Canaryville, France (Bolt Action – modified) AAR by Korrespondent Dan
On Sunday, December 4, the players (Andy Mouradian, Dave Beymer, Paul Szymborski, Dan Munson) met at Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica to stage a “Normandy 1944” scenario crafted by Dan, entitled “Canaryville, June 1944 (a.k.a La (Bo)Cage aux Folles). Andy and Dave played the U.S. side, while Paul and Dan pushed the Germans. Rules in use were Bolt Action, as modified by the San Fernando Valley Wargamers.
Basic scenario: The Allied forces have managed to push inland some ways since D-Day, but are not yet clear of the bocage country. The previous day and night, U.S. troops drove defending Germans back to the outskirts of the crossroads village of Canaryville. (picture 1 below).
The GIs overnighted in the bocaged field on the right in picture 3 below.
During the night, U.S. engineer teams dynamited exit gaps in the bocage on their side of the road. During most of the night, Germans were manning firing positions dug into the bocage across the road, so the U.S. rested up and got ready for its next big push at daybreak. As the GIs kick off their push at daybreak, the rear area behind the German defenders is being heavily attacked by massed field artillery and Allied “Jabos.” Whatever artillery support the Germans might have hoped for is either being blown up or shot up or is hiding itself deep in the nearest woods it can find. Roads are heavily interdicted, so the Germans fighting at Canaryville are, in essence, on an island all by themselves, with little or no hope of outside assistance. They are, however, “hidden” at the start and in many places are “dug in.” Also, during the night, German pioneers, assisted by infantrymen, managed to sow hasty minefields across much of the front. The 3” x 3” cloth patches seen in the pictures represent either live or dummy “hasty” mine fields.
The forces: Using the new experimental “point” system under development (the normal BA point system is discarded), the Germans had 1140 points. Using the 25% point discount available to U.S. and British forces, the U.S. had, in effect, 1425 points. Andy elected to roster a full rifle company of 3 platoons (i.e., nine full squads, with requisite command elements), supported by a 60 mm mortar section, a .30 cal. MMG team, and a bazooka team. In addition, the GIs were backed by 2 FOs calling shots for a section of heavy howitzers (off-board). Interestingly, the U.S. eschewed any armor support for this scenario.
The German infantry in and around Canaryville numbered just two understrength infantry platoons (6 squads of 7 men each) (the 3rd platoon was fighting off-board on one flank). Each platoon, however, had an MG-42 MMG team assigned to it from the battalion. In addition, the company’s 80 mm mortar section was available, on the hill behind Canaryville, with its spotter lodged in the belfry of the village church (picture 4 below).
Editor notes from emails to WR: Per Andy, “we did not field full squads. A full squad is 11 men. We had 8 men for 6 squads and 7 men for 3 squads”. Per Dan. “I should add the clarification – if not clear from the original text –that as of the start of Turn 1 (daybreak), the Germans had retired from the front edge of the bocage to the back-sides of the fields”.
Joining the spotter was one of the company’s designated snipers (the others being dead and not yet replaced). Company HQ was in a small house on the hill behind the village. Initially hidden from Allied view in the village streets was a (1940 captured) French Panhard 178 armored car, in German livery. Also in the street – but initially “broken down” and undergoing feverish repairs – was a Pz IV-J, left behind when its unit pulled out through Canaryville the previous night. (German players rolled a d6 die at the start of each game turn, keeping a running tally of the results; when the total reached “30,” the Pz IV was deemed operational.)
The play: The first U.S. advance involved simply digging “mouse holes” through the base of the bocage and crawling some squads into the two fields (picture 2 below).
While in actuality it would have required much longer to do this, the scenario enabled the GIs to tunnel through in 3 game turns. This first foray was – almost predictably – met by fire from German squads dug into the bocage on the opposite side of the fields. Almost as predictably, the two unlucky G.I. squads were lacerated and eventually forced to squirm back under the bocage to safety. (See, e.g., the troops by the die in picture 5 below).
This bloody interlude, incidentally, was an almost exact reproduction of the historical results which caused the Allies to develop their armor-supported bocage-busting tactics. The U.S. .30 cal. MMG team tried to set itself up at the road intersection, tucked into a corner of the bocage in a position to fire down the main road into Canaryville. But this attempt woke up a counter-part: an “ambushing” German MG-42 team set up in the road-side corner of a fenced yard of a white-washed house (picture 9 below).
The MG-42 promptly sent a stream of lead down the road, laying out 2 of the 3 GIs serving the MMG (even with allowing the GIs “hard cover” protection!). After this 1-2-3, gut-punch, the two G.I. commanders re-assessed their approach. What they came up with was not glamorous, but it was effective in pushing back the German defenders. Finally, getting one of their FOs into one of the previously dug “mouse holes,” artillery fire was called down on the German squad defending the bocage row (picture 2 below).
In two turns, that squad accumulated so many casualties and “pins” that a rally was a near-impossibility and, no surprise, it broke . . . totally. A second squad from that German platoon came out of hiding and tried to advance to the bocage, to re-establish a defense there – and in two subsequent turns it, too, was driven back to a barnyard (picture 7) – cowed for the moment but not broken.
The U.S. troops in that area (pushed by Dave) then re-entered the field and, screened now by smoke, proceeded to slowly probe and dig their way across the mines. On the opposite side of the field, the G.I.’s were organizing a “student body right” play to overwhelm German defenses in the woods there. (pictures 6, 8 below).
Some bloody exchanges of fire went back and forth for a couple of turns, but numbers (and Garands) eventually told. The German squad’s heavily pinned survivors (Pic 8) were at last overpowered and the G.I.s reached the far edge of the woods, with a clear view into Canaryville itself (picture 10 below).
The fragmented German defense in that sector had fallen back behind the stream and pond, ready for a desperate last-ditch effort. In this they were supported first by the armored car (Pic 9) and, when it finally was operational, the Pz IV (picture 11 below).
Result: We did not get to play to an actual conclusion, since the folks at Aero Hobbies needed to close up soon. Consensus was that the U.S. side was going to slowly but surely grind its way into Canaryville. Patient application of their artillery and mortar resources would (probably) eventually have neutralized the German armor. By the time we wrapped, nearly 40% of the starting German infantry were casualties, so the defense was wearing a bit thin.
Editor note: Miniatures and terrain seen in pictures part of Dan and Andy’s 28mm BA collections. Photos taken by Dan and sent with article to WR who embedded into the narrative to hopefully improve situation clarity.
Dan Munson – Heer Korrespondent
WR – Thanks Dan for your report. Typing in a foxhole is tough….. vs. table sitting at the local French cafe, wine on hand.