St Aignan de Cramesnil

Northamptonshire Yoemanry cap badge St Aignan de Cramesnil, 12:40 hours 8th August 1944

“Hullo Oboe 3 Charlie, - View Hallo – Tiger!”

By Ken Natt

This is a scenario based on a small part of a much larger historical action. For purposes of game play some changes have been made. The game ending and victory conditions are a bit different from “normal” games, and the forces involved are, unusually, all armoured.


All previous attempts to push the Germans off the Bourgebus Ridge have been disastrous failures resulting in massive losses to British armour and morale. Something different was called for, and what followed – “Operation Totalise” was certainly that. A Canadian plan, Totalise was breathtakingly daring (or bloody stupid depending on your viewpoint!). The Canadians, with British units attached, simply drove through the German positions at night, using a carefully planned route to avoid strong-points, with columns of tanks supported by specialist flail tanks to clear minefields leading. To prevent the supporting infantry from becoming separated as had happened in the past, they were carried in converted “Priest” SPGs nicknamed “Holy Rollers” or “Priest Kangaroos”. Known German concentrations were subjected to heavy bombing and massive artillery support. The Germans went to sleep safe behind what was one of the strongest anti tank defences the world had ever seen, and woke up to find British units were digging in behind them.

One of the tank units involved in “Totalise” is the British 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry (1NY).

Operation Totalise
British Tanks on the Move

The senior (ie first) Regiment of 33rd Armoured Brigade, they had landed in France on 14th June 1944 well trained but lacking battle experience. The last six weeks have rectified this, and by Totalise they are a first class and reliable fighting unit. Being pulled out of the line to practice driving side by side and nose to tail at night had caused some predictable caustic comments, but as dawn breaks on 8th August they have reached their objective, a hedge line known to them only by the code name “Fly by Night” near the village of St Aignan de Cramesnil. 

The Map

The map is a stylised representation of the battlefield. The long wood along the bottom actually represents the edge of a wooded gully used later by the Germans to outflank elements of 1NY. The table should be about 6x4 feet, but smaller can be used.

German Briefing

Commeth the Hour... Commeth the Man.

The Germans need to counterattack  - and fast.

Game Map

The commander of SS SPzAbt 101 understood that a daring move now might succeed where a larger planned attack later would probably fail. Gathering a few crews he set off north down the Falais – Caen road to find and destroy the British incursion. Behind him, a more organised force is building and is to follow him up as soon as it is ready.

German Forces (D-Day: German Tiger Tank Company or D-Day: Waffen-SS Tiger SS Tank Company)

One platoon of 4 Tiger 1Es SS SPzAbt 101 Commanded by SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittman (See Waffen-SS Command Cards).

Remember to use Wittmann's special rules or the Tiger Ace Command Card special rules if using D-Day: German.


Start game on Falais Road at point A on the map. Move first. 

British Briefing

Defending St Aignan are the 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry (1NY) supported (off table) by infantry from the Black Watch. The night march through the German lines was an astounding success. A Squadron, holding the west of St Aignan have lost a few Shermans to enemy action or literally lost in the pitch black night march, but now are in position and awaiting the inevitable counter attack.

Over the radio comes a report from 3 Troop “Hullo Oboe 3 Charlie, Hullo Oboe 3 Charlie - View Hallo! – 3 Tigers, moving North, line ahead on road, 12 hundred yards at 1 o’clock. Oboe3 Charlie, over. *”

Sherman Firefly Vc
A Sherman moves upto a hedge row

British Forces

A Squadron, 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry (D-Day: British Sherman Armoured Squadron)
SHQ (F Troop) Maj Skelton, 2 ic Capt Tom Boardman 3x Sherman
1 Troop: 2x Sherman, 1x Firefly
2 Troop: 1x Sherman, 1x Firefly
3 Troop: 3x Sherman, 1x Firefly
4 Troop: 3x Sherman, 1x Firefly


Anywhere within the area bounded by the red line on the map. 

