Scenario Preview, Part Three
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Some time back, we started a look at the scenarios of Panzer Grenadier: Liberation 1944 and then for some reason failed to complete it. That’s a shame, because Mike Perryman’s set of 41 scenarios is a very fine look at the 1944 British campaign in North-West France. Let’s resume the preview, you can see Part One here and Part Two here.
Second Chance for the Desert Rats
13 June 1944
The 7th Armoured Division saw extensive action in the desert and Italy before landing on D-Day. Once arriving in France, however, the division performed poorly and its elite reputation came into question. A chance to retrieve it came when the Desert Rats received orders to exploit a weakness in the defenses between Villers Bocage and Caumont. They reached Villers Bocage without incident.
Using a borrowed Tiger, Obersturmführer Michael Wittman attacked the whole British column, destroying a number of vehicles and sowing confusion among the Tommies. Other Tigers joined in the carnage and allowed Wittman to escape on foot when he abandoned his tank. He walked to Panzer Lehr’s Headquarters and gathered reinforcements. Fighting raged in and around the village before a lack of infantry forced the Germans to withdraw. The British, in their tattered condition, declined to follow.
I suppose we had no choice but to include this scenario, an action made famous in wargame circles. Wittman would become a post-war cult figure as, in the words of Steven Zaloga, “the hero of all Nazi fanboys.” His tanks destroyed many Allied machines, but he was no Lafayette Pool.
Operation Goodwood: Pushing South
18 July 1944
The success of the Operation Goodwood plan depended on the speed with which the advancing armor could roll back the German defenses. To open the way, British heavy bombers hit German positions early in the morning followed by a rolling barrage. The armor was to race southward behind the barrage leaving any pockets of opposition to the following infantry brigade for mop up.
Things started out well as the Germans offered little resistance and retreated with some encouragement from the advancing Brits. British heavy bombers had leveled Cuverville earlier in the morning, destroying the panzerjägers stationed there and scattering the other defenders. It too soon fell. However, the panzer grenadiers soon rallied and stopped the advance short of Demouville.
The Brits are on the advance, with a powerful mixed tank-infantry force. They have numbers and artillery; the Germans will need to hide in the rubble of what once were French towns and fight from there.
Operation Goodwood: Reality Bites
18 July 1944
The British enjoyed marked success in the opening of Operation Goodwood. Had the remaining German defenses been as described by the intelligence section, success was a foregone conclusion. Unfortunately Allied G2 failed to correctly locate the second echelon defenses, and the Tommies found themselves entangled with strong forces on Bourgebus Ridge. To make matters worse, just behind the ridge the SS Lifeguard readied their counterattack.
The counterattack stopped all British progress. Survivors stated that a few of the Fife and Forfar’s tanks survived because the German gunners couldn’t pick them out among all the burning tanks. Only sixteen of the sixty Shermans they started with made it through the day. Things got so bad for the Hussars that the embedded BBC personnel forwarded their radio call for artillery support when all the command tanks had been destroyed. Things hadn’t been all one sided as the Germans suffered losses as well, but the high British hopes of the morning had been trampled by hard reality.
The British are still on the attack, this time with a badly unbalanced force consisting mostly of Sherman tanks. That’s still a lot of firepower, and they get a massive dollop of airpower on top of it, but the German anti-tank defenses include an actual expert, Alfred Becker, who’s skilled enough to actually rate his own special game rule.
Operation Goodwood: The Tanks Roll South
18 July 1944
After the heavy bombers sowed their destruction the British laid down a devastating rolling barrage. Following closely behind this barrage, the spearhead of Operation Goodwood probed forward. It would become the largest tank battle ever fought by the British Army, though even at the time no one could quite the operation’s objective.
The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment advanced first into the green plain, penetrating the initial German defenses before they recovered from the bombardment. The armor did not receive its first real challenge until Grentheville. They slid off to the west under a railway embankment effectively separating themselves from the rest of the fighting. From that position they were unable to force the enemy from either Bras or Hubert Folie and soon found themselves hard-pressed to hold on to their gains.
The British tanks continue to roll, but this time the Germans add some 88mm batteries to Major Becker’s expert tank destroyers. The Brits have numbers and morale on their side, and constant air cover, so this could be a long day for Alfred and his friends.
