Posted by: T.A.G. | 12/05/2018

10mm WW2 – British Churchill Tanks

I have just completed a troop of Churchill tanks. The Churchill was an Infantry Tank as opposed to a Cruiser Tank, which means it was intended to support infantry rather than fight a war of manoeuvre. The British army’s doctrine, based on the lessons of trench warfare during WW1, was that infantry would be supported by infantry tanks as they advanced through the expanse of no-man’s land between two trench systems, the tanks then helping to create a breakthrough that the faster cruiser tanks could exploit.

In North West Europe in 1944 and 1945, several variants of the Churchill were utilised. Monty initially did not want the 75mm gun in Normandy (because of the logistic implications) and so the Churchill Mk IV, fitted with a 6-pounder main gun, was the primary variant used in the battle for Normandy. However, production of the Mk IV had ceased and the new, up-armoured and 75mm-armed Mk VII was rolling off the production lines so Churchill units operated a mixture of variants as the Mk IV losses were replaced by Mk VIIs. Each squadron also deployed two Mk V CS variants fitted with the 95mm howitzer for close support (these laid down smoke screens to cover manoeuvring squadron vehicles or fired HE shells to counteract German anti-tank guns). Later in the campaign, Mk VIII CS vehicles began to supersede the Mk Vs (the Mk V was a converted Mk IV whilst the Mk VIII was a CS conversion of the Mk VII).

Leaving aside “Hobart’s funnies” within 79th Armoured Division, Churchills were always deployed into Independent Army Tank Brigades, of which there were three in North West Europe. Each Army Tank Brigade comprised three Churchill regiments usually armed with Mk IVs, Vs, VIIs and VIIIs although one regiment was armed with Churchill Crocodile flamethrower tanks (by VE day, two regiments within a single Army Tank Brigade were equipped with Crocodiles). Regiments comprised three squadrons and a headquarters. Each squadron had five troops of three tanks plus a headquarters that included two 95mm close support vehicles.

The Independent Army Tank Brigades, which should not be confused with the Sherman-equipped Independent Armoured Brigades, were allocated to infantry divisions. Where an infantry division had an Independent Tank Brigade attached, its three infantry brigades would each be allocated one of the Brigade’s three available Churchill regiments and, thus, each battalion within an infantry brigade would be supported by a squadron of Churchills.

My WW2 British collection, which is based around an infantry battalion, will eventually contain a Churchill squadron of 18 vehicles, mostly Mk IVs but with two Mk V CS vehicles in squadron headquarters and three Mk VIIs in amongst the Mk IVs to simulate replacement vehicles. The pictures below are of a troop of three Mk IV Churchills.

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Posted by: T.A.G. | 06/05/2018

Crossfire WW2 – The Soviets Attack Part 2

Being the German player, I deployed my forces using hidden marker cards. As well as combat elements, I also deployed, for the first time under the Crossfire rules, 3 minefields. Soviet forces were shared between two players who worked out their strategy whilst I placed my hidden marker cards.

As the attacking side, the Soviets had the first initiative so moved first and, because the scenario permitted both sides to deploy on table, very quickly came under fire. Despite the Soviets’ best efforts to mask their advance behind smokescreens, the Germans caught a Soviet platoon moving in the open, suppressing one of its sections which gave the Germans the initiative. Immediately an observer with line of sight to that Soviet platoon dropped indirect fire onto it and, effectively, took it out of the game. However, once the initiative switched back to the Soviet players, their mortars and guns quickly returned the favour, making life awkward for several German units.

The Soviets simultaneously attacked both German flanks, applying heavy pressure. The German right flank held up very well, inflicted seriously heavy casualties on the Soviet infantry company engaging it but relentless pressure from reinforcements, T34 tanks and artillery meant that attrition was high and the Soviets steadily gained ground.

The attack against the German left flank was a little more cautious but then, in a frantic burst of action, it sprang forward and overwhelmed the German defenders, despite encountering one of the German minefields in the final assault.

