Scenario Preview, Part Five
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
I designed the game that became Panzer Grenadier with the goal of fully including infantry in the game, doing interesting things (like they actually did) instead of plodding along as speedbumps or targets. I’ve always thought that Panzer Grenadier works best when re-creating battles between combined-arms forces, and the British campaign in North-West France exactly matches that description.
Let’s wrap up our look at the scenarios of Panzer Grenadier: Liberation 1944. You can see Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three here and Part Four here.
Operation Bluecoat: Minden Day
1 August 1944
General Edgar Feuchtinger commanded the 21st Panzer Division resisting the Allied invasion and breakout. He eventually received a court martial for his incompetence and a reduction in rank to enlisted artilleryman, being shipped off to the Eastern Front. He exemplified his poor command skills by sitting idle all of the previous day as the British push continued, despite having the 13 operational Tigers of 503rd Heavy Panzer Detachment placed under his control for counterattacking. After a tardy discussion with his corps commander he began his attack. He remarked to an aide that, "as I could not stop this senseless attack….it’s in the interest of my men to obey."
The fighting raged around Quarry Hill from the morning on, with the Germans finally forcing a gap between the 7th Seaforth Highlanders and the Royal Scots sometime after noon. The Germans committed more men and machines to exploit this success while the British sent for the 6th Kings Own Scottish Borderers to block the flood. The Borderers had been given red roses by their color-sergeants to wear on their helmets to remember the Battle of Minden on this day in 1759. They stopped just long enough to attach the fresh roses before counterattacking and bringing the German advance to a halt despite losing their commander. The Germans regrouped and tried again but heavy artillery fire and a flight of rocket-firing Typhoons convinced them they'd had enough for today.
This time the Germans get to go on the attack, with armor support including Tiger tanks plus the rocket-firing Maultier. The British eventually get some tanks of their own, leading to a slugfest between slow-moving thick-skinned Tigers and slow-moving thick-skinned Churchills.
Operation Bluecoat: Hill 361
1 August 1944
While two battalions of the British 129th Infantry Brigade advanced through the Bois du Homme towards Hill 361, the 5th Wiltshires skirted the woods to the east and positioned themselves below the enemy before encountering them. German records are not clear if the infantry component of their forces hailed from the 326th Infantry Division or the arriving 21st Panzer Division, but the Tiger tanks were definitely from the 503rd Heavy Panzer Detachment.
The Wiltshires managed to take Hill 361 more easily than they thought they would, seemingly impressed with the opposition. The Tommies claimed to have destroyed one Tiger tank while they found two more bogged down and abandoned. The War Diary of the 503rd Heavy Panzer makes no mention of losses for the day, but during this time period their reporting was spotty at best.
The British are back on the attack, with a little armored support including a Firefly to tackle a stout German defense backed by Tiger tanks. Fortunately there’s heavy mud that can mire the Tigers but not the nimble Shermans supporting the Brits.
Operation Bluecoat: Kampfgruppe Paetsch
2 August 1944
Previously, the 11th Armoured had ripped a hole in the German lines that threatened to unhinge the whole front. The 2nd SS Panzer Corps moved forward to stabilize the area. On the previous day only the under-strength 21st Panzer Division put in a showing to contest the Allied advance, and they slowed but did not stop the British in heavy fighting. Today the newly-arrived Kampfgruppe Paetsch intended to improve upon that record.
The 4th Dorsets left before midnight and entered Jurques unopposed. They regrouped and ran a gauntlet of fire to secure La Bigne around 1600. The Hampshires followed them into Jurques with the intention of exploiting southward but the newly-arrived panzer grenadiers on Hill 301 proved too much to overcome, even with the RAF's help.
This is a big scenario, a mighty clash of tank-infantry forces with the well-supported British fighting to smash through the Waffen SS. SS-smashing is always a good thing.
Operation Bluecoat: Tigers West
4 August 1944
On the previous day Kampfgruppe Weiss destroyed a number of Cromwells on their journey from Vire to Hill 119. Today the seven Tigers of Kampfgruppe Weiss split their firepower between La Bistiere and Hill 119, posing an unwanted threat to 11th Armoured Division’s Tactical HQ in Le Reculy. The Northampton Yeomanry had been rebuffed in their first effort to take La Bistiere due to a lack of infantry. When the 1st Norfolks arrived they joined forces with the recon tanks and started a serious push south.
Inconclusive fighting lasted all day but the British infantry made it impractical for the Tigers to spend the night on Hill 119. As darkness fell the heavy panzers worked their way back to join the panzer grenadier company holding out in La Bistiere and then to Vire. After the battle the British tankers complained bitterly that their recon battalion was not issued any Fireflies like the armor battalions -- they lost 47 tanks in 48 hours to Kampfgruppe Weiss in exchange for a single Tiger destroyed.
This is a relatively small scenario, with a relatively great number of Cromwells and British infantry platoons trying to overwhelm a small German force built around two platoons of Tigers. Flank shots matter!
