Operation Hesiod

After the Christmas and New Year festivities, a small group of us completed a fictional mini WW2 campaign set in the Pas de Calais at the start of 1944.

The campaign was made up of three separate games which linked together to form a single outcome.

Succinctly:

Operation Hades is a combined operations military endeavour. 

It consists of the following elements:

Icarus - an air bombing mission conducted by a Royal Air Force Lancaster bomber on a naval shore radar. This will also serve as a distraction for Pegasus. Icarus will be over target at 23.00hrs.

Pegasus - a parachute battalion landing and assault on a bridge and air radar facility near the town of Petit Filou. The battalion will then withdraw to the beach and embark on the naval task force. Pegasus will land at 23.00hrs.

Poseidon - the naval element of the operation. The task force will deploy and recover the commando battalion. It will also provide naval gunfire support and escort to the Infantry Landing ship St David. The landing operation will commence at 00.00hrs and is under the direct command of Commodore Greaves.

Hades - a commando assault, examination and destruction of a V1 site. 

One of my wargaming friends took command of the air and naval games, whilst my Secret Wargaming Friend took command of the land game.

I played the Germans.

What follows is a general narrative of events. 

I will begin with the account recorded in the fight manual of the RAF Lancaster ‘Grogs the shot’.

Flight Officer Charlie ‘Tommo’ Tomkins concerning the raid on shore Radar Station, Pas de Calais, France.

Weather good. Full moon. Approached target from West. Engaged by German night fighter possibly Me 110. Sustained minor damage. Fighter driven off. Hit by flak on run into target causing bomb aimer Sgt. Arthur Smit (South African) to abort first run. Engaged by night fighter again, causing to damage to left rudder. Rear gunner Sgt. Arthur ‘Bomber’ Brown drove  off fighter with well aimed burst. Brown reported seeing enemy fighter fall way trailing smoke. Probable kill. Engaged by flak again in second run on target. No damage suffered. Bombs released on target. Successful mission. Returned to home without further mishap.


‘Grogs the shot’ - Wings of Glory Lancaster flying over a Wings of Glory mat.

Icarus Briefing:

Icarus is the Royal Air Force participation in Operation Hesiod. An RAF Lancaster bomber will deliver explosive munitions with the aim of rendering unserviceable, an Axis surface radar facility on the northern French coast.


Your task is to bomb a FuMO 3 - Zerstorersaule radar facility. This will prevent early detection of naval units involved in the Poseidon aspect of the operation.


The attack on this facility is both your primary and only mission for the operation. Be advised that the facility is likely protected by Luftwaffe night fighters and a flak battery.


Your raid will also fulfil the requirement for a distraction to elements landing the Pegasus element of the operation.

Good luck.


The shore radar facility. In atmospheric black and white.

The Lancaster approached the coast without incident. As she commenced her final run toward the target she was greeted by the untimely arrival of a Luftwaffe night fighter.


A Wings of Glory nightfighter.

She approached from the front, quickly heading toward the lumbering giant.

Wings of Glory don’t have any night-fighter rules, so I improvised. I had to plan three moves ahead instead of two. It seemed to work.


The target. Next to it was an AA gun. This was to cause some irritation to the British bomber.

The Lancaster quickly closed in on her target, just as the AA opened up and she faced a strafing by the nightfighter. 


Closing on the target. Bomb doors open

The AA gunners below were confident they were hitting the bomber, as was the pilot of the fighter wizzing past it to starboard.



Despite the harassing fire, the bomber lined up on the target and was about to drop her bombs. “Abort abort” cried the bomb aimer. They were going to miss by a mile. The plane flew over the target without dropping a single bomb.

Around the lumbering giant flew. Ack ack chasing her as she made a giant loop around. The nightfighter pounced, and the bomber was hit in the rudder, luckily it didn’t affect her turn direction. But the Luftwaffe pilot didn’t have it all his own way. The defending gunners damaging the engine forcing the pilot to turn away.


Smoke trailing from the nightfighter.

The British bomber started back in for her second bombing run. Flak bursting all around her.

Bombs away. She dropped her full load of bombs. A carpet of flame danced around the radar site. A miss, but the AA battery was destroyed.

Slowly the bomber turned for home, she was over 50% damaged and Tommo was keen to avoid any further nightfighter contact.

Meanwhile, and an hour before the bombing mission, a small task force consisting of an infantry landing ship, St David, and two destroyers, HMS Vivian and HMS Worcester moved slowly in circles awaiting the arrival of three MTB’s.


The task force waiting at point X-Ray.

Commodore Greaves mulled over his orders.

Poseidon is the naval element of Operation Hesiod. A Royal Naval squadron will convey, and subsequently land elements of Hades landing forces and remain in situ to recover and convey home element Hades and element Pegasus. During the operation you will provide Naval Gunfire Support and liaise closely with a unit from 148 battery.

You are to retire no later than 06.00hrs to avoid follow up air attack on your command You will RV with three motor torpedo boats at point x-ray at 22.00hrs and complete your landing at objective Yankee by no later than midnight.

Kriegsmarine light forces are operating in the area but efforts are being made to restrict their impact on the operation. SBS operations on the landing beach have indicated no mine warfare defences are present. The beach is not suitable for tracked or wheeled vehicles.

The big question. Did he wait for the MTB’s who were already late. The Hades commander, Brigadier Lee wanted to keep to the tight schedule. Already aware that the paras were loading onto the transport aircraft, and that the window for the success of the operation was tight.....very tight.

Commodore Greaves was no fool. He had seen how dangerous the German S boats were. They could tear the convoy apart with a few well aimed torpedos. He shuddered at the thought of a hit on the St David - carrying a battalion of commandos.

“ We will wait an hour “ he said, between puffs on his pipe.

General Lee raised his eyebrows. But in typical British stiff upper lippedness, simply nodded and walked to his planning team.

“ It’s going to be tight “ he said, reaching for a steaming cup of tea.

The convoy waited an hour with no sign of the MTB’s. To the north west the lookout reported a rumble of noise and flashes that could be gunfire. Commodore Greaves thought it likely the MTB’s were involved in a battle. But could not be certain. At night, and in the dark, it is very difficult to guess the distance of such things.


The commodore checked his watch. It was 23.00hrs. “ Press on “ was his simple command. 

Meanwhile, to the east and whilst the Lancaster was attacking the radar site a battalion of British Para’s glided slowly to the ground.

Their target a bridge over a river near the small village of Petit Filou. The Para Briefing:

Pegasus is the Parachute element of Operation Hesiod.

You will take the role of Colonel Allen during the operation. Your battalion primary mission is to prevent enemy quick reaction forces from interdicting the Naval Commando raid on Objective Alpha.


This will be achieved by capturing, then destroying the bridge in the small town of Petit Filou.

You have a secondary objective of destroying an enemy radar facility on the outskirts of Petit Filou.

Once your objectives are completed, you are required to withdraw to point Yankee by no later than 05.00hrs for extraction by naval forces.

You will make contact with local French Resistance groups who will guide you to the primary and secondary objectives.


You will drop onto your objective at 23.00hrs.




Good luck and God speed.


Col Allen and the HQ team rendezvous with some French Resistance fighters east of Petit Filou. It is just after 23.00hrs. He is expecting the commandos to land at 00.30hrs.

Meanwhile the naval task force press on toward the French coast. Numerous lookouts, eyes peeled looking for German naval craft.

It is very tense on the bridge of the St David.

Paras

Ashore, the Paras move quickly. Col Allen is already under intense pressure. He has about  company and a half of his men available. Half of C company is missing. And the whole of B company.

Regardless he pressed on toward his objectives. Guided by the Maquis.


The small town of Petit Filou.


An SOE intelligence photo of the primary target. The bridge.


The secondary target. The air radar facility.

Cautiously and quietly the paras moved toward their objectives. More and more stragglers and eventually the whole of B company joined the battalion.


C company approaching the Radar station through the woods.

At 00.30hrs Allen checked his watch. The commandos should be landing. 

But at sea, and unbeknownst to the parachute colonel, the task force was still half an hour from launching the landing craft.

