ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot Post Game Reflection

We played out ten moves in five hours of play. Players were pretty good about keeping to schedule, but I really need dice boxes to stop all the cocked dice and subsequent rerolls as the little cuboid rascals leapt off the table to explore the carpet.

The pins were a huge success as were the dice frames. I only saw one battalion promote itself to a five!

Assault Pioneers Fail Spectacularly

Assault Pioneers Fail Spectacularly

There was a lot of constructive feedback after the game: Calls to upgrade the defenders from M to H during the day  had validity in some circumstances, such as the opening barrage, but defenders are strong enough already. They can hold their own at odds of 2:1, and unless positions are concealed on reverse slopes in daylight, they can be picked off or neutralised at leisure by FOOs. Gunners delight in telling folk that the best round for producing smoke is HE to obscure vision during an attack.  I will probably go with a stacking mechanism to prevent another plum pudding hill though.

Opening Barrage on D Day

Opening Barrage on D Day

The Venetian blind chain worked for minefield gaps, but I shall build something more cinematic eventually. The cork tiles were fine, but I need to represent contours in a better fashion. There was a plateau on the table that nobody could see.

1st free French Cross through the Minefield Gaps

1st free French Cross through the Minefield Gaps

I still am not a fan of the grid aesthetic, but it is too useful to ignore, and the proper wargamers like it, so I’m going with the flow for the time being.

The players gathered for a final Victory Photograph by dint of some rapid cutting and pasting. The roll call of Men in Hats includes from L to R back Row:

Phil Steele (Free French, XIII Corps and 7th Armd Div), Gary "Pip" Roberts (1st Greek Bde, 5oth Div), Chris Kemp (Umpire), Tim "von" Gow (XX Corps, 21st Pz, Ariete), Richard Lindley (Brescia), Steve Churchus (Ramke). Front Row: Trebian (Folgore, Pavia), Tim Merry (44th Div)

Phil Steele (Free French, XIII Corps and 7th Armd Div), Gary “Pip” Roberts (1st Greek Bde, 5oth Div), Chris Kemp (Umpire), Tim “von” Gow (XX Corps, 21st Pz, Ariete), Richard Lindley (Brescia), Steve Churchus (Ramke). Front Row: Trebian (Folgore, Pavia), Tim Merry (44th Div)

Full marks if you spotted Vietnamese Solar Topees, German infantry Feldmütze, Fez, Panama, Homberg  and Queen’s Gurkha Engineers No.1 Dress Hat. Not in that order, obviously.

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D+4 to 5 – 27 to 28 Oct 1942

An Exhausted 50th Division is Fought to a Standstill on D+5

An Exhausted 50th Division is Fought to a Standstill on D+5

By now the cauldron had been renamed “Plum Pudding Hill” by the Umpire, as it had turned into a big pile of infantry with tanks poured over them like custard.   I should have imposed some order earlier, but Gary R and Tim G were passing   all their morale tests, and having fun, so it seemed simpler top go with the flow.

Plum Pudding Hill

Plum Pudding Hill

When the combat finally resolved, both 50th Infantry Division and 22nd Armoured Brigade were shattered. 21 Panzer was in little better shape, so when leading elements of 10th Armoured Division appeared to their rear, they were foced to  turn about and fight them off.

Ariete in Position to prevent the Inevitable Breakthrough

Ariete in Position to prevent the Inevitable Breakthrough

Pavia was confident in the deep south that having Ariete supporting them for a counterattack would stave off any threatened breakthrough from 4th Light Armoured Brigade. The earlier failure to stem the northern breakthrough was having consequences though, as Ariete was called north to bolster the Italian withdrawal. There seemed to be a callous lack of sympathy from the German High Command as they efficiently regrouped prior to withdrawing, and Pavia broadcast their betrayal to anyone who would listen.

Ramke had known this for a few hours already, through Luftwaffe channels, but when the order came to pull back, they were still heavily engaged and had to wait until 50th Division and the dashing “Pip” Roberts had immolated themselves on “Plum Pudding Hill” before sloping off in the gathering dusk of D+5.

Pavia Abandoned to their Fate

Pavia Abandoned to their Fate

Finally, 1st Free French had driven off the remains of Kampfgruppe Kiel, and threaded a way through the minefields to the south of Pavia, paving the way for 4th Light Armoured Brigade to break out into the open desert.

