Wednesday, 3 September 2014

It all went swimmingly


It all went swimmingly.


Guards' Armoured Division, Wargame Diary

Market Garden MegagamesNL,
Nijmegen, 30th August 2014



Move 0 – morning (pre-game)

A superb performance from the 5th Guards' Armoured Brigade with support from the Guards' Divisional Artillery Group (GDAG) and XXX Corps Artillery saw a deep penetration into the German lines.


Move 1 - afternoon

Orbat
Guards' Armoured Division (GAD) plus the Household Cavalry (HC) Regiment of armoured cars and the attached 129th Infantry Brigade from 43rd (Wessex) Division.

Activity
The GAD spent the afternoon reorganising after the morning assault of the German front line. Overnight they prepared for an assault next morning.

5th Guards' Armoured Brigade (GAB) was in the front, along the Hell's Highway, with a recce screen thrown out by the HC in front of Valkenswaard.

The artillery regiments had got into road columns ready to move forward. Artillery support was made by XXX Corps artillery.

The GAD supply dump was near Lommel. Up front with the 5th GAB was the Guards RASC Column. Collecting supplies from the base was the 90th RASC

129th Infantry Brigade was to the east of the positions and was patrolling and probing into wooded areas attempting to discover if the bridges were being held. As they approached the first bridge the German forces there blew the bridge.


Move 2 - morning

Orbat
129th Infantry brigade was detached, back to 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division.

Activity
Major assault by 5th GAB, with artillery bombardment from the XXX Corps and a good show from the RAF. The forward platoons of mechanised infantry discovered that the German infantry positions had been weakened and the infantry had moved out over night. The Brigadier swiftly asked the XXX Corps to move its fire plan to shift its main effort to the second line of the Germans near to Valkenswaard. This was successfully done, and the armour and mechanised infantry rushed these positions under a superb effort from the Corps Artillery. A few self-propelled anti tank guns – Panzerjager remained active and a few Shermans were brewed up but the FOO directed 5.5 stonks which suppressed them. The RAF were excellent and concentrated their bombing in the rear of the second line causing havoc - which we witnessed later as we had to literally use Shermans as bulldozers to clear the wreckage off the road.

The Divisional commander (the Old Man) urged the Brigadier of 5th GAB on, on, and on to Eindhoven and beyond. The Irish and Grenadier Guard armoured battlegroups brushed past groups of bewildered Germans attempting to surrender and with a cursory glance our happy Tommies pointed down the road, “hande hoche down there mate.”

As our armoured columns raced down the road the Sherman's made good use of those pintel mounted machine guns and strafed soft skinned transport columns, the men not even bothering to loot the paltry German supplies – who wants sauerkraut and acorn coffee – and they rapidly found themselves pushing into the streets of Eindhoven shooting up surprised flax units and ersatz groups of old soldiers with old Mausers who either took to their heels or did the hande hoche dance.

XXX Corps had information that the bridge over the Wilhelmina Canal at Son, north of Eindhoven, had been blown. So the HC Regt was pushed along the road encountering some German resistance on the road near Acht.


Move 3 - afternoon

Orbat
Addition of 525 RASC Regt to Divisional assets.

Activity
The 5th Brigade with HC probed for the flanks of the position and prepared themselves for an assault the next day.

The Divisional commander received notification from XXX Corps that the German units had elements of the US 101st Airborne Division in their rear and were thus surrounded.

The Old Man spent a lot of time trying to sort out his supply problems. Apparently his RASC supply columns had been caught up in the mother of all traffic jams along Hell's Highway, mostly being caught in the queue of the 43rd and 50th Division footsloggers. His supply problems were temporarily resolved when the XXX Corps was assigned the 525th RASC Regt. already loaded up with supplies.


Move 4 – morning

Orbat
No change

Activity
Over night reports from infantry patrols noted that the German units had left their positions and had moved over the canal to the south-west of the road!

