Weather: A 1 is rolled in Europe, resulting in a ‘no change’ in D (which stays winter), but a dry spell in E as things go from mud to clear. This could complicate things in Greece for me, since the Greeks could manage to launch two attacks vice just one now that the south part of the front has gone clear. The clear will however improve bombing against Malta and ensure the that the fort we had planned to start last turn will get completed by the beginning of our next, with no time lost had we in fact started it on Jan I 41. The Med unfortunately goes rough however, which no doubt will result in further convoy attempts to Malta once our naval patrol is halved in effectiveness and contact attempts are further reduced in mods. In Africa, a 3 is rolled and all zones go clear. The Indian Ocean calms down, but the rough seas in the Med apparently are kicked over to the Red Sea, which goes rough.
Axis units in the Dodecanese are all U-4, except for the “C” 2-6 Inf III which was just airlifted in, which now goes U-1. Units in the Benghazi area are also out of supply, U-1, but all but the two const III’s use GSPs for supply. Finally, Axis units in EA remain U-4, but a goodly number in the Addis Ababa, Dire Daua-Harar, and Tessenie-Barentu-Agordat area use GSPs to go into supply. GSPs are also available to put the Ca133 at Dire Daua and an SM.79 and CR.42 at Massaua into supply. On the Allied side, the Greek units on the mainland are U-4 and isolated, but GSPs from Greek full supply sources keep them from “surrendering.” The Allies are clearly not interested in putting an allied supply terminal into Greece and thereby ensuring the eventual VP gain for the Axis when it is taken upon German intervention. Bit gamey, but perfectly legal. The 14th X on Crete is U-4, but the ports on the island act as limited supply terminals, keeping the unit from isolation and surrender as well. Units on Malta remain U-4.
In reinforcements, the two new Brit Inf RPs are used to bring back the 22nd Inf X, destroyed in Compass, while a single ARP sees the aborted Blen4 replaced. The RN-1 TF is called upon for further service, probably for NGS at Tobruk, a run to Malta, or both. In Greece, the Rethymnon static X enters service on Crete, but the scheduled reorganization of mountain and border units into 2 inf XX’s and a mtn XX is delayed due to the units not being consolidated (and being in zoc.) GSPs are produced at both Greek full supply locations, plus the two active Allied supply terminals in Egypt. An A/S point on Malta is converted to two Malta repair points. The Malta status number is then shifted from 7 down to 4. Over in Greece, the two engineer X’s that moved into the Aliakmon line last turn begin building forts.
In air items, four SM.79-1’s, two Ju88A’s and two Ju87B’s on Sicily go inop due to Malta bombing. I put the remaining Ju87B, the Ba.65, the He111H4 ‘S’ code and the SM.79-2 ‘V’ code on Sicily on naval patrol. The G.50 on Sicily flies CAP over Malta, mostly just to get into the habit since the airfield is now wrecked. More importantly, the Me110D at Sirte flies a CAP over the El Agheila airbase where the Ju87R is based. On the Allied side, the Hurri1 which is currently based at Eraklion flies a CAP over the Scarpanto airbase, where the Ju52 and the Rhodian airforce is based. I announce possible air transfer missions at the start of the mov’t phase, but the Allies choose to launch the first mission of that phase.
Mov’t kicks off with a large airbase bombing raid against the Scarpanto field. Both Blen4’s from North Africa, plus the Blen1 and Greek Mxd B from Larissa converge on Scarpanto (by staging into Crete and Melos respectively.) I consider possible patrol attacks against the bombers, but I’m more likely to abort my own fighters than do any serious damage to the bombers. The Italian Mxd F could scramble away, but I think I’d rather encourage the Allies to hit it vice the Ju52, so all three Axis air units simply wait out the raid. The U-4 flak II on the island is useless, so the bombers make their 4 attempts unhindered, rolling a pair of 1’s and a pair of 6’s. The Allies send the Ju52 and the Mxd B to the abort pile. Three of these bombers return to base at Khania, while one Blen4 heads for Melos.
A very busy naval mov’t process then kicks off. First, the RN-1 TF moves to northeast of Tobruk and preps for NGS. The Brit 23rd Inf X is moved from the Athenai mainland to Melos, no doubt to prevent any Axis adventures in the Aegean, so my mov’t of an inf III to Scarpanto has not only defended that location but forced the Allies to react to defend their own islands. Similarly, another NTP is used to move the Aussie 20th X from Athenai back to Derna in North Africa (I guess the big allied plan to send add’l troops to Greece has been cancelled. Must have been a change in Whitehall J), which then picks up the 51st Hvy AA II at Bardia and moves to join the TF off Tobruk (no doubt intending to run to Malta w/ TF cover.)
