Knocked out Beutepanzers at La Fière Battle of the La Fière Causeway
A Battle Report with Mike & Wayne

Having both worked on the Turning Tide and Earth & Steel, Mike and I thought we should be the ones to bring you the first Normandy battle report on the website. While looking at the many forces in the books, we were at a bit of a loss what to start with. Then Mike had a great idea to re-fight the encounter between the German Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung 100 and the US 82nd Airborne Division over the Merderet River on 6-9 June 1944.

Left: Knocked out Beutepanzers at La Fière.
The Merderet River was important for both sides. For the Americans, the river divided the 82nd Airborne’s drop zones, so capturing the crossing was vital to unite the paratroopers. For the Germans the road was a major link to Utah Beach and would be needed to rush troops to meet the Allied invasion. The fight over the bridge was a critical fight for both armies to win.

The battle features the 82nd Airborne Division versus the 1057 Grenadier Regiment backed by the 100. Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung and its French training tanks in German service. This makes for an excellent Flames Of War match-up between a US Parachute Rifle Company and a German Beutepanzerkompanie.  

To mix things up, we decided that we would play a force out of the other’s book, so I took on the US paratroopers, while Mike got to try out his new Beutepanzers that he painted over the Christmas holiday.

Listen to Wayne and Mike discuss this Battle Report in the Radio Free Battlefront podcast here...

The Mission

The battle for the bridge has been widely documented with photographs, mainly due to the oddity of the old French tanks, which captivated the photographers. As a result, we have a pretty good idea what the battlefield looked like and we used that to generate our scenario map.

Learn more about the Battle of the La Fière Causeway scenario here and download a PDF version to try it for yourself...

Right: The Battle of the La Fière Causeway scenario map.
La Fière Causeway Scenario Map
From there we figured that we ought to use the Encounter mission to replicate the meeting engagement and the build-up of reinforcements that occurred over the three-day battle. We made sure that two of the objectives were placed along the main road to make it the centre of attention. The secondary objectives were placed to simulate General Gavin’s (82nd Airborne) plan to out flank the bridge.
Turning Tide The Armies
Wayne’s US Paratroopers

I haven’t used a US force for a very long time, so it is almost a new experience for me. The US Paratroopers are tough and hard to kill (Fearless Veteran). Supporting them I have some Glider troops who are not as well-trained, being Riflemen converted to the glider role.

Learn more about Turning Tide here...
US Parachute Rifle Company (Fearless Veteran)
507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
Parachute Rifle Company HQ
30 points
with 3x Bazooka teams
60 points
Combat Platoons
Parachute Rifle Platoon
with 3x Rifle Squads
265 points
with 3x extra Rifle/MG teams 90 points
Parachute Rifle Platoon  
with 3x Rifle Squads 265 points
with 3x extra Rifle/MG teams 90 points
Weapons Platoons
Parachute Machine-gun Platoon
with 1x MG Section
100 points
Support Platoons
Airborne Engineer Combat Platoon
with 1x Operating Squad                                                                                   
155 points
Glider Support Platoons (Confident Trained)  
Glider Rifle Platoon
with 3x Rifle Squads
155 points
Glider Field Artillery Battery
with 6x M3 105mm light howitzer
155 points
Glider Anti-tank Platoon
with 3x Anti-tank Sections 70 points
with 3x Bazooka teams
45 points
with 3x Jeeps
5 points
Total Points:
1485 points

Mike’s Beutepanzerkompanie

I was excited to use my new Beutepanzerkompanie that I’ve been working on. I painted up all the tanks over the holidays, and now all that remains is the infantry and gun teams. My company is based on 100. Panzer Abteilung with support from the 1057th Grenadier Regiment, represented by the Bodenstandig troops.

Learn more about Earth & Steel here...

