Thursday, 24 May 2012

Letting Le Cateau out of the bag

The table setup - seen from the German side.
Le Cateau, 1914 was played using Richard Brooks' Op14 rules and was run by Martin using his 15mm toys (and my aeroplanes).  Martin has very kindly made available the briefings which I reproduce in part below.  He ran the BEF while I donned the Von Kluck's spiky helmet.
After the battle of Mons on 23rd August the BEF fell back with Von Klucks 1st Army in hot pursuit. On the 25th the BEF was forced to split its march around the Forest of Mormal on the Sambre. Von Kluck's advance guards fought a series of actions with BEF rearguards but the exhausted British could retreat no further and decided to stand and fight.

British briefing (IInd Corps)
The Corps has suffered permanent losses of around 4,500 and Germans losses are estimated to be much heavier. The men are exhausted and we need to halt the Germans in battle before we resume the retreat. Contact has been made with the French on the left and Haigs 1st Corps should be on the right on the other side of the Sambre.
Allenby's cavalry are also exhausted but have agreed to serve under command, as has the newly arrived 4th Div. 4th Div has no signallers, engineers, cyclists or cavalry. The Corps is deployed along the Cambrai-Le Cateau Road, with a refused left flank and a brigade plus cavalry on the far side of the Selle trying to locate Haig. The decision to stand and fight was not taken until 4am at it took hours to distribute the orders.
Conduct a 'stopping blow under cover of which you can retire late'.

II Corps (Smith-Dorrien)
4th Div, 3rd Div, 5th Div, Corps howitzer Bde, 19th Independant Inf Bde

Cavalry Div (Allenby)

French Cavalry Div. Not under command but defends itself if attacked.
German briefing (1st Army)
We have been closely pursuing the British for three days and they finally seem to have stopped to fight. Losses so far have been around 16,000 and the main tactical lesson has been the need for a preparatory bombardment before infantry assaults.
Von der Marwitzs IInd Cavalry Corps has been recalled to Cambrai and the plan is simple, a double envelopment. IV Corps will pin the British frontally, while IInd Cavalry Corps plus IV Reserve Corps envelop their right and the III Corps envelops their left. III Corps won a bridgehead across the Sambre last night, but IV Reserve Corps will take a few hours to move into position.
Envelop and destroy the British.

1st Army (Von Kluck)
IInd Cavalry Corps, IV Corps, III Corps
turn 3 IV Res Corps

Terrain and weather
The terrain is  rolling and open west of the Sambre, the major features are the (fordable) rivers, forest of Mormal and city of Cambrai. Bridges for artillery at towns or as marked. The weather will be hot and sunny, but at dawn there is a thick mist which obscures observation.

German cavalry engages the British left
German troops make an initial assault on Le Cateau
The Brits were quick to dig in - making my job a lot harder
The naughty Brits even used an 'infernal machine'...
...forcing me to retaliate.  They'll never catch on.
Mid game overview.  A German corps is already teetering on the brink of exhaustion!
Le Cateau has fallen to the field grey hordes (it's all down to the leadership...)
On the German left the British cavalry comes under pressure and are only saved by my traditionally appalling dice!
The German right wing (plenty of them...) surges forward.  Again.
The German defenders of Le Cateau ready themselves to repel a British counterattack
The BEF by now have fought the German left to a standstill
and the same is happening on the right
as waves of Germas attack with artillery support
Happily Le Cateau held out!
an overview of the endgame situation.  The Germans hold Le Cateau and while the British line is a bit crumbly the Germans lack the reserves to carry on the attack.


Paul said...

Looks like a fine effort all around. A nice result as well.

I like the traditionally bad dice comment. Classic.

Rodger said...

Great looking game Tim.

Tim Gow said...

Someone raised the question recently of how I never look surprised at rolling c**p dice. I replied that after 35 years of wargaming one gets used to it...

Tim Gow said...

It did look good - that always makes a game a but better!

Al said...

Awesome, we've looked at gaming this one a number of times. Great figures and detail

Tim Gow said...

We've done bits of it before as brigade level games, but gaming the full multi-corps battle was much more instructive. It really gave the feel of the BEF fighting the Boche to a standstill so they could bu**er off safely.

Martin Rapier said...

The game had a broadly historical result, which I aways find rather pleasing. IRL the German left wing had pushed over the river up up onto the high ground behind the British right by nightfall. In the game, the BEF held them back but only at expense of Allenbys cavalry who had to fill the gap in the line left by the failure of 19th Infantry Brigade to do anything much at all.

BEF losses in the game were rather higher than irl and all divisions were at or one hit away from exhaustion checks at game end. Most of the losses were inflicted by artillery, it was much more of a gunners battle than Mons.

Tim Gow said...

Martin Rapier
I expect the higher British casualties this time round were done to superior German leadership. It sure as hell wasn't my dice rolling!