Sunday, 11 April 2021

Flames of War: 2 DB at Dompaire - Pt.2 - Breakout?

In the previous blog post, we covered the history, terrain and preparations of the Free French 2nd Armoured Division's astounding victory over the 112th Panzer Brigade in and around Dompaire, Lorraine, in September '44. Part 1 - Advance to Contact

A Panther tank company are attempting to escape the closing trap by reaching two objectives up on the high ground above the villages in the valley which they presently occupy. On the western flank a platoon has just had a narrow escape from an allied airstrike as they were leaving the village of Lavieville, and they are now determined to keep off the roads and tracks (else the French get to re-roll their call for air)..


Daringly, a 75mm Sherman platoon of the 12eme Regiment de Chasseurs d' Afrique (RCA) have pushed forward from their hull down safety back up on the ridge in their impatience to close with the enemy, taking up positions in the hedges and treelines that edge the valley...


Despite their inexperience, the Panthers make short work of these daredevils...


And push on through the fields to rejoin the other platoon and company HQ. Coming under fire from the M10s of the Regiment Blinde de Fusiliers Marin (RBFM) in the woods up on the ridge line, they reply in kind...


Out on the eastern side of the table, the other group of Panthers are having more luck as they exit the village...A second airstrike again fails to do any damage.


But as they approach the edge of the fields, they too find a reception committee waiting...


And the RCA tankers on this side of the table are just as enterprising as their comrades, but perhaps a little more crafty - a platoon dashes forward to take up flanking positions - even a 75mm ought to be able to penetrate the side armour of a Panther!



However their pluck and guile are severely punished..


A shot from the RBFM finally manages to penetrate a Panther before the troop is destroyed. 


The 112th Panzer Brigade is approaching the near objective en-masse...is it time for Commandant Massu to reveal his ambush of 76mm armed Shermans?


However help arrives from the sky once again..


Resulting in another Panther destroyed!


The 76mm platoon spring their ambush from their hull-down positions on the ridge...


And obtain 3 kills!


A fourth airstrike wreaks more havoc...


In the inferno of ambush fire and airstrike, only 2 Panthers survive - but they are perilously close to the objective...


However Commandant Massu has not been idle. He and his 2i/c have manoeuvered their command Shermans to the edge of the wood on the approach to the unprotected objective. One lucky side shot from the deputy dawg brews up C/S 122...


Then the 76mm platoon account for the last survivor, C/S 124...


Panzer Brigade 112 comes to a fiery standstill just short of the objectives, trapped by the steel arms of Groupement Tactique Langlade (GTL) of the Free French 2nd Armored Division. Close, but no cigar!

Monday, 5 April 2021

Flames of War: 2DB at Dompaire - Pt. 1 - Advance to Contact!

 

On 13th September 1944, the Free French Groupement Tactique Langlade (GTL) of the Free French 2nd Armored Division - 2eme Division Blinde (2DB) destroyed Panzer Brigade 112 which was attempting to escape from the area around the French village of Dompaire, Lorraine. 

There were a string of three villages along the valley of the Guitte river, Lavieville nearest the camera below, Dompaire, and Lamerey on the far edge of the table occupied by these Panthers.

To the south east of the valley lies rising, partially wooded ground, which offer clear views down to the valley. These heights were occupied by the Shermans and M10s of Group Massu, tasked with tightening the ring around I/Panzer Regiment 29's Panthers of Panzer Brigade 112...

View from Dompaire looking S.E up to the wooded heights.

The Battle of Dompaire has been assessed as the fastest destruction of a panzer group on the western front, this despite Panzer Bde 112 having nearly twice as many tanks as the GTL (59 Panthers and 45 Pz IVs against GTL's 40 Shermans and 7 x M10s)

M10 Siroco's crew of Fusilier-Marins
 destroyed 3 Panthers at Dompaire
As part of Hitler's planned ambitious armoured counter offensive against Patton's US Third Army, the 5th Panzer Korps was to attack towards Reims, preventing Bradley's Army Group advancing east from Normandy linking up with Dever's Army Group heading north from Southern France. However,as part of a concerted counterstroke, the Free French 2nd Armoured Division struck deep into the left flank of the offensive... 



Threatened with encirclement, Pz Brigade 112 attempted to infiltrate south out of the valley to re-establish a coherent defence... The Panther crews of I/Panzer Regt. 29 were inexperienced, being described as 'children' by the villagers of Dompaire. However their age did not hinder them from spending the night before the battle consuming large quantities of Kirsch cherry liquor they had 'liberated' from the villagers...The sailors and soldiers of Group Massu instead spent the rainy night occupying positions on the heights above Dompaire, ready to prevent the Panthers from escaping...

