Thursday 21 April 2022

Engagement at La Bechevaux, a BG:Westwall play-test

A chance to put the WIP book’s Panzer Brigade army list through its paces in a meeting engagement, set in the Lorriane in Sept ’44, as the Germans advance to seize a road junction and main road at La Bechevaux. The Lorraine is open farm land, rolling hills and woods/plantations, which felt (to me) a bit more like eastern front tank battles than Europe. No big hedgerows here.

My taskforce was from a US Armoured Division sent to intercept the German advance facing the raw Panzer Brigade troops, my army list was for 700 points in an Attack/Counter-Attack scenario. It was raining, so no air attack could be used (they counted as 1 instead). Drat, I had hoped on getting some USAAF support, that FAO I included was useless now… oh well…  the timed air strike was not effected.

We started off with the recce troops and a few extras, the M8 moving up the road the objective junction, mounted armoured infantry just behind to seize the hill top objective just off the road. Off-table, remained the bulk of both forces’ armour and support weapons.

The M8, unpinned from the mortar fire, moved on up the road the junction at the ‘forester’s cottage’ and, pinning the German MG team here with suppressing 37mm HE fire, claimed the objective. Not for long, when German infantry later moved on the cottage, panzerfausts in hand, the M8, sensibly waiting on reserve move, withdrew (scarpered fast), conceding the objective back to the Germans.

The real fight would escalate in the centre, as the US armoured infantry squad dismounted and moved throught the scrub wooded valley between to low hillocks (it’ll become known as ‘bloody draw’), they targeted an incoming, fully loaded 251 with their bazooka, hit, and glanced off (double 1!). The German infantry jumped over the sides and, opening fire, MGs cutting down the US infantry. The fight for bloody draw was on and would intensify throughout the battle.

Meanwhile, more accurate German mortars were falling, one hit the FHQ’s M3 and destroyed it, the FHQ team lucky to survive with only 1 casualty as they jumped clear. German tanks were also advancing now, as well their StuG.

The Americans, slower to arrive, got a couple of Shermans into play and opened long range fire on the Pz IV, missing. Its return fire scored a double hit (double 6!) and KO’d the first Sherman.

Meanwhile, in the only good news for the US forces so far, a German armoured car had set-off for a distant uncontested objective wide right (the flank guard position). It hit a random mine counter and blew up!

More troops arrived, the US deploying their potent M7 battery asset, but as yet no spotters were in place (the FHQ was pinned down by that mortar fire). The Infantry platoon HQ arrived, dismounted and started to do the job instead, only to find their radio didn’t work (for 3 turns!). The rain storm was interfering with comms (and no comms team for either side).

In bloody draw, the US had lost a full infantry squad and the second squad deployed to replace them, only to be pinned down again. A Pz-IV rolled up, but the arrival of a Sherman saw it KO’d by a short range AP shell… first German tank loss. In the open fields, a Pz-IV had scored another Sherman kill and long range. The US tankers were losing that dual. Behind the panzers, his FHQ was also on the radio, trying to request artillery support and being turned down. Panzer brigades are weak in artillery, mortars is pretty much it. He needed a 5+…

Both sides were fully deployed by turn 6… as the USAF P-47 zoomed in and dropped its bomb’s, hitting nothing but the ground but pinning a Pz-IV before turning for home. Still, one BR counter for ‘under air attack’ and his AA tank wasn’t on ambush fire. Along the main road to La Bechevaux my infantry support teams deployed, but incoming MG fire pinned them and later, wiped them out without getting a shot off in return. Instead, the M16 opened up on the German infantry firing from the forester’s cottage, hammering it with those four .50 cals and wiping out the squad. I do not like using AA assets for ground fire, but in the rain with no air threat, needs must – I see your three MG-42s and raise you four Ma Deuces!

By now the counters had, of course, built up, I had taken more and was at 33 from 46 BR, so still some fight in me. As yet, the US artillery hadn’t fired, due to terrible comms (three 1s in one turn on comms rolls, good grief!). Now they spoke. Finally, the radio crackled to life and the first fire mission got, err, fired.

