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 Rail Bridge18/09/1944

Despite spending over a month preparing my terrain and 6mm specialist infantry bases for this game, bad weather forced me to play it indoors as a board game.

Five companies of SS Panzer Grenadiers were defending the rail bridge.

They were attacked simultaneously by four companies of Polish parachute infantry from the south and three companies of British glider infantry from the north.

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The Poles (at the bottom of the picture) were represented by Russian tokens and the British (at top right) by US tokens.

Because of the peculiar nature of this game, and with the Anglo-Polish side suffering communication difficulties and a potential language barrier I played this game with three independent sides.  Each nationality received one command card for each company.  All troops were rated as elite (Special Forces rules apply.)

Both the Germans and Poles were cut off from their supply base, so a reduction of 1 die was applied for any distant shooting.  The Poles had the benefit of two mortar platoons.  I ruled that if a grenade (1/6 chance) was rolled when attacking a bridge hex with HE, then a second roll of a grenade would damage the section.

The battle would end when either side scored 3 Victory Points for destruction of enemy unts.

Order of play was British, Germans, Poles.

Turn 1. 11:00

British.  Assault left flank (all 3 companies)

The 3 rifle companies manoeuvred to a position from whence they could all fire at the German company defending the end of the bridge at 2 hexes (500m) range.

2 dice per company.  A. 2 tanks rolled, no hits.  B. 2 flags rolled = 2 retreats. Enemy fell back onto the bridge.  The retreat was then blocked by friendly troops, so one platoon was lost. C. (Reduced to 1 die tue to increased range). Grenade = 1 hit.

Germans. Assault Centre (all 5 companies).

The company at the south end of the bridge fired at the advancing Poles at 2 hexes range.  2 dice -1 for short supply. Grenade = 1 hit.   The company in the bunker were unable to shoot at the enemy at 3 hexes range due to the need to conserve ammunition.  At the north end of the bridge the company that had been driven back moved forward again and fired at the enemy infantry on the river bank.  1 die. Grenade = 1 hit.  The company on the centre of the bridge moved to the north end and shot at the same enemy company.  1 die.  Tank was a miss.

Poles. Probe Center. (2 units).  HQ increased this to 3 units. The Two flanking rifle companies moved forwards through the polder.  Three companies fired at the German company in the open at the south end of the bridge.  A. At 3 hexes, no firing, conserving ammunition.  B. At 2 hexes, 1 die due to ammo restrictions. Tank was no hits.  C. At 2 hexes, Star was no hits.

Turn 2, 11:10

British. General Advance. (2 in each sector, all 3 companies included).  A. Shooting at 2 hexes. 2 dice, Infantry, Tank = 1 hit.  B. Shooting at 2 hexes. Infantry, Tank = 1 hit.  German unit eliminated. 1 VP.  C. Shooting at 3 hexes, Infantry = 1 hit.

Germans.  Recon Center. 1 unit +2 on the move.  Company at south end of bridge shoots at nearest Poles at 2 hexes, 1 die. Star is a miss.

Poles. Dig In. All 4 units improved their defensive positions.

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Turn 3. 11:20

British. Probe Center ( 2 units).   Two companies fired at enemy in the open at 2 hexes.  A. 1 grenade, 1 flag.  1 hit, 1 retreat.  B. 1 grenade. 1 hit.

German. Air Sortie played with Left Flank.  One fighter arrived on the left flank. Air check rolled tank, so the aircraft was OK.

Poles. Recon Center.  The centre company  fired at the enemy unit in the open defending the bridge.  At 2 hexes, 1 die. Grenade was a hit.

Turn 4. 11:30

British. Probe left flank.  One company made a close assault on the German bunker at the north of the bridge.  A second company advanced to the north of the bridge and fires at the company on the bridge.  A. Close assault vs bunker. 2 dice. grenade, star. 1 hit.  B. Shooting vs infantry in open at 3 hexes.  1 die. star was a miss.

German. Probe Left Flank used for Luftwaffe support.  Moved 4 hexes east.  No target available.

Poles. Assault Centre.  3 companies advanced to contact. Close assault, left company.  2 dice, 1 hit.  Centre company. 2 dice, 1 hit, 1 retreat. Germans fell back onto bridge, Poles took ground.  Right company. Vs bunker 1 die. No effect.

Turn 4. 11:40

British. Firefight. 4 units not adjacent, +1 die.  Centre Company at 3 hexes vs bunker was 1 die. Tank was no hits.  Left company at 3 hexes is 2 dice. Flag, star was 1 retreat, but retreat was blocked.  1 platoon lost, unit eliminated.

