Beckenbauer shook his head. The action was twofold, firstly to clear all the loose dirt that had fallen in on him from the roof of the dug-out and secondly in slight awe at the continued ferocity of the enemy shellfire that was falling on their positions – “If only we had such artillery support, eh Jurgen!” he half shouted to the other occupant of the command post and smiled at the tall Swabian – “Go and fetch Huth and his lads and take them back to Headquarters, the old man is sending us up a nice surprise for the Tommies in their place.” The NCO smiled back and promptly ducked out of the door and set about his task.
‘Der Kaiser’ thought about the mornings action and was quietly proud of his men. They had seen the Englanders (“No”, he chided himself, “Britishers – they were ‘Jocks'”) off without any casualties and the men’s morale was high, the CO was pleased too and when he asked if he needed anything Franz had jumped at the chance to request some heavier weapons and was told that a tripod mounted MG42 was on its way up. He had decided to position it where Huth’s team were in the last fight, they’d really give the enemy something to worry about and might make the use of the house a more hairy proposition. Apart from the added firepower of the HMG not much else had changed, the Granary had collapsed due to the damage that it had sustained both in the last action and the intense barrage that had started to fall as soon as the enemy disengaged. That gunfire was the reason that he was unable to push any patrols forward but he was ok with the disposition of his men , they were more or less where they were before and he’d already been round to speak to them all and was confident they knew what they were expected to do.
He was brought out of his reverie by a familiar voice – “Haven’t they killed you yet old man!” 1.Zug’s commander turned to see the Adjutant standing at the entrance and a quick salute was swiftly followed by a firm handshake. “As Klopp was coming back to HQ I guessed that would mean you would have to run around looking for Iron Crosses when the shooting starts so I thought you might need someone here to help out. I’ve also brought that MG team up with me and I’ve even managed to acquire another Panzerfaust from somewhere.”
“Excellent sir, you wouldn’t happen to have a 2 week leave pass in your pocket too?”
“Now, you know those sorts of things are not for the likes of you or I Oberfeldwebel. Stop all that nonsense and get out there with your men”.
With that Beckenbauer picked up his machine pistol, pulled his cap firmly on and, pausing only to give a quick wink to ‘Der Bomber’, left the command post. He called over to the MG team who were sheltering in a roadside ditch, told them to follow and headed off through the barrage to the forward positions. Once he reached the front he told the Machine gunners to get set up in the forward trench and to watch the house over on the left as he didn’t think the Tommies would make the mistake of coming across the fields again. He took the ‘faust off of them and gave it to Breitner’s lads who were now hidden up next to him in the hedgerows by the crossroad, having swapped places with Zweite Gruppe. However one of Klinsmann’s lads was positioned up in the Calvary with his section’s anti-tank rocket too with orders to take on any tanks using the road (he’d be useless in the ‘bunker-house’ with it). He was certain that the enemy would be using armour this time and wanted to give as many chances as possible to stop any breaking through in case Schumacher and his panzer was knocked out. Nothing else to do now but wait, and he didn’t have to for long.
Movement was seen behind the hedge that ran away from the British house and it looked like a section was headed towards their position, some more helmeted heads were seen further back and the Gefreiter in charge of the HMG team decided to try and have a go at them. In reply he received a smoke shell from a mortar that completely blinded the team, it definitely looked like the Tommies were learning! Just in case the enemy was planning on trying to jump the wall opposite the collapsed building Ballack and his men were ordered up into the ruins to hold that flank. Pretty soon the field telephone rang and Klinsmann told Beckenbauer that from his OP in the first floor of the ‘bunker house’ he had just seen an enemy section leave the British house but that he couldn’t engage them as the shelling they were experiencing had trapped his men in the cellar of the house. As soon as they could dig themselves out though they’d be engaging the target. Also, a tank was on its way up the road.
Beckenbauer quickly fired off the signal flare to tell Schumacher that it was time to bring his tank up to engage enemy armour and peered over the hedges to his front to check if the smoke was still obscuring the view of the HMG team, it was. Over on the left the enemy had managed to cross the high wall opposite the barnyard and set up to attack Ballack’s men. First they threw a grenade which wounded one of Dritte Gruppe as well as Ballack himself and whilst they were getting over the shock a smoke grenade was lobbed, the Tommies were definitely learning! Under cover of this smoke some British riflemen started to move round the other side of the Granary ruins to flank the dazed German position.
A loud crack rent the air on the right as the Zug’s attached Panzer IV fired at the enemy Sherman, but instead of the green beast bursting into flames a loud ‘CLANG’ was heard and a streak of light shot into the sky as the armour piercing round deflected upwards. “Scheisse!” Schumacher immediately ducked back into the turret just as the return shot from the Sherman slammed into the cupola. Luckily it glanced off but he was hit by some spalling in the face and had his eardrums burst as well, the rest of the crew were rightly shocked by this turn of events but he quickly ordered them to keep engaging the tank whilst he concentrated on staying conscious.
