Sidney Warmbush here, War Correspondent for the Daily Lard, reporting to you from the forefront of the Allied Expeditionary Force.
Shortly after midnight last night I landed by parachute in Occupied France along with the brave men of the Parachute Regiment, our very own `Red Devils'. It has been a long night, but I can report that the men I was with were one of the first and most gallant soldiers of our advance guard to take the fight to the enemy. I cannot tell you my location, but I can relay to you that the slovenly Hun on duty on Hitler's Fortress Europe were caught off guard by our lightning attack and within a few hours of landing the small village that was our objective had been captured from the enemy. Initial fighting for the town was brief but bloody, but within fifteen minutes Major Grabb-Goolies and his men had captured the garrison commander and about a dozen of his men. A similar number of others perished in the coup de main along, sadly, with a dozen of our brave chaps who were slain by the enemy's machine gunners, cowardly firing in cold blood from the belfry of the local church tower. But the Red Devils were not perturbed and an hour later, the last bastion of enemy occupation - the bell tower itself - was finally stormed by Sgt O'Potato, who bravely fell in the act of saving others. But while the villagers reached for their long hidden tricoleurs and distributed a taste of very welcome Calvados and local cheese, Major Grabb-Goolies' men set about preparing the village for defence from the inevitable German counter attack.
By mid morning Fritz had finally got himself in order, and launched what Major Grabb-Goolies called a 'a Battalion level assault' on our brave chaps. For a while the Hun was held off, with the camouflage smocked men of Captain Roger Roughshaft's platoon countering the enemy's first attempt to push into the village with unsupported infantry. But quick to learn from this setback Fritz brought first his mortars and then his famous self propelled guns into play, smashing buildings on the edge of the village with the same callous ferocity with which he has terrorized Europe for the past four years. From his company command post, I heard Major Grab-Goolies personally brief half a dozen brave volunteers who had agreed to attempt to sneak out of the village armed with the units PIAT and entire supply of ammunition. No sooner had the men received their instruction, itself delivered whilst our CP in the church was under mortar fire, than they set off under the covering fire of Bren guns. For a while I watched from the belfry as the brave souls advanced along the hedgerows until almost within striking range of the tanks. Then, with a cry of "Achtung" that I could almost hear over the din of war, a group of Nazis burst upon them, cutting down our gallant fellows in the very act of preparing to launch their hidden counterattack.
Now the battle was full on, mortar round after mortar round was firing into the village, smashing a bottle of Cavlados I had placed in my rucksack, and for a time we were heartened by the faces of reinforcements. But the Hun was pushing ever closer. Heavy fire from his self propelled guns wrought havoc on the outlying buildings of the village, turning them to rubble and ending the fight of our dear Captain Roughshaft. On our left, helmeted Panzer Grenadiers were pushing into the buildings of the village, and Major Grabb-Goolies himself led his last reserve to stem this grey clad onslaught, stopping only to give orders to the driver of a jeep that sped into the village pulling a rather grubby looking anti-tank gun. For a while the situation hung in the balance, but behind us, on the growing breeze, I felt sure I could hear the swirl of the bagpipes that signalled the amphibious landings had gone to plan, and that we do, at last, have a foothold from which to push the Hun back beyond the Rhine.
Well done to all the chaps on my table for playing the game in such spirit, and commiserations especially to Leutnant Dietmar Shortz, whose eagle eyed view from the bell tower, was brought to a premature end by the dreaded lucky 17…
British Player's Report
Ranville is a small French village nestled in a valley just east of the Pegasus Bridge area. Two country roads lead into it from the west; three long, straight roads rise up out of the village leading east over undulating hills. The main feature of the village is the church, encircled to the east by three large barns; to the south by the major's house; and to the north and west by a series of smaller residences.
Major Grabbe-Goolies' company of Paras had landed on target and intact, the only worry being a lack of support weapons. The plan called for Ranville to be taken as soon as possible, and then held until relieved.
Attempting a dramatic coup de main, two sections of Paras rushed into the centre of the village along the two roads leading into it from the west. The idea was that they would flush out the German positions, and flush them out they did!
The southern-most section, from 3rd Platoon and led by Sergeant Eamon O'Potato, immediately came under close range fire from the Mayor's house, and casualties were taken. What the unfortunate Germans did not know was that the other two sections of the 3rd Platoon were in position behind the house ready for action should the enemy be discovered. Both sections assaulted the Hun in the rear, and the position fell.
The northern-most section, from 2nd Platoon under Captain Roughshaft, had reached the door of the church when it took fire from two further German squads, one in one of the barns to the east, one in a house to the north. Again, the other two sections had worked their way around the rear of the buildings and were ready for action: the house then the barn falling quickly to close assaults. Unfortunately, the Germans in the barn had managed to bring Sergeant O'Potato's section under further fire, and a final burst killed the brave Sergeant before he could take cover.
That left the church: occupied by the German commander and an MG-42 team. 1st Platoon, from its position in reserve at the edge of the village, had taken a few rounds of fire from the MG-42 already, but concentrated fire had suppressed it, even if Major Grabbe-Goolies had forbidden the PIATs to take out the bell tower! 2nd Platoon entered the church and Captain Roughshaft called upon the enemy officer and his MMG team to surrender. They refused and, unfortunately, three men were lost as they were winkled out of their position.
The village was therefore declared "taken", and the men of the company's HQ section used to replace the eight casualties suffered between 2nd and 3rd Platoons. Sergeant O'Potato would be more difficult to replace, and Major Grabbe-Goolies was not looking forward to having to tell his brother, Seamus, fighting with another company, of the loss.
