This thread contains all AARs from old Forumini's WW2 in 3D thread. Unfortunately, as everything is tediously copied by hand, only the AARs are migrated and not the comments in between.
Also, where the thread previously resided under 'Beer & Pretzels', it's now under the more fitting 'AAM Scenarios'. My guess is that more than half of the scenarios were played with some form of land game (be it AAM, AAM hexless variant, Bolt Action, Crossfire, FoW, or whatever).
- 8 September – 22 November 1943 - Dodecanese Campaign, with the Battle of Leros at 26 sept - 1–2 November 1943 - Battle of Empress Augusta Bay - 2 november - Battle of Changde - 17 January – 18 May 1944 - Battle of Monte Cassino - January 22, 1944 - Operation Shingle - 12 March 1944 - Operation Margarethe
One might debate when WW2 actually started. It is generally agreed that it all started in 1939 with the German invasion of Poland. Moreover, I don't have anywhere enough Chinese models to replay anything of the Sino-Japanese wars, so here we go:
German invasion of Poland, sept 1939
After some political building-up and claiming to be provoked by several (self-staged incidents), under which the Gleiwitz Incident, Germany invaded Poland without a formal declaration of war.
Forces: Poland: Polish officer x2, polish mauser x2, determined infantry x4, hotchkiss (proxying polish MG team), cavalrymen x2, TPdw, TKS ursus tankette x2, 7TP x2 (proxied by R35), wz.36 37mm ATG x2, tank obstacles x2. Germany: SS-Hauptsturmführer, Mauser x2, Panzergrenadier x2, MG 34, light Mortar, motorized Schützen, Panzerspähwagen, Kübelwagen, Opel Blitz, Sd Kfz 251, elite Panzer IV ausf. D, PzKpfw IV ausf A.
Three objectives were placed in three villages in corners of the playing field. Poland set up in the central village, Germany in the "empty corner".
(Deployment of Polish troops)
The first 3 turns saw little fighting, with the highly mobile German force rapidly claiming the 2 free objectives and Poland setting up (turtling) defenses in and around the central village. Realizing that scoring just one objective wouldn't be enough for a victory, Poland reached out for the left-most, poorly defended village with its cavalrymen, assisted by a tankette and a 7TP. Germany quickly reacted by sending in the Panzerspähwagen and elite Panzer IV. There was some fierce fire exchanging between the 7TP and the Panzer IV at close range, destroying the 7TP and leaving the P IV as an easy prey for the Polish artillery. Next, the Polish cavalrymen, harassing the German infantry, were pinned and consequently destroyed, so it was up to the tankettes to go for the objective. Unfortunately, they were unable to expel the panzergrenadier who took shelter in the building next to the objective. Being pinned themselves just out of range, the tankettes finally failed to even contest the objective. On the other side of the battle ground, the Germans, after having setup their headquarters in the eastern village, sent their forces to the Polish-held central village. With relentless determination, the Polish halted the attack, and returned them the favour. There were casualties on both sides, leaving the Polish just the 2nd 7TP to contest the Germans their second objective. Defensive fire stopped the unlucky tank, which was consequently blown to smithereens.
(Unlucky Polish 7TP close to the German HQ)
At conclusion, the Polish still stood firm in the central village with officers and artillery, but had to leave the remaining objectives to the Germans.
Final result: Axis victory (Allies: 1VP - Axis: 2VP).
The Polish fought a retreating war of defense against Germany. Upon losing battle after battle, Polish forces set up to retreat into neutral Romania.
In a gesture to assist Poland in their conflict with Germany, French troops were directed into Saarland, Germany. Mobilisation of forces wasn't executed in a way that would fit the planned "all-out assault", though, and plans for warfare relied much on outdated WWI strategy.
Forces: France: Bold Captain, MAS 7,5 x2, Alpine Troop x2, Lebel Grenadier x2, Hotchkiss MG, P 178, R-35, Somua S-35, Char B1-bis, Canon de 75 modèle 1897, Citroën truck x2 (proxied by 2 American CCKW 352s) Germany: SS-Hauptsturmführer, Mauser x2, Panzergrenadier x2, MG 34, motorized Schützen, Panzerspähwagen, Kübelwagen, Opel Blitz, elite Panzer IV ausf. D x2, PzKpfw IV ausf A.
Terrain: some lowly hills in medium forested terrain. This part of Germany is not heavily populated, so no buildings this time. Three objectives were placed in between the deployment zones: 1 north, 1 south and 1 in between. Two objectives were represented by pillboxes that, once occupied, would function as such.
Intimidated by the modern aggressive German tactics, France lost each and every initiative roll throughout the game, partly because of bad rolls, but also because of the very high initiative bonus of the SS-Hauptsturmführer. Seeing the Bold captain perish in turn 5 also didn't help the French case a bit. This made for a somewhat one-sided battle. France quickly took the northern pillbox with the Hotchkiss team, assisted by the Alpine troops and the obsolete canon. Continuous German pressure from tanks and infantry over the next 6 turns resulted in relentless grinding of the brave French soldiers. Will the valiant French hold on to the objective until the end?
(French troops defending objective north)
In the mean time, Germany planted their MG team in the central pillbox. This central objective never left German hands. The MG team performed their job to the extreme: they never failed to spot the prowling French infantry in the surrounding woods, putting them all down like in a duck-hunt.
(The German MG team picking out French soldiers in the forested hills)
The southern objective was also quickly claimed by a single French lebel grenadier, assisted by the mighty Char B1 tank. Intimidation from a Panzer IV and last-minute storming of the objective by a host of low-armoured german vehicles failed to even deny the French this objective. All were halted by defensive fire, only to be destroyed in the ensuing phase. As both sides were firmly claiming one objective, the final victory depended on the toughness of the French troops defending objective north. In this battle of attrition, the French canon was the first to go. Next, the S-35 sacrificed itself while destroying one of the Panzer IVs and the Hotchkiss team perished as well. Finally, caught in German crossfire in turn 6, the Alpine troops (with defense 6 in a pillbox!) got disrupted and had to hand over the objective to the combined Mauser and Panzergrenadier teams in the assault phase of turn 7.
Final result: Axis victory (Allies: 1VP - Axis: 2VP).
Al in all, another historically correct result. As this scenario illustrated, the French forces weren't prepared for the modern German tactics and wargear. The French offensive was halted only a few kilometers into German territory. After some skirmishes, the French withdrew behind the Maginot line. The Phoney War had begun. Poland was on its own - and not just against Germany, as it would soon discover.
In hindsight, in the previous games, the German Panzer IVs seemed to be somewhat overpowered with their Crack Shot SA. Looking through the card revisions, it appeared that the year of entry was revised from 1939 to 1940. So we were playing with anachronistic tanks!
Replaying WW2 in 3D, scenario 3:
Russian invasion of Poland, sept 1939
Meanwhile, facing defeat after defeat, the Polish army went to retreat towards neutral Romania's border. Unfortunately the Soviet Union decided to carry out their part of the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and invaded Poland from the east.
This game was to represent the fighting retreat of the Polish army. Poland would win if more than 25% of their forces were able to leave the table through the opposite table edge. If not, victory would go to the USSR.
