A campaign based on El Alamein was run at the Club over several months (it felt like years). It consisted of two interdependent parts; a land campaign and a sea campaign.

 

The Axis forces in North Africa under Rommel had followed up the retreat of the 8th Army to El Alamein. The Nile beckoned tantalisingly close. However, Rommel was completely dependant on receiving fuel supplies shipped from Italy to keep his offensive going. British submarines and aircraft based on Malta were able to take a continuous toll of Italian tankers crossing the Mediterranean  -  as long as they themselves were supplied with fuel brought in from Gibraltar.

  

Flames of War with Afrika lists were used for the land campaign. Our in-house naval rules were used for the sea bit.

 

 

THE BATTLES

 (with thanks to Bob, Brian, Mick & Rob)

 

Qaret el Himeimat, 3rd Week July 1942

Himeimat early morning ...

The South Africans were cooking breakfast, Spam fritters and biscuit AB (that's Arse Blockers to those in the know!)

The AA platoons were nursing sore muscles from having to drag their guns onto the summit of  Qaret Et Himeimat overnight and the Rifle companies and MG platoons were smugly looking over their shoulders at them and having a brew as their scrapes had been easily improved due to the amount of loose rocks surrounding their positions and knowing the massed 'Stovepipes' and 25pdrs lay behind them, with the trusty Matildas hidden to defend their Ammo dump.

The sun began to rise from behind them and then the 'Net' began to buzz, The Eyeties had stolen a march on Auk and their positions were about to be hit. Hope faded, The Afrikaans had been here before, hung out to dry by uncaring British commanders!!

The sun soon revealed the Eyeties, massed before them, with Tank support and from what the scattered observers could see, massed artillery and mortars. Quick call in the air support!! The Afrikaans had expected to be submitted to Stuka attack and drew a sigh of relief when none materialised, only to be rudely awakened by the pop of numerous mortars and the crump of heavier guns.

The summit was soon shrouded in smoke, an Eyetie battery immediately zeroed in on some of the AA and the HMGs soon lost their smugness. The Eyeties screamed Avanti and quickly advanced.

Some of the infantry and HMGs immediately took casualties from the zeroed battery, now cursing the AA that had given them hope from the Stukas. Amazingly the AA survived unscathed!! Only to be displaced by a later assault. The Eyetie gunners appeared to be firing blanks.

As the eyeties advanced, now it was the Afrikaans turn, amazingly three Kittyhawks appeared and immobilised two Eyetie tanks, the massed 25 pdrs halted several companies and even the HMGs bombarded a company to a halt. If only we can slow their advance!!

The Eyeties kept coming, many had been stalled by the vicious HMG and Artillery strikes, but importantly the carriers had been able to get into range of the  summit, their firepower would soon cause the Afrikaans discomfort along with the other tank company and many of the Infantry swept on impervious to the casualties and bombardments.

Again, three Kittyhawks arrived, this time they concentrated upon the massed advancing infantry, the 25 pdrs again pounded the zeroed Eyeties companys (Forgetting Mike Target!!), again the Eyeties could rally some of their troops to continue the frantic advance.

Despite the heavy bombardment the Italian's brushed off the sand from their uniforms and  continued their advance supported by their combined artillery. The combined bombardment and accurate fire from the Compagnia Carri pinned the reluctant South Africans where they hid in their foxholes. Meanwhile the Italians advanced and assaulted one platoon at a time defeating the HMGs and Bofors before advancing on the summit. This was enough to persuade the South African reserve out of their trenches behind the summit and launch a counter assault.

This brave charge was met with some substantial defensive fire  however they pressed home their attack. The Italians now prepared to counter attack but despite the efforts of the C in C they failed to hold their nerve to counter assault and withdrew to safer positions in sight of but not in control of the objectives.

Perhaps it was a Himeimat too far !  

 

Crusaders

Alam Nayid 3rd Week, July 1942

Alam Nayid, not so early morning (Rommel likes to lie in)...

South of the ridge of Alam Nayid the 10th Indian Division had dug-in around the Deir el Munassib depression. Auchinlek did not occupy the ridge (running west to east) but instead guarded it from a distance with the nearby 1st Armoured Division. Rommel's main thrust was planned here; across the small hill of the Bab el Qattara and on to Deir el Munassib. He threw in the dusty veterans of the 15th Panzer Division, ably supported by the Italian 132nd Ariete Armoured Division and foot-slogging 60th Sabratha Infantry Division.

