Italian military court opens to discuss the failed attack upon enemy position at the well of Bandar Harshau, Somaliland.

Dramatis personae: 

Tenente Adriani - pilot who managed to bomb friendly troops 

Tenente Zepeda - cautious pilot 

Capitan Trouhet - captain of the 1st infantry company 

Tenente Roma - tank platoon leader 

Tenente Frederico - platoon leader of 1st platoon

Initial setups:

Two tank platoons and an improvised infantry company attacking the British position directly, while three infantry platoons flank it. Attack starts with two stonks and light fighter-bombers.

The Action:

"At 12.00 hours, after the initial barrage, I initiated a bombing run towards Bandar Harshau with tenente Zepeda. Artillery had completely failed to suppress enemy anti-aircraft weapons, so we had to turn back and attack along the road. As we approached the target, green smoke went up as promised. Enemy was not supposed to have armoured assets, but seeing how ground based recon had failed time after time during this campaign, I assumed it was another recon snafu and initiated bombing run against marked target. I am very happy to report that first run left two smoking tank wrecks and platoon worth of infantry destroyed, while the second run bagged another enemy tank and another squad of infantry. After this, I headed back to home, leaving tenente Zepeda to finish of the enemy. Tenente Andriani."

"Tenene Andriani, will you in front of this gathered court martial and your peers swear upon you honour that this is your truthful report about the attack upon Bandar Harshau 11th August 1940?" "Yes, sir."

"Capitano Trouhet, would you please give your own account about the event on said day?"

"Sir, 1st company of the Grande gruppo speciale di Africa Orientale Italiana was reinforced with the battalion recon and combat engineer assets and two platoons of tanks were attached. Tanks supported by one platoon of infantry were to pin the enemy with a frontal attack over the wadi, while two bersaglieri platoon and motorcycle recon troops were to flank the enemy position from south. 100mm artillery strike was to land 12:00 sharp on the suspected main enemy AA position and 81mm mortars were to strike enemy rear assets - as soon as the barrage was lifted, air force was to hit the village after which the main attack started. The artillery hit on time, but went wide and the aircraft turned back as soon as enemy directed AA fire at them. The intel we had said enemy had at most two dug in platoons and some sandbagged bunkers with light AT assets. While the flanking force was getting into position, Tenente Roma spearheaded the attack clearing path through the barbed wire. Enemy machine gun position on the hill caused light casualties, but was quickly suppressed and eliminated by our combined firepower. Likewise for the enemy platoon protecting the mouth of the wadi. At that point a green smoke popped amidst our formation and.."

"Captain, where did this smoke originate from?"

"Sir, I would say it was fired from the enemy position, as it landed along several light calibre mortar rounds. As soon as the green smoke popped, we launched our own marker smoke towards the enemy position. At this moment, tenente Zepeda had gathered his courage and made a bombing run at us, despite frantic waving and all tanks marked by our own flags. I hoped that he was diving for the enemy, as all pilots were specifically briefed that enemy had no tanks. He dropped bombs directly on our position and after that I woke at battalion hospital a few days later."

After a bombing run, two squads and company commander are down, tanks escaped with scratches.

After a bombing run, two squads and company commander are down, tanks escaped with scratches.

"Tenente Andriani, were you briefed about the tanks?"

"Sir, yes, I was. But it was also a known fact that ground troops security was very lax and enemy had stolen several trucks from them. I assumed that the FO on ground knew what he was doing and tanks were captured equipment. After.."

"Tenente, you know that trucks being stolen was malicious rumour spread to confuse our troops?"

"Eh, sir, I.."

"Tenente Zepeda, you did not attack our own troops, why?"

"Sir, As soon as I saw several green smokes, I assumed a trap. I made a fly by and saw that at least one smoke was amongst own tanks. So I made another pass, identified another target and bombed them. I also tried to signal to Andri that he would abort the attack."

"Was it obvious that tanks were friendly?"

"Sir, they had all our own air id flags and did not fire back. Plus they were attacking from the direction our own troops were supposed to come from. So I just assumed there was a SNAFU."

"Tenente Roma, you assumed the command of the pinning force after captain went down. Would you please tell us what happened then?"

"Sir, the blasted plane made few more passed at us, wiping out most of our infantry support. As the command was to advance at all cost, I pushed a half platoon forward after our mortar barrage had landed and used the rest of the tanks to keep enemy heads down. As expected, enemy infantry counterattacked the exposed half platoon and managed to damage both tanks, so they had to withdraw. At this point tenente Frederico signalled a general withdrawal, so I pulled my tanks back and kept enemy down with machine gun fire."

Half platoon tries to overrun infantry, withdraws after a rain of grenades. British plays commit reserves from the flank.

Half platoon tries to overrun infantry, withdraws after a rain of grenades. British plays commit reserves from the flank.

"Tenente Frederic, would you please let us know what happened to the flanking force?"

Recons finds a concealed AA position.

Recons finds a concealed AA position.

"Sir, we took the force over the wadi via the route marked by the recon. The recon then mounted again and covered our left flank, while we pushed towards the low hill overlooking enemy position. At some point recon uncovered enemy AA position and for some reason charged it directly. This worked as well as could be expected and the AA gun cut them to ribbons, fortunately the survivors were able to suppress the gun from a safe position. Meanwhile, my men knocked out enemy AT gun with some damn nice long range rifle fire and then advanced to the hill crest. We uncovered an enemy dug in platoon - quite many of them in the area, particularly as enemy was supposed to have 2 platoons in the area. We gave as good as we took, waiting for the 100mm to land. At this point the battalion gave the signal to abort the attack. Impossible to say if we could have taken the enemy position, but at least the follow-up attack by the 2nd company reported that enemy position was well and truly hammered by us and arty by the time they arrived."

Yet another platoon of Sikhs.

Yet another platoon of Sikhs.

"Thank you, gentlemen."

The End

The End

Like one participant said, Italian air force guaranteed that both sides won a bloody victory. British forces stopped the Italian advance and Italian air superiority stopped Italian tanks cold. This was due to two things happening in the campaign:  (a) the British player acquired information that Italians used green smoke to denote priority air targets and (b) Italian recon did not communicate very well to higher ups. So an enemy position with two identified dug in platoons and some AT assets, plus two inbound truck borne platoons became two platoons in total. This led to situation that in manpower alone defender actually outmanned attacker. Of course he was still sorely lacking in AT power.

Attacker had a reasonably solid plan of utilizing air assets to maximum and then pinning the enemy from front while rolling up the flank. This failed as the pinning force got a bit too greedy and advanced after losing the infantry cover - two lead tanks had to withdraw after a spirited close assault by the Sikhs. Few more rounds of mg fire and this probably would have fared much better - time was on the Italian side, as British player had no AT assets to speak of.

On the flank, the recon platoon was bit to eager for glory and frontally charged enemy AA position without any suppressive fire. They were cut to ribbons, as expected by everybody else. Otherwise the flank attack worked ok, they took more damage than they dished out, but the arty was hitting squarely on the defenders when command to abort came.

This time the Brits had a more forward defence and it cost them dearly, as infantry had very few tools to deal with even light armoured cars, let alone tanks. The lone AT gun made a brave effort, but was knocked out by a lucky 17 almost immediately.

Brits are still holding their position, but Italians are launching another attack to turn the flank.