Wednesday, August 28, 2019

KG Klink, France, Game 14


Ambush at Abbeville, #7
1200 28 May 1940

Following the fighting in and around Flavion, KG Klink was briefly pulled out of the line to rest, refit, perform maintenance on their weapons, machines, and equipment, and bring in a few replacements.  They were actually parked outside the Dunkirk perimeter when they were called back to action; further south, German forces had forced a crossing on the Somme.  At 0600 27 on May, the Allies counterattacked the German bridgehead, striking the German 57th Infantry Division southwest of Abbeville, in an attempt to reach the encircled Allied troops at Dunkirk.
Unbeknownst to the Germans, the French French 4e DCr (or 4th Division Cuirassee, 4th Armored Division) arrived in the battle area that evening.  The French force, heavily armed with Char B1, Somua S-35, and Hotchkiss light tanks, immediately set about reorganizing, preparing to attack on the morning of 28 May.

KG Klink moved all through the night in order to reach the battle area. arriving at approximately  0500 on 28 May.  The plan was for KG Klink to counterattack down the Blangy-Abbevile Road, hoping to flank the French 2e DLC (2nd Cavalry Division), maybe even cut all the way across and in behind the British 51st Highland Division, cutting off the British 1st Armored Division.  With that, KG Klink set off, passing through the German 217th Infantry Regiment, launching its attack down the Blangy-Abbeville Road.  KG Klink passed through Villers sur Mareuil, then Huppy, and were moving towards St Maxent en Vimeu, when they encountered trouble near the three (fictional) villages, Dujour, Deture, and Toujour, on the River Bleu.

The first fight saw Colonel Klink lead the 1st Grenadier Platoon, supported by Stugs, in the attack on Dujours.  Repulsed, they were reinforced by the 4th Grenadier Platoon and drove the French force back onto Hill 44.

The second fight saw 1st Lt Tausch, lead his 3rd Grenadier Platoon into the assault on Hill 34.  The attack stalled in several locations, but the Lieutenant's skillful leadership maneuvered his troops until they were able to unhinge the enemy's defensive line.

The third fight saw the Reconnaissance Company Commander, 1Lt Wehner, seize the bridge at Deture after some very heavy street fighting.

The fourth fight saw Colonel Klink go down in a blaze of glory atop Hill 44, the remainder of his Stugs and 1st Grenadier Platoon chewed to pieces, though still able to force the French off the hilltop.

The fifth fight saw Major Schultz, the Kampfgruppe Executive Officer, lead the assault into the French village of Toujour.  The attached panzer platoon was roughly handled, and the infantry didn't fair much better, with Major Schultz wounded while leading a close assault to secure the village.  However, no sooner was the village taken then strong enemy forces appeared, forcing not only the 4th Grenadier Platoon to fall back from Toujour, but also the Reconnaissance Company to abandon the bridge at Deture.

The sixth fight saw Captain Bohm led the better part of his Panzer Company to counter the enemy's armored thrust, and it was chewed up handily.  However they did fight the French armored thrust to a temporary standstill, enough for the remainder of the of the company and the Panzerjaeger Platoon to be brought up.

The seventh fight sees Colonel Klink, the Kampfgruppe Commander, lead the 2nd Panzer Platoon and the Panzerjaeger into the fight to halt the French armored thrust.

The overall area of operations, and that stupid north-seeking arrow at top right is incorrect, north is to far left...  The three villages are, from left to right: Dujour, Deture, and Toujour, and the hills are, from left to right: Hill 34, Hill 44, and Hill 54.  The River Bleu runs east-west down the center of the table.

My intent is to play a series of battles on a 6' x 4' layout, using small pieces, maybe 2' x 2' with 10mm troops.  I've gone back to my old standby, Ivan's "5Core Company Command."

The seventh fight sees a second clash of armor, as the Germans seize the initiative and charge the French heavy tanks, which have just finished refueling and rearming just south of Toujour.  The German Panzerjaeger Platoon and 2nd Panzer Platoon (Pz IIIs) are on the attack.

The opposing forces, with Germans on left and French on right.  The French tanks are Pendraken, while the French command stand is Minifigs UK, and the German vehicles are all Pendraken, with a Minifigs UK officer on the command stand. 

