After reading the books “Day of Battle” by Rick Atkinson, the Osprey book on Cassino, and “Monte Cassino” by Matthew Parker, I wanted to develop and play a series of battles based loosely around the series of battles on the Gustav Line. The first battle I wanted to playtest was based on the Third Battle of Monte Cassino where the II New Zealand Corps came close to taking their objectives, but stout German defensives and counter attacks stalled the offensive plus a myriad of planning and operational issues the Allies had.
The whole area was designated at very difficult going. The result was that tanks would have to take a skill test on every movement. There are plenty of areas for the defenders to stay in bulletproof cover. The two victory objectives were Hangmans Hill (little brown hill on back left) and the Abbey. I used the Big Push scenario rules as the basis for the battle.
I just recently completed an Indian Rifle company to use in a scenario at Monte Cassino. In addition I added in some Churchill IIIs and Sherman IIIs as support. The Indian company’s objective was Hangmans Hill which was a low hill near the base of Monte Cassion Abbey. The other commonwealth company was set to storm the Abbey from the Flank. Allied order of battle
- Indian Rifle Company with 3 platoons
- Commonwealth Rifle Company with 3 platoons
- 2 x 3 inch mortar platoons
- 1 x 4.2 inch mortar platoon
- 2 batteries of 25 pdrs
- 1 battery of 5.5 inch guns
- 3 sherman IIIs
- 3 Churchill IIIs
The German forces are based around the 1st Fallschrimjager (FJ) Division that fought tenaciously around Cassino. My idea for the German forces was to have one FJ company defending and another company set for a counterattack as this was a prevailing tactic used by the Germans. The trigger for the second company to come on, was the allies reaching within 10 inches of one of the two victory points. The German order of battle:
- Fallschrimjager Company with 3 platoons
- Panzergrenadier Company with 3 platoons (dont have two FJ companies)
- 8cm mortar platoon
- 7.5cm Pak 40 platoon
- 2 x HMG platoons (one in open bunkers)
- battery of 15cm Nebelwerfers
- 5 x StuG G
Preliminary Bombardment was able to knock out 2 of the StuGs and severely hurt the platoon defending the Abbey.
The initial advance was slow and methodical on the part of the Allies. The tanks surprisingly didnt bog down as much as I would have thought since they were designated as Confident Veterans. The sheer number of guns available to the Allies was able to eat away slowly at the first defending platoon.
Allied infantry loses to the defending Infantry was pretty low. However, the Nebelwerfers and mortars got lucky and brought a couple of the platoons down to half strength before they were even in a position to assault. Ultimately, the first FJ platoon’s position was no longer defendable after an assault and the artillery attrition. They began to make a tactical withdrawl, but the Churchills convinced them to rout instead.
Seeing the Churchills were not going to engage the Pak 40s, the German leader ordered the remaining StuGs into action. Their initial volley was succeful in bailing two of the Churchills, but on the next turn a combination of Churchills and infantry assault halted the StuG counterattack. The sole remaining Stug retreated.
I decided to keep the game to six turns that way I could see what could make a viable game. Ultimately the Indian Company held the town and had only the PAK40s and the mortars between them and the objective at Hangmans hill. I would give them that objective. The UK rifle company approaching the Abbey had two platoons severley attrited due to artillery fire and might have been able to get up to the abbey. However, the counterattack trigger and another company arriving at the Abbey would have pushed them back even though the germans had little AT assets to combat the 3 Shermans.
Overall it was a fun scenario. It was my first time using an 8 gun 25 pdrs battery with the UK artillery rules. They were impressive in knocking out the FJ. I might consider using night rules for the first few turns as that was how the Gurkhas were able to get to Hangmans Hill.