Showing posts with label D-day. Show all posts
Showing posts with label D-day. Show all posts

5 June 2014

D-Day Minus One, the paratroops go in (again, for one veteran)

Paratrooper jumps again: 70 years after D-Day

A former U.S. Air Force C-47 Skytrain aircraft (bottom) flies alongside a C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 37th Airlift Squadron over Germany in this handout photo taken May 30 and released June 3, 2014. REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Sara Keller/Handout via Reuters

Normandy, France (CNN) -- Jim "Pee Wee" Martin acted like he'd been here before, like jumping from a plane is as easy as falling off a log.

Maybe that's because he had -- 70 years ago.

"I'm feeling fine," Martin told reporters moments after landing in a French field. "... It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful."
Martin was part of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division that parachuted down over Utah Beach in their bid to retake France and, eventually, the rest of Europe from Nazi Germany. They actually touched down in enemy-controlled territory a night before what's referred to now as D-Day.

His jump Thursday in the same area was different and -- despite his being 93 years old now -- a whole lot easier.
"It didn't (compare)," Martin said, "because there wasn't anybody shooting at me today!"

Every year, every day it seems, the number of surviving World War II veterans like Martin dwindles. He estimates there are only a few dozen members of his unit who took part in the now historic D-Day invasion who are still around.
It's ironic, in a sense, because Martin was among the oldest of his bunch in June 1944 -- at 23 years old -- surrounded by others who were mere teenagers.

Together, they parachuted onto France's northern coast in the dark of night not knowing what awaited them. Whatever it was, it would not be friendly or easy, they expected.

"Everybody (was) scared all the time, and if they tell you anything differently they are full of crap," the former paratrooper recalled. "But you just do what you had to do regardless of it. That's the difference."
And they didn't stop. According to a Facebook page he regularly updates, Martin fought for 43 days as part of the Normandy campaign before moving onto invade Holland, fending off Nazi fighters during the Battle of the Bulge and finishing off by taking Berchtesgaden, site of Hitler's "Eagle's Nest" redoubt in the German Alps.

None of it was easy, but Martin insists, "I don't ever have flashbacks. Never. Nothing ever bothered me."
All these years later, he has become a celebrity of sorts -- as evidenced by a mob of reporters who greeted him after his parachute landing Thursday. Martin says he feels "kind of humbled and embarrassed at the adulation because I don't feel we did anything that we weren't supposed to do or anything exceptional."
He adds: "We just did what we trained to do."

On Norman soil again...

Seven decades later, Martin did it again -- not fighting a bloody war but at least reliving his role in a military campaign that changed the course of history. Others joined him in this now daytime jump, though he was the only one from his generation.
This time, he said that he wasn't scared because, "once you get in the plane, you forget everything." Bored would be more like it.

As he told reporters afterward, "To tell you the truth, riding around in the plane is boring. It's when you get off the plane, that's when it gets exciting ... But there's no fear to it. It's just something you do."

​Veteran 101st Airborne paratrooper Pfc. Jim "Pee Wee" Martin reminisces about D-Day at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.: ​Veteran 101st Airborne paratrooper Pfc. Jim "Pee Wee" Martin reminisces about D-Day at the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

Martin admitted that he was motivated by "a little bit of ego, (to show that) I'm 93 and I can still do it."
"And also I just want to show all the people that you don't have to sit and die just because you get old," he added. "Keep doing things."
Among those things he'd like to do is another jump in the same plane, one year from now.

"If I come back next year, I'll make a jump next year. You can bet on it."

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 BĂ©nouville 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."

22 May 2014

D-Day Landings Part 3: Ouistreham Harbour, Riva Bella Casino and German Observation tower

 D-Day Landings Part 3: Ouistreham Harbour, Riva Bella Casino and German Battery Observation tower

The French Commando Kieffer attempts to liberate Ouistreham

Ouistreham was a town situated just behind Riva Bella on the Normandy coast; close to the mouth of the River Orne and the Caen Canal. The area was strongly defended in 1944. 

Historical background: 177 Frenchmen of the 1st Batallion of Fusiliers Marins Commandos landed there on 6 June 1944. The French under Commandant Kieffer were integrated into the N°4 British Royal Marine Commandos. They were granted the honour to set foot on Normandy soil in the first wave. The Commandos left about forty casualties on the beach and moved inland. Commandant Kieffer was wounded but went on with his troops. 