The Germans crossed the hill but were halted by a line of 2pdr AT guns. Though the guns were soon dealt with by a platoon of the powerful new Pz IV F2s they seemed reluctant to carry on against the line of 25pds massed behind. Italian armour was brewing up all over the battlefield to the south, but the tinplate tanks kept up their advance and eventually overran a unit of Vickers MGs dug-in around some rough terrain and a platoon of 6 pdrs.

The only thing holding up the Italian advance were some Valentines skulking in the depression and two platoons of Indians, supported by their secret weapon  -  the Blacker Bombard. On went the Italians; shouting Avanti! Italia! and Mama Mia! On came the missiles, pinging from the Blackers hidden in the scrub. One Indian platoon was all but wiped out but the other held firm, including the single survivor of the Valentine platoon whom the enemy did not have the heart (or aim) to finish off.

Like the 7th Cavalry of yore, but ironically this time coming to the rescue of the Indians, the British armour at last turned up to form a line across the crest of Alam Nayid. The British and German tanks traded shots, the Grants doing particularly good service, allowing the remaining Indians to join them and form a new defensive line.

The second phase of the battle now began with the Crusader tanks attempting to drive-by shoot up the German armour massed by Bab el Qattara. Again it was the Italians who forced the issue by assaulting the eastern end of the ridge. After vicious hand to hand fighting and the loss of the Indian Division's commander Auchinlek decided that he could not risk taking anymore losses and withdrew to the north leaving this part of the blood splattered oil stained desert to the enemy.

 

 

Ruweisat Ridge, 4th Week July 1942

Mein Fuhrer! I have the latest dispatch from das Afrika Korps ...

"The Story So Far

Having had restless sleep all night, Rommel forsook his usual lie in and got up before dawn. Turning the events of the past week in his head, he grasped for a bit of confidence, along with some tea the Indians had graciously left behind. The German High Commander had been frustrated at every turn, The Italian assault in the Qatara Depression had found the Carri sidelined, whilst their brave brothers slogged up Mt Himeimat under withering fire; to no avail. At the same time, he had been leading 15th Panzer and the famed Ariete along with another million of Rome's bayonets and artillery against the less experienced but fiercely courageous 10th Indian Division. Though they had silenced their guns, and routed most of their infantry, somehow the Indian CO had emboldened the remnants of his force to hold.  Because of his heroics, the assault had stalled just long enough for the 7th Armoured to take up a flanking position on the Panzers and the Indians had unleashed some strange new weapon on the unsuspecting Carri commanders.

Victory having just eluded their grasp, the Axis renewed the attack with fresh zeal the following day. This time, they Italian infantry held the ground to the north near Bab el Qattara with the Italian tanks sweeping the Southern flank and the German tanks protecting the center.  When dawn broke, the 7th Armoured Division had lined up against the infantry while the Indians held the ridge. However, the German's new Panzer IV F2s had held back the tide of armour allowing the Italians tanks to sweep all resistance away on the ridge, only to find themselves looking down the readied barrels of some massive 25 pdrs.  Once again the Italian advanced was vaporized, although the Indian commander had suffered a similar fate to their hull double machineguns. With the remaining Grants taking position on the hill and the Crusaders finally sweeping down over the now burning hulks of the new German supertanks, the attack had once again been thwarted.

Curiously though, as if some sort of consolation prize, the enemy had retreated, perhaps to salvage what was left of the battered Indian division. Of course, stingy ones that they were they again left nothing behind, not even a litre of petrol.

Ruweisat Ridge

So, the commander mused, are these colonials simply unbeatable? What must I do to break them?  That morning, as he surveyed the field, he gazed at the nose of the daunting Ruweisat Ridge faintly resembling that of Alam Nayid.  "Ah" the German commander said to himself, "I've been in this cursed desert too long, it all begins to look the same . . ."

This time, it was the Kiwis he faced.  Would they take a cue from their Indian compatriots and fight to a man?  His hope lay both in numbers and in the newly arrived 90th Light Division, along with the crème de la crème of the Italian infantry- the Bersaglieri of Trieste. Backed by the guns of the fucilieri and their flame-belching demolishers, they were sure to inspire some boot-quaking in the steadfast colonials.

Moving more aggressively than usual, the panzers struck out toward the mass of huddled soldiers along the south of the ridge. Rommel's own hand-picked set of speedy captured Stuarts led the way hurdling themselves with reckless abandon around the southern flank, hoping to get the jump on the Kiwi infantry.

