Mission #9 - A Coy/RCR Campaign, Sicily to Ortona, Italy, 1943

ChappyNS

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Welcome to Mission #9 of my SASL Campaign! Missions #1-8 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, eliminated all German forces in the town of Busso, and most recently secured the bridgehead of the river at Castropignano. This next mission will be against the 90th Panzer Grenadiers - no strangers to the Canadians.

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 two)

• 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, 9-2)

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

** Capt Chapman (OC Firebase, 9-2)

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. And after mission #8 he is still a Captain, but 9-2.

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!

13937
 

ChappyNS

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Mission #9 - Across the Moro River

Where: Moro River, Italy

When: 08 December, 1943

Mission Type: Patrol

Enemy: Germans; specifically elements of 90th Panzer-Grenadier Division

Historical Narrative: On the 8th of December, the RCR moved from their defensive position near San Vito to the Moro River in order to punch through the tenuous bridgeheads held by the PPCLI (at Villa Rogatti) and the H&Per’s (at the mouth of the river). Launching through the H&Per bridgehead in a ‘right hook’, their objective was San Leonardo some two and a half meandering kilometres inland. Leapfrogging companies would move down the meandering dirt road and secure the town in preparation for the 1st Armoured Brigade assault on the vital Ortona-Orsogna crossroads.
As dusk approached, and preceded by a tremendous artillery barrage, the Regiment advanced down the muddy meandering lane without benefit of armoured or anti-tank support (heavy equipment would not be available until the next day as they were stuck south of the Moro).



SETUP AND CONSIDERATION

The setup instructions for this mission is to roll for two random boards. I randomly rolled boards 04 (farmland) and 33 (farmland). There is one overlay on #33 (open ground) and the railroad overlay is just a road to create the link between the FEB/EEB. Here is what the terrain looks like:

13938

North is to the left. FBE is east for this battle (at top) and EBE is west. The weather conditions for are mud (EC -3, and you will note the darker colour of the open ground hexes to represent that) and there is rain and a light breeze from the SE - nasty conditions typical of the Italian winter. It is December and therefore there is no wheat/grain, and the orchards are out of season. There is lots of open ground with scattered copses of woods. There is one large orchard area near the centre of the battlefield and close to the FBE. Farmhouses litter the battlefield, most towards the west, and two of these buildings are two stories high.

There are no VPOs in this mission. It is a patrol mission - both sides begin in column formation and use impulse movement until each side is spotted. There are 27 x S? counters at start off board, two S? per hex, in column formation and entering along the road in the centre. See the S? deployed below:

13939


The battle duration is a minimum of 8 turns. The German activation number is medium at "3". The ENEMY is in advance attitude. Both sides have the same RE (3/4). German SAN is a little better: SAN 3 while the Canadians are SAN 2. There are no booby traps. By random roll, the Germans move first. For this "Patrol" mission, both sides gain VPs for Casualty VP. Additionally, the ENEMY side gains Exit VP for units exited off the FBE.

The Canadian setup has an order of march as follows: 2 Pl, FB, 1 PL, 3 Pl as shown below

13940


As stated previously, each side moves their column as impulse movement until they are in LOS of each other. Those S? that are spotted are automatically activated - no roll is made.

As you can see below, there are many Germans that have been activated. They are in advance attitude, move first, and their objective is to exit from the FBE. With the mud they will be slowed, but the rain/mist provides extra hindrance for their protection when they move across the open ground.

13941
The battle begins, and a certain Mr. Zoll, who has an uncanny ability to escape (this is his third appearance) is out for some revenge...
 

ChappyNS

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Major Zoll was eating breakfast at an impromptu cafe in Ortona when his signaller ran up and delivered him a situation report. His face turned grim as he read the report: the Canadians had successfully crossed the Moro River and they were now advancing towards Ortona. His orders were attached to the report; obviously they were hastily written and not very detailed. He was ordered march his company towards the small town of San Leonardo, take it, and then advance through it to the river crossing and plug that hole in the defence. Reinforcements, including panzers, were scheduled to arrive soon.

Zoll sent his signaller off to collect the platoon leaders and begin the formation of the company in the Ortona streets. There was a flurry of activity everywhere. The platoon leaders were hastily briefed, with additional orders to be given on the march. The company MGs were disasembled for faster movement. In a mere 15 minutes the company had formed and began to march out from the city in its order of march. Major Zoll was leading from the front, something he would not usually do, but now was a time for speed, efficient navigation, and a show of confidence for his company. The day was dreary - there was a light rain and accompanying mist with a light breeze from the southeast. Mud was prevalent everywhere, and the men slipped and slid along their march; some actually fell and had to be helped up by their fellow landsers. It was a mess.

