St Aubin-sur-Mer – A Crossfire Scenario

A Crossfire scenario featuring the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division landing at ‘Juno Beach’ on 6 Jun 1944.

Historical Situation

Setting: St Aubin-sur-Mer, ‘Juno Beach’, Normandy; D-Day, 6 Jun 1944

When the Anglo-American forces landed in Normandy on 6 June 1944, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was assigned ‘Juno Beach’ – between the British 3rd and 50th Infantry Divisions. Facing them was General Richter’s strongly entrenched 716th Division, supported by with 11 heavy batteries (15.5 cm guns) and 9 medium batteries (7.5 cm guns). The 716th Division was a second rate unit, primarily comprising of boys under 18, men over 35, and veterans of the Russian front who had suffered debilitating injuries.

‘Juno’ Beach was divided into the ‘Mike’ and ‘Nan’ sectors, and the later into ‘White’ and ‘Red’ sectors. At St Aubin-sur-Mer, in the Nan Red sector, the plan had Sherman DDs of C Squadron, the 10th Canadian Armoured Regiment (Fort Garry Horse), landing to provide protective fire for the assault infantry of Lt.-Col. Don Buell’s North Shore Regiment (New Brunswick Regiment; 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade). A and B Companies of the North Shore Regiment would seize the village, including strong point WN 27 (Widerstandnest 27) at the highest point of land. This would allow C and D Companies to pass through on their way inland to Tailleville. The North Shore Regiment would then, along with the rest of the 8th brigade, advance to the high ground 8 km north west of Caen. 48 Royal Marine Commando (4th Special Service Brigade) would follow them up at St Aubin-sur-Mer, and then push east along the coast to link up 41 Royal Marine Commando coming from ‘Sword Beach’.

Between 0739 and 0809 hours the 14th and 19th field Regiments, Royal Canadian Artillery, fired a steady barrage onto the beaches from their self propelled ‘Priest’ 105mm guns. Subsequently, however, the assault infantry found that the strong point had been relatively unaffected by the pre-landing bombardment.

Local Naval commanders delayed H-Hour from 0735 to 0745 hours. The delay meant the incoming tide had covered a potentially dangerous off shore reef. On the other hand the assault troops found themselves landing amongst the German beach obstacles; in the Canadian sector, 20 of the 24 leading vessels were lost or damaged. Presumably a large number of these were the craft carrying the Centaur tanks manned by the Royal Marines as only six of the 40 Centaurs intended to support the Canadian 3rd Division’s attack made it to the beach.

In the Nan sector rough seas meant the Sherman DDs of the Fort Garry Horse were landed on the beach behind the assault infantry. Consequently the North Shore Regiment landed in front of the village with little armoured support. The records of the regiment says they lacked supporting armour when they first landed, although an observer with one of the reserve companies saw 3 or 4 tanks manned by engineer assault crews with the lead companies, and another observer recorded seeing the marks of a Centaur’s 95 mm shell on the casemate of the 50 mm anti-tank gun at the strong-point.

A and B Company of the North Shore Regiment landed at 0810 hours. They suffered few casualties as they waded ashore because the German gun positions did not aim out to sea but were set to enfilade the coastline. Once on-shore the troops started across the 100 m of beach to the cover of the sea wall. The casualties really started when the Canadian soldiers worked their way through the obstacles and came into the enfilading killing zones.

A Company (Major Archie McNaughton) landed on the right/west. Their task was to clear the beaches, then swing right and capture the gap and buildings to the west, thus linking up with their neighbours. On landing machine gun and mortar fire, 88mm air bursts, mines and booby traps, all helped to cause heavy casualties. None-the-less they cut through the wire to their front, entered the western edge of St.Aubin and began clearing the houses in the village. In their advance they discovered that some houses were booby-trapped. At 0948 hours they fulfilled one of their objectives by linking up with the Queens Own Rifles on their right. They subsequently also cleared their sector of St Aubin, thus achieving their objectives on time. They suffered 25 casualties.

B Company (Major Bob Forbes) landed to the left of A Company. They were tasked with taking strong-point WN27. Intelligence mistakenly reported it had a 40 man garrison of poor troops; although the quality estimate may have been correct, but subsequent events shows this was a considerable underestimate in numbers.

