Wargaming in Hertfordshire

Friday, 12 February 2010

PMZ Campaign: Amiens

Report from General Eberbach,
commanding Fifth Panzer Army

The battle for Amiens, dated August 8th 1944


I am writing this report from Berlin where I have been summoned after the battle for Rouen. I assumed it was to account for my withdrawl to Amiens but it transpired that I was there to be questioned by the Gestapo about my superior, General von Kluge, who has committed suicide after being implicated in a plot against the Fuhrer – not a pleasant experience. He has been replaced by General Model.
Unfortunately Panzer-Abteilung 503 was assigned to the Eastern front, however the Army has recieved replacements for the Tiger Is lost at Rouen.

My subordinate deployed along a ridgeline overlooking open ground, this was occupied by the 9th SS Panzer Division. The left was light woodland and a small village, occupied by the veteran 422nd Infantry Division resting its left flank on marshy ground. The right was light woodland occupied by the veteran 716th Infantry Division (which had replaced the 243rd) and an attached battalion of JgPz IVs.

The British attack was slow to develop. On the left, the only noise to be heard was the buzzing of recconaissance aircraft and the sound of 5.5" shells landing on the forward positions of 422nd. On the right an infantry division supported by a battalion of Shermans advanced rapidly but were stopped by an infantry battalion and the Jg PvIVs. These raw troops stood their ground for a time before retreating back to their start position.

The main attack then developed on the left with the 27th Armoured Division in the lead. They were faced by a battalion of Panthers detached from 9th SS as well as the infantry of 422nd around the village. Despite the pounding from the artillery, the 422nd managed to stop the attacking infantry, while the Panthers stopped the Shermans, destroying many in the process. At this point infantry mounted in Buffalo amphibious vehicles entered the marsh from hiding in the forested area on the extreme left, causing much concern for the 422nd commander, particularly as the Panthers were now under air attack for the first time and also under the fire of 17pdrs from the forest. Fortunately at this moment the 27th Armoured gave way, having lost half of its tanks, retreating back to its start line. 422nd commited its reserve, a battalion of Armoured Engineers, to counter the buffalos.

Captured officers reported that the British command was near to despair, as they felt the position to be impregnable. However they persevered, and attacked with their remaining infantry division. Simultaneously, typhoons made a devastating attack on the Panthers; the artillery accurately hit the infantry around the village, followed up by an attack by the British infantry supported by 25 pdrs; and the buffalo mounted infantry laid down accurate fire on the Engineers. Under this overwhelming pressure the morale of the 422nd gave way and it retreated from the battlefield, taking the few remaining Panthers with it.

Fortunately the 9th SS Panzer commander reacted rapidly, sending battalions of Panthers and Armoured infantry into the wooded area just vacated by 422nd. Seeing this, the British commanders decided to halt the attack and withdraw, which they did on 6th August.

The view just prior to the counter attack of the 9th SS.
Foreground: the 422nd retreats.
Left: the Buffalos are advancing.
Background: the remains of 27th Armoured.
Centre: the British infantry advancing.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

PMZ Campaign: Le Mans 1

Report from General Eberbach,
commanding Fifth Panzer Army.
The battle for Le Mans, dated August 2nd 1944
.

I deployed on a line of hills in bocage country, with marshy ground to my right. The 709th infantry division was in fortified positions in the centre supported by a battalion of Jagd Pz 4s, this division was also holding a vital road junction. The 352nd infantry division was in fortified positions on the left, supported by a battalion of Panthers. My main concern was a turning attack by the Americans round my right flank so I stationed the 9th SS Panzer division there in light woodland, behind minefields. The command centre and supply dumps were in wooded ground to the rear of the infantry.

After our experience in late July, the Corps commander was expecting the arrival of American heavy bombers. They were much more accurate than the British, no bombs were seen to land on the American positions. Our losses were significant, mainly suffered by 9th SS Panzer who were almost forced to give up their position. During the battle, naval bombardment fell on the infantry in the centre but, protected by their bunkers, little damage was done.

American units then advanced all along our front, but more cautiously than the British had done. On the left some weak units stopped just outside our range. In the centre an infantry division supported by tanks moved into covered positions at long range and engaged in an ineffectual firefight with our infantry. Another division moved up to the far side of the marshes, keeping our line under fire and protecting their supply road. It appears that while Patton may be a good field commander, his administrative abilities are somewhat lacking, leaving a tank destoyer unit without fuel and failing to coordinate with his air support. A reconnaissance aircaft spotted the 9th SS panzers but no ground attack aircraft arrived until near the end of the battle.

