Tuesday, September 20, 2011
British Infantry and Waffen SS in Action
Northern France, Summer of '44. The British have been engaged in tough fighting through Normandy's countryside for three weeks. They are still trying to reach the city of Caen, which was supposed to be the day's objective on D-Day. By now the Germans, having realized that this is the main invasion, have begun a series of fierce counterattacks, using some of their battle-tried Waffen-SS divisions. In this post we see a company of SS Panzergrenadiers in action against a company of British Tommies which has a bit of a surprise in store for them.
The German column is advancing through a section of wooded and hilly terrain leading up to their objective. The intelligence they gathered before moving out indicated that the village and its surrounding area are not occupied.
However, the night before, the British moved into position on a hill just outside the village and lie in waiting for the unsuspecting German column to come by.
They are well dug in and concealed in the high ground. On the opposite side of the road, small ridges make it hard for vehicles to move off road. Gradually, the rumbling of engines, the clanking of tank's tracks and the shaking of the earth puts the Tommies on alert that the Germans are coming. The time to spring the trap is almost there.
Watching the column go by, the British commander waits for just the right moment, when the length of the column covers his entire front, and then gives the order to open up.
First, a bazooka man knocks out the tracks on the leading vehicle.
Then a second anti-tank round is unleashed against the trailing tank destroyer...
The Jagdtiger is also left unable to advance or retreat, and with a limited turning radius. These fearful tank destroyers have been neutralized for all practical purposes, as the absence of a turret, makes it hard for them to bring their main guns to bear against the enemy, and even if they could turn and point their guns in the right direction, the high ground is beyond the reach of the gun's maximum elevation.
But the Panzergrenadiers' reaction is instantaneous. These guys have been battle-hardened in the eastern front and know just what to do. All along the length of the column training and experience take over. They rapidly dismount, locate the source of the fire and immediately begin to pour defensive fire on it.
Even the mounted officer at the head of the column quickly doubles back and joins the fray, firing as he goes.
With bullets snapping in the air all around them and ricocheting from their vehicles, these seasoned veterans remain calm and methodically return fire.
But the Tommies are hitting them with all they've got.
Some of these guys still remember Dunkirk and have even fresher memories of the preceeding three weeks.
A hail of bullets, automatic fire, grenades descend on the German column.
Past are the initial days of the campaign when some men were hesitant to pull the trigger. Now, they are emptying clip after clip with their automatic weapons.
The British know they have the upper hand and have no intention of relinquishing the initiative.
Even the officers join in, with their side arms.
But the Germans are also firing back with everything they've got.
Using their heavily armored vehicles for cover, they manouver around them to get into the best firing position.
From behind their half-tracks,
or on top of their disabled Panzers,
All along the column, these men are making every shot count.
Their officer in charge, a highly decorated career officer, is not the kind that ducks when bullets are flying around him, and least of all today, as he is well aware that he has led his men into this trap.
But the Tommies are picking them off gradually, with well aimed shots from unsuspecting places.
However, the Germans also have some pretty lethal marksmen amongst them,
and in a moment of exposure, some of the Tommies pay the ultimate price.
The British are now laying down some heavy machine gun fire along the length of the column,
and from the high ground.
But the Germans have managed to setup a machine gun team on the opposite side of the road, which is helping to even things out.
Then the British begin to plaster the Germans with mortar fire, which given its indirect nature is very hard to defend against and will tear the Germans to pieces if they remain in their current positions. The situation is now decidedly in favor of the British.
The German officer knows they can't stay there. Unable to move along the road, or attack uphill, he decides to abandon the rest of the vehicles and fall back into the woods behind them.
But the British officer anicipates their movements...
....and he instructs the reserve platoon to move around the right flank to prevent that.
A squad is dispatched to cut off the German retreat.
Then all of a sudden, after managing to stay calm and composed through the hellish ordeal, a Panzergrenadier's scream can be heard, filled with terror.
He has spotted a flamethrower, one of the most dreaded weapons, about to open up on them. Even if the men manage to avoid the flames, the burning vehicles, loaded with ammunition would explode shortly afterwards, killing anyone remotely close to them.
Then the unexpected happens. A panzergrenadier with a panzerfaust scores a direct hit on the British man with the flamethrower. The resulting explosion not only kills several British men close by, but it creates enough of a commotion, that it allows the German retreat to proceed.
Covered by a few self-sacrificing panzergrenadiere that remain behind on the flank to hold off the pursuing British, the rest of the German survivors slip into the woods where they will regroup, and make their way back to their lines. They have barely escaped the well laid trap, but at least a few of them have lived to fight another day. Even so, the tide of the war has turned and they know it.
Here is a more detailed description of the British Infantry figures as they were being painted.
Here is a post with the entire British Infantry unit, paint job already finished.
Here is a description of the Waffen SS figures.
Here is post with the Waffen SS figures in action wearing the spring cammo pattern, defending the Siegfried Line.
Vehicles featured in this post:
Forces of Valor German Sd. Kfz. 186 Jagdpanzer IV JagdtigerForces of Valor German Sd. Kfz. 251/9 Kanonenwagen 'Stummel'
Forces of Valor German Sd. Kfz. 251/1 'Hanomag'
21st Century Toys Sd. Kfz. 251/1 'Hanomag'
Figures featured in this post:
Airfix British Infantry, Atlantic British Infantry, BMC British Infantry, Britains Herald British Infantry, Marx British Infantry, Matchbox British Infantry, Steve Weston (SWTS) British Infantry, Conte Collectibles Waffen SS, Conte Collectibles German Infantry, CTS German Infantry, Italeri German Elite Troops, Toy Soldiers of San Diego (TSSD) German Elite Troops, MPC German Infantry.