“Kapitan Schwartz”, Oberst Blink’s voice was an odd half snarl, half whine. “I have a job for you now that you have reconstituted your company and made up your losses”. Blink continued, “I want you to take your company, seize a vital crossroads south of here”. Blink gestured vaguely to a map. “You will notice a prominent hill to the north west of the crossroads, you must occupy this too for our artillery spotters, I am sending you with the mortar section and we have a tank troop. We have reports that the enemy have armour in the area, that is all.”
Five miles to the south or so...
“Scarlett”, said the Colonel, “Brigade have instructed us to protect a vital crossroads directly to the north of our position. Obviously the enemy would be at an advantage if they controlled it. Brigade also tasked us with the other objective of denying high ground, to the north west of the crossroads called Mended Hill. Brigade feel this will be too tempting for their artillery spotters to ignore”.
“One last thing” said the Colonel “you managed to lose almost you entire command in the last operation. In fact, the only men who came back were the mortar sections. I am giving you B company, while A company is being brought back up to strength. Their commander went sick yesterday. In addition, a tank troop are being attached to you...try to bring most of them back this time Scarlett”.
Aerial photo of the actual battle
As I said in my previous post, I am attempting to play solo, every scenario from Niel Thomas’s One Hour Wargames using Alex H’s ‘Up the Blue’ adaptation of the OHW rules. As can be seen, I use 54mm models with a very stylized gridded battlefield. The whole playing area represents an area of around a square mile. Only the most important features are actually represented, but if you imagine it, the ground is dotted with trees and hedges along with dips and gullies that individual soldiers would be able to use for cover. The scenario was covered in the dramatic introduction and so I will launch straight in with the battle report!
Both sides have to seize and hold vital points on the ‘country’. Mended Hill and the crossroads (I was going to use a cheap gag about it having a motel but only older British readers would understand it and are probably grateful I didn’t use it). The road and open ground would obviously be occupied by mobile units and the hill would be a devil to take. In Schwartz’s shoes I decided to hold the hill with half the infantry available and send the rest of the force to seize the crossroads. Scarlett has the low ground but has the advantage in mortar support. The mortars are set up to provide fire support across the line, while two platoons will advance on the hill. The tank and other platoon will be left too hold the crossroads.
The Teutonians won the toss moved first. Their 3rd and 4th platoons took the hill. Next turn they would dig in just behind the crest and get ready. 1st platoon advanced 450 yards to the east of the road, the tanks moved ahead and 2nd platoon made slightly slower progress behind them. The Albionians advanced steadily with all the infantry and tanks reaching the east-west road. So far, so good.
Vital ground is seized and occupied
Albionians started this turn. The crossroads group immediately dug-in, indicated by polystyrene project bricks. I had to check the rules at this point. Could tanks ‘dig in’? I know tank commanders will find any useful terrain to protect and partially conceal their vehicles (hull-down) but how did Alex’s rules address this? Tanks could not dig in, but they can go hull down on the crest of a hill or where the terrain is classed as rolling. It wasn’t so the tanks sort of sat there. Could the tank radio to the mortars that they had spotted the enemy tanks. I looked for a specific rule and decided that units would have to roll a quality test (QT) to see if they could. They needed a 3 and rolled 1. Stupid messenger pigeon.
The Teutonians could not see the dug-in infantry but their tanks could see the Albionian tanks. They opted to fire at 300 yards and cover the infantry advance (1, 2, 6 = 1 hit). 2nd Platoon got within 150 yards of the Albionian infantry positions and since the Albionians were not able to dig in AND get ready, the Teutonians could fire unopposed (1, 4 = 1 hit). Could they radio for the mortar to add its support? A roll of five said yes and a whole 1 dice rained death on the Albionians (3 = 1 hit).
The fight builds up at the crossroads.
The Albionians won initiative. Their 1st and 2nd platoons pushed ahead with their advance on the hill. Scarlett could have brought 2nd platoon round to help 1st but orders, counter order equals disorder. I determined that by now the mortars would have the idea that they had to earn their pay. They opened fire on the nearest Teutonians, the 2nd platoon (1, 6/3, 5 = a total of 3 hits). 3rd platoon joined in (2, 4, 5 = 2 more hits). The Teutonains would have been fine but then the Albionian tanks decided to join in the fun (5, 5, 5 = 3 hits) and no more Teutonian 2nd platoon who scattered dragging their wounded with them.
