Having spent the last few months building up my forces for the Six Day War, it was time to get the figures onto the wargaming table. For the first game, I decided to keep things relatively small and relatively vanilla: the Israelis would be attacking a UAR/Egyptian force defending a pumping station of some sort.
The Israelis, under my command, had at their disposal a couple of platoons of infantry; the company HQ with their support mortars and LMG teams; and two platoons of tanks: one consisting of two Sho’t (Centurions) and the other of a single Malach (M48). The Malach would be one of the few that had been upgraded with a 105mm gun. Each platoon would have a Big Man, with a Company Commander as well.
The defending UAR force, commanded by Dave, consisted of a single platoon of infantry; two recoilless rifles (RCLs); and two ancient Maxim machine guns (MMGs). All were dug-in either on the edge of the pumping station itself or along the spur road leading to it. As an ace in the hole, they also had a 100mm anti-tank gun positioned in its own gun pit. To emphasise the difference in quality between the Egyptian and Israeli force, the UAR side only had one Big Man available. Finally, after a random number of turns, a platoon of five ex-WW2 SU-100 tank destroyers would arrive as reinforcements.
As for the terrain, imagine a decent quality highway running through the desert. As this highway veers to the right, a spur road leads off to a pumping station consisting of two huge tanks, two smaller tanks, and the pumping machinery itself. The station was decoration: neither side could deliberately shoot at it, it would not explode if hit (disappointing, I know!).
The station was surrounded by barbed wire, with a network of rather badly maintained trenches and bunkers dotted around its perimeter and along the spur road. The only decent bit of works was the gun pit for the newly arrived 100mm anti-tank gun.
As most of the terrain was rough desert, any unit could end its movement by dropping into as much cover as possible (i.e. making it one column more difficult to hit on the Fire Table) provided it used one of its Actions to do so.
The other side of the battlefield was bordered by a long nullah that was considered effectively impassable.
The TooFatLardies (TFL) don’t produce a set of rules specifically for the Six Day War, so my choices were really to use their WW2 rules, I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum (IABSM), or their Vietnam rules, Charlie Don’t Surf (CDS).
You might think that CDS was the obvious choice, being exactly contemporary with the Six Day War.
Well, yes…but CDS is written specifically for re-fighting Vietnam, with its unique style of large scale asymmetric warfare e.g. the tank and artillery rules are very appropriately more rudimentary than IABSM’s. Not only that, but there is a considerable difference in the type of terrain fought over (about as different as you can get!) and the types of force involved. Surely IABSM would be better for battles more akin to the fighting in the Western Desert than a set of rules for fighting guerrilla actions in the jungle?
In the end, as both systems use the same core mechanics, I decided to use CDS as my basic rules platform, and substitute anything I needed from IABSM wherever appropriate. This meant that I could use all the exactly contemporary equipment rules given in CDS (wire guided AT missiles, stats for the T-55 etc) along with the considerably more lethal Fire Table (representing the use of assault rather than bolt-action rifle teams), and yet fall back on things such as the more sophisticated tank vs tank systems of IABSM.
Army lists, incidentally, came from my own research and are available in the Six Day War section of this website.
The Israeli Plan
I decided not to try and fight at distance. Despite my superior numbers, I felt that trying to wear down troops in works from positions effectively out in the open was a mug’s game, and would lead to heavy casualties that I was pretty sure went against Israeli doctrine.
My plan was to get in close, where every volley and shot is lethal, and use my vastly superior command ability to get in my blows first.
The UAR Defences
Dave placed a squad of infantry supported by an MMG and RCL within trenches behind the barbed wire along the forward edge of the pumping station itself.
The other MMG and RCL, along with another squad of infantry and his commander, were split between two gun pits just by the entrance to the pumping station. Just to their left was the large gun pit containing the anti-tank gun.
His final squad of infantry, along with his only bazooka, were in gun pits protecting his left flank.
The battle began with a swarm of Israeli Blinds appearing at the end of the table. These moved pretty fast towards the waiting Egyptians, under cover in their works, splitting into three thrusts: one up the left, one up the centre, and one up the right.
The centre Blind was quickly spotted, and revealed as a platoon of infantry. The UAR commander uncloaked his central machine gun and a squad of infantry and punished the Israeli infantry hard despite their attempts to find cover amongst the rough terrain. They scattered to the right, aiming to come up behind the hill there, behind the Blinds of the Israeli right-hand thrust, but lost their left-hand squad as casualties. Not a good start for the attackers.
This distraction had, however, allowed the left and right-hand thrusts to get up to within about two hundred yards of the UAR position: both now lurked just behind the crests of hills looking down on the enemy.
On the Israeli left, one Blind revealed itself as another platoon of infantry which took position along the crest of the hill and began exchanging fire with the Egyptians in the trenches in the pumping station.
This looked as if it could have been a pretty fair fight, but the Israelis then revealed that the other Blind there was their two Sho’t/Centurion tanks. Unfortunately, before they could fire, the Egyptian anti-tank gun fired (it had been holding over its actions, waiting for the Israeli tanks to appear) and blew a track off one of the Sho’ts, permanently immobilising it. The crew were obviously made of pretty tough stuff, however, as they ignored this and carried on fighting from their newly-placed pillbox!
Incidentally, the anti-tank gun had been the subject of Israeli light mortar fire, but obviously had some sort of invisible shield around it, as it wasn’t until after the Sho’t was disabled that any rounds came anywhere near it. From that point on, its crew were almost permanently pinned by Israeli mortar or infantry fire, and although they managed a couple more shots, they would do no more serious damage in the game.
On the Israeli right, things had got quite exciting quite quickly. Hardly had the survivors of the central thrust reached the crest of the hill (next to another Israeli Blind that concealed the Magach) and started exchanging fire with the Egyptian infantry in front of them, when the UAR reinforcements arrived in front of them: five SU-100s.
This could have been a serious problem, but the Magach moved forward into a hull-down position and blew the lead SU-100 to bits with its first shot. It then proceeded to take out one SU-100 each turn, mostly by blowing tracks off and forcing their crews to abandon (not quite as tough as Israeli tank crews), until only one remained, skulking behind the line of its wrecked and smoking colleagues.
The Egyptian infantry squad did manage to get a couple of shots off with their bazooka, but they had a couple of squads of Israeli infantry pouring fire into them, and all that happened was that the Magach’s paint was slightly scuffed.
Back to the Israeli left, and the Sho’ts volleyed a couple of rounds of HE into the Egyptian infantry in front of the pumping station, predictably devastating at this range, which forced them to abandon their positions and flee the field.
The Israeli infantry moved down off the hill and prepared to cross the barbed wire so that they could get around the rear of the other UAR gun pits and trenches. The remaining mobile Sho’t got a bit over excited at this stage and, rather than staying safely where it was, decided to rely on the quality of its British-made armour and the ability of the mortars to keep the anti-tank gun occupied, and charged around the hill straight towards the centre of the Egyptian line.
This proved to be too much for the UAR forces and with almost nothing remaining of their flank forces, they surrendered.
This proved to be a most enjoyable game, for both sides!
Dave felt that although he had been defeated, he had done enough casualties and held out for long enough not to have been a total walkover.
I was happy that my tactics of quick and close assault had worked, with the only real casualties being in the platoon caught out in the open in the centre at the beginning of the game. I was also happy that I had used my tanks and infantry well together: a proper combined-arms approach.
And, finally, the terrain, figures and models looked good. What more could one want?