Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Day of the Battle - North Nova's Second Attack on Bienen, March 25, 1945

We played through a brand new scenario over the past week I had written for the BattlefrontWWII rules. This scenario represents the second North Nova attack on Bienen after an earlier, failed attack by two of its companies the morning of the 25th was brought up short before the village. It was played in 20 mm on a 4' X 6' board, with an expanded scale to accommodate the small area the fight took place in. The game gave me a chance to field my Archers and Wasps (Wasps quick conversions I did on some Airfix carriers). The game was a real nail biter with a surprise ending!

On the night of March 23 Operation Plunder, the crossing of the Rhine by Montgomery's 21st Army at Rees, Wesel and south of the Lippe River was launched. On the left flank 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade, attached to XXX British Corps, was part of the crossing at Rees in support of the larger crossing at Wesel. Here they were expected to engage the German army where it most expected an attack and engage it in a battle of annihilation.
This would be a battle of attrition, pitching forces of similar size and fire power against each other in an attempt to keep the enemy engaged and allow the breakout further east. The first Canadians into the fray on this front were the Highland Light Infantry, taking over from the Black Watch to attack the village of Speldrop on the 24th. 9th Brigades' Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders pressed north through Grietherbusch on the 25th while the North Nova Scotia Highlanders took over from the 7th Argylls in the attack on Bienen.

Map showing the attacks of 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade on March 24-25, 1945.

The scenario map, showing the disposition of the German defenders. The Canadian attack originated around the group of buildings at the south end of the map.

The Battlefield

Bienen from the south

The Canadians entered from this side of the table, with A and B Companies (reduced from the earlier attack) beginning dug in around the Argyle Farm in the foreground. The Alder Rhein can be seen at the left, along with the dyke that borders it.

Bienen from the north

This is the view from the German side of the table. Nearly every house was occupied by German fallschirmjaeger at the beginning of the game.

Bienen from the east

The east flank of the Canadian attack with the Alder Rhein and dyke in the background. The group of buildings in the foreground were left unoccupied by the Germans, choosing to defend a tighter perimeter within the town itself.

The Battle

 C Co. advances towards Bienen

After a barrage of concentrations that targeted the village itself, C Co. of the North Novas moves from its starting line towards Bienen under cover of smoke, along with a supporting Wasp flamethrower and Sherman of the 4/7 Dragoons.

D Co. moves up along the dyke

Meanwhile D Co. moves up along the dyke on the west side of the town undetected by the enemy.

A and B Co. in reserve

From their positions around Argyle Farm south of Bienen A and B Co., badly mauled from the morning attack, wait in reserve along with a surviving Sherman of the Staffordshire Yeomanry that had supported that failed attack.

FOO on a dyke

One of the 14th Regiment RCA FOO's, attached to D Co., watches the advance from the dyke as he waits for his guns to finish their fire plan and come back under his control. Further along the dyke the second Sherman of the 4/7 Dragoon troop moves to support D Co.'s assault over the dyke.

First contact

C Co. discovers most of the outlying buildings undefended, but comes under fire as they approach a tall hedge bordering the southern edge of Bienen.

Fortress house

A heavily fortified house (mid right) in the southwest corner of Bienen dominates this corner of the town. A and C Co. now enter the fray along with the Staffordshire Sherman, as D Co. achieves a costly and precarious lodgement in the buildings just north of the fortified house (upper left). But the fortress house holds up entrance of the supporting armour into the village, which shells the house relentlessly as the tanks hold back, waiting for the Canadian infantry to clear it.

Pak 40 opens fire on Wasp

A German antitank gun, dug in at a crossroads at the north end of the village, opens fire on one of the Wasps as it ventures up the Canadian left flank. Despite repeated attempts to neutralize it with artillery the stubborn Pak holds up the advance on this side for a number of turns before finally being KO'd by the 25 pdrs.