However, backed with their mighty 25 pdrs and their HMG�s on point, they calmly dialled in their air support against the Axis onslaught. Curiously, they didn't seem the least bit concerned.  Did they know something the seasoned German commander did not know?  He fully expected them to call for reserves, but his window of opportunity was now.  He had to seize the day.  Or the bratwurst his cook had just grilled. Ah, the day could wait.

The initial volleys were fruitless. The secret new technology acquired from the Russians proved in dire need of more testing. His panzergrenadiers, also eager to gain a jump, took no inspiration from their commander, and stalled in their trucks in the open. "Not a good start" the commander muttered. And yet the hordes of Italian footmen leaping out of their holes surged ahead, though fear of the mighty Bofors checking their usual Avanti spirit.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, out popped their unshakable nemesis from the previous week- the entire 1st Armoured (replete with 2 packs of those deadliest of superweapons) made in the good 'ol US of A.  The mighty Grants emerged with matching sets of the even deadlier if more short-lived 6 pdrs slinging Crusader IIIs and IIs and some carriers to mow down the advancing Italian horde.

The Stuart commanders could nearly smell the breath of their counterparts.  "How come we never get a full English breakfast?" they mused as they faced their imminent demise. Back at high command, the general, choking on his sausage, cried out in disbelief. "Where were our scouts?  What is it with this bloody Luftwaffe, anyway- they never show up!"  He had always suspected Göring had it in for him.  He even thought he could hear the fat German laughing along with the Brits.  It must have been worth the price of admission to the see the fox chasing his own tail.  Had the Wüstenfuchs finally been out-fuchsed?

Apparently, however, the Crusaders had left the live rounds back at Alam Nayid, for their horrendous volleys bounced harmlessly off of the thin Stuart shells, knocking out only one tank. With the smoke on the artillery hindering their view, and being a bit out of range, the Grants were forced to advance and failed to dent the Panzer IV F1�s in their face- the Crusader IIIs remaining well out of range.

Still reeling from the shock, through the stoic courage of his fellow commanders, the German general finally regained his embarrassingly misplaced composure (and that bit of sausage in his throat) and ordered, as he always did in the face of certain death, "Vorwarts!"  The mortar crew again missed their mark, forcing the fledgling rocketeers to fill their shoes. Though the Stuart crews were huddled in what they thought were their coffins, most of them came to, realizing their extremely good favour. They promptly returned fire, their light guns hardly scratching the marginally thicker hides of the crusaders.  The vaunted German artillery did the same.

The new tank hunters, a hodge-podge of French chassis, Russian gun, and German ingenuity, fired at the Grants, but caught one crew cowering in the heart of their American  beast. The Panzer IVs advanced in to the maws of the deadly Grants and taking aim, managed to send one up in flames. The Italians marched relentlessly forward, their tanks leading the way. But, it was still with a long haul to the ridge under vicious fire.  Overall, it looked grim.

The British air command again delivered, but only sparingly. The flyboys must have held quite the party last night. However, with the target-rich environment the lone pilot couldn't help but have success, and ended the day for one platoon of Italian infantry.

The Grants, relying on the artillery training from the Americans, promptly dispatched the new German panzers. The Crusaders traded shots with the Stuarts, though effectively only serving up the enemy crews' autobiographies for their viewing pleasure. However, one armoured car burst into a particularly fascinating array of fireworks.

The Crusader IIIs however, moved up and took out one of the remaining Panzer IIIs, who forgot his tank was a new L version, advertised with thicker armour than it turned out to be.  Always read the label.

Desperate times call for absolute madness, and so the Stuarts coming to their senses, boldly jumped behind the crowded field of Knights, whilst the Panzers faced them head on at point-blank range. Finally, their superior optics and training kicked in and up went two platoons in smoke.  The Marders too found their mark and the remaining Grant left the increasingly lonely field.  The Italians had quickly smoked the carriers, but were facing the Grants and crusaders with but a handful of panzers.  However, smoking the 6 pdrs had given them the added benefit of blocking the dreaded Bofors, who with eyes trained on the mainstay of the Italian agricultural industry, never even considered lifting their barrels to the sky.  The Italians charged up the hill, victory now in sight.

Undaunted, the British armour advanced firing at the panzergrenadiers preparing to assault their stores, whilst others turned to face the Stuarts at their rear.  Perhaps in the confusion, the gunners had lost their mark, but again, only a few reruns of the same highlight reel for the Stuart crews.  All the while, more armoured reserves began to show up against the Italians who by now were making their presence felt, though they were not quite motivated enough to finish the job.  Ah, but the third wave was a-coming, the mighty fire-belching demolishers.  And they had flame-throwers as well.

