Saturday, 13 June 2020

Bumper 400th Blog Post Edition! Operation Goodwood - part 2

Blimey, 400 posts in ten years, that is around 40 a year so not bad. Many thanks to my fathful followers who have stuck with it this long. And as a special treat/dreadful torture here is an extended write up of the actual game of Operation Goodwood, the scenario as described in Operation Goodwood Part 1.

Ah, the game, well the best laid plans and all that. Sadly my plan to do this in 15mm was scuppered by the difficulties of fitting the toys in the hexes. Who knew Cromwells were so big? If only I'd stuck to my original plan of using squares as I did for the original game, but it was too late as I'd already sent the briefings out to the players and I couldn't face re-doing all the maps again.

So, a frantic afternoon was spent sorting out and labelling sixteen divisions worth of 6mm stuff, and putting away sixteen division worth of 15mm stuff. Anyway,  I got there in the end and panic over, it is just as shame that all the Allied bombers I'd assembled are a tad on the large side....

The divisions went from something like this in 15mm:

Three infantry brigades, artillery 'brigade' plus LOG, Divisional LOG, HQ and combat support (AA, AT, MG Bn, Engineers etc).  Very similar to a Corp in OP14.

To this in 6mm. Not quite as imposing!

Three single stand infantry brigades, div artillery, combat support and LOG. For the game I factored in  combat support elements into the combat brigades and rolled all the LOG into a single truck model per division. These are all 3SP units, for a f2f game I'd use hidden SP markers but as I'm doing all the admin and had a lot of stuff to keep track of, I just made up some coloured stickers to differentiate the individual divisions and wrote the SP values on them. I figured the players wouldn't be able to read them over the webcam link. Not knowing the enemy strength in detail avoids micro-calculation of combat.

No great harm done, but it is really hard work doing these remote games and the last thing I needed was a planning glitch like that.

The map ended up looking like this, so there should be plenty of room in the hexes for the 6mm units. I could maybe just have done it in 15mm with single base brigades, perhaps, but it would have ended up really rammed.

I thought I'd use my wood blocks for Caen itself, it looks more city like, especially the Colombelles steel works. The bridges are Irregular 2mm ones, absolutely huge and work great with 6mm. The extra row of hexes at the top is Hill 112 and Carpiquet airfield, from which 43 Div are going to launch their diversionary attack.

So, we had a good turn out for this one. John, Simon and Richard took on VIII Corps (O'Connor), IInd Canadian Corps (Simmonds) and I Corps (Crocker) respectively, with Jerry and Graham taking on 2nd Army staff roles (as Dempsey had vanished somewhere with Montgomery, just like real life...). The wicked Germans were Tim C and Tim G, taking 86th Infantry Corps and 1st SS Panzer Corps. Tim C also took on Panzer Group West, but tbh there wasn't going to be much for Eberbach to do with Hitler looking over his shoulder and I can't imagine Sepp Dietrich would have paid much attention anyway.

The Germans had a staff conference beforehand and in the end decided that the existing defence plan was sound and awaited developments. With several offtable units in reserve they'd be able to respond to the situation, and we just clarified the logistic and artillery arrangements.

The Allies had rather more work to do, including figuring out how to supply an entire Armoured Corps on the wrong side of the Orne while capturing a fortified city located on the far side of a river.

 By the time I'd put everything out, the table was rather rammed with stuff.

View from the Troarn Heights. 346 ID in the foreground, with 51st Highland Div in the Ranville Bridgehead and 3 Div waiting to cross the Orne. Caen in the far distance. The Allied rear area is stuffed with artillery, HQs and supply vehicles, along with 1st Canadian Div reorganising.

The massive traffic jam otherwise known as VIII Corps. View from Periers Ridge. Guards Armoured in the lead, then 11th Armoured and 7th Armoured in the rear. O'Connors HQ and 8th AGRA can also be seen.

The little coloured markers were really useful for keeping the units identified. I've done the same thing in other large scale battles. They aren't very attractive close up but blend in from a distance. 

Looking south towards Caen. Canadian 3rd Div on the left and 2nd on the right. On the far right 43rd Div are preparing for a diversionary attack on Hill 112. 272 ID are holding the Orne on the far side, and 10th SS Panzer Div is on Hill 112.

The Ranville bridgehead. I Corps face 346 ID in the marshes and wooded hills. 51st HD is preparing a bold attack straight up the hill! That is a pretty narrow front for a frontal assault into an entrenched position. 3 Div are on the near side of the Orne facing the marshes.

View from the German side. 16th Luftwaffe holds the front line, backed up by 21st Panzer with battlegroups in Colombelles and Cagny, and the Panzer Regiment reinforced with 503 Tiger Bn in Argences. For the actual game I only left the front line elements on, deploying 21st Panzer etc as they became visible.

And the view from Bourgebus Ridge, Corps Artillery and AT positions, logistic elements, 1st SS Panzer Korps HQ and two panzergrenadier regiments from 1st SS. In the far distance 272 ID hold western Caen south of the Orne.

272 ID faces Canadian 2nd Corps. A KG from 21st Panzer in close support. This is the only major road bridge across the Orne and vital to supply the Allied attack. The German defenders in Vaucelles are quadrupled in strength vs a frontal attack (infantry dug into a city and defending an obstacle). A spot of outflanking might be in order here.

Allied air was conducting continuous interdiction missions, making all non tactical movement very difficult for the Germans, for units in open ground anyway. This is a real problem for their logistic elements and movement in the open in general.

The attack opened with raids by around 2,000 aircraft of various types including heavy strategic bombers.  The real attack came in across the from from the west, but this was the easiest angle to photograph. Each model represents 500 planes, which is why they are so big, or maybe the ground is far away....

I have been assembling 1/100th planes for a while with a view to re-running Goodwood, but now I was doing it in 6mm. Oh well. I'm sure those Lancs can bomb Le Havre instead.

Behind the crushing bombardment the Canadians overran Colombelles Steel Works with minimal losses, and Guards Armoured obliterated a regiment of 16th Luftwaffe Div and then exploited to Cagny where it had an unpleasant encounter with KG Von Luck, suffering heavy armour losses.

The Canadians take Colombelles, shot in by heavy bombers, tac air and the Canadian AGRA. A textbook 10:1 attack on a defended BUA. 

The attack on Troarn didn't go quite so well. The Highlanders achieved a marginal victory but the German defenders chose to stand instead of retreating, resulting in heavy losses all around. The remaining units of 346 ID fell back to defend the town. I forgot to take any pictures in the excitement... 

The Canadians also outflanked Caen from the west, crossing the Orne supported by their Corps armoured brigade. 43 Div put in a pinning attack on IInd SS Panzer Corps in front of Hill 112. 272 ID was pushed back.

Back at Cagny, KG Von Luck, reinforced by the Tigers of the 503rd and supported by the heavy artillery on  Bourgebus Ridge put in a counterattack which drove Guards Armoured back and rendered the armoured brigades combat ineffective. Blimey! The Germans suffered some losses in the process. The Germans then pushed on to Demouville. Double blimey!! The unit with the orange 2 on it is the remains of 16th Luftwaffe Field Div.

Fortunately 11th Armoured Div was at hand (the other orange units).

11th Armoured counterattacked, supported by the Canadians in Colombelles and KG von Luck disintegrated as the 11th exploited back into Cagny. The only 21st Panzer unit left was the KG in Colombelles south. Oooer.

The sacrifice of 21st Panzer had bought enough time for the rest of 1st SS Panzer Corps to turn up. In succession the KG centered around the 1st SS Panther Battalion and Wittmans Tiger battalion rolled up, then the bulk of 12th SS Panzer (mainly KG Wunsche with the 12th SS Panther battalion, SPW battalion and Jagdpanzer Bn) and finally the rest of the 1st SS Panzer Regiment and Stug Bn. Ouch. 

July 19th dawned. Guards Armoured replenished its depleted armoured regiments from the Allies reserve tank pool, but was far to the rear, so the morning tank battles around Cagny, Bras and Four pitted 7th and 11th Armoured Divs vs 1st and 12th SS Panzer Divs. Many accounts of the battle skip over the fighting on the 19th, but in many ways it is far more interesting than the battles around Cagny on the 18th, and the poor old Canadians rarely merit a mention at all!

