Almost Fosse Bridge – A Crossfire Battle Report

Jamie was coming over and I quickly knocked up this Crossfire scenario to continue my experiments with the revised Anti-tank rules. This time I wanted tanks on both sides and we ended up with three Panzers attacking and two Shermans in defence.

The scenario is extremely loosely based on the Coldstream Guards and Scots Greys defence of the Fosse Bridge on 13 September 1943. One of the many small actions following the Salerno landings in the Italian Campaign. Emphasis on the “extremely loosely”. At the time I only knew the battalions/regiments present and the location of the bridge which gave me a modern google map of the modern site. Not much to go on historically, but it gave a good game. I’ll write up the scenario later although a real Fosse Bridge Scenario will be quite different.


Table and deployment

I didn’t have much to go on for this scenario. I knew the Fosse Bridge crossed the Tusciano River, west of Battipaglia, near San Mattia. So I found a logical bridge on google and printed out the location.

fosse-100 Modern map near Fosse Bridge
fosse-100 Modern map near Fosse Bridge

Jamie helped set up. The modern map looks quite industrial, in a farming way, and I suspect it looked quite different in WW2. I felt that gave us a bit of lee way when it came to putting it on table. We kept the outline of the river, the location of the bridge, the roads/tracks, farm, big patch of rough ground between the farm and the bridge, and patchwork of fields on the other side of the road. The hedges are conjectural but reflect what looks like vegetation along some of the tracks. We dropped in vineyards and a crest to cut up visibility.

fosse-101 Table
fosse-101 Table
fosse-102 Table from Fosse Bridge
fosse-102 Table from Fosse Bridge

The tanks started visible. In this case a Sherman III of the Scots Greys aiming down the main road. Otherwise I deployed hidden.

fosse-103 Sherman III on overwatch
fosse-103 Sherman III on overwatch

Jamie deployed his Germans across the table.

fosse-104 Germans on left
fosse-104 Germans on left
fosse-105 Germans in centre
fosse-105 Germans in centre
fosse-106 Germans on right
fosse-106 Germans on right

2000 Hours

Jamie probed on my left, towards the road before the patchwork of fields.

fosse-108 Germans probe on left
fosse-108 Germans probe on left

He also aggressively advanced towards the farm.

fosse-109 Germans advance into farm in centre
fosse-109 Germans advance into farm in centre

One of the cool things about Crossfire is that Jamie didn’t know where I was.

fosse-110 German advance guard pokes their noses over the hedge - no Brits in sight
fosse-110 German advance guard pokes their noses over the hedge – no Brits in sight

2020 Hours

Not too surprisingly I was defending the farm. I revealed a squad in one of the farm buildings and shot at Jamie point squad after it crossed the hedge. Killed.

fosse-113 German squad rushes farm house - Ambush
fosse-113 German squad rushes farm house – Ambush

As the firefight built up I had to reveal more stands to be able to hold him back. In this case stands in the vineyard next to my defended farm building.

fosse-115 Fire fight over the hedge
fosse-115 Fire fight over the hedge

In the centre Jamie smoked off my Sherman, allowing his StuG III to crest the rise in the road safely. It looks like a big tank shoot out was likely.

fosse-116 StuG grinds forward under cover of smoke
fosse-116 StuG grinds forward under cover of smoke

2030 Hours

Using my revised Anti-tank rules, Jamie SUPPRESSED my Sherman.

fosse-118 Sherman suppressed
fosse-118 Sherman suppressed

I rallied the Sherman and shot back. But several attempts just had be rolling low. I didn’t bother capturing all of the attempts, but the photo is a good example. 5d6 to hit for the gun, less 1d6 for the StuG’s armour, making 4d6. No hits. Mutter. Mutter.

fosse-120 Buckets of dice just can't help me
fosse-120 Buckets of dice just can’t help me

In reply, however, Jamie again managed to SUPPRESS my Sherman.

fosse-121 Sherman suppressed
fosse-121 Sherman suppressed

Jamie was also very aggressive with his Forward Observers (FO). He brought up the FO for his 8cm mortars and killed the defenders of the my farm building. [Hmm, now that I look at the photo he rolled 4d6 into cover, but it should have been 3d6. Never mind.]

fosse-122 German mortars hurt
fosse-122 German mortars hurt

It was getting too hot in the Farm so I pulled my platoon back into the rough ground.

fosse-124 British pull out of the farm
fosse-124 British pull out of the farm

Now Jamie tried what looked like a suicidal charge on my lead Sherman. He smoked it. He charged frontally (the dodgy bit). I rolled 5d6 in reactive fire … and PINNED him. That wasn’t great as the squad was (1) within 1 base width and (2) armed with a Panzerfaust.

