Battleground: Bocage HQ Near Le Mesnil-Rouxelin 1944 Scenario

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On June 6, 1944, General Dietrich Kraiss and the 7000 some soldiers of his 352nd Infantry Division were at Omaha Beach to meet the Allied invasion. Fighting valiantly against the overwhelming tide of American and British forces, Kraiss and 352nd were stretched thin at the beaches and continued the defense inland for weeks as they fought the Allied advance toward their objective of St. Lo.

LeMesnilStLoMapMap of the area around Le Mesnil-Rouxelin and the US 175th Infantry Regiment June 14-18, 1944 advance

St. Lo was an important crossroads objective which had endured German occupation since 1940. On the morning of June 6, 1944, the city was hit with vicious American artillery bombardments. As the Allies advanced inland after the coastal landings toward St. Lo, the German 352nd and 353rd Infantry Divisions and 3rd Parachute Division formed a line to slow them down. By late July, St. Lo was liberated by the Allies and the 352nd was destroyed. By early August, Kraiss was dead, and the German presence in Northern France was near its end.

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

The Heroes of Omaha and Panzer Lehr book from Skirmish Campaigns outlines the eleven engagements during this key period from D-Day to the German counterattack through the Allied breakthrough. This past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY we ran through the battle near Le Mesnil-Rouxelin just north of St. Lo on June 17, 1944. With elements of the US 175th Infantry Regiment closing in, General Kraiss and his headquarters quickly assembled an ad hoc force to delay the American advance. In the game, three US rifle squads (each armed with a BAR team) and a lone M4 Sherman must advance and seize the German HQ while being held at bay by several small German teams armed with rifles, Panzerfausts, a mortar and a MG-42. the Americans have to hustle, and they have eight turns to capture the German HQ before Kraiss and his staff can make their escape to fight another day.

IMG_6808Game set up near Le Mesnil-Rouxelin with the German HQ in the distance

With my US Airborne 28mm models standing in for the American infantry, they spent the first few turns moving in from the north and navigating the bocage hedgerows. Two squads and the US HQ moved to the east of the main road, the Sherman ran straight through the middle and one squad edged toward a French farmhouse mid-field. The German machine gun set up at the road edge in the bocage, looking to cover the advance by road or in the thick fields. Other German riflemen spread out along the hedges, looking to create a defense using their thin units and cover to the best advantage.

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US soldiers push through the fields and bocage

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German soldiers edge into position along the bocage

IMG_6806The Sherman rolls straight along the road toward the objective

By turn four, the firing began. Germans along the bocage made an attempt to shoot the Sherman at close range with a panzerfaust but the shot miraculously missed. The Sherman answered with a burst of machine gun and high explosive shots, forcing the Germans to fall back from the hedge and into the field. The Sherman rolled forward and a second squad of Germans emerged from the bocage and rushed the tank, placing three grenades along its left side. With the charges set to blow, the tank moved forward and rotated its turret to light up the exposed Germans with another round of machine gun fire, destroying the entire unit. Just as the smoke cleared, the grenades blew up along the side of the tank, immobilizing it for the game with its weapons still functional and crew left unharmed. Back in the field at the center, the German rifles and MG-42 took up new positions and the two US rifle squads and HQ continued to creep forward in prone positions.

IMG_6807Germans await the Sherman’s advance from their bocage positions

IMG_6809Germans disperse under machine gun fire from the Sherman

IMG_6810Germans bravely close assault the Sherman from the hedgerow

IMG_6813The Sherman is immobilized but still keeps fighting

With game time running short, the Americans in the field stood to fire on the Germans. Two German riflemen fell and the MG-42 crew took heavy fire, knocking it out for a round as the remaining crew scrambled back into position. At the left of the field, a US squad opened up at the Germans stretched along the hedgerow. Leaping the bocage and rushing forward, the Germans vanished in a hail of bullets, opening the route forward to the German HQ ahead. At the same time, Germans fell back along the right side of the field and the Americans ran forward. On the far US right, the third fire team ran forward, using their broken tank as cover as they made an end run toward the German command team in their farmhouse HQ.

