Beckenbauer was angry with himself at letting the British bundle him out of the last position without a fight and was determined that this time it would be different. He had already been informed by the old man that his Zug was going to be replaced if and when they withdrew from the Hauptkampflinie that they now occupied as Leutnant Hitzelberger and his 2.Zug was now ready in position around the St. Nicholas farm.
The patrol activity had been better contained than before the last fight, whilst the enemy had managed to get to the far end of the garden they had been kept mostly far away from the main position. The Zug’s own forming up points were spread more or less along the lateral road and with the good defensive positions available amongst the houses and outbuildings of this position he was confident that he’d be able to make the Britishers pay a heavy price for taking the position and repulse them once more. He was pleased to see that he had the services of one of the tripod mounted MG’s from Company HQ and a couple of extra Panzerfausts and was also glad that he still had three full strength sections, even with Ballack’s continued attempts at getting himself killed, and the pioneers had done their business on fortifying the house to the left of the crossroads. All in all ‘der Kaiser’ was pleased with his chances and a quick tour of his positions to give some last minute instructions made him feel even better, the lads were itching for the fight.
Soon the peace and quiet was destroyed by the rip of sound from the HMG in the upstairs of the fortified house as it opened up on an enemy section that had started to make its way across the garden. The stone wall that they were hiding behind only helped them a bit though and first blood was drawn and the enemy quickly responded with a superbly targeted smoke round from one of their verdamt small mortars that completely blocked the view of the gun. The Britishers were learning very fast and under cover of the smoke the shot up section ran forwards to the cover of the barns in front of the fortified house. Pretty soon smoke rounds were falling all over the place with the road leading to the enemy completely blocked by it and the chief of the gun shouted out a warning that the Tommies were using its cover to run another section over the road that started moving towards the Hayloft in the main farm complex.
Beckenbauer looked over to his right and made a hand signal to Klinsmann. The blonde Wurttemberger gave a grin back and turned to his Gruppe. “C’mon lads, into the farm”, and with that they leapt over the wall into the courtyard, Jurgen directing one of his teams into the barn on the left to cover the road while he led the other section forward hoping to reach the Hayloft before the Tommies. However the unmistakable sound of tank tracks caused him to divert his lads to the low wall in the corner of the yard to investigate and hopefully get a shot off with the Panzerfaust. Unfortunately the Sherman that hoved into view was just out of range of their rocket grenade and before they could duck out of the way the tank fired a shell at them. “Scheisser!” yelled Klingsmann “Down, down, behind the wall!!” but luckily the Tommies must have been surprised to see them appear as their aim was out and the 75mm round hit the building behind them with no ill effect on his team apart from the slight shock of the near miss. ” Right, move, move” and he dragged and kicked his 3 men back out of sight alongside the Hayloft.
It was a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire for the lads of Zweitte Gruppe however as whilst they had been playing peek-a-boo with the Sherman the Britishers had managed to run a section into the top of the Hayloft up the outside stairs and both sets of soldiers stood looking at each other through the open doors. Clearing his head Klinsmann decided what to do, “Grenades, quick chuck them up into the loft” but before his team could respond a full section of Tommies appeared through the door in front of them and all hell broke loose. When the dust had settled Klinsmann and his small band were kaput but the shock of the encounter, as well as the losses they incurred, caused the British to duck back into the safety of the downstairs room of the big barn.
While this short but bitter fight was happening the smoke that had been obscuring the view of the defenders cleared and the sight that greeted the gun team in the fortified house chilled them to the core. A huge Churchill tank was positioned in a great firing position and it had a very strange looking gun pointed at them. There was a detonation and what looked like a dustbin wobbled through the air at them and glanced off the roof. The detonation when this happened though was quite something and the gun team was dazed for a good while, their NCO still had enough wits about him though and he bundled his team out the back of the house before the beast of a tank could fire at them again. Luckily for them they just managed to miss the mortar barrage that had fallen on the crossroads which had just lessened enough in intensity to allow them to escape.