The table was set up with lots of terrain: woods, marshes, several buildings, roads, etc. Deployment was along opposite table edges. In turn 1 Poland divided the forces with infantry taking the south route, the main armoured forces going north and the officers hiding themselves in the wooded deployment zone. Russia reacted by sending tanks up north and their transported infantry to the center of the board, leaving the south route free for the retreating Polish cavalrymen and infantry. The north grounds saw an early tank battle. When smoke cleared, the Soviet halftracks were changed into flaming wrecks, as well as the T-28 tank. On the Polish side, both tankettes and the TPdw were utterly destroyed. The Russian infantry, hoping to play a decisive role in taking out their opponent's vehicles, were left without any target. Where was the remainder of the Polish force?
(Soviet troops, trying to spot Polish soldiers)
Well, the Polish cavalrymen were able to retreat to safe grounds (= off board) in no time. Following them, the foot soldiers were already at 2/3 of the south route towards safety, when they were first discovered by the USSR troops. In a desperate move to stop the Polish retreat, the USSR threw all their units at the sneaky Polish and even set up a tank blockade.
(Russia's desperate tank blockade)
Suppressive fire, shooting from soldiers and tanks, it was all too little too late. The Polish main infantry force successfully withdrew into safe grounds at the end of turn 6.
Final result: Allies victory (putting the USSR in the ranks of Axis, because of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact).
Aftermath: Poland capitulated to Germany and the Soviet Union. Up to 120,000 Polish troops withdrew through the Romanian Bridgehead area to neutral Romania and Hungary. The majority of those troops joined the newly formed Polish Armed Forces in the West in France and the United Kingdom in 1939 and 1940. Until the United States entered the war and Germany attacked the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), the Polish army was one of the largest forces of the Allies.[wiki]
The Soviet Unon aimed to recover the Grand Duchy of Finland territory lost during the Russian Civil War in 1917, when Finland had declared independence from Russia. The Soviet Union demanded the territories for security reasons, primarily to protect the city of Leningrad. On 30 November 1939, the Red Army started an offensive with more than three times as many soldiers as the Finns, thirty times as many aircraft, and a hundred times as many tanks.
Forces (@100 pts): USSR: Commissar x3, Degtyarev, Soviet Conscripts x4, Mosin-Nagant x2, 82mm Mortar, ZIS 42 half-track x2, T-35, BT-7, BA-10M. Finland: Finnish Officer, Finnish Infantry x3, Finnish Ski Troop x5, Finnish MG Team x2, 81mm Mortar x2 (proxied by the German card & models), Truck x2 (USA proxies), T-26E (card: year of entry is 1941, wiki says it was used in the Winter War), artillery: French Canon de 75 as stand-in.
Three objectives were placed in the half-table in which Finland set up their troops; USSR deployed along the opposite table edge.
Special rules: - Winter: Vehicles lose 1 point of movement (= 3 inch) and the road bonus is negated. No effect on infantry. - Skies: Models with skies (modeled on the mini, or mentioned in card title/text) get this SA: + 1 point (= 3 inch) of movement when (part of) the movement takes place over snow or ice terrain. - Terrain: water & marsh as per normal rules. Ice cannot be entered by vehicles. Snow reduces speed by 50% for non-tracked vehicles.
Finland started the game with their headquarters (objective north) secured by the T-26E tank and was quick to move their infantry onto the remaining two objectives. The artillery canon prepared position while the mortars started raining shells on the badly motivated Russian infantry. Relentlessly, the three Commissars drove their untrained soldiers towards the Finnish positions, which worked out well. Although the Soviets took some losses, there were more casualties in the ranks of the Finnish ski troops.
(overview of Finland; battle of objective south)
Objective south, despite the presence of a MG team was the first to fall to the Russian juggernaut. Soon after that, a combined tank action of the Russians destroyed the T-26E. A cooperative artillery & mortar attack took out the USSR's BT-5, but it was not enough. Objective north also fell into Russian hands. Seeing that two of the three objectives were gone, the Finnish defense over the central objective grew even fiercer. Ski troops, sacrificing themselves, managed to set the hulking T-35 ablaze with Molotov cocktails. The Russian BA-10M fell to machine gun fire. Nevertheless, the Finnish troops weren't able to drive off the masses of Soviet conscripts. At the end of the game, the central objective was still contested.
(sacrifice of ski troop; flaming wrecks at objective north)
Final result: USSR: 2 objectives, Finland: 0 objective. Victory for the Soviets!
Aftermath: the Soviet Army had been crippled by Joseph Stalin's Great Purge of 1937, reducing the army's morale and efficiency shortly before the outbreak of the fighting. With more than 30,000 of its army officers executed or imprisoned, including most of those of the highest ranks, the Red Army in 1939 had many inexperienced senior and mid-level officers. Because of these factors, and high morale in the Finnish forces, Finland was able to resist the Soviet invasion for far longer than the Soviets expected, until at 13 March 1940 a cease-fire goes into effect.
(This battle report has been retro-added to this post, so the posts following this one might give you some time-warping experience)
Battle of the Heligoland Bight, dec 1939 (not to be confused with 2 battles of the same name in WW1)
The Battle of the Heligoland Bight was the first "named" air battle of the Second World War.
At sea, German U-boat forces were taking a considerable toll on Allied shipping. The British Air Ministry decided to launch an attack on German surface ships to prevent them supporting the U-boats in the North Atlantic. On 18 December 1939, in broad daylight, a force of three RAF Vickers Wellington bomber squadrons, inexperienced and without fighter support, were to engage German ships in the Heligoland Bight and sink or damage as many as possible. The German response was slow and confused. Eventually they scrambled strong fighter aircraft forces to intercept.
As no British fighters, only bombers, participated in this air battle, I consider this engagement as not being reasonably playable with AAAF. I played a little game of WaS instead.
Scenario: the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst are anchored at Wilhelmshaven harbour. British Vickers Wellington bombers will perform several raids (5 turns). At first, the bombers have to deal with anti-aircraft fire from the ships mainly. At the start of each turn, for each German fighter, a die is rolled. The fighter only takes off at a roll of at least 7 minus the turn # (example: at turn 3, the fighter enters combat at a roll of 7-3= 4+). Once engaged, the German fighters don't have to roll again. Victory: the British would win with 1 ship sunk or 2 crippled; otherwise victory would go to Germany.
Forces: Germany: Gneisenau, Scharnhorst (both ships will only use their AA attacks), Bf 109 x3 - 100 pts. UK: Vickers Wellington x10. Curiously enough, even though it was the only British bomber being produced throughout the entire war (11.000!), there is actually no Vickers Wellington represented in WaS. For this game, I proxied with the Sunderland Mk.1 - of which I only have one, so I used Swordfish models to impersonate more - 100 pts.
Actually, there isn't much of gameplay in this scenario, let alone any strategy. It pretty much plays itself, so I soloed.
In turn 1, no German fighters showed up, AA fire destroyed 2 squad of VWs. The remaining bombers scored two hits on the Scharnhorst. Turn 2: Another VW got destroyed, 1 aborted because of ship AA, another because of the single Bf 109 that showed up. One hit on Gneisenau. Turn 3: The second German fighter made appearance. 2 VW destroyed (one by a Messerschmitt), 1 aborted. One hit on Gneisenau, the Scharnhorst got its third hit.
(the nice buildings of Wilhelmshaven courtesy of my youngest son)
Turn 4: All German fighters now fully operational. Another 1 VW destroyed, 2 aborted. Fourth hit on Scharnhorst, crippling it! Turn 5: Of the remaining 4 bombers, 2 got destroyed, 1 aborted, no ships were hit. Seeing that there was no chance to sink one of the ships and live to tell the tale, the two surviving bombers called it a day and returned home.
Final result: Scharnhorst crippled, 2 hits on Gneisenau (= 2 hits away from being crippled): Axis victory.
It was nice to see how vulnerable the VWs were to AA fire from the German battleships, but at the same time how resilient against the Bf109s. It felt as if the bombers were hardly equipped to inflict any significant damage to the heavily armoured ships. Nevertheless, the game result suggests a good balance between both forces, which I didn't expect in this atypical scenario.
Aftermath: The German fighters inflicted more damage on the RAF than they got in return. The influence on both sides' future strategy was profound. The battle forced the RAF to abandon daylight missions in favour of night bombing. The failure of the raid led the Luftwaffe to believe its base in Germany proper was invulnerable to enemy attack. This belief was reinforced with the Wehrmacht's success in 1939–41, which meant that opposing air forces were then too far away for effective bombing attacks on the German homeland. Neglecting their day fighter force had serious strategic consequences in later years. (wiki)
We're moving up the timeline and enter 1940. Hitler's looking up north...
Norwegian Campaign, april 1940
Norway, and especially the port of Narvik, was of strategic importance to Hitler. By securing access to Norwegian ports, Germany could more easily obtain the supply of Swedish iron ore they needed for their war effort. In april 1940, German forces invaded Norway. In reaction to this invasion, the United Kingdom and France came to Norway's aid with an expeditionary force.
Unfortunately, there are no Norwegian miniatures in AAM, so the Norwegian Campaign is represented here in a clash between the Wehrmacht and the British expeditionary troops. As usual, the terrain is carefully selected, this time to depict the rugged Norse landscape. Mountains, landslides and woods make long range attacks almost impossible. Three objectives are placed on strategic elevated sites overlooking the valleys through which the central road winds itself across the board.
Forces (110 pts, just to get more tanks in): Germany: SS-Hauptsturmführer, SS Stormtroopers, Mauser x3, Panzergrenadier, Fallschirmjäger x2, Opel Blitz, BMW R75, Sd Kfz 231, PzKpfw 38(T), PzKpfw IV Ausf A, Panzer III Ausf F, Panzer IV Ausf E. UK: Inspiring Lt, Bren MG x3, BEF inf x4, Universal Carrier x2, Vickers MG team, Mathilda II x2, 2-pounder ATG, 40mm Bofors.
After setting up in opposite corners, the first two turns were used to bring units in position. Both forces quickly took their adjacent objectives.
(Norwegian woods, end of turn 2)
In turn three, a major clash between both tank forces over the central objective appeared inevitable. Although the German tanks outnumbered the English, they were soon to discover that a head-on slugfest with the heavily armoured British tanks isn't the best of ideas. In round four most of the German tanks were damaged or destroyed, with only one British Mathilda damaged. Next, surprising the British tank commander, a SS Stormtrooper decended from the central objective, taking out the damaged Mathilda in close assault.
(Blazing Mathilda, with SS Stormtrooper)
In battle frenzy, the Stormtrooper tried to repeat the trick on the second Mathilda, but by now the British were alerted and intercepted the trooper with defensive fire. In the ensuing phase it was taken out by a single burst of machine gun fire. In the mean time, the British never came even close to the German-held objective. Instead, they had to fight off repeated attacks at their own objective. Both units of their artillery, well hidden in the Norwegian woods, were utterly destroyed, but not before they took out a large chunk of the German force. Up north, the German fast attack group was halted and consecutively destroyed with help of the 2-pounder ATG. To the east, the Mausers, supported by the Panzer III, weren't able to break through, pestered by the Bofors. Finally, a desperate stab at the objective by sneakily dropped Fallschirmjäger was repelled as well, but only at major losses of British troops. At the beginning of turn 7, both forces held their own objectives, with the central objective in German hands. At this time, the Reich's forces were heavily outnumbered. The lonely Panzergrenadier at the objective saw UK soldiers closing in from all sides, contesting the objective. The Panzer III commander assessed the abysmal situation and speeded towards the Panzergrenadier's aid, if only to deny the UK their victory. In the assault phase of turn 7, the Panzergrenadier fell to combined allied fire. The remaining Mathilda opened fire on the Panzer III, just damaging it. Now it was all up to the Vickers MG team to score enough hits to take out the German tank. With 3 dice it had to roll 2 successes. Rolled... Miss! Final roll of the game... 3 hits! Victory to the Allies!
(Panzergrenadier, just seconds before going down)
Aftermath: The allied campaign in central and south Norway wasn't very successful, but in the north the allies fared better. Nevertheless, as a respons to the Wehrmacht's assault on the Lowlands and France, the allied forces retreated from Norway in may 1940. For two months, Norway had been able to resist the German invasion, quite a feat. And even while under German occupation, there was a prominent Norwegian resistance movement.
Fall Gelb, the German invasion of the Low Countries, part 1 - the Netherlands
After France's declaration of war, Hitler had set his mind on conquering France. Towards this goal, circumventing the heavily defended French Maginot line, he first ordered the invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium, after which France could be entered from the north ("Fall Gelb"- Case Yellow). Depending on the success of this diversionary maneuver, part two of the invasion of France was to be executed ("Fall Rot"- Case red).
For this game, we will be replaying the battle for the Grebbeberg in the Netherlands as part of Case Yellow. Preceding the German invasion, despite claiming neutrality and neglecting to build their army, the Netherlands commisioned several lines of defense throughout the country. One of these was the age-old Grebbeline which stretched from the river Rhine towards the (lake) IJsselmeer. Adjacent to the Rhine, the Grebbeberg, a moraine hill left over from the last ice age, was fortified with several lines of trenches and pillboxes. The Dutch army was determined to hamper the German approach, while waiting for reinforcements. At 03:55 local time on 10 May 1940, the German Army Group B invaded the Netherlands.
As I am from the Netherlands myself, I really wanted to include this part of the war in this thread. Unfortunately, there are no Dutch units in AAM, so we are entering 100% proxy terrain here. For infantry, I decided to lend-lease from the Netherland's southern neighbour, Belgium. Both countries used bicyles for transportation and both speak the same language (at least the Flemish do). The Netherlands had no tanks. At all. But they had armored cars. The Landsverk 38 was stationed at the Grebbeline:
For stats, I used Thor711's excellent custom card (see post above). As for the model itself, when you squeeze your eyes really tight and then take a look at the picture, you might think there is some resemblance to the Japanese Type 87 (don't count the # of wheels, though), so they'll be proxied by those. Artillery is where the Dutch army was relatively well equipped. They had several types of cannons, some from the previous century, but a considerable # of units was updated in the years preceding WW2. I used French and Italian canons as proxy.
points: ~120 Netherlands: Belgium Officer x2, Belgium Infantry x4, Belgium Bicycle Troop x4, British Vickers MG team x2 (the Dutch actually had Vickers MGs), French Canon de 75 modèle 1897, Italian Canonne da 75/27 modello 11 x3, Italian 47/32 ATG, Landsverk M38 Armored Car x2, pillbox x3 (these also double as objective), tank obstakels and barbed wire. Germany: SS-Hauptsturmführer, SS Stormtroopers, Mauser x3, Panzergrenadier, Opel Blitz, Sd Kfz 251 x2, PzKpfw IV Ausf A, Sd Kfz 231, Light Mortar x2, SGrW 34 81mm Mortar x2, 7,5cm lelG18.