D Co. comes under fire

D Co.'s casualties mount as they come under heavy shelling. Undetected by the Canadians, the German commander, dug in on the top of the dyke, directs constant and deadly fire from the German 120mm mortars down on their heads as some try to work their way up the edge of the dyke.


In this over head shot B Co. can be seen moving from reserve and working its way up to the right to reinforce C Co's attack on this flank. A Wasp at the right comes under fire from the German AT gun further up the road while a second Wasp (on road just left) moves up to help break the deadlock C Co. has entered into in trying to break into the south edge of Bienen.
Meanwhile, on the left the fortress house continues to tie up the advance of the Shermans on this flank while C Co., although moved off the dyke and into the western (left) edge of Bienen, has run into a warren of machine gun fire that has all but eliminated this company. A Co. moves in to support but is badly mauled by machine gun fire before even making the edge of the town.

Archers move forward (or rather, backwards!)

The Archers are cautiously committed, moving towards the Canadian right flank on the southeast edge of Bienen.

Sticky wicket

The two story fortress house, reinforced as a concrete pillbox, houses four German units that fend off wave after wave of close assaults. A Wasp, moved in to try to flame them out, is KO'd while the Shermans shell the house ineffectively from close range.

Preparing for counterattack

With infantry casualties mounting, the North Novas move in their 6 pdrs. and Archer self-propelled 17 pdrs. to consolidate their slim gains. In the foreground a 6 pdr. emplaces in a built up sector on the left flank with sight lines down the road while one of the Archers (background) is disordered by enemy mortar fire. (The dug in Pak that had dominated this approach is finally KO'd by artillery fire.)

Hard going

On the Canadian far left flank attempts by B Co. to work their way up this side are met by German machine gun fire from units dug in along a high hedgerow. One of the 6 pdrs. is maneuvered into position to try and add some muscle to this avenue of attack.


The inevitable German counterattack goes in. Two Panzergrenadier companies of the 115 PG Regt. supported by a platoon of StuG III's enter via the north. The German mortars emplace in a field north of the village full of curious cows.

First company of Panzergrenadiers advance along dyke 

One company moves up the German right flank, bordered by the dyke, with the aim of reinforcing and attacking around the fortress house.

StuG support

With one Archer disordered by artillery fire and the other out of position, the two StuG's move in along roads on the center and left. Here the one on the left takes up position along a road bordered by a high hedge with a clear shot at both Archers, while the second German PG company passes it on the way towards Bienen.

Staring down the barrel

The second StuG squares off against the Archer.


The fortress house still holds up the Canadian advance (mid left) while, under cover of smoke, the Canadians once more try to take it in close assault. On the right the Archers move into position to take on the enemy StuGs, while Wasps and 6 pdrs. lend their muscle to a diminished North Nova Regiment as it tries to battle its way forward.
In the background upper left elements of the 115 PG Regt. can be seen advancing from the north edge of the board.


The Canadian FOO calls down the entire might of 14th Regt. RCA in a Mike that blankets much of the counterattacking Panzergrenadiers, causing first casualties for these troops. Here one of the mortars is destroyed.

Panzergrenadiers under fire

First StuG KO'd

Some fine shooting on the part of the one Archer and the 6 pdr. KO one of the StuG's and disorders a second before they can fire a shot.

Taking it to the Germans

The destruction of the StuG reinvigorates the attack. Canadians push forward more aggressively with their amour, using the Wasp to flame out a German MG nest that has been dominating an intersection inside Bienen. A Sherman also rolls up, while infantry pressure on the fortress house (left foreground) begins to finally pay off.

Second StuG KO'd

Under cover of smoke the second StuG recovers and tries to dash across the Canadian front to link up with the Panzergrenadier attack going in on the right flank. It is KO'd by one of the Archers in a flank shot.

Fortress house falls

The fortress house finally falls to close assault, eliminating German resistance on the south edge of Bienen.

