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Bruneval Raid, 28 Feb 1942

INTRODUCTION

This was the first parachute raid by 1st Airborne Division.  The aim of the raid was to capture the new German Wuerzburg radar in order to develop effective countermeasures against it.  Working in conjunction with the Freya long range radar, the Wuerzburg was able to guide night fighters to within 400 yards of RAF bombers.

In January 1942 reconnaissance planes discovered a Wuerzburg radar installation at an isolated house near the village of Bruneval, France.  The reconnaissance also showed a beach at the bottom of nearby cliffs.  This was an ideal site to mount a raid.  The task was given to Major John Frost - "C" Company, 2nd Battalion of the 1st Parachute Brigade.  (Frost would later command 2nd Para Battalion at Arnhem bridge.)

The plan was for the raiding force to jump about a kilometre inland from the radar (codenamed "Henry"). They would break into three parties - each 40 men strong - named "Drake", "Nelson" and "Rodney". Drake, under Major Frost, would secure the Chateau ("Lone House") and the radar.  Frost's group included Flight Sgt Cox - a radar specialist - and a section of sappers to help dismantle the Wuerzburg.  Nelson, under Lieutenant Euan Charteris, would assault and neutralize the beach defences. Rodney, under Lieutenant John Timothy, would act as a blocking force to prevent reinforcements coming from La Presbytere ("Rectangle").  Once the radar was secured it would be dismantled and carried to the beach where Royal Navy LCAs would pick up the paratroopers. 

C Coy was transported in 12 Whitley bombers from 51 Squadron.  As they approached the French coast they encountered flak which resulted in Lt. Charteris and 2 of his sections being separated from the main force - 2 and a half kilometers to the south of the actual DZ.  Hearing firing to the north, they quickly found their bearings and advanced at the double toward the beach. The rest of the raiding party landed on the snow-covered Drop Zone at about midnight and quickly assembled.

Major Frost waited several minutes for Charteris, and decided to proceed with the plan despite Chateris' absence.  Frost led his platoon into Lone House while Sgt Cox and the sappers headed for the radar unit.  Lone House was found to be empty except for one German on the upper floor.  A German radar operator was taken prisoner. Flight Sergeant Cox and the engineers examined the radar as bullets flew around them. The vital parts of the radar were quickly removed. Some parts were literally ripped off.  The action at the objective had taken just over fifteen minutes. The paratroopers picked up the radar parts and started for the beach.  German reinforcements had started appearing from the east (according to German after action report - a German platoon was just returning from night exercises).  At this point, Charteris and his party appeared and cleared the beach defences at around 0200hrs.  Frost fired a green Verey flare and the landing craft appeared after a few tense minutes.  

German forces in the area were about 100 men from a Luftwaffe defence unit in La Presbytere and a platoon covering the beach defences.  There were several pillboxes and MG pits lining the cliffs, but these were sited covering the beaches and the approach from the beach to the chateau.  Not all of the pits and pillboxes were manned at the time of the attack.  Battle accounts indicate only 2-3 of them were manned.  The 100 men in La Presbytere didn't take a bigger part in the action as they were under the impression that the main target of the raid was the Freya radar installation 400m north of the Wuerzburg radar.

Click for more information, pics and maps of the Bruneval Raid:

Read also George Millar's book "The Bruneval Raid - stealing Hitler's Radar"

Order of Battle
British German
  • Major John Frost
  • Lt Timothy
  • CSM Strahan
  • 9 sections, 2 ATRs
  • Flt Sgt Cox
  • 1 sapper section

Arriving 2D6 turns later (or at umpire's discretion):

  • Lt Charteris
  • 2 sections + ATR

LCAs arrive on roll of 5, 6 after Frost fires his Verey flare.

In La Presbytere:
  • Oberst Stahler
  • 1 Leutnant
  • 3 sections, 2 LMGs
  • (the other 4 sections are guarding Freya and may be included in the game if the British player decides to also go for Freya)

In Bruneval village:

  • 1 Sgt, 1 section on guard duty
  • 1 MG post manned (German player's choice)
  • Roll of 6 on 1D6 allows German player to man one more MG post

In the Chateau (Lone House):

  • 1 sgt, 1 section on guard
  • 1 MG post manned (German player's choice)
  • 2 German radar technicians

Reinforcements (arriving from east 1D6+2 turns later):

  • 1 Leutnant
  • 3 sections, 2 LMGs
  • (at umpire's discretion - 2 armoured cars)

Objective

British player must successfully dismantle the Wuerzburg radar (move Flt Sgt Cox and his sapper section to the radar, remain at the radar until a 5,6 is rolled on 1D6) and evacuate it from the beach within 15 turns.  Bonus points for capturing a German radar technician.  British player may also attempt to destroy the Freya radar installation.

German wins by preventing the British from fulfilling his victory conditions.

Special rules

  • It is winter, and there is a full moon.  Visibility is therefore quite good.
  • German player cannot react until the turn after the first shot is fired by the British.  The unit shot at may react normally.
  • To make the game more interesting, umpire may vary the German order of battle to keep the British guessing.

How it went

From L-R Napnuts Boon, Wahj (British commanders), Arjun and LK (German commanders)

Napnut Jan commanding the German forces at La Presbytere

The main objective!

The Freya radar array - perhaps an objective too?

German sentries guarding the approach to the beach.

The assault begins...Paras overrun a German MG pit.

Frost, Cox and his team take the radar!

The German garrison at Bruneval is taken out by Charteris' missing sections.

Meanwhile, a fierce firefight between Lt Timothy's "Rodney" force holds up the Germans at La Presbytere - giving Cox's team vital minutes to dismantle the radar.

A strong German convoy arrives to beat off the English raiders! (umpire's note - this is ahistorical and was thrown in to give the Germans a fighting chance.)

...only to be taken out by Charteris' sections.  But the armoured cars still remain!

Finally, the radar is dismantled.  Frost orders his men to make for the beach - which is as yet unsecured because of the German armoured cars.  Meanwhile, Lt Timothy's team (Rodney) tries to take out the Freya.

Frost leads his men in a desperate charge to clear the road to the beach!  Timothy's team fails to reach the Freya due to the strong resistance from the last remaining German squad!

Frost's gallant charge!  He is killed, together with 2 sections of Paras.  But the road is clear.

A depleted "C" coy board the landing craft and head for home.  Over half their number lie in the snow-covered fields. 

 

Report by Dominic