The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Month: July 2012

Africa Theater, MAR15 – SEP15

Note: Due to a significant error in rule interpretation, the Africa part of the game was reset in December 2015 and completely replayed. this turn report it therefor obsolete.

Despite a feeling of decision early in the year, 1915 ground bumpily along in the various theaters of war in Africa, with plenty of reverses bedeviling both sides. East Africa again hosted the least eventful theater of actual war during March through September of 1915, though the Entente made intermittent progress. Immobility and incredible mobility both led to a lack of combat in Namibia, Angola, and Congo. Cameroon was the place where the Entente expected to make serious progress early in 1915 and where the Entente suffered its most serious reverse. Not unexpectedly, the match of the Sanussi versus the Italians, French, and British in and around the Sahara Desert proved to be the most mobile struggle despite rubbing against the relatively static contest between French and Berbers in Morocco.

The Italian military did not remain idle in mid-1915, but also failed to garner any headlines. During March and April, as a result of their ongoing neutrality in the larger European war, Italian forces in Tripolitania continued merely to cling to their coastal strongholds of Tripoli and Sirte. The Italians continued the pattern of behavior in May, encouraged by the transfer of the only engineers in the colony back to the mother country. In June, however, French vessels moved the Italian light rifle and heavy cavalry regiments to picket duty in Algeria while slower units continued to hold the Italian cities.

In Morocco, French commanders and units began 1915 focusing on the Berber war but gradually shifted much of their attention. In March, Foreign Legion, Colonial, and Army of Africa units overwhelmed the Berber holdfast at 0478. This action climaxed anti-Berber operations by strategically crippling them; the Berbers will not generate any more supply points without a tenth Berber homeland hex. Nonetheless, the French struck the Berbers again in May, at 0475. The Berbers now hold two regions: three homeland hexes near and mostly inside Spanish Morocco and the five homeland hexes nearest Rio de Oro. While the French then began solidifying their front lines and transferring units to other sectors and theaters, the Berbers spent most of 1915 gradually replacing their offensively almost impotent units and grimly clinging to their remaining territory.

The inland flank of France’s empire in Northwest Africa hosted constant raids for much of mid-1915. In Morocco, an early Sanussi raid netted them a clutch of oases that the Berbers then carefully avoided. The French occasionally retook the watering holes, but the Sanussi sporadically drew a few recruits from them amidst a continuing back and forth that also strayed south into the high Sahara. The bloody moment of the conflict in this sector followed a French foray in June to surround a Sanussi force too near a French rail line; the Sanussi could not relieve the encircled force and it was not in an oasis, so the French easily liquidated the pocket in July. In August, the French swept through the oases west of northern Tripolitania and invaded that Italian province overland from Tunisia to pin the Sanussi in place and attract their forces from around the Sahara. The Sanussi strategic center of gravity is their collection of oases in Tripolitania and Fezzan; to lose them is to go extinct and the French and Italians combined have enough force and units to begin an oozing onslaught that the Sanussi must stop early or may not be able to stop at all. In response to the defeat in South Algeria and the threat in Tripolitania, Sanussi units began to flow away from Nigeria and Senegal toward Fezzan in August and September.

In West Africa, the contest between the Sanussi and their would-be overlords swung wildly back and forth as miniscule forces tried to maintain garrison requirements, survive, and expand friendly territory in a vast land of wild contrasts. The vast majority of European forces are tied to the littoral districts, often outside the area in which the desert-proficient Sanussi can wage effective war and from which the few Sanussi in the theater probably cannot eject them, though the liberation of several key oases did generate some units of camel cavalry to add mass to the thin Sanussi waves lapping this shore. In March, Spanish troops from Morocco moved by sea to Rio de Oro, pushing the Sanussi out of that colony for lack of anything able to stand against a lordly 4*-5-7 light brigade in defense of a couple of oases. The ongoing French cycle of forming and withdrawing units in Senegal allowed a brief offensive into the Sahara in May, destroying a Sanussi regiment, but the attempt cost the French a vastly more valuable colonial light rifle battalion when the Sanussi received a German blockade runner loaded with six equipment points in April then replaced and equipped several camel units to unexpectedly surrounded and destroy the suddenly isolated imperialists. French colonial replacements for all of 1915 will suffice to replace this loss, but Sanussi equipment production is just above zero and a series of meager losses, such as in this exchange, will wear down their supported combat units.In July, French irregulars stood the Sanussi off from Timbuktu and then, in August, evacuated the city by river from under their noses while the high command yanked a couple of battalions of over-extended regulars out of the Sahara from east of Rio de Oro. In September, some Sanussi departed the theater for more important activities to the east while the French began to mass enough forces to conduct an offensive operation in October.

