Allied Turn. Allied Western Desert air power notably increases this turn with at least 6 good air unit reinforcements and the arrival of 15 ARPs, along with some interesting air unit conversions. Buried in the Allied turn’s long OB listings is a three Ind inf X Mid East Command withdrawal, along with a Blen 4, to the Near East that the Allied player needs to be ready for.
At the turn’s start the Allied player rolls a 3 on the weather table and so it’s still mud in the E weather zone and calm seas in the Mediterranean. For the time being the Axis hasn’t yet lost on his Bengazi gamble.
The Allied player has so many unused ARPs remaining at the start of the new air cycle that he gets to carry over two of them to the new air cycle per Advanced Rule 25C7-ARP Accumulation, and so has a new net total of 17 combined US & British ARPs. The 12 unused Br ARPs reaps him 3 VPs pr the same Rule.
However, the Ind inf X withdrawals mentioned in the first paragraph cost him an eventual net of -2 ½ VPs for his Palestine garrison requirement when he uses three Ind inf Xs he has there for the Allied OB stipulated withdrawal. He has enough available garrison capable ground units in the ME replacement pool to cover ½ RE of the Palestine garrison. He nixes my suggestion he use the three Ind inf Xs of the Ind 10th inf XX bearing down on Bengazi, saying he likes these Indians where they’re at.
At the start of his movement phase the Allied player sends 8 fresh gsp’s to Malta. The Malta Status is still 0.
The Palestine garrison requirement is eventually fulfilled in the movement phase with the arrival of the reinforcement Fr 1-10 mot inf X L, the Ind 2-8 inf X 7 sea transported from Cyprus, and the Br 1-8 MG II 2 Ch from Egypt.
Using one of the new US ARPs he brings on an American B 25C from the ME abort box.
The Axis player does no harassment missions at the end of the Allied initial phase, perhaps another sign of the end phase of the Western Desert scenario.
Early in the movement phase the two colonial 0-1-4 const Xs complete their 3-cap permanent airfields at Tobruk (18A:4817) and at the due south adjacent hex at 4818. One 0-1-4 const unit then admin moves to El Mechili (4019), where it ends the movement phase stacked with the Fr 2-8* inf X 2FL.
The other colonial 0-1-4 const X is picked up by the US C-47 and airlifted to one of the “sanded-in” (2 hits of damage) 3-cap temporary airfields at Egyptian coast road hex 19A:1519.
Meanwhile the Br 1-2-8 eng X 8 builds a 3-cap temporary airfield at Msus (18A:3523) and then moves one hex westwards and ends its movement at stony desert road hex 3423, along with the two SA lt arm IIs 4 & 6, the Ind 1-2-10* mot anti-tnk X 3, the Br 3-2-10* lt arm X 4, and the old Br 1-10* mot support group X 2(nd arm XX). At Msus is the Ind 2-8 inf X 11, the Br 44th inf XX HQ unit, and three steps of attack supply.
The Br para II 156 arrives at Tobruk, where it ends its movement with the 2nd NZ inf XX HQ unit and the NZ 2-8 inf X 6.
The Ind 6-8* inf XX 10 ends its turn at 3518 and is reinforced by the arrival of the Br 1-8 anti-tnk II 95. At Bardia (4116) is the Ind 2-8 inf X 5 and the 0-8 lt flk II 57. Other stout 8th Army stacks encamp close to Bengazi at 3323 and 3422, and the Br 2-8 inf X 132 lingers at 3620.
The Allies then begin a major air offensive against the beleaguered Axis defenders at Bengazi (18A:3121). First they send the Aus Halfx 2 night bomber and the three Wellingtons on a night strat bombing aiming to score port damage hits. All four bombers make it through the city’s flack, but score no bomb hits.
Next the Allies sends three US B-24s on a day bombing mission, but cancels the mission as soon as the Axis sends three of his four fighters based at the Bengazi hex on interception missions. Right afterwards he sends the Bftr 6F NHF on a daylight tac bombing mission against the Bengazi airfields, but cancels it as soon as the Axis sends on the interception mission the last fighter based at the port city.
