Following the heroic assault of the Australian position last week we went back in time to the turning point in the Desert. We also used the opportunity to test out some of our systems to create and randomise our forces in the Desert. More importantly, this was the first full scale outing of the Italians.
The scenario: a Jock column, led by the redoubtable Major F. Alouicious T'Walliver and his occasional companion Captain Clivey attacked an Italian bastion in Tripolitania. The position was held by elements of the now famous Casino Monaco Division in approximately battalion strength. Our action was at the key point of attack, a corner of the sprawling camp.
The table, running left to right saw the Italian position across around 1/2 the table with a > shaped corner of the camps perimeter edging into the right hand desert wastes. At the far right a low ridge hid the main advance of the Brits. At the apex of the V the Brits new there was a pillbox with perhaps two more along each axis. The perimeter, a low ditch and berm was more designed to keep out camels than the 8th Army and only troops adjacent to it would be afforded any cover. Outside of a few clumps of brush, little if any cover was available:
Inside the camp I knew I had 1 infantry platoon (poor), under the command of Captain Corebelly (of Mandarin fame), a machine gun platoon and 2 Guns, one infantry, one Anti-Tank. The central bunker on the V held one HMG and behind it an AT gun. The other MMGs were two the rear of dummy bunkers on the berm. The Infantry Guns crew were in a building close to their position and a mortar was in place on top of the hill. A squadron of CV33's were hidden in barracks at the top rear of the position.
I had an FO (prepared position) controlling 4 75mm guns in the centre of the camp and had pre plotted 3 strike zones.
I could then roll D6 +2 for reinforcements. These were then randomly allocated from a chart Id drawn up, I got 6. This chart is on the bottom of this mail. We felt it would be more fun to wait and see what these were until they had come onto the table and could be spotted. I was less than pleased when I did know!
Kev (if I remember rightly) had elected to use the Jock Strap On rules for his force. He had a Command section, 1 infantry platoon, an HMG platoon and a mortar unit. An additional Infantry platoon and a squadron of 3 Crusaders rounded this force out. By using the "Desert is a tough place" factors almost all of his units suffered losses. With no effective artillery and few infantry, this would be a considerable feat.
Kev adds "The lack of decent artillery support meant that the only way to take the camp was to get in there quickly. If Clive and I had decided to stand off and try to shoot with our mortars and HMGs the Italian artillery would eventually home in on us and that would be it. Our only real hope was to use fire to pin the enemy, thereby affecting their firing ability and to put them to the cold steel!"
Kev's late arrivals would come on from move 4. For him, this was lucky as I pulled the Teabreak (Chianti Siesta?) three times from the first ten chips!
My own reinforcements arrived quickly, without knowing what they were I moved them into positions 3 on each side. My blinds cards came up quickly and I moved one of the new blinds up to the unoccupied top bunker area on the axis, another into buildings the rest into positions on the crest. I received 2 guns (great), a tank section (3 M13/40's), a small very poor infantry unit of cooks and mechanics, one blind and nothing!
Luckily I'd placed the 2 gun cards either on the ridge or in the barracks area. On the far side, beside the tanks, I had nothing!
My initial moves also saw me move the CV33's towards the wire to skirmish with any Brits that might come over the open ground. The remainder spotted.
The Brits had pushed their mortars into some scrub at the base of one of the hills and scouted with blinds. We began a desultory duel between the HMG in the central Bunker (a lovely Timecast piece) and the Mortars. This would continue almost all game.
With little going on I thought I was ok until both the British Blinds and then Recce cards came up. Sprinting across the table the Teabreak revealed two infantry platoons less than a jog away from the berm, almost unscathed!
The Imperial buggers even moved their HMG's onto the other hill to pin my camp.
The M13/40's were opposite their berm facing a full platoon as were the light tanks. Right then the Crusaders appeared!
Our early blinds moves had allowed us to move all the guns into position, 2 AT and 2 Field guns against 3 tanks, plus our own armour - well the game was ours wasn't it?
