Wednesday, 20 August 2014

454 - Flames of War - Game Vs. Germans; 1900pts (Part 2)

[Part 1 is here - link]

Extract from the Regimental Diary, October '44, 4 King's Shropshire Light Infantry (11th Armoured Division):


After-Action Report,
OVERLOON, Holland;
8th October 1943.

B Coy, 4KSLI were spread out over a quarter mile front about 500yds N of the swollen Loobeek Creek and ordered to hold at all costs ROUTE FERRET taken during yesterday's fighting. Spread thinly, 1Pl under Lt MELVILLE was well spaced and thoroughly dug-in; responsible for the defence of a fairly substantial but narrow polder facing S (with the OVERLOON-VENRAY road/dyke on his right and another dyke parallel some 150yds to his left). 3 and 4 Pl were stationed W of here; 2Pl was in Coy reserve.
When my opponent arrived, I discovered that the club's scenery etc. was not available that Sunday, so we 'made-do', in a gloriously juvenile way, with books for relief and some 28mm buildings. Note the VERY narrow front and the maximised spacing of my deployment in the centre of the table (1Pl) and along my table edge (25pdrs; below too). Matthew's Panzergrenadiers are deployed in a scary line at the top-right, ready to charge...
Veterans' spacing. Oh yeah. That table cannot be more than two feet wide, right?
Just after Stand-To ths morning (0650) the enemy made his counterattack. Immediately Lt MELVILLE called for fighter support and the attached 25pdrs from 151st Ayrshires (whose OP was out in advance of our lines, in one of the curiously large warehouses common to this area).
'No Retreat' Mission. Used without permission (from Battlefront)

The enemy, in half-tracks and with armoured support weapons came upon us fast, evidently intent upon using their speed and surprise. 1Pl remained unscathed at first though, and Capt HARMER swiftly mobilised his reserves. In the meantime, both the 25pdrs and the Typhoon arrived, but had only a very temporary effect on the enemy's advance, in that some units were distracted by firing at the aircraft.

Very soon the enemy was upon us, and although 1Pl weathered more fire as they closed, they were rapidly overrun once the half-tracks reached their trenches. MELVILLE himself was badly wounded, as was Sgt PORTAS. Cpls BAKER and SHEPPERTON were both killed in hand-to-hand, as were 3 other men from 1Pl: BATES, COURT and WILLIAMS, J. Fifteen men were treated for wounds, and Pte WYNNE succumbed at the RAP later that week.
At the end of the Germans' second firing phase, just before 1Pl is charged by the pioneer platoon (on the left) and the StuGs. Note the Marders behind them the pioneers and he two PG platoons charging down the right flank. The two objectives are the large bases at the foot of the image (gulp!), and 1Pl's PIAT team is beside and below the left-hand objective (see below).

After bitter close-wuarter fighting, 1Pl just managed to send the enemy off with a flea in his ear, just as we heard the rumble of 3RTR arriving from reserve. Special note is to be made here of L/Cpl WATKINS, who, armed with the PIAT and in the thick of the melee not only managed to knock out one half-track and a team of Germans but was also (with his loader) the only member of 1Pl who managed to keep his firing trench from being overrun.

At this point (0700), two troops of tanks arrived behind the position: 'B' Troop going hull-down behind the crest of the embankment [Point 162] behind the remains of 1Pl's position to provide cover whilst 'D' Troop advanced up our narrow right flank to close with the oncoming half-tracks. Now Sgt NORTON also uncovered his A/T platoon from their dug-in positions on the facing side of Point 162, and the combined fire of 3RTR and Sgt NORTON's 6pdrs immediately brought the enemy's advance to a halt, resulting in 1Pl's position being cleared of all enemy and the destruction of the assaulting pioneers, three StuGs which had also closed in and two of the half-tracks on our right.

Again, L/Cpl WATKINS - his loader now incapacitated - fought bravely on alone from his now isolated trench: in fact a remarkably cool shot from his PIAT was resonsible for the destruction of the lead StuG; very possibly dealing the blow which broke the back of the Germans' advance. [L/Cpl WATKINS was recommended for the MM for his actions on this day - see separate citation.]

From 0705 onwards the tide turned. On our left, the enemy's Marders were shortly destroyed at long range by the accurate fire of 'B' Troop's Shermans and Fireflies (despite being strafed by a Ju87 Stuka which made a pass on 'B' Troop) - in each case, Lt PELLIGREW, 3RTR is to be commended for his coolness under fire.

By this point (0710), Lt BROMLEY had advanced 2Pl at the double to reoccupy and clear 1Pl's original positions and to reinforce the line.
2Pl arrives at the double (from the left). Note the Stug/half-track graveyard. That white paperback, by the way, is 'Point 162'.

Sgt ABLE's 3" Mortar pl arrived sortly after, and set up on the rght.

In the centre, the combined fire of the dug-in 6pdrs and both armoured troops destroyed one of the half-track platoons just as they reached our lines, and the StuGs, whilst on the right, as our 3" mortar bombs started rain down on the right flank, 'D' Troop's tanks under Lt MEENEY raced up to close with the last remaining half-track platoon, soon routing them (although they were lucky to survive a number of panzerfaust hits).
Objectives secured and 'D' Troop destroy the last of the Panzergrenadiers
By 0715 the enemy was in full retreat and the line had held. 4KSLI took responsibility for 32 prisoners (incl. 4 junior officers) captured or surrendered. Their morale was extremely low after failing to break through what they had thought would be a very fragile line. Cpt LESSING (Observer for the 151st Ayreshires) totalled the matériel abandoned or destroyed as comprising 1x 8.8cm heavy AA gun (which fired directly at LESSING himself often), 7x half-tracks (assorted variants), 3 StuGs and 3 Marders.

Happily, the Regiment and attached units suffered no more casualties at all after the initial assault on 1Pl, except for an AOP pilot, whose Auster was forced down by the enemy's A-A quad guns. In the confusion, he managed to destroy his aircraft and escape back to ROUTE FERRET.

In conclusion, the speed of response from 3RTR in reserve, the excellent siting and direction of the 6pdrs in ambush under Sgt NORTON, the courge and fortitude of 1Pl under Lt MELVILLE and the courageous actions of L/Cpl WATKINS all contributed to a swift and decisive victory over the enemy.

Later, at 1330...

Thanks, All. I hope you're all well.

With specia thanks to my sporting and agreeable foe, Mathew: cheers, mate!

- Chris


  1. Hurrah! What a thumping ol' Fritz endured! He won't be back anytime soon.

    Great AAR mate, thoroughly enjoyable and well written.

    Playing on such a narrow surface though helped you as defender rather a lot I think. :) Still, sounds like your tactics were solid and his dice rolls for saving throws not so?

    1. D'you know, Dai - I read this just before bed last night...and I've been cogitating on the narrow surface since. A lot.

      The short answer is that I've decided to write up my notes (essentially, it'll be a no-frills Part 3), and I'll address it there.

      The longer answer, I think, goes both ways. The following aspects of a narrow field should have benefitted the Brits in this case:
      1) a narrow front on which to defend objectives: true, but I would've just had the second rifle platoon deployed to start with instead of the 25pdrs. In retrospect, the 25pdrs has such a negligable effect on the game, this deployment would've been better in any case...but then, I was rather hoping they'd be worth their cost!
      2) Defensive fire lanes These SHOULD have been a huge advantage, but they weren't - mostly because I was (quite rightly) more afraid of his fire than he was of mine in the first half of the game, as because of my limited deployment and his high mobiity, he was able to fly forward and set up great (and close) firing positions long before my tanks lumbered into view. Sadly, dug-in vets are hard to kill, and he wasn't able to make his rolls. Ultimately, we both had the same firing lanes but luck was on my side.
      3) Limiting Fritz's lines of advance. Again, this should've been an advantage for me but wasn't, as he quite rightly just charged straight at the two objectives in three straight lines. I would've done the same, and he came damned near to capturing both by the end of turn 2. Setting up covering or enfilading fire wouldn't have been much more of a tempting option for him either, as he'd still need to be charging forward in order to set up and wait for my reserves.
      4) Foring Fritz to bunch up. Yup: this one really did work to my advantage...well, it should have, but it didn't simply because THE ONLY TIME IN THE ENTIRE GAME that I actually did something properly useful with the artillery template was when he was cowering behind a building anyway. If my artillery or air support had been of any use at all, then yes, this really would have been a great help.

    2. Oops - 5) The fire lanes of his 88s were limited. Yes, they were. This did work to my advantage, as they only had line of sight to my arty observer (whom they couldn't kill) and aircraft. Once I'd destroyed one of them, they coulldn't undertake bombardments either. Still, they (it) still dissuaded me from advancing!

      The following aspects of a narrow field should have benefitted the Germans in this case:

      1) My reserves were quite limited by the breadth of table along which they could deploy and fitting between other units. Yup. Bugger.

      2) It was impossible for me to get a true (i.e. not as a result of assault) flank armour shot all game. As it happens he didn't have any armour thicker than that of the StuGs, but even so...

      3) There was nowhere for me to set up an ambush. Yup. This could've been a real pain, because as my deployment area was so narrow and filled with Germans so very quickly, there was nowhere sneaky for me to go - nor would there have been even if I'd waited. As it happens, I was able to be canny with this, and just plonk them castled-up in the middle of my deployment zone... but it would've been nice to have been able to split his access of advance by putting them on a flank, or behind one of his units or something!

      4) I was unable to deploy my airpower ANYWHERE, as almost everywhere on the board was within 16" of one of my units. The arty observer, for example, was right near the centre point of the half-way line, on a board that was less than 32" wide. This meant that for the whole of my Typhoon's availability, the only unit it could target was...

      ...the 88s.


    4. Things are never as they seem.

      Yeah, we really need to get in a game sometime. If I'm ever over there again anytime soon. And the wife allows. :)

  2. Excellent report, great job! I knew you'd be able to see him off with all that firepower at your disposal ;-) It was a near run thing though. The infantry displayed their fine British fighting qualities, hanging on lung enough for the big guns to do their work. Love it :-)

    1. Thanks, Dan!

      Yeah, the 6pdrs and the tanks did me proud in the end. Lucky too - they wouldn't have survived a sustained round of focussed German shooting.

    2. Sorry Paul - I saw Dan's name as I was typing. Tired.

  3. Good battle. It just reinforces my need to get around to having some good FoW fights of my own.

    1. Yes - do it! I know it's not got a flawless game mechanic, but it's such fun, and it always looks cool (yes, even on a table like this!).

  4. My father was in 'the Cornish Company' of the KSLI at Anzio. They were transferred from the DCLI after the massive losses in Tunisia.

    1. Crumbs!

      I hope you don't mind me taking a bit of licence with all this - I've tried to do it as tastefully as my limited imagination will allow...


Thanks for taking the time to comment!