Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Sittangbad Revisited (4)

General view of the action with Allied armour finally getting by
Bir Isen, though that place remains in German hands. The last of the
supply convoy leaving town.
Although the hamlet of Bir Isen remained untaken, the place was left to the New Zealanders to deal with whilst the 4th Light Armoured Brigade group bypassed the place to press on towards their main objective, Sittangbad itself.  This was somewhat problematic for the Sherman squadron, which had to pass close under the walls of Bir Isen.  This they did, engaged the machine-gunner garrison at close quarters with HE and MG fire, then continued on past.  The PW rules permit breaking off from close assault provided that doesn't land the unit in question into another one.  This occasion seems to me a fine use of that feature.
2nd German Rifle Coy holding off the KRRC before falling
back upon Sittangbad.
Pinned down as they were, the machine gunners were in no position to discomfort B Squadron as they went by, and were soon under attack from the Kiwis' 'A' Coy. Badly depleted (1 SP remaining) as 'A' Coy was,  Colonel Corncobb felt it incumbent upon him to lend the weight of his presence to their assault.  On the other side of the road, 'C' Coy was still pinned down in front of the village.  On the southern flank, 'D' Coy and the Vickers gunners continued to be stymied by fire from the Reconnaissance Unit's armoured cars.
The 25-pounders deploy, but suddenly
 they are out of useful targets!
That, however, was about to change.

Before continuing,  I feel the need to comment on the 'pin' feature.  Now, at first I thought the 'pin' applied only to a unit that took damage, but a check rudely disabused me of that notion.  What it meant was that for a considerable time, a close assault was ongoing in the southern half of Bir Isen, with both sides (#1 Schutzen and 'C' Company) pinned down, unable to break off the action.  Pinned units can not move, even when hit with a 'Retreat 1 grid area'. whence they take a loss instead.  Nor may they spend a turn 'unpinning' whilst still closely engaged.

Frustrating as this was at the time, and I did spend some time after the action thinking about possible changes, I've just about come round to accepting that the thing works just fine as is. Sometimes it is a good idea to take your first thoughts under advisement, and check out what your second, or even third, thoughts tell you.   Possibly I found persuasive the suddenness with which the deadlock was resolved.

The fall of Bir Isen.  'D' Company's sweep
from south to north of the town.
It was the squadron of Shermans that effected the resolution, though the Vickers gunners helped. Emerging from behind the north end of town the Sherman gunners could scarcely ignore the group of armoured cars facing southward.  Swift shots up their exhaust pipes, and accurate AP fire from Vickers machine guns swiftly put paid to the Recon Unit's gallant stand.   They didn't go down altogether fruitlessly.  They had held the Kiwi left flank in play for a long time, even without doing them much damage (1 SP from the MGs, and that only moments before their own demise).  The Vickers gunners themselves ran out of luck not long afterwards, the mortars in the town finding their range and wrecking the remains of the platoon.

With nothing to protect their right flank, the Bir Isen garrison found itself attacked from two sides.  'D' Company swarmed over the fences and walls of the village, rolled up the garrison's line in short order as far as the road, and attempted to cross it.  After a brief resistance, the German machine-gunners, too, joined their comrades 'in the bag.'  After such a prolonged 'sticky' action, in which the Bir Isen garrison by themselves accounted for at least 11 Allied SP, the collapse came remarkably quickly. 
The 6pr portees and engineers arrive.  The Dodge truck
is the engineers' transport.
Free from the constraining influence of the enemy-occupied village, the Allied group surged onward. Second Schutzen Coy had briefly engaged the KRRC on the eastern fringes of the Palm grove, before fading back in a withdrawal that was to take them all the way to the entrenchments on the north side of Sittangbad itself. They easily outpaced the KRRC riflemen and 'A' Sqn's Honeys were too distant to catch them up.
Events after the capture of Bir Isen happen with a rush.  The
Allies very soon are approaching Sittangbad itself.
Within an hour or so the pressure was coming down on the town's garrison, augmented as it was by the remains of Herzog's battlegroup. Some time before, the last of the Royal Dragoons' armoured cars had been knocked out. This permitted Second Schutzen Coy to scuttle into the works that had been home to the light infantry gun company, which had pulled pack into the north edge of the town itself. The anti-tank gun company was also freed to engage the approaching Crusaders and Shermans.
Pressure upon the town's defenders from north and east.
The engineers are already poised to leap out from cover
and start cutting wire.

Same picture as previous using the
'Zeke' filter.  I like the arid look of this!
Considering their long, circuitous retreat from Bir Isen, and the adventures encountered therein, #2 Schutzen Coy had come though remarkably unscathed (all 4 SPs intact). Yet even within the relative safety of the Sittangbad field works, they found themselves all too soon under attack from the light tanks and rifles of 4th Light Armoured, whose pursuit had finally caught up with them. The reception they offered the light tanks, two thirds of their number already strewing the desert east of the palms, to draw back out of the range at least of the infantry's anti-tank weapons. The KRRC company were scarcely more eager to push the matter home.
KRRC resumes the attack, whilst the Honeys lick their
wounds and the Daimlers burn.

By this time, the last of the large convoy of transports laden with supplies, fuel and ammunition, had departed the town, across the bridge, and were well on the way westward. Oberstleutnant Herzog began to think about withdrawing elements of his garrison as well. The point was brought sharply to mind when some well directed mortar rounds suddenly descended into the fieldworks manned by #3 Schutzen Coy. Those gentry swiftly abandoned their earthworks, leaving a dangerous gap in the line.  Gunfire from the oncoming tanks also scored damaging hits on his Marder company close by his own position.  Once more the Oberstleutnant survived a near miss.

Southern side of the battlefield.  It is the
Germans' move.  They had only 6 units
left apart from the pioneers anyway...
As the Allies drew up to the barbed wire, the Engineer troop had been moving through the palm trees with the view to clearing the obstacles northeast of the town.  A brisk fire was already being exchanged between tank and anti-tank.  The 25-pounder artillery added their bass accompaniment to the symphony of gunfire.  The hit upon the Marders, and a hit upon  #2 Schutzen - their first substantive loss of an eventful day for them - was enough to take the German losses past their Exhaustion Point (13/36 SP).  Not that the Germans were in any shape to launch a counter-attack. A sharp pep talk induced #3 Schutzen to reoccupy their field works, and the Kiwis weren't quite yet up to the wire, let alone in a position to contest the move.

Crusaders receive a warning shot "Non plus ultra!"
The final decision was brought by the accurate return fire from the Marders and PaK guns. The Crusaders were stopped in their tracks, but it was the Shermans who took the beating. Within two turns the Marders had scrapped the lot.  They, and damage to KRRC, took the Allies also past their Exhaustion Point (20/54 SP), just one turn after the Germans (that the losses had reached 20 suggests I might have miscounted the turn before.  Not that it made any difference).

The view from the main street looking eastwards.
There ended the action.  The Allies had been too knocked about to attempt an assault with their remaining strength upon an objective well garrisoned and protected with field works and barbed wire. The German garrison was content  to wait out the day or in their own time to pull out under no greater pressure than a harassing fire from the Kiwi Field Regiment.  That would make a change from  the headlong retreat of the previous few days...

The end of the action.  The allies too knocked about to continue their attacks.

Still on WW2, 'Jacko' and I have begun working on a little project: Operation Uranus: the Attack upon 3rd Romanian Army.  'Jacko' has been building a Romanian Army - the Romanian Army, really, along the lines of Chris Kemp's upscaled version of Not Quite Mechanised.  We've put together ORBATs for 3rd Romanian Army (including Group Simons) and XLVIII Panzer Corps (less detachments), and for part of 1st Guards Army, 5th Tank and 21st Armies, and part of 65th Army for the Russians.   I've undertaken to write up a fairly formalised version of the Chris Kemp rule set for our purposes.  They'll probably be free form, though I may yet change my mind and adapt them to a grid format game.