The German force:
CO: Colonel Klink (Iron Cross 2nd Class), Kampfgruppe Commander
-2nd Panzer Platoon Leader: 1st Lt Loeb (Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class)
V2: SSgt Grossman
V3: Sgt Mayer
V4: Sgt Harms
-PanzerJaerger Platoon Leader: Sgt Dittrich
V2: Sgt Taube
V3: Cpl Hamburg

*And there's actually one more Panzer III in the fight, Cpl Otjen's, the sole survivor from the last fight.

The French force:
Commanding Officer
2 x Char B1 Heavy Tanks (absolute monsters!)

My interpretation of the operational area, with the villages Dujour (top left), Deture (center), and Toujour (far right) and hills 34 (bottom center left), 44 (top center left), and 54 (bottom center right, with the River Bleu running east-west (top to bottom) at center.

Look at all those burning tanks...

A cheer goes up from the German Landser atop Hill 44 (of camera to top right) and 34 (off camera to bottom right) at the sight of the Kampfgruppe's remaining Panzers streaming south down the Blangy-Abbeville Road!  Lt Loeb leads his platoon (and Cpl Otjen's vehicle) up the road as Sgt Dittrich's PzJgr Is split left (top left), looking to get into supporting positions atop Hill 44.

Colonel Klink, the Kampfgruppe commander, stops off briefly to check in with his on-site commander, Lt Wehner, commander of the Reconnaissance Company.  "But Sir, we had heard you were wounded?"

"I was, but I couldn't simply lie there on my soft, comfortable bed at the Field Hospital my Kampfgruppe was being chewed to bits by the French, now could I?"  'Twas true: though badly injured, when Colonel Klink heard of the French armored thrust, he immediately donned a fresh uniform, gathered up his remaining armored vehicles, and marched to the sound of the guns, despite being a bit weak and unsteady on his feet.  "Forward!"

The French, freshly refueled and rearmed, were just passing back north (left) through Toujour when they spotted what appeared to be a horde of German tanks pushing south.  The French Commander (top center) immediately ordered his remaining two Char B1s into defensive positions.  Char B1/2 is hull down behind a fold of Hill 54 (bottom center), while Char B1/3 is just off the road in the village (top center, next to the CO).

The German panzers, with their platoon leader, Lt Loeb, in the lead, move off road, nearing the bridge (top left).

And as they (far right) do, Sgt Dittrich leads his PzJgr Is (center) towards firing positions atop Hill 44 (top left).

The Panzer Platoon filters through the orchard near the bridge, picking its way past burning German tanks.

As the PzJgrs begin moving up the slope of Hill 44 (center, moving left, with the Panzer Platoon at top right).

But they've gotten careless!  One of the German vehicles (top left) got lackadaisical in his approach and sky-lined himself on the ridge!  Char B1/2 (bottom right, with Char B1/3 at far right) spots the moving tank-hunter and fires...

Shocked infantry look on as the French anti-tank round totally wrecks the PzJgr I (center), killing Sgt Taube and his entire crew, whilst pinning Cpl Hamburg's (yellow bead).

Colonel Klink dashes forward, his panzertruppen have gotten ahead of schedule!  Angered at the needless death of the PzJgr, he curses Lt Loeb for his oversight: "I told you, wait until the artillery strike!  The artillery are scheduled to create a smokescreen to cover our advance... now!"

The Colonel peers south, across the bridge, as the first smoke rounds begin to land.  "No, no, damn you!  You were supposed to smoke the enemy positions, not the bridge!"

Figuring something is better than nothing, Colonel Klink (left) orders Lt Loeb orders his Panzer Platoon forward, and they immediately shoot across the bridge, making best use of the smoke to mask their advance.

"The SNAFU with the smokescreen could have been a lot worse," thought Lt Loeb to himself, "at least it got us over the bridge!"

While back on Hill 44, the two remaining PzJgrs are almost in position.

Back in Deture, Lt Loeb orders his driver forward, up the slope of Hill 54 (far right, from bottom left), looking to get into position on the French monster in Toujour (top left), who's line of fire he just hurriedly crossed.  Unbeknownst to the German platoon leader, he is almost on top of the French mortar crew (top center right) that's been harassing German forces all morning.

The French mortarmen (top right) get a good look at Lt Loeb's quickly approaching Panzer Mk III...

And leg it down the back side of Hill 54 (center, from far left), nearing Char B1/2 (top right, which is not burning, but is hiding in the lee of a burning German panzer).

As Lt Loeb gets his panzer up the hill (top right), the chicks begin to follow, sticking closely to cover.

