Hello everyone and welcome to 2024, the year which sees 20 years since the launch of Facebook, 500 years since Vasco de Gama shuffled off this mortal plane and from a WW2, and Flames of War perspective the 80th anniversary of the greatest amphibious assault ever undertaken; D-Day.
To mark this grand occasion the podcast is taking over Das Bahn in the wilds of Sussex and staging a monumental D-Day-themed game. This colossal effort got me thinking, and when the old cogs and gears are whirring, sometimes something excellent happens.
What if… what if all the Shoot & Scoot Patreons… what if we all painted an army? And then what if that army was given to someone, a Patreon, at this insane D-Day gaming session… that would be really cool wouldn’t it…
So, from this seed of an idea a mighty Bayeux Weeping Beech Tree has sprung – but which force to commit to? That is an entirely different kind of question…
I thought about creating an allied beach assault list but I thought that included too much infantry and would limit the future use of that force. There were US and UK armoured forces in Normandy, obviously, but the hodge-podge nature of the painting schemes I thought would best suit a German unit; but which one?
The super-baddies were probably out straight off the bat, so I was left looking at the Heer 2nd, 9th, 21st, 116th and 130th Panzer Divisions. Lee is a connoisseur of the 2nd Panzer, the 21st Panzer is my baby and way too whacky, the 116th caused all kinds of conniptions once upon a time in competitive play and the 130th is Eddie’s baby… so that left the 9th Panzer Division, which I knew little about. This was going to be interesting.
(Re)building a Force
Reading about the 9th Panzer Division was very interesting. Originally a conglomeration of Austrian armour and cavalry units, it was integrated into the Wehrmacht as the 4th Leichte Division following the Anschluss of 1938. This meant that it took part in the invasion of Poland in 1939 and during the period of the Sitzkrieg it returned to Vienna to be converted into the 9th Panzerdivision and then returned to the fray in France helping to trap the Anglo-Franco forces in the Dunkirk pocket and ending the campaign in the Rhône Valley having covered more ground than any other German division.
Following the stunning success of the Wehrmacht forces in France, it was back to Vienna again to rest and refit before being sent to the Balkans and Greece in the spring of 1941 before it prepared for the invasion of the USSR. The 9th Panzer Division then spent the next three years battling the unending waves of engagements as the massive forces of both countries battered away at each other. Present at the gates of Moscow and the Battle of Kursk it was one of the divisions that spent much of those three years at the tip of the spear but by 1944 that spear was dull and broken. From late March 1944, the division was pulled from the line and given some much-needed respite, although a Kampfgruppe built around Panzergrenadier-Regiment 11 remained fighting in the east only reuniting with their comrades after the invasion of Normandy.
Sent again to be refitted, this time in Nîmes (Southern France) and not Vienna, the 9th Panzer began to rebuild with recruits and new equipment it was a long way from being ready to meet the ferocity of the Allied invasion in June that year. That meant that when the first boots hit the beach the 9th Panzer Division wasn’t moved immediately to that sector and in fact, resources meant for the 9th were redirected to other units. Notably:
- The 9th Panzer Division’s Panther Battalion was redirected away from Nîmes directly to the Normandy front where it was attached to the 116th Panzer Division.
- Panzergrenadier-Regiment 11 only joined up with the 9th Panzer Divison in Normandy
- The 9th Panzer Division’s Jagdpanzer IV vehicles were shipped to Nîmes but only after the division had already moved to Normandy, taking weeks to catch up with the main body of the division.
There was one thing that the 9th Panzer Division had that no other did in Normandy, and that was the ability for reconnaissance in force through its 36 Panzer II “Luchs” tanks.
The majority of the action that the 9th Panzer Division was engaged in Normandy was post-Operation Cobra, in August 1944 it was instructed to protect the left flank of LVIII Panzerkorps from the onrushing US 3rd Army under Patton. Directly on the path of the French 2e DB, the 9th Panzer Division would never establish a strong defensive position, being constantly outflanked, and bypassed by Leclerc’s men. So often were the two opposite divisions skirmishing every day, that the French officers asked for news about “notre 9e Panzer” (“our 9th Panzer“) at daily briefings as they might about a relative or close friend.
By the 9th of August, the division had been ground down to just 15 operational Panzer IV tanks and was being chased east, saving it from the disaster of the Faliase Pocket, it made it to the regrouping point south of Paris around the 16th of August having lost around 3500 men. After France, the 9th Panzer Division retreated to Germany and behind the Siegfried Line, to once again refit itself and by Christmas 1944 it was ready to participate in Operation “Wacht am Rhein” and would end the war by attempting to retake the Remagen Bridge, finally surrendering in the Ruhr Pocket.
Racing to the Sea
Having identified the unit that I wanted to build for the event I looked at the army lists available and the best way to recreate this force for the game. The obvious place to look is in the D-Day German book so let’s look there.
This card is ok, in game terms, nothing amazing but the issue is that this can only be combined with the D-Day Panzer IV or Panzergrenadier Companies. These are a bit inflexible, and we can’t take the Panthers, but also, weirdly, nothing can grant you access to the Panzer II “Luchs”. Huh.
So, how can we better reflect this division in the field? Time to really get creative.
The ONLY way to get those cheeky little Panzer II “Luchs” in a list is to use the Fortress Europe book as the foundation, opening up the “Luchs” as a support unit. I could use the Panzer Company from the same book but I like to use the Panzer IV company from Bagration: German as it allows you to have Panzers and Armoured Infantry in the same formation.
I tried to take into account what someone would have to paint up a whole section of the list so I’ve tried to keep the numbers as they come in a box. I think that there are some good viable units here – even if they are only Panzer IV tanks – with flexibility in whether you attack or defend.
It covers the requirements of having at least one Spearhead unit, one artillery infantry unit and some mobile AT. It does lack that truly high-end AT that you might need against an IS-2, but seeing as this is this is a formation specifically for the Normandy campaign in 1944, in the west, so that is not an issue.
The Falaise Line
So, there we have it. Another unique German unit is ready for the tabletop, and this time if will be leaving with one of our fabulous Patreons. Keep an eye on Facebook to see progress as it all comes together
Well, that was a gentle romp through the French countryside but I’ll be back soon still not drinking from the mainstream – so until then enjoy a cup of single-origin, cold brew flat white artisan coffee and ponder more thoughts from the hipster’s beard.
Happy new year!