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Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games?

 
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Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 7:00:50 AM   
FOARP

 

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So, this one has been a niggle in the back of my mind for a very long time now.

Take a look at the attached photo. This is the picture used to demonstrate what "bocage" terrain is in the Wikipedia article about it. If you come from anywhere in north-western Europe chances are you live no more than about 30 minutes drive from somewhere that looks just like this. I know that near where I live in Sussex in southern England you can find small fields divided by thick hedgerows, trees, and sunken lanes amid rolling hills that looks very much like this.

Now, I'm not trying to disparage the men who fought in Normandy in 1944 here. Clearly attacking defenders dug in on dense farmland, particularly experienced and determined defenders who have been heavily reinforced, posed particular problems. Thick hedgerows do make it more difficult to simply drive through with a tank.

It's just that "bocage" terrain is probably much more prevalent than just being in Normandy but is typically just treated as simply "farmland" outside of Normandy in war games (see, for example, SC:WIE). For example, probably most of Ireland, Northern France, and Southern England is covered in "bocage". It also shouldn't be the super-difficult-to-attack terrain that it is often modelled as (see, e.g., Panzer Corps, where from memory it is tougher terrain than even forests).




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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 7:34:35 AM   
rico21

 

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What is certain is that the Allies had not foreseen the movement difficulties that the hedgerow will create and the delay in operations.
Fortunately, now we know the truth ...





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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 8:03:32 AM   
th_sfr

 

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Hi
The picture of 'bocage' on the wikipedia is recent. Have a look on the second one on the same page which is taken in black and white
...Vegetation looks thicker because probably the picture is more ancient.The french wikipedia page state that this picture is from 1945 and in the Cotentin Peninsula.
In France and probably all across in western europe for productivity gain with mechanisation after the war there was a public policy of 'remembrement'.
Hedgerows and fences were destroyed so the patchworks of small fields would transform in bigger surface.It was a good idea for the farmers of this time. So it is the common farmland we are used today.

Now with biodiversity and environmental concern there is in Normandy a slow come back on this policy.

On this page (old news about the bocage museum of Saint Lo) we can see one or two picures of actual norman bocage not too much modernized.
https://actu.fr/normandie/saint-lo_50502/saint-lo-musee-bocage-normand-expose-photographe-jerome-houyvet_16787555.html

If you made a google search pictures of 'remembrement agricole' you will see bocage before and after.

I have a minor rant for the landscape of the Saving Private Ryan the landscape is looking too irish ,too much grass.:-)


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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 9:06:03 AM   
FOARP

 

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It is certainly true that farmland across Europe has seen an increase in field-sizes to increase the efficiency of farming. However, look at this photo of typical farmland from modern-day southern England:

At this level of analysis, there is no obvious difference between the bocage of Normandy and the bocage found elsewhere in north-west Europe.

Now, I know that reports from the time do distinguish between the hedgerow enclosed-fields in which British and American troops had trained in southern England and those found in Normandy. But I am wondering if a substantial part of the difference wasn't simply that southern England wasn't defended by Germans.




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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 10:40:00 AM   
TulliusDetritus


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Because the companies did not have these "engineers" below attached. It could have been much worse. A green wall? That cannot beat a good stone wall...




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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 10:53:07 AM   
zakblood


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https://www.dday-overlord.com/en/battle-of-normandy/tactics/hedgerow-warfare


not quite sure most know really what a Bocage is, as it's not just a hedge either, it's a hedge with a path in it., sometimes pathed sometimes just a dirt road or track, but mostly banked over time, as the hedge grows the sided get more and more sloped with the hedge getting thicker and thicker and taller, making a defence most tanks at the time, couldn't break through, without the hedge cutter







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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 11:24:15 AM   
Jim D Burns


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Everything you could ever want to know about fighting in the Bocage. Definitely not overhyped.

https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/Doubler-Bocage.PDF

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 12:01:01 PM   
rico21

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: FOARP

I am wondering if a substantial part of the difference wasn't simply that southern England wasn't defended by Germans.



We are fortunate to have a historical example to get an idea ...





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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 12:18:57 PM   
ncc1701e


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This is correct, the bocage of WW2 is not the same than the one of today.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 12:46:06 PM   
Lobster


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There were varying degrees of hedgerows. Nearer the beach it was minor. Beyond Bayeux it became extreme with sunken roads and wooded embankments of 2 meters. War games typically go with the higher beginning south of Bayeux because the minor hedgerows appearing nearer the beach were no higher than what would appear over the rest of Europe.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/18/2020 2:17:11 PM   
Grognerd_INC


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Good example... Cudos

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/19/2020 12:29:10 AM   
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Dad said that the hedgerows were nasty, but the Hurtgen was worse!

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/19/2020 11:46:00 AM   
Orm


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quote:

ORIGINAL: zakblood




This picture shows exactly my experience of the bocage in Normandy. Although, at times, it seemed thicker, and was so for really long stretches.

And I generally feel that the effect of bocage is undervalued in most wargames.

< Message edited by Orm -- 4/19/2020 11:47:28 AM >


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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/19/2020 2:41:52 PM   
Grognerd_INC


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Jim D Burns

Everything you could ever want to know about fighting in the Bocage. Definitely not overhyped.

https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Portals/7/combat-studies-institute/csi-books/Doubler-Bocage.PDF

Jim

Jim, that was a great read - very informative.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/23/2020 2:39:51 AM   
kneecaps

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: FOARP

Now, I'm not trying to disparage the men who fought in Normandy in 1944 here. Clearly attacking defenders dug in on dense farmland, particularly experienced and determined defenders who have been heavily reinforced, posed particular problems. Thick hedgerows do make it more difficult to simply drive through with a tank.





I'll give two takes on this.

As a former solider with the huge weight of equipment to carry, as well as having to be alert for danger and ready to respond to contact...moving through this type of terrain where enemy machine guns could be hiding every 200 meters, not to mention traps, IEDs etc etc. You have to proceed very slowly and cautiously. This takes a massive physical and mental toll. That is when you are NOT in contact. When you are in contact, hedge rows provide only so much cover for you but make it very difficult to aim at the enemy. The hedge row pattern also makes flanking and other maneuvers incredibly difficult and predictable.

If you want a good wargaming demonstration of the difficulties this , the Close Combat series does a good job here. A single machine gun can easily destroy a squad across open ground and the hedges tend to create 'kill boxes'. A single mg at one corner could cover two large fields easily.


< Message edited by kneecaps -- 4/23/2020 2:40:43 AM >

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/23/2020 9:38:05 AM   
IainMcNeil


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What Zakblood says.

Bocage is not a hedgerow. Its a big physical barrier tanks couldn't drive through. Its a major barrier even to a man trying to crawl through.

I don't think they are over hyped in wargames, but more likely, too many things that are not bocage are categorized as bocage.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 11:55:45 AM   
timmyab

 

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quote:

But I am wondering if a substantial part of the difference wasn't simply that southern England wasn't defended by Germans.

Yes I think this is it. Normandy is definitely at the high end of difficult hedgerow country, but there are large areas of Europe that would also have been difficult if the German 7th army had made a do or die stand there.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 3:11:29 PM   
76mm


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quote:

ORIGINAL: IainMcNeil
I don't think they are over hyped in wargames, but more likely, too many things that are not bocage are categorized as bocage.

+1. FWIIW, that picture in the first post doesn't really resemble most pictures of bocage in WWII that I've seen, which show something considerably more imposing. I have no idea how widespread that kind of bocage is though.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 3:58:12 PM   
TulliusDetritus


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quote:

ORIGINAL: 76mm
that picture in the first post doesn't really resemble most pictures of bocage in WWII [...]


Because it's an aerial photo. Technically, Normandy is the westernmost point of the huge eurasian plain (via Low Countries, Northern Germany, Poland etc etc; Mongolia in its far east). So it's just a plain. The sunken roads, tracks in Normandy's bocage would be the ditches that let's say the Red Army digged in their plains to more or less slow down the Wehrmacht. Add the green walls in Normandy and that's it, the same geographical feature, not really different.

< Message edited by TulliusDetritus -- 4/24/2020 4:03:15 PM >


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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 4:04:06 PM   
coachi

 

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Bocage is a big pain in combat mission and accurately portrayed

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 6:04:48 PM   
76mm


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quote:

ORIGINAL: TulliusDetritus
Because it's an aerial photo.

Actually, no that's not why. It's because it doesn't look like bocage.

quote:

ORIGINAL: TulliusDetritus
Technically, Normandy is the westernmost point of the huge eurasian plain...So it's just a plain. The sunken roads, tracks in Normandy's bocage would be the ditches that let's say the Red Army digged in their plains to more or less slow down the Wehrmacht. Add the green walls in Normandy and that's it, the same geographical feature, not really different.

Right...so the terrain in Normandy is just like in Kursk, other than the thick, elevated, densely vegetated, and impenetrable bocage which is present in (parts of) Normandy and absent in Kursk. But other than that, yes, exactly the same.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 6:59:57 PM   
TulliusDetritus


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quote:

ORIGINAL: 76mm
[...] Kursk. But other than that, yes, exactly the same.