On the right, the Americans were more aggressive, advancing with the 2nd Armoured and 90th Infantry divisions together with engineers, on the far side of the marshes. The attack reached the minfield, which the engineers started to clear, when an SS Panther battalion and the dug-in infantry battalions opened fire disabling many of the Shermans and forcing the infantry into cover. Nebelwerfers then landed on the engineers who promptly withdrew to cover. Having been refuelled, the tank destroyers arrived at last and moved forward cautiously in the woodland until they were within four hundred meters of the Panthers. They opened fire …. with very little effect. The Panthers replied and a few destroyers managed to retreat from the battlefield. Other Panthers were taking their toll on the remaining Shermans who followed the destroyers, leaving many burning vehicles.

Meanwhile in the centre, an infantry company had been suppressed so an American infantry battalion of the 1st Infantry division assaulted it. The Germans rallied and put up great resistance, while the American attack rapidly disintegrated, the battalion eventually retreating from the battlefield. On the right, the American infantry decided that they could make no progress without tank support so withdrew back towards their lines. The American commander decided not to commit his reserve division, possibly fearing our counter-attack. It was at this stage that squadrons of Lightnings and P47Ds appeared over the battlefield and proceeded to attack the 9th SS panzers. While disabling some of the vehicles, they could not affect the course of the battle, so the Americans ended their attack on 1st August. I decided not to advance out of my fortified line ……. I am expecting another attack soon.

A view from behind the left flank of 9thSS showing the marshy ground to their left. The Panthers are under air attack in the foreground while the retreating American units can be seen in the background.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

PMZ Campaign: Rouen

Report from General Eberbach,
commanding Fifth Panzer Army.

The battle for Rouen, dated July 28th 1944.

I had deployed along the Seine, with Pz Lehr occupying a fortified line in the centre, its right flank resting on swampy ground. To its left was a vital village held by 243rd infantry division, a veteran unit. It also was occupying a fortified line but had to protect a long front out to its left, through light woodland. I allocated a battalion of Tiger I to support it. In reserve was 21st Panzer division equipped mainly with Panzer IVh. This had the additional task of protecting the command centre and supply dumps around wooded ground to the rear of the village.

The Corps commander was awoken by the noise of heavy aircraft, this heralded the arrival of a British heavy bombardment group which bombed our positions, however many of the bombs were seen to land on the far side of the river, directly on the British positions. Our losses were fairly light and it is rumoured that the British took almost as many casualties as us as they were assembled ready to attack. However one important unit was disrupted, the infantry defending the bunkers on our left flank, as will be shown below. At the same time, an AGRA stomp landed in our rear area, fortunately it landed on an area of dummy positions and caused no damage. Next a naval bombardment fell on the village but caused little damage.

British divisions then attacked all along our front. In the centre a weak force moved into covered positions on the other side of the river to Pz Lehr, while others moved towards the swampy ground to our right. This was just a demonstration but appeared to be a credible threat at the time and kept the attention of the commander of Pz Lehr.

On the left, the British advance was slowed by the river, but was soon across, the bridging teams were very efficient. The attack was concentrated on a fairly narrow frontage, with only a few battalions facing it. The main unit defending this area was the infantry in the bunkers, which, being disrupted by the bombers, was unable to prevent the crossing or significantly slow the British advance. A prolonged firefight now ensued, the British taking a large number of casualties and many units being disrupted, while they inflicted few casualties on the fortified defenders. The lack of any British artillery support was very noticeable, and while ground attack aircraft appeared occasionally over the battlefield, they were driven off by accurate anti-aircraft fire. A prisoner reported that Montgomery had entrusted the operation to a subordinate who had failed to ready all of the equipment in time for the attack.

The British were however, able to push fresh units through to the front, having three infantry divisions and an armoured division (7th) to call upon, whereas the German infantry were slowly being disrupted. The Tiger tanks were in heavy protection but this made them difficult to manoeuvre. Meanwhile the naval artillery was disrupting the right flank infantry defending the village.

Eventually, the bunker complex was assaulted by an assault engineer battalion, and once that was taken the morale of the 243rd infantry suddenly collapsed despite the personal intervention of the Corps commander. Just as it was about to attack, the Tiger battalion was caught up in the panic and also retreated. The retreat of this division caught the German command by surprise and there was no immediate response. The village, now being empty, was rapidly occupied by the left most British infantry division.

Pz Lehr was still fixed by the British forces on the far side of the Seine and would not give up its fortified positions, so 21st Panzer was ordered to halt the British. However with many of its units committed to protecting the rear echelon from a possible attack by the victorious British units now moving away from the river line to its left, it could only make desultory attacks. The British, having most of their units disrupted, were in no shape to exploit the attack and concentrated their armour around the village.

