Mission #8 - A Coy/RCR Campaign, Sicily to Ortona, Italy, 1943

ChappyNS

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Welcome to Mission #8 of my SASL Campaign! Missions #1-7 were all successful for the Canadians. They began by eliminating the shocked Italians from the Pachino airfield in southern Sicily, then cleared the road of Germans for the attack on Valguernera, secured the hill feature on the way to Nissoria, then captured the high feature dominating the town of Regalbuto, cleared the town of Motta in a night operation, cleared the hills of Fallschirmjaeger around San Marco, and most recently eliminated all German forces in the town of Busso. This next mission will be against the same panzer grenadiers as the last mission.

This campaign follows the historical path of A Coy, Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) from its landing at Pachino, Sicily, to the bloody streets of “Little Stalingrad” at Ortona, Italy in 1943.

At this point I would like to again thank and give credit to Ahriman667 who put a lot of effort into the research, design and play-testing of this campaign. It is solely his campaign - I have just “borrowed” it. Thanks Ahriman667!

The overall campaign structure for the Canadians are as follows:

Unit: A Coy/RCR/1 CIB

Composition: [US# 38/26] Leader x3, 4-5-7 x9, 2-4-7, 1-2-7 x3, LMG x4, 51mm MTR x3, PIAT x3 (note that all of the 4-5-7 are now elite with the exception of one)

• On OFFENCE add 1-2-7x1, MMGx1 [US# 40/28]
• On DEFENCE add 1-2-7x1, HMGx1 [US# 40/28]

ELR: 4

Command structure:

Maj R.G. Liddell (A Coy Cmd, 9-1)

Capt Dillon (A Coy 2IC, 9-1)

Capt M.C.D. Bowman (3 Pl Cmd, 8-1)

** Capt Chapman (OC Firebase, 9-1)

CSM Sterlin (9-1)

**Note: I am additionally using the “Personal Leader Optional Rules” (I think originally found in basic Squad Leader) and so I have added my own personal 7-0 leader to the fray. He gets promoted by securing more elan points (positive actions) than cowardice points (negative actions). After mission #3 he was promoted to sergeant, 8-0. After mission #6 he was promoted to Lieutenant and was awarded Mentioned in Dispatches for his influence on the battle at San Marco. After mission #7 he was promoted to Captain, 9-1.

On a personal note, I used to be an officer with the RCR so this campaign holds high interest for me. Additionally, as a student and teacher of military history, I have also visited Sicily and Ortona, in part to help get a better grasp of what our guys went through. Previously in my career, I actually met Captain Dillon (see above), who at the time was serving as our honorary Colonel of the Regiment, and who would be one of the few original regimental officers to survive the war.

If you wish to read more about the Canadians in Sicily/Italy, I highly recommend Mark Zuehlke’s four books.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings!

13524
 

ChappyNS

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Mission #8 - Castropignano River Crossing

Where: Castropignano, Italy

When: 24 October, 1943

Mission Type: Bridgehead

Enemy: Germans; specifically elements of 29Th Panzer-Grenadier Division

Historical Narrative: On the 24th of October, the Regiment was once more tasked with continuing the advance, this time securing two small towns on either side of the only crossing point over the Biferno River, Roccaspromonte and Castropignano. Securing these two towns would let the engineers commence bridging and allow for the 48th Highlanders to attack towards Torella. At 1705 hours, A Coy crossed the river and scrambled up the steep western bank.

SETUP AND CONSIDERATION

The setup instructions for this mission is to roll a random river board (easternmost board) and two other random boards. I randomly rolled boards 66 (farmland) and 61 (hills). There is one overlay on #66 (building) and two on #61 (church and open ground). Here is what the terrain looks like:

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North is to the left. FBE is east for this battle (at top) and EBE is west. The weather conditions are moist (EC -1) and there is no wind. It is October and therefore there is no wheat/grain, but orchards are still in effect. The river is deep and there is no bridge. There is lots of marsh on both sides of the river (hindrance) and you will note that there are three small islands in the river. There are lots of woods to the west of the river, and these will be important in this battle. To the west of this wooded area are two hills with a valley in between (depression). Finally, near the EBE is a small village with largely stone houses, and a stream runs through the town. All of the buildings are single story with the exception of the church in the exact centre of the battlefield.

