Sunday, 22 April 2018

Siege of Lille 4th September 1708 - Beneath the Lilly Banners v3

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough - Adriaen van der Werff
Chas took us to back to his days in Louis XIV army and the siege of Lille.

Eugene had completed lines of circumvallation round Lille and had been investing the city with a force of 53 battalions of infantry, 90 squadrons of cavalry and over 100 artillery pieces.

Marlborough meanwhile, commanded a force of 69 battalions, 140 squadrons and a few batteries of
artillery, some miles away, blocking any French relief force approaching from the south.

On the 29th of August, two French armies joined at Grammont and marched on Marlborough's
position. On the afternoon of the 4th of September this force came within sight of Marlborough's lines.

The French were not all in position, but still outnumbered the duke by more than two to one.
Both Berwick & Vandome judged it too late in the day to attack and resolved to give battle the
following day, when all their force had arrived.

That night Eugene responded to an urgent request for assistance and twenty-six battalions of infantry and seventy-two squadrons of cavalry arrived from Lille. A further seven battalions of infantry arrived from a position on the Brussels road.

Now the French 125 battalions and 243 squadrons faced 102 battalions and 232 squadrons on the
Allied side. Despite much posturing for nearly two weeks, the French decided little could be achieved
and withdrew, leaving Lille to fall.

Our "what if" battle assumed the French arrived earlier on the 4th September and attacked, with an
urgent request being sent to Eugene at first sight of the enemy.

Chas and Si played the dastardly French (I can't say Si's heart was in it) and myself and Nick took the

Our forward line was anchored on two hamlets and a fortified village, which were garrisoned by infantry.

The main Allied body deployed from the table edge and moved to cover the gaps round the built up

Both side's artillery were soon firing and the Allied infantry in the houses were soon glad of the hard
cover. With few Allied guns available to reply, the casualty count was in favour of the French.

French infantry now joined in with musket fire and a Dutch Guard battalion was starting to suffer.
With everyone but Chas agreeing that cavalry couldn't hope to take on fresh infantry, Chas decided to
throw the manual out of the window and charge the British infantry under Nick with cavalry. Slowly
but surely a full cavalry brigade was fed into the meat grinder, blown away by squadron and
consigned to the casualty roster. It looked like everyone else was right.

Undaunted, Chas charged one of the hamlets, bounced, charged again, routed and moved up a fresh
battalion. Rinse and repeat. You get the idea.

Meanwhile, with Eugene's newly arrived battalions moving up, the Dutch Guard battalion was given a Form" order, put into column of march and looked to get the hell out of Dodge. At this point I saw Si had turned over a "Form" order for the mounted dragoons facing my Dutch Guard. I thought, "He's a bloody mind reader. He is going to form a column to avoid the rough terrain and charge me in the
rear. " Seconds later I realised I had over-thought the situation and breathed a sigh of relief as the
dragoons dismounted to fire on me.

I pulled my cavalry off table, to let Eugene's infantry through.

Now the French charged the large village in the centre, got blown away, went back to shooting and
decided this wasn't much fun either.

With Eugene's men moving into the built up areas, the French conceded and withdrew.

Looks like Vandome and Berwick knew what they were about all those years ago.

Many thanks to Si and Nick for playing in a style that befits gentlemen and to Chas for putting it all

As a first try of version 3 of "Beneath the Lily Banners", things went well, but then I have always liked those rules in their previous incarnations too.

Nice to see all the toys on the table.


Sunday, 15 April 2018

Battle of Lympstone Cross - 896 AD

Yesterday was an opportunity to get the Saxon/Viking collection out on the table for their first game of Dux Bellorum, a rule set I have been ken to play again since my first go with the rules back in November last year, courtesy of Nick and Steve L.

Until you have set up your own game using rules new to you, you only have an image of the game in the minds eye to go by, so I arranged with Mr Steve to bring his collection of Scots & Irish just in case my collection was not enough to cater for our two players aside.

