Sunday 28 August 2022

Fuentes D'Onoro

 John put on Fuentes D'Onoro using Brown Bess Squared. Myself, Mark and Tim C were the French, while Tim G and Russell were the perfidious Brits. I've actually gamed this battle three time before, using Horse Foot and Guns, DRAM and 2x2 Napoleonics. It is an interesting engagement and  bit of a sticky wicket for Massena. I have actually won it as the French, but I can't quite remember how I did it now as it was some years ago and pre blogging.

John had set the terrain and forces up as per Oman, whereas I based my games on Pagets "Wellington in the Peninsular". Irl Massenas most successful attack was via the south, but I have to say all those marshes make that look a distinctly uninviting route! Perhaps they were a bit drier in the real battle, but in Brown Bess they are an almost insuperable obstacle, far worse than then the enormous ravine north of Fuentes.

Anyway, I had a look at the map and came up with a plan. Mark would take the left wing and demonstrate strongly against Fuentes while screening the left flank with the cavalry. Tim would take the right wing and hang back a bit, then make a violent concentrated assault against the right. Given Wellingtons forward deployment, the road network mitigated against easy reinforcement of the right. 

I kept a single Corps of two divisions in reserve, located behind Mark but with an eye on all those lovely roads on the right leading across the gorge and off the table (we had to exit two divisions to lift the siege of Almeida). 

In the event, Russell couldn't make it, so Tim took the British on his own.

Marks Corps formed up with much fanfare for a frontal assault on Fuentes, while Tim C shuffled sideways surreptitiously. The woods rather interfered with the movement and Mark ended up in a ragged line. The British obligingly moved lots of troops forward to mass against the apparent threat.

The pinning attack on Fuentes could have gone better. Mark advanced in line with two divisions arriving before the third, and was shot to pieces by the three British divisions waiting to receive them. We did inflict some damage on 2nd Div in return, but that was all. Meanwhile Tim C advanced en masse to the river, and his Guard Light Cavalry dashed across the bridge into the British on the other side, who had advanced up to the river just within charge range and neglected to form square. Ooops.

The British aroudn Fuentes routed the remains of Marks Corps, and the fighting on the right wasn't going brilliantly. One hit on the British infantry and two hits on the Guard Cavalry. Our infantry had damaged the lone division on the far right though.

Things took a turn for the better fairly soon however. Massena dashed over to encourage the Guard cavalry, and although one of our infantry divisions was routed, both British divisions fell back in disorder and our troops formed column ready to exploit. Wellington suddenly realised the peril he was in and dashed northwards to rally the troops, while the British lines ponderously turned and began plodding towards the new threat.

Time for our carefully planned masterstroke. Tim's columns pushed across the gorge in pursuit of the division on the right. My Reserve Corps left one division to mask Fuentes, while the other division and the Dragoons dashed across to Alamada. The Guard Light Cavalry pursued the retreating infantry in front of them (naturally!). 

Tim handily obliterated the routed British on the right as his columns advanced, and the Guard Cavalry wiped out the British on the left, killing Wellington in the process. Disaster! The British were a bit purturbed to find a cavalry division in their midst and all three divisions formed square. Meanwhile I'd put my reserve division across the gorge to threaten their flank and the Dragoons formed march column on the road to the rear. 

Sadly my reserve division was gunned down by the Light Division who had very unfairly formed line before I could charge them. The British squares also saw off the Guard cavalry. All the delay had allowed the two French divisions on the far right to form into March column on the road to Almeida though, and the dragoons dashed up the highway in support. 

The British were just too far away now, and screened by a division on their left, and supported by the Dragoons, the two French divisions on the right marched off the table and brought much needed supplies to the Almeida garrison. Vive la France! 

The was loads of fun, and although at one point I thought things were looking pretty hopeless for the French as the British infantry are just so good, it worked out in the end. Mark was a bit unlucky to lose his entire Corps in two turns(!) but the Guard Cavalry got a bit lucky in their charge and that really opened things up. After that, we were able to exploit the breakthrough faster than the British could respond, although there were a couple of hairy moments in the centre. 

Wednesday 24 August 2022

20mm WW2 6th Armoured Div

Back to looking at my 20mm WW2 stuff again. My other 20mm British Armoured Div based for Megablitz is rather older than 1st AD, and was originally aimed at Tunisia games. It features some fairly venerable vehicles from my 1970s 20mm collection.

Here it is in its box, like 1st AD, it fits fairly neatly, although those AFV bases are quite big.

The armoured brigade. Three tank regiments and a motorised infantry battalion. This is based on 6th AD in Tunisia (Bladeforce etc) which actually had a battalion of US Lees attached. As it is 1942, the tanks are all camouflaged in SSC2 brown with black disruptive patterns.

The junior regiment (Tac number 53). A plastic Valentine, I'm guessing Matchbox, or maybe Revell? I picked this up in a cheap box of second hand plastic tanks and it just needed a little bit of tlc and repainting. Valentines featured a lot in Tunisia, including at the Battle of Kasserine Pass.

