Showing posts with label British. Show all posts
Showing posts with label British. Show all posts

1 October 2014

Operation Market Garden (Part 2)

Operation Market Garden (Part 2)

Field Marshal Montgomery's goal was to force an entry into Germany over the Lower Rhine. He wanted to circumvent the northern end of the Siegfried Line and this required the operation to seize the bridges across the Maas (Meuse) River and two arms of the Rhine (the Waal and the Lower Rhine) as well as several smaller canals and tributaries. Crossing the Lower Rhine would allow the Allies to encircle Germany's industrial heartland in the Ruhr from the north. It made large-scale use of airborne forces, whose tactical objectives were to secure the bridges and allow a rapid advance by armored units into Northern Germany.

Several bridges between Eindhoven and Nijmegen were captured at the beginning of the operation but Gen. Horrocks' XXX Corps ground force advance was delayed by the demolition of a bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal. This caused an extremely overstretched supply line, and failing to capture the main road bridge over the river Waal before 20 September.

The Allied Airborne Army comprised of four divisions; two British and two American. Linked to it was the Polish Independent Parachute Brigade lead by Major-General Sosabowski.

The two most senior American commanders were Major-General Gavin of the 101st Division and Major-General Maxwell Taylor of the 82nd Division. Both men were knowledgeable in airborne warfare. The British First Airborne Division was lead by Major-General Urquhart. He was an unusual choice to lead the Airborne Division as he had never parachuted before, never participated in a glider landing and got air sick. He, himself, expressed his surprise when he was appointed commander of the division.

Robert Urquhart

The First Airborne Division had not taken part in D-Day. It had been kept in reserve and had remained inactive after June 1944. A number of planned operations had been cancelled at the last minute because they were not needed due to the success of the British armoured columns on the ground. By September 1944, the First Division was "restless, frustrated and ready for anything". Urquhart said that it was:"Battle-hungry to a degree which only those who have commanded large forces of trained soldiers can fully comprehend."

The First Division was given the task of capturing the bridge at Arnhem and holding it. The 101st Division was to capture the Zuid Willems Vaart  Canal at Veghel and the Wilhelmina Canal at Son. The 82nd Division was to capture the bridges at Grave and at Nijmegen.

The attack had to be planned in just six days. Urquhart's First Division faced two major problems; the shortage of aircraft and the belief that the bridge at Arnhem was surrounded by anti-aircraft guns that would make a landing by the bridge itself too difficult.

The Americans were given the priority with regards to aircraft. The capture of the bridge at Arnhem would be pointless if the Americans failed to captured their targets. Therefore, the Americans would be carried to their targets in one lift whereas the attack on Arnhem would be done in three separate lifts during the day. Any night time landings were considered too dangerous.

This posed a major problem for Urquhart. His first force would have the element of surprise and, if the German resistance was minimal, would hold the bridge and secure any landing zones for the gliders. However, any subsequent landings would be after the Germans would have had the time to get themselves organised.

Intelligence reports also showed that the flak around the bridge itself was heavy. This was confirmed by RAF bomber crews who encountered the flak on their regular flights into Germany. Urquhart decided to make his landings to the west away from the bridge even though he knew that this was a risk. If the German resistance was stronger than anticipated, there was the chance of the first landing not even getting to Arnhem Bridge and taking out the flak.

British Intelligence reports indicated that the German presence in Arnhem was minimal. It was believed that the Germans only had six infantry divisions in the area with 25 artillery guns and only 20 tanks. German troops, in an Intelligence report of September 11th, were said to be "disorderly and dispirited". A similar report was made on September 17th.

Arnhem, the Bridge too Far:

At Arnhem, the British 1st Airborne Division encountered far stronger resistance than anticipated. In the ensuing battle, only a small force managed to hold one end of the Arnhem road bridge and after the ground forces failed to relieve them, they were overrun on 21 September.

The rest of the division, trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge, had to be evacuated on 25 September. The Allies failed to cross the Rhine in sufficient force and the river remained a barrier to their advance until offensives at Remagen, Oppenheim, Rees and Wesel in March 1945. The failure of Market Garden ended Allied expectations of finishing the war by Christmas 1944.

