Driven by Germans
South Africa's War #12
South Africa (Defender)
|Britain||22nd Armoured Brigade|
|Britain||4th "Black Rats" Armoured Brigade|
|Italy||132ª Divisone Corazzata "Ariete"|
|South Africa||1st Infantry Brigade|
|Overall Rating, 3 votes|
|Scenario Rank: --- of 588|
|Parent Game||South Africa's War|
|Layout Dimensions||88 x 58 cm
35 x 23 in
|Scenario Requirements & Playability|
|South Africa's War||counters|
Shaken by the loss of its sister brigade, 1st South African Infantry Brigade pulled back to a defensive position around Taieb el Esem. On the morning of the 25th, the Italian "Ariete" division's artillery began to shell the South African positions - this much is agreed by both sides. The South African commander, Brig. Dan Pienaar, sent off a radio message that his brigade was "attacked by tanks" and begged for armored support. The Italians in turn reported that they were the ones under attack.
The clash lasted for most of the morning, with the Italians shooting up some South African infantry positions but not pressing the attack (if, indeed, one had ever been intended). The brigade's messages to corps command grew ever more hysterical through the morning; at one point, blurting that "Italian tanks are being driven by Germans and have German 50mm guns." Despite the fact that no enemy tanks or troops had even reached his perimeter, Pienaar ordered all the brigade's secret documents destroyed. The South Africans claimed to have hit 25 enemy tanks, but reported that, miraculously, the Italians managed to salvage every one of them during the night and no evidence was left on the battlefield. While the phantom recovery crews worked their magic, the South African brigade precipitously abandoned its positions under cover of darkness. The South African official history would later crow that it had saved Eighth Army by standing up to the entire Afrika Korps.
|AFV Rules Pertaining to this Scenario's Order of Battle|
|2 Errata Items|
Ignore the direct fire values.
(Shad on 2010 Dec 15)
Four counters (ID#s: 1502 to 1506) have the incorrect NATO symbol (infantry in lieu of armor).
(Shad on 2010 Dec 15)
|Throttled by "Ariete"|
This battle began with a sizable force of the 1st South African Infantry brigade dug-in on a hill, trying to keep control of a road running from north to south with a small contigent of British Crusader I tanks. The weakness of the defenders was the apallingly low base morale of the South African forces at a mere 7/6 and that the surrender rule was in effect for them. The Italian "Ariete" Division's morale on the other hand was at 8/7. The victory conditions for the Italians are to either eliminate at least 24 South African steps OR to drive Commonwealth forces at least 4 hexes away from the road. The South Africans win if Italy does not AND if at least 12 Italian steps are eliminated.
The "Ariete" division rolls up towards the defenders sending out the motorcycle units first while Bersaglieri strength foot units disembark from trucks and a whole armata of 12 M13/40 tank units and a 2 platoons of Sem 75/18s rumble up from not far behind. Immediately, at 07:30/turn 1, South African opportunity fire shreds away 3 steps of motorcycle units in two separate fires; once rolling "snake eyes" followed by a 3 on the 16 column of the DF table. This stuns the attackers at first and it seems that the Boks are willing to give a good fight for their hill. However, now that South African units have been spotted Italian OBA gets called in and by 08:15/turn 4, artillery shells rain down on the defense eliminating a S.A. 40mm AA gun, a step of INF and a LT-COL in one fire!
Soon Italian BERS and BERS MG units take over the main attack on the north face of the hill while the ill-fated motorcycle units attempt to rally and regroup. The masses of M13/40 tanks slowly manuever around the hill at a safe distance from AT capable 2 ,18 and 25-pdrs, headed to the rearguard where the lone platoon of Crusaders have dug-in. One of the flaws of the South African deployment was that those AT guns were placed on the lower levels of the hill area so that once the M13/40s got behind the defenses the upper hill area blocked their LOS. However, though outnumbered 12-1, the Crusaders do eventually manage to eliminate 2 steps of M13/40s before they are taken out.
A brutal firefight begins at the north face of the hill while some Italian units split up and begin to harass the left flank assisted by the Sem 75/18s. Very savage close-quarter fighting rages on but the nerves of the South Africans begin to break once assaults are made on their positions. Units start to surrender at 10:45/turn 14 and South African lines begin to give way. Even worse, at 11:15/turn 16, the highest ranking S.A. leader, the Colonel, along with a HMG and INF unit surrenders as well. At this point the northern front lines have been breached with artillery and mortar units in danger of being overrun. In desperation South African foot units leave dug-in positions to make assaults to save the guns. Though these assaults are somewhat effective and stall the Italian advance, at 11:45/turn 18, Italy has reached VCs by having eliminated over 24 S.A. steps. At this point there is no way the South Africans can win or get a draw with that many losses but I finished out the remaining 12 turns.
At 12:15/turn 20, the British reinforcements arrive and by this time the main Italian assault has simmered down with most foot units having fled the assault, attempting to recover and regroup. Now a most absurd tank "battle" occurs when the reinforcing Bitish flotilla of 10 "Honey buckets"/ Stuart light tank units engages 22 steps worth of M13/40s dug-in on higher ground. The Stuarts attempt to move into some sort of crossfire firing position but are blown into scrapmetal before they can effectively do so. To spare excessive details, by the time this armored engagement was over only one reduced and demoralized Stuart unit remained on the map with no Italian tanks eliminated from their futile efforts.
The final 10 turns conclude and "Ariete" Division has called off their attack satisfied with their results, having effectively sacked South African positions. However, they were not able to gain control of the road as some stubborn stragglers still held on. This battle was won through sheer attrition.
South African losses: 1 x LT-COL, 1 x Major, 1 x Captain, 2 x LT, 14 steps INF, 8 HMG, 1 x 3-inch, 1 x 2-pdr, 1 x 40mm and 2 x 25-pdr -all eliminated. 1 x Colonel, 1 x Captain, 11 steps INF, 2 HMG and 2 x 18-pdr -all surrendered.
British losses: 1 x 25-pdr, 2 steps Crusader I and 19 Stuart.
Italian losses: 1 x Capitano, 1 x Tenente (deserted), 6 steps BERS, 1 BERS MG, 7 MTC and 3 x M13/40.
I gave this scenario a '4' for my solo play but as a shared play this will very much favor Italy and would likely warrant a '2'. Despite the Italian advantage I enjoyed finishing this one even after it was a sealed Italian victory. It was a hell of a battle from start to finish. Perhaps if the VCs were changed so that Italy had to meet both conditions, play would be more balanced but really, the Italian force was too light in foot unit strength to absolutely wipe out all S.A. units from a 3-hex vicinity of the road so I don't know if there is really a way to balance this one out. After the Italians eliminated the required 24 steps (and then some) I just finished it out to see if the road could be taken. Not in 30 turns, at least with the state of the remaining Italian foot units. For the South Africans, despite the losses, along with the leaders and units surrendering; it was a heroic stand by the remaining units.