Date: November 21, 2008.
From 8 until 12th of November, we have played a massive wargame, on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the end of WWI. The game coincided with a exhibition of the wars that took place in the last 94 years. The chairman of our Modeling/wargame club (PMCD Mobilisatie), Erwin Heylens organized the exhibition in cooperation with the municipality of Denderleeuw.
Also present were collectors of uniforms, weapons and other militaria, documents, WOII vehicles , and a club specialized in digging up remains of airplane racks of WWII, making he whole scene museumlike.
Our club member Adrien Van Hove, took the occasion to create a titanic wargame on the battle of Arras in May 1940. The wargame table had a size of 6m on 2.4m.We used the rule of Rapid Fire. On the table were Belgians, French, English and of course, Germans. The dice decided I was the German. Historically, the battle of Arras can be seen as a major German defeat. The heavy armoured Matilda II tanks were no match for the medium and light armoued German panzers and the Panzer spearheads suffered heavy only being saved by the Luftwaffe and Rommel's decision to use the 88mm FLAK guns and heavy artillery as AT artillery.
The first day, I had to cross a bridge with only infantry, while the nearby buildings were occupied by Belgian infantry. Losses were heavy and a breakthrough couldn't be realized until I received support of 4 STUGIII ,and 2 Marders. At the same time, my motorized rece unit could cross a railroad bridge that wasn't defended.
The second day, the Belgians received support of 2 T15 (light tanks with only machine guns) and field artillery. But the Stugs proved to be to strong to resist and chased the Belgian infantry from the village and dealed with the field artillery. One marder was destroyed. In the meanwhile, the rece company made contact with the French in the castle and closeby village. The French came up with their first unit ofR17's while on the German side, a company of panzer grenadiers jointed the fight. 4 hotchkiss tanks advanced in the centre of the table, to counter,I send 2Stugs and the remaining marder to help the rece and infantry who were pined down by artillery fire, the Renault 17 tanks, and a cyclist-carabineers unit of the Belgians. Ronny, who had now the lead of the French , saw the Stugs were a to hard nut to crack for his Hotchkiss tanks of whom only two had a canon - the other two having machine guns - and decided to turn away from the Stugs to attack the pined down Geman infantry. This proved fatal, and all 4 hotchkiss tanks were destroyed, 2 by the Stugs and 2 by a flamethrowers of the infantry.
The third day, the R17 tanks faced now the Stugs and with 2 losses, they had to withdraw with a failed morale test. On the other side of the table, a French unit held a farm, with 150mm mortars in the orchard behind it. The Grman infantry with Stug support closed in and in the meanwhile the HQ company, with the heavy artillery, including 2 88mm flak guns followed up. This proved to be a fatal mistake I had to leave Patrick and Geert in command of the Germans for the rest of the day, with Siegfried, Ronny and Adrien on the allied side.
The fourth day, on my return, the situation had changed dramatically. The Germans had broken trough everywhere on the table. The rece and infantry on the left side, had, with the reunited Stug team broken French resistance in the castle and village and moved on to the next village, one motorcycle company was already at 20cm of the end of the table . The main rece force however had been confronted by a Char B1-bis company , which had destroyed the remaining marder and most of the 37mm AT guns. The Allied player had made the mistake to come to close to the infantry and lost 2 of its tanks due to flamethrower fire. On the right side of the table, the HQ company had chased forward, far in advance of the infantry and the by now on the table panzer divisions. These consisted of a mixture of Mark I, II, III and IV , and the Czech T38's. Only the Mark IV was armoured and armed sufficiently to confront modern Allied tanks, and actually not strong enough to duel with the Char1-bis or the Matilda II. My 88mm flank had only one gun left, due to the French heavy mortars that had made a double hit on them. And the heavy field artillery was hopelessly behind. One Mark II unit failed a moral test after one of their tanks was destroyed and another damaged by the R17 company on that side of the table.
The game was delayed by a team of the Flemish-Belgian National television, making a coverage on wargaming on the 11th November Armistice day . I withdraw quickly the HQ company, as the big British force would emerge any time now, and consisting almost entirely of Matilda II tanks. I did send the Mark III and one MarkIV team to support the rece and stug units by now pinned down by the 1B-bis, a Somua company, and a R35 company and a third R17 comp. An unpleasant surprise was that Adrien, who hadn't been able to purchase Matilda I tanks (lightly armoured and armed with machine guns), had replaced them with Matilda II tanks. He had done the same with the artillery : no 2pound AT guns available, so replaced by the 6 pounder guns, and 25 pound field artillery instead of 17 pound guns. This upgrade made any chance of success with my already inferior tanks impossible.
You may have wondered where the Luftwaffe was, but we not being familiarised with the air support rule, airplanes weren't present.
An obvious conclusion wouldbe to withdraw, but as the last day of the game was almost over, I made the desperate charge. On the right 3 Mark IV and the Company chief in a Mark II faced 6 Matilda's, resulting in one heavy damaged Matilda and all lost for the Germans.
On the left, the Mark III succeeded in destroying the R35, but were doomed by a crossfire of the Somua's and another Matilda team. The Mark IV's only being able to damage lightly one Somua. In the centre 2 companies of mark II's and the T38 company ,covered by smoke from the field artillery, charged the 6 pound AT position (4 guns), that was supported by two 25 pound guns and to their right with the last matilda unit. It was carnage. The German force was completely wiped out in exchange of two British AT guns. The remaining 88mm flak gun, now within range, was able to damage one matilda. The game was over. It had been a memorable game, and the Rapid Fire rule was fun. The battle ended on 11th November , just like 90 years ago, here in Flanders, not so far away from Flanders fields, where the poppies grow.
I would to express my gratitude to Adrien for setting up this fantastic game, and Erwin for giving us the possibility for gaming during the exebition. Many thank to Hät for the multitude of vehicles and figures brought out , enabling us to recreate this battle.F.i. the Belgian horse artillery limbers anno 1940 are a convertion of 2 boxes N°7005 Britisch horse artillery WWI. The French and Belgian infantry anno 1940 are also converntions of 12 boxes N° 7002 French infantry WWI also for the Belgian mounted carabiniers cyclists, and the French heavy mortars of 150mm are converted from newton 6inch mortar box N° 8112 US infantry WWI and the 7002 box .
The coverage can be found on youtube : http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5149_yn-DI
Pictures of the exhibition
2nd Panzer unit bis
MkIII vs R35
Somua's counter the MkIII successfully
Matilda vs. MkIV
Last French reserves R17
Panzer Unit Commander
The world aflame
View Allied side
The end 1
The end 2
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