  1. Archduke Piccolo,

    I have really enjoyed reading this series of battle reports. I felt as if it were the sort of thing that I would have read in a campaign history of the period ... and the result did seem to me to be very plausible with both sides exhausted, but one side still slightly in the ascendant.

    I look forward to seeing your next WW2 battle report, especially as I have quite an interest in the more obscure Eastern Front Axis forces such as the Romanians and Hungarians.

    All the best,


    1. Thanks, Bob. We're still working on that, but what we have in mind is something very 'NQM' - but the 'upscale' Army to Army Group level battles Chris Kemp has been running. Probably 'Megablitz' ought to be what we are looking at, and I am considering 'Rommel', but in some respects NQM is more readily accessible.

      But I am having to 'formalise' the downloadable 'umpire's guidelines', which are somewhat open ended, into something more resembling a closed ended rule set. But this adaptation is for our upscaled game.

      To give you some idea of what we are looking at is a 1:25,000 ground scale (10cm -> 2.5km); 1 game turn represents 2.5 hours. I've gone so far as to define hours of daylight in game turns for each month:

      November-January - 4 game turns
      February, October - 5 game turns
      March, September - 6 game turns
      April, August - 7 game turns
      May-July - 8 game turns.

      For 'Operation Uranus" I have worked out the Orbats for both sides. Paul - 'Jacko' - trembles when he sees the Soviets' formidable array, but his guys are dug in and fortified, one imagines. Actually he can field the IV as well as III Romanian Armies, but I don't think the battle of IV Army would be much fun. At least III Army has some armour to play with...

      The result of the Sittangbad action came as something of a surprise. I really had started thinking about withdrawing the town's garrison, but had left it a move, at which point the exhaustion set in. Then a flurry of damaging shots persuaded me to check the Allied status. I hadn't thought it so bad. But reflecting upon what it cost to take Bir Isen, one had to admit that wasn't so unlikely after all.

      So it was a tactical success for the Germans, but a costly one. During the action I was aware that I was making some not-very-smart decisions for both sides, but this was my first really good play test of the PW system for WW2. Having said that, it was a fine solo game and (for me) a satisfying narrative.

    2. Ion,

      I look forward to seeing how you adapt NQM to suite your requirement. MEGABLITZ evolved from our attempts (Tim Gow, Chris Willey, and myself) to get NQM to work without Chris being present.

      My own attempt to produce an army-level wargame was OPERATIONAL ART, which you can ring here = . You might find them a useful starting point ... and re-reading them has made me realise that I really ought to develop them further.

      All the best,


      PS. I will be writing a blog entry about your recent Sittingbad battle over the next few days.

    3. Wow! Thanks for the link, Bob. Plenty to chew on there! My approach was quite a bit different, but I think adaptable to a hex grid system; not so good for squares. I was starting on a 'open field' system with fixed distances, to see how that worked. For that I was thinking of creating a measuring device at 10cm intervals, but with 5cm and possibly 15cm markers.

      Having said that, I rather liked the look of your formation organisations.

      As I say: plenty to consider. May I download what you have so far?


    4. Ion,

      You can certainly download my rules ... and to make things easier for you, I have sent a copy of the original text (and the article in THE NUGGET that accompanied them) to you by email attachment.

      I hope that you find them useful.

      All the best,


  2. Epic
    Great AAR
    I am inspired to repeat this scenario
    For me there is no greater complement than that!

  3. Replies
    1. The desert in December. The table cover is earthquake salvage from an abandoned hotel (long since demolished), which seems good for the deserts of North Africa or the snows of the Ukraine steppe!

  4. What a great series. Well done all around!

    1. Thank you, Gonsalvo. It's nice to know people get some enjoyment out of this blog - especially those who themselves post an interesting and informative blog.