Saturday, December 30, 2023

For God, France and Joan of Arc

Jolimetz , France. 18 May 1940

German Tank Assault

The previous post set the scene for the clash of armour around the village of Jolimetz in northern France on 18 May 1940. In the morning battle, the Germans had approached the village but had been unable to clear the village. This next battle picks up the fighting in the afternoon after the Germans have been reinforced.

The wargaming board is exactly the same, a relief after placing out all those trees. The Germans start on the edge of the woods and can start their light company forward of the road where shown if they wish.

A general shot of the board.

The German force has a few advantages they didn't have in the first game. Not only do they start closer to the French, but the game also goes for two turns longer, eight vice six. They also have some important reinforcements.

They do have more difficult victory conditions: in the previous game they had to control more urban areas in Jolimetz than the French; in this game they have to control all areas by the end of the game.

A Regimental headquarters element has now come forward. This gives the added advantage of another command stand, a staff stand that can give movement orders anywhere on the board, and another tank reconnaissance platoon. I'm not sure the recovery half-track will be of much value, but you never know.

Of crucial importance will be the additional motorised infantry company and an additional engineer platoon. Just the thing for clearing urban terrain.

While the German force is larger, the French have been unable to make good their losses from the morning battle. They start with two S35s rather than three, one 25mm AT gun rather than two, and their motorcycle company is reduced to a single squad. They still have the tough Algerians.

The force is duplicated to try and deceive the Germans. Two S35s set up in the town...

...while another pair sets up in depth. One of these pairs is a dummy pair.

An overall view of the French deployment.

The Germans deploy their light tank company across the main road, intending to sort out the S35s that are deployed in depth.

The Medium Tank company sets up on the main road through the forest just short of the crossroad.

The motorised infantry battalion is behind them.

The two reconnaissance platoons, regimental and battalion respectively, will have the important (and dangerous) job of closing with the village and identifying the defences. In Command Decision rules, armoured reconnaissance elements have an ability to spot without physical contact. They still have to get very close, but the French lack personal anti-tank weapons so it's a risk that needs to be taken.

The game begins. The light company moves forward. They orientate on the S35s in depth but find out that the intelligence report was false: the S35s reported in depth prove to be dummies so are removed from the board.

The medium company moves forward from the woods and covers the deployment of the first infantry company.

A reconnaissance Pz I probes forward through the orchards.

The first infantry company and the engineers move forward into the Forming Up Place.

Turn2 and the light company moves forward to threaten Jolimetz from the south.

The medium company orientates on where an S35 is reported to be in Jolimetz. The panzers stay far enough way to dare the S35 to take a medium-range shot and reveal itself but the S35 holds its fire. A reconnaissance PzII probes the first urban block and finds it unoccupied.

The first infantry company and the engineers move forward, relieved to hear that the French may be deployed back from the edge of the first urban areas.

The other company and the anti-tank gun are initially held in depth.

Turn 3 and the first assault goes in. The lead infantry company is hit by MMG fire and falls back. In the morale phase it is Shaken, taking it out of action for a few turns. This delay might be crucial. The engineers grab their flamethrowers and take the lead.

In the town, the reconnaissance Pz II reveals the S35 which is forced to fire. It was Suppressed by H&I fire so chose the closer PzII as its target rather than the riskier shot at the Pz IVs. It destroys the PzII platoon but is itself destroyed in a return volley from the medium company.

It's not exactly an Exchange of Queens but the onus falls back on the German infantry to discover where the French are.

The German light company moves forward cautiously, aware that there is a 25mm AT gun somewhere in the village.

An overhead shot. The MMG that delayed the first German company is forced back into the centre of the village.

The German engineers move into the first urban blocks. A slow grind ahead for them.

Turn 5 and the German engineers have captured four of the urban areas while the second infantry company has also captured two.

The French are compressed into three urban areas. Their morale holds remarkably well but they are Pinned at the end of Turn 5. It will be a close-run thing to see whether they can hold off for another three turns.

The German infantry company that broke during the initial assault has now rallied and is back in the fight. It might be too late.

With the French pinned the light company moves forward in a fairly menacing fashion waiting for any sign of the French. The medium company moves behind to try and get to the French on the north side of the village. The French are down but not out: they manage to destroy one of the marauding German engineer stands.

 Near the end and a French MMG trades shots with German infantry platoons. Even when pinned an MMG demands respect.

A German engineer stands close assaults the S35 in the centre of the town but is unable to destroy it. The French MMG stand in the north of the town is the French only hope to salvage victory. With the S35 barring the way, it will not be possible for the Germans to get to it.

Last roll of the dice and somehow the French manage to hang on to one last urban area - and win the game. 

Despite the overwhelming presence of the German armour, the French managed to hang on and deny the German infantry and engineers. Fighting in an urban area was as difficult as it usually is, requiring slow and deliberate movement.

The German player admitted to being probably a little cautious in his play, and the French player certainly had Lady Luck on his side on a few crucial die roles. Having the Algerians with their high morale helped and the onus of attack was on the Germans.

Once again, a thoroughly enjoyable game that went right down to the last few rolls.

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