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]


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]

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!


  1. First time visiting the blog. Really awesome stuff and looking back through the archive, a nice mix of game systems. Thanks for these.

    1. Thanks Brummbar really appreciate your comment!

  2. The battle of Dompaire is the only one where General Philippe Leclerc was able to deploy his entire division. During the Normandy campaign, the rush for Paris, the fighting in the Vosges in Alsace and the German campaign, he was never able to deploy all of his means

    The order of battle of the Massu tactical group is plausible however I believe it is useful to indicate you that the Sherman tanks equipped with the 76mm guns were spent within the Sherman tank platoons. Tank platoons gathered 5 tanks as you indicate, but in each platoon there are early 1 and latter 2 tanks equipped with 76mm gun. The others are equipped with the 75mm barrel.
    The tank equipped with the 76mm gun is led by the section leader or the NCO deputy section leader . It progresses in 2 ° echelon in order to take into account at long distance the opposing tanks or anti-tank guns which would reveal themselves by firing on the 1st echelon. At long distance the 76mm is the only one that can pierce the Panther panzer armouring.

    The anti-tank capabilities are provided by the M 10 destroyer tanks which are all equipped with the 76mm gun. In the 2 ° D.B., they are served by the marines of the R.B.F.M. (Armored Regiment of Marines).
    The tank destroyers of the 2 ° D.B. are a little more efficient than the American M 10 because the French sailors have installed a conduct of fire, borrowed from the ship of the free french navy, which allows them to acquire their target more quickly.

    I have already written to you that I had lead a tank section in Germany at the end of the 1970s. I also had the honor of serving under the orders of Colonel de Hautecloque, descendant of General Leclerc, shortly before. that he was promoted to major general and commanded the La Fayette Brigade in Kapisa province (in Afghanistant) in the early 2010s.

    Always happy to follow your blog.

    1. Thank you so much for your interesting and informative comment, mon ami! Yes I was aware that the 76mm Shermans were dispersed among the tank platoons, and indeed most sources indicate that there was no more than one 76mm Sherman involved with Commandant Massu's group at Dompaire, which makes their achievement all the more remarkable! However I increased the number, and concentration, to make the game fairer to the French on the tabletop!

      However I was not aware that the sailors of the RBFM had incorporated naval firing solution computers into their M10s - that is very significant and I shall take your authority to create a 'local' rule to make them more effective at longer range - simply by ignoring the long range modifier I think...
      Thanks again for your comment, always good to hear from an armoured veteran!