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El Adem, Western Desert, 1941


The Second World War, Battlegroup Panzergrenadier, 10mm

Just for a change we got the “peedie tanks” out. “Peedie” is the Orkney word for “small”, and what better way to describe 10-12mm tanks than that. The game was played out on a 10×6 foot table, using Battlegroup Panzergrenadier. I know a new Panzergrenadier Deluxe set has just come out, but I haven’t got a copy yet, and besides, it would mean spending a hefty £35, and re-learning the rules. If it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it. Therefore 2nd edition BgPzGren it was. In this game the Germans and their Italian allies were on the offensive, sweeping up the road from El Agheila to Tobruk. Our game was set in mid April 1941. The British were being chased eastwards by Rommel, but at El Adem near Tobruk our little blocking force was ordered to hold their ground, to buy time for the rest of the army to withdraw.As in all BgPzGr games the defenders weren’t plunked down on the table. No, their locations were marked on a sketch map, and the Germans had to scout for them as they advanced. To add a little more excitement several of their units were either hidden or camouflaged, making them even harder to detect. Inevitably the Axis players led their advance with the German reconnaissance company – four armoured cars – supported by two companies of Italian light tanks. Everything went well until they reached the line of the anti-tank ditch that stretched halfway across the table. Just as the lead armoured car was passing the only building on the table – a small Arab farm – the British revealed where they’d put their anti-tank battery, and immediately opened fire.The fire from these four 2-pouders ripped into the armoured cars at point blank range, and soon all four German vehicles were brewed up. Over the next two turns the same fate befell the hapless Italian light tanks. By then though, the Germans had moved up their main body of tanks, and tried to outflank the roadblock to the right. The panzers headed towards the high ground on that side of the table (presumably the south), and ran into the next British unit – a squadron of cruiser tanks. An almighty tank battle ensued, with both sides taking casualties, until that little corner of the Western desert was dotted with little burning tank markers.Behind the German tanks came the infantry – two columns of trucks – one Italian, the other German. That was when the British revealed their camouflaged units – a pair of Morris armoured cars. Two Italian trucks were destroyed, but the rest of the Italian column baled out and began firing back. Unfortunately for the British the trucks they hadn’t destroyed contained most of the heavy weapons, including a pair of Italian heavy machine guns.Fire from them, supported by the odd German tank was enough to see off the brace of British armoured cars. Things weren’t going all the Axis way though – British artillery proved particularly effective at plastering the truck convoys as they passed the bottleneck where the road curved round the southern tip of a large wadi.That was when the Axis players did something that turned the tide – for a bit. First, two 88mm flak guns unlimbered on a small hill, and despite harassing artillery fire they pounded away at the British anti-tank battery and the cruiser tanks, until both units were destroyed. Actually the last 2-pdr. was taken out by a new threat to the British – a company of Italian medium tanks, which had negotiated the wadi and were now heading towards the southern end of the anti-tank ditch to the east of it.This little development came too late for a sizeable portion of the German armour though, and the survivors of the tank battle spent another couple of turns reorganising themselves (or rather “rolling off” their suppressed markers). The Axis advance had been temporarily halted, and there was a natural lull in the battle.That was where we decided to stop the game. It was getting late, and to see the game through to its conclusion would take us into the wee small hours of the morning. The British had done well – they’d held the German advance up, and all the damage they’d inflicted had been caused by their anti-tank battery, a squadron of A9 and A10 cruiser tanks, and some off-table artillery. When the game ended the British players revealed where the rest of their kit was.The infantry were dug in behind the anti-tank ditch – a front line that would probably have been bypassed. Behind the wadi was another squadron of cruiser tanks (A13s this time), a brace of “camouflaged” 2-pdrs portees, and a small squadron of MkVIb light tanks. If the Axis assault had continued they’d have had a hard task cutting through that lot. However, they still had their Stukas on call, and most of their allocated artillery missions. Who knows. They might have just pulled it off.

 

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