Finally the mortar crew quit smoking whatever it was they were smoking, and laid some smoke of their own. The Stuart crews promptly returned the cinematic favour and gave the Crusader crews an advance showing off their own completed life stories. The Marders, having dispatched the Grants, now turned on the Crusaders, flaming one of the remnant, the final blow being taken by lowly scout car out for revenge for the now dying embers of his brother.

The new technology appeared to need quite a few more test runs and, failing to range in again, was promptly sent back to the lab for the remainder of the campaign.  Again, the mighty Schleppers missed their mark, their crews facing courtmartials for ineptness unbecoming a German.

However, the now reduced panzer platoon proceeded to light up the resolute, and dug in Kiwi infantry, their positions marked by a couple 8-rads. With some help from the advancing panzergrenadiers, they barely succeeded in forcing the proud New Zealand heads under their parapets of sand.  Nevertheless, the panzers went in firing, the distinct note of a Boys AT rifle being lost under the roar of the panzer engines, gunning their beasts forward.  After taking out a few infantry, the German tanks found themselves swarmed by the confident Kiwis, forcing the panzers retreat and capturing one of their tanks, leaving but two on the field.  However, the panzergrenadiers finally brought their might to bear. The fire on the way in claimed two squads, but the fierce assault finally dislodged the stout courage of the Kiwis, who retreated back, only to find the 1st Armour all but annihilated.  Discretion being the better part of valour, the valiant New Zealanders sought to fight another day. Far more generous than their fellow colonials, they left a sizable gift for the Axis parched fuel tanks."

 

 

The August Convoy

The whole of force H set out from Gib in an all-out effort to get supplies through to a beleaguered Malta. The Axis decided on conserving their limited fuel stocks sticking with airpower supported by a flotilla of Italian and German submarines.

The first wave of Axis vultures managed to get the drop on Force H, whose carriers hung back too far to lend proper support, and set up their attack before the bulk of the RN's fighter defence was in position. Unfortunately, those fighters near enough to intervene took the 'Tally Ho!' option of mixing it with the enemy fighters rather than the less glam task of taking on the bombers. A series of lucky strikes by the Fiat biplanes and Me110 two-seaters sent the majority of the Sea Hurricanes and Fairy Fulmars scurrying back to their carriers. The mistake was amply punished when the bombers, free to attack at will, sank a couple of the precious tankers.

The next wave managed to burst through a somewhat more organised defence and sink another tanker. The remaining three tankers were saved more by luck than skill, but by way of a change some of the bombers decided to go for the destroyer HMS Lance. Her plucky crew were last seen singing the final verse of 'Twas On The Good Ship Venus' before she slipped under.

The Axis submarines were now in position. In spite of a somewhat headless chicken response by the enemy destroyers, the sharks managed to unleash their tin fish and sink two more tankers for the loss of one of their number, imprudent enough to stay up-top too long and sunk by a long range salvo from a cruiser.

The remaining tanker managed to make it to Malta, whose planes had already used the last of the island's fuel reserves to sink most of the Italian tankers heading for North Africa. This left Rommel in a precarious position with only enough fuel for limited operations in August. Would the 8th Army be able to take advantage ...

 

25 pdrs

Second Qaret el Himeimat, 1st Week August 1942

Dear Mama

I hope you are keeping well. The weather here is hot. Guess what, we have moved again! For some reason the British left their nice cosy trenches (and barbed wire and mines and bunkers) and have retreated! We Italians have really got them on the run! Mind you they've only retired a few kilometres to a new set of defences they secretly built behind the old ones. Apparently there was a nicer beach.

We are now camped around a dusty old railway station (I'm still waiting for the 10.20 to Roma, I thought that nowadays the trains were meant to run on time!). Of course though the British left us their defences most of them are facing west. Still at least I've got an en-suite trench now (though it smells of curry) They even kindly left a toy kangaroo hanging on the wire. At least I think it's a toy. Of course, being mere infantry we were made to walk here, along with our new friends from the 25th Division. I think they may have been expecting a posting elsewhere as they turned up wearing knitted bobble hats and thermal undies.

It makes me wonder where all our Fiat trucks are. I bet our 'friends' the goose-steppers have them! Talking of which, I hear that the Fuhrer is furious because Rommel lent his newest and bestest tanks to our boys. One even got blown up (despite the fact that the goose-steppers keep telling us the enemy's pea-shooters can't scratch them). I bet if that happens again Her Hitler wont let his men fight in our divisions any more.