A seesaw battle

A seesaw battle now breaks out in the streets of Bienen as the Canadians try to push forward their advantage. The Wasp is KO'd by a second German machine gun stand which repossess the house recently cleared by the flamethrower.


Under cover of smoke the German Panzergrenadiers move into Bienen on the right flank, taking over positions recently vacated by fleeing and surrendered fallschirmjaeger. But without armour support they have nothing but panzerfausts to combat the Canadian armour.

Sherman falls to close combat

On the streets behind the fortress house a Sherman is destroyed in close combat.

Panzergrenadiers battling in the streets of Bienen

Bogged down Sherman

The remaining 4/7 Dragoon bogs down in the soggy fields east of Bienen (Canadian right flank) in an attempt to help break the deadlock on this front.

25 pdrs. in action

One of the Canadian FOO's maneuvers himself up to a point adjacent to the dyke and west of Bienen where he can call in more artillery fire on the counterattacking Panzergrenadiers.

End of game

The game ends with the Canadians solidly ensconced in the south end of Bienen but lacking the infantry to finish clearing the village. Although badly battered, elements of the fallschirmjaeger and panzergrenadier regiments are still well entrenched in the north end of the village, but the final push has left them in control of less than half of Bienen. This gives the Canadians a minor victory in a very hard fought game.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Sowchos 79 - December 8, 1942

We played our big annual two day game last weekend, Sowchos 79, an eastern front scenario written by Tom Schumacher for the Battlefront WWII rules. The scenario is based on an assault on the collective farming village of Sowchos 79 by the Germans as part of their effort to reestablish their Chir River defences before attempting to relieve Stalingrad.
The scenario map, showing initial Russian deployment areas

The “Big Game”
This is the third of our annual summer “big games”, games too large to play in a single afternoon and requiring more space than a conventional board. We played on a 12' X 7.5' table, a nice wintry landscape to cool down two of the hottest days of a Canadian summer. This year we set up in Phong Nguyen-Ho's spanking new man cave in his palatial basement, christening it in style with a five player, 15 hour long game (that actually concluded!!) We fielded lots of armour and figures in 1/72, mostly Phong's, who broke in his newly minted Russians while I got to trot out my winter Germans for a second time.
Phong lays out the terrain on our 12' X 7.5' table

Food was provided by Ted Hodson, serving us up falafels and chili the first day and spring rolls and tabbuleh salad the second, all home made. Phong got into the food action as well, providing an exotic okra, tomato and avocado salad, so we were well-provisioned!

The Battlefield
Most of the entire board seen from above. The Germans entered from the top, left and bottom, while the Russians were dug in in and around the village of Sowchos 79.

The Objective
Sowchos 79, viewed from the Russian side of the board, with the road that the T-34 reinforcements arrive in the foreground. The village is composed of wooden buildings surrounding stone buildings in the core.

Sowchos 79 seen from the east (Russian reinforcement entry point).

Sowchos 79 seen from the west (side attacked by German panzergrenadiers).

A Sowchos 79 detail. The brick building (centre) was held by the Russians until the last game turn, with the 110th PG's losing almost half a company trying to take the first sector.

The Secondary Objective
The smaller built up areas west of the town also had to be taken. The 111th PG's battled through these and up along the stream, through a tenacious Russian defence.

The Attackers
The German force was made up of two regiments of Panzergrenadiers, 110th (armoured) and 111th (motorized) along with support weapons, supported by four companies of the 15th Panzer Regiment, mounted in a mixed bag of Panzer II's, II's and IV's. Each PG regiment had a battery of 105's in support, with a second battery of 150's in shared general support.

The Defenders
Two motorized rifle companies of the 117th MRB defend Sowchos 79 and surrounds, supported by T-34's and T-70's of the 117th Tank Brigade and T-70's of the 159th Tank Brigade. More elements of the 117th and 159th Tank Brigades arrive later in the game. Russian off board artillery support is slim, a battery of 75mm howitzers and a battery of 82mm mortars.
A third mounted rifle company is in convoy on the road into Sowchos from the north, but these are largely discounted as they fall in the path of the advancing panzers.

