Hello and welcome to the second of two series of posts I plan to be doing on the show “Girls und Panzer”, this one will take a closer look at the tank battles in the show and how I felt they handled them tactically. This first post will be a bit of a catchup as the battle against the Sherman’s is on the horizon.
Jumping right into it, the match starts we have Miho and her pzIV scouting the enemy team from a vantage point. She knows that her guns (with possible exception of the StuG III, which is an ambushing tank, anyway) can’t do much to the St. Glorianna team from the front, as British infantry tank armor is notoriously thick. (btw, it’s true that it would be difficult for them to maintain formation, as while the Churchill is thick and slow, they’re racecars compared to the Matilda mk. II, and because of that I think Girls und Panzer is portraying them as entirely too fast)
Accordingly, the plan is to bait them into a killzone and defeat them with concentrated fire. It’s a rather simple plan, but aside from the silly name, a solid one. Considering we know next to nothing of the battlefield, we’ll have to go with this as the best plan and move forward.
This is where the plan starts failing hard. Miho manages to lead the St. Glorianna team here (as pictured above). Aside from the note that Assam (or was it orange pekoe?) knows that it’s a trap and doesn’t care, this is terrible placement for an ambush.
Of first concern is that due to team size (and the fact that they led the entire st. glorianna team into the ambush site), there is no worry of any reinforcements or long range support coming to surprise the Ooarai team, meaning that the enclosed walls and lack of cover actually work against the ambushers because their main weapons are 1) the element of surprise and 2) superior mobility.
The walls limit the mobility of both parties, and as the St. glorianna team is slow and cumbersome (enough to not really even run away in a bad situation), it’s not really a problem to them. However, for Ooarai, it means that in the event that the first volley does not end their opponent and the surprise is spent, they have nowhere to maneuver and either run or attempt to circle and flank the enemy.
In addition, the lack of cover is a severe detriment here. Although it means the St. Glorianna team has nowhere to hide on the approach, it also means that the Ooarai team has nowhere to conceal themselves (necessary for an ambush) thus rendering the “surprise” part moot, not to mention they can’t even hide from return fire. The St. glorianna team doesn’t even care that they have no cover; not only did the Ooarai team wait until they cleared the entrance to fire, but they would also have been hitting the Matilda and Churchill’s front armor, which is for all intents and purposes impenetrable (except to the StuG III).
Really, the only thing this spot has going for them is that they get a height advantage, which isn’t even all that good seeing as how 1) tank guns tend to have better elevation than they do depression, and 2) usually the thin armor is the tank’s roof or lower plates, all of which are being exposed here. British infantry tanks are notorious for both their thick armor and relatively small guns, which are rendered more dangerous due to the Ooarai team exposing their own weakpoints. Honestly, I refuse to think there isn’t a better spot than this to ambush someone in.
Assuming this to be the best (read: only) place to spring said ambush, they even fail at setting one up. Terrible firing discipline aside, I think this ambush was doomed to fail from the start. First of all: their paint jobs wouldn’t allow them to hide even if there were plenty of tree cover. Especially the student council’s Pz38(t) which shines like a sun, they were obvious to the St. Glorianna team the second they entered the valley.
There is no cover from where they are and they’re lined up like a bunch of chumps. There is no crossfire, everyone is shooting from the same angle. This confers the benefit of letting them shoot from far away, but not only can they not penetrate the front armor of those british tanks, they don’t even take advantage of that extra range.
If it were me, I would at least set up a crossfire (marked by the Pepto-Bismol colored lines) at the boxed positions. This makes it so that when they enter the ambush point their side armor is exposed, and that we have a good crossfire going, meaning they have to fight from two directions. This increases the chances of the Ooarai team knocking out at least 1 or two tanks.
Also, this position also lets them use the rock walls as cover, making it so the St. Glorianna team cannot see them until the last minute. If one was really worried they would detect them early, the Ooarai team could position as far back as the dark red dotted boxes.
At any rate, the St. Glorianna team does a great job of advancing under fire and taking partial cover in the rocks. As you can see, they’ve pincered the Ooarai team and put them under heavy fire. They manage to knock out the M3 Lee and track the Pz38(t) before Miho calls for a retreat.
The next part of the battle commences as Miho and the others run into the city. This is interesting as although one would expect a cityfight to be in favor of the heavier armor, Miho and party’s knowledge of the area gives them a large advantage.
Accordingly, the Ooarai team splits up to take ambush positions all across the allowed battlefield. A combination of their knowledge of the place and the enemy’s overconfidence leads to a series of promising knockouts:
…or really just one. Unfortunately the type only manages to set the Matilda on fire (although only the external fuel tank. It doesn’t seem the tank’s internal workings were damaged at all) before getting knocked out by return fire. The StuG also meets a similar fate while running from a second matilda.
At this point, it’s 4 (1 churchill, 3 matildas) to 1 PzIV. Things aren’t looking good for Miho. Especially since after a terrific but short chase scene, she gets cornered. Luckily, the student council and their Pz38(t) show up to distract Assam & friends with their lives, buying Miho some time to regroup and finally make use of the PzIV’s superior mobility.
As the PzIV makes its getaway, they make a quick stop to get a (rather lucky, as it penetrated the matilda’s front armor) shot in and knock on one of the three remaining matildas.
At this point, Miho makes a rather smart move and takes advantage of the matilda’s confidence in their armor. She rounds a corner but doubles back quickly to catch their side armor at close range. After the first success, she repeats this and manages to make quick work of the remaining two matildas.
Unfortunately even close up a third shot doesn’t work on the Churchill’s thicker turret armor, Miho makes the right choice and gets out of the situation. Once again making use of the PzIV’s greater agility, she turns around and moves for the churchill’s opposite flank in order to force its (rather slow) turret to have to traverse, giving them more time for a shot.
It’s at this point she makes two critical mistakes. First: she stops to fire. At that point the Churchill was almost done traversing and stopping is the last thing Miho should have done with that gun almost in her face. This allows the Churchill to trade shots with the PzIV, which was to St. Glorianna’s advantage. One could argue there was nowhere to run (or keep circling the Churchill to stay on the opposite end of its gun) as there were two matildas in the way, but as far as I could tell the street kept going. As long as she made sure to serpentine, Miho could have done any number of things, such as come back for another pass, or make her way into another alley to try again from a different angle.
Also, Miho aimed her gun at the Churchill’s turret again. Not only did she fail to penetrate the Churchill’s side turret armor the first time, but this time she was firing against its (slightly) angled front. There was no way she was going to have a successful shot. I’m not entirely sure how far the PzIV can depress its gun, but Miho would have had a much better time of it aiming for the churchill’s thinner side hull armor, even if she had to drive a little farther away to get at it.
At any rate, Ooarai’s last hope, the PzIV is knocked out in that exchange, handing the win to St. Glorianna academy. Thus ends my analysis of the first battle, although it may have turned into more of a commentary halfway through. Thanks for reading, and look forward to the primer on the St. Glorianna team which should be up soon!