Thursday, 30 August 2012



French attack towards Djebel Chirich and El Fkirine south of Pont-du-Fahs, Tunisia, 27th December 1942

The airfield at Pont-du-Fahs had been captured briefly in late November by elements of British 1st Airborne Division, they were then forced to abandon it and retreat over-land when Allied ground forces failed to arrive in time. The tactical value of the town being only 30 miles from Tunis, with a good road net was well appreciated by both sides. During the lull following the allied reorganisation and treaty negotiations (between the former Vichy French forces and Allies), the Germans managed to transport some three divisions from Italy/Sicily into Tunisia. This are then sent piece-meal as ad-hoc units to the front to form a blocking line against further Allied advances.

In the south facing these advanced German/Italian positions were elements of Groupement Mathenet, part of the newly reformed French XIX Corps under Juin.

On December 25th the French mounted a poorly organised attack with several battalion sized formations moving roughly north-east toward Pont-du-Fahs. The mountainous terrain and awful weather conditions combined with virtually no radios led to units becoming lost and confused, the uncoordinated advance could not be effectively supported once contact was made with the enemy; eventually all units withdrew back to their starting positions.

General Mathenet asked for support from the Anglo-Americans in the form of radio equipment and armour; this was given and a second attack was planned for the 27th.

The centre of the advance was an attack by II Battalion, 7th Moroccan Traillieur supported by US light tanks of “C” company, I battalion, 1st Armoured Regiment and III Groupe of 67th Regiment de Artillerie d`Afrique.

The attack called for the battalion and tanks to attack from their starting positions in and around the crossroads of Oum-el-Abouab along the road which led up through the mountains toward the village Bahalil then onto Djebal Chirich and Djebal El Fkirine. There was a large Kasbah at the half-way point up the road between Oum-el-Abouab and the top of the pass. The main attack was to be made by II battalion; flanked by advances by I and III battalions, also in direct support of this advance - III battalion 4e Regiment Traillieur Tunisienne along with a tabor of Goums would be swinging around from the south (to try and out-flank the defenders).

Facing the allies were elements of Division Von Broich an ad-hoc mix of German and Italian units.

For our game I have adjusted the orbats to suit what we had available and to make a challenging tabletop action.

Anglo-French Forces -
Sous-groupe Carpentier
5ere II/7e RTM
9ere III/4e RTT
52ere /3e Tabor du Goums
“C” company I Batt. 1st Armoured Regiment; US 1sr Armd. Div. (Maj. R. Barlow)
III/67e RAA with -
No1 Battery - 47mm AT guns (towed)
No2 Battery - 75mle1897 (off table)
No3 Battery - 65m mountain guns (mule packed)
The odd make-up of III/67e RAA is typical of the ad-hoc units created by the French in North Africa.
Couple of pics of the feared Moroccan Goumiers (Blitz, Irregular & Bandera figures)
3rd battery III/67e RAA (guns by David Reasoner)
Initial Axis forces -
Kampfgruppe T3
1st Kompanie, Tunis Field Battalion T3
No4 Kompanie, Tunis Field Battalion T3 (mortars and MMGs)
Panzerjager battalion 605 (3 x 37mm AT guns)
4th African Artillery Regiment (1 x 75IG attached to 1st/T3, 1 x battery 105mm off table)

Reinforcements –
1st Kompanie, I Battalion, 7th Panzer Regiment
2nd Kompanie, 86th Panzergrenadier Regiment
1 flight of Stuka dive bombers

The French want to capture the Kasbah and gain and secure the heights above Oum-el-Abouab as a jump-off point for further advance; this would be a strategic victory for the Anglo-French.
Failure to secure the heights but capturing the Kasbah is considered a tactical victory.
Any other result should be considered a German victory.

