On the morning of 15 June, 1941, the long awaited and eagerly anticipated Operation Battleaxe rolled into motion. Eleventh Indian Brigade and 4th Royal Tank Regiment (RTR) advanced along the escarpment toward the vital Halfaya Pass, defended by 7th Bersagliere backed by anti-tank guns. Also under 4th Indian Division command, the Guards Brigade, accompanied by 7th RTR, pushed on towards Point 206, overlooking the frontier wire.Unfortunately a staff error (for which no satisfactory explanation was ever forthcoming, apart from the inability, twice demonstrated, of a certain general staff officer to count up to three) led to the Buffs and 2 Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders failing to appear on the start lines. The absence of one third of the infantry rather compromised Eighth Army's chances of success in this operation (and rather discouraged the writing of this After Action Report, truth be told). But it was a fairly involving battle all the same, and it was only when starting to write this article that I discovered the 'General Staff's' snafu.
Priority being given to the capture of Halfaya Pass, the Indian infantry attacked from above (Mahratta) and below (Rajputana) the escarpment, led by the Central India Horse (CIH) armoured cars to spy out the defenders, and the Scots Guards and 4th Royal Tanks advancing on the left of the Indian infantry. Supporting this attack was half the Division's artillery.
The attack upon Pt 206 was left to the Coldstream Guards and 7th Royal Tanks, supported by the balance of the Div Artillery. (Just as an aside, here, to give the recon units a role, I enacted that the first attack against enemy in 'D' (Defence) mode required double-5 or double-6 to score hits, but subsequent attacks required only a '6'. Nippy little recon units being capable of rapid movement to get themselves out of trouble, could afford to take the loss without being destroyed, even at the loss of all their strength points (SPs). This allowed the troops with more heft a better chance of doing some damage before the erosion of their own strength became too severe). According to this scheme, the CIH took its lumps and vanished behind the advancing troops. Not that it availed much: three infantry battalions, a tank regiment and a regiment of artillery battered the Halfaya Pass position, and although what remained of the anti-tank units had to pull out, the Bersagliere seemed disinclined to follow.
Meanwhile, the 7th Armoured Brigade and its support group, led by the 11th Hussars, crossed the Frontier Wire without opposition and advanced rapidly towards Hafid Ridge, the capture of which feature was deemed vital to the success of the Operation. The position was held by a panzergrenadier battalion, a reconnaissance unit, a detachment of 8.8cm FlaK guns in anti-tank role, and a battalion from 8th Panzer Regiment. As the main body of the British formation drove north, they left a screen of 2-pounder anti-tank guns not far distant due west of Point 206, by way of a link, or liaison, between the two wings of the Allied push.
The first real Allied success came from the extreme left of the line, with the King's Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) and the Rifle 'Brigade' forcing 33rd Recon Unit off the western end of Hafid Ridge. Following up this success, the infantry, with support from 2nd Royal Tanks rolled up half the remainder of the ridge, leaving the '88s' clinging precariously to the eastern end. Meanwhile, 6th Royal Tanks swung to the right, where a counter-attack by the panzers and gepanzert infantry seemed to be developing, a few miles north of Pt 206. The I/8th Panzer that had begun the day on Pt 208 had dropped to the desert floor to join its sister battalion for a united blow.
By mid-afternoon, the attack on Halfaya had been repulsed, and 11th Brigade was back on its start line. The assault on Pt 206 was still ongoing, but barely.
As night drew in, Eighth Army had cleared Pt 206 and most of Hafid Ridge. But Afrika Korps retained the hold of the rest of the eminence, and, more importantly, the Italians were still in possession of Halfaya Pass.
Eighth Army lost 33SP overall: 7 tanks, 22 infantry, 4 reconnaissance, though 2 of the latter (11 Hussars) counted as destroyed when struck by enemy armour after having been reduced to 0SP. They recovered 4 tank, 11 infantry and 1 recon SP overnight. Not having the Axis figures (I think they lost about 16SP all up during the day), I can not comment upon their recovery, but it did mean that as far as Halfaya Pass was concerned, it would be all to do again on the morrow.
A somewhat revitalised 4th Indian Division began its assault upon Halfaya Pass, bringing in all the resources that could be brought to bear, save 3rd Coldstream Guards occupying Pt 206. That stout battalion had to be left to its own devices, though, as it turned out, they were not seriously attacked throughout the day. By this concerted effort, the Bersagliere were gradually levered out of their dug in positions, and fell back towards the Sollum-Fort Capuzzo line. It was an exiguous Indian Brigade that occupied the hard-won Pass.
At this point 'Jacko' (Paul Jackson, playing the Axis role) had to leave for a mid-afternoon commitment. Although it was fairly plain already that 8th Army had achieved all it was going to achieve, there was still two-thirds of the second day remaining. I decided to play it out solo.
There ended the two-day Operation Battleaxe battle. Its only successes were the capture of Point 206, and carrying of the Halfaya Pass position - though they were sufficient for Lt-Gen Beresford-Pierse to claim a victory. If victory it was, it cost a great deal in manpower and equipment, especially armour.
Despite the missing troops, it still looks an intense and hard fought battle. Bravo! As I recall when Ive played it, taking Halfaya is really hard and 7th Armoured is regularly obliterated by DAK. Adding in a it more infantry to be overrun by panzers won't affect the outcome that much.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Martin. The game seems to work quite well, so far. Soon I'll have to write it all down 'on paper'. Halfaya Pass was certainly a tough nut, and cost probably 3 times the SPs of the garrison.Delete
As always a gripping battle report which reads like an account in an Official History rather than a war game.
I'll confine my OoB comments to a couple of things:
Also had the support of 6" howitzer battalion.