The Battle
The German battle plan had the panzers entering from the north, destroying the Russian convoy,  breaking through the T-34 screen and driving hard for Sowchos 79 to relieve the panzergrenadiers - all before subsequent Russian tank reinforcements arrive!! 111th would attack from the west (left), while 110th, entering from the south would circle to also attack from the west. Paks would be place to provide an AT screen along the south side of the village.

 1. Russian convoy in trouble
A light snow falls, reducing visibility as a Russian convoy of trucks bearing a rifle company makes its slow way down into Sowchos 79 from the hills to the north. Cries of alarm are heard up and down the convoy as a regiment of German armour suddenly emerges from the snow to their rear!

2. Convoy ambush
While some of the German tanks shoot up the convoy others roar up either side, overrunning the scattering Russian infantry and sowing panic. The convoy grinds to a halt, and the remainder is shot up by the German tanks, causing barely a speed bump in the armour's advance to the town.

3. 111th PG's roll in from west
At the same time the 111th PG's roll down towards Sowchos 79 from the west, dismounting from trucks to clear the built up areas and woods on this side of the town. They immediately encounter some small arms fire from the houses and take casulaties, proving that the Russians do not plan to give up this covered approach without a fight.

4. 110th PG's move in from the south
In a pincer movement the 110th roar in in their armoured halftracks from the south, while their 75mm halftrack and AT gun peel off to enter the woods (top right) hoping to set up a thin anti tank screen against any Russian armoured counter attacks from east of the village.

5. 117th Tank Brigade T-34's square off against approaching panzers
Northeast of Sowchos 79 the Russian T-34's in hull down positions watch the advancing German armour decimate the Russian truck convoy, but are too far away to lend support. The T-70's in this brigade detach and move back to Sowchos to support the rifle companies.

6. Plotting moves
The Russian players (Dawson and Phong on right) place their now spotted Russian T-34's while Herr Dyment (left) plots the next move of his beloved panzers.

7. 111th's progress blocked by Russian T-70's
The 1st Co. of the 111th PG's hoped for a quick sweep of the outlying houses, but this is brought up short by the arrival of two T-70's along the road to Sowchos.

8. T-70's on road

9. 111th's second company moves into woods
The second company bypasses the houses and moves through the woods towards the town. They attempt to bring their support weapons with them, but these quickly bog down and are forced to traverse the edge of the woods instead.

10. 110th PG's move in on the town
The armoured 110th PG's swoop around and in towards Sowchos 79 from the west, joining the 111th in their attack from this direction and forcing many of the Russian infantry to reposition to meet this threat.

11. Russian arty zeros in
Light shelling pins some of the 111th as they move to clear the outlying houses.

12. Mortar strikes on Pak38
Mortar shells rain down on the 110th's Pak38, knocking out its transport. A successful bail out, however, saves the gun which is eventually emplaced to guard the right flank of the Panzergrenadier's attack.

13. Carnage on the road
German armour pours past the shattered Russian convoy. The lighter German tanks break off to deal with survivors while the remainder press on towards the town. Russians drop smoke in an attempt to allow their infantry to move in to close assault, but these are swatted aside by the German tanks.

14. What the Russian T-34's saw
The German tanks begin taking some long range fire from the hull down T-34's as the Panzers continue to press their advance.

15. Sdkfz. 251/9 dukes it out with T-70's
Meanwhile the T-70's of the 159th Tank Brigade crest the ridge south of Sowchos, moving out of their deployment area in an attempt to move in behind the 110th through the woods. They are held up by a German 75mm halftrack and trade shots.

16. …and loses
Despite dominating the exchange with its better gun, a bad maneuver roll forces the German halftrack to panic and turn, causing it to be brewed up in enfilade. This allows the T-70's to move into the woods, making their way up in enfilade of the German right (south) flank.

