Category Archives: 1944

Advancing with Mr Churchill

With our son down over Christmas we managed a most enjoyable WWII Spearhead game. While time prevents a more in depth look at the game I thought I should at least provide a few photos and supporting captions. It’s been a while since Joel had used his Germans and equally long since I’ve used my British so it was with much anticipation that we set up for a mutual encounter.

I opted for a strong advance in the centre, where a British infantry battalion was supported by two companies of Churchill tanks. My left comprised a further infantry battalion supported by a Churchill company, a heavy machine gun company and a 17pdr battalion. Finally a reserve battalion was held in reserve on the right to either attack on the right or support the centre.

The Germans in contrast opted to secure a long ridge on the German centre right, while sweeping in on the British left, once it was fully committed, with a Panzer battalion equipped with Panthers. Finally a weak Panzer Grenadier battalion would secure a town on the German left.

Above, the British left after a considerable but slow advance across the battlefield. The Churchills on the high ground were to become a significant obstacle to the German flank march which arrived soon after the 17pdr anti-tank guns were deployed. Below, the British left is echeloned back where infantry and additional anti-tank guns were deployed. The battalion comprised 24 stands.

Below, a part of the British centre. The spot height was secured without casualties but German artillery fire drove back the British infantry leaving the Churchills and British artillery to drive back the Stugs and silence the German artillery. The British counter battery fire was particularly effective silencing almost two German artillery battalions.

Below, the general situation with the flank marching German Panther battalion visible in the foreground. British 25pdrs soon disrupted the limited German flak but the Typhoons failed repeatedly to appear.

Instead, the Panthers were engaged by anti-tank guns and Churchills.

Below, and in the centre of the battlefield, Churchills engage German Stugs. With such a heavy concentration of firepower the Germans were reluctant to engage.

Below, another view of the centre and British right. Later as the battle stagnated the German Panzer Grenadier battalion deployed in the town in the top right advanced along the stream to secure another objective. This resulted in the commitment of the British reserve infantry battalion. Under extreme pressure elements of the British centre were redeployed to stabilise the situation. Unfortunately this allowed an attack on the British centre by German infantry supported by Stugs. This attack was only driven off by rocket armed Typhoons who attacked the German infantry!

Below, German Panthers engaged against British infantry armed with PIATs and supported by 17pdrs and 6pdrs. Surprisingly 6pdrs accounting for two Panthers, previously suppressed by the 17pdr anti-tank guns. 

Below, a more general view of the situation on the British left.

Above and below Churchills from the British centre move to support the prolonged engagement with the German Panthers supported by the few surviving Stugs firing from high ground.

Eventually the left and right German battalions broke, though not before breaking the British right, originally 15 stands, and inflicting very heavy casualties on the two large British battalions on the British left and centre. Realising all hope was lost the final German battalion conceded the battlefield. A truely entertaining game!

Crisis at Chemenot

The days of retreat from Normandy were over and by September our valiant forces were once again reforming for offensive action. Flush with reconstituted forces, new equipment and refreshed determination our forces prepared to engaged the Americans in a series of critical battles in the Lorraine. One of the first actions was that around the small town of Chemenot where elements of Lieutenant General Wend von Wietersheim 11th Panzer Division clashed with 377th Infantry Regiment drawn from Major General Harry L. Twaddle’s 95th Infantry Division.

The 1st Battalion of the 4th Panzergrenadier Regiment was by noon well deployed in hasty defensive positions around Chemenot. The defence was centred around woods and a small hill some 500 yards to the west of the town with further detachments a similar distance to the south. The latter being all that held our left flank. The battalion’s right was to be held by the regiment’s 2nd Battalion which was advancing from its forming up position to its defensive position centred on the east end of a long ridge.

Above, 1st Battalion of 4th Panzergrenadier Regiment deployed around Chemenot. Below, 2nd Battalion advances to the right of Chemenot where it will deploy into defensive positions on the Patrounal Ridge and woods.

