Thursday 26 September 2019

The Koevering Raid - Operation Market-Garden

Like many of my friends, I was captivated by Operation Market-Garden as a child, when I read Cornelius Ryan's 'A Bridge Too Far'. This was only re-inforced when the film of the same name came out. So with the 75th anniversary of the Operation this year, I planned to play the campaign, but for a variety of reasons I failed. However, I did have enough forces to play at least one part, choosing the cutting of 'Hell's Highway' as the basis for the game.

Dave was up for this and so after a bit of research in Kershaw's excellent 'It never Snows in September' book, the Koevering raid of 245h - 26th September seemed perfect. It had the added bonus that we could play the raid on the same day it happened, 75 years ago. Details of the actual action can be found here.

I used the OOB that I could find as a guide for the game, tweaking things to fit in with our normal mid-week game constraints. If we'd had longer to play, then I would have reflected the actual action much more closely. Anyway, after scribbling I away I was happy with the scenario and forces to hand.
Scenario Details
Broadly speaking Kampfgruppe Jungwirth, re-inforced by elements of Fallschirmjager Regiment 6 (van der Haydte), were to continue with their attacks in and around the hamlet of Koevering on the morning of 25th September, with the aim of preventing any Allied troops passing along the road.

In response the Allies launched counter-attacks with the 502nd PIR from 101st US Airborne Division, later supported by elements of the 44th RTR, 7th Armoured Division 'Desert Rats' and the British 50th Infantry Division.

The Allied troops would arrive at random points and intervals during the game, to try and reflect the random nature of the engagement. There would be the chance of some air support as well, in the form of Typhoons, with the chance that the Americans would show up and the P-47 Thunderbolts causing some Blue-on-Blue action.

Table Layout
The game would be played on our normal 4' x 4' table, with the Germans coming in from the East, the Allies from North, South and/or West.

An overview of the table, with Koevering in the middle, with some Fallschirmjager already in residence.

Fallschirmjager re-inforcements already on their way.

A view along the very exposed 'Hell's Highway'.

Elements of Kampfgruppe Jungwirth in Koevering. In the background smoke can be seen rising from trucks that were shot up the night before.

Turn 1
The Germans got the first move, with all units advancing as much as they could, taking up an all round defensive posture, in anticipation of an Allied counter-attack.

The first Allied troops to respond were the 502nd PIR, who arrived from the South and the West, with both elements making the best use of cover to mask their advance. As a result the Germans had no targets, so there was no shooting. At the end of the turn, an allied FAO arrived and moved into position to try and call down artillery fire next turn.

An overview at the end of Turn 1.

US Paras advance through the woods.

Other US Paras advance towards a hedgeline, which masks them from the Germans.

Falschirmjager move into a building on their left flank, supported by a StuH-42.

A Tiger I in position to dominate the road.

Stug III's cover the right flank.

Turn 2
Both German flanks advanced, with Fallschirmjagers moving to help provide protection to the Stug III's.

The first British troops arrived in the form of the 'Desert Rats', as their Shermans moved of the road and immediately engaged a lone Stug III, suppressing it. The US Paras continued to mve through the woods to threaten the German left flank.

An overview at the end of turn 2.

A suppressed Stug III facing elements of the 'Desert Rats'.

The Fallschirmjagers advance on the left flank, but then fail an order, leaving the StuH-42 in the open.

Turn 3
In response to the Shermans attack, the Tiger I moves to the right flank to help counter the threat.

On the Allied side, a British Recce unit arrives and advances down the road, supported by a Carrier Company. Combined fore from mortars and off board artillery sees the loss of two Fallschirmjager units and the StuH-42 pushed back whilst it was suppressed.

An overview at the end of Turn 3.

The German left flank comes under attack.

The British Recce and Carriers arrrive and advance towards Koevering.

The Tiger I has moved up in support.

