Monday, 25 February 2013

Desert Campaign Game 1 - The Battle of Sollum 13th September 1940

The Italian 10th Army under the command of Maresciallo d’Armata Graziani has reluctantly invaded Egypt on the orders of Mussolini. The 10th is unprepared for war but under heavy political pressure and considering its far superior manpower has crossed the border as ordered, hopeful for success, but with commanders who are full of dread that disaster awaits them. Heavily outnumbered the British decided to withdraw in front of the invaders, fighting holding actions at various points to delay their advance.
Not long after starting the operation the Italian 10th Army is making its way down the Halfaya pass headed for Sollum. Most of the army is without transport resulting in slow progress by the infantry. In this scenario the British need to move some of their dumps from the general area of Solum, however the largest dump is too big to move and will have to be blown up to prevent capture. Historically the Italian force created its own chaotic road conditions by trying to send too many troops down the narrow pass road at once.

  1. Inflict >33% losses on enemy
  2. Capture intact dump
  3. First Italian units to occupy Sollum and raise our glorious flag will attract the eye of the General.
To represent the restricted entry of the Italian forces coming down through the Halfaya Pass, a single road is used at their entry end. All Italian units must enter via that road in single file. Any confusion and movement difficulties caused by this will represent the traffic jams that occurred in the pass during the real battle.
This is determined by the following rule – Italian players select a Unit to enter board. 1-3 Nothing happens, 4 – 7 move on single move & finish, 8-10 move on single move and pick another unit.
Battalion IV of the 32nd Tank Regiment and the Bersaglieri Motorcycle battalion negotiated an old trade pass to attack on the flank as shown on the map
  1. The British force will hold while the dumps are either blown as per die roll above, or their contents removed by trucks. British commander must elect to either withdraw the dumps, or to blow them.
  2. The British combat units are required elsewhere so they must retire with no more than 33% material loss.
  3. Whoever bags the most Itie tanks will have bragging rights at the mess but only if things go well.
To determine how long it takes for each dump to be prepared for demolition and then blown, roll a d10 and add the score to 5 (note - this number may need to be higher). The resultant number equals the moves before it can be blown up. NOTE truckloads can be removed at the rate of one per move. However none can be removed during the last two moves before a dump is blown. If they are all removed there is no need to blow the dump. Each truck that leaves the tabletop via the line of retreat is considered to have successfully escaped. The truck model is put back on the table at a dump of choosing to represent another vehicle that has become available.
In real life the British bombarded the Italian units as they negotiated the pass. The British will predesignate some aimed points which will allow better chance of calling in artillery.
This scenario borrows heavily from a scenario by Mal. Wright for Blitzkrieg Commander THE FIRST BATTLE FOR SOLUM.


Italian Order of Battle
32nd Tank Regiment. (Exp)
  • Battalion I. 3 * M13/40
  • Battalion II..2 * M13/40
  • Battalion III 4 * M11/39 (Fiat)
  • Battalion IV..6 * L33 (4 *MG + 2 *20mm) + 1 * Flame L33
Bersaglieri Motorcycle Co.6 figs – no support (Vet)
2 * Bersaglieri Motorized Company. 9 figs + mmg + Breda (Exp) with transport
1AB40 (Exp)
INFANTRY. 3 Companies of Libyan infantry without transport. No mortars or machineguns.(Trained)
ARTILLERY. 1 Batteries 75mm field guns. (2 models).
AIR SUPPORT. 3 air attacks CR42 aircraft. (Strafing only)
British Order of Battle
11th Hussars.
  • 1 Vickers Lt Tank (Vet)
  • 2 Rolls Royce A/C (Elite)
  • 1 Dingo A/C (Vet)
1 Company reconnaissance infantry. (6 figs) in three Scout Carriers (Vet) 1 Universal Carrier towing 2lber AT
4th RHA. 1 Battery of 3 x 25pdr field guns. (Exp) . Attached. 1 Battery AA
COLDSTREAM GUARDS. 2 company of 9 infantry figures (Vet). support Co. of 1 MG, 1 mortar, 1 2pdr anti tank gun and a HQ base(Exp). Fully motorized. The trucks must be retained nearby to allow the unit to retire.
AIR SUPPORT. 1 Air attack (bombs) with Blenheim aircraft. 1 Air attack, (strafing) with Gladiator aircraft.
Army Transport, Supply and Depot companies. 12 x 3 ton trucks. 1st PARK coy. General supplies. 15 truck loads. 2nd PARK coy. Fuel supplies. 18 truck loads. 3rd Park Coy. Ammunition. 12 truck loads.

How it played out
The Italians advance slowly through the Halfaya pass leading with their Infantry on foot which were hammered by the mighty Gladiator's strafing run and some heavy pre-designated artillery.  They continue to advance and strike the first Allied minefield in the mouth of the pass. 
Turn 4 sees the first of the Italian tanks appear which advance around the minefield and by turn 8 the Italian engineers have cleared the minefield.  
Turn 9 sees the first shots fired and on the right flank the British Recon with their 2lber on the rise and carriers take a toll on the the Italian attackers wiping out several light tanks.  
Turn 10 starts with a bang when the recently arrived Italian Auto Blinda AB40 recon finds the second allied minefield by running over a mine and blowing up and the recon 2lber continue to make the Italians pay on the British right flank...but have they stayed too long?
On the Italian right flank things are going well, the L33s and Motorcyle Bersaglieri have out flanked the British positions covering the road and the British have had some serious morale issues which are hindering their attempts to retreat
Turn 12 sees the first of the dumps blown up and sees some typically cunning British subterfuge where they attempt to convince the Italians the explosion is a misdirected heavy bombardment from a battleship, the Italians seem to fall for it and fail to see through it when given a roll (the jury is still out on this but the result is the book), and this continues for the next dump blowing up with another simple roll failure.
The British have held off the Italians for long enough but don't manage to retreat their front line troops.  The British Recon on their right flank is wiped out to a man after making the Italians pay and the Coldstream guards retreat in their trucks from the old fort (the only decent cover on the board) with Italian light tanks bearing down on them and are slaughtered as well.
About this stage the Daimler Dingo enters wargaming mythology by being routed but recovering and proceeding to cut the Italian infantry down in swathes from the rear, it can't be stopped!
By turn 16 the British have blown the last dump and retreated with cover from a few Cruiser tanks that turn up and the Italians have inflicted heavy losses on the British but did not manage to capture a dump and the game is declared a draw. 


Italian tanks advance down the main road past the outflanked British left flank positions.
Note the Dingo in the rear about to wreak havoc on the Italian infantry.

Bersaglieri Motorized infantry attack under heavy fire

L33 tankettes advance through the Old Fort at Bir Saleh after outflanking and dispatching the fleeing Guardsmen on the British left.

A pair of Rolls Royce Armoured cars prepare to fend off the Italians to cover the general retreat.


  1. I've just found this great post. It's nice to see some early desert war stuff in action. I'll be reading through the other posts as well.

  2. Hi Mitch, Mr Ramage suggested I check this site out, looks like a hoot! All the best Mike Bysterveld