The game surfaced several lessons. Scenarios need to be more frugal with indirect fire forces (this battle was fought almost exclusively behind smokescreens laid by Soviet mortars and artillery pieces) and maybe place restrictions on the amount of smoke rounds available. Terrain design is crucial if the game is to ebb and flow (and not be a walkover for one side or the other); it should make the players think constantly about sight lines during deployment and movement and force them to make choices between achieving objectives and exposing their forces to hostile fire. During deployment, the defending player also needs to consider how he might pull back forces without them being forced to make a suicidal break for the cover of a new position if their current position becomes outflanked.

A fun game and a social event, this game delivered a good tussle whilst enabling us to further explore the rules and begin to appreciate more of their subtle nuances.

The photos below show aspects of the battle.

Next post: Churchill Mark IV Infantry Tanks

T.A.G.

Posted by: T.A.G. | 29/04/2018

Crossfire WW2 – The Soviets Attack Part 1

The latest WW2 Crossfire game was an Eastern Front contest between German and Soviet forces. It was loosely based around the Soviet Union’s Operation Bagration offensive of 1944. Operation Bagration spanned the entire length of Europe from the Baltic sea in the north to the Balkans in the south. I chose to set this game in the northern sector where the Soviet objective was to reach the coast near the key port of Riga and cut the lines of supply, communication and retreat of Germany’s Army Group North. Historically, the Soviets achieved this by cutting the road from Kaunus to Daugavpils.

The forces selected to be used in the scenario were heavily constrained by the figures and models that were table ready.

The German order of battle was:

2nd Battalion, 405th Infantry Regiment, 121st Division

Battalion HQ (regular)

BC (+1)

Infantry section x 1

5th and 6th Companies (regular), each

Company HQ

CC (+2) x 1

Sniper x 2

Panzerfaust x 6 (must be attached to infantry sections within the company’s platoons)

1st Platoon

PC (+2) x 1

Infantry section x 3

2nd and 3rd Platoons, each

PC (+1) x 1

Infantry section x 3

Attached from 8th (Heavy) Company

HMG x 2

8th (Heavy) Company (regular)

8cm Mortar Platoon

1st Mortar Section

FO (12 FMs) x 1

8cm mortar x 2

2nd Mortar Section

FO (12 FMs) x 1

8cm mortar x 2

 

Forces Attached to 2nd Battalion, 405th Infantry Regiment, 121st Division

7.5cm Infantry Gun Platoon, 13th (Infantry Gun) Company, 407th Regiment, 121st Division

FO (12 FMs) x 1

7.5cm IG x 1

Light Howitzer Battery, 1st Battalion, 121st Artillery Regiment, 121st Division

1st Howitzer Section

FO (3 FMs) x 1

10.5cm howitzer x 4

2nd Howitzer Section

FO (3 FMs) x 1

10.5cm howitzer x 4

PaK40 AT Gun Platoon, Independent Panzerjager Battalion, XXXVIII Korps (regular)

PaK40 ATG x 2

Truck x 2

 

The Soviet order of battle was:

1372nd Rifle Regiment, 417th Rifle Division, LXIII Corps, 51st Army, 1st Baltic Front

1st Rifle Battalion, 1372nd Rifle Regiment

Battalion HQ (regular)

BC (+1)

Sniper x 2

1st, 2nd and 3rd Rifle Companies (regular), each

Company HQ

CC (+1) x 1

Sniper x 2

MMG x 1

50mm mortar x 1

1st, 2nd and 3rd Platoons, each

PC (+1) x 1

Infantry section x 3

82mm Mortar Company (regular)

82mm Mortar Platoon

1st Mortar Section

FO (12 FMs) (regular) x 1

82mm mortar x 2

2nd Mortar Section

FO (12 FMs) (regular) x 1

82mm mortar x 2

HMG Company (regular)

HMG Platoon

Platoon HQ

PC (+1) x 1

1st HMG Section

HMG x 2

2nd HMG Section

HMG x 2

 

