Sunday 17th of September 1944, British and Polish Paratroopers caught the defending German forces around Arnhem by complete surprise in a series of daring airborne assaults as part of Operation Market Garden, An operation which would go down in history as one of the most audacious and ambitious plans in World war 2. Allied setbacks and dogged German resistance however meant that Arnhem bridge, truly was a Bridge too far.
In our Club game, we played a game inspired by these events, using both Al’s Germans and his British Paratroopers, and the Poor Bloody Infantry Rules by Peter Pig. The action would be fought around in and around a quiet Dutch town, who’s only crime was having a strategic bridge over a canal. Here was our table set up:
As I am sure many of you know, the Peter Pig games involve a series of pre-game games and dice rolls. These usually represent pre-game reconnaissance, Political manoeuvrings, or the tide of the war before hand. As luck would have it, the mini-game led to similar conditions, with the Allies having more or less complete dominance of the Recon game, a situation which I felt quite aptly represented the complete surprise.
Electing to defend, it seemed as though the Paratroopers had got an early start and had a solid hold over the bridge. Two platoons of Paratroopers took positions and awaited the inevitable counter-attack. When it came, it came in the form of a German infantry company, who whilst not the most able of troops being of “Average” quality, they had made it through the Falaise gap carrying all of the MG42 machine guns they could carry.
The German plan was simple…
Storm up to the buildings by the Canal, open up upon the defenders, and then push across the river. I was commanding the Left flank, whilst Gareth ably led the right flank. As you can just about see in the picture, the Paratroopers had taken up firing points on the other side of the canal, using buildings and tree-lines for cover.
The first turn for the Germans was excellent, and their officers were able to get enough activation points to lead their men to the buildings on this side of the canal, and open up with quite frankly an obscene amount of Firepower, leaving the defenders of key points pinned down. Below is the paratroopers defending against the German Rush
The Paratroopers returned fire as best they were able, beginning on my side of the table a firefight which would last until the end of the game. Whilst I was able to inflict some casualties in return, I made the mistake of keeping my platoon bunched up in the hope of assaulting them. This meant it was easy to pin them in place with gunfire however. As luck would have it, the Paratroopers remained pinned on the right flank, allowing for the German advance to continue.
Wading, swimming or using that quintessential German assault boat, the Grenadiers were able to push across the canal, taking one of the houses by the bridge by storm and forcing the Allies to fall back. The Impetus maintained, Gareth’s troops were able to exploit their bridgehead, bringing more forces over and taking the tree line. All whilst mine were locked in a firefight on the left flank. Here is a picture of the German exploitation, note the use of the dual use Flaming/Floating barrel the German company commander has cannily employed.
Unfortunately, a mixture of Allied reinforcements, and lack of time meant that the German offensive faltered, even as our own reinforcements were getting onto the table in the form of a platoon of Mortars and a Panzer IV Tank. And so as night fell, the fighting drew to a close with a German Foothold over the canal, but one that was looking to be quite tenuous, having failed to open the bridge.
As with all Peter Pig games I have played, I would certainly recommend PBI. Its fairly simple, uses a grid system so no worrying about measurements, and I think represents infantry combat in World war 2 fairly well. Being able to choose your companies assets when you know the mission is a big plus as well. Although we didn’t get to use that sneaky move in the end.
Anyway, I shall leave you with a picture of the Allied reinforcements arriving down the road….