The plan was that after landing B Company would reorganize on the beach then move via the beach exit and main lateral road to a point south of the strong point. No. 6 platoon would take up position on the beach to contain the enemy from the front, as No. 4 and 5 attacked from the rear. No. 4 platoon was to take the right and No. 5 platoon the left.

B Company’s landing was in fact fairly easy, however, one of the casualties was the commander of No. 5 Platoon so the commander of the No. 6 platoon assumed command of both groups for a time. On the beach the men used bangalore torpedoes to cut the wire and push ahead taking casualties from small arms as they advanced.

No. 4 quickly took cover under the sea wall. After cutting the wire to their front they rushed through a minefield without noticing. Once off the beach they closed with the enemy but were soon pinned by mortar and machine gun fire, suffering 17 casualties. About 1000 hours they were rescued by tanks of the Fort Garry Horse. ¨

With the arrival of supporting units (tanks of the Fort Garry Horse, a section from the Carrier Platoon, anti-tank guns) B Company slowly cleared one building after another in their sector of the village. Apparently the buildings were joined together by underground passages and there was a system of trenches as well.

Having cleared their sector of the village, B Company turned their attention to the strong point. They found this was much stronger than anticipated and it was apparently being reinforced all the time. As B Company moved in to the attack the enemy began to fly white flags but then opened fire again. As a result of this incident the Canadians showed little mercy when white flags appeared a second time. Tanks from the Fort Garry Horse helped in the attack and blew a hole in the control pillbox of the strong-point, but lost several tanks to the emplaced 50 mm anti-tank gun. The latter was finally knocked out two other tanks of the Fort Garry Horse and an AVRE. In two hours of fighting four officers and 75 other ranks were taken prisoner, and another fifty were killed or wounded.

At 0910 hours the Canadian artillery (14th and 19th field Regiments) landed their self propelled ‘Priest’ 105mm guns.

The village and strong-point were largely cleared by 1115 hours, however, sniping continued until 1800 hours. After taking the strong-point B Company, less No. 6 platoon, moved up the road towards Tailleville.

C Company (Major Daughney) was in the second wave, landing a few minutes after A and B Companies (although one account says the reserve companies landed at 0945). The platoons made their way through two gaps in the wire. Having rendezvoused with the company commander the platoons started working their way towards St. Aubin church and cemetery. On reaching the main street they passed the Railway Station – passing through D Company – and proceeded to the church where they met two troops of tanks. The anti-tank guns also joined them. The company, with supports, then moved toward Tailleville with the men spread out into the fields, one platoon on the right and another on the left. With armoured support, and despite casualties inflicted by mortars, the company pushed ahead and occupied a farm commanding the road to Tailleville. Tailleville contained a battalion headquarters and a company of the 736 Grenadier Regiment. At 2010 hours, after six hours of fighting C Company finally took Tailleville, with over 60 prisoners. A Company followed behind C Company and sealed off the southern side of Tailleville.

D Company (Major J. Ernest Anderson) was also in the second wave. Despite difficulty at some locations they cleared the remainder of St. Aubin, including the Railway Station and vicinity. Amongst other defences they destroyed a pill pox and a 75 mm gun position with mortar fire.

From the accounts the Support Company (Capt. C. C. Gammon) seemed to consist of anti-tank guns. An anti-tank gun used one shot to destroy a pillbox in the middle of a field 100 yards inshore – as this was just after landing it was presumably in the operational zone of A Company. Later the support company made contact with D Company at the Railway Station, and then joined C Company on their advance from St Aubin’s church to the farm commanding the road to Tailleville. Anti-tank guns are also mentioned supporting B Company’s advance through St Aubin.

The Carrier Platoon (Capt. J. A. Currie) landed with engineer jeeps and vehicles of the British 3rd Division. A section of carriers pushed along through alleyways and giving covering fire to B Company’s attack.

By 2200 hours the North Shores were in a good defensive position. B Company was on the east and south of St. Aubin. D Company was on the east of Tailleville, with A Company in the southern edge of the village and C Company in the center. The North Shore Regiment suffered 125 casualties on 6 June.

