D-Day and beyond. Part 7

…being the story of a wargame, now in arrears…  Unfortunately my detailed report has vanished into the depths of the internet, but the synopsis is that we chased off the crew of a 105mm howitzer, captured or  scared of a German supply company, deployed two sections of the RA 25 prs which helped drive the enemy at least into cover, and consolidated our position.

Game note.  The Germans having been driven mainly away from board 2 and totally from board 1, board 1 was removed and a new board added to the German side, with all their reinforcements deployed.  The new situation is shown above.  And thus we will start the next day with a German counter-attack.

 

 

D-Day and beyond. Part 6

Being a narrative story of a continuing wargame.

When I had the idea of this project I thought that I would very quickly fall behind the timeline of 75 years to the day.  I was right!  Even without taking into account the restricted weekend gaming time, I cannot afford to spend the requisite amount of time staring at a game board, making decisions and rolling dice.

Anyway, here is the next part of Captain Copley’s report.

8th June 1944.

This morning we began to receive reinforcements.  First to arrive, around 10:00, was a platoon from C Company.

As they arrived, the remains of A Company launched an attack on the Germans who were trying to cut us off from the beach.

One of Lt. Smythe’s PIAT teams moved up into the woods, stalking the SP gun which gave us some bother yesterday.  They successfully put it out of action. They were accompanied by a rifle squad which attacked enemy infantry on the road.  The enemy ran back into the woods, but then the squad came under rifle fire themselves.  To add to their problems they then suffered artillery fire.  None apparently survived.  The PIAT team was also wiped out in this bombardment.

On the left flank Sgt. MacGregor’s platoon began to move southwest towards the main road, and I moved my HQ southwards to keep in contact with the company’s advance.

The Churchill tank moved cautiously up the road and took position in a defile between two cliffs.

I ordered Sgt. MacGregor to try to get his light mortars to a position from which they could attack the enemy artillery, which was believed to be behind the far hill (point 538 on my map).  He acknowledged the order and I observed his platoon moving over the hill crest towards the southwest.  I continued to move my own HQ up to remain in touch with the company.

I ordered Lt. Smythe to keep moving forward.  For the time being I took command of the newly-arrived platoon from C Company, who advanced along the road.  I also instructed the commander of the Yeomanry’s single Churchill to continue along the road, reporting any sighting of the enemy.  After a few minutes he reported that he had found the enemy’s artillery and destroyed one of the guns.  He was intending to pullback behind the cover of the woods.

Around 10:30 I suffered W/T problems and lost touch with both my own platoon commanders, but urged the reinforcing platoon to  push on up the road.

Next to land was a troop of 25pr guns.  They were a sight for sore eyes!  I suggested to the Troop Commander that he should move to point 621 and deploy behind the crest.  He agreed and advised that the whole regiment (16 guns) would shortly be landing.

I could not raise the Yeomanry tank commander and feared the worst.

I heard shooting to the south and looking around from my vantage point on one of the bluffs I was able to make out a column of enemy infantry moving up the road on our left flank.  They  were already engaged With our infantry on the left.  I immediately called up Sgt. MacGregor, who told me he was already taking action to redeploy his platoon to meet the new threat.

Lt. Smythe reported that he had cleared the immediate threat from the west and was turning to assault the hill to his left flank.

A few minutes later Sgt. MacGregor reported that he was in a spot of bother on the southern flank.   One of his Bren teams had “bottled it”, disturbing the chaps behind them as they ran.  I ordered him to hold as well as he could while I attempted to reinforce his position.  On the right I ordered Lt. Smythe to push on up the hill as he had planned.  I had no response from third platoon commander.

As the first 25pr troop began to set up their positions a second troop arrived, followed by another infantry platoon from C Coy.

Sgt. MacGregor established a defensive line against the enemy infantry arriving from the south.  Lt. Smythe pushed on up the hill, encountering some disorganised infantry in the woods.

The first artillery section took position and their observer moved forwards and established an OP in the woods on the forward slope.

I looked at my watch.  11:00.  Had all of this happened within only one hour?

…to be continued…

 

D-Day and beyond. Part 5

Being the continuing story of a wargame

7th June 1944

Report from Captain Copley.

No reinforcements having been received, except for a few stragglers coming in overnight and one of the Churchills that the Yeomanry managed to recover, I reorganised the company into two platoons. Lieutenant Smythe became my 2 i/c and I put the other platoon in charge of Sgt. MacGregor.

Each of the platoons had the standard three  sections with Brens and rifles, but benefitted from two PIATs and two 2” mortars each.

I deployed Sgt. MacGregor’s platoon on the heights around hill 621 to our front and Lt. Smythe’s on the right flank, mainly in the woods.  The Yeomanry took post between the two platoons, guarding the road with their single tank.

I kept one rifle squad with me at the company HQ in the large building near the beach.

The enemy attacked us at 08:00.  Some ineffective small arms fire was received against our forward positions on the hill, which was returned with interest!

But 10 minutes later heavy artillery began to fall on our forward positions and we lost half a dozen men.

At 0840 two SP guns appeared, one on the road and one in the woods on the right flank.  The Churchill had a crack at the one in the road and it ceased firing.  The tank fired again, knocked out the gun and advanced to the gap between the cliff and a stone wall to defend the defile.  On the right flank we lost a bren team to the second gun.

Lt Smythe ordered his platoon to advance, keeping under cover.  He left the two 2” mortars to the rear with the protection of one section.  He moved forward to find a vantage point from which he could direct the fire of the mortars.