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Two US squads and the platoon HQ advance at prone through the field

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US riflemen and BAR gunner fire into the German MG-42 as another American squad rushes forward in the distance

IMG_6815With the German HQ in sight, the US soldiers push hard to their objective

By the sixth turn, Kraiss and his command staff were on the move, making a run south from the safety of the farm where they had sat in cover for the whole game. With the final German defense in the field breaking, Americans broke through toward the farmhouse straight ahead and to both sides. Four remaining German rifles behind a wall and in a small copse of trees at the farm exchanged fire with the Americans, holding off dozens of GIs as Kraiss continued his run for safety.

IMG_6816American and German soldiers come face-to-face at the German HQ

With the final turn eighth turn’s arrival, the Americans finally reached the edge of the farm. After quick series of shots, another German fell but no Americans were able to seize the HQ in time as Kraiss and a couple straggling men slipped off to the south further toward St. Lo..

Our battle at the German HQ near Le Mesnil-Rouxelin presented a pretty good feel for the fighting that occurred in mid-June 1944. With a wave of Allied forces closing in toward their objective of St. Lo, General Kraiss and the other German commanders struggled to stall the advance. With the four-year German control of Northern France at stake, German forces cobbled together a fierce retreating defense. Beginning with the tide of men landing on the beaches and from the air on D-Day, the war had turned inevitably for the Allies.

Battleground: Advance to La Fiere 1944 Scenario

LaFiereAerialAllied airborne troops were the first units on the ground in the pre-dawn hours of June 6th, 1944 invasion of Normandy. As the vanguard ahead of the massive beach landings to come on D-Day, the inland goals of the paratroopers was to secure key inland areas and deny German reinforcements a path to the coast. Members of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division were tasked with seizing a bridge over the Merderet River at La Fiere and just west of Sainte-Mère-Église.

LaFiereMapMap of the action around La Fiere, June 6-9 1944

There to meet the arriving Americans were elements of the German 1057th Infantry Regiment of the 91st Infantry Division. For three days, German resistance amid the open fields, bocage hedgerows and scattered stone Normandy buildings held out against the elite US airborne troops. By July 9th, however, the Germans withdrew and the way was cleared as Allied troops began to arrive inland from the beaches.

IMG_6037Skirmish Campaigns  “Normandy ’44 – First Hours” scenario book

I’ve previously run a 15mm Flames of War scenario at La Fiere, so I was excited to scale up the battle to 28mm at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY this past weekend. Our game at La Fiere once again came from the classic Normandy ’44 – First Hours scenario book from Skirmish Campaigns, and we used Battleground rules. The Skirmish Campaigns series offers narratives, orders of battle and terrain layout maps that are brief and to the point, focusing on getting into the game as quickly as possible. For our game at La Fiere, we modified the order of battle and added in my newly-painted Rubicon Models Sherman tank for the US and a German anti-tank unit I’ve also recently completed. The rest of our forces came from my collection of 28mm German and US troops painted over the past year.

IMG_6699Table set up and initial German deployment at La Fiere

At the 28mm scale, we increased the tabletop set-up to a 4′ x 4′ board accommodating two main bocage-lined east-west roads, fields and a large stone house. With an American objective to seize the house, the Germans set-up with an infantry team and light machine gun in a line of trenches stretching through the main field. The German command set-up in the top floor of the house with a tripod-mounted MG 42 and anti-tank unit armed with a Panzershreck and Panzerfausts ready to deploy from the rear of the building. Two small anti-personnel mine fields were also set — one to the east of the house and one protecting the northern end of the German prepared positions.

