D-Day: Waffen SS (and friends) – Refighting Arnhem

With the SS books out, we get a little closer to having all the bits for one of my paper projects; the German element of the Battle of Arnhem. As a British Airborne player, with a tenuous family connection to the battle, it’s always been something I enjoyed wargaming from both sides of the table and one of the few occasions the SS have had any tabletop appeal for me. 

For the British player, it’s a valiant last stand as the hope of relief or breakout slowly fades.  For the German player, it’s a triumph of quick thinking at a tactical level turning to a rare battle of attrition that late war Germans *can* win.

It’s still not entirely clear how Battlefront plans to address Market Garden, but I’m not one to sit around waiting!  Between Fortress Europe and the two D-Day books, we have most of what we need so this article will take a look at the forces that closed in around 2 Para at Arnhem, and how to replicate them on the tabletop, using the old v3 “Bridge by Bridge” for guidance.

As anyone who has watched the film “Bridge Too Far” will know, one of the main issues of failure was the presence of 9th and 10th SS, both battered after the retreat from Normandy, but still not entirely eliminated as a fighting force.  The British had indications that these forces were present but were dismissed as not in line with the expectation that only reserve forces would be present.  This would prove a costly mistake…

SS – Kampfgruppe Spindler

More so than any other element, excepting perhaps Kamfgruppe Krafft, Kampfgruppe Spindler can likely make a claim to be the reason for a German victory in the Battle of Arnhem. 

Building on KG Krafft’s initial perimeter that so effectively stopped all but 2 PARA getting to the road bridge (and thus securing Krafft’s claim for being the key to victory), KG Spindler, formed up mostly from 9th Hohenstauffen Panzer Division, took the baton and prevented two determined brigade strength efforts from the British Airborne reaching the stranded 2 PARA. 

Having withstood the initial storm, and bolstered by 280. SturmSchutzbrigade’s StuG and StuH, KG Spindler pushed the British back and prevented any hope of relief to the bridge defenders, arguably gaining a strategic win for the Germans.

Fielding the Kampfgruppe

9th SS had lost most of its armoured strength but was able to commit three Panthers, two Jagdpanzers and a pair of Mobelwagons to the defence, plus some armoured cars in its recce regiment (which we will get to shortly).  As such, the best basis for the KG is an SS Panzergrenadier (PzGr) formation, possibly with the Pioneers card to reflect the origins in 9th SS –panzerpioneer abteilung
9th SS still consisted of a haredned core of veteran troops so the “The Best…” title cards from the command cards can still be considered valid.  These bump up our costs but grant us true Fearless Veteran troops, consistent with Spindler’s performance.

The Infantry have lost their half-tracks but kept most of their heavy equipment so we should feel free to use the following in our formation:

  • SS PzGr HQ with panzerfausts and “The Best Infantry” and “The Best Firepower” cards.
  • SS PzGr Platoon or Pioneer Platoon (card) with panzerfausts and sHMG and panzershreks
  • SS PzGr Machine-Gun Platoon (though strictly not if you’ve chosen sHMG in the platoons)
  • SS PzGr 8cm Mortar Platoon (strictly just two 8cm tubes as it’s from the heavy platoon)
  • SS PzGr 12cm Mortar Platoon
  • SS PzGr 7.5cm or 15cm Infantry Gun Platoon
  • SS 7.5cm Tank Hunter Platoon
  • SS 2cm Light AA Platoon

In support we should consider:

  • SS Panther Platoon (just three tanks though)
  • SS Jagdpanther IV Tank hunter platoon (just two tanks though) with “The Best Hunters” card
  • From D-Day Germans – StuG or StuH Assault Gun Platoon (representing 280 Sturmgeschutzbrigade)
  • From D-Day Germans – Beach Defence Grenadier Platoon (just rifle/mg, no upgrades.  This reflects the various second-line troops absorbed into the KG.
  • 10.5cm SS Artillery Battery with “The Best Guns” card
  • 15cm SS Nebelwerfer Battery with “The Best Gun” card
  • SS Reconnaissance Platoon in 250 half-tracks (the only mounted infantry available.
  • 8.8cm SS Heavy AA Platoon with the Assault Flak card to reflect the Luftwaffe status.

KG Spindler also received support from the King Tigers of 506 Schwere Panzerabteilung so, when these appear, feel free to add them too.

