INSURGENT SEP I 1938
With summer time beginning to run out, the Insurgents kept pressing their attack on the Pla d’Urgell along the Lerida-Barcelona rail line. They ran head-on into the elite Asalto and Choque formations the Loyalists had newly assembled and sent to this most threatened spot of their front (stack of 26CF, strongest so far). Possibly for lack of combat experience of their troops, this time for once the Loyalists suffered heavy casualties (HX). With ample support by almost the entire Insurgent airforce, Franco’s men broke into the bunker lines and reached Tarrega (13:3328), only about 100 km from Barcelona. However, this success was paid for with heavy losses of combat engineers.
The Legion Condor was overjoyed finally to receive some long-requested new Me-109D fighters, superior to the newest I-16/t10 Ratas. Their presence and the licking suffered last week over the Pla d’Urgell discouraged the Republicans airmen, who did not dare leave Barcelona’s anti-aircraft umbrella. A few of the new 109Ds, along with what remained of the older B types, were passed on to the Nationalists, whose training with them should be completed by October (good die roll of “2” for becoming operative).
The Barcelona red-eye continued like clockwork but, as so often before, neither anti-aircraft fire nor bombs had any effect. Meanwhile at Valencia, the docks suffered more damage from SM-79s attacking at daytime. More than 80% of the port’s capacity is now destroyed.
The Insurgent Navy changed tactics. Submarines under fighter cover now roam off the Catalan coast while the surface fleet has taken over the blockade of Valencia.
LOYALIST SEP I TURN
The defeat at Tarrega saw the three best Loyalist divisions reduced to cadres. Nevertheless, the Loyalists managed to patch up their front in a fashion and held onto most of their positions. They retreated in the high Pyrenees to La Seu d’Urgell (13:3126), but left a major force of corps strength in the salient at Tremp (13:3128). Also, most of the troops in the rugged Sierra de Montsant (13:3429) were withdrawn and the defense of that stronghold left to one infantry division.
No news at Valencia.
The Loyalist naval command decided to attempt sneaking a convoy of empty freighters from Barcelona to Valencia at night with the intent of evacuating some personnel from the beleaguered city. For lack of escort vessels the convoy had to sail without protection. Off Tarragona it was set upon promptly by Italian submarines that mercilessly hunted down every one of the ships, sank the last at daybreak (it took 4 rounds of combat), then radioed to Tarragona to invite coastal craft to pick up survivors.
Because of the submarine menace, new Ratas from the Soviet Union originally destined for Barcelona were diverted to Valencia, from where they transferred unhindered to Catalan fields.
The Insurgents finally inflicted a loss! (They just sneaked by with a percentile roll of 84 when 89+ would have given another DR.) Ironically, they did so on the lowest-odds of the major attacks during the Aragon-Cataluna summer offensive. Previously they had often “rolled too high,” that is, getting a DR when a roll lower by 1 or 2 would have produced a much more favorable exchange result.
The capture of Tarrega (13:3328), on the Lerida-Barcelona rail line, constitutes the first crack in the second-from last Loyalist defense line shielding the Catalan heartland. If they want to end the war in ’38, the Insurgents now have gain broad enough a basis for an attack on the last, Pasionaria line and break it before the rainy season starts. In mud and even in winter weather that line will be hard to crack. (In game terms, what is needed is for October still to be fair and that at least two of the next three major attacks will succeed.) Once the Pasionaria line is broken, the Catalan government is apt to call it quits and drag the central government down with it (with Madrid in Insurgent hands and the -2 modifier on the Success Table from October ’38 on, Cataluna will collapse if an Insurgent unit is within 3 hexes of Barcelona and can trace a supply line). However, an early arrival of the rainy season may give the Loyalists the respite they would need to make this last-ditch line almost impregnable by ’39. (It’s all in the die rolls now!)
After the thorough drubbing the Republican airforce received in August over the Pla d’Urgell and with the new Me-109s at the front and more to come into service in October, the Insurgents are now assured of almost complete control of the skies. This comes at an opportune time because the troops on the ground will need all the air support they can get in order to break through the last defense lines.