This was the second of our “Winter Sports” trench raiding games played just before Christmas using the “Through the Mud and the Blood” rules from TooFatLardies. We used the article by Richard Clarke, “Winter Sports”, featured in the TooFatLardies Christmas Special which Richard brought out in December.
The British raiders in this second raid rolled the “Peaceful Penetrattion” mission. The aim in the raid was for the attacker to capture and occupy a 12” section of the defender’s trench and hold it against an enemy counter-attack for a set period of time until reinforcements had arrived. The scenario was taken from an Australian tactic which was developed towards the end of the War as an alternative to a daylight frontal assault on German front line trenches. The concept was for small raiding parties to infiltrate into the outpost line of the German defences, which were by then organised in depth and over a series of Stellungen and defensive positions rather than being focused solely on linear barriers. The Australian’s idea was to penetrate the German defences at night, and for the raiders to be quickly reinforced by substantial forces in darkness thereby avoiding the need for long preliminary bombardments.
The scenario we played included a few of these elements. The Australian players took a small raiding team of 27 Australian figures. Unlike the first trench raid game we played through before Christmas (see my earlier blog post), the attackers (the Australians) did not attempt a crossing of No Man’s Land at all points of the table. Instead, the Australian commander cunningly chose to ‘purchase’ an additional NCO in place of a couple of privates and split his forces into three groups (each led by an NCO) with a junior officer leading all three groups forward in a single concentrated assault on a small part of the German front line.
Purchasing the extra NCO allowed each of the small raiding groups to be led by a ‘Big Man’ , thereby freeing-up the junior officer of the raiding party to use his initiative under the rules to deceive the enemy sentries into thinking nothing was amiss (by reducing the number of spotting and “whistleblowing” points which the Germans were accumulating in the game). A cunning approach, well worthy of the most determined and tricky Australian on the Western Front!
Against the raiders was a small force of German Stellungsbattalionkämpfer defenders garrisoning the line and a force of 26 Eingreiftruppen to reinforce the German defenders once a general alarm had been raised.
The Australian tactic of using their Officer Big Man to reduce the successful German spotting, or “whistleblowing” rolls, worked extremely well. So well, in fact, that the Australians were able to penetrate into the German trench without being spotted and despatching one of the three German sentries assisted, it has to be said, by a woeful set of dice-rolling by the German players.
Instead of the general bumbling about of Lieutenant Carshalton in the first game, the Australian players really stepped up to the crease as they peacefully penetrated the German’s front line trench.
Dropping down off the parapet, the Australian Officer, Captain Murdoch, was able to deploy his “ferret” into a German bunker occupied by an section of the German Stellungsbattalionkämpfer which had not been alerted.
The “ferret” in question was a ferret bomb, an explosive device rigged up by the Royal Engineers consisting of 8 slabs of guncotton and encased with shaped wooden panels which had been rounded so that the charge could be rolled down a dugout without lodging on the steps. Rather than facing the “ferret” rolling down the steps of the bunker, the first section of German defenders, perhaps wisely, chose to surrender.
By now the commotion in the front line trench had generally alerted the other German defenders, bringnig Captain Murdoch face to face with the Hun....
The resulting fighting in turn heralded the arrival of Gefreiter Artur Sturm and two detachments of Eingreiftruppen to challenge the Australian penetration.
However, by the time German Eingreiftruppen had started to arrive from the communications trenches, the Australians had already held the enemy trench for half the time required to achieve a victory. The alerting of a German MG08 Maxim machine gun team in a bunker threatened at one point to unbalance the Australians’ success. However, after a grim struggle ensued, the Australians held on to launch their flares and obtain reinforcements.
We had an interesting debate during and after the game concerning the entry points for the Eingreiftruppen reinforcements. The German players had pre-determined the entry points as being the communications trenches. If the German players had brought their reinforcements in over the top of the trench network, allowing them to drop into the middle of the front line trench, the result could well have been very different, as the result would have been to split the raiding forces into two smaller groups, as the overhead photo below shows. It would have been a bold tactic, but very much in keeping with the traditions of the Stosstruppen. Perhaps this tactic will happen on other trench raids....stay posted on that thought!!
All in all, a really enjoyable game, and an undoubtedly better result for the Australians than the Ashes! I’m a little behind with posting games and new figures, so I shall try and catch up over the next few days with a blog post about what’s been on my painting table so far this year.