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"Normandy Hedges - Advice " Topic


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World War Two on the Land

717 hits since 13 Mar 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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swammeyjoe13 Mar 2019 2:19 p.m. PST

My first attempt to post got eaten by the bug. Reposting…

Ok, so I've started building some 28mm hedges for WW2 Normandy.

For bocage, I'm using green scouring pads (the off-brand from my local supermarket is a very natural green) flocked with Woodland Scenics green turf and glued to a brown painted wooden ruler. I'm planning to add clump foliage to the sides (hoping to get some sort of "grassy berm" effect) and glue some trees on. I -think- these will end up looking nice. I cut each scouring pad in half so they are around 2in tall each, so somewhere around 10-12 feet tall.

Historically, was bocage this tall fired from/through? I've done some checking on Google Street View and it seems like it varies now where some of the tall hedges are "loose" enough that someone could push through and some would need to be gone around or I guess over. Any good reads on this sort of thing?

Looking at Street View some more there seems to be lots of hedge like terrain that's roughly man height. Tall enough to block LOS beyond, but short enough to be able to shoot to/from and cross. Aka wargaming dream terrain. I'm thinking of replicating my process from above but simply using 1in pieces of scouring pad instead of 2.

Thoughts?

JimDuncanUK13 Mar 2019 2:46 p.m. PST

Proper bocage could not be easily occupied. You were either one side of it or the other side.

You could get emplaced in it but that took time, you couldn't just advance up to it to occupy it.

You really had to find natural gaps or an engineered gap.

Lion in the Stars13 Mar 2019 2:48 p.m. PST

I think 2" would be better for WW2-era bocage.

I'd also add some trees sticking out of the top of the hedgerows, and rough up the top edge, so it's not an even 2" tall everywhere.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Mar 2019 3:12 p.m. PST

+1 JimDuncanUK

We often play close quarters bocage games and here is how we generally treat it:

Impassable to all units (engineers could make a gap but that takes ore time than our skirmish rules really allow for).

If units are up against the hedgerow and fired on from the same side, they get soft cover. If fired on from an opposite side, they get hard cover (in our game, you don't bother to do this unless you have a LOT of shooters).

JimDuncanUK13 Mar 2019 3:19 p.m. PST

There is an earth bank in the centre of bocage full of tree stumps, trunks, roots and stones lifted from nearby fields.

I don't think you get much effect with small arms fire.

Heavier stuff might have some effect but unlikely to be observed fire.

Mortars over the top were more effective although observing fire effect would be difficult.

Korvessa13 Mar 2019 4:00 p.m. PST

For what it is worth (and my apologies to those who have heard it before).
My dad was at Timmes' Orchard during Normandy.
Long story short – he crawled through a "hedgerow' (his words) to find a German MG nest. In other words, they were on opposite sides of the thing and neither knew the other was there.

Never seen one – but they must have been very thick indeed.

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian13 Mar 2019 4:14 p.m. PST

Having only read description and seen pictures, my take

basically a strip earth embankment cover in DENSE brush and trees. So dense that pathways between fields were basically tunnels in the foliage. Fields were roughly 1-300 meter squares (length of sides) with trails (not paved wide roads) between every 2-3 fields. All with no real rhyme to the layout. Most hedgerows were several hundred years old (if not older). Occasional gates and other pathways as many were used as pastures.

Much thicker and more dense than most wargames are ready for.

Mark 113 Mar 2019 4:45 p.m. PST

From my readings of first hand and historian accounts, and observations of hedges elsewhere, but no personal experience in old boccage in Normandy …

First … one of the telling issues that distinguishes the boccage is that the age of the hedges led to layers upon layers upon layers.

The hedges didn't grow from the ground. They grew from berms. The berms were in fact 3 to 6 feet high masses of tangled old plants, roots, etc. that were covered with accumulated dirt that was all compacted by rain and re-layered for centuries. So you should have a high berm of dirt underneath the greenery of the hedge.

This, by the way, was the reason that the "Cullin's device" mounted on US tanks was so effective. It would jam into the berm (NOT the hedge) and allow the tank to rip up the tangled web of roots and decaying plant matter as it pushed through. Just cutting the hedge would have left a 3-6 foot berm to cross.