To be honest Mama it is we Italians who do all the fighting anyway. This new British commander, Uncle Monty I think he's called, decided to test our mettle by attacking us in the south. He massed hundreds and thousands of guns and tried to send his tanks up a cliff to attack a mountain! I think he forgot to ask the infantry along to the party as the only ones we saw were those Turks, and they were just milling around behind their tanks as our friends in the tin cans picked off their tin cans one by one.

We did have some trouble from their little armoured cars. They got round us and gave our artillery a real pasting. Serves those gunners right, always skulking behind us infantry, shooting at stuff they can't even see. We wait until we can see the whites of their eyes, or at least reds of their eyes as that damned desert dust gets everywhere. I feel sorry for their Scotch regiments! Anyway the British were last seen running back to their lines with Uncle Monty shouting "we need Qaret el Himeimat, even if it must be burglary"

Mick & Steve at playCan you send me some ham and cheese, and maybe some fava beans and a nice Cianti (fthfthfthffff!) We get nothing to eat, only the occasional tin of donkey dong meat captured from the British. Their food is only fit for rats, maybe that's why they call themselves the 'Dessert Rats' (ha ha!) I know that it will be pinched on the way here by those pirates on Malta but chances are when I'm captured they'll serve it up to us in the POW camp!

As I sit in my hole dreaming of La Dolce Vita (how is my darling Dolce? She told me in her last letter she was learning German and having these terrible cravings for peanut butter and sauerkraut sandwiches) I'm wondering what will happen next. The British know where we are, they built these little villas in the countryside for us! I hear rumours that the British fleet in Alexandria (nothing but a couple of decrepit old battleships, two or three cruisers, some destroyers, but NO carriers thank God) is ready to come and blow us off to Dante's inferno. And do you think our 'glorious' navy will come and rescue us? Our ships have spent so much time in port they must be pickled by now! (another joke Mama).

All this worry is making my hair fall out. I'm going to end up looking like Papa; bald as a Calabrian coot. Can you mention to Papa that he's beginning to get a bit embarrassing. Other sons may have to suffer the indignity of seeing their papas 'Dad Dancing' at parties, but newsreel footage of Papa's antics at the Fascist Party make me squirm.

Your ever loving son Benito Junior.

 

 

 

Cape Of Figs, 2nd Week August 1942

 

Was it Monty who said "Give me a lucky admiral"? Admiral Harwood was steaming off the Cape Of Figs on his way from Alexandria to El Alamein; mission to bombard the enemy back from whence they came. With him he had a couple of WW1 rust buckets, Valiant and flagship Ramillies. Both were very near retirement but had been kept on the lists as there was nothing more modern to spare. Destroyers Forester, Foresight and Inconstant came along for the ride.

With spies all over Alex the Italian navy soon got wind of what was afoot and sent out their most modern battleship Littorio, plus the rather more vintage Andrea Doria and a couple of destroyers Corsaro and Libra. It should be no contest thought the Italian admiral, stung by recent accusations that the navy was scared of a few ancient tubs. The British can barely scratch the paint on my shiny new battleship and our guns will slice through their armour like a hot knife through a slab of damp parmesan.

Harwood's force steamed west, big boys in line ahead and destroyers providing a screen. As the enemy bore down from the north, with for some reason the older Andria Doria to the fore, the British destroyers started to lay smoke. The Andria Doria soon gained the range and 12" shells rained down on Foresight. She went under with a minimum of fuss. Opposing destroyers were now in range and the Italians had the best of it. Just as they launched torpedoes at extreme range the Forester and Inconstant were sunk for the loss of Corsaro. Libra loosed off her torpedoes before attempting to scuttle away. She was caught by a salvo from Valiant and blew up. No torpedoes hit home and the battle became a duel between heavyweights.

The Andria Doria found herself in an unequal contest with the two British battleships who soon began to land telling hits. Valiant had a turret knocked out but the Italian suffered worse with half her guns knocked out, fires raging onboard and her engines damaged and slowing her to a halt. At last the most powerful unit in the battle opened up, but whether it was the lingering smoke screen, smoldering hulks or recent dinner of fava beans washed down with a nice Cianti, something upset the aim and by the time the Italian flagship�s salvos began to straddle, the Andrea Doria was doomed.

