Saturday, 30 June 2018

A Drop Too Far from the Bridge

John has recently painted up a load of PSC 15mm British paras and wanted to get them on the table. As I own the 'Market Garden' scenario book for Command Decision, I managed to find something suitable fairly easily, the specific scenario covering 1st Para Brigades attack into Arnhem on the afternoon of the 17th September.

For some unaccountable reason the authors had made the battlefield about twice the size of the actual one and had misplaced 1st Para Bn  to have apparently landed where the South Staffs did. I spent some time researching the actual drop zones, battlefield layout and what the Germans actually had and when it turned up (not the 25 tanks and armed halftracks reported by the South Staffs!). The research aspects were actually really enjoyable, and I based the core of the scenario around the account in Middlebrooks 'Arnhem 1944', supplemented by 'It Never Snows in September' and some painstaking research conducted by various people on internet forums about the German OB.

I was particularly delighted to find the entire battlefield would fit on a 4x4 (representing appox 1.5 miles in each direction). I left 2nd Battalion out as they made it to the bridge, focussing more 1st and 3rd Bns action against Kraffts 16th SS training Bn, supplemented by KG Weber and KG von Allworden.

The battlefield from the southeast. Western Oosterbeek nearest the camera, Wolfheze in the far corner and the main Arnhem-Ede road in the top right.

The destroyed Flak train and artillery park in Wolfheze was and excuse to get my train set out. Various civilians,lunatics and South Staffs wandered around the village. Very hard to tell them apart.

1st Para Brigade command team!

3rd Bn came on along the road to Oosterbeek. Civilians cheered as they marched along. Phew, no Germans around then.

Goughs recce squadron roared through Wolfheze stopping only to pick up some intel from the Staffs. Contary to Ryans account and the film, almost all the recce squadron landed OK and set off down the Wolfheze road. 1st Bn marched along behind. The Staffs reported that the road SE to the Wolfheze hotel was blocked.

3rd Bn continues its march, recce platoon to the fore.

Oooer, Gough meets some Germans dug in on the railway embankment. The leading half troop of jeeps is knocked out and the survivors dive for cover. These Germans seem to be quite well armed, including flamethrowers (this is a platoon of 4 Company of Kraffts battalion, which included a flamethrower section).

A close up of the ambush. The remaining jeeps fired back but their MGs were ineffective against the German trenches. Gough sent a contact report back. irl this became very mangled indeed and led to reports that the entire squadron had been knocked out.

Meanwhile in the south, 3rd Bn shot up a German staff car which pulled out of a side road. The occupant being none other than the Arnhem Town Commander, General Kussin. The general did not survive but various interesting documents were retrieved from the car.

1st Bn laid down mortar fire on the stubborn Germans, suppressing them, so Gough set off to bypass the area. Just visible in the woods to the right, KG Weber has turned up (hastily armed Luftwaffe signals troops). Lurking in the woods was sufficient to put the British off from heading in that direction (irl 1st Bn went that way to get around Kraffts roadblock and tangled with the Luftwaffe).

1st Bn decides to form up for an assault and push the Germans aside. The Germans very unfairly call down mortar fire of their own.

Meanwhile Gough makes it onto 'Leopard' route heading for the junction with the main road.

1st Bn discovers that the Germans on the railway have some flank support. They also suffer some losses from German defensive fire and the recce platoon are pinned down.

Down on the Utrechtsweg, more Germans ambush 3rd Bn as they march on past Kussins staff car. These are two platoons from Kraffts other SS infantry company. 1st Light Airborne Artillery Regiment drops a concentration on them to keep their heads down.

Oh dear. Gough discovers that KG von Allworden (9th SS Panzerjaeger Bn) is parked on the Amsterdamsweg. irl these chaps were here half an hour before the paras had even left their drop zones, which demonstrates the speed of the German reaction. They still had a couple of working panzerjaegers, towed PAK and may (or may not) have been supported by a couple of  Mobelwagens. I decided to represent their armour with a single Stug, as I don't have any 15mm Jagdpanzer IVs or Mobelwagens! 

The infantry element were a company equivalent of dismounted SS panzerjaeger crews at this time, but later in the battle they were reinforced up to battalion strength.  Dimly visible is a patrol of Sdkfz 250/9 from 9th SS Recce Bn, which spent much of the afternoon of 17th September sending patrols all over the place before crossing Arnhem Bridge later that night (and probably accounted for the South Staffs various armour sightings). 

It turns out that Kraffts second company is supported by SP Flak on armoured halftracks. These were cunningly placed by Krafft on the north-south road east of his main position to intervene on either route. 6pdr to the front! Fortunately for the paras, the SS flak gunners are poor shots.

