Thursday, February 10, 2022

Developing a Biazza Ridge Scenario for "Battlegroup" - The Order of Battle

Despite being in the 21st Century with a previously unimaginable wealth of info at our disposal and instantaneous connection to thousands of well-read people, you'd be surprised at how incomplete a picture can still be of a historical battle - even a relatively modern one like this.  

During our work on the Hubbardton Scenario for Live Free or Die, we discussed sources and noted at how single sources by themselves don't always give us a clear picture or even conflicted with other accounts.  

During my travails across the internet and through books, I have been navigating a labyrinthine maze of historical accounts, anecdotal accounts, and others to get a clear and concise picture of the fighting units below Brigade / Battalion or Kampfgruppe fighting at Biazza Ridge.  While I'm sure there are good reasons for that - most historical accounts wouldn't require that level of information - but for the wargamer this clearly won't do!  So what do we know for certain?

What Do We Know?

We know that elements of the 3rd Battalion (Companies G, H, and I) / 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment fought at Biazza Ridge.  We know they were supported by the Regimental cannon company with 75mm "pack howitzers" as well as administrative elements and according to Osprey they were reinforced by "leg" infantry and anti tank guns eventually, along with a shed-load of naval gunfire.  We know Gavin was present throughout the battle, and to the dismay of his officers and staff, he made the epic and monumental decision to stay put.  

For the Germans, our picture of what happened and who, specifically, were where, is a bit more mysterious.  This is where the budding scenario designer starts running into problems.  I'll start with what we know.  We know that the 505th faced Tiger tanks attempting to over run their position, and that there was repeated skirmishing with isolated bands of paratroopers as the Herman Goring Division elements were moving south to the battlefield.  

We know that the I and II Panzer Battalions of the HG Division started engaging other American forces on their way south from Niscemi, and that the Panzer Grenadier Kampfgruppe (unknown strength and composition) pushed back the US 180th Infantry Regiment around the Ponto Dirillo area, near Biazza Ridge.

We know the Tigers belonged to the 2 Company, 504th Heavy Panzer Battalion and that they had 17 of them when their transit to the jumping off point began.  These Tigers might have been chopped from 15th Panzer Grenadier Division to make up for staffing and equipment shortfalls among the HG Division who were combat ready- but not at their paper strength yet.

We also know that many of the 504th's Tigers experienced mechanical problems, or issues with Allied planes in transit to the assembly area. (Remember this is a year before Normandy!  One shocking account had the Tiger crews dismount to wave at Allied aircraft, mistakenly identifying them as FW-190s).  3 Tigers were rendered combat ineffective simply trying to rescue a single one when it got stuck.  Such was the battlefield friction that plagued the HG Division's march to counter attack the beaches around Gela.
504th Schwere Panzer Abteilung

The HG Division attacked along multiple axes towards Gela and found itself fighting in multiple locations.  Biazza Ridge being one of those locations it fought at.  It's noteworthy here, also, that fighting at Biazza Ridge was not part of the plan.  Meaning the Germans did not intend to fight there. 


The trouble I'm running into really is that it's difficult to ascertain what infantry units were present at Biazza Ridge.  I had to turn to Osprey for a more complete picture.

According to Osprey, the fighting at Biazza Ridge involved the 2nd Company of the 504th Heavy Panzer Battalion (Tigers) and Panzer Grenadiers of the HG Panzer Grenadier Regiment, mounted in trucks as their half tracks were near Catania.

This is a bit more complete, but I'm still unsure of what battalion or companies fought at Biazza Ridge as part of the Panzer Grenadier Kampfgruppe.  I'm wondering if that's why specific Battalion designations are left out in some games I've been researching.  We may have to do the same but luckily with Battlegroup, we're only after a slice of the action.  A feel for what happened and the desperate defense of the ridge by the American paratroopers will do nicely for my purposes.

The Battlegroup Forces

So with that said, I "purchased" an American Airborne Infantry Platoon from the "Battlegroup: Overlord" book, as well as a German Panzer Grenadier platoon from the same book.  Our action will be built around those core forces.  Many of the goodies that accompanied Gavin's force are in there, such as the pack howitzer sections from the 505th Regimental Cannon Company, as well as the Shore Fire Control Party.  Additionally, a platoon from the 2-504th Schwere Panzer Abeteilung are included, plus a single Panzer IIIM just simply because I think they're cool.  (Panzer III's were at the primary thrust towards Gela, and were not present at Biazza Ridge.  If this is too "science fiction-y" for you, simply omit the Panzer III.)

