The Attack on Ain Mediourma Airbase
Morocco, April 1925
An earlier version of this scenario appeared in my Wargamers Guide to the Rif War which is still available through https://toofatlardies.co.uk/
On 13 April 1925 some 8,000 Riffs launched concerted attacks on French positions in Morocco. The combination of intelligent leadership, great bravery, guerrilla skills and a degree of modern firepower proved devastating. Posts were cut off heavily shelled or mortared and then stormed with medieval ferocity; dozens of heroic last stands and ghastly massacres passed into French Army legend. Highly mobile, the Berber forces dismantled the French defensive line section by section and flooded through the gaps. By 27 April some were only 20 miles from Fez; thirty-nine out of a total of sixty-six posts had been overrun or abandoned.
The fight for the aerodrome at Ain Mediourma was one of many desperate actions fought during those dark months before French reinforcements arrived. Ain Mediourma was the largest French airbase in Morocco with its purpose built buildings, hangers and fuel storage tanks all to the most modern specifications; to abandon it would be a major blow to French pride and prestige.
You are a Caid, you command a large harka. Your force has been raiding into French territory, looting and killing as you go. Yesterday your scouts came upon a large French base with some large buildings and an airstrip on which were several airplanes. You moved your men into position last night and are ready to launch a full attack at dawn when the infidels will be sleeping. There will be many rifles and much gold and loot in such a big base so the rewards will be high for your men; also the Sultan (Abd el Krim) will be pleased if your attack is a success.
Caid + command group (10 figures) includes an 80mm mortar with 12 bombs
Harka 1 - 15 riflemen
Harka 2 – 15 riflemen
Harka 3 - 15 riflemen + 1 Hotchkiss LMG (2 crew)
Harka 4 - 10 mounted scouts (rifles)
Harka 5 – 20 riflemen + 1 Hotchkiss LMG (2 crew)
All Hamsein have good morale, and fight as veterans
About half the riflemen have home-made grenades or bags of explosives, each unit also has a expert marksman who get +1 to firing rolls.
The terrain outside the base is dotted with clumps of wild brush and palms, this does not hinder movement but can provide cover for a stealthy approach, this has enabled the Riffians to make their approach unseen. As it is, the Riffian harkas can attack from any direction (decided by an 8 sided dice); they can be positioned within 6” of the base boundary, representing the skilled infiltration techniques used by the Berbers. Each harka should be kept together as a unit, though they can join other harkas in a joint attack. The Caid and his command unit can attach themselves to any harka (adding a command bonus to that unit), the mortar can be left under the command of sub-leader. The “home made” grenades can be industrial explosives (dynamite) or cans filled with the explosive salvaged from un-exploded bombs or shells or captured/bought military hand grenades. All these can be used to blow up aircraft, buildings and structures.
The French start the battle un-prepared with only two platoons of the Colonial Blanc on duty - one on sentry duty (positioned in the various sentry posts around the perimeter) the other on patrol anywhere on the map that the French player chooses. They may also deploy their MGs in any of the sentry posts, these are considered manned with one man awake at all times (he can arouse his mates in 1 turn). The remaining units will be in their tented barracks, these will take 1D3 + 2 turns to organise themselves.
You are an air force Major you command this vitally important base. For nearly a month now the Berber tribesmen of Abd el Krim have been raiding deeper and deeper in the French Zone of Morocco from their strongholds to the north. Aeroplanes from your base have been constantly flying missions – bombing, reconnaissance and sometime desperate re-supply drops, up and down the frontier.
Major plus his staff (10 figures)
Colonial Blanc defence company with: 4 x 10 man platoons (each with an LMG & VB launcher), two MMGs (3 crew each)
The Colonial Blanc Company are trained with fair morale, the scratch unit should be classed as militia
There will also be aircraft on the base - Breguet 18s mostly; if these are fueled and armed they could be used in the defence. Aircraft should be treated as soft-skinned vehicles for damage effects.
Roll for each aircraft: 1D6 1 – 2 un-fueled, unarmed [d3 + 3 turns to fuel & arm] 3 – 4 Mechanical fault (not flyable) 5 – Fueled but unarmed [with take 1D3 game turns to arm] 6 – Fueled and armed with MGs It takes four men to arm or fuel or plane, there is also a supply of bombs which can be loaded onto the aircraft. Once fueled a plane takes two turns to start up and get airborne. Once airborne a plane can then carry out a bombing attack and/or 2 strafing runs then it must leave to fly to the nearest friendly base – Fez
The French are badly outnumbered; to even things up you could add a flying relief column, which will arrive on turn 10 + 1D6 from the south. Relief column with a Laffly armoured car and two veteran Foreign Legion platoons 10 men each (LMG, VB launcher) carried in trucks
The Riffians win a victory if they kill the defenders and are then free to destroy the base at their leisure. The French are clearly looking to retain control of the base and should have no real alternative to simply hanging on as long as they can.
Historically the airbase was overrun and put out of action, with its purpose built hangers and oil storage tanks destroyed. This was a huge blow for the French, but time was already running out for Abd el Krim and his rebellion.
Turn 1 The Riffi marksmen open fire and do hit a couple of sentries, the mortar drops its first round into the command building courtyard. The various Riffi harkas begin to advance.
Turn 2 The Riffi attacking the main gate have split into two groups one fires on the gate and bunker whilst the second moves in to flank the bunker. The French MMG team inflict serious casualties upon the Riffi who have exposed themselves to fire upon its bunker! The Riffi mortar lands a bomb smack onto the command building`s roof destroying the Hotchkiss mounted there. The other Riffi groups move in exchanging fire with the French sentries.
Turn 3 Riffi begin planting explosives to breach the French perimeter wire, some harkas are still engaged with French sentries I rules these groups cannot plant explosives whilst so engaged, the flanking group attacking the gate close assault the bunker wiping out the gun crew!
Turn 4 various explosions around the perimeter create gaps in the French wire! At the gate the Riffi storm onto the base.
Near the road the Riffi plant explosives against the outer walls
Turn 6 The French infantry engage the Riffi all across the base – both sides take casualties. The Riffi Caid leads one group and blows up an aircraft with a grenade!
Various explosives blow holes in walls and further breach the perimeter wire
The Riffi who broke through the gate find the French hospital at their mercy – they take full advantage.
Turn 7 The Riffi mortar targets and wipes out a French signals team
Whilst fighting continues right across the base. The base commander leads every man he can find to attack the Riffi who are slaughtering the wounded.
The Riffi Caid claims another plane
Riffi on the base are destroying everything they can
A group of mounted Arabs approach the base perimeter unseen (the French are somewhat busy). A group of Riffi plant explosives on the main fuel tanks!
Turn 8 Another aircraft blows up!
The melee around the hospital heats up
The main fuel tanks blow
During this turn the Arab horsemen plant explosives at the perimeter wire, various riffi groups not actively engaged plant explosives or set fire to fuel, ammo or other valuable equipment.
Turn 9 the perimeter fence is blown
The French are all but spent, a few men have formed a defensive position around the ammunition/bomb store. The base commander and his men continue to defend the surviving wounded and medical staff!
Turn 10 the Arab horsemen charge onto base and moved to join the melee by the hospital.
More explosions destroy the rest of the fuel depot.
At this point I decided to call it a day.
The game played out pretty much as designed, the French were just overwhelmed!
It occurs to me this game could be easily transferred with a little work to Eastern Front WW2 or Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation.