Friday, March 16, 2012
Normandy, June 8, 18:20 hours
The crack of grenades was still ringing in his ears as Audet took stock of the situation. Matthieu's rifle section began to secure the hedgerow, while Pte. Leblanc checked the two prone forms left on the ground after the brief fight. One was clearly dead, but the other German was holding up his uninjured arm in an indication of surrender. Audet noticed that both Germans wore camouflaged smocks and helmet covers, unlike the ones he had seen previously, who wore their plain fieldgray uniforms. "Watch that one", he said to Leblanc.
Climbing down from the hedgerow on to the road, Audet saw Padre Huard praying by the carrier that had contained Matthieu's Bren section. The crew stood nearby, their heads uncovered. Looking into the passenger compartment, Audet saw two bodies, both covered with gas capes.
His Sten gun held loosely, Audet headed for the front of the ruined convoy, passing the burning truck in the centre of the column. It's cab was fully engulfed in flame. The crew of the lead truck were standing back from the flames, smoking cigarettes with expressionless faces. Beyond them, where the lead carriers had been ambushed, he saw Doc Armand kneeling and working beside a prone figure. Close by, two more men sprawled nearby, their battledress dusty. Dark brown stains surrounded the torn serge fabric where the Spandaus had caught them.
Cpl. Legros and several of his riflemen watched the doctor working. Audet didn't like the way they had left the road and hedgerows uncovered. He grabbed Legros' shoulder to get his attention. "Report."
"My Bren team. Arsenault and Gagnon are dead. LaRoche got one in the chest. Looks bad."
"OK. Secure this site. You and your men make sure the doc is covered. I'll call in for help. Where's Sergeant Beaulieu?"
Legros shrugged. "Dunno."
Back in the center of the column, Audet found his platoon sergeant sitting beside the road, smoking a cigarette, his eyes unfocused. One side of Beaulieu's face was splashed with drying blood.
"Is that yours?"
"I said, is that your blood, sergeant?"
Beaulieu shook his head, pointed to the carrier where the two bodies lay.
Padre Huard came up beside Audet. "I think he's in shock."
Audet pushed his helmet back and looked around. "Stay with him, Padre. Corporal Côté !"
Two section's leader trotted over to him. Audet was relieved to see that the man's eyes were alert behind his spectacles. "You're acting sergeant. Send two men with a stretcher up to help the Doc. Get the rest to secure this road until we get some help. I don't want to get hit again."
From there, Audet went over to his carrier to call his Company. He wasn't looking forward to speaking to the Major.
So the aftermath of the action is not great. For each soldier who got a killed result in TW&T, I rolled a 1d6, with the result of 1-2 lightly wounded, 3-4 seriously wounded, and 5-6 dead. The results are unkind. Two of Legros' One Section Bren team are dead, and the third is seriously wounded. Two of Matthieu's Three Section Bren team are also dead.
Since Sgt. Beaulieu's card only came up once at the end of the fight, my artistic license is that he was shocked into immobility during the fight. Having two men killed beside him evoked memories of the Great War, perhaps, hence his being incapacitated at the end.
For the Freeform Event at the end of the fight, Audet wants Sgt. Beaulieu removed from his platoon. That is a possible result on Platoon Forward's All Knowing Odds Table, but a "10" result means not now. That result isn't helped by Audet's abrasive personality and by his lack of success in the mission. Doc Armand thinks a day's rest is all the sergeant needs, and Major Charpentier agrees with the Doc. It looks as if Audet will be stuck with his crusty old sergeant for a while yet.
Now there are two rolls to be made on the Fixed Events table.
The first is a 5, Player Character. The subsequent roll is a 4, Character Noticed. A subsequent roll of 5 means that a squad leader has been noticed, and that squad leader turns out to be Legros. Legros has been noticed by his surviving section mates. His coarse personality does not help, but the roll is a "5" on a 1d6, so that is not a bad result. Turns out that what's left of his section thinks Legros has done a pretty good job of keeping them alive, and they blame Audet for their casualties.
The second Fixed Equipment roll is a 2, meaning Equipment. The result is a "5". meaning additional rounds of somethig. I decide that since Division has learned some lessons from its contact with 12th SS, extra PIAT anti-tank rounds will be issued. No 18 Platoon will get a case of three PIAT rounds to go with their PIAT and its six standard rounds. Someone will have to carry that gear.
Sadly, no replacements are available for No 18 Platoon for now.
Audet has limited opportunity to interact with Major Charpentier, but he senses that his Company Commander is acting cool to him. Audet knows thay Doc Armand and Padre Huard have spoken well of his conduct in the ambush, particularly during the melee in the hedgerow. However, he fears that Charpentier may have deflected any displeasure from the Colonel onto Audet's shoulders, rather than accept the blame for ordering a road move in an area that is still unsecured. Audet was hoping for some recognition for bringing back a prisoner from 21st Panzer Division, but Charpentier treated this as nothing very special.
Before he retires for the night, Audet draws up this roster for No. 18 Platoon.