Second … as others have mentioned, the tops should be unkept. There was no gardener with a hedge clipper putting a nice flat top in the whole affair. Trees sticking out, bushes of differing heights, etc. Tidy little patchwork quilt of fields, but very unkept tops, when seen from above.

Third … any road or pathway would effectively "tunnel" through the overgrowth. Hedges alongside of traveled lanes are not symmetrical but rather sort of lop-sided. Very vertical on the side with the lane, rather unkept on the side with the field. But the lane side is only likely to be vertical for about 10 feet, and then grow randomly over the lane forming an uneven foliage "roof". You will see this same effect on any roadway with trees along the side -- the branches that would otherwise stick out over the road are broken off by the vehicle traffic, but form a noticeable foliage "roof" over the lane that is just a bit higher than the tops of the tallest vehicles that use the roadway. If you have hedges (with trees) on both sides you get a sort of tunnel of foliage.

German accounts are quite clear about the protection from "jabos" that a hedge could provide, even if it was only on one side of the road. That would not happen if the hedge was a clean kept wall of foliage beside an open-to-the-sky roadway.

Just my thoughts. Your mileage may vary.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP13 Mar 2019 7:25 p.m. PST

All of the above is excellent info.

As mentioned, the bocage could be quite thick, and was made of stones piled up as they were removed from the fields, in addition to bush/tree roots, and dirt. They could be about the same thickness as height, and/or slightly thicker than tall.

In some cases, the roads between the hedges would be sunken, so not level with the fields.

Hedges are very different, and much lighter cover than bocage. Those were present in some areas too, and more likely to be encountered towards the edges of the bocage region.

Lee49413 Mar 2019 8:48 p.m. PST

Good stuff! I like to model my hedgerows as dirt berms densely covered with brush with both the berm and brush each being man height, or at least 1" high for 15s and 2" high for 28s. Probably not perfect proportions but its looks good and "fights" good on the table. BTW I also count them as Heavy Cover in my rules.

Cheers!

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Mar 2019 8:56 p.m. PST

Don't use scouring pads. I use industrial floor cleaning machine pads. Use 2 pair of pliers to rip the pad apart.

These are hedges but you get the idea.

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Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2019 6:30 a.m. PST

I posted this reply on your first try:

Try folding and gluing the pads lengthwise to get your shorter height and a better thickness. You can also use scissors to make the tops more ragged. Here's a couple of posts on how I did that:

link

These hedges were made for Very British Civil War use but the technique should work with bocage as well.

Jim

Legion 414 Mar 2019 7:26 a.m. PST

Looks good nevinsrip !

Blutarski14 Mar 2019 7:54 a.m. PST

You might consider picking up a copy of "Anatomy of a Battle" by Kenneth Macksey – a thinly fictionalized, but wonderfully useful and informative account of a battle in the bocage "from the ground up" by someone who was there.

B

UshCha14 Mar 2019 9:39 a.m. PST

I Read that Bocage was very dence. I have seen books quoting 10 hedges to the mile so as little as 160m in some places between hedges.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2019 11:36 a.m. PST

This is the best description and image I could find of a hedgerow.

If you go on Google Earth to the Normandy area the same hedgerows are there during WWII and are not going anywhere soon.

Wolfhag

Legion 414 Mar 2019 12:47 p.m. PST

Yes, that is the reason the US had to improvise the Cullen Cutter. Attached to the front hull, and used to clear the hedgerows. Acting like a big dozer blade with some pointed ends.

swammeyjoe14 Mar 2019 1:05 p.m. PST

@Blutarski, I actually have that book, need to get around to reading it.

So the Germans would defend the Bocage fields from inside the hedges, using the ditches for cover?

Planning to use Chain of Command, so I think I'll have the proper Bocage block LoS from the other side and give light cover from the same side if you're adjacent. CoC has rules about firing from Windows where you have a 45 angle to either side so you could also use that for less dense hedges.

There's stuff like the Brecourt scene in Band of Brothers, where the hedges were clearky taller than a man and were more like tangles of trees, they wedge a .30cal team between them and fire from it. What kind of terrain is that?

Reading "If You Survive" about a LT in the 4th Infantry Division, and he mentions Germans firing "from the hedges" shortly after describing the classic Bocage berms, so I'm a little confused as to the German positioning.

Mark 114 Mar 2019 1:17 p.m. PST

So the Germans would defend the Bocage fields from inside the hedges, using the ditches for cover?

