Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Still working on Operation Crusader

Ariete Division.  'First draft'.
Well, I'll tell you what: this project is proving a deal of harder work and searching than I originally thought.  I had what looked like a very good and detailed source for the Orders of Battle (OOB)- and discover I have reason to doubt its veracity.  On the other side of the coin, working out the SP values for the scale of game we're looking at is also being subjected to a review.
Italian XX Mobile Corps.  Ariete on the
mat. Trieste behind it.

One who has been following my progress so far has obviously been down this same road before, and amassed a deal of knowledge (thanks Neil).  Against that I have a source that, owing to comprehensive and circumstantial detail seems persuasive.  For a wild moment I thought the OOB referred to a later time, but the presence of Savona Division (surrendered at Bardia, January 1942 and never rebuilt) and RECAM (disbanded not long after the Crusader Operation) indicated I wasindeed reading a November 1941 Orbat..

On the other hand, it would appear that the inclusion of the Semovente group is mistaken (552 and 553 Battalions).  I have two OOBs printed out, one that includes the assault guns, one without.  The latter I unearthed buried among other bits of paper.  Pity: I would have liked to include them.
Having said that, since I took the photos a couple of nights ago, I thought I'd post them here anyway, as a kind of 'first draft' of what Ariete division and XX (Mobile) Corps will look like.

The Order of battle of Ariete Division will henceforth be based upon this:

132 Armoured Division 'Ariete' Gen Mario Balotta

32 Armoured Regiment 
  • I Lt Tank Bn
  • II Lt Tank Bn
  • III Lt tank Battalion detached to RECAM
132 Armoured Regiment
  • VII Md Tank Bn
  • VIII Md Tank Bn
  • IX Md Tank Bn
8th Bersaglieri Regiment
  • III Battalion
  • V Battalion
  • XII Battalion
132 Artillery Regiment
Battalion/ 26 Artillery Regiment (attached from Pavia Division
Battalion attached from 24th Corps Artillery Group.

No: no armoured cars, no Semovente.  'Jacko': I hope you are not disappointed!

But the Corps Troops do have truck mounted 102mm AA/AT.


On a personal note, I have very likely another operation in train. For the last thirteen years the vision in my left eye has been badly impaired by cataracts.  And at last, in the last few weeks I have noticed a marked deterioration in the vision of my right eye.  Yep.  Cataracts.  Confirmed by a visit to the optometrist last Thursday.  I now have an appointment for a consultation at the St George's Eye Care on Monday, 1 October.
Mixed plate.  Toothsome?  Oh, yes!

In a species of 'anti-celebration, Karen and I followed that evening's grocery buy with a feed at the 'Food Court' at the Eastgate shopping ... place.  This is what I got.  Mixed plate (lamb and chicken) with salad, chips (fries) and topped with BBQ sauce, sweet chili sauce, and yoghurt.

A unsolicited, unapologetic plug.

It was a bloody dam jolly good feed!


  1. I too like the desert war - I am currently writing an operational set of rules and in researching have found these two sites that maybe useful for you:

    filled with primary sources on the particular operation, worth picking over


    maps, maps , maps of the north Africa theatre

    1. Thanks Neal! There's plenty to chew on there!

    2. It looks as though NH35-1, NH34-16 and NH34-4 are good for the Tobruk and Gazala operations, Great! Can you tell ne when these maps date from?

    3. I think they are American from the early 50's

  2. I had a look at how I modelled the units when I did Crusader (iirc the OBs were mainly from Greene and Massignani supplemented with some other books). For Ariete I modelled both the Armoured regiments as a single armoured brigade (3SP), the Bersaglieri Regt(2SP) and Div Support (2). The SP count is less than yours as I was using a different system of apportionment, but the ratios are about right. The Armoured units are tougher than the SP indicate as in the rules I used, armour in the open is doubled in strength (so 132 Amd Bde has a combat strength of 6).

    For DAK, each panzer division had its panzer regiment (4), rifle regiment(4), artillery(2), recce group (2) and Div support (3). I gave the panzer regiments big bonuses for quality, so combined, both PRs can smash any single isolated British armoured brigade. Again, in open terrain, the effective SPs are doubled (combat strength of 8 for each regiment).

    The British infantry had 2-3 brigade groups (depending division) of 4SP, and minimal div artillery (1) and Div support (1) as the latter was parcelled out to the infantry.

    Funny digging all this stuff out, I'm tempted to run the game again as I last did it years ago and never tok any pictures. I did Gazala as well.

    1. I ought to have responded before this, Martin. Fact is I took a good deal of note of your scheme. I'm thinking of adopting it, pretty much 'as is'. Another idea, and one I'm likeliest to adopt is to multiply the Tim Gow/Bob Cordery SP allocation by 3 (36 guns per SP; 45 tanks per SP. That way Ariete Div would get 1 M13 (SP=3) and 1 L3 tanketter (SP=2 probably reduced to 1 for being tankettes). The Italian inf divs would still get 1 gun at SP=1.

      The 5th NZ Bde I would give 5SP for its extra battalion, otherwise, the 4SP would represent the 3 battalions plus attached Arty, AT etc supports.

      I like the idea of doubling the tanks attacking in the open, an idea that has more than once crossed my mind, too.