Platoon Commander: Lt. Denis Audet with one soldier as a signaller with the platooon radio set.
Platoon Sergeant: Sgt. Beaulieu (ordered to rest for a day)
No 1 Section: Cpl. Legros and four soldiers, plus one soldier who is recovering from serious wounds. Audet has decided to use the section as a Bren team plus to have one soldier carry the platoon PIAT and others to carry the PIAT rounds.
No 2 section: Cpl. Côté and six men, plus one soldier recovering from serious wounds and two recovering from light wounds. Cote has the section organized as a two man Bren team and himself with four soldiers as the rifle team.
No 3 section: Cpl Matthieu and seven men. Matthieu has the section organized as a three man Bren team and himself with four soldiers as the rifle team
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The ambush scenario in Platoon Forward requires the side being ambushed to traverse a table from one edge to another. Accordingly, I set up this Normandyish scene with a main road and some side roads. The blinds on the board indicate possible German ambush sites, which are rolled for randomly as per PF's mecnahism for determining the type and number of OPFOR. As per the ambush rules, the ambushing side has six turns to wreak havoc before relieving forces come to the rescue, at which point the game either ends or is continued with the ambushing side taking on the relievers. The ambushers are outnumbered by a factor of 1-3 or thereabouts.
As with other Denis Audet games, I am playing them solitaire, using Too Fat Lardies' Troops, Weapons and Tactics rules. Normally I would use 20mm or 1\72nd scale rules for these games, but given the number of vehicles needed for the convoy I am using my 15mm kit. All the infantry shown below are manufactured by Battlefront, as are the carriers. The trucks are from Old Glory. The buildings are from Paper Terrain by Scitt Washburn, which I highly recommend for affordable buildings.
Cpl Legros leads the way with three section as the convoy sets off.
"Is he going to be decorated?" Audet asked Dr. Armand as their carrier clattered along a narrow dirt road.
"He should be." The RMO was referring to Pte Roy*, from the regiment's antitank platoon. He had been found dead beside his 6 pdr gun, and everyone was saying that his actions were deserving of the Victoria Cross. "If it hadn't been for Roy and his gun, the Jerries would have overrun A Company. Hell of a way to spend our first night in France."
"A decoration would be good for us, for the Regiment" said Audet. He allowed himself a brief vision of being at Buckingham Palace and having the English king pin a medal on his dress uniform, maybe an MC. That would be good.
The Canadian convoy enters further on the board. The first blind in the village is a dummy blind. Phew! But wait a moment ... the second blind is the real deal, Gefreiter Letkeman and his panzer grenadiers.
In the back of the carrier, the Chaud's chaplain, Padre Huard,** was dozing, his head pillowed against a canvas satchel stuffed with medical equipment. He and the RMO were good friends, and often entertained their fellow officers with debates about science and religion. Audet, not much of a churchgoer, felt uncomfortable around the padre, but he acknowledged the good he did to the men. Huard's simple burial service for Cpl Yergeau two days ago had meant a lot to the men of 18 Platoon.
Looking ahead, from his place in the middle of the column, Audet saw Sgt. Beaulieu in the carrier ahead of him, along with the three man Bren gun team of Cpl. Matthieu's Three Section. Ahead of them was one of the three lumbering trucks they were escorting, and ahead of it was Matthieu with his rifle team. Leading the convoy was Legros with 1 section, in the lead two carriers, with the lead truck between him and Matthieu. Looking back, Audet saw the rear most truck, and behind that, he knew, Cpl Cote and two section brought up the rear. From what he could see of him, his men were enjoying the novelty of riding instead of marching, and the gradual cooling of the oncoming evening was pleasant.
Achtung! Gefreiter Letkeman watches and awaits his opportunity. Battlefront Miniatures painted by my friend James Manto.
Letkeman signalled his men to prepare to fire. He wished he had some panzerfausts to see off the little tracked carriers, but Leutnant Krauss had said they were reserved for the frontline boys and couldn't be wasted on raiders. At least he had four Spandaus to put to good use. Just a moment more, let the two lead carriers pass, then the first truck, let that get into his other LMGs' field of fire, now a second truck ... "FIRE!"
The situation at the moment the ambush is sprung. The middle truck and Beaulieu's carrier are right in front of Letkeman. The two lead carriers with Legros' section are passing one of Letkeman's two LMG teams.
The third LMG team is sited with a clear line of sight down the road, able to engage the head of the column. It opens fire head on at the two carriers with Legros' section on board.
Sgt Beaulieu was telling the boys how they were spoiled having these little carriers, and how in the Great War he had been lucky for a ride in a stinking boxcar on the occasional train. "Marched our feet to nubs, we did."
Private Cournoyer, the No 2 on the Bren, laughed obligingly, just as all hell broke loose. He pitched forward, and Beaulieu felt something hot splash across his face. Old instinct kicked in, and he threw himself down in the back of the carrier, then felt a heavy weight as someone fell on top of him.
