards from the beachhead southwest of Rye Harbour.  All Regimental Assets were ordered to land wherever they could get ashore and regroup later.

The machine gun of 3rd Company 19th fired from the central tower of the castle and wiped out 4th Platoon of 7th Devons, killing two men and wounding the other one.

C Rye 17 08 b Camber Castle

In the northeast the pioneers and one machine gun platoon moved off the beach, while behind them two 75mm gun platoons made their way across the beach.

08:30. The Royal Artillery Spotter lost contact with his Regimental HQ, thus allowing the Germans a brief chance to consolidate.  2nd Platoon, 7th Devons used their Vickers machine gun against the last of 2nd Platoon 62nd Infantry east of the destroyed bridge, wounding one man, while 1st platoon wasted ammunition against the German Machine Gunners in the castle tower.

The remnants of the battered machine gun platoons of 7th Company Devons loaded up and began to withdraw in their 15cwt trucks toward Rye while the infantry were trucked south to replace them.

08:31. Any targets for the offshore guns were blocked by other barges across the line of sight of the spotter.  19th Battalion’s mortar fired at the British motorcyclists but failed to do any damage, as did two machine guns.

The first platoon of 1st Company 19th struggled across the stream southwest of the castle while the 62nd Battalion continued to push along the minor road from Rye Harbour.

The two infantry guns got off the beach in the northeast while another barge beached immediately southwest of Rye Harbour.

08:33. The guns of the Royal Artillery concentrated on the captured trucks and German infantry east of the destroyed bridge but achieved nothing but to churn up the grass.  The British machine guns were just as effective.  The two 15cwt trucks arrived at Rye while the motorcyclists dismounted at the southwest end of the defensive line along the Winchelsea Road.

08:35. No sooner had the motorcyclists dismounted than one was killed by a mortar shell and the others fled.  Rye was also shelled by mortars but no damage was done.

Two more platoons of 1st Company 19th Infantry Battalion managed to cross the stream southwest of the castle, leaving only the machine gun platoon to catch up as it could.

C Rye 17 08 c Winchelsea Road

On the road from Rye Harbour the two machine gun platoons of 4th Company 62nd Infantry waited for their mortar platoon to dismount the tubes and join them. The pioneers began to move westwards along the northern river bank while the 75mm guns deployed to their northeast.

Two 37mm anti-tank guns disembarked on the beach southwest of Rye Harbour

C Rye 17 08 d Rye Harbour

08:38.  Despite the smoke around the bridge the RA spotter was able to make out movement around the captured lorries lined up on the road.  He plastered the area again, but continued to hit nothing.  The supporting machine guns west of the bridge had more success though, killing one German and wounding a second.  That put paid to 7th Company, 62nd Infantry and left 62nd Battalion HQ isolated in the front line!

The remnants of 6th and 8th Company Devonshires debussed to the west of the main road near the castle and prepared to take up defensive positions.

08:42.  The two 88mm guns opened up again against Rye town.  Although one shell landed close to a 15cwt truck, no damage was suffered.

The pioneers continued westwards along the northern river bank while the newly-arrived 37mm guns began to circumnavigate the larger lake, moving to the southwest.  They were met by two more barges, one with the third anti-tank gun and a SP 20mm AA gun, and another with two platoons of cyclists.

C Rye 17 08 e German cyclists landing

The fourth platoon of 1st Company 19th Infantry Battalion joined their comrades on the western bank of the stream to the southwest, while the heavy weapons company moved up to the stream in an attempt to follow them.

C Rye 17 08 f 19th Bn close up

08:43. The 25pr guns destroyed two of the three captured lorries on the road east of the destroyed bridge, but hurt no Germans in the process.  The two machine guns also fired and suppressed the 62nd Battalion HQ.

As the rifles of 6th and 8th Devonshires moved forwards the Anti-tank team of 62nd AT Battery embussed for the withdrawal into Rye.

08:49. The 88mm guns fired again at Rye, doing no significant damage.  On the southwest flank 19th Battalion’s mortar inflicted two dead and one wounded against 8th Company Devonshires, as the infantry of 1st Company 19th moved onto the Winchelsea Road.

Back at the beach two platoons of cyclists cursed their bicycles as they struggled out of the surf and onto the shingle.