Earth & Steel
Beutepanzerkompanie (Confident Trained)  
Panzer Ausbildungs und Ersatz Abteilung 100
Company HQ
with 2x R-35
40 points
Combat Platoons
Beutepanzer Platoon
with 1x S-35 & 4x R-35 105 points
Beutepanzer Platoon
with 1x S-35 & 4x R-35 105 points
Beutepanzer Platoon
with 1x Char B1 & 4x H-39 155 points
Beutepanzer Platoon
with 1x Panzer III J (early) & 4x H-39 160 points
Weapons Platoon
Bodenständig Anti-tank Gun Platoon
with 3x 7.5cm PaK40
120 points
Support Platoons
Bodenständig Tank-hunter Platoon
with 3x Marder I
135 points
Bodenständig Grenadier Platoon   
with 3x Grenadier Squads
120 points
with Command Panzerfaust SMG team
10 points
Bodenständig Grenadier Platoon  
with 3x Grenadier Squads 120 points
with Command Panzerfaust SMG team 10 points
Bodenständig Heavy Artillery Battery
with 4x 15.5cm sFH414(f) howitzers 190 points
Bodenständig Anti-aircraft Gun Platoon
with 3x 3.7cm FlaK43 guns
75 points
with Trucks
5 points
Luftwaffe Anti-aircraft Assault Platoon  
with 2x Luftwaffe 8.8cm FlaK36 guns 95 points
with 2x Extra Loading crew
20 points
Total Points:
1465 points
The Game
Our battle over the bridge lasted an epic 13 full turns, which we felt represented the real fighting quite well. Like the real thing, our fight was long, full of twists of fate, and bloody.
Wayne’s Deployment
I started with my best troops on the table, the Parachute Rifle Platoons and the Airborne Engineer Combat Platoon. The engineers allowed me to place a minefield to cover the road and bridge. These tough troops were my best chance at taking out the tanks early on, by taking up key positions where the tanks would be forced to assault the paratroopers who have Bazookas and Gammon Bombs.

Mike’s Deployment
I decided my best plan for victory was to keep pressure on both Wayne’s objectives and thereby preventing his two paratrooper platoons from helping each other out. If allowed to meet up, these two paratrooper platoons would be impossible to defeat with my poor old training tanks. So I had to drive a wedge between them. I placed tank platoons opposite of each objective and made a small Kampfgruppe with my 2iC to make a drive down the middle.
The artillery and supporting infantry would help reduce the enemy infantry in front of the tanks.

Below: The Battlefeild with troops deployed.
The Battlefeild with troops deployed
Turn One

In the first turn Wayne pushed his paratroopers and engineers near the bridge on the offensive, moving them up toward the bridge and occupying the manor house. Meanwhile, he dug in the second paratrooper platoon on the other objective.
Wayne's Paratroopers move up
Mike's Beutepanzers mass for action
Mike drove his first two tank platoons on the road toward the bridge and opened fire on the bold paratrooper engineers caught in the open. The 2iC group moved up and also fired at the engineers, which became Pinned Down. Mike’s other tank platoon advanced with the infantry on the right toward the objective.
Wayne's Paratroopers advance
The Beutepanzers advance up the road
The German artillery ready for action
About to cross the bridge Turn Two

Wayne’s paratroopers near the bridge charge up to the river and prepare to cross. The Engineers fail to unpin and instead went to ground.

Mike's tanks press the attack, taking advantage of the paratroopers in the open. The Somua platoon on the road (S2 Platoon) attempts to break through a gap in the bocage in order to get a clear field of fire, but only two tanks make it through before the third bogs down blocking the opening. The two tanks that made it through, open fire causing a few casualties among the paras.
The bazookas causing havoc
The 2iC group and the CiC R35 tank move up to the riverbank and open fire on the remaining para engineers.
The Panzer III platoon (P1 Platoon) charged across the bridge, machine-guns blazing away at the paratrooper behind the manor wall before launching a bold assault. The panzers destroyed a bazooka team and a rifle team before being forced back by the defenders and losing three H-39 tanks. The tank platoon failed it’s morale check despite the CiC trying to keep them in the fight.

Action near the bridge

Turn Three

Neither player managed to call in reserves. Wayne’s paratroopers consolidate back into the manor to avoid further casualties. Mike’s Beutepanzers keep up the pressure on both flanks, while the 2iC group finally eliminates the small engineer platoon. Mike’s artillery has yet to range in…

R-35 cross the river Turn Four

Wayne’s anti-tank platoon arrives from reserve and takes aim at the two R-35s stuck on the bocage, destroying one and bailing the other.
Mike’s second Grenadier platoon arrives from reserve and marches up the right flank along the riverbank. S2 Platoon starts firing HE shells into the paratroopers holed up in the manor causing light casualties.
The Somua platoon on the opposite flank (S1 Platoon) moves up to the river bank with the infantry and shoots at the dug-in paratroopers on the opposite bank with little effect, however, they along with the infantry, manage to pin down the enemy.

Mike’s 2iC group braved the river and make it across with only one of the three tanks bogging down. Once across, they moved in between Wayne’s platoons and began harassing them while the other platoons prepared to move in.
The artillery finally managed to range in on the manor, destroying an infantry team.