The tank was caught in a heavy artillery stonk but survived.  On the right flank the PIAT team crawled forwards and fired at the SP gun to their front.  Some damage was observed.

Two rifle squads dashed forwards to assault opposing infantry in the houses to our front.  The enemy was wiped out and we occupied the houses.

In the centre the Churchill tank fired at a MG in the woods beside the road junction.  Wiping the enemy out the tank advanced and took over the position.  Finally we held the road junction; one of our objectives for yesterday.

Sgt. MacGregor sent two of his sections out to left and right to outflank the MG position in the house to his front.

Suddenly the Churchill was struck by what appeared to be a Panzerfaust bomb fired from the house to its right.  The tank quickly backed off to a position from where it could fire at the building.

The tank fired, then a rifle squad stormed the building while defenders were still shaken and cleared them out.

On the left flank a MG team was driven from the house they had been holding.

At around 09:15 the enemy called off their attack and withdrew.

During the action we lost ten men and one of our bren guns.  We estimate the enemy lost about three times that number, including one SP gun destroyed.

D-Day and Beyond, Part 4

6th June 1944

Report from Capt. Copley, 2 I/c A Company.

It appears that the Major was correct to worry about the German guns.
Although our bombing and naval gunfire had pretty much wrecked the shoreline defences, we ran into several minefields behind the beach area and the Jerrys sent forward three SP anti-tank guns. We managed to knock all three out but not before they had accounted for all 6 of the Yeomanry’s Churchills.

We landed at 07:30 and by 09:00 most of the remains of the company was still pinned down near the shore line and in the ruined houses on the left flank.
Some of our chaps never got ashore until later because the beach was too congested to move.
We did not get the Vickers platoon or the 3” mortars ashore.

Two rifle squads succeeded in punching through on the left flank and took the high ground, capturing one German howitzer and killing both the crew and the OP team, but the road junction objective is still in enemy hands.

We are now digging in within 100 yards of the shoreline against enemy counter-attack and hoping for reinforcements. We have a forward post at Point 621 at our front centre.

Casualty report:
Major Read (Company C.O.), C.S.M Gane,
Lieut. Flitcroft, 1 Platoon
Lieut. Davies, 2 Platoon
Lieut. Cork, 4 Platoon
55 NCOs and Other Ranks.

Fit for duty.
Captain Copley, Lieutenant Smythe, 100 NCOs and ORs.
Equipment Return.
4 PIATs, 4 x 2” Mortar, 6 Bren guns, Rifles and other small arms.

In addition 6 Churchill tanks from the Yeomanry destroyed.

Capt. Copley, Officer Commanding A Company.

Arnhem Rail Bridge part 2

18th September 1944, 12:00

Situation:  3rd Polish Parachute Battalion (3 PP) and 7th Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers (7KOSB) had joined forces across the rail bridge west of Arnhem.  Two companies of 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Division (3/9SS) were still holding out in bunkers at each end of the bridge.  A flight of German fighters was threatening the allied troops.

General Urquhart sent his congratulations and ordered that the remaining enemy troops in the bunkers be eliminated.

Forces.  7KOSB.  3 companies, 10 platoons.  3PP. 4 companies, 14 platoons, including 2 mortars and 1 HQ.  3/9SS. 2 companies, 7 platoons.

Turn 1. 12:00

7KOSBs – Move Out (4 infantry units)  The three companies moved to positions to close assault the northern pill box.  A. 2 infantry. 2 hits  B. 1 infantry, 1 star. 1 hit. Unit eliminated and pill box captured.

3/9SS – Behind Enemy Lines.  Fighters left the table with no appropriate command card.  The company in the south bunker made a break-out.  Moved 1hex,  attacked a Polish rifle company in a defended position. 1 flag, so Poles retreat.  Moved 3 +1 for the road and exited the board, so a successful break-out was acheived.

Casualties.  Germans: 2 of 14=14%.  Allies: none.

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.

Battle at Arnhem

18th September 1944.  06:00.  Dawn, Weather: good.

The battle for the Arnhem road bridge continued with elements of 2nd and 3rd Battalions, Parachute Regiment of 1st Brigade, 1st British Airborne Division, combined with the 1st Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron holding the northern approaches.

From the west 1st and 11th Battalions of the Parachute Regiment were trying to break through to the bridge to support the defence and to bring much needed  supplies.

On the German side 16th SS Training Battalion, supported by the Bridge Defence Company, were trying to block any reinforcements from the west.

At the same time 1st (armoured) Battalion, 9th SS Panxergrenadiers, attacked from the north-west.

9th SS, aware of the need for speed in cutting off the enemy attack, charged down the road in their half-tracks until the first vehicle was knocked out.  At that point the infantry de-bussed and deployed to attack the enemy in house-to-house combat.

The battle see-sawed back and forth.  The Bridge Defence Company was soon wiped out, but the 16th Battalion kept up the pressure until 9th SS could take up the attack.  The British reinforcements struggled on and made contact, but were soon pushed back, struggling to hold the road to the drop zone.

The artillery of 10th SS Panzer Division began to register, not only again the British paratroopers, but also on the homes of the citizens of Arnhem, as street after street burst into flames and fell into ruins.  This became as much of a hindrance to the Germans’ advance as did the defence of the enemy.

After two hours or so, the British had fallen back to a small perimeter stretching from the bridge approach to the road north of the river.

Continue reading Battle at Arnhem