Thursday, 23 October 2014

Desert Campaign Game 4 Battle of the Camps (Nibeiwa)


The Italians have advance 60 miles into Egypt and then established a series of defensive camps.
The Italian deployments are fatally flawed as the camps are too far apart to support each other.  Operation Compass had been devised by Lieutenant-General Sir Richard O'Connor, commanding the Western Desert Force (WDF), as a five-day raid on the massively superior Italian forces in North Africa.  The first blow will fall against the Italian fortified camp at Nibeiwa. 

The WDF has been reinforced with 50 Matilda Heavy Infantry Tanks or 1/2 of the total the British had at the time.  The British have setup supply dumps behind the Italians camps and with aggressive patrolling (see Battle 3 Into the Gap) have kept the Italians in their camps ignorant of the British preparations.

The first part of the scenario is designed to represent some of the diversions used to cover the movement in the desert and to keep the Italians of guard.  At 0300 hrs, the 4th/7th Rajput Regiment commenced a feint attack on the strong eastern defences of the Italian position at Nibeiwa in Egypt, the opening move in Operation Compass. 

The Battle of the camps (Nibiewa)

2 parts to scenario
1st part is a diversionary raid by the British infantry on Italian camp.

4 companies British troops

Orders – Do a diversionary attack against the defences of the camp.  Distract the Italians but do not take too many losses, we want the Italians hearing us and no other British manoeuvres.
There are a some rounds from a 25lber battery available 2 HE & 1 Smoke
 A10 tanks are in reserve but will not be released unless Italian tanks attack and cover for falling back is needed.

2 companies Libyan infantry – trained
½ company Bergasilerie
Hvy weapons group
At rifles
Light Mortar
Defend your sector of the line against any British attacks if the Tommies are foolish enough to try and raid our camp. Your forces are well dug in with good support.  There are no significant enemy forces around any attacks will be probes by enemy combined arms forces. 
There are only 4 rounds of Artillery support from the groups guns available, curse those British raiders (see Game 2).
Reinforcements will only be released in the unlikely event this raid is heavily supported.

Map for this part of the scenario with the 4 British start positions.  The goal for the British players is to get close enough to shoot up the Italians.  There is an anti tank ditch on the eastern side of camp (down in this map).

How it unfolded

Part 1 with the 4 British players shooting up the Italian camp worked reasonably well. And was interesting to get players to do something that wasn’t a full on assault although they got a bit ahead of themselves and seemed to think they could take the camp with their unsupported infantry companies.  This part of the game had a lot of long range pot shots and there were no casualties on either side in first week.
 It looked like the whole section of the game would be bloodless but Ray decided to put some of his troops into a truck for the retreat and parked them well within range of the Italian AT guns which made short work of the truck and a failed bailout role chalked up the first loss, followed by an artillery stonk killing another stand meant we had a winner to join the Italians for phase 2.
  The Italians also got their MMGs into operation and took out another couple of tommies during the last couple of phases.

Phase 2 - The Assault.

The British had discovered that the Camp at Nibeiwa had all it defenses facing east and in aerial recon photos there were vehicle tracks clearly visible showing the gap in the minefield to the west.  The British attacked from the west and burst into the camp taking the Italians unaware. The assault from the north while not 100% accurate does give the feel of some of the more bloody battles later in the day at Tummar West and allows for a 5th player.

To work well the attack direction and details have not been revealed.

The 3 British orders

Northern Assault.

To commander 1st Bn Royal Fusiliers
Your orders are to assault the Northern face of the Nibiewa camp.  You will be aware that forces will be attacking rear of camp simultaneous with your assault going in.  Your assault is to be pressed hard and will be supported by the Battalion 25lbers.
Forces to be committed are 2 companies
1 Commander
9 Infantry (1 with Boyes AT)
2” Mortar
You also have from Battalion
1 3” Mortar
2 Vickers MMG
FOO with vehicle
All troops are Exp.
You have been provided with transport from NZ 4th reserve Motor Transport Company who will get you as close as possible to camp.  One of the main reason I included this attack was to get these guys into this battle, historically the Kiwi transport drivers moved troops to attack the next camp at Tummar West.  The story goes that once they had reached the drop off location, the Kiwi drivers grabbed their rifles and with a yell of "Come on you Pommy bastards" charged the Italians. In this scenarios once the Infantry leave the trucks, 2 stands of extra infantry appear (+1 melee).

