Playing EPIC in 28mm.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Pushing into Xyphonica from the North East.

As soon as 3422 AG had deployed to the eastern side of Xyphonica, the Lord General wanted them to attack.  He had grudgingly put up with the hiatus in operations as 72AG waited for 3422AG to move into position.  The promotion and parades kept him happy but it had taken six weeks to move into position.  44 Corps to the north motored all the way round the city into position.

For some reason, possibly to do with a desire to just get on with it, possibly due to pressure from the Lord General’s ADC himself, 785 Div was committed to an attack with only vague objectives and insufficient preparation.

The 4th Llar Heavy Infantry were chosen to spearhead into the urban area. The Cadian 44th Tank regiment and their Heavy Tank sister regiment were intimately supported by the chimera mounted 66th Gunrun Rifles and the 80th Bram pioneers. 785 Div were going to hold ground seized, the four battalions of 1st Lydian Lunar Fusiliers were held in reserve and the five battalions of the 4th Llar Heavy Infantry pushed into the suburbs.

The PDF had four years to prepare the ground.  There were minefields, trip lines, automated gun positions, cached chemical weapons and prepared machine gun nests and sniper posts, all tunnel linked.  The 4th Llar Heavy Infantry were equipped for all weathers and carried everything.  The consequence of this was that they habitually wore greatcoats and silvered armoured shoulder plates and crested helmets.  These men carried everything. 

Shifu Delk pushed the 460 men of his Eeen (Llar: Battalion), the 3rd Eeen of the Llar 4th, forward on the left flank of the advance.  With the blessings of the Celestial Emperor, his men had been clearing bunkers all day; they were starting to run low on grenades, flamer juice and rockets for their missile launcher.

Squads of the third Eeen moved up through the shot up ghetto of the Parvell District. Three to five stories of windowless ruin, slowly deserted by its population over the last four years as the city was bombed; as the food supply dried up, those remaining moved out of Parvell leaving nothing but an eerie silence.

Shifu Delk’s command team moved along those same streets, with the Eeen’s companies and platoons arrayed to the front and both sides.  The other four Eeen of the 4th Llar Heavies would be to their left and right, in strict number order.  Shifu Delk took it as a matter of pride that, like every other Llar Officer for thousands of years, he deployed his forces in order of precedence, from left to right with the 3rd Company in the centre of his line of advance.

Gen Shmeil, the commander of 785 Div saw the Llar institutional inflexibility as somewhat of a liability.  However, it did mean that by staying in contact with the regiment’s CO, they could be relied upon to hold a line, to not move out of formation.  Their lack of imagination would make the Llar predictable for their Superiors.  And, it would later prove, for the rebels as well.

Firefights would break out.  Sometimes there would be a casualty or two, but mostly there would be sporadic small arms fire which sent the Llar to ground.  Platoon attacks would quite often find a dozen or so barely serviceable weapons, held in place by sandbags with their triggers tied – the line would run over a fulcrum such as the back of a chair to a cup or tin which would slowly fill with water fed by a makeshift gutter fed from a bundle of sodden cloth.

The arrangements had obviously been set up weeks before. And made ready and triggered in every case as the first Llar elements were actually passing by.   The ambushes were initiated in each case by a live shooter who escaped, possibly through subterranean tunnels.  The Llar would spend time moving elements of a rifle company into position before conducting a platoon assault on each of these positions.  This could take hours, depending on the street layout and the condition of the buildings.

The weather was still warm, soldiers mouths were parched by brick and concrete dust.  Support weapons from the mortar and firesupport elements were distributed amongst the rifle companies, people not helping hump their equipment through the rubble strewn streets would be carrying extra water, AT missiles or more grenades for the squad GLs.  They were well wrapped and working hard.

The lead platoons soon learned to spot mostly intact buildings with the gutters ripped off.  But it seemed to Shifu Delf that this was yet another delaying tactic; three times this circumstance was reported and the company went firm and the platoon assault laid on – only to find that the guttering was just not there and the building was empty.  More hours wasted.  Delf had no choice but to continue.

His men were becoming tired and frustrated.  They were also becoming increasingly uneasy at using up flamer juice and grenades, both hand and launcher, on ‘enemy positions’ which were largely empty.  Hearing from the other Shifu, he knew that the other Eeen had been involved in large scale contacts with well-prepared ambush conditions.  But also that most of the Eeen were experiencing the same frustrations he was.

Shifu Delf’s 3rd Eeen are in the centre of the 4th Llar Heavy’s axis of advance.  What happened to them next would play out across the entire front in a ripple out from the 3rd Eeen to the very edges of the advance.   It was now dusk. Having starting before dawn, he could see that his soldiers were now flagging.  Most of the Rifle Companies had used up all of their flamer juice and most of their grenades.  Their mortar sections and fire support were slower to move each time.

