Tuesday 4 July 2023

Palmyra, Syria 1941


Syria 1941

This is a what-if game assuming the Vichy defenders don`t just give up (be it after holding a vastly superior Allied force for 12 days), but force the Allies to take the airfield and its defences.

 The Allies - Habforce

Which consisted of a mix of British motorised units plus some armoured cars and men of the Arab Legion. They faced Germans and Russians under French officers from the 6th Foreign Legion Infantry, plus some air-force personnel and Arabs from 3rd Desert Company, commanded by Major Gherardi. 

 The game

The Vichy garrison has refused all treaties to surrender, so under pressure from high command Major General Clark is forced to order an attack.

Allied forces

Elements of British 4th Cavalry Brigade

HQ + light aid detachment

“A” Squadron Household Cavalry

“B” & “C” Companies 1st Battalion Essex Regiment

"B" company

"C" company

2nd Motorised Company Arab Legion with:

Motorised company, AC platoon

A Bilbao A/C pretending to be a Wagner 

“A” Battery 237th Royal Artillery


Gun section 169th Lt. anti-aircraft battery

Reinforcements (turn 15)

“B” Squadron Household Cavalry with:

A/C platoon, carrier rifle platoon

 “A” Company Royal Wiltshire Regiment (in trucks)


Sortee by a Hurricane fighter bomber which arrives over the table on turn 1d6 + 2 and will attack any target of opportunity.

Sortee by a RAAF P40 which arrives over the table on turn 10 and can strafe targets of opportunity.

 Vichy defenders

Mixte Companie 6th Foreign Legion Regiment with:

HQ, 3 infantry platoons, 2 x MMGs, 1 x 80mm mortar, 75mm mle1897

Airforce personnel: 1 ad hoc platoon (small arms only), 25mm DCA

Elements 3rd Lt. Desert Company with:

2 mounted platoons, 1 AC platoon

The Vichy start dug-in in and around Fort Weygard and the old airfield, The French commander has taken away the Desert Company`s horses in an effort to prevent them deserting. The French have wire and sandbagged emplacements and two low density 6x6 mixed minefields!

 There is a 50% chance that a single French fighter a D.520 will arrive over the table 6 + 1D6 turns into the game and attack any visible British units. 

 My table

Battle plan and deployment

The British decided on an all-round envelopment with  “B” Company and the artillery FOO coming in from the East, followed by the force HQ. “C” company would swing around the valley and attack from the West; the household cavalry armoured cars split and supported both companies. The Arab Legion was to move in cross country and attack the Vichy airfield from the southeast.

 The French also went for an all-round defence, they sent one platoon from the desert Company to the airfield to support the air force personnel; to protect the northern flank the French sowed mines along the northern side of the airfield perimeter. Reasoning the English would come in from the east, they sent two Legion platoons along with one of the Hotchkiss to dig in among the ruins; they also sowed the other minefield along the road there. Just in case the English swung in from the west, another Legion platoon again reinforced with a Hotchkiss was sent to dig in covering that direction also. The French commander held one Legion and the remaining units of the Desert Company in reserve at Fort Weygand, as a flying column. Both the 80mm mortar and `75 mle 1897 were held centrally to support the all-round defence.

Air assets were diced for – the British Hurricane would arrive early on turn 3, the French would get their D.520 but not until turn 11 (maybe too late to effect the game?)

 Turn 1 the three British columns arrived on table

“B” Company from the east

“C” company from the west

Arab Legion from the southeast

“C” company`s lead truck is immediately machine gunned and catches fire, the platoon on board take casualties!

Turn 2 on the west flank “C” companies 2nd truck tries to drive out of trouble – it was shot to pieces and 2nd platoon take casualties! The Household Cavalry Humber moves to engage the Vichy machine gun machinegun (Unsuccessfully).

The rest of “C” Company arrives and deploys in cover, the CSM moves to rally what was left of 1st platoon

 Over on the west side, the lead British armoured car hits a mine!

