Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

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ocollens
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Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by ocollens » Wed Nov 22, 2017 8:17 pm

I thought I would try and leven this forum with a bit from the war diary of Squadron A Ist SAS during Operation Houndsworth. It is probably too big and certainly too idiosyncratic to easily be reproduced in COC but it seems to fall into the category of playing the period not the rules. Here goes:

Report on attack on Maquis positions in area (MR 1862, 2062, 1860, 2060), on August 14th 1944 by No. 889974 Corporal BURGESS, H

(All Map References refer to SEMUR sheet 12J FRANCE 1:100,000
Sketch accompanies report).

Gun crew consisted of:-
No. 889974 Lance-Corporal BURGESS in charge
No. ? Lance-Corporal ROBINSON leader
No. 835417 Trooper MADDICKS gun layer
No. ? Trooper THORNTON ammo number
No. ? Trooper THOMAS No. 2 on Bren gun and spare ammo number.

On August 1st 1944 we took up a position (Position B on diagram MR 183608) on a forward slope covering all roads leading into CHALAUX. The gun was hauled into position by 4 oxen. Maquis troops (about 20 men with two Brens) in entrenched position (position B on diagram MR 183611). This position was only manned during the hours of daylight. Maquis troops also had a road block (position D on diagram MR 185603). Observation at this point was limited to about 150 yards owing to the wooded nature of the country and the bends in the road.

Owing to the language difficulty in liaison, a message system in code was adopted, which used altogether about 12 words in French. However, when the time came to use it, the Maquis Commander had forgotten about it.

The roads were named as follows:-
ST MARTIN - CHALAUX (black)
MARIGNY - CHALAUX (white)
MAZIGNAN - CHALAUX (red)
CHALAUX - MAQUIS H.Q. (blue)

My orders were told our fire until ordered to do so by a Maquis officer, or until the Maquis started firing.

On 3rd August, 1944 at 0900 hours an enemy column consisting of 1 DR, 2 Staff cars and 5 Troop carrying trucks with three trailers came along the Black road and halted (position E on diagram MR 187 614). Gun crew took post but no Maquis firing took place. Maquis position at A not yet manned. The enemy strength about 200, debused and advanced up Blue Road in close formation, their transport withdrew to ST. MARTIN. Enemy deployed at position F (MR 189 608). Maquis from position A started firing. Main enemy advance stopped, a few continued until fired on from position D, they withdrew. Maquis in position A now reinforced and opened heavy fire on enemy at F. Enemy set fire to farm (position C on diagram) and concentrated all their fire on A. The gun at B had apparently not yet been seen although Troopers YOUNGER and THOMAS were in action with the Bren.

Two Staff cars now came along Black Road from ST. MARTIN, gun fired one round range 1,000 yards but missed. Both cars immediately withdrew. Enemy Machine Gun now came into action in full view of position F and opened fire on A and B causing two casualties to Maquis. Gun fired two rounds at 700 yards and silenced this position. Enemy started retreating. Gun fired two rounds at a large group of enemy. Troopers YOUNGER and THOMAS continuously in action with Bren. Enemy retreated to CHALAUX and then along White Road until out of range. Time was now 1230 hours.

At about 1400 hours 11 enemy with 1 mortar took up position at J, and fired 1 round. Gun engaged it, range 1,000 yards fired three rounds. 1st round direct hit. I observed three enemy retreating at a fast pace.

At about 1700 hours enemy launched attack from position H. Two enemy mortars came into action near position E. As they were behind a small hillock gun could not engage them. Enemy Machine Gun now came into action in full view at position E, apparently intending to draw our fire so as mortars could reply. We disappointed them however, as gun remained silent. Troopers YOUNGER and THOMAS moved down hill and engaged Machine Gun with the Bren causing him to withdraw.

Attack from position H now developed favourably from enemy's view point. Maquis abandoned position A. At 1930 hours I removed firing mechanism from gun. We camouflaged gun and withdrew to Maquis H.Q. (position I MR 178595). Firing had now died down, so we collected one pair of oxen and retrieved the gun at 2030 hours.

The enemy now broke off action and withdrew taking his casualties with him. Various estimates of enemy casualties were given by the villagers of CHALAUX, ST. MARTIN DU PUYS and MARIGNY and EGLISE, the most sober estimate being 17 killed and wounded. Own casualties nil. Maquis 2 killed and 1 wounded. Rejoined Squadron H.Q. 0530 hours Saturday 15th August 1944.

