British forces for Fortress Europe
“We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air…” – Prime Minister, Winston Churchill
With the battle for North Africa now over with the surrender of the Deutches Afrika Korps, the attention of the allies now turns to the soft underbelly of Europe: Italy.
Fortress Europe is designed to allow players who started their Flames of War journey in Mid War, using their forces in the desert and the Eastern Front, to take them forward ans use them in the opening months of Late War, making them compatible with the upcoming (and, dare I say, eagerly awaited) D-Day books.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the British forces for Fortress Europe; what we lose, what we gain and how things are structured.
No place for a Crusade
Naturally a number of tanks for the British became redundant after the scuffle in North Africa with the remaining light and medium tanks being sent to Russia as part of their ‘Lend Lease’ program. At the same time the Lend Lease with the US was gaining speed, and the British had a new twist on one of the stalwarts of the US arsenal.
So what do we lose?
- The Crusader Squadron is gone, retired after the desert (as a cruiser tank at least)
- The Valentine Squadron is also gone, new examples being shipped to Russia
- With both of these tanks retired, the Death or Glory Squadron is also retired (they re-equipped with Shermans)
- The US Medium tank, the Grant, has served its last and is left behind (they did see more use in the Far East but that’s a story for another day)
- The Honey Squadrons are gone, but not the tank, remaining for an integral Recce role in the Armoured Squadrons (in its shinier, better armoured, Stuart VI version)
- From Support; Humber Armoured Car Troop, for now at least.
- 17/25pdr Anti-tank Troop, replaced by the ability to take M10, with the 3″, and 17pdr option
- The Hurricane Flight is grounded, though fielding the aircraft as a Kittyhawk isn’t too big a deal.
- The Stuart OP is replaced by the more survivable Sherman OP
- Finally; No Command Cards. As Fortress Europe is intended to be a simple bridging book, Command Cards are absent from the release, so no South Africans, New Zealanders, Canadians or funny equipment for the moment.
On the face of it, the British lose quite a number of the Core Formations from Armoured Fist. However, it wouldn’t make much sense to bring these old bangers forward, some of which had been in British service since 1940.
What remains are the core formations for the invasion of Italy: Sherman Armoured Squadrons, Churchill [Italy] Armoured Squadrons, Motor Companies, and the old faithful Rifle Companies.
There’s a twist to the Sherman Armoured Squadron though; the lads back at the Department for War have come up with a way of mounting the fearsome (and much improved) 17pdr into the turret of a Sherman. This addresses the problem British tank squadrons had in Mid-War; dealing with heavier armour such as the Tiger, or even simpler dealing with medium armour at range. With the StuG appearing on the field, long range engagements favoured the thicker front armour of the StuG, but now with the Firefly… and did I mention it’s increased Anti-tank Rating is now 14, over the Mid-War 12? Even at range, this gun is going to put the fear into Tigers. Goodbye APC ammo, hello APCBC.
Keeping on the subject of the 17pdr, and dropping into the Support Options, the M10 project has finally reached the numbers to begin to supply the British Army. The Brits can field a platoon of either two or four M10s, armed with either the American 3″ gun [Anti-tank 12, like the old 17/25pdr], or armed with the improved 17pdr. The addition of this mobile anti-tank asset gives the British forces a much needed element of manoeuvrability.
Finally, the old Boys anti-tank rifle has finally been shelved, and the PIAT is given out to all Rifle and Motor platoons, retaining the statistics of the Command Card from MW.
Putting it into practice
Let’s have a look at some example lists, comparing what the list would have looked like in Armoured Fist and now how it looks in Fortress Europe. We’ll look at the Sherman and Churchill Squadrons, as these are the two forces with the biggest change in points. (Much like older Versions, Infantry and infantry support weapon points don’t change much between eras).
As we can see here, the gulf in points between Mid-War and Late-War Shermans is astronomical, whilst the points for the Infantry and Armoured Car support remains quite rigid.
I can also mention that upgrading from the 17/25pdr guns to the M10 17pdrs is almost the same cost; since you cannot field three vehicles in Late War, the points almost add up, for the added protection of good armour, and that improved gun.
The other important thing to note, is that in the two comparison lists, I tried to stick as closely as I could. This means that I didn’t put any Firefly in. Though, for 1pt more it’s almost a ‘must-take’ rather than a mistake (I’ll see myself out).
An additional bit of information, which I didn’t really touch on in the list above, as you can see by the formation chart, is that the Sherman Armoured Squadron can take the Stuart as the second compulsory choice. Not only does this allow for two Stuart Patrols in the one list, but it also allows the Infantry to have a bit of light tank support, smashing!
And now for my old favourite; the Churchill Squadron. Compared to the Shermans, the Churchills got a more sizeable points reduction from Mid to Late War. You can see from the list above, that in Fortress Europe the Churchill Troop with three tanks is the same cost as the Sherman Troop with three tanks. The justification for this I can imagine being that the Firepower increase for the 75mm gun of the Sherman is rated quite highly over the slightly better anti-tank rating of the Churchill’s 6pdr. As well as that, the Sherman’s speed is a factor over the Churchill’s armour. In essence it’s a balance of speed and hitting power cancelling each other out.
One thing I would also mention is that the Churchill Squadron loses the integral Rifle Platoon as part of the formation, having to rely on them as a support option. This does make the formation a little less sturdy, as the infantry were fantastic ground-holders as the tanks took the brunt of the firepower headed their way.
The rest of the list shows how little the points change between some units, with the Bofors added in, they remain a solid 4pts for the three guns.
I’m not really touching on the Rifle and Motor Companies, and why? Because there’s actually not much change in the general composition, and even pointing of the Rifle and Motor Companies between the eras. The big change, as mentioned above, is that the Boys Anti-tank Rifle has been replaced by the PIAT. With half the range of the Boys, but with more than double the anti-tank, the PIAT gives the Poor Bloody Infantry a bit of protection against any tanks rolling their way.
So, how would I rate the Brits in Fortress Europe?
Compared to the Armoured Fist book, it’s a nice enough filler book, perfect for newer players wanting an easier entry into the Late War era.
For more experienced players it’s probably not going to entirely scratch the Late War itch that they’ve been feeling since V4 dropped two years back, and they would probably get more satisfaction from the hinted at British D-Day book (expected early 2020).
But, if you’re feeling envious of the German and American players getting their D-Day books in June and want to take the beaches too, then this book will at least give a hint at what might be coming, and will help throw together an ad-hoc force for storming Sword, Gold and Juno. (Though Cromwells, and the Engineering groups might be a little absent from your games).