Turn 4
In the German turn, mortar fire manages to suppress some of the British Recce armoured cars and the Stug III supresses the Sherman Firefly. However it is destroyed by the other Shermans as they shoot back.

The Shermans continue their attack and with some amazing shooting, destroy the remaining two Stug III's on the right flank. The FAO fails to get through and the cab rank of Typhoons also fail to appear.

An overview at the end of Turn 4.

British armoured cars are suppressed by mortar fire.

The Tiger I is the only armour left on the German right flank.

The Shermans of the 'Desert Rats' have destroyed the Stug III's in quick succession.

Turn 5
As the British infantry have advanced into the open, combined mortar fire leads to the loss of one unit and the others suppressed. With no other targets, the Germans sit tight.

A busy turn for the allies, with the 44th RTR arriving from near Veghel, who immediately move and engage the Germans, destroying the StuH-42. In the woods the US Paras continue to push forward and in the centre the Carrier Platoon de-bus and occupy the building near the road. The 'Desert Rats' engage the Tiger I, but fail to damage it, but combined artillery fire and a Typhoon attack seeing it suppressed and it only just misses out on retreating off the table. The Allies are very much in the ascendancy but they still haven't secured the road.

The Typhoon attack.

An overview at the end of Turn 5.

The 44th RTR arrive.

The German Pak 38 is the only real obstacle to the 44th RTR's Shermans.

The lone Tiger I.

The 'Desert Rats' are having a field day.

The British Recce armoured cars advance to threaten the German right flank and centre.

Turn 6
In the German turn, they are able to suppress a Sherman and hit some infantry, but have no other available targets.

The Allies on the other hand cause devastation with their artillery, destroying a Pak 38, a mortar, an MG and a Fallschirmjager unit and only narrowly fail to destroy the CO as well. The Typhoon once again cames in, but it is the Shermans tha administer the 'coup de grace' on the Tiger I.

The Typhoon on target again.

An overview at the end of Turn 6.

The German right flank is a mass of flaming armour.

The German left flank has little left to halt the Allies.

The devastating 'Desert Rats'.

End of Game
At this point it was obvious that the Allies were now in complete control and the Germans had nothing with which to halt the Allied armour. Some German units were able to retreat, others had no option but to surrender. A resounding Allied victory but the Germans had kept the road closed long enough to prevent re-inforcements and supplies getting to where they were so desperately needed. So honours fairly even at the end.

Post Game Thoughts
A fun game and a fitting way to commemorate Operation Market-Garden. As always a few thoughts on the game etc:

  • I thought the scenario itself worked well, especially the random turns upon which units would arrive and where exactly on the table. This kept both sides in the dark, which made for interesting decisions for both players.
  • Dave's die rolling for his artillery and Shermans was phenominal throughout the game, with the latter really swinging the game in his favour early on, as the 'Desert Rats' gained fire supremacy over the German Stug III's. The Germans were never really able to recover from this.
  • The British artillery was devastating. I'm not sure whether I gave the Allies too many batteries, but probably one less would have been better.
  • The scenario gave both of us a feel as to why it was so hard for the Allies to keep 'Hell's Highway' open and also why it was hard for the Germans to keep it closed for more than 24 hours. The terrain is so open, that you can see why the German guns could pick of any Allied vehicles with ease on the main road. Also there is so little cover, that it is hard for the infantry to advance, as they are so exposed.
  • I know I forgot a few things in the rules during the game, but ultimately it didn't affect the outcome. We used BKCII as the main rules, but combining them with the good ideas from BKCIV, but a good dose of common sense.  The latter applies to all games and allows things to flow nicely, without the stop-start nature of having to constantly check a rulebook.
  • The random nature of the air support worked, but sadly Dave didn't roll a '1', so that the P-47 failed to arrive to shoot up the Allied armour... 

So a nice game and good to be able to commemorate Operation Market-Garden. Next week we are back to our Brexite Campaign, which gives me time to paint some more units as well as carrying on with upgrading my scenery. So until next time...