1372nd Rifle Regiment Troops Attached to 1st Rife Battalion, 1372nd Rifle Regiment

120mm Mortar Battery, 1372nd Rifle Regiment, 417th Rifle Division, 51st Army

120mm Mortar Platoon

FO (12 FMs) (regular) x 1

120mm mortar x 3

76mm Infantry Gun Battery, 1372nd Rifle Regiment, 417th Rifle Division, 51st Army

76mm Infantry Gun Platoon x 2, each:

FO (12 FMs) (regular) x 1

76mm infantry gun x 1

Anti-tank Gun Battery, 1372nd Rifle Regiment, 417th Rifle Division, 51st Army

ATG Platoon

57mm ATG x 2

Truck x 2

 

Higher Command Troops Attached to 1st Rife Battalion, 1372nd Rifle Regiment

 SU-76 Battery (from LXIII Corps)

SPG Platoon

SU-76M self-propelled gun (12 FMs) x 4

Medium Tank Company, Medium Tank Battalion (from 51st Army)

Company HQ

T34/85 Tank x 1

Tank Platoon x 2, each

T34/76 tank x 3

Tank Rider Platoon x 1

PC (+1) x 1

Infantry section x 3

 

The gaming board was set up to be played along it rather than across it. The Germans had half of the board to deploy into (using hidden marker cards), whilst the Soviets had around a quarter as their deployment zone. After two hours of setting up, planning, nattering and a cup of tea, the game began with the Soviet first move…

Next Post – battle report

T.A.G.

 

Posted by: T.A.G. | 11/03/2018

An Eastern Front WW2 Crossfire Game

The opportunity arose to have play a Crossfire game between my Germans and a Soviet force. One of my fellow gamers was so taken with the Crossfire concept, the quality of 10mm castings and the advantages of gaming in a smaller scale that he has bought the rules and started to collect three separate contingents, one of which is Soviets.

The terrain was set up – some N gauge railway track was available – to facilitate the Germans defending an important railhead against a Soviet assault. Whenever a new ruleset is adopted, the players must pass through a learning curve – or perhaps an un-learning curve – as they feel their way into the rule makers mindset and adapt their own mindsets away from other rules they might have played in the past. This game was an important learning – and un-learning – game.

The first learning point was about terrain layout. There was plenty of terrain on the board but the lines of sight were too long and allowed too much ground to be observed. The attacking Soviets could not so much as twitch without a German section or forward observer and being able to spot each action and open fire. Future games will see much more cluttered terrain layouts, including overcoming the flatness of the gaming table by using crests and undulations to introduce dead ground and limit lines of sight to enemy troops.

The next learning point concerns hidden markers, something my group has got out of the habit of using. I had one marker for each command in my order of battle. A command, in this instance, I defined as a combat element. Sometimes that was a platoon, a headquarters or a forward observer but at other times it was smaller units, for instance two sections of Marder II tank destroyers instead of a single platoon. Also, I contend that gamers tend to think of artillery in whole batteries but in fact they were broken down into troops or sections and were able to fire as such. Thus, a battery might deploy two forward observers, one for each of its sections, and those observers might request a fire mission from the whole battery or from their separate sections. This flexibility can make a big difference to the unfolding tactical situation.

Crossfire is predicated on the swapping of initiative between the players. The initiative will change because, in order to work, the rules need it to. The trick, then, is not to fear losing the initiative but to be clear about what your aims are for each initiative and then to devise a way to carry them out in a way that strengthens your position, even if the initiative swaps very quickly.

The game was an excellent learning vehicle and everyone had something to consider as we were packing up. The next battle is already being planned and will be a very different affair…

Unfortunately, I forgot to use my camera until late in the day and then many of the shots I took were of poor quality. The following are the only shots that are usable.

T.A.G.

Posted by: T.A.G. | 23/02/2018

The First Armoured Unit

My 10mm WW2 project continues to progress. I have just completed the first of my non-infantry units, a platoon of German Marder III Ausf M tank destroyers.

