Friday, 1 August 2014

Action at Authie '44

On Thursday at the uni we replayed a smaller version of our recent Buron BattleGroup Overlord game that I blogged in June: D-Day-70th-commemoration 'Bloody Buron'
As this was just an evening game with only 4 of us playing we confined the action to a 6 x 8 foot table, based just around the action between Cussy and Authie, the yellow rectangle below:

As can be seen in the later wartime aerial photo, the area was completely flat and devoid of serious cover, although we represented some of the crop fields to provide some covered approaches to Authie.

Looking WNW from the abbey on the left and Cussy on the right across to Authie
Once again the Germans were deployed around the Ardennes Abbey and forward into Cussy, which meant that they would get the opening shots into the Sherbrooke Fusiliers left flank, as vividly described in Maj. Gen Michael Reynold's Steel Inferno pp.65-67, and here he quotes Panzer Meyer's, Commander 12th SS Panzer Division 'HJ', reaction to viewing the scene from the Abbey tower:

"Enemy tanks are rolling towards Authie from Buron. My God! What an opportunity! The tanks are driving right across 2nd Battalion's front!....I give orders to all battalions, the artillery and the available tanks. 'Do not shoot! Open fire on my order only!....The enemy commander seems only to see the airfield, it is directly in front of him."

Looking ESE from Authie across to Cussy on the left and the abbey on the right - real billiard table terrain!
For the purposes of this smaller game, the German victory conditions were more limited than for our all day Buron game, all they had to do was cut the Buron - Carpiquet road by occupying the ESE half of Authie with at least 2 unpinned infantry squads. The German team, Caesar and John, divided into 2 separate BattleGroups. Alan took charge of the Sherman equipped Sherbrooke Fusiliers, and the Achilles armed 105 Battery Royal Canadian Artillery. Yours truly took the North Nova Scotia Highlanders under command, as I suspected, experienced from our previous game, that this would actually be more of an infantry fight, given the objective. Fortunately Alan's earlier order of march decision had wisely put my first platoon embarked in carriers in the van of the column:

Alan and I were of course placing great faith in the Typhoons of the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force to even up the qualitative imbalance, as I had, entirely ahistorically, replaced the second Panzer company of Mark IV's...

With Panthers...(which in reality were still detraining)

However once John and Caesar opened up and deployed aggressively that looked like a bit of a mistake!

As with their opening few volleys they systematically pinned my infantry and set about methodically knocking out Alan's Shermans...we were pulling chits for destroyed units and to unpin infantry hand over fist...

Pretty much the only recourse we had with our 75mm Shermans was to attempt to pin the Panzers with HE area fire, with a little success. We had no indirect artillery assets to employ as historically the Canadians hadn't surveyed or netted in their guns yet, expecting the action much further South. Whilst the Germans had the same problem, having detrained piecemeal ready for a deliberate attack planned later in the day, however the German team were also able to use their Hummels and Wespes in area fire, so that both sides were in the unusual position of having AFVs pinned in this way.

However the 12th Panzer Div had more and better armour to play with!

So what of the Brylcreem Boys, meant to rebalance the game and teach the Germans fresh from the Russian front that air power was more of a game changer in the West? A complete wash out - Rockets are inaccurate weapons, and need 6's for hits - despite firing off 6 pairs we had nary a hit!

Whereas the Sherbrookes were continuing to have a torrid time of it! In Norbert Szamveber's Waffen-SS Armour in Normandy, which is essentially written around the war diaries of the 12th SS, Panzer Regt. 12 records that in this action they destroyed 23 Shermans and 3 APCs, and our game was beginning to feel all too historical! (Szamveber, pp 40.)

However, I wouldn't want to give the impression that John and Caesar were the only ones throwing all the sixes, and Alan did have some successes with his Fireflies and Achilles...

Even managing to bag a mighty Panther!

The German team had not lost sight of their mission however, and were using the cover of the crops to sneak their infantry to within assault range of Authie... supported by their heavy weapons platoon, which was bringing my Highlanders in the village under effective fire...

Fortunately I had been diligently bringing up the rest of the rifle platoons up using Shank's pony, and my 2 inch mortars were setting up nicely...


When, just as a second airstrike was due, we pulled one chit too many and exceeded our Battle Group Rating - time to withdraw and concede the game to Caesar and John...
Whilst the game had played out historically this time, what is amazing to learn is how little of an impact it had on the 12th SS - its almost treated as a skirmish in their, admittedly rather laconic, war diary:

"1400 hours: appearance of enemy tanks at Franqueville and Authie. The 5. and 6. Kompanien instantly engaged the enemy and destroyed a number of Sherman tanks. The enemy retreated. Ammunition expenditure: 300 HE shells, 235 AP shells, 800 steel core" (Small arms ammo).(Svamveber, p. 40).

I have used a couple of Alan's photos in this blog, but you can see the rest, and his take on things, over on his excellent blog: Canadians in Caen

By the way, I'm on the look out for any Canadian sources on this battle, as I've been told 'Bloody Buron' isn't crash hot, and in any case is oop, so if you know of any books in print, please comment accordingly!



  1. From medieval armour to 20th century armour in a heartbeat. Variety truly is the spice of life! 8O)

    Another mighty fine military report Mr Sparkles.

    von Peter himself

    1. Thanks your vonship! Yes its been too long since I have blogged about Napoleonics, which I think we both agree is the essence of wargaming! However I am getting my fortnighly fix by playtesting an exciting new set of strategic level Naps rules, which I am not allowed to blog about!

    2. Napoleonics ... perhaps ... SevenYears War ... maybe. 8O)

      Secrets from your fan base ... outrageous! 8O))

      Strategic level Napoleonic rules? What does this mean? A unit = a brigade?

      von Peter himself, trying in a rather transparent way to elicit more information

    3. A unit= a brigade? Hot, very, very hot...The playtesting is entering the final strait, so all will be revealed in due course I daresay.....

    4. Thanks for that. I've seen/heard of Mr Mustafa's new rules. I'll await your pronouncements with interest though it sounds like you are very happy with them to date.

      von Peter himself

  2. Very cool... I believe Mark Zulekhe's 'Holding Juno' covers the action from the Canadian POV, also an excellent read.

  3. Hi Warwick - great to have the author of these fine rules grace my little blog! Thanks for the tip on 'Holding Juno' - will investigate!

  4. Yet again first-rate miniatures and terrain, Sparker. I particularly liked the detail in the Achillies open-topped turrets - superb. Thanks for throwing another great instalment. These rules are growing on me and I'd definitely be up for another game soon.


  5. Another recommendation for Holding Juno.

  6. A great report, no doubt! Great looking pics, excellent write up, I was on the battlefield (in a Typhoon!)...thanks for that!

    1. Thanks Dylan and Phil, as mentioned below I now have that volume and am eagerly working my way though it.

  7. Sparker:
    A great table and a very good report. Authie is both a depressing and exciting battle for Canadians and especially for Nova Scotians and you have made a fine tribute to the lads of the North Novas and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers.
    You can't go wrong with the Mark Zeuhlke books mentioned above. They are all excellent and well written and chock full of descriptions of the small unit actiions which many gamers crave. Well done and cheers!
    Rod Robertson

    1. Hi Rod,

      Thank you very much for your kind comments. I have experienced Nova Scotian hospitality a few times so your words mean a lot! Yes I am now working my way through Holding Juno and I understand why its so recommended!