Command Ops: Joe's Bridge AAR

On September 10th XXX Corps is about to begin its push north along the vital highway that will connect the 101st Airborne, 82nd Airborne and British 1st Airborne AOs.  The crossing is vital to kickoff of Operation Market Garden and must be taken and then held at all costs.

That's the situation I find myself in when I take charge of the Irish Guards, XXX Corps' lead elements, as they race to cross the Escaut Canal and seize what would become Joe's Bridge (named after the Guard's commander Joe Vandeleur). Failure to quickly seize the river crossings would delay the Allied advance and endanger the airborne divisions.

Jumping off point.  
The scenario is 2 days long and it seems pretty straight-forward.  Vandeleuer's armored attack is described as brilliant in the historical briefing but I am afraid I made a mess of the situation early.

My concern at the start was the lack of roads leading forward.  The terrain looks clear but those irrigated fields are almost impassable with my armor. Attacking with my forces on a narrow front along the main road to the bridge seemed like too much of a frontal assault, doomed to stall out or increase casualties.

My 2nd option was to put a blocking force directly in front  of the bridge and swing further east over the canal with a battalion or even two battalions, sweep the thin cover of forces there and cut back to the bridge from the north and east.  Supply though was a real concern and again the roads to the bridge are limited.

My 3rd option and the one I chose, was to send one battalion towards Lommel and have them swing back east and attack the bridge by way of the De Groote barrier and then send my other battalion forward to probe towards the bridge near the Belfry and the Zinc factory.

There are probably other choices here but these are the three I saw and I went with what I felt was the least bad of the three.  Not a great way to start...

2nd battalion is making it's way around the sunken fields along the elevated road from Lommel to the De Groote Barrier (an objective) while 3rd battalion makes it's way across the heath.  
The German defenses on the southern end of the bridge consist of some static companies of German conscripts and other elements of Kampgruppe Hoffman.  After coming under artillery fire and the threat of encirclement from my 2nd and 3rd battalion pincers driving on the bridge from opposite ends, 2 of the German units surrendered handing the southern approach over to my forces.

The De Groote barrier falls to 2nd battalion.  Artillery fire from across the river is doing some damage to the armor elements I have on the southern side.

With the Germans fleeing across the river, elements of the 2nd and 3rd battalion began concentrating to push across the river when an unexpected attack materialized to the west.  German Paratroopers moving across the heath and polder attacked my column as it approached the bridge.

I need new intelligence officers.  Never saw this attack coming from the west. Thankfully there was an airstrike available which I used to turn their advance.
The Guards cross the river under fire.  

The Germans to the north are almost a full strength regiment, mostly parachute infantry supported by some Flak units and mortar companies. They are clustered around the La Colonie objective.

The German opposition looks daunting as my units cross the river and take up what seems to be a precarious position.
On the opposite side of the river I am concerned with my units bunching up around the bridgehead. Artillery could do some real damage and width issues along my frontage are keeping many of my forces sidelined in the rear.

Under the cover of an artillery barrage I push my units out onto the flanks away from the bridge.  It's about this time I realize that while my opposition seems numerous there are very few elite formations.

As my attack begins developing towards La Colonie you can see the Germans advancing on the De Groote Barrier to the southwest.  Airstrikes are available to me though and I use them to prevent the Germans from making any progress.

I am starting to get a better feel for the game and begin what I am calling my Republican Guard strategy (borrowed from my reading of news accounts of the invasion of Iraq. Coalition forces seemed to target the elite Guard formations.).  I am now targeting the "elite" and "good" German units on the battlefield and concentrating my fire on them.

The other German units seem uninspired, fatigued and generally ineffective.  If I can break/destroy the elite units I might just be able to win this.  I am also beginning to appreciate the awesome strength of two armored battalions (especially when the opposition is without armor).

The Republican Guard strategy is underway.  I am targeting the best German units on the field with artillery.
As the third day begins the battlefield around the bridge and La Colonie looks like this.

The third day begins.  The German units on the southern end to the west have been more of an annoyance than a threat.  The German  forces clustering south of La Colonie have been ineffective even though they have numerical superiority.
The La Colonie objective is all that stands between me an victory in the early morning hours on the third day.  I launch a combined attack with armor units, motorized infantry and artillery support. After 6 hours of fighting, my force is able to push the 300 or so Germans holding the woods south of La Colonie back, sending them scurrying north of the objective or out across the polder.

Fearful of increasing my casualties with only hours to go though, I decide to hold back from making an all out assault on the La Colonie objective, preferring instead to use my artillery to pound the German formations.

With the woods clear I was able to sit back and play defense until time ran out.  
This was a costly battle for the Germans.  Over 200 prisoners were taken and I inflicted over 1,000 casualties on the enemy.

I lost 17 AFVs in the fighting.  Many of them during the initial fighting for the southern end of the bridge.
The final situation map is below.  I worried throughout much of the game about my right flank until  I took a closer at the terrain.  Having to cross multiple rivers to pull off an attack against me would have been difficult with crack troops. With a majority of units having a poor or vague reliability, it would have been impossible for the German commander.

I think it would be very interesting to play this scenario as the Germans.  As I said at the beginning of this blog I worried that I was choosing the least "bad" option when I began the attack, never mind launching a "brilliant" attack like Vandeleur did.

I thoroughly enjoyed this scenario and I am already picking out another one.

Final view.  Score one for the good guys...


Doug Miller said…
Great AAR! I really like this scenario, though I tend to find it tough.
RangerX3X said…
Great AAR – I really enjoyed reading it and how you presented it. If I may offer a tip in gameplay, make sure to cycle your intelligence by using the “I” key to go from all to current before employing airstrikes or any fire support artillery to make sure you are getting the most up to date intelligence. As for the surprise from the west, I usually stick a lone AT gun out by Lut Lommel (such as I Trp 21 SP AT Regt) as an early warning scout.
Chris said…
Thanks guys! This was a tough scenario. The Allied casualty totals don't reflect the anxiety I felt throughout much of the scenario. It was until midmorning on the last day that I felt like I had things in control.

Thanks also for the tip Ranger. I need to use intelligence more. I frankly forgot it was there in the middle of this and I so glued to the main screen that I don't use the game fully. Please feel free to offer any advice, I welcome it. I am completely new to the game and realize now I have been missing something special.

I write these AARs as I play, pausing the game to jot down any thoughts I have as I go. I've found if I wait until the end I will forget much of what happened.
Anonymous said…
Isn't Joe's bridge a prelude to Market Garden?
The crossing and bridgehead was seized and then seem days later the XXX breakout was from this bridgehead.
From Paul, enjoying your AARs
Chris said…
Hi Paul. Thanks for the comment! You are right the battle took place before Market Garden kicked off. Initially I mistakenly wrote it as the beginning battle of XXX corps drive north.

This was a great scenario. I've never played it from the German point of view and can't wait to do so. Thanks again for commenting and reading this blog. - Chris
TWGaming said…
Well played! I've been AARing this scenario too, but it's always curious to see how an evening-to-night offensive fares. I've been doing it nightly like here:
Chris said…
I liked your video AAR TW!