Sunday, 5 August 2012

Saafi, November 8th 1942

The landing at Saafi
Operation Torch, Morocco, November 8th 1942

This is a historically based wargame; I’ve adjusted the forces involved to create a decent table-top game.

The main purpose in taking Saafi (Spelt “Safi” on US maps) was to get the medium tanks ashore to use as needed, the operation was expected to fall into four major phases:

1. The port must be brought under control by seizing the docks and preventing sabotage, and by clearing the enemy from a deep beachhead around it.
2. The armoured elements on the transport Titania and the medium tanks on the seatrain Lakehurst had to be brought ashore and assembled for combat.
3. The line of communication had to be made secure for a northward advance.
4. The armoured force, in particular, had to hasten overland toward Casablanca using bridges over the Oum er Rbia River which must be secured as early as possible.

To control the port and establish the beachhead, artillery batteries had to be neutralized and captured, machine gun positions cleared, the garrison subdued, and the arrival of French ground reinforcements or delivery of a serious air attack prevented by defended roadblocks and by supporting air cover.

The Safi landing force (designated Sub-Task Force BLACKSTONE) numbered 327 officers and 6,101 enlisted men, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ernest N. Harmon, Commanding General, 2nd Armoured Division. The force was organized into two battalion landing teams (BLT's) for amphibious assault, with part of one infantry battalion in reserve; one armoured landing team for early commitment with one medium tank battalion in reserve; a small medical unit, several specialized signal detachments, interpreters and interrogators of prisoners of war; and miscellaneous other detachments.

The light tanks attached to the two BLT's came from Company B, 70th Tank Battalion (Separate). The Armoured Landing Team consisted of elements of the 2nd and 3d Battalions, 67th Armoured Regiment (thirty-six light and fifty-four medium tanks), supported by two batteries of self-propelled 105-mm. howitzers, a provisional bridge company, signal and supply detachments - all from the 2nd Armoured Division. The sub-task force commander took his staff and headquarters from that division, as did Brig. Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey, who controlled the Armoured Landing Team through Headquarters, Combat Command B, and a detachment from Headquarters, 67th Armoured Regiment.

The plan called for a surprise landing inside the harbour itself by two old destroyers -Bernadou and the Cole. These ships would land companies K and L of the 47th Infantry, this being followed by landing craft depositing further men and light tanks at the beaches within the bay (designated – Blue, Red and Green).

Facing the Americans the French Garrison Commander Major Deuve had the following defenders available – a total strength of about 450 officers and men within Safi and its immediate surrounds. This included the following:

Front de mer
2 static 75mm guns plus a defence platoon (all naval personel)
Point de la Tour
Coastal battery “La Railleuse” with 4 x 130mm naval guns with modern range finder and fire control apparatus (though two were inoperable); the guns in fixed circular emplacements. The entire battery is protected by AA machine guns and barbed wire, and manned by the 104th (coastal defence) company of the 2nd Moroccan Traillieur Regiment
High ground south of town
Battery of 4 x 75mm with Legionnaires from 2REI
Two miles south of town (about half a mile in land)
A mobile battery of three tractor drawn 155mm guns (initially well camouflaged)
Within Saafi
A platoon of lt tanks,
5th company, 2nd Moroccan Traillieur Regiment

Other units including: horsed cavalry, lt. tanks and armoured cars, horse drawn artillery and infantry (maybe another 1,400 men in total) could be rushed to Saafi within 24hrs.

As a basis for this game I used Colin Rumford`s interesting version in the original Rapid Fire! rulebook and took several of his ideas onboard –

This is an amphibious coup de main and follow-up landing based on the Safi assault. The American objective is to clear enemy forces from, and hold, the following:

Objective Points
Harbour area (a 2” square zone) compulsory (20 pts)
Post Office / Telecommunications Centre 10
Barracks 15
Station 5
Fuel Dump 10
U.S. failure to secure the harbour and at least 30 objective points by the end of twenty turns will result in a French victory. Each move represents approximately one hour of the real battle. The first four moves take place in darkness.
Special Rules
The Harbour Assault
The Harbour Assault force moves onto the table on move one. French troops on the quaysides stand the following chances of detecting the attack: 20% on move one, 40% on move two, 80% on move three, automatically on move four. On detecting enemy vessels they may both fire and switch on their searchlight, which will inflict normal observation ranges on nominated craft. The Americans have one chance at shooting this out per move - evens on a d6 destroys the light. When all the crew, troops and vehicles aboard a vessel have been eliminated it is considered sunk.
Only one third of the defenders are initially active. In the turn after firing has commenced another third may begin to move and fire. The remainder of the force then becomes active in the following turn. Inactive troops are restricted to buildings or tents.
Tank Landing
When a U.S. tank lands at any beach a d6 is thrown. The score gives the number of moves the vehicle must remain stationary to ‘dry out’. This does not prevent it firing.
U.S. Support
Naval gunfire is represented in three stages.
The first, codenamed ‘Batter Up’, represents the destroyer Mervine ‘shooting-in’ the coup de main force. This consists of two observed rounds of 150mm artillery fire per move for a maximum three moves. Only French units or guns who have opened fire may be targeted.
The second, ‘Play Ball’, represents battleship New York’s fire against the coastal guns and may only commence after the latter has opened fire. Every move a d6 is thrown: 5 or 6 being needed for a direct hit. The effect of direct hits is cumulative. The first hit stops the French guns firing for one move, the second for two moves and the third knocks it out.
The third stage represents air-spotted fire from the cruiser Philadelphia. A U.S. float plane may loiter over the table for three moves, succeeding in transmitting the target’s position every move unless a 1 is thrown on a d6. Gunfire is represented by two observed rounds of l50mm artillery fire per move. The plane also carries three bombs which may be dropped in a move (or moves) when observation is not taking place.
Air support consists of three daylight moves over the table for a Wildcat fighter from the carrier Santee.

French Support
The guns at Pointe de la Tour (the Batterie Railleuse) are represented by a turret mounted 130mm weapon and director tower in a single complex. It may fire one observed round per move once U.S. forces have been detected, but may only target Allied vessels in the harbour.


US Forces
1st battalion, 47th Infantry, 9th Division - Col. EH Randle

1st wave
USS Bernadou – 3” gun, 40mm AA, 2 x .50cal HMGs
“K”, “L” companies each with:
HQ – CO, NCO, RTO, runner
3 platoons with: 10 figures (inc BAR)
Support platoon with: 60mm mortar, .30cal MG, Bazooka

1 platoon 504th Combat Engineers battalion
12 figures with demo charges, bangalor torpedoes & flamethrower

Landing at “Green” Beach
Landing craft with:
Recce platoon – Jeep w/radio, Jeep w/.50cal, 6 men, M3 lt tank

2nd wave (Red Beach) enters table 4 turns after Bernadou docks
2 LCM with
“I” company, 47th infantry (as above)
1 platoon 504th Combat Engineer Battalion (as above)

3rd wave (Blue beach) enters table 4 turns after 2nd wave lands
2 LCM with
“J” company, 47th infantry (as above)
1 platoon 504th Combat Engineer Battalion (as above)

4th wave (to be decided by US commander) enters table 4 turns after the 3rd wave lands
2 LCM with - 2 x M3 lt tanks, 1 x GMC75
2 DUKW each with
1 platoon of 1st Ranger battalion
10 figs (inc BAR)
French Garrison
Batterie Railleuse
1 x 130mm naval gun (6 crew)
1 x 10 fig infantry platoon (VB grenade launcher, LMG)
Twin 13.2mm Hotchkiss AA
OP team (officer, RTO)

Front de le Mer
75mle1987 + naval crew
8 naval ratings (rifle armed)

High ground South of Saafi
2 x 75mle1897 + crews
2 x 10 fig platoons (2REI) + Hotchkiss MMG team

Garrison HQ – Maj. Deuve, NCO, RTO, 2 runners + staff car
10 fig platoon (2REI) 1x LMG
Hotchkiss MMG team

Petrol dump
½ platoon of Traillieur Maroccaine (5 figs)

Saafi Harbour
1 x 10 fig platoon Trailllieur Maroccaine (VB launcher, LMG)
Hotchkiss MMG team

Saafi Town
Remaining elements 5ere Traillieur Marocaine
81mm Mortar team
Hotchkiss MMg team
37mm infantry gun
1 platoon 64BCC with –
1 x Ft17
1 platoon 4RCA -
1 x Laffly armoured car

Game fought over 3hrs with myself as the French and my lads Alex (14) and Chris (10) the Yanks.