11th Armoured managed to take Vimont, but the entire 1st Panzer Corps counterattack Cagny (again) and pushed 7th AD back. The Canadians were busy consolidating their positions in Caen and I Corps was lining up for the final assault on Troarn.

We packed up for the evening at the start of the afternoon turn on the 19th, ready to resume the next day. I took a few photos of the situation at close of play.

Things aren't looking too good for 86th Infantry Corps. The defenders of Troarn are hemmed in on all sides and 3 Div has occupied Toufreville. 51 HD is a bit shot up in Ranville but still combat effective. 

The aftermath of the mornings tank battles sees Cagny unoccupied again, the SS declined to pursue 7th AD who fell back to Argences. The Germans wanted to keep close to their gun line on Bourgebus Ridge, the 88s in particular provided close support for the armour and panzergrenadiers.

In an unfortunate development, 11th AD has outrun its supply lines in Vimont as the supply head is still on the other side of the Orne and the trucks are having to go cross country. They have plenty of on-board supplies for now, but high intensity combat will burn up ammo and POL very quickly. Time to get those roads through Caen cleared.

Back in Caen the front has stabilised after the initial successes, the Canadians have even dug in at Louvigny. 43 Div have pushed 10th SS back to Hill 112.

Further back near Periers, 1st Canadian Div has nearly finished reorganising. The supply elements, Corps HQs and heavy artillery of all three Corps can be seen here. Perhaps Simonds is waiting for an extra division?

In all the excitement I'd forgotten various rules (well, it is nearly 13 years since I last played Panzergruppe), particularly losses to support units in combat. But they affected both sides evenly so cancelled out. 

We kicked off on time the following day. We generally restrict on-line playing time to one hour 15 minutes, sometimes a bit longer, as it is so tiring to run the remote games.

The afternoon of the 19th kicked off with (yet another) massive tank battle around Cagny, Bras and Four. 11th Armoured attacked 12th SS from Vimont, and the newly revived Guards Armoured with its shiny replacement Shermans engaged 1st SS at Bras. 7th AD reorganised its armour around Argences while its motor brigade supported I Corps. A maximum air effort was laid on but the Typhoons discovered walls of Flak coming up from III Flak Corps behind Bourgebus Ridge. My only 6mm British planes are this pair of RAF Typhoons, with hand painted roundels. They are very, very old models.

The whole of I Corps assaulted Troarn supported by the motor brigade from 7th Armoured Div. The town had now been subjected to two complete days of heavy fighting. Both surviving regiments of 346 ID became exhausted and retreated eastwards, and all that was left on the ridge was the remains of 16th Luftwaffe Div, reduced to 0 Strength Points! Units are only removed when they have less then 0 SP.  Allied losses were moderate but the infantry of 51 HD were pretty much fought out now. 

The Canadians planned to put in a massive attack on Colombelles South with all the units they could bring to bear including the entire Corps artillery to drive out 21st Panzer Div and outflank Vaucelles.

12th SS, supported by the 88s in Bois de Secqueville and covered by III Flak Corps manged to hold off 11th Armoured, who fell back to Vimont to lick their wounds. Guards Armoured managed to push the 1st SS out of Bras with minimal losses however. Bras was still in range of VIII Corps AGRA. 1st SS fell back to the ridge and deployed in two mixed infantry/armour battlegroups.

Back at Troarn, 3 Div finally entered the town, and the remnants of 16th Luftwaffe Div (reduced to less than battalion strength ) fell back with 346 ID. I Corps were victorious! 51 HD and the Queens Brigade from 7th AD set about reorganising. 

The Canadians 'massive crack' scored a marginal victory, but the 21st Panzer troops in Colombelles decided to hold fast and losses were very heavy on both sides in the street fighting. A feature of the combat systems is that losses are a function of the force ratios and troop numbers. So winning a marginal victory with lots of ground troops is hideously expensive. You need a few ground troops and tons of support units, or just be willing to meatgrind forward, rotating fresh units to maintain the attack.