The next moves saw Kev and Clive pin my 3 MG bunkers skirmishing forward to the berm with their infantry. Encouraged by their big men they jostled for position. My guns missed everything! The Crusaders and M13's slugged it out for 3 turns, we destroyed one in a flash of flame and hate, then were riddled in return. One brave crew held on all game despite 2 permanent disablements and a jammed turret.
My pre-ranged artillery began to pick off the attackers. There was wire and a small minefield around the first bunker and wire in front of the two others forming channels and I'd placed fire in front of these channels before the game.
Sadly it wasn't enough. Clive pushed his men on. A brave sergeant rushed the light tanks around the berm smashing one of their machine guns forcing it off table. The two AT Rifle tracks made for the Crusaders to extract revenge. My forward troops also suffered from the barrage and soon we were broken in the front line.
It looked dicey for the Brits. I had an infantry platoon dug into the centre, 3 functioning guns and a scratch blocking force in the barracks still left. Then all hell broke loose.
The Brits on the far side under Kev rounded the tanks, killed a remaining machine gunner and set off to outflank my position. Their only threat, a blind.
On Clivey's side a rash assault that was several dice too short saw one of his infantry squads caught in the open and butchered by the brave Italian squaddies.
Our mortar pinned some of his men but he was now under our artillery and free to move.
Clive is a quick learner and brought up his HMGs. In combination with the mortars and the infantry now holding Italian dug outs the Casino Division now stuck to their name and collected dice. The Italians are very brittle and with only Captain Corebelly, who was a little confused, their effectiveness dwindled quickly.
My guns remained in an unequal contest with the remaining Crusaders, managing not to hit one of them all game.
Now pinned the Brits big men really showed. They brought their squads back up to strength and a series of violent assaults saw the cooks routed, a gun overrun and the other flank penetrated.
At this point we realised that the Italians could do more to secure a Fascist victory by using up British Transport and rations as Prisoners of War that as mere combatants.
It had, after all been a hard fought victory for the Brits, losing nearly 1/2 of their infantry and one tank. The Eyeties, however, proved that they are a one shot weapon if the opposition brings his force to bear and a couple of casualties giving only one dice will not put up an effective threat for long.
Kev adds "We took an awful lot of punishment from Max's pre-logged in artillery. Most of our casualties came from this. Unfortunately, wherever we seemed to be the chip for that location turned up. I also threw away a section by advancing through what turned out to be a minefield. Clive threw away a section when, on my advice, he tried to assault an artillery piece and failed to roll enough PIPs to close. A nearby Italian MG then had him as a 'great' target.
Our redeeming feature was that our troops had six Big Men to Max's one. Plus our British were able to remove wounds using their 'Rally' , and Big Men, whereas Max's boys were unable to do so and quickly lost the initiative to be able to reply. We finished the game with all our Big Men standing - extremely rare for me as I like to lead from the front!
The effect of our pinning fire had a massive effect upon Italian MGs which never seemed to get a clear shot in on us except when pinned, moving them into the next range category"
And Captain Corebelly? Well, afraid for the safety of his Mandarin, he tried to save the day by rushing to a field gun to see off the closest Crusader.
Suffice to say he missed so badly that the only decent thing seemed to be to surrender.
The CV33's have earned a great sobriquet, Kev's advice to Clive was to "treat them like wasp's, ignore them and they wont hurt anybody". And sadly, he was right.
Will we get our revenge, Si! Si! and again Si! Andiamo et avanti! (I think).
Kev: "Not a hope mate! The Italian's are by far the worst troops I've ever seen in IABSM. Very, very brittle indeed. Without a helluva lot of luck I can't see them winning many games. That said they're very good fun to fight with, and against. I'm just glad we didn't face the DAK they would have crucified us.
I look forward to a re-match upon return from the USA."
Max (with italicised comments from Kev)