Two games on, my mid-war desert series with Russell has us tied at 1:1. For Game 3, Russell had just built up 3 Churchill IIIs and was raring to let them loose in the desert and so we revved up our engines and kicked up some dust.
With his Kingforce Churchills in support, Russell chose to attack and of course, the DAK chose to attack to. Rolling a 5, we drew a 'Free-for-All' mission.
Orders of Battle:
'A' Company, 1st Battalion, The Rifle Brigade,
Formation Combat Units
|Motor Company HQ||2 x SMLE rifle teams|
|Motor Platoon 1||
4 x Bren Gun teams
1 x Boys Anti-tank Gfile
1 x 2" mortar
|Motor Platoon 2||
4 x Bren Gun & SMLE rifle teams
1 x Boys Anti-tank Gfile
1 x 2" mortar
|6 pdr Anti-tank Platoon||4 x 6 pdr guns|
|17/25 pdr Anti-tank Troop||4 x 17/25 pdr guns|
|Bofors Light AA Troop||3 x Bofors 40mm AA guns|
|Churchill III Armoured Troop||3 x Churchill III (6 pdr)|
'C' Squadron, 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars,
Formation Combat Units
|Honey Armoured Squadron HQ||4 x Honey|
|Honey Armoured Troop 1||3 x Honey|
|Honey Armoured Troop 2||3 x Honey|
5. Kompanie, I. Bataillon, 8. Regiment,
Formation Combat Units
|Panzer III (Uparmoured) Tank Company HQ||1 x Panzer III (Uparmoured)|
|Panzer III (Mixed) Tank Platoon||
3 x Panzer III (Short 5cm)
|Panzer III (Mixed) Tank Platoon||3 x Panzer III (7.5cm)|
|Sd Kfz 221 & 222 Light Scout Troop||
2 x SD Kfz 221(MG)
|Sd Kfz 10/4 Light AA Platoon||3 x Sd Kfz 10/4 (2cm)|
|JU 87 Stuka Dive Bomber Flight||2 x Ju 87 Stuka|
|Marder (7.62cm) Tank-Hunter Platoon||3 x Marder (7.62cm)|
|15cm (SF) Lorraine Schlepper Artillery Battery||4 x 15cm (SF) Lorraine Schlepper|
|Afrika Rifle Platoon||4 x MG34 team
1 x 2.8cm Anti-tank Gun
1 x sMG34 HMG
|Panzer II OP Observation Post||1 x Panzer II OP|
Rolling off, Russell won the roll and was designated the attacker. He chose the table edge to attack from and proceeded to place two objectives on my side of the table. Then it was my turn to place my objectives on his side before we took turns to place platoons down, starting with Russell.
I used my SdKfz 221s & 222s to spearhead and expanded my deployment forward to the hills, where my infantry and Panzer II OP set up a Forward Observation Base.
At the end of the deployment, this was how it looked.
For 'Free-for-All', we had to roll off again to see who had the first turn. Again, Russell won the roll. However, since this was a 'Meeting Engagement', it would mean that he would not be able to fire his artillery or call in air, which did not affect him since he had none.
As expected, the Churchills with their 8 front armour led the push against my right flank. Held by my AA zug, recon zug and infantry, it was the weaker of two flanks. My Marders were facing my left flank but I had placed them near the center in case of this scenario.
The Churchills took some pot shots at my infantry but it was always difficult to pick them out from among the rocks.
On the British right, the Honey Squadron rushed forward to the edge of town, taking advantage of the adobe buildings and walls to mask themselves from the Panzer IIIs.
With reports from the FOO about the advancing Churchills, a fire mission was ordered for the Lorraines. A single ranging shot was fired and the OP observed the fall before giving the 'Fire for Effect' order.
Within seconds, 15cm rounds were on their way, engulfing the Churchills in an enormous plume of dust and smoke. When the dust settled, only one of the Churchills was bailed. It's going to take more than artillery to take this monsters out.
Frantic calls to the nearest Luftwaffe were made but they were unable to assist as they were being harassed by the RAF.
Over at the town, 1. Zug pulled back to take up positions behind the buildings to prevent the Honeys from flanking them. On the outskirts of town, 2. Zug advanced carefully, maintaining a safe distance out of range of the 17/25 pdrs across the wadi. Managing to get into a position to see one of the Honey Troops, two tanks let fly a shot each. With a show of awesome gunnery skills, they both managed to hit (two'6's!)
But just as amazingly, only one Honey brewed up. The other crewed just bailed out, taking cover behind their tank.
The Recon zug cross-country dashed over to the left flank where their 2cm guns could at least penetrate the Honeys while the Marder zug shifted towards the right flank, ready to meet the oncoming Churchills.
Shrugging off the effects of the bombardment, the bailed Churchill crew quickly remounted and resumed their slow crawl across the open desert plain towards the infantry platoon in the hills. Two Churchills opened up on the infantry while the third remained stationary to take two shots at the Panzer II OP. Every shot missed as their targets were all concealed and gone to ground, much to the chagrin of the Churchill crew.
Behind them, the 6 pdr platoon was ordered forward to reposition themselves so as to be able bring their guns to bear on the german infantry.
Back on the British right, the bailed Honey from Troop 1 managed to remount, avoiding the need to take a 'Last Stand' check. Immediately, they raced forward to hug the buildings trying to avoid making themselves targets to the advancing Panzer IIIs.