Behind him, Audet's eyes widened as he saw two men in the carrier ahead of him topple over, then was thrown off balance as his own carrier braked hard. He could hear at least two MGs, the distinctive Jerry sound, like canvas being ripped hard, sending a chill down his spine. The fire all seemed directed forward of him, and he could see muzzle flashes from the hedge about twenty five metres ahead and to his left. Now he could see two men leaping from the back of the carrier ahead, Beaulieu and another soldier with a Bren gun, and crouch behind their vehicle. Ahead of them was a loud WHOOOMP as the middle truck exploded into a fireball. He didn't see anyone get out.
Doc Armand and the Padre looked around them, their faces alarmed. "Stay down!" Audet told them, his mind racing.
The first two turns don't go well for the Canadians. The MG fire from Letkeman and one of his half sections causes two casualties on the passengers in Beaulieu's carrier, both from Matthieu's Bren team. The carrier crew must take a morale check and fail resulting in the passengers bailing out and the carrier retreating. Beaulieu and the surviving Bren gunner bail out. They get a few ineffectual shots off before taking covef under a hail if German kead. Letkeman's other section opens up on the truck, causing many hits, killing the crew and destroying the vehicle. It explodes. At the head of the column, both carriers transporting Legros' section fail their morale checks. The one carrying Legros and his rifle team turns to flee, while the second, carrying his Bren team, gets a result of passengers dismount.
The German's opening fire ends the first of six turns. The first draw of the second turn is, incredibly, the Tea Break card. Not a bad way to simulate shock and fear among the ambushed. The Germans open fire again. Legros' Bren team suffers two casualties. Beaulieu and the remnant of Matthieu's Bren team take several shock points. German fire is less effective this turn. Canadians cower.
A truck burns while Beaulieu and another soldier have scrambled out of their carrier and try to take shelter.
Turn 3 and the Canadians start reacting. The lead truck halts, its crew scrambling for the ditches. The rearmost truck's driver panics, and tries to reverse on the narrow road. Unfortunately, he does this as Cote tries to push forward. One of his carriers rolls badly and collides with the reversing truck, jamming both vehicles and blocking most of the road.
The two lead carriers retreat towards the centre of the column, leaving Legros' hapless Bren gun team cowering on the road, where they are all shot down. When Legros' car finally comes up, he is able to dismount, and directs his rifle section at one of Letkeman's two half sections.
Legros in action. Canadians begin to fight back.
Cpl. Cote is activated, and while his Bren team scrambles dazed from the wreck of their carrier, Cote leads his rifle team through the hedge and begins to try and outflank Letkeman. They get a few shots off and the shock begins to mount on the Germans.
Cote begins to stalk Letkeman, who is feeling less than comfortable now.
Audet is now activated. Leaving the Padre and the Doc in the relative shelter of the carrier, he goes to join himself to Legros' rifle section. That's Audet on the left, pointing decisively.
More Canadian reactions. Cpl Matthieu leads his rifle section to shelter behind the burning truck, and opens fire on Letkeman, who is now taking fire from three sides.
The German LMG team posted at the far left has a clear shot down the road and takes out the lead Canadian truck. All three trucks are now immobilized or burning.
Gefreiter Letkeman, a veteran, knows that the Tommies are over their shock and outnumber him. One of his half sections has taken a casualty. Time they were going. Joining one half section, he directs the other to withdraw a bound, set up their LMG, and cover his withdrawal. That way they will leapfrog back and break contact, trusting his other LMG teams will do the same.
Every game with Audet includes one use per game of the Heroic Commander card. Audet is a jerk, but he's a brave glory hound and the Heroic Commander card allows him to do something incredibly brave and rash. The HC card comes up now, just after Letkeman begins to pull back. Sensing that the German fire is slackening, Audet grabs Legros' arm, and waves his Sten at the hedge with his other hand. "A l'assaut les boys!" The Canadians charge forward, and roll enough movement dice to push through the hedge and into Letkeman and his half section. The ensuring Close Combat is a near thing, but the result is that the Germans lose two men and take some shock. They lose the melee and fall back 12 inches. Letkeman survives and his men fade away into the Norman countryside.
The ambush is over.
That charge concluded the fighting. The two German LMG teams break contact. The Germans lost three men. The Canadians had suffered five casualties, and the severity of these casualties will be checked in the next installment. Audet's mission had failed. The convoy would not get through. Two trucks were destroyed, with two crew killed. A third was damaged, along with a carrier. Not the outcome Audet had hoped for, but at least he has survived and has a sharp little fight in the hedgerows to point to, witnessed by the RMO and Padre from the carrier.
In our next installment, perhaps tomorrow night, we'll see what the result is for Audet.
*Pte L.V. Roy did exist. He and his 6 pdr played a vital role in protecting the Chaudiere's A Coy on the night of June 6-7. when they were nearly overrun by halftracks and troops from 21st Panzer Division. Roy never received a posthumous decoration but is still remembered in the Regiment today.
**Padre Huard also existed. He was a Roman Catholic priest serving as the regiment's chaplain in Normandy, and by this account, he was a good 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.