German.  Direct from HQ. Ordered all 3 infantry and 1 LW unit.  LW. Air check OK.  Strafing missed.  Unit in N Bunker.  2 dice at 1 hex.  1 hit.  S. End of bridge. 2 dice at 1 hex. 1 hit.  Bunker at S. end. 2 dice ar 1 hex. 1 retreat.

Poles. Recon in force.  1 unit each section, increased to 2 units center for HQ.   Left company. 1 die. 1 hit.  Centre company. 2 dice, 1 hit.  Unit eliminated.  Poles took the bridge.

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Losses:  British.  2 of 12 = 17%  Poles. 2 of 16 = 13%  Germans. 13 of 20 = 65%

But the Germans still hold pill boxes in company strength at both ends of bridge, even if the allies hold the bridge itself.  We shall see what progresss…

Rethinking my priorities

For some time now I have been running a WW2 play-by-email campaign with five “generals”. The original idea was to give them a strategic game which would provide me with some interesting tabletop solo wargames.

However, I have become too bogged down in getting the visual depiction correct and this has slowed down the execution of the big game.

And so, in the recent spate of bad weather which banned me from both the gaming and painting sheds I had a re-think.

The campaign will now progress somewhat faster and individual engagements will probably be fought as board games or simple tabletop wargames without the frills.

I have already played as a board game the expected table-top game that took more than a month to set up, of which more later…

A modelling dilemma

For my next “Market Garden” battle I have a large rail bridge for which I already have one straight rail hexagon tile embanked to the correct height.

My problem is that I also have two road/rail crossing points to create. I already have these crossings at normal ground level.

Option 1.  I make sloping railway hexagons to drop a height of 12mm over 10cm, which is a far steeper gradient than would look realistic.

Option 2. I keep the railway embanked at 12mm height and create bridges (real or indicated by painting) beneath for the roads. To do this I might need to carve beneath the normal terrain level to make a useable bridge.

The photo shows a Sherman tank (based) with the current embankment and a normal ground level railway, and an indication of the slope required for option 1.

Nominal ground scale is 1:2500, but vertical scale is 1:285.

I think that by setting up a mock-up and having seen the result I use the exaggerated slope method. So now all I need to do is to make two convincing sloped embankments and fit (and paint) the rail tracks..

The number of bespoke Kallistra hexagons in my collection is getting a little worrying, but it is keeping two companies in business – Kallistra and Really Useful Boxes!

For Wargamers – forming square

For any wargamers who think that you can form a nice, neat square in one turn, this sequence of photographs show what actually happens when something like a half-battalion is approached by a troop of cuirassiers.

http://thomason-photography.net/Waterloo/CavalryAttack2015/

Note how the light company  and the Rifles decided to form their own defensive clumps because there simply was no time to safely reach home.

This then gave the rest of us a problem because there was a light company sized hole in the rear of our square!

Incidentally, talking to one of the spectators the next day, he told me that he watched this incident and said to his wife “Look at those chaps – they’re not going to make it.”, which was very much my own feeling (in the square) at the time.

Market Garden – Wilhelmina Canal

Attack on the Wilhelmina Canal
18th September 1944

09:30
A Squadron of the 2nd (Armoured) Battalion Irish Guards, under temporary command of the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, advanced to cross the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son. They were followed by infantry companies of the Grenadier Guards in armoured half-tracks.

18 sep son 001

As the first tanks began to cross the bridge there was an enormous explosion and the lead tank tumbled into the canal. The bridge was wrecked.

A radio message was sent immediately to HQ 2nd Irish Guards advising them of the situation and requesting that they should force the railway bridge crossing and then move east towards the main “Club” route to clear the enemy from their defensive positions north of the canal.

As the first tanks crossed the rail bridge, one was knocked out by a 50mm AT gun of 59th Infantry Regt. The Irish Guards turned on the enemy and soon removed the problem. At the same time the US parachute infantry securing the bridge removed their guns to allow free passage for the British tanks.

18 sep son 003

The Grenadier Guards, having orders to clear the approach road for the Royal Engineers Bridging Column, moved to their right and debussed south of the canal, taking up defensive positions and establishing their mortars for a potential assault. One company moved left to assist the tankers of 2nd Irish Guards.

The 2nd Battalion Irish Guards pushed eastwards along the north canal bank, encountering small pockets of German infantry and pushing them away from the canal, but without inflicting serious damage. The Germans pulled back to establish defensive positions further north.

18 sep son 006By 11:00 the Irish Guards had reached the main road again. An alternative route towards Arnhem had been secured, but the diversion would have consequences for supply unless a new bridge could be established in place of the one that had been destroyed.