As a result of these dispositions, and despite a number of key terrain features existing in our area of operations, only two were able to be secured immediately. In contrast the Americans were expected to advance with three reinforced battalion sized formations before unleashing a significant attack on either our relatively undefended left near Chemenot, or our right around Patrounal Ridge.

Lieutenant General Wend von Wietersheim was however clear, holding the Americans was not sufficient. Instead while bolstering the defence he ordered a Kampfgruppe Münchhausen to attack in a wide sweeping flanking action against the enemy right. However, the attack was to be delayed until all American forces were engaged. Then Kampfgruppe Münchhausen would roll up the American forces from south to north. Once in the area of operations speed, Münchhausen was told, was critical.

As the two battalions of the 4th Panzergrenadier Regiment were to engage the enemy, without significant support for some time, they were reinforced with a number of assets. The 1st Battalion, deployed around Chemenot would be supported by a company of Jagdpanthers and a company of Jagdpanzer IVs while 2nd Battalion would be supported by a Stug company. Further, both battalions would be supported by support fires from divisional artillery.

Wietersheim Division had suffered at the hands of the American Jabos too often. As a result he hoped to neutralise their impact them in some way. He believed the deployment of the powerful Jagdpanthers in the central sector, where ample fields of fire existed. Here he believed they would draw the attention of the enemy jabos, possibly reducing the likehood of them being able to interdict his manoeuvre elements.

Soon after 1pm American formations indeed were detected advancing in three battalion sized combat groups in 4th Panzergrenadier Regiment’s sector.

Below, viewed from the north, the town of Chemenot is visible on the left centre while the 2nd Battalion of 4th Panzer Regiment advances in the left foreground, from the east, towards its defensive position on the east of the long Patrounal ridge. On the right three American battalions can be seen advancing towards three key positions. One American battalion is not yet fully visible in the right foreground. These immediate American objectives are the central ridge as well as the two villages north and south of the ridge. The village of Patrounal is in the foreground, at the base of the Patrounal ridge. That in the top right is the village of Ossé.

Below, the American 1/377th Battalion as it advances towards Patrounal supported by a company of Sherman’s from 738th Tank Battalion.

It was however in the centre where the forces first clashed. Here the 2/377th Infantry Battalion advanced astride a small ridge. On the south infantry supported by M-10 Tank destroyers provide flank protection while infantry, supported by the battalions heavy weapons company, advanced on the north of the ridge.

The advancing M-10s were soon engaged by an advanced Jagdpanzer IV platoon firing from a spot height while German infantry manoeuvred to a reverse slope position on the ridge line. It was hoped that such a position would force the advancing Americans to deploy early so they could be engaged by long range fire from the Jagdpanthers.

Above, the advanced Jagdpanzers engage the American centre. Visible in the top left the 3/377th Battalion which has just secured the village of Ossé. The German left is visible in the left foreground and comprised only three platoons. An attack by the American 3rd Battalion against the German left would have been difficult to withstand.

As the accurate fire by the Jagdpanzers halted the M-10 advance the American advance in the centre now switched to that by the infantry supported by artillery, heavy machine guns and Jabos.

Above and below American Jabos are committed in unceasing attacks. The deployment of the Jagdpanthers in woods, supported by limited AA, reduced vehicle casualties but the rocket armed Jabos caused a number of casualties amongst the German infantry. This in turn made the German Jagdpanthers susceptible to infantry attacks.

While the desperate battle in the centre developed, on the German right flank where the 2nd Panzergrenadier Battalion was subjected to a sustained and concentrated attack by two American battalions. The 1/377th, having secured Patrounal advanced down the Patrounal ridge while elements of the 738th Tank Battalion conducted a limited flanking movement.

Above the American flanking action arrives. It was intended to catch any advancing Germans in the flank but instead caused initial confusion among advancing American 1/377th Infantry Battalion. Soon however it reoriented and advanced through the woods as can be seen below.

Both the German centre and right flank were now heavily engaged and were fighting desperately to maintain their defensive positions. However it was now the Kampfgruppe Münchhausen entered the battle area behind the American right flank.

