Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Kampfgruppe von Crete

You might be wondering about the slightly odd sounding blog post title? Well, let me explain... Orange Dave and I have been pondering a Crete based campaign for quite some time now. Both of us have been reading and researching various aspects of the battle and we’ve bounced quite a few ideas back and forth.

Then we took a break from the Mediterranean theatre to play the Chain of Command Pint Sized Campaign “Kampfgruppe von Luck” pitting my plucky Paras against Dave’s stoic Panzergrenadiers in Normandy on the 6th June 1944. Great fun and, despite a few setbacks, a solid victory for the Dave’s lads.

During these games Dave casually remarked that with a few tweaks we could maybe use this campaign (swapping the nationality of each side) to represent a British counter-attack on one of the German LZs. Thus, the impromptu working title for our project became "Kampfgruppe von Crete" and despite trying to think up something more accurate, it stayed! We've also blended in some ideas from the excellent TooFatLardies 1940 Handbook such as Stukas and Resistance fighters.

As students of Operation Mercury will know, the British counter-attacks on May 21st and after ranged from non-existent to isolated and poorly coordinated. This is in no way a reflection on the courage of the British, Australian, NZ and Greek forces involved. What went wrong and why has had many books and articles written over the years so I’ll leave that for the reader to delve in to. Suffice to say a combination of poor planning, misunderstood signals and intelligence (intercepted Ultra messages in particular), tensions in Allied high command and limited communications (amongst other things) all resulted in the Germans gaining the breathing space they so desperately needed after the heavy losses on 20th May. Dave has put a lot of effort in to writing a little campaign booklet which I've have re-produced here.

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German paratroopers, Fallschirmjäger, landed in three areas on 20 May: Maleme, Rethymnon and Iraklion. The German operation was a three-pronged strike. The central assault focused on Rethymnon.

The German 2nd Parachute Rifle Regiment, numbering two battalions and with detachments from divisional support troops, were to land and attack Rethymnon. The paratroopers had expected to take the airfield easily, but were surprised when they found it heavily defended.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Rethymno

Preceded by heavy aerial bombing, the initial German landing was disorganised, with seven transport Junkers Ju 52s shot down and the paratroopers receiving heavy casualties. However, the paratroopers did manage to capture the hill that 2/1st Battalion was positioned on.

German forces were also able to block the roads east and west of Rethymnon. On 22 May, after two failed counterattacks, a third counterattack organised in four columns by the Australians drove the Germans off the hill, who took up positions in an old olive oil factory at Stavromenos.

While the German paratroopers had no heavy equipment or armour, the Australian troops had the use of two Matilda tanks as well as artillery used to support the infantry with a further attack by the Australians, which drove the Germans out of the factory on 26 May, who later retreated to Heraklion.

Another group of German paratroopers made a landing to the west of the airfield. However, their landings were scattered. Those that were not intercepted or captured moved towards the town of Rethymnon itself. Finding Rethymnon defended by Cretan police, the Germans took up defensive positions in a ridge that ran from the mountains to the sea. From 22–28 May, Australian and Greek troops moved together against the German paratroopers in this ridge.

An attack was made against Pervolia on 27 May, with the use of the two Matilda tanks. When one tank was knocked out by anti-tank guns and the other was hit by a mine, the attack stalled.

The assault on Pervolia again proceeded on 28 May, and this time the town was taken. By this time, the Australians were running low on supplies and were forced to withdraw after holding Pervolia for only a short while. At this time, reinforcements from Maleme arrived to assist the original Fallschirmjäger, including German panzers, and the Australians soon found themselves outgunned and surrounded.

On the night of 26/27 May Layforce, a force of commandos under Colonel Laycock, landed in Crete. Almost as soon as they landed, it was decided that they would be used to cover the withdrawal route towards Sphakia to the south. They were lacking in the indirect-fire-support weapons such as mortars or artillery and were armed only very lightly, mainly with rifles and a few Bren light machine guns.