Then, having forced the Axis player to use up his available operative fighters at Bengazi on bum steer interceptions, the Allies unleash the three A 30s on a daylight tac bombing mission against the Bengazi airfields. Once again, however, after getting through the seven flack factors, the A-30s miss their Axis airfield target. They are followed by the Br Blen 5 and the US B 25 on a daylight bombing mission, but they also miss their airfield target.
Finally the Allies send the Br B 24C bomber on a daylight strat bombing mission, but again can’t score a hit against the Bengazi port. Although superficially “lucky” in that the Axis suffered no bomb hits (all Allied bombing factors halved due to the mud weather) at the Bengazi hex, the Axis player is beginning to feel the “blueness” that an Axis soldier caught in the Stalingrad pocket might feel on a “good” early Jan. day there. He wonders if he ought to evacuate his four fighters based there to avoid a possible last turn Jan II 43 Allied drubbing?
At the desert front line the Allied player sends a strong mobile force westwards down the Libyan coast road to 18A:2328, thereby gaining hex control of the coast road up to here. However, by the end of the exploitation phase this advance mobile force returns eastwards to the new Allied desert front line back at 3129 & 3130, both two hexes east of El Agheila (2930). This puts both powerful Allied hex stacks within 10 hexes of Axis held Bengazi, putting this force within striking distance of the besieged city, assuming clear weather on the Jan II 43 game turn, the last one in the WW Western Desert scenario.
Perhaps as a kind of end of game honor guard, the Allied player puts the Aus desert rat 1-10 lt arm II 1 at the Agedabia hex (3327).
Late in the exploitation phase the Axis player does big a non-phasing air unit transfer reshuffle. His single Ju 52 air transport goes to the Sirte airbase (1727). To the Khaina (19A:4403) airfield at Crete go three Ju88A4 air units and a MC 202. To the Erakleion (4903) airfield on Crete go the two Z1007b’s, a Ju 88A4, and a MC 200 air unit.
By the end of the turn the Allies have on-map in the Western Desert 14 good fighter units fighting 10 Axis fighters of mixed Ger & It qualitites. An It G 50bis still guards eastern Sicily from the two Spit 5s at Malta. This turn the Western Desert air force fields 17 B & A types compared to 11 Axis B & D types.
It might be interesting to note the dispositions of the by now perhaps splendid Allied Western Desert air force. At Msus menacing Bengazi is the US P 40F, the Br P 40K, and the SA Spit 5.
At Tobruk are the Br & Aus Hurri 2Cs and a Br P 40K. At the adjacent airfield hex due south of Tobruk at 4818 are the three A 30s.
At the cluster of airfields at the Libyan-Egyptian border between rail hex 19A:0219 and Sidi Barrani (19A:0718) inclusive are the US B 25C, a Br Blen 5, the Br B 24C, two Well 1Cs, the Aus Halfx 2, three US B 24D5s, the SA P 40E, the Br Bftr 6F, a Br Hurri 2, two Br Hurri 2Cs, and a Br Spit 5.
At the string of Egyptian coast road airfields between Matruh and Alexandria inclusive is a mixed assortment of 11 other good air units.
The Axis get essentially nothing this turn in reinforcements, though it looks like the still functioning Med/North Africa Command’s Western Desert scenario’s air cycle will see a 1 ARP carry-over for both Ger & It for the game’s remaining one turn (eg., the Jan II 43 game turn) new air cycle. The Axis gain 1 ½ VPs in the initial phase for accumulated ARPs. There is also this turn’s Axis production per the WW Production Charts that technically is first available in the initial phase in the mainland Europe off-map holding box, though historically maybe most, if not all of this production went to Tunisia on the (unused) Torch/WitD/North African scneario maps. There’s also some older current game stuff lingering in the scenario’s mainland Europe off-map holding box.
