A historical scenario as the British push for Tunis at the end of the North African campaign. Here, at a farm called Sidi Salah on the Tunis road, the West Kents supported by Churchill tanks had the task of clearing troops of the Hermann Goering division off a ridge line (high point Point 137) that overlooked the road and stopped it being used. They had to cross open fields which the Germans had heavily mined and clear them off the rocky high ground into which the Germans had dug-in. The attack as led by Churchill tanks, and ran into Tiger tanks supporting the defenders, resulting in a very tough struggle as they cleared gaps in the mines (Matilda Scorpions were to be used but, interesting fact, they weren’t because as a secret weapon, they were ordered not to be used in daylight and be seen by the enemy). The job came down to engineers with minesweepers.
As the defender, I set-up first, dug-in infantry platoons, one forward on the low lying ground, covering the minefield and slowing the advance. On the ridge, my dug-in PAK-38 (bit pants!), more infantry, 80mm mortar spotters and two sMG-42 dug-outs, which I placed on either extreme, ready on ambush fire, and these would do the heavy lifting in keeping his infantry back. The two Tigers and their supporting Pz-III N were in reserve.
The Brits started the game on Turn 1, moving onto the table with the tanks and a single carrier, out of which hopped a small 2-man team to the front of an orchard. With 4.5” and 25 pdr batteries to hammer the ridge, that was most likely a forward observer team. My sMG-42 sprayed that orchard with long range fire, pinned the team, which also lost a man and the last man standing was removed… instant win, first dice roll of the game as the spotter went down and was carried away by his radio-op. Respite from British guns.
The Churchills rolled in, and used their BESA fire to try and pin down the forward screening teams, in their foxholes, to little result. But my screen had no AT weapons, so would be waiting on ambush until the those Churchs got within 10” to try and pin them, somehow, on 6s! Behind, the rest of the Germans go on ambush fire and waited.
The Brits continued to roll in, an infantry platoon of the West Kents (Tunbridge Well’s finest) on foot, and provoked some long range MG fire that did nought. Over the following turns the Brits would roll in at 2D6 units per turn until all in, with extra platoons of West Kents and some Blackwatch. More importantly, the FHQ arrived and jumped from his jeep to take up control of the 4.5” gun battery, that started to hit the ridge, doing some pinning (and 1 direct hit on an MG teams foxhole that marmalised them all). I was waiting until Turn 4 to get my good 88mm anti-tank guns to have a crack at those Churchs, until then, trying to pin them, or the occasional 80mm mortar direct hit was doing little but scratch paintwork.
The Church’s slow advance, still Beas-ing away (the verb ‘to Besa’ - fire both machine guns on a Churchill tank repeatedly), continued, as the engineers on their engine decks jumped down to deal with the two minefields in the centre, around the low rocky hillock I was trying to deny the Brits. At this point, the Germans had a turn of luck, i.e., not many orders and then did nothing, not a hit, not a pin, nothing for an entire turn, which they then repeated in the next turn, a complete whiff – twice! Still, at least the Tigers (and Pz IIIN) had arrived, they could turn it around.
The Brits cleared those minefields and could move infantry of the West Kents into the rocks, from where they returned fire up the ridge with those big firing teams. More 4.5” artillery landed, adding some pinning. In a little counter-attack on the right (my) orchard I sent a rifle team to rush a Churchill with their AT grenades. It failed, seeing one man cut down, then trying again and seeing 2 more men cut down, leaving the squad pinned and then wiped out by Besa fire… drat! Oh well, suicidal tactics gets expected result! My PaK-38 continued to be rubbish, failing to get any pins, and its loader team never helped, all game - useless. The Tigers moved up onto the ridge, both together to try and overwhelm the Churchs on his right with twin shooting. First they had to hit - no dice!
The tank fight began, the Churchs scored a pin on one of the Tigers, whilst the Pz III’s HE managed a pin against a Churchill too (handy). Tiger 88 fired scored a hit, and glanced off - good grief! Both sides had a lot of pinned troops, the Brits taking 2 chits to unpin for a few turns, the luxury. My front screen of infantry had now been whittled away, so it was time for the Brits last push for the ridge. The 4.5” guns continued their work, whilst I struggled to get my mortars to reply with more bad dice on comms tests. The Church’s fusillade of fire, HE and AP at the Tigers added to it, and pinned the other Tiger. Only one was ever in action, and it finally hit and KO’d the first lost tank of the game (in about Turn 8). My MG teams were keeping the West Kents heads down in the rocks well, and one engineer squad, pinned in the open, was mowed down.
The Brits pushed on, the first Church reaching the slope and using its excellent slope climbing ability to grind towards Points 137. My Pz III had run out of ammo and retreated back behind the ridge to find some more (my supply team was infantry with a hand cart, not sure you get many 75mm and 88mm shells in one). The Tiger, low on ammo, spoke again and got another kill, but then had to retreat too. I was not longer able to unpin, my break point was too close. So this left one Tiger stuck. In the next turn, when heavy British Vickers and Bren fire killed a machine gun team, the chit draw broke me. End of game.
Tunbridge Well’s finest had won the day and driven the Hermann Goering Division off Point 137. They had 9 BR left, so close, but not close enough. A long game, but great fun. Man, my dice just deserted me for a few turns, and well, the Tigers claimed 2 kills, but I think I needed more from the big hitters to turn it around. Interestingly, it was this engagement, on this day, close to this Tunis road were Tiger 131 was captured intact (and ended up at Bovington tank Museum). The Churchills are one claimant to having got it. Gotta say, Churchills are ace… very good British tank design. One of them might have had my grandfather in it.
Thanks to Ken for writing the scenario, nice to play a historical refight I didn’t write for once. Both had some good luck and bad, both pulled aircraft counters and got no shows… loving Tunis as a theatre for gaming.
|The rocky ridge and Point 137
|The battlefield, Brits attacking from the top. Germans deployed on the ridge and just below it.
|HG dug-in on the high ground.
|And the low ground, just behind the mine fields in the centre.
|FHQ at the rear of the ridge, along with wire team.
|Churchills roll on, as first mortar rounds land, they care not...
|Past Sidi Salah, carrying engineers as tank riders.
|View from the Pak's dug-out, many targets, none hit.
|sMG-42 dug-out, sweeping those fields and any sneaky approach via the farm and its paddocks.
|Churchs close on the rocks, which are mined. Mortar fire doing zippo.
|Engineers pile off and rush to clear the way.
|Panzer III N, not much use in a tank fight. Used all its HE quickly and pulled back.
|Tiger climbs the rear slope. Things about the get interesting for the Churchills.
|Pinned by a 6 pdr AP round that glanced off the Krupp steel.
|The other flank, no Tigers to worry about here, just infantry to BESA.
|4.5" shelling pounds the ridge, turn after turn.
|The tank duel, can I score a hit - yes. Can I score a kill- no.
|The West Kenst are in the rocks in force and hammering away up the slope with Brens and behind, a lurking Vickers team.
|Boom, clang, pinned Church, rocked by an 88mm round. Tough old buggers these tanks.
|Out of ammo, the resupply team can maybe help.
|Off to find the same team, nice to have a ridge between you and enemy to move behind.
|At last, kaboom! First Churchill explodes from an 88 hit.
|The others close in though, note the largely empty defences now.
|Up the slope, rare Churchill I, as the HG Division fall back off the ridge, too hot up there now. Mission complete for the boys from Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks!