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.

Overview

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.


Counterattack

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.

Overview

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.

Mike!

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.

Overview

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.













4 comments:

  1. Excellent work as always Bill

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fantastic! always a joy to read the report and admire the great terrain. Not knowing the victory conditions, i did not think the Canadians would be able to take the village. They didn't, but obviously enough to score a win.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, Shaun. Historically the North Novas secured a strong foothold in the south of the town and then the attack was taken over by the Highland Light Infantry who cleared the town, so not unlike this outcome. You're right, it would have been tough for the Canadians to take the whole village, but if they had managed that the victory conditions would have awarded a major victory.

    ReplyDelete