SS-Kampfgruppe Brinkmann

Formed from 10th SS’s 10 SS-Aufklärungsabteilung, KG Brinkmann were the first German’s to engage Frost’s troops after the Paras took the bridge.  Beaten back by small arms and PIAT fire, the force contained the Paras throughout the first night, then launched assaults over the next few days as more supporting forces arrived.  They eventually became the first force to cross the recaptured bridge and head south to Nijmegen.

Fielding the Kampfgruppe

An SS Reconnaissance Company forms an ideal basis for KG Brinkmann as it had the battalion’s entire remaining fleet of half-tracks.  

10th SS’ card reflects their condition in Normandy, largely consisting entirely of in-experienced troops and officers.  By Arnham, they will have been through a bloody campaign in France, gaining valuable experience, and so it may be more appropriate to field them without the card.

The formation should consist of:

  • SS Reconnaissance HQ Platoon in 250 half-tracks, with panzerfaust
  • The mandatory one SS Reconnaissance Platoon in 250 half-tracks, with panzerfaust
  • Then for the second mandatory box, and third optional infantry box, either more SS Reconnaissance Platoon in 250 half-tracks, or SS-Panzergrenadiers, either with panzerfaust
  • Reconnaissance 8cm SS Mortar Section with two tubes (this represents the heavy platoon though we can’t currently represent the two HMG half-tracks)
  • One SdKfz 222 and 223 SS Scout Patrol
  • One to two SdKfz 250 SS Scout Patrol (this is something of a fudge.  KG Brinkmann had a single panzerspah platoon of 5 SdKfz 250/9, used a light tank/fire support unit. 

Suitable support options are:

  • Heer Tiger platoon (KG Hummel, see below)
  • SS Panzer IV or Panther platoon
  • From D-Day Germans – Beach Defence Grenadier Platoon (just rifle/mg, no upgrades.  This reflects the various second-line troops absorbed into the KG.
  • 10.5cm SS Artillery Battery with “The Best Guns” card (reflecting support from 9th Panzer’s artillery)
  • 15cm SS Nebelwerfer Battery with “The Best Guns” card 
     (reflecting support from 9th Panzer’s artillery)
  • 8.8cm SS Heavy AA Platoon  with the Assault Flak card to reflect the Luftwaffe status.

Like KG Spindler, KG Brinkmann also received support from the King Tigers of 506 Schwere Panzerabteilung so, when these appear, feel free to add them too.

SS-Kampfgruppe Graebner

Formed from 9 SS-Aufklärungsabteilung, Kamfgruppe Graebner is well known for its somewhat suicidal dash across the Arnhem bridge, running into the mines and firepower of 2 PARA and seeing only five armoured cars get past the British paratroops.  The best that could be said for the assault was that it used up precious ammunition for the entrapped defenders.

Fielding the Kampfgruppe

KG Graebner is a trickier beast to replicate than Brinkmann due to the use of semi-armoured trucks as improvising APC for its infantry.  It’s a key feature of the force and one that is hard to skip.  What we need is a command card to add semi-armoured trucks to an SS Panzer Grenadier platoon.

Keep on truckin’!

In the meantime, it can almost be replicated by an SS Reconnaissance Company as so:

  •  SS Reconnaissance HQ Platoon in 250 half-tracks, with panzerfaust and the “Best Infantry” and “Best Firepower” title cards.
  • The mandatory one SS Reconnaissance Platoon in 250 half-tracks, with panzerfaust
  • Then for the second mandatory box, and third optional infantry box, SS-Panzergrenadiers in reinforced trucks, with panzerfaust
  • Reconnaissance 8cm SS Mortar Section with two tubes (this represents the heavy platoon though we can’t currently represent the two HMG half-tracks)
  • One SdKfz 222 and 223 SS Scout Patrol
  • One SdKfz 231 SS Heavy Scout Patrol
  • One to two SdKfz 250 SS Scout Patrol (in v3, this was oragnised like Brinkmanns, five SdKfz250/9 in one platoon)
  • One Recce 7.5cm SS Gun Platoon with three SdKfz251/9 (normally the recce gun platoon has SdKfz 250 but you can’t take the armoured gun platoon in threes.  The stats are the same anyway).

