Friday, 30 July 2021

Crossing the Waal

 Time for another Market Garden game using NBC WW2. This particular operation isn't something you often see gamed with figures (although I've done it enough times playing Victory Games 'Hells Highway'), the assault crossing of the Waal at Nijmegen. As usual, this was lifted from the Command Decision 'Market Garden' scenario book.

As the battlefield is pretty congested with buildings, I did this in 6mm, which meant I could use my Leven bridges for the Nijmegen road and rail bridges. Being MG, we also had a good turnout for this one, John and Tim G took on the defenders from IInd SS Panzer Corps, and Tim C, Jerry. John and Nick the combined efforts of Guards Armoured Div and 82nd Airborne. 

The southwest flank. The 504 PIR prepares to cross the Waal, supported by the Irish Guards and half the divisional artillery of 82nd AB and Guards AD. This lot was commanded by Tim C.

Facing them are KG Henke, composed of a mixed bag of trainee Fallschirmjagers, infantry replacements and  various assorted police and railway maintenance workers(!). John commanded these. A key feature of the defence is Fort Hof van Holland (the Valkhof) on the hill to the northwest of the rail bridge.

Over in the east and holding the road bridge and Lent north of the Waal is KG Reinhold, drawn heavily from 10th SS Panzer Division units ferried across the Rhine at Pannerden. These units are quite tough. Tim G commanded these. Not typecast at all.

Lurking offtable are the divisional artillery units, but also the rail and road bridge assault forces. Both were a mix of US Paras from the 505th, supported by a combat team from the Grenadier Guards. Famously, Lord Carrington, future Foreign Secretary, commanded the tank troop assigned to the rail bridge. His troop also included Lt Gorman, who rammed a Tiger II outside Caen. Clearly they had quite an exciting war.

It is notable that Guards Armoured 'Division' is now down to three squadrons of Shermans and a single motor infantry company, albeit supported by a whole Field Regiment. The rest of the Division is strung out along Hells Highway supporting the US para divisions. 

View from Lent on the road north to Arnhem. Tim established his HQ here, along with a battery of SS artillery and the entire 10th SS Panzer Regiment! Sadly the SS Panzer guys didn't have any tanks and were fighting on foot. In the distance are the Flak positions at the north end of each bridge, the 88mm guns at each being key AT defences. The rail bridge guns were manned by Henkes troops, while 10th SS Flak Bn manned the road bridge batteries. 

Tim Cs 504th. Two rifle battalions and the Irish Guards (two squadrons plus some US paras). The scenario starts as 'Robert Redfords' battalion is about to hit the water in D2. All the artillery is dedicated to the assault until the Valkhof is captured. The Waal is half a mile wide at this point, so quite scary.

John/Henke had his HQ in the fort and could see the river assault forming up. The defences here are quite thin, with just an Ersatz infantry company holding the river embankment, backed up by heavy weapons in the fort. 

The road bridge. On the south side is Karl Eulings SS Panzergrenadier battalion supported by Jagdpanzer IVs, dug in at Hunner Park, the major road intersection. To the North is 10th SS Flak Bn on the far side of the Waal.

The rail bridge. Flak battery to the north, and various FJ, police and rail workers holding the south in the city itself. The rail line is on a raised embankment, as are all the roads etc on the north side of the river.

There were only enough boats for two US companies to cross at a time, so the first wave paddled bravely across behind a smoke screen. It was quite windy so the screen only reduced the effect of fire, but it was enough to shelter the assault troops, who splashed across under shell fire from the battery in Lent. "Hail Mary, full of grace" etc.

In the city Nicks Guardsmen and Paras made contact with the SS, making full use of the cover of the buildings.

Jerrys Paras and Lord Carrington made contact with the rail garrison. This combat team came under heavy artillery fire from SS artillery east of Lent and were suppressed and suffered some losses, despite the buildings.

Further west, the second wave was swept downriver and landed on the opposite bank to the power station. Ooops! The first wave passed their morale test and charged out from the artillery fire, through the defensive mortar and MG fire  and into the rifle company holding the embankment.

Veteran US paras vs a bunch of half trained teenagers. It wasn't much of a contest. The smoke screen was proving really useful in protecting the Americans.

Back in Nijmegen, the SS and Grenadier Guards settled into a firefight. The Guards weren't strong enough to assault the Germans without artillery support, and the buildings screened them from the 88s. The Germans initially got the upper hand, but the plentiful cover kept losses low.

Back at the river, the 75mm pack howitzers shelled the Fort. This was enough to suppress the defenders but the thick walls of the fortress protected them from any serious losses.

Things weren't going to so well at the rail bridge where the German artillery inflicted more losses. Some Shermans were disabled by 150mm shells. The German infantry were unscathed so far, but their fire had been completely ineffective. The Allies didn't have seemed to have noticed how awful the German defenders were.

Back at the fort, the Royal Artillery had run out of smoke shells and the fighting became an artillery duel as the Americans tried to get more troops over the river. 25pdr HE was a bit more effective against the brick fort, but the Lent battery shifted its fire and hit the US troops ashore. Both sides were now disorganised, but more US troops pressed ahead, avoiding the artillery barrages.

The third wave began crossing, but again were disrupted as some units were swept downriver. Fortunately boat losses had been very light, so the engineers could keep up a maximum crossing effort.  

With the 504th crossing going well, the Irish Guards moved across to support the beleagured units attacking the rail bridge. They came under fire from the 88s at the north end and lost a few tanks, but not before the German defenders finally suffered some losses. 

A combination of artillery fire, small arms and direct tank fire was enough to break the rail workers and police who fled across the bridge. The Guards then assaulted the few surviving FJ over the rail embankment.

