Report of a game last Saturday in James "Hot Lead" Manto's Basement 'O Rabbits. Figures are 15mm, Battlefront and QRF. French from the collection of Patrick Faye, Germans from the club's Kampfgruppe Hotlead with a few of my own infantry thrown in. Rules are I Aint Been Shot, Mum by Too Fat Lardies.
The scenario was inspired by 4th DCR's counterattack into the flank of 19th Panzer Korps between May 20 and 26, 1940. So a mixed bag of dragons porte, and assorted tanks are making an attack on a German leg infantry company with some 75mm iGs and pak 36s. Dependent upon turn of the card and die rolls German armoured reinforcements and Stukas show up to help.
The spring air was warm and pleasant at the open window where Leutnant Otto Gammel sat at breakfast. As he devoured his ham and eggs, he decided that this was the cushiest OP he had enjoyed since he had crossed into France. The top floor of the Mayor's house offered a commanding view of the fields and roads leading away from Couchy-en-Bois. The Mayor had insisted that Gammel stay here, loudly denouncing the Republic and praising Hitler for being tough on reds. Whatever, Gammel thought. He was more interested in the politics of the Mayor's daughter Madeleine, who had lingered a long time after she had brought him breakfast. In the corner of the room, Gammel's radio operator went through his morning comms check with Battery. If he had to be at war, the FOO thought, this was a good morning for it.
Within Couchy-en-bois the landsers were enjoying the warm morning and a chance to rest their feet. Some where kicking a football in the square, others sat smoking and reading letters. Gammel was finishing his coffee as he became aware of the droning of an aircraft. He set down the coffee cup and stood by the window. The troops below were waving at the fighter as it circled overhead. Gammel frowned. It looked awfully stubby for an ME1109. Now it was coming straight for him, lights along the wing winking red. "Scheisen!" He barely hit the floor before the room filled with glass and wood splinters. Another pass, and he could hear cries from below for stretcher bearers before the plane sped away.
In the woods east of Couchy-en-bois, Captain Walter Harnadek watched the MS climb away. "That should damn well never have happened. Field phone!" He snapped out his hand to the signaller, intending to blast the young leutnant who had so obviously forgotten his platoon's concealment discipline. He was interupted though by his CSM, who was pointing south towards the village of St. Pierre-les-lapins below them. "Bugger me, sir, if that ain't Frog armour." Harnadek dropped the field phone and brought up his Zeiss field glasses. "Bugger me if you're night right, Feldwebel. Alarm! Action front!" The first tank rounds were beginning to land among his startled landsers as Harnadek made a mental note for more lectures on concealment and camoflague.
Lt. des Chasseurs Alfred Blondin stood in the turret of his Renault 35 and watched the rest of his troop racing forward. Finally, a crack at the Boche. He remembered DeGaulle's lectures on speed, concentration of force, and daring. This was the way to fight, he thought. Blondin flinched briefly as a few rounds whistled over his head. The Boche on the hills to front had woken up. Hopefully he and his troop could slice through them quickly. They would certainly be faster into the fight than the lumbering Char and Soumas of Capt. Crapaud to his left. There was a loud clang from the R35 to his side, then a loud grinding sound from its engine as the tank slewed to one side. Blondin spotted the AT gun and ducked down to crank his turret traverse. Maybe these one-man turrets weren't such a great idea, he thought.
In his shattered OP, Lt. Gammel watched the French attack developing two kilometres away. The view through his binos kept moving, though, because Madeleine was pressing herself against him and crying "j'ai horreur des avions!" becomingly. Gammel had the coordinates and could have dropped a fine stonk on the village, but his operator shrugged helplessly and indicated the radio set, riddled with French bullets. "Verdamt!" His 150s might was well be back in Stuttgart. "Umm, should I leave you two alone, Herr Leutnant?" the gefreiter asked helpfully.