Atop Hill 44, Cpl Hamburg can't get his shaken up crew over the fiery death of their comrades, but Sgt Dittrich manages to get his PzJgr I, and its high velocity 47mm gun, into positon (top left).  The German Landser hunker down, visibly distressed at the enemy fire magnets that just pulled up.

But the Char B1/2 tank commander (bottom center) is busy listening to the French mortar crew's warning about German tanks coming up Hill 54 and doesn't notice Sgt Dittrich's PzJgr I move into the treeline atop Hill 44.  Char B1/3 (top left) also fails to spot them, too focused on the Panzer Platoon flitting right to left across his line of sight.

Which allows Sgt Dittrich's vehicle (bottom left) to get off the first shot: the 47mm gun roars, sending a solid shot across the battlefield, over the buildings in Deture, and at Char B1/2 sheltering behind Hill 54 (top right)...

The anti-tank round slams into Char B1/2 (off camera to left)!  They know where it came from, but they can't return fire on the German (top right) because the crew got it's bell rung (pinned)!  Meanwhile, Char B1/3 (bottom right) can't identify where it came from, more concerned with the actions of the German Panzer Platoon (top left).

As Char B1/3 (top right) scans for the German Panzer Platoon (top left) and Char B1/2 is recovering (far right) from the ricochet, Lt Loeb, decidedly crazy, pushes his Panzer III up Hill 54, throught the trees, and out the other side (center)!!!

And as their platoon leader does that (off camera to top right), his tank commanders decide to follow.  Sgt Grossman pushes his vehicle forward (far right)...

But this is exactly what Char B1/3 (bottom right) has been waiting for; they sight in on Sgt Grossman's tank (top left) and fire...

The German tank is penetrated and catches fire!  And for the second time in this fight, a tank commander (Sgt Grossman) and his entire crew are killed.

Sgt Mayer immediately maneuvers his panzer up, between Sgt Grossman's burning tank, and one still burning from a previous fight (a Panzer II destroyed during the fight to take Toujour).

The German tank halts (bottom left) and fires on Char B1/3 (top right), but, at this range, it doesn't have a prayer of penetrating the French behemoth.  But it can pin the crew, and that's exactly what it did, bouncing a 37mm AT round off the French tank's front glacis, stunning the crew.

With Sgt Mayer doing his best to hold down the right (far right), Sgt Harms and Cpl Otjens (the survivor of the last tank fight) cut left, maneuvering up to the crossroads (top left) and pulling into firing positions...

Sgt Harms (bottom center) has pulled his tank into a bad position and is unable to see the French tank (top right), but Cpl Otjens (bottom left) lines up a shot and fires...

The German (top center) shell bounces harmlessly off Char B1/3 (bottom right), and the big French tank returns fire, but they're still shaken up and they miss, too!

And then Sgt Dittrich's gunner (bottom left) makes the shot of the day: they once again sight in on Char B1/2 (top right), which they'd previously hit and pinned, and fire...

The 47mm solid shot penetrates the French tank, setting off ammunition and catching it on fire, suppressing the nearby French mortar team!

Cpl Hamburg finally gets his PzJgr I into position (yellow bead) near Sgt Dittrich's, but his crew are still not happy campers.

The French commander, frantic after watching his other tank brew up, quickly rallies the crew of Char B1/3.

And they (bottom right) immediately take a second shot on Cpl Otjen's Pz III (top left)...

The French round immobilizes the panzer and kills its tank commander, Cpl Otjens!!!  The crew bails out.  Sgt Harms' crew is shaken up by the death of Cpl Otjens...

*What the hell is going on with these casualty rolls?  Three dead tank commanders???

Colonel Klink immediately dashes into the fray, shielding the survivors from Cpl Otjen's crew and rallying Sgt Harms and his.

Back on Hill 44, Sgt Dittrich (bottom left, with Cpl Hamburg's vehicle just to his right) orders his gunner to lay the sights on Char B1/3 (top center) and fire.  "On the way!"

Another great shot!  Sgt Dittrich's gunner has managed to immobilize the French monster, suppressing the crew, though they do not bail out.

But then Cpl Hamburg's PzJgr (bottom center) immediately follows with an anti-tank round of their own...

It fails to penetrate, but it's enough to cause the crew of Char B1/3 to bail out!  "No!!!!, get back in the tank!" screams the French CO.

Which is enough space for Sgt Harms to push his panzer forward (right, from bottom center left)...

