“As soon as I saw what was happening, I took certain steps myself to ensure that if the Germans got to the Meuse they would certainly not get over the river.”
–Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery displaying the inter-personal skills that made him so loved with his American Allies
When the Battle of the Bulge soft-back books originally got released, I wasn’t expecting any British content, but I was hoping for a pdf list covering 29th Armoured or 6th Airborne in the snow. Whilst the US arrested it’s initial…ahem, tactical withdrawal, the British worked to secure the Northern flanks of the Bulge to prevent a break through to Antwerp, shoring up US held river crossings across the Meuse and, once stabilised, counter-attacked to reduce the German northern salient.
Sadly all this never got addressed at the time, almost certainly because the MG releases granted more than enough UK content.
Somewhat belatedly, the Battle of the Bulge compilation addresses this contribution.
Firstly, the Desert Rats get some well-deserved attention. This is covered in more detail in Alex’s article tomorrow but, to summarise, we get Armoured, Motorised Infantry and Rifle Infantry lists all sporting a ‘Confident Veteran‘ rating.
Mostly the core and support options are unchanged, excepting the presence of a commando platoon in its own support slot which could provide a handy assault unit.
Compared to “Overlord” Desert Rat Armoured Troops can sport an additional Firefly (and still upgrade one to a Challenger) and their recce Troop can now have a command Chafee (accompanied by two Stuart Jalopy), the first time the tank has made an appearance in UK service!
29th Armoured Brigade
Fireflies – apparently never turn them in because you never get the same number back!
My personal favourite unit, 3RTR makes another appearance in a Flames of War book, along with the rest of the 29th Armoured Brigade, divorced (well, more like trial separation) of the 11th Armoured Division. Having been forced to leave their ‘factory fresh’ Comets in favour of some decidedly “worn” Shermans, I had expected them to be featuring ‘unreliable’ in the summary sheet but this appears to not be reflected. Indeed, the only impact of getting second hand Shermans is that someone nicks the surplus Fireflies so each troop only gets one, not two! The weapon and support options see the Lorried Infantry, Sextons and Inns of Court left in France; but Paras (or air-landing infantry), SAS Jeeps (foreshadowing Nachtjaeger there) and pack-howitzers fill some of those holes to different levels of desirability.
The Motor battalion of 29th Armoured also comes along for the ride and feels much like its ‘Market Garden’ equivalent, noting the above changes.
53rd Welsh/51st Highlanders
The Welsh make their first appearance in a Flames of War book, bringing Cymru Am Byth (2iC grants morale rerolls like a CO) along with the normal British attributes. 51st Highlanders get to shrug off Reluctant as new leadership restores some vim to “Confident” as well as bringing the ever popular “Bagpipers” with them. Both units are otherwise similar although the Welsh get access to Breaching Groups, Ram transports and the Cromwell/Firefly equipped ‘Skins’ Armoured Platoon, as per their old PDF.
Sadly the Lt Tasker Williams warrior, from the 53rd PDF, doesn’t make it across to the book. In fact, there are no British special characters now that I think about it.
Those aside, the Rifle lists are almost a non-Canadian copy of the ‘Market Garden’ lists with normal favourites such as Churchill Tank platoons, Crocodile platoons and plenty of 6pdr, all featuring.
I’ve had a long desire to convert a few platoons of Para/Airlanding in the snowsuits they were issued for the Bulge and these lists make me want to dust that concept off again.
Made all the more effective by black and white photography…
The Paras arrived too late to be needed for the Meuse defence but were set to work in the January counter-attacks to clear out the Meuse area. Supported by 29th Armoured, they fought a vicious battle in the village of Bure.
Tournament players will no doubt turn their nose up at the lack of ‘Bagpipes’ and ‘Pack Howitzers with medium gun support’ that the “Market Garden” variants field; but the lists provide a fairly colourful version of the standard Paratroops (including Canadian option) and Airlanding Infantry. Core and Weapon options remain as constant as ever, but support options see Churchill Tanks, 29th Armoured White-washed Shermans, Belgian SAS Jeeps and 25pdr/5.5” gun batteries all enter the fray (alongside pack howitzers and more 6pdr than any man could know what to do with).
The greater parallels are not with Market Garden but with the Nachjager digital lists. These are much like them, but the Nachtjager lists have a tiny bit more character (mostly courtesy 6th Airborne Armoured Recce Regiment) which make them more of a go-to for the para player looking for some variety. That said, I do want to add some white-washed Shermans to my paras and I’ll look a little more at list constructing for airborne in the Bulge in a future article.
All in all, only the Desert Rats really present an “essential” British list from the “Battle of the Bulge” book. The other lists tend to feel like they have been done ‘better’ in other books from the perspective of competitive play. However, players like me interested more in historical gaming, or whom play in the various “theatre specific” tournaments that appear, will no doubt find these unique British lists to their fancy.
Hopefully we’ll see a resurgence of white washed Sherman and snow-suited Infantry soon!