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My regular opponent, Neil, and I played Scenario 8, Sidi Barrani, from the Operation Compass scenario book last night. We played it twice: once with Neil playing the British, once with Neil playing the Italians. 

The scenario features a squadron of British tanks sweeping through sand dunes near the town of Sidi Barrani looking to finally crush the last remnants of Italian resistance in the form of three batteries of guns supported by a few squads of Libyan colonial infantry. The scenario takes place at night, albeit under a full moon, so Blinds are aplenty; and spotting and shooting are difficult at all but close range. The British objective is to take out all enemy guns and make base-to-base contact with an objective marker at the opposite end of the table.

 The first game opened with the British confronted by a mass of Italian Blinds spread out over the battlefield. The tanks of 6RTR shot down the road, frantically spotting in all directions. As it was dark, they saw nothing, but an Italian gun position opened up from just to the east of the hill that dominated the terrain: two 75/28 infantry guns with a Big Man.

    The Italian fire was ineffectual, but provoked what I can only describe as an all out cavalry charge by all the British tanks that were available: three A10 Cruisers and the Squadron HQ of an A9 and an A10CS. I'm not sure quite what the Squadron HQ was doing charging up a hill straight at enemy guns, but it seemed to work quite well: one gun was overrun by an A10, disappearing under its tracks with a satisfying grinding noise, and the other's crew quickly mown down by concentrated machine-gun fire. The Italian Big Man, Sergente Agnello, survived unscathed for a short time afterwards, but eventually met with the same fate as his men.

Incidentally, those of you who are now trying to reconcile the pictures above with A9 and A10 Cruisers should congratulate themselves on their vehicle recognition skills: the only British tanks I had painted in desert strip were Crusaders and Valentines, so we used them instead of A9s and A10s!

A second Italian gun battery then opened fire at the flanks of the British tanks that were still milling around the wreckage of the 77s. Unfortunately this provoked another charge by the British: the command tank hurtling down the hill, and the final British troop, this one of lighter A9s, coming in from the road. Although these Italian guns were only 65/17 infantry guns, they were able to knock out one British A9 outright, and send another off the board to seek repairs, before being destroyed once again by machine-gun fire.

At the same time, two squads of Libyan infantry appeared from the hill top above the destroyed 77s (you can just see the edge of their Blind in the picture above: the obvious Blind is a fake), and charged into close combat with the British tanks. Although the infantry was dispatched in fairly short order, they did manage to cause the Squadron HQ CS tank to withdraw to seek repairs. That made three out of eight British tanks off the table. 

Next spotted was the final Italian gun position: this one housing two 45mm anti-tank guns. at last: something that you'd think would slightly worry the British tankers. Not a bit of it! As you can see from the picture, above, a troop and the Squadron HQ tank charged forward again. These guns proved a bit more deadly, however, and although eventually KO'd, two more British tanks were taken out or forced to retreat. That left three British tanks verses the only other Italian opposition: another two squads of infantry.

In the event, the infantry didn't manage to do much at all, so it was a British victory, but at a cost of five valuable and (in campaign terms) irreplaceable tanks, at least two of which were completely brewed up. I now took charge of the British for the return leg.

Again the British were confronted by a mass of Italian Blinds. I now conducted what even Neil called a text book attack on the position. Hunting out the Italian gun positions with my heavier A10 Cruisers, who could probably take a hit or two, I then brought up my A10CS and laid down a barrage of heavy mortar fire on the hapless Italian gunners. The lighter A9s were kept in fire brigade mode: suppressing one infantry platoon and then using their superior speed to overwhelm the real danger, the Italian anti-tank guns, before they could do more than knock a track off one tank.

In the end the Italians were utterly defeated again, but this time with the loss of only two British tanks: one temporarily immobilised and one that had sought repairs after its turret had jammed. Just goes to show the benefits of Captain Hindsight!

A great night's gaming with a scenario that neatly characterised the differences between Compass and the other scenarios we've played recently. Next stop is probably Buq Buq (and I love the (genuine) quote from one British tanker who when asked where he was replied that he had "reached the first Buq of Buq Buq") where a similar action will take place, but with no CS tanks available and a nice surprise lying in wait for the Brits!

Robert Avery