We played our big summer game up at my friend Phong’s cottage this summer. It turned out to be the hottest, most humid day of the summer, but we still sweated it out around the gaming table for a day and a half, punctuated by good food and jumps in the lake to cool down!
|When the fighting got too hot we had this lake to jump into.|
As it is the 75th anniversary of the historic events in Normandy in WWII we dusted off our WWII toys to play this scenario, the ill-fated brigade attack on Le Mesnil-Patry on June 11, 1944 by the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade in support of the neighbouring forces of 30th Corps. It was a hastily planned attack with no recce and historically was a dismal failure, described by one British journalist as “ the charge of the Light Brigade”. This scenario, written by Paddy Green and Richard de Ferrars as part of their Blood and Honour series, was played in 1/72 scale on a 6’ X 9’ board using Battlefront WWII rules, with some home grown alterations. Toys were a combination of mine and Phong’s with four players - myself, Phong, our friend Ted and Phong’s son Dylan.
|Scenario map showing German deployment areas and lines of the Canadian attack. Le Mesnil-Patry was the objective so the arrows, ending at the high water mark, tell it all!|
|The battlefield as seen from Le Mesnil-Patry (bottom). This town was the Canadian objective.|
|View from Norrey's railway station.|
|The chateau and Le Mesnil-Patry.|
First wave arrives
The 1st Hussars B Squadron with D Co. of the Queens Own Rifles of Canada mounted as tank riders arrive in Norrey. They find their supposed start line blocked by hastily sown minefields, placed there by the Regina Rifles currently in control of the Norrey salient and are forced to detour through the narrow streets of the town to launch their attack.
D Company dismounts
D Co. scrambles off the backs of the Shermans to make their way through Norrey on foot towards the Canadian right flank.
A Company follows up
A Company in trucks move through the town bottleneck to move up on the left flank, with the Hussars’ C Squadron close behind.
B Squadron forges south out of Norrey and up the main road to Le Mesnil Patry
B Squadron’s lead Shermans encounter the first enemy troops, Panzergrenadiers of the 26th SS. The German company commander is quickly dealt with by the Sherman's machineguns, the last easy success of the battle!
Meanwhile, back in Norrey, more of the attacking force enters via the Bretteville road, following C Squadron into the town. The regiments’ mortars dismount from their carriers to emplace in an orchard west of the town while Lt. Col. Spragge takes up HQ’s in the Norrey church spire in an attempt to gain a view of the battlefield over the densely hedged fields. It’s a dangerous perch as it is also the target of continued German shelling as the Allies move through the town, and a direct hit soon leaves the QOR without their commander.
A Co. dismounts east of Norrey
B Squadron tanks on the main road suddenly find themselves the targets of a vicious crossfire by hidden Pak40’s either side of the road. The lead tank is hit and bursts into flames.
A second Pak40 on the Canadian centre left ambushes tanks.
And a third on the German far right...
A Co. is spotted and shelled as they dismount on the Canadian left
Outflanking German guns
Things heat up as the Hussars engage dug in Paks, infantry guns and panzergrenadiers on the Canadian left. Two more tanks are KO’d before the German guns are silenced.
B and C Squadrons continue to drive up the Canadian right, linking up with D Co. advancing on foot from Norrey.
Meanwhile, on the Canadian left A Co. moves out from the covering hedges to test this flank and try to pin the enemy while the main event goes up the right.
A supporting tank is KO’d on a hidden minefield and German mg’s open up. Suspecting more mines A Co. falls back to their start position to regroup.
German armour arrives
Just as the Canadians start to make some small headway on the right, two German Panzer IV’s (SS Panzer Regiment 12 Hitlerjugend) advance on the Cristot road just north of Le Mesnil-Patry.
Taking on the Panzers
Under cover of smoke the Canadian armour maneuvers to try to dislodge the Panzer IV’s. As the enemy tanks are engaged by Fireflies on the Canadian right other Hussars storm up the main road to close assault. But they are met by enemy Panzershreks hidden in haystacks and behind hedges, and two more casualties are added to the flaming wreckage on the main road.
