A perhaps throwaway remark by Pete Gregory (a.k.a. Dr Doom) that the Burton club should maybe refight part of the Battle of the Bulge to commemorate its seventieth year, suddenly brought back memories of my first ever wargaming. In the early 80s, armed with a bunch of 20mm Airfix and Esci tanks and figures, the Ardennes was the first figure gaming I did. So I was more inspired by this proposition than I otherwise would be and threw myself into this project. OK, so Flames of War is a little more sophisticated than the rules I developed back in the heyday of the new Romantic movement, but no less valid nonetheless.
This is the first in a series of projects setting out how I went about the project. The object of the project is to get both an army and terrain ready for shows in the latter half of 2014, as part of a demonstration game.
The Choice of Battle
Taking my lead from both the FoW supplement “Nuts”, and also Steven Zaloga’s contribution to the Osprey Campaign series “Battle of the Bulge (2)”, and of course episodes 6 and 7 of “Band of Brothers”, I decided that for me the scenario I chose had to be part of the larger Battle for Bastogne.
A lot of the fighting round Bastogne was grinding, a battle of artillery with little movement. However, one of the exceptions was the fight for the village of Bizory, which guarded the eastern approaches to Bastogne. This has quite an exciting narrative: an attack on the village by the 26th Volksgrenadier Division, supported by elements of Panzer Lehr. The village was defended by an Engineer Battalion, who managed to hold on until they were rescued by the 501st parachute Infantry Division of the 101st Airborne, supported by accurate artillery fire. This fight seems ideal for my purposes.
Designing the Army List
And not for me the glamorous Panzer Divisions or the SS…no, I decided to go for the workhorses of the Wehrmacht in the Ardennes, one of the Volksgrenadier Divisions. The 26th VG Division was the one that attacked Bizory. There is no list for the 26th in “Nuts”, but there are options for both the 12th VG Division (very good) and the 277th VG (poor). Given that the quality of the 26th seemed excellent (described by Danny Parker in “Hitler’s Last Gamble” as the “best German infantry Division in the Ardennes”, I decided to model the list on the 12th.
The army I’m putting together comprises:
- Volksgrenadier HQ (plus Panzershrek squads)
- A Sturn platoon (with 3 sections)
- A Sturm platoon (with 2 sections)
- A Schutzen platoon (with 2 sections)
- A Mortar platoon (80mm)
- A machine gun platoon
- A Volksgrenadier Scout platoon
- A Tank-hunter platoon with StuG G’s
- A Panzer platoon with PzIV J’s
- An Anti-tank platoon with Soviet PaK36(r) guns
This is first and foremost an army for a demo game not a competition, hence many of the choices. So, the 26th, in its attack on Bizory, was supported by Kampfgruppe Fallois of Panzer Lehr (whose tanks were PzIVs, not Panthers. And the 26th had an embedded Panzer Jaeger Company, comprising StuGs, not Hetzers.
An observer will also notice the lack of heavy artillery, aircraft and AA capabilities. Well, at 15mm scale, artillery always looks better off table. And the weather on the 19th December didn’t permit any aircraft intervening.
Assembling the figures
Keen to assemble an army at a modest price, I looked to see what I had already. I still have a horde of Peter Pig Germans from the late 90s. They formed the basis of the army, but to those I added a load more new Peter Pig’s in Smocks and Greatcoats, to give a winter feel.
I was also fortunate enough to already possess the StuG’s I needed. In fact all I had to get on the vehicle front were some PzIVs. And I’ve already bought these, with the lovely panzers designed by the Plastic Soldier Company. Now all I have to do is paint the things!