The latest outing in my series of NBC WW2 games was a trip to the Battle of Sidi Rezegh during Operation Crusader in 1941. 7th Armoured Div faces off against 21st Panzer Div on the route to Tobruk, this covered the battle on the 22nd November when 7th Armoured Div finally concentrated against 21st Panzer Div. It was also the day Jock Cambell won his VC, which says something for the ferocity of the fighting.
In a bold experiment I ditched my Samsung tablet and phone combo over Skype, and instead used my laptop webcam over Zoom. Well, if you don't try new stuff you'll never improve.
We had a big turnout for this one, Tim G, Pete and Jerry were 21st Panzer Div (KG Stephan 5th Panzer Regt, KG Knabe 104th Schutzen Regt and Div CO von Ravenstein respectively). Tim C ws Jock Campbell commanding 7th Support Group, Graham had the three RA regiments of 7th Armoured Div, Simon had 7th Armoured Brigade and John reprised his role as Brigadier Scott-Cockburn, dashing commander of 22nd Armoured Brigade. So we essentially had two entire armoured divisions on the table.
View of the battlefield from the east. The escarpment runs up the middle of the table, with the airfield on the left. The Axis Bypass (the road constructed around Tobruk) is the metalled road running along the base of the escarpment.
Map of the battlefield (North is up). The critical objectives are circled,from L-R, Sidi Rezegh (tomb), Supply dump, ridge overlooking the Axis Bypass and finally the Airfield.
1 KRRC deployed at the Airfield, supported by two batteries of 2pdr portee.
2RB deployed to cover the other wadi breaching the escarpment with another RHA 2pdr battery. 60 Field Regt and Jock Campbells HQ, deployed behind. The remains of 7th AB with their elderly cruisers took up Hull down positions on the rise covering the Track.
8MG Bn deployed in a wadi on the German left, with the Regimental HQ and motorised engineer and AT companies up on the ridge. One of the supporting 105mm artillery battalions can be seen, as well as a battalion of heavy artillery from Gruppe Boetcher.
Over on the German right, II Schutzen Bn deployed near the tomb , with another 105mmArty to the rear and the FOO for the heavy artillery and DivHQ just behind.
Irl the Germans led off with an infantry assault, but in the game the Germans were more cautious and waited an hour or so for 5th Pz Regt to roll up. Two panzer battalions arrived on the western flank, plus various supporting assets, including a battery of 88s.
This was the cue for the Germans infantry to advance and II Schutzen set off down the road, while 25pdr fire dropped around them.
8 MGBn also shuffled forwards to the Axis bypass, the wadi in D7 looked inviting.
German infantry approached the escarpment fairly rapidly, while CB fire landed around 60th Field Regt. The Germans had an unusual amount of artillery support as they were close to the Tobruk siege lines.
Both German Infantry Bns were well on their way to the escarpment now, 2RB was looking a bit outnumbered.
Over on the left flank, 22nd AB intervened with a torrent of Crusaders! Oberst Stephan was now in a semi circle of British tanks. Fortunately the British tankers morale was low after their heavy losses on previous days and one Regiment broke.
View from the supply dump. 22AB has taken the Hill to the left and has one of the Panzer battalions thoroughly pinned.
The 88s have what might be called a target rich environment. Unfortunately the Crusaders are far too close for comfort.
View from the North. 8MGBn is right up at the escarpment now,, II Schutzen is not far behind.
KG Knabe climbs the escarpment in front of the Airfield, and the RHA portees head off to face the Panzers further west. 60 FA has taken some losses now.
In bloody fighting, 2RB are overrun by 8MG Bn. The Germans take 50% losses but the British break and run. The Airfield is in German hands!
In the centre 60th FA and the RHA 2pdrs retreat in disorder after beingoverrun by Panzers. 1KRRC is assaulted by II Schutzen and a melee ensues.
22AB has great success and overruns the 88s while reducing one of the Panzer Bns to platoon strength. The British lose a regiments worth of Crusaders in exchange.
John led 22AB HQ and the remains of one regiment up the road to Sidi Rezegh and engaged Jerry (von Ravenstein) and 21st PzDiv HQ in close combat. In the close range fight, the last of the Crusaders were knocked out, leaving the armoured HQs to duke it out.
The RHA 2pdrs were dispersed by German heavy artillery fire and 60 Regt was looking decidedly shaky. Back on the escarpment II Schutzen and 1 KRRC were still slugging away, but both sides were suffering extremely heavy losses (75% each) and effectively eliminated each other.
The airfield was firmly in German hands now.
1st Pz Bn meanwhile engaged 7th AB in a very one sided fight.
Over in the west though, the supply dump was in British hands and the way was (almost) open down off the ridge to the tomb. German IInd panzer Bn had been destroyed, and the British had one undamaged regiment left.
The sneaky Germans had their motorised engineers and Pak 38s enroute to Sidi Rezegh tomb though, so whether 30 odd Crusaders would be enough to break the Pak front was anyones guess.
We called it a day at that point. The Germans held three of the four objectives but both sides had suffered brutal losses. Irl the Germans overran the British position and destroyed the bulk of their armour, so in game terms the British actually did better than their historical counterparts. It was a shame we didn't have time for a couple more turns as the battle for the tomb would have been interesting. I suspect Veteran German AT gunners and engineers supported by three battalions of artillery vs one weak regiment of Crusaders wouldn't have gone the tankers way though. Zoom worked fine and the players commented on the superior picture quality, so that was a success.
Jock Campbell was awarded the VC for his heroic defence in the battle, while Scott-Cockburn ended up commanding the records office High Barnet. Von Ravenstein was wounded a few days after this and Command of 21st Panzer passed to Knabe, who commanded the infantry in the battle.
That is probably the last of the NBC desert battles or now. Although they work OK they are a little bit big for remote play and in future I'll focus on slightly smaller actions. It has been fun to run them sequentially though, and it is such a shame Frank Chadwick never published 'Decision in the Desert' covering 1942 although I expect I could bodge together some Gazala and Alamein scenarios. Many thanks to the players for indulging me, and for the fine array of hats on display!