As it turned out the collection was plenty enough to cope and we fielded two forces, just over the standard forces recommended in the rules which gave a thoroughly entertaining game.

I threw down some terrain to recreate the terrain required for the River Battle scenario which in our case re-imagines the little known battle of Lympstone Cross here in East Devon which occurred during 896 AD and the abortive raid by a six ship Viking force that had based itself on the Isle of Wight.

The battle between King Alfred's new navy and the Viking ships in an estuary on the south coast fits very well with the theory that this occurred in the River Exe along the coast that had suffered most heavily form the recent incursions.

Some of the raiders escaped the naval battle and tried to make a break for it over land only to be met by the local Saxon Fyrd on a tributary of the Exe close to the hamlet of Lympstone.

Both sides were eager to get this clash over with (both sides were warrior rather than shield wall) as the Vikings were desperate to escape and the Saxons were eager for revenge with the sound of shields being clattered as the two sides faced off across the shallows and ford.

The Saxon aggression proved the superior of the two forces and their warriors formed up into two distinct groups rapidly pressed forward into the river.

The first warriors to close were met by a hail of arrows, javelins and sling-shot with the first casualties caused. This however had no effect on the closing lines that simply pressed together into the gaps caused by the fallen and pressed on.

As the lines of warriors drew near both sides seemed to release the leash on their men who needed no encouragement to charge in (warriors at three base widths will charge automatically unless restrained with a successful bravery test).

As the two sides ripped into each other the mayhem was only added to as both sides attempted to use their skirmishers to pepper the opposition line looking to add to the hits from the heavy infantry.

Both commands had the option to use their leadership influence to defend against casualties or add to the chances of inflicting them, with the latter option being by far the more popular.

This inevitably led to large gaps appearing on the bases as more and more warriors fell and the inevitable removal of bases.

Added to this was the disruption caused to the neat lines formed by the groups as the fighting swayed too and from over the river, breaking up any neat formations into smaller group fights between opposing troops.

The two lines of warriors happily singing axe and sword gave a really bloody and exciting struggle with the result in the balance right to the end when both sides were facing morale collapse, but with the Viking forces having formed troops closest to the ford still on the battlefield to claim a Pyrrhic victory.

The chaps seemed to really enjoy playing this rule set and with the majority of us new or relatively new to the rules it was great to see the play become more and more intuitive as the sequence and system became more familiar.

The rules are simple without being simplistic and the mechanic of reinforcing the various groups with Leadership Points to influence events in the players favour really adds a lot to those all important player decision moments.

The game plays fast and furious and would be more than capable of handling larger groups of players which is an advantage in a club that likes to bring lots of players to the same table.

We managed to finish this game and play several more rounds of a second game where Mr Steve and myself played two shield wall armies against each other which produces an entirely different game to the one reported.

I even chose the option of constructing a smaller but more combat effective force of Vikings with the maximum amount of Leadership capability to test it out against a more numerous but less effective Saxon line. It was surprising to see how effective a small group of experienced well led Vikings could hold off a larger group of enemy and the grinding battle two shield walls create.

I really like this rule set and can see myself playing them more often and now need to get a bag load of casualty figures to sprinkle around the areas of fighting to better portray the action.

I have put together some more thoughts on these rules on JJ's Wargames together with some ideas on play aids to aid setting up and overseeing the game.

Thanks to Mr Steve in helping to run this little outing and bring along his extra figures and to Jason, Nathan, Bob and Chris for providing a really entertaining game.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Operation Hanswurst: The Raid on the Eastgate Panjandrum Factory

Many thanks to Chas for running a scenario based on the little known 1940 German raid on the "Great Panjandrum" factory.

I was surprised to learn that Hitler had thought the Panjandrum was a war winning weapon and had
dispatched a raiding party to capture an example of the secret weapon or at least one of the scientists that was working on its development.

Early on the morning of 10th October 1940, as sea mist rolled up the beach of the pretty Sussex seaside town of Eastgate, Kriegsmarine sailors and a squad of U-Boat crew approached in assault boats.