IMG_6701Entrenched German troops and machine guns shift to meet the arriving Americans

With a game time limit of ten turns, the game began with the US being given the initiative as the Germans lay quietly in wait. The Americans took the first two turns to move on from the far edge of the table to the east and their deployment quickly revealed their plan. To their right, a M1 mortar crew set up behind a tree with their spotter creeping to the edge of the bocage to sight German targets across the field. Next, a .30-calibre machine gun team  set up at the hedgerow, followed by the HQ and a parachute rifle squad all stretched along the thick hedge. Across the road at the American left, one additional rifle squad moved in along the road with their Sherman rolling in support.

IMG_6700US paratroopers advance at the bocage hedgerows supported by a Sherman

Clearly the US plan was to lock down the German forces in their prepared positions with combined mortar, machine gun and infantry fire as the infantry would push through the open field toward the house objective. All the while, the balance of the Americans would creep toward the house using their tank for cover and intimidation. The mortar team confirmed the plan by launching two smoke rounds into the wide field at the end of the second turn, providing drifting cover for the next two turns.

IMG_6706German machine gunners take heavy fire from the American rifles

With the tank’s position revealed at the road, my Germans quickly moved their anti-tank squad around the house through turn three and lay in wait behind the bocage. The Germans also redeployed their tripod-mounted MG 42 to the far right of the trench to stave off the American advance in the field. The German advantage lay solely in their defensive positions, and all they had to do was survive. The Americans were going to have to abandon cover early in the game, but they superior numbers, elite troops and better weapons. Plus, the airborne had a tank.

IMG_6703The Sherman rolls down the road

There were few targets for the Germans soldiers to shoot at through turn four, and they had difficulty spotting through the smoke and distance across the field. The American machine gunners managed to lay down steady fire each turn, forcing some Germans into prone positions, wounding others but not scoring any kills. The American plan shows signs of unraveling early on as the mortar began failing to repeatedly to sight and range in effectively on any German targets in the trenches.

IMG_6705Confident US soldiers make for the open as their tank protects their left

The only other alternative for the Americans was to simply start pushing across the field in the open. With the heavy German machine guns at their center and right jamming and the crew taking fire, the US airborne began a slow advance by turns five and six. Infantry fire from the US included three dice from each Thompson submachine gun and two dice for every M1 rifle. As the paratroopers closed in, grenades were also thrown and knocked the German tripod MG 42 out of commission. All the Germans could answer with were single dice from their rifles and three dice for submachine gun shots from the officers, all in fewer numbers than the larger US squads.

IMG_6702German anti-tank weapons move to meet the advancing American airborne and supporting tank

Across the road, the second American rifle squad crept along on either side of the bocage with the tank rattling along beside them. As the first troops closed near the house, the first minefield was exposed but no Americans were injured as they continued on at a slower pace. Their delay allowed the German anti-tank crew to move into position, firing a few rifle and submachine gun shots along the way at the airborne tip-toeing around the mines. With the tank finally in sight, the Sherman opened up with opportunity fire from its hull, turret and top-mounted .50-calibre machine guns. Under a hail of bullets, the anti-tank crew went prone and took light wounds, disallowing their planned shot at the tank for the turn. By the sixth turn, the assistant gunner was able to crawl to the injured Panzershreck and deliver a crippling shot to the tank’s front track. Rolling for morale after the hit, the American crew rolled a ’20’ — the worst possible outcome — and fled their tank and the field.

IMG_6704German troops hold fast against continued fire from the Americans

With the tank out of the battle, the airborne infantry were left alone to do the job. At the seventh turn, the first US troops to close on the building were mowed down under heavy fire from the German HQ inside the building. The German survivors in the field trenches held out against three waves of US advances. In the open and with no heavy support, the Americans were eaten up in the field despite their superior training and weapons. Against the odds, the German forces had thrown back the US airborne’s advance on La Fiere.

Playing a 28mm battle with the Battleground skirmish rules gives an incredible amount of detailed feel to the game. Wounds, suppression, weapon jams, moving, loading, spotting, morale checks, cover and troop quality all intertwine to effect each figure individually as they contribute to the overall mission of their force. Under battle conditions, unlikely things — like mortars being completely useless or a tank crew fleeing the field– can and did happen. In our game, a well-laid plan by a superior American force was thwarted by Germans who just kept hanging on as the dice went their way.