Thus the battle petered out on 24th July, with the British in strength across the Seine. I have ordered the withdrawal of the Corps towards Amiens. Hopefully the arrival of the Koenig Tigers of Panzer-Abteilung 503 will slow their advance in the coming weeks.

Friday, 5 February 2010

PMZ Campaign: Bobruisk

Report from General Nehring,
commanding Fourth Panzer Army
.
The battle for Bobruisk, dated July 2nd 1944.
This report is written in haste as my convoy is being strafed by Soviet aircraft as it retreats towards Minsk.

I had taken up a protected position across the main highway with my left protected by a lake and my right on a string of hills. My armour had been drawn off by what I now know to be Operation Maskirovka (Camouflage); this Soviet deception meant that I had no armoured units except for a handful of Jagd Panthers.

The Corps commander deployed two veteran infantry divisions, the 342nd and 72nd, in the lightly wooded ground in the centre through which the highway passed, they also covered a vital hill on the left, in front of the lake. The 275th veteran infantry division was tasked with protecting the command centre to the rear, a village containing supply dumps behind the woods, and also the string of hills to the east. The Jagd Panthers were placed on a dominating position on these hills with obstacles and a minefield in front. We only had time to construct light defences before the Soviet assault.

The attack was heralded by the expected massive artillery bombardment. Fortunately this proved to be ineffective with only minor disruption to our units which was quickly recovered. Artillery continued to hit our forward positions as the Soviets advanced, but we had pulled back deeper into the woods and it had no further effect.

The Soviets attacked all along the line with armour and infantry. We allowed them to close in the centre and left, using recon platoons to hide our positions. As they approached, we opened fire, causing great losses and forcing many units to withdraw. The Jagd Panthers held off the attack by T34s on the right while flanking infantry in the woods pinned down his infantry. Fortunately the absence of Soviet artillery support and the Red airforce meant that our losses were light.
Eventually with weight of numbers (they had six divisions), some Soviet units gained the hill on the left. Assault engineers and flame tanks defeated a battalion on our left flank which was forced to retreat, exposing a dangerous hole in our line. To deal with this, the divisional commander called in all available artillery which disrupted his remaining intact units, then counter-attacked with a reserve battalion, restoring the front.

Captured officers reported that the Soviet command was near despair, as every attack had been shattered and they had few remaining undisrupted units; the commissars had unholstered their pistols and prevented any units running away. Under pressure, they committed their last units to close assault. Our units by this time were exhausted and low on ammunition; failing to stop the assaulting units. The close combat devolved into a series of small combats, with troops falling back on both sides. The German units falling back were misinterpreted as a retreat by other units of the 342nd division so the remainder of the division retreated as well; exposing the entire left flank and resulting in the capture of the vital hill and wooded area.

The Soviets were beginning to rally some of their armoured units and they were able to move a reformed infantry division into the woods to support their forward battalion. At last the Soviet artillery & airforce made an effect and hit the 72nd division in the centre, preventing it from counter-attacking. With the loss of the division on its flank it required the personal intervention of the Corps commander to hold them in position and not join in the retreat.
Knowing the position to be untenable, I ordered the withdrawal of the Corps on 1st July. The Soviet Corps was too damaged to prevent our escape. Unfortunately the Jagd Panthers ran out of fuel and had to be destroyed by their crews.

PMZ WW2 Campaign 1944-45

This campaign is being fought by members of the club and also by Chris R. who created it. Battles are fought using the 'Arras to the Ardennes' ruleset.

Background

Patton Monty Zhukov ("PMZ”) recreates the final twelve months of World War Two in Europe predicated on a race to take Berlin. The three participants are the US Third Army commanded by General Patton, fighting the German Fifth Panzer Army and then the German First Army; BR Second Army controlled by General/Field Marshal Montgomery, fighting the German Fifth Panzer Army and then the German First Parachute Army; the First Byelorussian Front commanded by Marshal Zhukov, fighting the German Fourth Panzer Army. The Germans are controlled by the same player on all three fronts.

In order to avoid the problems of historical hindsight the situation is not the same as what a contemporary might have anticipated. In reality these armies were not always directly commanded by Patton, Montgomery and Zhukov and they did not always follow the given routes in the given months, however it generally follows the course of the campaigns. Unit designations and OOBs are generically approximate to reality!

Objectives

The campaign map is divided into a number of areas as a linear approach from the starting points of Caen, Avranches and Gomel to the objective: Berlin. This campaign comprises 12 'monthly' game turns from June 1944 to May 1945. Patton, Monty or Zhukov achieve victory by reaching Berlin no later than any of others; being first gives an outright rather than shared victory. If none of them take it by the end of May 1945 then the German player wins.