Friday, 16 December 2011

AAR The Action at Grise Farm 27 August 1944

This was our inaugural game of I Ain't Been Shot Mum 3, played on 11 December 2011.  I designed the scenario and refereed having played a reasonable amount of the previous edition.

The 6' x 4' table looking North, Grise Farm in the centre rear


Major Tuke’s A Company 7 Somerset Light Infantry was under orders to sweep northwards through part of the Foret de Vernon following the crossing of the Seine two days before.  General Thomas no less believed that the enemy were withdrawing but there might be pockets of resistance ahead so the company, reduced by losses in Normandy to two rifle platoons and a string company HQ, moved carefully through the heavy woods – poor going for infantry and impassable to vehicles.

At the end of the sweep they were to dig in where the northerly track they were following crossed a track to a local chateau at a farm.  The company had passed many little tracks and the Major, new out from England [a Big Man II], was becoming concerned until the scouts from the lead sections of 7 Platoon brought back news there was a farm ahead. 

The British advance on Blinds - the Germans remain concealed  

On the other side of the cross track and a stream stood a stoutly built farmhouse and outbuildings with a small orchard, then lighter woods closed in again around the northbound track.   The farmhouse had been recently occupied by Feldwebel Langer from 6.kompanie of Grenadier-Regiment -149 as forward security for his company.   The feldwebel, a veteran of Russia [a Class III Big Man], had  placed one of his two rifle sections in the farmhouse and one in the adjoining orchard.  Out to the east flank the attached MMG team with Obergefreiter Reiner were in a tangled coppice angled to fire in defilade across the front of the orchard and farmhouse.   The forward observer Gefreiter Michael  for the company mortars was also in the farm while an attached sniper was wandering around somewhere.

Meanwhile 7 Platoon was spotted moving alongside the northern track with two sections in file either side of the road.  Initial bursts of fire were relatively ineffective at long range and the platoon manoeuvred to throw one section left and one right but throwing the right section out of the woods in an effort to advance to covering brush along the stream.   A few casualties  - including from the sniper - and shock quickly drove them back behind a rise (where they remained troubled by mortars for most of the rest of the game).
Finally Major Tuke managed to call in supporting 25pdrs which banged away at the farm for the rest of the game bemoaning its strong construction. 

Meanwhile, with German attention focused on 7 Platoon, 8 Platoon thrust forward on the eastern flank and bounded [still on Blinds] across the open ground to close assault the coppice occupied by the MMG (which angled to fire in defilade had no arc of fire).  A savage hand to hand struggle wiped out the MMG crew but caused quite a few British casualties.  Fire from the farmhouse at those who had not completely got into cover also whittled numbers down.  However the platoon was still strong enough to  flank the German held orchard and to drive its depleted defenders back into the farm (where it and the occupying section spent a lot of time pinned from 25 pdrs).  

Although there were indications of movement to the west [two pretty obvious blinds] nothing much had happened.  British 8 Platoon on the east - and their CHQ behind them – were rudely surprised by the arrival of two full German platoons through the woods as the rest of Leutnant Heiminger’s company, tasked as part of KG Schrader to drive South-East, appeared to the south as the platoon was oriented north south to attack the farm .  Heavy firing at close ranges caused heavy casualties in the light woods before the Germans closed.  At about this time Major Tuke called for reinforcements which in some ways was well timed as his 38 Set was knocked out shortly thereafter severing his communication with battalion HQ and with the artillery support.

The remnants of 8 Platoon under attack - CHQ on the right of the picture

8 Platoon was no match for two full strength German platoons (Feldwebels Brecht and Gottfried)  in the open woods and the sections were quickly reduced to small pockets of survivors – some of whom resisted being made prisoners quite effectively.  CHQ was assaulted and repelled one assault but was finally overrun after Major Tuke made a run for it alone (there was some discussion about whether he’d be popular with HQ for surviving that debacle).  

Meanwhile, 7 Platoon, still in reasonably good shape but with dispersed sections, sent its westerly section with the 2” and PIAT to flank the farm via a low ridge which offered some protection.   In many ways this was too little too late and did not have a Big Man with them.  However, the section stopped to exchange fire with the farm defenders from behind a ruined wall.  They were then unable to stop a German CHQ MG team from setting up on the ridge.  The emplaced MMG then drove them back into the woods with heavy casualties [and shock].  Meanwhile the Pazerschreck teams also with the German CHQ moved to cover the exit from the southern woods just as a troop of Shermans from 4/7DG arrived (with a platoon from D Company) to lend A Company much needed fire support.   At long range one ‘schreck team engaged the lead Sherman but missed and had its loader killed by an HE shell in return.

The Shermans arrive

Here we drew to a close.   The Germans would not advance with enemy armour and more enemy infantry appearing.  The Shermans were wary about advancing in the face of ‘schrecks and presumably fausts with too few infantry to mount a successful assault. 

The players claim to have enjoyed themselves and we are looking forward to another game.

We played in 20mm lengthways on a 6’ x 4’ board with a lot of woods, small rises and brush to reduce lines of sight.   Things we did wrong/differently:
-          We should have reduced the cover of the farm by one level for the 25 pdrs which would then have been more effective (as would the German mortars).
-          I decided not to apply the +2 for firing where another unit is within 2” where the other unit was just a 2-man weapons team
-          I  missed that the British blinds should have been at a lesser penalty moving in the woods (didn’t have much effect)
-          We used Mortar bonus for the off-table German mortars which felt a bit odd to me.

The scenario was based on the operations of the real A Company 7 SLI on 27 August 1944.  However the names of the officers and NCOs used in the game are fictitious.

{Sources: Assault Crossing, Ken Ford p141-3, p148-151, p188-189; The Story of the Seventh Battalion Somerset Light Infantry June 1944 – May 1945 p62-63; The 43rd Wessex Division at War 1944-1945 p107-108}

I modified the historical events to give the British a bit more of a fighting chance.  I rated the British CO as a Big Man II given he was clearly inexperienced.  The Platoon commanders were III.  Given the strong efforts shown by the single German company from a not very well thought of unit I rated the CO and 1st Platoon commanders as III and the others as II.  The landsers were also rated as good regulars to reflect their staying power on the day.  I had a Hesitant Troops for the British (which paused 7 Platoon quite a bit) and Mortar bonus, MG bonus and Tank Killers for the Germans.  Both sides had Rally as a kindness.  The German CO had dynamic leader but only used it once as he came on late.  The German player had access to the translation of the real operational orders his counterpart received.

Hopefully this is of interest.

1 comment:

  1. Edward,

    Really enjoyed your first blog and did find it interesting.

    I look forward to seeing how it develops,

    Yours aye

    The larger half of the McHighland Brigade