28mm: German Infantry and MG 42 HMG By Artizan Designs

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With my first set of German infantry and MG 42 machine gun complete, I’ve doubled my 28mm Axis force with more models from Artizan Designs. In just a few words, I’m loving the models from AD and my only complaint is that I’m quickly working my way through their figures so I’ll soon have a complete selection of their basic late war Germans.

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paintgermanThis time around, there are a number of animated infantry figures in a mix of helmets and soft caps plus another MG 42 machine gun to supplement my arsenal. My German paint scheme has remained consistently fast and satisfying as per the below.

Painting 28mm German Infantry

  1. Clean flash from metal models with a sharp knife and glue to metal washer or plastic bases.
  2. Apply filler putty to bases. When dry, scrape off excess with a sharp knife.
  3. Basecoat models and bases with flat black spray primer.
  4. Paint smocks and helmets with Tallarn Sand.
  5. Paint pants, soft hats, officer greatcoat and gas mask containers with Skavenlight Dinge.
  6. Paint camouflage on helmets and smocks with alternating Waaagh! Flesh and Dark Brown.
  7. Paint faces and hands with Tallarn Flesh.
  8. Paint packs with Baneblade Brown.
  9. Paint boots and equipment straps Black.
  10. Paint bases, gun stocks, water bottles and helmet straps with Dark Brown.
  11. Apply Agrax Earthshade wash to uniforms, helmet netting, webbing and packs.
  12. Mix 50/50 Baneblade Brown and Off White and lightly dry brush packs, webbing, socks and holsters.
  13. Dry brush pants, soft hats and officer great coat with Light Grey.
  14. Lightly dry brush bases and gun stocks with Baneblade Brown.
  15. Paint metal gun and water bottle parts with black and finish with a light dry brush of Metallic Silver.
  16. Dry brush gasmask containers with metallic Silver.
  17. Paint eyes with small dots of Off White and Dark Brown. Clean up around eyes with Tallarn Flesh.
  18. Mix 50/50 Tallarn Flesh and Off White and brush highlights on cheekbones, chins, forehead, nose and hands.
  19. Cover bases in white glue and cover in 50/50 mix of fine light green and dark green grass flock.
  20. Glue small pieces of clump foliage to base.
  21. Spray coat completed models with matte finish.

And now, more photos of my Germans as my force builds up and looks toward hitting the table soon.

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28mm: German Infantry And MG 42 HMG By Artizan Designs

waffen After wrapping up my first 28mm US Airborne troops, I set to work on some Germans. I ordered a bunch of Late War German infantry and command, plus an MG 42 team by Artizan Designs from Brigade Games and received them speedily. The detail in the figures really pops, and the personality and variety in the poses make them really engaging at this scale. I particularly like the stern officer in his greatcoat and the other figures screaming out orders and gesturing on the move. ADlogo Painting WWII Germans for the first time at this scale, I really wanted to go for more detail than I do at 6mm or 15mm. Artizan Designs offers some great painting references on their website, including a general uniform guide and a lot of detail on German camoflage patterns. Using paints I had on hand plus a few more colors I picked up from Citadel’s paint line, I came up with a palette and painting scheme that produced some great results on my first go. paintgermanThe Artizan figures require little flash clean up before being glued to metal washers. The three man machine gun crew went on a 60mm plastic base I picked up from Proxie Models. Here’s the steps in detail for painting my German infantry.