15" shells now hit the Valiant and soon the bridge was informed by the chief engineer "speed down to half, one turret left, electrics out, near fatal flooding and uncontrollable fires. She canna take any more c'ptain" The order was given to abandon ship and the brave veteran, who had undoubtedly lived up to her name, slipped under.

Now it was down to just two. Ramillies could not escape her faster enemy, she had to slug it out. But the only way to avoid the same fate as Valiant was to pull out Littorio's teeth by somehow knocking out her guns. The Littorio's salvo crept ever closer to her pray. Harwood had one more chance before the Italians ranged in. His eight 15" guns barked and the shells arced towards their target. The chances of these shells knocking out all enemy turrets in one salvo must have been a hundred to one. Harwood held his breath, the enemy was suddenly lit up by strikes to fore and aft, the British waited for the reply, an excited shout from up top penetrated the silence on the bridge "she's turning away sir! the Ities are on the run!" The pride of Mussolini's fleet had all her guns put out of action and she was forced to slink away like a toothless tart from Naples.

 

 

 

El Alamein Station, 2nd Week August 1942

 

Dear Aunt Sheila

Well g'day am still in the bloody desert and our pommie officer said he had to go off for tiffin or maybe it was Tiffany, anyway he says as how if I used to report on roo boxing in the Sydney Morning Herald back in 39 that I could send the report back home of the recent bloody shindig in a place called hell alley or something so he threw me a bloody typewriter and walked out BLOODY POM OFFICERS!!!!!

Well we got ourselves a new general last month small bastard with a face like that pet wombat you had back in 37 Monty I think his name was and boy did he have some bright ideas there we were Bruce me and the wallabies all cozy in our billets when he says retreat and then one week later he says boys go and attack the place you were in last week BLOODY POM OFFICERS!!!!!

Well we got all the bushtucker gang together and lined up in the bloody morning mist opposite the eyetyes we could just make out the old water tower where Bruce used to keep the bloody goats when all hell broke loose some bloody warship apparently the whole place was just a bloody mess of bits guns noise and smoke all around the old station I says to Bruce it would be a walkover and then we got moving and as the smoke cleared we saw barbwire and bloody minefields as far as the eye could bloody see and had they given us any tanks not bloody likely BLOODY POM OFFICERS!!!!!

Well anyway we soon sorted that we borrowed some tanks from the Kiwis next door and what with some wirecutters we soon shifted that bloody barbedwire mind you it was hot work and we found ourselves up against an 88 (it's a bloody big kraut gun) that the eyetyes had borrowed how it survived a hail of fire I don't know but then it fired back and missed everybloodything maybe we were too close or something then the bloody CO got onto division for some help first he got our artillery he says can they sort out the eyetye artillery they says they had been bombarding it all morning not that we noticed any bloody difference second he asks the RAF to support us we saw them come in and then go and they couldn't hit a bloody barn door last he gets on to the tank boys any chance of dealing with the eyetye tanks crawling around our arse he says well says the tank general it all a bit difficult over on our flank we may be sometime so no bloody help there either BLOODY POM OFFICERS!!!!!

Well only one thing for it me and Bruce would have to win the bloody battle ourselves so we charged and cleared out the bloody railway station anyway we could tell that by now the eyetye officer was looking a bit reluctant and so it proved he threw in his dice and left and takes his boys with him it was all over and me and Bruce goes looking for a cold beer couldn't find none but the bloody eyetye vino tastes okay after the third bottle and Bruce says next time Monty says attack then send in the tanks first and I says too bloody right BLOODY POM OFFICERS!!!!!

Well must stop now our pommie officer is back and he wants me to go count the bloody bog rolls in the storeroom hope you and the kids are well say hello to uncle Albert for me your loving nephew

Bruce

 

 

 

The Battle of The Depression, 3rd Week August 1942

 Deir el Munassib. The View From The Trenches

Tell me why I hate Mondays!! (Boomtown Desert Rats...)

The 10th Indians, having already fought across most of the desert, hurriedly dug-in when informed of the Axis attack. Caught whilst moving they had only their dug-outs to save them!!

They decided upon a classic 'box' (more like semi-circle!) defensive perimeter with the brave RA gunners acting as AT and Artillery. They saw the massed armour of the Axis and noticed Rommel had taken the field. This added to their pride and fear. The massed Armour didn't worry them at first as they were all armed with the lethal (but to whom?) Sticky Bomb, hurriedly passed onto them by the British infantry, and had support of two regiments of Field RA.

