Highway to the Reich Eindhoven Historical Campaign Day Nine

The following post is Day Nine of the Historical Campaign for Eindhoven, a nine day nine hour scenario in Highway to the Reich by Panther Games. Breaking the blog post up into structured segments for each day should allow for better tactical analysis and reassessment of the battle plan based on the situation on the ground (as well as a more organized approach to writing an after-action report for a scenario as long as this).

The Eindhoven scenario is one of three historical campaigns (Arnhem, Eindhoven, and Nijmegen) that form the backbone of the Operation Market Garden representation in the Airborne Assault engine at that time (preceded by Red Devils Over Arnhem and followed by the HTTR expansion pack for Command Operations). The missions feature various elements of the Allies 30 Corps fighting against the Axis 1st Fallschirmjäger Army and 2nd SS Panzer Corps.

Please refer to the previous entry covering Day Eight action for detailed information about how the battle progressed to this point. Note: all links used in this post are to actual articles containing additional information about the subject matter referenced and are not any form of automated link advertising.

Day Eight Analysis

I am currently in control of 14 out of the 16 location objectives (having lost control of Best and Phillips Factory).

The total force strength is 16,107 personnel, 674 armored fighting vehicles, 269 gun units, a 4,888 anti-personnel firepower rating, an 8,691 anti-armor firepower rating, a 2,532 Armor rating, and a 1,009 bombardment rating.

The final reinforcement of the scenario is the 131st Queens Infantry Brigade, a massive 43 unit force of approximately 4,000 personnel that can help shore up some weak spots.

I currently have four artillery batteries under my direct Fire Control: 377th (12 X 75mm/out of ammo), 321st (12 X 75mm/out of ammo), 907th (12 X 105mm/out of ammo), and the British 26.7 (8 X 5.5 inch/out of ammo).

All batteries are on call with “Rest After Bombard” deselected so as to allow the various AI commanders use of these assets.

If the scenario were to end right now, I would have killed 8,506 Axis personnel, 147 armored fighting vehicles, and 335 gun units (16 destroyed by fire and 10 by surrender).

Allied losses would be 2,842 personnel, 107 armored fighting vehicles, and 87 gun units. There have been three units destroyed by Fire and one by Surrender.

From this point forward combat power values will be abbreviated (armored fighting vehicles=AFV, etc.)

New Orders

The biggest threat on the battlefield is not the German forces blocking the road between Eindhoven and Phillps Factory (as that can be easily bypassed), but the stretch of road that runs from Koevering to Veghel. While I have not been deploying forces necessarily to match what was done in real life, the condition on the battlefield is beginning to look like what actually happened on 9/25/1944 – the Germans cut the road at Koevering.

Image Credit: “Hell's Highway: U.S. 101st Airborne -1944” by Tim Saunders, 2009.

As mentioned in some of the previous posts, the scenario briefing addresses the abstraction of some forces:

Only those elements of 30th Corps which historically participated in securing this sector are represented. Other elements, including the Gds Arm Div and the 43rd Inf Div are assumed to transit the corridor through to the Nijmegen sector.

So although some primary forces are assumed to have to made it through the area of operations, I am still playing the game wanting to keep the road open as much as possible (even though I have maxed out Victory Points and am simply holding objectives to deny those points to the Axis AI).

With the road between Koevering and Veghel looking like a bust for the moment, I use Recce Troop 44th Royal Tank Regiment (which is a single Stuart VI Light Tank that I withdrew from combat earlier) to scout a potential bypass through Zondveld which is approximately 3km to the east with a route that is a mix of both road and track.

I intent to use some of the 131st Queens to test the route by sending them on an avoidance movement to the far northeast corner of the map, noting their starting force and ending force numbers. This will have no impact to the Victory Point calculations for the moment, but as I mentioned previously I am still playing the scenario with an eye to keep the road open (and not just gaming the game by stacking units on threatened objectives).

Once in Veghel, the road is again cut at the Veghel River Highway Bridge Objective (14 VP) but I can bypass to the west through the Veghel River Rail Bridge Objective (7 VP). Past that south of the Hulstheuvel Highway Bridge Objective (10 VP) it is cut once again, but there is really nothing I can do at this point as the forces defending Hulstheuvel and Uden are group HQ and support units that are not suitable for direct action in an offensive role.