First victory to Albionia. Schwartz’s 3rd and 4th platoons dug in on the hill. If they got the initiative next turn they could also get ‘ready’ allowing a hit back against an attacker. Schwartz himself moved closer to his men at the crossroads. His mortar sent a somewhat useless barrage against the Albionians 3rd platoon (2 = 0 hits). The Teutonians tanks continued to fire on the enemy vehicles (1, 1, 6 = 1 hit). 1st platoon meanwhile worked around the flank and made it to the road!
This time Schwartz won the initiative. 3rd and 4th platoons readied themselves for an attack. The mortar continued to fire (2 = 0 hits) but the Albionians built good fox holes. Even the tanks gunnery was lack luster (2, 2, 3 = 1 hit). However, using more boldness than sense, Schwartz moved 1st platoon to within yards of the flank and rear of the Albionian tank position using its anti-tank weapons (2, 4, 4, 6 = 3 hits) to great effect. Within minutes, the entire tank troop had been disabled and unable to continue to fight.
Schwartz’s daring ambush
Scarlett was alarmed. His infantry at the crossroads were now in danger of being surrounded. Quickly, he called in for mortar support (1, 6 = 1 hit, 2, 4 = 1 hit). 3rd platoon were only able to offer a desultory volley from their right flank section (1, 3, 3 = 0 hits). The question now, was whether to bring back 1st and 2nd platoons or at least halt them until the threat had passed. Discretion overcame boldness and the two platoons stayed in place.
The fright in turn four must have put ginger into Scarlett because he won the initiative. The only hope was to move his men out of their prepared positions and attack the flanking force with the mortars giving fire support (3, 5 = 2 hits and 3, 6 = 2 hits). This was not good! Since the Albionians were making a tactical move, the rules seem to allow them to fire (4, 5, 6 = 3 hits). Schwartz was fortunate to avoid being hurt, but the platoon were forced to retreat.
The Teutonian tank commander however was not done. Seeing the Khaki clad figures rise from their concealed positions, he immediately ordered high-explosive rounds (5, 5, 6 = 3 hits). Finally, the mortars had a target and added to the armour’s efforts (4, 4 = 2 hit). Now, the Albionians were filtering back bloodied and confused.
A great puckered hole in Scarlett’s center
Now Schwartz was in control. The tanks moved to seize the crossroads into such a position to see the nearest Albionian mortar position which was inexplicably unconcealed (forgot about that old chap). The mortars fired but missed (2, 3 = 0 hits). Should the troops on the hill advance? The two objectives had been captured, but according to the men on the hill there were at least two more enemy platoons out there.
Schwartz and his 'little tank'
Meanwhile Scarlett was in a fluster. The crossroads had been captured and he had no reserve. Reluctantly he pulled back 1st and 2nd platoons and told the mortars nearest to the crossroads to hang on. The mortars attacked the Teutonians at the crossroads (2, 5 = 1hits, 1, 4 = 0 hits) but did little damage.
A very confident Schwartz had his tanks turned towards the enemy. This was not an actual move, just a turn. And allowed the tanks to attack the approaching infantry advancing down the road (1, 2, 5 = 1 hit). The mortars as usual added little (2, 3). The men on the hill could harass the enemy infantry. 3rd platoon was ordered forward to flank the advancing infantry.
The enemy movement was spotted by 2nd platoon. The tanks at the crossroads were closer though, so only one of the mortar sections fired (1, 2 = 0 hits). Using what weapons they had, 2nd platoon was still able to score some damage on the Teutonians at the crossroads (4, 4, 6 = 1 hit). The mortars added to their discomfort (5, 5 = 2 hits).
The Albionians won the initiative. 2nd platoon would have to edge towards the road. The mortars for once would do something useful and fire smoke. The rules specify that a unit can create a smoke cloud in one grid. The a roll against the quality of the unit is made (QT test) to determine how long the smoke cloud would stay. The mortar needs 4 or better on two dice (5, 6 = 2 turns). The other joins in (3, 6 = 1 turn). So now there is smoke cover for the infantry as they advance on the crossroad, with 1st platoon following.