The middle regiment (52). The good old Airfix Crusader, made up as the 6dr version. Despite the Airifx box art, it is highly improbable that they arrived in Tunisia in Bronze Green(!). A lovely model, a local purchase from the one remaining model shop in Sheffield, which  I assembled.

The senior regiment (51). My very battered old Airfix Lee, one of the survivors of the school wargames club. Why wouldn't you want 5 MGs?  This is painted with SCC2 upperworks and OD running gear, a scheme which wasn't uncommon with early Lend Lease stuff. Really it should be OD all over as it was a US unit on loan, but it fits in better like this.

The motor battalion. An Airfix carrier and a couple of Airfix infantrymen. The carrier is from a pair of towed 6pdrs which made up my 'anti-tank platoon' used with the old Charles Grant 'Battle' rules.

The lorried infantry brigade. Three infantry battalions and a lorry.

The brigade transport is a Frontline resin model. Looks like I've forgotten to add the white bits to the windscreen on this one!

The infantry are more Airfix figures, all in similar poses (firing).

Royal Artillery. An Airfix 25pdr (I'm pretty quick at putting these together now), and an Airfix 6pdr and carrier, more survivors from the 1970s.

Recce Regiment. An armoured Car and two scout cars. The Armoured Car is a Matchbox Daimler.

The second squadron has a Daimler Dingo. I'm going to say Matchbox? , a delightful little model in any case. 

And the third squadron has a rather blobby Frontline resin M3 Scout Car.

Divisional assets. The Royal Engineers and a Light AA Regiment.

This SP 20mm Crusader is a conversion I did decades based on the Airfix Crusader chassis. I think the design was in Airfix magazine (another Gerald Scarborough conversion) . The turret was quite a challenge as I recall.

Divisional HQ. The Tac HQ and Royal Signals Corps regiment.

The divisional commander rides a Hasegawa jeep. Not sure where the driver in beret came from, it is possibly a headswap with the supplied driver figure. RTR beret, naturally.

The signals regiment has a couple of Arifix figures and one of the Frontline resin 15cwt radio trucks.

This is a really nice model, very crisp.

Divisional logistics. RASC Fuel and transport columns.

The transport column is another Frontline lorry.

While the fuel column is one of my venerable Airfix bendy trucks with a few oil drums in the back. These were originally in German three colour camo and provided wheeled transport for my Charles Grant era Airfix Germans. It was so nice having some truck models you didn't need to stick togther (or cost a fortune like Roco ones did).

Like 1st AD, it is fairly easy to convert this one into an infantry division by adding some infantry and artillery bases. I've also got a stock of spare Shermans and Cromwells so I can swap the tanks out for later war models if required.

Friday 19 August 2022

Groesbeek, September 1944

 Another game in my series of Market Garden battles, this time the 82nd Airborne on Groesbeek Heights on 18th September 1944. The 82nd had two LZs around the heights and dropped without incident on the 17th, and various columns set off to Grave, Nijmegen and several other bridges. The Reichswald was quite close by and Allied intelligence was concerned abut the possibility of counterattacks from the forest, some intelligence estimates even suggested that IInd SS Panzer Corps was located there, refitting from tank depots at Kleves. The heights were also the planed location of 1st Allied Airborne Army HQ.

This resulted in a relatively strong garrison being left on the heights, to the detriment of the attack on Nijmegen, which was only assaulted by a single company on the 17th, and although the bridge at Grave was captured intact, the attack on Nijmegen failed.

The scenario is converted from the ever useful Command Decision 'Market Garden' scenario book.

Battlefield from the south. Nijmegen is off to the northwest, Grave to the southwest and the Reichswald to the east. There is a bridge across the canal in the south. The road over the bridge leads north across the heights via Mook,  Groesbeek and then to Kranenburg in the north and on to Nijmegen.

The heights are held by 1/505th in extended order, the RHQ is back in the village. The heavy weapons have been distributed among the rifle platoons. One of the LZs is just below the heights, marked with a glider.

In the north, Kranenburg is held by two companies of 1/508th. There is another LZ to the west.

Leading elements of Korps Feldt lurking on the edge of the Reichswald. This formation was thrown together from various fortress and training units from 406th Fortress Div and Wehrkreis VI under the notional command of Korps Feldt, but operationally the tactical HQ was run by Oberst Rasch. The first wave was four battalions, two of trainee NCOs and the others being border guards and replacement units.  The Korps lacked any services such as signals, engineers or anti tank weapons, infantry heavy weapons were in short supply and no artillery was available on the 18th although a battalion of captured Russian howitzers would arrive on the 19th.

The US were supported by two batteries of 75mm Pack Howitzers. I don't have any 15mm models of those, so my US 105s will have to do. I also made up a Field Hospital so James Caan can drive his wounded Captain there later and threaten the surgeon (if you've not seen A Bridge Too Far, don't ask).

