Weather: Weather rolls result in winter arriving in D, mud in E, and clear in the rest except for mud around the Lake Victoria area. The Med and Red Sea are clear but the Indian Ocean goes rough.
El Kaid, the Allied East African CC cancels his planned special operation and plans a new one instead. Axis units on Rhodes are U-4, as are all the ones in East Africa except those w/in 7 hexes of the GSPs created at Mogadiscio and Chisimaio, which get some special supply from same. Tobruk is invested so it stays at U-1, and with no chance to ship any supplies in until Crete is taken and the eastern Med goes back to its normal shape, Tobruk will stay that way. The real question is, will the Allies continue to invest and wait for it to go U-2 (taking the supply hit to their forward troops west of the fortress), or seize it this turn and risk further exchange losses? Allied command still refuses to establish a standard supply terminal in Greece, so Allied units on the continent are U-3 but in special supply via GSPs being created at Thessalonike and Athenai. It’s a new year, so Allied flak goes up at various locations. This year, Suez ports, Malta hexes and Gibraltar each go up by a single point.
It’s a big reinforcement turn for the Allies. The 2nd Spt Grp & 2 arm X’s, the 18th Aus X, the 13th Brit Art X, the 65th AT II and the 10th Hvy flak II arrive in the Indian Ocean for shipment into the Mideast and Malta. Two a/s, 2 Brit inf pts and a few other ½ pts for the Commonwealth units arrive, as do a total of 4 ARPs for the Mideast and the Balkans. The active Blen-1 in Greece (owned by Mideast command) is converted to a Blen-4, but the Wellsly on Crete withdraws from service. In the East African area, a tank and arty II both show up in the Indian Ocean, likely destined for Sudan. Two more a/s, plus some Indian, Colonial and South African RPs arrive too. The 26th East African X shows up at Muddi Gashi in Kenya for duty, while up in Sudan the two Indian mot machinegun II’s add some arty to their OB’s, becoming fully supported in the process. For the air forces, two South African air units transfer in to Kenya, a mixed fighter unit and a mixed transport w/ some sea bombing skills. Two ARPs also arrive for the command. Finally, for Greece, ½ a res pt is produced locally, as is another Grk Mtn RP, bringing the total available to 5 and allowing the destroyed 4th Mtn XX to be replaced at Athenai. One ARP transfers in from the Mideast Command directly. This is immediately used to replaced the aborted Blen-1 at Larissa.
The Greek High command chooses to convert one of its a/s points to 3 res pts, no doubt to continue the process of building the Aliakmon line, extending it westwards from the Mount Olympus hex.
At the end of the phase, the Italian SM-79 a/c that did such a poor job of bombing Malta’s status last turn go inop by rule. The Ju87 and Ba.65 on Sicily go on naval patrol.
At sea, the huge pile of troops, supplies and replacements sails up into the Red Sea and passes through the Canal, ending its mov’t just north of Port Said. Interestingly, the 20th Aus X and 23rd Brit X at Matruh then load onto NTs and sail directly for Athenai. I guess in this version of history the Allied generals are not only not fighting Winston over sending troops to Greece, they are beating him to the punch! GSPs at Alexandria are likewise shipped into Athenai though it seems unnecessary. In the Aegean, the British 14th X which had been at Athenai is swapped w/ the Greek 5th Mtn Hq on Crete at Khania.
On the ground in Greece, in the south part of the front units shift about to make for better defensive stacks, but no offensives seem likely. In the northern mountainous part of the front, Greek mountain units concentrate for an assault on hex 3502. However, all three arty III’s in the front line mountain hexes back off into the valleys to the southeast. 4th Mtn XX rails up and then admins through the mountain pass on the way to the Kalpaki front. Two engineer units move into position to begin westward construction on the Aliakmon line (4714 & 4715.)
In North Africa, the bulk of Indian and Commonwealth infantry and arty X’s continue to invest Tobruk. However, the 7th Arm breaks down and spreads out seizing territory south of the El Mechili road. The slower 7th RT Tank II meanders behind them, while the Free French 1M mot Inf II makes for Derna, bumping up against the immobile flak gunners still in the port. The New Zealand X at the Gazala airfield remains in place. GSPs are flown into the airfield just south of Tobruk. Overall, with the armor and other c/m forces sent west, a direct assault on Tobruk is now unlikely. Further to the east, the 66th RPC Const X struggles to haul its own res pts towards the front, making it to just west of Sidi Barrani with 1 res pt. Further back, the Czech II rails up to Matruh. At this point, the Delta has been completely denuded of troops, except the Egyptians. Logistically, one a/s is railed up to Matruh and then carried via trucks to Bardia.
In East Africa, units already along the border mostly stand in place, while the 6th Aus XX rails up to join the front line units in Sudan. However, El Kaid chooses not to cross the border and face the wrath of the mighty Italian forces in the AOI just yet. A/S is shifted forward in both Kenya and Sudan. Major forces are deployed now just west of Tessenei along the border and down south at Mandera in Kenya (with add’l units scattered along the fair weather road leading all the way back from Mandera to Malindi on the coast.)
