After Action Report: Battle Academy: Operation Sea Lion - Mission 1 Part 1
The British Air Force fails at holding back the Luftwaffe and the Germans launch the next step in their plan to conquer Britain: Operation Sealion. Can the initial landing zones be repulsed?
Sealion - Mission 1
Late September 1940. British Fighter Command, battered by concerted waves of assaults, has been driven back from its front line airfields. Sensing a collapse, the German High Command launches its greatest gamble - Operation Sealion. - the invasion of Britain.
It is dawn on the morning of the invasion. Church bells ring out as the radar stations detect the waves of JU-52 transports and gliders approaching the south coast. At this Fighter Command Airfield, glider borne troops have quickly overwhelmed the defenders. They are looking to hold this area so that reinforcements can be flown in and the airhead expanded.
The airfield must be retaken before it can be reinforced. Only a small number of regular troops are available to support the local Home Guard militia as they move to engage the elite airborne troops.
At first glance, my forces appear out matched. Several infantry squads, a couple of scouts and a Bren gun squad have arrived in a convoy of trucks, led by a Bren gun carrier. Ahead of them, crouched in the countryside, are the local home guard. While my regulars might be able to fight it out with the German airborne troops, these local militia lack the training and morale to go head to head with the Reich's finest.
However, there are a couple of things that may tip the balance in my favour. The British have learnt from events on the continent, and decided months ago that their airfields might be the target of coup de main airborne assaults. The best chance to defeat an airborne assault is to counter attack with armour and heavy weapons as soon as possible. In its parlous state after Dunkirk, conventional British armour is too scarce to be used in this role, so alternatives have had to be found. All over Britain, workshops have been constructing crude, ad hoc armoured vehicles such as the RAF "Armadillos".
Carefully located away from the airfield in concealed depots, these lumbering, armoured trucks are designed to avoid the devastation of the initial assault, then spearhead the riposte against the attackers before they can consolidate. Protected by metal plates and railway sleepers filled with gravel, these vehicles are only proof against small arms fire. But while their weaponry is haphazard - multiple WWI vintage Lewis guns and a MKIII COW automatic 37mm gun - it is frighteningly effective against lightly armed airborne troops.
My plan is to move forward carefully and steadily, protecting my precious armoured vehicles from close assault, while using their firepower to subdue each German position as I discover it.
The defences so carefully designed to protect the airfield are now working against me. Studying the terrain, I can see that there is only one route into the airfield for my vehicles, but there are areas on both flanks where infantry could infiltrate the perimeter. With my Armadillos leading the way, the convoy of vehicles advances up the road to the airfields main entrance, while my infantry and home guard units spread out to the flanks to try and flush out the defenders.
As it tentatively rounds the bend in the road, the leading Armadillo spots a large bunker dominating the approaches to the Airfield. The COW gunner empties a clip of pre-emptive fire into the bunker guarding the road ahead, looking to suppress any defenders in preparation for next turn.
The German airborne troops do not wait for my attack. They know they have to keep my forces away from the airfield at all costs, and so rush into the attack. Two squads break cover from the woods to the north and try to reach the trees bordering the road, but my Armadillo is perfectly placed in the gap in the trees. Concentrated MG and 37mm fire cuts down several Germans and suppresses both squads out in the open. I move up my home guard and scouts to the hedgerow and pour in rifle fire, accounting for two more. On the southern flank, I see more Germans moving forwards to the attack. My Home Guard units, stiffened with a regular infantry squad, line the edges of the woods and wait for them to close the range.
So far, so good. But then I get greedy. Striving to make space to allow my other Armadillo to fire at the exposed Germans, I carelessly move the first Armadillo forward before I have scouted properly. A single shot rings out, and the Armadillo burst into flames. So now I know the defenders have already managed to bring in Anti-Tank capability, something that makes the British task much harder. As AT weapons are generally poor against infantry, I move my scouts out of the wood to rush what I suppose to be an Anti-Tank gun in the bunker. I am wrong. A burst of machinegun fire from the bunker cuts down two scouts before they have moved more than a few steps and the survivor retreats into the woods. So the AT weapon is probably hidden in the woods beyond the bunker, covering the road, but protected by the emplaced MG34.
A Home Guard unit takes the bit between its teeth and charges across the open ground, waiting any second for the storm of MG fire to greet them. But whether the MG34 has fired all its shots or the angle of their advance masks them from view, they are in luck and reach the trees without being fired upon.
On the North flank, rifle fire inflicts more casualties on the German Airborne stranded in the field, who break and run. With the road ahead at least temporarily blocked to vehicles, I decide to switch the thrust of my main effort and direct the Bren carrier and trucks cross country into the northern field in pursuit. I plan to offload the infantry as close as possible to the northern corner of the airfield and push them through the woods to attack the Hanger.
On the Southern flank, my forces open fire on the German units. The range is a little long, but I dont want them to gain the cover of the long grass.
The trucks move out, but as the first one clears the entrance to the field, it is riddled by heavy machine gun fire. The Germans have placed their weapon in the woods to the North to cover this field. None of my infantry or trucks can risk crossing until the machine gun is taken out. The Bren carrier gives covering fire as the infantry squad moves into the woods to close assault next turn.
In the centre, I carefully move the surviving Armadillo up the road until it is just able to target the MG34 in the bunker. It must have sent one its 37mm rounds right through the firing slit, as when the Home Guard cautiously approach, they find one gunner dead and the other suppressed. The scouts and other Home Guard quickly rush the position and dispatch the remaining gunner in close assault, capturing my first Victory Point (VP).
On the south flank, a fierce fire fight develops as the Germans infiltrating the cornfields run into the defenders concealed in the woods. My troops just have the advantage, thanks to the protection of the trees, but it is a close run thing. The Germans are elite troops and refuse to allow casualties to break their spirit. My Home Guard unit is suppressed and only the discipline and accuracy of the regular infantry finally halts the German advance.
In the centre, my scouts press forward and reveal the German AT defences that took out my precious Armadillo - a 37mm gun emplaced in the woods and a Panzerbusche AT rifle hidden in the houses overlooking the entrance. The Home Guard units in the woods and bunker suppress both units with accurate rifle fire.
The fire fight on the south flank continues, but accurate rifle fire as well as supporting fire from the now unimpeded Armadillo inflicts numerous casualties and the Germans retreat.
On the northern flank, the German machine gun proves infuriatingly stubborn. It beats off infantry assault, inflicts numerous casualties, and is only suppressed by concentrated fire from the Bren carrier. Once it has been silenced, the trucks drive past and unload their infantry next to the remnants of the German Airborne squads in the corners of the field. Both are quickly disposed of.
In the centre, my forces press the attack. The Anti tank weapons fire is ineffective against personnel and they cant stop the Home Guard and Scouts charging across the road to take out the gun and suppress the AT rifle. The way is now open for my armoured units to advance up the main road.
On the Southern flank, my forces cautiously advance in pursuit of the remnants of the German units. The long grass makes it impossible to see opponents until you are on top of them, and I don't want to run into a fully recovered German Paratrooper unit at close range, no matter how many casualties they've taken.
In the North, the machine guns gallant resistance is finally ended by infantry assault. Covered by the Bren carrier, my infantry, scouts and Bren gun advance towards the wood on the perimeter of the airfield.
There is a slight pause in the fighting as my forces gather themselves for the assault on the airfield itself. The demoralized anti-tank rifle is caught and killed by a pursuing Home guard team as my forces push forward to the entrance of the Airfield.
I spot two German Paratrooper units advancing past the Control Tower but hold fire in case the retaliatory fire is too fierce. The Bren Carrier starts to make its way towards the entrance, but both it and the Armadillo will hang back for the moment. I do not know what is in the bunker covering the road, and I do not want to lose another of my precious vehicles through carelessness.
In the south, my team has cleared the long grass of Germans and deploy as a flank guard, while in the North the assault team against the Hanger waits on its start line.
I launch my attack against the Hanger, and all Hell breaks loose. A lone Anti-Tank rifle guards the Victory Point, but it holds off two assaults by my forces despite covering fire from the Bren Gun and remaining infantry unit. In the mean time, I pour suppressive fire onto the bunker in front of the Control Tower, then cautiously move the Armadillo and Bren Carrier into covering positions.
A ground support Stuka dives down and strikes an infantry group on the North flank. I'd intended them to circle round behind the North perimeter of the Airfield and attack through the Anti tank obstacles, but right now they are too disorientated to do anything.
The Germans response to my attack on the Hanger is immediate and vicious. Three German Paratroop squads attack. My infantry squad is soon suppressed, but with the help of the Bren guns covering fire, my Scouts heroically hold off two assaults, wiping out one German squad entirely, before being bludgeoned into submission by the third. The aggression of the German forces threatens to stop my attack in its tracks.
The bloodbath at the Hanger continues. Only covering fire from the Bren and Infantry squad from the woods holds back the assaulting paratroopers and save my battered attackers.
I try to take advantage of the distraction. Hoping that German reinforcements have been diverted towards the Hanger, the British fire a speculative fusillade at the entrance bunker, then rush forward. The first Home guard unit barely makes it out of the trees before it is shredded by machine gun fire and the survivors stagger back into cover. The second unit is also hit, but is manages to make it to the hut beside the bunker. From there it can see the heavy machine gun within, but is suppressed by a final burst before it can do anything. Their sacrifice has not been in vain - I now know that the bunker cannot hurt my armour, and my Armadillo and Bren Carrier pummel the HMG into submission.
My southern flank guards push forward. With the cost of my attacks so high, I cant afford the luxury of secure flanks. I shall try and infiltrate them to the south of the airfield perimeter to support my dwindling attackers.
And so ends part 1...read part 2 here!