Panzershreks in every haystack and behind every hedgerow!
A Squadron arrives
Canadian armour continues to pour into Norrey, with A Squadron now moving through the town along with the Queens Own Rifles’ B Co.
Mortars in action
QOR's 3" mortars in action as tanks and B Co. pass by on their way through Norrey
Panzer IV's KO'd
The Hussars’ Fireflies finally find their mark as the two German tanks are KO’d. But the cost has been dear, with eight disabled and burning Shermans dotting the fields and the Canadians still less than halfway to their objective.
A handful of Shermans manage to breakthrough the enemy lines in and around the chateau causing German mortars to scramble from their positions to escape the advancing tanks. There is now nothing between them and Le Mesnil-Patry but it is late in the game as more élite enemy armour emerges along the Cristot road.
Iron Cross candidate
A lone German Panzershrek holds up any advance by A Squadron out of Norrey along the main road as the Hussars attempt to blast him out of his position. German Panzershreks accounted for at least a half dozen kills in this fight!
Flushing out the enemy
With the Hussars forging ahead, D. Co. finally comes to grips with the bypassed German infantry still dug in north of the chateau.
Didn't see that coming!
One of the lead Shermans behind the chateau is KO’d by an unnoticed enemy tank as the Sherman pulls back seeking a better position. (Markers on board show the plethora of yet uncommitted German engineers of the 12th SS Pioneer battalion still dug in north of Le Mesnil Patry and east of the main road!)
Back where it started!
Tanks of A Squadron knocks out a German Pak before it can unlimber. Both Paks on this flank had been pulled off the line to support the German left, and were now being hurriedly brought back as the Canadian armour late to the battle appear on their eastern flank.
A Company resumes attack
With tanks of A Squadron now on the scene A Co. QOR again sallies out of the orchards east of Norrey. They are met be a devastating artillery strike but the remainder press on, giving close support to A Squadron’s Shermans, who have lost yet another tank to a panzershrek hidden in yet another haystack.
Carrier platoon moves through Norrey
The QOR’s carriers along with supporting engineers pass through Norrey’s narrow streets but never make it to the fight.
QOR’s B Co. shelled
In a Quixotic attempt to hustle B Co. (mounted in trucks) up the Canadian right in support of A Co., their transport is spotted by the German FOO. The lead truck is destroyed as its surviving occupants bail out disordered.
D Co. trying to clear out the enemy troops north of the chateau as a half dozen shattered tanks burn in the background.
Two more Hussars KO’d
A second Sherman is KO’d behind the chateau as the enemy tanks close in for the kill, losing one of their own in the process. In the background a Firefly, moving to support these tanks is hit in the flank by a hidden Panzershrek and bursts into flames.
Tank battle around the chateau
Two Shermans are KO’d along with a Firefly (off photo, bottom left) as the Panzer IV’s move in.
Final Overview as seen from Norrey
With the Canadian tank breakthrough around the chateau snuffed and the way forward to Le Mesnil-Patry blocked by a burning Firefly (previous photo, but around chateau top right), A Squadron, although still relatively intact, (photo centre) is making slow headway up either side of the main road towards Le Mesnil-Patry. B and C Squadrons have both been reduced to less than 50% and are unable to effectively advance (centre right) with many tanks now in full retreat.
The leading Canadian infantry companies (D on the right and A on the left) are both at 50% casualties and B and C companies, along with the carrier platoon and combat engineers are still mired west and within Norrey or just south of their starting line.
With half his armour out of commission and half his infantry companies no longer capable of sustained action, Brigadier Wyman calls off the attack and orders his forces to fall back on the Regina Rifles’ positions around Norrey.
We called the game here but handed the Germans a major victory. There was no way, with almost all of their infantry (the engineer battalion was virtually untouched!) and most of their armour still intact, that the Germans would lose Le Mesnil-Patry, but we decided the Canadians still had enough forces to maintain control of Norrey. So a more or less historical result...