#0625_01: Operation Martlet - Prelude to Epsom - Battles of Normandy
#0625_01: Operation Martlet - Prelude to EpsomBy Jeff Conner
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Fontenay-le-Pesnel, West of Caen: June 25th, 1944 (Scenario Size: Division. Axis Human vs Allied AI or Head to Head). Operation Epsom was planned as a major attempt to outflank the German positions within the City of Caen and force a withdrawal. The attack was to be made by VIII Corps and hoped to force a crossing over the Orne River. As part of the planning for Operation Epsom, XXX Corps was ordered to make a set-piece assault along the boundary with VIII Corps. The objectives were to draw reserves away from the intended attack by their neighbours the next day and to seize the Rauray Spur. The Rauray spur was a slight ridge that provided visibility into the attack corridor of the 15th Scottish Division and would allow the Germans to fire into the flank of Operation Epsom. The attack began just after 0400 hours with the bombardment by more than 250 guns. The British fire plan called for a rolling barrage that the infantry could follow as well as concentrations on the flanks to prevent the Germans from reinforcing the attack area. Several regiments of guns were also assigned to counterbattery and counter mortar fire missions. The infantry started their advance at about 0430 in a heavy mist that reduced visibility to only a few meters. As the sun rose, the mist prevented any of the air support that the infantrymen of the 49th Infantry Division, in their first major battle, had been told to expect. It was going to be a long day, especially as delays caused in part by the reduced visibility, caused the advancing infantry to fall farther and farther behind the rolling barrage. Facing the British were the panzergrenadiers of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. These young men had already shown the British and Canadians that although they might be new to battle, they were well trained and would fight to the bitter end. Unfortunately, losses and an extended front precluded the defence in depth preferred by the Germans. But the front line was backed by local reserves and the Division reserve was located nearby. The British under Montgomery were masters of the set-piece battle. Once the initial forces seized their objectives, follow-on forces would continue the attack, as the initial forces dug in to hold the ground seized. If the units in the initial attack could not seize their objectives, the follow-on forces would take over the attack. While this led to very crowded battlefields, it did allow fresh troops to continue the attack. The battle covered by this scenario is one of these set-piece attacks. So as the British reinforcements enter the battle, the initial forces they are replacing will become fixed. The British player needs to keep this in mind while planning his attack.