Kieran and I lined up yet another “Hit The Dirt” scenario, Highway 120 looked interesting, but my US & Italian forces were either still waiting to be based up or only part painted. So to get round the issue we transplanted the scenario to a later period – Summer 1944 in Italy after the fall of Rome… The Americans would be replaced by British Infantry with Churchills from a supporting Tank Brigade, and the Italians replaced with Germans. Otherwise the OOB was pretty close to what was in Hit the Dirt. Kieran would command the German Defenders, and I the British Attackers.
The game started with a general advance on a broad front – the leading British Infantry Company advanced with a 2 up 1 back formation with the Churchills supporting the centre & left of the advance. Initially no enemy were encountered and the advance moved swiftly covering half the distance to the stream.
Kieran was obviously up to his old tricks again and deploying his entire force in the last 1/4 or so of the table – the advance continued with no contact.
And still no contact…
And still none…
And so the advance continues, getting ever closer to the stream which is about two-thirds of the way up the highway…
Soon the advance is almost at the stream – just one more series of copses to clear and the British are there…
As the British approach the stream they fan out on to a wider frontage, preparing to leap frog to the last series of terrain features before the stream itself. Where is the defence?
And then just when you are getting complacent – Wham! 1 Platoon on the right were approaching the swampy bog, and having sent one Squad forward to reconnoitre the last copse prepared to occupy that position. As the balance of the platoon prepared to group move to that location a German Platoon caught them in the open in a vicious crossfire and pinned both Squads.
The enemy were ensconced in a cops on the banks of the stream, and over to the left of the highway, creating some long range enfilading fire on 1 Platoon’s position..
In response 2 Platoon sent a Squad forward to find a position to enfilade the enfiladers, but was itself enfiladed (and pinned) by another German unit (an MMG Section), this time on the right of the highway! The left-most Churchill moved up to support the pinned 2 Platoon infantry.
The Squad from 2 Platoon got caught by an MMG Section (tripod mounted MG-42s), and now effectively the German defenders had a strong criss-cross of enfilading fire covering all the open ground either side of the Highway near the stream.
The situation was further exacerbated buy the appearance of a JagdPanzer IV L/48 on the far left, it was beyond the stream but when the Churchills attempted to move up to clear the enemy infantry they received semi-effective reactive fire from this tank destroyer.
Despite brave efforts by the Churchills’ pushing forward, the fire being incurred meant it was only a matter of time before they took a serious hit. It became apparent that the terrain is surprisingly open in this scenario and it would need some help from the Churchills to find or create a blind spot that the infantry advance could resume through.
The first action, after the leading Churchill had backed up out of danger from the JagdPanzer, was to drop smoke screening off both the JagdPanzer and the Infantry Platoon on the left along the stream – this would allow the troops on the right to gang up on the German defence there – which began with the left hand Churchill firing some 75mm HE into the MMG’s position (see photo below).
However as 1 Platoon moved forward to assault the MMG position from it’s blind spot they got hit by more enfilade fire from, you guessed it, the left flank again, only this time closer to the stream and bridge!
As a result 1 Platoon attempting a group move to close assault the MMG (which had been suppressed by the fire of the Churchill), instead found itself with two Squads pinned in the open right beside the Highway!
Following that the smoke screen lifted allowing the balance of the tother German Platoon to join the action and heavy fire started to come down on the British troops.
On the left they managed to get part of 2 Platoon into the copse in the centre, but the original Squad remained pinned in the open, resorting to going prone to minimise their profile and provide some cover. The Churchill on the left moved off again further to the left to support 2 Platoon, leaving the troops on the right to deal with the MMG Section and supporting infantry by the bridge (see photo below).
However the left Churchill itself came under fire from behind – a StuG IV having appeared on the far right beyond the stream and able to enfilade the Churchill at long range across both the stream and the highway! On the right the British got lucky and managed to take out the suppressed MMG Section – along the advance to partially resume on that flank (where there was more cover). The centre and right flank Churchills prepared to move up in support of this renewed advance, despite the threats from the left flank not having been dealt with.
Unfortunately the JagdPanzer IV proved very successful at neutralising the central Churchill on the road – the latter brewing up. Despite repeated efforts the British could not get further forward, and even though the right hand Churchill got a shot off and managed to knock out the StuG IV across the stream on the right, all the British infantry were pinned or suppressed and every time they rallied and attempted to move they were again pinned or suppressed. On the left 2 Platoon got badly shot up by the nearby German Platoon, and their attached Panzerjäger Squad started hunting the Churchill that had been supporting them, forcing it to beat an ignominious retreat.
The British still had their second company of Infantry uncommitted, but the Germans likewise had only committed about 2/3 of their Infantry. While there was a possibility of bringing that second company on on the right and attempting to infiltrate down the extreme edge of the table, the moving clock had moved quite a way, and as we ourselves were running short of time, we agreed it was most likely a minor (if not actually a decisive) German victory. Kieran had deployed his troops quite cunningly, and its a scenario we will revisit once I have my 20mm US & Italian forces completed…