It has almost been a year since I played the German commander in day one of an Operation Seelöwe game which I reported on here: The Battle of Folkestone July 1940. The end of this game saw the Germans establishing a salient around Hythe and Folkestone after suffering heavy casualties.
Folkestone in German hands
After a number of strategic moves conducted by email, we picked up the action a few days ago, moving the game on to day three. The situation at the end of day 2 looked pretty bleak for us Germans. The Royal Navy had made a mess of our attempts to reinforce and resupply by sea and despite the Luftwaffe’s best efforts to establish air superiority we did not have control of the skies. Low on ammunition and thin on the ground the temptation was to hold on to what we had and await reinforcements. The British, however, would be able to reinforce far more quickly than we could so I decided that my only option was to try to expand the salient and position my troops to eventually take Dover and its vital docks.
The German plan
I knew I did not have the strength to take Dover so I gave orders for my best units to move east from Folkestone to cut the road and rail links into the town in the hope that I could isolate it. Having beaten off a counter attack on Hawkinge airfield and receiving intelligence that the enemy had ‘shot their bolt’ in that sector, I also decided to expand the salient to the north so as to be in a better position to protect that important airfield. I would leave just enough troops to hold the western edge of the salient, especially Lyminge airfield and the port of Hythe. I suspected we would have to face a British counter-attack and so I ordered my commanders to take up defensive positions as soon as they ran into any serious resistance.
The British plan
The British did indeed counterattack and did so in more strength that I had feared. Our attempt to expand the salient turned into a defence of our vital points: the airfields of Hawkinge and Lyminge, and the ports of Hythe and Folkestone. We beat off an attack on Hawkinge with relative ease thanks to the quality of our troops aided by an effective Stuka bombing run.
The German defence of Hawkinge airfield
In the west the British attacked both Lyminge airfield and the approach to Hythe in divisional strength. I judged that with three battalions in good defensive positions and a regiment of Fallschirmjäger in reserve I had just enough men to hold without diverting any troops from the east. It was touch and go. We managed to hang on by the skin of our teeth but it took all the remaining ammunition of our supporting artillery and our last remaining bombing runs to do it.
The Battle for Aldington
On the approach to Hythe the 2nd Battalion, 21st Infantry was reduced to only one platoon but they passed all morale tests and hung on in the village of Adlington while the Fallschirmjäger flanked the enemy that bypassed them. The RAF intervened but fortunately their air sorties were far less effective than ours. A few reinforcements arrived by sea at Hythe. This was just enough to ensure we could hold the western flank.
The British attack in the centre
We had barely time to congratulate ourselves for the successful defence of Hawkinge airfield when the British launched a major attack from the north aiming for Folkestone town. We had very few troops in this sector, our artillery was low on ammunition and we had no air sorties left. Therefore we had to redirect troops from the east, including our only Panzer battalion to deal with this attack. The fighting was fierce and we inflicted heavy losses on the enemy but at a terrible cost including the complete destruction of our armoured reserve.
The Germans shift troops from the east to the centre
The massive British attack from Dover
At this point the British launched an attack from Dover in overwhelming strength — both armour and infantry. Our eastern flank was only thinly held, we were out of artillery ammunition, had no tanks left and no more air support. It had been very hard fought and our heavily outnumbered troops had acquitted themselves incredibly well. With the enemy in a position to dominate Folkestone Docks there was no longer any hope of significant reinforcements and therefore Operation Seelöwe had failed.
The table overview
Although we lost it was a great game and a very hard fought one. As in the previous game we used 6mm miniatures with Spearhead rules. The rules worked very well for an operational game of this magnitude. They were easy to pick up by novices with the aid of some judicious umpiring.