So here they are in all their glory - the forces for the upcoming Biazza Ridge game, and a sneak preview of the scenario "product" I'll be developing for Biazza Ridge.  For those who own the Battlegroup Rules, the format should look familiar.  

German OOB for the Biazza Ridge Fight

American Forces

The keen eyed among you will notice that there are restrictions as to when certain units can be brought on the table.  There is a reason for that but I wont give it away until "Scenario Coordinating Instructions" coming up in the next post!  Stay tuned!

Sneak Preview...


  1. Interesting Steve, it can feel odd when our expectation is that an internet search should bring up a ton of links on a desired subject ….. and then it doesn’t. Some years ago, I was researching an East Front action for a campaign, the battle opened on D-Day minus 1 for a better expression, with a Soviet regiment putting in a preliminary attack. The regiment was not named, but I researched it down to 2 possibles.

    In the end, an educated guess made one more probable over the other and although I used that in the game, I didn’t add it to my blog post / downloadable campaign notes, because I feared that I would then become the only searchable source on the net and that the guess I had taken would start to become a truth, that might simply get built upon as others researched and commented on the battle.

    I think I have a book somewhere that covers an autobiography of a Tiger tanker, I will check to see if he was with the 504th and if there is any mention of this action (I will do that over the next 24 hours, so if I don’t come back, I have drawn a blank).

    There is a satisfaction of putting a scenario on that is under-pinned by research, especially when it is something that you have to did one level deeper to get, which is why I like these background sort of posts.

    1. EDIT - Sorry Steve, found the book and it is on the 507th Battalion.

    2. Thank you Norm and that's a great point. I hadn't thought about my own blog becoming a stop on someone else's research! So I did not wager a guess at the Company or Platoon designations of the HG's grenadiers. Osprey was content to leave it at "PzrGrn Kampfgruppe" and therefore so am I. I was wanting to check the sources/references in the Osprey campaign book "Sicily 1943" and update this blog with at least where they got their info from. I'll do that today.

      I have been enjoying organizing this information and I find that it not only stokes my creativity, but generates more enthusiasm on my part to actually play the game.

      There may be a post on miniatures for this game as my US paras are in a sad state and I need to order the pack howitzers and their crews.

    3. Also - of course the 507th Battalion gets all the glory! Just kidding - thank you for checking, Norm.

  2. A good start and given the fluidity of the action/s, it is hard to know for certain what and whom was where and when etc. At least you have come up with something that you are happy with, which is the main thing. I have a good booklet on the HG in Sicily by Claude Gillono, which has some useful info in it too, but as he says, all very much snapshots of a given day .

    For example on 10th July Kampfgruppe Schmaltz contained:
    III./Panzer Regt HG
    I./ Panzer Grenadier Regiment HG
    1./Panzer Pionier Battalion HG
    An Abteilung of Panzer Artillerie Regt HG

    Other info that maybe of use:

    Grenadier Regt Maucke consisted mainly of units from Pz Gren Regt (mot) 115

    The Pz III ausf L from the 2/schwere Panzer Abteilung 504 were transferred to the 15. Panzer grenadier Division.

    Looking forward to more on this as I've enjoyed playing some mini-campaigns based in Sicily, which I may re-visit in light of the info in Holland's book. Keep up the good work!

    1. THank you, Steve this is very nice information and good to know. The Osprey Campaign book I used put many of the units you mention above in the other assault axes towards Gela, especially the battalions of the Panzer Regiment (with Pz IVs and IIIs), and the Pionier Battalion. Interestingly, they also break the KGs into "Rechts" and "Links" (right and left). The tanks of 2 Company 504th look like they took a completely different and distant route from the HG columns (at least on the Osprey map), and there is absolutely not word on their infantry accompaniment or which units those infantry belonged to, except to imply that they're from the Panzer Grenadier Regiment, and that they rode in trucks because the HTs were somewhere else.

      You were right too - Holland's book has been very good! It actually reminded me of the CMH Publication, but written much more as a story, which I love.

    2. IIRC the Tiger I's were being sent one way and were then ordered towards the attack you are planning. And yes they had no accompanying infantry. The Holland book covers this nicely and you really feel for them having to carry out nigh on impossible orders over terrain not suited to large tanks and ones that were mechanically unreliable.

  3. This looks spot on Steve. I've a couple of versions of the scenario - one from Battlegroup Panzer Grenadier, and another from the 'Blood & Guts' book. I'll scan and send them across.

    1. Thanks Darren! I've been meaning to pick up the Battlegroup Panzer Grenadier scenario books but they've a hefty pricetag with them! I'd rather buy minis!