The Vichy `75 drops a shell near the road, shrapnel damages the lead truck of “B” Company causing a couple of casualties among 1st platoon also.

 The lead trucks from the Arab Legion stop and their men debus covered by the Wagner armoured car.

Turn 3 the Hurricane arrives over the table-top

On the west side, “C” companies 2” mortar drops smoke to mask the infantry platoons from the Hotchkiss

The two Household Cavalry A/Cs pour fire into the ruins and wipe-out the Hotchkiss crew

The Hurricane dives in and delivers its load on the same ruins

Unfortunately for the British the survivors of No2 platoon moving to flank the same Hotchkiss are themselves hit in the flank by Legionnaires and are virtually wiped out!

Over on the east side the arriving British units spread out left and right to create less of a target, the Vichy `75 drops another round but fails to cause any casualties!

 Above the airfield the Arab Legion prepare to move to the assault

Turn 4 Over on the west “C” Company begin to advance against Fort Weygand, the two armoured cars provide cover fire from the road and the 2” mortar begins to lay down smoke to mask their advance.

They take casualties from the Vichy 80mm mortar, but this is wiped out by a strafing run from the Hurricane

Over on the east side the force HQ has arrived and sets up coms with the supporting RA battery

“B” company begins to move through the ruins towards the airfield

 Above the airfield the Arab legion begins their advance, one platoon walks into a minefield

Turn 5 the general advance continues, “B” company comes under sporadic fire from the ruins and the odd `75mm shell! Their 2” mortar tries to mask their advance with smoke

The artillery FOO spot the Vichy gun but his ranging shots fall short

 Turn 6 In the west an heroic Legionnaire takes out the Humber with an anti-tank grenade! At the same time the French `75 which has switched targets fires over open sights and nails the Rolls too!

The Vichy `75 is wiped out by accurate 25ldr fire

 In the east “B” Company continues to advance through the ruins under fire

 The Arab Legion find themselves confronted by a 25mm AA gun which inflicts severe casualties on the leading platoon trying to climb over the airfield boundary wall! Only one platoon can move as it is concealed by a building from the gun position.

Turn 7 The British artillery switches targets to the ruins to support “B” company, this effectively clears a path to the airfield for them

“C” company continue to advance towards Fort Weygand, it 2” mortar begins to drop explosive bombs onto the nearest building – the first one kills the Vichy commander - Major Gherardi!

The Arab Legion Wagner A/C moves to distract the Vichy 25mm whilst its infantry work their way around the flank

 Turn 8 “B” company reach the main gate of the airfield, a Bren team open up on the 25mm AA position taking one man; at the same time an Arab Legion Lewis team take another meaning the gun can no longer fire (need a minimum or 2 crew to operate).

Over at fort Weygand “C” company have reached the walls and exchange grenades with defenders – both sides take casualties, another 2” mortar round lands this time killing the Vichy 2IC!

 Turn 9 “B” company and the Arab Legion move into the airfield, the airfield commander faces overwhelming odds and what is left of the desert company fails their morale and flee.

A 25ldr shell hits Fort Weygand – a warning shot of things to come if resistance continues!!

At the gate the Laffly A/C is taken out by a splendid shot from a Boyes AT Rifle (11 to hit followed by a 12).

Turn 10 with the incoming roar of an RAAF fighter, the French 3rd in command lowers his colours and surrenders the fort.

After thoughts

Possibly the British should have concentrated their forces, but this may have allowed the Vichy to slip away as previous games. Using the armoured cars as armour proved costly to the British, but that is the Operation Exporter campaign in a nutshell where you find an R-35 is the most armoured vehicle available!! The main mistake the British made was NOT having their FOO on table observing the field from turn 1. The French deployment was as good as I could do, maybe the flying column should have been concealed somewhere outside Fort Weygand?? 

Actual history

Between June 19th and 29th the Allies slowly moved to surround Palmyra, the Vichy air-force caused major problems during this period. But finally at the start of July Palmyra was totally cut-off and faced with overwhelming odds the small garrison surrendered.