What feels like many moons ago I started a Desert force for Flames of War when I was still playing in preparation for which, I bought (or was given) a shedload of Italians and so painting began. I usually play Axis in WW2, as most people I know like to play allied, and so rather than do an Afrika Korps Army and paint up yet another German Army, I decided to go with the army that is the butt of many peoples jokes. However! My Enthusiasm for Flames of war waned… and so the project went on the back burner.
That Changed a little with PBI, and Al deciding that he wanted to do some 8th Army. I did a few more batches of the army, and we arranged a time to do a game. Looking in my box I was alarmed that I hadn’t done quite as many as I thought I did… So! A batch or so and a lot of basing later; I was able to field one Italian Infantry company this past Tuesday. This game, using the Poor Bloody Infantry rules from Peter Pig (Which I recommend Highly) Was a debut for both armies and so was highly anticipated by both of us.
My force, was basically three maximum sized units of infantry, with an anti-tank rifle each, a pair of 47mm “Elephanto” Anti-tank guns, and a pair of Autoblinda 41 armoured cars. They came up against a company of British infantry, three platoons of overheated Scotsmen driven forward by their company command and his personal piper, all backed up by one of the Matilda II’s shown above. Much heavier armour than I had!
Italian Reconnaisance efforts began well… but then faltered, meaning that their overall flanking maneuvre was ill timed and soon the initiative was firmly in British hands. This set up the scenario quite nicely…
The ambitious Italian flanking maneuver had left a platoon isolated guarding a road junction. Without a moment to lose, the armoured cars of the doomed reconnaissance effort had high tailed it back here to warn the commander in charge of his predicament. No sooner had his platoon made preparations to defend the village, when the sound of the Matilda’s engine could be heard approaching the junction.
The British advance seemed at first ponderous and uncoordinated, as if they did not expect the village to be defended. However early British fire proved telling despite lack of Artillery support, leaving the large building at the crossroads filled with wounded Italians. In reply, the Italian company commander desperately called down his own artillery, and his own men managed to lay down suppressing fire, enough to give them a little breathing space at least.
Italian reserves seemed slow in arriving, leaving the platoon in the middle high and dry. However, they fought on manfully, slowing the British attack. The large building (Shown above) was eventually taken at great cost at the point of a Bayonet, whilst the smaller building to the right repulsed a similar attack. Reinforcements did not come to the centre however…
Seeing the British sneak a unit down the side of the table, deep into enemy territory to take an Italian observation post, the second infantry platoon onto the table made for the final objective, the building some distance from the town overlooking the roadway. There they set themselves up in the building, and despite orders to the contrary… did not move for the rest of the game, exchanging shots with a British Platoon which had also come on to make towards that objective.
Morale in the Centre however…. could only hold for so long. So with their Platoon Commander dead, having died fighting the British in Hand to Hand, with more than half of their strength dead or wounded, and their ammunition starting to run low the central platoon withdraws, streaming past the flaming wreck of one of the AB41 cars, which had earlier been shot by that Matilda. This left a somewhat bewildered Company Commander in the village, seriously considering his retirement (Surrender).
They weren’t along in breaking however, for with the repulse of a British assault being costly, one of the British Platoons decided that discretion was the better part of valour as well, and withdrew, leaving only a small, mauled british platoon in the middle, these lads were made of sterner stuff of course. With night closing in, there was some final desultory gun fire, before it became clear that the Italian position was untenable. So a withdrawal was ordered…
First Win to the Brits!
My mistakes were made mostly in the reconnaissance phase as I tried to do something flashy and ambitious (Which almost worked) but lost out big time for it. This meant that I was at a disadvantage not being able to choose which of my units started on table. The armoured cars weren’t that useful starting on table too be honest, I would have liked them in reserve to have responded to threats later on in the game and of had the manpower of another infantry platoon on table.
We also learnt that we need to make more rocks… scrub… and generally partial terrain. As whilst the desert should be light on features… open terrain is a deathtrap. With that in mind, I have plans for both some rocky outcroppings / Scrub… and a Wadi. So I will leave you with one final picture… some AB41’s skulking behind a building!