A few weeks ago now eight eager Generals dropped into the Wargames Holiday Centre ready to take or hold a vital bridge across the Rhine into Germany.
The deployment was already fixed although the British had a choice of which battalion from the 1st Parachute Brigade could be positioned in Arnhem, the remaining two Battalions dug in within the confines of the village of Oosterbeek.
On the Landing Zone to the west of Oosterbeeke the Air landing Brigade was dug in and ready to hold this critucal position. There were expected reinforcements in the shape of the 4th Parachute Brigade and the Polish Brigade, so the longer they could hold this the better.
XXX Corps was on it’s way and should be with the holding force soon, but how long was soon?
The 2nd Battalion of Paras began digging in, supported by the recce company and a company of Royal Engineers. They also had a company of 6pdr anti-tank guns positioned within the Town. Could they hold out?
In Oosterbeeke, the 1st and 3rd Battalion of Paras were in position along with a mortar company, machine gun company, an anti-tank 6 pdr company and last but not least the Light Battery of 75mm Pack Howitzers.
The game started with the sound of engines firing up across the bridge to the south, the Paras settled down and took aim across the Bridge an awaited the onslaught. In the distance to the south-west of their position they could just make out a battery of 88’s, these however were out of range of their position but they could make things difficult for the reinforcements.
88 crews are all from SHQ Miniatures
Graebners lead vehicles began to move across the bridge, no charge though, more cautious than that, what was going on? The 2nd expected an onslaught! They had laid mines across the end of the bridge in anticipation!
Then it became apparent, German Panzer Grenadiers could be seen moving in from the East. This was the lead elements of Knaust’s force.
To the North of Oosterbeeke there was movement, with lead elements of Spindlers force advancing on to the perimeter set up by the remainder of the 1st Brigade. The heavy machine guns opened up and pinned the advancing battalion of SS Panzer Grenadiers, but they shrugged this off and continued their advance, opening up with small arms on the nearest buildings containing the British Paras.
The fire fight became quite intense with casualties mounting on both sides!
Over to the west of the Landing Zone the lead elements of Von Tettau’s force could be seen advancing through some woodland, the Kings own Scottish Borderers (KoSB) opened up and pushed the Hermann Goering training battalion back into the depths of the wood. Further to the South-West of the position the Glider Pilot Battalion had advanced into a built up area and began to dig in.
Back in Arnhem the Panzer Grenadiers from Knaust’s group ran into some determined opposition from the Paras and their supporting recce troops. Still Graebner waited for his moment!
The Northern half of Oosterbeeke was becoming an inferno, one of the 6 pdr guns was taken out, however the remaining guns were exacting a heavy price from the attackers. The ground and buildings littered with the camouflaged uniforms of both sides. Smoke was deployed by the Germans forces, masking the HMG in the church right in the middle of the defence line. They also managed to mask the anti-tank gun near here as well. The assault seemed imminent!
These figures are from the TQD Castings range and mighty fine they are too
On the Landing Zone the light battery was moved toward Oosterbeeke with a view of supporting their colleagues on the Bridge. A company of the South Staffords moved toward Spindler’s troops, looking to link up with the defenders of Oosterbeeke and add pressure to their attackers.
The Landing Zone was by now coming under mortar, heavy machine guns were also being moved into position, these were just out of range at present and being behind a hill may be in position to push into range without loss. So it was decided to deny them the position, a company of the KoSB rushed to their side of the intervening hill, unfortunately they were spotted by the security training battalion in the woods and the resulting mortar and small arms fire pinned them in position. These lads were made of stern stuff though and they picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and then retired to their original position.
The Glider Battalion also opened up on the security training battalion cautiously advancing toward their position, pinning them at the edge of the building.
The SS Grenadier Battalion behind the Hermann Goering was having difficulty picking their way through the disordered troops of the training battalion. Eventually the training battalion fell back, leaving a number of their fellows at the edge of the building. The Glider battalion was still holding out though.
Arnhem’s eastern side was being put under more pressure from Knaust’s Grenadiers, some German armour having arrived in support.
Graebner waited on the bridge, tantalisingly just out of range.
These figures are from the SHQ Miniatures.
Spindler’s force was now bringing more of it’s support units into play with rockets now landing in the village from the Nebelwerfer company. Two Jagdpanzer’s rolled toward the Northern edge of the village taking advantage of cover along the way. The lead tank taking fire from one of the 6 pdrs, the shot glancing from it’s front armour, the fire being enough for them to retire to cover initially.
