Scenario Preview, Part Two
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Liberation 1944 has some very fine playing pieces, but the real star of this fine game is the set of 41 scenarios by designer Mike Perryman. Here’s the second installment of our scenario preview:
7 June 1944
On D-Day the Ox and Bucks landed among the first wave of British troops and promptly secured their objectives in a daring coup de main with few casualties. A day later their objective, the town of Escoville, lay ahead: guarded by the thinly-spread 21st Panzer Division.
While the 21st Panzer Division was a mediocre outfit, the recon battalion was a cut above the rest of the formation. In heavy fighting the British managed to take Escoville but a counterattack soon drove them back out. The day’s fighting cost the Ox and Bucks battalion 80 casualties plus their commander. Already suffering from wounds incurred on D-Day, he died after extracting his men from Escoville that evening.
The British are on the attack, with a full-strength infantry battalion (backed by two platoons of the mighty Tetrarch airborne tank) advancing against a German recon battalion: armored cars, halftrack-mounted infantry and such. Both sides have very high morale. The British win by taking towns, the Germans by not letting them do so.
Here to Stay
10 June 1944
As long as the British were east of the Orne River they could launch attacks to expand their beachhead without having to factor in a river crossing. The advantages of this were obvious to both sides, so as the British rushed men to the beaches to expand the bridgehead, the Germans looked around for enough troops to drive the Allies back over the Orne. A strong infantry forced backed by armor formed up behind the strongpoint of Breville to drive the enemy back over the bridges at Benouville.
The mission failed, being more than the grenadiers could accomplish, but it was a near run thing. They destroyed five of the tanks supporting the 7th Battalion, and the Paras only turned them back with a bayonet charge by C Company of the 13th Parachute Battalion. As quiet descended on the battlefield, the Germans conceded that the British had come to stay.
The Paras are dug in and trying to hold their gains against a surprisingly non-crapulent German static division. There are about twice as many Germans as there are Paras, with plentiful artillery (both on- and off-board) and some armor. The Paras have some tanks helping them as well, plenty of leaders, and somewhat better morale than the Germans.
A New Experience
10 June 1944
The Desert Rats earned a name for themselves fighting in the wide open expanses of Egypt and Libya against Rommel’s men. Before dusk on D-Day they landed at Gold Beach to spearhead the advance inland. France’s well-kept farms and villages bore no resemblance to the harsh terrain where the division had earned its name.
The Desert Rats felt totally out of their element. The terrain frustrated them, and having their supporting infantry at the back of the line did them no favors. Many in the army’s upper echelons questioned their desire as they showed virtually nonexistent progress despite extremely light casualties. When things went no better the following day the whispers of "burned out" became louder.
The Desert Rats face off against the Panzer Lehr. What could be better? Well, the Desert Rats could be for starters – this is not the same division that drove the Axis powers out of Africa. The Brits fling masses of Cromwells at the Germans, backed by a few Fireflies, with infantry support. The Germans are outnumbered and outgunned, but the “Springmaus” division is less than enthusiastic.
The Green Howards
11 June 1944
As the sun rose, the 69th Infantry Brigade received orders to attack the Cristot area as part of a large effort aimed at securing Tilly-sur-Seulles. Time was of the essence as the operation was planned to kick off shortly after noon. Delays occurred as commanders down the chain prepared their men and issued orders to the two battalions of Green Howards and their supporting armor. At 1600 the Green Howards tardily stepped off.
The 6th Battalion of the Green Howards launched their attack through Audrieu and advanced steadily towards Cristot. On nearing the village counterattacking Panther tanks destroyed seven of the supporting Shermans in an unequal fight. This left the infantry vulnerable to heavy small arms fire from Cristot, forcing them back to Audrieu. At the same time the 7th Battalion of the Green Howards suffered a rebuff while assaulting a wooded area just outside of Cristot. The 6th Battalion's War Diary put a brave face on a bad day saying: "Although the battalion suffered in that respect, the enemy was severely shaken by our attack and had many dead."
It’s a fairly small battlefield, with the British on the attack. The British come to war with numbers, good leadership, high morale and lots of artillery support. The Germans are outnumbered and outgunned, but they are insane fanatics: the teenaged grenadiers of the Hitler Youth Division.
Breville Sees the Plaid
11 June 1944
Breville served as a German base from which to launch attacks against the British 6th Airborne Division whose paratroopers held a thin line and therefore could not defend well. So headquarters attached the 5th Black Watch Battalion to the 3rd Parachute Brigade to put an end to the German aggressions. The Highlanders arrived very early on the 11th and moved forward covered by a heavy artillery barrage.
