The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Month: June 1999 (page 2 of 3)

Apr 1941

Apr I

British – A colonial construction unit and Australian engineers begin construction of forts at Halafaya (a sure sign of impending doom commented the Italian commander) while the 3rd Arm X destroyed the airfield at Derna. More bombing raids are conducted on Bengasi – this time German Me 110Ds intercept and sent one Blen 4 spiralling out of control and on fire into the Abort box. The other gets through and causes more damage to Bengasi.

Axis – At Vichy in France, Marshal Petain summons the German Ambassador to a meeting. Citing numerous British outrages against France, he offers the full and unqualified support of Vichy forces operating in the Levant region. Germany and their Italian allies may operate in and out of Syria and Lebanon without restriction, and furthermore, if needed, may base troops in the region to support any efforts in Iraq and Iran. British outrage is loud and prolonged and authorisation is given from Whitehall to CinC Middle east to take any and all measures to crush this threat to British control over the Near East. The CinC ME is heard to mutter to the Commander Western Desert Field Forces “With what shall I crush this threat?!” (Rolled snake eyes for full Levant participation, a pleasant experience as its the first time this has happened for me in WitD). In the highlands west of Derna, British tank units are awoken at dawn by the low throb of advancing enemy tanks. The Italians and the attached 21 Pz XX hit the defenders hard, pushing them back in disarray. (3:1 -1 terrain = DR)

In exploitation, the 21 Pz XX runs around the southern flank of the British force to seize Derna and heads towards Ain el Gazala.

Apr II

British – Mass panic breaks out amongst the leading allied troops. The units based on the 7th Arm XX attack 21 Pz XX from the east while the AS 7th XX and odds and sods attacks out of Tobruk from the west. The panzers stand fast against this threat and turn aside the weak allied thrust. (3:2, -4 ATEC, +2 AECA = AS) Elsewhere the 4th Indian cadre returns from Ethiopia and is railed to Matruh while a transport unit heads to Palestine where much shouting and swearing is going on between border guards and the French.

Axis – The Italian CinC orders a massive attack on those units based on the 7th Arm XX surrounded west of Gazala. In a fierce battle, the plucky British give their best before being swallowed up by the mass of German armour and Italian tankettes. The Ariete XX is roughly handled and the 10B III lost while the whole British force goes in the bag – being isolated from other British units, not one tank or soldier is able to escape to friendly lines (No special RPs generated – aww shucks!) (3:1 AECA/AECD cancels each other = HX)

In a follow on from the successful attack, the 21 Pz and 102 Trento XXs with mechanised/motorised odds and sods swing south to south of Tobruk and glare threateningly at Halafaya.

 

Mar 1941

Mar I

British – Reinforcements form up in the Delta, the NZ 2nd at Port Said, the Australian 7th at Alexandria and the Poles in Haifa. The MNDBO is sent to Tobruk and there is a general shuffling of units around Barce and Mechili on preparation for expected troop withdrawals to Greece.

Italian – The HQ of the 21st Pz XX is returned by Malta based forces to Europe. Other Axis reinforcements arrive in North Africa and are shuttled by coastal steamer to Bengasi or begin marching up the long road of the Gulf of Sirte.

Mar II

British – Troops for Greece are removed, leaving a sad pathetic number of stacks on the board. CinC Middle east begins a telegram war with Whitehall and the War Office, all to no avail. A shuffling of stacks continues as the desperate British try and organise a cohesive defence line. Bengasi is again the target of the RAF, but the strong AA in the city returns one Blenheim to base while the desperate crews of the remaining bombers drop their loads accurately onto the port facilities, damaging them further, hopefully soon this annoying life line for the 10th Army and attached Germans will be broken.

Italian – The 21 Pz HQ arrives in Bengasi. In consultation with the CinC 10th Army, the Axis forces advance to contact the British, putting pressure on them and limiting their movement points available. A plan so cunning that painting it red would make it a fox is obviously germinating in the fertile mind of the Italian commander.