Turn Five

No additional reserves arrive for both players. Wayne’s 57mm anti-tank guns bailed out another R-35 from S2 platoon near the bocage. Mike’s artillery and tanks continues to barrage the manor, inflicting several casualties.
Meanwhile, on the opposite flank Mike’s infantry attacks. S1 Platoon moves up to the river to give the grenadiers some machine-gun support. Between S1 Platoon, the 2iC Group, and the grenadiers Mike was able to pin down Wayne’s paratroopers.
The Grenadiers moved into position and launched their assault. They charged into position but were halted by six hits from the paratroopers and turned back with the loss of three infantry teams. This would prove to be their undoing as they quickly evaporated under Wayne’s withering return fire.

The Paratroopers cut down the advancing Grenadiers
Turn Six

Wayne threatens to sack his platoon commanders in reserve, which motivated three platoons to finally arrive. Glider Rifle and Field Artillery Battery arrived at the manor while the parachute Machine-gun platoon arrived on the opposite flank to reinforce the other objective.

The Paratroopers defend the objective
At the manor the glider troops storm forward and shoot up Mike’s attacking grenadiers before launching an assault. Luckily the grenadiers manage to see off the American attack and launch one of their own. In a fierce fight the two platoons each destroy two of the enemy’s teams, but the American’s larger platoon stands firm and repulses the German platoon, which promptly falls apart due to heavy casualties.
The "88" prepare to fire
Mike also receives some reserves. A small tank platoon commanded by a Char B2 tank (C1 Platoon) is sent to reinforce the left flank. Marders and 8.8cm FlaK36 guns are sent to reinforce the attack on the manor.
The ‘88’ platoon rapidly unlimbers and fires two shots down the length of the road and scores two lucky kills on Wayne’s 57mm anti-tank guns and opening the road up to Beutepanzer traffic.

The 2iC group shifts flanks with its fast H-39 tanks and opens fire on the Glider artillery platoon caught in the open. Without any gun shields to save them, the tanks’ machine-guns devastate the battery, killing two guns and pinning the rest down.

Hiding the in treeline
Breeching the river
The R-35 advance in the wheat field Turn Seven

Wayne’s glider riflemen, expecting the Beutepanzers at any moment, dig in at the manor. He then gathered the rest of his anti-tank gun platoon’s bazookas and rushed to meet Mike’s 2iC group, which was threatening the manor objective. The two bazooka men missed their targets and Mike decided to push his luck and launch an assault. As the three tanks charged in, one was hit by a bazooka and bailed out.
The 7.5cm PaK40 in action
The other two moved in and destroyed a bazooka and a hapless observer rifle team that got caught up in the melee. Not wanting to lose a platoon, Wayne pulled back to the cover of the tree line to take another shot the following turn.

Meanwhile, things on the left flank began to heat up. Without any infantry left, Mike decided that he could not take the objective from Wayne’s determined paras with his two small tank platoons. Victory, he reasoned, could only be won at the manor where the enemy infantry was the weakest. So S1 Platoon, followed by C1 Platoon, pushed forward across the river, weathering bazooka volleys, and then slipped around the paratroopers’ flank towards the manor.
The Marder Is take up firing positions
The second wave cross the bridge
Turns Eight & Nine

At this point the battle began to focus entirely on the manor. With all of Mike’s mobile platoons closing on the objective, Wayne shifted his troops around the buildings to make sure he was contesting the objective. The anti-tank platoon’s remaining bazooka man takes aim and knocks out the bailed out H-39 from the 2iC group.
Seeking vengeance for the loss of their H-39, the remainder of the 2iC groups charge the bazooka man and run him over, but pull back out of range of the glider rifle platoon’s bazooka in the manor house.

Bazookas do the business
Wayne’s artillery, though limited to two guns by this point, nail Mike’s ‘88’ platoon with a Time On Target barrage, hitting both guns. With extraordinary luck, the 88s are unharmed, but remain pinned down for the next four turns.
More Bazooka inflicted damage
Meanwhile, the two Somua platoons closed in on the manor. S2 platoon took up positions and prepared to barrage the buildings with high explosives. C1 platoon on the left flank moved up to keep the paras there from going after S1 platoon as it snuck by their flank. 

Suddenly, without warning Wayne unleashes a bazooka barrage against Mike’s C1 platoon, knocking out an H-39 and a Char B2, leaving behind a single orphaned H-39 tank which moves quickly to the extreme flank to avoid the same fate as the rest of its platoon.

