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Our UK fans ran a gigantic demo game on Operation Epsom Day 3 - The Scottish Corridor. This was a huge game and they sent us
lots of photos. Click here for the scenario in .pdf format.
By the third week of June, both sides were looking for other ways to achieve a breakthrough.
The Germans were finally starting to bring significant new forces into Normandy. In particular,
1SS Panzer Division (Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler) and 2 SS Panzer Division (Das Reich) were on the move;
but Rommel had still not been able to been able to relieve an increasingly tired Hitlerjügend with an infantry division.
As new allied divisions continued to cross the channel, Montgomery was preparing to launch the first major
set-piece assaults of the campaign. He had reviewed his plan for a pincer assault on Caen and had downgraded
the assault in east, through the cramped Orne bridgehead. He decided that VIII Corps would make the main assault
west of Caen, through Cheux, across the River Odon to Hill 112 and then across the Orne to isolate Caen from the south.
This was "Operation Epsom".
Initial Deployment - British
- 9th Cameron Highlanders with B Squadron 9 RTR
Deployed north of the railway above Grainville. Phase 1 - Assault Grainville with support from Divisional artillery
- A, B, C Comp 7th Seaforth Highlanders with A Squadron & Recce Troop 9 RTR
Deployed on the road between Tourville & Tourmauville Bridge Phase 1 - Sweep west to Le Valtru and the road from Grainville to Gavrus
- D Comp 7th Seaforth Highlanders with C Squadron 9 RTR Deployed around Tourville. Phase 1 - Move west to seize Mondrainville
- 2nd Gordon Highlanders
Brigade reserve. Phase 1 - Hold the east flank of corridor from Colleville, down line of River Salbey to River Odon
- 3rd Monmouthshire Hold position in Mouen
Initial Deployment - German
- HQ of PzGren Regt 26 with platoon of Panzer IV's and armoured cars
Deployed west of Grainville village, aiming to move back in after the expected artillery barrage had lifted.
- Remnants of 5 Komp II/26, strengthened by Pak 40's
Took up position in the bocage south of Le Valtru - right in the path of the Seaforths with A & Recce 9RTR.
- 6 Komp II/26, together with some stragglers from the Pioneer battalion
Took up position in woodland on the where the River Salbey joins the River Odon
- 7 Komp II/26 were in position in Bas de Mouen.
Early Morning - The British assault gets underway
Brigadier Davies' main priority was to widen the corridor to the west by taking Grainville, Mondrainville,
Le Valtru and ultimately the Grainville-Gavrus road. Grainville was the key - if this was secured, then any German
forces remaining around the centre would be outflanked and at risk of encirclement. An assault on Grainville late on
the previous day had been pushed back and therefore the new assault was backed up by a full divisional artillery fire-plan.
To maintain pressure on all parts of the German position, H-hour for the Cameronians was timed to coincide with the advances
further south by the Seaforths. The fire-plan did, however, limit the artillery available for the other assaults.
Phase one of "The Scottish Corridor" soon developed into four separate encounters at Grainville,
Le Valtru, Mouen, and the River Odon.
- Grainville - The Germans knew that Grainville itself would be hit hard British artillery
and deployed north & west of the main part of the village. The British artillery hit Grainville heavily
and the Cameronians & Churchills moved forward behind the moving barrage (Photo 3). North of the railway,
German Armoured Cars in the path of the barrage withdrew south (Photo 4) to the fields and orchards on the west
edge of Grainville. The Chateau northwest of Grainville was held tenaciously by the Hitlerjügend, (Photo 7)
and they extracted a high price from the Cameronians before being pushed back. As the artillery lifted, the
Cameronians entered the deserted ruins of Grainville behind a smoke-screen (Photo 9). They continued to push
east and phase one ended with the main part of Grainville securely held but Cameronians and Hitlerjügend were still
contesting control of the fields and hedgerows to the west.
- Le Valtru - The bocage south of the main road was always going to be ideal defensive ground and the Germans
selected this as ideal terrain to defend with infantry and AT guns (Photo 6). The Seaforths were aiming to clear
Mondrainville and Le Valtru before closing up on the Grainville - Gavrus road. Their move into Mondrainville was unopposed
(Photo 8) but the bocage around Le Valtru was hotly contested. The terrain from their start line to the road included
3-4 bocage hedges, a river and a scattering of orchards & woods. Never sure where the resistance would be found, progress was slow. Eventually the Pak 40's opened up and quickly took their toll both on the Honeys and also, surprisingly, the Churchills following in support. (Photo 10). This, together with the failure of call-for-fire at the vital moment, robbed the assault of its momentum. Whilst the Seaforths fought their way through the woods to the south, AVRE's released from Mondrainville, moved round to assault the defenders from the rear. (Photo 12) Some Hitlerjügend slipped through the closing net across the river. At the end of phase 1, Le Valtru was still contested and the road south lay firmly in German hands.
