Saturday 21 November 2020

WW2 Operation Compass: Turn 1 - Matkila Camp Part 1

The first action of the campaign involves Selby Force attacking the Italians within their camp at Matkila. Selby Force have been tasked with driving along the coast road towards the Libyan frontier.

Table size 6' x 3'9

Figures and Vehicles - Mix of GHQ and H&R

Orders of Battle:

British - Selby Force

Brigade CO - Brig Selby (CV9)
AT Rifle Platoon - 1 stand

3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards (Veteran - fully motorised)
Bn HQ (CV8)
A - D Companies - 12 rifle stands including 4 company HQ's (CV7).
Support Coy - 1 x Vickers MMG, 1 x 3" Mortar

W Coy, Northumberland Fusiliers (Veteran - motorised)
Coy HQ (CV7)
3 x Vickers MMG stands

A Coy, 1st Bn, South Staffordshire Regt (Veteran - Motorised)
3 x Rifle stands including Coy HQ (CV7)

A Coy, 1st Bn 22nd Cheshire Regt (Veteran - Motorised)
Coy HQ (CV7)
3 x Vickers MMG stands

Detachment Durham Light Infantry (Veteran)
1 x Rifle Stand with truck

7th Hussars
2 x Vickers MkVI Light tanks

Light AA Battery
3 x Bofors 40mm AA guns

1 Section 8th Field Regt RA
1 x 18pdr Field Gun

1 Section 107th South Notts Hussars RHA
1 x 25pdr Field Gun

Air Support
Scheduled ground attack by Blenheim bombers.

Continued -

Italian - 1st Libyan Division

Division CO (CV8)
1st Libyan AT Coy 2 x 47L32 AT guns

1st Libyan Infantry Group

CO (CV8)
Inf Gun Battery 1 x 65L17 Infantry gun

VIII Bardia Bn (Green)
Bn HQ (CV7)
3 x Rifle companies each 3 x rifle stands
Weapons company 1 x Breda MMG

IX Agedabia Bn (Green)
Bn HQ (CV7)
3 x Rifle companies each 3 x rifle stands
Weapons company 1 x Breda MMG

X Nufilia Bn (Green)
Bn HQ (CV7)
3 x Rifle companies each 3 x rifle stands
Weapons company 1 x Breda MMG

1st Libyan Artillery Regt
Bn HQ (CV7)
Light AA Battery - 3 x 20mm AA guns
2 x Light Artillery battalions - each 3 x 75mm field guns

Light Gun Bn from 2nd CCNN Division
3 x 75mm field guns

Inf Gun battery from GaF
1 x 65mm infantry gun

Infantry Gun Battery from 2nd CCNN Div
1 x 65mm infantry gun

Field Gun battery from 21st Corps Artillery
1 x 105L28 gun

1 GaF AT Gun Company
2 x 47L32 AT Guns

2nd Libyan Infantry Group (can be called on for reinforcements but on foot with no transport)

CO (CV8)
Inf Gun Battery 1 x 65L17 Infantry gun

XI Derna Bn (Green)
Bn HQ (CV7)
3 x Rifle companies each 3 x rifle stands
Weapons company 1 x Breda MMG

XII Barce Bn (Green)
Bn HQ (CV7)
3 x Rifle companies each 3 x rifle stands
Weapons company 1 x Breda MMG

XIII Zemzem Bn (Green)
Bn HQ (CV7)
3 x Rifle companies each 3 x rifle stands
Weapons company 1 x Breda MMG

Italian Dipositions:

Selby Force Arrives:

An overview with Selby Force arriving from the south (left).

2 companies of Coldstream Guards remain in their trucks travelling along a wadi for cover. Supporting units deploy behind hastily created scrapes.

2 x 40mm Bofors AA guns cover the coast road west of Matkila.

2 more Coldstream Guard companies move along a wadi towards the western end of Matkila.

The Staffordshire company debus behind a large sand dune atop of which are the Vickers machine guns of the Northumberland company.