Suitable support options are:

  • Sd Kfz 10/4 SS Light AA Platoon (with optional “armoured” card)
  • 10.5cm SS Artillery Battery with “The Best Guns” card
  • 15cm SS Nebelwerfer Battery with “The Best Gun” card

Kampgruppe Knaust

Formed from the Panzergrenadier Ausbiildungs und Ersatz Bataillon 64, Kampgruppe Knaust consisted of 400 men plus, later in the battle, a mix of older mark panzers from the 6th panzerdivisions driver training school.  The infantry was relatively inexperienced but, none the less, set about brutal street fighting in Arnhem, using nothing but small arms.  Eventually, 105mm artillery pieces were used as direct-fire weapons, but real progress was made when Model tasked two Tigers to support the infantry.  KG Knaust finally pushed the British infantry back from the bridge, allowing the kampgruppe to cross the river and attempt to contain the new Polish Paratroop threat.

Fielding the Kampfgruppe

A D-Day Germans Panzergrenadier force with the “Rebuilding card” serves as a good reflection of the motivated but inexperienced Heer troops under Knaust’s command.  Our formation should include:

  • Panzergrenadier HQ with panzerfaust
  • Two to three Panzergrenadier Platoons with panzerfaust.  One can have a Panzershrek.
  • sMG34 Machinegun Platoon
  • 8cm Mortar Section (two tubes)
  • 7.5cm Tank Hunter Platoon

Suitable support options are:

  • Fortress Europe Mixed Panzer III Platoon with one Panzer III replaced for a Panzer IV
  • From D-Day Germans – Heer Tiger Platoon
  • SdKfz250 Scout Patrol
  • From D-Day Germans – Beach Defence Grenadier Platoon (just rifle/mg, no upgrades.  This reflects the various second-line troops absorbed into the KG.
  • SS – Panzer platoon (Panthers or Panzer IV)
  • SS Reconnaissance Platoon in 250 halftracks, with panzerfaust
  • SS PzGr Platoon with panzerfausts and sHMG and panzershreks
  • 10.5cm Artillery Battery
  • 15cm Nebelwerfer Battery (both these and the 10.5 should be SS but it’s largely irrelevant, rules-wise)
  • 8.8cm Heavy AA Platoon with 8.8cm Assault FlaK card.

Kampgruppe Hummel

Another training unit, Panzer Ersatz Abteilung 500 took 14 “well used” Tigers and training crews from Paderborn and marched them to the Netherlands.  Despite barely trained crews and worn-out tanks, Hummel’s Tigers proved the decisive edge in the city fighting, though would take significant losses when facing the British 43rd Wessex Division in the push to Nijmegen.

Fielding the Kampfgruppe

A D-Day Germans Tiger Company with the Greyhound card is as close as we can get to reflecting Hummel’s status at the moment.  What we really need is a card that reduces skill, removes “Stormtrooper” and reduces cross!  Still, needs must. 

The formation should look like:

  • HQ Tigers
  • Two to three platoons of Tigers

Suitable support options are:

  • Fortress Europe Mixed Panzer III Platoon with one Panzer III replaced for a Panzer IV
  • Heer PzGr Platoon with panzerfausts
  • SS Reconnaissance Platoon in 250 half-tracks, with panzerfaust
  • SS PzGr Platoon with panzerfausts and sHMG and panzershreks
  • 10.5cm Artillery Battery
  • 15cm Nebelwerfer Battery (both these and the 10.5 should be SS but it’s largely irrelevant, rules-wise)
  • 8.8cm Heavy AA Platoon with 8.8cm Assault FlaK card.

KG Hummel also received support from the King Tigers of 506 Schwere Panzerabteilung so, when these appear, feel free to add them too.

Hopefully, this all provides some food for thought for refighting the Battle of Arnhem!

Category: BattlefrontFlames of WarGermansLate WarList DiscussionMarket GardenV4

5 comments

  1. This takes us back to the V3 book “Bridge by Bridge”, where WE DID HAVE ALL UNITS that were stated here as “need to have” or shown as “as close as possible”. I’d taken the time and effort to make 4 of Kerutt’s panzerfaust “trap teams” (Hell’s Highway). Will I ever get to use them again, or will they be dust collectors like so many V3 models that have already been bypassed? I’m ready to do as other fans/players have already done and go back to my V3 books and lists, while adapting some V4 rules.

  2. Lee thank you for the stimulating article! Will bring back the V3.5 EW/LW book to enable historical options! We did this a year ago on a 33′ Oosterbeek – Arnhem table at the historic Westerbouwing site!

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Article by: Lee

Wargaming since Rogue Trader in 1990; I made the move to Flames in 2006 and have been with it ever since! I play at the Brighton Warlords most weeks.