This report H was given by No. 889974 Corporal BURGESS, H.

Points to ponder:
Crew of 6 pounder - how common to have a Bren team incorporated in gun crew?
Effectiveness of AT gun against soft targets.
Ineffectiveness of German MG teams.
Ditto mortars.

OK report probably a bit over-egged and a pity there is no map. I'd be interested to know what the Jerry unit was but Green would seem to cover them.

JimLeCat
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Re: Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by JimLeCat » Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:07 pm

Thanks for posting that, an entertaining read even without the map!

As to your question about the bren gun, IIRC it was normal for a 6pdr crew to have one, kept in the carrier (remember most 6pdr crews late war were regular infantry trained for the job as part of a battalion, not RA). The drill when limbering and unlimbering if there were no friendly infantry screening them was for the driver or co-driver to dismount and cover the rest of the crew with it while they worked.

Cheers,
Jim

Archdukek
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Re: Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by Archdukek » Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:34 pm

An interesting report.

It does read as if the Germans were second rate troops being committed piecemeal with their LMGs struggling to locate the enemy positions. Some good shooting with HE at what appear to be isolated weapons teams was enough to see them withdraw. I don't get any sense that the Germans heart were in this action. Given the location and date it's probably not that surprising.

If you try searching for Chalaux, France you will find the general location of the action in Burgundy. At least the town names in the area match the report.

John

andysyk
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Re: Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by andysyk » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:26 pm

Most nations had an LMG assigned in the TOE/Establishment to ATG, as noted above for anti infantry defence, they were often deployed and used, a point neglected in most WW2 rulesets.

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Seret
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Re: Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by Seret » Thu Nov 23, 2017 9:29 am

ocollens wrote: Ineffectiveness of German MG teams.
Ditto mortars.
German security units assigned to anti-partisan operations were often low-grade troops (also often not Germans). It's interesting to see the mortars going into action in ones and twos and operating in direct fire at least some of the time. It's possible they're the old 50mm rather than 8cm or 12cm mortars. Obsolete gear like that was seen in rear echelon units right up to the end of the war.

In CoC terms you'd probably rate the Germans as Green, ditto the maquis and the SAS boys as elites.

ocollens
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Re: Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by ocollens » Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:17 pm

Agree mortars were probably 50mm as there there must have been stacks of these in store. A fair number of Poles changed sides during Houndsworth and they were simply incorporated into the Maquis units but these may actually have been Germans.

In war-game terms of course the Germans 'won', the allies left the 'table' having inflicted a disproportionate number of casualties but the SAS were able to get their gun back because the night belonged to the Resistance.
Last edited by ocollens on Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ocollens
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Re: Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by ocollens » Thu Nov 23, 2017 7:27 pm

Thanks for all comments.

Underlines problems of wargaming anti-partisan warfare, I think.

jon1066
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Re: Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by jon1066 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:21 am

I'd make the Maquis regular to reflect better awareness of terrain and ability to "pop up" where required plus better motivation.

In CoC terms I would view that as two (or even three) separate games. Maquis win in the morning (forcing the Germans to withdraw) then the Germans win in the evening.

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Seret
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Re: Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by Seret » Fri Nov 24, 2017 9:33 am

jon1066 wrote:I'd make the Maquis regular to reflect better awareness of terrain and ability to "pop up" where required plus better motivation.
The nice thing about CoC is you've got more than one knob to twiddle.

Green/regular/elite isn't about morale, it's about fieldcraft. I'd definitely leave almost all irregulars as Green, only their most experienced cadres would have had good quality fieldcraft (learned the hard way). If you wanted to reflect some kind of home field advantage in terms of deployment I'd be inclined to do that through tweaking the patrol phase, and/or giving them some special deployment rules (maybe a bit like the Japanese in the jungles with their "ruse"?). Motivation-wise you could either give them a pool of extra command dice to call on or just cancel the force morale penalty for being green.

jon1066
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Re: Corporal Burgess and his Ox-drawn six- pounder, an AAR

Post by jon1066 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:54 pm

Green/regular, covers more than field craft - it also encompasses morale and command and control.

It is also relative. So they may well not be regular compared to some panzer grenadiers but could be considered regular compared to a rear echelon German unit.

Based on the fact that the Maquis had 2 killed and 1 wounded I think making them green would result in way too many casualties.

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