Advancing at speed Münchhausen’s Panzers and Panzergrenadiers raced forward while the Americans desperately tried to face this unexpected threat so far from any objectives. While some Panzers overran mortars, HQs and anti-tank guns others aided by Panzergrenadiers engaged M-10 Tank destroyers and infantry. Then with the American 3/377th battalion all but destroyed as a fighting force, though still holding the village of Ossé, Münchhausen order the advance to continue while support units completed the mopping up.

Above elements of Kampfgruppe Münchhausen engages the 3/377th around Ossé while below advanced elements have already seized their next objective in the American centre. From here Münchhausen would press further north to Patrounal Ridge.

Yet despite such a rapid movement events have overtaken Münchhausen. Ever growing casualties had resulted in both Panzergrenadier battalions breaking, simultaneously with their American attackers! The butchers bill was indeed terrible with two German battalions and three American battalions combat ineffective.

The scenario was developed using the Scenario System. Each player used an Attack List. The scenario provided the Americans a free Option A while the German commander selected an Option B despite the significant victory point penalty. At the conclusion of the engagement the Germans held two objectives for four points. They gained a further six points for casualties on American battalions, less three points for their reinforcement option giving them a total of seven points. In contrast the American held three objectives, though Ossé was contested, providing five victory points. They inflicted crippling casualties on two German battalions providing a further four points. This provided the Americans a total of nine victory points and a winning draw in what was another fascinating game.

Götz von Berlichingen – Advance!

The American 5th Infantry Division had returned to the line on the 9th of November 1944 when where they took up defensive positions. The 2nd Infantry Regiment was the most advanced Regiment of the division and took up positions around four village areas. Indications were that to the front was 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division Götz von Berlichingen.

The American regimental commander deployed 1st Battalion forward holding a town and woods to the regiments front. These troops were well positioned to disrupt any German counter attack. Behind 1st Battalion, 2nd Battalion provided a strong second line while a reinforced company was oriented north to protect the likely direction that a German flank attack would come from. Below, the 1st Battalion sector from the northeast. The 2nd Battalion reinforces the position with supporting dispositions.

The American 3rd Battalion was deployed to the right of 1st Battalion taking advantage of high ground and wooded slopes provided advantageous positions for screening the regiments flank. A platoon sized team secured a small village on the right rear, near which divisional mortars were placed. Each battalion was supported by an understrength company of M-36 Jacksons. Two artillery battalions were on call, as was the usual American aircraft.

Above, the area of operations viewed from the north. American 1st & 2nd Battalions are in the foreground, while the 3rd Battalion is in the top left.

To the east elements of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division under command of SS-Standartenführer Gustav Mertsch was forming for a hasty attack. Mertsch allocated 37th Panzer Grenadier Regiment for the operation and reinforced it with a Kampfgruppe built around surviving elements of the divisional Panzerjäger battalion and reconnaissance battalions. SS-Obersturmbannführer Hans Lingner would command the attack which would be directly supported by two 105mm artillery battalions and a werfer battalion. Finally a 150mm artillery battalion was allocated for counter-battery fire.

Reconnaisance prior to the attack had built up a general picture of the American positions, which comprised three battalions in the sector with greater strength to the American left. However, the exact positions of American forces was unclear. Lingner determined to launch a phased operation, with each attack going in silent. First to move was his 1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion which moved over open ground towards a short wooded ridge behind a village. This was the battalions first objective. To the left a small but steep hill providing excellent visibility was to be secured and was clearly an important objective. With 1st Battalion advancing and approaching the likely enemy positions the 2nd Panzer Grenadier Battalion moved forward to the right of 1st Battalion. 2nd Battalion was tasked with supporting 1st Battalion’s attack, if needed, and securing a village. The battalions were then go into defensive positions. 3rd Panzer Grenadier Battalion was further to the right and held back in reserve to act as a follow-on battalion. As 1st and 2nd Battalions engaged the enemy right the Panzerjäger Kampfgruppe, Kampfgruppe Wahl, was to conduct a swift deep flanking movement against the unprotected in the American right. It was critical this battalion was to advance with speed and break into the rear areas. As this attack developed 1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion would support by moving against the now exposed American right flank.