      I think we're on to something.

  3. I love these simplified OOBs. I must finish the one I planned out for my Italian Alpini.

    Good luck with the operation and surviving the mixed plate!

    1. They are compelling, aren't they? I think my problem so far is that I am mixing ideas, having so many to choose from.

      The mixed plate was great - not haute cuisine, but not junk food, neither. I thought it deserved a little plug.

  4. Hi Duke, I am finding your desert operational articles inspirational, please keep up the good work. I have a 1/76 collection of desert models, you may just have pointed me in a new direction for them.


    1. Thanks for your feedback, Howard. Tell, you what: my Desert War stuff had hardly seen action at all for years until the ideas behind this project came along!

  5. I am enjoying your series on your Operation Crusader build. Please keep at it, Best wishes on resolving your eyesight problem.

  6. Ion,

    I apologise if I came across as "nit-picking"; that was not my intention. I understand what it's like to do a lot of work only to have it demolished.
    I've been researching Crusader and the earlier campaigns off and on for a long time now and have picked up a lot of info. However I haven't done anything with it! Your posts have revitalised my interests and thanks to you I may actually get around to doing something practical with models!

    I will confine myself to adding some bits.
    Ariete's OoB is what I have for them, less the Corps additions as this was a bit of an ad-hoc arrangement (hence the Milmart batteries).
    The CV35 battalions were originally known by other designations (II Beradi, IV Monti, XI Gregorutti) but are usually simply called I, II & III of 32 regt.
    III Bersaglieri had originally been the Fabris motorcycle btn, but due to losses was reorganized as a weapons btn (AA, MG, Mortar).
    8 Bersaglieri regt had received lots of German 37mm ATG (around 21 platoons + separate coy). There were also 2x 47mm ATG cosy, one of which went to RECAM along with the III light btn.

    While there were no armoured cars with Ariete, there were AB41s with RECAM in the Romolo Gessi PAI and experimental armoured coy (1coy with PAI, 1 platoon? + mixed armour btn).

    Each of the infantry divisions had received a CV35 company by Crusader.

    Ariete started with 154 M13/40 (down to 146 by Bir el Gobi) and 100 CV35.

    Italian artillery batteries seem to have had either 8 or 12 guns; I cannot determine a pattern as to who has what (such as corps troops having x guns). I'll have a look to see if there is some logic.

    Finally I sincerely hope your surgery goes well; while I have very poor distance vision it doesn't impact on me as I imagine yours is doing.

    Let me know if there are bits you want confirmed or if you have any gaps in the OoB.


    1. Hi Neil
      My earlier reply seems to have got lost in the aether - I probably just forgot about the blue 'Publish' button in plain sight below this panel.

      Look, if I have any issues with what you are telling me, that is my problem. I do appreciate, and value, your advice and help. Yes, it conflicts with sources I have obtained - especially this one:
      This I thought filled some gaps in other OOBs I looked up (at least one of which had an incomplete NZ OOB for Crusader).

      As it happens, I have decised that for what we are looking for, i've gone into too much detail. They'll still be good for other actions - even some within Op Crusader itself, but for now we are looking to doing the whole thing on one table. A tall order, I know.

      The numbers you mention for Ariete's armour are in the same ball park as their theoretical strengths: 159 M13s (53 per battalion) and 106 CVs. III/32 Tank Bn seems to have been detached to RECAM.

      You will see some ideas presented by Martin Rapier among these comments. I'll be taking that as my guide, I think. So far my focus has been too diffuse - mixing ideas - but now I feel surer about what i'm aiming at.

      Thank you for your comments so far, Neil, and I look forward to further conversations to come.

    2. Ion,

      Ah yes the axis history forum Crusader thread. I encountered it looking for a definitive answer on what CIH were equipped with.
      It's worth scrolling through the whole thing; you will see the various corrections as it goes.
      If you are aiming to do ALL of Crusader on one table, I assume you are looking at brigade/regiment stands.

      This sounds very much like Martin Rapier's Panzergruppe:

      I'm sure you have seen these as I seem to recall you mentioned them in an earlier post.

      I'm less sure if you have seen his take on the 6 Day War which will be of interest, as it goes into some detail of how he organized it:

      I would note his comments on the Egyptian player being overwhelmed. We are back to the 12-18 elements being the most a player can handle. I'm conscious there are only 2 of you.....
      He hints at his version of Crusader; perhaps he can be persuaded to write up his take on it?

      Martin are you reading this? ;-)


  7. Archduke Piccolo,

    When I read this recent blog entry I missed the last section. I was sorry to read about your eye problems. As you know, I am in the very early stages of developing cataracts and I am not looking forward to the prospect of having to have them dealt with at some time in the future. Good luck, and I hope that your treatment is both prompt and successful.

    All the best,


    PS. The food sounded great! One of my favourite dishes is iskender, which thinly cut grilled/kebabed lamb or chicken, served on a bed of spicy tomato sauce, pita bread, melted butter and yogurt.

    1. Sounds delicious! Sounds Turkish. I quite like the cuisine, such as I have experienced it in Turkey and in the occasional Turkish eatery in this town. On the eye thing: I admit to a deal of trepidation, but the bullet is there; we have to bite it. Better sooner than later at that.