A view of the Matkila camp from the British lines.

The 18pdr and 25pdr sections deploy on high ground overlooking Matkila.

Turns 1 - 4

The British begin pounding Matkila from their 18pdr and 25pdr positions. An early casualty is a 65mm infantry gun that had been deployed in the empty position middle left.

At the western perimeter the Italians came under fire from 2 Bofors 40mm AA guns destroying a 75mm field gun.

Bristol Blenheims are scheduled to commence a bombing run on turn 5 signalling the main attack. The Coldstream Guards must get into position by turn 4. Here, C and D companies along with the 3" mortar section debus on turn 3.

The C & D companies now add their fire to that of the Bofors AA guns. The combined weight of firepower destroys another 75mm field gun and a 65mm infantry gun.

A & B companies with the Battalion HQ and a machine gun section debus in the nick time (turn 4).

The British do not have it all their own way. The concentrated firepower from a 75mm field gun artillery battalion knock out the 18pdr and suppress the 25pdr. This at a time when they were to have supported the main attack.

Turn 5

Turn 5 brought the scheduled British bombing run by Bristol Blenheim bombers. Their target is the centre of Matkila.

The Italians put up serious anti-aircraft fire but failed to drive off the bombers. With bombs raining down on Matkila a significant number of units were suppressed including the Divisional and Brigade CO's along with a battalion HQ.

The fierce anti-aircraft fire was not without success downing one of the Blenheims.
A note here about how I conducted the scheduled air phase. To blend in with the campaign I used a complete squadron of aircraft (based on a ratio of 1:3). The bombing phase was conducted as per the rules with the primary aircraft to be targeted determining whether the attack would be driven off. The aircraft sustained 2 hits reducing its attack level from 5 to 3. The attack would therefore consist of 3 dice for each unit within the 30cm template. Each of the other aircraft were then targeted purely to determine if any got shot down which would then be recorded within the campaign inventory.

The arrival of the bombers signalled the main attack to begin. A and B companies of the Coldstream Guards quickly made their way to the eastern perimeter. With most Italian commanders suppressed the units had to rely on their own initiative. Fire poured in from troops manning the perimeter defences. The Guards' Vickers machine gun section were destroyed by Italian artillery.

C and D companies began their assault on the western perimeter. One platoon became suppressed but otherwise all was progressing well.

The MkVI light tanks of the 7th Hussars charged their way across open ground toward the southern perimeter with the Durham detachment following on behind. There was no sign of the South Staffordshire company who should have joined them!

Turn 6

The attack stalls on the eastern perimeter with A and B companies pinned down by the Italian defenders.

 Accurate fire from a 75mm field gun battery suppressed the company of South Staffordshires delaying the assault on the southern perimeter.

C and D companies had more success. Having suppressed a couple of Italian infantry platoons, with support from a couple of 40mm Bofors they destroyed the last 75mm Field Gun of the 2CCNN.

Turns 7 - 9 Western Perimeter

C and D companies of the Coldstream Guards assaulted the Italian defences and initially struggled to make much headway with only one platoon dislodging the Italian defenders (unit with the white dice). 

A renewed attack proved much more successful with both companies destroying several Italian units and pushing back others. They each lost a platoon in the process however.

Here the last Italian platoon defending the perimeter near to the coast road fell back to the next line of defence (bottom left).

The Italian commander wasted no time in ordering any available units to counter-attack. Only 2 platoons responded but the green Italian riflemen excelled themselves pushing back 2 veteran British platoons beyond the main defences (the Italians were now consistently rolling outstanding dice unlike the British who were rolling the precise opposite!).

With a new Italian line formed (middle left) they concentrated their fire on the 2 remaining British platoons within their defences. Both were suppressed with one falling back across the Italian defences (middle right).

Another view of the heavily outnumbered British platoon.

On seeing the precarious position of the Guards with the opportunity to roll up the Italian defences diminishing by the minute, the British commander orders the company of South Staffordshires to reinforce the Guards (upper middle). 
Turns 7 - 9 Eastern Perimeter.

