Club Night – Operation Charnwood, Normandy – Battlegroup Overlord

Context

Last night saw me putting on another BG Overlord game at the Hitchin club. This was set loosely in the context  of Operation Charnwood on 8/9 July 1944, with the British and Canadians pushing into the north of Caen. It was the preparation for this operation that saw Caen pulverised by the allied air forces.

The battlefield - the Caen canal is out of shot to the right
The battlefield – the Caen canal is out of shot to the right

The action we played pitted a British infantry division against the SS, in the North East corner of Caen, with the Caen canal running down the right/eastern side of the board, and a bride over to the Colombelles industrial area acting as one of three objectives, the other two being buildings in the city.

Set-up and deployment

The British Orbat comprised:

  • Forward HQ
  • FOO in jeep
  • 2 Inf platoons with medium mortars and an HMG team each
  • 1 Assault pioneer section (with F/thrower)
  • 3 Churchills
  • 1 Achilles TD
  • 1 Crocodile Flame tank
  • 1 Battery of 25 pounders (off table)

740 points/49 BR

The Tommies forming up
The Tommies forming up

And facing them, the SS fielded:

  • Forward HQ
  • 2 platoons of panzer grenadiers (all with MG42 upgrades) + 1 HMG and 1 medium mortar between them
  • 3 PzIVH
  • 1 Stug III
  • 1 Pak 40 75mm ATG
  • 1 Flak 36 AA/AT gun
  • 1 Assault pioneer section (with F/thrower)
  • 1 Battery of 120mm mortars (off table)

750 points/48 BR

Obviously the Germans were defending the outskirts of the city, deploying south of the east/west road. Given the size of forces on the table (more on that later), I allowed both sides the option to hold units in reserves and to bring them on at will in later turns).

Fotor0100391347

The PzIVs deployed within the urban area, and the 88mm parked in the bottom right corner, near the canal bridge. The panzergrenadiers secured the houses and waited for the Tommies to attack, although one aggressive section positioned itself to rush forward and take the farmhouse on the right flank.

PzIV in ambush
PzIV in ambush

Battle commences…

The British had the initiative and deployed along the northern edge of the table; their opening action was to place a fairly accurate 25lber barrage on one of the occupied city buildings, killing several infantry, pining an MG42 team and also pinning one of the PzIV – not a bad start. The British infantry began moving up into the fields in the centre, while the Achilles deployed to the east and began sizing up targets.

The Germans failed their comms check for their off board mortars, and their easternmost tank was pinned and therefore unable to engage the Achilles that had rumbled into view. At this point the grenadiers were out of effective range and the 88mm could not see any targets, so this was a short German turn, but the easternmost grenadier squad rushed forward to occupy the farmhouse, along with a panzerschreck team.

All dressed up and nothing to shoot at
All dressed up and nothing to shoot at

Next turn saw another effective 25lber barrage, pinning more infantry in buildings, but the Achilles missed the Panzer IV on the corner with two AP rounds. Behind the Achilles, the three Churchills and the Crocodile lumbered onto the board, accompanied by the second infantry platoon, all moving towards the farmhouse. The British infantry in the centre plodded forward through the fields, expecting imminent contact.

On turn three the Germans succeeded in getting their comms check through to the 120mm mortar battery, and gave the allies a nasty surprise – the massed Churchill/infantry concentration to the north was a tempting target and a very accurate barrage was dropped (I had not realised how effective  these heavy mortars were) killing and pinning a number of infantry. In the centre,  the panzergrenadiers began to spot infantry in the fields and began to engage them, whittling down a few Tommies. The Panzer IV to the east, who was having a very eventful day, fired at the Achilles and missed. In the farmhouse, the panzershreck team had managed to get close enough and also loosed off a shot at the Achilles, but missed. The infantry section in the house also opened up on the British in the field to their left, and the 88mm got in on the action, firing HE at a platoon HQ in the hedges, killing several and pinning the unit. At the end of their turn the Germans drew a breakdown chit, which was promptly placed on the Crocodile, immobilising it.

