Gratuitous shot of a Heinkel over Crete - nothing to do with the game unfortunately!
|Sleepy little town of Galatas with Church Hill in the background.|
The Allied armour advances up the road to Galatas
The formidably armoured but inexorably slow Matilda. [Photo: Greg Blake]
The FJ in Galatas were allowed a 37mm PAK for this scenario (presumably 'borrowed' from the Gebirgsjaeger) and used it right from the start of the game (so much for the Allied surprise attack!)
The Maoris deploy at their jump off point outside the vineyard - contemplate the daunting task in front of them. (Note the artillery barrage at the edge of the town - spectacular but useless!)
Now before I gripe too much about how hard the Allies had it, I must confess that they did have artillery support as well as the armour. I deployed my Forward Observer team in what cover I could find just outside the vineyards. They directed two barrages targeting the AT gun (a mistake in hindsight - should have tried to hit the building with the HMG) which all missed save one house at the end of the town which was engulfed in flames - unfortunately no paratroopers were hurt in the process! My ruthless German opponent Greg immediately spotted the spotters and wasted no time by firing at them at every opportunity, eventually wiping them out. As the only Kiwi HMG was assigned to the group assaulting Church Hill, the Maoris depended on the armour to absorb the German firepower and punch its way into the town. With no less than 60!!! shooting dice combined - you'd think the armour would be able to do it. Well, you'd be wrong - if there was one thing that marked this game it was the appallingly bad shooting by just about everyone - except of course young Andrew, who even Greg ruthlessly exploited to roll fives and sixes and mow down the Kiwis! The Germans in hard cover could only be killed on a six, so it took forever to whittle them down. Save for the section behind the hedge outside the town - they had somewhere between 120 and 180 shooting dice thrown at them, lost half their number and copped over half a dozen pin markers but still held on. Tough buggers those German paras!
As close as the brave Maoris got - and in the open without armour support - sitting ducks!
The Germans come under artillery fire
German commander Jason very carefully fed in Gebirgsjaeger - Mountain Troops - to reinforce the paras and make Galatas just too tough a nut to crack!
The Vickers press home their attack and the Germans bring up a captured Italian 75 (minus gunsights!) which they used to great effect (thanks also to young Andrew's dice rolling!)
The Allied armour comes to a grinding halt outside Galatas!
While all this was going on my other commander Steven had the unenviable task of assaulting Church Hill and protecting the Allied flank of our armoured column. One of the problems with this surprise attack scenario is that there were two Allied objectives that had to be attacked simultaneously and three commands of which only two could be activated each turn. Once Steve had brought his sections out into the open to engage the Germans on Church Hill ably commanded by young Andrew (under German CinC dad Jason's watchful eye), I had to allocate my activations to my Maori command and my armour needed to support them. This meant that Steve's Kiwis just had to sit at the edge of the olive grove without cover and cop it. It must have been a very frustrating game for Steve and I thank him for his patience and generosity in allowing us to try the only plan open to us - up the guts with bangs and smoke!
Our only HMG sets up at the edge of the olive grove opposite the German held monastery. [Photo: Greg Blake]
Kiwi assault on Church Hill gets underway
With the Bren Carrier the Kiwis managed to lay quite a bit of fire on the Germans hiding behind the stone wall - very hard to kill them in hard cover, not so hard for them to kill us in the open!
The Allied assault on Galatas seen from Church Hill - just out of view bottom RH corner is the German mortar that gave our Bren Carrier such a scare! Note the Kiwi HMG pinned although surprisingly and unlike the first Galatas game, the Germans didn't do much with their howitzer.
With the Allied flank secure, albeit at some cost, the final stage of the desperate Allied assault was underway. Time was of the essence as the longer it took to break into the town, the harder it became as the fully committed Allies degraded with mounting casualties whereas the German defence only got stronger by steadily reinforcing Galatas with Mountain Troops. The Allied plan was always a risky one but at one point it seemed the gamble might have paid off when the dice gods intervened on the side of the Germans and put paid to any chance of Allied success. Double sixes were rolled in the command phase and the German's got to use their ace-up-the-sleeve - and called in an airstrike!
Allied armour grinds to a sudden halt outside the town.
With the command tank destroyed and the remaining tanks badly damaged or immobilized, the entire Allied attack faltered.
The German's had complete air superiority over Crete and in all the games we've played so far they have managed to call on their air power at a crucial time in the game and decisively turned things in their favour. This last game was to be one of the most decisive of all the interdictions by air. This time the death blow to Allied ambitions was delivered by the awesome firepower from the four nose cannons of an ME110. The ME strafed the lightly armoured Vickers (top armour is so thin its shell-like!) and brewed up our hero Roy Farran's tankette. A second strafe damaged another tank who was lucky not to also go up in flames - no need even to drop the 250 lb bomb the ME110 carried - the damage had been done and the armour ground to a halt outside of town. The lead Vickers still firing but immobilized with a dead driver after a 75 shell went straight through the hull and the second Vickers likewise having one go through the turret. With the command AFV a blazing wreck and the lumbering Matilda still half a game away from the town, it was up to the fearsome Maori to pull off a miracle.
The combined Vickers and Maori attack looked promising.. until it encountered German firepower!
And then there were (virtually) none - the Germans counter-attack and drive the surviving Maoris back.
I have to give Jason and Greg their due - they used the 'Grenaten!' rule for their elite Germans to go in for some hand-to-hand. The lead Kiwi section was wiped out and with their the sheer firepower the Germans drove the rest back almost to their jump-off point. Their being absolutely nothing more the Allies could do and no objectives obtained, we called the game in favour of the Germans - quite a convincing win.
We were up against it with this game from the start and this wasn't helped by the fact we play-tested all the other air assault scenarios first. Just to add further complication, one of our colleagues with a fair share of the terrain had to pull out at the last moment, so we couldn't put together the same table we'd had for the first Galatas game. It was also a very ambitious scenario - recreating a surprise attack by a numerically inferior force against a fortified obstacle, even with armour, is a tall order. Nonetheless I feel with some tweaking of the scenario, this could work and give the Kiwis a real chance to do what they did historically - bounce the Germans right out of Galatas.
Once again my thanks go to Andrew who devised the whole thing and to co-organiser Jason who helped pull it all together when it threatened to fall apart (again!) at the last minute - and to all my wargaming mates who came along and rolled some dice, shuffled some lead, and made for a damned fine day's gaming down't club!