Saturday, 22 August 2015

Falaise Gap - Part III

The "Attack" orders I issued to the units under my command were simple, and effectively amounted to "Move east", through St. Lambert for the units in the north, and over the middle bridge for those in the south; I was determined to avoid the hornets nest of Chambois as much as I could.  In the previous day's play test, the Canadians in St. Lambert had given a very good account of themselves, and prevented any German armour from passing their, while the Poles in Chambois overextended themselves in trying to close off the open plain to their north; we also hadn't figured out the correct way to represent the powerful American artillery support. Knowing this last point would be rectified on the actual day, I was determined to assault St. Lambert with as great as force as possible.

My advance in the north got off to a rocky start, as I hadn't even got within sight of the enemy when Paul successfully rolled for a P-47 flight, which proceeded to take out my SP 20 mm AA platoon, plus a platoon of mounted Panzer Grenadiers.  However, Paul had deployed the Canadians ultra-defensively, with essentially everybody deployed within the village, rather than around it, which meant he essentially gave up the chance of inflicting any casualties as I approached the village, even when my infantry waded across the shoulder-deep river.  As a result, I was able to assault the village pretty well much at leisure: the first assault went in on turn 6, and I had completely cleared both sectors by turn 8.

German troops surrendering to the Canadian South Alberta Regiment in St. Lambert, 19 August 1944. These roles would be reversed the next day in our re-fight.

My southern advance was both more cautious, and less successful.  I attempted to utilise what cover there was as much as I could, but I was in a bit of Scylla and Charybdis situation - the cover was arranged in such a way that the more I minimised my exposure to the artillery spotters in Chambois, the more I exposed myself to the rather numerous 17-pdr-equipped Fireflies and Achilles platoons in its environs (the Poles had more 17-pdr equipped tanks and tank destroyers than I had tanks in total...).  Slowly, but surely, my casualties mounted, and I had almost nothing to show for it in exchange.  The only tank platoons to make it successfully across the bridge were two stands of Panthers, and these were promptly knocked out, one by artillery fire of all things (needing two rolls of 11 or more on two dice; not great odds to be sure, but when you have four full battalions of artillery at your disposal, why not?).

Thus by the end of 6th turn my combined 116th Panzer Division - 12th SS Panzer Division battle group, which together comprised just a single SH "battalion" of 17 stands, had lost 9 stands, including all their armour and mechanised assets, and were forced to retreat with a morale check result of 4.  Bereft of armour, my following up infantry units looked like they were going to have a hard time of it traversing the same route. As a result, Paul decided it was time to block off the southern half of the table completely, by moving his two Polish battalions north.  The 10th Dragoons, a mechanised battalion, drove out of Chambois, on the left (west), while to their east was the 24th Lancers; each had a company of Achilles tank destroyers from the 1st Polish Antitank Battalion in support.

The 24th Lancers move out into the open plain. Excuse the crappy photo - I discovered my camera was broken, and will have to be replaced; this is one of the few pictures I took that was even semi-useful.; most of the rest were just blurs...

In our test game Rhys has similarly decided the Poles should move out into the open, and, spurred by the knowledge he had just two turns' worth of fuel, moved as far out as possible. This left his more western unit rather exposed to attacks from the following up German infantry, which, although without tanks, did have the AT gun and StuG platoons to assist them, so were not entirely helpless at long range.  And so it was great interest that I watched Paul carry out exactly the same manoeuvre...

On the upside (from the Allied point of view), Paul's movement meant my northern Panzer unit, severely weakened from the assault of St Lambert, and which had just begun to move eastwards, would find itself confronted with a mass of armour whose guns covered most of the northern section of the plain, with precious few opportunities to hide. Sure enough, by turn 11, they had taken enough casualties to force a morale check, with however, they passed...

The downside, as Paul soon discovered, was that by moving not only his 24th Lancers as far north as possible, but also his 10th Dragoons, the Dragoons were no longer being effectively supported by the Americans still in Chambois.  My infantry, plus their limited, but effective support units (including one stand of 88s that did sterling service once it had unlimbered by St. Lambert) eventually (on turn 12) eliminated enough units to force a moral check on the Dragoons, which they promptly failed in the most horrible manner, and disintegrated, leaving the 24th Lancers essentially without infantry support, and suddenly very anxious to retreat back from where they came, opening up the route east. If the Dragoons had undertaken a more limited advance, I doubt I could have picked them off in the manner I did.

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