Scuffle In The Hedgerows

It’s been a while since Kieran and I played a Crossfire game, but last weekend we managed to get one in – it was great getting back to playing an old favourite. We opted for a simple ad-hoc game which we very loosely based around Normandy and some of the existing Crossfire Scenarios (most specifically “Scottish Corridor” from Hit the Dirt).

Escoville, 7 June 1944, near Caen: The initial British landings have been very successful and although Caen has not yet been taken the British have a bridgehead on the east side of the Orne River & Caen Canal, north of the city, it’s most advanced point near the aforementioned village. Here the 52nd Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry have moved forward to occupy the area to relieve & support the 12th & 13th Battalions, The Parachute Regiment, who have been holding the adjacent areas since the morning of the 6 June…

West side of Escoville looking South

West side of Escoville looking South

The decision was made to incorporate Escoville into the defensive line, despite an enemy self-propelled gun being spotted to the south firing at the British forces around Château d’Escoville. However the 52nd pushed into the area around the village and endeavoured to bring up supporting anti-tank guns in the early afternoon, despite incessant and heavy artillery and mortar fire from the German forces. By this time several enemy self-propelled guns had been observed but engaged ineffectually and the enemy fire continued to increase.

At 1500hrs enemy (German) infantry, closely supported by armoured fighting vehicles, began to infiltrate forward into the village. …it became obvious that Escoville would be impossible to hold without severe casualties… The commanding officer therefore asked for permission to withdraw the 52nd to the village of Herouvillette, which was on higher ground and which offered a superior defensive position… At about 1600hrs when the move to Herouvillette was (finally) confirmed, three companies (of the OBLI) were already fairly heavily engaged at close quarters and in house-to-house fighting (at Escoville)…

(Read more on the historical action at Lightbobs: Escoville and Herouvillette 6th to 13th June 1944.)

The Scenario

1500 on 7 June 1944 – The 52nd Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry are holding the area west of Escoville through to Herouvillette, including the edge of the first village, but anticipating a pending limited withdrawal to the latter. Some limited anti-tank gun support has finally managed to be brought forward to support B Company in the centre of the line. On the German side a local counter-attack has developed and infantry and assault guns are infiltrating into and around the village of Escoville and Château d’Escoville, their objective to dislodge the British troops present and push through to the Caen Canal & Orne River.

The German 21st Panzer Division’s objective is to move the equivalent of 2 platoons (6 stands) of troops off any part of the West edge of the table (the British baseline), except the North-West most corner; these can be Rifle Squads, HMG Stands, the CC Stand and/or AFVs. This represents approximately 37.5% of their total available force that needs to ‘break-through’ to the British rear to be deemed a viable spearhead. be joined by the balance of it's platoon.

…to be joined by the balance of it’s platoon.

The Forces

I commanded the reinforced German Infantry Company (nominally of 21st Panzer Division’s reconnaissance battalion), with attached armoured support, charged with counter attacking the British position; while Kieran commanded the defending British OBLI Company, supported by a section of 6pdr Anti-Tank Guns:

 German Reinforced Infantry Company (Regular)

CC (+2)
MG Section (1 HMG Stand)
FO (for 2 x 8cm Medium Mortar Sections with 6 FMs)

2 Rifle Platoons, each:

PC (+2)
3 Rifle Squads

2 Rifle Platoons, each:

PC (+1)
3 Rifle Squads

1 Panzerjäger-Abteilung detachment:

2 Jagdpanzer 38t “Hetzer

British Infantry Company (Regular)

CC (+1)
FO (for 1 x 3″ Medium Mortar Section with 6 FMs)
3 Rifle Platoons, each:

PC (+1)
3 Rifle Squads (one with PIAT)

1 Anti-Tank Gun Section:

2 6pdr Anti-Tank Guns

The British had no 2″ Light Mortars integral to the squads in their platoons or as separate stands (in case anyone is wondering).

Special Rules

We played vanilla Crossfire as published with just the following minor changes:

Indirect Fire: Only the CC or the FO could observe for the Medium Mortars. In the case of the Germans the same observer could observe for both mortar stands in the same initiative (and could target the same target with both).

AFV Actions: We allowed the Hetzer’s to pivot and/or move as 1 action and fire as another action each initiative. A failed AFV action never lost the initiative for the phasing player, but did stop that AFV doing a second action if it hadn’t already (e.g. if a Hetzer fired first and didn’t cause a suppression or better it couldn’t then move later in the initiative).

AT Fire: We don’t agree with the standard 6pdr rating in the rulebook so treated it as ACC 0 EFF 0 (if we had included a limited number of specialist APDS rounds they would have been EFF +1 similar to the Scottish Corridor scenario in HTD). We also allowed all guns (ATGs & AFVs) to fire unlimited times in reactive fire subject to the usual ‘no-fire’ rule.

Hetzer Statistics: For this game the Hetzer’s were treated as ARM 4/2 (same as a StuG IIIG or similar – Hetzer’s would normally rate ARM 5/2 or 6/2 in my stats); their 75mm gun was classed as the standard 4D/2sq for HE. There was no MG rating for the Hetzer’s secondary armament for this scenario as this was assumed ‘subsumed’ into the 75mm main gun stats.

We also never used any RBF (Recon By Fire) in this scenario for those interested (although we had not specifically chosen not to use it – we just ended up that I didn’t really need to although there were one or two occasions where I certainly could have as the attacker).

German reinforcements - the first Hetzer arrives

German reinforcements – the first Hetzer arrives

The Game

The German attack began on the left, towards the large farm that was Château d’Escoville (on the extreme right of the British line), with an infantry platoon infiltrating past the old medieval ruins and towards the modern Château. No resistance was initially encountered and a patrol was sent forth to occupy the area of broken ground close to the farm, whereupon it was caught in the open by fire from a forward OBLI “B Company” position. Caught in the open the squad was immediately dispatched by the opposing British Rifle Squad, but support for the Germans’ soon arrived in the form of the FO for the Mortar Platoon, and via the nearby road, the first Hetzer tank destroyer. The FO was suppressed by British fire on his approach, but having survived a PIAT shot from the British Squad, fire from the Hetzer subsequently suppressed the troublesome British, allowing the balance of the 1st German Platoon to assault it’s position and overrun the defenders.

As the Hetzer moved up the road towards the Château d’Escoville Farmhouse, the leading squad of the 2nd German Platoon arrived, on the North side of the road, moving up to protect the flank of the Hetzer, however they were surprised by another British Squad (along with a 6pdr ATG) at the far end of the bocage field they entered, and caught in the open field were rapidly pinned!

More British defenders, including a 6pdr ATG...

More British defenders, including a 6pdr ATG…

The balance of the 2nd German Platoon now arrived further to the right (essentially in the centre of the table, on the Southern outskirts of Escoville Village), and moved rapidly forward through the bocage, veering left towards Château d’Escoville to attempt to approach the British Squad and 6pdr ATG that had just been disclosed, however they opted for an ‘early’ left hook and debouching into the same bocage field as the original squad were likewise caught in the open by the exceptionally accurate fire of the single defending squad. Despite going prone followed by further attempts to advance subsequent fire from this same source rapidly decimated the exposed platoon, reducing it to a single surviving squad and the PC!

The 3rd German Platoon (with the Company HMG Section attached) now approached following the route of the prior platoon, but instead of veering left moved straight West until they reached the edge of the bocage alongside Escoville. At this point a forward Squad from the OBLI disclosed itself in the central woody copse, bringing reactive fire to bear on the latest German Platoon. Back on the German left the original Platoon attempted to advance on the Château d’Escoville Farmhouse but caught in the open by fire from a British Squad within the farmhouse, whose fire then went on to eliminate the German Mortar FO as he attempted to relocate from his position near the ruins.

