As the release of our new Battle of France book inches ever closer, we’re taking a look at some of the notable units that fought on both sides during the battle. This week, we’re taking a look at the British Army’s most senior regiment, the Grenadier Guards!
As one of the oldest regiments in the British Army, the Grenadier Guards have a storied history that includes plenty of heroic victories against impossible odds. They were present at Marlborough’s great victory at Blenheim, and Wellington’s triumph at Waterloo, where they earned their name facing down the grenadiers of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.
Their implacable courage under fire earned them a reputation that has stuck with them throughout their career, renowned for fighting to the last man. By the outbreak of the Second World War, the regiment had been expanded to six battalions of infantry. Three of these battalions would become part of the British Expeditionary Force that set sail for France in late 1939.
As the German Blitzkrieg smashed through France and the Low Countries, the Grenadier Guards found themselves fighting a series of desperate rearguard actions and counter-attacks during the retreat to Dunkirk. The stubborn, bloody-minded guardsmen refused to give up in the face of overwhelming odds, giving other units the chance to fall back.
During one of these counter-attacks, the Guards found themselves engaging German forces swarming over the Escault river in rubber boats. Desperate to prevent the crossing, the grenadiers threw themselves into a brutal close-quarters battle. Lance Corporal Harry Nicholls led his section in a last-ditch charge, silencing several machine-guns with a Bren gun. His courage in the face of enemy fire would earn him the Victoria Cross.
Despite being at the very forefront of the rearguard, the Grenadier Guards would be successfully evacuated at Dunkirk and would go on to fight across North Africa and Western Europe until the end of the war in 1945.
“The best British professional soldiers. They are all 1.80 metres tall, and the youngest has served six, and the oldest 18 years… they fought to the last man.” – Hauptmann Ambrosius, German infantry officer.
The Grenadier Guards in Bolt Action
The new Battle of France campaign book provides a new force selector for platoons of Grenadier Guards, suitable for the whole period from the opening stages on the Belgian border to the last desperate defence around Dunkirk.
Obviously, the focus of the selector is infantry – and lots of it. You’ll benefit from veteran officers due to some nifty special rules, and the fact that all infantry and HQ selections will be stubborn. This means they’ll cost slightly more, but their staying power when under fire is greatly improved.
The option to add a redoubtable Matilda II to the platoon for armoured support is one that should be taken at every opportunity – while slow, the Matilda’s thick hide is capable of shrugging off all but the heaviest anti-tank firepower that the Axis can muster.
Including a mortar or 25pdr gives you excellent artillery support, especially when combined with the free forward observer.
The Grenadier Guards work best on the offence (which as we know, is the best defence), swarming forward with infantry to stubbornly hold positions or assault through enemy formations, supported by tough armour and deadly artillery.
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