AUG I 1938

NATIONALIST AUG I 1938

Having cleared the Loyalisy Segre bridgehead at Lerida, the Nationalists got down to the hard work of trying to bulldoze their way into the “iron shield” main Catalan defense line that runs practically straight from Reus to the Sant Maurici mountains in the high Pyrenees (13:2927). They opted for a narrow-front attack out of their own bridgehead at the confluence of the Segre and Ebro rivers (13:3030). Both sides provided maximum air support, the Insurgents even diverting all of their bombers except the Savoia-Marchettis from their missions against Valencia. An attempt by Me-109s to intercept the Republicans ended in disaster (K by lowly old I-15), but at least this sacrifice kept the Ratas from interfereing with Insurgent ground support. The attack gained ground as far as Les Borges (13:3029), but, as so often before, the Loyalists managed to avoid any losses.

All other front sectors saw only minor reshuffling of troops.

The Barcelona red-eye continued, but remained ineffective. The diversion of much of the Nationalist bomber force to ground support in Cataluna presented Valencia with a welcome respite from the constant heavy air raids: Only a few SM-79s bombed the dock yards, but without causing significant damage.

LOYALIST AUG I 1938

Not daring to risk a possibly disastrous counterattack, the Loyalists contented themselves with shoring up their front and containing the bulge. Their position is still very strong: One of the two hexes flanking the bulge is a mountain hex, the other is shielded on two hex sides by the Segre river.

While the ground troops played their waiting game, the airforce bestirred itself to launch an attack on the Caspe airbase (13:3332), but with no success—and no losses to anti-aircraft fire either.

COMMENTARY

Another major Insurgent attack that caused no losses! To add insult to injury, Me-109 killed by I-15 (die rolls “12” and “2”), not even to mention the open French border and the lack of results of the air raids on Barcelona and Valencia. And soon the good campaign weather will end!

At least, the “iron line” east of Lerida has been dented (there was a small chance of AS and a minuscule one of AH), and this will stretch the Loyalist front. However, with only this one-hex break in the first line, two more lines to crack to get within 3 hexes of Barcelona, and summer almost over, chances of ending the campaign in 1938 now appear slim.

Only once, about 30 years ago, have I seen a greater streak of enduring luck. That was by a Wehrmacht opponent in an old pbm *Narvik* game, for whom at one time the probability of doing as well as he did dipped below 1 in 100,000 (needless to say, my Norwegians lost). Still a little more than a factor 100 to go to beat that record, Elias!

Well, I shouldn’t complain because this has kept the game going on for so long when both of us expected it to be over in the next few turns.

And another benefit: for lack of options to consider, our pace has picked up tremendously.

JUL II 1938

The war has been raging for two years. Loyalists control has been reduced to the city of Valencia and a small triangle in Cataluna, about 5 percent of Spain’s territory. Nevertheless, there is stalemate with no end in sight.

INSURGENT JUL II 1938

Finally, Lerida has fallen! The hapless and hopeless defenders were overwhelmed by a concentric attack. However, they fulfilled their mission of buying another two weeks of time for the defense of the Segre position.

Farther north, the Nationalists followed up on the Loyalist retreat and closed to the new defense line. No attacks were launched here.

The main action this time was at the coast. Here, the Insurgents attacked along the coast road with support from the Regia Marina, their own Navy, and fighter bombers. Against stiff resistance the Nationalists reached the halfway point between Tortosa and Reus, but once again the Loyalists managed to retreat without taking losses. Dogfights in the air, where Me-109s and Italian Fiats tried to challenge the massive Loyalist air support, saw some CR-32bs and Ratas go down in flames.

The ring around Valencia was tightened, but no attacks on the city were attempted.

Many of the weaker infantry divisions were pulled out of the line. With so short a frontage, there is no longer any use for them.

A massive raid on Valencia’s port caused minor damage (1 hit) and the Barcelona red-eye (SM-81 night bombers) destroyed some industrial facilities.

LOYALIST JUL II 1938

Sitting pretty, the Loyalists did no more than make a few adjustments to their now exceedingly strong front and to pull three Guardia de Asalto brigades out of the line in preparation for assembly of an elite divsion. Even General Miaja has become more sanguine, has even been reported to smile while looking at the situation maps.

COMMENTARY

The Loyalists’ phenomenal luck still continues: another major attack with close to 50% chance of inflicting losses failed to do so, and Insurgent bombing results again well below statistical expectation, French border remained open, guerrilleros succeeded, no one in Valencia surrendered. Yes, Lerida has fallen, but to a 7:1 attack with result guaranteed, and the loss of the coastal hex near Tortosa will not have serious consequences.