The Highlanders encountered few problems until the barrage lifted as they neared Breville. The Germans then began to concentrate heavy fire on them, which quickly sent the Highlanders reeling backwards to Chateau St. Come with 300 causalities. The supporting 3rd Paratrooper Brigade contented themselves with firing their artillery in support and mentioning in their diary that the 5th Black Watch attack failed.
It’s just a small scenario, with the Black Watch and their high morale taking on those German static troops with morale that’s almost as good. But not quite as good, and the Highlanders also have plentiful leaders, artillery and some air power. They’ll need all of those, as their mission is a tough one.
12 June 1944
Emboldened after bloodily repulsing the Black Watch the previous day, the Germans sought an offensive solution to their problems. All morning the British suffered sporadic artillery fire and in mid-afternoon a reinforced grenadier battalion supported by armor marched forward to drive the remnants of the Black Watch and 9th Parachute Battalion from Chateau St. Come.
The mission was more than the grenadiers were capable of accomplishing, but it was a close run thing nonetheless. The 9th Parachute Battalion diary notes that the battalion sustained "fairly heavy casualties" from the attack, turning back the Germans by 2000. The diary also identifies the attackers’ armor as 6 Mark IV tanks (probably from 21st Panzer). The 5th Black Watch Battalion diary speaks of heavy casualties on both sides and a stunning lack of British antitank guns. The entry closes opining that "Never did the [Battalion] uphold better the tradition of the Black Watch."
This time the Germans are on the attack, with a good-sized force well-supported by artillery but with little armored support. But the Paras and Black Watch aren’t outnumbered by much, even if they only have one anti-tank battery, and have their usual soaring morale.
Germans Encounter Windy’s Gale
12 June 1944
Major General Richard "Windy" Gale, commander of the 6th Airborne Division, grew tired of the constant enemy attacks launched from Breville. With the outcome of the latest one still hanging in the balance he deduced that the enemy had shot their bolt. He augmented his reserve battalion with sixty Pathfinders from the 22nd Independent Parachute Company and a squadron of tanks and ordered them to attack as soon as possible. It took until about 2130 to get everything ready to go and by that time Company D from the 12th Devonshires had joined the mix.
During the opening artillery barrage a British round landed short and killed the 12th Battalion's commander and seriously wounded two others including Colonel Parker, the second-in-command. Parker chose to stay with the unit and direct the operation. The officers from the leading company fell quickly as well, but Sergeant Warcup kept Company C moving towards Breville. The Germans stubbornly stood their ground until the Shermans worked their way around the village and poured fire into their flank. This suppression and destruction allowed the British foot to overwhelm the village but they paid a high cost. Only 15 men from C Company still stood. A Company lost their commander, Command Sergeant Major, and an entire platoon while the Devonshires fared little better. B Company came through more or less intact but that changed shortly as the 51st Highland Division never received word to cancel their fire mission. A high price indeed.
At least they didn’t call him Dorothy. This is a relatively small scenario, with about a reinforced battalion on each side. The Paras have some Shermans, engineers and line infantry helping them out, lots of artillery and that expected Parachute Regiment leadership and morale. The Germans seem awfully willing to fight for a fourth-line unit, and sport a plethora of support weapons and pretty good artillery of their own. It’s a night action, which means close combat.
13 June 1944
In their effort to lever the Germans out of Caen the 153rd Infantry Brigade crossed the Orne River and worked their way to the northeast into an area known as the triangle. Plans for the 13th called for the Cameron Highlanders to drive the enemy from St. Hororine and through Demouville using armor support. Unfortunately, at attack time most of the supporting armor had already been sent to aid the hard-pressed Canadians, leaving the Highlanders on their own.
As soon as they started advancing the Scotsmen came under heavy fire which increased as they neared St. Hororine. This created a dilemma as bypassing St. Honorine would endanger their lines of communication and resupply efforts. When it became apparent the defenders could not be driven back the attack was called off and the men dug in just north of the village.
This is a small scenario, just one board with a small German defending force of infantry backed by a battery of self-propelled guns facing an attack by Highlanders. As the intro notes they have no tank support, but they’re Highlanders and that means high morale and plenty of leaders. And while they have no conventional tanks, they do get a Crocodile: a Churchill tank fitted with a flamethrower.
And that wraps up the second installment of Liberation 1944 scenario previews.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.