Italian intervention although welcomed by the Nationalists was not without its problems. It soon became clear as the Blackshirts were formed into independent Italian units that Mussolini’s aims were not primarily to aid the Nationalist cause but for his own aggrandisement and prestige. The result was poor co-operation and indeed some Spanish took a secret delight in seeing the strutting Italians getting themselves into trouble. At the battle of Santander in May 1938 for example Italian General Roatta fielded around 20,000 men in two divisions (“The Lords Will and “Littorio”) plus supporting MG regiment. Although these divisions looked impressive on paper they were comprised of a mixture of Blackshirts, regulars and conscripts including groups of labourers who were under the impression they were going to Africa to appear as extras in the film “Scipio in Africa”. Equipped with his 1:400,000 Michelin map of Santander Roatta planned his attack although many of his troops were motivated to join up purely for the 175 lira a day army pay, a fortune to a poor Sicilian farm labourer.
Some, meeting Italians on the Republican side, surrendered immediately to the Garibaldi fighters. Some no doubt swayed by the loudspeakers spouting Republican propaganda slogans and questions such as “Brothers why have you come to a foreign land to murder workers?” Meanwhile Mussolini was advising his partner Hitler that he was encountering Russians. In terms of material it was true. The 3 ton Italian tanks were no match for the 50 ton Russian built opposition. The biting rain and conditions underfoot also helped to crush morale. Thus the Italian efforts often ended in chaos. It was said that after the battle Franco’s staff drunk a toast to the health of the Republicans who had proved that any Spaniard was a match for an Italian. (The primary source for this turn’s narrative is “The Guinness book of Military Blunders” by Geoffrey Regan. Chapter 7 “The Battle of Guadalajara”)
Spoiler alert – skip this for now if you want to see the turn unfold step by step.
The return of clear weather in the North sees the largest battle of War to date in terms of units employed on both sides. Surprisingly this is initiated by the Republic on a 5 hex surrounded Nationalist redoubt protruding into the Republican lines towards Zaragoza. (Actually formed by Republican attacks either side in recent months)… The Nationalists had believed a 15 point stack unassailable and indeed this attack took almost the entire stock of Republican Attack Supply points to initiate at a guaranteed 4:1. In terms of ASPs expended this could be seen as a waste and the Republic would have been better to go fully defensive and spread out the attack forces. But there are two reasons why they chose to attack. Firstly they still harbour some hope of a link-up with the Basques and the captured rail line is an important first step allowing them to attack north without the cross country cartage previously needed. And secondly –it is more fun to attack!?. While this may seem facile I view this in historic terms as the type of wasteful propaganda attack which did occur as discussed above and to that end the game mirrors reality. Perhaps “fun” in game terms represents “propaganda/political advantage” in the real world – discuss
Weather; Clear and Calm across the Iberian Peninsular
Supply: clear weather brings supply to all units of both sides.
Replacements: ½ SRP, ½ SRP (CTV) recovered. Repaired: Me 109B (KL)
1Res pt spent to increase rail cap.
Air Activity; All bombing mission uneventful and ineffective.
Attack 1:1304 clear/cliff/fort (NE Santander) Supplied 3-6 inf XX 1DLV (CTV), 4-3-6 art Leg (CTV), 1-8 mg Ard (CTV) with 2pts NGS from BBTF-1, CATF attack 1-4 inf 1 (San), 0-1-4 cons (San), 1-4 inf 11 (Ast), 1-6 eng 6 @ 5:1 (-1) = EX. Lose Leg (R +2 VP). Advance 1DLV, Ard Fort destroyed
Attack 2: 1603 rough/fort (SE Santander) Supplied 5-6 inf XX 82, 4-6 inf XX 85, 2-3-6 art 62, 2-18 lt tk 2, 2-1-8 lt tk Bab (CTV), and 7-6 inf XX 13, 4-6 inf XX 122, 2-10 AA 88 (KL), 2-1-8 cav 1E (Col) attack 1-4 infs 5,11,13 (San), 1-6 inf 12M (San), 1-6 art 14 (Bas) @ 6:1 (-2) = DH lose 5,11,13. Advance XX 13,82,122 art 62, lt tk 2 lt tk Bab (CTV), 2-10 AA 88 (KL). Fort destroyed
Attack 3: 1404 rough/fort (W Santander) Supplied 3-2-6 infs 1LE, 2LE, Unsupplied 4-8 cav XX 2, 2-1-8 art O, 2-1-8 cav 2O (Col) and 5-6 inf XXs 52, 54, 2-6 infs 1Tet, Tdi (Col) and Supplied 4-6 art 1RG,m 3RG, 6-6inf XX 3, 1-8 mtn 8 attack 1-4 infs 2,4,7 1-6 inf 6M, 1-6 art 15 (All San) @ 6:1 (-2) = DR Eliminated no retreat path. Advance 1LE, 2LE, XX54, 62, 1Tet art O (Col), TDi (Col)
Attack 4; 2702 rough/fort (Catalayud) HIGH RISK Supplied 6-6 XX infs 4,108, 152, 4-6 art 2RG, 1-8 mtn 5, 2-6 art 4P, 1-6 mg IMExp, 2-6 inf 9Arc (Col) and 6-6 XX infs 1,5,63, 2-6 infs 7Lam, 1oBT, 3Ceu, attack 2-3-5* XX infs 23, 38, 3-6* inf XX 22, 1-2-6* infs 19, 21 @ 4:1 (-2) = DR (PHEW!) XXs 5, 108, 152, infs 7Lam (Col), 3Ceu (Col) art 4P fort destroyed
Exploitation: lt tk Bab (CTV) lt tk 2, Transported art 62, AA 88 (KL) move to 1636 (Laredo)
VPs: Lack of Goberneto collapse (+15 VPs)
French border; Closed
Replacements; 2 SRP (San) recovered. I-16/t10 Replaced
Reinforcements: all arriving divisions equipped.
1 RES Pt spent to increase railcap
Air Activity: Sortie 1; 2x SB-2 fly to Valladolid to bomb the airfield. Intercepted by CR.32bis (CTV) which is aborted by defensive fire. Surprises Massive 7 pt AA fire fails to inflict damage but bombers are unsettles and miss the target.
Other Sorties uneventful and ineffective.
Attack1; 2734 clear (NW Zaragoza) See Narrative
Supplied 3-6* inf XX 10, 2-3-5* inf XX 48, 1-6 infs10,11, 1-2-6 sec 2GA, 2-6* inf 5Car and 1-0-R art 1 (Cat), 3-6* inf XXs61, 68, 2-3-5 inf XX 50, 2-6 inf 211c, 1-6 inf 9, 1-6 eng 2, 1-6 art 8L and over river 6-6 inf XX 35 (Int), 5-6 inf XX 15 (Int), 2-1-8 cavs 3,4, 2-1-8 tk 2, 2-6 art 2P and over river 6-6 inf XX 45 (int), 2-3-5* inf XX44 (Cat), 5-6 inf XX 11ch, 1-2-6 art 20 and 5-6 inf XX 48ch, 4-6 inf XX 34, 4-7 mtn XX 43 (Cat), 2-6 inf 150 (Int), 2-6 inf 222c, 2-1-8 cav 2, 1-8 mtn art 1, 1-6 art 11 (Cat) attack 5-6 XXs 61, 71, 3-4-5* inf XX 73, 1-8 cav @ 4:1 = DR. No escape route. 61, 71 retreat and are cadred. Advance 50, 68, 61 XX’s, 222c, 150 (Int), 11 art (Cat).