Sunday 22 September 2019

The Brexite Campaign - Race to the Rhein

For the next game in our narrative campaign, I once again turned to the ever useful 'Scenarios for all Ages' by Mssrs Grant & Asquith. A brief persual led me to chose Scenario 10: The Important Bridge, as it fitted in nicely in terms of a story of the aftermath of the first battle.

Background Fluff
After failing to halt the advancing French troops, the remnants of the Wessex Militia are in retreat, hoping to beat the French to an important crossing of one of the rheins that criss cross the Somerset landscape. The French are hard on their heels, but have become split up, possibly due to enjoying the local cider. As news of the battle has reached Taunton, Colonel Farrage has dispatched troops to try and gain the bridge before the French. So it is a simple case of who can gain control of the bridge over the rhein...
French OOB
Northern Force
3 x Line Infantry
1 x Light Cavalry (Inferior)
1 x Dragoons
1 x Light Artillery

Western Force (Random arrival from start Turn 2)
1 x Light Infantry
3 x Line Infantry
1 x Dragoons
1 x Light Artillery 

British OOB
Eastern Force
4 x Line Infantry
2 x Dragoons
1 x Light Artillery
1 x Medium Artillery

Southern Force (Retreating force from game 1)
1 x Light Infantry (Inferior)
1 x Line Infantry
1 x Militia (Inferior)
1 x Light Cavalry (Inferior)

Table Set up
Below can be seen the table set up. The rhien runs downs the centre of the table, with the bridge in the middle. The water levels are low and so the rhein is also fordable 9" either side of the bridge, but not to artillery.

The hedges mark the table boundary, with North being at the top pf the 'photo.

The remnants of the Wessex Militia from game 1.

Troops from the Taunton garrison.

Rather a lot of French troops awaiting to enter the table.

Turn 1
The British got to move first, with both brigades moving onto the table. The French faired less well, with some units failing to appear; still drinking cider?

The end of Turn 1.

The Wessex Militia advance, led by a unit of Taunton's Tartars, with Light Infantry taking up the rear.

The Taunton Garrison march on as fast as they can.

The French arrival is rather tardy, but they have an awful lot of good troops.

Turn 2
Again, the British won the movement intiative, with the Wessex Militia starting to ford the rhein, to gain protection on its Eastern bank. The French moved a best they could, with their re-inforcements arriving this turn.

The end of Turn 2.

The Wessex Militia cross the rhein, as the Light Infantry cover them.

The piecemeal arrival of the French re-inforcements, led by their Dragoons.

The French line failed to move, thus blocking the other troops.

British Dragoons cover the advance of the Taunton Garrison.

Turn 3
The British again moved first, rolling a '6' that allowed the Taunton Garrison to gain the bridge. The French advance continued, but despite both sides closing on each other, they were out of range of any shooting.

The end of Turn 3.

The Wessex Militia safely across the rhein, with their Light Infantry in the woods by the bridge.

Some of the Taunton Garrison have deployed in and around the bridge.

The French skirt around the woods to avoid fire from the British Light Infantry.

British Dragoons observe the French across the rhein.

Turn 4
The French won the movement initiative and started to cross the rhein and to advance as much as possible. The British Light infantry evade out of the woods onto the bridge as the rest of the Taunton Garrison deploys. Both side artillery is now within range, but both fail to hit.

The end of Turn 4.

The Wessex Militia roll a '1', but this still allows them to change formation, forming up along the bank of the rhein.

The British Light Infantry on the bridge.

The Taunton Garrison control the bridge.

Turn 5
The French continue their advance, with the British reacting where needed. Once again both sides artillery fail to hit anything.

The end of Turn 5.

The French column advances towards the Wessex Militia.

The Taunton Garrison move towards the woods and the fortified manor house.

The British troops in a commanding position by the bridge.

