“Don’t worry sir, we’ll get it done”, and with that Leutenant Hitzelperger gave a smart salute and left headquarters to see to his men. After 1.Zug had been beaten back, 3.Zug were supposed to have had a go at kicking the Yanks back door in but had been prevented by a Jabo attack. Hitzelperger was still smarting after his unit had suffered the same fate earlier and also wanted to show the CO and that upstart Beckenbauer that he could be successful where others had failed, and if he had been able to carry out his initial attack they would be on the objective by now.
He had taken advantage of some better patrolling and also didn’t want to make the same mistakes as the initial attackers had so had decided to concentrate his attack along the right, hopefully crossing from ‘his’ hedgeline to the ‘American’ hedgeline at the place where the distance was shortest and was out of the view of any men stationed in the houses. As the patrolling had identified this spot as a likely place the enemy would be manning he decided to take it under fire with one of his Gruppe and an Infantry Gun from the support chaps. When this force had won the firefight here another Gruppe spearheaded by a Flamethrower team would advance and secure the hedgeline before rolling up the enemy position. His remaining Gruppe would face across the field to the end of the wood where the wire was located as it was also likely that the enemy had forces there and hopefully they could cover any nasty surprises popping up. He entered the building where his men were waiting, quickly went through the plan again with his NCO’s and that grinning idiot Klopp from HQ who was coming with them to assist, and waited for the guns of the artillery to start up before leading his men out.
As soon as they reach the forming up point the Leutenant turned to his men “Right, Krankl move your men over to the left and cover that flank, the rest of us will be moving out soon but we need you to cover us first”. The wiry Austrian’s heart sank, ‘cover us’ actually meant ‘draw the enemy’s fire so we know where they are’ but orders were orders and so he moved off through the orchard and across the next paddock. Soon afterwards some Americans were spotted along the hedgerow and the young officer motioned to Klopp to join him, “Feldwebel, take 2.Gruppe and the gun, get up to the hedge and blow those Yanks away. I’m going to stay here with the rest and wait for the right moment to attack. Understood?”. Klopp nodded grimly and moved his small command out knowing full well that the enemy would have the drop on them.
Just then the horrible sound of exploding mortar shells erupted where 3.Gruppe had moved off to and an agonised scream was heard as they were caught in a well aimed stonk. Pausing for just a moment Klopp told Rumminigge to get his men up to the hedge and to start firing whilst he saw to the siting of the gun. As 2.Gruppe reached the hedge his fears were realised and they were hit by a terrific volley which ripped through the cover momentarily checking the men with the shock of the sudden, violent contact. They quickly regained their composure, however and poured their own fire back which was joined by the fire from the gun. This combined fire must have been effective though as the enemy mortar fire started to slowly shift towards them so as to neutralise the threat they must have been on the enemy infantry. Klopp made sure that they ignored the approaching barrage and kept firing although, unfortunately, 2.Gruppe was not having the best of luck with quite a few men being hit including Rumminigge who suffered a slight wound.
Then all of a sudden the mortar barrage stopped. Hitzelperger immediately left the Flamethrower and 1.Gruppe with the Adjutant to await his signal to advance and ran over to see what had happened to 3.Gruppe. He found Krankl wounded but organising his men and helped to restore order. They had lost a few men but were reasonably ok and he ordered them forwards telling the Stabsgefreiter to make for the wood across the road and to try and work round to the left when he thought it was safe to do so. Meanwhile over on the right Klopp and his force had finally won the firefight duel with the Americans who’s few survivors broke for the rear dragging their wounded NCO with them, and he grabbed one of the wounded men from 2.Gruppe telling him to let the Leutenant know now might be the time to launch the attack on the enemy.
Before this could be organised however another squad of the enemy appeared in the same position along the hedge but Klopp and his lads had the range good and proper now and laid down a furious fire that seemed to do great damage to the enemy if the slackening in return fire was anything to go by. When the flamethrower then hit the enemy as it came onto the line it helped finish off the survivors with that the flame team surged forwards followed by the newly arrived 1.Gruppe. Klopp was just thinking that the end must be in sight when all of a sudden the world to his left and front disappeared in a maelstrom of noise, dust and metal as another mortar barrage hit. Luckily it didn’t last very long and had missed both the Feldwebel and the attacking force, as well as only hitting one of the gun team but it had destroyed the survivors of 2.Gruppe, all were casualties apart from one dazed landser.
As this was happening on the right Krankl had began to move his men towards the wood when they were caught by the combined fire of both a squad in the first house and an Anti-Tank gun that suddenly revealed itself in the wood by the wire. His men were pinned under this murderous crossfire and pretty soon the surviving member and the wounded NCO were running back to where they started. Hitzelperger had also thought that the Americans must have been defeated and now he was worried that his men would be the ones breaking but luckily all enemy fire stopped and soon the men advancing on the right sent back a message that they could see the Yankees streaming for the rear They had done it, only just, and at a terrible cost but they had done it. The road to L’Abbaye Blanche was open.
This was one of the tensest and bloodiest games of CoC that both Dan and I had played in a long while with both of us having periods where we were on top and both desperately trying to get that final hit on the other to cause a rout.
I very nearly pulled out early doors after the first gruppe was caught by the initial mortar barrage and the second gruppe started taking casualties from the enemy squad across the field, especially as both their JL’s were wounded too. I managed to roll a triple 6 though and then it was my turn to start racking up casualties on the Americans and I thought the tide had turned. However Dan carried on his great rolling on the BTH chart from last week whilst I carried on my bad rolling which was of some concern as he started with a FM of 11 and I started on 9.
After seeing off the first American squad Dan chucked another into the grinder at the same place definitely looking to finish off 2.Gruppe but I lucked out again with some double phases and poured fire on from the gun and remaining MG42’s with a dash of help from the Flamethrower and some appalling luck on Dan’s rolling for hits saw the second squad finished off with only the wounded SL and JL’s present remaining. I really thought it was game over for Dan but he managed to get the mortars into action again, virtually wiping out 2.Gruppe. He also battered 3.Gruppe, that I had stupidly left hanging out in the open whilst I concentrated on destroying the enemy to the front, with a terrible crossfire virtually wiping them out before they broke. Again, luckily, I managed to cancel the mortars, this time by using a CoC dice which also saw the surviving members of his first squad rout off the table and it was now the last chance saloon for both of us with his FM at 3 and mine at 2.
My intact section with the flamethrower were in a great position to take a JoP and then take on the American’s in the house with the Infantry Gun helping out and I was hoping that would be enough for the win, as long as Dan’s mortars didn’t start up again. When he failed to get the mortars again and wouldn’t be able to call on them for the rest of the battle Dan decided to pull out much to my relief. The one thing I did learn in this fight above everything else was this: if you are playing Germans get yourself a le18 75mm IG, why has it taken me this long! Dan declared it the man of the match, it only has 6 HE but the ability to drop cover by 1 and hitting on a 4+ makes it punch well above its weight.
As for the state of 2.Zug. Their opinions first, they started on 1 & 1 and after the battle these had dropped with the CO’s opinion on 0 and the men’s (not surprisingly given the casualties taken) at -3. They are also pretty much a spent force with 4 men dead in both 2. & 3.Gruppen so I’ve decided to consolidate the survivors into one full strength Gruppe under the surviving 3.Gruppe JL and am sending the 2 ‘spare’ men to 1.Gruppe/1.Zug to replace their losses from the last fight. Next up is the village fight in L’Abbaye Blanche with the full strength 3.Zug taking on what I estimate to be a full strength American platoon backed up with a bunch of MG’s and AT guns so, should be easy?!