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Grossdeutschland Campaign Pt. 3: Breaching the Weygand Line
by Travis Petkovits

The graveyards are full of indispensable men.
- General Charles de Gaulle

Background

While the Wehrmacht was occupied with the Dunkirk pocket to the north, General Maxime Weygand, newly appointed Allied Commander in Chief had been forming a 160-mile long defensive line on the Somme and Aisne rivers, reaching from Abbeville in the west to Rethel in the east. Initially, the "Weygand Line" was meant as a jumping off point for the proposed Weygand Plan, a combined attack against the Germans from both the south and the out of the Dunkirk pocket. A limited attack was launched by 7th DIC against Amiens on the 24th of May, but did not amount to much. The British 1st Armoured Division attacked Abbeville on the 27th, with De Gaulle’s 4th DCR joining the assault the following day. These attacks suffered heavy losses. It had become obvious that if Paris was to be protected the French must hold back the Germans on the Somme.

The Weygand line was the first application of what came to be known as the hedgehog defense. The idea behind this tactic was for the defender to deploy his troops in depth, occupying heavily fortified positions that are suitable for all-around defense, while leaving lanes between the “hedgehogs” for enemy armor to be channeled into. Once the enemy armor is cut off from its supporting infantry it can be engaged by the defenders armored reserves.

Axis Situation

The German attacks against the Weygand line kicked off on the 5th of June from the bridgeheads across the Somme at Abbeville and Amiens. Panzer Corps Hoth, attacking from the Abbeville bridgehead was able to punch through the defensive line to a depth of 15 kilometers on the 5th. South of Amiens only the panzers of XIX Corps were able to move through the French lines. The Corps infantry regiments were stalled by the numerous Allied strong points. Around midday on the 6th, I.R. Grossdeutschland was ordered to into the attack against Hill 127 and points to the east. By midnight I & II battalions had reached the area around Hill 127, 600 meters away lay the Boise de Berny, one of the most heavily fortified sectors of the Weygand line. It would fall to the relatively fresh III battalion to complete the breach of the Allied line the following day.

Allied Situation

The French had committed the cream of their armed forces to the advance into the Low Countries. Subsequently these units were lost when the Dunkirk pocket surrendered. The majority of units left to General Weygand were reserve formations or colonial troops. With these he would have to hold a 160-mile long front to protect the 3rd Republic from defeat. Defending the line opposite the bridgehead from Amiens was the 16th Infantry Division, 2 attached companies of the 12th Tank Battalion, and a handful of Senegalese Tirailleurs regiments. During the night of 6/7 June the 16th Division moved the majority of its Senegalese troops into the north and western portions of the Boise de Berny, and the village of Rossignol. If these units could not hold the following day, this sector of the Weygand line would have no hope of further resistance.

Scenario: Breaching the Weygand Line

Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland is tasked with widening the breach in the French defensive line south of Amiens. Thereby clearing the way for the stalled infantry regiments of Panzergruppe Guderian.

Aftermath

I.R. Grossdeutschland initially tried to bypass the Boise de Berny as it advanced towards Essertaux, however heavy French machinegun fire forced them to deal with the strongpoint. The German troops, not wanting to close with the Senegalese troops armed with deadly bush knives, used heavy weapons and supporting panzers to suppress the Allied infantry. Meanwhile a courageous platoon of III Battalion was able to capture a great amount of prisoners and enemy equipment when it assaulted the woods.

After the fall of the Boise de Berny the French troops began a headlong retreat to the south, putting up very light resistance against the attacking Germans. For the next few days the regiment advanced to the south, at times fighting with small bands of Senegalese troops acting as rearguard forces.

The last days of the campaign were spent advancing to the south against almost no resistance. Covering hundreds of kilometers in its rush to the south the regiment occupied Lyons, the second largest city in France on the 19th.

In this final stage of the campaign the regiment had lost 81 men killed, 261 wounded, and 14 missing. On 25 June (the day the Armistice was signed in Compiegne). The order of the day read. “At this moment we thank the almighty, who has so visibly blessed our difficult struggle. In proud sorrow we think of our fallen and wounded comrades who gave their blood and lives for Germany’s greatness.”










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