Friday, 19 September 2014

Battle of Peronne - 23 March 1918 (Op14)

One of our MNG irregulars had a week off work, so we had a chance to have a game during the day. Phil, Chris A & I have been discussing Op14 for a while and following the last trial game we went for a historical refight, using a scenario prepared by Martin Rapier of the Sheffield Club.

Having agreed the day and time for the game Phil discovered that for him the Gasman Cometh. So I started with the Germans and Chris A took the Brits. Phil arrived in time to observe the final turn.

So, we are two days after the opening of Kaiserschlacht, and we're looking at Gough's Fifth Army VII & XIX Corps defending the Somme crossing at Peronne. The map looks like this:


The crosses on the right indicate the old (1916) Somme battlefield which is, frankly, a real mess and difficult to move across.

British VII Corps has 6 brigades with 18 battalions and a couple of field and howitzer brigades. XIX Corps has 6 brigades with 16 battalions, two field artillery brigades and one howitzer brigade. They've also got a tank battalion and a cavalry division.  8th Division has moved up overnight with two full strength infantry brigades and a field artillery brigade.

The Germans have:

XXIII Reserve Corps: Strength 28 battalions in 9 infantry brigades plus 3 x field artillery, 2 x howitzers .

XIV Corps: Strength 18 battalions in 6 infantry brigades, 2 x field artillery, 1 x howitzer.

LI Corps Strength 14 battalions in 5 infantry brigades, 1 x field artillery, 1 x howitzer.

The Germans are trying to breakthrough and cross the Somme/Canal du Nord. The British are trying to evacuate Peronne and conduct a fighting retreat to the Somme/Canal du Nord where they expect to hold the German advance

Translated to the table the British set up looked like this:


Chris has gone for a fairly heavily defended "Green Line". His attempts to dig in overnight have had mixed success. The game starts at 6:30am (dawn). There is a heavy mist, so aircraft can't fly and artillery can only fire at targets adjacent to units in its own corps.


The German left is a bit light. LI Corps moves up to assault the British line, however, expecting a whirlwind breakthrough. However they are caught by a very effective British barrage and falter on the attack start line.

The German right looks more promising, however.


This view from behind XXIII and XIV Corps shows the masses of German forces moving up. If we were to replay this scenario then these should be deployed two squares in, rather than coming on from the table edge.


So, according to the turn track, this is the situation at the end of turn two:


XIV Corps artillery opened up with a devastating barrage in the centre. This is only a holding barrage to pin the defenders. No assault planned.


The first successful assault goes in on the right in XXIII corps area. A heavy barrage inflicts a lot of hits, so the British drop back out of line and the assault is a walk over. As all the artillery of the corps was focussed on one square the two flanking brigades did not attack.


This aerial shot gives a better view of the position. The German left has stalled quite badly, and the British are moving up both cavalry and tanks in anticipation of a counter attack.

The photo below is at the end of turn three. The British on the right are dropping back under steady pressure, trading ground for casualties. They are leap frogging backwards, hurriedly digging in where ever they have the chance. On the left the cavalry move up, contemplating a wide outflanking manoeuvre.


At this point I thought it was going rather well. On the right my casualties are quite low.


This picture above is just a low level shot 'cos I think it looks cool.


End of turn four and the mist still hasn't cleared. I could really do with my aerial spotters as I'm losing touch with some of the British units, so I can't shell them.


However, I have finally managed to get myself sorted on the left with LI Corps, and the British are limbering up and pulling back towards Peronne. Looks like quite a traffic jam is in prospect (NB I only have British limbers. You'll have to guess when the German artillery is being moved)


This panorama shows the Germans are making progress, but typically we are outrunning our artillery, so have to hold up before making any further assaults. It's still misty, so no help from ground attack aircraft either.


On the left we're pressing forwards, but not with any great speed or confidence.


End of turn 5, and the mist clears. Alas it starts to rain, so still no aircraft.


My right wing stalled this turn, There's one of my units under that smoke on the right, but the hastily improvised British defences have held me up. Trucks are leaving Peronne unhindered (you can see one on the road, top centre), and the British right is conducting an orderly retreat.


I struggle in the following move too, although I have broken the left of the British line. It's becoming clear that I've not got enough daylight left to make it to Peronne, or across the canal.


So, turn 7. I continue to press forwards, but it's getting tough. Everybody, with the exception of XXIII Corps is in danger of becoming exhausted.


It looks pretty bad from the British side of the table, as they are in full retreat and have taken lots of casualties. Alas it has all been a bit slow for the Germans.


Unfortunately it is LI Corps that first succumbs to exhaustion (see yellow markers denoting exhausted units below). I've come close a couple of times to seriously disrupting the British by shelling both Corps' HQs in the last couple of moves, but to no effect.


It's still crowded around the Peronne river crossings, and the tank battalion is suffering major mechanical breakdowns. More armour for the Kaiser in prospect?


End of turn 8, and as night falls XXIII Corps finally gets its leading unit across the canal. A success, sure enough, but too little too late, perhaps?

We didn't play a second day. The Germans had made less progress than they did historically. The British are still East of the Somme. This may prove to be a problem as the Germans may be able to destroy them completely. Alternatively, they could slip away overnight.

The game played really well, although we are still working on our understanding. I wonder if there should be any further tweaks for the end of the war. The game only features field artillery, and I for one have got a 60pdr in my British artillery park.

Thanks must go to Martin Rapier for sharing the briefings. I think we have a taste for this now but I think it works best for historical refights. Best go off and do some research then, hadn't I?

And may be dig out my RCW kit.

4 comments:

  1. Very entertaining write-up, thank you.

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    1. You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed it. Keeping track of what was going on was made much easier with the photographs, otherwise I'd have got completely lost!

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  2. Nice and interesting AAR, great looking table!

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    1. I was pleased with the look of it. I think the squares look good as it makes it look like a 3D map.

      Op14 requires rivers to run along square edges so I need to make a few more 90 degree turns and adjust the lengths of the straights.

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