Meanwhile gliders swept into the fields behind the town and disgorged 3 sections of elite
Fallschirmjagers, close to the Panjandrum factory.

Near the beach, a group of tourists ignored the warning signs and strayed into the restricted area on
the seafront. At this moment, German sailors leapt from their assault boats and up the beach towards
the wire entanglements at the town end of the beach.

Seeing the gliders approach, members of the Eastgate LDV & Home Guard grabbed their weapons and hurriedly took up defensive positions around the town.

With the town being attacked from two sides the defenders were soon firing at both the beach and the
open fields to the north. The Home Guard Smith gun in an emplacement on the seafront soon cut down a member of the U-boat crew, as a Flame fougasse mine detonated nearby, killing another sailor. At the same time the LDV shot down a couple of Fallschirmjager.

The MP40 armed U-boat crew stormed the Smith Gun's position, throwing stick grenades and spraying the hapless defenders with submachine gun fire. The crew died to a man and the assaulting
Germans took the emplacement, but not before their leader, "Young Chas", fell to a bayonet. His men
looked at the fallen hero, made their "Sh*t Happens" roll and decided they didn't care, as no one liked
the clown anyway.

Meanwhile the Fallschirmjager were getting the worst of exchanges with the LDV men firing from
houses, but pressed on towards the factory.

At the seafront, it became clear the tourists were not all they seemed, as they tampered with the
Flame fougasse nearest the Kriegsmarine attackers.

With the Kriegsmarine squad crossing the wire, a Beaverette armoured car drove along the seafront
road. It cut down two of the "tourists" with machinegun fire, leaving the remaining visitor and his
Dachshund fleeing for their lives.

At the factory, a group of scientists steered two Panjandrum's towards the Fallschirmjager. One of the
secret weapons careered into a German squad and exploded, killing three. including the Corporal.
Another squad of parachutists close assaulted an LDV squad, killing several, but dying to a man in
the process. German morale, started to waver.

With the attack in the balance, LMG fire from the Kriegsmarine raked the front of the Beaverette, but
could make no impression.

With the second Panjandrum approaching, fire from the parachutists cut down three scientists, but the
last one stuck to his task. The Panjandrum rolled into the Fallschirmjager squad and blew up, with
devastating effect.

At this point the attackers could see the writing on the wall and rapidly made their way to the waiting
boats, several men being taken prisoner by jubilant LDV members in the process.

A most entertaining game, played to "Chain of Command" rules.

Many thanks to my fellow German, Andy "Rolling a One Here" Ja and to Nathan and Steve M, who
played the defenders.


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Over the Hill - I Aint Been Shot Mum (IABSM)

6th Royal Scots Fusiliers in action, 26th June 1944, during Operation Epsom, clearing the village of St Manvieu Norrey with the strain of battle obvious on their faces 

One of the games arranged this month was an IABSM scenario produced as a free PDF download by Rich Clarke the author and co-partner of Too Fat Lardies during the early incarnation of the rule set and easily converted to the latest version of the rules

Ian brought along his 15mm collection of WWII Normandy troops and Bob and myself took command of the British and German forces respectively.

The scenario along with others is available to download from the Lardies Yahoo Group, which is well worth joining if you are interested in what I and many of the chaps in the DWG would consider one of the best WWII Company level rule sets available.

The map below lays out the terrain for the game which sees a British infantry company of three platoons supported with a Vickers HMG section and a troop of Shermans tasked with taking Hill 203 at Belle Vue Farm. Their attack is preceded by a good old "stonk" (pre-bombardment) provided by the Royal Artillery.

The German troops defending this sector are a two platoon Panzer Grenadier company from the Hitlerjugend 12th SS Panzer Division supported with a machine gun section, anti-tank platoon and some off table on call 105mm howitzers

The German defenders are able to set up in the hedges in front of the British deployment line marked on the map all the way back to Hill 203.

On June 6th, 1944, as part of the largest amphibious operation the world had ever witnessed, the
British 50th Infantry Division - the Northumbrian - was given the task of assaulting Gold Beach. A
seasoned unit and veteran of the North African campaign, the 50th stormed ashore, and by day’s end
had achieved nearly all of their initial objectives.