1st SS Panzer Corps meanwhile counterattacked and drove Guards Armoured back out of Bras with heavy losses. At this point the British armour pulled back to the Caen-Vomint Road to reorg, and 12th SS fell back to join 1st SS on Bourgebous Ridge. An uneasy truce fell over the plain littered with hundreds of wrecked tanks. By this point the Allies had lost around 17SP of tanks, the equivalent of over 400 tanks! German losses were more moderate but still amounted to well over 150, including the destruction of 22nd Panzer Regiment and the 503rd Tiger Bn. 

Armour is quite fragile in this system as it doesn't have loads of SP, but is generally doubled in combat so it is powerful but fragile and suffers higher proportion losses than infantry but also recovers its combat strength faster, which seems to chime with historical accounts.

Back in Caen, the Canadians attacked Colombelles again, with a maximum air and artillery effort and despite the Germans artillery and Nebelwerfer rounds raining down from Bourgebous Ridge, the Canadians scored a tactical victory and remains of 21st Panzer were forced out and fell back to the ridge in front of Veriers. The whole steelwork was now in Allied hands. 3rd Canadian was now fairly shot up, having lost two thirds of its infantry strength, but 2nd Canadian was still full of fight with only light losses. They pressed on and assaulted Vaucelles to the south of the Orne as night fell and inflicted a defeat on 272 ID, who again chose to stand fast so losses were hideous once again.

At this point the weather turned. Torrential rain overnight transformed the plain and the already marshy areas around Argences and Lisieux into swamps. Not very suitable for armoured action, or air operations.  3 Div pressed on through the foul weather from Troarn to support VIII Corps while the tankers tried to avoid bogging their vehicles and the long suffering RASC drivers sat in endless traffic jams. 

The tankers called it a day to lick their wounds, but the following morning back in Caen, during a pouring rain storm 2nd Canadan Corps put in a final attack on the suburb of Vaucelles.  The ground was now so bad that supply vehicles were unable to take the cross country routes to VIII Corps so it was vital to clear the road. 

The Canadians attacked from three sides with maximum artillery and armour support and managed to push back 272 ID from the city. Caen was finally captured and the major road to Vimont was clear! 

2nd and 3rd Canadian were also pretty shot up, and as 1st Canadian and 3 Div moved up to relieve the frontline units, the whole sector went static on both sides and the battle stopped, leaving the PBI to dig slit trenches in the mud and curse the tanks  and bombers for churning up the countryside.

We called it a day at that point with the Canadians and British in possession of many of their initial objectives but clear that an assault in Bourgebus and Veriers was going to be suicide. IRL the Canadians did try for Veriers but were shot to bits as the Allies had underestimated the depth and strength of the defences, just as they had further east. 

So some views of the battlefield on the afternoon of the 21st July 1944 from different angles as it is hard to take photos while running the game.

View north from Bourgebus Ridge. 1st SS Panzer Corps and the Army artillery including III Flak Corps. The Germans said the great Allied mass was terrifying to behold.

The remains of 272 ID south of Caen straddling the Orne (the Odon is the branch to the top left), down to the equivalent of a regiment. The Canadians in Caen are equally shot up and exhausted.

Around Argences, Vimont and Cagny VIII Corps sorts itself out along the Caen-Vimont Road, while 3 Div moves up the line with 33rd Armoured Brigade in support. 7th AD has already reorganised.

And near Bieveille 1st Canadian is back up to strength and prepares to move to the front once again, passing through the Corps artillery lines. The strategic mobility of the Allied infantry is high as they have so many lorries.

But most important of all, now the road through Caen and the bridges over the Orne are clear, a stream of RASC trucks and lorries push down the highway to replenish the front line and get ready for the next 'big crack'.   

 I was very pleased with how that went. We manouvred sixteen divisions over three and a half days of fighting with six players and achieved a vaguely historical result in two and a quarter hours of gameplay, and did the whole thing via Skype.