The speed at which the Ranville had fallen gave the Paras a small moment of respite during which they prepared for the expected German counter-attack. 1st Platoon would cover the north of the village from the two houses there; 2nd Platoon would hold the east, positioned within the barns; and 3rd Platoon would cover the south from the church and the mayor's house.
The first wave of the German assault consisted of a three platoon company of infantry supported by an HQ squad stuffed with machine guns. They approached from the east-south-east, and attempted to infiltrate down the southern side. One of their platoons rushed forward towards the barns holding 2nd Platoon, who held their fire until they could see the whites of their eyes, and then opened fire at close range: blasting them again and again. It is fair to say that this German platoon ceased to exist as a fighting unit.
Meanwhile, 1st and 3rd Platoons had engaged the other two German platoons and the MGs, 1st Platoon firing almost across the whole village from their positions to the north. This effectively pinned the Germans down: effectively stopping them from advancing across the open fields towards the edge of the buildings. Mention should be made here of the stirring work of the 2" mortar teams, who kept up a constant suppressive fire on the German MGs that undoubtedly prevented many more casualties being taken. Despite these efforts, two sections of 2nd Platoon were forced to withdraw to the back of their buildings by constant and heavy MMG fire.
For a time an effective stalemate reigned, but this was broken by the arrival of several enemy self-propelled guns. These quickly opened fire on 2nd Platoon's main position and, after several misses, got their range and caused horrible casualties including Captain Roughshaft. The main 2nd Platoon force was forced to abandon their positions, joining 1st Platoon to the north.
Something had to be done, and three PIAT teams bravely volunteered to go and have a go at the enemy guns. Crawling along the hedge row deep into the enemy lines, the PIAT teams had just got into position to fire when more German reinforcements arrived: two whole company's worth. Large numbers of these immediately charged the hedge row and eliminated the brave PIAT-ers. The only consolation was that in so doing they exposed themselves to fire from the village, and were punished accordingly.
Meanwhile, a fourth Para platoon had arrived, and were quickly deployed to the south, blocking the advance of the German company there who had begun to gradually creep forward. This also allowed 3rd Platoon, under Sergeant Flaccid, to move north to prop up that side of the village, where the two German companies were now almost at the edge of the village itself. The situation was worsened by the fact that the 2" mortars were now just about out of ammo: their teams abandoning their empty tubes and now fighting as infantry.
The fourth platoon came under enemy mortar fire, and fire from the self-propelled artillery. This forced them back into the village, occupying the house just recently vacated by 3rd Platoon. They were hard pressed and had taken ghastly casualties but, for the moment, were secure.
A firefight now developed to the north: with the Paras of 1st Platoon, one section of 2nd Platoon, and two sections of 3rd Platoon engaging two companies of Germans at closer range. Although outnumbered, the Paras were holding their own, bolstered by the fact that they could see an anti-tank gun unlimbering on the hill behind them, ready to bring the enemy self-propelled artillery under fire.
At that point, the roar of engines was heard, and large numbers of friendly vehicles were seen approaching from the north. The Paras had held Ranville!
A great day's gaming that seemed to pass in a flash!
The performance of the British Paras made painting all those Denison Smocks worthwhile, and even I was surprised at just how tough the Paras were, especially at close range. I really felt the lack of support weapons (oh for some 3" mortars, or a Vickers or two!), and the appearance of the Germans Marders really led to extreme feelings of frustration and impotence. The sacrifice of the PIATs was unfortunate but there was nothing else that could be done and, if the cards had gone my way, they might even have been able to take a gun or two away with them!
My thanks to Rich for organising a great day; to Nick for not only ref-ing but also putting up with my incessant whinging; and to Clive and Douche for providing me with plenty of things to shoot at!
German Player's Report
Very little to add to this report as it described most of the action. I can only say how having advocated all morning not closing to short range against Paras, it was I who foolishly allowed his impetuousness to place my platoon in just such a position: consequently leaving any plans Clive had of attacking high and dry, especially as I was only meant to be a distraction. So sorry Clive.
Luckily Clive did stick to our original plan and gradually ground down the Paras in front of him, eventually preparing the way for his attack when time ran out.
I felt Robert's aggressiveness was well rewarded in the taking of Ranville, and any sluggishness would have caused him many more casualties. I did feel he was proactive all day long and used the benefits that Paras do bring to the table well. It was very difficult to find any holes in the defence until the Marders finally blasted a couple!
He may have missed the opportunity to blow up one of our Marders, but having to deal with his PIAT teams cost me a couple of valuable moves that allowed him to support his defence against the last push of the day, so they didn't waste their brave action.
Just to say thanks to Nick for coping with the difficult job of umpiring us with so much going on, and all the other umpires for devoting their time and effort for providing us with an excellent day's entertainment. Thanks to Richard for all the energy and effort put in to organising the event. Merville Battery looked excellent, as did all the tables.
Thanks to Clive, who played his part of the defence then attack well, and as usual with wargaming you're left wondering what would happen if this attack had gone in, or if there was more time. Thanks to Robert for a superb original attack and great defence. I was left enjoying the way lots of people handled their resources on the table, and how most tables seemed to swing one way or the other each time you looked.
British Reinforcements Player's Report
Thanks to Nick for some great umpiring. Thanks to Clive and Douche for being good opponents, and thanks to Rob for providing a really good show to enjoy while waiting for my damned cards to come up!
Thomas of the Penguin Brigade