Regular visitors to the Vis Lardica site will know that one of my favourite builds this year was the Warbases' Pegasus Bridge model. This enormous piece of scenery took me some time to put together and paint, including a short hiatus whilst Warbases, showing their usual high levels of customer service, replaced a part that I had superglued into the wrong position and then destroyed as I tried to re-position! Now that the thing was built, it was time to get it onto the tabletop and into action.
I did think about replaying the actual Pegasus Bridge action itself but, at a loose end one day, I put together a rather nice set-up on the wargames table featuring the bridge as part of a small town. As I didn't want to take it all apart again and re-build to the correct landscape, I decided to just write a quick scenario featuring the bridge where it was:
Please excuse the washing that is visible in the background of a couple of the above photos: the wife will insist on invading the wargames room on a regular basis!
The scenario would be a simple one. A small number of British Paratroopers would start the game in possession of the bridge. The Germans would send some scouts and then a company of regular infantry to re-capture the bridge. The Paratroopers would receive reinforcements. The Germans would receive reinforcements. Whoever was in possession of the bridge at the end of the game would be the winners.
The British Paratroopers would begin the game with a Company HQ and a full airborne platoon. This gave them four Big Men, three 10-man infantry sections, three PIAT teams, two 2" mortar teams, a Bren gun team and a Sniper. There was also a Vickers machine-gun team in the bunker by the bridge but, in the event, this was not a good place to deploy it as it didn't get to shoot all game.
As re-inforcements, they had another platoon of paratroopers i.e. two more Big Men, another three 10-man sections, another two 2" mortars, another PIAT team and another Bren gun team.
A decided absence of heavy weapons...but the Brits were all elite and festooned with SMGs and grenades to give them an advantage at Close Range and in Close Combat.
The main German force consisted of a standard company of truck-mounted infantry i.e. nine 8-man rifle squads in three platoons with four Big Men; a Company HQ of two 8cm mortars; a machine gun platoon of four MMG teams and a Big Man; and an infantry gun platoon of two 75mm infantry guns plus tows and a Big Man. Assuming the Germans were looking down the main road towards the bridge, these would arrive a couple of Blinds at a time along the road coming in from the right.
In addition, they would start the game with a motorcycle recce platoon of two squads of motorcycle infantry and a somewhat cheesy Puma armoured car. These would arrive at the end of the main road on turn one.
Finally, if it looked as if all the above were getting duffed up by the Paras, a platoon of five Panzer IVs would arrive at a suitable moment along the road from the left.
How I Thought The Game Would Go
My thoughts were that the German recce force would advance forward and get annihilated by the Paras, sacrificing their lives to identify where the Paras were.
The German infantry would then wend their way along the road to the main high street, then start sweeping slowly down towards the bridge. The initial platoon of Paras would hurt them, but gradually start being overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers. They would then be reinforced by the second platoon of Paras, and the Germans would start being pushed back.
The Germans tanks would then arrive, with the game finishing with a bit of cat-and-mouse (or rather PIAT-und-Panzer) amongst the houses before a final assault on the bridge would decide the result.
All rubbish, of course!
The game turned out nothing like I had imagined, my opponent and the dice having their own ideas about what was going to happen! I would play the Paras, friend Bevan would play the Germans.
The game began with the arrival of the German recce force at the end of the high street.
Almost immediately, it came under fire from a Para Bren gun team, who had been positioned just at the end of the bridge expressly for the purpose of shooting anything coming down the main road.
The Bren gun team did a little bit of damage to the German scouts, who scattered into the gardens/garage forecourt on either side of the road.
What the Germans couldn't see was the hidden British Blind by the single tree on the right of the road that concealed a section of British Paras that were about to melt forwards into the houses with the yellow and blue shutters in front of them.
Meanwhile, the German infantry company had begun to arrive along the road from the German right. Instead, however, of wending their way to the high street as I had planned, they immediately dismounted and began to make their way across the wide open field near where the lavender was growing. This wasn't in my plan!
Worse, the first thing they had done was to drop off their 8cm mortars and place the German CinC with them, just about ensuring that the Paras would be under constant mortar fire for the rest of the game!