The Squadron HQ's Honeys inched forward and found two targets partially hidden from view. The two lead Honeys fired one 37mm each but the shots went wide.
With the RAF bombing raids on the airfield over, the Luftwaffe were finally free to hunt down the marauding Churchills. Making sure to stay well out off the Bofor's envelope, the dive bombers descended on the tanks with sirens wailing. Well, as the saying goes, 'Empty vessels make the loudest noise'! The photo speaks for itself.
Observing the movement of the AT guns moving forward in the open, the OP called in another fire mission on them. Ranging in with their first shot, the Lorraines unleashed their barrage on the unsuspecting guns. One unlucky crew took a direct hit and the rest quickly took cover. One foxhole was also hit, with a Bren Gun team being the only casualty. The platoon also took cover.
Letting the Honeys advance to a couple of hundred feet, 1. Zug commander ordered two tanks to fire. Confident that they would decimate a least two platoons, He was aghast when they could only bail one Honey from the HQ Troop while both shots missed the other troop.
2. Zug outside of the town could not find any target so moved cautiously closer to town to support 1. Zug.
The Marder zug was now in a precarious position as there was going to be no cover when the Churchills rounded the hill. With steely nerves, they prepared for what was to come.
The Churchills advanced forward and took 2 shots at the hapless Marders, like deer caught in headlights. The trailing Marder was set alight.
The Honey Troop 1, feeling lucky after their near miss, rushed forward to take flank shots at 1. Zug. One aimed 37mm round penetrated the turret of the Panzer III and blew it up. The shots at the rest of the zug missed.
The HQ Troop Honey remounted and half the troop pushed forward while the other half stayed put and took potshots at 2. Zug just coming into view beyond the town wall, with no effect.
Honey Troop 2 dashed towards the hills looking for way to flank the Panzer III zugs.
The Marder Zug quickly loaded their guns and despite the long range, fired on the two visible Churchills. Their 7.62cm rounds easily penetrated the heavy front armour of the Churchills, brewing them up.
1. Zug repositioned itself to bring 2. Zug into the fight. With a flank shot, Tank 2 expected to knock out the Honey but the Pzgr. 39 shot clean through the hull and the shocked Honey crew bailed out.
2. Zug moved up and split their targets. Tanks 1 & 3 targeted the HQ Troop while Tank 2 target Troop 1. All 3 shots failed to find their quarry.
The remaining Churchill's crew stubbornly refused to run and using one of their dead brethren to shield them, moved forward to shoot at the Marders. The 6 pdr shell ignited the stored rounds on the lead Marder and tore the superstructure apart.
Honey Troop 2 creeped round the hill and found the Panzer IIIs busy with the HQ Troop and offered up a tempting flank shot. It was a going to be a difficult shot but, incredibly, all three shots found their mark, knocking out a Panzer III from 2. Zug.
Honey Troop 1, remounted and emboldened by their extreme fortune so far, they charged headlong into the maelstrom in town. This time, it was their turn to find out that at such short ranges their AP rounds just passed right through the tank without much damage.
The HQ Troop rounded the adobe hall and fired upon the Panzer IIIs but could not penetrate the front armour.
The last surviving Marder, seeing the demise of his platoon, decided to withdraw from their duel with the Churchills.
Having been absent for the last two turns, the Luftwaffe finally sent a flight to target the Churchills. Without the Marders, it was the only way to take out the heavy tank. However, the heavy smoke from the burning tanks made it impossible for the Stukas to accurately bomb the tank.
The Panzer III from 1. Zug remounted and manoeuvred behind the HQ Troop Honeys and remarkably missed a point blank shot. Tank 2, 2. Zug also moved around to take on the HQ Troop but only managed to bail one Honey.
The solo Churchill refused to run, instead went on a marauding run towards the objective taking out the entire SdKfz 10/4 platoon with machine-gun fire in the process. The objective now lay open with only one Lorraine contesting it.
Two Honeys from HQ Troop saw an opportunity to charge for a flank shot into the Panzer III but at the last moment, switched to another target of opportunity as their target blew up before they could take the shot. Honeys from Troop 2 had been tracking the Panzer III when it appeared and sniped it from long range.
They switched to the recon zug and laid waste to one unlucky Sd Kfz 222 and bailed a 221.
Having lost two tanks, 2. Zug's Commander lost his nerves and left the battlefield.
Tank 3, 1. Zug engaged in a brawl with two Honeys from Troop 1, threw 2 left hooks but managed to only graze one Honey.
Tank 1 had already moved to take up a concealed position behind the wall beside their fallen brothers. Their single shot only bailed a Honey from the HQ Troop.
The stresses of battle finally got to the crew of the Churchill and they decided to turn tail and run.
When the crew of the bailed HQ Honey remounted, they went after the Panzer III that shot at them and returned a favour.
Troop 2 counterpunched and bailed the other Panzer III.
With 2. Zug destroyed and both tanks bailed, it was imperative that 1. Zug remount or the Formation would automatically be destroyed. Alas, it was not to be and the German Commander had to raise the white flag and surrender to British.
Commander Russell currently takes a 2:1 lead. We shall see if there will be a German victory in the coming week. Stay tuned.