Major Zoll led the company past the major crossroads outside the city, skirted the steep slopes of the gully, and then entered San Leonardo. Pausing for a break, they could hear but not see the artillery explosions all around to the front. The next stop was the Moro River. The company stepped out and marched through the mist towards the sounds of battle, slipping in the mud...


Major Liddell was still hurting from the metal and wooden fragments that still littered his body. The major fragments had been removed, but the small ones (and there were many) would continue to ooze from his skin as his body evicted them slowly. But it was amazing how anxiety and fear could push the pains into the background.

The Royal Canadian Regiment had crossed the Moro River, a crossing previously secured by another regiment in their brigade. The crossing went well - the men were soaked to the knees but otherwise they were happy to get going again. The coastal town of Ortona was several kilometres away, the ultimate objective for the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, and it was time to take it from the Germans. The RCR was now taking point, and A Company was taking point for the Regiment. Their orders were to advance to San Leonardo and secure it. They were marching on a muddy road; the drizzle and mist were cold at this time of year. Liddell could see some farmhouses just up ahead. Capt Dillon and 2 Pl were in the lead. They followed the road around the buildings and that is when the yelling started. He could see the soldiers of 2 Pl, like ghosts in the mist, go to ground and take up firing positions. "They wouldn't do that for cows," thought Liddell as he immediately started waving his arms and deploying the company into the surrounding buildings....

TURN 1 (GER)

13974



"Achtung!"

Major Zoll saw the soldiers in the lead squad pointing frantically ahead. Through the smoky mist he could discern some buildings and a large orchard ahead, but he could also see figures scurrying for cover. "How did they get this far from the river so quickly?" he thought as he gave quick orders to move forward, using the cover of the scattered copses of woods. He would prefer not to deal with these Canadians and go around them instead - his mission was at the river and not here. As he scanned the terrain to his front, he noticed that everything was flat, and that there was lots of open ground between him and the Canadians. The rain was a blessing, but would it be enough? His company stretched back along the road, and it would take a few minutes to get the entire force together. To assault the Canadians from the front across the open ground would be suicide. He would have to advance the company to the left or right of the enemy...but which way?

As A Coy scrambled, Major Liddell ordered the assembly of the company weapons: the three mortars and the MMG would be needed soon!


TURN 1 (CDN)

13975



A Company begins by rolling RE#63 - randomly, Capt Bowman becomes fanatic as does two of three sections with him.

Liddell ordered A Coy into the nearby buildings. He and 1 Pl occupied the northernmost wooden house. Capt Dillon and 2 Pl occupied the wooden house beside him. CSM Sterlin grabbed the MMG team and they moved into the bottom level of the largest farmhouse in this area. Capt Chapman grouped the three mortars together, and they took up positions behind a stone wall. Finally, Capt Bowman and 3 Pl moved into the southernmost wooden house. Other than the large orchard to the front, A Coy had fantastic lines of fire to their front and flanks. They awaited the Germans warily...what would they do?
 

ChappyNS

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So guys, should Maj Zoll go left, right, or both? I have my own ideas but I would like to hear yours. The Canadians will merely react to the German decision.
 

ChappyNS

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RS. Why should you make the decision for him?
Well, if I random roll for his entire force (as I am supposed to do), they will break up and go everywhere and probably do stupid things. So I decided to give them a legitimate chance instead.
 

Eagle4ty

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Yeah, I know, and it is here that most ENEMY attack fall apart unless reinforced by a few REs as it's rather easy to defend in SASL. But when given an operational choice such as the avenue of advance to be determined, I'll sometimes "adjust" the general direction of advance by RS. I may weight it one way or the other given the general nature of the terrain (e.g dr1-4 to the right, 5-6 to the left, etc.) to keep in accord with usual tactical principals [EX: When moving to contact use the most covered and concealed route of advance and such]. By using a RS for a general direction of advance it does offer the ENEMY a chance to take the unexpected approach; one that you as the FRIENDLY player may not have set up to defend against very well.
 

ChappyNS

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Yeah, I know, and it is here that most ENEMY attack fall apart unless reinforced by a few REs as it's rather easy to defend in SASL. But when given an operational choice such as the avenue of advance to be determined, I'll sometimes "adjust" the general direction of advance by RS. I may weight it one way or the other given the general nature of the terrain (e.g dr1-4 to the right, 5-6 to the left, etc.) to keep in accord with usual tactical principals [EX: When moving to contact use the most covered and concealed route of advance and such]. By using a RS for a general direction of advance it does offer the ENEMY a chance to take the unexpected approach; one that you as the FRIENDLY player may not have set up to defend against very well.
That is a neat way to do it. In this mission, I am using you guys as the "random" selection :)
 

tommyl

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Having survived this far, I think Major Zoll would be cautious and choose to advance on the German right (more cover). Can't get to my Mission card right now, can the German set up a firebase in the center?
 