But that was two weeks ago, and Allied forces have suffered one setback after another since then.
The Germans have successfully contained the invaders within the beachhead area, having repulsed
every attempt to break out.

But the dawn of a new day brings with it another attempt to break the entrapment. The next big
push - Operation Epsom - is about to begin, but before it can commence, the Allies need to be able
to see “Over the Hill.”

View from the British jump off line with German 'blinds' dotted about the table ahead

It is June 20th, 1944, and you are Captain Roger Roughshaft of the Cheshires, fighting your way through the dense bocage and orchards of Normandy in the face of stiff Jerry resistance.

Ahead of you lies Hill 203, a mere pimple on the face of the French “campagne”, but now of some import. Ferme Belle Vue apparently commands striking views across into the enemy rear, so you and your men must risk life and limb to capture it.

Hill 203 is only accessible by one road, and the bocage means that your supporting armour will be restricted to it. From what your chums have told you, the hill is defended by enemy infantry and AT guns – and they should know, most of ‘em got shot up trying to capture it afore you!

You have persuaded HQ to give you a bit of preliminary bombardment before the show starts. You may allocate three stonks to the table before starting off.

The view from the German held Belle Vue Farm atop Hill 203

It is June 1944, and the Allies have invaded Normandy, set on destroying the great dream of a united Europe. In the Reich all energies are being trained on throwing this enemy back into the Channel in order that the great liberating crusade against bolshevism can continue in the east.

You are Hauptsturmfuhrer Wim van Hemker, commanding a company of the newly raised 12th SS Panzer Division, Hitlerjugend. Two years fighting in the east with Nordland has made you a tough soldier, and you worry for the young volunteers that surround you. Two weeks fighting around Caen has seen you slow down the Allied advance to a snail’s pace, and cause losses that you are sure they cannot endure for long.

Now your Company, reduced to two platoons, is responsible for holding the critical Hill 203. Little more than a ridge, this formerly  insignificant piece of French farmland is now of strategic importance and must be held at all costs. Thus far you have repelled three Tommy attacks. The bocage country in which you are operating limits Tommy armour to a single track that runs up the hill, you will hold firm against any fresh attacks.

Your men are in good spirits, the fresh influx of volunteers have found their feet thanks to the experienced cadre within the group. You may call upon a battery of four 105mm artillery pieces if you require support; Hauptmann von Englers of the 328th Artillery Regiment has been allocated to you to act as a spotter if needed. All artillery will be called in through him. You have no vehicles, all have been withdrawn due to allied air activity.

British artillery fire starts to search out suspected German positions, with hits and shocks recorded on blinds near the farm

With the German positions marked up a amid plenty of dummy positions, the British artillery stonk announced the start of the British attack and needless to say the bulk of fire was directed to the commanding heights of Hill 203 where the German anti-tank gun platoon with its Pak 40 and Panzershreck teams set up in the nearby hedgerows took early shocks and a casualty from the British fire.

The farm with its commanding view of the fields below came in for a good battering from the British guns

Fields close to the farm didn't escape a thorough 'going over' by the 25 lbrs 

The game started with the usual 'cat and mouse' manoeuvring as the opposing blinds attempted to get to the best positions whilst doing their best to spot any likely opposition and get their fire in first.

British blinds indicate a move to infiltrate the left flank of the German positions

The British advance quickly developed and the blinds movement soon indicated a successful infiltration down the left flank of the German positions, using the cover offered by the thick bocage hedgerows that allowed them to build up a strong position to base an attack from once the enemy were spotted.

It was now a question of who would get the drop on who by being able to open up from an advantageous position.

Spotted from the hill a British section breaks cover to sprint to the opposite hedge-row, covered by the other sections

As the ranges between opposing blinds dropped rapidly the first dummies were identified and removed from the table, but inevitably others revealed opposing troops and the first units on to the table started to appear.