The attack was cancelled and the 5th Armoured Brigade moved forward gingerly only to be greeted by relieved looking Yanks, who were only too pleased to share a hot cup of char with our Guards. The Old Man was on the blower toute suite and gave the Brigadier a rocket getting him to move his troops on, on and on again, destination Nijmegen.

The 5th GAB moved along the road, lined with smiling 101st paras. We passed through Best and Sint Oedenrode courtesy of the US Airborne only to find that the bridge at Veghel had just been taken by a well organised German counter attack using artillery and and infantry attack from the west, driving off the US paras weakened after several days of continuous fighting.

During the day the Old Man ordered the move of the Guards Supply Dump to Eindhoven only to find it could not make any headway along the road, still being blocked by the 43rd Division and its preparation for an assault. The supply dump moved up to Lommel instead and waited.

The Old Man garrisoned Eindhoven with the Welsh Guards mechanised infantry battalion, the AA Regt, the Engineers and the 525th RASC Transport column, still with essential and now very precious supplies.


Move 5 - evening

The GAD was able to concentrate itself before Veghel, with the 101st Paras spreadout on the flanks in support, the two Guards Artillery Regts. were ready to give fire support. Again with the 5th GAB in front. The 32 GAB was further down the road waiting its chance.

Belatedly the 525th RASC Regt was sent from Eindhoven, the Old Man reassured by the 101st Paras that the road was safe. A resupply was managed that night in the forward positions of Veghel.


Move 6 – morning

The attack went in as planned though there was a no show from the RAF, something about the weather they said afterwards. The Germans had dug themselves in but seemed a little disorganised and were not even supported by their artillery, which had caused the US paras such problems the day before. Even so the fight was a little stiffer than before, but we were supported gallantly by the US paras who wanted to show us Brits that they knew a thing a to and with their ability to infiltrate across any sort of ground they were able to out flank Veghel and subject the German positions to a withering flanking fire. Soon our armour was able to take out their strong points with our Shermans using their main gun at short ranges, and the position crumbled quickly. The paras took many prisoners as our armoured battlegroups motored through the streets and on, on and on to Grave and beyond.

The 5th GAB moved down empty roads through Uden to find its way blocked by some German positions just short of Grave.

The HC checked out the airport at Volkel and was blocked by some accurate flak fire across the open fields. It was later supported by the Irish Guards mechanised infantry battalion from the 5th GAB. The 32nd GAB was on the road past Uden. Our artillery remained in its positions to support the 101st in guarding the crossing at Veghel.


Move 7 – afternoon

Our supply situation was now critical. Later in the day the positions at Veghel were threatened with a pincer movement from both east and west of the road. The 101st infantry in the town were getting jittery. The HC and the Irish Guards were hastily recalled to assist and our artillery group gave sterling service bombarding the gathering German troop concentrations. The unflappable Guards Artillery CO informed the Old Man that they had used their last 25 pdr shells and he was going to issue his men rifles and bayonets and show those Screaming Eagles how to give Jerry the taste of cold steel.

Luckily the German pincer proved chimerical and there was only a combined infantry and artillery attack from the west that was causing the US paras some problems, though the appearance of our “armour” soon dismayed the Germans and the attack petered out.

In the front, the 5th GAB was preparing an attack with the assistance of the 82nd Airborne units. The 82nd were ready to use up the last of their ammo to give the 5th GAB an artillery bombardment with their light 105's. Things were getting desperate for the 82nd..

The Old Man at last received word that the road to Eindhoven had been cleared of Germans and our foot slogging infantry was making its way to Eindhoven. To make amends, XXX Corps ordered the up several RASC columns to supply the GAD. The GAD own RASC columns had managed to reach Eindhoven.

One success cheered everyone up when the Engineer unit reported that it had set up one of its Bailey Bridges at Son. This meant that we now had two routes north of Eindhoven, though as yet no traffic as the road was only just being unblocked.