This scenario just reflects about a third of this battle, the part played by Group Massu versus I/Pz Regt. 29, played down a 8 x 6' table. Pz Regt. 29 has 9 moves to seize 1 of 2 objectives in the far corner of the table, representing their escape from encirclement. Group Massu is deployed just behind the ridgeline, and has 1 unit in ambush. 

Since the Free Frenchmen received plentiful air support from P47 Thunderbolts s of the 406th Fighter Bomber group, a single strike alone accounting for 8 Panthers, a scenario rule allowed the French to reroll the call for air dice if any Panthers ended their move on a road or track. 

Because the French had the first move, and inevitably the Panthers were starting in the villages, there would be at least one airstrike! 

I/Pz Regt. 29 was represented by 2 x Platoons of 5 Panthers and Coy HQ of 2. These were given the SS stats, given the inexperience of their crews, i.e hit on a 3. I also threw in a platoon of heavily armed Panzer Grenadiers, as infantry support is mentioned in some accounts...This brought the Germans up to 109 points.

Group Massu consisted of various arms and services, [= table top strength ] for 197 points. Given the experience of these tough colonial troops in the Western Desert and in liberating Paris, these were all classed as Veteran formations:

Infantry - 6eme Coy, 2eme Bn. Régiment de Marche du Tchad. Commandant : Cdt Jacques Massu [ 1 x Rifle Plt with 2 x Bazooka teams and 3 x .50 M3s]

Recce - 3eme Plt, 4eme Escadron, 1er Regiment de Marche de Spahis Marocains. Chars légers M1 Stuart, Automitrailleuses M8 "Greyhound" et Half-Tracks. [Not represented]

Armour - 4° Escadron, 12ème Regiment de Chasseurs d'Afrique


17 chars Sherman, 
probably only 1 x 76mm?) 

[HQ of 2, 

+ 2 plts of 5 x 75mm, 

1 plt of 5 x 76mm]















Anti-Tank:

4eme Escadron,
Regiment Blinde de Fusiliers Marin (RBFM)

7 x TD M10

[4 x M10]



Artillery - 3rd Battery, 1er Groupe du 40eme Regiment d'Artillerie Nord Africain (1/40° R.A.N.A) (Probably 4 x M7 Priests but accounts mention additional support from 105mm Field Battery, possibly on attachment from XV Corps) [3 x M7, 4 x 105mm Lt Gun]

http://stephane.delogu.pagesperso-orange.fr/orga-2db.html

We have already seen the Panthers were forced to start the game, historically, dispersed throughout the villages, whilst their young crews caroused the night away. The infantry formed up on the left opposite the distant objectives.



Group Massu was ranged along the ridge above the villages, with the M4 FAO, and the 2 RCA Sherman M4 platoons snug up against the ridge itself to enjoy hull-down concealment. The RBFM M10s would play hide and seek using the 'Seek Strike and Destroy' tactics in the wood nearest the objectives. 

The 76mm Sherman platoon would remain in ambush...

TURN 1.    As stipulated, the French automatically received an air mission and with dawn's early light came an unpleasant surprise for the hungover German tankers...


However, despite a hit, the Panther's thick hide staved off the rocket attack. The strike did however induce the Germans to avoid roads and tracks for a while, severely hampering their assembly and move out...


In their enthusiasm to stay off the roads, they may even have presented a more concentrated target to the roving P-47s...


However, rashness may not have been confined to the Germans. Confident and aggressive, one of the Chasseurs d'Afrique 75mm Sherman platoons advanced forward off the protection of the ridge line...


with the intention of better engaging the Panthers while they were still shaking out...


Would their daring pay off, or was this arrogant folly? Tune in next time to find out!

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Victory at Sea: Cruising the Slot

Whilst I am still awaiting my 'full fat' copy of Victory at Sea, I play occasional solo games to get used to the core mechanisms in the Pacific 'lite' version. Whilst I love the rules, I'm not thrilled about Warlord's chosen scale of 1:1800. Its too big for full spectrum fleet actions, and too small to really show off smaller Destroyer and Cruiser actions. I'm not that impressed with the soft resin models either...

Fletcher Class DD in DLP plastic from The War Times Journal shop.