Hetzer approaches the 6pdr ATG

Hetzer approaches the 6pdr ATG

By now the second Hetzer had cautiously moved on to the support the first, again staying close to the German left flank, as the first Hetzer tentatively advanced to bring fire to bear on the exceptionally troublesome squad by the 6pdr ATG without being engaged itself by the latter. Its fire successfully eliminated the British Squad, and allowed the remnants of the 2nd German Platoon to rally and move up into a position to enable them to engage the 6pdr ATG (incredibly unsuccessfully I might add).

As this was happening the British force now became more aggressive, initially another squad disclosed itself on the German right and began engaging the 3rd German Platoon in the centre from the flank, the British Mortar FO moved forward and began to bring indirect fire to bear on the same, and then additional elements of the third British Platoon began forming up to move against the latter’s exposed flank. The German’s responded with the CC moving on in the centre to provide observation for the 8cm Mortars, and their 4th (and final) Platoon moving on from their extreme right, attempting to hook round behind the now fully disclosed British positions on that flank, but eventually getting caught in a coordinated crossfire by the British Platoon and it’s previously undisclosed supporting 6pdr ATG present on that flank as they emerged from the bocage.

The British brutally dispatched and broke up the German 4th Platoon’s attack, and having eliminated them swept round through the edge of Escoville moving to the German rear first eliminating the German CC then via the road moving rapidly behind the German left flank to emerge behind the second Hetzer, where, unwilling to risk a close assault they were unsuccessful with a PIAT shot at the rear of the vehicle. The Hetzer rapidly reacted, reversing hurriedly up the opposite road, and loosing off a 75mm HE round into the exposed British Platoon – 3 hits resulting in one squad killed and the next squad in the column suppressed! Subsequent fire from the Hetzer rapidly eliminated the balance of this platoon in its exposed position (leaving just the PC remaining).

British first counter attack resumes...

British first counter attack resumes…

Back in the centre the second British Platoon now began moving from it’s positions, using the now completely open German right to swing round following a similar route to the previous platoon, but instead turning into the central bocage field to take the German 3rd Platoon (including the HMG) in the flank, rapidly rolling them up helped by the fire of the 3” Mortar Section!

As the German’s continued to push what advance the could on their left, the British rolled up the centre, and despite the leading Hetzer eliminating the British 6pdr ATG on the German left, the German force had suffered too many casualties to fulfil it’s objective – and the British had successfully repelled the German attack; principally via their own late counter-attack against the German right and centre.

The Result

German Losses: CC, FO, 1 HMG, 9 Rifle Squads (69%).

British Losses: 1 6pdr ATG, 6 Rifle Squads (58%).

The Game In Photos

The terrain used for this game was a mix of mine and Kieran’s and the figures & vehicles are from my collection (you can see more of Kieran’s terrain work at his 6mm Wargaming Website).

P.S. And for the purists out there yes we realise Hetzers almost certainly didn’t see action in Normandy in June 1944 – but you have to admit they look cool on the table!

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  • ChrisGArt

    Very nice looking terrain. I love the boccage, it looks suitably daunting to cross.

    • Thanks Chris – These Hedgerows are Kieran’s home made ones – they actually have trees integral to them but we were lazy and hadn’t inserted them into their mounting points… I have some similarly sized but slightly different in appearance hedgerows I’m working on (using K&M Country Hedges as the base rather than from scratch as Kieran has) – you can see them and the initial tentative design in some of the other battle reports from a few years ago, such as here: and – I am planning to work on them further to redo the bases to make the earth banks more pronounced and like Kieran have trees and other objects randomly inserted in them to break them up and make them less uniform. Cheers, John.

  • Steve

    That is one nice looking game, and a fine write up….

    • Thanks Steve – Appreciate the compliments (and I’m sure Kieran does too).

  • Dave

    Very nice ! Great to see CF getting some love … I need to get active , again ..

    • Thanks Dave! Yes I have been the same – it’s been 4½ years since my last CF game of any sort, and over 5 years since Kieran and I last played CF together.

      • The Wargames Room

        I believe Joel has all but given up trying to get a game of Crossfire or Spearhead in Auckland.