Our game is turning stale. The Loyalists in Cataluna now hold a front with only 3 non-mountain hexes, all entrenched, none attackable from more than 2 adjacent hexes of which one or both are cross-river. With 20 to 23CF per hex, the strongest possible Insurgent attacks can achieve 3:1 odds only with lucky percentile rolls. Against the four mountain hexes of the front the odds are even worse. Two back-up lines with only slightly lesser natural obstacles are by now largely fortified or entrenched. There is no room for maneuver, no opportunity for finesse. All the Insurgents can do is keep attacking despite poor odds and hope the occasional HX or EX results will cause more casualties than the Loyalists can replace, and so wear them down eventually. With almost 200 Inf and about 20 Art replacement points accrued, the Insurgents need not fear even AH results and so can risk poor odds. The Loyalists have no choices either: Attacks are out of question as they would consume precious supplies and possibly entail losses. Moreover, an advance upon success of an attack would only be into a more exposed position and invite losses. Even to follow up on Insurgent AH or AR results, the Loyalists would have to stick their neck out, possibly into a noose.

Thanks to their unbelievable luck in avoiding losses to this point, the Loyalists now have enough reserves to make up for the losses in the first three exchange results, reinforcements and replacement will be coming in at a slow but steady pace, and and the end of good weather approaches and will make Insurgent attacks impossible. How the game will go on now depends exclusively on the Insurgent die rolls in their major attacks.

What a shame that this memorable match has to degenerate into a mindless die-rolling contest as it approaches its end. This is not necessarily a critique of the design, however. With less lopsided die rolls than we have seen, the Loyalists are quite unlikely to have much strength left if they ever are reduced to this last patch of Catalan territory. Yet, our experience seems to reveal a viable and practically unbeatable Loyalist strategy to stave off capitulation when things go awry, and so avoid a substantial or decisive Insurgent victory: fortify this line in Cataluna with improved forts, stack ample ASPs at Barcelona (for conversion to GSPs when the French border is closed), see to it that the strongest units retain a path of retreat into the stronghold, and just let the rest of Spain go to hell in a handbasket as slowly as possible.

Last time I commented on some strange facets of the port rules as interpreted by our guru. Meanwhile John Astell was so kind to send me explanations. The guru rulings indeed correspond to what John intended, but in any future game that will have natural harbor(s) and the “functioning” concept, there will be a special rule for the latter.

 

Feb 1941

Feb I

British – Supplies and the HQ 9th AS XX arrive at Tobruk. Italian special forces (disguised as camel herder’s) observe a general shuffling of units around Mechili and Derna. Obviously they are preparing for a second offensive to sweep the brave Italian forces out from Bengasi but are awaiting supplies to arrive.

Italian – Running the gauntlet of Allied naval superiority in the region, Italian forces land at Bengasi – the Ariete XX heads for Barce while the 102 Trento XX heads to Zaulet Msus, joining the first of the Tripoli reinforcements in the form of the 25th Bol XX. Surviving Italian units from the 10th Army (a couple of Lt Arm Xs, the 64th XX fall back also to this area. Over Malta, the AA fire is fierce and three groups of bombers call off their bombing runs with the remaining forces inflicting a single hit in the island.

Feb II

British – More supplies land at Tobruk. In a bold move, the 7th Arm XX and three Aussie brigades head north through the stony desert and hills to join in an attack by the 2nd Arm XX and 6th XX on the Barce defenders. The Italians call on their German allies for air support and a violent dog fight occurs in the skies overhead, with Hurricanes and Me 110Ds scrapping it out. The LW is successful in maintaining a presence over the battlefield and causes the odds to tilt slightly in favour of the defence. In a whirling battle of tanks and artillery, the fresh strength of the Ariete XX supported by dive bombers beats off the British and in local counter attacks forces them back beyond their start lines. (2:1 +2AECA, -2AECD, -1 rough = AR) While the ground battle rages, the Allied commander appears to have decided to destroy Bengasi from the air and a Blen 4 port attack savages the port for a hit. AA fire is very ineffective (rolled a 12). At Mechili, the newly converted 22 Guards join W Arty X and the officers talk about polo and classical Greek translations.