Move 8 – morning

Unfortunately the counter attack on the bridge at Veghel had delayed the movement forward of our promised supplies. The GAD RASC Regts. were still at Eindhoven and started the journey late that morning. This meant another day waiting for supplies to catch up the teeth, what a tale.

The 32nd GAB took over the front lines from the 5th GAB and prepared for an assault. The 5th GAB probed round the flank of the German positions just south of Grave and found numerous German infantry dug in.

The HC screened off the road to Volkel and the Irish Guards mechanised infantry battalion moved up Uden. The Old Man was concerned that the road would not get broken just when he needed to get his supplies up.


Move 9 – afternoon

The Old Man got into his battered Humber Staff Car and personally directed the GAD's RASC transport columns along the road, bollocking any who dared to get in the way. He said later he had never had to play a being a traffic cop before and it was an invigorating days work. No doubt the RASC were galvanised by being reminded of the anonymous private who had driven his wagon of Brown Bess ammo to the north gate of the besieged Hougomont Farm at the Battle of Waterloo. The drivers drove like demons along the road, not heeding any danger, just making speed. A few hours later they were delivered ammo and fuel directly to the tanks at their start lines, and with an “off you go mate, see you in Arnhem” the 32nd GAB went into the assault. The Taffy's and the Coldstreamers, were at last given their chance to show the Paddy's and Grenadiers what they could do.

Later the Old Man confessed to me that he had had to be nice to the CO from the 43rd who had button holed him in the Corps mess and asked him how he liked the Infantry's bully beef – the old man said he had not the heart to tell him that they just left the 43rd's grub to the hungry US Paras. He thought it was only fair as the Guards had nicked the Paras Hershey Bars.

The Brigadier of the 32nd GAB was a little concerned at the lateness of his attack as he had heard that the 82nd were under attack from a new group of krauts who had appeared out of the polder. The hard pressed 82nd in Grave had withdrawn when they found themselves attacked by superior Germans with artillery support. The Brigadier guessed that this meant the German's in front of him had been weakening their front line with the Guards and with a tally ho the Coldstreamers were off after the fox running before them. They easily over ran the thinned German positions in front and launching themselves into the Germans who were busily trying to sort themselves out in Grave after they had just captured it from the Yanks. It was a messy affair, with a much lighter artillery stonk from the 82nd, but our lads had their blood up and with our Shermans lobbing shells directly into the German troop concentrations the Guards Infantry demonstrated why they were still the best, driving up in their armoured half tracks and debussing right ontop of the hapless Germans! Hey ho, to work we go with a bayonet and grenade and an M3 Armoured Halftrack!

With the town taken the Welsh Guard battlegroups then pushed through the town on, on and on, towards Nijmegen and Arnhem. As the light faded the HC pushed onto the Island at last.


Move 10 – morning

With an early morning start the whole division, lead by the 32nd GAB, and now including about six RASC transport columns from the Guards, the 43rd, the 50th and the XXX Corps, moved along the road to Arnhem, passing through a eerily quiet Nijmegen, only a few tense 82nd airborne chaps poking their heads out to wave us along.

Once on the “Island” we started to met some grim looking Red Berets. They all assured us that there were no Germans on the road and so the men of Harlech sped on and met no foe men, just over excited Polish in khaki who were a little too enthusiastic in their welcome. After some language difficulties – the Welsh thought the Poles were Scottish, and the Poles mistook the Welsh for Irish – they drove on into Arnhem.

We heard later from Corps that the Germans had attacked Nijmegen and Veghel (again) as the Guards Armoured Division had swanned unopposed into Arnhem. We didn't even notice!!

Hurrah for the Guards.

….......

Note

This was all written from memory a few days after the game. I might have got some of the facts wrong but I am pretty sure it is a reasonably accurate record of the GADs progress during the game.

I was the Liaison Umpire for the Guard's Armoured Division.

Nick Luft



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