Arnhem Timeline

September 17th 1944Operation Market Garden began. The British landing near Arnhem is met by heavy German resistance. The American 82nd Division captured its targets at Waals but met heavy resistance at Nijmegen.
September 18th 1944A German counterattack stopped the Americans entering Nijmegen. The British landing zone near Arnhem was heavily attacked by Bittich's SS in an effort to stop further British landings.
September 19th 1944The leading elements of the British 30th Corps reached the Americans at Nijmegen but all efforts to break through to the British at Arnhem fail.
September 20th 1944The bridge at Nijmegen was captured by a combined US/UK assault.
September 21st 1944The British paratroopers defending the northern end of the bridge at Arnhem were heavily attacked. Those British troops who did not get through to Arnhem formed a defensive barrier west of Oosterbeek.
September 22nd 1944The advance of British tanks to relieve Arnhem was delayed  as a result of German attacks.
September 23rd 1944Attempts by the Poles and troops of 30th Corps to cross the river at Arnhem failed.
September 25th 1944The surviving British troops were evacuated but nearly 3000 were captured. Over 1,200 British troops were killed in a plan that went a 'bridge too far.'

Reports from the Dutch Resistance indicated beforehand that SS units had been seen in the Arnhem area. The First Airborne Division was only given this information on September 20th - three days after the attack on the bridge at Arnhem had begun.

Operation Market Garden began on Sunday morning, September 17th, 1944. Luftwaffe fighters bases had been attacked as had German barracks based near the drop zones. 1,000 American and British fighter planes gave cover as the gliders and their 'tugs' crossed the North Sea and headed over mainland Europe. The greatest fear was from flak and Intelligence estimated that the loss of gliders and transport craft could be up to 40%. As it was, very few of the 1,545 aircraft and 478 gliders were lost.

The 82nd Division landed without major problems around Grave and Nijmegen. The 101st Division was equally successful and by nightfall, the Americans and British armoured corps had met up in Eindhoven.

However, by the 18th September, fog had played its part. The glider and tug flights that were due to cross on the second day could not do so. This affected the 82nd Division in that Gavin had fewer men to attack the bridges at Waal, especially the road bridge that had held out for three days during the German attack on Holland in 1940. This bridge only fell in the evening of Wednesday 20th after a combined American/British attack. With this bridge captured, the 30th Corps armour could race towards Arnhem to relieve Urquhart's First Airborne Division there.

At Arnhem, the British met much stiffer opposition than they had been lead to believe. The IX th and X th SS Panzer Divisions had re-grouped at Arnhem - as Dutch resistance had warned. Both groups comprised of 8,500 men lead by General Willi Bittrich.

These were not the poorly equipped German garrison troops,  low in morale, that British Intelligence had claimed were stationed at Arnhem. Bittrich - a highly regarded general in the Waffen SS - sent in the IX SS Division to the British landing zones immediately. The X Division was ordered to Nijmegen to stop the 2nd Army group advancing on Arnhem. Bittrich was confident of success:

"We shall soon be able to discount the threat of the British north of the Neder Rijn. We must remember that British soldiers do not act on their own initiative when they are fighting in a town and when it consequently becomes difficult for officers to exercise control. They are amazing in defense, but we need not be afraid of their capabilities in attack." - Bittrich.

The men from the IX th Division quickly created a formidable defensive line to stop the British advancing to Arnhem. The British faced a number of serious problems in the landing zone. Nearly all the vehicles used by the Airborne Reconnaissance Squadron were lost when the gliders carrying them failed to land. Therefore the advance into Arnhem itself was delayed but also had to be done almost entirely on foot. The job of the Reconnaissance Squadron was to move off in jeeps etc. in advance and secure bridges and roads. This they could not do after the loss of their vehicles. The maps issued to officers also proved to be less than accurate.

The British paratroopers quickly came under German fire. Only the 2nd Battalion lead by Lt. Col. Frost moved forward with relative ease but even they were occasionally halted by German fire. Frost's men were the most southerly of the British units and the Germans had covered their route to Arnhem less well than the other routes the British were to use.

When Frost got to the bridge at Arnhem, he only had about 500 men. He secured the northern end of the bridge and the buildings around it but he remained heavily exposed to a German attack across the bridge as the British had failed to secure the southern end of the bridge. Around Arnhem, British troops, engaged in combat with the SS, took heavy casualties. By now, the Germans were being reinforced with SS crewed Panzer VI Tiger tanks.

Despite being short of ammunition and with no food or water, Frost's men continued fighting.

A German who fought in the final battle for the bridge wrote:

"(The fighting was) an indescribable fanaticism...and the fight raged through ceilings and staircases. hand grenades flew in every direction. Each house had to be taken this way. Some of the British offered resistance to their last breath."

The 2nd Army failed to reach Arnhem. In the final drive - just 10 miles - from where the 2nd Army was to Arnhem, the SS fought with great skill seriously delaying the forward momentum that the 2nd Army had previously developed. Those British troops who remained in the Arnhem area were caught in land that the SS called 'The Cauldron'. A decision was made to withdraw. Those soldiers that could be evacuated were but many wounded were left behind.