Map lay-out: the Grebbeberg is represented by a map-wide slope dividing the map in two: the lower part from which the German attack originates and the elevated part with 3 lines of defense (for this game that is, in 1940 there were actually 4) . The Dutch are to defend these lines, each line with an objective. The Netherlands deploy anywhere on the Grebbeberg; Germany along the opposite board-edge. The player with the highest # of objectives at the end of turn 7 wins. Before the start of turn 1, Germany gets a free additional Move phase.
May 11th, early morning, troops of Germany's 207th Infantry Division—reinforced with the SS-brigade Der Führer—made preparations to assault the hill. The terrain had not yet been cleared of vegetation by the Dutch, so there was ample cover for the Germans in their approach of the outer line of defense. Until the start of turn 2, German forces took their position, ready to storm the Dutch outposts. The first German wave was brutally halted by unexpected heavy Dutch artillery fire, with the Panzer A tank as an early victim. Continuous beating of the Dutch lines was repeatedly shrugged off by the Hollander's expert use of terrain cover. It was only in turn six that the Dutch MG team was blasted out of the outpost pillbox. The German troops were felled in the process as well, so this objective remained unclaimed. The secondary line of defense (the "frontline") appeared to be even harder to take for the German forces. Effective maneuvering of Landsverk #1 (strike and fade) and persistent defense of two units of bicycle troops prevented the Wehrmacht troops to even approach the pillbox. Matters were different at the third line of defense (the "stopline"). The third line saw little fighting. Nevertheless, exploiting a weak spot in the frontline, a motorized (Opel Blitz) German group sneakily closed in on the Dutch defense, ultimately contesting the Dutch their objective.
(that sneaky Opel Blitz!)
End results: Allies: 1 objective, Axis: none. An allied victory!
Aftermath: The Dutch military, ill-trained and armed with insufficient and outdated equipment, was caught largely unprepared. Much of its tactics and weaponry had not changed since the First World War. The German forces advanced rapidly but faced significant resistance. A German parachute assault on the first day, aimed at capturing the Dutch government in The Hague and the key airfields at Ockenburg and Ypenburg, was defeated by Dutch ground forces with heavy casualties. In the east, the non-elite German troops succeeded in pushing the Dutch back from the Grebbe Line, but not without considerable losses of time and troops. In the north, the German advance was slowed by being unable to conquer the Dutch fortifications of the narrow Afsluitdijk Causeway, which linked north-east and north-west Holland. For the Dutch, however, it became increasingly clear that British and French troops would not be able to reach the Netherlands in sufficient numbers to turn the tide of the fighting, particularly given the speed of the German advance into Belgium. When, during the so-called "Rotterdam Blitz", the city of Rotterdam was bombed and Hitler threatened to bomb more Dutch cities, the Dutch commander of force, Henri Winkelman signed the official Dutch capitulation on May 15th, 1940. Dutch forces in the province of Zeeland, which had come under French control, continued fighting alongside French forces until May 17th, when the bombardment of the town of Middelburg forced them to surrender. Many ships of the Royal Dutch Navy fled to the United Kingdom. The Dutch Empire, in particular the Dutch East Indies, remained on the Allied side and was unaffected by the surrender.
(the Grebbeberg, end of turn 7, after smoke has cleared)
A couple of weeks ago, I met with Pendragon for another game in WW2. With our growing collections of AAM and third party 15mm units, we thought we would be able to field two setups for a game of Flames of War. We both had some of the books still largely unread and wasting space, so we were both eager to find out if FoW was any good. As we’re both building on Dutch armies for 1940, we decided to leave the timeline and return to Germany’s invasion of the Low Lands in may 1940 and replay…
The Battle of Mill 10–11 May 1940
One of the German objectives in the invasion of the Netherlands was to quickly breakthrough the Maaslinie and the subsequent Peel-Raam line (Peel-Raamstelling) in order to link up with the airborne troops and breach the Southern perimeter of Vesting Holland. Dutch early warning units along the border had done their job, resulting in many destroyed bridges. However, some fell intact into German hands. The most important result for the Germans was the capture of the railway bridge at Gennep. This allowed an armored train, followed by an armored troop train, to advance towards the Peel-Raam line, more precisely: towards Mill.
Situated close to the river Maas in the province of North Brabant, Mill was a prime target of XXVI.AK. It was a junction of roads and had an east-west railway track just south of the village. Three of the roads crossing Mill were directed westwards; essential for the Germans on their pursuit westwards. Covering the Peel-Raam Line in the area was an anti-tank ditch lined with barbed wire and 47 casemates. An artillery battalion was located nearby, as well as a company of engineers who were responsible for barricading roads and prepping bridges for demolition.
The defenders of the Peel-Raamstelling had been alerted and had manned their positions when a train appeared. Only thirty minutes after they were notified of the start of the war, they watched the train approach, open-mouthed, wondering when the Dutch army acquired such trains. In fact, the Dutch army did not have any armoured trains, which dawned upon the defenders once both trains passed through their positions.
At a safe distance the German troop train unloaded nearly a battalion of infantry. Disappointed that they hadn't made contact with the Dutch, they shunted the armored train around and returned it eastwards down the track back into the danger zone. By now fully aware of the situation, Dutch engineers had installed the asparagus barricade (steel beams lowered at an angle into slots in the track bed) and reinforced it with several mines. Unable to stop in time, the armored train crashed into the obstruction, derailing and sending the first carriage into the ditch. The small unit on board quickly disembarked and captured two away-facing casemates. They were then pinned down by rifle and machine gun fire, and retreated to the train. At around 05:00, General Adrianus Antonius van Nijnatten, the commander of the 3rd Army Corps, telephoned the Dutch general headquarters to report that the Germans had seized a bridge at Gennep intact and that a train had broken through near Mill. He was authorized to dispatch the 2nd Hussars-Motorcyclist Regiment to reinforce the town. The Battle of Mill had started.
Forces: It was decided for Pendragon to leave his Dutch miniatures in the closet for the time being and construct a German force of about 750 points, while I got to display my freshly painted (and still not quite finished) Dutch boys.
(Dutch forces, obsolete, under-equipped, but determined)
After deploying and dicing for initiative, we set off.
(Germans, right after leaving the derailed panzer train)
Pendragon had set up his force in cover of the derailed Panzer train and sent a small team of observers up into the centrally located mill. As soon as the zwei Vorgeschobener Beobachter emerged from the top of the mill – from which they could oversee a large part of Mill's nice countryside – it started to rain mortar grenades on the Dutch ranks.
(German spotters in Mill's mill)
In reaction, two of the Dutch MG teams set up shop in cover off a small farm-house and opened fire in the general direction of the mill. Even when assisted by two Dutch artillery pieces, they were unable to dislodge the German observers from the crow's nest high up in the mill.
('Aim for the mill!')
As the main part of the German forces kept cowering behind the damaged lorries, probably to safeguard the bounty aboard, the Dutch smelled an opportunity and sent two platoons to their left side. The first platoon occupied an abandoned farm; the second went for a flanking maneuver, hoping to surprise the German invaders.
(Dutch approaching the farmstead)
Of course, the Germans saw the same opening in the battlefield; so it happened that two opposing forces were nearing each other, each hoping to surprise the opposite combatant. Both sides got visual of the other at the same moment; the Germans gained confidence seeing the inferior Dutch numbers, not knowing that the Dutch ordered for some motorcycle reinforcements in order to gain the upper hand.
('Call in the Hussars!')
A heavy battle of attrition ensued. While mortar shells rained on both sides, the battle changed from ranged shooting into close quarter fighting. A unit of Dutch motorcycle hussars sped past the melee, only to return and bring the fight into the German's rear.