Obviously non-plussed by the slap in the face they received at Barce, the British mechanised units wander about aimlessly in their hexes. An Italian staff officer under a white flag spends several hours driving some British Armoured Corp officers over some back trails and gleefully points out the port of Bengasi, defended by some positional AA crews and a goat herder with a shotgun. (The Allied player chose not to use his armoured units in the exploitation segment and I had great delight in pointing out to him my absolute error of leaving Bengasi unguarded. I had kittens throughout the allied turn thinking he would spot my stuff up, but with him concentrating exclusively on Barce and the fact he used all his immediately available AS for the attack, he overlooked the gap and I got away with poor gameplay purely by luck. It was delightful to see his face crumple when I pointed it out to him…..hee hee hee!)

Italian – With the daring planned gamble of leaving Bengasi unguarded having paid off, Axis reinforcements enter Bengasi by sea, with only one unit returned to Europe. A quick shuffling of units and the front is soundly defended. Intelligence sources indicate that the Allies will soon be withdrawing some key units to Greece and preparation is made to make to most of this in a rejuvenated Italian offensive.

 

Jan 1941

Jan I

British – A new year and a new attack by the British. Bardia is overrun by Australian British troops, capturing valuable supplies to allow the offensive to continue. The 7th Arm and 6th AS XXs attack and destroy the Tobruk garrison, supported by the RAF bombers. (4:1 -1 = DR). these RAF forces occupy the airfield south of Tobruk.

In the exploitation segment, the newly formed up 2nd Armoured XX crosses the border to threaten the Italians who remain south of Ain el Gazala.

Italian – In answer to his desperate appeals for aid, more Italian units arrive at Bengasi. particularly surprising is the arrival of Luftwaffe Me110D fighters at Bengasi. It seems the Germans are concerned for their Italian allies. JU 87Bs make the Med crossing to Tripoli and begin rebasing to the main conflict zone. Above Malta, a devastating attack by Italian and German bombers is made, but plucky AA fire sends two bombers back to base, their bombs undropped. Only one hit is scored against the island. In Iraq, on a moonlit airstrip near Mosul, an unmarked recon plane lands following a long journey through Russia and Iran. Disembarking is a team of German Abwehr agents, entrusted with the mission of provoking simmering Iraqi resentment at British interference to boiling point. Over the next few months they will work in Basra, Baghdad, Kirkuk and other areas to set the Near East alight……

The 2AC Mot Art III is sent to Derna to provide desperately needed support for the defenders. A line is beginning to be built which hopefully will slow the British. At Mechili, the 1 and 2 Lt Arm Xs join the defenders that include the 64th XX, 3 Arm II and 22C Art III.

Jan II

British – Supplies are moved by sea to Tobruk and supplies captured at Bardia are used to assault Mechili and Derna. the 2nd Arm and 6th XX’s hit Derna with RN gunfire support but to the great joy of the Axis and disgust of the Allies, the Italians are only pushed out of the town. (5:1 -2 AECD/terrain = DR) As the Italians retreat they meet up with the 6th and 21st Arm IIs, making them stronger still. At Mechili, the 7th Arm XX and assorted AS Xs and arty support slam into the defenders. They easily destroy the Libyans but the elusive Lt Armoured forces elude their grasp and the Allies can only satisfy themselves with occupation of the town and half the defenders. (7:1 -1 AECD = DH!!)

In the exploitation phase, the 2nd Armour pushes past the Italians retreating from Derna to advance towards Barce. The Italians can only watch from the distance in frustration as the tanks speed past in a cloud of dust. (Gotta love reduced ZOCs!)

Italian – Units outside Derna retreat towards Barce, marrying up with the 3rd Lt Arm III while overhead Luftwaffe units fly fighter and dive bomber cover. A series of telegrams is exchanged between Rome and Bengasi. The 10th Army CinC is wondering wether it would be permissible to withdraw to El Aghelia and abandon the remnants of eastern Libya, but Il Duce is adamant ‘stand and die’ in position while supporting units (marching along the coast from Tripoli) arrive to turn the tables on the impudent British and their colonial bandits! Stiffened by such resolve, the CinC awards himself a medal and determines to fight it out…….

