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

NearStLo

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.

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Flames of War: Fielding the FOW Royal Artillery Battery

25pounder

My progress on my new British forces continues with my fielding of a full  Royal Artillery Battery for Flames of War. Dating back nearly 400 years, the British Royal Artillery Regiment (or RA) has been a mainstay of support for British infantry over many continents for a couple centuries. In World War II, the massed 25-pound guns were important for their rapid fire when manned by capable British crews.

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FOW provides specific rules to account for the adept British guns with the ability to field eight or twelve guns and range in on targets even under initial missed attempts with massive bombardments. In short, these guns provide incredibly deadly strength to any Late War British companies in post-D-Day scenarios the likes of Villers-Bocage or Operation Market Garden.

IMG_2840My RA Battery is made up of two FOW kits, one of which I scored for a song from a fellow club member during a summer flea market at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. After gluing everything up, the models get a basic green undercoat followed by my quick finish of drab brown for the uniforms with brown boots and off-white coverings. Figures get finished off simply with a wash to add depth, as do the guns with some rusty dirt streaks.

IMG_2836Sand bag emplacements are finished with a few layers of browns, and stonework get a some built-up coats of grey. Stands are finished with details for stacked crates and discarded brass shells on a brownish dirt basecoat followed by two different grass flockings.

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My sets came with two different command bases, the first with a nice diorama of a demolished building with a motorbike parked out back. As orders are being passed between officers, another pours tea from an aluminum kettle. The other command stand features a crowd of staff around a field table and radio operator with one dapper officer standing to the side, cane in-hand.

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Each four-gun battery is filled out with two other command teams and a spotter, waiting to call in the guns on the unsuspecting German forces. All together, I’m anxious to get my British RA into action with my 7th Armoured and Guards Armoured tanks in the very near future. All that’s left is some British infantry, so stay tuned for their appearance on the field in the very near future.

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Flames of War: Fielding the FOW Cromwell and Firefly Tank

dratsBy the time of the Normandy Invasion in June 1944, the British 7th Armoured Division had already seen plenty of war. The division first distinguished itself early in the war in the dusty North African campaign, going brutally head-to-head with General Erwin Rommel’s tough Afrika Korps and earning the nickname “Desert Rats.” In the mid-war invasion of Italy, the division adapted to the southern terrain of Salerno and Naples and helped in securing the Allied push northward.

cromwellA British Cromwell in WWII Europe

fftankSherman Firefly on a street during WWII

Back in the UK following its successes in Africa and Italy, the 7th Armoured rested and retrofitted with new Cromwell and Sherman Firefly tanks in preparation as a follow-on force in the D-Day landings in mid-1944. Over the next six months, the division’s 75mm-armed Cromwells and 17-pound-gunned Fireflies were present during Operation Perch, Operation Goodwood, the Battle of Villers-Bocage, Operation Spring, Operation Bluecoat, Operation Cobra and the final pushes into the Low Countries and Germany. By the war’s end, the battle-weary Desert Rats had cemented themselves as one of the most celebrated divisions in World War II.

fowcromwellAfter being introduced to British Armoured forces with the excellent plastic Sherman and Firefly models included in Flames of War Open Fire! box set, I’ve recently swung some significant focus on building-out a decent amount of UK late-war forces. Modelling the storied 7th Armoured Division seemed like a logical next step in bringing the UK to my Allied forces on the table.

Through some serendipity, I happened to score a couple of half-price box sets of the FOW Cromwell Armoured Platoon from a fellow club member at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Between the two boxes, I’ve been able to assemble a company command of two Cromwells plus two platoons of three Cromwells and one Firefly each. The models feature individually-cast resin tanks, each with their own detail of stowage and ragged camouflage, along with cast metal treads, gun barrels, crew and other details. Compared to curvaceous US Sherman tanks, I also really enjoy the flatter hull profile and boxy riveted turrets on the Cromwells. Although pricier than alternatives from makes like Plastic Soldier Company and Command Decision from Old Glory Miniatures, official FOW models are generally hard to beat for their heft and historical accuracy.

IMG_2334Primer and base coat on treads and stowage

After assembly, my models were hit with a green armor base coat. Tank treads start with a black coat followed a slight wash of metal. Tools, stowage, ropes and the other stuff on the tanks all get a mix of built-up layers of browns, greens and metallic colors. I especially liked the tiny tennis rackets strapped to a couple of the tanks, a nod to the British gentlemen who came to Europe not only equipped for war but for hopeful yet unlikely leisure pursuits. These details really create a lot of depth, interest and personality among the tanks which can otherwise get very visually redundant en masse on the table. Finally, the exposed crews get a a bit of brown-drab uniform color and some flesh tones to finish off those brave Brits.

IMG_2344Decals being applied (grrrrrr….)

I do have to say, the red-and-white Desert Rats vehicle marking has a really big cool factor for me. The FOW kits conveniently come with appropriate decals for the 7th Armoured Division, making finishing off the tanks one step easier than with competitor model-makers that don’t generally supply decals with their models. That said, I find the FOW decals to be incredibly finicky and fragile, and I found myself re-applying several to get them on just right. Once the decals are dry, all the tanks got splashed with mud here and there with some earthy dry-brushing.

IMG_2350Cromwell command section

IMG_2352One platoon of three Cromwells and one Sherman Firefly

IMG_2354Cromwell close-up

IMG_2356Sherman Firefly close-up

In terms of gameplay, I can’t wait for the 7th Armoured Division to go up against some Germans. The combined one-two punch of the faster-moving Cromwells and the hefty-gunned Fireflies should reinvigorate my games away from the sameness I’ve had in just playing with my large group of US Shermans for a couple years. Already, I want more of these platoons to really get the division bulked-out. I’m thinking a follow-up with Cromwells and Fireflies from the Plastic Soldier Company will supplement the finished FOW models nicely. Until then, the 7thArmoured are ready to roll and there’ll be more to report soon on my post-D-Day British force project.

IMG_2348The Desert Rats ready for action in France and beyond…

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