There are no VPOs at start. However, each fortification that is activated on the river board becomes a VPO and is worth points. There are 15 x S? counters at start on the river board (with 39 x S? entering EBE starting on turn #3, DR+2 each turn until they are all deployed). Some of the at start S? are in wooden houses, but most are in woods locations as shown below:

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The battle duration is a minimum of 10 turns. The German activation number is low at "2", although the enemy counterattack activation number is "3". The enemy has a lower RE (2/3) compared to the Canadian (4/5), yet their SAN is higher (4 for Ger, 2 for Cda). There are no booby traps. For this "Bridgehead" mission, the FRIENDLY side automatically loses if there are ENEMY units in the Bridgehead area at the end of the mission (see map below). Only the ENEMY side gets Casualty VPs unless there are AFV/gun casualties that the FRIENDLY side can claim. Fortification control is worth major VPs - equal to the highest TEM (direct fire) of the fortification times the infantry stacking capacity (ie. a 2S foxhole is worth 2(2S) x 2(+2 TEM) = 4 VPs. Note that only for this mission, an activation DR that is even is considered to have an "F" (fortification) roll.

BRIDGEHEAD: Prior to setup, the FRIENDLY player selects a single, non-island, non-water hex west of the river on/between hex rows G and AA. All non-island, non-water locations less than or equal to 4 hexes away from the selected hex are considered to be the bridgehead. ENEMY units treat the Bridgehead as VPO locations for movement only. See the bridgehead outlined below:

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The Canadian setup, with their beached assault boats and rafts, looks like this:


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The initial plan is this:

Phase 1 - crossing of the river and securing Obj BRIDGEHEAD
Phase 2 - secure western bank of river; prepare for enemy counterattack

During Phase 1, 2 Pl (left) and 1 Pl (right) will cross the river on assault boats and land opposite of where they set off. They will advance and secure Obj BRIDGEHEAD, clearing the 7 suspected enemy positions in the immediate area. (see map below)

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During Phase 2, 1 Pl will continue advancing south, clearing the river bank. 3 Pl will occupy/defend Obj BRIDGEHEAD. 2 Pl will occupy and defend any fortifications that are discovered. Firebase will occupy hill 517 and prepare to engage any enemy counterattacks. See map below:


13530


Turn #1 tomorrow...
 

ChappyNS

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TURN 1 (CDN)

13543

"Smoke bombs! Fire!!" yelled newly promoted Capt Chapman. The three teams of mortar men dropped their smoke bombs down their tubes and launched them at their predesignated targets. Smoke bombs were always in low supply, and the smoke bombs fired just now were the last ones for two of the mortar teams.

A Coy was deployed on the riverbank, their assault boats in front of them, and they were nervous, for an assault water crossing could be disastrous. But the soldiers in A Coy became a lot less nervous as the bombs fell on their targets, smoke belching forth, engulfing the two wooden houses and also covering some open ground areas.

"Move, move , move!!" The entirety of 1 and 2 platoons jumped to their collective feet and ran the short distance to the boats. They clambered over the sides and into the boats; some lost their balance or they tripped up, and they crashed to the bottom of the boat. Each boat had its own driver who used the small outboard motors to propel and steer the boats into the main course of the river. They opened up the throttle, but the weight of the human cargo prevented the vessels from approaching anything close to speed. The men hunched down, exposing the least amount of body as possible, and they watched in some fear as the boats moved across the water. The smoke was doing its job, or the enemy was asleep, for the crossing appeared to be unopposed.

Capt Dillon's boat was the first one ashore. He was first to leap out of the vessel and went to ground, trying to observe any enemy. The section with him had a bren gun and they set it up quickly. 3 section landed about 80 meters away near the first of the wooden buildings; they gave the all clear - no Germans there today (dummy in DD3)

Maj Liddell watched as 3 section, 1 Pl, landed ashore ahead of him. They deployed on the road that led from the shore. Liddell and 2 section landed next, and with his motivation he got the men to move further along and into the smoke cloud. As they slowly advanced out of the smoke cloud and down the road that was surrounded by swamp, the section thought they saw something ahead, but apparently what they saw were just shadows (dummies in AA1, Z1, W1). Liddell move his binoculars from right to left and there they were: about 20 Germans. And they saw each other at the same time...