This was the moment the Germans showed their battlefield skills. Taking lots of casualties themselves, the hussars were fended off, while the Dutch frontal assault was quickly beaten down. With just a handful of Grenadiers still standing, the Germans came out as winners.
(nur Fünf Sieger)
The victory turned out to be rather Pyrrhic though, as there were not enough soldiers left to press the attack into the Dutch flank. Even worse, a final barrage from the distant Dutch mortars ended any aspirations of these unfortunate Buben. With the flanking maneuvers ending in a jointly disaster, the Germans saw the progress of the invasion of the Low Countries dwindle and decided to go for an all-out assault on the Dutch defenses. They left the safety of the panzer train and set off to cross the open field toward the collection of farm houses and sheds, their advance covered by an umbrella of friendly mortar fire.
(leaving the bounty in the train...)
Running headfirst into determined Dutch rifle and machinegun fire, they never stood a chance. The German grey coats, silhouetted against the bright colours of the Dutch spring countryside, made for easy targets.
(German assault line)
One by one, the Dutch picked off the criss-cross running enemies, until none were left. The Low Lands would be defeated, but not today!
An allied victory!
The locally present two Dutch battalions were of the best class the Dutch army could deliver. It were young conscript soldiers and young reservists with fine officers and NCO's. The German battalion that had crossed the Dutch lines by armored train and had left the troop-train, had quickly taken out some out post positions near the track. They then proceeded with one company in order to come behind the casemate line opposite of the village of Mill. This maneuver lead them straight into the positions of the artillery battalion. The Germans sustained heavy casualties and after about an hour decided to withdraw to nearby woods. Another company sneaked through unoccupied trenches and launched an attack on the Dutch casemates at the road between Mill and Volkel. The Dutch sustained some casualties, but returned fire, forcing the Germans to withdraw to the troop train.
German forces then advanced along the rail line towards Mill. Along the way they encountered 9 casemates, which they promptly captured. They flanked a tenth one and captured most of its crew, but one soldier refused to surrender, slammed the door shut and proceeded to fire wildly through the casemate's loopholes, forcing the Germans to back off.
At 07:30 the 2nd Hussars-Motorcyclist Regiment found the operational German troop train south of Mill. Their first action was to cripple the locomotive of the troop train that was driving up and fro in order to keep it from being an easy target. Armed with anti-tank cannons and heavy machine guns, they quickly disabled the locomotive and boarded the train. Inside they found Dutch uniforms that had been used by commandos to take the border posts. The hussars set the train on fire as they departed.
In the north, the Germans launched an attack on a Dutch company stationed in a small forest. By 11:00, after several hours of fighting with grenades and flamethrowers, they cleared the area and moved up to the railway. At noon the rest of the German force arrived, engaging the Dutch defense line. The armored train detachment, still trapped in the ditch, prepared to breakout. Around 14:00, the Dutch Hussars appeared to reinforce the line. Some relieved the soldier who had single-handedly defended his casemate from the Germans, and then proceeded to recapture the three adjacent to him. A German recon squad appeared, but was forced to retreat under heavy fire from the hussars.
By 18:00, heavy German howitzers arrived, backed up by an infantry regiment. The Germans prepared to launch their assault. News was received that a considerable air-bombardment was about to be launched. The odds started to shift into German favour. 37 Junkers Ju 88s attacked the northern portion of the defense line, but failed to kill any Dutch soldiers or destroy any casemates. The infantry then launched its attack, and heavy fighting ensued. By 22:00 the Germans had established a wide gap in the Peel-Raam line. As the Dutch retreated, the Germans linked up with the armored train unit, who they at first misidentified as Dutch soldiers.
Over the course of the fighting the Dutch suffered 30 killed and 50 wounded. In the village, 9 civilians were killed. While figures for the Germans are incomplete, it is estimated that they sustained over 500 casualties. Interesting detail to all this is that the Germans, with six battalions [about 5,000 men], were under the impression that they faced the better part of two divisions [about 18,000 men] of the Dutch III Army Corps. They believed to have booked a major victory. In fact there were no more than two companies [about 360 Dutch men] in the projected offensive perimeter.
The fierce Dutch defense had allowed for the escape of larger forces for the defense of Fortress Holland, and delayed the Germans progress into the western sectors of the country by one day.
Fall Gelb, the German invasion of the Low Countries, part 2 - Belgium & Luxembourg
Introduction: The invasion of Belgium by Nazi Germany started on 10 May 1940 under the codename Fall Gelb ("Case Yellow") as part of the wider invasion of France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The Belgian Albert Canal fortifications, some of the most modern defensive networks in Europe, proved near useless. Eben-Emael, the fort held by 1,200 Belgians, was taken when the Germans deployed 500 glider-borne Fallschirmjäger against them. Almost all of the air force's modern Hurricane fighters were destroyed by the Luftwaffe on the ground at Schaffen airfield on May 10th. French armoured divisions were sent North to check the German advance through Belgium and aid their Allies in the defense of their country. Little did they know that this was exactly what the Germans wanted them to do. The German assault on Hannut was a diversionary attack intended to draw strong elements of the Western Allied armies away from the sector through which the German Army Group A would carry out its main thrust; the Ardennes. The battle of Hannut (12-14 May 1940) would be the largest tank battle fought until the massive tank battles of the Eastern front and North Africa. Around 470 French tanks engaged nearly 700 German tanks, although few of these were of the more modern Panzer III and IV types. Unlike the French troops, the Germans had a strong air support.
In this scenario, the war in Belgium will be represented by the Battle of Hannut in which French heavy tanks face off with a plethora of German Panzers (and a Stuka). Winner will be the player with the highest amount of points remaining on table at the end of turn 7. Damaged units only count for half of their point value.
Forces (~150 pts) Germany: SS-Hauptsturmführer, Mauser x2, MG 34, Panzerjager I, Sd Kfz 231 x2, PzKpfw IV Ausf A, Panzer II ausf C, PzKpfw 38(t), Panzer III ausf F, Elite Panzer IV ausf D x2, Panzer IV ausf F x2. In addition to the 150 points Germany gets a Stuka (for free), but if surviving, points won't be counted. France: Bold Captain, MAS 7,5 x2, Hotchkiss MG team, Panhard et Levassor P 178 x3, R-35 x4, FCM 36, Somua S-35 x2, Char B1-bis, Canon de 75 modèle 1897
French and German forces deployed in opposite corners. A "colonne" (column) of armoured French units advanced, using the country roads, while the Germans approached through fields and in cover of the scarce patches of woods.
Soon the central sections of both forces met head-on, halfway the battlefield, without any flanking maneuvres. The Germans relied on their superior firepower, while the French felt safe with their heavy armour plating, Full of confidence, both forces clashed with their tanks in medium and close range. It was a massacre! At the end of turn 4, both forces had lost more than half of their tanks, while the slower approaching infantry still was far from combat. Much to the French chagrin, a pesky Stuka just kept picking out their lighter armoured Panhard cars one by one, while cleverly staying out of range of the Hotckiss MG team. After having done with the Panhards, the Stuka shifted its attention to the French infantry, only to repeatedly be dispelled by machine gun fire.
(Stuka setting another Panhard ablaze)
In the end, the battlefield was littered with a large collection of smoking and burning tankhulks from both nations. A handfull of shell-shocked soldiers wandered among the carcasses. With all these casualties, it was hard to identify a winner. It looked more like both sides had lost the battle. Counting points, it was a close call indeed. France scored 18 points with a surviving Bold Captain, both MAS rifles and a damaged R35, while Germany could claim points for the SS-Hauptsturmführer, the MG team (disrupted, but still counts) and a single damaged Panzer IV which makes a total of 23 points. The Stuka survived, but points were not counted. A narrow axis victory!
