The board set-up on saturday, from the British (northern) edge.
The German end of the table, Panzer IVs arriving
With the Battlegroup South show less busy on Sunday than the Saturday (but not less hot inside the tank museum’s metal sheds), Piers and I set-to on our 1,000 point game at Gavrus on the Odon river.
His British infantry force consisted of (roughly), 3 Churchill III/IVs, a Crocodile, a AVRE and a Churchill VII, with two infantry platoons in support (on foot), a carrier section, a 17 pdr AT gun and Crusader tow, an infantry foot patrol and AEC armoured car as recce, and two on-table 25 pdrs and off-table 4.2” mortars as artillery support.
The SS consisted of two grenadier platoons. The first were veterans, with MG-42 upgrades and panzerfausts in all squads, but on foot. The second platoon was regular, but in trucks. These were support by a HMG-42 and loader team and a Panzerschreck team. The panzers were 4 Panzer IV Hs, with the forward HQ in another Panzer IVH (I figured if my tanks were going to get blown up by 17 pdrs, then they might as well be Panzer IVs as Panthers – this was before I knew I’d be facing Churchills and no Fireflies though). German artillery support was two off-table batteries of 120mm mortars, with recce from a 234/1, and other support from a supply truck and Famo recovery half track. Last, but far from least, was my killer, a Jagdpanther upgraded to Panzer Ace... he’d be doing the real damage then! Both sides had a Forward HQ and an Aid Post as well, for the extra BR!
Forces sorted, we deployed with the Germans holding Gavrus and the Brits having crossed the bridge. Everything started on the table, which is odd for Battlegroup, as I’m not a fan of such layouts, preferring games to esculate to a crescendo of battle than pitch in from the off. But this was a demo so, in order to get the game going from turn 1 we just got the models on the tabletop and went for it. Despite being out scouted 2 to 1 (costing me a counter), the Germans won the first turn and set about dealing the pain.
My first 120mm mortar stonks failed to score any pinning along the British start line, and thus their attack would roll forward unhindered. Behind my infantry, now going onto ambush fire in the hedgerows, my Panzer IVs rolled forwards, through and around Gavrus, to engage the soon to be approaching Churchills. On my right flank the mighty Jagdpanther moved up to threaten the farm (an objective) as the truck-borne grenadiers behind followed cautiously, risking an extra turn inside their trucks. Not much damage in turn 1.
The British responded with artillery fire, hitting a pre-registered target point in Gavrus with 25 pdr shells, one of which immobilised a Panzer IV in the main street. The 17 pdr raced over the bridge and deployed into the woods to the right, covering the main road, whilst the carrier platoon dashed boldly for Gavrus and debussed into the first building. On the British right, the Churchills kicked off their slow advance, infantry sections hugging the back of each tank as it churned into the mortar shelling. They failed to spot the lurking German ambushers in the hedge ahead, who held their fire until the enemy were closer. Mortar fire on my right flank saw three trucks pinned (but none hit – phew!).
Turn 2, and the German 120mm mortars were busy again, hitting the advance, and this time scoring some pins. One stray shell wiped out the carrier section’s Bren team. The first Panzer IVs approached the hedgerow and nosed their guns forwards to line-up the British tanks. The immobilised panzer took careful aim and hit the lead Bren carrier with two HE shots, destroying it utterly (still only 1 counter despite destroying it twice over!)! Still, the Panzer IV was immobilised on the PRTP, not a healthy place to be. The Jagdpanther, seeing the lurking Churchill VII and AVRE ahead, went onto ambush fire, which should keep those two tanks at bay, if they had any sense (and Piers usually does). The infantry had been delayed by a mortar barrage behind, so the attack had stalled for the moment. This would have bad consequences later on, when the British occupied the farm in strength before the Germans had got into position for their assault.
The British turn was much as turn 1, with the Churchills rolling forwards, and failing to spot much to target, and the infantry ghosting along behind the armour. 25 pdr fire on Gavrus again scored another hit on the immobile Panzer IV, and although it survived the shelling intact, the crew got nervous and abandoned their charge! Scratch a Panzer IV. Cowards!
In response, my mortaring next turn scored several direct hits on the dangerous 17 pdr gun in the woods by the bridge, and it was destroyed, although most of the crew and its loader team survived. There was fighting in Gavrus itself, as the carrier section’s 2” mortar opened fire, and drew return ambush fire from an MG42 team, costing the Brits 2 men in the exchange. Facing the Churchill advance, the three Panzer IVs opened fire. One scored a hit on the Crocodile, only for the AP shell to glance off, and another glanced off a Churchill IV - a rude surprise to German tank commanders to see their guns struggle for once. One Chruchill brewed up though. That Crocodile was now getting too close to the hedgerow for comfort.