Various reinforcements due to arrive. Three more battalions for Korps Feldt, plus some light armoured vehicles. The US have a weak engineer battalion and the missing three companies of their two para rifle battalions, hurriedly recalled. Overall the US are outnumbered 3:1 in combat companies.

View from the Reichswald. I'm sure this will be easy Hans!

Russell took the Germans in the north. Their NCO battalion lurked in the forest while the Border Guards marched bravely forward, then fell back in disorder as they came under long range mortar fire.

Simon took the south, and his NCOs also sidled through the forest, while the Ersatz battalion marched singing down the road.

The NCOs pushed forwards while Russells Border Guards reorganised.

Under a hail of 75mm artillery fire, Simons NCOs fell back again. Pete brought on the second wave which consisted of such elite troops as a Luftwaffe Fortress Battalion and the infamous 'Stomach and Ear' Battalion - troops who were deaf or needed special diets. Oberst Rasch drove on to oversee proceedings, and John moved the US RHQ forwards for better artillery observation.

Russell and Simon advanced their forward units. Russells trainee NCOs ran into a wall of small arms, machine gun, mortar and artillery fire and were throughly pinned down in the fields in front of the heights. Simons replacements thought it would be a good idea to spread out at this point. 

The forest was a bit jammed with Germans in various states of disarray. Petes battalions made their way around the disordered NCO battalion. Obsert Rasch moved across to encourage them.

Great excitement in the north. KG von Furstenburg appeared with another infantry battalion and a platoon each of armoured cars and SP Flak. This was the combat debut of my Forged in Battle Sdkfz 221. Or 'Lt Grubers Little Tank', as it was immediately named.

Down near Mook, Simons Ersatz boys came under artillery fire and were pinned down.

But KG von Furstenburg pressed on to Kranenburg. US fire thinned their ranks but they shrugged it off.

Simons NCOs rallied and Petes two battalions pressed forwards. The German attack in the centre was suddenly looking serious.

They approached the LZ.

KG von Furstenburg scored some hits on the defenders of Kranenburg, but the follow up assault fell apart in disorder. The SP Flak went to join the Luftwaffe Fortress battalion.

In the south the Germans overran the LZ and suddenly Mook was looking quite threatened. Oberst Rasch moved up a bit closer. Mook was now strongly garrisoned by the 307th Para Engineer battalion and two of the missing companies of 1/508th.

In the north though, the defenders of Kranenberg were in a sorry state, reduced to one weak company as the Germans and their armour closed in.

Faced with overwhelming numbers of Germans, the defenders of Mook decided the only sensible course of action was an immediate counterattack! A volley of fire thinned the German ranks.

And the US paras tore them apart in close assault. Veteran US paras vs half trained replacements, it wasn't much of a contest. This also put the paras rather close to Oberst Rasch. He bravely engaged them with his Luger before hopping in his staff car and driving away.

The Stomach and Ear battalion didn't fancy getting close assaulted by the paras, so also decided attack is the best form of defence and piled up the hill into the US Regimental HQ. A bloody melee resulted, but the defending para company was overwhelmed. The HQ team hung on grimly.

Up in the north the Germans poured fire into Kranenburg from their infantry and armour, clearing away the last of the defenders.

The US Regimental HQ finally succumbed to the German assault, the wounded CO was evacuated by James Caan to the aid station in the rear.

The Border Guards battalion occupied Kranenburg, and Lt Gruber piled down the road to overrun the other LZ with his armoured cars.

The NCO battalion which had been pinned in the fields finally sorted itself out, and despite being at half strength, joined in the charge up the hill.

The US paras where overwhelmed, but not before they'd inflicted enough losses to disorganise the Germans who halted to reorg on the objective.

Meanwhile near Mook, the US lined up to continue their counterattack and called in artillery fire on the LZ which suppressed the defenders. The Para Engineers assaulted the Stomach and Ear battalion, while the Paras went for the LZ behind an artillery barrage.

With minimal losses both German units were wiped out and the LZ recaptured. A few survivors retreated to the Regimental HQ, which was hastily reinforced by the Luftwaffe Fortress battalion. The Germans had been massively handicapped by being disorganised and attacked in the flank.

In the north however, the Germans managed to defeat the US counterattack off the hill, albeit with heavy losses, and held onto Kranenburg.

The Germans now held the majority of objectives so were declared the winners, but were somewhat chastened by their massive losses in the final few turns, having been reduced to three battalions from their initial seven. Historically the Heights were fought over for days, and the Germans eventually slugged their way to Mook.

I was very pleased with the way the fire heavy defence worked with the US artillery spreading disorder through the German ranks. The Germans played the hand they had been dealt well, and kept pressing on despite all the setbacks. I think the US might have been better conducting a mobile defence based around local counterattacks with their immeasurably superior troops rather than allowing the Germans to mass fires against their static positions, but it is always easy to be Captain Hindsight. 

I haven't got many of these scenarios left to play now, but there are a couple and I might revisit some of the ones we played with other rulesets, the Arnhem drop in particular. Having picked up 'Dropzone', I may even design a couple based around those. We will see.