Saturday, 1 British Para companies, an Airlanding company, a Polish para company and a company from the 82nd airbourne dropped behind enemy lines in Holland in order to attempt to loosen Germany’s grip on the low countries in Northwestern Europe. The defenders consisted of two FJ companies, a fortified company and a plethora of ersatz panzergrenadiers trying to hold back the airbourne forces of the allies. It was set up to be a long and bloody day. The Paratroop forces would land at night, then attempt to seize the bridges at dawn, clearing the way for the British 30th corps moving up the road.
The event itself was broken into three phases, requiring players to all have three lists. One for each mission or phase. Players were not competing against one another in single combat in the tradition sense (they were still playing one on one) but competing as a team. The axis and allies players would win or lose together as a team. This helped to promote theme and entertainment over intense competition, our goal was to be more light hearted as we tend to have a fair number of competitive tournaments already in Western Canada. The event itself was meant to simulate very loosely Operation Market Garden.
The phases were the paradrop (Death From Above Mission), followed by the assault on the bridges (Seize and Hold mission) and lastly a fighting withdrawal by the German forces as the British 30th corps came up Hells Highway. Allies had to pick paratroop lists from Market Garden for mission 1, This was opened to other parachute and Glider lists for mission 2 and finally a mechanized or armoured list from Market Garden for the fighting withdrawal mission. Germans need to have a fortified or infantry list for the paradrop, they could also include mechanized lists for mission 2 and for the final Fighting Withdrawal they were able to include armoured lists but could no longer take fortified companies.
Now on with the event itself!
Death From Above
It was going to be a long night for both the Airbourne forces and the German defenders. Even if the German defenders didn’t know it yet as the Horsa gliders silently floated towards their destinations, full of eager and nervous Airbourne forces. Soon both sides would be locked into combat that would last the night. The first mission was a literal para drop with a modified version of Death From Above being used for LW.
The British para forces landed over the most heavily fortified German defenders of all the drop zones. This resulted in one platoon landing literally inside one of the German defensive positions, of course this mean that they were wiped out. They had, afterall, landed in between the fortified companies 2cm Flak guns and MG nests. However, the rest of the troops, including the airlanding Coup de Main support landed closely packed around one of the objectives.
The British Airlanding force with a dual coup de main assault took up positions on the east end of town (over one of their objectives) which meant the Germans were now on the counter attack. Unfortunately one of the Gliders crash landed with only a single survivor, (the commander, Lucky Charles), there will be more on Lucky Charles later. Even the parachute mortars and Parachute platoon ended up landing just to the east of the village that they have been ordered to seize. This meant that majority of the British force had landed on target and was now securely holding 2 streets to the German defenders 1 street. Things had been looking good for the British, until Hummels trained Tigers with an ersatz panzergrenadier platoon showed up on the east side of the village, threatening to encircle the British airlanding and para forces. Luckily the British 6 pounder AT showed up just in time and Hummels Tigers got caught up in the mess of Horsa Gliders to the east of the village. This lead to Lucky Charles killing the first of the 3 Tiger tanks (spiked after the Tigers retreated from an assault) Later in a move of desperation the remaining two tigers would assault the British forces along the street securing the objective, bogging one on the way in, Lucky Charles then bailed the remaining Tiger and in turn spiked the remaining two. Lucky Charles not only survived the crashed glider as the lone survivor, passed his moral checks, but also took out three separate Tiger tanks! (now he has support from the other airlanding platoon, 6 pounders, mortars and parachute troops but you will never hear about that from him, after all Lucky Charles was the one standing on top of the Tigers at the end of the battle!
The Polish forces landed with their containers on the other side of the entire German defensive FJ army. Their machine guns landed among the German positions losing half their number before their feet even touched the ground. The Polish were certainly having a rough landing in mission 1.
The US forces met a similar fate, landing many of their troops onto the river and two platoons missing the landing zone. As a result the FJ defending these positions was able to attack the US airbourne a single platoon at a time and take them apart. The final parachute platoon did show up just in time to turn tail and run to fight another day. It would seem that the FJ defenders were the tough nuts to crack on the initial landings, we would have to see if they continued their defensive dominance as the paratroopers organized themselves for the assault on the bridges.
Seize and Hold
The night had been tough and both the Germans and Airbourne forces had been bloodied. As Dawn began to break the two sides would clash again over the all important bridges that the 30th corps required in order to continue their advance.
In this mission, the British forces continued to grab their objectives, especially with the help of the coup de main airlanding assaults. The British para’s managed to take the bridge from the FJ that had given the US paratroops so much trouble during the landings.
