Sunday 28 November 2021

Delle, November 1944


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.

 French 9th Colonial Division

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 the AOF.

 The division took part in the invasion of Corsica in June 1944, then were shipped to Southern France the first elements landing on August 20th. Took part in the Capture of Toulon, then through September took part in the general advance towards the German/Swiss border region.

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.

The game

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.

French forces

Elements of 23nd RIC

II Battalion 23st RIC (Regiment Infantry Colonial)

Battalion HQ

3 rifle companies

 Regimental AT company

Elements of Regimental Recce battalion

Off table support

Cannon Company 23rd RIC with 2 x 105mm short (off table)

Can by directed by any infantry company or the battalion HQ

 Reinforcements (turn 10 + 1D6 from the east)

Armoured groupe from 1st Armoured Division

 French orders

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.

 German Forces

 Composite battalion 30th Waffen SS Division

 Battalion HQ

3 rifle companies

Composite support company

2 x MMG + wagon

2 x 81mm mortars + wagon

Pak35 plus crew (2 x stielgranate 41 grenades) + Kettenkrad tow

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

German orders

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 table.

The table

French deployment

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!

 The French MMGs caused heavy casualties among the advancing SS, the Sdkfz 11 mitt 20mm moved forward and silenced one gun, but was knocked out in return by the second 57mm (its second kill)

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

 With their mortars and the Panzer IV eliminating French positions on the right, it looked like the SS might well break through, but the off table 105mm bracketed the Panzer on turn 10!

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.

 Final SS positions

French reserves

French 1st Armoured

 A tough ask for the SS, maybe a few rounds of off-table mortar fire may have softened up the French? Certainly without any artillery support the dug-in French with ample .30 and some .50cal weapons backed by both battalion and company mortars and the off table Cannon Company drained the infantry companies before they could really get into the fight.


  1. Fantastic stuff as ever Richard.



  2. Looks a great game.

    My only slight reservation is that 50 cal on Recce units often seem much more effective on the wargames table than my impression of them on the battlefield. Only an impression mind - I don't have any evidence to back that up
    The main thing is that the balance of forces gave you an enjoyable game.

    1. Two .50cal cone of effects vs infantry advancing through light cover plus lots of 5s and 6s caused quite a lot of casualties, this combined with a god-awful morale check roll (double 1) meant they just broke and ran........

  3. Richard, I have enjoyed your battle reports here and on Sotcw Forum this year. Often nearest thing to our old Journal articles!!
    In case the Forum dies a sudden death, all best for Xmas and New Year. Hope the panting, modelling, gaming mojo keeps you entertained and busy in the year ahead. Carl Luxford

  4. Thank you Carl, I have tried my best to explain to Mark that the forum is important and that part of his "negative experience" is due to the fact he never, ever participated and posted anything other than during his attempts to re-take the society. If he had posted modelling, wargaming or history posts or links, it is possible that his hostile posts wouldn`t have upset people like Bannockburn Boy.

    I will keep supporting the forum as long as it exists, but as for the SOTCW - Mark has told me never to contact him again as he will not be replying on any topic!! So I guess me and The Journal are done.

    I have made many friends during my time associated with the society and wanted it to succeed and have tried my utmost for it. But the Mark has decided it is his way or the highway and I don`t back down to bullies.

    I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and a peaceful New year.

    I have lots of plans for 2022 hopefully I`ll continue on here :)