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

D-Day at Last: Kapiti Wargames Club Open Day

D-Day: Sword Beach at Kapiti Wargames Club Open Day 2014.

We are barely 3 weeks out from the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings on 6 June 2014.

I have been preparing for several months for a large-scale 20mm Flames of War game. The boards are painted and flocked, most of the troops, armour and planes ready, bar some national markings that got left off. Anyhow we loaded the boards and miniatures and headed off to Paraparaumu. Unfortunalely quite a few of our Generals, experienced and otherwise had to pull out either due to business or family commitments.

Les could only make it for the opening volleys of the game, and had to leave early. Others could not make it at all. Suitable replacements were found, never the less, and a great day of gaming was had by all!

Protagonists at Sword Beach
Allied forces attacking Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches faced

German units of LXXXIV Corps under General der Artillerie Erich Marcks:

716th Infanterie-Division Logo.svg

                                               716.er Inf Div. Insignia              21.er Pz Div Insignia
  • 716th (Static) Infantry Division under Generalleutnant Wilhelm Richter. At 7,000 troops, the division was significantly understrength, and included Ost Truppen, Soviet PoWs who elected to serve in German Uniform rather than go to PoW camps.
  • 736th Infantry Regiment
  • 1716th Artillery Regiment
  • 21st Panzer Division under Generalmajor Edgar Feuchtinger: Included 146 tanks and 50 assault guns, plus supporting infantry and artillery.

British and Canadian zones (The latter landed at Colville, ignored for purposes of this game)

Royal Marines Commandos attached to 3rd Infantry Division move inland from Sword Beach, 6 June 1944
Commander, Second Army (Britain and Canada): Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey

Overall, the Second Army contingent consisted of 83,115 men, 61,715 of them British. The nominally British air and naval support units included a large number of personnel from Allied nations, including several RAF squadrons manned almost exclusively by overseas air crew.

                                                       3rd Infantry Corps Insignia
  • British I Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General John Crocker
  • British 3rd Infantry Division: Major General Tom Rennie
  • British 6th Airborne Division: Major General R.N. Gale
  • 79th Armoured Division: Major General Percy Hobart

Facing the landing beaches from the sea: Ouistreham, Lion-sur Mer and farms outside Hermanville-sur-mer in the Distance. The German HQ is situated in the Casino Riva Bella, with the artillery observation tower at left (Allied and German objective) LeFH 18 battery at Hermanville, protected by Flak 38 and Pak 40, Vierling Flak on Halftrack. The road from Hermanville runs down the centre, with the road to Merville leading off the board to the left, Luc -sur-Mer to the right. Heavy MGs on Pillbox and bunker

Luc-sur-Mer, with artillery emplacement (88mm) and 75mm turret bunker (Right), Ost truppen dug in (The weakest link) Heavy MG in pillbox. Road to Lion-sur-Mer and Ouistreham to left, Colville to right.
Nebelwerfer rocket artillery in the fields beyong Luc-sur-Mer (substituting for Wurframen static rockets, as I have none), again supported by an 88 and a 37mm Flak on a halftrack.

Ouistreham harbour and fuel Deport (Objective 2) Protected by Light (bipod) and heavy (Pillbox) MG, 20mm twin AA gun  and Flak Vierling, Ost Truppen of 716 Div.

Rockets at the ready, some Ost Truppen to protect the artillery, and the Luftwaffe half-heartedly manning their 88mm Flak

Heer (Wehrmacht) Artillery. They accounted for more Allied casualties in WW2 than all the Tiger tanks put together. In this case LeFH18 (Light Field Howitzers) 105 mm guns.

The Guns of Merville Battery: Objective 3: 6th Airborne: Parachute brigade

Pegasus Bridge (Orne River): Objective 4: 6th Airborne: Air landing Companies 

22nd Dragoons Sappers (Demolition teams) are the first to land

RAF supplying areal support with Hawker Typhoons. Nick, the Supreme Allied commander rains rockets on the dug in Germans of  716. Infaterie Div.

AVRE Bunker-busters, Hobart's "Funnies" arrive at long last to swiftly clear the defenses at Luc-sur-Mer

LCVPs and DUKWs landing more sappers at Lion-sur-Mer. Unfortunately for them within range of the Nebelwerfers and the heavy machine-guns

Stugs of the 21. Panzerdivision arrive via Hermanville en route to Lion-sur-Mer, and Ouistreham

Yours truly deploying the 21.Pz Division Stug platoon

Sherman wade ashore near the Casino

The second wave of Allied Commanders achieve a break-through at Luc-sur-Mer. The Allies suffered an unusually high rate of casualties amongst both commanders and field officers. 
Supreme Commander Nick urging his generals to increased efforts. He ascribed the high rate of loss of field officers to the Germans being instructed to pick out the British officers.

Hobart's funnies, Shermans and Wolverines pouring from assaulting landing craft and into the gap created by the Dragoon Sappers, but too little, too late ?

