I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: Panzer Lehr Counterattack Campaign – ‘Hauts-Vents’ July 10, 1944 Scenario

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Although the Panzer Lehr Division was held out of action during the Allied D-Day landing at Normandy in June 1944 , they would go on to provide a number of important defensive, delaying and counterattack actions in the months following. They first distinguished themselves in the days immediately after, throwing up a hasty defense at Caen against encroaching British and Canadian forces. After battles at Tilly-sur-Seulles and Villers Bocage in mid-to-late June, the vastly depleted Panzer Lehr Division was called out of the fight. With only a short time to regroup, the war-worn division was ordered west to countetattack he Allied inland progress toward Saint-Lo. While the June battles had run the Germans up against British Commonwealth forces, the July engagements in the hilly fields and bocage-lined roads would be against the armored and infantry forces of the United States.

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Map of the Panzer Lehr Division counterattack in July 1944

(via US Army Center of Military History)

For a few months now at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, we’ve been playing a fair amount of I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules system for World War II. After a number of one-offs and our recent North of Caen game, we finally decided to jump into a mini campaign focusing on the Allied push inland toward St Lo and the German defense following the D-Day landings in  Normandy in June 1944.

SCHeroesofOmahaSkirmish Campaigns  “Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr” scenario book

For our campaign, we’re using the classic Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr scenario book from Skirmish Campaigns. The Skirmish Campaigns series of books offers well-researched and detailed campaign scenarios full of detailed orders of battle, terrain layout maps and deeply descriptive narrative of how actual engagements unfolded during World War II. With just a little bit of work, the Skirmish Campaigns scenarios are easily adaptable to a variety of wargaming rules and scales including Battleground, Bolt Action, Flames of War and I Ain’t Been Shot Mum.

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Scenario set-up with two small houses as objectives at the middle of the table set amid rolling hills, small farms and thick bocage

The scenario at Hauts-Vents is set up on a long table with hills rolling into a valley from either end. Roads cross the table among fields lined with heavy bocage hedgerows. At the center of the table are two farmhouse objectives that are the focus of the US mission. All German platoons are deployed on blinds nearly everywhere on the table, accepting the northeast corner from which the US advance begins.

My Germans deployed on blinds with a Pak 40, a Sdkfz 10/1 and an artillery spotter for the off-board 105mm artillery deployed around a farmhouse atop Hill 91 on the southern end of the table. German rifle platoons armed with Panzerfausts deployed in blinds in and around the objective farmhouses. One platoon also had a MG42 and another contained a Panzerschrek anti-tank team. To block the predicted US advance, one road was blocked with barbed wire and another was laid with mines.

The American blinds moved in straight in column along the road sloping down toward the valley. Heading the advance was a US recon platoon led by an M8 Greyhound armored car. Three platoons of mechanized infantry loaded up in half tracks and a platoon of Sherman tanks fell into line behind.

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A US recon Greyhound at the head of the column exposes barbed wire laid to block passage on the road to the objectives

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The recon unit moves to overlook the German position near the objective house as US half tracks roll into position

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 German infantry move out of the house to engage the US infantry

IMG_4213Fire from German Panzerfausts destroy two half tracks and their passengers

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Germans use their last Panzerfausts to destroy the remaining half track and its crew

The first few turns progressed quickly with the US column moving down the road under blinds while the Germans quietly defended from concealed positions. The lead Greyhound revealed the barbed wire blocking the road, forcing the first platoon of half tracks off the road toward the first objective. Closing in on the house, the German position was revealed and the Germans quickly destroyed two half tracks and their mounted infantry with shots from Panzerfausts. In subsequent turns, the US commander jumped from his vehicle and was followed in by the final half track which was also destroyed. With the lone US commander in the position, the Germans assaulted taking casualties before eliminating all Americans from the disastrous head-on assault on the objective.

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 The column of US Shermans and infantry mounted in half tracks rush down the road

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German 105mm artillery rains in from off the table wreaking havoc on the US column

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A German Pak 40 and Sdkfz 10/1 break their cover on Hill 91 to engage the paralyzed American column

As the first platoon of US infantry fell, the remainder of the column ran into problems of their own. The Shermans attempted a push into the field off the road but two of the three quickly bogged in the rain-soaked ground. With the Shermans stalled and the rest of the column bunched-up on the road, an off-board German 105mm artillery barrage made a direct hit to the US line. As a result, the tanks took severe damage to their sights, main guns and mobility. Infantry jumped from their half tracks and one platoon took immediate fire from German MG42s hidden in the bocage across the nearby field. As the Americans desperately attempted to spread out and move to cover, additional rounds of fire from the Pak 40 and Sdkfz 10/1 on the far hill continued to pour shots into the remnants of the burning US column.

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 US reinforcements arrive at the house and advance on the defending German left

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Germans attempt to hold the flank at the objective

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Smoke is laid down in front of the German position on Hill 91 to cover the US advance

IMG_4245A late game push up Hill 91 by the US Greyhound leaves it in flames

The survivors from the US column swiftly moved to position themselves for another round of assaults on the German position. Two surviving Shermans unbogged and rolled to position along the bocage, destroying the MG42 positions along the way. US infantry rushed in along both flanks of the German survivors at the farmhouse who were quickly reduced to a single operable fire team. US mortars followed up with a directly aimed smoke bombardment in front of the German guns on the hill, providing invaluable cover for the American ground advance. Pressure from the advancing Greyhound forced the Sdkfz 10/1 to fall back late in the game. As the armored car breached the crest of the hill, a quick shot from the Pak 40 eliminated it. Unfortunately for the Germans, this was one of their last bits of glory for the game.

