The British were easy for me to predict because my regular opponent would be using his whole army. I knew to expect, amongst other things; a flight of hurricanes, five platoons of Crusader II’s (15 tanks in total), a number of 6pdr portees, and finally my nemisis the Universal Carrier recon platoon.
My own force would be very different from usual because for the first time it would be picked solely as a panzer grenadier kompanie. I was limited in the number of support choices I could take due to only being able to field two combat platoons, but I managed to fit in the 88’s (for AA support and fear factor mostly), two platoons of Panzer III’s (M & N variants, 6 tanks in all), the compulsory three StuG F/8’s, a mortar platoon and a machinegun platoon. Of my combat platoons one was armoured, and a small motorised pioneer platoon completed the listings.
The Battlefield and The Plan:
Playing on a 8ft by 6ft battlefield, the scenery was similar to my previous encounter with the 8th Army and the Black Cats (see below). A small town and road dominated the (German) right, with the centre and left much more open and populated by a farm on the left, and cornfields, trees and a few hills in the left/centre.
Having decided the mission (Fighting Withdrawal), and managed to secure the job of attacking I decided a bold and aggressive policy was the way to go after the embarissment of last time out. Having watched the enemy spread themselves across the battlefield I grouped my entire company into the far left-hand third, tanks to the front to create an attacking wedge which the panzer grenadiers would follow in. The 88’s would proved cover from the inevitable RAF, and the mortars and machine guns would keep the enemies heads down. I also deliberately set-up opposite the enemies recon platoon, hoping to decimate it early on.
The Early Stages of the Battle:
My Germans, automatically getting first turn, poured forwards at speed towards the thin British line. Unfortunately the recon platoon saw the impending doom and scooted away behind the farm with only the one casualty. My initial firing also accounted for a Crusader II, but it didn’t matter as much as the fact that surprise had been achieved.
The British Portees lie in wait for the Panzer III's.
The British response was immediate, with Crusaders racing from all corners of the battlefield to try and get in the way of the panzers. Their big hope, however, was from their two units of 6pdr portees, one of which was already in situ, and the second appeared from ambush beside it to the left of the farm. However, the distance was against them, and their opening volley could only scratch the German tanks paintwork!
Continuing the attack:
The Germans continued their headlong charge, with the Panzer III’s and panzer grenadiers going to the left of the farm, and the StuG’s moving more towards the right. The machine guns and mortars made it their mission to pin the British infantry defenders of the farm. The Panzer III’s machine guns made light work of the portees, just in time for the first wave of Crusaders to drive straight into their lines! A close-range tank battle ensued, the British having learn the hard way that they couldn’t damage the German tanks from the front. A Panzer III was lost to these tactics, but the devastating replies accounted for at least six Crusaders and tested the limits of the smoke-marker supply. The Brits Universal Carriers meanwhile had retreated further under fire from the StuG’s.
A panoramic of t he battlefield approximatley turn 4.
In other small cameo’s across the battlefield more truck mounted infantry ran into German mortar fire and disintegrated, while the 88’s survived being smoke bombed long enough to down a hurricane, and drive off a HMG universal carrier platoon. The truck-mounted panzer grenadiers launched an assault upon the farm itself, clearing it of enemy troops at the cost of their own platoon, and the German company commander (who had a sudden attack of cowardice most unbecoming a German officer!).
The Final Acts:
With turn 6 approaching, and armoured superiority nearly achieved, the StuG’s were sent racing to secure the objective on the far right, while the Panzer III’s wore down the final Crusader platoon. Neither were able to reach their respective objectives when the Brit commander decided enough was enough and it was time for a serious tea break (the Brits had lost four platoons, and been forced to withdraw three earlier). He failed his company moral check and it was a German victory - just as the German CO fled from the battlefield!
The final German charge.
For once my tactics worked a treat. The major sticking point had been the portees, but these were unable to do any damage this time - the opposition was possibly unfortunate to find a number had deployed just out of range, and the rest were plain unlucky to see so many shots bounce off - and machine guns took care of them. Piling my troops on the left meant a large number of British units were out of position and unable to take part before they had to be withdrawn due to the scenario rules, it also gave me a local superiority, and in the event the StuG’s and armoured panzer grenadiers were more observers than participants.
One particularly interested fact that came out of the battle was that the Crusader II’s 2pdrs were unable to even bail out the Panzer III’s at long range, and needed to get amongst them to do any damage. This could have turned out nasty if a larger number could have charged in at once, but because they were stretched out across the British lines they arrived in dribs and drabs and the German tanks were able to take them on at a good range.
Footnote - The Germans rapid advance meant only the mortars and the 88’s were viable targets for the RAF, who once again failed to cause any damage, and lost a plane in trying to. Sadly the victory did not include the Black Cats, and another battle will have to be fought.
The hated and feared British recon troops finally forced to retreat past the objective marker.