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It's the Blenneville or Bust! scenario pack for I Ain't Been Shot, Mum!, scenario #4B: Near Avaux. Normandy 1944, and the Allies are trying to push south from the beaches.

Half a squadron of British Shermans from 101st Royal Tank Regiment, under Captain Miles Manchester, supported by a company of infantry from 1st Battalion, the Windsor Foresters under Captain George Grimsby, attempts to secure a vital road junction. Holding the junction are four squads of elite Fallschirmjaegers under Major Sascha Sauerbrauten supported by two PaK 40 anti-tank guns and, the ace in the hole, a Jagdpanther commanded by Feldwebel Siegfried Spatzen.

The Battlefield (facing north)

The tabletop represents the (fictional) area around the road junction on the Avaux to Vartres road just south of the Petit-Ribeaux. The three main roads are reasonable quality, tarmacked surfaces giving the usual road movement bonus. They are just wide enough for two tanks/large trucks to pass each other, but sometimes a moving vehicle that tries to pass another will have to pull up short and reposition for the manoeuvre. The main north-south road is the Avaux-Vartres road, the turn off leads to Pierrecourt. The junction itself sits on top of a hill that slopes evenly and gently down on each side. The fields are bordered by bocage that is impenetrable to any wheeled vehicle, and is only penetrable by tracked vehicles weighing the same or more than a medium tank. Infantry and those vehicles that can cross the bocage take their entire turn to do so. There are, however, numerous gates between the fields, all shown as gaps. There are also two large wooded copses.

The Herr Major positioned his troops as follows. The two Pak 40s would be nestled in the bocage to the right of the house: one up close, one at the far eastern end of the table. In between them was a squad of infantry. Another squad of infantry was dug in behind the northern wall of the houses, with an MMG and FOO in the house itself.

The Jagdpanther covered the other side of the table, hiding behind the bocage just by the two trees flanking the gap in the most northernmost line of hedges. Two squads of infantry and another MMG were dug in to the next line of bocage, with their right flank touching the main road.

Finally, a lone MMG provided a backstop and rally point just by the gap in front of the most southerly copse of trees. Next to that copse were the two 81mm mortars that provided on-table fire support.

The British Arrive

The action opened with the British pushing forward Blinds on the eastern side of the battlefield. My opponent, Dave, had decided that the way forward was to push everything up the field that was open up to the half-way point rather than try and fight through the two rows of bocage to the west. All that would advance there, for the moment, was a Dummy Blind, representing a few scouts sent forward to see if they could spot anything.

Well, the scouts did spot something! A couple of lucky rolls, and the sunlight glinted off a bit of Jagdpanther that had not been properly camouflaged, revealing the behemoth's position.

Meanwhile, the German forlorn hope, a panzerfaust team positioned in the most northerly copse of woods, had revealed themselves by blowing a track off one of the two tanks of the British Squadron HQ. Luckily it wasn't Captain Manchester's, and the platoon of British infantry supporting the tanks quickly polished off the somewhat exposed paratroopers.

Now that they had spotted the German Jagdpanther, the British decided to try and do something about it. A troop of Shermans, under Lieutenant Salisbury, with their Firefly at the front, drove down the main road, the lead tank just edging into the field on their right far enough to take a shot at the monster. 

Still cursing his failure to properly conceal his tank-hunter, Feldwebel Spatzen cursed again as his vehicle rocked with the impact of a 17pdr shell, and his engine began to make ominous grinding noises. Well, more ominous than usual grinding noises, as this early version of the Jagdpanther comes accompanied by a Vehicle Breakdown card.

Putting that behind him, however, he returned fire, and within moments the Firefly had so many bits knocked off it that its crew had no choice but to abandon the tank and run off back down the road as fast as they could. Luckily no-one had been badly wounded, and B Echelon was bound to have a replacement somewhere!

Job done for the moment, Spatzen ordered his tank-hunter to reverse over to the next line of bocage: now he'd been spotted (and then some!) there was no point in hanging around up front here, better to get back closer to the main line of defence. Was the grinding noise getting worse?

Meanwhile, on the other side of the main road, four more German units had revealed themselves: both anti-tank guns and the first two-squad infantry zug under Leutnant Felix Frikadellen. The infantry had taken the opportunity to hammer a British infantry section that had ventured too far forward before it limped into the nearby copse. The far anti-tank gun fired again and again at the British tanks advancing towards it, but couldn't have hit them had they been at 1:1 scale! Captain Manchester's tank, and then the tanks from the second troop, under Lieutenant Carlyle, used HE to whittle down the crew under the gun stopped firing. A PaK 40 versus four enemy tanks advancing over open ground and not a single tank taken out: inconceivable!

Unfortunately, the German first zug had now revealed its position, and the British tanks and infantry started firing everything they had at the house and nearby bocage. Leutnant Frikadellen was killed early on by a shell splinter and, to add insult to injury, first jabos then off-table artillery also began landing on the unlucky infantry platoon and one remaining anti-tank gun.