17. 110th's attack goes in on the town
Following an artillery strike and under cover of smoke the 110th PG's dismount on the edge of town to close assault the perimeter houses. Most are driven off but their command halftrack knocks out a T-70 in close assault and enters the town while a Russian Maxim opens up from an adjacent house, driving some of the attackers to ground with grazing fire before it is KO'd as well. A slender toehold is gained by the Germans on the west of Sowchos 79. On the upper right two of the four T-70's of the 159th can be seen waiting hull down for any emerging attack on this front.

18. Close assault!
Bullets kick up the snow as a Russian Maxim opens up from the perimeter houses in grazing fire.

19. Paks in action
The two German Pak38's, along with the 37mm armed battalion commander's halftrack, emplace on the right flank of the PG assault, creating a small Pak screen against any Russian armoured counterattack that might emerge from this direction.

20. Relentless panzers
Meanwhile, from the north, the German armour continues to grind its way methodically but relentlessly towards the town while the Panzergrenadiers scream for armour support. “We have some T-34's to deal with first,” they are told over the radio…

21. Fire and maneuver
Employing fire and maneuver tactics, the Germans methodically pin down the Russian T-34's while some of their armour uses the cover of a ridge to close in enfilade. The 111th's FOO responds to a request for smoke, laying down a screen on the enemy armour to help the panzers close within effective range.

22. Tank hunting
Back on the 111th's front, a bad maneuver roll on the part of the Russians force their tanks to withdraw into the cover of trees bordering the stream. The Germans use this opportunity to break out of the outlying houses and move into close assault in a hope to break the stalemate that has tied up their attack on the left flank.

23. 111th's 2nd Company follows in
With the Russian T-70's neutralized, the 2nd Co. pours out of the woods and across the fields towards Sowchos 79. Shelling and small arms fire greet them, but they succeed in engaging the enemy to the left of the 110th's attack, and quickly force a foothold into the perimeter.

24. Overview of 110th's attack
As the 111th's 2nd Co. comes in (lower left), some small headway is being made by the 110th. The command halftrack is still lodged at the entrance, but most of the sectors to its left are now cleared. To the right pioneers use their flamethrower to clear out the Russians one sector at a time, eventually winning three sectors before being KO'd. On the right, the brick building (removed) proves a very sticky wicket as counterattack after counterattack is driven off with heavy German casualties.

25. Pak38 comes under fire
Russian mortars engage the German Paks with the hope of knocking them out.

26. Taking it to the T-70's
The first T-70 on the German (111th's) left flank is KO'd in close assault. The grenadiers battle it out with some Russian infantry dug in in these woods before moving on towards the second tank in this area.

27. Overview
From left to right:
2nd Co., 111th makes it to the town as the remaining T-70 on this flank emerges from the woods by the stream. Enemy troops in the perimeter houses are driven out and the 111th (2nd Co.) link up with pioneers of the 110th who have seized the northeast row of wooden sectors.
To their right, the 110th's attack has stalled out. The Russians, using shoot and scoot tactics, continually bloody the nose of the Germans on this front, steadily depleting the enemy's numbers at little cost to their own. The German armour is desperately needed to break the stalemate, and the German panzer commander dispatches a pair of tanks to circle around to the northeast (top left).

28. Second T-70 breaks and runs
As Russian tank casualties mount, the second T-70 on the German infantry left flank breaks and runs for cover back to Sowchos 79.

29. 117th Tanks collapse northeast of Sowchos 79
Two T-34's are KO'd in enfilade, and a failed maneuver roll sends the two surviving tanks in panicked retreat, where they are easily picked off before exiting the board. With the last of the Russian infantry from the convoy driven off back towards the Chir River, nothing now stands between the German armour and Sowchos 79.

