Saturday, 16 June 2012

Battle for Alam el Halfa 30th Aug - 5 Sept 1942


In July 1942, Rommel attacked the British lines at El Alamein on the Egyptian coastal plain, Auchinleck’s 8th army  quickly counter attacked the Afrika Korps, but the battle was inconclusive and both sides pulled back to reinforce their positions. Auchinleck was replaced by Lieutenant General William Gott, who was killed in a plane crash on his way to take up his post and so second choice General Bernard Law Montgomery took charge of the British forces in Egypt.
Montgomery, the meticulous planner and known as a “soldiers General”, won the DSO in World war I and rewrote the infantry training manual in the 30s.He had seen action in Palestine and was a Divisioal commander in the BEF in 1940.  When taking command in the desert, Monty told his commanders at the first meeting he held with them "I have cancelled the plan for withdrawal, if we are attacked, then there will be no retreat. If we cannot stay here alive, then we will stay here dead." He would often be seen at the front with the fighting men in his distinctive black beret with its two badges (the badge of the Royal Tank Regiment next to the British General Officer's badge).
Monty knew Rommel would attack again, so he reinforced his front line with minefields, but he paid particular attention to a ridge almost in his rear called Alam el Halfa as he knew Rommel’s use of armour was normally an outflanking “right hook”, whilst pinning the front line.
The British had 4 divisions defending the area to the German’s six.
In our game the ridge is defended by 10th armoured Division under Major General Gatehouse and consisted of 22nd Armoured Brigade with recently arrived Lee/Grant tanks and the 133rd Infantry Brigade.
The Axis Force under command of General Major Von Vaerst is spearheaded by 21st Panzer Division and backed up by 15th Panzer division.
The wargame Battalion represents a Brigade of infantry or a Regiment of tanks and artillery Regiments are represented by Batteries. The game is over twenty turns and the German objective is to take point 102 and clear the ridge. The British objective is to not allow this to happen!.
In reality the Germans were not well organised with fuel problems and at one point ,got  lost and had to follow the telegraph poles to find their objective. The British artillery played a vital role at Alam and after the first day the Germans pulled back having made no gains at all and were continually attacked by British aircraft through the night and in the end, failed and retreated back along their lines of communication. They had lost some 49 tanks, 36 aircraft, 60 guns, 400 transports and nearly 3000 wounded or captured men. Although the British lost nearly twice as many tanks and aircraft as the Germans, they had a lot more resources.
battle of Alam el Halfa was Monty’s first battle as Supreme commander of the 8th army and was the first conflict of the second battle  of El Alamein.

As this is the 70th anniversary of El Alamein, I thought it would be a good scenario to build and interesting to play.The scenario from Monty's desert battles by Rapid Fire.
This is a work in progress so the terrain and some vehicles are not finished or have substitutes in their place.
all British were hidden until they fired or were spotted.
                                                           
                                                                  Alam el Halfa Ridge
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                                                               The German Force
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                                                   The German 21st Panzer Division - Janos.
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                                                 The German 15th Panzer Division - Me
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                                                The British Force - Big Jim (Great Toad)
                                                          10th Armoured Division.
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                                                Turn 1 - 21st Pzr makes it initial advances.
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                                                           Turn 2 - The view from the ridge
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                                          The 21st splits its force to make up some ground.
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                                                            British 25pdr Battery Fires
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The 25pdrs target the Pzr grenadier Regt and take out a transport, causing 3 casualties and pins the rest of the company

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                                          Turn 3 - The Germans push on. British Artillery misses.
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Turn 4 - The Sdkfz253, Lorraine 135/1 OP, spots the 25pdr Battery behind a small ridge (marked with                      cotton wool ball, but misses.
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                                                            The Germans push on
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Turn 5 -15th Panzer Division start to advance on table 
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                                                        View from 15th pzr towards ridge
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   15th pzr's armour push right to support 21st infantry as 15th grenadiers move up behind 21st Armour.
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                                                                      View from the Ridge.
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                                   First 6pdr opens up from Deir el Agram depression & misses.
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       Turn 6 - 15th Pzr artillery 250 OP's spot the firing 6pdr portee in the depression (white cotton ball)
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                                                                    and they miss.
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                        Two 6pdrs open up from the ridge at long range, and guess what, they miss.
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At this point the British Boston appears and shoots up a towed 88 (we were not sure if it could do this until it dropped its payload, but it did)
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21st pzr's artillery took out a 25pdr and both crews, and I allowed the British to "save" the remaining gun by getting off the British end and then it would attach itself to the off table artillery in D6 turns.