Meanwhile, at the very start of the Axis movement phase, the Axis sends a mission to the Valletta hex at Malta using the Sicilian based Me 109F3 and the MC202 as escorts and the It Ju 87B on a tac bombing mission. The two Br Spit 5s there intercept and a Spit 5 is aborted. The dive bomber is on a tac bombing mission of the port’s capacity for the Malta Status mission, and the port’s AA is accordingly adjusted two columns to the left. It makes it through the adjusted flack and scores a hit. Then the SM 84 based at the 3-cap permanent airfield one hex south of Tripoli at hex 18A:0122 does a day strat bombing mission for the Malta Status, makes it through the flack, and also scores a hit. Then the Axis sends the three Ju 87Ds at Tripoli on an extended range tac bombing mission for the Malta Status, but score no hits after adding all their tac factors to a total of 2.49, but miss on the bombing die roll. By now the Malta Status is 2.
Then the Axis player attempts to sea transport to the Bengazi port hex one of the turn’s new Axis steps of attack supply, using the new arrival free shipping, but the step of supply is sunk by Allied anti-shipping die rolls.
Using their three RE Cent Med on-map shipping abilities, the Axis safely ship to Bengazi via coastal shipping a step of attack supply at the Tripoli hex, jacking the total there to 5.
The Ju 52 at Sirte airlifts a resource point in the hex back to mainland Europe.
In the movement phase the Axis does another major westward strategic retreat, rather too quickly to take the time to push back the Allies’ coast road hex control ending at hex 18A:2422, but not so hasty as to neglect damaging with MP’s and subsequently removing from the map two permanent airfields at Sirte and 1527, and also the 1-cap temporary airfield at Misaurata (1022). The Afrika Korps (AK) new desert front line at 18A:1025 is 22 hexes away from the closest Allied front line stacks at 3129 & 3130. Found at road hex 1025 is the 21st pz XX, the mot lt flk II 617, the mot anti-tnk II 605, and three steps of attack supply. An Axis “rat tail” goes on to 0925 (15th pz XX), 0824 (90 LE mot inf XX), 0823 ( It mot inf XX 101 Trs), 0723 ( It Arm XX 131 Cn), and hence along every Libyan coast road hex up to and including Tripoli.
At the Tripoli dot city hex the 0-6 const III builds a 3-cap temporary airfield. By the end of the movement phase the Tripoli hex possesses a tall stack with 11 flack factors, including the newly arrived and reconstituted Lw 2-10 mot hv flk III 102. The step of attack supply that has been sitting at the airfield one hex south of Tripoli at 0122 finally gets to move into the adjacent Tripoli hex, making it the second of two steps now there. The other AK Lw 2-10 mot hv flk III (135) is at besieged Bengazi.
The other 0-6 const III admin moves to coast road hex 0722, ending its move with a mixed bag of other retreating Italian units.
Late in the exploitation phase the Axis air force on Crete stages to the Axis airfields on Scarpantos and Rhodes. The two Z1007b’s on Rhodes do an extended range Allied shipping strat bombing mission at the Port Said harbor hex and both somehow make it through Said’s 5 factors of flack and score a hit, reaping the Axis player 1 VP. One of the four Lw Ju 88A4s bombs the rail line running through the Alexandria hex and three bomb the rail/causeway rail line at 2517, adjacent to Alexandria, but all bombers miss their rail line targets.
By the end of the Axis turn both players realize that the spector looms of an Axis Bengazi holding out in a hypothetical bigger and longer WW WitD or North African scenario game for maybe as long as the Mar I or Mar II 43 game turns, relying on the -2 to the combat roll to avoid Allied attacks due to the likely mud weather in the E weather zone during the period running from the Jan I to Feb II 43 game turns.
Even as early as the last Jan I 43 Allied turn has the 8th Army paused in its until then hard pursuit of the retreating AK. This is perhaps due a necessary balancing of Allied Western Desert forces corresponding to the current war game map situation, probably primarily due to the Axis stand at Bengazi.
