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.

 

 

A D-Day remembrance for all combatants

Last week our radio, TV and podcasts were full of the D-Day 75th anniversary events.  From a British perspective, how many covered the German remembrance?  Almost none, that’s how many.  There was coverage on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme, but that’s all that I could find.

We celebrate our heroes and all our veterans.  Most of them were conscript soldiers, just as the enemy were.  Both sides suffered; men on both sides were killed and suffered horrific injuries, both physical and mental.  I find it heartening that men who could not talk to their own generation or their immediate family about the traumatic events can now open up to their grandchildren and to the media, and can find friendships with the men on the other side who endured those days.  As they come to the evening of their lives, I believe that the importance of remembrance of the sacrifice of young men and women is high on their priorities.

And let us not forget in our national commemorations all the other nations involved in D-Day and the Normandy campaign.  For example, there were Poles fighting on both sides in Normandy.  My own late father-in-law was an unwilling Polish conscript in the Wehrmacht for most of the War, and ended up serving with the Polish army in exile in Great Britain.  I only found out most of his story at his funeral.

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As an aside It’s odd to think that I have to thank two of the most evil men in history for my wife.  Her father was a Pole escaping Hitler.  Her mother was a Latvian escaping Stalin.  They were both welcomed, or at least accepted, into Britain.

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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 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.

D-Day and Beyond, Part 3

Continuing the story of a wargame.

5th June 1944

And so we begin our embarkation.  I am still very worried about those guns just over the hill from the beach we are to assault tomorrow.  I pray that the bombing raids and naval bombardment will help to take them out of the picture before we have to go in.

One of my chaps came to me today requesting compassionate leave.  When asked why, he replied “Death in the family Sir.”  When I asked who, he replied:  “Nobody yet Sir, but there bloody soon will be and I want to go home and console my parents before it happens.”

D-Day and beyond

INTRODUCTION

Yes, yet another new wargaming project to divert me!

The plan is that this will be a narrative campaign, reported from the point of view of a company commander of an indeterminate British infantry battalion.  The game itself is to be played using “Squad Leader” boards and 13mm square plastic counters, each representing a single rifle squad, MG, tank or gun crew, etc.

The campaign management rules are nicked from “Blitzkrieg Commander”.  The tactical rules are adapted from “Memoir 44”, with forces semi-randomised from “Flames of War” orders of battle, and the ground scale normally used for “Squad Leader” has been halved so that it fits better with both the unit size and the game board graphics, so that 1 hexagon represents 20 yards/metres (10% either way is immaterial). 

All in all, a total mish-mash plagiarised from other peoples’ bright ideas.

As for a time frame, I guess that each turn will represent about 10 minutes, but this is subject to verification as the game progresses.

3rd June 1944.

This morning the officers were briefed for the forthcoming operation, codenamed “Overlord”.  Captain Copley, my 2i/c, and I were shown the aerial photographs of our planned landing area with our objectives.

Our company assault area contains several large scattered sea-front houses, which we could assume were defended and possibly fortified.  The central sector is defended by a concrete sea wall.  A road runs east-west close to the beach, deviating inland at the centre-right to skirt an area of woodland.

Back from the beach are two ridges of steep hills. The only visible major enemy positions are two batteries of howitzers deployed behind the forward ridge.

From the centre of our landing area a road runs from the beach itself inland, winding through a gap in the ridge.  Seizing this road is our primary objective as it will allow reinforcements and supplies to be quickly moved up from the beach.  With the assistance of the tanks and the mortar platoon we have also been tasked with neutralising such of the enemy guns as have not been knocked out by air and naval attack prior to our landing.

In addition to my company, I have the support of one extra platoon from B Company, together with a vickers MG platoon, a 3” mortar platoon and two troops of Churchill tanks.  There are few good landing places for the tanks; a couple of 40 yard gaps on the far right flank, a single point where the road runs down to the beach in the centre and one single 60 yard gap on the left flank.

The MG and mortar platoons will not be able to support us until we have captured the initial beachhead.

The plan has been made.  One troop of tanks will be landed on the right flank where the road is close to the beach (at map 8 Y1-AA1) and make for the road junction (at map2 U7). The second troop will land at (map8 Q2) the point in the centre from which the road runs inland.

One infantry platoon will land either side of this central point, taking cover from the sea wall while attempting to neutralise enemy defences.  The third  platoon will land on the left flank (8E3-8K6)

The platoon from B Coy will land on the right of the tanks on the right flank (8CC2-8FF2).

As soon as the sea front beachhead has been captured the mortar platoon will land at the centre and attack the enemy guns.

The MG platoon will land later and set up in positions to defend the existing perimeter.

Transport will only be landed once the beachhead is secure.

Tomorrow we will embark and then brief the platoon commanders.

My biggest worry is that the RAF and the Navy will not suppress those enemy gun batteries before we land.

To be continued…

“Bathtubbing’ in reverse

Many wargamers are familiar with the term “bathtubbing”, which means taking a historical battle and reducing it to a scale compatible with their own gaming area.

Thus, for example, a game of the battle of Waterloo reduced to a 6ft x 4ft table (180cm x 100cm) might reduce each brigade, or even a division, to a battalion in wargame representation.

This tends to be more common in 20th century warfare, maybe reducing every real formation to the next lower, so that a division becomes a brigade/regiment, a brigade/regiment becomes a battalion, a battalion becomes a company and a company becomes a platoon.

I am trying a new method.  Let us call it “Swimming Pool Method”  (SPM).  My idea is to use Squad Leader boards and 13mm counters to reproduce battles in many eras.  I have already successfully fought a Napoleonic game.

But my current project is to use the Squad Leader boards for a rolling campaign, beginning on 6th June 1944 (2019).  I have “Swimming Pooled” the boards from the designer’s 40m per hex to a, more realistic for the artwork,  20m per hex.

At the same time I have delved deeper into the unit ratio so that in my game an infantry base is, rather than a platoon or squad, a half-section, for the infantry either a light MG team or a rifle team.  (In my Napoleonic version a base occupying the same area would be a company of 60 men in 2 or 3 ranks!)

My initial game will involve a reinforced British infantry company assaulting the coast of Normandy on 6th June 1944.  The infantry company has:

2 bases for the company HQ

3 Platoons of:

         Command base

          PIAT team,

          2” Mortar team,

          3 x Bren team,

          3 x Rifle team.

German defenders are similarly organised, but according to national standards:

     HQ: 2 command bases

         3 platoons, reach of:

            Platoon HQ

            Panzerfaust team,

            3 x MG42 LMG team

            3 x Rifle team.

Reinforcements may include tanks, mortars, artillery or many other options.

Each tank, armoured car, artillery piece, etc.  is individually represented.

Although I would have liked to use ‘top-down’ illustrations to fit with the map/game-board style, I found that those available for download would not reduce satisfactorily to a 13mm x 13mm print.  Therefore I went back to the military mapping symbols of the time, but once again using the Swimming Pool Method I have adopted platoon symbols for sections or sub-sections.

Thus the symbol for a company HQ will represent a Platoon HQ.  An LMG platoon symbol may represent a single Bren gun squad. Some bases are reversible to show the “mounted” or “deployed” status, particularly for HQ or artillery units.

We shall see how it actually works on 6th June…