Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Operation Compass: Buq Buq

For the final action in Battle for the Camps I turn to Buq Buq. It is a scenario drawn from Robert Avery's "Operation Compass" for "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum" rules. Orbats were largely taken from "Benghazi Handicap" by Frank Chadwick for Command Decision with some adjustments to allow for what I possessed.

With Operation Compass progressing well, the 7th Armoured Brigade supported by 2 squadrons of the 11th Hussars had been sent forward to Buq Buq on the coast. There they found the Italians in full retreat and, sweeping through the town, caught up with the 64th Catanzaro Division a little to the east. Some parts of the division were caught while moving and surrendered after a brief hammering from the British tanks. The rest had found a good defensive position amongst the sand dunes between the coastal road and the sea, with their flanks protected by saltpans and mud-flats.

From "Operation Compass" by Robert Avery.
This scenario represents that attack on the remains of the 64th Catanzaro Division as they hurriedly prepare their defensive positions. 

The British armour will assault a makeshift Italian artillery position not knowing than an area of the ground that they will have to cross is a dried salt marsh that will bog down their vehicles.

The Battlefield and Terrain:



The terrain consists of a sequence of long, low sandy dunes with the most prominent marked in a darker colour on the map (mine are a little too large and rocky but will have to stand in until I produce more dunes). The going is very bad and at the start of each turn, any vehicle that intends to move must roll 2d6: If it rolls a 'double 1', then it has become temporarily bogged down and cannot move that turn. A 'double 6', it has broken down.

Otherwise the table is covered with slight undulations and patches of rough scrub that provide some sort of cover and spotting benefits but are shallow and sparse enough not to affect movement. All infantry moving up or down the dunes deducts 2cm from movement. The dunes provide same sort of cover as high ground.

The dried salt marsh is a significant hazard. Any vehicle that ends its movement within that area is automatically bogged down for the rest of the game. Any vehicle that completely crosses the area during its turn bogs down permanently half way across.

The black and white bars around the map edges represent each of my 9" tile sections.

Contintued -


Initial Deployment
The Italians begin the game anywhere on the table. Italian guns are not dug in but have had a little time in which to make the best use of terrain possible. 

The British force enters the table at any point on its eastern edge.

Objectives and Victory Conditions
The Italian objective is to hold their position. An objective marker will be placed at the table's western edge. They win the game if that marker is still in their hands at the end of the battle.

The British objective is twofold:
1. To break into the Italian position and knock out every artillery piece.
2. To capture the Italian objective marker.
If they manage one of the two objectives then they achieve a draw. Otherwise it is a loss.

Table size = 4'6" x 3'
Scale = 6mm
Models = Mostly GHQ with small number of Heroics & Ros

ORBATS

Italian:

CO - CV8

141st Catanzaro Inf Regt
HQ Coy -    CV7
       Anti-tank Rifle Platoon - 1 infantry stand (regular with AT rifle) + Truck
A - C Companies
       12 Infantry stands (Conscripts)
Support Company
       Breda MMG
       45mm Mortar 

142nd Catanzaro Inf Regt
HQ Coy -    CV7
       Anti-tank Rifle Platoon - 1 infantry stand (regular with AT rifle) + Truck
A - C Companies
       12 Infantry stands (Conscripts)
Support Company
       Breda MMG
       45mm Mortar     

Artillery Company 203rd Arty Regt
      1st Battery - 2 x 75/27 guns
      2nd Battery - 2 x 75/27 guns

2nd Artillery Battery 141st Catanzaro Inf Regt
      65/17 Infantry Gun
      65/17 Portee

64th Anti-tank Company
     1st Battery - 2 x 47/32 Anti-tank guns
     2nd Battery - 1 x 47/32 Anti-tank gun

20th Light Tank Battalion
HQ (CV7) 1 x L3/35
A Company
      1 x L3/35 Flamethrower
      2 x L3/35
B Company
      3 x L3/35 


British:

