2,000pts "Free-For-All" Scenario.
With the battle for Normandy suspended it was back to mid-war mediocrity and picking a fight with another 'alle'. I was actually given the choice of whether I would like to fight the Finns infantry company or tank company. Having picked my army earlier I wasn’t going to make any changes based on the opposition, and because I had not faced them before I plumed for the tank company.
The Finns army, at first look, appeared daunting. A total of thirteen tanks, including the two KV1e’s - with armour to match a Tiger, lined up preparing for deployment, and reminded my of Red‘s 7th armoured (“haven‘t we just left this party…”). They were joined by three assault guns - the irrepressible BT-42‘s, some heavy artillery, a pioneer platoon, two units of anti-tank guns and a couple of Landsverks (armoured anti-aircraft vehicles with a nice sideline in light-tank and infantry killing). However I was given hope having looked up the enemies vital statistics, and realised that only the KV1e’s were a match for any armour I could put down, and at least seven of the tanks, and the assault guns, were vulnerable to machinegun fire!
My own force was heavily infantry-based, with a total of three grenadier platoons, machinegun and mortar assistance and a unit of two PaK40 anti-tank guns. The real killing power rested with my remaining two platoons; the StuG F/8’s at full three-assault-gun strength, and a Tiger 1E. I hoped the Tiger would even the playing field against the KV1e’s, while the StuG’s could pick off the rest of the armour and the infantry did its usual trick of hiding in buildings and trees until it was time for medals and schnaps.
I deployed my two objectives as far from each other as possible in the enemy deployment zone, hoping to split the Finns units, the opposition placed their two quite close together in the centre of my deployment zone.
I was thrown off balance early on with the enemies deployment and initial attack. Six light tanks (T-26’s) set off down my far right, while the bulk of the enemy armour and their pioneers attacked down the left. Cunning deployment of one of their anti-tank gun platoons (also PaK40’s as it turned out) instantly restricted the Tiger’s movement in the centre, and it was unable to go to the aid of my first grenadier platoon which was overwhelmed and destroyed in short order by the enemy pioneers in buildings on my far left while the Finns tanks kept watch. The StuG’s were also unable to help due to the persistence of the light tanks - with only one grenadier platoon and the PaK40’s on my right/centre I had to maintain a presence to prevent the T-26’s sneaking in to grab an objective.
For a time it did not look good; the StuG’s and PaK40’s struggled to kill off the T-26’s swiftly (although they finally got there by turn five), while the only thing my Tiger truly feared - pioneers - were advancing, seemingly unstoppably, towards the centre supported by a mostly untouched tank spearhead of ten AFV‘s. Then luck and the fear factor took a hand in proceedings.
My own pioneers, guarding a wood, and the only unit between the enemy attack and the objective held by the Tiger, struck very lucky and pinned the enemy pioneers with defensive fire, and then beat off an attack by the T-28’s in the tank column. They would only last one more turn in their foxholes, but by the time they had all succumbed the enemy pioneers were reduced to a single team which soon fled. This punch-up did cost me my company CO as well, but bought time to bring the StuG‘s back towards the centre. Meanwhile fear of having to go toe-to-toe with the Tiger - an enemy now only the KV1e’s could damage, and then they could only hope to bail it out - had struck the Finns armour, and it stayed hidden from the Tiger behind the much-contested wood, trading shots with the StuG’s in an ineffective fire fight.
With the T-26’s on the right destroyed my final grenadier platoon finally went on the offensive, moving through a series of ruined buildings and a wood to a position where it could launch an assault upon the enemy heavy artillery. With no Finnish infantry or armoured presence on that side the heavy guns were quickly silenced in turn eight, and any attempt to rescue the situation with the PaK40’s was finished off by three fortunate (and very long-ranged) shots from the Tiger who was starved of other targets.
With nothing else left to contest the objective, and no way of forcing a company moral check the Finns gracefully conceded.
I was concerned about the Finns giving an Italian-esk performance with their light tanks, but compared with the Eyties their tanks are far too slow and unreliable for this sort of tactics, and the slow methodical approach works much better. The pioneers could hold the key to the Finns tank company success - with my infantry confined to their woods and buildings in fear of getting hit by the massed tank machineguns in the open, and my supporting Tiger and StuG’s distracted, the Finns pioneers were able to pick their targets without interruption.
In the end I am left giving thanks to my own pioneers for stopping them, because I don’t think the Tiger would have, and nothing else was able to assist. Credit also goes to Nathan for his aggressive placement of his two PaK40 AT guns, who were stood in the open covering the whole of the battlefield while my two had already taken to the trees with virtually no affect on the battle. The Finns armour may have been paralysed by the Tiger late on, but the Tiger didn’t move more than six inches onto the battlefield for fear of the PaK40’s! I just hope the Brits weren’t watching…..