On the northern edge of the Central Africa Theater, the Sanussi began 1915 with the operational initiative and tried to exploit it to worldwide effect. There, as nowhere else, the actions of irregular troops could help prevent Central Powers’ defeat by delaying the Entente conquest of Cameroon and thus minimizing the loss of German morale points resulting from it. After reaching North Nigeria in February, the Sanussi attacked south in March, hoping to distract the Entente into defending South Nigeria, where the presence of Sanussi would cost Britain morale points, or to stop supply flowing to Entente forces in Cameroon. The Sanussi lost the battle by declining to spend their only local supply point, after which the Entente fired prolifically, so that at 4:1 the Sanussi force quartered itself against a British irregular brigade and French light battalion. In April, the Entente did shuffle northward, allowing the victorious British irregulars to march into the Sahara wide around the Sanussi flank. The Sanussi invasion force, far too large to supply from just one or two oases, had no choice but to chase the imperial irregulars. While the Sanussi played whack-a-mole the French and British spent supply points to activate irregulars who distracted the Sanussi for a month or two during each repetition all summer. By October, at heavy cost in supply points, the Entente had amassed units in Chad and North Nigeria to begin offensive operations against the Sanussi garrison between Nigeria and Fezzan.

Against Entente expectation, the Germans continued to hold Cameroon throughout mid-1915. In March, the British copied history, amphibiously invading Cameroon to unhinge the defenders by seizing Kribi on the border of Spanish Guinea. The Entente player miscounted, Kribi was not the critical fifth connected town in German hands, and when a light rifle regiment came out of the forming box during March it held open the briefly vulnerable German road network. Hindered somewhat by the Sanussi, British forces gradually assumed control over the siege lines atop the northern half of the Cameroon town network while French forces massed on the coast and poked north from Gabon and west from Chad, just in time to be thwarted again in breaking the German road network by a newly formed construction regiment. In June, two regiments of Foreign Legionnaires disembarked in Kribi and in July the Entente finally made the decisive move, overrunning German forces between Oyem and Jaunde in the south center of Cameroon. German forces reacted by converting their supply points into general supply and oozing toward freedom. In August, the Entente encircled most of the defenders, one battalion of which surrendered, another battalion of which marched into Gabon, and the remainder of which began imitating a turtle in one last town in Cameroon. In September, the two regiments of Germans remaining in the pocket began consuming four general supply points per month out of 23 on hand. A distant but complete net of zones of control isolated the German battalion in Gabon, which promptly surrendered to a local chief and paid hard cash for food until a few white Frenchmen arrived to dispose of the situation. The British and French also spent September pushing all units not needed for a final assault out of Cameroon, to relieve more mobile units from garrison duty and to reinforce the offensive against the Sanussi before a large Entente force goes into garrison in Cameroon or demobilizes for rest.

In Belgian Congo, the column of German cavalry fleeing the loss of German Southwest Africa gradually recovered its fatigue hits and waded forward, ending September only a few hundred miles south of Stanleyville. The collapse in Cameroon apparently nullifies any great desire to press straight toward that potential source of refuge. It seems apparent that the Germans hope to use the number of their units to eventually corner, isolate, and force the surrender of at least one Belgian garrison unit while en route to German East Africa by way of southern Chad, with an option to turn northwest and assist the Sanussi in the Sahel if that seems prudent when Chad is reached, perhaps by mid-1916.

In Angola, the standoff between Portuguese and African bandits continues its uneventful path. Too few Portuguese units are present even to leave garrison to move supply points forward for use in rebellion reduction, so that the Portuguese can move in their districts but cannot actually go anywhere. The Africans, meanwhile, have not transformed banditry to rebellion, though an additional tribe did revolt shortly after the war began in Europe.

