Breaking the line


This battle was created using the scenario generation and points systems adapted for Great War Spearhead from the system created by Keith McNelly. Keith's original WW2 system can be found here. A copy of the Great War system is available here.

The game was played between Robin and Nick Sutton, in Christchurch, New Zealand. We found that the scenario generation system created a truly exciting game that took us about three and a half hours to play, although Nick was a relative newcomer to the game system, and so early play turns were relatively slow. However they quickly sped up, and the game hurtled to a nail biting conclusion. We hope that this AAR communicates some of the excitement we felt during the game.


Background

The scenario was set in France in 1915. The British force was composed of two divisions of regular infantry, each with two of its three Brigades available for the attack. The two divisions had most (but not all) of their divisional artillery, and two regiments of Corps guns had been allocated for the attack: one each of 60pdrs and 6" guns.

The German force comprised one division, with all four of its regiments available, although each was slightly under strength. The division was supported by a regiment of Corps 210mm howitzers.

Both commanders allocated their heavy corps guns to counter battery missions.

The British commander decided to attack on his right (the bottom of the picture - the game was being played across the table). Two brigades would attack around either side of 'The kidney', the feature nearest the camera with the green counter on it. This did however mean that 2 Brigade had to move past 'The pimple', the high feature topped with a redoubt of its own (seen just below the 2 Brigade command arrow). This had to be neutralised by the bombardment. His third brigade would attack through the centre to isolate and capture the bridge in the centre of the battlefield, also an objective, while his fourth brigade would hold his left against possible counter attack.

The 3 day preliminary bombardment took quite a toll on the centre German regiment, eliminating its defending MMG company in its pillboxes, while the infantry too took quite a pounding: their morale was shaky after three days of constant gunfire, but they held firm  (a morale check was forced at the end of the bombardment, but the regiment passed - and Nick had quite a grin on his face!!).On the British right the German infantry also took quite a pounding, but stood firm, although British commanders were very satisfied with the results of the wire cutting plan implemented by their field artillery regiments.

As the barrage ended German artillery began an intensive counter battery programme which caught 1 Division's 60pdr regiment by surprise: the regiment took such heavy casualties that it was unable to deliver any of the essential supporting fire to the division which was an essential part of the division's fire plan. The first wave of the British 1st Brigade stormed forward as whistles blew all along the line. 1 Brigade rushed forward, and was quickly into the German front trenches, but they had stayed  a little too close to their advancing barrage: many men lay pinned down in no mans' land by friendly fire. Their position wasn't helped by a devastating barrage from a regiment of German 105's that pinned down many more men, and 1 Brigade's casualties were starting to mount.

2 Brigade was also able to quickly get into the German front line trenches, but it's leading troops were also a little too eager and ran into their own barrage. The overly enthusiastic first wave pushed on past the first lines of German trenches, but these impetuous troops were quickly eliminated by a fierce German defensive barrage, and those troops that had penetrated the first line were quickly bombed and shot out of the line. So the surviving troops of the first wave sat in no mans land, hung up in their centre on a line of uncut wire. This was not shaping up well, and casualties were starting to mount.

However 1 Brigade wasn't to be dallied with, and they quickly set about clearing the front line of the remaining stubborn defenders.  Stubborn they were: they weren't going anywhere in a hurry, and were clearly determined to force the British attackers to pay dearly for any gains they might make. Fierce close quarters fighting took place, with the remaining German front line defenders well supported by their machine gunners positioned a little further back in support.

As 1 Brigade pushed on towards the German second line, the German 105's reaped more men: some of the 1 Brigade companies, including divisional engineers, are seen here pinned down in the open in front of the German second line.

In the centre, 3 Brigade was still struggling: their troops can be seen here hung up on the wire, struggling to get through. Their casualties were mounting.

2 Brigade, meanwhile, was quickly able to bypass the redoubt atop 'The pimple', had broken through the German front line, and was headed to an unoccupied area of the second line, behind which sat a line of German 77mm field guns. These guns were quickly brought under effective fire.

The German guns were finally stripped of their supporting infantry, and suppressed by a combination of infantry fire and fire from a regiment of supporting 18pdrs, so the remaining British infantry charged forward in close assault. This was sufficient to drive the regiment from its positions, and the British 1st and 2nd Brigades took both German lines. 

In the centre, the German regiment facing 3 Brigade was now forced to take a morale check (its second in the battle) and this time it was not so lucky, so the German centre was also opened up. The view here from behind the 3 Brigade advance looked great. However advancing towards them from out of shot at the top of the picture were reserve German troops committed to plug the now yawing gap in the German line. The British forces were exhausted and no further advance was advisable. The line was broken, but there was always another line to go!!!
The game was a marginal victory to the British player. Victory points were as follows:
Condition British German
Objectives 2 4
Morale checks 3 0
Total 5 4
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