Special Rules:

Big Cat Hunting

Although no County Regiment would be complete without their share of “Harse and Hinds” subscribers, the Yeomanry were far from the chinless wonders the ex-cavalry tank units are often portrayed as. They proved adept at killing German tanks even when in theory outgunned and outclassed by enemy armour. They did this by intelligent and careful positioning, and stalking their opponents, often with commanders creeping forward on foot to find positions to shoot their targets thinner rear and side armour. To represent this a special rule applies.
Tiger Ie

At the end of the Movement step, any one Yeomanry tank that is in Concealment or out of Line of Sight of any enemy teams, has not moved that turn and is within command may be removed and replaced anywhere in Concealment within 6"/15cm of any other member of its Unit. The tank moved is considered to be stationary for firing purposes.

In effect the original position was where the Germans last saw the tank, the new position is where it has crept to and revealed itself by firing. The usual culprit is of course the “Charlie” tank – the Firefly, although this is not always the case.

Tiger Ie Victory Conditions

This scenario is slightly different to normal ones. Game ends as usual when one Company from either side breaks, however in this case both sides score 1 VP per enemy Unit destroyed, but the British gain 1VP for each even numbered turn they hold road to St Aignan at the point marked X on the map. To hold this point they must have an Good Spirits Unit within 6"/15cm. The winner is the side with the most VPs at game end.

Tactical Options

Witmann and his Tigers are impervious to the normal Shermans at ranges over 16"/40cm, so in theory if they hang back and pick the Fireflies off, they can then simply annihilate the 75mm armed Shermans at leisure. The problem is of course that they can only score a maximum of 4 VPs this way, and they must have broken the Yeomanry by turn 7, otherwise a draw is the best they can score.

Closing is another option, but you only have 4 Tigers and in close even a Sherman can get lucky. The Yeomanry have a different problem. If the Tigers hold off then a mad charge may work, but you wont get a second chance. A better option may be to manoeuvre and stalk into flank shots, or simply to hide as best as you can until turn 10 – not pretty or brave, but then again those ARE Tigers!

Sherman Firefly Vc armed with the 17 pdr
Historical Outcome

St Aignan was a bloodbath for all involved. Witmann and his small but potent force advanced along the Falais road, and then? What happened then is open to dispute. The Northants Yeomanry claim they took out three Tigers in just over 12 minutes, all killed by a single Firefly from 3 Troop A Squadron (gunner Tpr Joe Ekins). Other versions of events from Canadian (surrounded in a charging melee by 8 or more Shermans and was “shot to bits”) and Polish claims of the kill could also be true. Bobby Woll, his old gunner, believed that it must have been a Typhoon because Michael was so aware of enemy tanks, and photos of the wreck showed such catastrophic damage. The Typhoon claim is also supported by a report from a local who said that there was damage consistent with a rocket hit to the engine deck, but can be doubted as the RAF do not seem to have been in the area at noon – although they were heavily involved later that day and may well have attacked the stationary wreck.
A Tiger in France

My opinion, for what it is worth, is that it was Joe Ekins, based mainly on the documentary evidence, but also on a gut belief that the other versions each have a certain romantic heroism. It is almost as if there is a refusal to believe that the greatest tank ace of all time, with 138 tanks and 132 other vehicle kills to his name, could die in such a mundane way. Death is no respecter of reputation, and at 800 yards or less (the engagement range) nor is 17Pdr APCBC. Whatever the truth, Witmann was buried along with his crew in a communal grave in Gaumesnil.

1NY and the Black Watch held on throughout a long and bloody day of counter attacks, but returned to their camp that night short 20 tanks. In return according to the Regimental War Diary 1NY claimed to have destroyed 5 Tigers, 4 Panthers, 6 MkIVs and 5 Self Propelled guns. The British dead are buried at Banneville-la-Campagne.

Totalise was the beginning of the end of the German position in France.

* quote taken from “Tank” by Ken Tout (who was there with B Squadron 1NY) . Tout’s other books “Tanks Advance” and “A Fine Night for Tanks” are superb reads and well worth getting hold of. All deal with Totalise from different points of view.

Ken Natt 

Last Updated On Tuesday, May 26, 2020 by Wayne at Battlefront