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Hell’s Highway, 1944


Second World War, Disposable Heroes, 28mm

Occasionally, Sunday is “big game day”, where we have the use of the Royal Navy Club for as long as we want. This month Jack Glanville staged a large Second World War skirmish game, using Disposable Heroes. It was all loosely set during Operation Market Garden, and pitted two British columns against a rag-tag assortment of Germans. Two sets of three 6×4 foot tables were linked together, and at the end lay a town, where two bridges crossed a river. They were the objective.DSCF1605On one set of tables a British infantry force trudged its way towards the town, supported by a scattering of British Paratroopers and some stray armoured units. The other flank consisted of a winding pastoral landscape, which led past several farms and woods to reach the town by another route. That was the line of advance of my battlegroup of Irish Guards – their first outing on the wargame table.DSCF1589Actually, the term “battlegroup” is a little grand – this being a skirmish game I only had a reinforced platoon of infantry in half tracks, and a troop of Shermans…oh .. and an armoured car. Things started off OK, and when a German LMG opened up the Huns were riddled by Besa MG fire from the Humber, and .50 cal rounds from an M5 half track. So far so good. then came two farms. As Disposable Heroes have no spotting rules, the only ways to trip an ambush are to walk into it, or to fire at everything in the hope that you’ll hit some hidden figures. Unnecessary collateral damage was deemed to be too un-British, so we opted for the blundering into ambushes option. This worked to perfection, apart from the effect it had on the half-squad ordered to check out the buildings on foot. Once the Germans opened up they were riddled by tank and machine gun fire. OK, its a costly way to do things, but it worked!DSCF1612On the other flank the British Paras ran into isolated pockets of Germans, including convoys of light vehicles which were trying to reach the town ahead of the Allies. that revealed another flaw in the rules – only one unit (half a squad or a heavy weapon) can react by initiating “snap fire”. Everyone else just lets the Germans drive past! It all came down to who fired first the next turn, which really meant who won the initiative roll. Fortunately for us the Paras won, and the German convoy was shot to pieces! That was when the Tiger appeared, knocking out a Sherman and a Sherman Firefly before mortars covered its arc of fire with smoke. By that time I’d lost my Humber armoured car to a panzershrek team, but was making steady progress up the road towards the town, flushing out more German strongpoints as I advanced. then the Tiger trundled over to my side of the table…DSCF1611If your troop of Shermans is faced by a Tiger tank you only really have two options. One is to hide, and the other is to charge. I opted for the latter. Amazingly the 88mm gun missed twice, as did a 75mm shell from a PzIV which appeared to support it. then with what amounted to ridiculously lucky die rolls one of my Sherman commanders managed to knock the beast out (that’s it brewing up below), and the advance could continue.DSCF1622At that point I had to clear off home, but the game continued – the Irish Guards losing a tank, but pushing the Germans back into the town. On the other table the British Paras stormed the town, only to be met by a hail of fire from a hidden unit of Fallschirmjagers. that left the British infantry to pick up the pieces, and as dusk fell they still hadn’t gained a foothold in the town. All in all the Germans managed to play for time, keeping the Allies from reaching their objectives before everyone had to pack up and go home. However, the Allies had a clear superiority in tanks and troops, and if battle had resumed the following day we’d have taken our objectives without much of a problem. Well, that’s my line and I’m sticking to it!DSCF1620

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