The airlanding forces pulled off an incredibly daring landing with the gliders landing right down main-street and behind main-street. Managing to clear out the Ersatz FJ that had fought off the Polish paras. With two platoons of airlanding troops landing their gliders on top of the objective the FJ would be on the counter attack against the dug in British. The FJ had a moment of respite as their Stug support showed up behind the British forces. Luckily the British 4, 6 pounders showed up behind the Stug and managed to bail all three. The command teams then ran in to desperately and heroically spike two of the bailed vehicles, the third realizing the situation fled the field, leaving Oberstleutnant von der Heydte to finish the counter attack alone. Von der Heydt ordered the retreat soon after.
The Polish paratroops managed to force the Ersatz panzer grenadiers to continue to be bruised and battered by the Allied parachute forces. They were able to destroy yet another of the Tiger tanks that the panzergrenadiers had been using as an armoured reserve. In the end the Polish forces were able to defend the guardhouse holding one of the bridges from the German counter-attacks, securing their victory.
Lastly the US forces were pitted against the stern fortified commander Euling. Euling had fortified his bridge positions with 6 minefields barb wire and continued to use his armoured cars and armoured infantry to counter attack the airbourne troops. In the end the mines slowed down the US forces too much, Being the only commander to hold he Bridges, Euling (aka Ryan) was given Tiger II tanks with which to cover his retreat as the British 30th corp rolled through Hells Highway.
Since the allies had managed to secure three of the four bridges they were given two extra reconnaissance moves for any forces in their companies. This represented the fact that little to no repairs were needed to bridges as the 30th corps just rolled on down the highway towards the German positions. However, the Germans had also had time to bring in their armoured reserves. StugGs, StuHs, Panzer IVs, Panthers and even Tiger IIs had been called in to help cover the German retreat.
The British para forces (Dave) had been reinforced by an armoured company complete with armoured infantry, universal carriers, Shermans and Sherman Fireflies not to mention the heavy 5.5 guns that had been supporting his para’s pack howitzers all through the night. He would now be battling against the Ersatz FJ (Howard) who had been supported by a StuG company. In the end the British would cause the StugGs to break just before they were able to retreat (remove their objective) allowing the British to narrowly defeat the German defenders, but not before the StuHs had completely wiped out their heavy artillery support.
The Airlanding forces (Me, Bradford) had been supported by a Guards lorried rifle company equipped with a company of 25 pounders (10) and some universal carriers to lead the charge against Eulings (Ryan) Tiger IIs and StuHs. Even though they managed to drop countless 25 pounder shells on the Tiger IIs, (bailing one almost every turn) they never manged to kill them until the assault pioneer platoon and three Rifle platoons were able to close and spike three Tiger IIs right after the fourth KT had been withdrawn. However, this was not before the StuHs cleaned out half of two rifle companies and the universal carriers. Again the British were able to just clutch victory in the final hour (again right before the objective was pulled)
The Polish para forces (Alex) had been supported by a Guards armoured car regiment. The fought hard against the stubborn FJ (Rob) defenders. They manged to clean out the right flank and seize the objective. Unfortunately before they could seize the victory the German counter fire managed to rattle the armoured car defenders, forcing a platoon moral check which then caused even the unflappable guardsmen to flee. Leaving the victory just barely in the German hands. Definitely a nail biter in this one!
Lastly we had the continually beaten down Ersatz panzergrenadiers (Curtis) who had been supported by Panzer IIIs, IVs, and Panthers against the bloodied US paratroopers (James) who had been supported by the British armoured forces with plenty of Shermans, Fireflies and the bulk of the Typhoon close air support. It was a bloody battle and both commanders had been feeling the combat loses sustained in the night and morning fighting that had already happened. The Panther ambush managed to clear out a Sherman armoured platoon, but then having given up their positions were annihilated by the Typhoons. In the end the Shermans just couldn’t quite get the job done fast enough and the Ersatz panzergrens were able to retreat fully without receiving further punishment from the allied forces.
The event was a huge success and I believe everyone enjoyed it a ton. It was great to play with themes and not placing emphasis on the results but rather on the results of the entire team. We didn’t keep track of points other than victories, not the degree of victory. In the end the Allies managed to just barely wrestle a victory by a single battle in round 2 when they were capturing the bridges.
I have decided that we will flip things next time and give the FJ a chance to invade Crete by means of air-power. It should be a fun role reversal for everyone. From there maybe an Italy themed event. Although first things first, the Massive DDay battle (Juno beach of course!). Dave has built a 16 foot scaled recreation of Juno beach that we partake in every year. It is a massive 10-12 player, ~15000 points a side battle that we do on whatever weekend works that is closest to June 6th. So for now, be sure to watch for our write up of that event!