Saturday, January 9, 2016

"The first phase of the Battle of the Ports"

"We bring you a statement from the Secretary of State The Right Honourable Sir Anthony Eden: 

In a hot fought action amongst the tributaries of the Dyle River our forces brilliantly executed an advance and hold action against elements of the German 8th Panzer Division. They were forced to withdraw in the face of overwhelming odds. The withdrawal was completed in exemplary fashion, with not a single man falling out during the move."

Brigadier Stopford deployed his Brigade forward, expecting his French allies to support his left as they had promised to do under the Weygand Plan. However he was not confident of the outcome.

Amongst tributaries of the Dyle with the British brigade deployed from the left of the photo

Stopford's brigade was supported by the 1st Fife and Forfar Yeomanry cavalry, deployed in their Vickers Mark VI light tanks and carrier platoons. The Brigade had been guaranteed priority access to a significant part of the divisional and corp artillery. This would be vital to the defence

The forward position of the defence on the British centre

The Brigade had refused its left flank, with an infantry battalion supported by a squadron of the divisional cavalry holding the river line

Stopford had deployed with an echeloned right flank. This battalion. also supported by a squadron of the Fife and Forfars, covered key high ground on the battlefield

The 8th Panzer Division focussed it's initial attack against the Brigade's left flank.

The attacking Schutzen Battalion can be seen top centre, with an attacking tank battalion top left.
Stopford had tasked one troop of the Fife and Forfar with a delaying action in the farm that stood directly in the way o the likely German advance. The other troop was deployed in support of his right wing battalion.

The troop of Mk VIs deployed in advance of the battalion in a farm complex

The advancing Schutzen battalion advances directly towards the outlying troop of the Fifes.
The forward line of the left battalion awaits the inevitable assault.

The forward elements of the left flank battalion spot the advancing German infantry. The attached FOO cals down fire from his battalion of supporting 25pdr guns

The 3 Battalion commander orders two platoons forward, supported by one of his attached Vickers platoons. The attack on the forward position must be stopped.

Meanwhile the left flank watches as a complete Panzer battalion advances towards its position. The 4.5:" Howitzer battalion had been tasked with counter battery duty, and succeeded in locating one of the German 105mm battalions, but failed to inflict any casualties on the German artillery throughout the battle.

The view of the oncoming German tanks from the perspective of the attached 2 pdr battery

The British 25pdr attacks are achieving nothing, while a fire mission from an attached battalion of German 105mm guns has effectively shot the defending British platoons off the forward objective.

The attached FOO is the sole remaining occupant of the forward objective, and he and his team quickly evacuate the position

The left flank guard holding the river line comes under assault from an entire panzer battalion.

The 2pdr battery takes out an advanced platoon of German panzers but is then neutralized by the German artillery and then eliminated by concerted tank fire

German infantry swarm over the forward objective

The pressure has been too much for the British left wing battalion, and the battalion commander is forced to withdraw his remaining troops.

At this stage the German commander commits his reserve tank battalion on the left as a follow up force to his initial attack.

Stopford has realised that his French allies have failed to hold his left flank, and with the forced withdrawal of his own left flank battalion he realises that he must withdraw the brigade or risk losing his entire command.

The position on the Dyle has been compromised. The BEF will pull back in order to fight another day. Not a man left behind!!!

In the meantime heavy British armour is reported as moving forward from its debarkation ports in order to support the heroic men of the BEF.

Player comments:

As a player I'd remained convinced that Keith would introduce a flank march on my own right, and so two of my three battalions (holding my centre and right wing) had remained in place in order to ensure that the key objectives were protected. However this is not the new way of war of the German panzers. The commitment of the reserve battalion to bypass the remaining defences and so attack rear elements of the BEF meant that my position was no longer tenable.

I'd deployed an infantry division defend list, with the infantry supported by the Divisional cavalry, and plenty of artillery. The artillery caused no casualties throughout the entire battle, and inflicted just one neutralisation despite the number of fire missions it undertook. The artillery had been a key part of the defence plan. I'd expected it to provide plenty of suppressions for the troops on the ground to exploit, but these hadn't materialised.

The Divisional cavalry were also not deployed to maximise their potential as support elements. Consequently the infantry ended up being left on their own, a situation which is never going to end well with British infantry going 'toe-to-toe' with German infantry. All available arms must be coordinated if a German attacker is to be stopped.

Outmanoeuvred and out played.. well done Keith.


  1. Good report Robin. It was the French who lost the battle. I hadn't considered that scapegoat. Perhaps the Stukas were attacking the French as they moved forward!

  2. As I understand it, you weren't retreating - you were moving to support your allies in accordance with French command requests ;)

    1. Exactly!!! Were you a copywriter for the BBC in a previous life? LOL

  3. Great report, thanks. This takes me back, it's many years since my last game of Spearhead.


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