Troop 1 suffered heavy losses in front of the casino strong-point. They eventually obtained support of a tank of the 13/18th Hussars of the 27th Armoured Brigade. The German blockhouse was neutralized and  Ouistreham was liberated at the end of the morning. The Germans in the Artillery Observation tower next door survived completely surrounded and barricaded in for 3 days before surrendering to a platoon of Royal Engineers. Ouistreham was a small coastal harbour, but none the less useful to the Allies, as it was the gateway to the road to Caen, and the Orne river and canal.

Ouistreham harbour on the morning of 6 June 1944. Defended by a garrison of Inf. Div Germans, an HMG pillbox, twin 20mm guns on the harbour wall. A Quad Vierling AA gun was provided to protect against air attack. When the Germans saw the allied invasion force on the horizon a HMG on a tripod was also brought up and mounted on the harbour wall outside the harbour master's office and the water tank. The exposed fuel dump was particularly vulnerable to attack.

Our Alternate Battle:
Allied attack goes first. Preliminary bombardment spared the harbour, and concentrated on the Merville battery further up the coast and inland from OPuistreham. The commandos decided to split their forces, and attempt a sea-borne landing and assault on the harbour with half their force, while the balance landed in the second wave on Lion-sur-Mer beach, and attacked the Casino Riva Bella and the Artillery Bunker-tower there. Keiffer commanded that assault himself. The battle is descibed in the preceeding post. 

Unlike the real battle, where Kieffer was only wounded, he was killed outright during the assault, and the Sherman tank reinforcements did not have any significant effect on the entrenched defenders. This had a serious knock-on effect for the Commando commanders, as half their forces were trapped on the beach at Lion-sur-Mer, and could not out-flank the German defenders as they had  planned. 

Wild Cards: Both generals rolled +1 on their reinforcement rolls.

Well before dawn allied bombers and transporters droned overhead, laden with Allied Airborne troops, on their way to the bridges over the Orne river and canal. The commando's huddled against the sea spray in their landing craft. A number of them slipped quietly into their cockleshell canoes, and started paddling towards the harbour, a dark silhoette ahead of them. Searchlights swept back and forth across the harbour approaches. The plan was to capture the harbour and link up with the Paratroopers who were dropping down behind enemy lines.

photo Roly Hermans

A RAF rescue launch dropped a number of the advance party near the harbour entrance. They slipped silently onto the shore under the cover of darkness. The sappers set about cutting through the barbed wire defenses. Then the probing Nazi searchlights found them...

A siren wailed, and simultaneously the German MG gunners opened fire, a sound almost like canvas ripping, but far more deadly: MG 42's firing! The commando's hit the deck in an attempt to make themselves as small as possible. The element of surprise was lost. Even though the Germans had started pinned down, the platoon that had started making the assault was in serious trouble.

Turn 1: The platoons of Commandos that have successfully landed start attacking the pill-box and 20mm gun emplacements. The German defenses are well thought out, and the commandos are caught in a murderous cross-fire. Rank after rank fall to the Heer machine gunners, specifically picking out command platoons with unerring accuracy. (Or shall I say lucky rolls) The commando officers appeared to be particularly suicidal on the day. Commandos do not avail of the British bulldog rule, but can act independent teams. Small consolation. Not a single German unit failed their pinning test, and the Commando forces took heavy casualties. Only a single platoon was left standing by the end of the German 1st round. 

(another Roly photo)
View of the harbour with defenses, the Orne river to the right and the Canal to the left. In the distance a Horsa glider and the Canal bridge, fated eventually to become known for ever as "Pegasus bridge+, after the emblem of the 6th Airborne. German reinforcements are making their way to the harbour at left. Barely visible at the far left is the Merville battery.

Turn 2 and 3 saw wave after wave of commandos in landing craft and canoes land. The second wave was able to get a gammon bomb through the gunner's slit in the pillbox, and silenced it. The link-up with the troops from Lion-sur-Mer did not happen, and the German defenders did not have to defend their flank as well as the frontal assault they now faced.