In all, over 1,200 British soldiers had been killed and nearly 3,000 had been taken prisoner. 3,400 German troops had been killed or wounded in the battle.

Why did the plan fail?

  • The speed with which Bittrich organised his men and his tactical awareness were major reasons for the German victory. British Intelligence had ignored Dutch Resistance reports that SS units were in the region. This was a fatal mistake.
  • When the paratroops landed they found that their maps were inaccurate regarding the layout of the roads in the Arnhem area. 
  • Another major problem was that the radio sets issued to the men only had a range of 3 miles and thus proved to be useless when the various segments of the British army in the area were spread over 8 miles. Lack of communication proved a major handicap for commanders on the ground who rarely knew what other commanders were doing or planning. 
  • Landing was also planned to be spread over three days, The 1st Airborne Division was never up to full strength, and the element of surprise was lost

14 July 2014

Haka Farewell from the CO of the disbanded UK 3rd Mercier (Staffordshire) Sappers

Another Strange Turn: Kiwi Commander does Haka as UK Sapper Unit disbands

Just last night I was reading from D'Ami's World Uniforms, two volumes of colour plates of Military  ceremonial dress, written back  in the 1960s. Quite a bit dated now, but still a great reference work.

I was really looking for pictures of Napoleonic dress, as I'm plotting a Waterloo army for the bicentenary next year. Anyhow, to make a long story short, quite a lot was made in these two volumes of the value of the sapper, pioneer and farrier in the military of old, and how this is (was) recognised. Many of the plates depict the sappers, wearing ceremonial leather aprons, and carrying axes over their shoulders, as an important part of the ceremonial garb of many British Military Units at the time

Strangely enough, today there's an article and video on the British 32nd Engineer (Sapper) Unit being disbanded after returning from Afganistan in today's news! The troops were mainly Fijian, and felt compelled to farewell their commanding officer with their traditional Cibi war challenge, only to find their CO, a New Zealander, answer them with "Ka Mate", Te Rauparaha's Haka, which has become the All Black Rugby Team and NZ's national haka (War challenge); in suitable fashion.

The troops performed the Cibi, an old Fijian meke war dance. The Colonel responded with Ka Mate, the haka written by Te Rauparaha, which is quite appropriate for a Sapper as the Musket Wars saw the early development of Pa fortifications (ā_(Māori) ) which caused the Brits no end of trouble during the Land Wars.

The Haka  continues to play an important role in military life in NZ as evident today, and in both world wars:

WW1: NZ Pioneer Battalion performing a haka on the Western Front

NZ 28th (Maori) Battalion  in Egypt WW2

The Māori Battalion performs a haka – a well-known Te Arawa peruperu (war dance with weapons) – for the exiled King of Greece in Helwan, Egypt, in June 1941. 

The battalion had recently been evacuated from Greece and Crete, following fierce battles against the invading Germans. The Māori Battalion went on to serve throughout the North African campaigns of 1941 to 1943. It suffered heavy casualties but its men gained an outstanding reputation as soldiers.

Afghanistan 2005

Distilled from Stuff today and the Net (Link to report and video below): 

A British Army warrior has fare-welled his soldiers with a striking solo haka.

Delivered in perfect Te Reo (Maori), Lieutenant Colonel Steven Davies' performance came as a big surprise to many who thought he was Australian. Davies had brought his 32nd Engineer Regiment home after a grueling and tragic Afghanistan tour.

The regiment, also historically known as 3rd Mercian or Staffords, were combat engineers (sappers) supporting the famed Desert Rats, the 7th Armoured Brigade. Davies was their last commander - the regiment is being broken-up. Many of its sappers are Fijian so when it came to saying goodbye to Davies, the whole regiment lined up behind them and performed a powerful cibi or war dance, advancing on him. When it was over, Davies performed the NZ Maori " Ka Mate" haka.

The Desert Rats posted it on their Facebook page, and the hundreds of comments point to Davies being a much admired commander.

Link to the video: NZ Officer does Haka in Response to Fijian Cibi

Some of the comments:

+ "A fitting tribute to an awesome commanding officer & a man that looked after his regiment."
+ "Goes to show how far and wide our Sapper family is. Never met a bad Kiwi."
+ "That was class and shows what respect he has for the ranks under his command."
+ "Absolutely brilliant. A sure sign of fond respect for a great leader and Steve is one great leader."
+ "Great job Steve but I always thought you were Australian!"
+ "Well done Steve a great bloke who no doubt put his soldiers first every time ... One of the few."

