Tuesday, December 22, 2015

WW2 6mm - 7th Battalion D Company at La Londres July 1944 scenario and replay

Introduction
This is the first of a planned series of WW2 historical scenarios based on the operations of the Hampshire Regiment (7th Battalion) of the 130th Brigade, 43rd (Wessex) Division in Europe July 1944 to April 1945. The scenarios will be a mix of a battalion and company level, with maybe some platoon/skirmish if the detail is available.  These will be based on their War History with further research where necessary. At the moment this is a side project, so not sure when I may get to the rest.

Background (or why a company level scenario and AAR when I prefer a battalion)
Feel free to skip this this section, just personal musing on why I created the scenario and the rules.


I wanted to run a campaign for a British Infantry Company in 1944 in Europe. My Dad is from Portsmouth so I decided to use the Hampshire Regiment (of the 130th Brigade, 43rd (Wessex) Division) as a basis for the campaign. The 7th Battalion fits well into my criteria and I got fairly involved in reading their history, and even went as far as ordering their history that was published recently. Do not ask the cost of shipping to Australia but it was more than the book itself.  I think it was worth it. I thought about creating some historical scenarios (as that is what I like playing) but decided for a campaign I would run some fictional scenarios loosely based on some of the 7th Battalion actions.

In parallel to this I created some things I would need for a company level campaign.  I had written some solo friendly rules for infantry skirmish, played a few games and found they worked quite well.  So I thought I would use them as a basis for some company level rules.  So I spent many hours combining my battalion level rules with the infantry skirmish rules until I had a set to test out.  In parallel, I also spent many hours on randomly generating scenarios in Excel spreadsheet based on Platoon Forward (not quite finished).

My moment of crisis came a month ago in mid-November.

I became more interested in creating and playing scenarios on the battles in the War History and much less enthused in playing fictional scenarios.  Many will be company based, but some will be battalion.  I was also disillusioned with the company level rules I had created (although I had fun writing them – I find it enjoyable writing rules).  I had moved from card based activation to dice based, and also gone for a 2 step process for infantry combat (a d6 to hit and d6 for the level of result).  I really like a single d6 as it speeds it up a lot, or multiple dice is OK so long as it is not a 2 step process (e.g. FiveCore rifle firing is 2d6 – Kill and Shock - but rolled at the same time, not sequentially).  I find card based provides enough solo friendliness rather than resorting to reactions ( the rules were full of reactions, similar-ish to NUTS!). So I shelved the rules and moved on. I tailored my battalion level rules slightly to work for company level.  I kept the scale the same but modified the die roll result slightly so that infantry don’t die as fast (as there are much less bases on the table e.g. a battalion level game may about 30-40 bases (each a section) while the company one has about 10-15).  That was about it!  Much happier.

I picked one of the early company level battles in the War History to attempt to create a scenario.  I was not counting, but I spent at least 20 hours do so, likely closer to 30.  Finding a map of the area from WW2 took many hours on the internet and then resolving the terrain took longer.  And then working out the forces involved.

But I have done a scenario based on D company’s attack on a farm complex on July 31st 1944.  And also played it in 6mm, hence this blog post..

La Londres farm scenario

Background
As part of Operation Bluecoat the 130 Brigade is to head from Caumont to Jurques. On 30th July, 4th Dorsets (a battalion in the 130 Brigade) advanced down the left of the road from Caumont to Jurques to take a location known as Le Londe farm.  They ran into difficulties with a minefield and then, for unknown reasons, never cleared the farm.  The 7th Battalion advanced down the road and dug in for the night.  D Company was attacked in the flank from the direction of Le Londe.  On the 31st July, realising that La Londe was still in enemy hands, D Company was given the task of clearing the La Londe farm complex prior to assisting B and C Company with their attack further down the road. Much of Battalion support is not available as it was left behind at Caumont  to come forward during the 31st.

Note that the War History calls it La Londe but all the maps I found online called it La Londres. But I finally discovered the general area is La Londe.

Map

Map of LeLondres farm complex and surrounds


  • Each grid is 100m by 100m.
  • British starts deployed in red sector, German deployment is in blue.
  • Germans may be in shell scrapes but there are no specific fortifications or engineering works.
  • All buildings are stone (hard cover).
  • Tress represent orchards but the trees are not close and are not bushes but low trees.
  • Hedges are not bocage but tall enough not to see over.
  • Wheatfields are waist-high and should have no effect on moving or firing.  All roads are one lane.
  • Germans start the game hidden.