Turn 6
As the French shake out into line, the Taunton Tartars and Dragoons move across to protect the left flank of the Wessex Militia. By the Manor House, the French troops start to move into and around it. Both sides fail to cause any hits with their shooting.

The end of Turn 6.

A view from the French side of their right flank.

An overview of the action around the bridge and manor house.

The view from the Wessex Militia's position.

Turn 7
As the French and British contest the manor house, the Fench right flank makes another quick move, allowing them to move up to the rhein. Both sides trade hits from their shooting.

The end of Turn 7.

The Wessex Militia come under fire and respond in kind. However, they lack any supporting artillery.

The woods and manor house.

A view along the rhein.

Turn 8
As both sides continue to manouevre to gain an advantage, the Wessex Militia are forced back by musket fire.

The end of Turn 8.

The Wessex Militia are sent reeling by musket fire. Being inferior troops, it will be hard to rally off hits for maybe a Turn or two.

Movement around the woods continues, with both sides wary of each other.

Turn 9
The Wessex Militia start to withdraw as they cannot match the French fire superiority. On the British right flank, they start to come under pressure, with the Light Infantry once again evading back into the woods.

The nd of Turn 9.

The Wessex Militia start an orderly withdrawl, covered by their supporting cavalry.

The formidable looking French line.

The French start to cross the rhein in pursuit.

A view from the French side.

Another view of the French forcing the rhein.

Turn 10
The French gain the upper hand, as they press forward on both flanks, with another unit of the Wessex Militia being forced back by musket and artillery fire.

The end of Turn 10.

The Wessex Militia continue to be forced back and are in a poor state.

The French close in on the woods and threaten to turn the British right flank.

The French move across the rhein in force.

A view of the French positions in the manor house and around the wood.

End of Game
With the Wessex Militia hors de combat and the right flank under pressure, the British troops wisely decided to quit the field of battle as their position was untenable, with their retreat covered by their cavalry. Although the French had forced the British troops back, they had failed to deliver a knock out blow. Bloodied but unbowed, the British troops would live to fight another day.
Post Game Thoughts
I think that ended up being one of the longest games we had played of Honours of War, with it lasting around 2 1/2 hours. However the time flew by as we were both engrossed in the game and it was quite close until the final turn or two. so as always and in no particular order, some post game thoughts:
  • A lot of the game was spent in manouevering troos to try and gain an advantage, so combat occured only quite late in the game. This might sound dull but it certainly wasn't and gave an interesting challenge for both of use.
  • With the British gaining the bridge early on, the French had no real choice but to try and force a crossing of the rhein. This they were ultimately able to do, mainly due to having a light artillery piece on their right flank, which the Wessex Militia could do nothing about. In campaign terms, the Wessex Militia are out of the picture for the foreseeable future.
  • Both side artillery was largely ineffective for most of the game. This was certainly true around the bridge and manor house, where they couldn't hit a barn door. 
  • The scenario worked well in terms of our narrative campaign, which is developing a character of its own. We have one more game based in Somerset, before we head up to the Scottish borders to see what Bonnie Prince Charlie has been up to.
  • The French and British cavalry had little to do, other than threaten flanks etc, but this felt right. If either side had managed to cause some more casualties earlier on, then they might had had an opportunity to operate on the flanks or in the rear. Maybe next game?
  • I've enjoyed actually playing with some of my own figures (Pendraken's superb AWI range) and this has spurred me on to paint more. I hope I can maintain this momentum. 
  • Our game was played out on a 3 1/2' x 2 1/2' area, which was more than adequate for the forces involved. At this scale, you don't need a large area to have a great game. In fact, I think this smaller games of around 2 brigades a size are perfect for mid-week games.

I have an idea already for our next campaign game, but with it being the 75th anniversary of Operation Market-Garden this week, will be commerating this with a one off game. I need to do a bit of research, but it is more than likely to be based around Hell's Highway. So until next time...