Session 6 – Eindhoven Sector, British 1st Airborne Division
Last session, we introduced new characters for the Arnhem story arc. We have 1st Lt. Kingsley, the officer; Cpl. Rhys, the soldier; and L/Cpl. Wickersham, the medic. Their battalion, 2nd PARA, landed near Oosterbeek around 1400 hrs – 8 miles from their objective at Arnhem Road Bridge. Delays in their advance caused them to miss the opportunity to capture the bridge virtually unopposed. Now they fight to gain control of the bridge, in the face superior numbers and a mechanized force.
The Regiment is in a period of creative flux where we are continuously editing and – hopefully – improving the basic moves. The two most recent additions are Maneuver, which fills a hole that I had been using engagement moves for – don’t follow my previous, bad examples; use the new move instead – and Push Yourself, which is a re-written combination that replaces the previous Push Yourself and Act Under Fire. These moves are in draft form yet, Push Yourself in particular. I’m sharing them with you now so when I reference them later, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
When you maneuver through a combat zone, roll+tactics. On a hit, you make it here or as close as you can get under the circumstances. On a 7-9, you make contact with the enemy and take fire along the way. On a 10+, if you don’t make contact with the enemy, you evade their detection for now; otherwise, you may choose to make or break contact with the enemy, taking fire as established.
When you push yourself through physical hardship, emotional trauma, or enemy fire, roll+guts. On a 10+, you keep calm and carry on. On a 7-9, you push through it; but, you take it slow, keep your head down, or cover your ass. Say how and why you avoid a direct confrontation with the problem at hand. GM says what it costs you: time, trouble, respect, etc.
Day 1 – 17 September 1944 – 2133 hrs.
Intralogues – according to spell check, that’s not a word; but, you get the idea. I liked the player epilogues for their characters so much that I asked them to write them as an integral part of future blog posts. See the blocks of text in italics. These snippets will be from the character’s perspective and written by the player. The goal is to give some more insight into what’s going on than my usual God’s-eye view narrative.
The Allies win the Coin Toss and Choose to Kick
The current plan is that 2nd Platoon, led by 1st Lt. Kingsley, with support from his parent unit A Company, will oust the Germans from the apartment complex along the river on the east side of the bridge.
Kingsley shifts the bulk of his 2nd platoon from where it’s indicated on the map to the apartments just to the south while A Coy Commander Cpt. Robinson deploys 1st Platoon, commanded by 2nd Lt. Ramsey, along the dashed arrow to the riverfront building. Kingsley is now in command of a detachment comprised of both 1st and 2nd Platoons. He gets them organized along the attacking front while L/Cpl. Wickersham tends to the wounded.
Cpl. Rhys takes the initiative and begins clearing the building he’s in of civilians – which will soon become the jump off point for the assault. He locates the family whose flat they commandeered last session and tries to enlist their help. The wife is busy taking care of L/Cpl. Conner, who was severely wounded crossing the street last session, while her husband clings to their young daughter at the top of the stairs. Rhys persuades dad to rally all the tenants in the building and lead them out of the combat zone. Mom did the best she could for Conner, so Rhys asks her if he can move Conner into one of the ground floor flats. The nearest belonged to an old couple. Rhys asked the young mom if she would persuade the old couple to leave so they could prop up Conner in there. They refused to leave. Frustrated, Rhys relented and just asked for a couple of pillows and a blanket to prop him up and keep him comfortable.
The civilians start pouring out of the building and Rhys has better things than to extricate recalcitrant geriatrics from their probable end. Wickersham catches up with Kingsley as 2nd Platoon shifts to the jump off point in Rhys’ building while Ramsey’s 1st Platoon backfills their position. Sgt. Powell’s assault squad lines up in the first floor facing the enemy position while the rifle and recon squads occupy upstairs positions to provide covering fire. Rhys, who’s in the first wave, reflects back on the civilian evacuation:
As I wait for the men to form up for the 100 meter charge, I can’t help but think about the old woman who refused to leave her apartment. Didn’t she realize that she is in the middle of a war? Good men were shot by a Nazi machine gun team a stone’s throw from her window and she couldn’t be bothered to evacuate for her own safety? Did she think this was some sort of spectator sport – that bullets wouldn’t go out of bounds? The more I think about her naivety, the more it pisses me off.
Kingsley gives the signal and his rifle and recon squads open fire on the enemy position. I tell Kingsley he can spend 1-supply to suppress them and he gladly erases it from the sheet to do so. That’s assault squad’s signal. They charge.
It’s about 100 meters under the bridge, across a grassy green belt, and over a roadway to the enemy-occupied position. It’s completely exposed. If the suppression doesn’t work, if they get pinned down in the open, they’re screwed. The assault squad is broken up into three teams of a couple soldiers each. Each team will enter the apartment complex through a separate door along a 50 m front.
“OK Rhys,” I say, “Roll maneuver.” He gets the 7-9 result: they come under fire along the way. The movement and the suppression reduces the enemy VOF from direct to incidental. Dice get rolled. Rhys and company are worse for the ware; but, they make it across. They take the fight to the enemy in their own end zone.
Rhys’ team breaks through their door and kills a couple of Germans in the hall and adjoining rooms. Three of them surrender; but, Rhys guns them down in cold blood with his bolt action rifle. The first one goes down, three long seconds of dead time as he chambers the next round, the second one falls, three more agonizing seconds, then the third. Rhys’ team, Rickman and Walsh who stand beside him, are dumbstruck.