30. First T-34 reinforcements arrive
But the battle is far from lost for the Russians. Their first reinforcement of four T-34's arrive on the road west of Sowchos 79, and with the enemy armour still well to the north, two of the Russian tanks slip into the village to bolster the infantry defence. But ominously, German armour enters into the town from the north. The grenadiers, with nothing to combat the Russian tanks, hunker down and wait for friendly armour to help oust the blocking T-34's.

 31. More T-34's crest the ridge south of the town
On the same reinforcing round, the Russian commanders send two more tanks to the ridge south of Sowchos 79, to bring in fire on the PG's halftracks.

 32. Panzers roll on to Sowchos 79
German armour rolls past burning Russian tanks against little opposition.

33. …and into the town
Only a flock of chickens bars entrance to the northeast end of Sowchos.

34. Overview
German armour enters Sowchos 79, with the tank bottom left threatening the rear of the T-34 which has thus far stymied the German infantry advance. Tanks entering on the northeast (top right) cause the Russian infantry to fall back from their forward positions.

35. Against all odds!
Bad luck continues to plague the Russian side as a T-34 and two T-70's are knocked out and a second T-34 driven off in an attempt to take out the Pak screen in close combat. Despite the Russians drawing fire with feints before closing, the Paks along with the PG 110 battlaion commander's 37mm mounted command halftrack beat all odds and hold their position intact. This was the last exchange of Day 1 of gaming.

36. Battlefield Overview
Day 2 of gaming begins with the Russians on the ropes.
Top right: German armour pours into and around the village.
Mid-left: Panzer grenadiers have gained a narrow foothold all along the east side of the village, but wait for armour support before resuming their attack, as the two T-34's still dominate the town entrances on the east side. Just below this, two Russian tanks burn and a third has withdrawn disordered, effectively ending Russian armoured threats on this front. A couple of T-70's continue to skulk around in the forest.

37. Rolling into trouble
The arrival of the second T-34 reinforcements ends badly. The German panzers had secured a firing line along the stream, dominating the road entrance in enfilade before the Russians' arrival. Two of the three Russian T-34's are KO'd the moment they enter the board , with only the third managing to move away to cover behind some woods.

38. Surveying the battlefield
The surviving T-34 of the second wave of reinforcements crests the ridge south of Sowchos 79 to see a field of burning Russian armour. He fires off some long range shots but to little effect against the German armour that is now sweeping around the west side of the village.

39. Bringing up the guns
While the PG's wait for armoured support to break the deadlock, the 111th brings up its guns, hoping to get them into action in the town.

40. Overview
A German panzer moves in on the boxed in T-34, surviving the double tap fire before disordering it at close range. This allows a second tank to move in and close assault from behind, while the 111th PG's maneuvers to bring AT rifles and its AT gun into range, in case all else fails.

41. T-34 dispatched
The T-34 blocking the northeast entrance to town is finally taken out in close combat by the enfilading panzer.

42. Clearing out the north edge of the village
With the Russian tank dealt with, the 111th PG's are freed up to move in, clearing out the north edge perimeter sectors one at a time.

43. First (and only!) panzer KO'd
Other German armour sweeps through the northwest side of the town, driving out the few Russian infantry still in this area. The lead tank succumbs to a close assault by hidden infantry, the first German tank loss in exchange for 15 of the enemy.

44. Game end
Back to back failed maneuver rolls on the part of the Russians, exacerbated by the presence of German armour all around them cause the Russian defence to collapse. The German PG's rapidly move in to seize abandoned sectors and the Russian players, after 10 turns and 15 hours of play and with virtually no armour support left, throw in the towel.

Although one Russian company was still in reasonable shape at the end, having fought well using shoot and scoot tactics, it broke and abandoned its positions on the final turn. The second, suffering crippling losses, was finally annihilated. The PG companies end the game at just shy of 50% casualties on average, but the real deal-breaker was the domination of the German armour over the Russian, losing only one tank to 15 of the 18 Russian tanks. A great annual “big game” all around, and a lot of fun for both sides. Can hardly wait until next year!