Sunday, 15 November 2009

Caen Campaign - Day 2

See the below link for the British view of how the campaign progresses:

And now the real news from Berlin:

“The clash between 102nd SS and 617th Infantrie Division and the British on the approaches to Caen continued yesterday, and ended with a firm victory for the Wehrmacht which was never in doubt! The British advanced once more with their inferior tanks, and were driven off once more by Herr Wittmann and his invincible Tiger company! The order of ‘No Retreat’ now changes, the new mantra is; ’To the sea!’”

Back into reality and a less bias view of how the battle unfolded. Ian (the Commando’s) has already done an excellent blow-by-blow account in the link above so this will be more of a ‘flow of the battle’ piece of writing from the German point of view. The British had obviously taken the lessons learnt from their bogged down assault on Tuesday and put them to good use with alterations to their company selections, deployment and tactics. The Germans went with the same line-up.

Army Choice and Deployment:

The British - 7th Armoured (British Tank Company, 2.500pts, Red) & the Commando’s (with Canadian support, 2,500pts, Ian).
Additions to the British included the acquisition of support from the guns of the Royal Navy, and further 17pdr guns, mounted on M10 destroyers, brought in to challenge the German heavy armour. The deployment was very different from Tuesday. Gone was the all armour left hook and the infantry moving ahead of the tanks. Instead the British infantry deployed en-masse in the centre, and the armour was split evenly between the two flanks.

The Germans - 102nd SS Heavy Panzer Battalion & Grenadier Kompanie (2,500pts each, Rick).
The German view on deployment was if it wasn’t broke, don’t fix it, and the two pioneer platoons deployed once more in their trenches, overlooked by the 88mm guns installed in a ruined building behind, and the heavy artillery further back on the right. A platoon of Tigers deployed hull-down behind the hills on the right, and a second platoon tried the same trick on the left, along with the SS 2ic in his Tiger. The only change was this deployment of a second Tiger platoon, replacing the Panzer IV’s who went into Ambush positions.

Ebbs and Flows - The Battle:

The British, clearly having learnt from Tuesdays sluggish attack, began with an aggressive infantry centre and two wings of armour. The infantry (Commando troops with some mechanised 7th Armoured support) advanced across the cornfields far swifter than their previous efforts, while the armour also moved with more purpose. The British left carrying on over the hills facing them to try and flank the Tigers there, and the right mainly curling inwards to assist in the attack on the German infantry.

Heavy artillery fire, assisted by excellent use of recon units to reveal the German positions, claimed the 88mm guns, and inflicted several casualties on the defenders, the most notably being the lost of a Tiger on the right. While a Sherman platoon split off to the far right and was engaged by the Panzer IV’s, the main infantry attack went in on the pioneers, and drove away the right-hand German unit, which retreated into the urban areas. The left-hand unit lasted slightly longer, with 7th Armour losing a number of tanks to panzerfaust and panzerschrek fire. The British tanks also came under heavy fire from newly arrived Tigers from the 102nd SS battalion, and lost a number of tanks causing a large Cromwell platoon to withdraw from the battle.

Clashes of armour featured heavily on both flanks as the British commando’s tried to consolidate their position in front of the objective. On the British right the Sherman’s had managed to destroy the SS Tiger 2ic and a Panzer IV, and a bombardment from the Royal Navy claimed another Tiger. However, return fire from the remaining four Panzers and several Tigers eventually bailed out enough to cause them to retreat. On the British left a spectacular fight broke out when a Cromwell platoon advanced far enough to destroy several of the German artillery guns before being destroyed by Obersturnfuhrer Wittmann and a StuG G platoon. The German armour then systematically took the wave of 7th Armoured tanks to pieces with 88mm and 75mm fire, reducing it to three platoons from its original eight and driving it from the field.

The Commando’s gamely fought on after defeat, but without armoured support their lead platoons were annihilated by the wave of Tiger tanks advancing from the urban areas, and, despite destroying one with a well-placed PIAT shot, they had little answer to them and also retreated leaving the battlefield to the Germans.


I was please with the way the battle went on Tuesday, and given the time I thought the Germans would be victorious. Peter had kindly lent me his Tigers for the battle so I went for the same army list (only just resisting the urge to tinker and field the Tiger Company alongside a Panther Company!), and virtually the same deployment, and expected the battle to run as before. I was slightly wrong in that aspect though - where the British had been ponderous, stalled, uncoordinated, and seemly afraid of the Tigers they were now aggressive and driven. There was a definite deployment and attack plan, and little of the crossed-wires of the Tuesday before!

With my re-enforcements slow to arrive (I had three platoons still in reserve at the end - although they were the more ineffective grenadier ones) I feared the worst when the wave of infantry advanced and the enemy massed a big concentration of 17pdrs (Fireflies and M10 destroyers) on each flank. Thankfully the grenadiers held and stalled the tanks, which in turn stalled the infantry, and the British right pincer closed, in my opinion, too soon and ended up arriving on the objective in front of the SS companies guns, and just ahead of any Commando support, rather than what would have been a more ambitious project (and more risky of course) of encircling my Germans and hitting them from front and back.

In the end I had the Tigers to thank, with their sticking power making them extremely difficult for the enemy to shift them from their central position. I managed to remember that I could pick on certain types of tank, and that any of the Fireflies made it past turn three is truly remarkable. It is also worth noting that the fragile nature of the 7th Armoured helped me once I had worked out how many and which tanks I needed to kill to cause a company motivation test - one that would probably be failed. And before the Commando’s and the SS get big heads about their own abilities, it was the StuG’s of the grenadiers which broke the 7th armoured, and the Commando’s were then driven off very easily by a group of four Tigers to which they had no answer.

A good battle, and the biggest fought so far, pictures to follow in the next couple of days.

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