Strange how games and history often reflect what actually happened given a well written rule set.
The Allies knew that the Germans would be a hard nut to crack!
Full Batrep to follow...

Generals Repose: Nick and Sam havin' a break at the end of the day

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

8 May 2014

Slogging on with D-Day preparation

Whoohoo... D-Day Prep: The Slog

I had no idea how much work a large-scale Sword Beach D-Day invasion would bring about. Effectively we are talking 3, well probably 4 games in one. Thankfully my family piled in at the weekend to help with prepping. A most welcome, even if unusual situation for my wife, who has up to now kept her distance from wargaming in any form other than logistical support. I was most grateful that she took up a paint roller in support yesterday!

D Day%20Landings%20www.infographicality.com D Day Landings Infographic

The total board is 4.8 metres wide, 3 separate gaming boards, inter-connected:
Peter, Queen and Roger sectors as below

1600mm x 800mm :

The 2 x beach approaches at Luc-sur Mer and Lion/Hermanville-sur-Mer, and the harbour approach to Ouistreham. These are protected by bunkers, a turret bunker and MG posts.

Then 3 x 1600 x 1600 - the Villages as above and Ouistreham with the Casino and artillery observation bunker (German HQ), The Pegasus bridge over the Orne River and  the canal lock in the Orne canal; and Normandy pasture and fields beyond that.
In this is seated the Merville battery, field batteries and Wiederstandsnester (Resistance points) of the German occupiers.

Allies have unlimited supply of troops and equipment,  (have to be landed, though, on beach or by air, limited amount per turn) air superiority and Germans have to roll to see if things get any better than the actual events went for them. One in 3 chance of a "booby prize"
I.e. SS Reinforcements, Luftwaffe support, no command interference from Hitler, vs attack by Partisans, devastating artillery fire by allies, rebelling or collapsing Ost Truppen.

Typical Beach defenses, as found at Ohama and other landings

Allied Side

Player 1 (Allied, Roger sector)

  • Conducts the Allied Airborne assault: Objectives- the two bridges, and the Merville Battery, secure route to Caen
  • Troops at disposal: British Parachute Company - Objective Merville Battery, parachute drop
  • British Airlanding Company -  Objective Pegasus Bridge, air landing by glider
  • Commando Company (Inclusive of Free French)  - Objective Ouistreham, then link up with Airborne troops to hold bridges (lands in second wave of beach landings)
  • Uses D-Day Minus 1 rule-set

Player 2 (Allied, Queen sector)

  • Conducts seaborne landing: Objective take Luc-sur-Mer (Brit Infantry) and the German Headquarters at the Casino (Commandos, land in 2nd wave); overcome beach defenses and eliminate inland emplacements and defenses (Wiederstands nester); progress towards Caen
  • Uses Festung Europa/Bloody Ohama rule-set

Player 3 (Allied, Peter sector)

  • Conducts seaborne landing: Objective take Lion/Herman-sur-Mer (Brit Infantry) and overcome beach defenses and eliminate inland emplacements and defenses (Wiederstands nester); Progress towards Caen
  • Uses Festung Europa/Bloody Ohama rule-set

Churchill AVRE: One of Hobart's "Funnies"

Allies have access to Hobart's funnies; Air superiority. Limitless supply of troops. Troops killed are placed back in reserve for next assault landing wave

Axis Side

Player 1 (Axis)

  • Defends Ouistreham, Merville Battery, route to Caen
  • Troops at disposal: German Infantry Merville Battery
  • Pegasus Bridge, German Infantry, Artillery crews
  • Divisional support, 21st SS Panzer Brigade in support
  • Uses Festung Europa/Bloody Ohama rule-set

Hemmbalken - log ramps designed to overturn and rip out the bottoms of allied landing craft
Been building a few of these! Could have mines or metal teeth attached to them 

Player 2 (Axis)

  • Defend Luc-sur-Mer (German Infantry) and the German Headquarters at the Casino; beach defenses and Inland emplacements and defenses (Wiederstands nester); guard route to Caen
  • Troops at disposal: German Infantry
  • Luftwaffe Artillery
  • Ost Truppen (Soviet PoWs who swopped sides) - Latter units both reluctant trained
  • Divisional support
  • Uses Festung Europa/Bloody Ohama rule-set

Belgian Gate being put in position

Player 3 (Axis)

Tzechen Egel: Czech Hedgehogs in position

  • Defend Luc-sur-Mer (German Infantry) and the road to Oustreham; beach defenses and Inland emplacements and defenses (Wiederstands nester); guard route to Caen
  • Troops at disposal: German Infantry
  • Luftwaffe Artillery (not keen on shooting at tanks)
  • Ost Truppen (Soviet PoWs who swopped sides) - Latter units both reluctant trained
  • Divisional support
  • Uses Festung Europa/Bloody Ohama rule-set
German Reserves and Wild Cards:
21 Panzer Division