fosse-125 Buckets of dice cannot help bad luck
fosse-125 Buckets of dice cannot help bad luck

7d6 = Boom! Scratch one Sherman.

fosse-126 Panzerfaust does its job
fosse-126 Panzerfaust does its job

Then Jamie cautiously retreated away from the wreckage.

fosse-127 German infantry pull away from junction
fosse-127 German infantry pull away from junction

On the right, Jamie brought another platoon into play by advancing hear the river.

fosse-128 Germans advance on right
fosse-128 Germans advance on right

Jamie reinforced the farm and it gave me a Kill.

fosse-131 British blaze away at the farm
fosse-131 British blaze away at the farm

But numbers were on Jamie’s side as he brought in the platoon from the river bank.

fosse-132 Germans bring support into the farm
fosse-132 Germans bring support into the farm

And just to make my day, Jamie directed a Panzer IV into the farm complex.

fosse-133 Firefight over the hedge
fosse-133 Firefight over the hedge

The German force on my left also kept advancing.

fosse-130 Germans advance on left
fosse-130 Germans advance on left

2040 Hours

The Germans on my left fanned out into the patchwork of fields.

fosse-135 Germans advance on left
fosse-135 Germans advance on left
fosse-137 Which way will they go
fosse-137 Which way will they go

Back in the farm, the Panzer IV started pounding the hedge line and my guardsmen sheltering behind it. Ouch!

fosse-138 Sigh - Panzer IVs are nasty
fosse-138 Sigh – Panzer IVs are nasty

Meanwhile the German mortars were still busy and took out the remaining squad from my platoon at the farm.

fosse-139 Sigh German mortars are nasty
fosse-139 Sigh German mortars are nasty

With that sector seemingly clear, Jamie pulled the panzer out of the farm complex and back onto the road.

fosse-140 Panzers line up on the road
fosse-140 Panzers line up on the road

Then he attempted to push his flanking platoon over the head into the rough ground. This was the moment I chose to reveal my big surprise. My Company Commander and a rifle squad where hiding along the river bank. They SUPPRESSED the moving German squad.

fosse-141 Surprise on the right flank
fosse-141 Surprise on the right flank

And my remaining Sherman finished it off.

fosse-142 Sherman has a go
fosse-142 Sherman has a go

But that wasn’t the only surprise. This is when I revealed my remaining squad inside the farm. They happed to have a PIAT but didn’t get to use it – see the observations at the end. But rifles were enough to stop Jamie’s FO, just in front of the building.

fosse-143 Surprise in the farm
fosse-143 Surprise in the farm

2050 Hours

Did I mention that Jamie was aggressive with his FOs. This guy, pinned within spitting distance of my building, brought in mortar fire. The cad.

fosse-145 He shelled me
fosse-145 He shelled me

2100 Hours

It only took a couple of rounds and the FO killed off my squad.

fosse-147 He shelled me to death
fosse-147 He shelled me to death

On the left, Jamie finally ran into my only defenders in the patchwork of fields.

fosse-148 Surprise on the left
fosse-148 Surprise on the left

On the river, Jamie and I had a bit of a firefight going. I was trying to rally both stands so I could move them somewhere more useful, like into the rear of the Germans. But Jamie kept PINNING me. I’d rally, or more usually fail to rally, then he’d PIN me again. Mutter, mutter.

fosse-150 PINs are so annoying
fosse-150 PINs are so annoying

With panzers approaching on the main road, and my right looking weak, I pulled my sole remaining Sherman to the bridge. I carefully positioned it to have line of fire across the rough ground.

fosse-149 Sherman withdraws to guard the bridge
fosse-149 Sherman withdraws to guard the bridge

Jamie’ took the implicit invitation and drove up the main road with his Panzer IV. Surprise! I revealed my 17 pounder anti-tank gun and got to roll 5d6 (6d6 less 1d6 armour). And only PINNED him. There is no justice.

fosse-151 17 pounder surprise
fosse-151 17 pounder surprise

2110 Hours

But that was sufficiently scary that Jamie laid smoke to cover his panzer’s withdrawal.

fosse-153 Panzer IV gets out of there
fosse-153 Panzer IV gets out of there

2120 Hours

Jamie sent his other Panzer IV into a vineyard near the farm complex. And got bogged, then permanently mire, making it out of action for the rest of the game. What this showed is the terrain was more potent than my anti-tank shells.

fosse-155 Other Panzer IV bogs in vineyard
fosse-155 Other Panzer IV bogs in vineyard