Events in Namibia, ex-German Southwest Africa, are all about the garrison. British Boers are massing on the northern border of Namibia to overawe the tribes there and in Angola. The white mounted riflemen are a huge garrison that South African manpower has been entirely devoted to replacing and emplacing in the new colony of the newish Dominion. British Boer units, eliminated by treachery during the rebellion, offer the lowest cost in South African manpower for the highest number of regiments, so that the Dominion spent all of 1915 replacing them and stuffing them into garrisons not only in the four colonies forming the Union of South Africa but also Namibia, Basutoland, and eventually points north. The Boers would be worse than useless in East Africa, in the face of endless tsetse flies that adore horseflesh, but are entirely capable of replacing leg-mobile units and, particularly, colonial units that will consume less naval transport to East Africa and operate there much more effectively.

The war in East Africa gradually came to be a war, rather than a simple standoff, as 1915 wandered forward. Early in the period, the Entente focused on South African and Indian railroad engineers directing a native labor division in constructing one hundred twenty-five miles of rail from South Africa to the southernmost Congolese river network. The activity was to allow the strategic rail and river movement of units from South Africa all the way into East Africa in one movement phase, subjecting units in transit to only one tsetse fly roll as well as speeding their arrival. The result of the activity was a tremendous pile of supply points expended, two sequential railroad engineer battalions eaten by flies on their last phase before completing the railroad, and a disheartened Entente command giving up on that invasion route as a major factor. Nonetheless, the Entente continued nibbling, first in April with the Belgian garrison of Rwanda-Burundi converting into two units and seizing Bukoba on Lake Victoria. In May, the Belgians seized Kigoma on Lake Tanganyiki before taking position in a fly-Belgian-lake-fly-Belgian-fly-lake defensive line that the Germans can only breach at significant risk for little reward. Also in May, British irregular levies seized Bismarkburg on the southern end of Lake Tanganyika while Portuguese in Mozambique slipped northward their steadily expanding force to deny any easy German sanctuary in their colony. In June, a British colonial battalion from Nyasaland seized Ssongea while the irregulars from Bismarkburg evicted the German mayor from Neu Langenburg. In July, while another British irregular worked its way forward, the Indian Army-led forces in Kenya began offensive operations from there by thrusting a battalion into the mountains west of Lake Natron and an irregular brigade into the mountains southwest of Nairobi to force apart the German frontier defense. [Because mountains force positional combat, fighting in them will virtually always cost the Germans an irreplaceable unit and the British a relatively much more affordable and common unit.] In August, the leading British irregular brigade in the south succumbed to flies in an attempt to take one of the German towns along the southern coast of the colony, which are shielded by a deep belt of woodland fly sanctuaries. Also in August, another two regiments landed in Mombassa and a battalion in Kismayu to reinforce the pressure in the north, which expanded as the British wormed further into the mountains. The Entente brought pressure from the East too, when an irregular cavalry brigade seized Kilwa on the Ruffifi River delta before succumbing to flies. The Germans chose not to risk a unit to immediately retake Kilwa, which green-lighted the planned October amphibious invasion on the north side of the delta.

Things that go boom

Today we have a new link reccommendation: Greg Goebels vectorsite. Currently I am dedicating more efforts to the military database project again, so there wont be much more news other than links this summer.

Planes, Spaceflight, and Things That Go Boom: Vectorsite

This article should be linking to two articles, too. But unlike our previous reccomendation, in which one site hosted the other, in this case the contents of “Vectorsite” have grown to a point at which the author and owner of the site decided some weeks ago to split his website into two. So http://www.airvectors.net/ contains all articles about planes now, while the vectorsite has everything else.

Before you head over to look at planes, however, I’d like to say a few words to Vectorsite itself and why I reccommend it here. The choice of topics is a big reason, of course. Greg Goebel picks interesting topics of modern military technology and presents them in an concise, entertaining and informative style. Most of the articles are more of an extended reference than a full coverage of the topic, but especially for me as an european the articles (for example about the “Caribou”) provided new insights about US military history during the cold war and its interservice relationships.

Another reason is that I actually like the websites layout, which refrains from any design elements and focuses on delivering content. The vast amount of material produced in such a short time, and the willingness of Mr. Goebel to put all of that under the GPL also deserve special praise. But most of all its the unpretentious and friendly style of writing that drew me to read even about topics I alread knew well enough – or so I thought. The joy and curiousity with which Mr Goebel approaches his topics is one I would like to pass on.

Date: June 20th, 2012

URL: http://vectorsite.net