Nevertheless, by sunrise on 27 May they had taken up a defensive position along the main road that led inland from Sphakia. From then until 31 May, they were engaged in carrying out a number of rearguard actions to enable the main body of troops to be taken off the beaches by the navy. Throughout the entire time they were almost constantly under aerial attack.

THE CAMPAIGN LADDER

The master map shows the five “rungs” of the campaign. These are as follows:
Rung Name Scenario
1 Patrol on the hill top 1
2 Probe among the olive groves 2
3 Olive Oil Factory on the Flank 4
4 Assault on Pervolia 3
5 St George's Church 5


INITIATIVE
The campaign will begin with the British player holding the initiative and attacking in Scenario One, Patrol on the hill top. After that, who holds the initiative at the beginning of each campaign turn will depend on the result of the previous game.

At any point in the campaign where they hold the initiative, the Germans may launch a localised counter-attack.

If they take either option, the Germans will select support from, or to the value of, List Ten. The British player will select from the support points value he had when attacking for that scenario.

CONSOLIDATION & STRENGTHENING

DEFENCES
Neither side may consolidate their defences during the campaign. However, both sides may strengthen their defences as covered in At the Sharp End. For each campaign turn the Germans delay the British, they may add entrenchments for one Team for all subsequent games. For example, if the British are attacking in Scenario Four on campaign turn six, the Germans may add two Team sized entrenchments for that game. This represents a gradual strengthening of the entire German position.

CASUALTIES, REPLACEMENTS & REINFORCEMENTS
For both players, casualties are treated according to the rules in At the Sharp End, with losses in each game being split into those never to return, those who are lightly wounded and return for the next game and those who miss the next game. The exception to this is the German force in scenarios Four.

The British have three platoons of infantry available in order to achieve their objective. Only one platoon may be committed to attack in each campaign turn. No platoon may attack in consecutive turns; however, a platoon may defend in any number of consecutive turns.

At the outset of the campaign, the 1st platoon attacking in Game One will then be replaced by the 2nd platoon in Game Two. After which the player will be able to choose whether he attacks with the 1st platoon again in Game Three, or whether the fresh 3rd platoon is committed. This continues through the campaign with the player choosing which of his platoons attacks in each campaign turn.

The British player receives no reinforcements or replacements for their Rifle Platoons during the campaign. He may elect to amalgamate two platoons at the end of any game in the campaign. However, this amalgamated unit may never be larger or better equipped than a full-strength platoon as listed in the Army List, nor may an amalgamated platoon attack in a campaign turn if any element of it was committed to the attack in the previous turn.

After two platoons are amalgamated, any "spare" men over and above a full strength platoon may be kept at Company HQ to be used as replacements in subsequent turns, or may be attached to another under-strength platoon.

The British player will need to track the strength of his three platoons as they are committed to action. This is done in the same manner as covered in At the Sharp End.

The British Player may deploy a single Commando platoon at any time from the start of Game Six onwards. The commandos receive no reinforcements or replacements during the campaign.

On the German side, the Fallschirmjager begin the campaign only partially assembled. As the campaign progresses, more men will arrive. Additionally, the German player may request reinforcements in the shape of a fresh platoon at any time from the start of Game Three onwards. At that point the original platoon will be removed from the game.

Two Panzer II are available at any time from the start of Game Six onwards.

FALLSCHIRMJÄGER PLATOON
Limited in manpower numbers, the Fallschirmjäger focussed on firepower from both the individual squad and also the Heavy Weapons platoon which accompanied them into action.

Troop Type: Regular

Platoon Force Rating: +2

Command Dice: 5

Platoon Headquarters
Leutnant, Senior Leader, SMG
Fallschirmjäger Squads One to Three
Oberjäger, Superior Junior Leader, SMG
LMG Team LMG Team
MG34 with three crew Two riflemen MG34 with three crew Two riflemen

SUPPORT OPTIONS
The following support list is used for this campaign, representing, as it does, the limited assets available for the German Airborne forces operating in this area during the invasion.

Where a support option is shown in red, only one may be selected for any scenario. It may be selected multiple times throughout the campaign.

The options in blue may only be selected twice for each scenario. If both are selected they form one section rather than two separate teams and gain a Junior Leader armed with a MP40.

Fallschirmjäger Support List
List One
Medical Orderly
Adjutant
Sniper (maximum of two per platoon)
Car
Minefield
Barbed Wire
Entrenchments for one Team
List Two
Roadblock
Panzerbüchse 38 Anti Tank Rifle with two crew
2” mortar
MG34 with three crew, two riflemen
List Three
5cm mortar Team with four crew
MG34 on tripod mount with five crew
List Four
Flamethrower Team of three men
Stuka Bombardment
Panzer II with Junior Leader
List Five
Pak 36 3.7cm Anti-Tank Gun with five crew and Junior Leader
le.IG 18 7.5cm Infantry Gun with five crew and Junior Leader

Panzer II
Two Panzer II are available at any time from the start of Game Six onwards. If they are used in a game and not destroyed, they may be selected in subsequent games. If damaged, they may be selected for subsequent games but not in the next campaign turn.

DISPERSED FORCES
For Scenario One, the Platoon Headquarters and No.1 Squad is always present. Roll for the No.2 and No.3 squads.

Dice Present
1 Squad missing
2 Squad missing
3 Squad missing
4 Team missing
5 Team missing
6 All present

This force will take the field for Scenario One. At the end of each scenario roll a D6 for each missing Leader or Team. On a roll of 5 or 6 that element will report for duty, being available for the next game. Where whole sections are absent, be sure to roll for each Team, not for the whole section.


BRITISH AND EMPIRE FORCE

THE RIFLE PLATOON
The British Rifle platoon in had incorporated the organisational changes of 1940 and was now fielding ten men to a section. Thompson SMGs had been imported from the USA to cover the losses in equipment at Dunkirk.

All British and Empire units count as Regular troops.

Troop Type: Regular

Platoon Force Rating: -1

Command Dice: 5

Platoon Headquarters
Lieutenant, Senior Leader, with pistol
Sergeant, Senior Leader, with SMG
2” Mortar Section
2” mortar with two crew
Boys AT Rifle
Boys AT rifle with two crew
SECTIONS ONE TO THREE
Corporal, Junior Leader, with Thompson SMG or rifle
LMG Team Rifle Team
Bren gun with three crew Six riflemen

SUPPORT OPTIONS
The following support list is used for this campaign, representing the limited assets available on Crete.

British Support List
List One
Medical Orderly
Engineer Mine Clearance Team, 3 men
Engineer Wire Cutting Team, 3 men
Engineer Demolition Team, 3 men
Adjutant
Car
Minefield
Barbed Wire
Entrenchments for one Team
Crafty Cretans
List Two
Roadblock
Boys AT rifle Team, 2 men
Civilian mob, 10 riflemen
List Three
Sniper Team
Morris CS9 Armoured Car with Junior Leader
Rolls Royce Armoured Car with Junior Leader
Universal Carrier with Team and Junior Leader
Mark VI tank with Junior Leader
List Four
Engineer Section with Junior Leader
Regular Infantry Section with Junior Leader
Forward Observer and 3” mortar battery
40mm Bofors Gun, 5 crew with Junior Leader
Regular Vickers MMG on tripod mount, 5 crew
2 pounder Anti‐Tank gun with five crew and Junior Leader
List Five
A12 Matilda Mk II with Junior Leader
Naval Bombardment

Crafty Cretans One: Cretan Resistance
Cretan civilians joined the battle with whatever weapons were at hand. Most civilians went into action armed only with what they could gather from their kitchens or barns.

Cretan Resistance is never deployed on the table, but may attempt to frustrate enemy troops as they attempt to deploy onto the table.