TURN 1 (GER)

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Cpl Pasternack was joking with his soldiers when suddenly four clouds of smoke erupted from nowhere. "Stand to! Observe to your front!" Suddenly, gusts of wind flared up, dispersing half of the smokescreen. But the smoke screen, combined with the reeds of the prevailing swamp, prevented clear observation across the water. After a minute went by, he suddenly saw ghost-like figures emerge from the smoke just to the front. Pasternack gave a hasty fire order, but half the men were frozen in fear. The other half fired wildly, clearly missing their mark.

Liddell and his men heard the rounds impacting around them. "German squads in the wood line! Fire!" The bren gun erupted with great accuracy, and the Germans at the business end of the weapon had had enough, fleeing their positions and moving out of sight at the back of the woods.

So far the Canadians had been lucky, but time was not on their side, and they knew the Germans would already be responding in the depth areas, mobilizing to drive them back across the river...
 

BigAl737

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Exciting narrative. I’m guessing you can’t Panic during a river crossing? You don’t have to answer as I can look it up. Just noting how fortunate it is that no one did.
 

ChappyNS

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Exciting narrative. I’m guessing you can’t Panic during a river crossing? You don’t have to answer as I can look it up. Just noting how fortunate it is that no one did.
Correct - S13.61 in addition to my home rule that all FRIENDLY units are in command on turn #1
 

TopT

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Correct - S13.61 in addition to my home rule that all FRIENDLY units are in command on turn #1
The real time vagaries of combat do not often work that way. In real life everyone is not in sync as we would like and the randomness of panic would produce some inexplicable event beyond the Company Commander's control.

SASL is very forgiving for the Friendly Player. You have to help the AI somewhat.
 

ChappyNS

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The real time vagaries of combat do not often work that way. In real life everyone is not in sync as we would like and the randomness of panic would produce some inexplicable event beyond the Company Commander's control.

SASL is very forgiving for the Friendly Player. You have to help the AI somewhat.
Yeah I'm thinking that the rule exists because it doesn't matter what mental state the boat riders are in - they are in the boats and they are propelled forward by the motor/driver regardless of their condition or will at this point - the alternative would be jumping over the side of course
 

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TURN 2 (CDN)

The Canadians roll RE#53 - combined arms flank attack (RE 51 & 52 together) who enter on FBE. It is B Coy, RCR, commanded by Maj Strome Galloway (like Dillon, one of the few original officers of the Regiment to survive the war and who would someday serve as Honorary Colonel of the Regiment; I had the pleasure of being his aide whenever he visited the 2nd Battalion. He was also the author of several books about the RCR in Italy in WW2). B Coy is accompanied by two Stuart Va light tanks, courtesy of Recce Troop, Calgary Tanks.

No one was more surprised than Maj Liddell. The CO had just informed him that B Coy, led by his friend Maj Galloway, would be "shot through" A Coy since they had captured the bridgehead so quickly. Welcome news indeed! Accompanying Strome were two Honey tanks (Stuarts) from Recce Troop who would aid against the inevitable German counterattack.

Note: I had two great uncles who served in Italy with the 8th NB Hussars (Princess Louise) in WW2. Harold, the oldest brother, drove a Honey tank in Recce Troop throughout the war. "Honey" was the nickname that Brit and Commonwealth tankers called the Stuart.

Cpl Pasternack managed to rally one of his squads back into service, but the other squad remained ineffective for the moment.

Capt Chapman had heard the transmission from the company commander about the arrival of their sister company, and with a smile on his face he directed the mortar fire against a possible target in the woods that turned out to be nothing (dummy in DD1).

3 section, 2 Pl, under Capt Dillon, advanced cautiously towards the wooden house, but soon realized that it was empty (dummy in FF1). The last section of 2 Pl landed on the western side of the river, and joined Capt Dillon, advancing southwards through some sparse woods along the riverbank.