In the north 1st Bn discovers even more SS in the woods blocking the road. Krafft had half his battalion dug in covering this approach (the rest were strung out south of the Wolfheze Hotel) Things are looking a bit sticky here but some brave paras are skirting the woods following Gough.

The paras move in to assault. It all gets very messy as the Germans are unsuppressed and pour fire into the attacking paras. Over in the far left the recce platoon has discovered the SS troops that the South Staffs mentioned before, covering the road past the Wolfheze Hotel.

Things are going better in the south. The leading paras bypass the German resistance as the forward infantry are thoroughly suppressed by the artillery fire, and the 6pdr troop manages to drive off the armoured flak, who fall back down the side road. 3rd Bn is now slightly handicapped as both Brigadier Lathbury and General Urqhuart have turned up at Bn HQ having been on a bit of walkabout in the woods. irl both accompanied the battalion into Arnhem where they managed to get lost again.

The SS panzerjaegers prove to be appalling shots, or perhaps the jeeps weaving at high speed make very hard targets to hit with an SP gun? In any case, Gough determinedly presses on under a hail of fire from the SS.

More Germans roll up, this is Kraffts last company, busily launching a counterattack through the woods (which would later get written up by Krafft as a huge victory, even though it actually achieved very little). Meanwhile the paras continue to bypass the resistance.

Up in the north, 1st Bn finally clears the SS from the railway and the road. The way to Arnhem is clear! Apart from all those SS panzer troops. 1st Bn aren't going to be getting anyone off the table before nightfall, but they have made a bit of a mess of one of Kraffts companies. irl Krafft became somewhat nervous about encirclement as night drew in, with good reason, and fell back to join the main blocking line north of Oosterbeek after dark, taking his armour and heavy weapons with him. 

One half troop of jeeps is finally hit and falls back into the woods, while the rest rush off past the bemused Germans. irl only Goughs HQ troop made it via a very roundabout route, and Von Allwordens men ambushed the leading elements of 1st Bn as they cleared the woods to the north, even mounting a counterattack back down the road supported by their SP guns.

Down in the south, the leading company of 3rd Para is well on the way to Oosterbeek with little to stop them and the Germans in the woods are thoroughly pinned down.

With that we called it a day. It looked like the British were going to get one para rifle company off, and a full recce troop, which was rather more than irl (where a single company from 3rd Bn slipped down the railway line after dark and  most of the jeeps headed back to Div HQ and sat around with nothing to do).

I was a little disappointed that we didn't make it to nightfall, but on the whole it was a reasonably historical result. The paras have loads of ground to cover, and any sort of delay is fatal to their timetable, so even minimal resistance from scratch units is enough to mess up their timetable. Many thanks to all the players for participating and role playing with such gusto.

irl Von Allworden was reinforced up to battalion strength, and his unit and Kraffts incorporated into KG Spindler (9th SS Panzer Artillery Regiment, reinforced with the 9th SS Engineer Battalion) so when the paras resumed their advance the next day, they were facing a blocking line which outnumbered them, so it is hardly surprised that Frost ended up isolated at the bridge

John and I had a brief discussion later about developing a more modern set of rules which could handle a full brigade (with platoon stands) as Battlegroup is both quite old and also designed with only a single battalion in mind. The recent work I've done around modifying the Portable Wargame has given me lots of thoughts in this direction so I've got a rough draft worked up already, though they looks suspiciously like Neil Thomas's nineteenth century rules with various bits of NQM bolted on! Well, an interesting project anyway.


  1. Is the photo the command team or the escaped lunatics?

    1. As I said in the commentary, hard to tell them apart.

  2. Thanks for the detailed AAR, enjoyed and also liked that all of this was on a 4' x 4'. I have just read Beevor's Arnhem. a most worthwhile read.

    1. Many of the actual Arnhem battles are on tiny pieces of real estate, certainly at brigade level. I hugely enjoyed researching it, especially as now have a definitive list for Graebners battalion.

  3. Nice layout - I do like the mottled playing surface! I used to think Cornelius Ryan's book a boon to war gamers, but that's the nature of historiography: new information and/or interpretations come to light from time to time.

    1. Thanks, I'm really pleased with the mat, it looks so much better than my ratty old collection of green cloths.

      My hexon will remain my first love for terrain, but I'm almost coming back to the idea of playing games using rulers instead of a grid.

      Naturally I've already forgotten where I bought it from.

    2. I'm a big fan of non-gridded games, even though I have gone down the squares route for ALAMEIN, by popular request.

      Regards, Chris

      regards, Chris

  4. Nice report
    Well worked scenario
    Thanks for posting

    1. Thank you, it has been on my to-do list for only a couple of decades!

  5. Excellent BATREP, Martin.

    Regards, Chris.

  6. Looking forward to your CoW 2018 reports