My MGs opened fire from the hedge, causing some pinning and few casualties, but not the wholesale slaughter I’d hoped for. The British infantry hit the dirt and soon started to return fire, proving their big sections and Brens lethal at this range. German casualties mounted on the hedge, but the HMG-42 and loader team was still in action and flaying the field ahead with hails of bullets. Their fire was soon silenced by MG fire from a Churchill’s two Besas.
The tank fight on the German left took a turn for the worse as a 6 pdr gun cracked through a Panzer IVs frontal armour and left it a smoking wreck. Something had gone wrong, usually the German tanks dish out the AP damage.
On the right, the skulking Churchill VII, unwilling to face the ambushing Jagdpanther had not moved to engaged, but the AVRE had, edging slowly through the trees until it could launch a 280mm shell at maximum range at my waiting panzer ace. It missed, with an almighty explosion, but my elite crew were unshaken, and lined up the AVRE. The Jagdpanther fired, hit and killed the AVRE! Score 1 more to the ace.
Exposed to a too tempting flank shot, the Churchill VII now turned the corner of the farm and took aim for revenge. It fired and missed, much to Pier’s disgust. Next turn surely the Jagdpanther would turn and score an easy kill, even against the Churchill’s monstrous frontal armour, it would not save it from that 88mm gun. It was not be. The Jagdpanther turn, lined the Churchill up and rolled a 1, missing. The duel was on.
Meanwhile, the German infantry supporting that flank had finally arrived, and deployed into the surrounding fields and orchard. Their MGs were now trying to pin the British infantry in the farm as they exchanged fire. More big mortar shells rained in, 120mm and 4.2", and both sides took some pinning. It was getting hot on both flanks.
With the game evenly poised (but maybe the Germans just edging it) we took a break to do some shopping, chatting, loafing and take on extra liquid in the sweltering heat. So far the Germans had taken 12 counters. The British had taken 13. It was close.
Arriving grenadiers become pinned in their trucks by mortar fire.
The British start line on their right flank, under mortar fire from turn 1.
Here they come, the Germans defend the hedge line with mortars, MGs and tank fire.
Panzer grenadiers finally debuss from trucks and move along the lane towards the farm.
The attack got no further.
Churchills weathering fire from the hedge.
The over-bold carrier section takes a pounding from MG and mortar fire.
One Churchill brews up, but the others fight through the fire.
Jagdpanther claims a kill - the AVRE burns in the woods.
The farm objective, here an infantry squad hammers away from cover to surpress the defenders.
Perhaps the break wasn’t such a good idea. Any luck I’d had (mostly in good cover saves) now deserted me, and the mojo passed firmly back to Piers. Suddenly, the British burst forth and unleashed hell upon my lines. This was mainly down to two turns of dire German command rolls, scoring 8 and 9 (on 3D6+4!!). The Germans stalled, confusion reigned and British got heavily stuck in. Before I knew it my three Panzer IVs had taken multiple 6 pdr hits and were burning along the hedgerow. The last of my grenadiers were swept away by small arms fire. My left flank had completely collapsed. The Jagdpanther took a hit from the Churchill VII which immobilised it, some use in an assault gun, which could now no longer turn. A British PIAT team then saw their chance and ran up the lane, to finish the beast with a side shot. My armour was all but gone. The British infantry in the farm pressed the advantage from the loss of the Jagdpanther, and an MG team and another grenadier squad were wiped out. My 234/1 was also hit by 25 pdr fire and knocked out in Gavrus, having done very little (lacking the orders). The counters racked up fast (and even the air attack one failed to bring any good results).
I looked around for something to save me, finding only a supply truck, aid station and Famo, which all withdrew off the table rather than become the advancing Churchill’s next target. The last of my infantry and their single MG fought on hopelesly from the church but then, when the Crocodile opened fire with its flame thrower, lighting up the MG team, my forces had had enough. I reached my break point at 57. The British had suffered the loss of 47 from a total of 63. A solid win, although it had not always been so clear cut.
Gavrus and its bridge had to be abandoned to the advance of 15th Division, their Churchills had proved themselves tough, if slow, opponents, well a match for a Panzer IV. Another win for Piers (just don’t ask how many ‘Restricted’ units he had in that company sized force! ;-)
Eek! The Churchills dish the damage as the hedgerow west of Gavrus is swept clear of defenders.
The Churchill VII takes on the Jagdpanther in a clash of the heavy-weights. The Jagdpanther missed, and was then immobilised by return fire.
Gavrus, outflanked and in deep trouble. The last Germans hold the church.
The Croc lines up the church, things are about to get very hot!
End game. Gavrus surrenders.
The Jagdpanther is knocked out after being flanked (it couldn't turn to face either). British infantry are mopping up the last grenadiers from the orchard and hedges.