When a German player declares that he is deploying a unit to the table, the British player may declare that they have come under fire from the Cretan Resistance. Roll a D6. On a roll of 6, this is ignored and the Germans may deploy the unit without delay removing the Cretan Resistance from play. On a roll of 1 to 5, the unit is delayed and no troops may deploy from that Jump-Off Point in this Phase. On subsequent Phases, troops attempting to deploy from that Jump-Off point must roll a D6. On a roll of 1 to 3 the Jump-Off Point remains blocked. On a roll of 4 to 6, the Cretan Resistance is dispersed and removed from the game.

Crafty Cretans Two: Shepherds with Guns
The British player may deploy up to two groups of Cretan Shepherds, each one counting as a Crafty Cretan. We recommend 60mm round bases for 28mm figures. After the patrol Phase is complete, the shepherd bases are placed on a road 24” from a German Jump-Off Point of the British player’s choosing.

On each British Phase, the Shepherd bases are moved towards the closest German Jump-Off Point at a rate of 2D6 inches per Phase.

At any point while under British control it may be replaced with an LMG Team rated Green. It may immediately activate with no Command Dice required. Firing or moving.

If the base is contacted by German troops before this occurs, then the base in question is simply Civilians or Policemen and they disperse immediately.

Shepherds block line of sight. The German or allied player may instantly disperse a Civilian Group by shooting through it, either specifically to disperse the Shepherds or when targeting an enemy unit blocked by the group.

Crafty Cretans Three: Stavros
A single figure in shabby civilian attire, Stavros is a Cretan sniper who may be placed anywhere on the table by the British player, although Stavros will never shut down or capture enemy Jump-Off Points if placed near or on them.

Stavros will activate on a Command Dice roll 1 and will fire on any German troops in the same way as any sniper. Like a sniper, Stavros may be repositioned with a Chain of Command dice. Like a sniper, Stavros is removed from the game if shot or contacted by German troops. This does not count as the loss of a support option and no Force Morale Test results.

Civilian Mob
The Crete civilian actions against the Germans were not limited to harassment; mobs of armed civilians joined in the Greek counter-attacks at Kastelli Hill and Paleochora.

Each squad counts as a leaderless ‘squad’. Each squad activates on a Command Dice roll of ‘2’, separate teams on a score of ‘1’.

Totally unaccustomed to the rigours of modern war, civilian sections receive one extra shock for every two shock and/or kills received, unless a cover modifier was applied to the shots that caused the hits.

A12 Matilda
Two Matildas are available at any time from the start of Game Three onwards. If they are used in a game and not destroyed, they may be selected in subsequent games. If damaged, they may be selected for subsequent games but not in the next campaign turn.

LAYFORCE
Layforce Commandos arrived late in the Battle of Crete. The British Player may choose to field a commando platoon at any time from the start of Game Six onwards. The Commando Platoon has full access to the British Support List.

10 comments:

George Anderson said...

That sounds like a decent campaign, good luck.

The Wargames Table said...

Thank you George! We played three games over the first two tables last Thursday evening and Friday. Great fun and thrilling stuff all round! I will post some AAR notes and pics soon.
Cheers
Matt

Phil Robinson said...

Looks great, I shall peruse it more at leisure later this evening.

The Wargames Table said...

Thank you. All constructive comments welcome 😎

A J said...

Looks all set for a great campaign! Looking forward to the game reports.

The Wargames Table said...

Thank you 🙂

Matt Crump said...

What a fantastic looking campaign the level of detail you have put in in the planning stage is impressive. Looking forward to seeing it unfold 👍

The Wargames Table said...

Thank you Matt. Tbh most of the work was done by my mate Dave 🙂

L Greg said...

Looks very interesting. Two questions: 1) what are the rukes for the naval bombardment? 2) what is the TOE for tge commando platoon?

The Wargames Table said...

Thanks
1, best to have a look at the original TFL Kampfgruppe von Luck supplement as that explains it in detail.
2, there are Commando lists on the Lardy blog and TFL forum so we'll likely use one of those.