Merville, may 27th, 1940.
Our Wargames group in Buenos Aires, Argentina, gathers for a Battlegroup game.
German forces of the 3rd Panzer Division are part of the advance that attempts to cut off the withdrawal of French and English forces towards the channel and evacuation in Dunkirk. The forces of the British 2nd division, together with small groups of French stragglers, try to block the German advance in every possible place, buying time for the BEF to be evacuated. Each village, wood or water course is a fortress to be beaten on the road to Dunkirk. Merville and the Lys canal is one of them.
This a Blitzkrieg company level game (780 points each side). We do not have all the required models yet. But, want to give it a try anyway. So, forgive me for the inaccuracies. For example, all the panzers are with markings of the 11th Pz Division (still to be created). They are grey anyway!
The scenario is a “defence line” one with some details:
– Only infantry can control objectives
– The bridge over the Lys Canal is the main objective, worth 2 BR counters, and It Is “re-scored” at turns 6 & 12.
– The two fords are also objectives, and worth 1 BR counter each.
– We use the rules for hidden troops as in the “death of a Prince” scenario
– We use some “dummy” defences (revealed only with a successful spot roll or when it is obvious is fake)
– All British forces start deployed
– All French forces arrive on turn 5
– The river has a stone bridge and two practicable fords
The forces available are:
GERMAN Pz Division: BR total: 49
III./Schutzen Regiment 3 HQ. Major Hans Kratzenberg
• Sdkfz 265 command tank
• Sdkfz 223 signals armoured car
• Timed Stuka air strike
13th Kompanie, III./Schutzen Regiment 3. Hauptmann der Reserve Dr. Sturm
• Motorized Infantry Platoon HQ
• 3x rifle teams
• 3x mg teams
• Armoured schutzen squad (1x rifle team 1 x MG team on a sdkfz 251/1)
• Tripod mount MG34
• leIG18 infantry gun
• 5cm leichte granatenwerfer
• Panzerbusche 39 AT rifle
2nd Kompanie, I./Panzer Regiment 6. Hauptmann Schneider-Kostalski
• 3 x Pz III F (Oberleutnant Graf zu Dohn)
• 3 x Pz II C (Feldwebel Höhe)
• 1 x Pz IV D (Oberleutnant Von Brodow)
I/Artillerie Regiment 75
• 1 x Artillery observer (Watchmeister Fritz)
• 3 x 8cm Granatenwerfer (off table)
• 3 x 2nd priority artillery requests
3rd Kompanie, Kradschutzen Abteilung 3 (Leutnant Panzlaff)
• Recce Command. 1 x Sdkfz 222
• 1 x Sdkfz 231
• Kradschutzen recce patrol (1x Rifle team / 1x MG team in motorcycles)
Flak Regiment 101
• 1 x 88mm Flak 36
BRITISH BEF (with a French taste!): BR total: 32+2d6
“A” Company HQ, 6th Kings Own (Captain Benjamin Dixon)
• Forward HQ (3 men)
• Backs to the sea (+1D6)
• Infantry Platoon HQ
• 3x rifle sections (8 men with a bren gun)
• Light mortar team
• HMG Vickers gun w/loader team
• 3´ inch medium mortar w/loader team
• Boys AT rifle
• 2 x 2 pdr AT guns with loader teams
• 3 x 2nd priority artillery requests
• 1 x Pre-Registered target point
• 1 x HMG pillbox
• 10¨ trenches
• Foxholes for 10
• Minefield (hidden)
• 2 x Fortified Buildings
• 1 x Artillery Observation post
• 1 x AT gun Bunker
• 1 x AT gun dug out
• 1 x Improvised roadblock
• 2 x sniper hideouts (w/spotter)
• Mortar pit
• Desperate defense (+1D6)
Scattered remains of 3eme DCR (as reinforcement on turn 5)
• 2 x Dragons Portés rifle teams
• 2 x Dragons Portés MG teams
• 1 x 60mm brandt mortar
• 1 x Char B1 bis
• 1 x Panhard 178
The game went on for 12 turns. In the end, the BEF reached it´s BR limit and have to withdraw. But, up to that point the germans were
unable to cross the Lys. So, a very marginal victory for the germans. All the special rules for the period are perfect! The BEF & french boys felt very very Blitzed, with 2 Stukas showing and comm rolls often failing. On the other hand, when it shows up, BEF artillery is deadly (4-gun batteries).
The centre of Merville
The 3 inch mortar w/loader team in a mortar pit. He had a lot of accurate shots. But regretably, no luck at penetrating panzers (needing a 9 to destroy them)
Some of the BEF prepared positions to the east of Merville. AT Bunker and dug-in infantry section.
More BEF defenders, this time covering the bridge over the Lys canal.
A close up. Also covering the main road and bridge, but on the west side, is a Vickers MG pillbox.
