To the west of Caen, the British advance needs to secure two bridges over a river in the village of St Martin sur Fleuve. Crossing here will allow armoured columns access to more open country where they can operate effectively. The Germans are stretched but need to hold the village to prevent their main forces from being outflanked.

 Looking toward the village from the German end

The village from the British side

The British

  • one company (three platoons) of infantry led by Major William "Willie" Winks (L3 Big Man)
  • two troops of Cromwells strengthened with Sherman Vc Fireflies

The German forces

(a piecemeal collection of whatever happened to be available)

  • In the village
    • one zug of infantry supported by two tripod-mounted MG42s led by Leutnant Heinz Beinemann (L2 Big Man hiding upstairs in the houses on the northern side)
    • one squad of three Panzerschreck teams led by Feldwebel Hans Vogel (L2 Big Man under a blind near the bridge to the east of the village)
  • South of the village:
    • two SdKfz 251/22 with Pak 40 anti-tank guns (under a Blind)
  • Off the table
    • one zug of infantry led by Leutnant Franz Grosz (L2 Big Man)
    • Company commander Hauptmann Johann von Schlipp (L3 Big Man) with one 8cm mortar team
    • two Stug III SP anti-tank guns
    • a recce Zug of five SdKfz 250 half tracks

The Action

The action opened with the British moving towards the village through the bocage and lightly wooded area north of the village. Initially, the Germans stayed hidden and waited.

The leading British platoon quickly took control of the area around the church, with the platoon commander and one section taking cover inside the church itself. One troop of tanks, under a blind, attempted to swing around the east of the village towards the larger of the two bridges but was spotted by the Germans in the village. The hidden Panzerschreck team fired upon the leading tank but missed. Unfortunately, on the next turn after the Tea Break, the tank troop's chip came out of the bag and the German tank hunters were sprayed with enough BESA lead to kill off two teams and the Big Man and leave the remaining team suppressed and shocked.

The British advance towards the village

No response from the Germans as the British armour appears

German anti-tank units show their hand

The German infantry in the houses open fire and pin the British lead platoon

The remaining German Blinds moved onto the table from the south and advanced towards both bridges as the German infantry in the village poured fire onto the Tommies advancing down the road and along the line of hedges, causing casualties and pinning both platoons behind hedges.

The second British tank troop emerged from Blinds and moved along the main road south towards the church, intending to offer HE support to the infantry who were continuing to take fire from the houses.

The first troop decided to do a Cardigan and charge hell-for-leather towards the bridge, only to have the lead tank knocked out on the bridge by a Stug III that had a nice simple shot.

The British get bogged down as the village starts to burn

 The armoured advance stalls as tanks get knocked out

The Germans counterattack as the British start to withdraw

After the next Tea Break, things started to take a turn for the worse for the Germans as HE fire set one of the houses alight, causing the German defenders to exit rapidly, taking casualties as well. British 2" mortar smoke rounds added to the confusion, allowing the second tank troop to make progress. It was at this point that a lucky sequence of chips allowed the SdKfz 251 Pak 40 unit to take out two Cromwells, blocking the road and making a British victory look unlikely. To add insult to injury, the remaining 'Schreck overcame his shock and managed to kill the Firefly in Troop 1, blocking the bridge and causing the crew of tank sandwiched between the two brewed up ones to bail out.

Troop 2 decided that discretion was the better part of valour and peeled away around the church to retreat and await another opportunity to cross swords with the Germans.

The German Recce unit of light halftracks started to cross the bridge, supported by the scond Zug of Landsers. This was clearly going to cause the British, still bogged down behind bocage hedges, more casualties so Maj. "Willie" Winks was forced to call it a day and pulled the battered platoons back under smoke cover from the third platoon, which hadn't even got close to the action.

Carole Flint