British (7th Battalion)
Mission: Attack and clear the farm complex (the two main clusters of buildings).  You have 10 turns as you are required to then assist with the Battalion attack further south-east.

Victory:
Score 5 points for being the last to occupy the right farm buildings.
Score 5 points for being the last to occupy the left farm buildings.

0 - lose
5 points - draw
10 points - win.

D Company:

D Company HQ
     1 HQ infantry rifle stand
     3 PIAT teams (may be allocated to Platoons)

16 Platoon
      1 2” mortar
      3 infantry rifle stands

17 Platoon
     1 2” mortar
     3 infantry rifle stands

18 Platoon
     1 2” mortar
     3 infantry rifle stands

Support
     2 3” Mortars not in direct support (5+ on a d6 to call)

Initial artillery:
    One call of 4 4.2" Mortar pre game bombardment.

The British are of Average/Regular quality.  Although the 7th Battalion took many casualties in the Battle for Maltot on the 10th-11th July, reinforcements from the 12 Battalion filled the gaps.

Note: D company, like most in a British infantry battalion, had platoons numbered 16, 17 and 18.

I have assumed that the Battalion 3” mortars would be available to call on for indirect support.  The other three 7th Battalion companies were also conducting their own attacks on the 31st, so the mortar support is not guaranteed.

Options:
It is documented that D Company participated in the attack, but not what other support units may have been involved. Other possible support units are a Carrier Section, Honey tank, Sherman or Heavy mortar support.

While it is likely that the Carrier support platoon was with the Battalion AT guns, they did move forwards on the morning of the 31st.  The recon Honey tanks were in the area (thinking it had been cleared) and Shermans were also in the area later in the morning.  4.2" Mortars and an MMG platoon were allocated to the 7th Battalion and so are also a possibility.  If you do not want to roll for the optional units, then the 4.2" Mortar support or MMG is the most likely to have been available.

Random support (2d6):
  2
One M4 Sherman
3-4
One Honey (Sherwood Rangers recon)
5-6
Carrier Section (3 Carriers, 1 rifle section, 1 PIAT)
7-8
One MMG stand (representing 2 MMGs with crew)
9-12
Four 4.2" Mortar support (6+ required)

German (elements of the 326th Infantry Division)
Mission: Defend the farm complex (the two main cluster of buildings).  If you last at least 10 turns you have successfully delayed the advance of the British.

Victory:
Score 5 points for being the last to occupy the right farm buildings.
Score 5 points for being the last to occupy the left farm buildings.

0 - lose
5 points - draw
10 points - win.

Company HQ
    1 Rifle stand

1st Zug
   3 Rifle Stands

2st Zug
   3 Rifle Stands

Support Zug
     1 MMG stand (representing 2 MMGs)

Average quality.  Panzerfausts can be allocated as much or as little as required but assume each stand has Panzerfaust capability.

Options
None.

The German unit designation is correct, but not much else.  From the histories, it seemed that average motivated troops were defending the farm and were at near organisational strength.  I created a generic infantry force that would be sufficient to hold onto a farm and create difficulties for D Company to take.

Aftermath
After a hard fought battle, D Company cleared the farm in time and continued along the way to Cahagnes in time to support the other companies.

Notes
I did use an aerial map from 1944 to assist in creating the terrain features for the scenario but the terrain is not an exact match, mostly the hedges on the top right of the map.  But the farms, roads, orchards and most hedgerows are in the right place.

Replay
The whole idea of researching the battle was to create a scenario to play.  Here is the first play test of it.

Scale
I am going to be playing the battles on a 30”x20” table using 6mm miniatures. Distance scale is 1:800. Bases represent squads/sections/gruppe.   It is a company level game.

Rules
I tweaked my own rules I use for battalion based games to be used for companies. Card based unit activation with a joker to end the turn (I counted each flipped joker as equating to 1/2 a turn, so 20 jokers is the same as the end of turn 10).  Most things stay the same except the unit scale has been reduced slightly from 1 vehicle is 2-5 vehicles to 1 vehicle = 1 vehicle and support weapons are closer to 1:1. Distance scale stayed the same.  Some support weapon and HE values needed to change to reflect this change in unit representation.  I have not posted the company level rules up on my WW2 rules page as they are not yet in a ready state to do so, but they play very similar to my latest battalion level rules.

