Lorraine, 24th November 1944
As the allied forces cleared France of the German occupiers, the troops of Operation Anvil, the landings in Southern France, joined the right flank of Overlord, the troops from Normandy. Prominent among these new arrivals was the French 1st Army under General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny. Back home with a score to settle. An aggressive attack through the Vosges into Lorraine brought them to the banks of the Rhine - the first Allied soldiers to reach the river. But in so doing, the French 1st Armoured Division had raced ahead of it`s infantry and left a large gap behind them.
Though German general Balck wanted to withdraw across the Rhine, but Hitler saw an opportunity and ordered a counter-attack into this gap to the Swiss frontier to encircle and possible destroy 1st Armoured.
Balck protested in
vain, but there was nothing to be done but order his one decent formation - the
sorely battered 198th Infantry into battle!
This introduction borrowed directly from the scenario
"Pas de Charge" from Hans Johannsen`s "White Star Rising"
scenario pack for Spearhead rules.
Now I don`t play large battles with divisional sized units, but there are elements of this action which are interesting and highly adaptable to the scale I enjoy - company/battalion level. Supporting the 198th ID was elements of the much depleted 30th Waffen SS Division (2nd Russian) and what was left of 106th Panzer Brigade. These faced elements of the French 9th Colonial Division.
The 30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Belarusian)
Was a short-lived German
Waffen SS infantry division formed largely from Byelorussian, Russian and
Ukrainian personnel of the Schutzmannschaft- Brigade Siegling in August
1944. The division was transferred to South-eastern France by mid-August
1944 to combat the French Forces of the Interior (FFI). The division's
performance in combat was poor, and two battalions mutinied, murdered their
German leaders, and some actually defected to the FFI. Other troops of the
division simply abandoned their posts and crossed the Swiss border and were
interned. Afterwards, some of the division's personnel were eventually transferred
to the Russian Liberation Army while others were retained to form the SS
"White Ruthenian" infantry brigade from January 1945.
Whilst considered unreliable with the French breaking through to the Rhine, the Germans were forced to commit whatever they had available. Accounts of the actions are sparse but most agree the elements of 30th SS which participated gave a fair account of themselves.
Was established on 15 July 1943, in North Africa, with colonial
units from either French West Africa or units that were stationed in Morocco and Algeria. Many escapees
from France who reached North Africa via Spain came to swell these
units. At the time, the 9th DIC was mainly made up of Africans from all the territories of
Late in September, The 6th, 21st and 23rd RIC (regiments colonial infantry) respectively replace the 4th, 6th and 13th regiments Tirailleurs Senegal. During October 9200 white volunteers from the FFI replace black tirailleurs; this is the "blanchiment"! It is possible the Free French felt non-whites may antagonise the Germans (as happened after WW1) also Black and Moorish units were accused to rape and pillage after WW1 (and in Italy before the French were withdrawn for Anvil/Dragoon) and maybe the Free French wanted to avoid this? But another explanation has been forwarded that it was deliberately done by De Gaulle to get the communists and other troublemakers under military control.
This of course meant that infantry units within the division were mostly made up of troops with little or no formal military training under a cadre of experienced officers and NCOs. The volunteers were highly motivated, but lacked the field craft, of which instruction has to be given live in contact with the enemy, depending on the circumstances and life in the sector.
This "Blanchiment" infuriated a number of American commanders as it significantly degraded the combat effectiveness of the French divisions.
So we have an interesting mostly all infantry action between
a below par SS battalion supported by odds`n sods against a highly motivated
but basically trained Free French infantry unit - for me perfect! Now I did a
brief bit of digging and it appears 30th SS had virtually no
artillery or support weapons, but I`ve given the battalion MMGS and 80mm
mortars to toughen them up a bit.
Elements of 23nd RIC
II Battalion 23st RIC (Regiment Infantry Colonial)
3 rifle companies
Elements of Regimental Recce battalion
Off table support
Cannon Company 23rd RIC with 2 x 105mm short (off
Can by directed by any infantry company or the battalion HQ
Armoured groupe from 1st Armoured Division
With lightning speed the Free French 1st Armoured
Division has thrust though a gap in the German lines around Delle and reached
the Rhine, the first Allied troops to do so. Your Division has been ordered to
link up with the armoured units; and hold open a corridor to keep them
supplied. Now your regimental recce. Has reported German troops moving down
towards the highway, you`re regiment is spread thin. Your orders are to hold
open the road which runs west to east and prevent the Germans cutting off 1st
Armoured from the rest of the 1st Army. Delle is a key road junction
and highly valuable as a supply base for future operations towards the Rhine
and Germany itself and must be held at all costs.
3 rifle companies
Composite support company
2 x MMG + wagon
2 x 81mm mortars + wagon
Pak35 plus crew (2 x stielgranate 41 grenades) + Kettenkrad
Pioneer platoon in truck w/trailer (with enough mines for a high
density 6x2” mixed field) road)
Elements 106th Panzer Brigade
1 x Pz IVH
1 x Stug IIIG
1 x Sdkfz 11 mitt 20mm
Your battlegroup is supporting the main attack by the 198th
Infantry Division against the French at Delle. Your orders are to break through
French screening forces and cut the road leading from Delle to the Rhine thus
isolating French units who have already reached the Rhine east of Delle, so
they can be destroyed piece meal by counter-attacking German forces.
Weather is wet and cold with low cloud so neither side has access to air support.
The French elected to hold one company in reserve off
The SS arrive plus their support
The first few turns saw the SS advance under mortar and off table 105mm harassing fire which caused casualties.
The Stug on the track exchanged fire with the French 57mm AT guns, it managed to smash one on turn 3 but was knocked out by the other on turn 4!
Two SS platoons on the left were shot to pieces by the .50cals of the French recce, these broke and ran, a desperate attempt to rally the survivors by the 3rd company`s commander failed on turn 8.
Lucky for the SS the pioneer platoon arrived that turn also and added their weight to that weakened flank
A few more rounds of general fire fight saw the French lose most of their positions above the road, but their reserve company was about to enter the table and 1st Armoured also arrived on their far right (the SS left). At this point the SS had no chance of cutting the road, so the game ended.
French 1st Armoured