Davies' regiment is set to be disbanded as part of British Government plans to reduce the army by 20,000 troops by 2018. Davies has promised that the battalion's traditions - such as its battle honours, regimental silver and regimental drums - will be carried forward within the reorganised regiment.

And the famous Staffordshire Knot - the cap badge worn by soldiers for hundreds of years - could be retained in future Mercian uniforms.

"We will go forward together and take the golden threads of our antecedent battalions with us.

"The regiment had a final parade this week. Davies, who led the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment on its nine month tour of duty on the front line in Afghanistan, confessed he was 'choked up' after final parades in Stafford, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Cannock, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent, Tamworth, Burton-upon-Trent, and finally in Lichfield.

Mercian Regiment Cap badge 

"It is emotional for any CO to relinquish command. You invest so much of your hopes, fears and dreams with the battalion that it is always going to be difficult to let go. But it adds a certain poignancy to the situation to be the last Commanding Officer of 3rd Mercian. It has been an honour and a privilege although I understand why it has to go."

The Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales') (or simply "Staffords" for short) was originally an infantry regiment of the British Army, part of the Prince of Wales' Division. The regiment was formed in 1959 by the amalgamation of The South Staffordshire Regiment and The North Staffordshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's).

In 1962 the regiment undertook a six month exercise in Kenya, followed by a year in Colchester and then a return to Kenya for a further two years. On the tour the regiment had to deal with a mutiny by the Ugandan Army. Returning home the regiment was the last unit of the British Army to serve in East Africa.

A home tour in Dover followed in 1964. Then came a two year posting to Berlin in 1968 followed by a tour in Sharjah in the Persian Gulf where the regiment again recorded a 'last unit' distinction being the last unit to serve in Sharjah.

The regiment undertook a tour in Northern Ireland during the Troubles in 1972 before moving to Quebec Barracks in Osnabruck in 1973. Further tours in Northern Ireland were undertaken in 1974 and 1976. The regiment moved to Hyderabad Barracks in Colchester later in 1976 before undertaking another tour in Northern Ireland in 1979.

The regiment moved to Gibraltar in 1981 and to Roman Barracks at Colchester in 1983 before undertaking another tour in Northern Ireland in 1984. It then moved to Fallingbostel in 1986.

In October 1990 The Staffordshire Regiment was deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of 7th Armoured Brigade (referred to as the 'Desert Rats'). The deployment was in response to the dictator Saddam Hussein's invasion of the sovereign territory of Kuwait, claiming it to rightfully belong to Iraq. The regiment moved to Dale Barracks in Chester in 1991, to Abercorn Barracks in Ballykinler in 1994 and Clive Barracks in Shropshire in 1996. The regiment moved to Mooltan Barracks in Tidworth in 2000. Following a deployment to Kosovo in 2002 and a first deployment to Iraq on Operation Telic 6 in 2005, the regiment undertook a second deployment to Iraq during Operation Telic 9 in 2006.

Past amalgamation
As part of the reorganisation of the infantry announced in 2004, it was announced that the Staffordshire Regiment would merge with the Cheshire Regiment and the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment into a new three-battalion regiment to be called the Mercian Regiment. On 1 September 2007 the Staffordshire Regiment became the 3rd Battalion, The Mercian Regiment. It seems amalgamation is on the doorstep again.

Battle honours:

Pre-WWI: Guadeloupe 1759, Martinique 1794, Hafir, South Africa 1878-79, Egypt 1882, Kirbekan, Nile 1884–85, South Africa 1900–02
World War I:
France and Flanders: Mons, Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914, Aisne 1914-18, Armentières 1914, Ypres 1914-17, Langemarck 1914-17, Gheluvelt, Nonne Bosschen, Neuve Chapelle, Aubers, Festubert 1915 Loos, Somme 1916-18, Albert 1916-18, Bazentin, Delville Wood, Pozières, Guillemont, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Thiepval, Ancre Heights, Ancre 1916, Bapaume 1917-18, Arras 1917, Scarpe 1917, Arleux, Bullecourt, Hill 70, Messines 1917-18, Ypres1917-18, Pilckem, Langemarck 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle, Passchendaele, Cambrai 1917-18, St. Quentin, Bapaume 1918, Rosières, Avre, Lys, Bailleul, Kemmel, Scherpenberg, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Havrincourt, Canal du Nord, St. Quentin Canal, Beaurevoir, Kortrijk, Selle, Valenciennes, Sambre, France and Flanders 1914-18
Gallipoli: Suvla, Landing at Suvla, Scimitar Hill, Sari Bair, Gallipoli 1915–16
Mesopotamia: Egypt 1916, Tigris 1916, Kut al Amara 1917, Bagdhad, Mesopotamia 1916–18
Italy: Piave, Vittorio Veneto 1918
North West Frontier India: Baku, Persia 1918, North West Frontier India 1915
Inter-War: Afghanistan 1919
World War II:
North West Europe: Dyle, Defence of the Scheldt, Ypres-Comines Canal, Caen, Orne, Noyers, Mont Picton, Brieux Bridgehead, Falaise, Arnhem 1944, North-West Europe 1940 -1944
North Africa: Sidi Barrani, Djebel Kesskiss, Medjez Plain, Gueriat el Atch Ridge, Gab Gab Gap, North Africa 1943
Italy: Landing in Sicily, Sicily 1943 Anzio, Carroceto, Rome, Advance to Tiber, Gothic Line, Marradi, Italy 1943 and Italy 1944–45,
Burma: Chindits 1944, Burma 1943–44
Post-WWII: Gulf 1991, Wadi al Batin

