Saturday, November 24, 2012

Soulagny August 15, 1944

Last week, we played Paddy Green's and Richard de Ferrars' excellent Soulagny scenario, a scaled down version of their Idaho and Soulagny scenario written for the Battlefront WWII rule set. The battle was played on a 6' X 6' table with 20mm models and figures.
It is based on the fight to wrestle Soulagny (and the high ground to the east, Objective Idaho) from the elite 12th SS Hitlerjugend Division, who were well entrenched here holding open the north flank of the Falaise Pocket. The Soulagny part of the attack was given to the Canadian Winnipeg Rifles, supported by B Squadron of the Fort Gary Horse.
The German infantry are supported by the Tigers of 102nd Heavy Tank Battalion. In this scenario the Tigers, due to standing orders and poor communications, are limited to a restricted deployment zone, only released when the German player is able to bring a command stand into base to base contact with one of the tanks. This creates some interesting dynamics, on the part of the Germans adjusting their defences to meet ever-changing avenues of attack and the Canadian player as to exactly how to winkle the Tigers out.

The attack on Soulagny, as we played it out. Objective Idaho would be off to the right, but is not inlcuded in this scaling down of the scenario.

1. The Battlefield
Soulagny lies in the foreground, with the high ground to the top and objective Idaho off board top right.
The Canadians entered from the left, the German were dug in and around Soulagny with a platoon dug in in defence in the small woods just visible beyond the Tigers. The Tigers are seen in their starting area (but not starting positions).

2. From the northeast
Soulagny seen from the high ground to the northeast where the Canadians sited their 3" mortars.

3. The Canadian attack goes in
 A, B and C Companies of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles enter from the north, advancing out of sight behind high hedges and in tall crops. The German artillery, sensing something afoot, brasses up the hedgerow with random shelling but to devastating results, knocking out half of A Company with its 150's (5 10's!) A Co.'s battle is over before it started.

4. The carrier platoon rolls around to the west flank
The carrier platoon, less its 2" mortars but with the addition of the Vickers platoon, enter on the Canadian left flank, and dash for the cover of high hedges running up this flank while D Company cautiously advances on foot in support (upper left).

5. Grazing fire
Moving quickly to join with the enemy under cover of smoke, B Company runs into German machine gun fire. Grazing fire from the heavy machine gun drives them to ground before they can close with the significant German presence dug into this small field east of Soulagny.

6. Remainder of A Company advances
While 2" mortars give support, the remnants of battered A Company form up and doggedly move forward.

7. Heavy going
With B Company stalled out, C Company is sent in and in turn is savaged by artillery, infantry gun and machine gun fire.

8. Carrier platoon battles it out in the woods
Meanwhile, on the far east flank the Canadian carrier platoon has run into a significant road block dug into a small woods on this side of the battlefield. The Germans, expecting a flank attack on the Tigers from this direction, had committed a platoon loaded with anti tank weapons here. Three carriers are knocked out in quick succession, but the infantry bail out and press home the attack on foot.

9. Woods cleared.
The woods are cleared after a bitter fight, making way for the Canadian armour on this flank, which has been kept back up until now.

10. In rolls the armour

The Fort Gary Horse, held back until the left flank had been cleared, now tear pass the Canadian mortars (as they are stonked by the German mortars) loosing a single Sherman to the lurking Tigers before the remaining four make the safety of the tall hedge on this flank.

11. A little bit of muscle for the right flank
The remainder of the Canadian tanks enter on the Canadian right flank in support of the main attack on Soulagny, but they will prove too little too late as German fire whittles away the Winnipeg Rifles.

12. A foothold in the fields east of town
A slim foothold is gained in the fields east of town, with one German mg knocked out and the second driven back, but the ground is quickly retaken moments later in counterattack.

13. Tigers pull back
With Canadian infantry pressing in the Tigers pull back along with the battalion commander's 251/1 which had been spotting from this flank. The tanks are still unable to leave their deployment zone however as they have yet to have had a request for support from Soulagny.
 The transport of the now deceased German platoon in the woods bugs out too, but is too late, getting disordered ad eventually knocked out by close combat.

14. Hey, you!
Because of bad radio communication, 1 Kompanie's commander is forced to drive over to the Tigers in his Schwimmwagen and knock on the turret, demanding help warding off the main Canadian attack on Soulagny. 

15. Pressed on all sides
The Tigers, pressed on all sides and in danger of being outflanked, are too happy to oblige.

16. Road block
As infantry pour into the Tigers' deployment area, the first Canadian carrier is brewed up in the gap between the high hedges, temporarily stemming the tide of armour that was about to sweep in as well. A Firefly takes up position conformed to the hedge with a clear if longish shot at the retreating Tigers.

