Chain of Command: Battle of Bréville

Background

In June 1944 Bréville-les-Monts was occupied by the 346th Infantry Division, a location that allowed the defenders to observe the positions of the 6th Airborne Division and beyond them the British Sword Beach at Ouistreham. The 6th Airborne Division were defending the River Orne and Caen Canal bridges, but an offensive was planned on the night of June 12th/13th against Bréville to remove the German defenders.

Photo from http://www.6juin1944.com/album/breville/index.php

Scenario

This game is set against that backdrop. Peter and I previously played the Tailleville Campaign which pitted his Canadians against my Germans as they attempted to move inland from Juno Beach. This saw Peter’s forces having to attack well dug in Germans, which was challenging. This time out we decided to play something a little different. This game is set during the day on the 12th June as German engineers attempt to destroy a culvert on the road between Amfreville and outskirts of Bréville and a house that offers a strong defensive position over this road, before they pull back into the town. For that we’re using the ‘Going with a Bang’ scenario on P.120 of the Blitzkrieg 1940 supplement. Our forces will be drawn from the main Chain of Command rulebook to represent the 6th Airborne Division and the 346th Infantry Division.

Support

Peter rolled a 6 for support which gave him a total of 12 support points, leaving me with 6 plus 8 (the difference in force ratings). He opted for two Shermans, and I went for two more Engineering Teams, a Senior Leader, an Adjutant, a Panzerschreck Team and a Panzer IV H. I knew I’d need plenty of Engineers if had a chance of destroying the culvert and building before the elite enemy were on top of me!

The Game

The patrol phase went well for me and I was able to get Jump Off points where I needed them.

The culvert is on the road beside the German Patrol marker. The second demolitions target is the small hay loft near the rear of the battlefield.

That was the high point of the battle for the Germans! The British paratroopers arrived quickly and moved into good firing positions as the Germans brought forward a section, Senior Leader and an Engineer team to where the culvert was to be destroyed. Progress was slow and soon they found themselves with three paratrooper sections firing on them.

The Germans deployed a section into the upper floor of the farm house and managed to return some fire, but the highly accurate Bren fire on the Engineer team caused them to flee.

Another team was called forward, but were mauled before they could finish the job (low demo planting dice rolls!). The third team finished positioning the explosives, but the detonator was damaged by a stray bullet (I didn’t generate any Chain of Command dice during the whole game!). The British fire caused those gathered near the culvert to fallback. When combined with earlier light wounds to the leaders there things were looking shakey for the German force morale.

The British tanks and the Panzer IV exchanged some fire along the road, but this was just a side show. The main action was around the culvert and the British fire finally caused the Germans to fallback.

The German force’s morale was critically low (1!) and they decided to retreat to Bréville, leaving the road open for the advancing British forces.

Aftermath

Surprisingly, both sides suffered similar losses, about 11-12 for the Germans and 8-9 for the British, but the difference came down to the British’s ability to focus fire on individual teams. The Engineer teams must have been very conspicuous working on the culvert as they received a lot of attention. With three breaking and the injuries to the leaders at the culvert the German force morale plummeted. Facing a force that was rolling six command dice and that could activate section commanders on a 4 with three command initiatives (which they could then use on ‘Concentrated Fire’) was impressive.

In retrospect I wouldn’t change anything major (other than rolling more 5s!). Maybe I could have positioned the Jump Off point that was behind the farm house in front of it and given myself more firing options on the British Paratroopers that moved up that way. It would have made only a minor difference as the MG42 in the farm house window was throwing out ten shots with ‘Maschinengewehr’ versus fourteen from a full section firing. Maybe I should have considered a Preliminary Bombardment, but that didn’t seem fitting with the scenario.

Big thanks to Peter for such a fun game. I really do enjoy chain of Command, win or lose.

Until next time,

Owen

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