Operation Bluecoat: St. Jean le Blanc
5 August 1944
While the rest of the brigade advanced on the prize of Mont Pincon the 4th Wiltshires marched to secure St. Jean le Blanc to provide a cushion against enemy attacks from the south. They left La Forte Ecuelle at 0800 and encountered little difficulty until 1400 when they found the bridge over the Druance outside of Escores destroyed. The stream was small and C Company waded across but steep banks meant the supporting armor had to be left behind until the sappers could throw a bridge across it.
By 1600 the stream was bridged and the Shermans plunged ahead to do what they could for the infantry. Unfortunately for them, it wasn't enough as the enemy refused to be driven from their positions. That night the Wiltshires received orders to withdraw as Mont Pincon was the objective not St. Jean le Blanc. They paid for the unnecessary position with 22 dead and 39 wounded.
I think there’s an error in the setup; the Germans should begin east of the westernmost north-south (not east-west) road, otherwise the directions don’t really add up. With that fixed, the Germans are defending a long, narrow segment of turf against a British infantry force that eventually gets a little armored backup.
Operation Bluecoat: Black Sunday
6 August 1944
One of Allied VIII Corps’ original objectives in Operation Bluecoat required securing Lassy. The Highlanders of all three battalions of the 46th Infantry Brigade marched forth to make that happen. On the other side of the line, worn-down German armored units forbidden to retreat by their increasingly-insane supreme commander prepared to meet them.
Due to the heavy losses suffered by the Cameronians in the attack, the survivors remembered the day as "Black Sunday." The Glasgow Highlanders secured their initial target with light casualties but when the 7th Seaforths passed through them they came under heavy fire. The company was soon reduced to one officer and 40 men and the accompanying battalion commander fell mortally wounded. The two following companies both lost their commanders among the many casualties, and the Coldstream Guards lost a number of tanks. Needless to say, the attack failed.
The British must once again advance, following their slow-moving supporting armor into the teeth of German defenders lavishly equipped with support weaponry. They have a strong edge in numbers, and they’re going to need them.
Operation Bluecoat: Estry
8 August 1944
Although 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg had been transferred to 7th Army for Operation Luttich, and 21st Panzer Division was but a shadow of itself, 2nd SS Panzer Corps harbored no plan to weaken the defenses around Estry. During the past three days the SS had inflicted substantial losses on the British, leaving them only one squadron of Churchills to support today's attack. Consequently, a large number of specialty tanks received orders to accompany the 221st Infantry Brigade in their effort today.
For the first hour the British slowly pushed the 1st Battalion of the 20th SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment backwards. That was the good news. The textbook German counterattack led by a hand full of panzers then threw them back to the starting line. By 1500 it was oblivious that today would be no different than the preceding ones and a truce was arranged by Major Moreton and the senior German officer to gather and tend the wounded.
Another large scenario, with a massive force of British infantry backed by all manner of “funny” tanks (flame-throwing tanks, mine-clearing tanks, giant-bomb-tossing tanks) crashing into a well-fortified line held by the Waffen SS. The Brits also bring lots of artillery, lots of airplanes, and stout morale.
Guards Armoured Division
11 August 1944
The Guards Armoured Division planned to advance north of the Vire-Flers railroad while the 3rd Infantry Division did the same to the south with the intention of reaching Flers. They encountered their first obstacle at Chenedolle which had changed hands several times in the past week. The Germans knew the British would soon resume their southward push and had strengthened their forces in the surrounding area in anticipation.
The first British attack saw the two assault companies suffer 70% casualties while their supporting armor was decimated. This forced the British to commit some of the exploitation formations to clear Chenedolle, thus upsetting the operation's timetable. Eventually they cleared Chenedolle and, according to a British officer, "We are fighting some of the best troops the Germans have; they seem to hang on till the end."
This is a huge scenario, filling the battlefield with tanks and infantry while artillery fire and air strikes come pouring in from above. The Waffen SS are deeply entrenched behind their minefields, but the British have plenty of force in their attempt to eject them.
11 August 1944
As part of the British forces renewed push south, the Guards Armoured Division sent the Grenadier Battle Group to subdue Viessoix. That would give them control of the Vire-Vassy road and a firm base to protect their flanks from. SS Hohenstaufen had been ground down during the previous nine days of fighting and was to have already been transferred to participate in Operation Luttich against the Americans at Mortain.
The Hohenstaufen turned back the Tommies with heavy casualties. The 5th Armoured Brigade’s War Diary summed it up: "It was a very disappointing day and achieved little.” Allied reinforcements filtered forward during the night and received orders for another attack in the morning but it to was also rebuffed. Forward progress only came after corps headquarters redirected the SS Hohenstaufen to face the Americans, and their replacements provided a less tenacious defense.
The British come forward with a well-supported attack, but the Waffen SS defenders are also well-supported. This is going to be a tough, grinding assault between two first-rate opponents.
And that wraps up our 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.