As a result the second wave was also caught in the cross-fire. Several platoons were able to make it into the open area beyond the harbour wall defenses. To their dismay they walked straight into 3 platoons of infantry hard up against the perimeter wall, thoroughly dug in! With disbelief they saw the 4-barreled antiaircraft level it's 20mm cannons at them. Then they were no more.

As dusk fell, the commando attack petered out. A single canoe made it's way back to the RAF rescue launch. The waves continued to lap up against the shore as the evening tide came in. It was 12 hours since the attack had begun. Not an inch of ground gained.

The German commander walked onto the harbour wall, and looked down on the heaps of khaki clad bodies piled below. "Brave men", he thought, "A full frontal assault! Foolish. Did they not learn anything from Dieppe? " 

The last blog post on this battle, the Airborne landings will follow Mon Petit Generals!

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:

20 May 2014

Battle Report: Sword Beach D-Day: Luc-Sur-Mer

Battle Report: D-Day Sword Landings Part 1: Luc-Sur-Mer

Dawn broke on the 6th of June 1944. The German lines at Luc-Sur Mer had taken a beating from Allied bombers overnight. One of the multi-story buildings on the waterfront had been all but destroyed, but the Ost Truppen huddled in the trenches and the bunkers remained unscathed.

" Herr Leutnant! Englischer Schiffe!" The junior officer visibly paled when he brought his binoculars to his eyes. As far as he could see the horizon was packed with ships. The next moment naval shells screamed overhead.

 " Es fingt an..." -  It has started, he said. Here's to hoping these Ost Truppen will hold!

Luc-sur-Mer at Dawn 6 June 1944: German occupation troops dug in, 
88mm Bunker and 75mm Tank Turret to theright, at left, Pillbox HMG and LMG, 
rocket launcher battery and Pak 40s in fields beyond

The gamers rolled first for wild cards- the Luc-sur-Mer (LSM) sector of the board rolled improved skills for the Infantry: Went from reluctant trained to confident veteran, a useful roll. Allies rolled for extra armour support (+1 to rolls for armoured reinforcement landing)

Turn 1: The allies went first (as per the real battle): First a preliminary naval bombardment, which took out one of the Flak Vierling AA guns protecting the rocket launcher battery set in the fields beyond LSM.

The landing craft arrived, disgorging sappers on the beach, and calling in a flight of Hawker Typhoons. 3 aircraft made it to the area, and attacked the dug in troops in the trenches facing the beaches. The dug in Ost Truppen (now confident veterans) lost some platoons, but held, ready for the coming onslaught

The first British wave to land: Sappers of the 22nd Dragoons (3rd Inf Div)
Their task to destroy the beach defenses to allow the tanks to move into LSM

Germans returned fire, taking out the lead sapper command group with their machine-gun fire and fire from the trenches. The sappers were unlucky enough to be just within the range of the nebelwerfers, which then proceeded to unleash a hail of death upon them. The survivors of the first wave were pinned down on the beach, and failed to reach the minefields and tank barriers they were attempting to destroy, to allow the masses of tanks in LCTs approaching in the second wave of landings.

The Nebelwerfers dug in near the town's water supply unleash their deadly barrage on the beaches:
Ost Truppen and 88mm AA gun protecting their flank and frontal arc respectively

Turn 2: More sappers land and a flight of Typhoons deliver more death to the German trenches.
Well fortified and dug in, they survive the ordeal, but radio for AA support.
 Where is " Der verdamte Luftwaffe? "

Turn two saw some allied tanks make it to the beach- a unit of DD Sherman tanks. These waded out of the water before opening fire on the German emplacements. A heavy MG nest was taken out by this assault. The second wave of landing craft also deployed more sappers, who hurried up the beach, only to meet the same fate as those landed in the first wave.

These however had learned from their compatriots' misfortune, and stayed out of range of the rocket launchers. A single surviving troop of the first landing made it to the beach defenses, and started preparing the way for the next landing of tanks. The dug in static German Infantry, in trenches and buffed up to confident veterans withstood wave on wave of attack, with minimal casualties.

The Germans brought up a 37 mm AA gun mounted on a half-track to defend the infantry from the incessant harrasment by the RAF, only to find the fiendish pilots changing their flight path to avoid the German shells.