Operation Dab-It-Off

Looking back on my blog it appears that I never got around to reporting the results of Operation Dab-It-Off from 27th December 2016.  Unfortunately all photographs are also untraceable.

The game was based on Len Deighton’s book “Bomber”, and I was lucky enough to obtain a flight manual for the Lancaster Bomber to help with the detail.

The operation was so named because it was the fun game played at Chris Scott’s place on the Day After Boxing-day.  For non-UK readers, Dab-It-Off is a form of home dry-cleaning fluid.  It erases unwanted stains, including the town of Irgendwo (somewhere) in 1943 Germany.

Unfortunately the pictures have disappeared into the mists of time, but the idea of the game was that each player was issued with three 1/600 scale Lancaster bombers to fly the length of a 16 foot table, bomb strategic sites in an enemy town (using tiddly-winks) and return safely home.  Each player also had control of a JU88 night fighter to shoot down the opposition.  Every aircraft had randomised skill ratings for each crew member, adding to the same total for every bomber or fighter.  During the flight damage and equipment failures* would be rolled for against the relevant personal skill of the person responsible.

The general game scale was 1 hexagon (6cm) = 4 miles and 1 height level = 2,500 feet.  In air-air combat this was telescoped to about 1/5 of the above.

In summary, the bombers took off in three waves, starting at 21:00.  Each game turn was 10 minutes of real time.  Points were awarded for successful navigation, so there was considerable jostling to fly over or near the first beacon.

As the bomber stream flew over the North Sea a convoy escorted by a FLAK ship was passing*.  The umpire had fun engaging the bombers as they flew overhead, and three aircraft were downed before reaching Holland.  After the first Lancaster crossed the enemy coast the German night fighters were activated.  (D6=6 each turn to activate).  During the approach run one Lancaster was downed for the loss of one JU88.

The first two bombers to arrive at the target decided to ignore the Target Indicators and flew across the target at 90 degrees to the planned approach.  X-XRay was hit by FLAK immediately after bombing and crashed with all the crew lost.

The remaining aircraft followed the TIs (the last one was dropped in the wrong place by the pathfinders*).

Eventually 168 x 1000 pound bombs were dropped.  Of these:

10 hit factories, 6 hit the railway yard, 4 hit the town hall and 4 the army barracks.  10 hit other parts of the railway, 46 hit residential districts and 68 landed in open countryside.  The church and hospital were spared, much to the chagrin of the umpire.

2/3 of the bombers reached the target.  40% of the bombs were wasted, 15% hit valuable targets and 45% hit domestic infrastructure.

Individual aircraft performance:

D-Dog.  Did not bomb.  
E-Easy. FLAK ship hit starboard wing.  Crashed, no survivors.
H-How. 60 pts vital, 90 pts other targets.  "A milk run".
I-Item.  105pts other targets.  Navigator killed.
J-Jig. 120pts vital, 90pts other targets, flew home on 3 engines.
K-King. 120pts vital, 30pts other targets, shot down JU88. Beers all round.
M-Mike. 45pts vital targets. Navigator and bomb-aimer not on speaking terms.
N-Nan. 180pts vital, 75pts other targets. Point-blank hits.
O-Oboe. Engine Fire, Pilot and Navigator bailed out over North Sea, others lost.
P-Peter. 45pts vital, 120pts other targets. Bombed across the stream.
Q-Queen. Hit by FLAK, exploded, all crew lost.
R-Roger. First to cross enemy coast. Hit by FLAK, crashed with all crew lost.
S-Sugar. Engineer dealt with 3 engine failures, aircraft hit by FLAK at low level.
T-Tare. 105pts other targets. Flight Engineer on Elsan throughout flight*.
V-Victor. 60pts other targets. uneventful flight.
X-XRay. 90pts other targets. First to bomb, across stream, but hit by FLAK and crashed.
Y-Yoke. Shot down after unsuccessful bombing run by JU88. Tail Gunner bailed out.
Z-Zebra. 75pts other targets. Last to reach target. Front Gunner killed.
-------
B-Bruno. No combat contacts.
D-Dora. Shot down in combat.
E-Emil. Destroyed 1 Lancaster.
F-Friedrich. No combat contacts.
H-Heinrich. No combat contacts.
I-Ida. No combat contacts.




The game ended due to time restrictions before the bombers could return to their now fogged-in airfield, but all agreed it had been a jolly good game.

Maybe other raids – Brest submarine pens, the Tirpitz, the Dambusters raid, etc. will be created for the future, but meanwhile I rest upon my laurels.

*Each turn I, as umpire, drew a “Gremlin” card to randomise damage, change of wind direction or strength, enemy shipping, and other similar effects.