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Friday, February 28, 2014

Bolt Action - Ohhhhh Canadaaaaaa!

I've recently come into some British Paras, after a friend with a sizable force of them collecting dust, decided to sell them cheap.  This was to be my first foray into the Brits, and I wanted to do something slightly different.  With an affinity for the Great White North, after some misspent time in my youth there, I chose to make my Paras members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.

(My assimilation among the locals was flawless. See left.) 
(And people give me crap about being Canadian!!! Editor)

The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was formed in July 1942, quite late in the war in comparison to other nations, who after the early successes of the German Fallschirmjager in 1940, scrambled to form their own airborne formations.  Initial training was done in the US at Fort Benning while the Canadians constructed their own Parachute Training Center.  Then, in March 1943, it was announced that the Battalion was to be integrated into the 6th British Airborne Division that was forming in England.  By July 28, 1943, the Battalion was in England where it began training under British methods, in preparation for eventual invasion of Hitler's Festung Europa.

As part of the first drops into France, the Canadians were at the forefront of Operation Overlord.  C Company was part of a Pathfinder element tasked with securing and preparing the DZs for the main airborne assault.  After this, they were tasked in destroying a German HQ and a bridge in Varaville.  Meanwhile, A Company was responsible for protecting the left flank of the 9th Para Battalion during their attack on an artillery battery at Merville, and B Company was blow up two bridges spanning the River Dives.

(Unfortunately the first waves of airborne troops on D-Day had the added difficulty of doing this at night.)
As with all the airborne drops on D-Day, the Canadians were scattered over a wide area.  Despite this, they achieved all their objectives by mid-day, a theme that follow the 1st Canadian Para Battalion through-out the war. In the following days, the unit was used to strengthen the bridgehead and support the Allied advance into Normandy.  More then two months later, on the 26th of August, the Battalion was pulled from the frontline.  Due to the very nature of Airborne operations, having to act independently in the enemy's rear area with minimal support, the rate of attrition on the Battalion was high.  Of the original 547 paratroopers who had dropped into Normandy, 83 were killed, 187 wounded and 87 taken prisoner - a casuality rate of 65%.

(Hitching a ride on a Churchill tank.)

 In January 1945, after being re-organised and retrained, the unit was sent back to the front to shore up the line during the Ardennes offensive, the only Canadian unit to fight in the Battle of the Bulge.  After the last German offensive of the war faltered, the 1st Canadian Para Battalion was sent to Holland in preparation of crossing the River Rhine, where they eventually took part in Operation Varsity.  The culmination of which saw them pushing deep into Germany, meeting the Red Army at Wismar where it was at the war's end.

By the end of the war, the list of achievements for the Battalion was quite impressive.  They had successfully completed all mission objectives and had never given up an objective once taken.  They were the only Canadians to participate in the Battle of the Bulge and had advanced deeper into Germany than any other Canadian unit.

(Taking a well earned break, eh?)

So these were the kind of men I wanted to model my new army on.  They would be lightly armed and probably be facing an enemy with superior firepower.  In particular, I wanted to base my force on the men who took the town of Varaville; where scattered partial elements of C Company managed to take out a heavily fortified German 75mm Anti-tank gun, defeat a dug in force twice their size and destroy the bridge in the town that crossed the River Dives.

The biggest equipment the Battalion carried were 3" Mortars, PIATs and Vicker's Machine-guns.  Making a competitive list whilst sticking to this is going to be quite hard, and a big step away from my usual list making, which usually includes at least 300+ points spent on heavy armour.  I'm going to start testing some lists I've come up with and hopefully evolve the list from there.

If you've got any tips of using veteran forces without the big HE toys, let me know on the forum, eh!

Anfernee out!

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