Special rules
Only the HQ of 5ere/II RTM has a radio and only this can call support fire from 2/III 67e RAA
US M3 tanks have no radios except in their command tank, they cannot communicate with one-another
No1 Battery III/67 RAA is limited to the road/track for movement.
No3 Battery III/67 RAA can be attached to either Traillieur company as direct support, guns are mule-packed; these take 2 turns to assemble/disassemble.

A couple of pics of the table
The Kasbah can be seen in centre by the road
The Tunisian company started on the right (Tumbling Dice figures)
The Moroccans on the left (a mix of FAA & EWM)
Each company had a couple of tanks and half the mountain battery attached, the towed AC (anti-char) battery moved along the road in direct support.

It was decided the arrival of the Goumiers would be delayed until turn 12 (the French players did not know 10th Panzer would arrive on turn 10!)

The first few turns were taken up with a general advance, during which Tunisians were subjected to some directed 105mm fire. The Moroccans on the left were the first to encounter German infantry, whom they attacked with all the vigour and élan they were famous for. The Germans pulled back, but were surprised by one of the US light tanks which drove straight at them (like cavalry of old), unfortunately for the M3 there was a 37mm anti-tank gun who slammed a shell into the exposed tank!
The Moroccans however weren’t to be stopped and stormed forward.

The Tunisians on the left pushed forward, brushing aside German positions until the got to the Kasbah, where they encountered serious resistance.
As well as artillery and mortar fire the Tunisians lost a tank to another 37mm

By turn 9 the Tunisians were in the Kasbah, but they lost the last M3 on their side of the road (to some stunning dice rolling)

A German air-strike destroyed the second gun of the AC battery

Turn 10 and the arrival of elements of 10th Panzer

Much to the German commander’s dismay, the first PzIII was knocked out by a 65mm mountain gun firing over open sights!!!!!!! This was quickly followed on turn 11 by the second (a 47mm AT round this time).

Whilst the panzergrenadiers quickly swept away the remnants of the Moroccan company, their supporting tanks were pathetic!!!

The last M3 was knocked out by the last PzIII on turn 12, but the panzer was caught in a salvo of off-table 75mm artillery and suffered critical engine damage. The last of the Moroccan company surrendered, isolated way beyond any possible help and now cut-off by the counter-attacking grenadiers.
By turn 14, the game was a stalemate, the Tunisians entrenched around the Kasbah, the lightly equipped Goumiers moving up (but slowly); the French right was smashed and the Moroccan company destroyed, but the Germans with no mobile tanks left just didn`t have the strength to continue.

A tactical French victory; the boys were excellent today, played well together as a team.

The attack began well enough with the French colonial troops full of confidence with the US tanks in support, but yet another uncoordinated attack over rough terrain in awful weather resulted in failure. The US tanks without radios were unable to turn the tide; their commander was killed whilst desperately running from tank to tank giving directions and orders. They lost several tanks to anti-tank fire and the surprise arrival of several German tanks which quickly knocked out five more! The dazed and demoralised survivors withdrew only to be fired on by their French allies! The French gunners, very tank-conscious and who had only a few weeks before been fighting the Americans around Oran made short work of the surviving vehicles! Such tragic events happen in war, a genuine mistake. With the loss of all the supporting tanks, the French attack melted away leaving the Germans in control of the hills.

Charles Messenger who commanded a British armoured car unit attached to 7RTM says that only an unusual lack of aggression by the Germans (maybe due to a shortage of man-power?), where they failed to exploit the French withdrawal, stopped a complete rout.


  1. That's a great game, and crackin' battle report! Loved it!

  2. Very kind Richard, I think Jon Sutherland is being far too generous about my modelling and painting - my skills arn't a patch on his :-)

  3. yes i love your AAR`s also.Interesting stuff. Do you model any imagi-nation armies?

  4. To be honest I find history fascinating enough to keep me busy. But I do have two fictional modern "armies" - one African bush wars, the other Arab/Iraqi/Syrian, etc. But I don`t really enjoy moderns, so the project stagnated......