DAS in Greece is flown to 3603, where a 6 pt stack could theoretically get attacked at 3:1 -1 odds without, but the Ju87’s ensure this cannot happen. The two Z bombers fly to the more threatened 3502 hex, approachable from 3 hexsides and clearly the Greek target since assaults on 3401 have proven repeatedly unsuccessful. The 1 pt of DAS ensures that the Greeks get no better than 3:1 -1 odds. They do go and launch that attack, and once again their bloody luck holds, this time with a 4 rolled (mtns, full supply, winter wx, mountaineering), generating another HX (they’ve had 3 or 4 HX’s, the best roll imo for the Greeks, and two AS’s I think in the war so far.) The 49 Par and 51 Si XX’s, previously heroes in early Dec at 3401 are destroyed, while the Greek 17th Mtn XX is cadred (with the 1st Mtn XX, the 17th’s cadre and two independent mtn III’s advancing into the seized hex.) This is the first hex seized by the Greeks in Albanian territory, but Albanian Troop Command vows that no more Albanian territory will fall. Elsewhere, Derna is overrun by the Free French in an auto-kill against the zero strength position flak unit. No attacks occur in East Africa (by RAW it would appear that attacks and overruns could occur across the border and so long as the Allied units involved did not choose to cross the border (or were no longer across by end of exploit), then Italian conservatism would not ‘end.’ This is too rules-lawyerish for El Kaid and he chooses to declare conservatism to end if any ground attack or overrun occurs in Italian territory despite what the RAW says. He therefore passes on attacks this turn.)
At the beginning of exploit the huge task force off Port Said presses westward, dropping of units at ports along the way. Most all peel off and land at Alexandria, but the 18th NZ X lands at Matruh, the 1st Arm X and 13th Art X land at Port Bardiya, and then the flak unit and two points of a/s press onwards to Malta. Contact rolls by Axis forces are unsuccessful so naval interference is no impediment when the task force enters the Central Med in the south Ionian Sea. The 2 a/s and flak unit make separate runs into the port of Valleta at this point. The convoys use night mov’t to approach Malta (I pass on long range intercept attempts, since the units must eventually get to Malta and unload.) After unloading begins during the daylight hours, the Ba.65 makes the first attempt against the flak unit (I’m more concerned with the Allies getting add’l flak into the port than I am the a/s.) A contact roll of 2 is successful (+3 for calm, +0 for distance), and flak is ineffective (9 rolled on 2 column), but my bombing attempts just miss (5 & 3 rolled, with 6’s needed.) The Ju87 then heads for the same target. Contact is again no problem with a 6 rolled, and flak is again ineffective w/ a 6 rolled. Four bombing attempts, each at +1, look bad at first but then the last few bombs finally zero in and sink the NT with the heavy flak II (rolls of 1, 3, 2 & 6.) The II enters the Mideast command dead pool, since the Med is in that command (units must actually land before the become part of Malta command, so the unit will need to run the gauntlet again should the Allies rebuild it for Malta.) The two a/s points land unhindered.
On the ground, nothing happens in Greece and East Africa. The various parts of the British 7th Arm XX continue pressing forward to the coast south of Benghazi (cutting the road supply line and also making a portion of the coast unfriendly to force Tripoli to Benghazi shipments to brave the Malta table.) It then reforms at Agedabia, just in front of the most forward Italian units not in Benghazi itself. To the west, the just landed armor at Bardia and 2nd Spt Grp at Alexandria move forward as far as possible. The 7th RT Tank II backs up to the lines in front of Tobruk. The Free French at Derna and the 3rd Arm X at Alexandria remain in place. Axis intelligence believes the 3rd Arm X will likely head for Greece next turn, given the Allied forces that have headed there already (and since it is a mandatory shipment there in a couple of months regardless) and the fact that it didn’t move into western Egypt.
In the air, the EA CC sends his South African Mxd A unit on a transfer from Kenya to Sudan, while his Wellsly bombers unsuccessfully bomb the rail line just in front of the Cheren pass (2 rolled.) In North Africa, the Blen 4 in Greece is reclaimed from the Greek command and after staging joins its sister Blen 4 unit on a raid against the fighter base at El Agheila. The CR.42 rises up to meet the unescorted bombers and rolls a 6, aborting the lead a/c. The bombers however roll a lucky 4 and counter abort the Italian planes. The remaining Blen 4 unit does its comrades no justice by missing the airfield, with a 3 rolled. The Well 1C unit however does quite a bit better. It launches a night strat bombing mission against Benghazi’s port, and despite the mud halving it’s factors, easily gets by the 1 pt of flak (can’t hit) and rolls a 6, putting another hit into the port (reducing the capacity to 4.) Finally, the rebuilt Blen 1 at Larissa takes off to attempt a strat port bombing against Egouminitsa, but rolls a 3 and misses (needing a 6.) Italian papers trumpet the obvious desperation in the Allied ranks if they are reduced to bombing territory they claim as their own!