- Mouen - the Monmouths were under orders not to attack and maintained a watch on Hitlerjügend 7 Komp II/26 all morning
- River Odon - Lack of toys in the box meant that 227 Brigade's Gordon Highlanders were "left out of battle".
With only the Seaforth's Carrier Platoon in sight, the Germans could not resist the temptation...
After crossing the Salbey (Photo 5), they closed on the bridge and, after a brisk fire-fight with the Carrier Platoon
(Photo 11), the bridge was blown - 11th Armoured Division were well and truly cut off. The Hitlerjügend then melted
back into the woods, from where they remained a thorn in the side for the rest of the day.
Mid-morning - The British Assault Pushes the Germans Back
By the end of phase 1, The British had succeeded in clearing Grainville but the progress in the bocage
around Le Valtru had been slow. Some of the Hitlerjugend ME's were still reasonably strong and would continue
to cause problems throughout phase 2. The Hitlerjugend had traded losses at the rate of 2 for 1 (British - 24 infantry stands,
3 Honeys, 3 Churchills; Germans - 13 infantry stands, 4 support weapons). However the British losses were restricted
to a small number of ME's and by rotating the forward companies, the British remained very strong for phase 2.
Early Afternoon - The Counterattack Begins
Due to the dense terrain, it was impractical for either of the Kampfgruppen to attack on a single axis.
Therefore, the German plan was:
The link-up of the Kampfgruppen, cutting the corridor, would be in the area south of Mondrainville & Tourville.
- remaining forces to continue harrying wherever possible
- KG Weidinger
- Two companies (Panzergrenadier & Armoured Pioneer) to maintain pressure on Grainville
- Aufklärungs Company (on motorcycles) to rapid advance towards the Le Valtru bridges. Panthers and remaining infantry to follow and secure Le Valtru before moving on towards Tourville
- KG Frey
- One battalion to lead the assault in Mouen and bring pressure on Colleville
- One battalion to use cover of woods and orchards to reach the Salbey close to Tourville and then assault Tourville
As the Hitlerjügend moved forward and the Kampfgruppen began to deploy, the fighting again became concentrated
into four distinct areas - Grainville, Le Valtru, Mouen and along the River Odon. Brigadier Davies was soon
juggling artillery requests from all corners!
- Grainville - The Hitlerjügend renewed their assault ahead of the arrival of Weidinger's Panzergrenadiers.
The small area of fields, orchards and hedgerows west of Grainville (Photo 14) was hotly contested by B Company,
- Le Valtru - The Aufklärungs company moved forward rapidly on motorcycles to secure the west bank of the
River south of Le Valtru. There was a small number of Seaforths across the river and the "Battle in the Bocage" was
soon underway again. Only this time it was the Seaforths trying to hold those same woods, orchards and hedgerows as
the pressure on them gradually increased.
- Mouen - Unsurprising, the quiet time for the Monmouthshires was over. Hitlerjügend from 7 Komp II/26 broke
cover and started to harass the British positions whilst KG Frey's Panzergrenadiers (Photo 15) moved to outflank
the village north of the railway
- River Odon - The Hitlerjügend had pulled back from the Tourmauville Bridge into the woods
north of the Odon. KG Frey's second battalion started the slow advance through the cover north of the
Odon towards the River Salbey (Photo 16)
Early Afternoon - The Counterattack Begins
Grainville - A fierce fight developed in the area held by B Company of the Cameronians. The Hitlerjügend were taking a steady toll, the commander of the Cameronians was bringing down effective defensive artillery right on top of his companies' positions. Once the fresh Das Reich Panzer-grenadiers started to arrive, the Cameronians started to fall back into Grainville proper (Photo 17).
Le Valtru - After slow progress through Cahier and through the bocage, KG Weidinger's Panthers are finally spotted closing in on the small river south of the Le Valtru (Photo 18).
Mouen -7 Komp II/26 coordinated their attack from the east with LSAH Panzergrenadiers moving down from the railway to the north. Moving across the open ground and breaching bocage hedges to "get to grips" with enemy is always risky but the Hitlerjügend commander led the way (Photo 19) and soon, with losses on each side mounting, the Monmouths were being pushed back through the orchards.