Then the attack started. To the Indian's surprise smoke was laid heavily upon their positions! Surely that was our tactic? The Huns had obviously learned a thing or two and our 25 pdrs were mostly masked. The Axis doubled quickly to within attack distance.

Aircraft failed to stop the German's latest super tanks! A Battery of 25 pdrs ceased to exist!!

The Hun scouts unwittingly faltered (when they caught the whiff of curry on the wind?) and were annihilated by the Indian infantry. But, it would soon be their turn!! Many Axis tanks were left burning but the smoke kept making visibility difficult and the assaults soon came in! If only we could hold on! If only the reserves could arrive!

Deir el Munassib. The View From The Other Side

Too many Indians, not enough Chiefs (Nine Inch Nails?)

Finally the big push had to come. Herr Feldmarshall Rommel's logistics staff managed to secure sufficient fuel and we embarked on a charge across the desert that would deliver death or glory (or perhaps both). Our intelligence indicated that we would encounter no armour so Herr Rommel had ordered the Sabratha Fucilieri Division,132nd Ariete Armoured Division and the 15th Panzer Division into action to slice the road currently held by the allied powers. Our orders were clear; we were to advance quickly under cover of smoke, take our objective and then hold our position. Our German allies may want to eliminate the enemy, but we Italians care less for the death than the for the glory.

First our brave scouts moved; the armoured cars of Ariete tearing down the flank and the motorcycle scouts from the 15th Panzers advancing down the centre. Next, we embarked on our desert charge under the cover of artillery firing smoke from the rear. We doubled across the bare sand towards the enemy. The motorcycle scouts then tried to dismount but in the excitement to reach the enemy (or too much schnapps the night before) failed this straightforward task. Sabratha's Infantry guns, manned by fresh-faced enthusiastic crew recently arrived from Tripoli, landed a direct hit on the enemy artillery (it was dug-in and the hit had no effect but they all got a medal anyway). Meanwhile the Panzer IVs from 15th Panzers ranged in on the artillery, but their shells too just bounced off the target to no effect.

Meanwhile the sepoys returned fire. Luckily many of our forces were secure behind the smoke but they succeeded in taking out one Stuart and causing the crew of a Panzer III to leap out of their 'can' and take shelter behind it. All of their other shots had little effect. Encouraged by the protection that smoke was giving us the Panzer III crew jumped back into their tank. It was at this point that, overcome with the enthusiasm of the advance, two Italian tanks strayed too close to the Indian A/T Tank guns and were turned into burning hulks. Meanwhile, the Panzer IVs on the left flank successfully dispatched three 25 pdrs. However, the fourth gun remained unscathed. The German scouts then remembered how to dismount, but again the euphoria of completing this difficult task resulted in them forgetting to assault the infantry that were only yards from them (memo to Rommel; stop showing your recce troops film of the exploits of the stunt rider Evil von Knieval).

The allied forces struck back on the right flank. Their artillery had lost their observer but the commander spotted our tanks and layed down a "stonk". Once more the crew of Hildergard bailed out .On the other flank two bombardments were fired and once again the Panzer IVs remained unscathed. It was at this point that our luck ran out (or more specifically the luck of our scouts). They were wiped out by rifle and light mortar fire. RIP. (must make a note here not to volunteer for recce duty).

It was at this point that Rommel called for the final assault over the Radio with an added sense of urgency. He must be loosing his vigor. In the old days he used to be on the front line, in the thick of it urging us on. Now he just skulks at the back. This time the artillery observers ranged in the smoke, leaving a gap in the middle so that we could finally see our intended targets. The Italian recce spotted the well-concealed Infantry. In anticipation, and trust in our Italian and German artillery, our mobile AA, Panzer IIIs, Stuarts and M/14s advanced towards their objective destroying a gun and several Infantry. On the other flank the Panzer IVs adjusted their range and took out the remaining gun on that Flank.

Now, the Infantry on the right flank were assaulted by the M14s. After a brief fight the brave Italian Carri were pushed backwards, but not before they had inflicted damage on the enemy. Next, the Panzer IIIs assaulted the remaining enemy force and wiped them out. This was too much for the brave Indians who decided discretion was the better part of valour .The Panzers broke through the Infantry's position and assaulted the nearest artillery battery. The Artillery opened fire and two Panzer IIIs were temporarily put out of action. The remainder of the platoon succeeded in destroying first the commander, and then the rest of the 25 pdr battery. With nothing barring their way, the Stuarts moved in under cover of smoke, along with the consolidating Panzer IIIs and captured the objective. The enemy looked hopefully behind them at the horizon, praying to all of their many Gods for their South African reserves to arrive. But there were none to be seen!

