With my Thursday evening ruled out for this week (apparently small children can have birthdays on Thursdays) I was lucky enough for Peter to offer to give my new Flames of War British armoured company a game. He had an eye on a possible upcoming Operation Market Garden campaign, and brought an experimental and newly painted grenadier company – plenty of small platoons of infantry supported by a substantial four gun platoon of PaK40’s, some Luftwaffe AA (including a FlaK36) and a confident trained trio of Panthers. Against this 1500pt force I put my own never before used British; four platoons of Shermans, two patrols of universal carriers and a platoon of infantry, all confident trained.
The venue was my house, and some fields in an unnamed part of France, and the day went not very well for the British in a Free For All mission. With many fewer platoons I was set up long before the Germans, who were able to position their PaK40’s, AA guns and Panthers directly opposite the bulk of my armour on my right flank beside a farm. The railway line, with its steep embankment, slowed my Shermans initially, while the hedgerows hemmed in and slowed down my carriers. An early firefly attempt on the lives of the Panthers was returned with interest and two Shermans brewed up. Not deterred, and knowing that aggression was key if I was to get anywhere with armour, I stormed forwards through the fields and along the road, with half of my armour providing smoke cover for the rest. Unfortunately I sent the right hand platoon too close to the enemy AT guns, and not even the smoke could cover them enough to prevent a murderous fire destroying several of them.
|My strong right flank by the farm.|
|German AA and PaK40 position.|
|My recon ready for the off.|
|My initial attack, advancing across the railway line and then the fields - the Panthers have just cost me 2 Shermans on the near side.|
|Smoke covers the enemy.|
|Casualties mount thanks to the Panthers again.|
By this time I had identified that the left hand objective represented my best chance of success out of the AT guns fire arcs, especially with my smoke barrage reducing the enemy return fire, but not slowing it enough to prevent casualties. I sent my left hand Sherman platoon, which had been left out on a limb near a hill, towards it and tried to force a way through with my central one along the road. On my right the Panthers were on the move, and having dispatched the last of my far right Sherman platoon they began to fire into the fields and road. A slice of luck saw my two fireflies there survive the fire, but their return shots at close range still could not penetrate the Germans armour, and they fell in the next round of firing as the number of Shermans firing smoke became fewer and the battlefield began clearing of smoke and active British tanks. The road was filled with wrecked Shermans, and my attempts to support my far left tank platoon with the universal carriers saw the carriers hit by light AA gun and mortar fire and they disintegrated; two running from the battlefield and the rest burning. The last Sherman platoon proved unable to defeat the surprisingly potent light infantry gun platoon defending the objective, and with German platoons closing in all around it was unsurprising that the British CO failed his moral check.
|My aggressive attack down the road.|
|The attack ends in tears, my tears, despite the dramatic side shot by the Firefly at the Panthers.|
|My last attempt to secure an objective fails due to enemy infantry and infantry guns.|
At that end of that first appearance for my British I learnt a few things, and had the chance to try out some of the ideas I had had beforehand –Armoured companies are best used aggressively, with their manoeuvrability key to hitting one point of the enemy line. I tried to use my four Sherman platoons together, with one moving while the other provided covering fire, and managed this to some extent, although I had split off one platoon to the far left when I would have been better bringing them all together before the attack went in. In the end I took too long working out which was the right objective to attack and lost too many tanks moving over ; poor deployment really. The use of smoke from the Shermans was very effective, although I negated some of its benefits by stopping too close (within 16”) when firing. The width of the smoke markers was also a pleasant surprise. The universal carriers were ineffective because they only had one machine gun each so didn’t cause any damage to the dug-in Germans, and they didn’t have much chance to practice their eyes and ears ability, while my infantry scared off a sniper, but did nothing else. The companies ‘Trained’ status made them horribly vulnerable to enemy fire (that was a real shock when I’ve played with veteran Germans for years!), and the PaK40’s, FlaK36 and Panthers carved through them with ease. I think some artillery capable of laying down smoke and some air support would really help this army, and then its down to practice and tweaking, fortunately despite my defeat I was greatly entertained and pleased with my armies aesthetic appearance.