11th Hussars
Lt Col John Combe CO (CV9) with Dingo Scout car
FAO (CV7) 15cwt Truck
B Squadron (Recce)
       1 x Daimler Dingo
       2 x Rolls Royce Armoured Cars
C Squadron (Recce)
       1 x Daimler Dingo
       AT rifle platoon 1 x infantry stand (AT Rifle) + Universal Carrier
       LMG platoon 1 x infantry stand (LMG) + Universal Carrier

3rd Hussars
HQ (CV8) 1 x MkVI Light Tank
A Squadron
       3 x MkVI Light Tanks

1st RTR
HQ (CV8) 1 x A9 Cruiser Tank
A Squadron
       2 x A9 Cruiser Tanks

2nd RTR
HQ (CV8) 1 x A13 Cruiser Tank
A Squadron
       3 x A13 Cruiser Tanks
C Squadron
       3 x A10 Cruiser Tanks

Off Table Support
Battery 25pdr/8 gun


The Italians Deploy covering the southern and eastern approaches to their position making best use of terrain:

A company of the 141st Catanzaro Regt takes up position with a battery of 47/32 anti-tank guns in the sand dunes covering the eastern approach from the direction of Buq Buq.

The 65/17 infantry guns (one a portee) of the 2nd battery 141st Catanzaro Regt take up position behind scrub covering the dried salt marsh.

A battery of 75/27 field guns take up position in low dunes supporting the 141st Catanzaro Regt whose HQ is situated behind scrub middle left of the photo. 

A solitary 47/32 anti tank gun positions itself on the seaward (northern) flank of the Italian position covering the eastern approaches and dried salt marsh.

Another company of the 141st with the Breda MMG occupies the large dune overlooking the eastern approach.

The task of the 142nd Catanzaro Regt supported by a battery of 75/27 field guns and a company of light tanks is to cover the southern flank (I have deployed them something along historical lines).

More of the 142nd positions.

Turn 1

The arrival of the British saw the Recce units forging ahead of the main armour. Here 'C' Squadron of the 11th Hussars climbs the dunes to the south and the British left flank. As they approach the crest a 47mm anti tank gun hidden behind scrub opens fire narrowly missing the Dingo.

 The A10's and A13's of the 2nd RTR hear the artillery fire ahead of them.

On the opposite flank 'B' Squadron of the 11th Hussars climb a smaller dune but no sign of the enemy so far.

The 1st RTR squadron of A9 Cruiser tanks follow up behind the Hussars' Rolls Royce armoured cars.

Turn 2


The light MkVI tanks of the 3rd Hussars roar across the flat ground towards the Italian positions to suddenly become bogged down in the middle of the dried salt marsh. 

In the original scenario, the British player would have been unaware of this terrain feature until any units attempted to cross it. To get around the problem of playing solo, I calculated that the recce units would have gone for the high ground initially leaving the following armoured formations most at risk. I therefore diced to ascertain which of the 4 armoured squadrons would get caught out and the MkIV light tanks lost out. 


The A9's and the recce squadron ahead of them have yet to discover any enemy units.

This was not the case on the opposite flank. The recce units radioed the 2nd RTR HQ who immediately ordered both squadrons to attack. As they charged up the side of the dune one A13 suffered 2 hits from a 47mm AT gun and was suppressed. The tanks opened fire on the Italian positions causing one platoon of infantry to fall back suppressed.

The view of the action from the Italian position. Here a 47mm AT gun suppresses an A13.

With intense gunfire heard to the east and the sight of British light tanks bogged down in the salt marsh, the Italian CO takes the decision to re-position his troops guarding the southern approach. The 142nd Catanzaro Regt begin their move although the Light Tank battalion fail their command roll.  

A battery of 75mm field guns successfully limbers up and moves twice towards the east as ordered by the CO before he failed any further command tests.

Turn 3


Using their initiative move, 2 x A13's (blurred in the foreground) close assault an infantry platoon that had left its cover. They comprehensively destroyed it causing two other supporting platoons to fall back. This left the 2 x 47mm anti-tank guns isolated. The remaining tanks of the 2nd RTR poured fire into them suppressing both. All it needed now was a command test to finish the job. Failed! This, frustratingly for the British, left the Italians still holding the dunes and the British CO was no help either!