CIH were elsewhere, recce were 3x sqns from what was left of Indian 3rd Motor Brigade (2x PAVO 1x 2 Lancers) so truck mtd inf rather than a/cars.
On which note, should be Marmon Harrington or possibly even still Rolls Royce for 11 Hussars (who also had a sqn from Royals)
The "gepanzert" btn if anywhere should be in 5 Leicte as they had an MG btn remaining (the other was chewed up at Tobruck) which had 10 half tracks, no one else had them until later aside from hqs.
Technical note; how many turns per day? 6 (x2 hour turns)?
How long to play in real life?
Thanks for your comment on my writing style. One of the reasons it takes several days to get these AAR narratives out is that it is so hard getting started! A story begins with the first word - but that first word is the hardest to set down.Delete
As usual, you have provided more detailed information than I have been able to find elsewhere. I went by a OOB I found on the internet, that I don't recall seeing mention of the medium artillery. At that I had one 25pr representing 2 regiments, which may be on the skimpy side.
Equipment - fair points, but until recently I had only Humber and a Daimler armoured car. Maybe I should scratchbuild a Rolls Royce - I have the template. I did briefly consider using carriers for recon, though. You might observe that one of the 'I' tanks was a Valentine, standing in for a Matilda 'Jacko' forgot to bring along. On the German side, I very nearly made them all truck mounted. Not that it made any material difference: I gave the German infantry all the same SPs.
Turns per day. I had not thought about that, but I think I did stay with the 2-hour time scale per turn (it should have been more like 4). At it was near the summer solstice I allowed for 16 hours of daylight, so 8 turns per day. I know we played 2 turns of the 'second day' before Paul had to leave at around 3 o'clock - about 4 hours after we started (which included setting up, and a half-hour or so wandering off to the local Burger King for a bite). I finished the game off in maybe a couple of hours (at a pretty leisurely pace). I think the elapsed time would have been 6 hours perhaps for the 16 turns overall. I took my time clearing it all away!
RE last postReplyDelete
CIH were present, but were equipped with a mix of trucks and carriers.
The heavy artillery were in regimental strength.
The Italian contribution were the infantry from Trento, not the Bersaglieri. They had given up their trucks on arrival to ease the supply situation.
Halfaya pass was garrisoned by a btn from 104 Infantry (German) under the Reverend Major Bach (he was a Lutheran pastor). They had some ex-French heavy artillery.
On the frontier were also 15 Kradscutzen and at least one of the Oasis btns (German static inf).
It's inspiring me to get my finger out with my own North Africa project.
As far as I could determine, the 7th Bersagliere was a 'Trento' Division battalion, and indications from what I have read were that they formed at least part of the garrison at Halfaya. I know there were Germans present, and I subsumed them in the anti-tank unit. The German battalion I placed upon Point 206. My reading didn't make altogether clear which German infantry units were where, though.Delete
There were some small units I left out - the engineer companies from both Allied Divisions, for example. Having said that, I appreciate your sending these links. I'm not sure I want to subscribe to scribd - something to think about. But the Bob McKenzie links are certainly informative. Still and all, I'm not too displeased with what I made of the operation, given the haste with which I put it together!
I managed to get the Megablitz Battleaxe oob as a pdf from somewhere (as well as ones for Graziani's offensive and Compass) the author seems to like multiple infantry. If you'd like a copy drop me an email (email@example.com).ReplyDelete
Battleaxe is a difficult one on the axis side as the divisions were split up into various forces. I've seen mention of a Bersaglieri coy at Halfaya, but it was really Rev Bach's I/104.
Enjoyed the battle report and pictures. The troops and terrain look great. I hope to try your scenario later this week, initially as a solo game. I have an idea I want incorporate although others may have tried it before. Strenght points will be marked with different colours of dice.
Light armour and AT guns will have blue and hit each other as normal, but at a -1 on dice against medium armour.
Mediuum armour and AT units a red dice and hit each other as normal but get +1 on dice against blue armour.
Heavy armour or AT get a green, only the 88mm, in this battle But get a +2 against blue or a +1 against red armour.
Don't know if I am over doing with this, but I'll try it and see.
Final point, I agree with you about using what you have got to represent what you need. I have over 100 vehicles in my 8th Army, but sometimes I don't have the exact model needed. I find it makes no difference if you've got the SPs right. Keep up the good work
Hi Howard -Delete
Thanks for your comment. Pity it has taken me more than a month to find it (and that only fortuitously). I'm intrigued by your colour-coding by weight of armour and anti-tank. Something perhaps for me to look into further! I've tried looking up your profile, but not a lot of info there...?
Sorry Duke, just spent an hour trying to post a comment here.ReplyDelete
Thanks for reply. you probably gathered from my attempts to comment that I am not very computer literate. I am over 70 live in Lancashire England and been wargaming since the late 1960s Probably my favourite period is WW2 for which I have several armies. I didn't get to game Battleaxe but my Hex mat arrived last week so its systems go. I'm just wondering should I start small and do operation Brevity or should I go for broke and do Battleaxe.
I don't really have a reply to that question, Howard. I'm thinking of 'doing' Brevity, myself, some time soon. I reckon just go with what you feel like - perhaps a couple of small 'shake down' exercises (actions) to begin with to familiarise with the game mechanics - then into something, like Brevity or Battleaxe.Delete
I did have some idea of 'doing' Operation Crusader, but I reckon my hex-table needs to be at least half as long again for that to work. I do have an ungridded 6ft x 4ft table though...
You might be interested in this scenario: http://archdukepiccolo.blogspot.com/2018/01/sidi-rezegh-western-desert-scenario.htmlDelete
The other two articles on this action can be seen later that same month (January 2018).