Reading "If You Survive" about a LT in the 4th Infantry Division, and he mentions Germans firing "from the hedges" shortly after describing the classic Bocage berms, so I'm a little confused as to the German positioning.

My understanding, again not based on any personal experience or examination, but just from readings…

The Germans did not fight from inside the hedges, if by that you mean on the interior side of the hedged-in field.

The hedge was effectively impenetrable for most of it's length from the ground level, because it was actually a foliage-covered berm. But if you climbed to the top of the berm, you could wiggle your way through the foliage to a covered firing position. Not everywhere, but in many places.

And if you had time, in the context of preparing your positions, you could find the places where the hedge was thinner, and/or the berm was lower, to set up your weapons and fields of fire. The process of "digging in", which meant digging down into the earth below you in other circumstances, meant digging forward into the berm and perhaps cutting away some of the foliage in the bocage. Corner positions were particularly favored by the German defenders, because you a) got the best coverage of the field when you had a limited angle of fire available, and b) had the longest line-of-site along the lane to notice if someone was going to bounce you from behind, a very real risk as digging in to the berm only gave you cover to the front, and didn't protect you from behind.

Or so I believe …

-Mark
(aka Mk 1)

trenchfoot15 Mar 2019 11:29 a.m. PST

I carved insulation foam for the earth banks and based them on PVC foamboard, painted earth colour and then flocked. Next glue loose coconut fibre plant pot liner on top for brambles and then homemade foliage.The homemade foliage contains paint and PVA glue and is dried in a large flat mass, tear off strips and hot glue them on top of the bank.
I hope the pictures help
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BuckeyeBob15 Mar 2019 8:06 p.m. PST

PDF link

page 14-15 describe the makeup of most the bocage.
Pages 21 on describe the tactics used by defender and attacker. Note page 24.

The bocage was not entirely impassable to infantry…difficult yes, but firing positions could be established on its top, though most were at the base of the bocage opposite from where the attack was expected. Many times the Lmg positions in the corners had a tunnel dug through the bocage hill to the other side for "easy" withdrawal if the attackers were not stopped by the indirect mortar/arty fire in the open ground.

Legion 416 Mar 2019 9:17 a.m. PST

Nice models & terrain Trenchfoot

Andy ONeill16 Mar 2019 9:52 a.m. PST

My understanding.
The German infantry usually dug several slit trenches or tunnels through the berms of a field for mg and snipers.
Partly as they provided excellent overhead cover vs artillery or air support.

They would open fire once a substantial amount of any attackers were exposed crossing a field.

The inherent difficulty in seeing the enemy positions combined with the havoc of casualties meant there was often little return fire. Those rifle or bar men that did so were more likely to draw sniper fire and hence that in turn meant even greater reluctance to lay down suppressive fire.

The "usual" artillery and vehicle mounted mg was not viable.
This was inherently great defensive terrain.
Smokeless flashless ammo and high rate of fire squad lmg were also particularly advantaged.

Blutarski16 Mar 2019 3:17 p.m. PST

A hunt around the interwebnet will yield number of informative photos showing the closeness of the bocage terrain and the confined nature of the roads typically one vehicle wide, with the road surface often eroded below the level of the neighboring field through centuries of use, and the roads in some case literally running through tunnels of overarching foliage.

Also, according to Macksey at least, most of the houses and outbuildings were sturdy structures built of stone.

BTW, based upon my readings, the principal German threat came from mortars, well dug-in and pre-registered on various targets within their assigned arcs of fire.

B

TacticalPainter0116 Mar 2019 4:13 p.m. PST

Keep in mind that not all hedgerows in Normandy were bocage. The Western half (ie where the US were fighting) was characterised by more traditional bocage, where as the Eastern end the hedgerows were not always as thick or as impenetrable. They nonetheless provided excellent concealment and still made the country feel close and confined.

TacticalPainter0116 Mar 2019 5:45 p.m. PST

This is probably a good illustration of my point above. Close country to fight in but not impenetrable hedgerows. This was the sort of terrain most commonly faced by the British in Normandy. This is a 1944 aerial picture (note the crater at the bottom of the image).

picture

UshCha16 Mar 2019 10:46 p.m. PST

BuckeyeBob -Thanks the document was very interesting.

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