Turn 7 - The forward elements of 21st pzr Div, mainly the armour. were approaching the gap between point 102 and the ridge. and their infantry were advancing on the depression. 15th pzr div were pushing them on from the rear.
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                                                      Two grants were between the ridges.
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                                         The  6pdrs on the ridge fired once again, but to no avail
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                  The Boston's 2nd turn over the table should have been a bombfest. But it wasn't
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Two more grants appeared from off table and were now covering the depression. (I did not tell Janos about these or the Reinforcements the Brits got later, he was "surprised" to say the least.)
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The British armour appeared from behind point 102 to await the German armour and get into reserve fire position a turn early.
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Turn 8 The 21st's amour was mixing it with the british and the reast of the 21st infantry were getting bogged down in a fire fight with the occupants of the "depression"
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Looking across the dression, the Grants were starting to cause casualties on vehicle and men of 21st Pzr Division's infantry.
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                                  The 6pdrs on the ridge then had success 2 kills in the same turn
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The German Airforce turned up and drove off the Boston, so could not attack ground targets this turn.

Turn 9 - The Stuka dropped its payload after the British Bofors AA Battery failed to drive it off. It missed.
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              The depression was now clear of British troops, but 21st's armour was losing tanks rapidly.
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                                      15th pzr's Grenadiers(me), pushed on towards the ridge.
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                   Those boys on the ridge are at it again. These now became a target of 21st Artillery.
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                                         General situation at half way through.(End of turn 9)
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                                                           British Artillery behind the ridge.
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               Turn 10 -Two Grants taken out in the same turn, having missing with all of their guns.
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                              Same turn, Grant covering the depression receives a heavy damage.
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Turn 11 - Third grants brews (looks like the brits are going to stop the Jerries by forming a big Tank road block.
The German dice at this point was starting to tell as Brit tank after Brit tank falls to either AT or Artillery.
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The German recovery and supply vehicle move into the open ground to confuse the British OPs as to what they are and whether they are carrying troops.
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Eventually the German advance across the depression to attack the remaining grant on that flank (at the moment)
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          The British decide to put out their Infantry on the top of the ridge, but have not been spotted yes.
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                          The 2nd grant at the depression take a Heavy Damage, fails morale and bails!
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Turn 12 - Everthing missed (can you believe it). Both sides must have rolled at least 20 dice each and not one casualty was had.

Turn 13 - 21st' infantry ADS
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                                       15th Pzr div push through the center and onto the ridge
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                                            The depression is occupied by man and machine.
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The British reinforcement turn up, much to Janos' surprise. They took out a PzrBusch portee and a Pak 38 and crew.
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Could the tide be turning for the British.

Turn 14 - Concentrated Artillery takes out the two 6pdrs on the ridge as My grenadiers get to the bottom of the ridge and tackle the barbed wire.
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                                                           Stuart is taken out by PZRIII long
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                                                    Maelstrom of tanks in front of point 102
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                                                     15th pzr engineers at bottom of ridge
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British moved a 25pdr battery to defend the gap between the ridges, as the fate of the tanks was written on the wall

Turn 15 - Scot Greys (British reinforcements) fail morale and leave table for one turn allowing the german to set up in reserve fire for when they return. The Britsh infantry were spotted and pounded by artillery causing the loss of a whole company.

                                                 21st engineers get to bottom of ridge
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             Both bofors are taken out by Marder III and Pak38 and 21st's armour burst around back of ridge
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                                         Turn 16 - 25pdrs, over open sites take out two PIIIs
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The German artillery destroyed another company from the ridgeline and morale would be tested next turn
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British ADS
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Turn 17 - Brits failed morale of Infantry, with German infantry also on ridge. Game was over and victory to Germans.

We played this as a game, but when we take our games to shows, although we appear to be playing by rolling the occasional dice and measuring, we "play" the game through to its historical outcome.

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