As mentioned above, rough seas meant the 16 Sherman DDs of C Squadron, the Fort Garry Horse, were landed on the beach a few minutes behind the assault infantry. They lost three tanks to enemy fire. They fired from their beach positions as they waited for the Armoured Vehicles, Royal Engineers (AVRE’s) who were to clear path through a minefield. After some time the Shermans gave up waiting and pushed on through the minefield loosing three more tanks in the process. The remaining tanks worked closely with the infantry and St Aubin was soon under control except for the strong-point. The 50mm cannon in the strong point knocked out a number of their tanks during the attack. Two other tanks from C Squadron, plus an AVRE, then destroyed the 50 mm cannon. One German position in the town had held out all day until Sgt. Walterson charged in with his tank forcing the enemy to surrender. During the day the regiment suffered 25 casualties.

This scenario represents the attempts by the A and B Company of the North Shore Regiment to capture the village and strong point, and by A Company to link up with their neighbours to the west. .

Map


Map produced in CC2
Click on the map to get a full size version

Key features are:

  • The table is divided into four zones:
    • Strong point WN 27
    • Church
    • Station
    • Beach
  • Aside from giving names to two zones, the Church and Station are also specific terrain objectives. Both these features are two sector buildings.
  • Five bunkers (1 squad), four of which are in Strong point WN 27:
    • Command Bunker (Bunker “Com” ).
    • Casemate for 50 mm cannon (Bunker “50”)
    • 2 x tobruks for HMG (Bunker “MG”)
    • Bunker in the fields (Bunker “Field”).
  • Houses – lots.
  • A Hit the Dirt style contour line on Strong point WN 27:
  • In season fields on the southern and western outskirts of the village
  • Sea wall (the thick black line)
  • The Beach zone has been divided into areas for movement and planting minefields. These areas provide no protection.
  • Hedges. These are hedges, not bocage, so are passable by vehicles, provide protective cover, and block LOS.

Pre-game preparation

Before the game starts:

  1. The German player must secretly note which houses in the Station zone and the Church zone provide access to the communication tunnels.
  2. The German player secretly notes where there pre-planned bombardment of the beach will land.
  3. The Canadian player secretly notes where there pre-planned bombardment will land.
  4. The German player secretly notes the location of all hidden stands and fortifications, then places on-table all those which are visible.
  5. The Canadian player conducts pre-planned bombardment.
  6. The Canadian player deploys on-table.
  7. The German player conducts pre-planned bombardment.

German Player (Defending)

Objective

Hold strong point WN 27, the church and the Railway Station for three hours.

Forces Available

9th Company, 736 Regiment (716 Division)

CC (+1)
3 x Rifle Platoons with PC (+1)
1 x HMG
1 x 5.0cm fortress ATG in sea wall casemate (bunker marked 50)
2 x HMG in tobruk (bunkers marked MG)

1 x FO for off-table 100mm Czech howitzer

Morale: Green
Command and Control: As Commonwealth forces.

1 squad per platoon has an anti-tank rifle (I haven’t seen any mention of panzerfausts on 6 June, but an armour piercing bullet was mentioned).

Fortifications

1 anti-tank sea wall
5 x bunkers (see map)
6 x entrenchments (in Strong Point WN 27)
16 x four stand wire sections
8 x four stand anti-tank obstacles
8 x four stand minefields.

Deployment

Deploys first.

All fortifications shown on the map are visible (e.g. bunkers, sea wall). All entrenchments and wire sections are visible. Minefields can be hidden or not at the players choice. All others stands and fortifications are deployed hidden.

All entrenchments must be within zone Strong Point WN 27. Wire, anti-tank obstacles and minefields can be deployed in any zone. Anti-tank obstacles can not be located adjacent to each other; there must be a gap of at least 4 base widths.

German stands must be deployed within the following zones: Strong Point WN 27, Church, Station. At least one platoon must be deployed in each of these zones. Aside from the Bunker MG and Bunker 50, at most one squad/HMG from each zone can initially have LOS onto the beach.

Reinforcements

German reinforces arrive at H+90 and enter via the south table edge. The type of reinforcements are determined by rolling 1d6 and consulting the following table.

1d6 Reinforcements Originating Unit
1-3 1 x Rifle Platoon with PC (+1) 3rd Company, 736 Regiment, 716 Division
4 1 x HMG
1 x FO for off-table 81mm mortar
8th Company, 736 Regiment, 716 Division
5 1 x BC (+2)
1 x SMG
1 x FO for off-table 120mm mortar
1 x 7.5 cm infantry gun with optional tow
Battalion HQ, 736 Regiment, 716 Division
6 1 x Marder 1 (75mm ATG) Anti-tank Battalion, 716 Division

A second batch of reinforcements arrives at H+100. If the first reinforcements are option 4, 5 or 6 (i.e. not the rifle platoon), then the second batch are always a rifle platoon; otherwise roll on the table for the type of the second batch.

