Last Saturday I hosted another France 1940 game of IABSM for Dave and John from the Benson wargamers. The game took place in my new wargaming room: the kids' playroom now reclaimed for its true purpose!

For years I have had to set up the tables in the front room (preventing anyone else from using it) and be on a time limit for how long everything could be left up. Now I have a glorious, wooden-floored room just off the kitchen with room for a permanent 8' x 5' set-up, and space for chairs and more tables for figures etc. 

Today's game would feature a German attack on a British held village somewhere on the Dunkirk Perimeter. Dave would play the Germans, and John the defending Brits.

The German objective was to capture the head of the railway track, represented by the big barn-like building bottom left in the picture: the one with the railway track emerging from it. The British objective was to prevent the Germans taking the railhead, with each turn that passed representing more troops elsewhere being able to make their way onto the beaches at Dunkirk and thus back to Blighty to fight again another day.

Other than the railhead itself, the main features on the table were the road running straight through the village; fields, hedges and a farm; and an area of dense scrubland near the railway track itself.

The Germans would enter the table under Blinds along the road from the opposite end of the table (where the chair is in the picture to the left). The British began the game under hidden Blinds anywhere on the table up to the hedgeline next to the big tree. They were also allowed to place a roadblock (which they did at the entrance to the village) and a minefield (on the road near the big tree).

The Germans had a full company of average quality infantry well supported by panzers. The British had a couple of platoons of infantry, three carriers, a couple of MMGs, and two 25mm French-made anti-tank guns. John spent quite a bit of time working out where to site his troops: looking at fields of fire, mutual support etc. He also followed the two-up-one-back tactic with his infantry, effectively giving himself  reserve in case of emergencies.

The Plucky Brits

Company HQ

  • Big Man 1 (Level III)
  • Big Man 4 (Level I)
  • 1 x FOO (to two 3” mortars off-table)
  • 1 x Anti-Tank Rifle Team (2 men)
  • 1 x Light Mortar Team (2 men)
  • 2 x MMG (5 crew)

1st Platoon

  • Big Man 2 (Level II)
  • 3 x Rifle Section (8 men each)

2nd Platoon

  • Big Man 3 (Level II)
  • 3 x Rifle Section (8 men each)

Carrier Section

  • 1 x Carrier with ATR
  • 2 x Carrier with LMG
  • (can be dismounted for one Rifle Section of 8 men)

Anti-Tank Section

  • 2 x 25mm Anti-Tank Gun (4 crew each)
  • 2 x Bedford Truck


(5th Appearance of Turn Card)

Mixed Tanks

  • Big Man 5 (Level II)
  • 2 x Light Tank MkVIb
  • 1 x A9 Cruiser

Two more views of the village


The Germans

Company Headquarters

  • Big Man 1 (Level IV)
  • 1 x Kubelwagen
  • Big Man 2 (Level II)
  • 1 x Rifle Squad (8 men)
  • 1 x PzB 39 (2 crew)
  • 4 x MMGs (3 crew each)
  • 4 x Kfz70 Trucks

Platoon 1

  • Big Man 3 (Level III)
  • 4 x Rifle Squad (8 men each)
  • 1 x 50mm mortar

Platoon 2

  • Big Man 4 (Level III)
  • 4 x Rifle Squad (8 men each)
  • 1 x 50mm mortar

Platoon 3

  • Big Man 5 (Level III)
  • 4 x Rifle Squad (8 men each)
  • 1 x 50mm mortar

Armoured Cars

  • 2 x SdKfz 231 (6 rad)

Panzers One

  • 3 x Panzer IIC

Panzers Two

  • Big Man 6 (Level III)
  • 4 x Panzer IVA


(arrive third appearance of Turn Card)

Infantry Guns

  • Big Man 7 (Level II)
  • 2 x 75mm Infantry Guns
  • 2 x Horse-drawn limbers

Panzers Three

  • 3 x Panzer 38(t)

The Game

The game began with the Germans sending forward a combination of Blinds and Dummy Blinds in an attempt to find out where the British were. As you can see in the pictures below, initial spotting revealed the presence of British troops behind a hedgerow and behind the roadblock.

The British, however, were very much on the alert. The German Dummy Blinds (representing small scouting parties rather than full game elements) were quickly spotted and banished from the battlefield, with further spotting revealing two German armoured cars heading straight up the road, and a zug of four Panzer IVs heading through the open field on the right of the British position.

Rather than conducting an all-out blitzkrieg charge, the Panzer IVs were edging cautiously forward, convinced that every hedgerow and copse of trees concealed enemy anti-tank assets. They were particularly unnerved by the short track edged by hedges half-way up the field: wasting valuable time making sure it was clear of anything nasty. Dave later admitted that it would have been better to have the tanks accompanied by a bit of infantry to do this sort of thing for them...but then Kapitan Hindsight always has 20:20 vision!