Free French - Bon Alors!

Free French – Bon Alors!

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D+3 to 4 – 26 to 27 Oct 1942

Rommel is not Happy

Rommel is not Happy

The game resumed after a convivial and entertaining lunch, with the allies continuing to grind through the Axis defences. Calls for 21 Panzer were becoming ever more strident. In reality, I am not sure if Rommel, a General who excelled in not obeying orders when it suited him, would have tolerated insubordination in his own generals to this extent.

Assault Pioneers Fail Spectacularly

Assault Pioneers Fail Spectacularly

For now though, von Gow and  Steve C (commanding Ramke) were benefitting from the support of 21 Panzer as Gary R’s 50th Northumbrian Division and 1st Greek Brigade pushed relentlessly onward. A local counterattack by Ramke’s assault pioneers failed spectacularly, even rolling white instead of black dice fooled no-one, as they came up with three ones! Gary’s infantry were getting pretty low in strength, so he ordered 22nd Armoured Brigade forward against the final obstacle to make a breakout possible.

DAF over the Cauldron

DAF over the Cauldron

Every NGM western desert game so far has seen a cauldron develop at the point of contact when an Axis panzer division has contacted an Allied armoured brigade. This game was no exception as the two sides fought for supremacy on the ground and in the air.

Dogfight over Ramke

Dogfight over Ramke

Meanwhile to the south, the 44th (Home Counties) Infantry Division commanded by Tim M, was steadily chewing its way through stubborn opposition. Pavia and Folgore were only holding by counterattacking with fresh reserves, then reoccupying positions with units that were already spent. Nevertheless, the NQM-experienced Trebian was forcing the Allies to fight hard for every position taken.

The Cauldron

The Cauldron

21 Panzer Division get the Upper Hand in the Cauldron D+3 to D+4

21 Panzer Division get the Upper Hand in the Cauldron D+3

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D+2 to 3 – 25 to 26 Oct 1942

21st Panzer Division on the March

Allons Enfants de la Patrié

If Allied pressure was heavy along the southern half of the battlefield,then it was heavier still along the north. Rommel arrived in theatre on the 25th, ordering von Gow  to release 21 Panzer Division to reinforce 15 Panzer. Unlike the real Generalmajor Johann von Ravenstein, von Gow was creative with his orders to attack to the north as an instruction to attack in support of Ramke Parachute Brigade Group. This undoubtedly saved Ramke on D+4, but had consequences for the battle as a whole as it allowed 10th Armoured Division to break through to the north of Ruwiesat Ridge.

DAF gets the upper hand D+2

DAF gets the upper hand D+2 onwards

I had told the Axis players that the armoured reserve had only been released enough fuel to move north, so they had no way of knowing if more fuel would be made available to return south when needed. Historically, it was, and I had no plans to change this.

21st Panzer Division on the March

21st Panzer Division on the March

The Allied generals were sticking to their plan of putting pressure along the whole front, advancing behind barrages, and sucking up the heavy casualties as they were inflicted. I was impressed by the way the allies stuck to their guns. In reality, there was a lull in the south as the battle switched north, but we played on through D+3 until an earlier lunch than planned at around 12:30. Two and a half hours of uninterrupted game time was beginnning to take its toll, but the Axis players still had their hats!

 

During the day [25 Oct D+3], Rommel reversed his policy of distributing his armour across the front, ordering … 21st Panzer north along with one third of the Ariete Division and half the artillery from the southern sector to concentrate with 15th Panzer and Littorio in the north

Hinsley, F. H.; Thomas, E. E.; Ransom, C. F. G.; Knight, R. C. (1981). British Intelligence in the Second World War: Its influence on Strategy and Operations. II. London: HMSO. ISBN 0-11-630934-2. in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_El_Alamein#CITEREFHinsley1981 accessed on 23/10/2018

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D+1to2: 24 to 25 Oct 1942

Alamein 50 Division Attack Engaging the MDL on D+1-2

Alamein 50 Division Attack Engaging the MDL on D+1-2

On the second night of the battle, the two British infantry divisions, 50th and 44th continued to fight their way methodically through the Axis Outposts and Main Defensive lines (MDLs). This was by no means a straightforward process, as on a number of occasions, local counterattacks regained positions that had been won at some cost.