Painting 28mm German Infantry

  1. Clean flash from metal models with a sharp knife and glue to metal washer or plastic bases.
  2. Apply filler putty to bases. When dry, scrape off excess with a sharp knife.
  3. Basecoat models and bases with flat black spray primer.
  4. Paint smocks and helmets with Tallarn Sand.
  5. Paint pants, soft hats, officer greatcoat and gas mask containers with Skavenlight Dinge.
  6. Paint camouflage on helmets and smocks with alternating Waaagh! Flesh and Dark Brown.
  7. Paint faces and hands with Tallarn Flesh.
  8. Paint packs with Baneblade Brown.
  9. Paint boots and equipment straps Black.
  10. Paint bases, gun stocks, water bottles and helmet straps with Dark Brown.
  11. Apply Agrax Earthshade wash to uniforms, helmet netting, webbing and packs.
  12. Mix 50/50 Baneblade Brown and Off White and lightly dry brush packs, webbing, socks and holsters.
  13. Dry brush pants, soft hats and officer great coat with Light Grey.
  14. Lightly dry brush bases and gun stocks with Baneblade Brown.
  15. Paint metal gun and water bottle parts with black and finish with a light dry brush of Metallic Silver.
  16. Dry brush gasmask containers with metallic Silver.
  17. Paint eyes with small dots of Off White and Dark Brown. Clean up around eyes with Tallarn Flesh.
  18. Mix 50/50 Tallarn Flesh and Off White and brush highlights on cheekbones, chins, forehead, nose and hands.
  19. Cover bases in white glue and cover in 50/50 mix of fine light green and dark green grass flock.
  20. Glue small pieces of clump foliage to base.
  21. Spray coat completed models with matte finish.

 IMG_4954 Helmets, smocks and pants base coated on the MG 42 team and infantry models

IMG_4958Infantry and officer uniforms base coated

IMG_4955Flesh base coats and helmet camouflage added to infantry and officer

IMG_4959Camouflage painted on helmets, and gun stocks and water bottles painted brown

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Equipment detail being painted

Here’s a round up of my finished German infantry from Artizan Designs…

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Now that I’ve got my core German and US forces completed, I’ll be looking to fill out forces on both sides with some additional support weapons and some more infantry from some other manufacturers. In no time at all, my 28mm force continues to grow.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: Cabourg June 6, 1944 Scenario

LandingatOmahaOn the morning of the Normandy Landings of June 6, 1944, taking the eastern sector of Omaha Beach fell to the United States 1st Infantry Division. Despite some missed targeted landing zones on the beach and heavy losses at the far ends, the exit “draws” were largely secured by mid-morning. As additional troops and supplies began to arrive, the push inland began.

Omaha to CobourgMap of the US push to Cabourg from Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944

(via US Army Center of Military History)

Moving toward the objective of Colleville-sur-Mer, probing forces from the 1st Infantry Division pressed forward through the seaside fields of Normandy and began to encounter German defenders in various states of disarray. Tired from the fighting at the beach, the first group of Americans on patrol moved cautiously into Cabourg from the north and east while the German force scrambled to hold against any additional headway by the invaders. WhereTheHell After a couple of month hiatus, we jumped back into a 15mm World War II game at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY this past weekend centering on the action at Cabourg. Using the I Ain’t Been Shot Mum rules and a post-D-Day scenario from the Where The Hell Have You Been Boys? book, all from Too Fat Lardies, our table was set to show the American advance and German defense at Cabourg.

IMG_4940Initial advance of US forces on blinds from the east and north toward Cabourg

Playing on the US side, my partner and I divided our force of three rifle platoons under blinds plus three false blinds. I swung two platoons and a false blind directly at the village from the east while my teammate took the other two false blinds and a single platoon around to the north behind a copse of trees. The mass of US blinds hiding a force only half the actual size provided a great simulation of the confusion the Germans felt that morning as they also lay hidden in and around the village in defense.

IMG_4941US forces near Cabourg on blinds from the east

IMG_4942The first US forces are revealed beyond a wood north of Cabourg

After a couple turns of US movement and prodding for Germans outside the town, the Germans spotted the Americans moving cautiously to the north. With two false blinds exposed, the third American blind revealed a rifle platoon armed with a mortar and two officers present. A false blind was also revealed near a farm at the eastern edge of the town as the Germans continued to burn up turn actions trying to find out where the Americans actually were.

