Road Block on Highway 120 (sort of)

Churchill "I"-Tanks on Highway 120.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.

Highway 120 - from the British start line looking North.

Highway 120 - from the British start line looking North.

The initial British advance - with a Troop of Churchills in support.

The initial British advance - with a Troop of Churchills in support.

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.

Same shot as above from a different angle, from this perspective 1 & 3 Platoons are advancing on the right (1 Platoon has a Squad detached into the copse on the right), and 2 Platoon is on the left escorting the Churchills.

Same shot as above from a different angle, from this perspective 1 & 3 Platoons are advancing on the right (1 Platoon has a Squad detached into the copse on the right), and 2 Platoon is on the left escorting the Churchills.

And still no contact…

A 3" Mortar Section goes into action supporting the advance.

A 3" Mortar Section goes into action supporting the advance.

And still none…

Another view at the same early stage - the MOP & CC are actually in the Yellow Farmhouse in the centre - they have been placed in front of it to denote this but so we don't also forget they are there (and as this is one of Kieran's scratch built houses the roof doesn't come off anyway)!

Another view at the same early stage - the MOP & CC are actually in the Yellow Farmhouse in the centre - they have been placed in front of it to denote this but so we don't also forget they are there (and as this is one of Kieran's scratch built houses the roof doesn't come off anyway)!

This advance is almost too easy...?

This advance is almost too easy...?

And so the advance continues, getting ever closer to the stream which is about two-thirds of the way up the highway…

The advance approaches the stream - as yet no Germans have been encountered. 1 Platoon in the foreground (centre & right) and the leading Churchill in the road.

The advance approaches the stream - as yet no Germans have been encountered. 1 Platoon in the foreground (centre & right) and the leading Churchill in the road.

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?

Wider view of the same shot above. you can just see part of 2 Platoon in the central copse by the Churchill (there is a dash of red & blue visible from their ID label)

Wider view of the same shot above. you can just see part of 2 Platoon in the central copse by the Churchill (there is a dash of red & blue visible from their ID label)

The Churchills move up and begin to spread out - the failure to encounter any opposition being a bit unnerving, so the third Churchill heads out to the right flank.

The Churchills move up and begin to spread out - the failure to encounter any opposition being a bit unnerving, so the third Churchill heads out to the right flank.

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.

From another angle - you can see 1 Platoon is advancing on the on the next copse, the first squad is already there but when the rest of the platoon try and group move they get caught in the open by reactive fire - finally some opposition appears (just visible at top right).

From another angle - you can see 1 Platoon is advancing on the on the next copse, the first squad is already there but when the rest of the platoon try and group move they get caught in the open by reactive fire - finally some opposition appears (just visible at top right).

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..

Close up of the first enemy encountered.

Close up of the first enemy encountered.

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.

A Churchill moves up to support a Squad from 2 Platoon who have gotten pinned in the open. The firer (an MMG) is over beyond the Highway (behind the telegraph pole) on the British right flank.

A Churchill moves up to support a Squad from 2 Platoon who have gotten pinned in the open. The firer (an MMG) is over beyond the Highway (behind the telegraph pole) on the British right flank.

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 concealed German MMG Section that opens up on part of 2 Platoon.

The concealed German MMG Section that opens up on part of 2 Platoon.

Gottcha!

Gottcha!

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 JagdPanzer IV (it's an early 75mm L/48 armed model).

The JagdPanzer IV (it's an early 75mm L/48 armed model).

The situation as the action heats up.

The situation as the action heats up.

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).

The position after smoke has been laid and the centre Churchill has retired. On the left the Churchill there has started firing on the MMG on the right.

The position after smoke has been laid and the centre Churchill has retired. On the left the Churchill there has started firing on the MMG on the right.

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!

The latest German Squad - responsible for enfilading 1 Platoon's assault on the MMG Section.

The latest German Squad - responsible for enfilading 1 Platoon's assault on the MMG Section.

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!

The pinned 1 Platoon Squads (foreground), their intended target, the suppressed MMG (centre), and the enfiladers who pinned them (upper left).

The pinned 1 Platoon Squads (foreground), their intended target, the suppressed MMG (centre), and the enfiladers who pinned them (upper left).

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.

The Germans by the stream on the British left who caused so much havoc - two Rifle Squads and an attached Panzerjäger Squad (closest) with RPzB-54 Panzerschrecks.

The Germans by the stream on the British left who caused so much havoc - two Rifle Squads and an attached Panzerjäger Squad (closest) with RPzB-54 Panzerschrecks.

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.

2 Platoon has some troops in the central copse, but the original Squad remains pinned (and now prone) in the open. Their supporting Churchill begins to cautiously move around to the left to get a bead on the Germans by the stream.

2 Platoon has some troops in the central copse, but the original Squad remains pinned (and now prone) in the open. Their supporting Churchill begins to cautiously move around to the left to get a bead on the Germans by the stream.

The situation as described above - the Churchills about to resume the advance.

The situation as described above - the Churchills about to resume the advance.

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 centre Churchill gets brewed up by the JagdPanzer IV.

The centre Churchill gets brewed up by the JagdPanzer IV.

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…

Closing Acts: While one Churchill knocked out the StuG & crossed the stream on the other flank the other was temporarily disabled, then destroyed by an Infantry Close Assault from the rear.

Closing Acts: While one Churchill knocked out the StuG & crossed the stream on the other flank the other was temporarily disabled, then destroyed by an Infantry Close Assault from the rear.

Posted in Crossfire, Mediterranean 1940-45 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
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