Morale: Green
Command and Control: As Commonwealth forces.

Canadian Player (Attacking)

Objective

Capture strong point WN 27, the church, and the railway station within 3 hours. You also have to link up with your colleagues at Bernieres-sur-Mer.

Forces Available

North Shore Regiment:

2 x Rifle Companies (A & B Company)

1 squad / rifle platoon has a Piat.

The North Shore Regiment have the Orbat of a British Rifle Battalion and are Regular

Deployment

Begins scenario with initiative. All troops deploy visible in the Beach zone.

Reinforcements

The Allied reinforcements come on-table in waves from the north. The order of the waves reflects the order in which they arrived historically. They appear on the table edge or the sea edge, and are not subject to reactive fire when they appear; reactive fire is allowed if they move from their original position.

The table below gives the contents of each wave. Wave 2 will arrived on a 5+ at the start of any friendly initiative after the first. Start throwing for the arrival of wave 3 once wave 2 is on table, etc.

Wave Arrival Time Contents Unit
2 H+10 4 x Sherman DD C Squadron, 10th Canadian Armoured Regt (Fort Garry Horse)
3 H+20 1 x AVRE with Flail 26th Assault Squadron RE
4 H+40 1 x Bren Carrier from Carrier Platoon
1 x FO and 3″ mortar with tow
1 x 6 pdr ATG and tow
North Shore Regiment

Victory Conditions

Use Terrain objectives.

The game ends after three hours of game time (H+180). At that time count the victory points (VP) for each side. The side with the greater number of VP wins. Each side gains VP for controlling:

  • Strong point WN 27, specifically:
    • Command bunker (1 VP)
    • Casemate with the 50 mm cannon (1 VP)
  • Church (1 VP)
  • Railway Station (1 VP).

Controlling means the player was the last to have a stand in the feature, and it is/was not contested by the enemy. The Germans control all features at the start of the game, even if they have no stands inside.

Finally, the Canadian player gets 1 VP if they exit a platoon (PC and all their squads) off the sector of the west table edge labelled “To Bernieres-sur-Mer”; otherwise the Germans get 1 VP.

A side gains a massive victory if they attain the maximum possible VP, i.e. 5 VP.

Scenario Special Rules

  • Special Rule: Minutes are in use. The Clock advances 1d6 minutes at the end of each German initiative. The game ends when the Clock gets to 180 minutes (H+180).
  • Treat Bren carriers from the Carrier Platoon as HMG equipped vehicles. They do not get separate rifle stands.
  • There are five 1 squad bunkers on-table.
    • Each bunker has fire slits on one, two or three sides – indicated by the slit on the bunker on the map.
    • The Command Bunker (“Com”) and the Bunker in the field (“Field”) each have a door – indicated by the black door shape on the bunker on the map.
    • Bunker “50” contains the 5.0cm fortress ATG. The ATG can fire out three sides, but not shoot toward the sea. The ATG cannot move during the game, and if destroyed the bunker can not be reoccupied.
    • The two Bunker “MG” contain a HMG. Unlike normal HMG in a building, these have a 360 degree arc of fire. These cannot move during the game, and if destroyed the bunker can not be reoccupied. .
  • Tunnels are in use. Germans in buildings or entrenchments can retreat move to another building or entrenchment without being fired upon in between – despite enemy having LOS to the movement path. The moving stand can be fired on at the beginning and end of the move, as normal. German stands cannot use tunnels to return to a building once it has been occupied by the Allies. The Allies can not use the tunnels. . The stand must begin and end within the same zone, except for the communication tunnels below.
  • There are also communication tunnels between zones. One building in the Church zone, one building in the Station zone, and the Bunker “Com” are the connection points. Normal moves and retreat moves are allowed along these tunnels. Tunnels are abandoned, and can not be reused, as soon as the Allies capture one end. .
  • The sea wall is similar to a cliff. Stands on the edge can see onto the beach (and vice versus). Stands behind the sea wall cannot see on to the beach. Infantry stands move over the sea wall like other linear features. Vehicles cannot move over it.
  • Rifle squads can cut wire. A rifle squad may roll to remove the wire when the following conditions apply: the stand is adjacent to, or inside, the wire and the stand is stationary, unsuppressed, and does not fire for one entire Phasing Initiative. The wire is cut on a 5+ on 1d6. More than one squad of the same platoon can attempt to cut the same wire in the same initiative; in this case if any make the cut wire roll, then this is treated as a successful action for all. Cutting wire is a successful action; failure passes initiative.
  • The minefields only attack with 3d6 against stands, not the normal 4d6. They have the normal factors against tanks.
  • Anti-tank obstacles are impassable to vehicles, and provide no cover.
  • Flail tanks clear minefields by moving across them. They are not attached by the minefield in the process. .
  • The Canadian player gets 6 pre-planned bombardment fire missions. These can land anywhere on-table.
  • The German player gets 4 pre-planned bombardment fire missions. These can only land in the Beach zone.
  • Use Planned Operational Zones if you are using multi-player. You’ll need to give the Germans an extra CC (+1). Operational Zones do not have to coincide with the deployment zones on the map.