IMG_4943American and German forces simultaneously surprise each other near the farm

IMG_4944A close assault erupts in the woods behind the barn

In close proximity to each other to the rear of a barn at the farm, US and German blinds were exposed nearly simultaneously with American gunfire tearing into the outnumbered Germans. A close assault at a hedgerow quickly pushed the first German fire team to the rear and out the action for the game. The remainder of the German platoon stayed to continue on firing from within the first barn and a hede nearby.

IMG_4945The final American blind is exposed just north of the farm

IMG_4946Americans give and take fire at a hedgerow

On the other side of the farm, the final American blind revealed another rifle platoon hunkered behind a hedge lining a road to town. At long-range, shots were exchanged between German defenders in and around the barn and the Americans now shooting from both sides of the barn. The action at the east end of Cabourg settled into a stalemate of fire across the fields and around the barns.

IMG_4947US forces inch toward Cabourg across hedges and fields from the north

IMG_4949US forces stall out to the northeast of Cabourg

Back to the north of town, the lone US platoon on the moved cautiously along a road and over fields, fences and hedgerows. With the Americans creeping toward Cabourg, the Germans opened up with MG 42s positioned in an upper story of a second barn and from the garret of a farmhouse near the entry road to town. With a cross-fire of heavy machine gun pouring into the Americans at the north and east, the US advance stalled somewhat until something could be done about the German fire ripping from building windows.

IMG_4948The remnants of the first German rifle platoon look to reposition to cover

IMG_4950Americans move to assault the German machine guns at the second barn

Back at the two barns, one US platoon swung around to the rear of the barn to assault the German machine gun crew inside. With the MG 42 crew thrown back into a retreat from the barn, the surviving German rifles on the other side of the barn retreated from fire into a nearby house. Firing from their new position, the Germans stalled the Americans pushing around the barns to the village. At the same time, the other MG 42 continued to fire into the other US platoon now pinned with dwindling numbers behind a hedge.

IMG_4951German reserves arrive late in the day to defend against the American push from the north

As the engagement progressed late into the scenario, the game’s referee announced the arrival of reserves on both sides. From the west, a fresh German rifle platoon joined the fight at the road and tree line at the northern edge of town. At full strength, two German platoons focused fire on the lone American platoon which had so cautiously moved toward that end of the village. Taking casualties, the shrinking US force began to fall back over the hedges and fields from where they had just come.

On the far end of the table, three more American platoons arrived from the beach to the east. Looking to advance quickly on the road straight toward town, the US reserves just couldn’t get in the fight fast enough. With the US forces already near Cabourg greatly reduced and in retreat to defensive positions, the game was called with the Germans holding Cabourg from the American assault.

At Normandy in 1944, the result was the same and the German defense halted the US advance which broke off by mid afternoon. The IABSM scenario at Cabourg is a great illustration of the dozens of small inland battles which raged after the morning’s landings along the Normandy coast over 70 years ago, and we’ll be returning to more follow-up actions in the weeks to come.

Touching History at the Military History Society of Rochester

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I have logged many, many hours over the years visiting battlefields, historical homes, living heritage sites, reenactments, roadside markers and all sorts of art, history and military museums. Near the top of these experiences was a full day I spent at the Imperial War Museum a few years back while working in London for over a month. With over two million visitors a year and some 11 millions artifacts, the IWM is hard to beat for immersing yourself in the history of warfare.

This past week I had a very different, yet truly remarkable experience in my first visit to the Military History Society of Rochester. Located up a flight of stairs in a warehouse inhabited by various artist galleries and studios, the MHSR occupies roughly 2000 square feet of space packed with all manner of historical artifacts focused on telling the story of the US military through the local lens of Rochester, NY.

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A timeline of US long arms from the American War of Independence through the Korean War at the MHSR

Founded several years ago by Chuck Baylis as the American Civil War Artillery Association, the group’s mission has since grown beyond his original collection of Civil War artifacts to encompass American wars from the Revolution to the present. The first room still focuses on the Civil War including detailed displays on artillery, uniforms and the 140th New York Volunteer Regiment formed in Rochester in 1862. A timeline of American long arms from the American War of Independence through the Korean War covers an entire wall.