The german recce kradschutzen starts the game probing up the main road. They discover is blocked by some very heavy logs and impassable. The 3 inch mortar drop some bombs on them, pinning some. They dismount and became the eyes of the off board 80mm mortars for the rest of the game. A detail some would note is that german mortar betteries in this period consist of 3 mortars and not 2 (huge difference)
And also on the west flank with a 222 and an infantry gun
A sneaky sniper team sees the infantry gun and takes a shot at the gun leader. Headshot! the rest of the crew runs to the rear.
Behind the recce, on turn 3&4 comes the panzers!
and sneaking behind the hedges comes Herr Katzenberg himself! in a sdkfz 265, he would be directing the off-board heavy artillery to support the attack. His call for artillery support would result in some hefty 150 & 170mm stonking on the BEF. I suspect some familiar contacts at corps-level
The dug-in & hidden 2pdr AT gun on the west flank reveals himself. He is protected by an infantry section and a Boys AT rifle.
Heavy shelling by the german corps artillery cause some pinning and vaporize the AT rifle team.
The gun fires thrice on the oncoming panzers & armoured cars, missing the tanks but hitting the sdkfz222. Not penetrating hit, but the morale of the crew fails and bails, being so close to the sniper team and no infantry support of their own.
Meanwhile, in the other flank…..The AT bunker in the woods to the east of Merville reveals himself and unleashe a deadly volley on the sdkfz 231, destroying it. The 2 inch mortar covering the bridge fires at an incoming 251 and makes the crew abandon it (again, vehicles advancing without infantry support tend to abandon their vehicles!). The infantry section inside the vehicle must disembark and make for cover quiclky.
The game up to turn 5. The BEF defenses seems solid. The german recce probe was repulsed with heavy losses. But the main panzer attacks is just beggining
Having discovered the BEF dispositive at a heavy cost, the german commander decides the main attack should go on the west. All remaining panzers enter the table on the west side. The lead panzer goes up to the blockade on the road.
The british position continues to be battered by german corps-level artillery. The vickers pillbox can also be seen. Behind the dug-in 2pdr is the BEF artillery observation post, making desperate calls for heavy artillery. But to no avail! radios are poor in this period (comms beakdown). Nerves are starting to falter with the panzers so close no external help coming
But….the French are here! some stragglers from 3eme DCR come to help the belagueared british
A Panhard armoured car takes position behind the reinforced house where the BEF hq is located (and also a vickers MMG). That house would be pummeled all game by the german 80mm off-table mortar battery. But 3+ saves are glorious. Captain Nixon and his staff would not be pinned even once in all the game. The vickers machine gun crew would be less lucky suffering horrendous wounds from mortar bombs.
The char B1 bis “Joffre” advances into Merville, proudly deciding he would confront the panzer horde head-on.
The French reinforcements positions seeing from above…….
And who has that view?? a perfectly planned and timed Stuka makes its appearence at the beginning of turn 6 and drops its deadly cargo on the unfortunate french reinforcements.
5 bombs dropped and after the explosions the Panhard is no more (he did not fire a single shot!).
Heavy pinning also on the allied infantry nearby.
Turn 7 panoramic
All the german panzers are now on table. The PzII platoon makes rapid advance through the fields in the west flank. an 88mm gun also tries to find his spot.
Fully focused on the west flank, now the german panzers veer to their left to overcome the lightly held BEF defences.
The flak gunners also take position in the hedge to cover the advance. Notice the experimental weapon on one of the members of the loader team.
All seemed lost for the BEF, but….at last the radios started to work! Getting into contact with a 4-gun 25pdr divisional battery, a heavy stonk is called on the BEF Pre-registered pooint, causing massive pinning on the panzer wedge, but no penetrations (very bad luck on the BEF penetration rolls for direct hits)
Meanwhile at Merville, the french infantry readied themselves for some combat
The panzers continue the advance, firing at every opportunity trying to pinn or kill the 2pdr gun.
Another heavy stonk is called on the incoming panzers, and then a third one. Massive 25pdr shelling causes some pinning and again, some panzers abandoned due to direct non-penetrative hits. Can someone tell the german commander panzers should not advance without infantry support????
Good allies, the frenc infantry postion themselves to defend the BEF HQ
But, on turn 8-9 all went wrong for the BEF and their french allies. not 1, but 2 stuka appeared over the battlefield. They started to strafe anything loose (ie, french infantry) on the battlefield and provoke BR counter drawing. The 2 pdr finally succumbed to heavy 20mm autocannon fire. And, as a dessert a PzIII F with his puny 37mm gun manages to hit the Char B at a distance and
rolled a 11 to penetrate his “J” frontal armor.
Game over for the BEF who, having reached their BR limit, withdraw from the field.
The germans never crossed the Lys. Marginal victory for the Germans.
Great fun to see my first 1940 game went smooth!