Sunday, 13 October 2013

Bas de Ranville 1944 - Battlegroup Overlord

Continuing with our testing of Battlegroup Overlord and our series of games pitting the 6th British Airborne up against the German defenders on and after D Day in the Orne Bridgehead, yesterday it was the turn of 21st Panzer Division to make their debut using this rule set. As the designer of this scenario I will discuss my thoughts further on JJ's Wargames

So, being tasked with pulling one of the games together for this month's club meeting, I turned to another of the Too Fat Lardies scenarios looking at 6th Airborne's capture and holding of the Orne Bridgehead, Bas de Ranville, where 12th Para were tasked with fending off a probe in force from 21st Panzer Division on the 7th of June.

Members of 12th Para inspecting their handy-work on a 21st Panzer Becker conversion
The map from the Lardy scenario with my additions of three "objective" buildings 
A 105mm SP gun of the type supporting 21st Panzer Division
21st Panzer Division Order of Battle
6th Airborne Division Order of Battle
Our interpretation of the map
The three roads leading off to the north were a potential source of British reinforcements
So to our battle. The 12th Paras hunkered down in their dug outs as the rumble of "vehicles" approached from the south. That could only mean Germans, and with 21st Panzer close by, probably Germans with tanks. It was good to know that two six pounder guns were in place amongst the hedges together with a PIAT team and, if all else failed, the trusty Gammon bombs were on hand.

Unknown to the Airborne commander one of his six pounders was damaged in the lift and would only reveal that issue when either gun attempted to fire. The umpire die roll would reveal this problem, but not in ear shot of the Germans. As far as they were concerned they still had two guns to contend with until they knew different. This worked very well and the damaged gun remained in situ providing a clear deterrent until cleared in the initial attack.

The British had the support of two six pounders, or so they thought!
All the defenders started well dug in counting as "hard cover" for saving
As the German entered the field to the south of town they prepped the hedges to their front with copious amounts of MG42 fire, forcing the Paras back towards the buildings. As the attack was being lead and directed by the German commander who called on his OP to bring down mortar fire the British sniper opened fire.

All the sections were armed with Gammon bombs and had a single PIAT team
As the rumble of 21st Panzer vehicles came closer the defenders waited in ambush
The sniper was on his game and his first shot took out the mortar OP forcing the German platoon commanders to take over the radio. Within minutes the German company commander lay slumped over the side of his APC as the sniper located his head above the lip of the open topped half track.

The sniper lair. This chap was particularly effective until silenced by a well placed 105mm shell
With a layer of command and control removed the German junior commanders took control urging the men to close in on the first hedge-line to get cover and regroup for the final assault on the "Tommies".

The first Panzer Grenadiers move into the fields south of Ranville supported by off table mortars
(note the OP nearest to camera)
At the midway stage the German force had suffered in its approach across the fields, but the British force smaller, initially, in numbers, had also burnt morale in having to maintain their defence by continually removing pins suffered under the weight of German machine gun and mortar fire.

The line of advance looked long and thin, it was about to get thinner
After the first exchange of fire the MG42's had cleared the first hedgerow forcing the defenders back
With the first hedgerow cleared and firing slackened, the armour came forward to lend its support
Aware of how deadly the sniping was from the British, the German force commander set about dealing with this threat by sniping back at suspected buildings with SP 105mm shells. Eventually the HE rounds found their target and the sniper was dead.
The CO's APC led the advance, brassing up the village with its pintal MG42
A knocked out six pounder left as a marker for the first line of defence
As the MG42's poured in their fire the Paras were forced to keep their heads down
The battle had reached a critical stage. The German force was battered but by no means out, and the British force was having to move and react to German threats in areas they were no longer in control of. This movement in the village was threatened by the ever growing mortar and HE fire that the German commander was able to call on. The MG42 was also becoming an ever increasing threat as the Germans attempted to smother known strong points in machine gun fire.

The British were, however, Veteran, which enabled them to avoid more of the pinning effects of the German fire, and the hard cover was also reducing their casualty count. These two factors, coupled with the fact that two fresh sections had arrived, marching to the sound of the guns, and had bolstered the British defence.

As the Germans closed in on the outskirts of Ranville they continued to take casualties
With limited HE the SP guns were forced to choose their targets with care
The Normandy stone buildings proved to be formidable cover for a veteran force of British Paras
The Para's CO oversees his defences from the centre of the village
The defenders covering the central orchard in the village
With one last hurrah, the Germans assailed the defences with their mortars and HE. Three sections of Paras were pinned in this maelstrom of fire and the German commander moved in on the back of this preparation, close assaulting a Para section holding the central orchard in front of the Para HQ. The British defenders were killed to a man and the Germans consolidated on the position.

The Germans were glad of the cover offered by the first hedgerow as they attempted to infiltrate further
The fighting was getting close up and personal and as the German 2IC directed fire from the machine gun on his APC a sudden strike from a PIAT bomb turned his battle taxi into a funeral pyre.

The British firepower was deadly and casualties continued to mount
No quarter asked, none given, the battle became a final slugging match with Bren and MG42 fire ripping through windows and hedges with men falling left, right and centre. The morale chit draw was becoming regular and with the advantage in class lying with the British our game ended with the German force four points away from break point and the British still with twenty points in the "bank".

In response to British sniping, German mortar rounds started to take a toll on the defenders
With their MG42 HMG covering the road into town in an attempt to restrict movement the Panzer Grenadiers closed in behind their mortar fire
The 105mm SP thickened the fire support
As the Paras fell back into the village reserves started to arrive at the CO's HQ
With a close in assault following up the mortars the Panzergrenadiers cleared the central orchard - was it enough?
The Germans had thrown the proverbial "kitchen sink" at Ranville but as in the real affair, the Orne Bridgehead was a tough nut to crack and the defences held.

Thanks to Ian, Jack, Charlie, Steve and Nathan for a very entertaining afternoons war gaming. Next month we will be rolling out "Chain of Command".


  1. Fantastic battlefield, great elements of terrain, love the buildings...

  2. Cheers Phil, glad you liked the game


  3. I see you are meeting on the 9th of November, what time do you guys start? As I be in Exeter that weekend, and I love to pop long if that is OK?

    1. Hi Nick, Your more than welcome to pop along. Usual start time is 11, but people are usually there by 10.30. Hope to see you there.


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