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A timeline of military uniforms from the American War of Independence through the present at the MHSR

In the rear space of the museum, the focus swings to 20th-century with displays on World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and present day wars. Uniforms, guns, swords, equipment hang from the walls, rest on shelves and lay slung over mannequins. Scale model airplanes hang from the ceiling, model vehicles rest on the floors and cases and a D-Day diorama sits nearby. Throughout the museum are some 2000 books as well as countless other letters, maps, photos, schematics, deck plans, prints, posters and other ephemera for perusal or research.

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 A US .50 caliber machine gun at the MHSR

Baylis has been joined by a number of passionate volunteers who can be found at the museum during its operating hours on Thursdays, Fridays and some Saturdays. Civil War reenactor, historian and wargamer Mike Vasile (co-author of the excellent Arena Games: Gladiatorial Combat rules) is responsible for many of the scale dioramas throughout the museum. Scale ship modeller Timothy Igoe of Historia Militaris Shipways has contributed several naval models to the collection and is currently undertaking a build of the USS Rochester (CA-2) for the museum. Retired Social Studies teacher Orton Begner rounds out the group with a deep knowledge of every object on hand.

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A US M1919 Browning machine gun at the MHSR

The one-to-one interaction with the MHSR’s members and the collection is what sets the museum apart from any other I’ve every visited. Everything has been well labeled, organized and put on display but hardly anything in the museum sits behind glass. Care to hold the various types of artillery rounds used in the Civil War? Want to feel the heft of a WWII era Thompson submachine gun or M-1 rifle? Would you like to take a look inside a pack carried by an American GI on D-Day? Want to lie down with a German MG-42? Ever wanted to hold a Japanese officer’s sword or 1913 “Patton Saber”? Just about everything in the museum, with the proper care, respect and assistance from one of the staff, can be touched, offering an incredibly rare opportunity to physically connect with past.

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 A German MG-42 and StG 44 at the MHSR

The mission to bring history alive beyond the walls of the museum also occurs with the exhibits members of the group bring to school groups and veteran events in the Rochester area. With its focus on celebrating the men and women of Western New York’s service in every branch of the military past and present, the museum is serving a unique and human mission of connecting today’s generations to a long tradition military service.

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My son gets some hands-on time with a Thompson submachine gun at the MHSR

In all my years of interest in history and military heritage, I have yet to find a museum as alive as the experience found at the Military History Society of Rochester. As a wargamer, the opportunity to see and handle so many objects up close is unparalleled. My time spent at the museum on my first visit was brief, but meeting the guys and seeing the collection at the museum will definitely bring me back my next time in Rochester.

Interview with Chuck Baylis of the MHSR

The Military History Society of Rochester is located in the Anderson Arts Building at 250 North Goodman Street on the second floor. Admission is free.

I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives 1944 Scenario

stlambertsurdives1944Just over two months after the Allied D-Day landings, the Normandy campaign marched toward a conclusion at the Battle of the Falaise Pocket in mid-August 1944. With orders not to withdraw, a last ditch German defense was cobbled together from surviving Panzer divisions in an area about 20 miles south of Caen. Over a nine day period desperate fighting, the German defenders were eventually encircled by overwhelming British, Canadian and US forces. Aside from tens-of-thousands of surrendering troops, Germany had suffered enormous losses in its dwindling tank forces. Elements of the German 7th Army managed to elude capture and slipped back to the German border, although they too took heavy losses in men and and equipment.

VCCurrieMajor David Currie, winner of the Victoria Cross for his actions at Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives in August 1944

On August 18, 1944, Canadians from the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and armored South Alberta Regiment made way for Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives. The objective was to take and hold the town, thus preventing more Germans from slipping out of the Allied encirclement. Over three days of infantry fighting and tank duels in and around the town, heavy losses piled up on both sides. With dozens of vehicles and tanks destroyed, the surviving Germans surrendered to Major David Currie. Currie’s actions at Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives earned him the Victoria Cross, the only one earned by a Canadian during the Normandy campaign.