You can call on 3 guns of the 3rd Royal Horse Artillery, the guns will lay down smoke to cover advance.  

7th RTR Matildas

You are in command of C Company 7th Royal Tank Regt consisting of the following I tanks, all tanks are Exp.

1 Command MKII Matilda
1 MKII CS Matilda
4 MKII Matildas
 You orders are to assault the Nibiewa camp from the rear using the lanes marked on the map as these have been identified as being clear of mines.  Your objective is to kill or capture all Italian forces in the NE corner of the camp.  Supporting you assault will be 2 companies of infantry in Bren Carriers accompanying you and an assault on North of camp by other elements of 11 division.
 There are Italian armoured elements in the camp at location X-ray according to intel and these are a priority for 2lber equipped tanks and CS tank is to engage and destroy targets of opportunity.
 Remember we have more camps to attack today and running I tanks will be essential so don’t lose too many. 

Map for 7th RTR & Bren Carriers

Bren Carrier Command

You are in command of 2 Companies of British infantry from 2nd Bn Rifle Brigade (Vet) in Bren carriers.  Your task is to assist Matildas in the assault on the Nibiewa camp from the rear using the lanes marked on the map as these have been identified as being clear of mines.  You will enter 1 turn after the Matildas.  Your objective is to kill or capture all Italian forces in the NE corner of the camp. 
8 Bren Carriers (carry 2 troops)
Trucks as required for rest.

2 Companies
1 Commander
9 Infantry (1 with Boyes)
1 Bren

1 2” Mortar

Italian Orders 

Italians at rest in Nibeiwa Camp.

After the early morning raid by the impudent British the camp is once again calm.
The Italian forces are separated into 2 commands. North and East.

Nth Command has
2 Company Libyan Inf (Trained)
2 AT rifle (all support weapons are Exp)
2 37mm AT guns (Marked on Map)
2 75 mm Artillery Emplaced (Mark on Map)
Reserve (Mark on Map but not currently active)
5 L33 Light Tanks

East Command
2 Company Libyan Inf (Trained)
1 AT rifle (all support weapons are Exp)
1 37mm AT guns (Marked on Map)
1 Infantry Gun (Marked on Map)
Reserve (Mark on Map but not currently active)

6 M13/40 tanks

 How it played out

The British Infantry attack from the north went in first under cover of smoke and supported by their mad Kiwis.  They fairly quickly discovered just how hard it is to displace defenders however poor in quality from fixed positions.

The Italian players were feeling fairly secure behind their walls at this stage but a nasty surprise is coming...

The Matildas of 7th RTR burst into the rear of the Italian camp and produce satisfying cries of "Mamma Mia!" from the Italian players.(Ok maybe a few other words were said but this is a family blog.)

After taking heavy losses from the Italians the Fusiliers take advantage of the distraction form the rear to seize a foothold inside the wall.
The Rifle Brigade in their carriers join the assault from the rear.  The Italians realise their weapons are pretty much useless against the Matildas and turn them on the carriers taking a heavy toll.

The Fusiliers extend their foot hold with the fort but still take heavy losses attacking strong points head on.  I suspect the company commander may have learnt his trade on the western front in WW1.
The valiant Colonel Malletti who leads the Italians can be seen advancing on the right to attack the intruders and inspire his troops.  History records that the valiant Colonel was cut down will firing an MG at a Matilda while dressed in his pajamas. (the umpires attempts to paint a figure in PJs were sadly unconvincing).
The Italians have managed to activate some of their tanks and move to attack the Matildas,
they don't have much luck so satisfy themselves with taking out yet more bren carriers.  

The Fusiliers supported by the CS Matilda finally get into the rear of the Italian strong point that has taken a heavy toll and press forward. One of the Kiwi units can be seen in the centre.
The end is nigh.  The Italians have fought resolutely but had no answer to the heavy armour of the Matilda.  This was probably the high water mark of the British I Tank concept.


  1. A good read! I must come along

  2. Mama mia, here we go again, my, my, how could I resist ya?
    I remember now you had painted a bren carrier yourself for this game which was destroyed at least four times. And we'll never forget colonel pyjamas, god rest his flannel-bottomed soul.

  3. What a grand looking game. Impressive stuff Mitch!
    Plenty of rocks, especially for John... but he wasn't there to enjoy them!

    1. I was there. We were over-run but put in a good account.

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