The Germans also managed to spot one of the British anti-tank guns that was lurking behind the roadblock: hardly surprising as it opened fire on the armoured cars, although to little effect.

Whilst their Panzer IVs were edging forward on their left, the Germans started pouring assets onto the table on their right. As the rather fuzzy picture on the left/below shows, one zug of infantry advanced through the wood in front of the farm, driving back the British carriers that had been hiding just behind it. They then came under fire from two sections of British infantry dug in behind the hedge and a firefight developed.

As the picture on the right/below shows, the Germans were unable to make much headway (their superior numbers being countered by the fact that the Brits were dug in), so brought up their zug of Panzer IIs to try and muscle their way through.

Looking again at the picture on the left, you'll notice the other British anti-tank gun revealed in position just by the big tree and facing up to the four Panzer IVs. Watch this space for more!

In addition to the troops you can see in the pictures above, the British Vickers MMGs had revealed themselves as being in the two end houses of the village. This gave them a superb position from which to fire at any advancing German infantry, but more enemy troops were arriving every moment. The pictures below show the German MMG zug deploying onto the track leading to the farm, from where they started laying down suppressive fire on the British MMGs, but to little effect.

Meanwhile, the British anti-tank gun crew by the big tree had engaged the Panzer IVs. One 25mm anti-tank gun versus four tanks with 75mm guns should surely have been a foregone conclusion, but unbelievably the Brits managed to not only hold their own but eventually take out the entire zug! The gun was reduced to just one crewman by the end of the clash (his name sadly missing from the official histories and for medal purposes) but I think all would agree that three crew for four panzers was a good exchange.

The picture below left shows the panzers about half way through their destruction. The rear panzer has been abandoned - you can see its crew running away - and the nearest tank blown up, and I think the panzer with the shock dice had lost its main gun by then as well.

The other anti-tank gun, meanwhile, had taken out one armoured car, and tempted the other to try and charge forward to engage it at close range. Dave rolled brilliantly for movement, and the SdKfz 231 shot forward...only to end up crossing the British minefield. This blew a wheel off the armoured car, permanently immobilising it, and a shot from the anti-tank gun was enough to persuade its crew to abandon ship (see photo below, right).

With his frontal assaults bogged down, Dave decided to do what he should have done in the beginning, and attempt to swing around the empty British right flank. If he could get enough assets to the patch of scrubland, then he might be able to work his way around to the British rear, forcing them to pull back or perhaps even surrender.

Forward up the right flank went an infantry platoon under a Blind, but it was soon spotted, and came under fire from one of the MMGs. So far so good: already half the British fire suppressing his forward advance had been forced to change targets.

Unfortunately, the British had reserves with which to deal with this potential crisis. Two sections of British infantry opened fire from positions within the further village houses and did fairly horrendous damage to the closely packed German column. The picture below, right shows the British position, but note that the infantrymen and MMG are actually in the houses not just in front of them: it's just that the Peter Pig houses (lovely though they are) are solid blocks of resin and don't open!

The Germans did eventually get to the scrubland, but there was no way that even a strong infantry zug was going to be able to eject the two British sections from their positions, at least not unless those Brits were needed to shore up the defences elsewhere on the battlefield.

More pressure was obviously needed on the British centre, so forward came the final German infantry zug. Unfortunately, the British had finally managed to contact their off-table mortars, and a curtain of fire began raining down on German heads. Combined with fire from the Vickers, this was enough to stop the zug in its tracks: you can see how its first gruppe has been pulverised in the picture below, left.

Meanwhile, the German infantry on left, now bolstered by the Panzer IIs and the Company HQ gruppe, had tried to rush the British defensive line on the forward hedge. A series of bloody close combats occurred, with one section of British infantry being driven back, and both Bren-armed carriers being badly bashed about.

The British line held, though, and the Germans paid dearly for their endeavours. The picture above, right just about shows the dire state of the German zug: of the five grippes that had gone forward, only one had enough men left in it to merit a movement base! The others were reduced to one or no Actions each: not what you need to carry on the advance.

Yes, the Panzer IIs were all still operational, but the other British anti-tank gun and Boys-armed carrier were now in position to shoot them as soon as they cleared the hedge line, and the British had kept back a section of infantry in reserve as well.

The battle ended just as the German reserves arrived: three more tanks and a couple of 75mm infantry guns. They were, unfortunately, too late: the sun was setting and British resistance had delayed the Germans enough for the retention of the village to be immaterial. The British disengaged and slipped away under cover of darkness.

It had been another cracking battle. In the post-match analysis, it was agreed that the care the Brits had taken with their initial positioning and their two-up-one-back placement had been a real factor in the solidity of their defence, and that the Germans had made the classic mistake of trying to smash straight down the middle of a prepared position without following the pin-and-manoeuvre tactics of true blitzkrieg. Still, it is only 1940: plenty of time for them to get tactically more astute: particularly as our next battle sees the start of the Vyazma or Bust! eastern front campaign.

Robert Avery