First, before I get into the nitty-grity of the GMG big-game, I should say a big thanks to Piers, Tom, Skip, Cyril, Gary and Brian for their warm welcome, hospitality and good company over the weekend. A great time was had by all, and a top fight on Saturday. Thanks guys, including the other foriegners who flew in.
So, on with the war! Having been shown the board on Friday and given a chance to mull over the German defensive plan (for several hours), it looked fantastic (see shots below). With the responsibility for the defensive weighing heavily upon my shoulders I gave it my best hard-thoughts and, as more players arrived on Friday evening, we got to the briefing and planning and deployment, ready to set-to come Saturday morning. Suggestions of a dawn attack, with the first turn going to the first to arrive, were quickly dismissed in favour of a civilized 10-10.30 kick-off.
So the plan was, in general, to hold Tilly or die trying. Having studied the table and the forces available for the initial defence, with much of our armour (the Panthers) and armoured grenadiers arriving from (perhaps) from turn 4, I decided we couldn’t hold the entire 20’ length in any strength worthy of a defence. So I refused our left flank at the Le Mont farm, sacrificing it to strengthen the line in front of Tilly with smaller sectors for my four sub-commanders. We would begin deployed strongest on both flanks, with Fred and Johan’s STuG squadrons and infantry. Cyril and Skip’s weaker forces would hold west and east Tilly itself.
The key to victory would be the reinforcements. And this was my cunning bit. If the British took the bait and grabbed Limone farm, a tempting free objective, but did not hold it with enough forces, then Skip’s Panthers, grenadiers and pioneers would swoop onto the table and storm it, with the express orders to ruthlessly wipe out the defenders, thus losing them the objective, take it back ourselves and turn the British right flank. From here he would press on fast, hopefully outflanking the British attack on Tilly coming across the fields. Cyril’s Panther force would be flexible. If St Piere looked hard-pressed then they would be committed to aid Johan’s defence, (dubbed plan B). If Tilly was hard pressed, because the centre was our weakest piont, then they would have to reinforce here and launch a spoiling counter-attack up the road towards the farm objective in the British centre. They would probably die, but cause so much chaos and damage in the process any hope of getting into Tilly would be lost. The proviso to all this was that Limone Farm ( dubbed plan A) must fall quickly. If it looked like the farm was too well held, then Skip’s and Cyril’s forces would combine for an all-out attack in the centre with everything they had (plan C). Which plan was enacted would depend on the battlefield situation and be my call.
Units deployed, with a few worried looks and comments from my subordinates about ceded an objective without a fight, we placed our RTP (central farm) and minefield (Tilly road from Limone) and headed to the pub!
Saturday morning, and the British attack was due. Braced for the onslaught, we hung tough in the face of the opening barrage of mortars and artillery as the British recce advanced. To my (disguised) delight they took the bait, and the carrier platoon and armoured cars raced for Limone, receiving our first mortar fire in return.
The British build up continued, infantry platoons advancing to their jump-off line at the first hedgerows, Shermans rolling on behind. My small bridge defence force (a StuG, 1 squad, 1 MMG, 1 HMG and and a panzerschreck team with orders to hold the bridge to the last) came under heavy fire (it was their RTP), and was blasted to small bits when naval gun fire impact, scoring a direct hit on the STuG which vaporised! Another early loss was my Famo - just reaching the immobile Tiger in time for catch a mortar round and be destroyed. The Tiger would remain immobile, covering the main road into Tilly and denying it to the British, who wisely avoided using it!
On the left Limone fell to carrier infantry teams and a Staghound AC, braving 88 covering fire. The British artillery barrage (and by now it was raining mortar shells of all sizes) built, with 5.5” guns hitting Tilly too (oh for some counter battery fire missions!) In return our Nebelwerfers hit the RTP and caused some death and destruction, but nothing compared with the Johan’s OP’s high priority request and dispatch raider bringing in 210mm Nebelwerfer barrage, which score 4 direct hits, seeing the loss of an infantry section, 2 Shermans and was unlucky not to get the third (the Firefly of course!).The attack on St Pieres seemed to stall, and Johan’s defences behind the river Seulles looked strong.
Turn 4, and Fred rolled for our reserves, and to a resounding cheered scored a 6, plan A was go. With my orders to go, go, go and smash le Mont ringing in his ears, the panzer grenadiers led the assault, leaping for their hanomags, Panthers right behind, MGs blazing. The British put up a brief fight before the surviving armoured car fled the scene. Le Mont was ours, and I thought the British flank might crumble, it just didn’t look up to holding against Skip’s 3 Panthers and fast moving assault infantry. Unfortunately (after optimistically assuring Skip he would win the game for us by just pressing on hard), I didn’t reckon on the British artillery response, with 25 pdr shells hammering Limone hard and suppressing two of the three Panthers. It was the artillery that, relentlessly turn after turn, suppressed Skip’s attack and prevent his breakout into open country, faced by just a few armoured cars and a few Shermans.
Thwarted on the left, Johan was making a great fist of the defence of St Pierre on the right. In another funny moment the Churchill bridging tank suffered a mechanical failure and the crew abandoned it. Only for me not to notice that advancing right behind it was the ARV. Its crew quickly leapt out, rolled a 6 and fixed it. The bridge was soon rolling again towards the river. When it reached the river a waiting panzerschreck team destroyed it, thus ending any hope of getting tanks over the Suelles.
The centre was were the battle would be decided. Peirs, Gary and Will launched their attack forwrads, through the orchard and churchyard. Closing on Tilly behind raining shells. A Firefly knocked out the static Tiger, only for a panzerfaust to glance off the front. Will rolled a 1 for morale, and the crew, lacking any infantry support, made a run for it. We weren’t allowed to re-crew the perfectly intact Firefly and turn its gun on the advancing British!
The Sherman crews showed their bravery by rushing across the Tilly road under 88 covering fire, but ran headlong into deploying panzer grenadiers with panzerfausts and panzerschreck, who destroyed 3 from 4, before Fred’s STuG got the fourth.
Gary’s bold attack saw his engineers race forwards to grab the empty objective building, using their flamethrower against a suppressed Panther. It failed to penetrate, but another morale roll of 1 saw the crew run rather than be cooked inside. The German responded with overwhelming fire from half tracks and machine guns to clear the objective building, and a panzerfaust destroyed their M5 halftrack on the edge of town. That objective was quickly back in German hands, but the hordes of British infantry were now poised to rush the first line of houses, as mortar shells kept the panzer grenadiers suppressed. It was the British final push for Tilly that broke us, another Panther took a 17 pdr hit and burst into flame, whilst the infantry secured a foothold in the town. At which point the Hauptman (me), seeing the writing on the wall and with few unsuppressed forces left to respond in the town, decided he had no choice but to withdraw. Tilly had fallen.
After 9 hours of combat the British had lost 78(approx) morale, the Germans reached 102. A solid win for the British, fair and square.
It was great game, with some memorable moment and played in a great spirit all-round. It had been a hard fight, and for awhile I think we had them worried, but the British artillery, combined with good use of their tanks was the difference. We lost 5 from 7 Panthers, with the other 2 immobilised, but only 2 from 7 STuGs, along with all 3 Pumas (which did nothing!!). Our armoured counter-attacks hadn’t saved us, if only Skip could have pushed on, we might have turned it round. But there are always ifs, buts and maybes...
A good game and a great weekend. Big thanks to everybody who made it so. Just need to recover from the Guinness-poisoning now...
For Herr Hauptman, the war is over... as is the battle.