Tuesday 8 January 2019

Operation Eilbotel (Scenario 4) Said, Tunisia January 19/20th 1943

Operation Eilbotel, Scenario 4

Said, Tunisia January 19/20th 1943

This scenario follows directly on from Scenario 1  El-Hamra & the Kebir Reservoir
Alex (20), Chris (17) and me

This scenario has two possible Allied organisations depending on the results of scenario 1:
A)    If the Germans won either a tactical or strategic victory, then the Allies use “Game A” and are forced to fight a hasty defence at Said.
B)    If the French stopped/slowed (gained a tactical victory) the German advance at El Hamra, they get a prepared defence “Game B”

Kampfgruppe Weber’s attack continues to push down the Wadi el-Kebir towards Robaa. The Allies desperately send any and all available units to block the advance; this blocking force is centred at Said between Robaa and El Hamra. 

German attackers
Elements of 10th Panzer (as scenario 1; minus casualties)
2 Kompanie/86th Panzergrenadier Regiment (motorised)
2/I battalion 7th Panzer Regiment (panzer III)
4/I battalion 7th Panzer Regiment (Panzer IV)
Elements of Kradschutzen-10:
Armoured car platoon
2 -  motorcycle platoons

1 x battery 105mm (off table)
2 x Stuka sortee

From Hamra on turn 12
3rd Kompanie/86th Panzergrenadier Regiment (motorised)
Support weapons Kompanie I/86th PG (2 x 81mm mortars & 2 x MMGs) carried in trucks
Towed 75mm IG (support coy I/86th PG)
SP light AA platoon (90th artillery regiment) – 1 x SP 20mm flak
Elements of 501st hvy Tank Battalion
1 x Tiger I
1 x Panzer IIIN
Recovery & repair platoon

Game A (hasty defence)
Allied reinforcements rush north from Robaa and form a hasty road-block north of Said.

7ere Compagnie 3e REI
Mixte batterie 64e RAA (`75 montee, 47mm AC + tow)
MMG platoon (2 x Hotchkiss) – III/3e REI
80mm mortar battery (2 tubes) – III/3e REI

French defenders with the Yeomanry and Carrier platoon on the left

Reinforcements from south (turn 10)
“A” Squadron 1st Derbyshire Yeomanry with:
1 x Dingo, 2 x Humber II 

Carrier platoon 5th Royal West Kents

Reinforcements from south (turn 20)
2 troops from 17th/21st Lancers with:
“A” troop with - 2 x Valentine III
“B” troop with - 1 x Crusader (2 pdr), 1 x Crusader (6 pdr)

“B” Company 5th Royal West Kents (British 36th Brigade) motorised
Mixed anti-tank battery RA with –
1 x 6pdr AT gun & tow, 1 x 17/25pdr AT & tow

Game B (French prepared defence at Said)
Elements of 3e REI
7ere Compagnie
80mm mortar battery (2 tubes)
MMG platoon (2 x Hotchkiss)
Mixte batterie 64e RAA (`75 montee, 47mm AC + tow)
1bei II/411DCA (twin 13.7mm Hotchkiss AA)
Platoon 3/19 Genie (engineers)
4 – 3” x 2” mixed minefields, various wire and sandbagged emplacements

Reinforcements from south (turn10)
“A” Squadron 1st Derbyshire Yeomanry with:
3 x Humber II 

Carrier platoon 5th Royal West Kents

Reinforcements from Robaa (turn 20)
“B” Squadron 1st Derbyshire Yeomanry with:
2 x Humber II, 1 x Dingo
2 troops from 17th/21st Lancers with:
“A” troop with - 2 x Valentine III
“B” troop with – 1 x Crusader (2 pdr), 1 x Crusader (6 pdr)

“B” Company 5th Royal West Kents (British 36th Brigade) motorised
Mixed anti-tank battery RA with –
1 x 6pdr AT gun & tow, 1 x 17/25pdr AT & tow

German Orders
Kampgruppe Weber has orders to drive the Allies out of the Eastern Dorsales and form a solid line of defense to allow Rommel to stabilize the situation in the east. Your command is tasked with smashing through the thin French lines and penetrating down the Kebir Valley towards Robaa. You are to use your best judgment and stop your advance and dig in once a suitable position is reached or once enemy resistance to your advance stiffens to the point that casualties become a factor 9we must marshal our resourses).

Allied orders
A surprise German counter offensive has been launched, Juin`s XIX Corps stretched thin across the Dorsales is being pushed aside by superior German armoured units. Your command holds the key village of Said blocking the German march down the Kebir Valley, you must hold long enough for British reinforcements moving up from the south to reach you and stabilize the situation, the honour of France is in your hands, bon chance!

Terrain notes
Due to heavy rain and boggy conditions only tracked and all-terrain vehicles can move off road.
Areas with trees & rock out-crops are considered impassable to all types of vehicles
The river (Wadi el Kebir) is fordable by infantry but impassable for all vehicles.