44th and 50th Divisions Break into the MDL on D+2

44th and 50th Divisions Break into the MDL on D+2

The net result was to turn the whole front line into a meat grinder as 1st Greek Infantry Brigade and 1st Free French joined the battle on the northern and southern flanks of the attack .

There was a good deal of to-ing and fro-ing as casualties mounted on both sides. Players were fired up and passing theirmorale tests, which made for a large casualy pile at the end of the battle.

Behind the advancing front, the aggressively-handled divisional field artillery regiments had closed up to the forward edge of the enemy minefields in order to reach the enemy’s reserve line. The armoured brigades were beginning to nose forward through the cleared lanes, impatiently waiting for a gap to be made to allow them to break out.

The Sappers had some eight kilometers of minefields to clear. The game gave each squadron or company a 50% chance of clearing a minefield lane on the first night, then 66.66% on the next night, then 82%, then 100% on the final night. Inspection of the orbats shows that  each division had enough strength to clear 3 lanes in a reasonable time.

Air Battle over Ramke and Pavia

Air Battle over Ramke and Pavia – Bf 109 and 110 attack DAF Boston and Hurricane that are bombing Ramke

20 Corps was calling for reinforcements at an early stage in the battle, but Rommel was flying back from Rome, and von Stumme was dead from a heart attack as he leapt onto the running board of his staff car during an air attack on the morning of the 24th. Panzer Armee Afrika was effectively leaderless until Rommel returned on the 25th. Heavy attacks were occurring in the northern half of the battlefield, relegating the concerns of 20 Corps to that of “a little local difficulty”.

Folgore and Ramke were holding up well, with pressure falling onto Brescia and Pavia. Rommel’s policy of corsetting conscript troops with veterans was working well. Artillery and airstrikes were causing casualties on both sides, but the axis forces were beginning to run short of artillery ammunition.

The allies were allowed to put all their air assets into the air each day – about 10 wings, of which 7 were fighters, which was a little light on bombers. The Axis was allowed 1d6 per day, limited by only being able to use each model once.  I had severely underestimated the number of beautifully-painted Italian  aircraft that von Gow was able to pull out of his toy boxes, and it would have been rude not to let him use them. I expected more complaints from the Allies, but being gentlemen, they never murmured.

S 79 over 50th Infantry Division

S 79 over 50th Infantry Division

 

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D Day to D+1- 23 to 24 Oct 1942

Opening Barrage on D Day

Opening Barrage on D Day

The battle opened at 10:00 (Real-time™) with a heavy barrage across the entire front At 21:40 on 23 Oct 1942. Initial Axis nervousness at the size of the  Allied artillery park, (some 11 field regiments and a medium regiment – about 400 guns on the day), gave way to relief at the strength of their defences.

For the opening barrage, Axis defences counted as heavy, to allow for the barrages being traditional WWI advancing curtains of fire initially before targeting known enemy positions. Most of the shells probably fell on empty desert. I have found no Axis accounts that say “and we were cut to pieces by the opening barrage”

Trebian thoughtfully provided some cotton wool for the initial opening barrage. It was impressive!

50th and 44th infantry divisions stepped out over the moonlit desert, with navigation officers pacing the distance covered, and checking compass bearings as they went. They hugged their own barrages which acted both as cover, smoke and a guide. The infantry crossed the enemy minefields  without  pausing and began to engage isolated outposts in the enemy advanced line. Behind them, Royal Engineer parties began to clear gaps in the minefields for the armour to follow.

Each real hour was divided into a night move then a day move of roughly 30 minutes each, to reflect that most of the fighting occurred in the dark. New players quickly grasped the rules  and we began to creep ahead of the projected game schedule.

44th Division Attack Pavia D Day to D+1

44th Division Attack Pavia – D Day to D+1

The French took a relaxed approach to the start time and set off as dawn broke on D+1. No-one seemed worried. Below, we see Brigadier Koenig setting off in style after a strong coffee and Gaulois, with his Foreign Legion battalions and Pacific marine infantry.

Operation Lightfoot

The three lines of Axis defences really began to pay off as the outpost line fell back to the main defence line (MDL). Casualties began to mount on the attacking battalions.

Once in  the MDL, Axis positions were able to defend in equal numbers against the attackers, with odds of causing casualties 2:1 in the defender’s favour. Only superior numbers of troops, artillery and air support kept the advance going. This game had also strengthened the defender’s hand by banning diagonal attacks.

Further north, the British infantry divisions were advancing stoically and methodically behind heavy artillery barrages and air support. There was nothing subtle, but the timings were planned and the battalions were comfortable with the task laid out before them. Advance to find the enemy and defeat him. The first two day and night periods had seen the Allied advance tear into the Axis line, and 20 Corps were already calling for reinforcements. Top marks to von Gow for playing in character.

Alamein 50 Division Attack Engaging the MDL

50 Division Attack Engaging the MDL

Bf-109

Bf-109

1st Free French Cross through the Minefield Gaps

1st Free French Cross through the Minefield Gaps to Engage von Luck’s Recce Abteilung

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D Day

Alamein 50th Division Attacks

Alamein 50th Division Attacks

D Day dawned crisp and cold, with troops arriving at Shedquarters well-muffled against the cold. The final command team looked like this:

Axis:

Tim “von” Gow as 20 Corps, 21 Pz and Ariete,  Richard Lindley as Brescia, Steve Churchus as Ramke, and Trabian as Folgore and Pavia.

Allied:

Phil Steele as XIII Corps, 7th Armoured Division and 1st Free French. Gary Roberts as 50th Infantry Division and the Greek Brigade, and Tim Merry as 44th Infantry Division.

Moves ran every 30 minutes, with one night and one day. Fighting took place mostly at night, with the day being reserved for airstrikes and the French, who elected to fight during daylight, for reasons never fully explained. Nobody minded as Phil had brought his own French, with an impressive scratchbuilt Tanaka and Conus gun. To be continued …

 

 

 

 

Alamein 1st Free french Brigade

Alamein 1st Free French Brigade

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D Minus 3

Axis South Photo Reconnaissance View

Axis South Photo Reconnaissance View

A crisp cold full moon tonight, just as on the real battle, but D minus three until the game. Brescia and Pavia shiver in their trenches. Everyone else is too well camouflaged.

Pavia and Brescia

Pavia and Brescia

The allied lines are quiet, too quiet. Final briefs are being printed and go out to players tomorrow. Troops are mustering at their jumping-off points. Rations and ammunition are being issued.

Alamein South Allied Lines

Alamein South Allied Lines

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D Minus 6

Hurricanes Blenheim MitchellG50

Hurricanes Blenheim Mitchell G50

The Desert Airforce has been languishing on my “to do” list for some time, so with 6 days to go, I had a roundel party. My dislike of decals is well known, so freestyle it was. Sixty roundels later the job was done.

Hurricane Wing

Hurricane Wings

They are by no means perfect, but they pass the three foot test. The camera is never as kind, but it means that the Hurricane wings will not fly into action naked. The picture was taken midway between painting fuselage letters on. I’m going with the accepted convention of spinner discs for most of them, being more robust than props. The G 50 is not lost, it needed markings too.

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ALAMEIN Operation Lightfoot D Minus 12

 

Brescia and Pavia NQM Infantry Divisions

More Reinforcements at TRIPOLI. Trebian has repurposed some of his SCW Italians and AK47 Unimogs to make two neat and very convincing NQM Italian divisions. This is completely in the spirit of John Sandars, who happily repurposed Roco Ford trucks and Dodge weapon carriers as German. The Sabot labels are neat and make it easy to handle two 30mm square bases as one.

Elsewhere, YesthatPhil has been working on his Free French, with photos probably to follow on P.B.Eye-Candy. Player orbats have gone out, and I spent the day playing President Nixon in a  multi-centre player game of the Yom Kippur war.

Highlight of the game for me was watching Golda Meir (Jocelyn Spencer) on Skype berating her own generals for not stopping on the Golan Heights after doing the same to Presidents Sadat and Mubarrak. The fact that she had to stand on tiptoes made it all the more impressive!

We managed to avoid feeding armaments into the Middle East, so no oil crisis or embargo occurred and General Franco got 60 shiny new Patton Tanks that never made it to Israel. The spares are going to cost him a fortune, and I have no idea where he is going to park them. All in all, an excellent day!

Trebian probably has a photograph of the model Whitehouse that Phil provided. Gary Roberts and Will Whyler provided excellent military support to ensure that we didn’t need to get too involved. Trebian kept the black ops going superbly as CIA and Phil played a very capable Kissenger.

Yom Kippur War

Yom Kippur War

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