For our Saturday game - Dan Best and I decided to try something new. We selected a scenario from View from the Trenches. Specifically, our evening scenario would be The Shambles VO.12. This scenario set in the dark days of the Normandy Campaign was designed by Shaum Carter and Charles Markuss. To date there are no recorded playings of the scenario in ROAR or on the ASL Scenario Archive. This is a tremendous shame as this scenario is tremendous fun! And hopefully by the time this AAR concludes you will know two things: 1) This is an awesome scenario and 2) Canadians did not burn down the Whitehouse in 1812. We'll kind of skip over the whole Lundy's Lane thing...as just one of those historical misunderstandings between friends!
Those of you who are long time readers of Grumble Jones know that I am particularly fond of fielding Canadians in ASL. Can't really say why...but perhaps its in my blood. My Grandmother's parents were French Canadian. So a little French-Canadian to go with my Scots-Irish blood gives me some panache...eh!?!
At any rate, I really do like playing the Canadians and after rolling sides, I would end up commanding the Canadians and assume the role of scenario attacker.
The Shambles covers the actions of the Allied effort to seal the Falaise Gap and complete the elimination of the German Fifth Panzer and Seventh Armies. A successful effort would have dramatically altered the course of the war on the Western Front. As we know, the Germans did manage to escape with a large veteran cadre of panzer men and infantry, who would incredibly be refitted and back in action at the September battles at Arnhem and the December battles in Belgium. A nod to the abilities of the Germans to keep their forces in the field.
The Shambles takes place at St. Lambert sur Dives, Normandy on August 19th, 1944. A Canadian Battlegroup led by Major D. V. Currie would be the main Allied force attempting to seize and hold St. Lambert sur Dives and halt the escape of the German 7th Army. It was a tall order, but one, which Currie and his Canadians would ultimately see to a successful conclusion.
The Canadians would find themselves matched up against the remains of the 21st Panzer Division. It would be an epic fight that would result in a Canadian victory as the Currie's force took control of the village and went on to hold it for thirty-six hours against all German counter-attacks. An amazing accomplishment. The big question for me was...would I match the historical accomplishments???
Major D.V. Currie would be awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery in Normandy. His Victoria Cross would be the only VC awarded to a Canadian Soldier during the Normandy Campagin and would be the only VC ever awarded to a member of the Royal Canadian Armored Corps.
Check out this link for more information on this Canadian Hero.
I believe the 9-2 Armor leader included in the Canadian OOB represents Major Currie. I'm sorry to say that my 9-2 bit the dust hard in the scenario that follows. So may apologies. I lost him to a HIP 4-4-7 with a Panzerfaust. I tried to keep him safe...honest I did.
As the scenario defender, Dan would command elements of the 21st Panzer Division deployed as Kampfgruppe Rauche. Such a fitting name as Dan's Germans would set this battlefield on fire. Smoke, smoke and more smoke as Dan burned the mutha-#@%^$@ down.
The 21st Panzer Division is one of the storied units of the Wehrmacht. They set the deserts of North Africa on fire with their exploits under Rommel and once reorganized would serve Rommel again in Normandy. They would be the only Panzer Division to counter-attack the invasion beaches and nearly retook Pegasus Bridge. They would fight hard throughout the campaign. And they would bedevil Patton in the Vosges before being dealt a truly bad hand and finding themselves in the Halbe Pocket. Seems almost criminal that they would be destroyed in the death spasms of the German Ninth Army at Halbe.
Dan's force would consist of 6 x 4-6-7's, 2 x 4-4-7's, led by a 9-1 and 8-1 with 2 x LMG's, an MMG, an HMG, and a Panzerschreck. For support they would have 1 x MKIV, 1 x Tiger 1, and 2 x 88L AA Guns. A tidy little force with some solid punch to hold onto a very narrow front with terrain controlled access into the village. Throw in the Panzerfausts and this was a force to be reckoned with.
As the scenario attacker, I would command elements of Major D.V. Currie's Canadians. This force would include elements of C Squadron, 29th South Alberta Regiment and B Company, Argyll Sutherland Highlanders of the 4th Armored Division. They would achieve everlasting fame during the fight at St. Lambert sur Dives.
My force would consist of 9 x 4-5-8's, 3 x 2-4-8's, led by a 9-1, 8-1, 8-0, and 7-0 with 3 x LMG"s, an MMG, an HMG, 3 x Piats, and 3 x 51 MTR's. For support I would have 11 x 75* Sherman Tanks, 4 X 76LL Sherman Fireflies, and 4 x 76LL Archers with a 9-2 Armor Leader.
YEAH BABY...that's a lot of armor...19 Tanks!!! Yeah bring on that one Tiger Tank...I'm ready for ya!! (Dan would bring on that Tiger Tank...much to my later deep regret. Never taunt a Tiger...it's not a good idea...just say'n.)
Yep...backing away from the glass..
