Saturday, 28 January 2017

Hillman

Many years ago I was struck by accounts of the early fighting in Normandy about the difficulties posed to the British attempts to take Caen on D-Day by the strongpoint codenamed 'Hillman'. The position is still there, located on the 'Rue de Suffolk' south of Coleville on the back route into Caen and Tim visited it in 2004. 

Anyway, after 17 years of planing and research, I finally got around to putting on a game of the Suffolks attack on the position, which followed on from the game I put on before Christmas covering the assault on Coleville and 'Morris'

The game are covered two map grid squares (approx 2km x 2km), and once again featured the plucky heroes of the Suffolks, supported by 76 Field Regiment and 246 Field Company Royal Engineers. Against them was the ominous looking Hillman position, known to contain two German regimental headquarters as well as artillery observation posts overlooking the invasion beaches (Sword Beach is a couple of map squares to the rear).

I ran this with my 15mm toys using Johns 'Battlegroup' rules, somewhat modified by myself. The action kicked off at around 1300 hours on 6th June 1944. John commanded the Suffolks, Jerry reprised his role as artillery commander, Tom took the assault infantry companies and Tim got to push some tanks around.


The battlefield from the south. The Suffolks will form up around Coleville, the previously captured German positions visible in the distance. Over in Hermanville to the west the KSLI and Staffs Yeomany are building up to drive down the main road to Caen, which they can't do until Hillman is cleared.


The Suffolks move out from Coleville. Left flanking covered by bags of smoke. I was a little disappointed that Jerry got out of his nice shiny OP tank and decided to scramble up the church steeple instead.


Oooeer. Ju 88s from KG56 make an appearance. Unlike their historical counterparts who were shot down in flames by Spitfires over the beaches, these actually made it through the defending fighters and the massed AA fire of the Royal Navy, only to dump their bombs ineffectively in the sea. Masterful flying by Tim as temporary bomber pilot.


A squadron of the South Staffs rolls on, along with a stray troop from 13/18th Hussars.  Nice bit of unexpected support for the Suffolks. The battalion mortar platoon and attached MMG platoon are also visible here.


The Royal Artillery lay down some covering fire. Meanwhile German artillery fire covers the exit from Coleville, one platoon is pinned down but rapidly recovers using the stone buildings as cover.


A full squadron shoot from the Shermans is quite impressive. The infantry move up under cover of the barrage.


A German AT bunker opens fire on the Shermans. They respond with massed HE fire to suppress the position.


Over on the left flank, a German pillbox opens fire to no effect, but the German artillery plasters one of the infantry companies. The ditches around the field provide decent cover but the company HQ is knocked out.


A gunnery duel ensues. The artillery bunker engages the Shermans, knocking one troop out, while artillery provides covering fire as the engineers to use bangalore torpedoes to clear the wire and mines (the great big explosion). Some German interval troops pop up and suppress one rifle platoon.


Over in front, things are getting a bit sticky. The German 10cm guns engage and disable another troop of Shermans and catch a rifle company in the beaten zone.  The infantry have fortunately been digging in and are protected by their shell scrapes.


Over in the far corner, direct fire from the AT platoon and HE fire from the atillery has failed to suppress the armoured pillbox. However, the battalion assault pioneer platoon has managed to get through the cleared path, soon to be followed by an infantry platoon.


The Assault pioneers failed to close with the unsuppressed pillbox, but the infantry distinguished themselves by knocking the pilbox out with their PIAT while the Germans interval troops are suppressed by mortar fire.

We called it at that point, as once the British had broken into the position, it was just a question of mopping up each bunker. In the actual battle, the last Germans didn't surrender until 0730 on 7th June as the position was fortified to a similar level as Fort Douament at Verdun with underground concreted tunnels etc.

I think this went rather well and rolled along at a fair old pace. I had originally imagined gaming the fighting to clear the trenches and bunkers too, but it would essentially have been a slow fire & movement slog, so I think ending the game at  the point the British broke into the fortification was the right thing to do. One again 'Battlegroup' worked well and produced a believable result, which is always a good sign. 



7 comments:

  1. Good stuff. Sounds likes like a good game. How many players total?

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  2. A nice game report. It must have been quite a rewarding game on the back of the past planning and reading about the battle.

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  3. Great game report. Thanks for posting.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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  4. Thanks for the kind comments everyone. The British had four players, and I ran the Germans as an umpire (they were largely static anyway, and it is an easy way to manage hidden movement and control the flow of the narrative).

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  5. I think I visited in 2005. Having walked the ground added greatly to my enjoyment (and understanding!) of the game.

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  6. Am I right in thinking that the infantry are on 30mm bases? A very useful game, Martin.

    Regards, Chris.

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  7. Hi Chris. Yes 30x30, as is pretty well all my other 15mm stuff, regardless of period:)

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