Saturday, 8 October 2011

TWO FARMS, BEYOND ST SYLVAIN


The 1st Polish Armoured meet a counter-attack by the ad-hoc forces of Kampfgruppe Frund at the twin farms of la Butte and Haut de Frossard. 

This was battalion-sized 700 pts per side game, using the Into No-Man’s Land scenario. The five objectives where: both farm houses, the centre of the table (marked by a tree), a point on the road to La Butte (marked by a wrecked Panther) and a point in the forested corner (marked by another tree).

POLISH  BATTLE GROUP (British Armoured Division)
Battle group HQ in Humber scout car
2 x Supply Trucks
Dorchester Forward Signals unit
Forward Air Observer in Dingo
3 x Cromwells
1 x sniper
Sherman squadron
Sherman squadron
2 x Achilles
Crusader AA

Motorised Infantry Platoon
3” mortar team in universal carrier
Vickers HMG team in universal carrier
6 pdr AT gun with carrier tow
Combat medic
Forward observer
Off-table 4.5” artillery battery
2 x Counter battery fire mission
2 x high-priority artillery requests


KAMPFGRUPPE FRUND (Panzer Division)
Battle group HQ in Panzer IVH
SdKfz 223 forward signals unit
2 x supply trucks
Forward aid post and ambulance
Sdkfz 234/1
Sniper

Pz IVH squadron
Panther squadron
Jagdpanzer IV
20mm AA on a half-track
Armoured Panzer Grenadier platoon
Lorried Panzer Grenadier platoon (Fallschirmjager standing in)
Marder IIIH
80mm mortar team
Panzerschreck team (with armoured grenadiers)
120mm mortar team
Forward Artillery Observer
Off-table 150mm howitzer battery
4 Counter-battery fire missions
3 High priority artillery requests
1 RTP


The German attack plan towards La Butte. Diversion with Panzer IVs on the left. Main assault of Panthers and armoured panzer grenadiers via the woods on the right.

DEPLOYMENT
The Polish had the advantage here, with their 3 recce Cromwells deployed against the single SdKfz 234/1 armoured car, wisely hiding in the forest and staying there. All the HQ choices were deployed around their farms.

FIRST TURNS
The game got off to an explosive (and slightly disastrous start) as, in the Polish first turn, their battle group HQ called in his dedicated 4.5” battery on the opposing farm at Haut de Frossard, scoring a direct hits on a supply truck and battle group commander Frund’s Panzer IV - destroying both. First shot saw the German kampfgruppe shorn of its command re-roll, a command unit and taking 3 morale counters –ouch! It also meant that the Germans could not respond with artillery in kind, no longer having an observer on the table to call in fire from their 150mm guns.

First shot, and Frund’s tank and a resupply truck burn!

The Polish began moving on. With their recce tanks out front on covering fire Shermans and motorised infantry making their way up drive from La Butte farm as the 6 pdr was towed into the orchard. The Germans began with their left flank attack force arriving, Panzer IVs lead the truck-borne infantry through the woods and behind the ruined building, where the grenadier platoon HQ set up and got their 120mm mortar engaged against the Polish troops on the road (with the sole effect of suppressing a Jeep!). 
 Recce Cromwells in the corn, briefly suppressed by artillery fire.

This diversionary attack began well, the first panzer IV, forced to brave a covering fire shot of the waiting Cromwell, survived and its return fire punched through the Cromwell’s side and left it a smoking wreck. 

 Polish armour on the lane to La Butte.

Meanwhile, the Polish had claimed the objective (marked by a wrecked Panther), and debussed infantry to secure it as the Shermans, Firefly and Achilles moved past to engage the Panzer IVs now firing from hull down on the hill. The Panzer IVs scored a hit, but only immobilised the Firefly, and its return fire wrecked the first Panzer IV. An uneven duel developed as one after another the Panzer IVs were hit and destroyed, even as the German infantry presses to the road junction, Panzerfaust shots flying and destroying an M5 and, eventually, the immobile Firefly was suppressed (so being immobilised the crew abandoned it). The Crusader AA also brewed up from a direct hit by the off-table 150mm howitzers. The diversionary attack had drawn in a lot of Polish troops, and as this fight raged at close quarters the Panthers began their assault.


Close quarters fighting amidst the smoking wreckage at the road junction.

LATER TURNS
On the right the Germans had established an anti-tank screen, with their Marder and Jagdpanzer IV trading long-shots with the Cromwells to little effect, before the Marder was hit and knocked-out by a lucky hit – drat!

Through this screen burst the three Panthers, the spearhead of the main attack, racing boldly out into the open field to face down the two Cromwells. As the big tanks drew fire, the armoured panzer grenadier platoon forced their way up the extreme right edge of the battlefield through the forest, grinding through the trees turn after turn to reach the far corner (where the Sdkfz 234/1 was waiting for them). This would their jump-off point for their attack to take the objective, the orchard and the La Butte farm beyond (when the Panthers arrived to aid them).


The armoured panzer grenadier platoon struggle amidst the trees towards their jump-off point.


Here they come! The Panthers burst forth, fearless of the Cromwell’s fire. They didn’t get much further!

But the attack stalled, instantly the three Panthers were in trouble. Fire from two Achilles and a Firefly was now winging close-by. The Cromwell (one using a HE shell to suppress a Panther) where now out of ammunition and withdrew back to La Butte to find a supply truck, and thus ducked out of the Panther’s line of fire.


Re-arming at La Butte, the recce Cromwells having both survived their confrontation with the Panthers.

The exchange of long range tank fire went the Polish way, the power of 17pdr rounds making a mockery of the Panther’s vaunted armour, first one, then a second Panther brewed up.

Without their expected tank support the armoured panzer grenadiers never launched their attack, only sneaking forward to seize the objective, but the orchard wall was now lined with anti-tank guns and machineguns on covering fire, and any assault would have been suicidal.


Holding the orchard, a Sherman, 2 Stuarts, a 6 pdr, an M5 and (not visible) an infantry squad too.

 The struggling Panthers were finally finished off by the 17pdrs, but not before destroying a Firefly in return. To add insult to the destruction, a Typhoon came screaming down over the field, rockets impacting around the Jagdpanzer IV, also destroying it. The German armour had been annihilated, and the game was over. The German survivors retreated.


The Typhoon finished off the German armour. Note, 3 burning Panthers and the burning Marder (in the tree line). 

It had been hard fought, but the Polish had always been slightly ahead, and their 17pdrs really broke both the German tank attacks (they fired 28 17 pdr shots in the game). In the end the Polish had garnered 33 morale points, whilst the Germans had broken at 46 morale. That said, I didn’t help myself with a few ‘rookie’ mistakes. I never got my 20mm AA on covering fire, and thus the Typhoon had a free attack run. I didn’t use my registered target point and forgot to use my counter-battery fire missions several times (although they did work twice). In the end I have never known Achilles be so hard to suppress or knock-out, they lived charmed lives and did their own job well.

Note – The Polish actually were short of infantry, not meeting the required 2 platoons, but I gave Will (my opponent) the nod, because he hadn’t finished his other infantry.

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