River Odon - After blowing the Tourmauville Bridge, the remnants of Hitlerjügend Pioneers and 6 Komp II/26, had withdrawn into the woods along the north bank of the Odon. Brigadier Davies could not afford to ignore them. He directed first Seaforths and then the Glasgow Highlander's Carrier Platoon, together with AVRE's and Crocodiles, to flush them out. Predictably the Hitlerjügend fought back hard - a Crocodile was knocked out by a Panzerfaust and soon the Carrier Platoons (Photo 20) were struggling.
Late Afternoon - The British Resistance Thickens
Grainville - The remainder of the Cameronians had prepared Grainville for defence, backed up by a screen of Battalion 6-pdrs and Brigade 17-pdrs. They knew that they had to hold the village against the strengthening opposition. Smoke soon arrived to screen off the antitank guns and the Pioneer Kompanie's Sdkfz's surged forwards up the slope towards the main part of Grainville (Photo 21).
Le Valtru - The Germans had now assembled three full infantry companies and a Panther company ready to strike through the Seaforth's line (Photo 22), but the bocage made it difficult to maintain a concentrated and cohesive assault group
Mouen - KG Frey had limited armour support but, with pressure on the Monmouths mounting, the Panzer IV's moved forward (Photo 23). Knowing that Mouen was likely to fall, Brigadier Davies established a strong anti-tank line behind the River Salbey (Photo24)
River Odon - One full company from the Glasgow Highlanders and then a second company were committed to the fight in the woods with similar results. The German artillery was coming in at exactly the right time and place. Poor communication bedevilled the British artillery and one call-for-fire after another failed. With mopping up continuing, the British then saw the new threat appear on their flank (Photo25) as Frey's Panzergrenadiers closed on the River Salbey
Late Afternoon - Fighting continues
Grainville - The Germans maintained the momentum of the advance by committing the Armoured Pioneers. The Cameronians had already suffered heavy losses to A Company in phase 1 and to B Company in the fighting west of Grainville. B 9/RTR advanced to the west to buy some time and the Cameronians fought hard to hold the Germans on the outskirts of Grainville (Photo 26).
Le Valtru - The fighting in the bocage around Le Valtru continued. The Seaforths blew the bridge in Le Valtru and defended the line of the river. The Panzergrenadiers were forced to cross the river under fire (Photo 27) and clear Le Valtru house by house - slow and costly
Mouen - KG Frey's Panzer IV's arrived in Mouen and this proved to be the final straw for the Monmouths (Photo 28). The survivors pulled back towards 46 Brigade's lines
River Odon - With infantry dug-in on the far bank, supported by armour, the River Salbey proved to be a formidable obstacle. (Photo29) The first assaults by Frey's Panzergrenadiers were thrown back and the British line held
We ran out of time! Another four hours of gaming would have seen the battle through to a decisive result.
By the end of two days of wargaming, the result was a draw, with the balance marginally favouring the Germans.
Their plan was succeeding. The fighting around Grainville was tying down a large amount of the British forces.
Progress here and at Mouen had forced the British to commit most of their mobile anti-tank forces in the north
of the corridor. Although fighting through the bocage around Le Valtru was proving slow, the depleted Seaforths
were finding it progressively harder to hold back the advance. The Glasgow Highlanders had suffered heavily
fighting around the River Odon and would find it difficult to hold the line of the River Salbey against a fresh
battalion of Frey's Panzergrenadiers. British artillery and Typhoon's had helped to slow the advance but
would have needed to be at their best to keep the Scottish Corridor open.
Brigade Units - Largely intact
Cameronians - 2 depleted companies, 2 intact companies
Seaforths - 2 depleted companies, 2 intact companies
Glasgow Highlanders - 2 depleted companies, 2 intact companies
Monmouths - No longer an effective force
9 RTR -1 depleted squadron, 2 intact squadrons
12SS Remnants - No longer an effective force
KG Weidinger - Armour intact, Pioneers 33&perc; losses, remainder largely intact
KG Frey - Armour intact, Battalion 1 - 33&perc; losses in one company only, Battalion 2 - largely intact
|Click on the Thumbnail for a full-size photo
The cast (day two)
|Mike Hobbs, Paul Smith, Mark Middleton, Gary Loosen, Mark Davies, Steve Uden, Chris Ginn, Andy Stenhouse.|
Recommendations for Awards
Eiserne Kreuz - Scharfuhrer Stenhouse, 8 Komp, II/Pz-Gren Regt 26, Hitlerjugend
II Bataillon, SS Pz-Gren Regt 26 (12SS) had been heavily engaged in the fighting of the previous 2 days.