Saafi town (the harbour is just visible on the left), the building in the centre with the Ft17 is the post office/telephone exchange
Saafi Harbour (note the search-light)
Pointe de la Tour and Batterie Railleuse (built from bits from the two Airfix coastal emplacements for this game)
View looking south across Pointe de la Tour, you can see Red and Blue beaches and the Fuel depot and army barracks
Close-up of the barracks
`75 battery on the hill above Saafi
Front de mer position with its naval defenders
Trailieur Marocaine defend the docks
USS Bernadou (using the Britannia German trawler with US armament)
US first wave approaches the shore

The French spotted the approaching ships after 2 turns and sounded the alarm, their searchlight was almost immediately smashed as it targeted the ships, but not before the `75s had began to open fire and Batterie Railleuse woke up.

On turn 4 the Bernadou slide aside the dock and the landing craft beached on Green beach within the harbour. The ship was struck by several 75mm shells causing casualties among the infantry who were preparing to disembark. The ships .50cal, 40mm and 105mm guns swept away any Traillieur who was visible on the dock. The recce. Jeeps drove off the landing craft up the beach, but the M3 stalled (flooded) and sat in shallow water.
Turn 5. saw the first US platoons scrambling ashore under intense rifle, rifle-grenade and 75mm fire, the US players called for off-shore support “Batter-up”, this smashed the naval crewed `75 in the Front de Mer position and in turn 6 &7 wiped out the hillside battery too! The Jeeps drove up off the beach and ran into an Ft17 and Laffly armoured car, both were shot to pieces!
Turns 6-8, Battery Railleuse fired several times at the docked Bernadou (awful, poor shooting) and the US players tried to knock it out with off-shore fire, all this time platoon after platoon scrambled off the battered ship (now under 80mm mortar, rifle-grenade, rifle and LMG fire). The M3 sat on the beach unable to move, but engaged the Ft17 when it tried to move towards the dock (knocking it out on turn 7), unfortunately the Traillieur had moved their 37mm infantry gun into position and managed to kill the M3 that same turn!
5ere Traillieur Marocaine in Saafi
US troops storming the dock buildings
Turn 8, US second wave arrives at Red Beach – 2 platoons head for Battery Railleuse, the rest for the fuel deport. Battery Raillieuse finally gets a hit (US “L” company takes nearly 2 platoons in casualties before they disembark).
Turn 9, US off-shore fire silences Battery Railleuse (over the next 2 turns, two further hits destroy the battery), “I” company captured the fuel deport, but Legionnaires and Moroccans are counter-attacking at the docks.
“I” company and engineers attacking Battery Railleuse
“I” company at the fuel deport
French commander organises his counter stroke
Turns 10-12, Battery Railleuse destroyed, “I” company and engineers clear remaining defenders on Pointe de la Tour. Remains of “I” company secure and dig-in around fuel deport. “K” and “L” companies fight a protracted battle against Legionnaires and Moroccans, ending with a stupendous bayonet charge by elements of 2REI recapturing the dock buildings on turn 12 (just as “J” company lands at Blue beach).
2REI retake the dockyard
“J” company arrive
Turns 12-16 “I” and “J” companies fight their way along the beach front towards the dock.
Turn 16 final US wave arrives
5ere Traillieur Marocaine await their arrival

At that point we had to call it a day, 16 turns of very exciting game. The boys were really into it and the fighting was very hard and bitter, whilst I`m pretty sure the arrival of more lt tanks and veteran Rangers would have finally one the day, the out-come was far from clear and not a dead certainty.

I`d like to thank Alan McCoubry and Will Macnally for their input when I was re-designing this game.


  1. You used Battle rules for this game?

  2. A bit modified, but yes Mr Grant`s rules are alive and kicking in Swansea :-)