The M7s opened up and when the 105mm shrapnel and dust settled both German supply trucks had been destroyed, his forward observer was pinned as was his Jagdpanzer IV, lurking at the back sniping from 60”+ away at Shermans. Those counters levelled the playing field somewhat. Germans fear US artillery.

Back in bloody draw the Germans faced being overwhelmed, mostly by the Sherman tank, even his stretcher team had opened fire (no mercy for them then). The German infantry were pinned down by 60mm mortar bombs and couldn’t use their ‘faust. Now, waiting on reserve move from earlier, a second 251 sped up the road, veered off right and headed for the draw. In their turn, the final move and more grenadiers jumped out: squad, MG team and panzerschreck team - eek! The ‘screck wasted an M3 half-track and was unlucky to miss another. The MG team wiped out my 60mm mortar team. More counters, I was close to withdrawing now. Then, the final coup-de-grace. The German commander finally got his 5+ priority request accepted and used a cunning wire-team to call through to Army-level support. Two 280mm Nebelwerfers were on standby. I had no counter-battery, and so the screamin’ meemies came crashing in, the barrage deviating to land by… my M7 Priest battery. The nebelwerfer strike scored 3 direct hits. 2 M7s were KO’d and their supply truck as well, the other M7 was pinned, as was the M16 and the FHQ again… awesome firepower, and 3 BR counters… that broke the US taskforce for today. Time to pullback, the Germans had taken La Bechevaux and had forced access to the main road now. The German BR total, 37, of 37! He had no BR left… so close! Oh, 1 more counter would have done it.

Great game, nice to have some tank action in open fields, but the battle was actually won/lost by the infantry fight (with various tanks and half-track support) in bloody draw. (Oh and that horrid shock of the ‘werfer strike at the end, which marmalized my artillery with on-table counter-battery fire). The weather didn’t help much either…

Here are some shots of the action at La Bechevaux…

M8 reaches the forester's cottage, chased my 80mm mortar bombs.

Main road, along which the US are moving, Germans coming from top left.

More mortaring, spotted by a lurking recce foot patrol, impacts and pins the M8 again.

Following behind, the first armoured infantry, ahead is the wooded 'bloody draw'.

First enemy armour en route, pausing only to smash a Sherman at long range.

Fight for bloody draw begins, with a bazooka round that glanced off a half-track!

First Sherman deploys and rolls up, opening fire (and missing).

Next, using the hillock as hull-down cover, Germans mortaring it.
The FHQ's M3 is a smoke wreck now after a direct hit.

Germans deploying, a Pz IV is wrecked by another minestrike counter... only for a FAMO to arrive and fix it!

Shermans smoking after the tank duel, as the Platoon HQ deploy and get on the horn to the artillery, or try to. 'LT, I think is radio is busted!'.

M7s roll on in firing line, awaiting a fire mission, and waiting, and still waiting...

Jabo arrived...

US armoured infantry continue to push up the road, whilst the M16 covers them.

The Pz-IVs continue the duel, but have mercifully stopped rolling 6s To-hit. When their supply trucks were destroyed in the first M7 stonk, they were suddenly in trouble and pulled back, low on AP rounds.

The Priest's 105s hit the German rear echelon...

Fighting it out in bloody draw, getting the upper hand now.

At La Bechevaux, German infantry secure the road junction objective and the onward route through the Bois de Bechevaux

P-47 pilot's eye-view

Screamin' Meemies blast the M7 battery to pieces - ouch, that was enough for the US today... 


  1. I have to say, the subject Westwall was not too high on my list as the next book. I would have preferred Italy to be honest.

    But this report and the scope it gives has consoled me. It is good to know that it will be more than just the fighting straight at the wall.

    All that being said… very nice report as usual!

  2. I saw it covering two areas really, the Westwall around Aachen-Huertgen etc... and the armoured counter-attacks in the Lorriane, hence the Panzer Brigade army lists.

  3. Cracking write up and photos as usual Warwick. Looks like I have started my American project at the right moment, bring on the Westwall.

  4. Great battle rep . Suddenly feel the need to start American and German armies .