The 21st Panzer Army's Stug IIIs arrived from Caen, and moved towards LSM, to the cheers of the Heer artillery, who found that the clever Tommies stayed well out of reach of both the Nebelwerfers and LeFH18 fieldguns. The ruins of LSM also prevented the 88mm guns from drawing a bead on the tanks on the beach.

To relieved grins the 21. Pz Div started moving down the road towards the beaches. This time Allied Aircraft were intercepted on their way in, and did not arrive at the scene of the battle. More smiles from Herr Oberleutnant Rhyn von Rheenen zu Fischer, commanding the Panzer column:

Turn 3 saw the Allies land several more M4 Shermans from LCTs and also  2 Churchill AVRE bunker busters, as well as a Churchill VII onto LSM Beach.

 They made short shrift of the 88 mm Gun emplacement and the 75 tank turret bunker guarding the beach approaches. Both went up in flames. They also carefully stayed out of reach of the rocket launcher range. The Germans in their turn successfully brought up a platoon of reinforcement PzKfw IVs from the direction of Caen, and went hammer and tongs at double time to try and get to the beach head, but it was a very looooong way from the back of the board !

The deadly bunker-busting AVREs

Turn 4 saw the Allies still on the beach, though the beach defenses at LSM had now broken, all that stood between the allies were the trenches of the Ost Truppen of 716. Infanterie Division. Luckily these held, not withstanding another rocket attack by 2 typhoons, this time from the Lion sur Mer side of the beach, clearly to avoid the 37mm AA gun now parked near the trenches. The Allied commander landed more Shermans, and a unit of Wolverines at LSM, ready for the punch that would take them into the town, and beyond to the rocket launcher unit. All that stood between them and that objective was a thin grey line of dug in troops (in bullet proof cover), 3 PzKfw IVs, 2 Pak 40s, and 5 StuGs, who now seemed to be heading towards Ouistraham and the Orne River bridges.

Allied Armour about to crush the entrenched Germans, bunkers burning fiercely as shells start exploding in the German fortifications...but saved by the end of play. 

The sun set all to soon, with the Allies still on the Beaches, and the objectives still in German hands. Technically a victory for the Germans, as the Allies were still trapped on the beaches. Given another turn or two a totally different outcome may have transpired. Pity we had to vacate the hall. Things were just getting interesting...

Tune in again  for part 2 of our 3-part D-Day landing story: Lion-sur-Mer and Hermanville.

What did Herr General Oberst learn?
1. When you have artillery dug in to attack a beach, make sure that they are within reach !
2. We were limited in setting up our boards and terrain due to net getting access to the hall the previous night. The terrain was not entirely what I had planned or envisaged as a result, but it worked ok. We lost 2-3 hours' playing time, and couldn't finish our game due to the time constraints this causedt. The day went well though, despite all of this.
3. As an exhibition game it went well, giving several newcomers their first taste of wargaming, and for some a first time away from WH 40K:

Visiting 40K playes getting their first taste of FoW

Break-through on LSM Beach about to happen, tightly clustered armour from an inexperienced  gamer offering a tempting target for the old hands, also now within range of the Nebelwerfers, and 
3 PzKfw are about to come charging around the corner of the double-story holiday villa at right. 
And then the sun set. Drat!

11 May 2014

Last prep before D-day

Invasion preparations for D-Day

Really just a quick post of the boards and some prepping taking place prior to yesterday's D-Day Sword Beach Invasion

Hemmbalk and sandbag production line

Tobruk pits, signs and telegraph posts, Czech Hedhogs taking shape

I have not modeled an aircraft since 1981, so this was quite an interesting experience. My skills have improved, but I still struggled with getting those invasion stripes right on an odd-shaped  fuselage! (almost pear-shaped in cross section)
Purposely left the tail of the Horsa detachable, as to reflect Airlanding platoons and their equipment being unloaded after the landing

A river (and a canal) flows through it: Making rivers

Sword Beach: Lion/Hermanville -sur-Mer and Luc-sur-Mer taking shape.
21.Panzer Division inspecting the building work on the observation tower at the (as yet unbuilt) Casino at Riva Bella

Harbour inlet to Ouistreham, Pegasus Bridge taking shape, as does the Orne River Canal and lock