Aftermath: Losses on both sides were heavy. The German panzer Is and IIs proved completely inadequate to deal with the French armour, so Germany would abandon using them as main battle tanks. The French in turn suffered heavily from the lack of air cover which enabled the luftwaffe to roam the battlefield at will. Although the battle of Hannut itself might be considered a draw, strategically, the tank battle was a German victory. The German battle plan succeeded in tying down substantial Allied forces that were removed from the path of the decisive blow through the Ardennes. The ensuing German drive to the Channel meant that the British Expeditonary Force (BEF), the French First Army, and the Belgian Army were cut off from the rest of the French Army. Some 112,500 French and Belgian troops retreated towards Dunkirk. The Belgium military held out against German forces for 18 days, against overwhelming odds. On 28 May, forced into a small pocket along the Leie river and after failed attempts to broker a ceasefire on the 27th, the Belgian king and military surrendered unconditionally. Belgian casualties during the campaign numbered some 6,000 killed and 15,850 wounded. The majority of the Belgian survivors were made prisoners of war and many were not released until the end of the war.
German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes to cut off and surround the Allied units that had advanced into Belgium. When British and adjacent French forces were cut off and pushed back to the sea by the highly mobile and well organised German operation, the British government decided to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) as well as several French divisions at Dunkirk in Operation Dynamo.
Forces: Allied: UK: Inspiring Lt, Bren MG x2, BEF inf x4, Universal Carrier x2, Vickers MG team, Bedford, Valentine I, Mathilda II (98 pts) +1 free Spitfire. France: Bold Captain, MAS 7,5 x2, Lebel Grenadier x3, Hotchkiss MG, Panhard 178, FCM 36, Citroën (52 pts) Axis, Germany, Gruppe Ost: SS-Hauptsturmführer, Mauser x2, Panzergrenadier, MG 34, motorized Schützen x2, Kübelwagen, Opel Blitz, Sd Kfz 231, Sd Kfz 251, Sd Kfz 222, PzKpfw 38(t); Gruppe Süd: SS-Hauptsturmführer, Mauser, SS-Panzergrenadier, Wehrmacht Veteran x2, MG 34, Opel Blitz, Panzer II ausf. C, Panzer III ausf. F, PzKpfw IV ausf A. (150 pts) + 2 free Stukas.
Objectives: Allied: 25% retreat (1VP), another 25% retreat (1 VP), claim objective (1VP) German: claim objective (1 VP), French wiped (=non on board) (1VP), less than 50% UK retreated (1VP)
Special rules: Luftwaffe raids: each turn, after intiative roll, roll d6 for weather. On 5 and 6, weather is fine and airraids are to be expected. Evacuation: any allied troops on the beach at the end of turn 7 count as being evacuated. Deployment: both allied forces deploy in the middle of the board. The French Bold Captain holds the single objective in the rustique village center. Half of the German forces deploy at the east board edge; the second half enters along the south border at the end of turn 2.
Battle Report: As was to be expected, initiative fell on the German side most of the time. Weather started out all fine, so already in turn one, the sky was full of aircraft in combat. The British Spitfire succeeded in downing a Stuka as the first casualty of the game. Knowing that halting allied transport was imperative in this scenario, the second Stuka broke through the British fighter shield and strafed the British Bedford. The unfortunate truck happened to be loaded with British troops. A BREN gunner team succeeded in bailing out, but a BEF infantry group came to an untimely end in the flaming transport.
In reaction, instead of starting a retreat towards the beaches, the English forces broke out in assault on the undermanned German troops during the first 2 turns. This led to several early armoured casualties in the German force. The Wehrmacht forces had to wait for turn three to see some balance returning in the game. By then, German reinforcements appeared in a flanking move from the south. Seeing the tide of battle turn, the British troops went into retreat towards Dunkirk's sunny beaches. While covering the retreat, one of UK's tanks, the Mathilda, overplayed its hand and got disrupted. Merciless, a Panzergrenadier finished the tank off in close assault. Meanwhile, the French had spent their time securing the central village objective. Now that things turned for the worse, the French bold captain decided to send some troops off together with the retreating British army.
(Bold Captain ordering the retreat)
With the heavy Valentine tank on overwatch, the retreat went smoothly - until a German Sd Kfz 231 surprised the allied commanders by slipping through their ranks and starting to take out their demoralized infantry one by one. The French FCM 36 was called in for help. By the time it finally neutralized the armoured car, German soldiers had stormed the objective village, which was now without armoured support. The remaining French force at the objective was quickly overrun. In the end, only a single Lebel grenadier was hiding in the shadows of a shot-up building, still capable of denying the Germans their objective. During the hasty retreat, the weather was unsuited for flying most of the time. Only in turn 5 aircraft was seen flying over the battlefield, but no actual losses on either side were recorded. Working towards the end of the game, the allies painfully started to realize that their assault in the first few turns didn't pay off. Accumulated losses made for little troops showing up on the beaches at the end of the battle. So, just to learn if at least 25% of the allied teams found its way across the Channel, the captain and lieutenant started counting heads...
3 BEF infantrymen, a single MAS team, the Hotchkiss team, a French truck driver, a lieutenant and a captain... 43 points! More than 25% (but less than 50%) of the Allied fighting force!
Final result: a draw (Allies: 1VP - Axis: 1VP). No victory points for Axis or Allies are counted.
Aftermath In a speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill called the events in France "a colossal military disaster", saying that "the whole root and core and brain of the British Army" had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured. In his "We shall fight on the beaches" speech on 4 June, he hailed their rescue as a "miracle of deliverance".
While, in the Siege of Lille, the remaining 40,000 men of the once-formidable French First Army fought in a delaying action against seven German divisions, a total of 338,226 soldiers were being rescued by a hastily-assembled fleet of 933 boats. Fortunately for the BEF, bad weather kept the Luftwaffe grounded for much of operation, thus helping to reduce the losses. Many of the troops were able to embark onto British destroyers and other large ships, sometimes after having to wade from the beaches toward the ships, waiting for hours to board, shoulder-deep in water. Some were ferried from the beaches to the larger ships, and thousands were carried back to the United Kingdom by the famous "little ships of Dunkirk", a flotilla of hundreds of merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, and Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboats. The "miracle of the little ships" remains a prominent folk memory in the UK.
Operation Fall Rot was the second phase of the conquest of France by the German Army. It was made possible by the success of Operation Fall Gelb in the Battle of France (see previous battle reports). Before that invasion, it had not yet been decided whether mainland France would be attacked: this was to depend on the outcome of Fall Gelb.
Fall Rot (Case Red), starting on 5 June 1940 after the withdrawal of the BEF, consisted of two suboperations: at first a preliminary attack was carried out in the west over the river Somme in the direction of the Seine; the main offensive started on 9 June in the center over the river Aisne. While the depleted French forces put up stiff initial resistance, German air superiority and armoured mobility overwhelmed the remaining French forces. German armour outflanked the Maginot Line and pushed deep into France with German forces arriving in an undefended Paris on 14 June. The French government evaded towards the city of Bordeaux.
Several days earlier, on 10 June 1940, Italy had declared war on France and Britain. Feeling that the war would soon be over, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini said to Pietro Badoglio, the Chief of Staff of the Italian Royal Army (Regio Esercito), "I only need a few thousand dead so that I can sit at the peace conference as a man who has fought". On 20 June, the Italian campaign in France began.