Two Italian 65mm infantry guns now focussed their attention on the stranded British light tanks scoring two hits on one but failing to suppress it.

The Dingo of 'B' squadron scouted ahead climbing the slopes of the large dunes.

To its rear, the Rolls Royce armoured car came under opportunity fire from a hidden 47mm anti tank gun. Two hits were scored and it became suppressed. The A9 tanks on the high ground to the rear failed to activate. The CO decided to take charge himself to get the tanks moving only to fail himself!

Turn 4


The Italian battery of 47mm anti-tank guns were quickly overrun by the Cruiser tanks of the 2nd RTR.


A succession of successful command rolls saw the 2 squadrons of A13 and A10 cruiser tanks roll up all the Italian units holding the southern large dune. Only 1 Italian platoon escaped the carnage.

In response the Italian 20th Light Tank battalion quickly moved out to meet the British. Their flamethrower tank could prove lethal but only when close assaulting. Speed was of the essence. A Dingo scout car found itself surrounded by speeding L35 light tanks.

That Dingo had alerted the FAO of the sighting of moving artillery who successfully called down a concentration of fire from the off-table 25pdr battery. Several units sustained hits but one shell landed plumb onto a 75mm towed field gun destroying it outright.

With the 142nd Catanzaro regiment successfully relocating to hold the Italian right flank, the 141st moved its relieved companies over to the left (northern) flank.

Here the relocated 142nd take up position. 

 The A9's of the 1st RTR roar along the northern large dune surprising an Italian Breda MMG team.

Turn 5


The tanks of the 2nd RTR collectively open up on the lead Italian tanks quickly destroying 3 of them including the flame thrower tank. All did not go the British way however. A 65mm infantry gun (top left) used opportunity fire to fire a round into the side of an A10 tank destroying it. The remaining A10's turned to meet the threat.

The Italian tank battalion was having no more of this and quickly retreated to comparative safety. 

The FAO successfully called down another barrage from information provided by the 11th Hussars recce troops onto a collection of small dunes. This caught the Italians grouped together and they were lucky not to sustain any losses although several had become suppressed.

The A9's discovered 2 platoons of Italians deployed among scrub destroying one of them with concentrated fire. Advancing so quickly had taken them beyond Italian positions on the low ground to their south. An Italian 45mm mortar opened up on them followed by an anti-tank rifle firing into the side of one tank destroying it.

It was the turn of the Italian CO to roll his command roll. A double '6' meaning a command blunder. This saw him and his staff bus up and withdraw to the rear .... Mama Mia!!!

Turn 6

The 2 surviving A9's make excellent progress. Using their initiative action they fire on a platoon of Italian infantry who had been taking cover in the scrub at top of photo. They were suppressed from that initial burst of maching gun fire from the A9's forward turrets. During the command phase the squadron commander rolled a double '1', a command bonus. Using its their first action the tanks again fired on the infantry causing them to fall back into the open. The second action allowed them to charge into close combat with the Italians who were supported by 2 further platoons secreted within the dunes. The tanks quickly overran them and with another successful command roll they destroyed another platoon. This just left one Italian platoon left to hold this flank (middle left of photo).

Bottom left is a 11th Hussars Rolls Royce armoured car who began scouting ahead.

With the Italian northern flank collapsing, the commander of the 141st orders his battalion to relocate to protect their rear.

Disaster struck for the British on the opposite flank. Initiative fire from an A10 successfully suppressed a 65mm infantry gun. However, 2nd RTR suffered a command failure leaving them stranded and vulnerable to massed Italian artillery.

The Italian 65mm portee had re-positioned itself and with 2 x 75mm field guns poured fire into the stranded British armour knocking out an A10 and an A13 tank. Unless they can get their armour moving the British are facing potential disaster here. Even more annoying for the British, the FAO failed to get through to the off-table 25pdr battery to bring down another barrage.

Turn 7


The FAO successfully calls down another concentrated barrage from the off-table 25pdrs. Again targeting the Italian artillery that is causing so much trouble for the 2nd RTR. Another 75mm field gun is destroyed but crucially, the batteries targeting the 2nd RTR have been left untouched.