Next, the British 3rd Arm X and 65th AT II are moved from Alexandria to Bardia, and the newly replaced 22nd X at Alexandria and the Aussie 18th X at Matruh are both shifted to Derna. Lastly, GSPs are shifted about, with one NTP moving one GSP each to Melos and Khania, while two NTPs move 2 GSPs separately to Malta. One of these missions is contacted by Axis forces on a 10 on the interference table, and a 1 on the effects charts sees the NTP sunk, dropping the East Med pool temporarily to 9. The other succeeds in getting through Axis patrol boats. This op is clearly a stalking horse for the later flak II move to Malta, so only the Ba.65 attempts to make contact with the supply run. A 1 is rolled, so contact fails, and the 2 GSPs are unloaded without incident.
On the ground, the Greek front surprisingly sees little offensive moves. The units on the north part of the front don’t move, which means the Greeks probably will not be able to get even a 3:1 -1. In the south, units are mostly concentrated at 3803, probably due to concern that the Centuaro XX will launch further AECA assaults. This hex is brought up to 12 DS, but cannot launch any reasonable attacks itself. Other units are pulled out of the line and concentrated at 4003 to allow the infantry reorganization to occur next turn. In the rear, the art units which pulled out of the northern portion of the front admin around to the rear of the south part of the front.
In North Africa, the 7th Armored XX pulls back from Agedabia, making its way back to the bypass road. The three inf X’s which were landed at Derna advance to 3917, two hexes due west of Derna, joined by a Kiwi X which had been at Gazala. The out of supply Free French II backs off from Derna and moves to Gazala. Nearly all the rest of the Allied forces concentrate for a massive assault on Tobruk, to include the 66 RPC moved up from the Sidi Barrani area by way of a TC. To the rear, the 2nd Spt Grp admins but doesn’t quite reach Tobruk. The 65th AT II remains at Bardia as a garrison, while a res pt is SMP’d into that port. More SMP’s are spent to get an A/S point from Matruh forward to support the attack on Tobruk. Finally, the Czech II reverses direction and moves from Matruh by train back to Alexandria.
In East Africa, El Kaid finally makes the decision to cross the border, in force. In Sudan, the 5th Indian XX overruns an Italian Col X at Om Ager and then engages the Tessenei defenders from their southeast flank. The Col EC X moves up and engages the same Italian units from the northwest. The 6th Aus XX moves away from the 8th Col X near the border and heads around the Tessenei forces, making Cheru. A miscellaneous task force based on the Orient FF X engages the 41st Col X to Tessenei’s rear. A/S is moved up by SMP to support the planned attacks in the Tessenei area.
Down in Kenya, “Mandera” force charges into Somaliland and then splits up. Two Col X’s w/ TC’s move north along the Dolo-Neghelli road, making it as far as 7W:1509 in Galla-Sidamo province. They are joined by the South African 1st Recon II and the 2nd SA X which admin’d forward, plus one a/s hauled up by SMPs. The south push is based on the 1st and 5th SA X’s, transported by TC’s, which take the Lugh Farrandi airfield and then move down to the Iscia Baidoa road junction/airfield. The NR Col X then admins up to an airfield in the rear in Kenya and is air-transported into the just seized airfield at Iscia. The Mxd S transports land at Iscia. Further west, the 22nd EA Col X moves southwest from El Wak to just across the river at Bardera, currently defended by the Italian 20th Col X. Two more Col X’s move down from the Diff area towards Afmadu on the road to Chisimaio.
DAS in the Balkans is flown by all available a/c to ensure that the Greeks can get no better than one or another 2:1 -1’s in the northern front near Koritsa, which is itself immune to attack this turn (a 1.5:1 -2 at best.) In the south, attack possibilities are worse, ranging from 1.5:1 -1 to 2:1 -3. Since GSPs were available to supply one of the SM.79-1’s at Massaua, DAS is flown to 14W:1713 to support the Italian 41st Col X.
In actual combat, the Tobruk assault kicks off the Allied action. Two Italian XX’s, a pair of GaF III’s and the 23 C Art III face untenable opposition, consisting of the full 7th Ind XX, 1st and 3rd Arm X’s, 6th NZ X, 16th Aus X, 13th & W Art X’s, the 7th RT Tank II, 1st RNF Mchg II and the 66th RPC Const X, with 4 pts of NGS delivered off-shore. All told, odds are 8:1 -1 (unimproved fortress, a/s provided) and a 2 is rolled for a DR. With nowhere to retreat to, the Italian forces surrender and are eliminated. Still, they managed to hold for nearly a month and well past the historical fall date, so we consider this a victory of sorts.
In East Africa, three attacks are launched. The first is by the 22nd EA Col X across the Giuba river into Bardera, defended by the 20th Ital Col X. Sadly, the 20th is U-4, and with the East African X getting “free” a/s supply from the one a/s point still at Mandera, the attack goes in at 8:1 even. A 6 is rolled for a DE. The Orient FF X, and 68th Art, 4th RT Tank & FB Col Inf II’s then assault the Italian 41st Col X protecting the east bank of the Gash river to Tessenei’s rear. The Italians have an SM.79 flying DAS, but the Allies burn an a/s point for the 2 RE assault, so odds end up 5:1 even (DAS, rough terrain, 1/10th AECA, a/s provided.) A two is rolled, so we just miss an EX result and the 41st dies retreating through zoc’s (DR rolled.) Finally, the 7th Ind XX assaults Tessenei, with 3 air units flying GS in support, with the 16th Col X and the Hq’s of the 2nd Col XX defending. Final odds end up 6:1 even (3 pts GS, no a/s reachable), and another 2 is rolled for another DR zoc kill.
The phase kicks off with the expected convoy run to Malta, consisting of the RN-1 TF, 1 NTP and the 51st Hvy AA II as cargo. Axis light naval forces fail to make contact w/ a 6 rolled. As the II unloads at Malta Axis naval patrol forces go into action. The Italian SM.79-2 ‘V’ unit launches first. Contact is made (+2 for rough,, -0 for dist) w/ a 6, and flak fails to drive off the torpedo bombers (2 pts each for the TF and NTP, a 9 modified to an 8 on the 3 column). The bombing units have a 3 tac factor, doubled for torps and then 1/2’d for rough weather, so 3 rolls on the 1 column are made. Rolls of 1, 6 and 5 result, putting 2 hits onto the convoy (+1 mod for V code). Thankfully it was two hits, so the first is allocated against the TF by rule and the next hits the NTP. The TF hit results in 1 VP to the Axis, while the NTP sinkage puts the second flak II run to Malta into Davy Jones’ locker (eliminated to Mid-East pool.) With flak now reduced to 2 pts, and no more naval missions possible (all Allied NTPs have been used), I figure we might as well try for some more VPs against the TF. The Ju87B launches against the TF, but a 2 is rolled and contact fails. The He111H4 ‘S’ code launches, and with a 5 rolled contact is easily made. However, the 2 pts of flak manage a lucky 3 rolled and the ‘S’ code Heinkel’s are aborted for no loss to the Allies. Drat.
In non-naval exploit, in the Balkans exploit is limited to the Mehk mot Inf III shifting a single hex. In North Africa, the Well1C launches a night strategic port bombing mission. Two points of supplied flak rolls a 4, but with the night and bomber mods misses. The Wellington’s however fail to hit this turn, rolling a 4 which is modified to a 3 for a miss. At Gazala the 1 M Free French II reverses course again and heads back to Derna, joined by the 7 RT Tk II. The TC which had been carrying the Const X into Tobruch picks up the 13th Art X and transports it forward to the big stack of commonwealth inf X’s 30 miles east of Derna. Meanwhile, the 2nd Arm XX forms up at El Mechili, as far forward as its Spt Grp could get. In the south, the 7th Arm XX also reverses course, ending the phase 16 miles southeast of Agedabia, engaging Italian artillery and light tanks on their eastern flank.
In East Africa, in the Sudan sector the 4th RT Tank II joins the 6th Aus XX at Cheru, but otherwise the Sudan-Eritrean front is quiet. On the other hand, in the deep south out of Kenya the two c/m stacks are active. The northern stack overruns Neghelli, and then the SA 1st Recon II breaks out of the Mendebo mountains and takes Dalle, with the 21st East African Col X and 24th Gold Coast Col X traveling behind them just 16 miles to their rear. Way to the south, the 1st and 5th SA X’s in TC’s shoot straight for Mogadiscio, overrunning the city with their last few mps.
In the very last Allied action of the turn, the Bombay transports from Matruh stage to Crete and then attempt a bombing run against Scarpanto. The Hurricanes on CAP attempt to convert to escort, but before the Bombay’s can get within striking distance the Mxd F unit slips out from under the Hurris and runs a patrol mission against the transports. A 3 is rolled for no effect, but fortunately on their bombing runs they also roll a 3 and miss (I should have simply scrambled away to Rodi and left them with nothing to bomb, but I wanted to get after the transports… having missed however, I put myself at risk that they’d get a hit on the field and leave me nowhere to land. Silly thing to do…)
At the end of turn the Axis the SM.79-1 at Massaua that had not been supplied runs a multi-stage transfer mission from Massaua to Kufra and then up to Sicily, departing the East African campaign area for good.