Monday, 6 August 2012

The Battle for St Cloud

The Battle for St. Cloud
Operation Torch, November 8-10th 1942

This is a historically based wargame; I’ve adjusted the forces involved to create a decent table-top game.

Historic background
On 8 November 1942, Anglo-American forces landed in Vichy French North Africa. The landings were divided into three areas, Eastern, Centre, and Western Task Forces. The American Center Task Force was given the objective of taking the port of Oran, Algeria.

On the first day of Torch, Task Force Red of the US 1st Armoured Division (mainly comprising of Combat Command B under Brig. Gen. Lunsford E. Oliver), landed to the east of Oran. With very little opposition, they took the coastal town of Arzew. Part of TF Red proceeded along the coastal road to Oran, encountering French defences at the town of St Cloud (now called Gdyel). The town was the centre of wine production in the region, with a population of 4,000; the town's thick-walled houses block the main road from Arzew to Oran. Also the town sits flanked by high rocky hills to the Northwest and a low depression with boggy salt marshes to the Southwest, both areas are considered impassable for vehicles, hence the road through St Cloud’s added importance.

Col. Frank Greer’s 18th Infantry Regimental Combat team (an infantry regiment plus an artillery battalion of 12 guns), supported initially by just a few M3 Lt. tanks, GMC75 half-tracks, are later reinforced by a company from 1st Ranger Battalion commanded by Lt. Gordon Klefman.

The Vichy had seen the tactical importance of the town and quickly reinforced the garrison – 16th Traillieur Algerian, 1st Battalion Foreign Legion, armoured cars of 5RCA, 3 batteries of `75s and one of 155s; these units were supported by fascist volunteers from the paramilitary - Service d`Order Legionnaire.

Greer launched several attacks against the town through November 8th but is beaten back with loses. At dawn on the 9th, Klefman’s Ranger company leads a new assault and succeeds in fighting its way into the town proper, Klefman himself is killed during this action. A determined French counter-attack drives both the Rangers and 18th infantrymen back out of the town.

Greer frustrated by the stubborn French resistance and angry at the loses to his regiment, proposes to use a blanket artillery barrage to break the French resistance once and for all, but is over-ruled by his superior Maj. Gen. Terry Allen (a veteran of the trenches in WW1) who orders the town bi-passed and its defenders bottled up.

The Game
We decided we’d game the dawn attack of November 9th, with one infantry battalion supported by tanks, Sp guns and artillery assaulting the town, with 3rd ranger company mounting a flanking manoeuvre and attacking from the left or right (to be decided by the US commander) anytime after turn 6 (they were moving into position during this delay).

The Algerian Traillieur start the game entrenched or in the buildings, with the Legionnaires in secondary positions, the fascist volunteers & RCA armoured cars are general reserve. The `75 battery is split into gun sections and spread out among the defenders.

We decided to give “victory points” based on objectives held or captured: The mosque, the post office/telephone exchange, the police station and the barracks.

US attackers
1st battalion 18th Infantry with:
HQ inc FOO for artillery battery
3 x rifle companies each with –
3 x rifle platoons (10 men inc BAR), Support platoon (60mm mortar, .30cal MMG, Bazooka [3 rockets])
Support company
2 x .30cal water-cooled MMG
81mm mortars (odd table)

3rd company, 1st Ranger battalion with:
3 x rifle platoons (10 men inc BAR), Support platoon with (.30cal, 60mm mortar, bazooka [3 rockets]

1 battery 105mm howitzers (off table)
2 x M3 lt. tanks
1 x GMC75 half-track

French defenders
Elements 1st battalion, 16th Algerian traillieur
Approx. 3 rifle platoons plus 2 LMGs, 1 MMG, 1 80mm mortar
2nd company, 1st battalion FFL
HQ + 3x 10 men platoons + LMG team
1 battery 75mm guns (2 guns)
2 x Laffly A/Cs
1 platoon - d`Order Legionnaire (10 men)

Two views of the table looking from the North (American) edge, note the hill to the right and the depression on the left, both considered impassable for vehicles.
Some views of the town and French defences
Police station
Telephone exchange/post office

The game began with a general US advance, two companies moving abreast the highway towards the town, the US commander also sent his artillery FOO (with an escort) up the hill on his right to have a good observation point over the town.

The first five turns saw the US companies take some casualties from French `75 and mortar fire, the right most company became pinned under Algerian MG fire, the left company moved down into the depression to avoid some quite accurately observed gun-fire. On turn four the US commander committed his reserve company to back-up his left and exploit their move through the depression. US artillery and mortar fire was inaccurate and poor up to this point causing little in the way of casualties among the defenders.

Turn 6. The Ranger company moves up the hill on the French left

Turn 8. The US artillery finally scores a hit knocking out the `75 in the telephone exchange
The US commander commits his armour to support his infantry battalion, which is clearing the outer houses at the edge of town. The French commander attacks the Rangers with an armoured car and rushes legionnaires from their reserve positions to protect his left flank.

Turns 9-11 US artillery and mortars begin to hit home against stubborn French positions, the infantry battalion is now fighting among the houses against aggressive resistance and sniper fire from the Algerians and Legionnaires. One Ranger platoon is virtually wiped out, the others exchange fire with the defenders of the Police station, breaching its walls with demo charges and Bazooka rockets before storming the compound.

Turns 12-15 US armour moves into the town supporting its infantry

The Police station is captured, but the French form a second defensive line

US casualties continue to mount as they move to clear streets and houses, the GMC75 is knocked out by a Traillieur with a petrol bomb! The same Croix de Guerre winner had already damaged an M3 lt tank!

At this point we decided the Americans would withdraw and bi-pass the town to avoid further loses.

French tactical victory :-)


  1. In your games, do the difference in basing mean anything? again you have great games.

  2. No, just painted/based at a different time. I did start with all "penny" basing, but that made storage difficult - so a reverted to 10mm squares of 1mm plasticard.