I Ain’t Been Shot Mum: Pegasus Bridge and Bénouville June 6, 1944 Scenarios

Horsas

There are thousands of little actions in the history of warfare, and a longtime favorite of myself and other wargamers is the capture of Pegasus Bridge on June 6, 1944. Just minutes past midnight, Operation Deadstick delivered some 180 British soldiers from the 6th Airborne Division onto French soil near two key bridges on the far eastern flank of the Allied invasion during the D-Day invasion throughout that historic day.

DDayOverallMapThe D-Day Allied assault routes with the British 6th Airborne Division drop zone (circled in red)

Landing in the dark in six wooden Horsa gliders with only one casualty and minimal other initial incident, the British soldiers and engineers made quick work of the surprisingly meager defense by about 50 men from the German 716th Infantry Division. With the bridge over the Caen Canal secured and another at the nearby River Orne also captured, the initial mission had been accomplished in quick order.

The mission then shifted to a defensive one for the British at the bridges and nearby Bénouville as the German command ordered a counter attack. Another 200 paratroopers from the British 7th Parachute Battalion landed to join in the occupation but were met by German tanks, mortars and guns. Under German sniper fire at the bridge and with few heavy weapons at their disposal, the British held out in the town amid house-to-house fighting in Bénouville until the close of the first day of the invasion.

Too Fat Lardies, makers of the I Ain’t Been Shot Mum company-level WWII rules, provided scenarios for the actions at Pegasus Bridge and Bénouville in the 2006 Summer Special. Playing the scenarios recently at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY allowed me to use my recently-completed 15mm bridge model from Najewitz Modellbau and refight one of my favorite little moments in the big history of the war.

The Battle for Pegasus Bridge

Like most IABSM games, the fight at the bridge started with hidden German troops and the British entering the board on blinds. Initial blind placements were randomized through a die roll to reflect the off-board glider landings. Owing to the time just past midnight, spotting of any troops was impossible until units closed with just inches of each other.

IMG_6299Initial set up of the scene at Pegasus Bridge

IMG_6300British charge hard into the German positions

IMG_6301A British fire team splits off to attack the German bunker

Dividing my British force, one platoon rushed into an initial German position, took a few hits in a close assault, fell back but charged back to overwhelm the Germans. The remainder of my force (including my engineers) moved slowly, clipped a path through barbed wire and made its way toward the concrete bunker. A brief firefight at the bunker sent the German defenders fleeing toward the canal, the engineers placed their explosives and the rest of the British made way for the bridge.

IMG_6302German troops flee their bunker as the British cut the wire and push onward

IMG_6303British engineers set charges at the bunker as German machine guns open fire across the canal

As the German bunker went up in and explosion of flame, German machine guns revealed themselves on the opposite side of the bridge. Two sniper sentries also appeared and began harassing the advancing British with fire. To clear the way, a British officer took a heroic run at one sniper, capturing the German where he sat.

IMG_6305The bunker burns, the British head over the bridge but take shots from German snipers

IMG_6304A thin line of Germans look to hold off the advancing British

IMG_6306With the Germans in retreat, the British take Pegasus Bridge

With the bunker aflame, the British marching over the Bridge and the thin German defense starting to run, the British had again made quick work of their mission. The bridge was held, but it was on to Bénouville and the inevitable German counterattack.

The Battle for Bénouville

At Bénouville British blinds moved on to the table for six turns, stalling briefly in turns four and five. Taking up occupying positions in the town, the mission was to simply hold against the coming German counterattack. As German blinds began entering the field in the woods and open areas outside the town, the initial British infantry were supported by slow-arriving reinforcements to the rear.

IMG_6307Initial set up of the scene at Bénouville from the British end of the table

IMG_6308British blinds enter and occupy the town

Attacking from a safe position within two buildings, the British over zealously abandoned their defensive mission and attacked to reveal the closing German blinds. In a close assault, the British were thrown back as reinforcing German heavy machine guns and mobile guns moved in. Taking fire from the German guns at close range, the remaining British defenders in the nearest house answered with a side-armored shot from a PIAT which left one German gun burning but the Germans still on the advance.

IMG_6309German troops advance on the town supported by mobile guns

IMG_6310Germans swarm out of the woods toward the British defenders

IMG_6311A British PIAT takes out a German gun

The licky destruction of one German gun was about the last thing to go right for the British. Additional reinforcements were tardy in their arrival as Germans continued to pour into the town. As the Germans set up positions amid the town’s houses, two towed field guns also rumbled into the town. Additional close combat erupted between the buildings with the British continuing to take heavy casualties and losing more ground.

IMG_6312German artillery is towed into the town

As British reserves continued to fail in their arrival, the Germans pressed on. After initially holding four safe positions in the buildings of Bénouville, British positions continued to evaporate and men fell back under continued German combined arms fire and close assaults. By that time of the game, it was clear the British were not going to hold the town and the German counterattack was clearly on its way to victory.

