Platoon Sergeant Bouldermeir lit what remained of his cigar, exhaled and spat a stream of tobacco juice across the road. Just 24 hours since they landed on that crazy beach and marched past the dead and mangled bodies before heading up a valley towards a small and somewhat damaged French village. A lot had happened in that day.
The march inland had been noteworthy for the constant interruptions by seemingly random small arms fire. Sometimes it could have been the Germans, but most of the time the Sergeant suspected it was nervous troops jumping at shadows. Crazy Goddam bastards!
Bouldermeir’s Platoon had been far to the rear of the column when the attack went in on the small village of La Cambe. He’d seen the mangled remains of the Sherman which, he presumed, had led the attack. He’d also seen the four German 88m guns in their dug-outs which had been cleared as the advance through the village progressed. What had been worse was the wreckage of four tanks and the pile of corpses left by an attack by Allied aircraft. His Lieutenant had thrown orange smoke grenades to show that the column of men on the road was friendly, but the planes with the broad black and white stripes on their wings had not ceased their attacks. In the end the Sergeant had leapt onto the back of a Sherman and fired its AAMG until the barrel glowed with heat and, at last, the friendly planes soared away. Goddam bastards. They’d killed more men that the Germans at La Cambe!
The next place the enemy had been contacted was so small that it wasn’t marked on the 1:50,000 map which sergeant Bouldermeir carried. Lieutenant Taylor, whose map was more detailed, told him it was called Arthenay. What was certain was that the first attack had been driven back, a Sherman exploding and burning to the South of the road, hit by some mobile 88’s off to the South. A concerted barrage followed up by a rapid advance saw the men of the 2nd battalion punch hard, only to find that the enemy has slipped away after causing a few casualties. Goddam bastards. Why would nobody fight fair?
Now the Sergeant led his platoon forward into a small orchard to the South of the main road. With the mobile 88’s on their flank the 29th couldn’t push forward until they had cleared the threat. The village of St Germain du Pert was marked on Bouldermeir’s map, but he hardly needed it. He could see the imposing shape of the church dominating the cluster of buildings around it. Now he was going to show the Goddam bastard Germans who was boss. Nobody messed with Bart Bouldermeir!
The Sergeant looked across to the right. He could see the church dominating the horizon. Here the hedge ended and any further penetration around the enemy’s flank would take him into open fields. It was a risk. If he kept pushing he could pull the enemy into directions, attacking both from the North and the East, but in doing so he would risk being spotted in the open and simply shot down…
..it was a risk. What kind of men were the Germans he was facing? Pretty shook up Goddam bastards he guessed. Maybe men appearing off on their flank would persuade them to withdraw. The Sergeant pushed on.
There was movement up ahead. Bouldermeir was certain of it.
“Kowalski, Shultz, scout up ahead, see if we can locate those SOBs!”
The two scouts slipped through the hedge.
No sooner were the two men through the hedge than a hail of bullets met them. Kowalski went down, Shultz turned and ran.
“Sergeant Collins, get your squad on that hedgeline! Amis, take your men round onto the flank. We’ll give these Goddam bastard Krauts something to remember us by!”
Moments later his first squad were on the hedgeline and putting down fire. Bouldermeir was glad of the additional BARs he had picked up on Omaha. They gave the squad a real punch. A minute or so later fire could be heard across on the left; it was Sergeant Amis and his squad. The Krauts were caught in a crossfire! Moments later the Germans could be seen pulling back into the churchyard and Amis could be heard ordering his men forward. So far, so good.
The crunch of a difficult gear change heralded the arrival of German armour. They’d known it was there. The Colonel had said it was mobile 88’s, whatever the Sam Hill they were. Now one was coming towards them.
“Sure glad to see you boys” Sergeant Bouldermeir called to the lead tank commander.
“No problem Sergeant. We’ll give you some support. If you can flush out the Germans so we can see their fire, we can take them out!”