88mm HE at close range is nasty
88mm HE  at close range is nasty- and the Achilles has just been hit in the background

Turn 4 started with the Achilles trying and again failing to hit the PzIV it was dueling with (back to the ranges for them!), and a British failure to get in touch with their artillery. The infantry in the centre began enthusiastically to brass up the SS in the houses to the front, wiping out the defenders of one strongpoint. Frustratingly for the Brits, their medium mortars kept missing the 88mm which they were desperately trying to suppress in order to advance their armor down the road. The Panzerschreck team was wiped out by MG fire from the 3 Churchills bearing down on them.

Fotor0100391838
Advancing to contact

The German phase then saw the lengthy armour duel resolved, with the PzIV hitting and killing the Achilles much to the delight of the SS company commander. The heavy mortars again came into play, pinning British infantry and armour near the farmhouse. In the buildings, the MG42s began to tell against the British infantry who had revealed themselves by firing in the previous round, inflicting serious casualties – the first Brit platoon was rendered largely ineffective by this exchange of fire. The Germans in the farmhouse, staring down the nozzle of the immobilized but still dangerous Crocodile, wisely beat a retreat.

The death of Achilles
The death of Achilles

Turn 5, our last, opened with the Churchill’s volley firing against the PzIV that had killed their TD colleague, and on the third go managed to kill it. More infantry and MG fire resulted in further casualties, but at this point we had run out of time and called it. The British had drawn 11 BR counters, while the Germans had lost 14, making it a tactical British victory – but to be honest it did not feel resolved. A pretty frenetic game in all, which had to be kept moving quickly to allow to get us as far as we did.

He didn't get to fire a shot...
He didn’t get to fire a shot…

Lessons learned/reflections

  1. I got quite carried away with the force allocation – 750 points is clearly way too much for a club night game on a 6×4 table – that said, it did generate a sense of close combat action. But even with 4 players we just did not have time to come to any sort of conclusion. It also took me too long to set up the urban part of the board.
  2. Related to the above, one of the British players pointed out that in reality an attacker would likely have stronger forces to conduct such an assault. I have sympathy with this view and may amend future orbats accordingly. If we had continued playing, the remaining German armour would likely have proven too much – although the Churchills are much more survivable than Shermans.
  3.  The question of the lack of smoke was raised again this week – there is some dissatisfaction in the ranks  with the inability to screen movement more effectively. I feel agnostic about this – for me the spotting mechanics abstract the use of obscurant fairly well, but I understand where this view is coming from, particularly for an attacker going into a well-defended area.
  4. On the attack, artillery is particularly important for pining down defenders prior to the assault – as it should be – and medium guns/heavy mortars will appear more frequently in my orbats.  I now have the artillery rules nailed down, thanks to the tutorial on the Guild.
  5. I need a camera tripod.

Figure/terrain details

The game was played on a 6×4; terrain was my own, with most of the city buildings purchased from Lancer miniatures; cobbled roads from Early War Minis, cobbled street sections from Ironclad minis. The rubble was homemade.

The Germans were my miniatures – a mix of AB, Britannia, Kelly’s Heroes, Elheim, TQD/CP models and Battlefield. German armour was all PSC, which I can’t rate highly enough.

PSC Stug III
PSC Stug III

British infantry were from the collection of  Kievan (of Lancer Minis) as were the Churchills; the Crocodile and Achilles were mine (Britannia and Armourfast respectively).

Thanks for reading…

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4 thoughts on “Club Night – Operation Charnwood, Normandy – Battlegroup Overlord

  1. Nice stuff!

    I would agree that 750 is a lot for a 6 x 4 and an evening, unless all the players are very familiar with the rules.

    The attack/defence scenarios in the book balance out with arrivals despite equal points, but for a historical re-fight, in urban terrain I would recommend a slight points advantage to the attacker.

    As for smoke… Well it is there, that’s what the spotting is all about. Its abstracted to assume troops are popping smoke, as well as dust and other obscurants, as they need it. Works for some, like me as I find other smoke rules very artificial where it becomes a ‘wall’ of smoke.

    1. Thanks Piers – I agree on the smoke, I think some are just used to being able to pop smoke and advance without fear of being targeted. And yes, next time the Brits will get a few more forces – I think I’ll work it up into a proper scenario.

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