British Shermans come under fire from the German PaK 40 Anti-Tank gun

The second scenario of the IABSM Blenneville or Bust campaign featured an attack by the British against German positions near the fictitious town of Avaux. We played this scenario way back in the spring, so details are sketchy at best, but it was a good, close run game. As with the previous installment of the campaign, if you are planning to play the campaign and don’t want to know the particulars, consider this your official spoiler alert.

The British objective was to push six tanks off of the far table edge. They were attacking with an infantry company and a tank company with support from a battery of 25 pdr artillery, sopme MMGs, and roving Jabos of the 9th Tactical Air Force. The Germans were defending with an overstrength infantry platoon, a couple of StuG IIIG, a couple of MG-42s, and a PaK 40. They also had fire support from some off-table mortars and a FlaK36 88mm gun set up to fire onto the main road.

Looking South: the view of Avaux from the British side

The German defenders were dispersed across the table with a couple of squads in the town center, one in the farmhouse on the eastern side, and one in the manor house among the orchards on the west side. The PaK 4o was positioned in the southern part of the orchard with commanding lines of site onto the road. The StuGs were deployed to assist the infantry squad on eastern side.

The German forward MG post opens fire on British troops trying to move through the gaps in the boccage

The British advance was primarily directed down the more open east side of the table and along the main road. As they approached the center of the table, German forces began to open fire. A platoon on the east side was caught bunched up and had two squads gutted. The tank support on that flank “discovered” the StuGs positioned over there and began a firefight that would see most of the Shermans destroyed or damamged at a cost of one of the two StuGs.

The Allied air force was not a meaningful factor in the game as they were unable to score hits on the German positions

The battered remnants of two British sections watch as their mates move up to try and silence the Germans defending the farmhouse

In the center, a forward MG post opened fire and stalled the advance before being silenced. As the British continued to push ahead, the main German position in the town center came into play, further limiting advance up the road. Soon however the British were able to range in their battery of 25 pdr artillery on the town square and the resulting fire, along with support from the MMG carriers, mostly silenced the Germans and pinned the company commander in place.

British move out after silencing the forward MG post

Danger! A Vickers MMG carrier braves their own artillery fire to get into position to engage the Germans in the town (and escape the PaK40!)

Much of the German success would rest in the hands of the lone PaK 40 guarding the main road. The crew of the gun got off to a rocky start when presented with a golden opportunity to cut the head off the British attack. The British company CO drove his White Scout Car up the road and into line of sight of the hidden PaK. I got the required card and brought the gun out of hiding to try and take out the British commander. Several shots later – all misses – the lucky Englishman had scurried into cover. The next couple of firing opportunities were also duds as the British Vickers MMG carriers escaped. However, the guns earned their pay once the Shermans arrived. The gunners put rounds into several of the British tanks, immobilizing them or breing them up, including one specatular explosion that blasted a number of nearby infantry.

Panzerjaeger: the PaK40 creates a parking lot of destroyed British armour

As the game came to it’s end phase, the British were down to barely enough running tanks to satisfy the victory conditions. However, German AT assets were running thin, with one StuG down, most of the panzerfausts spent or with so much shock as to be worthless, and the PaK 40 about to draw the ire of both the 25 pdr battery and the surviving MMG carriers. It would all depend on the sequence of the cards and the Germans were aided by having Big Men in charge of the gun and the surviving StuG (plus the AT Gun bonus fire card). The Germans got the jump on the British and dispatched enough tanks to prevent them from securing the victory.

STuGs vs Shermans: Allied and German armour duel around the farmhouse on the east side of the battlefield

Another great game of IABSM. The Germans enjoyed considerable early success, especially as the British infantry often found themselves bunched up trying to use the terrain. As in previous games, this one reinforced the deadliness of MGs against troops moving in the open. However, the British recovered well and were able to use their artillery and MMG carriers to break the central German position. Had they had a little luck and gotten the first shots against the last two AT assets they might have had success, but the Germans still had an ace in the hole in the form of the off-table 88mm gun and had redeployed their last panzerfaust equipped squad to a reserve blocking position. The main thing I could see that the british could have done was to shift fire on their 25 pdrs sooner in order to hit the AT Gun. That was the key asset given their mission and they probably should have focused more effort on knocking it out.

The German win sets up the third battle of the campaign, in which Allied forces move to take the town of Pierrecourt.

Thanks to Brian for all of the terrain in this game. He hand-made the buildings using Sculpey and they looked quite good. Brian also painted all of the British.

Brian Cantwell