Defending the River Waal at Nijmegen
On 20th September 1944 the Grenadier Guards Group and the 2nd Battalion US 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment began clearing the Germans from Nijmegen. To commemorate this key fight in the drive to relieve the embattled British paratroopers in Arnhem, on 19th September 2007 the SAD Wargamers staged a number of battles based on events of the day.
The scenarios were taken from Rapid Fire scenarios and reproduced for Flames Of War. This basically meant that battalions became companies, and companies became platoons.
There were four games played: “Battle in the woods”, “Charge of the Paras”, “Assault on the Waal”, and “Cutting the corridor at Koevering”.
I was in command of the Germans who were defending the River Waal. I had three German units, and was tasked with holding the road bridge and the railway bridge over the River Waal in Nijmegen. My main force was Kampfgruppe Henke, a Company with a single Panzer Grenadier platoon from various German units in and around Nijmegen. It also had two ’88 guns and some mortars. I also had 10th SS Kampfgruppe Reinhold, with a single small Panzer Grenadier platoon, plus a Stug G, an ‘88 and a Pioneer platoon with a single squad. My final force was Fort van Holland with two batteries of two guns. I also had machine guns and anti-aircraft units to deploy.
Facing me were the Grenadier Guards Group, two Sherman platoons plus a Rifle platoon, plus two companies of US Paratroopers, and a platoon of Irish Guards Shermans. One US Paratrooper company was equipped with canvas boats, and was to make an assault over the Waal (the assault made famous in the film “A Bridge Too Far” with Robert Redford.) The British Sherman tanks, including the Fireflies, were all upgraded from ‘Trained’ to ‘Veteran’, which made them much harder to kill!
Historically the Paratroopers in the canvas boats were the key to victory, as the US paratroopers swarmed over the river onto the North bank and then took the northern end of both bridges.
I was tempted to deploy the SS in Fort van Holland, but tried a more historical deployment with most units south of the Waal.
The key to this victory was the three German ’88 guns. Although they only killed 2 ‘Veteran’ Shermans the ’88 guns had a huge psychological impact, and the British and Americans spent all their efforts on knocking the big guns out. This meant the US Paratroopers in the canvass boats were unsupported and took a long time getting over the Waal, and were unable to over-run the Germans by the railway bridge. Also, time was a factor, as the movement in Flames of War, and the effectiveness of dug in infantry, is very different to Rapid Fire. Having played the scenario, in retrospect the Allies didn’t have sufficient time to take the bridges. It is to Peter’s credit that he almost succeeded!
Finally many thanks to Peter for organising such an interesting and enjoyable evening.