15 June 2014

Malady Part 2: The Allied Ordnance Factory

Allied Artillery: The Royal Ordnance Factory in Action

Seems that the cooler weather here in NZ has caused most gamers to have some introspection, or is that inspection of the into pile of shame. That lead and/or plastic pile that has not been touched, or that games system that you no longer play...

It is also a about balance and avoiding the avarice. (Pontificates the King of Avaricious collectors)
Stilling that magpie in us that wants to collect them shiny toys! I suspect I have not only a single magpie, but a whole colony!

Balance ! That's it boys! So this weekend I got stuck into my 1:1 earthworks project, rather than paint and model (too much)

Looking a bit like Rommel's west wall and hemmbalken to capsize Allied Higgins boats, my retaining walls start to take shape, Call them Herman's asparagus if you wish, but the posts are concreted in...

Rather satisfying, and now we have to wait for the concrete around the piles to set. So thoughts turn to a soak in a hot tub, and to the Royal Ordnance Factory:

Three Matadors with 3.3 inch guns bought off Trademe, and four in the process of being built

"Dead Ants" Matadors, glue drying and awaiting their wheels, as are two of the guns,all  freshly assembled.

And 2 QF 17 pounders to add to the existing battery to make 4. 
Surprisingly hard to come by these OOP models.

And my 105 mm medium howitzers

..and 2 Long Tom What the $@&?!s. 
Survivors from my childhood. Probably fictitious Chimera guns with little historical accuracy. 
Useful  in a pinch, as no-one can really accurately identify these horrors!  

QT 25 pounders


6 pounder AT guns. Nice little quick to fire devils!

And as I have no Allied AA apart from a single half-track mounted GMC and 2 Russian 37 AA guns, the Royal Ordnance Factory has now been instructed to build those 40 mm Bofors guns and tractors that have been lurking in that pile o' plastic for a while...

28 May 2014

D-Day Part 4: Gliders and Parachutes: Pegasus Bridge and the Orne canal: Airborne assault

Re-fighting D-Day: Part 4: 

Airborne landings at Pegasus (Benouville) Bridge over the Orne Canal; and Orne River (Horsa) Bridge, Ranville, Normandy 

Operation Deadstick: D-Day Minus 1 or the Opening Shots, as you wish:

Historical background:

Orne bridges
Pegasus Bridge is a bascule bridge (a type of movable bridge), built in 1934, that crossed the Caen Canal, between Caen and Ouistreham, in Normandy, France.

Also known as the Bénouville Bridge after the neighbouring village, it was, with the nearby Ranville Bridge over the river Orne, a major objective of Operation Deadstick, part of Operation Tonga in the opening minutes of the invasion of Normandy. A glider-borne unit of the British 6th Airborne Division, commanded by Major John Howard, was to land, take the bridges intact and hold them until relieved. The successful taking of the bridges played an important role in limiting the effectiveness of a German counter-attack in the days and weeks following the invasion. Lord Lovatt's Commandos were to Land at Lion-sur-Mer and advance via Ouistreham to relieve the airborne troops. The

In 1944 it was renamed Pegasus Bridge in honour of the operation. The name is derived from the shoulder emblem worn by the British airborne forces, which is the flying horse Pegasus.

Pegasus Bridge and the structure that replaced it in 1994 are examples of a distinct sub type of bascule bridge, the "Scherzer rolling lift bascule bridge" or "rolling bridge". Bridges of this type do not pivot about a hinge point, but roll back on curved tread plates attached to the girders of the main span. This design allows a greater clearance of the waterway for a given opening angle.

German AA 20mm guns. Still in place after 70 years.

