Monday, 19 August 2013

A Battle lost? Part 1 - different war, same place

When deciding on a scenario for this years game I considered various options before narrowing them down to two - the Gazala battles in North Africa (1942) and the campaign in the west in 1940.  As I had around 20 players to entertain this ruled out Gazala, which would struggle to provide gainful employment to more than a dozen or so.  So back in Europe, having played a version of the Dyle Plan in Belgium some yeas ago I decided on the panzer breakthrough in mid-May. This assumed a successful crossing of the Meuse and would see no fewer then seven Panzer divisions let loose in northern France against a French Army Group already suffering from (in its upper echelons at least) poor morale and much bewilderment.
The real map.  Like the originals this was one of Michelin's finest.  The six tables are marked out with highlighter pen. The line marking the northern edge of the playing area runs north of Fauqambergues, Bethune, Valenciennes, Beaumont.  In the south, Amiens is the big urban area just off map 6, and the line then runs to the south of Montcornet and Berlise.  Abbeville is just off to the west of the marked area.
The elite of the Wehrmacht listen attentively to General Von Munster's briefing.

The French commander was given eight infantry divisions and and assets including three tank battalions and some artillery and allowed to deploy them more or less as he pleased.  Two armoured divisions and a motorised infantry division were on their way to reinforce.  He was also told that the six aerodromes in his sector held considerable air assets.
The French team indulges in one of several musical interludes.  At one point the 
Germans offered to withdraw if only the French would stop singing!
The table setup.  Three of us managed to rearrange the room and set up these tables in only 1 hour!

I reproduce below (with the kind permission of Jim Wallman) the briefing document issued by Von Munster to his Generals.  Further down the page are the individual table maps.

German Briefing
 Objectives:  Head for the coast, cutting off French 1st Army and the BEF to the north.  Do not get distracted by chasing individual enemy units or besieging towns.

Command Structure
Panzer Gruppe West
Lt-General Hermann Von Munster
Jim Wallman

XIV Corps
General of Infantry Gustav Anton von Wietersheim
Jerry Elsmore

11 Division
44 Division
72 Division
Lt General Herbert von Böckmann
Tom Mouat
23 Pz Division

Major-General Hans Reichsfreiherr von Boineburg-Lengsfeld
Trevor Ringrose

XIX Corps
General of Cavalry Heinz Guderian
Phil Steele
11 Pz Division
General der Panzertruppen Ludwig Crüwell
Wayne Thomas
7 Pz Division
Brigadier-general Erwin Rommel
Peter Antill
2 Pz Division
Maj-General Rudolf Veiel

XXXI Corps
Major-General Georg-Hans Reinhardt
Fred Cartwright

3 Mot. Division
Major-General Walter Lichel
Adrian Hussey
14 Pz Division
Major-General Erick-Oskar Hansen
Harry Kelly
8 Pz Division
Colonel Erich Brandenberger
John Armatys
19 Pz Division
General der Panzertruppen Otto von Knobelsdorff
Colin Maby
Lufwaffe Support : Luftflotte 2
Requests for air support are all via Panzer Gruppe W HQ at all times.  Maximum concentration is to be used, so requests for ‘penny packet’ air support will be automatically denied.
Lufwaffe resources allocated to this operation are:
2 Fighter, 2 Zestorer, 3 Stuka, 1 Bomber and 1 recce squadrons

Communications:  Commanders may only communicate with their immediate superior or subordinates.  All communication will be in writing unless the unit HQs are co-located.

You represent the best the German Reich has to offer and your Fatherland expects great things of you.  This is the first battle against a modern and well equipped major power and its allies and will be a true test of the new German Army. 
Medals will be issued to commanders who show the highest energy and correct degree of offensive spirit.
Similarly, where performance does not reach the highest standards of the Wehrmacht, the high command will be removing underperforming officers to duties more in keeping with their abilities. 

There is, as yet, no Army doctrine for armoured warfare.  Theorists are agreed that massed armoured formations supported by air power are the weapon of the future, but exactly how that will work in practice has not yet been pinned down.  Experience in Poland showed us that our panzer divisions were prone to breakdowns and had serious logistical problems, but the lack of an enemy with modern weapons meant that we could not properly test war fighting doctrines.  Many of the logistical issues have now been resolved, but the principles of modern tank warfare are still in their in their infancy.  There is confidence at the highest level that concentrated massed tank offensives will achieve a great victory.  However, military experience tells us that it also carries with it very great potential risks.

Each Corps is therefore able to develop the tactics is feels will be most successful, subject to some overriding principles – these principles are:

a.     Our primary mission is to reach the Channel, not to necessarily destroy enemy units.

b.    Speed of advance is everything.  We demonstrated in Great War during the Kaiserschlacht Offensive in 1918 that bypassing strong points and advancing rapidly throws the enemy into disarray. 

c.    We only have a few Panzer Divisions.  There are no more coming if we lose these. 

d.    Our enemy is well equipped and cunning.  None of us can forget the French Army’s ability to exploit weakness and counterattack with ferocity as they did on the Marne in 1914. So - whilst we are facing some of the weakest units of the French Army, we must not forget that they have powerful reserves and might still ‘pull something out of the bag.’
Once the campaign is successfully concluded, we will be in a position to firm up our doctrine for Panzer Troops based on your actions experience and successes.

Coming next - opening moves


Chris Kemp said...

For an airman's-eye view of the battle, see :

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Wow epic in scale!

Tim Gow said...

Chris Kemp
Thanks again for running the air side of things Chris.

Tim Gow said...

It's the only scale to tolerate!

Paul Foster said...

Hermann Von Munster indeed!

Tim Gow said...

Paul Foster
100% historically accurate as always!