One of my favourite scenarios from the Operation Compass scenario pack is Tobruk 3: the Australian assault on the El Gubbi airfield. Although I had seen the scenario played at the recent TFL Tobruk Day, I'd never actually played it myself, so when Neil rang and said he'd suddenly become free for a quick game, it seemed the obvious one to play.
The scenario involves a company of Australian infantry attempting to take the airfield from its defenders: two sections of Italian infantry and four 20mm flak guns in weapon pits. The Australians enter from the edge parallel to the main road, the Italians start the game under on-table Blinds. The airstrip itself was totally flat and featureless: a killing ground that for our game I outlined with barbed wire and hedges, not as obstacles but as indicators of where the flat bits started and ended. The rest of the terrain was also largely flat, but rough enough to provide decent cover for prone infantry.
The Australians began their assault swiftly: Blinds appearing rapidly on the other side of the road. Two platoons of infantry were soon spotted by the Italians: one provided a base of fire from the rough ground at the edge of the road whilst the other, backed up by another Blind, looped around the flank of a nearby hill. The nearest Italian AA gun opened up, but with little effect, as the Australians were pressed into the dirt or behind the crest of the hill, only the odd bush hat showing where they were!
The three crew of the first Italian gun were quickly dispatched. On the Italian right, the unspotted Australian Blind moved further onto the flank of the airfield buildings, and another Blind moved up to take control of the bunker where the first Italian gun had been.
Unfortunately for the Australians, there was an hitherto unspotted squad of Italian infantry in the lean to next door, who spotted their enemy and then opened fire. Their target turned out to be the Australian Company HQ which, unwisely, was operating far to the front of their main body. Although not many casualties were inflicted on the Aussie command element, they were effectively shocked into immobility for the next phase of the game.
The other Italian infantry squad and another 20mm autocannon also revealed themselves, inflicting a couple of casualties on the Aussie's behind the crest of the hill.
Obviously keen to get to grips with their opponents, the Aussie troops just charged forward, careless of the consequences. The "back" platoon laid down covering fire with two of its sections and sent the third one in to assault the enemy infantry squad molesting its HQ; and both "up" platoons charged forward: mostly at the other Italian infantry squad, with one section going for the other Italian AA gun.
Unsurprisingly, all three charges were successful, and the Italians...well, they just fled! Both infantry squads headed out the back door as fast as they could, shock and awe oozing from every pore; and the other autocannon crew surrendered from the effects of casualties and a pin.
The Italian retreat continued, their infantry still carrying way more shock points than their Big Man could swiftly heal.
Finally, however, the Italian secret weapon arrived! Five medium tanks entered the table from the far end, and quickly fanned out to defend the last remaining autocannon.
Unfortunately, only a turn or so later, the Australians' secret weapon appeared: two British-crewed Matilda tanks! Worse than that, the Australian CO had finally remembered that he had a battery of 25-pounders tasked to support him, their first barrage (arriving perfectly to order) landing on the three Italian tanks heading for the Matildas, crippling one that must have taken a direct hit, and severely shocking the others!
Although a few overeager Australian infantrymen were shot up as they attempted to follow up their initial success across the open ground of the airstrip, the result of the battle was really now a foregone conclusion. The Matildas shrugged off any Italian tank shells, and calmly picked off the Italian tanks one by one. The only good thing to come out of their arrival was the fact that I got to use my "tank on fire" markers for the first time...lots of them in fact!
It had been a cracking battle: very exciting despite the fairly small forces involved. Looking at the clock, we were amazed to see that we had fought the whole game from first chip drawn to final Italian surrender in only 2½ hours, and neither of us felt at all short-changed either: IABSMv3 has once again proved its worth!