1 Pl were in pursuit of the fleeing Germans, and Liddell had the platoon disperse and advance through the dense trees. Suddenly they happened upon the beleaguered Germans who instantly trained their weapons on the intruders...

Capt Bowman had watched the other two platoons land without incident and advance further towards the hills. It was time for 3 Pl to do the same. They jumped into their boats and began to cross the slow moving river. At the other side, Bowman jumped out and awaited the rest of the platoon to join him.

Meanwhile, on the eastern flank, Maj Galloway signalled B Coy to advance. A Coy's assault boats had returned to the eastern bank, and now they would carry B Coy across as well. He signalled Sgt Musgrave, who was leading the Honeys, to move down the road further south so they could use their firepower to aid A Coy in clearing the western bank. The small, light tanks were fast and bristling with MGs. They were a welcome addition to the fight. Galloway watched as the little tanks moved down the road, with a dust screen trailing behind them...


TURN 2 (GER)

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Pasternack immediately had his one effective squad fire upon the Canadians, seemingly with little effect. Liddell's section went to ground behind any tree they could find, and when they fired back with the help of their bren gun, they saw the German NCO and his soldiers flee in terror, leaving five of their dead brothers behind.

Other than this brief firefight, the next minute was uncannily quiet...
 

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ChappyNS

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I've played a similar Mission where the ENEMY received a reinforcement attack in the immediately following player turn. One never knows!
Yeah the RE's can be a ruthless and decisive factor, but that is the randomness of it all.

However, in this scenario (unless I'm reading it wrong) the reinforcements are useless if I cannot generate at least one fortification to gain VPs from. FRIENDLY doesn't get casualty VP unless an enemy tank/gun, and these are rare activations. Basically, there are seven at start S? left, and if none of those activate a fortification then I believe the scenario is a win for the Germans, which seems bizarre. Does anyone have another interpretation?
 

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Just saw this one sorry. MSR3 says FR RE reinforcements can only enter along the FBE or west of the river (in this case East of the river). They should never have been allowed to flank the Germans.

13581
 

ChappyNS

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Just saw this one sorry. MSR3 says FR RE reinforcements can only enter along the FBE or west of the river (in this case East of the river). They should never have been allowed to flank the Germans.

View attachment 13581

Ahhhhh I see because you relocated the river board from west to east. Oh well, there is something you can edit if you like.

So creator, I am assuming the reinforcing AFVs cannot cross the river in any way, although B Coy could get across in A Coys boats?
 

ChappyNS

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I have had a few India Pale Ales 🍻 go downrange here so I will re-work turn 2 tomorrow. :)

In essence, the campaign creator mirror-imaged the board setup situation for "Bridgehead" (ie river board is eastern most instead of west), but when I read the actual "Bridgehead" scenario card it says FRIENDLY reinforcements can come on west of the river (when this should now be east). Neither of us this caught this until turn 2 was played out. No problem! The good news is that the reinforcing Canadians just arrived last turn and had no effect, combat or otherwise. So I will simply reposition them east of the river and do a redo move for them. Nothing that happened with A Coy changes. And I will edit the narrative to reflect this. A minor "fog of war" glitch. Until tomorrow!
 

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I have had a few India Pale Ales 🍻 go downrange here so I will re-work turn 2 tomorrow. :)

In essence, the campaign creator mirror-imaged the board setup situation for "Bridgehead" (ie river board is eastern most instead of west), but when I read the actual "Bridgehead" scenario card it says FRIENDLY reinforcements can come on west of the river (when this should now be east). Neither of us this caught this until turn 2 was played out. No problem! The good news is that the reinforcing Canadians just arrived last turn and had no effect, combat or otherwise. So I will simply reposition them east of the river and do a redo move for them. Nothing that happened with A Coy changes. And I will edit the narrative to reflect this. A minor "fog of war" glitch. Until tomorrow!
WHAT? A former gravel agitator imbibing of mild intoxicating refreshments! Almost unheard off.:eek:
 
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