Archive for August, 2014

Djebel Sahariana II

Djebel Sahariana II 00a

Here are some pictures from the completion of the game …

Djebel Sahariana II 10(The Italians have a captured jeep from their encounter with the LRDG)

Djebel Sahariana II 02(shot up French AA trucks in the wadi)

Djebel Sahariana II 01a

Djebel Sahariana II 01b

Djebel Sahariana II 03(French reinforcements arriving from the west)

Djebel Sahariana II 04(air power … a Hawk fighter still wearing its Vichy colours flies over the smoking wreckage of the French armour)

Djebel Sahariana II 08c

Djebel Sahariana II 07(those crippled trucks are repeatedly hit by Sahariana guns and go up in smoke … )

Djebel Sahariana II 06(… and contact is gradually lost with the platoon which seemed to be making progress into the casbah)

Djebel Sahariana II 05( … whilst the Italian defenders still seem active and return fire)

Djebel Sahariana II 09(… so with very few serviceable vehicles left, the French commander calls off the attack)

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I benefited from the great democratisation of British society in the second half of the last century.  I was able to go to university where previous generations of my family were denied such luxuries.   I studied history and before concentrating on the History of Art after my first degree, I specialised in military history.

In their time, of course, my grandfathers fouArmy Form Z S O Steeleght in wars.   My paternal grandfather fought in the Great War.   An Oxfordshire farm boy, he joined the fledgling Tank Corps in 1916 and was trained as a gunner.   He was in E battalion at the battle of Cambrai.

He was reluctant to talk about the war other to reflect on the unpleasantness of it all … the heat, noise and nausea of going into action in a tank (indeed the only ‘war story’ he ever repeated was how surprised he was when taking a latrine break in the wood that he bumped into someone he knew from the next village, back home … mundane memories, of course ) ..

He later told his nephew he was more than happy when, in early 1918, they were converted to machinegun detachments (as they felt machinegunners had much more chance of survival than tank crew …) …  He did survive, of course (for which, as a descendant, I am grateful) ..

Perhaps as a response to his experiences on the Western Front, he flirted with druidism after the war (as in we have the certificate of admission to the order …) – again something he conveniently forgot.  And, no fan of war, he never collected his medals.   In fact, as we discovered, dealing with his estate, he did collect them and kept them in the strong box under his bed along with all his most treasured items.

battle of cambrai(British soldiers and tanks at the battle of Cambrai)

My Mother’s dad was also too young to go in 1914, though doubtless he would have been keen to take on the Kaiser …  He managed to sneak in before the end of the war but was rumbled as being underage for the front and was sent back to the depot where he was safely employed peeling potatoes.   He served in the army of occupation in Weimar, so was one of the reservists called up in 1939 for the BEF and was evacuated from Dunkirk.

Neither man relished warfare nor spoke much of their experiences … Neither ever questioned the need for those wars, or the importance of winning them, and both remained moved by the memory of those who did not come home.

As we remember the mistakes and sacrifices of a century ago, it is important that we don’t confuse our emotional response to the losses with our rational understanding of what took the world to war, and a fair assessment of the men of all nations who fought it.

GWC 01

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Djebel Sahariana 01(some vehicles from the Compagnie Sahariane mustering at dawn)

The Action at Djebel Sahariana was a fictional encounter played with RFCM’s PBI in the evening of our summer games day.   We are going back to it so this is just an introduction.

Earlier we had played a vigorous treatment of Paraitakene using Neil Thomas’s AMW (and Treb’s much admired plastic soldiers), and a trial WSS game which everyone enjoyed.  While I set up the PBI game, the others had a quick look at my emerging generic battleships game (of which there will be more to come, I hope) …

Djebel Sahariana 00(summer games at Trebian’s shedquarters)


Operation Torch throws Tunisia into chaos with the French governor uncertain who to trust.  The Germans exploit the uncertainty and airlift in 3 divisions, occupying the French colony.   In the mountains of Tunisia, French units are ordered to defend their localities if Axis troops cross the line.

At Djebel Sahariana an Italian desert patrol is caught attempting to refuel at a French logistic dump.

Djebel Sahariana 02(the PBI table … each of the big squares is 4 PBI squares in the 8 by 8 battlefield.   The Italians are arranged on table, the French start from the left edge … scenario rules provide arrival points for reinforcements)

The French force is a typical Vichy infantry outfit without much in the way of support weapons (which were severely limited by the agreements made with Germany) … 2 1930s style rifle platoons, a small HMG section and a Company HQ with a Brandt light  mortar and an A/T rifle acquired from the Italians – but mostly more riflemen …

Djebel Sahariana 04

Probably because defending airfields was a core task, Vichy troops in North Africa had a useful supply of mobile AA units, and this company has access to some typical twin 25mm auto-canons mounted on American trucks.

It has also cobbled together some ‘armour’ … a Laffly 80,  an S15 TOE armoured car and a trusty old (or was that rusty old …) FT17.

The Italian auto-sahariana unit is fully motorised and though small has a daunting array of automatic weapons and small caliber guns. The unit is built around the dedicated AS.42 all terrain vehicle

Djebel Sahariana 07

Configured as a PBI force, the patrol has 2 units of small carriers with mixed fixed weapons and carrying 6 foot groups.    There is a self propelled gun platoon and a porteed infantry gun …

djebel sahariana 03

The Company Commander has an HMG and a Flamethrower in his liberated truck, as well as the radio man and code books.   In addition, the Company has the enthusiastic assistance of a small unit of local tribal auxiliaries who dislike the French (3 rifles, 2 LMG + a rifle PC).

The Italians were allowed to start with a patrol plus the support troops on table in the central areas, plus the tribesmen in an ambush.   The second patrol would come on as reinforcements.

The French (2 players) came on from behind the railway lines in two groups … a rifle platoon each plus either the Company Commander or the HMG platoon.

Djebel Sahariana 05(French troops use the dried up river as partial cover in their attack on the Italian patrol)

The supporting vehicles will come on as reinforcements, and will probably be vital if the French are to stand a chance against the small but well equipped Italians …

Djebel Sahariana 06(French machine-gunners set up in a dominant position overlooking the occupied buildings)

Most of the early phases of the game were indecisive as players fumbled for rules and shot ineffectively at each other.   The tribesmen were set up right in front of them (almost as a forlorn hope 😉 ) and succeeded in slowing the attack …

But towards the end of the session, preparatory fire for a speculative attack hit everyone in a section of buildings and the French were fortuitously able to get a foot hold.

To be continued

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