Board & objectives: in a landscape of shrubbery and woody patches, a single road winds north-south with some Alpine foothills in the east. Three objectives are placed along the road to record the progress of the Italian invasion. The # of claimed objectives at the end of turn 7 determines the winner.
Batrep: Right from the start, trucks were racing back and forth to deploy troops and artillery in carefully selected strategic places. Tanks advanced, soon leaving the central road. Severals patches of shrubbery/woods were being crowded by artillery pieces. Soldiers on both sides claimed the nearby objectives in the first turn. Two tiny Italian L3/35 tankettes rapidly disappeared into the Alpine foothills. What were they up to? In reaction, the French Alpine troops approached the foothills as well, apparently on the search for the elusive L3/35's. They got surprised by the extraordinary speed of the tankettes, and were soon left in the hills without target to be seen. The tankettes sped north, apparently to surprise the handful of French soldiers defending Objective North. Once they left the foothills, their trail was picked up by both French Panhards. In the ensuing cat-and-mouse play, the L3/35's got disrupted and were easily finished off in the next turn.
(L3/35's cornered by nimble Panhards)
In the mean time, Italian forces were quick to advance toward the central objective. With Italian forces taking positions in cover around the objective, the French knew it would be difficult to get them out of there. The French brought in both Hotchkiss teams, supported by a host of Lebel grenadiers and started a battle of attrition for the objective. Although bodies fell on both sides, the French soon realized that more had to be done to at least be able to contest the objective. A final desperate rush right into Italian defensive fire was ordered. Numerous French soldiers were halted in their charge, but in the end, two got through and managed to contest the objective at the end of turn 7. Meanwhile, the Italian tanks that started moving westward at first, turned to the north. Nearing Objective North, the tanks were intercepted by the French heavy armour. A fierce tank battle ensued. While the Italians covered their fragile backsides with the table edge, the French relied entirely on their heavy armour values to survive.
(Italians backsides, before the tank battle)
Alas, as was seen earlier in the war against the Germans, thick plates of iron are not enough to win a war. Soon the French tanks were standing ablaze, and a lone pretentious Carro Armato advanced to Objective North, contesting it at the end of the game. With both Central and North objectives contested, the Italians won by claiming just Objective South; an axis victory.
Aftermath: Even after taking additional time for preparations, Italy was not prepared for war and Italy's armed forces made little impact during the last few days of the Battle of France. Mussolini was well aware of Italy's military limitations at the time, but he still sought to profit from Germany's successes. U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described Italy's declaration of war as "the hand that held the dagger has struck it into the back of its neighbor". The Italian forces numbered about 700,000 troops. However, while they enjoyed a huge numerical superiority to the French, they had several deficiencies. The numerous L3/35 tanks were often classified as "tankettes" and were little more than lightly-armored machine-gun carriers not suited for modern warfare. Most Italian units had inadequate or obsolete artillery and lacked motor transport. Specific to this front, the Italians were not equipped for the cold Alpine environment.
In the opposite camp, the French armed forces were in no shape to resist the Italians either. The French Army (Armée de Terre) was already defeated in the north and only a relatively small force was maintained on the border with Italy.
On 21 June, troops of the Italian Royal Army crossed the French border. The Italians attacked in two directions. One force attempted to advance through the Alps and another force attempted to advance along the Mediterranean coast towards Nice. Initially, the Italian offensive enjoyed a limited level of success. However, the Italian offensive soon stalled at the fortified Alpine Line in the Alps and along the Mediterranean coast. Italian casualties far outnumbered the French's. During the night of 16 June and into the morning of 17 June, Marshal Philippe Pétain proposed an armistice with the German government, which was signed 5 days later. On 20 June, the French government also asked the Italian government for an armistice, which was signed at the 24th. France was to be divided, whereby Germany would occupy the north and west and Italy would control a small Italian occupation zone in the southeast. An unoccupied zone, the zone libre, would be governed by the newly formed Vichy government led by Marshal Pétain.
France remained under Axis occupation until the liberation of the country after the Allied landings in 1944.
Operation Catapult – the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir, july 1940
The German attack on France had been staggeringly successful in the spring of 1940. After Dunkirk, the French made it clear that they were willing to sound out from the Germans terms of surrender. Britain gave its support to this but, fearing that the Germans would take over and then use the French Navy, requested that the French fleet shoul sail to British harbours before the French surrender.
At the time, the French navy was situated at its African bases, after playing its part in the evacuation at Dunkirk and fleeing for the German advance. More in particular, two modern battle-cruisers, six destroyers, two older battleships and a seaplane carrier were docked at Mers el Kébir near Oran in Algeria. Six cruisers were based in Algiers and a number of ships were based in Alexandria in Egypt where they were supporting Admiral Cunningham's Eastern Mediterranean Fleet. The new battleship 'Richelieu' sailed from Brest to Dakar.
Admiral of the French fleet Darlan told the British that the French fleet would never fall into the hands of the Germans. When the French were presented with the Germans terms of surrender they included the instruction that all French warships were to return to harbours in France where they would be disarmed. The German terms stated that the Germans would not use the French ships for their own purposes, with the exception of coastal boats that would be used for mine-sweeping. Communication between Churchill's government and the French was patchy at best. Ultimately, due to misinformation, misunderstanding and mistrust, the Royal Navy was ordered to prevent the French ships to fall into German hands by force.
The British mined the entrance to the harbour at Mers el Kébir using planes from the 'Ark Royal'. Following this, on July 3rd, the British fleet, led by HMS Hood, opened fire. The Royal Navy's ships were in open water and could manoeuvre themselves into a perfect firing position. The French could not do this as they were in the confined space of a harbour.
(turn 2, French ships entering the mined harbour entrance, Strasbourg vitalled)
For this scenario, the Attack on Mers-el-Kébir is replayed in a game of WaS Off the Grid, using French and British models from my collection.
Forces (150 pts each): France:Dunkerque, Provence, Strasbourg, Milan, Le Terrible, Commandant Teste and a land-based D.520. UK: HMS Hood, HMS Ark Royal with Swordfish (1x mk.I and 1x mk.II), HMS Royal Oak, HMS Exeter, HMS Cossack.
Special rules: At the start of the game, the French ships are anchored in the enclosed harbour. To reflect the French being surprised, preceding the start of turn 1, the British get 1 additional turn with the French only allowed to use ship antiair. The dam shielding the harbour from open sea doesn't block line of sight, but does obstruct movement by ships. The harbour entrance is mined (when moving in the mine field roll a die. On a 1 receive 1 damage; 2 damage on a result of 2).
Objectives: the UK wins if more than 50% of the French fleet is destroyed at the end of turn 7; France wins if more than 50% survives.
Battle report Before turn 1, the British fleet approached the harbour entrance. Still too distanced from the French ships for ship-ship fire, just both Swordfish were sent out against the French; as a result one got aborted and the other destroyed. In turn 1 more maneuvering and positioning occurred. From turn 2, heavy fire from both sides sounded across the still waters. HMS Hood pointed her guns to the French flagship Strasbourg and vitalled her in a single salvo. Next turn, the Dunkerque returned the favour and triggered HMS Hood's Fatal Flaw SA, sinking the proud British flagship.