Operation Goodwood: A Little Help From Above
18 July 1944
British plans called for armor to spearhead Operation Goodwood, with infantry guarding the flanks. To anchor the left flank the planners tasked 3rd Infantry Division to secure Troarn to the east while rapidly pushing southward at the same time. These Brits caught a big break in this endeavor when Field Marshal Erwin Rommel ordered the 100th Panzer Regiment into the front lines at Sannerville (1.5 miles west of this penetration) over the division’s objections. And also of direct utility, earlier in the morning a strike by British heavy bombers left less than 10 panzers of the 40 or more stationed near Troarn fit for duty. When the attack came they could do little but join the panzer grenadiers at Emieville.
To compensate for their manpower shortage the British masked Troarn rather than assault it, saving untold casualties. This allowed the bulk of the division to concentrate on the southward drive. It still wasn’t enough this day as the panzer grenadiers could not be driven from Emieville.
The Germans have Alfred Becker and his scratch-built tank destroyers, but this time the British have not only morale and airpower, they have soaring initiative, powerful artillery and best of all Crocodiles. Flame-spewing Churchill tanks, and they have a lot of them. Plus the Sherman Firefly. It’s a bacl day for the German Army, and that’s always a good thing.
Operation Goodwood: A Textbook Example
19 July 1944
Even though 11th Armoured Division had lost over half its tanks in the previous day’s attacks, the leadership gave no thought to abandoning the offensive. Units received their assignments to secure Bras and the surrounding high ground, then seize Herbert Folie. These two towns had withstood their best efforts yesterday, but the lads readied themselves to go again. The morning hours revealed the armor squadrons reorganizing and the division concentrating its infantry. At 1625 the 2nd Northampton Yeomanry marched forward and promptly became lost. The 3rd Royal Tank Regiment quickly took over.
According to VII Corps sources regarding the capture of Bras, “This little action was not only of textbook perfection, but the prize thereby won was of utmost importance to the Corps.” Apparently the lead element of your force getting lost can be overlooked if you win your objectives. By 2115 that evening Hubert Folie hosted new occupants.
Yes, the Waffen SS are here and they have Tiger tanks. But the British have the Firefly, and stiff-upper-lip morale to carry the day (they’ll need it, since they have no airplanes to help out this time).
Operation Goodwood: Beyond Fours
19 July 1944
The transfer of all the fighting elements of 7th Armoured Division over the Orne River lasted until 0430 in the morning. Grentheville served as a solid base from which to attack Bourguebus in conjunction with 11th Armoured’s attack on Bras. The plan required the seizure of Fours and Soliers preparatory to attacking the Bourgebus position.
The 5th Royal Tank Regiment lacked the strength to subdue both villages, so they focused their attention on driving through Soliers to reach Bourgebus. This left the 1st Royal Tank Regiment to attack Fours, which they quickly captured after driving out the occupying Germans. The 1RTR continued advancing to secure their sister regiment’s flank but suffered a substantial counterattack of their own. In inconclusive fighting the British failed to keep up the advance but managed to occupy the Germans, preventing them from interfering at Bourguebus.
All of these scenarios have had at least a few tanks on each side, but this one’s a straight-up more or less even tank battle. The Cromwells and Panzer IV’s are fairly evenly matched, and the Brits have a nice contingent of Fireflies to handle the Panthers and Tigers. The German edge in foot soldiers may determine the day, as the Brits have to capture towns (at least they have good mobility).
Operation Goodwood: Terrible Times at Troarn
19 July 1944
The British 3rd Infantry Division had pushed to but not into Troarn on the previous day, considering it safer to mask the village rather than risk unsustainable casualties fighting for it. Apparently, during the night the thinking changed, and headquarters issued orders to take the village by frontal assault.
The German defenders turned back the first attempt by the 1st King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The 2nd Royal Ulster Rifles tried in the second wave, suffering a similar result. The Germans remained in control of the town in “especially bitter fighting”.
This is a relatively small scenario, with a lot of troops in a very small place. The British are once again on the attack, but they’re going to have to make their gains with infantry and only a smidgen of tank support. They do have airplanes and artillery, but the Germans are well-prepared and well-supplied with support weapons. Even so, don’t bet against the Scots and Irish.
And that wraps up the third 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.