So I've gone for 2 scales of models from various interweb 3d printed sources. ( I have everything else in at least 2 scales, why should this be the exception!) But this time there's some logic to it - 1:1200 for smaller ships, 1:2400 for when the battlewagons and flattops get involved....

HMS Exeter - a labour of love, the Type 42 Exeter was my first ship as a Senior Rate! This model from Shapeway's Tinythingamajigs.

So as well as mastering the rules, the purpose of this game was to continue tinkering with scale issues. In my last game with 1:1200 models, I doubled all distances. In this game, I will keep the original 1:1800 distances for movement, and just double the ranges.

USS Astoria, from XP Forge. Nice models, amazing customer service.

I didn't spend much time on the scenario itself - think 1942, South Pacific, top end of The Slot, around dusk, Air Threat White. 

HMAS Australia - Tinythingamajigs again

A mixed force of US, RN and RAN Cruisers with accompanying DDs are steaming north, pushing into enemy waters...

The Allied cruisers with DD escort: Australia (Flag), Astoria, Exeter, with Fletcher, O'Bannon, Monssen and Laffey on the flanks...

and encounter Sentai 6 and friends on a reciprocal course...


The IJN cruisers are led by 2 Mogami class monster cruisers, Mogami and Mikuma...

XP Forge Mogami class

With the rather cute Kako bringing up the rear - the 'little' heavy cruiser that could...

XP Forge Furataka class

Escorted by three Fubuki class destroyers...

XP Forge Fubukis

The IJN gets the initiative for the first move. The plan is to get the Allies in an anvil, between the DDs and CAs. Accordingly the Fubukis veer off to port and the Mogami leads a 'corpen' stbd (managed turn at best speed within manoeuvring internals to maintain relative position on the Guide) to attempt to cross the Allies' 'T'...


Being a solo game, the Allies are pretty quick to divine the enemy likely course of action, and the Fletchers are despatched post haste to deal with the Fubukis...Quite how you deal with 3 x Fubuki class super destroyers when your torpedoes are, ahem, not as reliable as they could be, wasn't spelt out...Still, in the finest traditions of the Tin Can Sailors, press on regardless and sort it out when you get there!


With all this manoeuvring and range finding, a major scale issue crystallized for me. Both the ability to station keep and get in range are adversely affected by the size of the model, which at almost any scale are way over proportioned to ground scale. In 1:1200 scale, the second model is 8 inches or so behind the Guide, and the third in line over a foot away - significant in game terms, even with double ranges! In reality if the Guide is in range, its consorts will likely be too:


At standard manoeuvring intervals of 500 yards, even a fourth ship in column of mixed classes would only be 2,000 yards behind the Guide:


This is unlikely to have much impact on naval gunnery...
I experimented with various solutions, but the simplest and easiest is that second and successive units when in Formation 1 (Column astern of the Guide) simply take their range, but not bearing, from the stern of the Guide.


Bearing requires less 'house ruling' - since all measurements are taken from the bridge, so when in Formation 1 it can be assumed that successive vessels are able to maintain station on the guide, slowing down or sprinting as required. I only require that the model bases remain in contact to denote formation, to speed movement - I move a formation as one model to save time.


But back to the Surface plot: the IJN force is splitting to form an anvil around the Allies, the Allies have despatched the DDs as a Surface Action Group to 'deal' with the Fubukis. Australia is straddled almost immediately, and wanting to respond with more than just A and B turrets, opens the formation out to stbd. This will hopefully minimise the time spent in Mogami's Long Lance torpedo launching arcs... 


And indeed we discover that whilst torpedoes can have considerable range, when you add the -2 modifier for extreme range to the -2 mod for firing torpedoes, the only way a torpedo will hit at extreme range is against a broadside on anchored vessel...


So both sets of cruisers settled down for a gunnery duel, with all concentrating their fire on the head of each opposing column, both Australia and Mogami receiving significant damage pretty quickly...
Out on the flank, in destroyer country, another observation was that rival DD's, keeping out of the way of each other's torpedoe arcs, find it very hard to hit each other with their guns, quick firing or not...


Shockingly soon, given the weight of fire on Australia, several critical hits, and then finally a particularly unlucky hit to her vitals, sent her to the bottom...


Deprived of the Flag, the Allies, penetrating ever further northward into hostile air and waterspace, turned back. An enjoyable and productive game which has confirmed that, with a minimum of modification, I can enjoy Victory at Sea in this large scale.