After all the remodelling done on my bocage lately, I was keen to put it on the table to see how it looked after the make-over. So we decided to play another WWII game last Friday. This was going to be a small one with only a few vehicles mixed in. While I have been playing these rules for over a decade now, this was only the second game for Martin, so I felt that this was the best way to get him used to them. [Authors note: Even though I played the Germans, all references to flanks are from the American point of view.]
The game was a fictional scenario set on the sidelines of “Operation Cobra” and aptly codenamed “Tiny Serpent” (yes I saw this as a real fun game). The American objective was a small Normandy village, or rather it´s churchtower which offered a good view of one of the main attack routes for Cobra. Being afraid that the Germans might place artillery spotters there the Navy had already bombarded the church. This had only been a partial success, since it was still standing, even though it was badly damaged. So it was decided to send a force there to see if the Germans had been driven off and if not, take it. Seeing that the village was named Hermanville sur Boche the American commander felt that this sounded hardly threatening and decided to dispatch only a small force under a young Lieutenant. He would ride into battle in a Jeep mounting a .30cal machine gun. At this disposal were two 8 men infantry squads, a medic and a Sherman tank.
The German defenders were under the command of a Leutnant, too. He had a heavy machine gun team, a sniper, two Panzerschreck teams and two light infantry Trupps (with no machine guns but a Panzerfaust each).
The sniper deployed inside the bell tower and the HMG inside the rubble of the destroyed church, together with the Leutnant. The infantry Trupps deployed one on each flank and the Panzerschreck teams by a bend in the road close to the churchyard.
The Americans too deployed a squad on each flank with the medic attaching himself to the right flank. Both the Jeep and tank would start on the right road, with the Jeep in the lead.
The game began with the flyover from a USAAF (yes… during WWII it was the Army Air Force) P-51 Mustang. Just to check there were no Tiger or Acht-Achter around! None were spotted and the pilot was on his way back to base for a nice pint of beer. So the infantry moved off and the vehicles rumbled down the road at medium speed. It looked like a fine day so all the tankers were in their hatches looking out and the Lieutenant lit himself a Lucky Strike. The tank commander got the feeling that there was a shadow up in the bell tower so he ordered a 75mm shell put into it, which missed. But as a reward a bullet hit the roof of his Sherman right besides him. OK… this was not such a fine day after all and the crew decided that it was better to button up, if it started to rain lead. The American infantry started scaling the first bocage to get into the next fields on both flanks. No Krauts in sight! But on the left flank the Germans were moving out too. The riflemen from the squad moved into the open field to get a good view at the advancing Americans while, the men armed with SMGs moved along a field in the middle of the table to take the Yanks in the flank. The Germans on the right flank just stayed put, since they had cut firing positions into their hedgerow.
By the time the Sherman was firing off his second shot at the bell tower (missing again), the German riflemen on both flanks opened up. Two GIs on the left were left dead while three men on the right flank went for cover, their morale badly shaken.
Since all the Sherman crew had now buttoned up, the German sniper tried to pick off the Lieutenant inside the Jeep, but only hit the windshield. Taking another pull from his cigarette he told the driver to pull over at the next intersection and the machine gunner to open fire on the sniper. Which served its purpose since the marksman took cover. At the same time the Americans on the left flank, took two more losses, one of them the Sergeant leading the squad. Now his men finally fired back, killing two Germans. But they also decided to move towards the centre and get out of the fire of the remaining German rifleman. The Americans on the right flank took their first loss and returned fire as well. One shot found and killed one of the Germans, but the others only riddled empty positions indie the bocage… the Germans were already pulling back to the second line.
While the Sherman rumbled past the Jeep, one of the Germans in the middle scaled the bocage unnoticed and sprayed the Jeep with his SMG, killing the driver and badly shaking the others. In the mad rush to push the dead driver out of the vehicle and take the wheel himself the officer almost lost his cigarette. At the same time the machine gunner swung around and killed the attacker. The Lieutenant hit the accelerator and started to move off, when the next German scaled the bocage and aimed his Panzerfaust at the Jeep… this was going to be messy! Except he missed his shot.
At the same time the Sherman rumbled towards the bend in the road. Both the Panzerschreck teams got ready to fire and just for good measure a soldier with a Panzerfaust got out of the farm building by the road and took aim as well.
Oblivious to the danger in their flank and rear the Sherman crew began to fire the bow MG at the Panzerschreck team ahead. The first spray missed, but the second ripped into the Panzerschreck operator killing him instantly.
But both the other Panzerschreck and the Panzerfaust took their own sweet time to take aim. The Panzerfaust fired first, but by now the tank was out of optimum range and he missed. The remaining Panzerschreck took his chances as well, but he missed, too. Time to reload, but the Sherman was already moving out of sight.
At this time we had to call it a day, but the table remains set up and we will continue to play this coming Friday. Losses are five men on each side, which also includes a Sergeant with the Americans. So in this sense:
To be continued…