 

Dec 1940

Dec I

The planned “raid” by WDF is unleashed. Moving swiftly from their positions around Matruh, and despite the best Italian planning, a motley crew of 10REs worth of Indians, Brits Aussies and Frenchmen slam into a Libyan and Italian force, supported by an armoured II and Artillery. The Italians are forced back by Brits, but remain a cohesive fighting force. (3:1, AECA/AECD cancels each other out, DR result)

In the regular turn, the whole of the Allied force around Matruh lunges forward. The 7th Armoured XX and 22nd *X fight an inconclusive battle in attempting to drive to the sea and pin the Italians into a pocket. (1:1 +2 AECA = AS). Along the coast line west of Sidi Barrani, a battlegroup under the control of the 4th Indian XX with Aust. Brigades, Tank battalions and Frenchmen under the cover of guns from the Royal Navy hit the 2nd Lib, 63rd Cir XX and odds and sods for six, but the Indians and French suffer heavy casualties in clearing them from the battlefield. (2:1 = EX). From Alexandria, the Australian 6th HQ and odds and sods force march along the coast to Matruh (no rail available for Dec I turn).

In the exploitation phase, the 7th Armoured and motorised 22 *X swing south behind the Italian line to threaten Halafaya.

Feeling pretty pleased with weathering the initial British attack for fairly minimal losses, the Axis commander announces a readjustment of his lines, drawing his frontline out of Egypt into Libya. Halafaya is garrisoned by retreating Italian units and in a replay of the previous movements by the British, the motorised Libyans and Italian Lt Arm Xs swing south behind the 7th Arm XX before swinging north to block any sudden thrust to Tobruk. CR 42 fighters rebase to the port city and over Malta bombers inflict two hits on the facilities and structures supporting the RNs interdiction campaign.

Dec II

The western desert of Egypt is awash with dust clouds and a mass of units make exploitation movement to reach the frontier. The AS 6th XX forms up west of Sidi Barrani while in a devastating attack by the infantry and tanks of WDF on the Italian infantry and paratroopers at Halafaya vaporises the Axis units totally. (2:1 +2 AECA =DE. 11 defence factors hit the replacement pool).

In a follow up to this attack, the 7th Armoured exploits through to the airfield at 4818 just south of Tobruk while the 22 *X motors along to Ain el Gazala, trapping a mass of units around Bardia and Tobruk.

A great gnashing of teeth is heard from deep within 10th Army HQ in the underground bunker at Bengasi! Nothing lies between the 22 *X and the port until the 10B Mot. III and 5th Arm II arrives at the port from Italy. The Italian airforce at Tobruk flees the doomed city and flies to Soluch and Agadebia, leaving the CCNN “3G” XX to man the trenches with the garrison troops. Expending valuable supplies, the 64thXX and 3rd Arm II attack the defenders of Ain el Gazala but dogged defence prevents any significant breakthrough. (1:1 +1 AECA = AS). The motorised forces remaining in 10th Army (Libyans and Lt Arm with attached 22C Art III) swing south into the desert to avoid the British and end up south of Ain el Gazala. Above Malta, bombers continue their reign of terror, inflicting another two hits on the island.

Following up from this, the 10B mot III moves to Derna and 1 and 2 Lib Mot III head to Mechili.

Nov 1940

Nov I

A general reorganisation of the front line – 7th Armoured reorganised astroops sent to Greece. The Malta convoy of supplies and Cheshires getsthrough untouched by Italian pilots who fail to locate them. Blenheims andWellingtons attack Tobruk, but the build up in AA is effective. One wing ofBlen 1s are shot to pieces, scattering the desert sands outside the portwith wreckage. The other Blenheims and Wellingtons are returned to theirbases.

Over Malta, the SM 79s rain bombs on the island, but score no hits. AA fireis ineffective and weak. Reinforcements in the form of the 3rd ArmouredBattalion arrives at Tobruk.

Nov II

Newly arrived Australian brigades garrison the fleshpots of Cairo andAlexandria, drinking the city’s bars dry and complaining loudly about thepresence of New Zealanders in the area. Elsewhere little happens as theunits of the planned offensive wait to unleash death and destruction on theItalians.