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View from the north entry point for Canadian troops in the IABSM Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives scenario

The rulebook for I Ain’t Been Shot Mum from Too Fat Lardies includes a scenario for the battle at Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives which we recently ran at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Using 15mm terrain, we set up the table with a series of roads intersecting at the town sitting at the edge of a hill surrounded by fields, orchards and hedgerows.

IMG_4092View from the south of the IABSM scenario — the Canadian objective is the crossroads at the lower right

My first Canadian platoons arrived under blinds along the road to the north heading straight for the town where the Germans waited. With several turns of movement under blinds, the plan for each side was quickly exposed in two main areas of the field. My two platoons of M4 Sherman and Firefly tanks made straight down the main road toward the crossroads objective. To stave off the Canadian armor, the Germans quickly set up their Panther A and Tiger tanks behind a hedge southeast of town. The other German armor, two Panzer IVs operating without a commander present, set up in the orchard south of town and covering the other main road to the objective.

IMG_4095German Panther and Tiger tanks overlook the main road into Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives

IMG_4096Panzer IVs occupy the orchard at the southwest corner of Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives

Two platoons of Canadian rifle infantry crossed the river. One made way to the orchard just north of town at the middle. Meeting them was a single, smaller German rifle platoon. The veteran Canadians quickly destroyed half of one fire team from the tired, German regulars. The surviving Germans pulled back to take up position in the buildings in town as the Canadians pursued.

IMG_4094Canadian and German troops open fire across the stream just north of Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives

IMG_4098Canadian infantry press forward through vicious fire at the center of town

The second Canadian rifle platoon made way through the buildings nearby their fellow Canadian tank platoons. Once close enough, the Canadian rifles exposed a German platoon armed with a frightful MG42 camped out in a farmhouse on the eastern edge of town. Thus all the infantry settled into a series of firing positions at the center of town with the Canadians taking fire from German rifles and machine guns on two sides.

IMG_4097Canadian and German tanks exchange fire to the southeast of Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives

At the farm to the east, a game-long tank duel erupted with the Canadian Shermans and Firefly tanks firing from positions behind the French farm’s buildings. The German Panther and Tiger fired from light cover of a hedgerow over the fields beyond. In two turns of fire, the Panther sat in flames and the Sherman platoons were able to focus on the Tiger which unsuccessfully returned fire over repeated tries. One Panzer IV shot harrassingly at the Sherman platoon closer to town which was forced to turn its guns away from the Tiger to return fire.

IMG_4100With German armor aflame, Canadian tanks roll to seize the objective

Back at the town’s center, the Canadian infantry took heavy casualties from German rifles shooting from building windows and the Panzer IVs firing from the orchard. The breakthrough for the Canadians came as the Tiger was destroyed and the Shermans were able to fire up their engines and make way across the fields. Turning the Sherman and Firefly guns to the orchard, the Panzer IVs were quickly destroyed. One more fresh German rifle platoon finally moved to occupy buildings in the town, but by then the path was wide open for the Canadian armor to roll unmolested to the crossroads objective and victory.

This was our first IABSM game using a lot of armor, and the unbalanced number of Canadian tanks firing and moving without a single loss clinched the game for the Allies. The veteran Canadian rifles had also served their purpose of locking down the town in a pitched battle with their numbers and quality allowing them to hold out against their German foes.

Seventy years ago at Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives the German surrender was captured by a a film crew, and bits of the film survive today (see below). The exploits of the Canadians in the Falaise Pocket led by Major David Currie helped seal victory for the Allies after months of fighting in Normandy, and his miniature tank crews won the battle again on our tabletop historical repeat of this important victory at one more crossroads in the French countryside.

Newsreel footage of Canadian troops in action and the German surrender at Saint Lambert-Sur-Dives in August 1944