In this aerial photograph above the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 37th Panzer Grenadier Regiment are seen to be advancing in the top left.

Above, the 1st Panzer Grenadier Battalion secures a small village while their objectives, a steep hill in the front and enemy positions on the wooded hill to the right are visible. Below, a view from 2nd Panzer Grenadier Battalion as it advances to the right of 1st Battalion. American infantry and tank destroyers have engaged 1st Battalion. In the following turn German Nebelwerfers and 105mm artillery saturate the American position forcing the survivors to retire.

In the following turn German Nebelwerfers and 105mm artillery saturate the American position forcing the survivors to retire. The Panzer Grenadiers of 1st Battalion now advanced seizing the wooded ridge and engaging the retiring American survivors with small arms and in the case of the retiring tank destroyers with Panzerfausts.

American 155mm artillery now joined in firing at the advancing infantry, the resulting suppressions visible above, top left. This was met by counter-battery fires by German 150mm guns firing at extreme range. Despite locating the American artillery quickly the counter-battery fires were frustrating ineffective, continually suppressing rather than destroying the American artillery. Also visible above in the foreground are German trucks towing Pak 40 anti-tank guns. These were allocated to each Panzer Grenadier battalion for possible use against American counter-attacks.

It was at this time that the flanking action by the Kampfgruppe Wahl entered. Divided in to two groups, in an effort to navigate the dense terrain on the American right, the unit moved rapidly forward.

The Kampfgruppe comprised 28 Stugs and was supported by a company of Panzer Grenadiers in 250/1s halftracks, a number of Sdkfz 250/9 reconnaissance halftracks and two sections of quad 20mm flak vehicles. They can be seen above advancing on the right rear of the American position. The village was found to be held by a single American platoon. Beyond the village was an American 106mm mortar battalion which was overrun by the advancing troops.

Above, the view from the American mortar battalion position as Stugs advance. These Stugs are the less effective L/43 version pulled into service by the division from serveral reserve and training formations to supplement the division’s limited armoured units.

Below, the general situation with Panzer Grenadiers attacking the American 3rd Battalion from the front while the  Kampfgruppe Wahl advances on the rear.

As the German Kampfgruppe Wahl advanced through the rear areas they came under a series of Jabo attacks. The first, shown below, was ineffective due to well placed 20mm flak. The second however was delivered after the flak had been neutralised and resulted in a number of destroyed Stugs. Below, Jabos deliver an attack run, a Sdkfz 250/9 is visible in the foreground.

Above, Jabos deliver the first attack run, a Sdkfz 250/9 is visible in the foreground. Below, another attack targets on another group of Stugs.

The Kampfgruppe Wahl had now advanced deep behind the American position but had now become dangerously outstretched. Obersturmbannführer Lingner had issued several order changes.

1st Panzer Grenadiers had been issued follow on orders which was to see them push into the second line of the American 3rd Battalion. However a lack of artillery support delayed the attack. Until the attack finally went in the American battalion retained a strong blocking position. Finally, when the American 3rd Battalion broke in route the Panzer Grenadiers were now unable to support the Kampfgruppe Wahl as planned.

Further, the 2nd Panzer Grenadier Battalion was taking heavy casualties from elements of the American 1st Battalion, especially direct support fires by tank destroyers, and finally a platoon counterattack by anti-aircraft half tracks. There position risked being comprised and with German casualties rising quickly Lingner had no choice but to commit his 3rd Panzer Grenadier battalion, visible below in the foreground, in an effort to maintain momentum.