The Panzer Grenadiers assaulted the buildings along the Northern edge, heavy casualties were taken by both sides but they now had a foot hold! The artillery and rocket fire began to intensify with one of the Panzer Grenadier Battalions pushing deep into the eastern side of Oosterbeeke.
The Landing Zone became a real hotbed now, captured French Char B tanks equipped with flame throwers advanced over the hill toward the defenders, the 17 pdrs opened fire at long range, although most of the shots glanced from the thick front armour.
The best way to get around this prickly problem was to manoeuvre around the guns, which the tanks did. More German infantry began to arrive, pressing the defenders of the landing zone and Oosterbeeke. The Glider Battalion defended their position grimly, many German Grenadiers buying the farm! Heavy machine guns were brought up to pin the resolute defenders, this allowed the Grenadiers a better chance to take the position.
The signal was given, the Grenadiers rushed forwards pouring small arms fire into the building, the Glider Pilots, pinned down by the HMG fire, returned fire as best they could. Some of the attackers were killed but the experience told and they fought their way into the building. Grenades thrown through windows and doorways making the butchers bill high! The remainder of the Glider Pilots rushed out of the building and toward their support in the Landing Zone. They had done a great job though, holding out for most of the day against superior odds.
Oosterbeeke was coming under more attacks from the troops of Spindlers Group, StuG’s and Panther tanks moving through the area dividing Oosterbeeke and Arnhem. One of Spindler’s Battalions had worked it’s way through the Western side of Arnhem and had engaged the Royal Engineers holding the perimeter of the defenders of the Bridge. This fighting resulted in artillery fire from the Paras light battery, now deployed in the South of Oosterbeeke, along with Mortar fire and small arms from the engineers.
These Panzer Grenadiers were old hands though, the casualties were light and they began to dig in. The engineers reporting the sight of Panther tanks now driving between the town and the village, these would cut off the reinforcement for good!
The anti-tank fire from the remaining 6pdrs and piats had deterred some of the German armour, however reports of the artillery fire coming in from the South of Oosterbeeke had convinced the Jagdpanzers that something had to be done, they moved off to cut off the road between the Landing Zone and Oosterbeeke, hopefully destroying the artillery to boot!
The charge was fraught with risk, how many anti-tank guns were en-route? They soon discovered that none were in range, spotting the guns as they were being limbered and an attempt was being made to move them! The resulting fire though wasn’t up to it and the guns got away into the village.
Over on the Bridge the lead elements of Graebner’s the halftracks and armoured lorries pushing forward, the Hawkins mines took out one of the lead half tracks and the defensive fire from the 6 pdr covering the bridge took out another, Graebner threw in his scouts, machine gun fire rattling from the buildings.
The defence of Arnhem suddenly escalated to an almighty scrap, Knaust’s troops combined with Graebner’s to pin the defenders in place, Knaust had now committed some Panzer Iv’s, these combine with some 251/9 7.5cm’s took out one of the anti-tank guns and began to pin the defenders further. A panzer IV was destroyed in turn and the German scout squads from this elite unit fought hard to gain a foot hold.
The Landing Zone received it’s first amount of reserves, elements of the 4th Parachute Brigade now landing in amongst the defenders. Seeing this the men of von Tettau’s Kamfgruppe mounted more assaults, the fire intensified and the defenders took a heavy hammering, still they hung on though, digging in and returning fire.
At last the Tiger II’s from Spindlers group arrived, these monsters moved directly to divide Oosterbeeke from Arnhem, it was looking bleak for the defenders of both the town and village!
Just shortly after this a flight of Typhoons managed to get through, luckily for the Paras the man in charge managed to roll the best he could have and got three aircraft in the area of Oosterbeeke and they made a dive for the Tiger’s, destroying one and causing another to bail! This was something of the swan song for the Paras and as the day wore on more and more of Arnhem fell to the Germans, only the Bridgehead remained open!
The Landing Zone was beginning to fall further toward Oosterbeeke, meaning that the Poles would need to divert to the LZ to the south of the river. 4th Parachute Brigade had got in and was en-route through Oosterbeeke, however they were now having to fight through Armour!
XXX Corps was nowhere to be seen!!!
After a determined fight the Paras were in no position to continue, casualties were high but they had inflicted a lot more than they had taken!! Truly this remained a Bridge Too Far!!