2130 Hours

With skilful use of smoke Jamie could use his Panzer IV to clear out the patchwork of fields.

fosse-157 Panzer IV clears orchard on left
fosse-157 Panzer IV clears orchard on left

2140 Hours

Jamie then advanced with both the Panzer and an infantry squad. The squad triggered the ambush of my remaining hidden infantry, right at the road junction.

fosse-159 Surprise at road junction
fosse-159 Surprise at road junction

2150 Hours

The smoke cleared and finally my 17 pounder dealt to the leading panzer.

fosse-161a Very happy 17 pounder
fosse-161a Very happy 17 pounder

Making the nearby Brits very happy.

fosse-161b Relieved British
fosse-161b Relieved British

Unfortunately, back on the river, Jamie close assaulted my Company Commander. Oh, dear. Lots of dead and captured guardsmen.

fosse-162 Very unhappy Company Commander
fosse-162 Very unhappy Company Commander

Then Jamie took the game by pushing a platoon right along the wooded river bank. I’d cleverly positioned my Sherman to cover the rough ground and road. But I failed to cover the river bank, leaving a open path for the panzergrenadiers.

fosse-163 Sneaky Panzer Grenadiers win game
fosse-163 Sneaky Panzer Grenadiers win game

And then to round off the game, he Panzerfausted my Sherman. I this case 7d6, no armour to rear, 3 hits, dead.

fosse-165 View from Fosse bridge
fosse-165 View from Fosse bridge

And so it ended.


Observations and Conclusions

It was a good fun game, great to get my Germans in Italy on table alongside my Kiwis (masquerading as Coldstream Guards), and another good try out of my revised Anti-tank rules. On the down side, it did highlight flaws in the (admittedly “extreme loose”) scenario. And it did make me wonder about the potency of the tanks in my revised Anti-tank rules.

The game

Well, Jamie won. As is common with Crossfire we both felt under strength relative to the challenge. It was a good game, tightly contested around the farm, the patchwork of small fields, and along the road. Jamie eventually won by sneaking some Panzergrenadiers down the river line to take the bridge. And, to add insult to injury, he fired a panzerfaust into the exhaust of my remaining Sherman. Sigh.

The Scenario

It was interesting going from a Google map to a crossfire table. Personally I think this process meant I made the table more cluttered than it had to be. Next time I’d cut back the number of features e.g. have less building sectors in the farm complex – it probably only warrants one or two building sectors although the real farm had several.

My experience researching the`Battle of Lemon Bridge (18-19 July 1943) highlighted that todays landscape is not necessarily indicate what was there during WW2. I suspect the same is true for Fosse Bridge. That gives me more scope to just make it up.

After the game I also read a bit about Fosse Bridge. It seems the British defended the river bank, so the Germans must have come from the north rather than through the farm to the north-east. That would change the game quite a bit. It would, for example, eliminate the rather glaring map flaw which allowed Jamie’s Germans to sneak along the wooded river bank on the edge of the table to capture the bridge.

The revised anti-tank rules

My revised Anti-tank rules are holding up through game play. I did have a slight niggle of doubt because Jamie was inclined to use his tanks a lot. When he had a choice he’s use tank fire rather than infantry fire. It wasn’t a massive problem, but hints that the balance might be slightly towards tanks over infantry. The counter balancing observation is I failed to hurt anything with my Shermans for the entire game and it didn’t matter how many dice I was rolling.

Jamie’s panzerfausts had two big moments. A panzerfaust crew rushed through smoke to shoot a Sherman at point blank range from the front. A risky move but the Sherman crew didn’t notice them before the tank brewed up. The second big moment was when another panzerfaust crew took the Fosse bridge then knocked out the Sherman ostensibly guarding it. As I said, insult to injury. What I like about this is these were big moment during the game. Dramatic moments. The squads had to get close before firing. That felt right. And of course Jamie was rewarded by gratifying booms.

And the 17 pounder firing from cover was also dramatic. I like drama in wargames.

I also wasn’t sure about shooting my PIAT from a building. The draft anti-tank rule gives PIAT a short range of “within 1 base width” but what does that mean when the firing squad is in a building. I decided not to make an issue of it, but after the game, and after consulting the Crossfire forum, I now think it is fair that defenders of building should measure shooting range from the walls. If we’d played that, then I probably would have got his Panzer IV as it entered the farm complex.

fosse-133 Could the PIAT shoot
fosse-133 Could the PIAT shoot

The game reminded me about bogging, so after the game I did some musing on how to bogging with normal infantry fire (see Bogging and Anti-tank Mines – Revising Crossfire Anti-tank Rules 7).

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