French Counter-attack at Kuneitra
Syria, 15th-16th June 1941
Kuneitra was held by 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers commanded by Lt. Col. Arthur Gordon Orr DSO (part of 5th Indian Infantry Brigade of 4th Indian Division) less one company which had been detached; plus some personnel from the Brigades transport and supply, plus a couple of carriers and a single Marmon Herrington armed with a 20mm Breda. Col. Orr had roughly 600 men in total under his command.
The Battalion had little in the way of heavy weapons other than a few Boys anti-tank rifles; and a Hotchkiss MMG which they had found a few days earlier when they first arrived in Kuneitra. The battalion`s three 37mm Bofors AT guns had been taken by Brigade to support other columns in their attacks against Damascus (due to a general shortage of heavy weapons).
This small garrison faced a strong mobile force of around 1,500 men (a mixed force of Senegalese, Moroccan and Algerian infantry, Lebanese cavalry plus 27 medium and 12 light tanks; about 12 armoured cars, two field guns and mortars under Col. Lecoulteux.
Obviously a straight forward attack-defence game would lead to a crushing British defeat! I always prefer to run actual historic based scenarios; I usually tinker with the forces to give the both attacker and defender a chance to use their skills to alter the historic outcome.
1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers (Lt. Col. Arthur Gordon Orr DSO)
Battalion HQ with -
CO, 2IC, 3 officers, senior NCO, 2 RTO, 4 runners
2 rifle companies each with -
3 x 10-man platoons (each with a Bren gun)
Marmon Herrington A/C with 20mm Breda *
Hotchkiss MMG + crew (see note below)
2 x Boys AT rifle teams
2" mortar team
* Each round the Breda fires there is chance of a fatal breakdown, this chance increases per round (1 in rd 1, 1-2 in rd 2, 1-3 in rd 3, etc) after turn 5 only a 6 keeps the gun firing, any other result means a breakdown.
5-man platoon of RASC personnel (rifle armed only)
Reinforcements (added to make this a fairer game)
Col. Gordon may call one air-strike (a single Hurricane) which will arrive 1D6 turns after calling and stay for 2 turns strafing designated targets
Arrive by road from Sheikh Meskine on turn 15 + 1D6
No4 company of 1st Royal Fusiliers with -
4-man HQ plus 2-man Boys AT rifle team
2 x 8 man platoons (each with a Bren)
Carried in 3 trucks
25pdr + tow
2 x R35
2 x Ft17
Company I/17th Senegalese Tirailleur Regiment
2 x Laffly 50AM A/Cs
2 troops 1st Spahis (mounted cavalry)
4 troops Levant militia cavalry
2 x Ft17
2 x Dodge Tanake
Motorised Company of 2nd Battalion, 6th Foreign Legion
75mm battery (towed) on table in direct support
You were initially tasked with occupying the town of Kuneitra astride the Damascus highway as a supply base for operations further north. Unexpectedly your forward outpost was attacked and driven back yesterday and you find yourself and your command exposed to a serious Vichy counter-attack! All Allied units are committed and little in the way of reinforcements can be spared at the present time, but as things develop anything available will be sent your way. Kuneitra is a vital position, its loss to the enemy allows him to attack the rear of units already engaged to the north and also cut our supply lines to those units - you have to hold!
Col. Lecoulteux with a mixed column of armour, cavalry and motorised infantry is ordered to take Kuneitra and cut the supply lines for the British troops attacking Damascus. It is hoped this show of strength may confuse and delay the enemy allowing General de Verdilhac time to shuffle forces east to face an expected new attack from Iraq. Orders are to take the town and dig in.
Legion motorised company with Tanake and Ft17s
Moroccan Spahis and Levant cavalry plus Laffly A/Cs
Senegalese Company with tanks
British initial defences
French initial moves, Senegalese (in trucks) and supporting armour down the road with the cavalry (half Spahis & half Lebanese) down each flank.
The British opened up with their AT rifles, the Breda, Brens and Corporal Cotton`s Hotchkiss, initially this caused a few casualties among the cavalry only.
For the next couple of rounds the advance and British fire continued (the Breda broke on turn two and it and its crew drove out of the village south straight away), the cavalry continued their flanking moves; the Senegalese arrived by truck and de-bussed, the `75 battery arrived and moved into firing position.
Turn 5-6 luck goes with the British at first when a perfect AT rifle shot (12 on 2d6) kills an Ft17!
Now before purists start to shout I am a great believer in luck and do NOT support the theory that says a fluke cannot happen - maybe the round killed the driver through his vision slit, maybe it went down the barrel and the breech was open (both of which I have actually read of happening).
Anyway then a 2" mortar bomb hits an R35 and scores an 11 (which beats its armour value in our rules) so I declared engine damage - another French AFV gone!
On the downside, the Senegalese over-ran the outer trenches and Cpl Cotton was forced to run for his life with his Hotchkiss tucked under his arm. The two cavalry units were now engaged in rifle duels on both flanks, the `75s had began firing on any visible defenders and the Legion motorised company with yet more armour had arrived.......
Cavalry supported by a Laffly attack from the left through the date palm grove
On the right the cavalry work their way forward through the apple orchard
The outer trench-line occupied by the Senegalese supported by tanks
Turn 7 Hooray for the RAF! A lone hurricane fighter swoops in and straffs the very tempting road filled with Legion transport
Leaving behind burning trucks and general devastation - the Legion lost nearly a full platoon and a Tanake.......
Turn 8 the Hurricane circled around and came in again, this time parallel with the British lines, similar chaos but this time an Ft17 lost a track and the last Tanake just simply blew up! The Hurricane pilot now out of ammo flys off home to some well earned ham and jam :)
Same turn the Laffly A/C supporting the cavalry on the left MG jams (this proved a fatal breakdown and the vehicle withdrew on turn 10)
For the next few turns the French re-organised, sending their Ft17s down the flanks whilst the artillery plastered any British positions visible. The Senegalese were shot to pieces and eventually just went to ground in and around the British outer trenches. The cavalry on the left proved highly effective and dug-in in the apple orchard and from its stone walls caused many British casualties.
On turn 10 the last R-35 smashed into the market square only to take a shot from the last AT rifle (11), I ruled a jammed turret and the R-35 retreated as fast as it arrived; but only to be replaced by an Ft17 supported by the last Laffy A/C both covered by a platoon of Legionnaires.
Turns 11-13 saw the British center crumble, the only saving grace was Cpl Cotton, even though he replaced his no2 several times (6 throughout the game); his calm presence and MMG kept the defenders together (my gamer kids proudly referred to Cotton`s survival as "hero armour").
The French made their move at this point - two truck mounted Legion platoons along with an Ft17 had just been casually driving down the right side of the table. With everything happening in the center of the village and the only British on that side already engaged with the cavalry, they arrived un-opposed and swept in to envelope the British CP.
Their flank turned, facing armour and infantry from the front as well, their reinforcements not due until turn 20 (bad roll that) the remaining British clambered aboard any available trucks and scarpered south; the last man on the last truck was of course Cpl Cotton who at the end was forced to abandon is faithful Hotchkiss as he jumped upon the already moving MWD........
Cpl Cotton holding the rearguard
Great game, loads of fun, the British Hurricane evened the odds and made it a fairer contest. My allowing for luck and fluke hits game the British a fairer chance, and I think the boys understood and enjoyed that aspect. Cpl Cotton was fun and I may well add "real" characters into our games more often.