Suddenly all hell broke loose as the paras assaulted a pill box protecting the eastern edge of the bridge and a AA gun next to the radar site.

The Pegasus element of Operation Hesiod had begun.

The fighting was vicious, close quarter and the paras quickly began to take the upper hand.

Suddenly, toward the sea flares and star shells appeared. And then the deep ominous sound of big naval guns rumbled in the distance. Col Allen frowned. That sounded further out to sea than it should be....


Infantry Landing Ship St David with HMS Worcester in the background.

St David

Already running an hour late, Commodore Greaves sat in his chair on the bridge of the landing ship. He was approaching the dark coast quicker than he would have liked, and to reduce the ferry time of the landing craft he would have to get in closer than he wished, risking running aground.

Suddenly one star shell, then another appeared to the stern of his ship. Soon followed by gunfire from the escorting destroyers 4” guns.

“Torpedo boats sighted starboard quarter” shouted a lookout.

“Maintain course” the commodore ordered, before turning to the Brigadier and adding “ Tell your men to assemble for landing evolutions “.


S boats speed toward the convoy at 40kts. Star shells float above them and shell splashed fall around the lead boat.

The three S boats sped toward the slow moving, but rather large target of the St David. Shells splashed and matchine gun fire fell all around them. This was their second engagement of the night. Earlier they had engaged several British MTB’s and had expended all their ammo apart from two torpedoes. They had also lost two of their boats.

After receiving the position report of the enemy formation from the shore radar, they raced for one last attack before retiring.

Aboard the St David, both the Commodore and Brigadier watched helplessly as the boats closed quickly. Clearly heading in their direction.

“Torpedo in the water “ cried a lookout, quickly followed by a second report.

The scene was chaos. Machine gun fire and shell fire whizzed everywhere, with the S boats dodging to and fro.


Two torpedos race towards the St David.


Paras
“Attack lads, attack” Col Allen shouted as he led his reinforced company up the bridge. The engineer platoon puffing and panting as they carried the demolitions. 

To his left A company exchanged fire with German troops in a house overlooking the bridge. To his right, the smouldering remains of the radar site and AA gun. 

Machine gun fire being exchanged between C company in the woods and the garrison of the destroyed radar site. 

He then heard the ominous sound of engines, and then tank tracks on cobbled road.

They appeared to be moving toward the bridge.


The Paras race across the bridge. The smouldering pill box can be seen.

St David
Brigadier Lee found himself being thrown off his feet and smashing against a bulkhead.

A flashing light. Buzzing in his ears. 

A naval rating helped him to his feet. “ You ok sir” he said looking concerned.

Lee nodded, a bit confused. Then it dawned. They had been hit by a torpedo. He slipped forward. Feeling dizzy. The ship was listing heavily to starboard.

People were shouting. The captain giving orders to damage control parties.

Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the Commodore. His pipe was missing and he had blood on his forehead.

“Torpedo hit us on the starboard side aft. Two landing craft have been destroyed and we estimate 15 of your men are casualties......or worse.”

The Brigadier thought hard. That would mean he could only land half his troops at a time. It would impact on embarkation at the end of the operation.

What a complete ‘pickled gherkin’ he thought.

The destroyers were still firing, as where the aft machine guns on the St David. It was confusing and violent.

Brigadier Lee moved quickly to the embarkation points. He could see first aid teams dealing with some of his men in one of the mangled landing craft.

“Quick, get the naval gunfire party and first troop ashore. Come on boys, let’s look lively” it helped him feel in control. 

Despite his raging headache, he reviewed his orders:

Hades is the Commando element of Operation Hesiod. 


Your battalion primary mission is the examination and subsequent destruction of a suspected V1 site on the enemy coast on the Pas de Calais.

Your operation will serve the greater war effort in a number of ways:


  1. Gain valuable engineering intelligence on the V1 rocket.
  2. Result in the destruction of the same.
  3. Engender in the Axis High Command that the Pas de Calais is the most obvious choice for the Allied invasion. 



Once your objectives are completed, you are required to withdraw to point Yankee by no later than 05.00hrs for extraction by naval forces.


Hades - the commando assault, examination and destruction of the V1 site.

