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Sunday, 12 May 2013

Battle of Breville June 12th 1944 - Battlegroup Overlord

One of the three games run this month at the club was our first roll out of "Battlegroup Overlord". We first pre-viewed this system back in January this year when we played a pick-up scenario from the first release in this series "Battlegroup Kursk", which was an enjoyable romp on the Eastern Front.

The proof that I enjoyed playing the game was that I ordered up a copy of the Kursk book soon after and ordered up the new Normandy book plus the mini rules for collection at Salute from the Plastic Soldier Company. My collection of WWII 15mm figures is based on Normandy and thus I was keen to try out the rules for this period.


I prefer playing historically based scenarios, and so went for one of the historical scenarios in the book with my own adjustments. This scenario, based on the British 6th Airborne attack on Breville, had Marder IIIH's listed as the German supports. My copy of "Normandy 1944" by Niklas Zetterling suggests the 346th Infantry Division were equipped with StuGs and due to receive Marders. The photo below would seem to show they got Marder IIIMs not Hs, so I changed the orbat.

Marder IIIM plus other equipment from 346 Inf. Division knocked out in Breville
I decided to run the game using my figures as based for IABSM with multiple figures on a base. Any casualties not resulting in a base removed would be indicated with casualty dice markers. The assumption made was that a section commander would use his manpower to keep the light machine gun operating, and so riflemen would take the first hits on the unit.

The set up with objectives circled and British start line and FUP in top right corner
The table was set up as per the briefing in the book, and the orbat sheets were set up using the excellent software provided by Greg Farrell which makes this process very "pain free".


British Orbat

German Orbat
With the forces set up and the objectives highlighted the game commenced.

The set up from the German lines in Breville
The basic premise of the scenario is that a reinforced company of two platoons of British Paras, without a Company HQ, destroyed in a British artillery strike, supported by a troop of Shermans, 3"mortars and 4 x 25lbrs is to take three key houses in the outskirts of Breville, a village overlooking the landing grounds in the Orne River Bridgehead.
Holding the village is a re-forced company of two platoons of German infantry with three Marders, 81mm mortars and 76mm artillery, keen to keep possession of the place as a vital jumping off point for future attacks on the British landing zone.

The action takes place at night, with the limited visibility that implies.

Marder IIIM in "Ambush"
The German garrison had been subjected to a softening up barrage by British artillery, so they were naturally tensed up awaiting the eventual follow up assault. As the Marder crews scanned the darkness, British tanks could be heard clanking about in the night murk.

Two sections, a Marder and HMG guarded this objective
The first objective on the British list, a lone house alongside the main road into the village, was quickly occupied, and the German commander obliged by taking a Battle Rating Counter from the box.
Breville full of German defenders
The British were led out by their Recon team followed by their infantry sections and artillery OP. The tanks moved cautiously out into the fields behind the Paras, unsure of the perils that lay beyond.

HQ 6th Kompanie II/857 Infantry Regt, 346th Infantry Division
6th Airborne Recon move out cautiously towards Breville
"Hold your fire"
As the Airborne infantry closed in on the village proper, the first contacts occurred with both sides opening up with small arms and artillery support. As the casualties started to mount, so did the counters accrued by each side. Both sides were keen to overcome each others armoured support to allow themselves more room to manoeuvre.

In the armoured battle the British tankers soon gained the upper hand, despite having several near misses on their vehicles by 75mm shot. One by one the Marders started to burn.

"It's quiet Sarge, too quiet"
British Shermans supported the Paras in the hedgerows
6th Airborne close on the outskirts of the village
With the tanks in control of the situation the British felt emboldened to close on the German held houses. This was when their attack started to unravel. The Germans sitting still on the defence, pelted their would be assaulters with MG42 fire and repeated barrages of mortar and artillery fire.

German artillery starts to range in
The British were too spread out, unable to bring overwhelming strength to bear on one point, and with the early death of their OP finding it difficult to co-ordinate their artillery strikes with their advances.
As the firing increased, so did the casualties
The first attempts to close on the Germans were met by a hail of fire destroying the sections that advanced from the final hedge row. This forced a rethink from the British commanders who fell back to using their tanks to pour on masses of machine gun fire into the buildings.

The Shermans were on the top of their game knocking out all three Marders
The battle degenerated into a slogging match of massed machine gun fire and artillery strikes aimed at pinning and degrading the opposition. The stone buildings of the German defenders counterbalanced by British armour. However, woods and hedges were not enough cover for the Paras in the hell of artillery and machine gun fire, and thus it was the British who were declared the losers of our game as the day ended, being only eight points away from a Battle Rating failure.

So far so good
2nd Platoon HQ, 2"mortar and PIAT
The defenders held firm
The Marder teams searched the night for British tanks
The continual artillery kept heads down
The barrage was intense
The "high-water mark" of the British attack
The Marders start to get picked off
The British tanks start to "brass up" the village
Meanwhile the German shells kept coming
Suddenly all the Marders were gone.
The game was only our second in the club, so we cannot claim to be expert in their use. We found we made occasional mistakes as we went along but felt we had grasped the system pretty well by game end. I still like these rules with some caveats and potential house rules that I would possibly introduce. I will capture those thoughts at JJ's Wargames. Next month we will be playing Pegasus Bridge.

Thanks to Nathan, Andy, Ian and Tom for a very entertaining days game.

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