Chain of Command December 2019 - Normandy with an Italian Flavour

General view of the battlefield, Axis forces deployed on the left hand side

The following game took place in Kidderminster on 20th December 2019, a “Big” Chain of Command engagement situated in Normandy 1944. All figures and terrain were supplied by Neil W with the exception of Nick’s Italian platoon which was allowed to take part because a) there were Italian troops in Normandy and b) ‘twas the season of goodwill and I was feeling generous. The forces and commanders taking part were as follows: -

British Forces: -

Regular British infantry platoon led by Ian, medium machine gun in support.

Regular British Airborne platoon led by Bryan, medium machine gun in support.

Armoured troop led by Gordon – 2 M4 Shermans and Sherman Firefly

Axis Forces: -

Regular German grenadier platoon led by Doug – 50mm mortar in support.

Regular Italian infantry platoon led by Nick – 45 mm mortar in support (due to a breakdown in communications, the CO did not realise this was available until almost the end of the game).

Armoured group led by Terry – Panzer IV G, Stug III G and Marder III.

Bryan was in overall command of the British forces and Doug was in charge of the Axis troops. Neil W adjudicated the fiercest of disputes and also provided rations when required.

The patrol phase saw the jump-off markers distributed fairly evenly across the table for the British, whereas the Axis forces’ deployment points were grouped to their left. The Allies, having superior force morale and the initiative, deployed first. Gordon suffered an early setback when his most potent asset, the Firefly, was destroyed by the Stug III cunningly deployed by Terry. Gordon immediately brought up a Sherman to replace it and exchanged fire with the Stug for the remainder of the game, neither vehicle doing any significant damage to the other despite numerous hits.

British airborne infantry move into position to attack the terraced houses

Meanwhile, the various infantry units, supports and remaining armoured vehicles began to enter the battlefield. Ian’s platoon, operating on the British left, swiftly made its way to the churchyard and surrounding areas. However, Nick had managed to get two squads into the post office/café and four light machine guns on the top floor opened murderous fire on Ian’s infantry. Two sections suffered serious loses, one ultimately routing from the field. In celebration, the Italian riflemen on the ground floor decided to convert the post office into a trattoria. Bryan’s airborne troops advanced stealthily, one section occupying the manor house in the centre while the remainder of the platoon moved into position to attack the terraced houses on the British right where Doug had stationed a squad of infantry in defence.

Italian troops swiftly exit the post office/cafe - the end of a promising business venture

Because both tank commanders were making maximum use of cover, zeroing in on enemy vehicles was almost impossible, so the tanks of both sides resorted to firing high explosive on any available “soft” targets. This produced the first success for the British side as the post office received a devastating hit, resulting in imminent collapse. The fact that all the troops inside got out without a scratch is tribute to the Italian ability to evacuate a position with astonishing rapidity. Regrettably, the pizza oven was ruined. However, the Italian platoon were pinned behind the ruin and played little part in the remainder of the game. Two sections of airborne infantry that had manoeuvred themselves to the hedge directly opposite the terraced houses (albeit suffering a few casualties en route) now close assaulted the position. Unsurprisingly, given the numerical advantage, fighting spirit and superior weaponry of the Brits, the German defenders were annihilated – a great success for Bryan’s men, though they had taken significant losses in storming the houses and Doug still had two intact squads to launch a possible counter-attack.

The isolated Marder about to come to a sticky end

While all this was going on, the Marder III, operating in isolation on the Axis right flank, was trying to get into position to attack one of Gordon’s Shermans. In an audacious move, the remainder of one of Ian’s sections assaulted the German vehicle, throwing grenades into the open top. With no friendly infantry support to drive away the attackers, the British were able get close enough to achieve three hits and the Marder was immobilised.

At this point the game was brought to an end. Neither side had achieved the victory conditions and although the British had suffered heavier losses, their force morale was greater than their adversaries. Therefore, the contest was declared a draw and a fitting result for a game played over the festive season.