Meanwhile, Major Daniel L'Huter (fondly known at St. Cyr as the grossest of the gross) watched his infantry push into a copse of trees while his infantry and AT guns deployed. The fight from St. Pierre-les-lapins could be heard clearly now, while Couchy-en-bois was silent and menacing after the air attack. Across a ploughed field he could see German infantry and at least one AT gun in a woodlot. "We're ready to attack, mon capitaine" advised his CSM. "Non. Too dangerous. Let's soften them up." "But sir, at extreme range we will be ineffective." "Leave the thinking to me, CSM. Open fire."
Capt. Harnadek watched his landsers struggling as the woods were lashed by enemy fire. The French had set up at least two HMGs in the village below, apparently in the central courthouse. "Get that AT gun firing again!" he shouted at his CSM, who nodded and moved off at a crouching run. Harnadek moved slowly along the line, encouraging his men. To his amazement he found a section of gunners lying under cover, their low-slung 75mm guns silent. "Who said you could nap?" "Herr Captain, it's too dangerous!" said the section IC. "Either you get these guns firing or you'll be shooting shells out your arses!" Kicking and cuffing the gunners, Harnadek got them up. "There, that courthouse. Give it to them!" The officer watched in satisfaction as they began firing.
Blondin was surprised at the tenacity of the German defenders. Despite the pounding they were taking, the Boche fire was increasing, and now they were adding small field guns to the mix. He watched as another HE round slammed into the courthouse, which was beginning to sway and collapse. A section of MG gunners emerged coughing and bleeding, their brown uniforms red with brick dust. At that moment he became aware of a terrifying and familiar wail, and glanced skywards. Stuka! It was coming down now, not over him but over Crapaud and his CharB, "Rosalie". He waved frantically at Crapaud, who was nonchalantly lighting a cigarette in the turret. Pompous ass, look up! Blondin said, and at that moment the Major glanced skywards, to see a 500 bomb falling square onto his turret. The Char B disintegrated in a cloud of black smoke and whirling scrap iron.
When Blondin raised his head again from his turret, it was to face a new threat to his front. Three low grey shapes had appeared to his front, their turrets spitting fire. Autocanon rounds were beginning to fall around his tank and clang off his front armour. German panzers had evidently come to the rescue. Merde. "Driver, reverse!" As his Renault began to back and turn, Blondin saw a Souma tank to his left shudder, hit in the flank. It too began to turn for the rear while its partner engaged two more low gray shapes. He had to hand it to the Boche, they were good at getting tanks to the right place at the right time. There were lessons to be learned here, and he was determined that he would learn them for the time of revenge to come. "Let's get the hell out of here!" he ordered his driver.
Firing began to die down along the line as the French fell back through St. Pierre-les-lapins. In his wood, L'Huter shrugged philosophically. "La guerre, c'est un adventure toujours." Clearly the tank boys had failed. "Come on, boys, let's go."
In Couchy-en-bois, Lt. Gammel emerged from the mayor's house. "Observe anything interesting, Herr Leutnant?" asked a sergeant with a smirk. Gammel didn't notice .. he was watching three French armoured cars approaching. So was the young platoon commander, but he was watching them like a mouse watches a snake. "Get your f'n MG going!" Gammel shouted, then ordered the crew to open fire when the Lt. stood silent. A long burst, then another, and the French vehicle halted. Kar98 fire opened up from the other houses in the village, and the French cars decided that discretion was the better part of valour and withdrew. Gammel turned to the young subby. "When you don't have big guns, use what you have to scare 'em. They're as scared of you as you are of them. At that point he saw Capt. Harnadek's kubelwagon drive into the square. Gammel nudged the young platoon commander. "Now him, him you need to be scared of."
According to the referee, as Germans we could have had more armour assets show up, but at midnight we decided that the French advance had stalled. Kudos to James for stepping up to the plate and umpiring. We continue to learn the TFL system and generally like it. When both sides complain about the way the cards break, the system definitely works. The chance to play with early war armour was great fun - it depends more on morale than on the ability to destroy the enemy.
The Mad Padre