Friday, 6 November 2009

Flames Of War Battle Report - 4,000pts Germans Vs. British - 'Fighting Withdrawal'


Grenadier Kompanie & Panzergrenader Kompanie Vs. British Motor Company (Red - 2,500pts) & British Rifle Company (Aidan -1,500pts)

This is the re-match of the 4,000pt battle fought several weeks ago between the same opponents. The scenario then was ‘Free-for-All’, and the German mechanised assault came unstuck, with the Brits racing through and only just blocked by a last-ditch defence that relied more on time running out that any hopes of success. This time the scenario was to be ‘Fighting Withdrawal’, and the Germans would be defending, and hoping to improve. Having defeated the Italians earlier in the day morale was high.

Pre-battle Set-up:
Unusually for such a big battle I had not picked my army beforehand, and instead used the 2,000pt grenadier kompanie that had defeated the Italians earlier, and added to it a very heavily armoured panzer grenadier company (no trucks in sight, only halftracks).
Having had the (mis?)fortune to be chosen to defend on an 8 foot frontage (on a 6 foot deep battlefield) I surveyed the terrain. I chose to deploy my Grenadier company mostly on the left in the small town there so they could ambush anyone entering it; three infantry platoons, a machine gun platoon, and the 6 Panzer III’s and 3 Panzer II’s covered this sector, assisted by the mortars and artillery. On my right I left the 88’s and the StuG’s to overlook a wide expanse of open ground, which was mostly covered by four large cornfields and had a farm on the far side. As support I gave them the two armoured panzer grenadier platoons to help counterattack through the fields. The centre could be reached easily by either force, and finally the heavy tank platoon of two Tiger 1E’s was kept in ambush. In a change from the previous battle I was 3 Marder II’s and a machinegun platoon down, but a Tiger 1E and some halftracks up.

The opposition appeared to suffer from some indecision, with the ‘Desert Rats’ motor company deploying mainly opposite the small town down the road, and the ‘Black Cats’ primarily infantry force setting up just the other side of the farm, along with their two infantry tanks platoons, two platoons of Crusaders and my nemesis - the Universal Carrier horde. In essence it was the same army that I had faced several weeks previously and drawn against (but only just), with one change - the RAF had been cancelled, and a platoon of Grant tanks would be making their way down the main road towards the town. I was quite confused but this because I expected to be hunting Crusaders with 88’s and 75mm guns through the cornfields of Sicily (?), and to be facing the infantry in the built-up area up-close and personal. My initial views being that this could actually be very bad for me on my right if the infantry managed to swamp the objective, while my left should be fairly secure.

Objectives - The first was placed towards the back in the centre (a full 44” from the British start line), the second near the crossroads in the town (much closer to the centre of the battlefield), and the third between several cornfields, again closer to the Brits.

Initial deployment, Germans to the right, British to the left, the usual arguments about deckchairs and towels have begun.

The initial deployment, British seen on the right here (motor company in sand camouflage).

Turn 1:
Due to the size of the battlefield, and the British lack of artillery, it was a quiet start. The British infantry on the (German) right started their advance, moving troops and tanks lock, stock and barrel into the farm to use it as cover. The remainder started to move towards the cornfields. On the left the Crusaders started to spread out to encircle the town from the left, with the supporting trucks seeking cover in a small hamlet further up the road. The Germans advanced the StuG’s and panzer grenadiers to the edge of the cornfields to cover the right-hand objective, and managed to destroy a single Desert Rats AA truck with mortar fire on the left.

Turn 1; British 'Black Cats' begin moving through the farm.

Initial German positions within the town; Pnazer III platoons and grenadiers in shot.

Panoramic shot of positions; turns 1-2.

Turn 2:
The British launched a strong mechanised attack down the (German) left, towards the edge of the town, with a unit of 6pdr Portees advancing and firing into the town at Panzer III platoon from their position on top of a hill, destroying two Jerries. The Grants advanced down the centre of the road, and the Crusaders (two platoons) were joined by a HMG Carrier platoon in sweeping around the left of some trees around the town. The German response was immediate and overwhelming. Two Tigers popped into being in the centre of the town (how the British recon missed that they alone know), and blew two of the Grants to pieces, bailing out the third. The Portees were punished for their temerity by a machinegun platoon inhabiting one of the buildings on the towns edge, and all four were destroyed in a hail of bullets.

The Portees deploy on the hill as the Brits advance.
The Motor Companies right hook, trying to encircle the town.

On the right the British infantry reached the far side of the farm buildings and started their advance into the cornfields. The StuG’s, 88’s and panzer grenadiers all fired but the cover offered by the fields protected the Brit tanks and infantry from heavy damage. Two Crusaders to the left of the farm were not so lucky and were destroyed, with the third fleeing.

The infantry tanks prepare to move out of the farm and into the infamous cornfields of Sicily.

Turn 3:
The British attack on the (German) left rapidly became a disaster. No casualties were inflicted upon the Germans, who in turn decimated the Crusaders left hook with 88mm fire from the Tigers. The second 6pdr Portee platoon attempted a ‘tip-and-run’ attack on a Panzer III platoon, but failed to run far enough and suffered the same fate as the first platoon. With the left looking more secure by the minute the Germans took the decision to withdraw the ineffective mortar platoon, and dispatch the second (intact) Panzer III platoon up through the centre and towards the right in an effort to challenge the flank of the main ‘Black Cat’ attack through the farm.

The British ‘Black Cats’ had actually cleared the farm and their infantry and infantry tanks were now advancing across the cornfields en-masse towards the objective. A panzer grenadier counterattack against the British infantry on the far right failed miserably and they were thrown back with numerous casualties.

British infantry tanks near the right-hand objective; a destroyed Tiger.

