Breakout From The Ardennes, 1940

by Mal Wright & the Reynella Mongrels

Having broken through the Belgian section on the 10th and 11th, the advancing German columns encountered French resistance near the Village of SteMichel in the late afternoon of the 12th of May, 1940. In this scenario they had two approach routes, both of which converged at SteMichel. The roads therefore formed a 'V' with the open end being the German entry point. Most of the terrain was heavily wooded and the two thirds of the tabletop the Germans advance along was so dense that wheeled vehicles could not leave the road. However the last one third around SteMichel was farmland and did allow limited off road deployment. This gave some room for the French force to deploy.

At the German end the road running North/South, along the Western edge of the tabletop, was bitumen, but very narrow. The road on the eastern side was dirt, and barely a cart track in width. The latter also passed through some woods and tight defiles, which made it a difficult one to use if vehicles broke down or were knocked out. There were thick woods stretching from one side to the other, broken only by the two roads. On the eastern side a rough hill was densely wooded and seemed an unlikely approach route.

German forces comprised of a reconaissance battalion of armoured cars, three companies of motorcycle troops, a company of medium tanks and a battalion of motorised infantry. The infantry included a company in half tracks, the first time this has occurred in any of our battles for the period. No artillery was available, but there were plenty of Stuka attacks to replace the guns.

French forces included a Regiment of Dragons Porte', surely the weakest and most ineffectual military formation ever devised. These had AMR-33 & 35 tanks for recon, a 25mm Anti tank gun, motor cyclists and a small unit of motorised infantry. A French Cavalry regiment was also present, but comprised only one mounted squadron and one on bicycles. They had an anti tank gun provided for support, as well as a couple of machineguns. Backing them up were a group of French 75mm guns and four H35 tanks.

The Germans threw the French off balance by advancing via the hill that seemed the most unlikely. To do this they dismounted from their half tracks and trucks pre game, and operated on foot. Naturally everyone else was expecting them to make use of the half track Hanomags, so this achieved quite a surprise. Their first contact was with the dismounted French cavalry, which most unwisely, advanced toward them instead of remaining dug in. A short sharp engagement ensued as a result of which the Germans ran right over them and even captured their HQ. The bicycle infantry, also dismounted and dug in, similarly advanced in order to help the cavalry troopers. They put up a much stiffer resistance and inflicted casualties, although they were unable to delay the attackers for very long.

In the meantime a solitary German PzKw1 tank appeared on the bitumen road, and this seemed to be the precursor of an armoured attack. Especially as this was the best road and had the most open area to deploy in the last part of the terrain. The Dragons Porte' were holding this area and remained dug in and waiting. But the Mk1 halted after a while and there was no further German movement on that flank. A Stuka attack on the positions of the Dragons Porte' did none the less give the impression that one would be coming.

Having seen all this happening, the French CO committed his H35 tanks, in the hope of slowing the Panzer Grenadiers down, but instead the German armoured cars, and the rest of the tanks, also appeared via the dirt road. A short sharp battle ensued. Of course the French claimed this was all part of a cunning plan to block the road, but unfortunately it occurred in the segment where off road deployment could take place, so the Panzers were soon rolling around the obstruction. In addition, the victorious Panzer Grenadiers continued their rapid advance, close assaulting some of the French tanks and destroying them, before the German tanks could. It was quite a free for all.

Despite the 75s in SteMichel knocking out some armoured cars, the attack continued. Two AMR-35s were swapped to that flank, but neither lasted very long, being also taken out by close assault. German infantry poured into the fields and backyards of SteMichel, shot the crews off two 75s and took the other by close assault. With nowhere to go but to the rear, the French CO was forced to leave the tabletop altogether, as enemy troops occupied the village. The motor transport of the Dragons Porte' had been left in the village when they deployed to the left flank, so this was also over run. Now reduced to being Dragons a'Pied, these troops had their only escape route cut off and were forced to surrender.

The battle went very fast. Indeed as the German players got some excellent die rolls, the game went with Blitzkrieg speed! I was the French CO, and I think I was still trying to figure out what the heck happened an hour after the player had left. Big Trev. had commanded the Germans and set out to show everyone how fast and furious he could get through a battle under BKC.

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