December 11th 1941. The Japanese have smashed through the initial resistance on the border with Siam, and are now driving south into Malaya.
The Japanese column, commanded by John, was led by a platoon of four Chi-Ha medium tanks followed by two Ha-Go light tanks. Behind them was a staff car containing three Big Men. Behind them was a long column of trucks (mostly ex-British!) carrying three large platoons of infantry (four squads of ten men each) with their support: two MMGs and two 70mm infantry guns. Their orders were to drive down the road as fast as possible, smashing through any resistance to try and take the bridge at Jitra by coup de main or whatever the Japanese equivalent is.
The road in front of them wound through thick jungle. Once over one river (their start point), they would have to traverse three distinct sections of road before emerging from the undergrowth some 100 yards in front of a second bridge, their objective.
Dave commanded the British. Unlike our previous encounters, his troops were actually quite good…very good, in fact, as he had at his disposal a company from 2/1 Gurkha Rifles. These were backed up with a couple of Punjabi Vickers teams, two 2lb anti-tank guns and a single 3” mortar. Their start point, on the opposite side of the table to that of the Japanese, was a line of trenches guarding the bridge that the Japs were after.
Unbeknownst to both players, there were three pockets of British troops on the road through the jungle. These were left-overs from the retreat from The Ledge to Jitra.
Just past the first bend was a platoon of Punjabis that were so green that they had never seen a tank before. That was soon to change! Just past the second bend were four 25lb field guns…but without crews. These were sheltering from the rain some 80 yards further down the road. Just around the third bend were three Indian Pattern carriers.
As mentioned above, the board was mainly thick jungle, almost impassable (-3” per dice rolled) except along the road.
The game began with the Japanese column smashing onto the table under Blinds and hurtling around the first bend in the road at maximum speed.
There they ran into the first squad of Punjabis, and could see two more further down that section of road. John decided to ignore the British Indian troops, and ordered his medium tanks, now off their Blind, just to drive straight through the enemy infantry. This they did, with the Punjabis scattering into the jungle on either side of the road.
The Punjabis quickly pulled themselves together, however, and despite the fact that they had never seen a tank before, attacked these monstrous metal machines with grenades, rocks and whatever else they could find. The two Punjabi sections furthest down the road forced the Ch-Has to stop and engage them, and quickly found out that tanks have machine guns that are devastatingly effective at close range: bye bye two of the Punjabi squads!
The third Punjabi squad, however, the one closest to the initial bend in the road, had been bypassed by the Chi-Ha’s and, after forcing the Ha-Go’s to de-cloak from their Blind, had nothing to shoot at except what was under the third Blind in the Japanese column: the staff car containing three Big Men!
This was much more like it: and the unfortunate Taii (Captain) Oshima died in a hail of lead through the windscreen. John was learning why you never leave any effective enemy forces behind you!
The Punjabis were then wiped out by the first Japanese infantry platoon, rapidly de-bussing from their trucks, but the damage was already done.
The Gurkhas Take The Fight Forward
Meanwhile, taking advantage of the fact that the Japanese were bogged down dealing with the Punjabis, Dave had advanced two of his Gurkha platoons out from their trenches and towards the second bend in the road. Each platoon dragged a 2lb anti-tank gun, with his plan being to block the corner with burning tanks!
The Japanese medium tanks, having dealt with the Punjabis, accelerated away again, and drove around the second bend in the road…slap bang into the middle of four 25-pounder guns, two on either side of the road. John almost had a heart attack, and was only revived on hearing that the guns were un-manned, with their crews 100 yards or so further down the road.
Ignoring the guns, the Chi-Ha’s moved forward again, with the lead tank ending up in the middle of the road with a British Blind on either side!
Out came the Tea Break card, and the British Blinds were forcibly de-cloaked revealing the platoon and ATG under each.
This was John’s second coronary of the game: as his infantry were still back near the first bend in the road, leaving his tanks unsupported.
The British ATGs quickly demonstrated why this was not a good idea: dispatching two Chi-Ha’s in as many shots. Almost as bad, from a Japanese point of view, was that two British artillery crews were now sprinting down the road towards their guns.
One crew managed to reach its gun, but was cut down by turret machine guns before it had a chance to fire. A Chi-Ha then ran over both the guns on that side of the road, rendering them hors de combat, but its crew was then forced to bail out as the British 2lb-ers shot it full of holes. The last Chi-Ha, meanwhile, also ran over one unmanned 25 lb-er.
The other artillery crew, however, now reached the last remaining gun, and fired at the remaining Chi-Ha just as its machine guns opened up in return. The Chi-Ha was blown to bits (a 25lb-er will do that to a tin can like a Chi-Ha!) but the gun crew was cut down to one man in reply. Fortunately, there were more gun crew available, and some six brave gunners began manhandling the 25lb-er into a position where they could start firing at the Japanese infantry.
The Japanese Infantry Finally Arrive
At this point, the first of the Japanese infantry began to arrive. One platoon poured around the bend in the road, the other splashed along the small stream directly towards the Gurkha position.
The platoon pouring around the bend in the road were slightly hindered by the burning tanks and mangled artillery in their path. Nevertheless, they made contact with the last 25lb-er and double-crew, and effectively annihilated them.
Unfortunately, this left them under the guns of the Gurkhas to the right of the road, a full platoon, who opened fire and, within two turns, had blunted the Japanese assault, with the few survivors retreating back around the bend.
The other combat proved more interesting. In our previous games, John had easily overwhelmed British Indian troops through close assault. With this firmly in mind, he now launched a full-strength Japanese platoon (40 figures) into a series of Banzai charges against the other Gurkha platoon (24 figures strong).
This proved, as you might expect, and as was historically accurate, to be a bad mistake.
The distance the Japanese had to move, and the fact that the Gurkhas were effectively defending cover, more than compensated for the difference in numbers, and the Japanese were bounced back badly damaged. The Gurkhas lost one section of infantry, but the remainder began pouring rifle fire into the shaken Japanese survivors.
That was two Japanese platoons taken care of. The final platoon came across the corner in the road, led by Colonel Tsuji himself. Again, however, the Gurkhas proved more than adequate to the task and the Japanese infantry were bounced back, leaving the body of their commander behind them.
Let me assure you, the above descriptions barely do justice to what actually happened. On the tabletop, vast numbers of Japanese infantry smashed again and again into ever-shrinking lines of Gurkhas. Both Gurkha Big Men were killed, and the platoon to the left of the road were halved in numbers…but the Gurkhas held…and the Japanese literally ran out of men.
With a pause in the Japanese attacks, the surviving Gurkhas began an orderly retreat to their trenches, where they had a third, smaller, platoon waiting for them.
We ended the game at this point, but all agreed that just one more Japanese charge would have won them the position: it was just that they had no more Big Men, and no cohesive bodies of men to make that charge.
A terrific game of I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum! that was probably decided the moment the Japanese decided to ignore the Punjabis. This meant that a platoon that could have been easily dealt with was left to cause trouble…and therefore to take longer to deal with and to have the opportunity to kill a Big Man…and therefore delay the advance and give the Gurkhas time to leave their trenches and get forward far enough to defend an obvious choke point.
Full marks to Dave for being bold enough to take the opportunity and, it must be said, to John, for his relentless attacking. In the end, however, the brave Gurkhas held their ground, as they did historically, and would have had to be literally wiped out before the Japs could continue their advance.