Turn 4:
The last Crusader tanks on the left were destroyed by the Tigers who were now virtually invincible on that flank. With the ‘Desert Rats’ assault force now reduced to two infantry platoons in trucks hiding in trees, and a HMG Carrier platoon which continued its left hook around the town, the Germans felt safe enough to withdraw a grenadier platoon from the high-rise buildings.

The Germans achieve armoured superiority on the left flank with the demise of the Crusaders.

On the German right things were looking stickier for the goose-steppers. The panzer grenadier platoon that launched the assault the previous turn was attacked and destroyed by British infantry, and the StuG’s just survived a concentrated assault by infantry and tanks and remained within 4” of the objective. The Panzer III’s, chased by a forlorn last Grant tank and several Crusaders, bit into the British flank, destroying a platoon of 6pdrs pulled by jeeps.

By now it had become very clear to all concerned that the left-hand objective was out of the British’s reach with the Tigers there, and the centre objective was too far for the British infantry on the German right to change direction. The battle had become for the right-hand objective which the Brits had to take before the German 6th turn when it could be withdrawn.

Turn 5:
On the German left the 10.5cm artillery pieces took time out from their bombardments of the right flank to lower their muzzles and assist the Tigers in ridding themselves of the HMG Carriers that were buzzing around the rear of the town. The British motorised infantry made a desperate, and doomed, attempt to skirt the town to the (German) right and grab the central objective. The machinegun platoon firstly shot-up their transports, before the Panzer II’s opened fire, killing most of the survivors. With the town secure a second grenadier platoon was withdrawn from the what remained of the Central Business District (it was remarked at this point that the town had remarkably similar characteristics to the legendary town of Novgorod).

On the German right it was time for desperate Wehrmacht tactics, and crunch time for the British, they needed to rid the objective of German troops so it would remain in ‘Black Cat’ hands at the start of turn 6. The Brit infantry launched itself at the StuG’s, firing numerous PIAT’s while the remaining infantry tanks looked to get a flank shot in. However, the cornfields which have served the Brits so well in covering their attack now save the StuG’s from this scare, and even an infantry assault failed to drive the assault guns away. The remaining 88mm gun was less fortunate, and was surrounded and destroyed by the Universal Carrier wave, while the Panzer III’s and II’s were moving across to lend their support. The former platoon shrugging off the chasing pack of Crusaders to do so. Finally the last panzer grenadiers in their halftrack moved in to contest the objective and prevent British victory on turn 6, and sacrifice themselves to buy time for the rest of the armour to withdraw next turn. Due to heavy losses the motor company had also started to take company motivation checks at this point.
Crunch time for the Brits, worrying time for the Germans as the PIAT's and infantry tanks take aim.

Turn 6:
The remaining Panzer III on the German left was withdrawn, having been rendered obsolete by the Tigers presence. The final motorised ‘Desert Rats’, minus their motors, tried to attack into the edge of the town in desperation but are stopped dead by the machineguns once more, with even the Panzer II’s returning to lend a hand.

The Tigers take up defensive positions in the town.

On the right flank the Germans withdraw the right-hand objective and the Panzer III’s and StuG’s follow the before mentioned Panzer II’s back towards the centre, the StuG’s meeting the last Grant going the other way and destroying it. The British take revenge of a sort; piling into the last halftrack and wiping out the remains platoon which had denied them victory. The Black Cats were also forced to start taking company motivation checks on this turn.

German Pioneers making their way across the town to re-enforce the central objective.

Turn 7:
With time running out (game time had expired, and the scenario was timed to end at eight turns), the end was close for the British forces. The Universal Carrier swarm made a late dash for the central objective but was headed off by the StuG’s, and had to content itself with machine-gunning the careless panzer grenadier CO who had got his staff car stuck in some trees.

The Germans withdrew their artillery and returning fire at a chasing pack of Matilda’s (?) and Crusaders using the Panzer III’s, and had some success against the Crusaders. The last Brit infantry outside the town faced the machineguns and Panzer II’s once more and evaporated, and the battle was over.

Panoramic of battlefield; Turns 6-7.

The StuG's take up position around the central objective.

I will admit I have a tendency to go on about my luck when it comes to vital dice rolls, but if any of my fears of a curse are true, then it was definitely lifted this time round and probably handed to the ‘Black Cats‘ CO to hold! Good luck wasn’t needed as much on my left as the Eight Army Motor Company was mostly smashing itself to pieces against a solid urban defence, and the immovable object that the Tigers formed in the centre of the town. The left-hand objective was never really in danger once I deployed the heavy tanks there, and even the central objective was nicely covered by the pioneer infantry and Panzer III’s during the battle.

On my right however, I owe a fair amount to luck. The rules we used for the cornfields (all teams in them, and seen through them, counted as concealed but could see in and out) both aided and obstructed the defenders and attacking teams. The attackers were able to get very close to the objective without the significant casualties the 88mm guns and StuG’s should have caused over open ground, but upon arrival they were unable to see the StuG’s to shoot at them, and the assault gun platoon survived unscathed. However, with so many guns firing at them a fair number of shots still made it through, only to bounce off every time. PIAT infantry, plus 6pdrs and 2pdrs from every angle, simply didn’t make a difference, with the Panzer III’s proving almost as invulnerable to harm as the StuG’s when they arrived on the scene. The halftracks were more vulnerable, but still took more punishment than normal before they succumbed.

Overall I was very concerned about the small size of my army at the beginning (2 Tiger tanks, plus 3 StuG’s make a big dent in any points stash!), and without those two units survivability I would have lost with ease. I did feel a sense of disappointment that I would be defending, because with such a large mechanised force I believed the enemy would have had serious problems if I had concentrated just on one flank. Maybe another time, late war is now upon us whether we would wish it or not!

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