My second game at this year’s Operation Market Larden (the Evesham Lardy day) was a rather exciting game of I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum. The scenario, written and umpired by Mike Whitaker, involved a clash between British and German reconnaissance forces somewhere in Italy in around 1943.
I had seen people having a good time playing the game in the day’s morning session, so was very much looking forward to getting stuck in. Friend Dave had been one of the three players, and although he wouldn’t give me any clues as to what the scenario involved, he did advise that I played the Germans: something to do with superior firepower!
So I played the commander of a British reconnaissance force who were responding to reports of lots of sudden German activity along the main road from A to B…I can’t remember the exact location! My mission was to investigate and see what was going on. At my disposal I had a strong platoon of reconnaissance infantry consisting of three sections and an HQ element that included one Vickers machine gun, all supported by a platoon of Universal Carriers.
As can be seen in the pictures, the table featured a long straight road running between two small villages. Away in front of me to the north-east was a villa on an area of high ground; near the cross roads were some wheat fields (waist high crops) surrounded by a hedge and a stone wall; otherwise typical open Italian terrain.
My plan was simple. As I had no idea what the Germans were up to, the first thing to do was to find out. Under Blinds, my carriers shot forward straight down the road followed by a platoon of infantry. My rationale was that the carriers were quick enough to get out of there if they met anything too heavy, but could also provide a base of fire to allow a bit of ‘pin and manoeuvre’ with the following infantry. I also wanted to own the centre of the table as fast as possible rather than being forced to place catch up later on.
In response, the Germans moved a wave of Blinds onto the table from their end: one thrust being from the high ground by the villa, the other towards the far field surrounded by the stone wall.
The carriers quickly positioned themselves in the grove of trees just to the left of the crossroads, reporting that they could see something down the road on the other side of the junction. My platoon, still under a Blind, headed forward to investigate, rapidly coming across the downed wreckage of a small plane (probably a Storch). There were no bodies in the wreckage, however, but a trail of crushed corn leading into the far field towards the German baseline.
All became clear: downed plane, secret plans obviously on board, officers carrying plans escaping through the corn, go get the secret plans!
This was all very well, but those German Blinds were awfully close to the other end of the field.
Ah well, “in for a penny” and all that: my infantry platoon, still under a Blind, plunged into the cornfield and headed after the escaping secret plans.
Things now happened very, very fast indeed.
The picture above actually shows the situation after the clash that immediately took place. To summarise:
my platoon moved forward to stone wall and captured two German officers plus aforementioned secret plans
before I could do anything else, German Blinds revealed themselves as a small platoon of infantry (just two squads) but backed up by four SdKfz 250 half-tracks: three with 20mm autocannons, one command version with an MMG
After a horrendous round of autocannon fire, my platoon was Pinned then close assaulted by the Germans. A huge melee broke out (my 24 Pinned men versus 16 Jerries) ending up with my platoon being sent reeling backwards having lost both the fight and possession of the officers/secret plans
I hadn’t been able to destroy any halftracks during the melee, but had done them some damage and quite badly beaten up the German platoon
The observant amongst you will have noticed in the picture above that I have another of my Blinds approaching the wall. I was definitely “in for a pound” now, as this was another of my platoons, who immediately moved forward and close assaulted the Germans themselves.
Meanwhile, however, my HQ element had joined the carriers in the small grove by the crossroads, and set up the Vickers gun to protect my left flank.
This proved a very sensible, may prescient, thing to do, as the Germans were sending infantry down from the villa towards the flank of the fight in the cornfield. The Vickers opened fire at the side of the German column at what was close range for the machine gun, and one German squad lost all interest in continuing the fight, retreating back to the villa leaving a line of grey-clad bodies behind it.
Meanwhile, my second platoon of infantry had begun their assault. Another horrendously costly close combat took place…but this time finishing in my favour with the wall, officers and secret plans all ending up in my possession.
Those pesky half-tracks were still there, however, and pouring fire into my men, now crouched behind the stone wall desperately waiting for the carrier I had brought up to move forward, pick up the prisoners and secret plans, and then all to bug out as fast as possible.
The combined fire of the half-tracks proved too much, however, and my platoon evaporated under cannon fire, leaving two downed German officers (clutching the secret plans) frantically calling upon their kamarades to cease fire for long enough for them to climb over the wall!
I had one more trick up my sleeve, however: PIAT teams.
Now the PIAT is not a very good anti-tank weapon. It has a short range, is difficult to load, and packs only a middling punch. I had, however, by now managed to get two of the three PIAT teams at my disposal (one from the infantry, one from the carriers) into a position from which I could shoot at the two lead half-tracks. It took three or four shots, but one went up in smoke and the other’s crew abandoned their severely damaged vehicle.
Meanwhile, my Vickers gun had managed to disperse the other German infantry platoon coming down from the hill…and my third infantry platoon had charged forward from its “back” position (two up, one back: always have a reserve!) and re-taken the wall, officers and secret plans.
We paused for a second to assess the situation.
The British had possession of the wall and secret plans. They had about a platoon and half’s worth of men. In support, they still had the three Carriers and the Vickers. And two PIATs.
The Germans had two half-tracks (one in quite a vulnerable forward position) and…oh, no infantry left. Yes: all the German infantry had been removed from the table either as a result of the Vickers on the flank or the four close combats at the wall.
It was victory for the British. The officers and secret plans were bundled into a Carrier and whisked off to HQ whilst the two German half-tracks presumably beat a hasty retreat.
That had been a tough game. Okay, so I had the plans, but I had lost most of two platoons of infantry to get them: a costly exercise indeed.
My thanks to Mike for running what was an excellent game, and to my two opponents John and Bob: my usual apologies for my playing style!