Monday, April 1, 2024

 Lost Children

Montcornet , France. 17 May 1940

Mass French tank assault into the German flank

France 1940 brings with it an image of German tank hordes sweeping across open plains. In this scenario, the tables are turned: De Gaule's 4th Armoured Division with its own horde of tanks attempts to smash into a scratch German force protecting the flank of the German advance to the Channel.

The scenario is played on a board 4m x 2m, representing an area of 8km x 4km. The initial German force is deployed to the north, protecting Montcornet and the bridge over the Serre River. The French R35s of the 2nd and 24th BCC start on the board in the village of La Ville-aux--Bais-les-Dizy on the SE board edge, and French reinforcements of D2s from 19th BCC and B1s from 46th Bcc will enter from Clermont-les-Fermes on the SW corner. French infantry may also enter from Dizy. German reinforcements will enter NW of the Serre River.

It's a large playing space, taking up most of my wargaming space. This shot shows the whole board looking SW with Montcornet in the centre foreground

This is a shot taken of the French entry areas looking towards the west. The R35s will start in La Ville-aux-Bais-les-Dizy, right foreground, and the D2s and Char B1s will enter at Clermont-les-Fermes, left farground.

The centre of the board looking west. La Ville-aux-Bais-les-Dizy is in the left foreground. The centre of the board is very open with little relief.

The area is just as open today. Here is a shot from Google Earth looking NE towards Montcornet, from about level with La Ville-aux-Bais-les-Dizy.

The German end of the board looking west. This end of the board is in the valley of the Serre River. In the foreground is the village of Lislet, in the middle ground is the town of Montcornet and in the far distance is the village of La Basse Chaourse. The main French objective is the bridge over the Serre River. Secondary objectives are the town of Montcornet and the adjacent villages.

The German end of the board, this time looking east. La Basses Chaourse is in the foreground, Moncornet in the middle ground and Lislet in the left back ground. La Ville-aux-Bais-les-Dizy is in the right back ground.

The open centre of the board again, this time looking east towards La Ville-aux-Bais-les-Dizy.

Clermont-les-Fermes where the D2s and Char B1 bis will enter, looking east.

A close up of La Basse Chaourse, looking east

The town of Montcornet in the foreground and Lislet in the background, looking east.

The Germans start with an eclectic mix of forces. They include an engineer company, an anti-tank company, a company of medium tanks and a pair of SdKfz 7/2 37mm SP flak guns from the Luftwaffe. They will also receive Stuka support at the start and end of the game. The German tanks start stationary under repair and will have to activate to move. The cardboard squares are a mix of actual and dummy hasty minefields. The German reinforcements consist of a pair of Pz Jgr I, two batteries of 88mm/20mm flak and a mixed armoured car company.

The Pz I and PzJgr I are rather ancient Fujimi models.

The SdKfz 7/2 are Hasegawa kits.

The French start with three companies of R35s on the board

Most of the R35s are the excellent models from S-models, increasingly difficult to come by these days.

Two companies of D2s and two companies of B1 bis will be diced for to enter from Turns 3 and 5 respectively. The D2s are resin Cromwell models and the Char B1 bis are old Matchbox models.

The French will dice for two companies of motorised infantry from Turn 7.

The German player appreciates that his broad plan is not to lose. That is, he holds the bridge over the Serre River and the French have to come to him. So, initially he sets up defensively, buying time for his reinforcements to arrive and get set, and for his tanks to be repaired. He sets up his three 37mm antitank guns in cover just south of La Basse Chaourse to cover the road approach of the D2s and Char B1 bis.

The third gun platoon is across the road.

The engagement area of the antitank guns.

On the other flank a minefield is emplaced protecting the approach to Lislet. The SP flak guns will cover this. One rehearses its move forward.

Initially, the SP flak guns are held back behind Lislet to keep the French guessing.

The medium tank company is under repair in Lislet. The German player has to dice for its availability once the game starts.