Things were to get even worse for the British. Although Le Terrible was easily sunk, the remaining French ships were a more elusive prey. After luring the British towards the harbour entrance, they turned tail and sailed back into the harbour, seeking cover behind the British mines! Actually, moving in and out of the minefield only earned the French a single point of damage. Even when fleeing for cover, the French ships managed to sink one British ship after the other, losing only the Milan themselves. Destroying the French fleet appeared to be a much harder task than was expected, indeed! At the end of turn 7, the Ark Royal, the now-without-aircraft carrier, was the single British ship still afloat; while the French only lost three of their ships (@ 54 points).
(at the end of the day)
The captain of the Royal Oak decided to call it a day and grant victory to the French. Result: an axis victory (France being pushed in the Axis ranks for this scenario).
Aftermath: According to history, the actual battle at Mers-el-Kébir saw quite a contrasting result compared to the above scenario. The first ship to be sunk was the battleship 'Bretagne'. A shell exploded her ammunition and within seconds the ship capsized. 977 men were lost. The 'Dunkerque' was hit and damage to her boiler room took away her power so that she had to drop anchor in harbour. The 'Provence' was also hit and was beached by her captain to prevent the ship from sinking with subsequent loss of life. The destroyer 'Mogador' was hit as well, with the loss of 37 men. In the confusion and disguised by the extensive smoke, the battleship 'Strasbourg' managed to leave Mers el Kébir and somehow avoided the mines at the harbour entrance. An attack by the aircraft carrier 'Hermes' on the 'Richelieu' at Dakar damaged the new battleship but never put it completely out of action. Delicate negotiations at Alexandria led to a non-violent settlement whereby the French disarmed their ships and de-fuelled them. At Plymouth and Portsmouth, armed British sailors took over the French ships that were harboured there. The French crews were interned in the Isle of Man and in a camp near Liverpool.
Was 'Operation Catapult' a success? A number of large French warships were destroyed and did not fall into the hands of the Germans. Whether they would have tilted the naval balance towards the side of the Germans will never be known as when the Germans entered the port of Toulon, where the surviving French warships were harboured, the French scuttled them.
Great damage was done to French/British relations. In late May 1940, the French and British navies had been comrades-in-arms during Dunkirk. Just weeks later, over 1000 of the French sailors who had served at Dunkirk were dead - killed during Operation Catapult. Many in France found this hard to take or accept and it has been argued that it encouraged some French people to collaborate with the Germans, though the evidence for this is hard to gather. The internment of sailors who had sailed to Britian at the request of the British government was another source of great anger. That being said, it also showed that the British would be resolute and heartless in its attempt to stop the German military steamrolling over all of Western Europe. (some text passages from Wiki and HistoryLearningSite.co.uk)
The Battle of the Atlantic was the longest continuous military campaign in World War II, running from 1939 to the defeat of Germany in 1945. At its core was the Allied naval blockade of Germany, announced the day after the declaration of war, and Germany's subsequent counter-blockade. It was at its height from mid-1940 through to the end of 1943. After some early skirmishes between axis and alied forces in 1939 and the first half of 1940, German U-boats developed a strategy of intercepting allied convoys, where U-boats acted together in so-called Wolf Packs (Rudels), helped by spotting FW 200 Condor aircraft. Operating from French Atlantic harbours, these wolf packs were spectacularly successful. From June until October 1940, over 270 Allied ships were sunk: this period was referred to by U-boat crews as "the Happy Time" ("Die Glückliche Zeit").
Forces: UK: Sunderland, Swordfish Mk I & Mk II, HMS Glorious, HMS Belfast, HMS Sheffield, HMS Cossack x3, HMS Javelin and 5 merchant convoy ships. Germany: Ju 87B Stuka, Karlsruhe, Z 20 Karl Galster x2, S-boat, U-552 x3.
Rules: For this game, a standard WaS convoy scenario is being played, with Germany as attacker (80 pts) and the UK in the role of convoy defender (100 pts). Winner would be the player to sink (Germany) or safeguard (UK) at least 3 convoy ships.
Playing Off the Grid on a large playing board, it would take the allied convoy at least some 12-14 turns to reach safety at the opposite board edge. Knowing this, the convoy escorts were aware of the difficulty of their task and were determined to show the German subs + supports their best. The German raiders from their part knew that their subs could be effective silent killers, but were slow to travel. When deploying, the subs spread themselves across the board, just to be sure to not miss their easy prey.
(the escorted merchant ships slowly advancing)
While the UK had the HMS Belfast with flagship 1; the Germans wielded the Karlsruhe with the Flottilla Leader SA – effectively granting the Germans a +2 initiative bonus! Planning to decrease this bonus, the British send their Swordfish bombers to one of Germany's destroyers, quickly destroying one in the first turn. Upon this success, for the remainder of the game, initiative woud fall mainly towards the British.
While the merchant ships slowly crawled across, a German U-boat scored an early torpedo hit on one of them; another merchant took a torpedo in the hull originating from the S-boat. Seeing the submarine threat, British aircraft strategy changed from hunting destroyers to suppressing the wolf pack menace. One German sub was soon sunk, while the others failed to score any subsequent hits on the convoy vessels in the ensuing turns.
(midgame, things are heating up)
Meanwhile, on the surface, ships started to get onto gunnery range and hits were being scored on both sides. Being under strength above sea level, another German submarine perished, soon followed by the S-boat and the Karlsruhe. Right before going down though, the cruiser managed to pass a killing shot to one of the crippled merchants. Although German numbers were decreasing fast, with one merchant sunk and one crippled, there was still hope for an axis victory. Now only focusing on downing the merchant ships, as her final action this battle before falling to pieces, the remaning Z 20 torpedoed the second crippled convoy ship, scoring the much-needed second victory point.
In the final stage of the game, a single 552 sub was all that was left of the German raiding force. Seeing the sub approaching the weak hull of a merchant vessel, the allied forces threw all they had at the U-boat. No less than five allied units got their chance at destroying the U-552. Miraculously, all missed! While negotiating a multitude of depth charges, the U-boat launched a single torpedo at the unarmoured prey... and missed too!
(the elusive U-552 missing her torpedo shot, bird's eye view)
Next, embarrassed by their failure to catch the U-boat in the previous turn, the assembled British forces finally succeeded to blow the pesky wolf pack sub from the waters. With only two merchant vessels sunk (out of 5), the German raiders had to concede victory to the allied forces.
Epilogue: German codebreaking efforts at B-Dienst had succeeded in deciphering the British Naval Cypher No. 3, allowing the Germans to estimate where and when convoys could be expected. The boats spread out into a long patrol line that bisected the path of the Allied convoy routes. Once in position, the crew studied the horizon through binoculars looking for masts or smoke, or used hydrophones to pick up propeller noises. When one boat sighted a convoy, it would report the sighting to U-boat headquarters, shadowing and continuing to report as needed until other boats arrived, typically at night. Instead of being faced by single submarines, the convoy escorts then had to cope with groups of up to half a dozen U-boats attacking simultaneously. The escort vessels, which were too few in number and often lacking in endurance, had no answer to multiple submarines attacking on the surface at night as their ASDIC (sonar) only worked well against underwater targets. Early British marine radar, working in the metric bands, lacked target discrimination and range. Moreover, corvettes were too slow to catch a surfaced U-boat. The success of pack tactics against these convoys encouraged Admiral Dönitz to adopt the wolf pack as his primary tactic (Wiki). In the next phase of the war, after Germany's “Happy Time”, improving sonar and depth charge technology as well as developing tactics on allied and axis side altered the character of the battle of the Atlantic, decreasing the effectiveness of submarine warfare drastically.