With the outlook for 1.Zug looking grim, fate intervened and a large gust of wind got up and cleared the smoke away, and to make matters even better the British guns stopped suddenly. Beckenbauer reacted quickly jumping up and shouting over to the MG team “Take out those men by the house, and tell that lad with the Panzerfaust to get ready as he might have a tank to deal with at any moment”. The MG team didn’t need telling though as they were about to open fire and soon British soldiers were falling and the survivors were running back into the house in a semi-panic. ‘Der Kaiser’ shouted out again “Keep firing at them in the house, make them run!”, and so the machine gun started up again. The section that had jumped the wall also suffered from the shift in the wind as Dritte Gruppe opened up with their two MG42’s and even though they lost another two men to return fire pretty soon they decimated the enemy and they quickly retreated back over the wall to safety taking the men that were on the outflanking manoeuvre with them.
Beckenbauer again looked over the hedge and he was quietly pleased, the British infantry had been clearly beaten again and he was feeling confident, however he was worried about the Sherman sat out on the road, it hadn’t moved for a bit and he had only seen one more round from the Panzer graze its turret. Just as he was thinking what to do next the allied tank lurched forwards, and he shouted out to the lad waiting in ambush in the Calvary to get ready. Unfortunately the worried youngster took the warning as an order and fired, the rocket hitting the ground just in front of the target which was just about at maximum range. “Verdammt!”, Beckenbaur turned to the NCO next to him behind the hedge – “Paul get you men ready with the ‘fausts, we are going to have company very soon if those poxy Panzer boys don’t do their job!”.
Unfortunately ‘those poxy panzer boys’ were still in a state of panic, with their commander drifting in and out of consciousness and their optics all out of whack from another strike to the turret they just couldn’t manage to get a shot on target and the one that they did didn’t seem to do any damage at all, again deflecting harmlessly away. This seemed to give the enemy tankers confidence and they surged forwards along the road again. Breitner was delighted and ordered his two lads to open up with their Panzerfausts, there was no way they could miss but the British tank must have been made out of lucky horseshoes and both rockets sailed harmlessly past its massive bulk. Contemptuously ignoring the infantry for now the Sherman fired once more at the Panzer IV scoring another hit which caused the German tank to back up quickly and then the hatches popped open and the crew bundled out dragging their commander with them.
The field ‘phone went off by ‘Der Kaiser’ again, it was the Adjutant – “Franz, get the men out, no sense hanging around, they might have another tank on the way and we need to fall back to the next defensive line whilst we still have an intact force”. Beckenbauer didn’t want to give up the ground they had held so well but he knew that Muller was right, they’d given the enemy a very bloody nose and were in good shape and could escape without further loss so he agreed and got the message out to his men. “Fall back to the farm”.
The withdrawal went without a hitch, the enemy tank that had broken through their lines was easily dodged as it wisely stayed buttoned up and the enemy had taken such a beating that their infantry waited for them to leave the position before moving up. Ballack’s lads that were wounded were ok to carry on and Beckenbauer assured the Saxon that he’d definitely be in reserve next time round as the medics bandaged him up again. Once again the Zug had got through a fight without any losses, apart from the walking wounded of Dritte Gruppe the HMG team had someone wounded by a sniper just at the end of the fight but, again, not too seriously. The big loss was the Panzer, but hopefully the closer terrain of this new position would mean that the enemy might not attack with armour. Even with this setback, the men’s morale was very good and he was feeling secure in the knowledge that they would perform well in the next fight.
Des started this fight at a big disadvantage, he was down 8 men so had basically lost a section not only that but his men weren’t too happy and the CO had the hump too. He had planned to compensate for this by using mortars to flatten my position and hopefully cause me to bug out to prevent heavy casualties. The Sherman was to help in this if it managed to take out the Panzer IV and to try and make the breakthrough. I was happy to just wait and see what he did and was willing to ride out the pre-game bombardment if possible without putting anyone on the board – my men’s and CO’s opinions were great and I wanted to retain as much of my strength as possible. I went for the HMG as I figured he’d keep his men in cover so wanted something to negate that and the extra ‘faust as I figured he’d bring a tank too.
Luckily for me he lost his FOO in the fog and so he had to come up with another plan on the hoof and so pushed his infantry forward. Again I got lucky, rolling a triple 6 to clear the smoke and was able to catch his men in the open once more. With his infantry shattered and broken I was actually quietly confident I could see him off again, my luck definitely seemed like it was in – I even threw well for all my morale checks not losing a point all night. That’s why I didn’t panic when it looked like I was going to lose the tank battle, I had 3 Panzerfausts he had to get past before he could get the tank off table. Obviously the dice gods didn’t like my cockiness as I missed with all 3 and then Des got a double phase to get his tank through and off the table.
Another cracking game and we can’t wait for the next instalment on Monday. We used another house rule this week, taken from the forum. Each time we rolled a double 6 we took an activation dice away from the next roll, seemed to be ok and neither of us got more than one extra bound so we’ll keep tabs on if this is an effective way to prevent ‘double 6 romps’ as we progress.
My lads came through without any casualties again and I’m sitting pretty opinion wise with the men’s morale on a +1 for the next game and the CO happy too!