Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Audet Ambushed: A Platoon Forward Action, Part One
Readers of this blog from a while back will remember my WW2 character, Lt. Denis Audet, who came to light using Joe Legan's campaign and scenario generator, Platoon Forward. Audet is a young, brash and egotistical platoon commander leading No. 18 Platoon of Le Régiment de la Chaudière , a French Canadian infantry battalion taking part in the first days of the Normandy campaign.
Audet has survived two engagements. On D plus one he led a successful platoon attack on a hill, and on D+3 he took a village church that the Germans were preparing to use as an observation post. As a result of that second action he earned the notice of his Company Commander, Major Charpentier, which is great because Audet is as ambitious as Lucifer. Audet's platoon is relatively unscathed, having lost 1 man killed and one seriously wounded in the first action, and two lightly wounded in the second. The dead man, Cpl. Yergeau, led section one and was replaced by Cpl. Cote, who was promoted from within the section.
Audet's men respect his courage, but they also recognize that their platoon sergeant, Denis Beaulieu, is hostile to Audet. Beaulieu is a veteran of the Great War and wants to get through this war in one piece. Two of the section leaders, Legros and Matthieu, are part of his clique, whereas Cpl. Cote, who leads two section, is ambitious and educated, and wants to hitch his star to Audet's.
Here's a quick summary of the cast of characters:
Audet's boss is Major Michel Charpentier, OC D Coy. Not the best soldier in the army
Combat Temperament: Even
Combat Leadership: Level 1
Background: Average family
Special Skills: Fluent Anglophone
Platoon Commander: Lt. Denis Audet Lvl 3 Big Man
Not fluent in English
Platoon warrant officer: Jean Beaulieu, Level 2 Big Man
Motivation: Hedonistic. He is a Level 2 Big Man. Beaulieu is a veteran of the Great War who reenlisted. He is emerging as Audet's nemesis. Audet wouldn't mind getting rid of him.
No 1 section (Cpl Jean Legros and seven men, - 1 wounded and 1 (Legros) promoted in first action)
Cpl Legros Personality: Coarse
Motivation and Interest: Position (wants to get ahead)
Combat Temperament: Bold
Combat Leadership: Level Two Big Man
Background: Son of a military family
No 2 section (Cpl and six men, minus one badly wounded in first engagement and two recovering from lit wounds from the second engagement)
Sgt. Pierre Cote
He can speak English well - he learned it at seminary but when the the war came he left his studies to enlist. Now that he's seen the world, he would like to get ahead in it as something other than a priest. Level 2 Big Man.
No 3 Section: Cpl. Louis Matthieu and nine men
He and Beaulieu are tight since he's a natural scrounger and trader and manages to get a lot of creature comforts for Beaulieu and his cronies. Francophone only. Is sure that there's a way to get rich out of the war. Level 2 Big Man.
Optimally the sections are divided into a six man rifle team and a three man Bren gun team. One and Two sections are under strength and Audet has not yet received any replacements.
Ok, enough recap, on with the story.
Normandy, June 8, 17:00 hours.
Denis Audet was pleased to be summoned to see his company commander. After he had delivered his report and prisoners to Charpentier that morning, he had sensed that the Major was pleased with his work and had been hoping for good things all day. No. 18 platoon had been relieved from the little village they had captured that morning and been allowed a rest in regimental lines that afternoon. Word around the lines was that their Division was being heavily engaged by German counterattacks and that it wasn't going well.
"Hello, Audet.". Salutes has been left behind in England, thanks to German sniping. Charpentier lit a briar pipe and Audet briefly considered whether the type a la pipe look would work for him, He didn't think it would. "The corporal you brought in as a prisoner told us about a German field hospital belonging to their 716th Division, about five kilometers from here." The major pointed to a map with his pipe stem. "As you know, things are still pretty unsettled between here and the sea. We're still getting stragglers and fellows wanting to surrender, and some who want to keep fighting. Too much work for the Provos to handle, which is why D Company has been tasked with rear area security for now. Captain Armand, the Regimental Medical Officer, is not too busy right now and wants to see this hospital. The Jerries are just waiting to surrender to someone, so it might as well be us. Is your platoon rested from this morning?"
Rested enough, Audet thought. "Yes, sir." When he had last seen them, he had thought they had been resting too much, and he had ordered Sgt. Beaulieu to get them busy cleaning kit and stripping weapons.
"Good. I want your platoon to escort the RMO to this Jerry hospital so he can assess the situation. Your men can provide security overnight until we can get Brigade to collect them tomorrow sometime. Hard to tell when that will be exactly with the Germans pushing back at us/"
"How's it going, sir?".
Charpentier looked thoughtful as he drew on his pipe. "Tough going. Brigade says we're up against their Hitler Youth Division. Crazy Nazi kids with good leaders. Well equipped. This could take a while. The sooner I have your platoon back tomorrow the better, as we'll likely be going into divisional reserve soon. I've assigned you transport from carrier platoon and some lorries the doc requested to move the seriously wounded. The walking wounded can march to the beach. So go report to the RMO and get over there before sunset. Secure the place tonight, and once the redcaps show up in the morning, help them get Jerry to the cages, and then get back here. Questions?"
"No sir." Charpentier nodded dismissal, and Audet left the little cottage serving as D Coy headquarters. It sounded simple enough, and there might be the chance of some loot, either a Luger for Papa or maybe something shiny for Yvette. And if what the Major said about those Hitler kids was true, there would be fighting to come, so an easy job and a bit of a rest would be good. Audet smiled as he remembered what the Major had said about him getting the job done. That was a sign of good things to come.
He began looking for Sergeant Beaulieu to give his warning order. The grizzled old guy would not be happy. He never was with any mission. Tant pis. Too bad. Another good job under his belt and Audet felt he could persuade Major Charpentier to take the old Sergeant off his hands and let him promote Côté in Beaulieu's place. Audet found Beaulieu's negative attitude annoying, and he was sure it was rubbing off on the boys. Maybe two wars were too many for Sgt. Beaulieu.
Gefreiter Willi Letkeman watched the Tommy jeep pass by in a cloud of dust, and was pleased that hits panzer grenadiers had remained calm. The section's two MG42s could easily have finished off the little vehicle, but he was after bigger game. The Tommy's motor had faded, the driver unaware that he had also passed Letkeman's two LMG teams three hundred metres further down the road. Those teams had also kept silent, under orders not to fire unless they heard him shoot first. Letkeman was satisifed with his men's fire discipline and concealment. He had orders to ambush supply or troop convoys, and to remain in position until sunset, at which time he was to pull back and return to battalion. Letkeman looked up at the sun and judged another two to three hours of light. This little road was quiet, but he was confident something good would come along. Until it did, they would wait.
So, as you can see by this sinister piece of foreshadowing, it might not go so well for our brash and rather shallow hero in his next fight. In the aftermath of the morning's church battle, the PF system generated a result that a non player character wanted to tag along with Audet on the next mission, and that led me to think of the RMO. Why would he want to tag along? Something of a medical nature, and given the fluid nature behind the front in the first few days, a German field hospital wanting to surrender seemed a good idea. In fact, I believe an incident like this is mentioned in one of Mark Zuelkhe's books on the Canadians in Normandy. The idea seems sound.
Now the bad news. The next mission rolled is an ambush. Normally in Platoon Forward, you play the ambusher, but with an idea already in mind for Audet's mission, it seemed to make sense that he would get bumped, either by cut off German dead enders or some of the 12th SS? Well, Audet's had a good few scraps. Let's see what happens when things don't quite go his way.