The R35s concentrate in La Ville-aux-Bais-les-Dizy

R35s ready to 'race' forward. These three are very old metal models from Skytrex.

The game begins. The SdKfz 7/2 move forward to cover the minefield on the flank near Lislet.

The R35s roar forward at maximum speed on the road from La Ville-aux-Bais-les-Dizy.

One R35 might not be enough to worry about, but a whole BCC will take some stopping.

The SdKfz 7/2s to the east of Lislet are in position, and wondering what 37mm flak guns will do against R35s.

Turn 2 and the R35s push on towards Lislet.

To both player's surprise, the 37mm destroys an R35. It had to roll very well to do so, but first blood to the Germans.

To compound the French advance, a Stuka drops in. It is ineffective but still harms French morale.

The initial push by the R35s is stalled.

Turn 3 and the Germans have repaired their medium tanks, They push forward and hold just at the foot of the ridge, daring the French player to come on. The SdKfz 7/2s spray the R35s with fire.

Good news for the German player is that his reinforcements become available at the earliest time possible. The race is on to get them into position before the French can push through the first defences.

The French player suffers a second Stuka attack and wisely decides to pull his tanks back and regroup. He leaves two companies forward in case the German tanks decide to come over the ridge line.

The German tanks hold firm, knowing the French have to come to them.

Meanwhile, the German reinforcements are pushing through Montcornet, putting more pressure on the French player to attack.

The D2 BCC arrives and makes its long march forward from Clermont-les-Fermes.

Best of all, right behind them is the B1 bis BCC.

Five D2s and five Char B1 bis. The German player has suddenly gone very quiet...

The French players uses the time waiting for the heavies to arrive to reorientate his R35s. He senses an opportunity in the centre of the German line.

The German medium tanks are itching to get forward but bide their time, allowing the 88mm flak guns to deploy.

The PzJgr Is push forward onto the ridge and await the French heavy tanks.

One of the 88s has deployed near Lislet to allow the German medium tank company some freedom of action.

The other struggles to free itself from the traffic jam in Montcornet. It crosses the bridge over the Serre River. Can it deploy in time to stop the French?

The French player begins to deploy his tanks for an assault, reinforcing the centre with the D2s and pushing straight up the road with his B1 bis.

The R35s are delighted to have some heavier friends. It's about turn 8 (of 15) as the French get ready to push over the ridge and into Montcornet. It's a lot of tanks to stop!

The French infantry have arrived and dismount to support the R35s.

Both SP flak guns are smoking ruins by this stage but they did do an excellent job in disorganising the R35 BCC.

The French come on. The B1 bis head straight for the 37mm PAKs, daring them to have a go at them, while the R35s in the background make use of what little concealment there is to try and push through the centre. The D2s wait to reinforce either axis.

The R35s in the centre, looking to overrun one of the German anti-tank guns.

The R35 attack in the centre against the waiting medium tank company is a disaster. Two tanks are destroyed and the rest sent back Shaken. One of the German PzJgr Is is destroyed and the others withdraw.

Even worse, two of the Char B1s succumb to point-blank 37mm Pak fire. The battalion commander is Shaken and withdraws in disbelief.

The French have thrown everything at the Germans and it wasn't enough. Despite the mass of tanks, the German player was able to fire well and blunt the assault. The French player looks at his force, weighs up how much time it will take to reorganise, looks at the turn clock, and concedes. 

The 88s crews are relieved, not having to fire once during the game.

A tough one for the French as they have to seize the initiative and keep it. The initial disorganisation of the R35s made it very hard for the French to get back on the front foot, and the usual French issue with morale also hampered the French. But not enough for the French player to demand a rematch! Stay tuned!

I hope you enjoyed the write up. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

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  1. What a great AAR and photos! I particularly like your terrain system which is very effective. I’m looking forward to more of this!

    1. Thanks Stryker that is very kind of you. I appreciate your support


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