Notes

  • There didn’t seem any point to represent the run in to the beach as it was fairly uneventful. If you do want to have landing craft etc, then have a look at my suggestions for Waterbourne rules.
  • I have ignored the rest of the North Shore Regiment. Although they arrived during the battle for the village they didn’t really play a part in its capture.
  • The Canadians were confused by the Germans popping up all over the place and only afterwards found the tunnels.
  • Minefields represent both real minefields, and if placed in buildings, booby troops. They didn’t seem to be too effective against infantry, but the minefield blocking the beach exit disabled three of the 13 tanks that drove through it.
  • The Canadian infantry used wire cutters and bangalore torpedoes to cut the wire.
  • British practice was to have separate machine gun battalions, which attached companies to the rifle battalions. My impression is the Canadians did the same. The Canadian 3rd Division had a machine gun battalion: (The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa) but as they are not mentioned in the accounts at St Aubin-sur-Mer I assume they were not present with the North Shore Regiment on that day.

And some open questions about this scenario – after all, it is still draft:

  • Can the Canadians fight their way off the beach without too many losses? Specially:
    • too many Germans firing onto the beach?
    • too many mines?
    • too much German PPB?
    • too many bunkers?
    • can the Germans just line the sea all and entrance/crest and block the Canadians?
  • Can the Germans make a good fight of it, i.e. do they have enough forces to make a good defence? The Canadians have two companies plus supports. The Germans have only one.
  • Is the Bunker 50 scary enough? will it take out tanks before being taken out?
  • Are the Bunker MG too scary, in particular the 360 degree arc of fire.
  • Is my assumption about the absence of Canadian HMG correct?
  • Are tunnels too generous or are they useless?

References

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Includes history and Interactive maps

Hastings, M. (1984). Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy 1944. Papermac.

Provided some high level detail of the Canadian landing.

Juno Beach – The Canadian Landings On D-Day

North Shore Regiment

I used this for the majority of the Company level action in the Historical Situation section.

Rumford, C. (n.d.) Juno Beach. Rapid Fire! Campaign Guide: D-Day 6th June 1944. (p. 44-51).

My scenario was originally inspired by the Rapid Fire D-Day book, and in particular Scenario 5 on the Canadian landing at Juno Beach. But like most Rapid Fire books I found the scenario actually bore little resemblance to the real history.

SpearHead, France ’44: 3rd Canadian Infantry Division

The Victory Campaign

Veterans Affairs Canada

Wikipedia: Juno Beach

1 comment to St Aubin-sur-Mer – A Crossfire Scenario

  • Hello Steven,

    I have found your article on the internet when I was searching for others that are into wargaming and that have a focus on juno beach. We sit here near Frankfurt in Germany and a few of our wargaming group have build a battlefield diorama, where we play with the system “behind omaha” – perhaps you know ist. I’ve read through your article and I will discuss it with my friends.

    I wonder whether you are interested in watching, what we have prepared on Saint-Aubin-Sur-Mer this year. http://www.pink-unicorn.tv/saint-aubin-sur-mer-fotostrecke/
    There you will find the 50mm-blockhouse, that you mentioned in your lines.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best regards,

    Sturmi.

    PS:
    I have linked zu your article from our website. I hope this is convienient for you. If you would like to do so too, please dont hesitate. If you would like to talk around the gaming, please fel free to send me an email.

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