Monday, July 22, 2013

Holding the Line

[This time we played No Retreat in a board heavy with bocage, meant to represent the fighting just around Caen after the allies had taken it. My Canucks were defending, facing off against his tanks again.]

09.00 D+1: Well, a big push captured us the town of Caen. Our company was directed to entrench just to the West of the city, attempting to ensure we weren't overrun. Some of the men grumbled about not getting to enjoy a hero's welcome in Caen, and enjoy the soft beds and wine, but the sounds of continued door-to-door combat as those in the city rooted out the Germans quickly quieted those complaints.

We spread out among a forest and the clearing behind a river. I want to force those accursed tanks to have to ford their way across it, or stack up down the narrow bridge if they want to get at us. My 1st Platoon Lieutenant did wisely point out that a nearby farmhouse would make an all-too-tempting spot for the Germans to set up a forward command post or observer hut, so I sent his platoon forward with the 6pdrs and FOO to keep it in our hands.

The Farmhouse, after the 6pdrs had popped ambush.
3rd Platoon holds the river ford in a forest, slightly exposed but soon to be reinforced.

The Sextons all had a good line to the bridge, held by infantry. He'd have to assault to cross.
09.30: Once again, the sound of engines and the sight of a dust-cloud to the West. This time the Jerry tanks were rolling up the road, bold as brass. I received reports of another smaller force of trucks, with AA guns, and more of those annoying 8-wheelers rolling up further to the North. The 8-wheelers were tall enough at one point to peek over the hedge at 1st platoon's position. Knowing they could have radios, and may well at that moment be calling in fire, I had the Sextons open up on them, and the 6pdrs followed suit. The Sextons went long, but the 6pdrs chased them off. Not far, I suspected, but they weren't reporting anything just at the moment!

8-rads toe the line, ready to race forward.

This was the tempting array at the start of battle. Sadly they spread before I could fire on them.

9.35: The FOO reported the StuGs spreading out: one group rolled to where the 8-rads had been, and another spread out at the crossroads to start attempting to flank 1st Platoon. Luckily, this time our Shermans were responding quickly, when a troop from the Sherbrooke Fusiliers came trundling up the road. They stopped briefly to get the feel for the situation from 2nd Platoon, just before the bridge. From somewhere in a back field, the sound of rockets firing was confirmed when our FOO's position was blanketed in smoke. Whether they'd seen him or were just covering the end of the road, those poor observers have no luck.

Shermans arrive and get the lay of the land from 2nd Platoon.
His Rocket Battery frustrated my FOO all game, either smoking or, when he forgot, shelling the FOO.

9.40: Once again the 8-wheelers peeked over the bocage, and this time they brought friends. Five StuGs started to push their noses through the bocage, hoping to get clear lines of fire. They opened up, and an unlucky shot tore through the shield and breech of a 6pdr, causing thankfully minimal casualties but ruining the gun. In return, the AT guns scored multiple solid hits, at least rattling, if not damaging the StuGs. Following hot on the heels of the Shermans, a half troop of Achilles arrived, and were directed to where the fighting sounded worst. The Shermans raced along the road, using the continuing barrage of smoke as an excuse to not take it slow.

Moving at speed, my Shermans pass the undoubtedly shellshocked FOO.
The lineup of targets for my 6pdrs and artillery: I managed to range in on the centre one early on!
9.45: A new threat is confronting 1st Platoon; an entire platoon of enemy infantry is darting across the road. They seem better equipped than the standard infantry we've seen previously, and I order the men to be ready to pour the fire on them, should they give us opportunity to shoot. Concentrated fire from the StuGs ripped into the command section of the 6pdr platoon, wounding or killing most of them. In the chaos and noise, I don't think any of the gun crews even noticed. The enemy infantry has made it into the cornfield, and attempts to get the jump on 1st Platoon. Shouting the alarm, 1st Platoon opens up on them, joined by some close-range and careful 6pdr fire. Clearly the German infantry wasn't anticipating being seen, and take heavy casualties before retreating.

Despite doing everything right to set it up, still his assault is rebuffed!
9.49: Vengeance. The Sexton battery has found their mark, hammering the Stugs with shells. I can see on the faces of 1st Platoon that the men are brave in the face of enemy fire, and the 6pdr crews keep up their devastating rate of fire. The Achilles find gaps in the bocage behind, and somehow manage to sight, and destroy a StuG at range. In a firefight like this, there's nothing quite as frightening or comforting as the sound of a 17pdr shell zipping overhead to blow up an enemy tank!

Achilles add their weight of fire to the 6pdrs.
 9.54: The Achilles and the StuGs are now trading fire, as some focus on the big threat while others fire at the 6pdrs. Rockets continue to fall around the observer, and the Jerry infantry again makes a run on 1st Platoon. This time the men are ready for them, and they are again rebuffed with casualties.

My friend's snazzily converted trucks; the command figure is especially neat, I think.

The Shermans are having a go at flanking the Jerry force, but just as they round the corner, spot that second platoon of StuGs and begin trading fire.

Shermans brazenly roll down the road attempting to flank.
[Sadly, this is where we ran out of time. It ended with a 1-1 tie, and could honestly have gone either way. One or two good assaults from my friend may have pushed 1st and the 6pdrs back, and I would essentially have to break his company to make him leave. It'd have been 4am for sure before we finished this.]

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