Pegasus Bridge from Benouville. Note how close the gliders landed (right)

On the night of 5 June 1944, a force of 181 men, led by Major John Howard, took off from RAF Tarrant Rushton in Dorset, southern England in six Horsa gliders to capture Pegasus Bridge, and also "Horsa Bridge", a few hundred yards to the east, over the Orne River. The force was composed of D Company (reinforced with two platoons of B company), 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry; 20 sappers, 249 Fd Co. (Airborne); and men of the Glider Pilot Regiment. The object of this action was to prevent German armour from crossing the bridges and attacking the eastern flank of the landings at Sword Beach.

Coup De Main: Five of the Ox and Bucks's gliders landed as close as 47 yards from their objectives from 16 minutes past midnight. The attackers poured out of their battered gliders, completely surprising the German defenders, and took the bridges within 10 minutes. They lost two men in the process.

One glider, assigned to the capture of the river bridge, landed at the bridge over the River Dives, some 7 miles off. Most of the soldiers in this glider moved through German lines towards the village of Ranville where they eventually re-joined the British forces. The Ox & Bucks were reinforced half-an-hour after the landings by Major Pine-Coffin's 7th Parachute Battalion, and linked up with the beach landing forces with the arrival of Lord Lovat's Commandos. (Kieffer batallion)

The bridge in Allied hands

Paratroops assembling the Mini Motorcycles used as transport

What happened in our Miniature Universe:

Wild Cards: Allied Players rolled +1 to reinforcement rolls; Axis player rolled the same
03.00 6 June 1944
Turn one. Allied Goes first per rules

The night time peace in Benouville was shattered by the thunder of exploding bombs and the drone of high altitude bombers overhead from midnight.

Hans Friedrichsen of the 716. Infanterie Division nodded at his comrade in arms, leaning on the barrel of his 20 mm AA gun at the bridge: "The poor guys over in Merville seem to be getting a pasting tonight. The verdamte RAF must be targeting their battery. Thank goodness we only have this small gun! We may even get some rest tonight!"

" Pity poor ol'  Leutnant Steiner ! He may go the same way Hauptmann Wolter did !" A guffaw came out of the dark. "Ja, but then I won't mind going the way he did! In bed, with a warm French Liebling! Not a bad way to cash in your ticket!"

His wish was not to be. Silently, 3 Gliders dropped down out of the ink black sky, coming to rest hardly 30 metres away from the bridge. "Achtung! Alarm! Alarm" he shouted, bringing his 20 mm to bear on the Horsa glider closest to the bridge. Dark figures spilled out, and the chatter of small arms fire was heard. He emptied the first ammunition clip on the advancing figures. One or two went down. Then they were upon him.

The Allies landed both a glider party and one paratroop party (Ox and Bucs) near the bridge over the Orne River at Ranville and the bridge over the Canal at Benouville. One set of pathfinders missed the drop-zone and was unable to take part in the first move as a result

The Germans had 2 Heavy machine guns placed at the approaches to the bridges, and when the first shots fell they stirred from their slumber. Being trained veterans they passed their pinning tests almost without exception, and were able to return fire an the Glider troops.Being dug in and gone to ground casualties were light. The gliders had landed in such a fashion that they did not provide much cover for the troops. They immediately went to ground.

The Germans raised the alarm in their turn, and successfully called up a unit of K-Rad Fahrer, who roared across the bridge on their BMW and Zundapp Motorcycles, MG 42s blazing. Lucky for the Brits only 2 LMGs were in rang.  A unit of medium mortars were dug in halfway between the two bridges. They started raining down shrapnel on the Tommies.

The Orne Canal bridge, with 20mm Cannon and unit of Krad Schutzen racing over the bridge to engage the Brit. Paratroops and Air Landing Troops

By Turn 2 only the command group of the 1st air landing platoon was still standing (or rather, dug in)
Reinforcements arriving and forming on their pathfinder, ready to take on the Hun! (Photo Roly Hermans)

Turn 2 saw more glider and paratroop landings. The lost Ox and Bucs paratroop unit still had not found its way onto the table, but another glider landed next to the bridge, and yet another was blow off course, failing to reach the DZ. Presumably this is the glider that landed at the River Dives. 4th Reg. Paratroops landed successfully at the Benouville side of the bridge, but the 716.ID provided stiff resistance.

View towards Benouville from Ouistreham and Merville at the far left. LZ for the planner Coup de Main at Right. To the left the 4th Para Regt. taking on the 716. Inf Div defenders, eventually routing and annihilating the unit, at the expense of not taking their objective, the bridge.