Deployment

The British forces, optional force was an MMG stand.

The defending Germans


Where the units deployed
The Germans were deployed  across the two main farm locations with the MMG in a central location to cover most approaches.

German deployment
The British deployed ready for a two pronged attack (see image after this).

The British deployed
The British aim is to have 16 and 17 platoon come down the edge of the table.  MMG down the centre to lend support.  18 platoon to come down the right of the road as a reserve.

British orders of advance
The Game
British pre-game bombardment. 12 dice (4 heavy mortars at 3 dice each.  a 6 will suppress, two 6s will KO) on farm 1. No 6's out of the 12.  Rolled again just to be a little fair on the Brits.  No 6s in the next 12 rolls either.  I will call that destiny. They are all shaken (-1 to fire) as being under HE fire, but that will only last a turn.


The main British forces continue to advance and are spotted by the Germans who hold their fire. They have the advantage of not being seen in the farm, and will be much harder to dig out by close combat that being fire on.

The British 16 and 17 Platoon advance.
16 platoon moves into position to charge the farm; company HQ keeps calling for mortar support while 17 platoon and 18 keep advancing.  The Major finally gets through and the farm is shaken and one gruppe retreats.  The 16 platoon charges in!  The German MMG was on overwatch and fires on them as they cross the open field.but it causes no casualties, except infantry units first fired on in the game must take a morale check and they hit the dirt.

German MMG opens fire of the advancing British platoon.
The British MMG has been lying in wait for such a moment, spots the MMG and routs them.

The British MMG was on overwatch, spots the German MMG, fires and routs them
More mortar fire on the farm and another defender retreats.

Retreating defenders
This triggers a morale check, the German defenders roll a 1 and the whole zug routs.  Very unlucky to get two mortar barrages in two turns.

But...it is turn 4 already.  Only another 6 turns to clear the other farm.  And that other farm has a  gruppe that can see the British infantry 16 Platoon in the field so fire on them - one routed, one retreats.

...and the morale check for 16 Platoon is a 1! and they also rout.

One platoon down on each side (German right hand farm defenders, British 16 Platoon that advanced over the field)
I created a new random event table a few weeks ago based on a d20 and finally (after 9 goes though the card pack) got one - the British 18 platoon get a leader.  This will help with morale checks.

A few more moves sees the Brits move closer to the second farm.

British 17 Platoon occupy the farm. 

British 18 Platoon wait across the road from the remaining occupied farm.
The German whittle down 18 platoon to one section.  The British have managed to force one gruppe to retreat in retaliatory fire, but that is about it.

The red Xs are former British 18 Platoon sections.  The farm defenders still OK.
A few more turns, the Brits call in some 3" mortar fire again, for no effect.  But then the Germans are subject to a random mortar attack of 2d6 and roll 2 6s that cause 2 retreats!  And them more successful mortar radio rolls!  But the cards are against the British and they just don't get any card allowing them to move as well to take advantage of the Germans being shaken in the farm.  And it is turn 8.

Retreated and suppressed Germans on the left.  On the right is 17 Platoon waiting for the right moment to charge in., 
Finally a card to activate the British platoon, and the Germans are still shaken! British 16 platoon charge into combat with the shaken Germans in the farm.

British 16 Platoon charge into the farm complex.
Brits roll 4d6, Germans 2d6. British win and lose 1 section.  The Germans loose both gruppe, one was the company HQ.  The last gruppe left on the board rolls a morale check and packs it all in.

The second farm is taken and the game ends with the lone survivor routing.
Well, with only one turn to go the British managed a win, as per the historical battle.

Verdict
Well, I thought it would be a rather dull game with 2 German zugs in hard cover while a British Company tries to take it. Nope.  I have mentioned it before that my sweet spot is for these little vignettes of a battle.  And this was one with lots of tension the whole way.  At various times I thought the battle would be won by one side, and then the other. The scenario needs some more playtesting before I would put it as part of a scenario book.   The homebrew rules seem to work OK for me for company level - they are quite fast and simple (for me at least) as they are based off my battalion level game.   I will have to have a go and do the scenarios for the different attacks that A, B and C Companies were involved in on the same day - about a  kilometre or so to the southeast of this D Company action.