Thursday, 15 June 2017

Desert Campaign Game 5 Bardia

On the morning of 3 January 1941, the first significant land battle of the Second World War planned and fought by an Australian formation began. With the first rays of dawn the soldiers of Major General Iven Mackay’s 6 Division attacked the Italian colonial fortress town of Bardia, a small harbour on the Mediterranean coast of what was, at that time, Italy’s Libyan colony.

Following a successful break-in by 16 Brigade on the western face of the Italian perimeter on the first morning of the attack, after close to 55 hours of fighting, the last Italian defenders laid down their arms. The victory cost 6 Division 129 men killed and 329 wounded. Italian casualties totaled close to 1000 dead, 3000 injured and a further 36,000 taken prisoner, including the five divisional commanders. In numerical terms alone, leaving aside the vast quantities of military stores and equipment captured by the attackers within the Bardia perimeter, the battle was a monumental Australian success.

Lt Col A.H.L. Godfrey  launched  the  Victorians  of  2/6  Battalion against the line of posts on the southern face of the Italian line at Wadi el Muatered. He had been ordered to create a diversion to distract Italian attention from the main point of break-in, 11 kilometres to the north-west, but did nothing of the sort. Instead of a feint attack, Godfrey mounted a full-scale assault to seize and occupy the posts on northern bank of Wadi el Muatered. In doing so, he sentenced many of his men to death for no good operational purpose. Once the assault began, Godfrey’s men and the Italians opposing them fought some of the hardest and most costly actions of the entire battle. The centre of gravity for both sides became the struggle for Post 11 on the extreme left of the 2/2 Battalion attack—an epic which has passed into Anzac legend. Ivor Hele’s famous oil painting of the action hangs to this day in the Australian War Memorial. However, for all Hele’s imagery of savage combat and horrible aftermath, this engagement, like the rest of Godfrey’s attack, should never have unfolded as it did.

Bardia (action leading to the fall of Post 11) Ivor Hele © Australian War Memorial
 This is the action covered by this scenario, in an battle where overall the Italians were overwhelmed by the keen Australians with Matilda I-tank support. This was a misguided operation where the Italians held the advantages of good positions and terrain.  The Australians took heavy casualties for very little gain despite showing great bravery.


The plan for 2/6 Battalion’s ‘demonstration’, which was in reality a full-scale assault on the Italian line at Wadi el Muatered on the morning of 3 January. The terrain  was difficult and dominated by Wadi el Muatered,around 90 metres wide and between 110–140 metres deep, with precipitous sides,running across the entire front of 2/6 Battalion’s position.

Australian OOB

2/6 Battalion.
Commander Lt Col A.H.L. Godfrey

Infantry Company B
Capt W.T. Muhlhan
Infantry Company C
Capt Rowan

x1 Commander
x7 Infantry
x2 Bren
2 with Boys ATR
x1 2 inch Mortar

Infantry Company D
 x1 Commander
x9 Infantry
2 with Boys ATR
x1 2 inch Mortar

1RNF Support Platoon
X2 Vickers MMG 8A-44
X2 Bren

X3 inch Mortar

The Italians were well dug in and had Artillery and machine gun support.

Italian OOB

Infantry Co with attached support units with 37mm Bredas and 45mm Mortars (awesome)

Bergaseri Co with MMG and Infantry gun support.

How it played out.

Much like the real engagement the Australian took heavy losses but ended up over-running the Italians and taking the strong positions overlooking the wadi.  This is what happened in the real battle as well but unlike the actual battle the Italians in our game did not have the heart for a counter attack. This one was a clear but expensive victory for the Aussies.

 The Australians make their way across the Wadi, through the wire and then have to face climbing the other side under fire.
Under fire the Australians push on.
Under heavy fire some of the Aussies have had enough (top left) for now but they'll be back.
Eventually they get a foot hold on the top.

The Bersagliera are pushed out of Post 11

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