Except the regular and linear green wall (it was not a forest ), yes, both are part of the same eurasian plain. By the time of the invasion (late spring), farmers should have been cutting the grass, bushes, hedgerows. I bet this wasn't done.

The Italian Peninsula on the other hand... now that is different.

< Message edited by TulliusDetritus -- 4/24/2020 7:00:12 PM >


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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 7:53:34 PM   
76mm


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quote:

ORIGINAL: TulliusDetritus
Except the regular and linear green wall (it was not a forest ), yes, both are part of the same eurasian plain. By the time of the invasion (late spring), farmers should have been cutting the grass, bushes, hedgerows. I bet this wasn't done.

Am I understanding you to say that the main reason that terrain in Normandy and Kursk were different was because the French farmers hadn't trimmed the hedges? Really?

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 8:32:23 PM   
RangerJoe


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The bocage was not just hedges, it was also the rocks removed from the fields with dirt blown in for the bushes and trees to grow their roots into, locking everything in place.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 8:33:10 PM   
TulliusDetritus


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quote:

ORIGINAL: 76mm
Am I understanding you to say that the main reason that terrain in Normandy and Kursk were different was because the French farmers hadn't trimmed the hedges? Really?


You understand incorrectly.

The Germans used wisely what they had. They were fighting in a plain (the very same plain of Belgium, Holland... etc etc and Kursk, all the way to Mongolia). With natural ditches (ergo no need to dig them) Later in the Low Countries (same plain) they found other natural ditches (the canals). I don't know if they had a green wall there too.

All we know is that defence in late spring '44 managed to slow their enemies down. The very same army that had fought in Italy. Had the Red Army fought at the same pace to liberate their land... well, the Germans would still be fighting in the 50s a tactical withdrawal somewhere near the 1941 border.

You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

And yet, the bocage was not a problem in 1940

Overhyped is not an issue imo. A wargame should try to recreate a war that already happened. The Anglo-saxons of '44 had problems piercing that defence? Well, a game must reflect this.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 8:37:52 PM   
sPzAbt653


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Seems like a very easy debate to settle with a quick look at Wiki:
The nature of the hedgerows—"sturdy embankments, half earth, half hedge"[5] up to 15 ft (4.6 m) high with sturdy, interlocking root systems—made excavating them extremely difficult, even with machinery.[6] Narrow sunken roads were the only pathways between these banks. Tank movement was severely restricted

I don't see Kursk being described there. The above is from the article on the Sherman Rhino, none of which were needed at Kursk as far as I have heard.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhino_tank

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/24/2020 10:13:40 PM   
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Bocage of Normandy:
https://www.pinterest.com/jimpooleman/bocage/

TD is talking about the North European Plain that runs from the Urals to the Pyrenees. It's broken up by several highlands along the way. What it has to do with Normandy and the Allied buildup I don't know.










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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/25/2020 2:10:30 AM   
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The terrain is different even though it shows continuity. The Pripyat Marshes are considered part of this plain yet the terrain is drastically different.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/25/2020 3:07:14 AM   
Lobster


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Yeah lots of plains have wetlands of one kind or another. It's because there's a drainage issue with flat land.

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RE: Is "Bocage" overhyped in war games? - 4/25/2020 4:45:50 AM   
76mm


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quote:

ORIGINAL: TulliusDetritus
You understand incorrectly.

The Germans used wisely what they had. They were fighting in a plain (the very same plain of Belgium, Holland... etc etc and Kursk, all the way to Mongolia). With natural ditches (ergo no need to dig them) Later in the Low Countries (same plain) they found other natural ditches (the canals). I don't know if they had a green wall there too.

All we know is that defence in late spring '44 managed to slow their enemies down.
****
And yet, the bocage was not a problem in 1940

Overhyped is not an issue imo. A wargame should try to recreate a war that already happened. The Anglo-saxons of '44 had problems piercing that defence? Well, a game must reflect this.


I'm afraid that I'm still struggling to understand what point you are trying to make... Who exactly did the Germans manage to slow down in the late Spring of 1944? They didn't provide much more than a speedbump to the Russians in Bagration starting in June. You seem to be suggesting that the main reason the western allies struggled in Normandy was because they didn't attack as hard as the Russians? Also, while I'm not an expert on the 1940 campaign, I'm not aware that much fighting took place there in that campaign, or at least not before the campaign had already been decided. And, well, it was against the French

If you're suggesting that the terrain in Kursk and Normandy are essentially the same simply because they are both on the North European Plain, well, that's just wrong. I've been to Normandy and to Kursk, and they are, uh, different. As a very basic example, lines of sight/lines of fire are very different between the the two.



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