Above, foreground 3rd Panzer Grenadiers advance in support of 2nd Panzer Grenadier. Top left Stugs of Kampfgruppe Wahl are  engaged in an exchange with tank destroyers supporting the 2nd American Battalion. Portions of the battalion had relocated east facing positions to face south to slow the German flank attack. American artillery has fired smoke to isolate portions of the Kampfgruppe Wahl so the outnumbered Americans can concentrate their fire. In the centre American M16 halftracks conduct a company sized local counter-attack to apply pressure on the 2nd Panzer Grenadier Battalion, which was near breaking. This couster-attack was driven back by hastily deployed Pak-40 anti-tank guns.

With casualties mounting, fading light and the momentum of the attack clearly lost, Lingner now called his attack off. Casualties on the Kampfgruppe Wahl had been heavy and while the morale was high the commander was unable to advance further. 2nd Panzer Grenadier had suffered heavy casualties and further operations would have been unwise. Three objectives had however been secured and one American battalion shattered. The 37th Panzer Grenadier Regiment had acquitted itself well, though the crushing victory so needed, remained elusive.

The scenario  was developed using the Scenario Generation System and involved a hasty attack by the Germans who reinforced their attack with an Option A, the werfer battalion. By the end of the game three objectives had been secured while the Panzerjäger battalion had been forced to check morale. The Americans had also taken an Option A reinforcement, a 155mm artillery battalion. They retained two objectives but had lost one battalion, it had been forced to test morale twice. The result was therefore a winning 7-5 draw to the Germans.

Franvielle Ridge – 1944

After the relative success of the previous day the commander of 11th Panzer Division, Generalleutnant Wend von Weitersheim ordered urgent reinforcement and replenishment of the advanced Kampfgruppes of the division, now under command of Oberstleutnant Kirchner. By noon of the following day Kirchner’s Kampfgruppes were on the move preparing to exploit the tactical situation, which was now fluid. Weitersheim however advised Oberstleutnant Kirchner that the Tiger company that had been available previously was withdrawn from his command for employment elsewhere.

The tactical situation and Kirchner’s command objectives for the 14th can be outlined generally as follows. In front was the 2nd Infantry Regiment from the US 5th Infantry Division. An advanced American infantry battalion was 2400 yards from the regiment’s start lines and deployed in various woods forward of the Franvielle Ridge some 1000 yards in length. To the American right a small hill further dominated a relatively open plain between it and the German start lines. These two positions would be the final objectives of 11th Panzer. Kirchner expected American forces to consist of an infantry regiment of three battalions supported by M36 tank destroyers and an unknown number of Sherman tanks. These forces were expected to advance through the deployed battalion towards the German lines. In the process they would attempt to secure high ground on the German left, and a tactically important bridge in the German centre. This would secure four of the five objectives. Kirchner did not believe the small village on the German right would significantly influence American planning. He therefore determined to hold two objectives, possibly three, while conducting a deep flanking movement to attack the advancing Americans from the flank and rear. By noon the various forces were in motion.
  

Above, the general area with German forces advancing from the left and Americans from the right. German initial objectives were a village (left foreground), a bridge (centre left) and a ridge (top left). American initial objectives are a the Franvielle Ridge (centre right) and a hill (top right).

On the right flank KG Richter, comprising dismounted grenadiers and ten Jagdpanzers, advanced rapidly to secure the first of two small villages. Kirchner deployed his Regimental HQ with this Kampfgruppe to maintain tactical flexibility. After securing the first objective elements of the KG Richter moved forward and left to secure a bridge towards the German centre. The Kampfgruppe now went into a defensive posture while the plan unfolded elsewhere.

Above, KG Richter advances. The first objective, a small town has been secured. Elements of the Kampfgruppe will soon swing left to secure the bridge while Jadgpanzers take up over watch positions, shown below.

Simultaneously KG Coblenz advanced to secure the high ground on the German left. This Kampfgruppe was based around a battalion of grenadiers who advanced on foot supported by some 15 Stugs. Like the previous Kampfgruppe it was supported by an artillery battalion some distance to the rear. The Stugs were to secure the high ground and provide over watch for any further advances. Unfortunately one Stug platoon was decimated by long range fire from M36s deployed in a wood firing at extreme range as it moved onto high ground.