"Leg it!"
Marders in the Bocage Turns Ten & Eleven

A brief lull in the fighting settles in and small skirmishes break out along the front as Mike’s Somua platoons slowly make their way across the battlefield, mopping up the last of the glider support weapons platoons, and prepare for the final assault on the manor.
Taking cover in the treeline
Turns 12 - 14

Wayne’s paratroopers, now drastically below half-strength, pass their company morale test and carry on fighting. His Machine-gunners boldly get out their foxholes and successfully assault the last H-39 from Mike’s C1 Platoon with a bazooka and a command team.

Defending the objective
Taking down a Beutepanzer By this time the Somua platoons are ready and begin the assault on the manor. The smaller S2 platoon stays back and provides covering fire, knocking out a few of the rifle teams while S1 platoon sweeps in and clears the glider troops out of the rear buildings.
Meanwhile, Wayne rushes his paratroopers on the opposite flank toward the manor, putting pressure on the Somua platoons to quickly secure the objective. The fight carries on for another turn until Wayne’s luck with company morale ran out and the paratroopers retire from the field, having seriously bloodied the 100 Panzer Abteilung and its grenadiers.

As a side note, it’s worth remembering that you never want to serve as a grenadier in Mike’s army. Ever.

"Fall back!"
Sneaking round the flank

Alternative Ending

One last turn was played out to see what would happen if the game had lasted just a bit longer. It turns out it would have completely reversed the outcome! Wayne’s paratroopers from the flank opposite the manor were now in assault range of S2 platoon and managed to destroy the Somua and an R-35 tank with bazooka fire before assaulting and finishing off the platoon. The loss of that platoon would have put Mike’s company below half strength, which he would have automatically failed due to his CiC tank being lost on turn two. All-in-all, it was a very close game!

After Action Thoughts

Wayne's Thoughts
My engineers were not as effective as I had wished. Unfortunately my movement of the engineers was not smart and they were slowly worn down by tank machine-gun fire after becoming pinned the first time they are shot at. They seemed totally unable to recover from then on.

However the 1st Parachute Rifle Platoon in the manor was able to hold against the onslaught of Beutepanzer assaults until the Glider Troops started to arrive from reserve. From that point on it was touch and go as Mike swung his attack from my right and concentrated on the left-hand objective
Encounter has scattered reserves and unfortunately most of my reserves were squashed into the left-hand corner where the artillery and anti-tank guns couldn’t be immediately brought into play. As Mike’s tanks arrived in the area they were able to pick them off.

Finally my last platoon on the left, the Glider Rifle Platoon, was broken after a series of assaults and I failed my 3+ Fearless Company Morale Check. We played another turn to see what would have happen if I’d passed and I knocked out another Beutepanzer Platoon. So it was a close run thing.

My Bazookas deserve a mention for knocking out 6 or 7 Beutepanzers. Most of the time they were going straight through the Beutepanzer’s armour, and amazingly I was making most of the 5+ Firepower tests.

An  enjoyable game overall and I look forward to having another go with the US Paratroopers at some point in the future.

Mike's Thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed playing with the Beutepanzers. The early-war era tanks are small and quite vulnerable to late war weapons, so it takes a bit of practice to figure out how to use the with the best result. I’ve found one important thing to remember is that they you should treat them as “un-pinnable” infantry. Think of them as a 5-stand infantry unit with long-range assault rifles. Avoid anti-tank weapons like the plague and leave them to your Marders, 88s, artillery, and PaK40 anti-tank guns.

The Beutepanzers can close with the enemy infantry and hit them hard. However, you’ll need numbers to help mitigate your trained status, so always try and make sure you can achieve numerical superiority wherever possible. I failed to do this on my first assault during the second turn, where I should have waited for reinforcements before charging in.

They are an extremely fun list to play with lots of flavour. You also get a pile of platoons! I got 11 platoons in total, 12 with my Kampfgruppe. This allowed me to begin with a large number of tanks (19) as well as the heavy artillery, helping me to make a concerted effort on an objective.

Don’t forget that the H-39 is not a slow tank. It was a cavalry tank and designed to go fast, so they can move quite rapidly around flanks and through gaps. However, don’t let them get too far ahead of your main force!

Incidentally, I found the Beutepanzerkompanie a good training force for an early war French tank force. One of these days I’ll get around to finishing my other French tanks and fielding them as a proper French force!

~ Mike & Wayne.

Last Updated On Friday, February 4, 2011 by Blake at Battlefront