The French can place four (4) 3x2" mixed minefields as part of their defences anywhere up to 24" from the northern (German entry) end of the table. These only need to be noted and revealed only once encountered.

Fought over 2 hours (17 game turns) on a roughly 10` x 4` table.
German fuel and organisational/traffic delays have allowed the French to form a "Game B" defence at Said.

I took the French the lads the Germans.
This is the fourth game in our Eilbotel mini-campaign and I was expecting my forth hammering - historic games can be like that........... 

Our table

Looking towards Said across the Wadi Kebir
From the German start line, looking south towards Said
Looking North
Looking across the bridge from the west
Said town
Wadi el Kebir
French HQ
French medical station

For the first couple of turns, Krad-10 advanced down the road until they came under machine fire from their left. One platoon dismounted and moved the engage, whilst the 2nd and the Sd222 moved forward along the road; until the next gap in the tree line where the Sd222 tried to move off road and ran into a minefield!
Forward French position
Krad-10 dismount and move off road half into the hills left and half, across the wadi right
Sdkfz222 finds a mine
At this point the mortar platoon of 3e REI began to rain bombs on the road which forced the 2nd Krad platoon to scatter into the wadi, quickly followed by 1st platoon of 2/86PG, both of whom headed across the wadi towards my mortars - a move I hadn`t considered in my deployment - bugger!
86th PG under mortar fire abandon their transport and advance on foot

The mortars continued to bracket the road causing casualties, 2nd platoon 2/86PG followed their mates across the wadi, whilst 3rd platoon and the Kompanie HQ moved to following 1st Krad platoon up the left side supported by fire from an Sd232. At this point I moved my `75 montee from its concealed position and nailed 232 - hooray, Vive l`France!

Unfortunately, I missed the first Panzer III which wiped out my best AT weapon with its first shot............
ex-`75 montee

The German infantry and recce troops supported by tank fire cleared my outpost on their left (my right) and even though my mortars still bracketed the road the Panzers advanced towards Said passing the burning trucks of 86PG.
Rather than let the tanks advance unopposed, I revealed and fired my 47mm at the lead tank, the shell bounced off its frontal armour and my gun caught return fire and was immediately knocked out.............
Destroyed French 47mm

The infantry and recce troops advanced across the wadi and down the German left, the tanks along the road, though one did move off to the left, all the time the tanks provided MG and cannon support against any and all targets who presented themselves. I responded with VB rifle grenades and my mortars continued to fire until their positions were threatened and were forced to break down the tubes and withdraw.

Panzers drive into Said

On Turn 10, "B" Troop 1st Derbyshire Yeomanry and the Carrier Platoon of 5th West Kents arrived from the south, by this time the Germans east of the wadi had overrun the half platoon I had placed there and were hunting down my retreating mortar platoon. The German tanks of 10th Panzer were shelling the town with impunity and their infantry was closing for their assault. 
1st Derbyshire Yeomanry
French engineers and Legionnaires await the final German push
Panzers bombard Said
French engineer transport within Said

By turn 12 I gathered all remaining French infantry not already engaged around the company commander and began to move the forward to bulk up my defence, in the vain hope of holding out for the bulk of the British to arrive. To support these i committed the Derbyshire Yeomanry armoured cars and dismounted the West Kent`s Carrier Platoon as additional infantry too.
Carrier platoon of the West Kents moves up in support

What can I say it was a fucking disaster!
Humber meets 75mm - ouch!
Dismounted Carrier platoon of the West Kents advance past burning Humber
Then came the Luftwaffe in successive sorties and my lone 13.7mm AA proved unable to hit a barn door...

By turn 16 it was all over, the Yeomanry were wiped out, the Legionnaires fleeing east, west and south, the only unit holding any resemblance of order was the West Kent`s Carrier Platoon who were forced to abandon their transport and retreat on foot down the Kebir to escape the debacle.....

Elements of 501st hvy Tank Battalion get onto the table
Road packed with German vehicles, oh for some allied air support

Tough ask for the French, nearly impossible to be honest but, I made a few basic errors in my defensive plan.
1. Once my forward position ambush has been sprung I should have withdrawn those men drawing the Germans into a pursuit through mine fields or into another ambush nearer the town. At the very least I would have had another half platoon (maybe with a MMG) for later deployment?
2. I should have mined the road in front of the town and placed my 47mm in an ambush position to cover it.
3. I failed to think the Germans would be so aggressive and deploy to attack across the wadi to silence my mortars and hence did NOT have enough covering infantry.
4. The `75 montee shouldn`t have been so exposed, loosing it so early probably cost me the battle.

Whilst the Germans won the battle it should be noted Kradschultzen-10 lost more than a platoon of cycle troops, a Sd232 and had a Sd222 badly damaged in this encounter; add to this a platoon of 2nd kompanie 86th PG plus several valuable trucks, the French did OK.

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