Squarebashing – Cambrai 1917

On 3rd June Martin (Peter Pig) held a day in which a group of players refought the 1917 Battle of Cambrai (specifically the 27th Nov)

The Battle of Cambrai was a British offensive and German counter-offensive battle in the First World War. Cambrai, in the Nord département(Nord-Pas-de-Calais), was an important supply point for the German Siegfriedstellung and capture of the town and the nearby Bourlon Ridge would threaten the rear of the German line to the north. Major General Henry Tudor, Commander, Royal Artillery (CRA) of the 9th (Scottish) Division, suggested trying out new artillery-infantry techniques on his sector of the front. During preparations, J. F. C. Fuller, a staff officer with the Tank Corps, was in the process of looking for a place to use tanks as raiding parties. General Julian Byng, commander of the British Third Army, decided to combine both plans into the attack.

Despite British success on the first day, mechanical unreliability, German artillery and infantry defences exposed the frailties of the Mark IV tank. On the second day, only about half of the original number of tanks were available. Subsequent British progress was limited.

The venue for the event was the Nothe Fort , which deserves a mention

Built by the Victorians to protect Portland Harbour, Nothe Fort is one of the best preserved Forts of its kind. Located at the entrance to Weymouth Harbour the Fort is a labyrinth of underground passageways and outdoor areas with stunning views of the Jurassic Coast. Constructed on three levels , which are easily accessed by means of a lift, the Fort is filled with displays, mammoth guns and cinema areas that chart the history of this large and magnificent Victorian structure which took 12 years to build.

So on beautiful June day we descended into the depth of the nuclear shelter to play our game.

The front was broken in 6 sections, each with a bespoke force and set terrain. The victory conditions were different to a normal SquareBashing game as the relatives sizes of the forces provides a target number. This target is what the allied has to beat to get what would count as a victory.


 

 

The forces were –

The tables were –

The teams were defined in advance , and the game would be played twice. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon, with sides swapping so we get a accurate refection of the teams ability !

Here are some in games shots of the tables

Section A

 

Section B

Section C

Section D

Section E

Section F

For my part I fought on table E as Von Schussler , and with 4 units of reserves and a handful of machine guns was crushed by Stewart with the largest British force in the front. In The afternoon with the sides swapped I was on D as Douglas-Smith, and despite fierce assaults the Germans held on along the trench , with only a small breakthrough. I had two major loses contributing to the overall loss of my team

Games in Action

 

Martin explaining the nuances

more instructional advice

 

fierce fighting over the town in Le Pave.

lovely view for lunchtime!

Its no good Dene, 4 reservists won’t stop 6 tanks and 16 infantry

 

So, congratulations to –

Paul , Simon K, Dave , Dene Stewart and Miles as they won both of their respective games ! (British AM, German PM)

Results

But everyone was a winner for taking part in a super day , as a great venue. Lets hope to see more of these!

Squarebashing at WMMS

game set up – before the doors open

This year at WMMS BAD wargamers put on a Squarebashing Demo, abstracting the 1st Day of the Somme. Peter the orgainsers notes were –

The massive casualties sustained on July 1st 1916 are seared into the public consciousness and for many define the futility of and incompetent conduct of the war. The truth is a little different. For Britain this war was effectively its first full scale engagement in the modern era. Despite earlier successes British armies had never been the main forces in European warfare. The French experienced similar losses in the opening encounters of the conflict at the battle Charleroi and by the opening of the Somme had suffered over 1 million battlefield casualties. Britain had launched offensives at Neuve Chapelle and Loos in 1915 but neither had the scale or weight of expectation that the offensive the Somme department bore
The British Empire had spent the previous two years building up its forces from the scale of the “contemptible” levels of the BEF to the point where large sections of the front were taken up by the newly raised four armies. The Bavarian forces making up the Second army in positon on the Somme
front found their daily ration of harassing fire switched largely to shrapnel as the British moved into place.

The first day saw 13 British divisions and 11 divisions assault after prolonged artillery preparation and met with mixed results . The battlefield divides nicely into a western British zone and a southern allied assault. The western offensive met with no real success and a massive butchers bill accounting for most of the 57,000 allied casualties of the day The southern front however resulted in a real defeat of the German forces by the British Fourth Army and the French Sixth Army and a significant penetration of the German defensive positions it was here that most allied effort would be directed in the future.The battle-campaign ground on in attritional warfare until November or February depending on who you listen to.

Why the difference in results on the first day? Many reasons are put forward but the themes we will try to represent are

1. The British forces were short of heavy artillery capable of smashing the dugouts in which German infantry and machine guns were held. The French had far more on the southern front.
2. British artillery shells had poor fuses resulting in forty percent duds. In the end we adopted a French design.
3. The southern front had more British Territorial troops and large numbers of French troops with far more experience of large scale engagements.
4. We will also try to represent other themes such as Allied air superiority, Allied mining efforts and successful bombardments of barbed wire entanglements.

Thanks all thoughts and prejudices are entirely the fault of the management in this case me , Peter Gregory

Southern Front  – post depletions 


Northern Front – post depletions 

 

Northern front, despite the punishing onslaught of rolling barrages and destruction of the sections of trench and damaging of on table MGs and artillery the German lines hold – reversing history !

The Southern front offers little defender resistance – reversing this outcome also!

Squarebashing is a set of rules for recreating warfare in the early part of the twentieth century where the battle field was dominated by rifle and machine gun fire before the development of mobile armoured formations allowed for deep penetrations of the enemy front and disruption of army level formations. Dominated by fixed positions and artillery fire it is often seen as a dull period for gaming.

Squarebashing brings some dynamism to divisional level engagements where the tantalising prospect of a breakthrough is snatched away by the arrival of reserves or a defensive barrage. Much of the action is abstracted to a degree but the feel is right and most aspects of the era are well represented.

The system is designed for pick -up games on club nights where matched forces can be brought and varied terrain deployed. The pre -battle system of asset allocation brings narrative, historical flavour and variety to each game. Games can be fought to a conclusion on a club night in a satisfying manner and so all is well and a growing number of armies have been painted up and deployed at our club. The only problem I have is that I want all the armies in the army list book. Each army comes with its own assets and potential historical events which makes them even more attractive to an addict like myself.

Of course, one is not constrained to play the game in this way. The game mechanics can be used as the basis for games with different objectives or specific historical refights. This provides the opportunity to do some research, act on the evidence or your prejudices and shape a game to your liking.

The games we are presenting are designed to be manageable: playable , enjoyable( to a point) and entirely reflective of the prejudices of the scenario designer Peter Gregory. I am fairly sure we will disappoint or annoy some people but since after 46 years as a wargamer I cannot find two players who agree on much this will not surprise us at Burton District Wargames Club