Our final score in the played action at Pegasus Bridge and Bénouville was 1-and-1. The early success at the bridge had not been capitalized upon by the British at Bénouville, upsetting the historic balance from 1944 but still making for a great afternoon of gaming a favorite scenario for the first time.

Flames of War: Lingevres 1944 Scenario

lingevres1944

By D-Day +8 on June 14, 1944, the British 50th Infantry Division had pressed about 5 miles inland from Gold Beach to the outskirts of Lingevres. Dug in at the town were elements from the Panzer Lehr Division with several Panther tanks ready to force back the looming British attack. With 6-pdr anti-tank guns in tow, the British pushed into town mid-morning following a bombardment by 25-pound artillery and runs from supporting Typhoons above. A ferocious battle commenced between the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards and the German Panthers. When the smoke cleared, several Panthers sat burning as victims of Sherman Firefly and anti-tank gun fire. At day’s end, the British controlled Lingevres.

lingevresAT

British 6-pdr anti-tank gun deployed outside Lingevres, June 14, 1944

The WWPD website has a Lingevres scenario available which two of us adapted for play this past weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY. Using the scenario as a guideline, we laid out the tabletop battlefield with cornfields stretching outside the town occupying two-thirds of the table. With our 1750-point forces on each side, the Germans began with two platoons of infantry and a heavy machine gun platoon inside two buildings and the church at the center of Lingevres. The British then deployed with their artillery battery, two rifle companies and a recon patrol. All other forces were held off table, with German delayed reserves set to arrive in turn three and British reserves eligible to arrive immediately at the beginning of the game.

Victory conditions as presented were simple — the British needed to take three buildings in the town and the Germans needed to drive the British from the field. How the game played was not simple and once again revealed my need to sink more work into creating accurate, playable scenarios for FOW.

IMG_3163Germans dug in at Lingevres in the town’s buildings while British artillery and infantry deployed from the cornfields in the distance

IMG_3164

Initial movement of British forces into Lingevres with recon carriers moving left and infantry moving into the woods near the church

The first two turns of the game saw the British marching from their edge of the table toward Lingevres. At the town, a German machine gun platoon sat waiting in a building at the crossroads while two other infantry platoons took up position in the church and shops across the road. By turn three, British artillery had opened fire on the machine gunners and pinned them. The first British tank platoon also rumbled onto the table, as did the German Panthers which made way for the center of town.

IMG_3165

Panther reserves roll into the center of Lingevres

IMG_3173

British infantry in the woods take fire and are pinned as armored reserves move from the rear

The first British infantry platoon made way through the woods at the center of the table but were pinned and cut down over two consecutive turns of fire from nearby Germans. The British recon patrol, edging its way through the bocaged fields near the church, was chased away with the appearance of the Panthers.

IMG_3167A British Sherman takes up position to spot for the artillery battery

IMG_3166

British infantry move from the farmhouse across the field

IMG_3169

Panthers destroy a Firefly and the Sherman spotter tank at the edge of town

IMG_3170

British infantry fall back after taking fire from the German half-tracks

On the main road to town, the British ran their Sherman spotter tank and lead Firefly toward the nearby farmhouse. On the other side of the farmhouse, a British infantry platoon moved into position using the building and nearby bocage as cover as they made way for the open field. The heavy British push around the farm was stymied with the arrival of German halftracks which fired machine guns into the field. By turn five, the Sherman spotter tank and spearheading Firefly also lay in flames after some quick shots from the German Panthers.

IMG_3168

British machine gun carriers and tank reserves roll on

IMG_3171

Armored reserves move to support infantry

IMG_3172 British infantry reserves move in near their artillery battery

By turns six and seven the inital British assualt had been repulsed at a safe distance from town. All German infantry platoons remained safely bunkered up in the town’s buildings, and the spotter for the German’s reserve 12cm mortar platoon was now camped out in the church’s bell tower. The three Panthers prowled back and forth at the center of town, and the incoming fire from the British artillery in the distance was the only real agitation to the occupying Germans. The Britsh rolled on their final reserves of machine gun carriers, Sherman/Firefly tanks and a fresh infantry platoon.

Even with all reserves on the table, the British attack was stumped. With one rifle platoon destroyed and a second whittled down, the British had just one intact infantry platoon on the field. One tank platoon struggled through the fields to one side of town, while the second sat idling on the road to town. Clear lines of fire around the church and town center presented open killing zones for the Germans in the town’s buidings and the three Panthers. All the Germans needed to do was sit in place and mow down the coming British.

