Battle for Stonne, France, 1940

by Mal Wright, July 2007

My group in Adelaide, South Australia, recently fought Stonne. The figures and vehicles used were from a whole range of brands, with perhaps the most numerous contingent being from QRF. Rules in use were BLITZKRIEG COMMANDER.

We played out the French counter attack on the 13th of May 1940. The Germans had occupied the town the evening before after heavy fighting throughout the 12th. The leading German elements were fairly isolated, having got well ahead to seize the high ground, while the follow up troops were still struggling across the Meuse. Besides the infantry units, a small contingent of German tanks were also present. We didn't have any MkIII's available to use at the time, so PzKw 38(t)were substituted.

The battle got underway with a bombardment of Stonne by the French. However this was not as effective as might have been hoped. German artillery were initially not available other than at very long range, but units crossing the Meuse gradually took up positions nearer to the action.

For the first time in the series of linked battles we have been fighting, the French were supported by an air attack, with British 'fairy Battle' light bombers creating some damage to the German positions.

After the preparatory bombardment French infantry jumped off in a three pronged attack. One was frontal, and the other two were for the left and right flanks respectively. The major part of the French armour supported the central attack, but both left and right flank assaults had infantry tanks in support.

The attack started off rather badly for the French, as a German SiG33 gun firing in their support, knocked out one of the anti tank guns accompanying the attacking infantry on the right. Then two others with the left, were continually suppressed, move after move,preventing them from moving forward until very late in the game.

The right wing attack went badly from the start with German machineguns in Stonne pinning the attackers down with the result they made very little progress and suffered heavy casualties.

In the centre the French armour had very few infantry in support but rumbled forward. They were engaged by German panzers but mostly found their shells bounced off harmlessly, although they themselves were gradually knocked out one after another. This looked promising for the French and there was no doubt that in this tank on tank clash, they got the better of it. It was only as they drew close to the town that they realised a second group of German tanks were firing from a previously concealed position to their left, while anti tank guns to their right also joined in.

On the left the French infantry leapt forward and made excellent progress. It seemed the Germans could get nothing right on this flank and the attackers surged forward. As they approached a group of out buildings, they forced German infantry to retreat and wiped others out. However behind the same buildings were the previously unseen group of Panzers now harrassing the left flank of the French tanks of the centre. Moving into the buildings they brought these underfire, but of course the lack of proper anti tank weapons limited their efforts. However one of the infantry tanks with them managed to knock out one German tank and its companions continually suppressed the others.

It was obvious to the German commander that if his right flank troops (French left) were not withdrawn, the Panzers would be cut off due to some dense woods and rough ground preventing them from pulling straight back. He therefore ordered them to withdraw into Stonne and they did this hotly pursued by the French.

It was looking as if the French would succeed in taking Stonne as Char B's rattled into the outskirts. But at that point luck turned. German artillery scored some devastating effects and at closer ranges their anti tank guns also hit home. Such a volume of fire poured out of Stonne that the FCM tanks supporting the French right, pulled back having lost one of their number. On the left two H35's were destroyed and fire from the retreating German tanks kept suppressing their pursuers. The Char B's looked unstoppable, but a combined effort on the leading two brought results, with both grinding to a halt.

At this point a time phase was reached where an additional Battaion of German infantry were to arrive, accompanied by some additional tanks.

The new arrivals, plus the ever growing effects of the German artillery were telling on the attackers, and having reached the very back gardens of the houses of Stonne, unit after unit wavered. Realising the enemy were growing stronger and the attackers now far too weak, the French commander called off the attack.

German losses for the game were far higher than those of the French, but the reinforcements tipped the scale in their favour.

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