“Sergeant Amis is down!” the cry came from somewhere. Through his field glasses Sergeant Bouldermeir could see his squad leader being dragged to the relative safety of a hedgeline.
At that moment, a second German squad appeared in the next field, clearly intent on cutting off the retreating party.
But deploying under the guns of two Shermans was a disaster. Amis’ men fell back from their hedge and the tankers pumped shell after shell into the newly exposed German position.
The crash of a heavy gun firing echoed from the trees and Norman buildings, followed a split second later by the sound of its ricocheting of the turret of the nearest Sherman.
“Get that Goddam bastard bazooka up there! And I mean NOW!!!”
As he walked down the main street in St Germain du Pert, Sergeant Bart Bouldermeir could see that the Germans had been hit hard. Twenty men lay dead or wounded, the latter now prisoners and being treated by US medics. The Marder was still burning, whilst the StuG had been abandoned. What was left of the force had been observed crossing a causeway through the inundated area to the South. He had won his first battle.
This was the fourth battle in our 29 Let’s Go! campaign, and what an interesting game it was. Quite how the Americans won it is beyond me as they, frankly, pushed way too deep in the patrol phase and were left with all of their flanking jump-off points exposed and completely in the open. They did succeed in pushing two of the German jump-off points out into no-mans-land, but that still left the enemy two in the village itself; more than adequate in such a small village. As it was, the squad that did deploy there, under Sergeant Amis, suffered significant casualties (7 men out of 12) as it attempted to get to cover.
The Germans made a couple of key decisions which, I felt, contributed to their downfall. Firstly, opening fire against an enemy two man patrol at long range may well result in those two men being killed or driven off, but in doing that you show your position and allow the enemy to manoeuvre against you. In this instance it resulted in the single German squad facing two US squads, one of which was enfilading it from the flank. It is FAR more effective to leave your troops off table until you at least have an enemy at close range.
Secondly, and more critically, the failure of the Germans to close down the jump-off points on their extreme right was a match loser. The US jump-off points there were not just in the open, they were also out of the line of sight of their jump-off points on the northern edge and, as a result, entirely unsupportable. Had the following plan been implemented from the outset, I cannot envisage a situation in which the US player could have not withdrawn and been obliged to fight this action twice. Bear in mind the only German objective is to delay the US player by slowing him down, forcing him to fight certain actions twice, that would seem a more appropriate option.
With one squad and the panzerschreck on the church covering the Northern table entry points, the Germans could have allocated both AFVs and two squads of infantry to seizing the three jump-off points on their flank. Placing one of those squads on overwatch in the garden, as shown, would have placed the US player in an impossible position. He’d have either been obliged to defend the jump off points by deploying into the open (and be gunned down), or surrendered them in order to conserve his force and seen his force morale plummet. To intervene from the North, the US player would have to cross the open ground to a position on the hedgeline marked “A”, and that appears to be a tall task when compared with taking out three such closely deployed jump-off points almost behind your own lines. Thee jump-off points lost is a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 force morale points lost. No force can realistically lose 4 or 5 points and still push on. Especially as the US force began the game with a Force Morale of 8.
Such a course of action would accurately reflect the Germans counter attacking locally to drive off a potential counter attack and securing their own perimeter. In reality, having the positions you have chosen as the jump off points for your attack so comprehensively retaken would oblige any attacker to withdraw and rethink his plan. And that is what could have happened here. As it is, the US player won a very simple victory and is ready to continue the push on to Isigny. Quite how this will affect the morale of the main German force, currently falling back to Osmanville where the hoped to have some time to dig in, we will have to find out. Unfortunately for them “Pop” Goode, the US commander, is almost feeling vaguely positive, so there will be no delays there either.
Here on Lard Island we have just about recovered from our fantastic weekend of gaming in Antwerp with the Tin Soldiers at what really is the premier wargaming event on our calendar. To top off a great day on Saturday Dux Britanniarum won the award for the best participation game of the show, a great