Whatever forces of the 131st Queens make it to that point are on their own on how best to progress to Zeeland.

Combat Action

At 02:00 the 131st Queens Infantry Brigade (3,936P/300AFV/108G/1,429AP/1,900AA/1,323A/338B) arrives in Eindhoven as the last reinforcement of the scenario. While there are 43 total units as part of this force, it is easier to break them down into the various HQ units (six total) in determining how best to allocate them to the battlefield:

  • 1/5th Queens Infantry Battalion (695P/24AFV/24G/136AP/217AA/32A/38B)
  • 8th Hussars (424P/71AFV/8G/397AP/536AA/592A/56B)
  • 5th Inniskillen Dragoon Guards (598P/118AFV/12G/426AP/529AA/515A/56B)
  • 1/7th Queens Infantry Battalion (630P/24AFV/24G/130AP/207AA/32A/38B)
  • 1/6th Queens Infantry Battalion (694P/24AFV/24G/136AP/215AA/32A/38B)
  • 131st Queens Infantry Brigade HQ Element (895P/39AFV/16G/204AP/196AA/120A/112B)

What I would like to do with this force are a couple of things: test the route to Zeeland (not a scenario objective, just something I want to do), shore up some objective weak points, and finally utilize the HQ Element to support overall battlefield operations.

Transit Force to Zeeland

In the past two hours the Recce Troop 44th Royal Tank Regiment has successfully navigated the majority of the bypass route around Koevering and did not report any sightings (however visibility is reduced due to darkness).

To traverse this route and on to Zeeland I select one armor and one infantry group, the ones with the lowest firepower ratings (as a general rule anti-personnel firepower for infantry and anti-armor firepower for armor units). Based on the ratings listed above, I select the 1/7th Queens Bn (130AP) and the 5th Inniskillen Guards (529AA).

  • Formation – Road Column
  • Route – Unspecified
  • Aggro – Min
  • Losses – Min

The route is unspecified as I want to allow the AI commanders some latitude to make changes as they see fit, although I am plotting out a specific bypass around Koevering and through Veghel. Once clear of Veghel it is a single waypoint to Zeeland to allow them to resolve the road block occurring at Hulstheuvel.

While this may be more micromanaging than some prefer, I think that it is the beauty of the Airborne Assault engine in that you can do as little or as much as you like.

Koevering Assault Force

Although I am bypassing Koevering with my test force on their way to Zeeland, I still want to shore up the 1st Coldstream Guards Battalion [Armor] (292P/71AFV/6G/250AP/357AA/315A) and B Battery 81st Airborne AT Battalion (which is down to one 6pdr AT gun and 11 personnel) defending the objective.

For this task I select the 8th Hussars (536 anti-armor firepower rating and a 592 armor rating) to attack through the 1st Coldstream Bn’s line.

  • Formation – Line
  • Route – Quickest
  • Aggro – Max
  • Losses – Max
  • Frontage – 600m
  • Depth – 300m

The line of sight tool has black tick marks to the right of the blue line which indicate elevation. From the assault point (which they should exploit somewhat past) they will be looking down into the bowl like terrain depression that is littered with the crosses of destroyed German units that have been fixed there for the past several days.

Objective Support and Battlefield Ops

The remaining three groups are allocated as follows:

  • 1/5th Queens Infantry Battalion (695P/24AFV/24G/136AP/217AA/32A/38B) are ordered to move to and defend the Phillips Factory Objective (7 VP) in support of the 2nd Battalion 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment that have been entrenched there since the second day of operations and are at 95% strength (558 personnel). This force should be able to help achieve the objective once again and hold it for the remainder of the scenario.
  • 1/6th Queens Infantry Battalion (694P/24AFV/24G/136AP/215AA/32A/38B) are ordered to move to and defend the Best Highway Bridge Objective (3 VP) in support of the 1st Battalion 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment that have been entrenched there since the first day of operations and are at 78% strength (457 personnel). This force should be able to help achieve the objective once again and hold it for the remainder of the scenario.
  • 131st Queens Infantry Brigade HQ Element (895P/39AFV/16G/204AP/196AA/120A/112B) are ordered to move to the St. Oedenrode Highway Bridge (17 VP) and setup their units in overall support of the battlefield (primarily with the two batteries of eight Sexton mobile artillery each and their 10km range).

The orders given for the parachute infantry are simple Defend with one waypoint, Avoidance route selected and everything else set to default. The HQ Element going to St. Oedenrode is given a single Move order, Avoidance route, but with aggression and losses set to minimum. This is pretty much the opposite end of the micromanagement spectrum – one click orders.

During the night around 02:30 I ordered the 44th Royal Tank Regiment back to Zondveld to act as an observation post. By 06:00 there has been significant progress with the progression of the tasks assigned to the force detachments of the 131st Queens Infantry Brigade:

  • 1/7th Queens Bn and 5th Inniskillen Guards have successfully made it to the section of the route that bypasses Koevering.
  • 131st Queens Infantry Brigade HQ Element has cleared Son and is moving on to St. Oedenrode.
  • 1/5th Queens Bn has arrived at Phillips Factory and have assisted in taking that objective back.
  • 1/6th Queens Bn has cleared Eindhoven and is moving on to Best.
  • 8th Hussars (which were assigned the task of assaulting at Koevering) have gotten bogged down and have yet to clear Eindhoven.

At this point I am going to let things sort themselves out with the Hussars to see if they successfully break engagement with the Germans and continue on their route north.

By 08:00 the bypass around Koevering through Zondveld has been proven to be a smashing success as both the 1/7th Queens Bn and 5th Inniskillen Guards have cleared the Veghel sector and have caught the Axis forces arrayed around the Hulstheuvel Highway Bridge Objective (10 VP) with their pants down as they left the road leading north to Uden wide open for transit.

By 09:30 all but one unit has made it to Zeeland in the far northeast corner of the map. So far only five troops have been lost out of both forces in the transit and the straggler company at the tail end of the line caught outside of Hulstheuvel is a single rifle company of 216 personnel.

By 11:00 the 8th Hussars have arrived in Koevering and have launched their assault but by this point the Axis have sufficiently cut the road leading into Veghel. However if I had any more units to transit off of the map (such as for an Exit Objective type featured in later iterations of the game engine) I could bypass this blockage by going east as done with the 1/7th Queens Bn and 5th Inniskillen Guards.

At noon I decide to utilize the transit force that was used to test the validity of the route “off map” to address two areas where the road is cut (which necessitated the bypass route through Zondveld).

  • 5th Inniskillen Guards is sent to probe reporting sightings of Axis forces outside of the Veghel River Highway Bridge Objective (14 VP) that is currently being defending by the 2nd Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment since day one and the 1st Grenadier Guards Battalion since day six. The Inniskillen Guards armor should complement the parachute and line infantry at the objective.
  • 1/7th Queens Bn is sent to probe reporting sightings of Axis forces outside of the Koevering Objective (7 VP) that is currently being defending by the 1st Coldstream Guards Battalion since day six and as an attack forming-up point for the 8th Hussars since earlier this morning.  The Queens Bn infantry should complement the two British armor units at the objective.

Both forces have a specified forming-up point for the Probe approximately 1km from their destination. The 1/7th Queens Bn are sent in reverse of the path that they originally traveled through Veghel, however this time their route is set to Quickest.

At 18:00 in the Veghel sector, the 1/7th Queen Bn has cleared the area and are engaging the Germans who have cut the road leading north from Koevering even though they were delayed by an error I made in issuing their orders. The inset image to the right taken at 15:30 shows their route through the rail bridge but approaching it from the highway bridge: this was due to my selection of the Quickest route type, so the AI chose the highway on the right instead of the minor road on the left which ran them straight into the Germans who were attacking the highway bridge.

In the St. Oedenrode sector the situation is much calmer (surprisingly) as there is currently only a single enemy sighting over at the Best Highway Bridge Objective (3 VP).

In the Eindhoven sector there are a couple of reported sightings to the east, however the threat to the primary objective has been checked for now.

As the day’s action winds down I am presently in control of all of the location objectives and there is no single threat at the moment requiring a reallocation of forces (as there are no remaining reinforcements).

To be continued…

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