I love playing wargames for historical scenarios, but our game this past weekend at Lingevres presented some serious limitations to the FOW rules as written. Playing an even match of 1750-point forces per side ultimately did not allow for a satisfying game for either player. What works for a head’s up FOW tournament game or randomly-rolled mission simply does not play well in recreating historic engagements.

In our Lingevres game, the British simply didn’t have enough units to create a critical mass to advance into town under what was sure to be withering fire from the Germans. We decided we liked the scenario, but perhaps the British needed a 50% increase in points, perhaps with additional rifle and tank platoons and a Typhoon providing air support.

With a three-day D-Day weekend being planned at our club this June, we’ve got multiple historic airborne, beach and inland fights to sketch out in the coming months. There’s going to be a lot of playtesting and tweaking to get our historic games to play well. With wargaming, striking the balance between a game that provides both historic accuracy and the potential for different outcomes is the real challenge that lies beyond just the roll fo the dice.

Flames of War: Fielding the FOW British Rifle Company, Machine Gun Platoon and 6-Pdr Anti-Tank Platoon

BritSoldiers

At long last, my months-long build of my British forces for Flames of War was wrapped up this week (at least for now). Starting with the Guards Armoured Division this past summer, my British collection now contains a fair amount of armor, artillery, transport and now, infantry platoons. With most of my WWII gaming focused on the late war period from D-Day onward in Western Europe, having a solid British base to supplement my Americans provides me with a lot of playability for my Allies in any number of scenarios and campaigns.

fowbritinf

With nearly 3.8 million soldiers serving for the British army in WWII, the “PBI” (Poor Bloody Infantry”) led the war for the Allies from its earliest days right up until the bitter end in Western Europe and the Pacific. The FOW British Rifle Company box provides gamers the basic backbone for fielding a core group of British infantry. The FOW rifle company comes armed with the standard kit of WWII British infantry, including the Bren light machine gun, Sten submachine gun, 2-inch mortar and PIAT anti-tank weapon. The set also includes a few snipers and a hero figure of Stanley Hollis, whose heroic actions on D-Day earned him the only Victoria Cross awarded on that historic day.

For inspiration during my hours of painting, I looked to a lot of photos of Commonwealth forces from the period and have included some below.

britinfBritish infantry with their Bren light machine gun

BritStenBritish soldiers loading Sten submachine gun magazines

Brit2inchBritish 2-inch mortar crew

BritPiatA British soldier with his PIAT

I keep my painting simple with a brownish-drab uniform, brown boots and a bit of green lightly brushed on the helmet netting. The FOW models offer a nice variety of weapons and poses, plus little details like trench shovels tucked on the backs of many of the figures. I’m usually pretty spare with my basing of basic green flock over a light brown base. That said, I’ve recently discovered easy-to-apply grass tufts from Walthers, a model railroading hobby supplier, and so I added a bunch of those to really make the bases come a bit more alive.

I’ve included a few photos below of my completed British three-platoon infantry company:

IMG_2990

IMG_2988

IMG_2991

IMG_2989

To supplement the standard infantry company and its weapons, I added in the FOW Machine Gun Platoon with the Vickers machine gun. With wide use by the British from WWI to the late 1960s, the hearty Vickers machine gun lays down a hail of fire in support of the swift advancing actions of their infantry countrymen.

britvickersBritish infantry dug in with their Vickers machine gun

IMG_2987Completed British machine gun platoon

Aside from man-packed weapons, many infantry units were accompanied by heavier weapons for when faced by enemy armor. The Ordnance Quick-Firing 6-pounder or 6-pdr was the go-to British anti-tank gun throughout the battlefields of WWII. Hand-hauled short distances or commonly pulled along with the ubiquitous Universal Carrier, the 6-pdr proved most effective in stopping German tanks in the early desert war of Africa. Thicker armor on Panther and Tiger tanks eventually stymied the use of the 6-pdr in frontal face-offs with German crews, but later development of heftier armor-piercing shot by 1944 brought their effectiveness back into play in the last campaigns of the war in Normandy and beyond.

brit6pdrBritish crew with their 6-pdr anti-tank gun in Europe

Again, I needed some of these guys in the mix, so the FOW 6-pdr Platoon was another must-have in my force. I love this little set, especially the officer with his foot planted boldly on a gun’s wheel as he gestures to a distant target. Along with my existing British armor and Royal Artillery Battery, having some anti-tank guns in my force will hopefully provide enough firepower against my heavily-armored German opponents.

IMG_2984Completed 6-pdr anti-tank platoon

Any time I complete a big build, I’m inevitably left with the question of “what next?” First of all, most of my British will begin hitting the game table this coming weekend at Metropolitan Wargamers in Brooklyn, NY in a scenario at Aalst from September 18th, 1944 during Operation Market Garden. I’ll be posting an after-action report for the game early next week, and I’m certain I’ll have plenty more to write up on my fresh British boys in the months to come.