He glanced at his watch and frowned. Would he have enough time?

The Paras

Col Allen saw the armoured car platoon moving cautiously up the ramp of the bridge.

“ Piat section to me at the double “ he shouted above the gunfire around him. He could see the demolition party work feverishly around the bridge. 

This must be the rapid response group from the nearby town. We have got to buy the engineers more time.


An armoured car platoon and light tank platoon move to the bridge. A dice throw ensured they arrived earlier than I planned.

The Piat section arrived, and soon five German armoured cars were burning on the bridge. This caused the light tank platoon leader to stop where he was.

Meanwhile two companies of infantry arrived by lorry to helped the defenders of Petit Filou.


Reinforcements arrive at the town.

Gunfire rained all around the engineers. But still they work furiously. ‘Where was the bloody navy’ he thought.

Commandos

The ramp dropped and they raced ashore. It was remarkably quiet. They could hear the crackle of machine gun fire in the direction of Petit Filou, and saw a pall of smoke rising over the shore radar facility. But since the German torpedo boats had fled the scene, pursued by HMS Vivian, the sea had been calm. Almost serene.

Lt Surridge of 148 battery would soon change that. He, along with Petty Officer Toby Donald would soon be guiding the three 4” guns of HMS Worcester onto some juicy targets.

It was supposed to include the four 4” guns of HMS Vivian, but the Commodore has felt it necessary to change her mission to protecting the St David.


HMS Worcester in the background, reading her guns to fire as directed by Lt Surridge.


The first commandos ashore.

First troop moved quickly to the shore radar. They found a German field ambulance tending to injured flak battery troops.


Field ambulance and injured troops.

It was now 3am. 

The Brigadier knew that with the two landing craft destroyed he was going to have a devil of a time landing his commandos, seizing and examining the V1 rocket.

He decided that it was not achievable. The Royal Navy would have to depart or risk losing valuable ships.

"Get me the Naval Gunfire support officer" he said to his Yeoman.

The 4” guns of HMS Worcester made short work of the radar shore battery and V1 rocket site. Expertly guided in by Lt Surridge RN and his observer team.


German defences protecting the V1 site.


The shore radar garrison hit by heavy bombing and destroyer fire witnessed their facility destroyed.


The V1 site was also destroyed. But no vital engineering intelligence was obtained.

Both the Commodore and Brigadier watched as the commandos with a handful of prisoners, and the Paras, were ferried to the St David and HMS Worcester by the two surviving landing craft and ships boats. It was 5.30am. 

They had discovered after meeting Colonel Allen, that the demolitions had failed to go off, and the bridge at Petit Filou was still intact. However, the fearsome attack by the Paras seemed to have caused the German commander to dig in and wait for more reinforcements.


The Commodore stared at his log entry:

Commodore Reginald Singent-Greaves. Commanding Naval Task Force

Weather good. Full moon. Report of possible surface engagement to NW of task force.  MTB escort was due to arrive from that direction and is now know they were engaged by German patrol craft and disabled by enemy. 

At time and having had no clear communication that MBT’s had been engaged and thus delayed, ordered Task Force to delay landing for one hour. 

With still no communication from RN patrol craft ordered troops to be landed. As St David approached shore to launch landing craft (infantry), shadowed by HMS Vivian, with HMS Worcester positioned with Starboard to shore to support landing force. 

Task Force engaged by three German S (orE) boats. Crews of all ships responded in timely fashion to the appearance of enemy. 

The use of star shells and flares greatly increased our chance of hitting the enemy. 

At least two of the attacking craft launched torpedoes one of which struck the St. Davids on starboard side. 

Despite damage and listing to starboard Captain Gervais Almond continued with operation and launched Commandos onto shore line. 

At least two of the attackers were hit repeatably  by accurate defensive fire and all three driven off. 

Ordered HMS Vivian to pursue and ensure that attackers had withdrawn completely then to remain on patrol in close proximity to remainder of Task Force. 

Moved departure time forward from 0600hrs to 0630hrs to allow Commandos and Paratroopers under the command of Brigadier Lee to complete the ground mission of operation.   

What would dawn bring.....



























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