ChappyNS

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Having survived this far, I think Major Zoll would be cautious and choose to advance on the German right (more cover). Can't get to my Mission card right now, can the German set up a firebase in the center?
Yes they can form an FB but they are hampered by range, Canadians in buildings, rain/mist and their objective is to gain exit points
 

ChappyNS

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Happy Pachino Day! This is the anniversary of the Sicily Landings in 1943, where my Regiment (Royal Canadian Regiment) and A Coy landing and secured the beach and nearby airfield at Pachino. It is one of the few days the Regiment commemorates each year, and celebrations include spaghetti and red wine.

Pro Patria!
 

ChappyNS

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Thanks for all who "voted". Overwhelmingly, the result is advance on the right side. Maj Zoll thanks you :) Next turn tomorrow!
 

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Just reread the part about rain in effect. Doesn't each 6 hexes give a +1 LOS Hinderance? Also, isn't there a maximum LOS Hinderance before visibility is impossible?

Edit
Just found it Rule B.10

LOS HINDRANCE BLOCKAGE: Any combination of
SMOKE, vision (weather), and or terrain LOS Hindrance DRM greater than/equal to +6
blocks that LOS completely.
 
Last edited:

ChappyNS

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Just reread the part about rain in effect. Doesn't each hex give a +1 LOS Hinderance? Also, isn't there a maximum LOS Hinderance before visibility is impossible?
For mist/rain, there is a +1 hindrance if the range is 7-12, +2 for 13-18 hexes, etc (a +1 increase every six hexes after the initial six hexes). If during the mission the rains become heavy (wind DR 10+), then the hindrance begins at the initial six hexes and increases every six hexes as above. It is not a hindrance for each hex. (E3.32-3.52)

If your total hindrances is 6 or greater, then your LOS is blocked completely (B.10)

Hope that helps
 

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TURN 2 (GER)

14047


Maj Zoll quickly assessed the situation at hand. The Canadians were in the centre, meaning he would have to take the company to the left or right of them. In addition to having more hard cover on the immediate right, the large orchard near the Canadians would hamper their line of sight from where they were currently located. He hurriedly informed his platoon leaders to move right and advance behind the buildings and tree cover.

Zoll immediately ordered the two squads in his location to race across the road to the south. Some of his best soldiers jumped up and followed his orders to the letter. As they ran across the road, they heard the retort of a .30 cal MG that raked them in the light rain. Half of the squad was riddled with bullets and died while the remainder dropped to the ground in terror. The second squad followed the first, but crossed the road at a different point. They too were fired at by the Canadian MMG but the bullets failed to find flesh this time, and the squad made it across the road, everyone sweating profusely.

Sgt Metz directed his squads to cross the road as well. As they ran, they could hear the launch of a mortar bomb that quickly dropped onto their location. The elite panzer grenadiers decided that this was too much for them and they fled back into the woods just behind them. Meanwhile, the other sub-units of the company moved to the right with no risk of being engaged due to the plentiful cover. Additionally, more of the company advanced from the rear along the road. The sound of vehicle tracks became louder, and when Zoll looked to the rear he spotted the large self-propelled gun that was tasked to his company. It arrived like a monster out of the mist, and with it's massive 150mm gun, it would surely give his company the firepower to get past the Canadians. Zoll noted that it looked strangely bulky, almost silly, but that main gun was no laughing matter.

14048


TURN 2 (CDN)

14049


CSM Sterlin watched through his binoculars as the tracer rounds from the MMG struck the Germans that had rushed across the road. There was a general movement of the advancing Germans to the Canadian left, and this was concerning. He was about to pass this key bit of information up to Maj Liddell when he saw the clumsy German SPG emerge from the mist. It was packing one of the largest main armaments he had yet seen, and this was cause for much more concern. Bloody hell.

Liddell had received the contact report from Sterlin and immediately gave hasty orders to his commanders. A Coy would fade to the rear, and using the houses as cover, they would move to the left in an effort to avoid the main gun of the SPG and prevent the Germans from waltzing past them towards the Moro River. The Germans had to be stopped. The company had three PIATs to take out the SPG, but they would have to get close; the SPG had lots of accompanying infantry and this would make things extremely difficult...
 

BigAl737

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Perfect timing...just sat down for the evening and found this nice read :)
 
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