Where he (bottom left) fires on the dismounted crew and French CO, causing casualties!

With Sgt Harms' tank (left) laying down fire, Sgt Mayer (center top) and Lt Loeb (top right) push their vehicles up to the edge of Toujour.

The French CO, again brandishing his pistol, convinces the tank crewmen to get back in the fight!

And they quickly re-mount their disabled tank.

The French commander sights in his 47mm gun (bottom right) and fires on Sgt Harms' tank (top left)...

Sgt Harms' tank becomes the fourth victim!  The French round split the German tank's thin armor wide open, destroying it and causing the crew to bail out, carrying the severely wounded Sgt Harms with them.

*At least he didn't die, I guess...

Colonel Klink then dashes right (center right bottom), over to Sgt Mayer's panzer (far right).

Atop Hill 44, again both PanzerJaergers fire at Char B1/3...

Both hit, and while one round ricochets, one knocks out the French tank's turret gun (they still have the 75mm sponson gun) and causes the French crew to bail a second time!

Colonel Klink (far left), Sgt Mayer( bottom left), and Lt Loeb (bottom right) converge on the French position in Toujour.

The French commander finally concedes defeat, and, seeking to spare the lives of his brave soldiers, orders them to surrender...

But Colonel Klink, in a fit of rage at the destruction wrought on his own men, lets out a shrill, single word command: "Fire!"

Massacring in the valiant French soldiers.

One last look at the battlefield, which held a total of seven fights.

Well, quite a fight, though not as tough as I figured it would be, but that's probably down to the fact I may have over-powered the German 47mm high-velocity anti-tank guns.  In retrospect, I'd guess that the guns on the PzJgrs must not have been that effective, or the Germans wouldn't have had to resort to the bringing up the 88s to deal with Char B1s and Matildas.  Having said that, I don't think there were many PzJgr Is available in the campaign in France, so maybe they were effective, just not widely available.  I dunno, I'll leave that to folks that are smarter than me about that sort of thing.

In any case, the Germans, bolstered by the return of their wounded Commander, were able to carry the day, halting the French attack up the Blangy-Abbeville Road, though the price was steep.  The French threat (in this sector) now null, KG Klink was able to pull out of the line for some rest, recuperation, and reconstitution.  Though really, the reconstitution would have to wait, there were no reinforcements, either in man nor machine, available.  Thus, KG Klink was relegated to rear area duty for the remainder of the campaign in France, the former battalion-sized unit now barely more than an understrength company.

Regarding that unpleasantness at the end, I apologize if anyone thought it was in bad taste, my goal was not to be off-putting.  My goal was actually to remind folks that the Germans were the bad guys, and to remind folks that I know that, that while I have a certain affinity for soldiers carrying out their duties honorably, there's no mistaking who the good guys and bad guys were in WWII.  So don't worry, atrocities are not going to become a regular part of my wargaming batreps (and civilians will never be a part of it, regardless of what happened in real life), though I will do this every now and again, for the same reason listed above.

Germans: ~20 KIA/WIA, three Panzer IIIs and one PanzerJaeger I destroyed
French: ~15 KIA/WIA, two Char B1s destroyed

Of the named characters, three were hit:
Sgt Harms, 4th Vehicle Commander, 2nd Panzer Platoon, WIA, out for 120 days
Sgt Taube, 2nd Vehicle Commander, PzJgr Platoon, KIA
Cpl Otjens, 2nd Vehicle Commander, 3rd Panzer Platoon, KIA
SSgt Grossman, 2nd Vehicle Commander, 2nd Panzer Platoon, KIA

Sgt Dittrich was decorated for knocking out one Char B1 and pummeling the other until it was immobilized and partially disarmed, its crew fleeing, for which, at this early stage of the war, he was given credit for a second kill.

The seven-fight operation totals:
Germans: 210 casualties, 3 Stug IIIs, 1 Sdkfz 222, 2 Panzer Is, 4 Panzer IIs, six Panzer IIIs, six Panzer IVs, and one PanzerJaeger I destroyed
French: 215 casualties, 80 POWs, 4 ATGs, 2 FGs, 3 H39s, 2 Somuas, and 3 Char B1s destroyed

Thus ends Kampfgruppe Klink's tour of France, circa 1940.  As always, I'll do a campaign epilogue.  Then the unit will undergo some changes, with promotions, departures, and reorganization, then it's off for a brief stint in Greece in April 1941.