IMG_4242German defenders get routed at the first objective during close assault and fall back

IMG_4243The last platoon of German defenders get spotted at the second objective

IMG_4244The final objective falls to the Americans as the German defenders are caught in combined infantry and artillery fire

Back at the two objectives, the US moved hard toward victory. A close assault at the first house sent the survivors of two German fire teams running for the rear with heavy casualties and all but eliminated from the game. With that, one lone German platoon was exposed at the second house objective, and all US focus turned toward them. Two turns of heavy US artillery strikes and small arms fire from the bocage across the road laid waste to all but a few of the last Germans holding out. With the US Shermans still working their way on the German left and US infantry closing on the front, my Germans threw up their hands in defeat.

The first day of battle at Hauts-Vents went to the Americans, but as dark was drawing near, another battle was already looming before dawn as more Germans rushed to the defense.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: North of Caen 1944 Scenario

BritsCaen1944The city of Caen presented a big target during the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. One of the larger cities in the region of the invasion, it also occupied an important series of crossroads straddling the Orne River. Less than ten miles from the British Commonwealth forces landing zone of Sword Beach, Caen was a target for British and Canadians wading ashore on June 6th. Despite a relatively easy landing at the beach, Allies with their eye on Caen were met with a hastily-organized armored counterattack from the German 21st Panzer Division. By the end of the day, the British sat just halfway to their objective and Caen remained in Axis control.

CaenMap1944Map of the Battle for Caen, July 8-9 1944

Over the next two months, the area around Caen became a bogged-down front as Anglo-Canadian forces positioned themselves around the city. The eventual capture of the city on August 6th was costly for all involved. The ancient city was nearly leveled with Allied bombing campaigns and much of the French civilian population fled. The British forces suffered around 50,000 casualties, a devastating loss of men and equipment for British commander Bernard Montgomery. With the costly British victory, it had achieved not only the occupation of Caen but had also provided an enormous distraction for German forces which suffered even greater losses than the Allies.

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This past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY, a couple of us ran through a non-historical scenario typical of the British-Germany engagements just north of Caen in early July 1944. The “North of Caen” scenario is provided in the basic rule book for I Ain’t Been Shot Mum, the fantastic company-level World War II game that has fast become a favorite for some of us at the club.

Caen1British infantry advance through an orchard under blinds north of Caen

The small infantry engagement is set in the fictional hamlet of Le Moulin on a table of flat, open terrain with fields, orchards, low hedge rows and five stone buildings set at a crossroads. The game begins with three British infantry platoons entering from the north under blinds after an initial off-board artillery bombardment of the Germans dug under in around the farm and crossroads. The objective of the game is for the Germans to eliminate the British advance while the British are tasked with seizing four of the five buildings or otherwise eliminating the German troops.

Caen2A British rifle platoon takes heavy German MG42 fire and is pinned behind a barn

Following my initial bombardment, my British advanced under blinds for a few turns through the orchard northeast of the crossroads. The German blinds positioned themselves in a wood at the crossroads and in a small orchard southwest of the hamlet. Three of my blinds moved toward cover to my left behind a barn while my third false blind moved toward the road. My first blind was spotted behind the barn by a German platoon armed with three rifle sections and a deadly MG42. With the Germans deploying in a nearby barn and within the orchard, they opened up on the British rifles. With not enough cover behind the small barn, one British rifle section was all but eliminated in the first round of fire.

Caen4A British platoon runs bravely under a blind across an open field between two barns

The British survivors behind the barn returned fire, firing their rifles and 2″ mortar into the Germans in the orchards and nearby barn. In the meantime, my false blind was revealed as a second British platoon slipped to the hedge to the other side of the barn. Firing at the Germans from each side of the barn, the MG42 was forced to retreat back south of the crossroads. But the damage had been done to my first platoon at the barn, and two fire teams fell back to the orchard leaving one safely inside the barn. Sensing a brief opening, my final blind sprinted across the wide open field between the barn.

Caen3The British blind is exposed, take fire and break for hedge in the distance

Midway through the field, the German rifles in the second barn spotted and revealed my blind, slowing their run and forcing them to deploy in the open. The final German blind revealed itself among the buildings west of the crossroads. My fresh British platoon hopped the hedges and likewise crossed to the west of the road, opening fire at the Germans in the building just the other side of a small orchard. Subsequent turns of fire were exchanged and my British losses started to pile up on my right.

Back at the field on the British left, combined rifle and mortar fire poured into the Germans in the barn. Despite shock stocking up on the Germans, their position in the barn allowed great enough cover allowing them to slowly begin wearing down the exposed British platoon which became pinned from movement. With British taking losses to the right and less against well-protected Germans in the heavy stone buildings, it was not working out as a good day for the British who ceded the tiny hamlet to the Germans. More costly days were to come after this day just north of Caen, but a month off there would be victory for the British.