The Marder III Ausf M was another of the Germans’ very clever ways of making use of obsolescent, captured equipment. In this case, it was the Czech 38(t) tank remodelled to mount a 7.5cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun in an open-topped superstructure. Just under 1,000 examples were built.

In 1944, each German infantry division had a panzerjager (tank hunter) battalion as part of its establishment strength. The organisation of these battalions varied and they were equipped with a variety of vehicles, including, amongst others, Jagdpanzer IVs and Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzers.

The panzerjager battalion for my infantry division includes tank destroyers (these Marder IIIs), PaK 40s and halftrack-mounted 20mm FlaK guns. The PaK 40 and Flak platoons will be completed in due course.

The numbers, 311 to 314, in red on their sides identify these Marder IIIs as being the first to fourth vehicles of the first platoon of the third company of their panzerjager battalion. These vehicles will see “action” in a couple of weeks’ time when they will be pitted against a Soviet force that will include T-34 tanks.

T.A.G.

 

Posted by: T.A.G. | 05/02/2018

10mm WW2 Normandy Game (Part 2)

The game resumed with the Germans refocusing their attack plan. A company advance against the British left flank was pulled back to a new start line. The company concerned then began to infiltrate the village where it was supported by Panther tanks that seriously restricted the options available to the British commanders. Meanwhile the other German company made some good initial gains but its attack stalled when the British artillery, directed by a redeployed forward observer, began to bombard it. The game then effectively hit a tantalising kind of stalemate, where both sides tried hard but, ultimately, were unable to make headway before the game timed out.

I enjoyed this game. The terrain was superb and helped to convey the sheer difficultly that both sides endured whilst fighting in amongst the bocage in the summer of 1944. The fragility of the Sherman against the all-round power of the Panther really came to life for me – the squadron of Shermans might have defeated the platoon of Panthers but simply could bring enough firepower to bear at any single point in time. The British did hit a Panther with a PIAT round but it failed to penetrate the tank’s frontal armour.

Once again, I found the rules excellent in their mechanics and their faithful (I believe) recreation of the feel of the period. Having played this game, I now appreciate why it took so long for the British and Canadians to drive the Germans out of the Normandy bocage and why they were only able to do so at tremendous cost in lives and equipment.

T.A.G.

Posted by: T.A.G. | 14/01/2018

10mm WW2 Normandy Game (Part 1)

I was invited to participate in a 10mm Crossfire WW2 game based around an actual battle that took place near Caen during the Normandy campaign in 1944. The game is ongoing which means that this post is about part 1 of the battle only.

The situation was that the British 50th (Northumberland) Division had advanced and captured a village but a German counterattack had retaken a part of the village. Overnight then, both sides were occupying different parts of the village.

The British needed to be taking ground and so they committed two companies of infantry, supported by a tank squadron (Shermans), and fire support from the battalion’s own mortar and carrier platoons plus extra fire support from the Divisional support battalion and the Division’s artillery allocation.

The Germans, meanwhile, had also committed two companies of panzer grenadiers, supported by a platoon of tanks (Pzkw V Panthers) and some mortars.

The game opened with the British having the initiative. Early manoeuvring was slow and the fire brought down on exposed German troops was not particularly effective whereas the Germans were better able to make use of cover and attack the British. Fire support was well employed and the Germans made up a reasonable amount of ground quite quickly, albeit without having secured it.

The British, having deployed for an infantry battle, found themselves in a tank battle when a Panther successfully entered the village and destroyed a Sherman (after the Sherman had first failed to disable the Panther). The Sherman caught fire and hampered movement for the rest of the game.

The battle for the village hotted up with extensive firefights between opposing infantry in buildings. The British were unable to bring effective enough firepower onto the Germans to halt their advance and its associated gains before the late hour forced a halt for the evening. The battle will continue in two weeks’ time.

Below are some photographs of the game.

T.A.G.

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