17. Soulagny from the high ground
More Canadian armour takes up positions on the high ground east of Soulagny.

18. Too quiet
Meanwhile, back on the west flank of the Canadian attack, A Company, now supported by armour cautiously approach the north edge of town. A German heavy machine gun, located in enfilade northwest of the town, silently slips back into the village as the tanks approach their position.

19. Overview
An overview of the main attack shows just how diminished the Canadian forces have become. By the time the armour arrives (held back by the Canadian commander) all three companies on this flank have been reduced to less than half of their original total (some units have panicked at this point and have fled towards their starting positions). As a result, lacking infantry support, the Shermans hover on the outskirts of town, wary about approaching too close.

The Germans still hold in force the field to the west of Soulagny (smoked), and an infantry gun, machine guns and panzershrek wait in ambush in the building on the north (left) side of the town. The German commander has started to shift some of his reserves to the southwest side of the village (top right) to meet the growing threat on this flank while others infiltrate into the hotly contested western field to bolster the defences there.

20. German mortars
The German mortars, from their positions southwest of Soulagny, fire off one more salvo disordering the Canadian mortars on the high ground (top right). The German mortars have done a good job of keeping the 3''s out of business for most of the fight, but now prepare to pull back to the safety of the town, as Canadian troops approach from the west. 

21. Banging on the door
Mustering what meagre resources are available, the Shermans press towards the town. One is promptly knocked out by panzershrek fire and the infantry attacks are driven off.

22. Tigers in trouble
Some good shooting on the part of a Firefly disorders one of the Tigers as the majority of the Canadian infantry, achieving their objective of driving the Tigers away from the blocking high hedge, shift their advance towards Soulagny. Using the opportunity, with the Tigers forced away from their positions, Fort Gary Shermans advance in an attempt to outflank the Tigers before they retreat to the village.

23. Firefly hit
The second Firefly is disordered by a long shot from a Tiger before it can get into the relative safety provided by the blocking high hedge line.

24. Bagging a cat
Disordered a second time, the command Tiger is overrun by Canadian infantry and knocked out in close combat before it can retreat from its original deployment zone.

25. Loosing steam 
Just as things start to heat up on the west flank the main attack on Soulagny deflates.The remnants of the battered infantry companies grow gun shy and the remaining two Shermans pull back out of panzershrek range to reconsider their options.

26. D Company approaches east side of Soulagny
Using the cover of tall crops and under cover of smoke D Company moves relatively intact towards the southeast flank of the village and discover the recently abandoned positions of the German mortars, now withdrawn to Soulagny. In the background the Fort Garys can be seen also using the smoke to press in on the remaining big cat.

27. Second cat bagged
As the Tiger withdraws over a low hedge into the fields southeast of Soulagny, a terrific shot by the second Firefly, through dissipating smoke, bags the Tiger in ambush as it emerges from behind the tall hedge.

28. Cavalry to the rescue
With both Tigers silenced the remaining elements of the carrier platoon, remounted, tear down from the high ground to close assault the sticky Germans still defending that crucial field just east of the village. The infantry gun is driven out of its position and, as it attempts to re-emplace in the road, is knocked out by a Vickers waiting in ambush.

29. Run away!
The attack is short-lived however, as the carrier platoon is, in turn, driven back by counterattack.

30. Forming up for an attack on the German east flank
The first elements of D Company, finally arriving on the east flank of the village, form up for attack in the abandoned mortar positions. The Germans, however, have had time to reinforce this flank.

31. Shifting focus once again
With pressure being put on the east side of the village, the Shermans on the west flank move to support the attacks coming from the east.

32. Attack driven off
Although a deadly Canadian mortar attack takes out two of the defending units, the Germans still manage to drive off the first platoon-sized attack on the southeast flank as other D Company units arrive.

33. Attack over
However a final and deadly stonk from the German 150's guts any threat from this quarter, knocking out a third of D Company's remaining infantry.

34. Only incursion into Soulagny
The one and only incursion into the village proper occurs when a Sherman sticks its nose into town just in time to see a German infantry gun being man-handled to cover the eastern exit from the village. The gun disappears before the tank can draw a bead.

35. Two Shermans brewed up
Making a final push to dislodge the Germans from their positions east of Soulagny, two Shermans are brewed up in quick succession by close combat, discovering that the Tigers weren't necessarily their biggest threat!

36. Aftermath
With nothing left in the cupboard and any infantry assets scattered to the four winds if not in full retreat the Canadians call off the attack after 14 rounds of play. Although very successful in dealing with the Tigers, the early decimation of the three lead attack companies left nothing to support the Canadian armour when it was finally committed. As a result the Germans successfully held the village, with all BUS's still in their control, but with 50% losses and the destruction of both Tigers, the shine is taken off what would otherwise have been considered a creditable minor victory.