The Germans would set up on Board 41 with 2 x MMC's HIP. I hate HIP squads...let me repeat...I hate HIP squads.
The Canadians would enter on Turn 1 from the south edge of Board 6.
There a are no level 2 hills and the EC are dry with no wind. The dry part would certainly fuel the fires we would see in the later phases of the battle.
My attack plan was fairly restricted by the terrain. The best tank country was on the right and naturally I expected the 88's to be concentrated there. The center would be controlled by German MG's and the left with the marsh hex would be a limited flanking opportunity.
So word of wisdom to the Canadian Player...you will lose tanks...you will lose a lot of tanks...do not be troubled by this. These losses can be withstood. Lower your head and drive forward.
My force was ready to go!!! 19 Tanks...oh such an abundance of armor goodness...
Turn 1 went well for the Canadians...except on the left. The Firefly with my 9-1 and HMG would come under LMG fire.
And he would Pin and then on his bail Task Check roll a "12"...oh good grief...first roll is a 12. Wound severity would be a "5"...and Lt. Johnson had not only fallen off the Sherman...but was run over by it. Just like that my best officer was dead on the field....
Oh...the indignity of it all....
After the trauma of watching their CO be crushed by one of their own tanks...my boys shook it off and made ready for Turn 2.
As I had feared...the right was a killing ground with both 88's and the Tiger 1 making mincemeat of my armor.
On the plus side, I knew the center and left were without 88's...my 9-2 Armor Leader would advise the armor of the next phase.
(pretend he's Canadian...just for this AAR of course.)
In the center, I would have a stroke of luck as my Sherman's MG's stripped the concealment of Dan's 8-1 and MMG. Unfortunately, I would MALF my MA (but thankfully fix it the very next Rally Phase.)
Turn 2 - my mortars made the two smokes I had planned.
Next up, my armor moved ahead full steam. Part of my thinking was to get Dan's Germans to fire the Panzerfausts from inside of the stone buildings. But Dan's first HIP squad appeared with the Panzerschreck...but missed. "Big Thunder...no Rain." And then Dan couldn't initially roll a Panzerfaust. This had the unanticipated consequence of final firing and/or pinning his infantry. An opportunity for my infantry had been opened.
Dan would finally get a Panzerfaust and knock out the lead tank on the center road, but it would end up breaking the squad. Another lucky break for the Canadians.
As I moved ahead, I also revealed the second 88..ugh...
Back on the left. Dan's boys in the woods would end up being Dummys.
"Ha ha...the Canadians fell for it... they are shooting up the Dummy unit in the woods...ha ha..."
On the right, I decided to send more armor into the field of death. I wanted to keep Dan's Tiger 1 shooting and not moving. Of course neither option was really desirable...
But then another piece of luck came my way as the second 88 prepared to fire...
Dan would roll boxcars and MALF the gun.
With his 88 MALF'd on the hill, I could start sending tanks and infantry forward.
In yet another lucky moment (for me), my Sniper would show up and DM the crew of the hilltop 88. This would drive them away from their MALF'd gun.
Back in the killing fields, more of my armor went up in flames. Nearly every shot was blazing wreck.
Back in the killing fields, more of my armor went up in flames. Nearly every shot was blazing wreck.
With most of my armor eliminated or fleeing on the right, Dan moved his infantry towards the center. His 9-1 and HMG were needed.
As my armor blazed...it began to spread into the dry fields and woods. Flames were spreading....
Dan would move forces from both the right and the left flanks into the center. The battle for village had begun in earnest.
The MKIV was still in motion and when it attempted to stop in the next Turn, my Firefly would light it up.
Prepare to fire!
After destroying the MKIV...my Firefly would hear the ominous sound of a Tiger Tank approaching from the rear. I would swing my turret around and intensive fire. I missed, but I would be ready in my next Prep Fire. The Tiger missed with it's bounding fire shot.
In my Prep Fire, my Firefly would fire and take out the Tiger. With that, the Germans had lost their final anti-tank asset.
With the Germans reeling, my boys plunged into the village and began taking victory locations. I needed at least 10 buildings for the win.
At the conclusion of Turn 4, Dan's Germans were all either KIA or DM'd. My Canadians had the necessary building locations for the win, so Dan offered the concession and we called it game over.
It had been a tough and bloody fight for both sides. Canadian and German armor was burning throughout the smoke shrouded village. Infantry losses had also been heavy. But in the end, the weight of Canadian armor was too much for Dan's Germans. We both thoroughly enjoyed this scenario and would recommend it to those of you who have not played it. It is a free download form the View from the Trenches website.
As always, my thanks to Dan for another great Saturday of ASL. The Shambles was one for the history books and I'll not soon forget our toe to toe struggle.
This AAR is dedicated to those Canadians who gave their lives for the cause of Democracy and freedom in Normandy.
What John said...today and always...
Dan and I will return next Saturday for a playing of ASL Scenario 136 - The Agony of Doom.