The Merville battery: 20mm AA and dug in medium mortars, twin AAs and Pak 40, Quad vierling 20mm, minefields. Formidable defenses. This is what faced the landing groups that overshot the Orne canal bridge in their landing. A very hard nut to crack!

The glider troops were now caught "in der kessel"; (in the pot)  ready for the "Kesselschlag" : Two pincers and bombarded by medium mortars, HMG, 20mm cannon and LMG on the northern flank, K-Rad Zug with 5 LMGs (and mobile) in the south. They resisted well, but at the end of play (German turn 3) it was clear that they were not going to take the bridges, and were hanging on by the skin of their teeth.

"Where was Lord Lovatt and his Commandos? and the Shermans the Hussars had promised? What, still on the beach! What are they doing? Sun bathing? "

"...Are those Stugs bearing down on us now?"

Even the stragglers eventually turning up on the table with  mortars and Brens did not assist in taking the bridges. To little, too late! The Germans were too well dug in. Supporting fire from the Merville battery also did not help! It is no fun having a quad vierling 20mm AA gun turned on you! And a Pak 40 firing 3 rounds per turn!

... Also, the 4th Parachute regiment went off on a tangent: Chased down and destroyed a unit of 716.Inf Div in harsh hand-to-hand assault: Gerry that turned tail on the Benouville side of the Bridge.

 "Oi! What about the objective!"
"The objective!  The Allies could have taken this one!"
Well, at least the Benouville Bridge, was it not for a tactical decision in the heat of battle...

"Clear and imminent danger, you say? OK. I'll give you that."

21 May 2014

D-Day Landings Part 2: Sword Beach Re-fought: Lion-sur-Mer and Hermanville-sur-Mer

D-Day Landings Part 2: Sword Beach Re-fought: 

Lion-sur-Mer and Hermanville-sur-Mer

La ville d' Lion Sur Mer, Hermanville-sur-Mer farms in the distance.
L to R: Artillery observation tower/bunker, the Riva Bella casino (German HQ)
Dug in 716. Inf.Div Troops, HMG Bunker, HMG Pillbox, LMG dug in
Heer Artiller and Luftwaffe 88mm guns in place.

An uneasy dawn broke over Lion-sur-Mer in Normandy. It is 6 June 1944. English and Americans ships had bombed the area significantly since midnight...

Surely they would not launch an attack in such foul weather. Surely this is just a diversion, as everyone knows their attack will come at the Pas de Calais...

At 0300, the Allied air forces bombarded the German beach defenses for the final time before the amphibious invasion. A few hours later, British warships bombarded German gun batteries and other strong-points along Sword Beach. At daybreak, British destroyers closed in and fired at short range. At 05.10 hours, Royal Air Force aircraft laid a smoke screen to shield the invasion force, but the smokescreen was used by boats of the German 5th Torpedo Boat Flotilla to attack, firing 15 torpedoes and scoring one hit, sinking the destroyer Svennert. 

At 05.30, soldiers began embarking landing craft. At 0600, LCA landing craft began sailing for Queen Red and Queen White sectors, joined by waves of various landing craft every few minutes. 

Sword Beach from the Air at low tide

Wildcards: Both teams rolled an extra +1 to reinforcement rolls for armour.
The winner would be the Army that held the objectives (Bella Riva Casino/Observation tower) and Road to Caen.

Turn 1: 

As the landing craft closed, LCT(R) vessels fired a total of 1,064 5-inch rockets, knocking out some beach obstacles, 2 troop units of infantry. Shortly after, at the range of 7,000 yards, self-propelled guns of the UK 3rd Division began to fire from their vessels to knock out beach obstacles. 

At the distance of 5,000 yard to the beach, 40 duplex-drive Sherman tanks of the UK 13th/18th Hussars were launched; historically 31 of them would make it to the beach successfully. By this point, all German guns were firing at the landing craft, and the Allied formation began to break up...
The D-day assault on Sword Beach was in full swing 

First Wave of Allied troops land: 2nd East Yorks Engineers/sappers supported by DD M4 Shermans
Several Higgins boats have already refloated 
DUKWs bring in weapons teams bearing mortars in the 3rd wave.

07.25 hours, the infantry arrived on the beach, which quickly attracted fire from machine guns and other small arms. The UK 2nd East Yorkshire sappers which landed on Queen Red sector, experienced a tough fight as they attempted to dash across an area bombarded by 88-millimeter and 75-millimeter guns inland, while being raked by HMG and LMG machine gun fire. 

The Germans returned fire in their turn, and picked off a surprising number of English command teams. It may be due to the fact that many wore their officer's caps and carried swagger sticks, making them easily identifiable to the German gunners.