The 3rd Eeen needed to rest.  Map checks indicated that their mid-day objective was only 300m in front.  The five Eeen would make the line and halt to rest, beginning their advance again in the morning.  Tomorrow, Div HQ would move the rest of their teeth arms into the city as the 4th Llar Heavies would push on.  With a cautious advance through the ruined urban landscape, covering each other and moving from cover to cover, securing their positions at every tactical bound, Shifu Delf would have his men ready to ‘go firm’ for the night in an hour.

But then on the 3rd Eeen’s left, another half-cocked ambush.  Seeing the single shots, the platoon coming under fire anxious to get to the end of tiring and frustrating day, the platoon immediately launched their assault, without waiting for the other platoons in the company to move into supporting positions. Their mortar and auto cannon teams were still mobile.  Soldiers habitually touched their amulets and talismans and cursed the lack of any real enemy. 

The company commander, tired like the rest of the men, thirsty with the taste of brick dust and ozone in his mouth, ordered the other platoons to move up into supporting positions.  The quicker this last ‘something of nothing’ ambush was dealt with and the building cleared, the sooner the whole Eeen could move into its ‘rest’ position.

As this was unfolding, the rebels in the hidden bunkers all around the company positions were training their weapons on the 4th Llar Heavies.  The assault platoon were largely out of cover, the others were moving up and into cover.  The rebels had prepared well, anticipating the invaders taking the bait, their fire positions were behind the cover available to the invader: these were positions where the hard cover was behind the ambushed Llar, corralling them into the ambush killing zone.  

There was a storm of heavy stubber and bolter fire, accomanied by a large volume of las and auto gun fire.  The rebel ambush killed and critically wounded most of the left hand company.  From the 3rd Eeen's centre company, there were only a handful of men unwounded and they were pinned.

Shifu Delf and his command team suddenly came alive.  The fight was back on and the surge of adrenalin brought the situation back into sharp focus, as his contact report was sent to his HQ, he was voxing the remaining company commanders – in the deepening gloom, where the deeply shaded roads and alley ways made street level night already. 

The first platoons into the area were also sucked into the killing zone by the cries of the wounded.  Others who tried outflanking the ambush site found their progress halted by mines and booby traps, some no more complex than falling masonry.  Walls fell on squads, rebel snipers pinned platoons whilst ambushers moved into alternate hidden positions and carried out their well drilled executions of segregated subunits. 

Shifu Delf was losing men fast, losing the battle.  Units were pinned and unable to advance.  The tactica imperialis was clear, losing men was acceptable if it achieved victory.  His men were tired, cut off from support, in the dark with a well hidden, well dug in aggressor.  He ordered up his anti-tank squads to return fire on the hidden bunkers with their missile launchers.  The few deployed mortar teams of the Eeen were brought into action.  The others were ordered to deploy.

The vox net did not die, but the open channels were suddenly swamped with static, fading in and out with nonsensical weather reports and light jazz music.  He could not see, could not hear and could not be heard.  Flares went up in the darkness and rebel sharp shooters in the building used the shine of the 4th Llar Heavy’s wargear as aiming points in the gloom.  More men were being lost.

Shifu Delk ordered his command team to stay put and continue to try to raise RHQ and the rifle companies on the vox net.  He would venture alone into the darkness and direct survivors back to the command team’s location.  The rebels moved down their tunnels to where they had accurately predicted the invader’s mortar base plates would be, where the command teams might position themselves, where each companies reserve platoon might be. 

The 3rd Eeen lost all but sixty two of its five hundred and eighty three officers and men that night; Shifu Delf, in his courageous action found forty of his men in the dark and sent them back, when he returned with what he thought were the last seven saved, the thirty three he’d already sent and the command team had been massacred in the dark, torn apart by overwhelming close range automatic fire.

By dawn the next day, Delf was the highest ranking officer left alive in the 4th Llar Heavies.  With more casualties than capable soldiers, every Eeen was combat ineffective.   785 Div halted and recalled the survivors of 4th Llar Heavies back to their start line.  3422 AG called on the firepower of the Imperial Navy.

They would be able to report contact with the enemy in regimental strength (how else could the outright defeat of a long established regiment of the glorious Imperial Guard be explained ?) which was resolved through overwhelming aerial bombardment. 

The outcome would be a much slower and more deliberate advance into the city.  Having had a whole, five Battalion, regiment of the Imperial Guard reduced to an understrength Battalion, 44 Corps would be more cautious in the future. 

1 comment:

  1. What a great read, the detail of it, and the overall tone are stellar.