The assault on the eastern perimeter has a hesitant start despite the presence of the Battalion HQ.

A and B companies open fire on the defending Italians but fail to suppress them. A bold charge ensues but only one platoon successfully breaches the defences having destroyed the defenders (middle left). The others are repulsed, and being veteran quickly dig in.

The single British platoon is counter-attacked by two platoons of Italians along with support from a nearby 47mm anti-tank gun. The British platoon is wiped out but not before destroying one of the attacking Italian platoons. The Italians have regained their defensive lines but now looking a little threadbare (middle right).

Having lost a third of their number, A and B companies are suppressed by concentrated firepower leaving a frustrated battalion commander having failed to make any headway.

To the south of A and B companies there is a steady build up of forces along the barbed wire perimeter. Disaster strikes a 40mm Bofors gun that has been brought forward. In one of those rare moments an Italian order successfully gets through to 3 x 75mm field guns that have the Bofors in their sights. They open up at close range totally annihilating it. 
The situation at the end of this turn is looking bleak for Selby Force. From the next turn I will be testing to establish if the Italian brigade situated along the coast to the west arrives! 

Turn 10

A concerted effort to breakthrough at the south western perimeter fails again with both assaulting platoons pushed back. With A and B companies of the Guards suppressed the western perimeter remains firmly in Italian hands.

The Italians rush reinforcements to the western perimeter but the Guards have a toehold with one platoon from C company doggedly holding on (top right). No sign of the Italian 2nd Libyan Infantry Group this turn.

Turn 11

At last a decisive British breakthrough! Urged on by their battalion commander, A and B companies overwhelm the Italian infantry defending the western perimeter and are now firmly ensconced within their defences. They attract fire from nearby artillery and infantry support units with little effect. Widespread command failures provides no help for the Italians.

The situation is repeated at the south western corner of Matkila with the Brigade anti-tank rifle platoon and the platoon of the Durham Light Infantry supported by the machine guns of the Northumblerland fusiliers and the light tanks of the 7th Hussars breaking through the Italian lines (middle of photo). 

Even more decisive is the charge by the South Staffordshires who, along with survivors of the Guards' C and D companies destroy several Italian units. The British now firmly hold the western perimeter.
The sudden collapse of the Italian defensive line proves catastrophic for morale. The severe losses that turn took them considerably past their breakpoint. With still no sign of reinforcements, the Italian commander needed to roll 4 or less on 2D6 for morale to hold. It was not to be and as a consequence the Italians threw down their weapons surrendering. 

An overview at the end of turn 11.
The constant run of poor dice rolls for the British very nearly dealt them a costly defeat. Only in the last couple of turns fortune smiled on them. As expected, the Italian problems with command prevented them from fully utilising their advantage in artillery in particular. 

Selby Force had suffered a mauling however, losing almost a third of their number. They will not have time to recover before engaging the 2nd Libyan Infantry Group currently advancing towards Matkila along the coast road.

Part 2 will be played immediately with the boards being shunted along to represent the coastline to the west and the line of the Italian advance.


  1. That sounds just the way a war games battle should go: tough and resolute defence, with a sudden dramatic collapse to conclude.

    1. Many thanks AP. It was certainly touch and go for a while for the British.

  2. An enjoyable game report and your tabletop and terrain looks read good.

  3. Wow! What a cracking game and the Italians certainly made a fight of it and at one point I thought they were going to get the win, but 'twas not to be. Not quite a Pyrrhic victory for the Brits, but it will be interesting to see how they cope with the Italians on their way down the coast road. As always the game a joy to behold:)

    1. Many thanks for your comment Steve. I too thought at one point that Selby Force were destined to make an early exit from the campaign. Not out of the woods yet though!

  4. Really super looking terrain, etc; very "unified. I thought the brits were going to fail... but they aren't out of the wadis yet!

    1. Many thanks Peter. So did I with regard to the Brits!