Meanwhile the British advance closes in on Ferme Valle

One such are that revealed a Panzergrenadier platoon in occupation was the forward farm at Ferme Valle where the flanking infiltration ha rapidly unhinged the German position but unable to relocate in time the German commander soon realised he had Sherman tanks knocking at the front gate only to find his position suddenly raked from a different direction as Vickers heavy machine-guns opened up from his left flank devastating his command in one fell swoop.

The Battle for Ferme Valle erupts in a hail of Vickers machine-gun fire as German troops are spotted in the vicinity

It is a tribute to the determination of the SS soldiers that the defence didn't collapse in the first fusillade of British fire, but their return fire when it came was feeble due to the shock and casualties sustained with the only real success being a solid Panzerfaust strike to the lead Sherman which began to burn fiercely with no survivors as its ammunition started to 'cook off'.

The tankers revenge was soon in coming as their 75mm HE shells ripped the farm house to pieces killing SS men at the windows and setting the farm house alight with the SS Commander dead among it shattered rafters and smashed walls.

The German defenders are are caught by the rapid flanking move by the British heavy weapons teams

As the British tanks and heavy machine guns pour it on to the farm house other British infantry fire from across the road

The battle for Ferme Valle was over as soon as it started and the surviving SS soldiers attempted to fall back across the field and nearby dried up pond to its rear, but they were not to get very far as British troops and tanks moved in to mop up cutting down any of the SS who showed the slightest resistance.

The German return fire when it comes is limited due to the shock and casualties sustained but they manage to inflict a few casualties and knock out a Sherman that burns on the road by the farm

The battle is over at Ferme Valle and German survivors attempt to escape across the muddy pond to their rear

As the battle lower down the valley erupted, another one commenced soon after as the defenders on the top of Hill 203 started to identify British troops movements to their left with a request sent of to the supporting guns for a mission among the hedgerows to their front.

Despite successive calls for support, the guns were unforthcoming and so the German defenders were forced to resort to other options.

With the battle for the first objective over the British troops move in to mop up and cut down the retreating Germans

The decision to open up with the weapons close at hand was made more easy with the sight of British troops pushing out across the large open field to the their left, supported by carriers.

Meanwhile the British flank advance on Hill 203 is caught in open ground by a hail of machine gun fire and anti-tank shells

As the British troops made a dash for the cover of the next bocage hedge line the carriers were struck by Pak and Panzerschreck shells rapidly reducing two of them to burning wrecks as the troops on foot were subjected to raking fire from the infantry and MG42's set up close to Belle Vue Farm.

SS Panzergrenadiers vainly attempt to get back too the hill top but are cut down by following British infantry

The German attack was damaging, effectively knocking out two sections of British infantry, but leaving the other two able to close in on the hedges lining the left flank of the German position, now threatened by the other unopposed British platoon, supporting heavy machine guns and tanks advance to their right front along the road.

The remaining SS troops prepare to sell themselves dearly as the British advance develops around them

We stopped the game there, but as the German commander, I rather felt the position was becoming untenable leaving the remaining German troops with two options, to either sell themselves dearly atop their hill or to try and cause casualties whilst relinquishing control. Either way was not a good German result.

Any counterattack on the weakened British platoon at best supported by the German artillery when or if it came would likely leave the rest in such a parlous state as to be in a poor condition to resist the follow up British troops with tanks.

This is the first time I had played this particular scenario and I have to say it gave a very good game, posing questions for both sides.

On reflection I might have put my AT assets further forward to try and ambush the tanks early and to have kept my infantry platoons in closer support of one another rather than the spread out in defence in depth as I used in this game. The first fire coming off of a blind on spotted enemy troops can, as we see, be battle turning and the German troops, very often not moving, are at an advantage to getting the drop on their British counterparts.

Bob made very good use of his blinds to rapidly advance through weakly held German areas and thus set up his troops in very advantageous positions when the inevitable spots allowed both sides to open fire.

Thanks to Ian for pulling the game together and to Bob for a very fun fight among the hedgerows.