In an effort to put some distance between themselves and the Italian guns, the surviving tanks launch a charge at the Italian troops holding their right flank. Disaster struck as two tanks brewed up through flanking fire from the Italian 65mm infantry guns and 75mm field guns. A third is destroyed when close assaulting the Italian infantry. This just left one surviving A13 tank of the 2nd RTR. Even more importantly, this brought the British forces to their break point and would have to test for survival next turn.

Circumstances could not be more different with the two remaining A9's of the 1st RTR. Without any enemy artillery to oppose them they stood off and used their turret mounted MMG's to tear into the Italian infantry.

Turn 8


The British CO arrives to ensure the A9's maximise their advantage. The only hope for the British now is to cause so many casualties inducing a collapse of Italian morale. A command check is passed meaning the British will last another turn.

They duly oblige knocking out more Italian platoons. The Italian anti-tank rifle fires with no effect.

The pitiful state of the 2nd RTR just got worse. The surviving A13 full throttles back to its own lines but gets caught by the Italian 65mm and 75mm guns before it is able to move beyond their range. Shells pour into the tank's flank and rear signalling a full wipe-out of the 2nd RTR.

Over in the central plain the British light tanks take every opportunity to fire from their bogged down positions at any target that presents itself with minimal effect.

Turn 9


The British again passed their break test. The A9's continued their destruction of the Italian 141st Infantry with two more platoons destroyed.

With all attention now switched towards their northern flank, the Italians were again bedevilled by failed command rolls. The CO did manage a couple of activations which allowed the 65mm infantry guns and 75mm field guns to re-position to target the A9's. Here the 65mm Portee is ready to fire and the towed 65mm approaches its deployment target.

The two 75mm field guns are manhandled into position ready to open up next turn.

At the start of turn 10 the British had to take their command roll break test. The needed 8 or below on 2D6. They roll a double '6'! The signals the end of the game with the British morale finally broken.

Ultimately, the 2nd RTR paid the price for over confidence and handed the Italians victory in the process. Having easily overrun the Italian forward positions without loss they surged forward to drive in the Italian right flank. A command failure at a crucial point left them exposed to re-positioned Italian artillery who poured fire into them from two directions. They never recovered from that initial mauling.

The British were not that far off victory though. They had destroyed 20 Italian units (for the loss of 8) with 23 being their target to generate Italian break tests.

This is my first try-out of BKCIV. The most notable difference is Recce. It took me several reads of that section in the rule book and even then I am not sure I properly understood it. That said it has elevated the importance of reconnaissance and makes you think how best to use your assets. I can see that once you get your head around the recce rules they are a definite improvement. Although a small rather basic battle it still proved fun to play.

  

   













12 comments:

  1. Jon that terrain and the painting of the vehicles is superb and gives the game a marvellous atmosphere. Your photography and lighting is spot on. A very enjoyable read.

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    1. Many thanks Norm. I am toying with lightning up some of the yellows within the main boards to make them look a little more sandy! More like the dunes which turned out a little better. Your complimentary comments very much appreciated.

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  2. I can only echo Norm's comments Jon! It really makes you wanted to get some Western Desert action in. I think the board colours are fine.

    I can't get my head around the Recce in BKCIV, so have stopped using it until the clarifications and errata come out.

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    1. Thanks Steve. I am glad I am not the only one struggling with the recce rules.

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  3. Visually superb, thank you for posting.

    Regards

    Peter

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  4. I agree with the others above. Superb presentation and good fight too!

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  5. Nice work, Jon, and a very enjoyable report.

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  6. An epic encounter, Jon. The shots when the barrage is called in are fabulous. I have the Operation Compass supplement and and slowly piecing together the necessary 6mm forces (Irregular Minis) for IABSM. Your terrain (especially the dunes) look great.

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    1. Many thanks Alan. That supplement is superb and I sometimes wonder if I should have given IABSM a go. Problem is I am sold on BKCIV and not sure if I can fit any more projects into my expanding list! I am sure you will have great fun working through the scenarios.

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