Throughout the battle the RAF were busy trying to stop our advance. We suffered low levels of casualties, a good job seeing as we haven't seen the Luftwaffe at all this month!

The day was ours. Next stop the bars and clubs of Cairo!

 

 

 

The Battle of The Tel El Eisa, 4th Week August 1942

 

 What Ho Mumsy!

We desert rats have been in a bit of a scrap again! We were asked to attack a ridge called Miterirya whilst out colonial friends from down under advanced on some spaghetti scoffers (well they were from the Bologna Division) snoozing round a bump called Tel el Eisa. It was another rum do for us tanks. We were heading for our target when these bods from the Trieste Division poked their heads over the ridge. We don�t mind taking on the Ities as their tanks and so called anti-tank guns are even worse than ours, but the bally Krauts went and turned up yet again and spoilt our fun. It�s just not fair, especially as they were all dressed in clean uniforms and came from Saxony apparently.

The Aussies and New Zealanders got the jump on our friends round Tel el Eisa but we were rather knocked about again. The whole division was merrily heading for our ridge, loosing off the odd shell in the general direction of where we thought the Ities were, when a Jerry tank hit us from jolly well miles away. I'm writing to you from the hospital in Cairo, but don't be alarmed. Poor old Doris went up straight away and we had to abandon her rather rapidly. Unfortunately as I leapt out my shorts got caught on the engine grill, and a rather delicate part of my anatomy was 'George Formaned'.

I'm afraid your hopes of grandchildren may need to take a bit of a backseat for a while, though I think Bunty may be somewhat relieved as I always got the impression she wasn't totally enamoured of this birds and beads thing (or is it bards and bees?). In short (and it certainly is) the old 7th no longer has enough men to form a polo team and our jalopies are all in bits somewhere in the desert.

I'm slightly fed up with the whole thing, it's not such a lark as it was before that Rommel came along. He just doesn't play fair and gets up to all sorts of underhand tricks. I think we should leave the war to the Yanks now, they're just as sneaky as the Germans, and always turn up late whilst taking all the credit.

Your loving son Lieutenant Dickie Crisp.

 

 

 

The September Convoy, 1st Week September 1942

 

The bombers and submarines at Malta mustered the last dregs of fuel. Their mission; to sink as many as they could of the Italian ships heading to North Africa. They did their best but could not prevent 20,000t of precious fuel reaching Rommel.

 

It was vital for the 8th Army that Malta be resupplied so it could cut off this lifeline for the Axis forces pressing towards Cairo. The next Malta convoy then set off (Operation Pederast) and safely passed through the western Mediterranean. The test came in the narrow straights between Sicily and Tunisia. The assault came from above, below and upon the sea as two waves of bombers, five submarines and half a dozen torpedo boat struck.

 

The collection of motley fighters onboard the three British carriers cleverly warded off most of the enemy bombers, but some got through and two tankers went down. The submarines joined in. The escorting destroyers, upholding the true spirit of sacrifice engendered by centuries of tradition, put themselves in harms way and took three of the torpedoes. Not cricket! was the cry from their foe, but it was not enough. Soon the cruiser Gloucester was slipping below the waves, victim of two hits, and the Penelope had her bows removed by another. One tanker took a torpedo and sank.

 

By now all of the enemy submarines had been dealt with, victims of their own reckless bravery. The last effort from the Axis saw their the torpedo boats swarm in for the kill. Two were lost but the remainder launched their tin fish. As the sun went down so too did the last casualty of this momentous battle.

 

Five tankers reached Malta carrying enough fuel to make a serious dent in the Axis efforts to re-supply North Africa.

 

 

The  End Game

Rommel had one last shot. Every week the 8th Army was receiving reinforcements of fresh, fully equipped divisions and new Sherman tanks. For the first time the British had a tank that could take on anything the Germans could field. The Germans and their Italian Allies by contrast were all but cut off with only the barest trickle able to get through the strangle hold exerted by Malta.

 

Rommel threw his best troops at the formidable defences before him, but to no avail. At points a breakthrough looked tantalisingly close but each time British armour and Commonwealth  infantry threw him back. Indian troops recaptured Ruweisat ridge giving the 25pdrs, amassed behind the lines, a superb observation point. A swift counter attack saw the Axis force in full retreat. Rommel, who for so long had appeared invincible, had lost the battle and the campaign. Monty's cock had never been so hooped.