The 1st Day at Arnhem, September 1944

by Piers Brand

This was the first day of a campaign centred around Arnhem during the autumn of 1944, played using 20mm scale miniatures and BlitzkriegCommander as-is, ie: with no adjustments whatsoever! We intend to continue the battle into subsequent days, using what was available historically with a few amendments here and there to get more pretty toys on the board!

We used an 12' x 6' board and represented Arnhem and Oosterbeek with buildings and decided to have the bridge 'off-board'. The British objectives on this first day was to get as much of the their force into the city while keeping open the route to the drop zones. I took the role of German CO and my freind Patrick took the role of the plucky Brits!

British Forces consisted of the following...

  • Pathfinder Company
  • 3 Parachute Battalions
  • 3 Airlanding Battalions
  • Div HQ
  • Recce Squadron
  • Artillery support
  • Anti-Tank support
  • Transport section

The initial German forces were...

  • SS-Kraft (around a battalion with light support)
  • SS-Spindler (around a battalion with light support in trucks)
  • Some artillery assets
  • One FOO

A few more German forces would make their arrival over day one but it was mainly the above that would see action during the first day.

The initial British advance went very well. The Pathfinders led the march into Arnhem closely followed by the South Staffs and, after some 'Communication' difficulties the Borders also began to follow what was to turn out to be a virtually unopposed march into Oosterbeek and Arnhem. The Recce jeeps roared down the road, stopping only briefly when one was destroyed by a Pak40 to call in mortar fire on the offending German gun... They then continued to drive into Arnhem and were last seen trying to find a Cafe...

While these troops were busy moving into the town the rest of the British advanced on the other side of the table towards Arnhem. While the KOSB waited for the transport unit to collect them, the 3 parachute battalions advanced with the A/T units in support, SS-Kraft took up defensive positions around the Pumping station in order to block their advance.

Sadly, SS-Kraft was hampered from the start by awful communication problems, and never really managed to get itself prepared for the inevitable British attack. While one Parachute Battalion by-passed the German defenders the remaining two formed up to assault the rather hasty, and poorly organised German defence. At first things seemed to look good for the Germans, their FOO attached to Kraft brought down some accurate shellfire that stopped one battalion in its tracks and had them suppressed in the woods. However this was to be their only real moment of hope in the ensuing battle for the Pumping Station!

To relieve pressure on the battalion under artillery fire, Frost led his parachute battalion into a daring assault onto the German positions. This initial assault forced the Germans who had managed to reach the pumping station to retreat, and this disorganised German retreat was then caught by the two parachute battalions and the KSOB who arrived just in time loaded on the jeeps of the transport section. While Frost's men and the KSOB flanked the Germans, Dobie's troops covered them from the safety of the Pumping Station. Suffice to say the Germans did not fair well, and Krafts troops were virtually destroyed in the ensuing firefight and also suffered from British artillery fire causing yet more casualties. With the remenants of Kraft scattered and eliminated, all that escaped from the debacle was the FOO who retreated into a house to observe the British advance.

While this battle was raging, Spindlers forces had arrived but poor communications (and my awful dice rolls!) saw them unable to make their way to their intended positions to oppose the Pathfinders and Air-Landing troops advance into Arnhem. With the destruction of Krafts forces, Spindler decided to form a new blocking line infront of the troops advancing from the pumping station.

It was at this point that things began to turn slightly more into the Germans favour. With Spindler occuping a key row of houses he had managed to get into a position to block the entire advance of the British left flank. While the German command gave up on stopping the right flanks advance into Arnhem, they were able to achieve some results against the troops that had despatched Kraft with little loss.

The first British attempts to force Spindlers position was a disaster. The KOSB were caught by very accurate heavy mortar fire and then suffered German artillery fire aswell. This not only caused many caualties but also killed their CO, Payton-Reid. Leaderless and pinned down the KOSB could do little more than take-cover and hold their position. This left the two parachute battalions to attempt to force the German position. Frost, clearly on a high from his assault on the pumping station, led another attack up the road into Arnhem, but this was beaten off by Spindlers troops firing from the safety of the houses they occupied. Dobie's troops, under harrassing artillery fire elected to remain in the pumping house, covering the route from the drop zones.

As the evening drew to a close, Frost launched another desperate attack on Spindlers position, but without support, he was again beaten off. Also more German troops began to arrive and the appearance of some German armour saw Frost elect to retire back to the area where the KOSB had dug-in under cover of Dobie's battalion.

As night fell, the British had managed to gain a significant foothold in Arnhem. Three battalions and the pathfinders had mangaed to occupy most of the buildings on the southern side of Arnhem with the Pathfinders maintaining a precarious position on the Northern outskirts of the city. From here they could observe the German troops moving and as night fell they could here German armour moving around in the dark. As these buildings were at the 'Bridge' side of the table, it was deemed that the British had control of their end of the bridge, so for the British right flank it had been a successful days advance with virtually no casualties.

However, the left flank had suffered a lot worse. After the battle at the pumping station, which caused few British casualties (one 6pdr was destroyed by stray British mortar fire), one of the casualties was to prove crucial later in the day. During the artillery bombardment that Dobie's battalion endured the FOO for the British left flank was killed, and this left their evening attacks without the benefit of adequate artillery support. The death of Payton-Reid further hindered the Bristish attempts on the left flank and forced Frost to try and force entry to the town alone. As night closed in, Frost withdrew from the outskirts of the town and dug-in with the remenants of the KOSB. Due to casualties these two battalions were amalgamated into a composite force under Frosts leadership... This force was redesignated 'Frost-Force' and during the night dug trenches with its rear secured by Dobie's parachute battalions.

While these losses were not insignificant, the British had managed to form a strong defensive line, albeit slightly disjointed in places. Crucially their route to the drop zones was secure. However, it was clear from the German troops movements in the late evening that a strong counter-attack would be put in against Frost-Force early the next day. The last event of the day saw a Tiger I prowl the streets of Arnhem, before cautiously withdrawing...

After it all, we decided that the British had definitely had a better day than the Germans. Poor communications by the Germans had led to a rather disorganised defence that allowed the British to advance almost unopposed into Arnhem on one flank. The flank that the Germans did manage to oppose had eventually been held as German shellfire disorganised the British attack. The death of Payton-Reid was a crucial moment for the British and deprived Frost of the much needed support. That one fateful shell had stopped the British from occupying Arnhem entirely.

So Day One went firmly to the British... with an Iron Cross to the German FOO who really saved the day for the Germans. But what was really pleasing was how the rules handled so many troops. It felt like a real engagement from a command view and got very tense in certain places. Even with over 300 figures on the board the turns happily ticked over quite quickly with just two of us playing. An excellent way to spend a saturday afternoon (and evening... and early hours of the morning! It was too much fun to go to bed!). It was possibly one of the best games I have played and one that 'felt' perfect!

Piers impressive 1st Airborne in 20mm scale!

1st Airborne CO

Recce jeeps

6pdr anti-tank gun

Arnhem, Oosterbeek and surrounding countryside

Arnhem, Oosterbeek and surrounding countryside

British deployment

The British advance on the Pumping Station

Artillery strike at the Pumping Station!

The paras dig-in!

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