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.

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.

Serendipity and repurposing

It is a well known fact that in our household very few purchases (except food) are used for their intended pupose.  So it was no surprise that when I spotted in the centre aisle of our local Lidl a pack of brown felt pads for the protection of shiny floors against furniture legs for less than 2 pounds/dollars/euros that I snapped them up for potential wargames use.

(I since bought a supplementary pack of beige ones, which have vanished after arriving home.)

The pack has circular pads of 32x10mm, 36x15mm and 48x20mm; square pads of 20x20mm and one sheet 200x200mm.  All are about 2mm thick.

Felt pads. 15mm versions used up.

Coincidentally, within a week I needed to create for the Market Garden campaign a wargaming area of heathland in 6mm.

Some time ago I bought from eBay some Chinese model trees as an alternative to the “flocked bottle brush” type of which I already have plenty.  Examples below.

In the pack were lots of tiny trees which remained in the box for potential future use.

“Aha!” thinks I, “This is my serendipitous moment.”

By twisting the miniscule tree trunks together and pressing them onto to the sticky side of the felt pads I managed to create  clumps of bushes.  The felt underside helps prevent them from being inadvertantly moved against the flocked base terrain hexagons.

I may decide to use my previously described method of coating the bushes with diluted PVA glue and baking in the oven at a low heat to solidify the models, but for the time being they will suffice, when properly placed, interspersed with occasional trees, to represent my heathland.

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

Arnhem 75th Anniversary.

I am making plans to travel to Arnhem next September for the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden.

My current plan is to camp near Arnhem on a “one man and his dog” basis, from 16th to 23rd September 2019, attending whatever commemorations we can get to and visiting the sites and museums.

But I wonder if any of my blog followers have a similar interest, and would be prepared to share a car and a tent (or even a caravan if finances allow) for a week on a shared cost basis with a curmudgeonly old git and an over-friendly dog.

If interested, please send an e-mail to greywhiskers@me.com with the title Arnhem75, and we can discuss options.

Arnhem 18th September 1944: forces

It is 06:00, dawn on the second day of Operation Market Garden.  The British airborne forces hold the main road bridge at Arnhem, but are under severe pressure from German forces of 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions.

Forces deployed are as below:

British forces.

1st Airborne Recce Sqn. with machine guns, 1 rifle company of 2nd Bn, Parachute Regt., 2 rifle companies of 3rd Bn, Parachute Regt. (one supported with 3” mortars).  These forces hold the northern approach to the road bridge across the Rhine.

1st and 11th Battalions, Parachute Regiment, approaching from the west.

German forces

1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion, 9th SS Panzer Regt., approaching from the north:

16th SS Training Battalion, now including the Bridge Defence Company,  in the centre of Arnhem:

1st Artillery Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Division, in the east of Arnhem, north of the Rhine.

Purists will note that many of the German forces are equipped with 1940 period uniforms and vehicle paint schemes, and that some of the British airborne forces, particularly machine gunners,  are represented by regular infantry.  Also that many bases still need to be scenically completed.

In the interests of pushing the campaign forwards, I intend to overlook these minor issues for the time being.

Landscaping in two scales, and random thoughts

Inspired by spotting the last available item of steel racking on display in our local Homebase yesterday, I have ordered some “special offer” racking for the shed and for the lock-up in which all our camping stuff is stored.

I hope to better organise this stack of boxes housing my Kallistra terrain hexagons, and at the same time to get the tents and awnings off the sometimes damp floor of their storage facility.

Terrain production for the next Arnhem game proceeds with painting the last two railway hexagons.

While the paints were out and the railway sleepers drying I took the opportunity to paint a few bits of other wargaming projects: some 6mm MDF cavalry horses and the musket stocks of the US “Toy soldier” style infantry extracted from the box game of the American Civil War.

I have discovered that my bench in the shed is really not suitable for early Autumn morning painting.  The amount of sunlight is brilliant, but directly into my eyes! 

But while I have been painting the sun had dried the grass in the back garden so I had a go at mowing what is humorously referred to as a “lawn”.

The weed collection having been trimmed to an acceptable level I ventured out to the garden centre for some restorative grass seed for the bare patches.

One Kilo of grass seed and three bags of mixed soil and horse dung later, covered with a protective grid to keep dog and pigeons off, I could return to small scale landscaping.

(Sparky is not pleased with this new arrangement of his playground.)

While applying a steel metallic surface paint to the top of my model railway lines, and then applying the same to the ACW infantry barrels and bayonets I was reminded of an encounter some years ago at Kirby Hall (a multi-period reenactment event staged by English Heritage).  

 – Returning to the camp from our Napoleonic era display we encountered a Sealed Knot musketeer carrying a somewhat rusty matchlock musket of dubious safety.

– He asked us if our firelock barrels were “dummies”, made of aluminium.  We replied: “No, proper steel, proofed for shot, but clean.”

 – Our cleaning method was to scour the barrel, inside and out, using tools available in our chosen period, followed by an application of olive oil to lock, stock and barrel.  We learned the “olive oil” trick from some French re-enactors at a somewhat wet event on 30th August 1997.  (The date remains in memory because the Princess of Wales died the next morning and our weekend was spoiled.)  Returning to the subsidiary topic, an oil-soaked cloth in a small leather bag, used to wipe the metal parts of the weapon at the first sign of rain prevents rust and keeps the musket working in most weather conditions.  It works equally well for swords and pole-arms.

Before adding the newly-painted tiles to the wargame table I watched the film “Stalingrad” in the original German language, and it reminded me what a total shitty waste of lives real war is.  Reminders of H G Wells comments at the end of his book, “Little Wars”. 

Somehow the Germans are able to show the gritty reality in their anti-war films so much better than the English-speaking countries.  Maybe it is something to do with the comparative suffering of their countries?  The only film coming close to depicting the horrific reality of war that I have watched is the Russian “Come and See”, where the director even used live ammunition to enhance the reality!

And with all that in mind, this evening’s plan is to set up the townscape of Arnhem for yet another table top representation of historical futility.