C Rye 17 08 g overview

08:54. The only target visible to the RA spotter was a machine gun team north of the Rye Harbour Road, but not for long.  Soon two of the crew were badly wounded and the third was dead.

Regimental HQ ordered all troops to withdraw into Rye Town, while the HQ would move into the northeast end of the town.

08:59.  The 88mm guns offshore fired their last rounds at Rye, causing no casualties, and then the ferry withdrew.

German companies across the front consolidated their positions.  There was some sporadic machine gun fire to no effect.

09:05. The British commenced their consolidation for the defence of Rye.

09:06.  Just as the 15cwt truck with 62nd AT Battery arrived in Rye it was hit by a mortar shell, destroying it with its passengers.

1st Company 19th Battalion regrouped on the main road in the southwest.  4th company failed to find a crossing point at the stream while 2nd company, less the machine gun platoon, prepared to leave the castle.

The two 75mm guns unlimbered east of Rye and deployed to open fire, while the smaller anti-tank guns struggled along the beach east of the large lake.

C Rye 17 08 h 19th Bn cross the stream

09:11. The RA spotter having reestablished himself in the northeast corner of Rye and made contact with HQ was able to bring down fire on the pioneers moving along the river bank.  Between the pioneers and the accompanying machine gun six men fell dead or wounded.  Rifle fire from Rye wounded a seventh man.

Two machine gun platoons debussed in Rye and began to set up on the southern edge of town.

09:16.  The two 75mm infantry guns opened fire on Rye, but no casualties were inflicted.  1st Company 19th began to advance up the main road while 3rd company began to move out of the castle and 4th company started to cross the stream.

The troops on the beach moved slowly to the southwest and were joined by a third company of cyclists and an artillery observation team.

C Rye 17 08 i Artillery reinforcements

09:22.  The Royal Artillery turned their attention to the newly deployed 75mm guns and one of the Opel trucks exploded.  The lorry with the last of 8th Devonshires continued towards Rye along the side of the railway track.

09:26. The 75mm guns continued to fire against Rye, with a few near misses.

4th Company 62nd Battalion moved west along the road from Rye Harbour.

19th Battalion continued their gradual advance between the Winchelsea Road and Camber Castle.

09:31. The second Opel truck of the 75mm battery was hit by a further barrage from the 25pr guns.  This left the German guns with only seven rounds between them.

C Rye 17 08 l German artillery under fire

Two machine guns in Rye fired at 4th Company 62nd and wounded one of the crew.

The lorry reached the railway crossing and headed towards Rye.

09:36. The Germans suffered from wireless failures and only the 19th Battalion was able to communicate.  The only effective firing was a machine gun of 4th Company 62nd which knocked out the 2nd Platoon MG of 7th Devonshires.

The cyclists managed to move off the beach south of the large lake, while a battery of 105mm guns disembarked on the same beach.

09:42. The 25pr guns hit one of the 75mm guns east of Rye, wounding three of the crew and disabling the gun.

09:47. The mortar of 4th Company 62nd Infantry destroyed one of the empty 15cwt trucks in Rye, while the remaining company MG hit the last MG team of 7th Devons.  The remnants of that battalion retreated Northeast towards Brookland.

19th Infantry Battalion was impeded by hedgerows but continued their slow progress towards Rye from the southwest.  Two more barges beached at and south of Rye Harbour.

09:48 British RHQ gave orders to pull out of Rye and move northeast towards Brookland.  The RA observer team moved northeast to rejoin the regiment and thence on to Brookland

09:51. All German shooting was ineffective.  A second 105mm battery landed at Rye Harbour and a third immediately to the southwest, on the beach.  The 7th Infantry Regiment HQ with a PzJg I SP anti-tank gun landed east of the river mouth.

C Rye 17 08 m Final barges head ashore

Most of the troops on the beach by the lake were struggling to move.

09:56 The British Regimental HQ left Rye, followed by the Royal Irish Fusiliers on foot.  Rye was now open for occupation and by 10:10 the first German infantry cautiously entered the town.

C Rye 17 08 q Rye in German hands

10:11 The last of the British troops left the area along the road towards Brookland.

10:15. The Germans commenced regrouping.  19th Infantry Battalion in Rye, 62nd Battalion on the Rye Harbour Road. The anti-tank guns at the castle and the howitzer batteries between the two lakes.

C Rye 17 08 n Rye harbour to Rye

C Rye 17 08 o German cyclists and artillery