It is nearly 20 years since I last ran this scenario at Sheffield Wargames Society, and I did it then with a very early version of 'Panzergruppe' called, funnily enough 'Operation Goodwood', derived from my Sinai 1967 game. I played it then on squares using my 15mm stuff, although I was short of artillery so I used my 6mm stuff because it was a long way away, not small (apologies to people who aren't Father Ted fans). Those very same guns got used for this game, albeit rebased. My only real sadness was not being able to use my 15mm Porsche turret Tiger II, carefully painted to look like the one Lt Gorman rammed in his Sherman near Cagny.

Many thanks to the players for indulging in my interest in set piece, high intensity battles. I think they must appeal to my orderly mind. Many thanks too to my blog followers if you have made it this far.

Lets hope I manage another 400 posts.



  1. Congratulations on the blogging milestone. The full table looks really nice.

    I had to smile at 'The massive traffic jam otherwise known as VIII Corps.'

    1. For a while I was scratching my head trying to work out how to fit everything into available space.

  2. It was well worth all your efforts - a magnificent and memorable game!

    1. Thanks John, and well done on maintaining the offensive spirit of VIII Corps.

  3. And excellent game Martin and clearly hard work to run!

    1. Tbh, running it was OK as I'd streamlined it a lot, but planning how it was going to work took a degree of thought.

  4. That looks really impressive. An awful amount of game in a small space.

    Here is to the next 400....



    1. Thanks Pete. Yes, the play area is surprisingly tiny. If I'd used my 6" grid cloth it would have been 3x4. A lot of the battles in Northwest Europe were fought in tiny spaces, a it more elbow room in Russia or the desert.

  5. That just looks ... amazing! Lotsa kit might have its downsides, but the spectacle is worth it, and traffic control is often a military problem as much as logistics, tactics and strategy.

    This is a second micro-scale blog posting I've read today, and the second that makes me think I ought to re-examine all my 6mm kit with a view to tarting it up and getting it into action... Inspirational!

    1. Thanks. Being deeply sad, I've got WW2 stuff in four different scales. 6mm works very well for some things, but if I had to settle on one WW2 scale it would be 15mm. A few of the vehicles used in this game date from theate 1970s and the infantry in I Corps 86th Infantry Corps are original Heroics and Ros figures I bought to play WRG 1925-50 in around 1975.

  6. Excellent stuff. I wonder if anyone has ever put on a game of GOODWOOD in which the Allies do manage to breakthrough the German defences?

    1. Jim Wallman has run it as a Mega game a few times, I don't know what the outcomes were. In Biddles "Military Power" his modelling shows it was doomed from the start, despite the massive Allied force superiority. The extra layer of defences further back, out of artillery range, were what scuppered it. Once the guns were hauled over the Orne, the Allies broke through fine a few weeks later.

    2. Arguably, the British achieved their objectives anyway. The Troarn Heights were cleared, Caen was captured and VIII Coeps did indeed 'establish itself in the area Bourgebus-Vimont and write down enemy personnel and armour'.

      They didn't exploit to Falaise, but that was only a conditional pipe dream anyway.

  7. A fantastic battle report, Martin, thanks for sharing! You really are a 'big battles' guy, and that was amazing. I must say, I'm actually happy that you went with 6mm, for me it made the action very realistic, probably as the toys were much closer to 'real' ground scale than the 15mm would have been.

    Hurrah for the good guys! I was very happy to see the Commonwealth forces carry the day, all the way to the edge of Bourgebous and Verriers Ridges. The fight, and descriptions of the fighting, was marvelous; I always love accounts where there are assaults with defenders falling back, attackers consolidating on the objective and being passed through by fresh units or falling back themselves to regroup/replenish (rather than "attacker annihilated defender and continued pushing south"), and yours read just like a military history.

    The most impressive piece to all of this may be the fact all that occurred in less than 2 and 1/2 hours of playing, amazing! To that end, I've taken the liberty of downloading your Panzergruppe rules, thank you.


    1. Thanks Jack. As I said to Pete, for this game I streamlined it a bit and used fixed move distances instead of the dice rolls. Engaged moves for infantry were 1 hex and for Mech units, 2. March moves were 2 x country and 3 on a road for leg units, and 5/8 for Mech and motorised units. The game mechanisms are designed to encourage players to rotate their units for reorganisation instead of fighting to the death (but that is always an option!)