The scout platoon from the 15th Punjab had constructed a hasty forward defence line between sea and dry lagoon in the Ras Gaan narrows. The road has been dug open to make enemy wary of mines; and a platoon, along with a reinforced squad of local infantry, had been dug in. A single Vickers held their seaside flank and an FO with 3" mortar was hidden by the hillside (unfortunately the initial bomb run apparently cut the phone line, as FO never took part in the game. On the other hand, the FO was the reason why the Italians were not allowed any Blinds).
The Brits had no heavy equipment so their whole AT capacity consisted of one HMG, one ancient Lewis gun LMG and two nearly useless Boyes AT Rifles. Every section also had one grenade bundle prepared. Their enemy had a full autosahariana company with multiple cannons of varying calibres, a platoon of armoured cars, and light bomber, so it was not a fair game at any point. The Brits were tasked to inflict as many casualties as possible and then withdraw before their own casualties became too heavy. Their plan was to stall the Italian attack on both flanks and funnel them to a narrow pass where 3" mortar would wreak havoc amongst the enemy's softskinned vehicles. It almost worked...
Capitano Peppone's personal diary, 9.8.1940, 1435hrs
"After sending the motorcycle messenger back towards battalion, I gave my company a command to advance best possible speed along the shoreline. Afternoon sun from clear African sky was bright and hard. Despite driving as fast as we could, not even wind gave any respite from the heat. But my brave company looked as glorious as ever! On the left side, Dabehshin hills rose sharply and menacingly. I am quite sure that the menace was not only of poetic kind, as occasional movement was reported. It was a perfect spot for an artillery observer and I am quite sure Johnny Englishman was following us while sipping his tea.
"Tenente Albertini's plane came back from the sea on schedule to start the attack with a diversion. Previously reported truck were no longer in sight, but he started a bombing run around the place where infantry was last sighted. Hard to gauge the effect, but at least the dust clouds were impressive and the improvised AA fire stopped as soon as the first bomb detonated.
"Terrain along the coastline was broken, with small hills and piles of rock along the tideline. With careful driving my trucks were able to keep up good speed and no problems were reported. It was Masell's platoon at point that had the privilege of reporting finding the enemy dug in along the rocks. Well planned fields of fire, deeply dug positions and sharp fire control told me immediately that these were not some ragged Somaliland volunteers! Based on the volume of fire and availability of support weapons I would say we faced at least a platoon of Indian regulars: our little venture was in danger of stalling even before we were airborne!
"Fortunately young Mellini quickly gathered his wits and returned fire with everything and the kitchen sink. 20mm Bredas were reported to be particularly effective in suppressing enemy troops. To be fair, this far I have been quite sceptical about the autoblinda platoon given to me. These things, painted with gaudy colonial police patterns have been shambling along with not a spark of initiative shown this far.. So my surprise was great but welcome when they handled themselves well, charging to fray without second thought! They took position besides Mellini's braves returning fire with the best of my men. They might be good men after all.
"I ordered Viesell's platoon to join the battle from the inland side, with the supply platoon using them as cover. Adriano would cover the road and act as left flank security. I myself stayed slightly back to coordinate fire, acting as a local reserve. Enemy was now receiving fire from a broad front and had to hug their foxholes tightly. I must say that their ability to return fire even against odds was impressive - particularly the Vickers machine gun kept returning fire despite losing several men.
"The rocks in the middle created a natural obstacle and despite my best efforts, the traffic jam was soon looking familiarly Roman, with heavy supply trucks honking horns and gun trucks zigzagging between them. Johnny Englishman did not hesitate to use this to his unfair advantage and light mortar rounds were soon dropping amongst the trucks. Mother of God was favourable towards us and enemy did not have anything heavier, as even a salvo or two from proper artillery section would have ended in tears and blood. Even then, enemy light mortar knocked out AS37 belonging to Giorgi and our radio truck is now very well ventilated - mercifully the precious radio equipment was spared.
"Along the tideline, our nickel infused lunch was finally convincing the enemy infantry that their position was untenable. We were not able to count their casualties, but I am sure they left as many men behind as we lost. From the roadside we received only sporadic fire from long range, so it looks like the bomb run took their will to fight. Good old Albertini!
"Price of valour, like always, was heavy. One man paid the heaviest price and four more were injured. Giorgi's truck was a total loss and we had to destroy two more damaged trucks, so that they would not fall to enemy hands, as our own orders were to bypass all defences. We have now passed the purgatory and are heading towards the dark valley, behind the enemy lines. I hope we can keep our cool and keep the Johnny Englishman and has Indian lackeys busy, otherwise everything has been in vain."
It was a unfair game, being part of a campaign. The Italians were trying to break through with minimal casualties while the Sikhs and their supports wanted to cause as much havoc as possible. Small table as defender was in well camouflaged position and waited as long as they could. End result was a minor victory to the Italians, as the British forces were unable to cause many casualties despite a good try. Several trucks were abandoned, but the big men were able to de-suppress the crews and they went on their merry way again. It would have been completely different if the defenders FO card would have come up even once, as their plan otherwise worked well. Oh, the beauty of the card driven system!