Turn 2: 
Shortly behind the initial wave were 24 landing craft carrying British Royal Marine commandos. The commandos landed on the extreme western end of Queen White sector and moved toward the German strong-point at Lion-sur-Mer, which would serve as the link-up between Sword and Juno Beaches. The first target of the commandos was the casino at Riva Bella, which had been turned into a formidable fortress of interlocking bunkers, trenches, wire entanglements, and minefields, and housed the German HQ

Leading the attack on Riva Bella was French Captain Phillippe Kieffer, commanding officer of two groups of French commandos attached to the British Royal Marines, thus making this attack a purely French effort. Kieffer attacked Riva Bella at two locations from the rear with small arms, personal anti-tank weapons, and grenades, but the commandos were soon stalled by the German defenses proving to be difficult for Allied weapons to penetrate, with well dug in infantry. (Objective 1)

Kieffer found a duplex-drive Sherman medium tank, and persuaded the tank to assist the assault on Riva Bella. The Sherman tank failed to knocked out the defenses, trapping the commandos on the beach, exposed to a cross-fire between two pill-boxes. (Contrary to the real history)

To the east, British commandos attacked the German gun battery at the mouth of River Orne from the sea, in an attempt as ill-fated as the Dieppe raid. (More about that in a different post.) 

Machine gun nests, tank traps and minefields protected the battery. In the center of the battery was a 56-foot high concrete tower that housed the control and ranging equipment for the coastal guns; though not a defensive structure, German troops made effective use of the tower's height to observe British movements to relay down to the defenders on the ground, meanwhile throwing grenades down at close-by British commandos as opportunities presented.This gun battery, with its concrete tower, would remain in German control for a days to come. (Objective 1)

The German battery at Hermanville-sur-Mer received the co-ordinates for the beaches from the observation tower, but to their dismay found that their shells fell short, and failed to inflict any damage on the enemy.

Only the coastal defense 88mm and 75 mm guns were able to put some Shermans out of action and pin the sappers down. A bitter lesson learnt - make sure your artillery is within striking range of the target!

Heer Artillery: LeFH18 with 20mm Quad Vierling mounted on half-track: The initial landings were out of their range, and they could but idly wait for Allied forces to move to within striking range.

Second Wave: More Sappers and LCTs disgorging  M4 Shermans. These were eventually successful in destroying the pill-boxes, but not the concrete enfilade bunker. A high cost was pain by the sapper units, particularly amongst their officers. Thank goodness for the British Bulldog rule and the good ol' NCOs. Lesser men would have crumbled.

DD Shermans come ashore as more M4s with Firefly VC Command tanks land from LCTs

Turn 3 saw yet more troops land, this time with mortars. The heavy weapons proceeded to rain destruction on the 716.Inf Div troops, who took shelter, and survived the onslaught dug into their trenches. A Typhoon flight took out numbers with their rockets in 2 separate attacks in turn 1 and 3, but were apparently intercepted by the Luftwaffe in turn 2. There was no German aircraft to be seen whatsoever. The Allies had complete air superiority. The huddled troops in the embankments paid the price. But there was no-where to run too. Feldmarschall Rommel's displeasure would be worse than any Tommy's bayonet!

Turn 2 saw Oberst Leutnant Fischer's Pz Div Stugs arrive. They barrelled down the road towards Lion-sur-Mer, but diverted towards Ouistreham when the radio message was received that the bridges and lock over the Orne River was under attack from Allied airborne and commando troops. 

The defense of the coastal towns was thus left to the gun emplacements and dug in infantry. 
Word had also been received from the east, where it Pz IVs were ready to engage the enemy.  

Photo Roly Hermans
Typhoons unleashing 60 lb rockets on the dug in 716. Inf. Div: 
A payload equal to that of a Lancaster bomber! 
The Pz Div Stug Abteilung decided to detour to try and counter the Paratroop attack on the Orne river. The commando teams landed to the left were decimated by accurate and sustained Spandau fire from the pillboxes, and failed to reach their objective, despite assistance from the DD Shermans

Herr General der Infanterie Division inspecting
 the Panzer Div. Stug Abteilung as they arrive on the table

More Shermans land as LeFH 18 artillery shells fall harmlessly in the water

All too soon dusk fell, and we had to call and end to the battle. The invasion forces were still firmly trapped on the beach. Mine fields, tank traps and barbed wire had prevented the tanks from making inroads, and the sappers had failed to clear the defenses. 
The Commandos were left leaderless, with Kieffer himself succumbing on the sand. 

Both objectives were still in German hands. Had the battle had continued for more turns the tide would eventually have turned, but in this alternative battle the German forces were the victors.

More photos: