03/11/09 - A battle report with a difference, the British view from their commander (my regular opponent Red), followed by my report on proceedings. It was our first foray into Late War.
"First run out for the Desert Rats in Late-War, came as a bit of a shock to Jerry that Britain had some tanks, and his heavy armour wasn't quite as invulnerable as previously. We got a Free For All in some rather open country, despite a number of hills providing good artillery positions. "
"With the threat of not 1 but 2 Tigers dominating the central area, with support from StuGs and FlaK 36 my tanks tried to make use of what cover was available. There was a moment of hesitation as I tried to position myself as best I could to pass in front of the massed '88s, particularly as I wasn't able to bombard the static positions. A minor traffic jam ensued as Stuarts and Cromwell tanks massed behind the hill on my left, whilst towards the centre the other two Cromwell platoons moved forward to challenge the Tigers. On the far right Bren Carriers and Crusader AA tanks moved up behind a bombed village, forcing an infantry platoon to withdraw to the imagined safety of the woods behind them. "
"The Tigers having survived unscathed returned fire and demolished a Cromwell platoon, another tank fell to the StuGs and I considered whether or not I'd made a huge error in attacking across the full width of the table. I decided to make a full blooded charge at the enemy with the Cromwell CS tanks smoking the '88s, whilst both surviving platoons of Cromwells decided to to deal with the StuGs, figuring they'd be easy kills for 2 platoons attacking together. Needless to say the StuGs survived unharmed. "
"The Stuarts attacked the infantry in front of the Artillery but hadn't banked on the '88s lending a hand which knocked out 2 of the things, the survivor still managed to panic the Germans sending the running into their own guns. Sensing imminent doom for last Stuart I went for a charge on the '88s, predictably this ended in a cloud of oilly smoke.There then followed an indecisive exchange of fire between the StuGs and Cromwells with occasional interuptions from the Tigers."
"The Brens supported by the Crusaders attacked the infantry in the woods but got themselves killed driving them off. The weight of fire finally showed on the StuGs and they were forced into the ruins before being destroyed. One platoon of Cromwells folllowed up knocking out the MG platoon holding the position, the second platoon switched targets to the Tigers which had advanced towards them. "
"On my left the German infantry which had been milling in front of the artillery decided to advance, akwardly at the same time I'd made the same decision and mounted my infantry in their halftracks. This prompted a rapid dismount and attempt to reform their gun line.I started to bring up the Observer Shermans, one to help hold the position on my left the other to threaten the objective near the artillery and hopefully draw off some of the forces that could tip either of the critical battles around the contested objectives. On my side the Germans assaulted before I was in position and initially forced my infantry and Cromwell back, however they managed to rally and pushed back in to halt the Germans with a hail of gunfire from all directions."
"On the other side of the field a heavy duty brawl broke out as Tigers, Pioneers and a motley collection of British vehicles began hammering away at point blank. The stalemate was broken when the Pioneers failed their nerve check to charge, leaving them in full view of an artillery officer. This abruptly ended their threat and one of the Tigers brewed up almost immediately afterwards, straight through the frontal armour from the last Firefly. The efforts of the massed Cromwells failed to claim the last Tiger but the final Cromwell from the platoon that got shot up in turn 1 got busted which meant a company morale check was imminent. "
"By this point both sides were spent, neither of us had achieved the vital breakthrough, but the Germans had lost their striking capability and conceded the point.We rolled to see what would have happened with my morale, and the Desert Rats also failed...The Reluctant status of the Desert Rats is something I'll have to get used to, they're a lot more fragile than they appear. I'll also need to familiarise myself with how British artillery works, though even with my clumsy efforts they signicantly out-performed the RAF."
The German View:
There was nearly a nasty brown-alert moment when I turned the corner and saw what appeared to be the entire British 7th Armoured Division waiting for me on the other side of the battlefield! A swift count (once I had gathered approximately 27.645% of my wits about me) confirmed my fears - I was faced by no less than 26 AFV, of which 20 were medium battle tanks, supplemented by 3 light ‘Honey’ Stuart tanks, 3 of my nemesis Universal Carriers, a small platoon of mechanised infantry in their M5 carriers, and the nastiest artillery battery I had even seen - 8 Sextons - all fitted into 2,000pts late war! Against this horde I could muster but 5 AFV‘s, although fortunately I had plumed for both Tigers (which surprised the watching Italians even if it had no effect on the Brits), the StuG’s and the 88’s. The rest of my Grenadier Kompanies force was made up of Grenadier infantry platoons, machineguns, mortars and some artillery.
I harboured serious doubts about whether I had enough shots per turn to defeat such an wave of armour, and my infantry and man-packed gun teams were always going to be doing a lot of hiding in holes and woods while hell was unleashed around them! I was definitely convinced this would be a battle for survival rather than any attempt to take my two objectives on the other side of the battlefield, and deployed the StuG’s and 88’s to cover the right-hand British objective, while the Grenadier pioneers and Tigers lurked near to the left-hand one. The machineguns and mortars crammed into buildings in the centre and the artillery hid behind a hill on the right!
The enemy swept out into the central open area majestically, blazing away at the Tigers and StuG’s. Fortunately the Sherman Fireflies proved inaccurate most of the battle, and the Cromwell IV’s best attempts bounced off the Tigers armour. A Grenadier platoon, which had been a bit ambitious trying to reach another bit of cover on the left, was severely damaged by the Bren Carriers and fell back into some woods. The Brens, and assisting Crusader AA tanks, hid behind the buildings in-case the Tigers turned towards them, but the heavy tanks had bigger fish to fry - destroying 2 Cromwell’s, a Firefly and bailing out a third Cromwell in turn 1! The StuG’s were not quite so lucky in the centre, and the enemy armour raced closer and soon swamped them, with the last assault gun fleeing the field.
The Stuart tanks decision to have a pop at a grenadier platoon on the right didn’t pay off for them, thanks to a massive assist by the 88’s (who truly earned their schnapps on this occasion), and on the left the Bren Carriers made the mistake of venturing into the woods, only for the remaining grenadiers to ambush them with panzer Faust’s - destroying all three AFV’s before following the StuG’s example.
A platoon of Cromwell’s made the mistake of mixing it with the machineguns in the buildings on the right/centre of the German backline, and opened themselves up to the 88’s fire. The remaining bailed out tanks were then captured by the sole surviving officer of the machineguns (must have been on a training course to Finland). This cleared the right-hand British objective of enemy pressure, and left a huge melee of AFV’s on the left. The Tigers found themselves literally surrounded by Sherman‘s, Cromwell’s and Crusaders, and the attempts of the Pioneers to assist were thwarted by the enemy machineguns and artillery. One Tiger fell to a Firefly shot, but the other defied the many Cromwell shots at point-blank range and took up a defensive position behind some rocks covering the objective.
On the German right another sideshow had developed, with the Grenadiers, initially driven back by the Stuarts, now advancing with the assistance of a scout platoon. With the enemy armour destroyed or distracted on the left, they made it to the right-hand German objective, driving off the British mechanised platoon on the way and causing several casualties. Victory was actually within grasp, because the only two tanks on that side were independent teams who could not contest the objective. However, the mechanised infantry passed their 5+ motivation test, and moved back in, and with a hail of machinegun fire (and some awful saving throws) wiped out the Grenadiers and scouts.
With time ebbing away (actually we had overrun and it was almost 10:15pm - many thanks to the key keeper for his patience!), I conceded the field to the British, knowing that victory was impossible. The British then rolled their Company morale check and promptly failed!
I had successfully bled the British armour dry, having destroyed 16 of their 26 AFV’s for the loss of four of my own (and many infantry), but in doing so I wasn’t in any position to do anything but fall-back all game, firing as I went. The Tigers accounted for 5 Cromwell’s and a Firefly, while the 88’s bagged 3 Stuarts, 2 Cromwell’s and a Sherman. The machineguns got a Firefly and a Cromwell with a major assist from the 88’s, and the Grenadiers with their panzer Faust’s claimed the three Bren Carriers. I lost a Tiger and a StuG to the Firefly’s, and a StuG to the Cromwell’s. The British artillery was more effective than the RAF, claiming numerous grenadiers, and several German artillery pieces, and the irony of the British infantry preventing an unexpected defeat should not be overlooked!