The early game had closely followed the historical pattern – firstly the Italians fell back, then the Brits, as the DAK arrive, and then a standoff across the Cyrenaica shoulder. However, in mid-’42, things started veering off from the historical path. After the continuous attention of nearly all the Axis planes that couldn’t carry torpedoes, in a bold Abwehr operation, Axis special forces seized Malta.
Although the supply situation was greatly eased, the DAK had already had their head handed to them by the Allies on the Alamein Line. So a Mexican stand-off developed – the Allies sheltered in their fort line, gradually extending it a hexrow at a time; while the DAK waited around Halfaya Pass (just out of encirclement range) to pounce on any Brit stupid enough to stick his head out too far – and there were some good pay-offs here. This containment also allowed a good defensive fort line to be constructed around El Agheila, in anticipation of the Torch landing retreat.
The landings duly came. The Allies stormed across Morocco, then trudged, painfully slowly, through the Algerian mud. The mountains and mud made an excellent defence, but it was compromised, strangely enough, by most of the Axis African forces being absent – successfully bottling Monty up hundreds of miles away to the east, in front of El Agheila.
However, a couple of key breaks in the weather allowed the Americans to storm across the Tunisian border, and bear down on Bizerte and Tunis. I remembered just in time to garrison Pantelleria (with the amazingly useful Ramcke brigade) – in April ’43 Allied sky-bandits grabbed Lampedusa in an audacious long-range jump. Despite all I could do to interdict it, a small Allied airfield soon popped up, like an unwelcome toadstool.
The Americans finished off the Tunisian campaign in May taking Tunis and Bizerte, and went into rest and recovery mode in preparation for the forthcoming Husky operations. The Brits cut across to Gabes to isolate the DAK retreating to Tripoli. But the ‘surgical strikes’ of ’43 had meant minimal losses, and ample reserves were available to leave judder bar units to hinder the British advance (although the DAK had been caught in one such strike and got isolated and starved into surrender near Agedabia).
In anticipation of the new game, most of my air force was operating out of Sardinia and Sicily – I made no attempt to support Tripoli, and flew only enough operations to keep the ports open. The late campaign reinforcements weren’t needed and kept in Europe – the DAK was doing a good enough delaying action around Tripoli for me as I to tried to evacuate as much as possible from the battered Tunisian ports, under skies full of Allied aircraft.
So as the curtain falls on WitD, the Yanks are at full strength and loaded and ready in their Landing Craft. The Brits have herded the remaining Axis troops into Tripoli, which has been in fine form: I’ve sent sufficient Armour RPs across to rebuild some small units as full-AECD judder bars. With no time to refit before operations are scheduled to start in the Med, the British forces are not in particularly good shape – over ½ of their infantry divisions are cadred or in the ‘Pool – and they still face a 50:50 battle to take Tripoli in July I.