Outnumbered 5:1, the trainee FJ didn't put up much of a fight and the remaining German units on the south side disintegrated. The south end of the bridge was captured!

Most of the US Paras were now over the river, and having reorganised, the lead battalion easily stormed the Valkhof. Responding to the threat, the 10th SS tank crews moved over to the western side of Lent to block them along the rail embankment.

At the road bridge, the fighting continued, and both sides had now suffered significant losses. Amazingly, none of the armour had suffered any significant damage yet, despite the close range. The mass of infantry support was proving invaluable.

Back at the rail bridge, Lord Carringtons team formed up on the road ready to rush the bridge.

The rail workers assessed their options for a safe retreat as more and more US paras were appearing to the west.

In Nijmegen, a vicious exchange of fire resulted in the SS infantry disintegrating. This was a  bit of a shock, but they'd been fighting for hours already. The Jagdpanzers on the road junction started to look a bit nervous as their infantry support vanished. 

Intense fire from the 88s on the north side of the river knocked out an entire Squadron of the Irish Guards, who were now looking rather shaky. Lord Carrington wasn't deterred however, and the Grenadier Guards charged the rail bridge along the embankment.

Over they went as the rail workers ran off to Lent. The Flak battery commander frantically operated the demo charge plunger, and..... nothing happened! The Germans just missed their demo roll, and the Shermans rolled over the bridge. Just like the film.

Meanwhile, the SS tank crews, supported by artillery, were doing an amazing job of holding Lent against the 504th. The US just couldn't seem to dent them.

Back at the road bridge the Jagdpanzers pulled back to the north bank and joined up with the SS Flak crews

The entire allied divisional artillery landed on the Flak positions north of the rail bridge, just as the US troops on the Valkhof became disorganised.  Carrington charged the Flak positions behind the barrage.

Ouch! The troops with the red counter are the rail workers who have withdrawn into Lent to reorganise. 

In bloody close combat, the Flak position was overrun, but both Jerry's HQ and Carringtons tank troop took hits, and poor Lord Carrington went up in flames. Mrs Thatcher would need a new foreign secretary. Jerry was left holding the far end of the bridge with a handful of US paras.

With the rail bridge captured, Nick went for the road bridge. The Guards Shermans piled ahead as the infantry marched behind. 

Allied artillery fire smashed into the defences on the north end, scatterring death and destruction. The defensive fire knocked some Shermans out, but this didn't deter them. The Germans failed their demo roll hopelessly (a 3 on 2D6!). The Jagdpanzers decided enough was enough and drove up the main road back to Lent.

The Allies just couldn't seem to make any progress against Lent in the absence of their artillery support. The German artillery meanwhile were firing over open sights, and Tim moved his HQ forward to rally the rail workers supported by the Jagdpanzers.

To make matters worse for the Allies, all the German artillery now rained down on the US paras in the open, and they were also hit by their own guns in the densely packed area. Danger Close! 

The Irish Guards now crossed the rail bridge to reinforce Jerry, and having secured both bridges and the fort, the Allies called things off as night fell. The Germans were firmly dug in to Lent and would have to wait until the next day. "Are you going to sit there and....make tea?" 

At the road bridge the infantry reinforced the Grenadier Guards bridghead. The British were down to a squadron of tanks and half an infantry company, and in no position to advance further.

 Sadly their brave efforts were too late, just as the the US paras were jumping off, the Germans launched another assault on Frosts battalion in Arhem and bludgeoned their way through to the road bridge. Now the way was clear for the rest of 10th SS Panzer Division to drive down the road to Elst and Lent and block the direct route to Arnhem. 

Meanwhile Festung Lent was holding off all comers. Tomorrow, KG Knaust would arrive, with its Tigers from Schwere Kompanie Hummel. But that battle will have to wait for another day.

That went really well. I was a bit apprehensive about the river crossing as it could easily have degenerated into a dull massacre, but Tim managed the crossing excellently. I was also very pleased that we obtained a fairly historical result, although it was a shame abut poor old Lord Carrington.

The German chances of blowing the bridges were not high (9+ on 2D6) as they'd been fought over for days with lots of damage to the wiring. Besides, if they blew up, we wouldn't be able to attack them with frogmen in a couple of weeks time.  Many thanks to the players for participating with such gusto, I loved all the great hats. 


  1. Market Garden has so many potential scenarios involving exotic troop types on the German side it's a wargamers dream.

    1. This one was really crazy. The Allies were a mixed bag too, but I really enjoyed the pressed Railway Workers being handed rifles. They very wisely ran away at the first sign of trouble.

  2. That looks like it was a great game.



    1. Yes, it was a lot of fun although I was nervous that the river crossing would just turn into a horrible massacre. Sorry you missed it.

  3. Very interesting Martin.

    1. Thanks Norm. The Commanmd Decision Market Garden scenarios really are excellent.

  4. Oh my goodness, Martin, what a fight! As you said, not often gamed (not sure I've ever seen anyone game it), but man, you guys did a fantastic job. Great work getting the entire 504th PIR across, two companies at a time, but it seemed the Valkof seemed to put up enough of a fight they couldn't simply sweep into Lent, and further east, I figured there was no way the Road Bridge would fall after the bloodbath at the Rail Bridge!

    Great stuff, thanks for sharing, I really love your batreps using these NBC rules.


    1. Thanks Jack. It was fascinating the way the US attack ran out of steam on the far side of the river. The intervention of both sides artillery was decisive, but I think none of us expected the Allies to manage to storm both bridges!

  5. Another great AAR, Martin. What rules are the NBC, and where does one find them?

    1. NATO Brigade Commander by Tim Gow. There was an old copy on Tims blog, but he wants to publish them commercially at some point, so that has gone now.