Deployment followed what was now fairly predictable lines, with the British massing most of their manpower on their right, with one squad on the left to provide fire support.
The Germans were so thin on the ground they had few options, one depleted squad held the rear of the woods in the hope of preventing a flanking move, while the remaining two squads – in reality just teams, occupied the Church itself and dug in behind the stone wall of the yard.
The British started as they meant to go on, laying down a withering hail of Bren fire on the church tower, rapidly causing the occupiers to start collecting shock, while the first section began to work forward on the right through the ruins. Meanwhile, the Battalion Forward Observation Officer started to range his mortars on the church.
German return fire was sporadic, then a burst of MG42 fire smashed into the crowded building where the British were preparing to advance. There was laughter from the infantry on the ground floor as “Chalky” White showed the rest of the squad the graze in his helmet where the bullet had deflected. Upstairs however there was silence, broken only by a voice calling over the radio for fire control instructions that would go unanswered, as the unlucky FOO was lying dead in his OP, the victim of Chalky’s “lucky” ricochet.
Pringle was a little shaken. He had clearly hoped he could use the 3” mortars to blast the Krauts out of the church, or to kingdom come. Instead he would have to do this the hard way. He ordered all three of his Brens to hammer the MG42 firing from the church tower, but no matter how often he seemed to see hits, the damned gun kept firing!
In the tower it was like a charnel house as bodies piled up around the gun. As each man fell another bravely stepped up to keep the weapon firing – everyone knew the MG42 was their only hope. A cry from the tower told Platzer his Sergeant was injured, so he ran up the stairs and grabbed the gun himself, having to step over several bodies to get to it.
Meanwhile in the churchyard, the remaining MG team were fighting a losing battle, as casualties continued to build up. Desperately the remaining members of the team tried to withdraw to the church itself, but were caught in a hail of Bren fire. The last man staggered against the wall, pinned down and bleeding from his wounds but still clutching the precious MG42. He had no chance.
Platzer played his Chain of Command dice to interrupt the British fusillade. He sprinted from the door and grabbed the wounded man, then oblivious to the danger dragged him into the church for safety. At that point his men would have followed him into the gates of Hell itself.
It was a momentary reprieve. Pringle pushed his assault force forward in the lull caused by Platzer’s heroic rescue. However the Germans were far from finished, and as his lead section advanced cautiously along the edge of the orchard, a vicious burst of MG42 fire from the church ripped through them. Three fell dead, and the remainder became pinned.
Possibly encouraged by his opposite numbers brave example, Pringle ran forward to rally the men and pulled them back into cover, being lightly wounded in the process.
He also ordered his last assault squad through the woods to flank the church.
This was the moment the German squad had been waiting for, and they leapt up, intending to catch the British as they advanced. For once however their firing let them down, and the British assaulted forward covered by a burst of Bren fire, killing or overrunning all the Germans holding the flank.
From that point it was clear to Platzer his position was untenable. He could see Tommies moving through the woods towards his rear, and also approaching the front of the church. He had very few men left, mostly wounded. He decided the only option was to abandon the position and withdraw. As he lowered himself out of the rear of the blasted ruin of the church where many of his men gave their lives, he heard the sounds of grenades exploding at the door as the Tommies assaulted.
So the campaign ended with an expensive British victory. It had been a close run thing.
As the smoke clears ................
As a result of his bravery and dash in leading his Platoon in a difficult and dangerous assault on an enemy strongpoint Lt Pringle was recommended for Mention in Despatches (rolled a 5), however on review the CO decided an MM may be a good idea as it would help cheer the lads up (reroll was a 6). Sadly the paper-pushers at Whitehall didn’t agree, so Pringle was Mentioned in Dispatches (award roll was a three). On the plus side he now is sporting a rather dashing moustache and has decided to move into the snack food industry when the war ends. He spent quite a lot of time staring at an empty cardboard tube used to carry 2” mortar ammo, and he thinks he has an idea!
Platzer's outstanding bravery in holding his position against overwhelming odds, and his rescue of his wounded NCO were also noticed. He was recommended for an Iron Cross (2nd Class - both rolls were a 3) but his CO thought 1st Class would better reflect on the unit (rolled a 6). OKW were in need of heroes so decided to make an example, so he was finally awarded a German Cross (rolled a 6 followed by a 5) and had an interview with Signal. Maybe we will see him again in the next campaign?
Thanks to both players for taking part, and for the readers patience. Great fun seems to have been had, and the appetite for more Chain of Command is clearly there, so more CoC will follow in due course.