“Get that gun set up on the wall down the road, I want you to cover the farmyard. Quick, before the mortars start up again” Beckenbauer yelled at their Gefreiter and quickly looked over to the left where he had sent Breitner’s men. They were there as he had thought that the Tommies skulking round the buildings to the left of the road were going to make a dash through the cover of the orchard and try and outflank them. His fear of an outflanking move grew more and more as the enemy kept trying to drop smoke rounds in front of the hirsute Bavarian’s Gruppe. He was just thinking about ordering them forward to winkle out the hiding Tommies to their front right when the mortar barrage suddenly shifted across and increased in ferocity again. The screams that were just about audible above the sounds of the falling mortar rounds told him that Breitner’s lads were suffering. Franz punched the ground and cried out “Dumpkopf” in frustration, he just hadn’t ordered them forward in time as he was distracted elsewhere and now his lads were paying the price.
Luckily the barrage quickly stopped and Erste Gruppe had ‘only’ suffered 3 casualties and a new threat appeared. Over on the right the Sherman that had tried to take out Klinsmann and his team earlier had swung round the right of the farmyard and was looking to get into the lateral road which would have been curtains for them. Luckily the old bullet magnet Ballack was on hand and he calmly ordered his men along the hedge and said quietly “Prepare for tanks, get the ‘faust ready”. His rocket grenadier peeped through the hedge once to get an idea of where the large green vehicle was and then popped up and let loose. The rocket sped on it’s way and hit the British tank, the Sherman carried on for a meter or two then shuddered to a halt and smoke spewed out from it before it blew up in a fantastic pyrotechnic display. “Excellent Hans”, Ballack shouted above the din , “Beers and Slivovitz for you later”.
Beckenbauer’s elation at this good news quickly turned sour however as the British section that had been hiding in front of the fortified house suddenly appeared on the lateral road, they had taken advantage of the attention being shown to the tank threat and were now in a position to start rolling up the flank. Breitner and his remaining men tried to get off a volley at them but they were still feeling the effects of their stonking and so it was ineffectual. The grizzled veteran quickly assessed the situation: The MMG was now set up and was keeping the two British sections in the Hayloft pinned for now but they could easily slip out of the stairs at the back and re-deploy to the flanks. The surviving team from Klinsmann’s gruppe was still in the barn by the road but could easily make it back to the safety of the road, but that was only safe for now. Breitner’s lads were a wreck and now also effectively cut off. Yes Ballack’s men were at full strength but for how long? Especially if the enemy could get that huge Churchill into action again or start up with the mortars. No, morale was not great and he had lost 6 men as well as one NCO so it was time to pull out. With that he loaded his flare pistol and fired the signal for withdrawal. Hopefully 2.Gruppe would be able to catch up them later.
This was just about the tensest game of CoC either Des or I had played to date. Des had really upped his game making great use of smoke from his bloody 2″ mortars (are there any German players who don’t hate these things?), although the one targeting the section on the left consistently mis-aiming in the same place repeatedly was admittedly very funny. The fight in the Hayloft was sort of weird, we had a sort of Mexican standoff at one point and then Des asked if we could chuck grenades at each other, I said yes but couldn’t get the right dice (curse of the double 4’s and no 3’s) to do so and when it was his turn with a double 6 he brilliantly pushed forward a JOP so that he could deploy a section to close assault my dithering team. Unfortunately I wasn’t carrying much shock or pinned so he was facing an MG42 from the front. He lost more men than me so even though he wiped me out he had to withdraw – which I could see was plausible given the situation. I also got lucky with the ‘dustbin of death’ from the AVRE missing. I did make some stupid mistakes (I blame me still suffering from the lurgy) namely splitting Klinsmann’s team and pushing them forward like that and deploying Breitner’s team when I didn’t have to. I had appalling luck on the Bad Things Happen table too and my starting morale of 9 quickly dropped and I ended up on 4 when I decided to bail. But I did manage to cause some more casualties and maybe scare his tankers from getting too close to my infantry from now on. Let’s see how the new Zug gets on….