The Teutonian tank now had a problem spotting for the mortars since the mortars weren’t close enough to fire directly. Let the dice decide. I rolled a QT (see above) with a -1 for the smoke (a 5-1 = 4 and success)...jammy. The mortars let fly (2, 6 = 1 hit). The tanks at the crossroads fired through the smoke hoping to hit something (- 1 dice for the smoke, so 2, 5 = 1 hit). 2nd platoon left the comfort of the hill and marched to the sound of firing.
Albionians advancing under smoke cover
Once again the Albionians win the initiative. This gives the infantry the opportunity to close with the tanks parked at the crossroads. Stalking through the smoke they contact the tanks causing surprise so four dice needing 5s (3, 5, 6, 6 = 3 hits). Teutonian tank crews either surrender or race away from their burning tanks with Schwartz chasing after them. What a disaster!
The remaining Teutonians reassessed the situation. 2nd platoon dug in new positions. The new mission was to hold the hill! The mortar section shuffled closer behind them. Triumph had now turned to timidity. Meanwhile, Schwartz’s trusty driver found him and raced him to join with the remnants of his force. Schwartz is rescued (good job I got that kubelwagen off ebay).
Kapitan Schwartz makes his escape
Turn Nine and Ten
Scarlett now had the chance to redeem his earlier failures. He ordered 1st platoon to dig in, no more vain glorious charges. Meanwhile 2nd platoon would rally. The two sides were now some 600 yards apart. The Teutonian 4th platoon repositioned itself closer the 3rd platoon. Both units concealed themselves and got ready.
The Albionian 2nd platoon moved out from the crossroads while their mortar section moved up closer. Scarlett intended that least someone would occupy the crossroads and the mortars would it. The Teutonians could not see this and stayed put. I should like to find out more about scouting and pickets at the platoon/company level. Would there be any chance for the Albionians to stay completely undetected? I was metagaming at this moment and assumed the left hand section of Schwartz’s 3rd platoon were keeping watch.
The Albionians were being too lucky with intiative checks. 2nd platoon had moved into observable range but the Teutonians were under cover. Meanwhile, 1st platoon moved forward cautiously. The Teutonians whispered into their radios for mortar fire on the Albionians creeping in from the road (1, 3 = 1 hit).
Scarlett’s pincer movement
This time the Teutonians won the toss and desperately threw caution to the wind. The mortars fired (3, 6 = 2 hits) at the intrusive Albionians. The rest of the force stayed low. Then tension was agonizing. Through the fire 2nd platoon advanced but cold still not identify the Teutonian positions. Meanwhile, 1st platoon advanced almost straight on top of them! The ready Teutonians let fly but their nervousness must have had an effect (4 dice scoring 3, 3, 3, 5 = only 1 hit!). The Albionians were luckier (1, 4, 6 = 2 hits). Since, 1st platoon were ‘touching’ the enemy, the mortars could not helpful for fear of hitting their own men.
A desperate moment
The evening was getting closer. Schwartz was lucky this time. The mortars nothing this time despite firing at the same target (1, 1, 2 = 0 hits). Meanwhile at the foxholes, 3rd platoon put up a some resistance (2, 3, 5, 5 = 2 hits). Should 4th platoon be ordered up and help? Could they risk casualties and therefore control of the hill? They stayed put.
2nd platoon charged into the flank of the Teutonians who were now already fighting to their front (3, 5, 6 = 2 hits). Meanwhile, a gallant charge by 1st platoon forced the majority of the Teutonains to surrender (3 sixes = 3 hits). Once more Schwartz was able to get away. It was uncanny.
This is not going to look good on someone’s resume
The sun was going down. The Albionians now made one last desperate push. Disregarding the enemy mortar crews, 2nd platoon advanced towards the hill into the waiting Teutonian 4th platoon. Every gun was brought to bear (1, 2, 2, 2 = 0 hits) but the fading light obviously must have had an effect. The Albionians fired (4, 5 = 2 hits). 1st platoon joined in by advancing up over the crest of the hill (1, 5, 6 = 2 hits). The remaining Teutonians kept up a determined resistance concentrating on the flanking force (1, 2, 4 = 1 hit).
The waning light reveals the last moments of the battle
This was clearly an Albionian win. They controlled the crossroads and by the end of the battle the ownership of the hill was still under debate. Another turn could see only an Albionian complete victory. No doubt there would be tense moments that night as soldiers dug foxholes within close range of their enemies. Would Schwartz be able to call up for reinforcements? Or would he once again disappear only to reappear to blight the Albionian’s lives? Who could tell?