This game’s Axis stand at one of their North African standard supply sources/major ports has admittedly essentially arisen here due to a “home brew” WD/Cauldron battle scenario at start stipulation done by the designer. In other WW Western Desert/WitD games played with RAW, both the Allied and Axis armies would in many games probably march in silence and with indifference past an unimportant Bengazi with an at start standard port and in many instances press on towards some other final Axis pocket in North Africa in ’43, likely at Tunis.
However, the game report has the added special features of the “highly experimental” Optional Rule 12 C1e-Standard Supply Terminal Suppression, perhaps originally designed to hasten the fall of an Axis Tunis general supply source. Importantly, a close reading of the rule seems to indicate that even a suppressed supply terminal per Rule 12 C1e is considered an Axis standard supply terminal for the purposes of Rule 42 A-In-Theater Surrender, as the “capture of a suppressed standard supply terminal results in the same consequences…as capture of an unsuppressed standard supply terminal.”
When I complement my opponent by reassuring him how wise it was of him to begin bombing Bengazi as much as he did on his Jan I 43 turn in order to suppress the standard supply terminal there, he cuts me short and says the top Allied bombing priority at Bengazi from the start was for the elimination of the Axis fighters there and/or inflicting airfield damage hits there.
Ever since the Allied Torch invasion of French NW Africa, Axis North African strategy has shifted from maintaining a strong but essentially static post-fall of Tobruk defensive position in the Libyan-Egyptian Western Desert to a new game of maneuver towards and continued control of the gradually diminishing defensive enclaves surrounding the three Axis North Africa standard supply sources/major ports at Bengazi, Tripoli, and (historically) presumably at off map Tunis on map 25A. This is due to the overwhelming ground and air superiority of both the 8th Army and the Torch invaders.
In the current Western Desert/Cauldron scenario game, the implication of all the above is an Axis held Bengazi hanging on until perhaps the Mar or Apr 43 game turns, after the weather there turns good and favorable for a big Allied final attack. An Axis Tripoli could perhaps successfully remain Axis controlled for a number of turns defended perhaps lightly while between an Axis Tunis and Bengazi, all the while giving aid and support to both the Tunis and Bengazi enclaves/pockets, until finally ultimately captured by almost certainly a reinforced 8th Army desert front line attack in the Tripoli vicinity done only after the fall of an Axis Bengazi.
In Tunisia the implication is perhaps a vertical north-south Axis front line facing westwards towards the Allied Torch invaders at roughly the Tunisian-Algerian border, or maybe a little eastwards. This line could be quite powerful at its north end up by the Mediterranean coast, but might likely taper and weaken in strength as it continues southwards, perhaps petering out altogether on map 25A in central Tunisia somewhere south of the E Weather line. This is after the infusion into the Tunisian pocket of the main bulk of the AK force retreating from the Western Desert map group (and perhaps by a big buy-out of Italian Med/ North Africa Command replacement pool motorized items built with It arm & inf RPs stored at Tripoli) by about the Jan II Axis game turn, minus the Axis force at the Bengazi hex and some stragglers/guardians in the Tripoli hex vicinity in Libya. The idea is to keep effectively apart the indigenous 8th Army and the newly arrived Torch invaders until the good weather begins in the E weather zone in the spring of ’43.
Although consoled with the war game wisdom gained by the current game report, this Europa war gamer can’t help but feel that the current war game is perhaps deservedly metamorphosing himself to a classic “Tojo-like” 20th century WW II creature chock full of the same “to the death” battle cries this same armchair general so “righteously” condemned just a little earlier at the global EA when it applied to the Japanese case in WW II. The whole concept of frenzied last stands at strong points (eg., Bengazi, Tunis/Bizerte, and Tripoli) designed to weaken the will of the stronger enemy force to continue its fight against the weaker force and thereby aid in achieving a more favorable (presumably) negotiated peace now arises with all the foreboding and regret of witnessing an ill omen. For those interested in the European version of the “Tojo” modern world war strategy syndrome of “fighting to the death” one might read “The Fall of Mussolini: His Own Story …,” edited and with a haunting preface by Max Ascoli (1948). Note Il Duce’s interesting comments on Pantelleria.