First fight at Fontenay

0415 Hours, 25 June 1944 and LT Hardacre of 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers is wondering where his men are. He can hear voices around him, and a tank somewhere, but since he can only see five yards in the mist he is really not that confident that all his men have followed him…

No 1 Section is there though, so he sends them down the road. Looming through the murk he sees the reassuring outline of a Sherman from the Sherwood Rangers. The Mortar Fire Controller shows up next, so Hardacre sends him down to join the infantry, wondering what good he will do if he can’t actually observe. Then 3 Section appears, and Hardacre leads them to join 1 Section and commence the attack. Meanwhile on the other flank, SGT McTavish has navigated his way successfully to the farmhouse where he will be joined by 2 Section, and he settles down to wait for them.

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1 Section begins its advance

The defenders, a zug from III battalion, SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, have had their sleep disturbed by yet more ‘drumfire’ from the British. They have been in action since 7 June and the amazing level of support the British have has been a very unpleasant surprise. After the barrage lifted, Oberscharfuhrer Uppe deploys two of his very depleted sections as a precaution, but he’s not sure what they will see in the miasma of mist and smoke that enshrouds the battlefield.

One of Hardacre’s men reports that he thinks he has found the house to the left of the road. He sends PVTs Fraser and MacDonald off to investigate. There is a short burst of German MG fire, and then silence returns to the battlefield. So the house is occupied…

Hearing the MG fire above the noise of his idling engine, the commander of the Sherman edges forward. Suddenly there is a deafening crash as a PaK 40 opens up at point blank range. The shot glances off the glacis plate, and the tank driver stalls the engine. Desperately the tank returns fire, but the gun crew are made of sterner stuff, and they put a round through the side of the tank, luckily missing the ammunition stowage. The gun crews’ jubilation is cut short when they are killed to a man by a section of vengeful Scotsmen.

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Surprise!

Meanwhile, 3 Section hear another tank, and this one sounds different from a Sherman. Suddenly a Pz IV appears. Firing its guns wildly it charges into the section, who escape into the mist. They form up outside the house, and wait for 1 Section to clamber over a high stone wall to join them.

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3 Section do a runner

With bloodcurdling screams the Scots charge into a hail of bullets from the defending SS. After a fierce melee three Scotsmen and one German, Oberscharfuhrer Uppe, are the only men left standing. LT Hardacre decides it is pointless to continue the attack and gives the order to his men to withdraw. Sadly, his lamentable performance in Utterley Grammar School sack races still shows in his military career and he is unable to shift his portly frame back over the wall, and he is rounded up by the Germans. For him the war is over. Meanwhile SGT McTavish wanders off in search of 2 Section.

Commentary

This was the first game in the Too Fat Lardies’ Pint-Sized Campaign for Operation Martlet, played using the Chain of Command rules.

I’m not sure that the designers intended for the mist to have any effect on the game apart from giving a chance for units to get lost on the way to the table, although I figured that with five to ten yards visibility (accounts vary), it really should. We didn’t use or invent any blind firing rules, all shooting was close combat. The most sensible idea from the group for blind firing was to halve the firing dice, but I might suggest a maximum range as well. I used the rule for swirling mist from the Noville scenario in the Lardies’ 2016 Summer Special, where visibility varied based on the net number of 1s and 6s from a dice roll each turn, but this was never positive.

The player for the Scots mentioned afterward that he had forgotten that there were two ways of obtaining a victory in the ‘Probe’ scenario – by breaking the defenders, or by getting a team to the defenders’ baseline. If he’d tried for the latter I reckon he would have been in with a chance.

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