Above, KG Coblenz secures its initial objectives. The Stug on the extreme left was spotted advancing on to an area of rising ground and later eliminated by long range fire by M36 tank destroyers drawn from the 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion. The Stugs on the two contour hill were not located and dominated the plain in front. American infantry from the 2nd Battalion are advancing on the left and centre screened by light recon elements. American infantry from the centre to the right are from the 1st Battalion and were deployed forward prior to the battle.

Two hours after the advance began three of the Regiment’s objectives had been secured and the burden of attack had theoretically moved to the Americans. Yet the American commander, Col. A. Worrell Roffe, seemed hesitant. Of the expected American battalions were in the area only one was moving forward and this was behind a screen of recon vehicles. This is when KG Foelkersam was unleashed. The Kampfgruppe, comprising some 40 PzIVs a company of grenadiers in half tracks and various recon elements, arrived to the American right flank.

Advancing in a deep flanking movement KG Foelkersam was to move rapidly into the American rear, over running American infantry in the open and generally bypassing those in woods. The arrival of the Kampfgruppe caused chaotic scenes on the American right flank as the panzers advanced. However, the friction of combat slowed the advance. Some platoons became bogged down in firefights with enemy infantry while others pushed forward into the enemy rear areas. American armour near the Franvielle Ridge were now ordered to the right to halt the rampaging panzers. Further, a third American infantry battalion was moved from reserve to form a hasty blocking force. KG Foelkersam was now engaged with, or soon would be, elements of three battalions.

To reinforce the attack Kirchner ordered his other formations forward.

Above, American armour are ordered to the right flank. The column is led by several 76mm Sherman Jumbos which halted the Panzers, yet were themselves unwilling to advance.

On the German left the dismounted grenadiers of KG Coblenz, supported by Stugs advanced to provide direct support. While some progress was made the battalion was to suffer heavy casualties by artillery fires by 155mm artillery. Before the attack could effectively support the Panzers of KG Foelkersam the grenadiers were forced to retire. At the same time, facing heavy opposition KG Foelkersam refocused its efforts. Manoeuvring, it disengaged from combat with American Shermans, the under strength 737th Tank Battalion which contained several Jumbo Shermans, deployed on tanks Franvielle Ridge to destroying elements of the American infantry on the extreme left. Unfortunately lacking artillery and only limited infantry this was a difficult task.

On the German right KG Richter also advanced. Sweeping wide it advanced on the Franvielle Ridge from the American left. In this movement several grenadier platoons were subjected to American artillery strikes causing heavy casualties.

A member of the Jadgpanzer company describes the action. “We bypassed the woods and pressed on…Suddenly we saw movement ahead. The Panzers angled to the left and one fired its main armament…The artillery fire became stronger. Then there was a new tone in the explosions – a harder, drier whipcrack. Two shells exploded in front of our tank…A tank was knocked out in front of us…It was almost a relief when we were hit ourselves…When the smoke cleared I saw that my hatch was gone.”

Despite the artillery fire, and direct fire of American tank destroyers, advanced elements of the Kampfgruppe were soon within 700 yards of the Franvielle Ridge, as shown below. Again the Germans had flanked the American positions.

As a result the American commander was again forced to react, switching his armour from his right to the left and organising a scratch company to provide protection for divisional mortars that were at risk of being overrun. Prisoners later indicated this attack caused great concern to the Americans.

Alas, darkness had once again intervened as both commanders accepted a stalemate existed. Yet again 11th Panzer had failed to gain the significant breakthrough desired.

The scenario was an “Advance to Contact” developed using the Scenario Generation System. American forces, commanded by Jim, comprised 650 points with one battalion deployed on table. The Germans, commanded by myself, comprised a 650 point force reinforced by a free 50 point Option A. At the end of play the result was a 6-6 draw. The Americans held two objectives and had forced one German battalion to test morale. The Germans held three objectives but had caused no American battalions to test morale. No objectives were contested.