After Rickman, Walsh, and I killed the opposing soldiers in the entryway, we encounter three more German soldiers in a nearby antechamber. These Germans are unarmed and clearly want to surrender. Rickman and Walsh quickly realize this and slowly started to lower their guns. I keep my sights trained on one of the Germans. I take a breath, shoot the first German, then the second, and then the third. After the last shot, Rickman and Walsh are too shocked to speak. I can’t look them in the eye, but order them to guard the foothold we gained in the building while additional members of 2nd Platoon cross to our position.
Once assault squad gets a toe hold on the other side, rifle squad goes across. Wickersham plans to run across with them. He sees a soldier bleeding out on the street and forms up with Cpl. Gilmore’s team, who are slated to fall in behind Sgt. Powell’s team from assault squad. Wickersham steels himself as he prepares to work on the fallen soldier alone out in the street under enemy fire. Gilmore steps up, telling him he doesn’t have to do it alone. Gilmore tells Wickersham he’ll get the arms if he gets the legs. Wickersham makes the maneuver move and get’s the 7-9 result. They take fire getting across; but, they recover the wounded soldier and make it through the door. Cpl. Gilmore’s team presses on once inside and Wickersham gets to work.
Spiking the Football
The patient is L/Cpl. Hogenson. He’s unconscious; but, breathing; lost a lot of blood. The unit is low on supply and Bobby’s gear is already short. Wickersham has a tough choice to make. Life and cost realized or death and cost avoided? He opens up a vein and Hogenson bleeds out.
Meanwhile, L/Cpl. Johnson and Pvt. Thornburg arrive at Rhys’ position. Rickman and Walsh are still giving Rhys the third degree. Rhys leaves them on the first floor and takes Johnson and Thornburg upstairs.
As I stalked up the stairs in front of L/Cpl. Johnson and Pvt. Thornburg, I thought about the unarmed Germans. If we had taken them prisoner, we would have had to pull men off the line to guard them. We would have had to waste our food feeding them. They’ve killed our brothers, they would kill us if they could. If they were asleep in their beds and some bombing run wiped them out, nobody would call that an execution. They knew what they were getting into here. This isn’t some game where they get to call “timeout” when things don’t go their way. So why the hell do I feel guilty?
Rhys hears Germans shooting out toward the street and sneaks up on them. He gets a 10+ on maneuver so he takes them by surprise. He opens the door and starts shooting. A few of the Germans don’t even have weapons. Again, Rhys kills them all.
I wanted to be first through the door, to maybe take a bullet for Johnson or Thornburg. That’s the point of this thing, right? To die protecting my brothers? To kill those who would harm them? I enter the room without the Krauts noticing. Two are at the window, firing on members of 2nd Platoon as they charge into the building. I killed those two, but there were five other Nazis in the room who appeared unarmed. I slowly advanced into the room, killing unarmed soldiers every few steps. You stood with those who killed my brothers; you’d kill me if you could; but, I won’t give you that chance. A better man might, but I won’t. I became filled with rage as I fired. I hate these Nazis, I hate anyone who would condemn me for executing them, and I hate myself for committing murder. After I killed the last of them, I continued firing shots into his head at point-blank range and kept pulling the trigger after I had emptied my rifle. Eventually I heard Thornburg’s voice far off in the distance.
Rhys has a mental break down.
Wickersham stumbles in on Rhys, long after Johnson and Thornburg left him to his own devices. They are both feeling guilty as hell and they both try to keep from telling the other what’s bothering them, but they can’t help but share a little of what they went through. “Bobby” Wickersham gets the sense that Rhys killed in cold blood and Rhys gets the sense that Bobby isn’t a savior without boundaries. After a few moments of awkward conversation, Wickersham moves on and Rhys is again, left to deal with his actions, alone. They have a smoke and blow off some steam in the process.
Kingsley moves up to his forward elements along with the rest of 2nd Platoon. He is now stressed and wounded from the long day and more than one exposure to enemy fire. Bobby takes care of him while he calls in for a report from each of his squad leaders. Sgt. Powell is MIA, so they find Cpl. Rhys instead. They all report. Kingsley doesn’t catch on to Rhys’ instability and dismisses him without further question. He orders them to consolidate and to locate Powell, if they can.
After getting treatment, Kingsley heads back to Battalion HQ to report and to coordinate the actions of 1st Platoon. Lt. Col. Frost, the battalion commander, is ready to start moving his staff to fill in behind 1st Platoon and, once he does, 1st Platoon will be ready to join Kingsley on the other side of the bridge to clear the Krauts out of the apartment complex.
With a plan in place, Kingsley takes 2nd Lt. Ramsey, 1st Platoon’s leader, on a reconnaissance of the bridge support structure. Kingsley is concerned that the Jerry’s may have wired the bridge with explosives. He gets underneath the bridge on the street. In the darkness, his inspection is inconclusive, so he spots the pedestrian access stairwell and climbs up. He gets a second opportunity to assess the situation, this time he succeeds: the Germans have not yet wired the bridge with explosives.
That’s where we break.
As I am not yet familiar with British decorations, awards will have to wait. Given the nature of this fight, I’ll probably do decorations as an epilogue at the end.