The British were now coming forward on the eastern side of the battlefield with almost every thing they had. Fortunately, the Jagdpanther was still running, and was on its way over to help out. The arrival of the jabos had caused a few nasty moments, but unbelievably the enemy aircraft had chosen to fire their rockets at the infantry by the house rather than at Leutnant Spatzen's baby.

To summarise the situation, around the house, the Germans now had two battered infantry squads, one anti-tank gun, and an MMG, being faced by five tanks advancing over the open ground and another three up and around the road, backed up by two platoons of infantry. Gulp!

Not to leave you in suspense intentionally, let's just deal with the remaining action on the western side of the field. If you look at the picture above, you'll see that there is a British Blind advancing forward next to the road, with a German Blind just behind the Jagdpanther. Both Blinds represented an infantry platoon: the Germans, under Major Sauerbrauten himself with an MMG (Leutnant Heinreich Hammelschulter actually commanding the two-squad zug); and the British a three-section platoon under Lieutenant Bob Bristol. 

Both sides shook themselves out into firing lines behind the bocage that bordered the field between them, and opened up a firefight that would last the rest of the game. Despite their greater numbers, the British found the firepower of the Fallschirmjaegers hard to match, especially as one squad's first shot scored 28 out of a possible 30 on 5D6 (base four dice for being paratrooper hard cases plus one for the extra LMG), causing several casualties and utterly suppressing the British firing line!

Right, back to the main action!

Leutnant Spatzen brought his Jagdpanther around the side of the house, and spent a turn creating a little pathway through the house's garden and brick wall: the idea being that he would drive forward, shoot, then reverse back into cover. With four Actions, he would use one to go forward, one to fire, and then save two for the retreat: he was still a little worried about that grinding noise! Oh, note the Blind behind his tank: that's the one remaining 'faust and crew, waiting their opportunity to contribute.

Now began an epic defence of the position around the house. 

Under British artillery fire all the time, the infantry and anti-tank gun crew were constantly pinned and whittled down until there were only two squads of four men each and one crew member on the anti-tank gun. No British tanks had been taken out, so about eight British tanks remained operational!

Spatzen sent his vehicle forward, fired and knocked out one enemy tank's main gun. He ordered the reverse, as planned, and began to consider his next shot. His driver put the Jagdpanther in reverse, and I said to Dave: "I should be okay, here, as it's anything but a 'double one' to get back into cover".

Fatal words!

Up came 'double one' and the monster vehicle ground to a shuddering halt. It could still shoot, obviously, but was now exposed to enemy fire.

The anti-tank gun then fired, blowing a track off another enemy tank, forcing its crew to 'abandon ship'.

Meanwhile, a British tank had got over the bocage and was now outflanking the German position. A barrage of sticky bombs from the battered Fallschirmjaeger squad did nothing, and it looked as if it was all over.

But it was not!

The lone remaining gunner of the anti-tank gun slewed his gun around, screaming with the effort, and sent a round straight into the enemy tank's ammunition store. Boom!

Spatzen's vehicle rocked with shots, but his armour held, as did his nerve and aim as his gunner blew another 'Ronsen' to bits.

But what to do about the two tanks near the road?

The 'faust crew were still under Blinds, so rushed down the road towards the enemy tanks! On their left, a huge firefight was going on, on their right, the action above. They must have been very brave men!

De-cloaking on the other side of the bocage from tank number one, they put a round straight into its turret and blew it to bits.

The British reacted by sending infantry and an MMG carrier over towards the road, but the cards were generous, and the 'faust crew rushed across the road, leaned through the bocage, and blew another Sherman to pieces!

This was the limit of their success, however. The British carrier manoeuvred onto the road and cut down the brave Fallschirmjaeger before they could get off any defensive fire. Still, not bad: two Shermans for one 'faust crew...and two Shermans who thought they were relatively safe as well!

So in two or three short turns, the British had lost six tanks! Hilariously, Dave then realised that one of his tanks that had hit the Jagdpanther had fired as a Sherman 75 not as what it actually was: a Firefly. He was hopping mad, but accepted that the moment had gone and the shot had obviously been a dud shell. Apparently he had mistaken it for a normal 75 because of the fact that the end of its longer barrel was painted white...exactly so it couldn't be identified as a Firefly! How we laughed! Well, I did.

At this point we had to finish. We called the game a draw because although the British now had almost no tanks, if any, operational, they still had plenty of infantry, and all the Germans had remaining was the Jagdpanther (now moving again!) and a small number of infantry. Both sides were mentally exhausted however: a draw was the correct result.

What a game, however. You can see the pile of poker chips from the last 'just one more' turn in the picture above. 

An epic struggle where the advantage swayed backwards and forwards every turn. The British got their artillery in early, the Germans never saw theirs, and their mortars only fired twice as well. The final defence of the house, and the 'faust "rush down the road" attack were cracking fun to game, and the fact that it was so close shows that the well-crafted nature of the scenario (if I say so myself - I wrote it!).

Iron Crosses for Spatzen, the lone anti-tank gunner and the sadly-deceased 'faust crew. A nice cup of tea and a consoling pat on the back for Captain's Manchester and Grimsby!

Robert Avery