The last sector of the Bardia-Sidi Barrani Motorway is completed. Theconstruction unit is barely finished when they are sent marching backtowards Bardia, away from the battlefield expected to soon develop.Supplies are moved back towards the border and in a cunning tacticalmanoeuvre, the entire 10th Army steps back 16 miles to throw any carefullyworked out British attack relying on use of full movement points intodisarray. This masterful movement is rewarded by a round of medals to thestaff of 10th Army.

 

Oct 1940

Oct I

British build up at Matruh continues with Australian and British units from Palestine arriving. Complaints are received from the RAF Mess Committee over troops being ordered to dig slit trenches in the middle of the cricket pitch. Enraged at the lack of sporting facilities, the RAF Blenheims attack Tobruk again, smashing some dockside cranes and warehouses, limiting by a small amount the ports capacity.

Italian construction crews complete their first stretch of highway and move on to their next sector. Slowly the road is being built. Behind them stockpiled supplies are waiting transportation to the front line where the Libyan motorised forces practise for their eventual integration into an Armoured Division. The parachutists of the Tonini Regiment are sent to Halafaya to meet up with the 10A artillery regiment to provide an invulnerable two defensive strength points at this crucial piece of real estate. This’ll have Tommy trembling in his boots if he tries any sneaky deep desert strikes. Medals are handed round to all 10th Army staff officers in recognition for this cunning tactical planning. (armoured battalions placed in stacks to give -1 AECD roll)

Oct II

CinC ME orders the RAF to destroy the ability of the Italians to reinforce their frontline forces. Obviously he has planned something so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox. Bombers fly over Tobruk in a non-stop bombing campaign, trying to smash the port out of the war. Italian bi-planes scramble from airfields around Tobruk and try and stop any Blenheims getting through, but fail miserably although no damage occurs from the RAF attacks. Around Matruh the build up continues, supplies are stockpiled on the outskirts and more troops, Aussies, Czech’s, French and Indians join the battlegroups coalescing around the 7th Support Brigade and Indian 4th HQ. Australia beats England in a four day test to claim the first Matruh Ashes Cup. The horse boys HQ in Palestine are railed down to Matruh to convert to the “W” Art X. Missing chins and drawled consonants are required to join this outfit as an officer.

Construction is completed of the second stretch of road and Italian engineers move on to the next. Reports from the forward command post of the brave Italian CinC indicate he is gravely concerned over the actions of the British, who continue to build up forces at Matruh. It is anticipated that the road will be opened by Dec I and a British attack would be most likely at this stage. On advice from his staff, he decides not to inform his forward commanders at this intelligence estimate lest it cause panic amongst the soldiers…….. SM 79s rebase to Sicily for commencement of the air offensive on Malta.

 

Sept 1940

Sept I

Hearing reports of the intended advance of the Italians into Egypt, the plucky Western Desert Force mechanised units scuttle back from the border to Matruh to join the Machine Gunners of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers and have a cup of tea and a friendly game of cricket against the CinC Middle East’s first XI.

10th Army attacks! The glorious legions march again for Mussolini’s dream of uniting Northern Africa under the benevolent iron fist of fascism. A short advance to Sidi Barrani is unopposed by the cowardly British. Telegrams sent back to Rome report the woeful road condition over the border requires substantial construction work before full supply can be achieved for the spearhead of the march to Cairo. Troops rest for chianti (except for the Libyans who piously suck oranges). A whole 14 REs are countered by RAF recon planes, and the commander, General Roberto Guilliamo, is promoted to Marshall for displaying such valour in the field.

Sept II

Indian forces are railed into Matruh with the 4th Indian Divisional HQ team trouncing the Armoured Corp team by an innings and 8 wickets in a friendly played over several days. Free French forces look on in disbelief. To remind the world that Britain remains undefeated, an attack of by Blenhiem bombers attacks Tobruk. A hit is made on the port. Italian fighter pilots at El Adem airfield are caught napping in the fierce African heat and do not react. The wrath of the CinC is great and fearsome to behold… (I forgot to intercept!!)

Meanwhile at Halafaya, construction continues of the road to Sidi Barrani. Italian engineers complain bitterly of the lack of resources to assist in such a thankless task while infantry at the sharp end organise well laid out camps and have community singing sessions in the evenings along the beaches of the Med…… 250 SM 79.1 bombers fly a retaliatory raid on Alexandria, weak and ineffective AA fire misses but the bombs fall wide of the mark and the port is safe.

 

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