Despite this, men of 8 (Schweres) Kompanie II/26 had managed to salvage some of their heavy weapons
and attached themselves to 5 Komp II/26. They were directed to form a blocking line to the south of
Le Valtru. On the morning of June 28th, they found themselves heavily outnumbered and under attack
by a battalion of British infantry (Seaforth Highlanders) with armour support. They held their positions
for over 2 hours, inflicting heavy losses on the attacking armour. The road ahead of the position was
littered with burnt out and abandoned tanks. Their selfless sacrifice allowed the line to be held whilst
Kampfgruppe Weidinger moved into position for the counterattack.
Ritter Kreuz - Scharfuhrer Loosen, 6 Komp, II/Pz-Gren Regt 26, Hitlerjugend
Having assisted the Pioneers in their assault on Tourmauville Bridge,
6 Kompanie withdrew into defensive positions in the woods on the north bank of the River Odon.
They remained isolated from the advancing troops of KG Weidinger and Frey, with little hope of
relief. Despite this, they continued to direct artillery fire onto the British lines and fought
tenaciously against infantry and armoured counterattacks. Scharfuhrer Loosen personally destroyed a
Churchill Flamethrower as it closed in on his Kompanie's positions. By the time they withdrew back
across the Salbey, they had inflicted heavy casualties on the Glasgow Highlanders.
Ritter Kreuz Hauptsturmfuhrer Middleton, 7 Komp, II/Pz-Gren Regt 26, Hitlerjügend
After the British breakthrough at the end of the previous day, Hstuf. Middleton
successfully established a blocking position in Bas de Mouen and awaited reinforcement.
As KG Frey began its advance into Mouen, he demanded action from his weary Hitlerjugend
Panzergrenadiers. There was still an intact defence line established by the Monmouths in
the hedges and orchards east of Mouen. Despite this, with no available support from armour,
artillery or mortars, he personally led the assault on the British positions. He was seen to
assault and capture at least 2 enemy positions before his men followed him over
the hedgerows and started to push the Monmouths back. By the time the armour support from
KG Frey had arrived, the fight for Mouen was all but over.
Military Cross - Captain Hobbs, B Company, 9th Battalion, The Cameronian Highlanders
The Cameronians had a hard battle during the morning of June 28th, as they pushed the 12SS away from Grainville and secured the high ground north of the railway. At the end of the morning, B Company, under Major Hobbs, moved into the forward positions to the west of Grainville. As soon as the counterattack began, the 12SS began to infiltrate back through the woods and hedges into B Companies positions. The Hitlerjügend were supported by tanks (probably Tigers) and soon also by fresh Panzergrenadiers from KG Frey. Despite seeing his forward platoons over-run, Captain Hobbs continued to direct artillery fire and encourage the defenders until finally his position was taken. Despite sustaining serious injuries, Captain Hobbs managed to withdraw with some of his man back to the main battalion positions.
Military Cross - Major Paul Smith, C Company, 3rd Battalion. The Monmouthshire Regiment
As part of 11th Armoured Division, the 3rd Monmouthshires had moved down the Scottish Corridor the previous night. However, in the darkness and general confusion, C Company was wrongly directed at Colleville and found itself in a deserted village called Mouen. After making contact with 46 Brigade, they were ordered to hold their positions as part of the defence of the east flank of the corridor. After a nervous night and morning, Major Smith quickly found himself in a very uneven fight against over a battalion of Panzergrenadiers, strongly supported by Panthers and Panzer IV's. He led the Monmouths as they conducted a fighting withdrawal, contesting every hedgerow, every building and every yard of orchard & gardens, allowing Brigade HQ to establish a strong blocking anti-tank line to their rear. Only then did the remnants of the Company fall back into the Brigade defensive box.
Distinguished Service Order - Brigadier Mark (The Barber) Davies, 46th (Highland) Infantry Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division
Brigadier Davies' conduct throughout the battle was a perfect example to his men of what the King, Country and Empire expect. He worked tirelessly to ensure that the strip of Normandy, which had demanded such a high price from his men, remained in British hands. His leadership was exemplary; he was ever-present at the moments of crisis; he personally directed much of the defensive artillery; his batman has testified that he forsook at least three tea-breaks. He supported his inexperienced junior commanders who were fighting their first major actions. One notable example is when he spotted indecision gripping his commander during the advance south of Le Valtru. He was there, in person, encouraging the Recce Troop to move forwards (for results, see Photo10). His resolve was an inspiration to all of those who served under him and without his presence; the outcome would doubtless have been very different.