Luckily my deployment allowed me to react appropriately. Another section of Paras (the Blind in the left-hand picture, above) moved into position and opened fire, killing one German and Shocking the rest. The British Sniper also opened fire, Pinning the Germans in place.
As for the mortars, the British 2" mortars on top of the bridge quickly got their range in, and dropped smoke all over the Germans tubes and lead Big Man. So far the situation was under control: I should be able to gradually whittle down the Germans in the field for minimal casualties.
Well that was plan two, but that quickly went up the Swannee too!
One of the German recce squads zoomed up the road, ignoring the Bren gun team, and managed to get into the house overlooking where my Para section was punishing the Germans in the field.
This was no good: I didn't fancy a bit of devastating fire coming down on me from above. Quickly my Paras decided that attack was the best form of defence, and charged the house, grenades and Sten guns at the ready.
It was a disaster. The dice decided that they would, for now, favour my opponent, who managed to roll six kills on the eight dice he was rolling. That left my 10-man Para section down to four men and totally defeated into the bargain.
This was really not going well, especially as the demise of number one section left me with a big hole in my defense. Luckily I had adopted the two-up, one-back deployment, and was able to bring my third, reserve section into place. Unfortunately, the time I took to do this gave the Germans time to get their infantry forward, as shown in the picture below. You can also see how the second Para section has managed to stop the advance of the other recce section on the other side of the road, and even driven its Puma back with a couple of PIAT shots
The German Blind near the central house revealed itself as another three-squad infantry platoon that quickly occupied the damaged house to the left, the central house, and the damaged, smaller house on the right. They engaged the second section of British Paras, saving the remnants of the second recce squad from certain destruction.
It was now that the quality of the British Paras began to really make a difference. The third Para section opened fire on the German squad right in front of it and just about annihilated it in one blast. Reinforced by a spare Bren gun team, over the course of the next few turns it would take out both the other two squads as well without losing a single figure. With its Big Man present and the German squads closed up, it sometimes fired at 6D6+5, and once rolled so high that it reached the bottom (i.e. highest) row of the Fire Table, something I've never managed to do before.
The second Para section, the one on the other side of the road, was now in a firefight with three and a half squads of German infantry. They were doing okay, but needed reinforcing. Fortunately this was the moment that my second platoon of Paras arrived. These I brought off their Blind as soon as possible, deploying them just behind the building that second section, first platoon were in. They opened fire on the Germans in the houses on the other side of the road, and suddenly things were looking up again.
Unfortunately now was the time that my 2" mortars, for the first time, failed to keep the German 8cm mortars covered by smoke. One mortar suddenly found itself free to fire, and popped round after round straight into the middle of where my new platoon of Paras were deployed!
It was carnage. My Paras were Pinned and then shelled again and again. By the time I did manage to get them moving and out of the blast radius, I had lost half of them and one of their two Big Men. The pictures above show you the situation.
More German Blinds cards were arriving, but as there was only one Blinds chip in the bag, they weren't arriving fast enough to make a difference. The action became a war of attrition, with smaller numbers of better quality Paras holding their own against a horde of jackbooted infantry.
But it couldn't last. The Paras started looking over their shoulders, hoping that the chaps from the beaches that were supposed to be relieving them were actually on their way, and hadn't stopped off for one more cafe au lait at a suitable Normandy diner...and so it proved.
Well, actually, we reached the end of the time allocated to the battle (this was taking place the day before I went on holiday and I hadn't actually got around to packing yet!), and so brought things to a close with the arrival of a British relieving force before the Germans even had a chance to deploy their panzers. Here's the situation at the end of the battle:
You can see that the Brits are down to four sections of infantry, some pretty battered, but that the Germans have lost half their infantry and so far failed to deploy any of their heavy weapons - except for the medium mortars, of course.
In the end, we declared the game a draw. No, the Germans hadn't taken back the bridge, but they probably would have had we continued: the Brits had lost too many men to the failed charge and mortar bombardment to be able to sustain a lasting defense. As my opponent said at the time: a great game played over great-looking terrain.