The stage was set. Having just fought off one maniacal dictator, the Western Democracies decided to stand firm against Communist expansion in the East.
"Not again. The line must be drawn here. This far and no further!"
And so, plans were drawn up for the securing of this sector...
...and the British 18th were entrusted the task.
Resources were stretched thin across the entire European Front, and so they had to make do with reserve vehicles that were awaiting decommissioning in Blighty. The high command could spare one squadron of Mk 3 Centurions, but the rest of the tankers had to do their best in M4s and Fireflies...and no arty. At least intelligence had confirmed that the Reds were similarly stretched.
One bright note, the RAF had made available a flight of T11 Vampires...three years before their squadron debut...
The plan was fairly simple.
Hold on the left;
Support in the centre;
Advance on the right.
The mighty [17 pounder] Centurian, command vehicle and Shermans.
The hope of the west - the right flank awaiting the M3s to tow the 17 pounder ATG.
Intelligence had confirmed a force of T-34s who were expected to attempt a flank march. HQ hoped that they'd get lost on the way and arrive too late to the party.
Dust was detected in the north. The first Russian infantry Battalions had arrived.
Including an old JS-2.
Not really a good day to be crewing an M4...
...and suppressed by mortar fire.
(And that, along with a few more mortar strikes, was pretty much the only contribution from the left flank. They weren't advancing across the open to the Russians, and the Russian right got their orders mixed up and stayed put for the entire encounter.)
The British armour advance, their flank secure by the ridge to their left...
...while the right moves up, in the face of, well...nothing.
"Look to your right boys, we're expecting company..."
The Ruskies in the centre advanced to firing positions, while their Forward Air Controller on the hill...
...called in an airstrike. Mig 15s came howling in...
...their 23mm cannon disabling a squadron of M4s.
First blood to the Reds.
The rest of the British armour dispersed as best they could, a Sherman, a Firefly and a Centurion taking up hull down positions to cover the expected advance of the British centre...
...whilst their right continue north unopposed, the 17 pounders having been dropped off to counter the expected Russian armour...if it ever arrived...
Across the valley, the Russian tanks managed to suppress a troop of M4s...
...whilst the Brit heavy hitters returned the favour.
Alas, this was not turning out to be a good day for the tankers.
On either side.
The JS-2 was causing concern, so the Vampires were called in to do something about it.
Unfortunately, the accompanying AA proved unsettling, and the attack was driven off.
The tanks split their force, half staying on the hill and the rest rolling forward to support the right flank...
...who had encountered an unexpected Russian infantry battalion, who were late to the party, so to speak.
(Robin had forgotten to deploy them at the start of the game!)
Casualties were taken on both sides.
Unbelievably, the centre infantry battalion were given orders to advance...right in front of the dug in tanks, rendering them impotent to reply to the continuing fire of the JS-2s.
And yet another squadron of Shemans brewed up.
The advance on the right continued...
...with mounting casualties on both sides, and the armour had no choice now but to advance to reacquire contact.
Just as dusk was falling, the expected Russian tanks arrived, with infantry support.
As night fell, things looked desperate for the British.
Well, for some of them at least.
The fighting to secure the hill continued with renewed vigour...
...however, in the centre the plucky Brit armour finally broke.
With their need to pull back to regroup, and the arrival both the Russians on the right, and the covering darkness of night, the decision was made to pull the British forces back, realising that what little gains that had been made during the day would be impossible to defend come morning's light.
(In game terms, as time ran out, I won on points, but Robin was poised to destroy my right!)
It was a great game, thanks Robin. I can see that if we're to do this right, we're going to need some new kit!