Ruweisat Ridge July 1942, 1st El Alamein
After a great victory at Gazala the forces of Panzerarmee Afrika led by Rommel had been in pursuit of the 8th Army. A hasty defence by the 8th Army at Mersa Matruh quickly collapsed and the El Daba position was overrun before the retreating units can take up postition and regroup. After that Auckinleck withdrew his army into a last ditch postition at Al Alamein. Rommel still presses his army on but they like the British Army were exhausted. Keeping the iniative Rommel's Panzer units captured Ruweisat Ridge and the Italian Divisions Pavia and Brescia moved in to hold the gains but were counterattacked by the 4 bgd of the 2 NZ Div. This is the story of 'B' Company of the 18 Battalion 2 NZ Div against II Battaglione Fanteria 27 Div 'Brescia'
Battle of Ruweisat Ridge
NEW ZEALAND INFANTRY COMPANY
B Company, 18 Battalion
35 inf/gun teams, 6 tank teams
COMPANY HQ – 30
Major Playle (C/V)
Total 30 (2 Rifle teams)
COMBAT PLATOONS – 565
1st Rifle Platoon (C/V)
3 Rifle Sqd, light mortar
Total 195 (7 rifle/MG, light mortar, AT rifle)2nd Rifle Platoon (C/V)
3 Rifle Sqd, light mortar, Anti-Tank rifle
Total 195 (7 rifle/MG, light mortar, AT rifle)
3rd Rifle Platoon (C/V)
3 Rifle Sqd – Anti-Tank Rifle
Total 175 (7 rifle/MG, AT rifle)
WEAPONS PLATOONS –235
Scout Patrol (C/V)
3 Universal Carriers
Total 100 (3 Tank teams)
2 Mortar Sections
Total 135 (3 rifle, 4 mortars)
SUPPORT PLATOONS – 155
Light Troop Crusaders (C/T)
3 Crusader II
Total 155 (3 Tanks)
For a further breakdown of the New Zealanders click below:
II Battaglione 19°Reggimento Fanteria
6 Platoons (46 teams, 5 tanks)
BATTALION HQ – 25
Tenente Colonello Melchiorre – Regluar (R/T)
2iC Tiziano – Passaglia Bombs
Total 25 (2 Rifle teams)
COMBAT COMPANIES –350
Fucilieri Company AS42
Primo 1 – Regluar (C/T)
Capitano – 3 Fucilieri Groups. Passaglia bombs, Solothurn anti-tank rifle.
Total 205 (7 rifle teams, 3 HMG, 3 47/32, 1 Solothurn)
Fucilieri Company AS42 Secundo 2 – Regluar (C/T)
Capitano – 2 Fucilieri Groups. Passaglia bombs, Solothurn anti-tank rifle.
Total 145 (5 rifle teams, 2 HMG, 2 47/32, 1 Solothurn)
WEAPONS PLATOONS – 60
Fucilieri Mortar Platoon – Regluar (C/T)
3 Mortar Sections
Total 60 (1 rifle PC, 3 Mortars)
DIVISIONAL SUPPORT –560
Light Tank Platoon – Elite (F/V)
5 x L6/40 Tenente
Total 150 (5 Tankettes)
Howitzer Battery – Artillery (C/V)
4 x 100/17 guns
Total 210 (2 Rifle, Staff, 4 howitzers)
Guastatori (Demolisher) Platoon – Elite (C/V)
2 Demolisher Squads –(7 Pioneer Rifle, 2 Brixia mortars)
For a further breakdown of the Italians click below:
This was a friendly game and the first for my opponent Fabio. Both forces are from my personal collection and I decided to go for 1000 points with just enough goodies to teach all the basic elements. Choosing forces like this makes for very good games and allows the lesser units to come into their own, so no Tigers or Churchill tanks in this battle. Before we started I gave Fabio a choice of which force to play and he went with the Italians. The set up was basic for Free For All, objectives at either flank. The number of Fucilieri meant that his side of the board was well covered and the Kiwis would have their work cut out for them. Fabio had reasonable rolls on the 8 million bayonets with the only drawback is that the Company Commander (Battalion) was Reluctant if it came to Company/Battalion motivation.
Fabio won the roll off and started the attack. One of the good things about FoW is that most things work out as you would expect and he elected to go for the small town and occuping the centre. His shooting was hampered by the mobile battle rule but his L6 tanketts sped up his left flank and caught my 1st platoon in the open pinning them with MG fire but only destroying one light mortar team after a series of successful saves.
The L6 tanketts presented a problem since the largest ridge was in between and from the start the NZ would have to react to the actions of the Italians. The choice was to advance behind cover of teh ridge, in the front of the ridge – not really an option on account of presenting them as a target for all the major Italian units or over, but this would be difficult terrain and restrict movement. The choice was to go behind and stay in cover. Infantry platoon 1 on the ridge decided to go to ground, digging in is dangerous in such terrain as it requires a re-roll to successful tests and being veteran and GtG means the L6s would from now on need a 6 to hit.
Platoon 3 on the left flank dug in successfully but the mortars had a hard choice. They had a good LOS to the infantry concentrated in the centre but staying in the open was dangerous without digging in. The target was too tempting and they fired catching 3 platoons, Guastatori, Company Secundo and mortars under the same blast but only killed 1 anti-tank team of Secundo but pinned all but the mortars.
The L6s consolidated their postion and continued to rain fire on the infantry but were less successful. Fucilieri Primo started to occupy the houses and sent some infantry into the edge of the town. Since the New Zealand infantry was now dug in and next turn would be gone to ground they could no longer hit from long range with their Elefantinos and HMG but by placing the rifle teams in range and in buildings the New Zealand infantry could either suffer their fire and lay low or should they return fire present themselves as targets to the gun teams again. The Howitzer Battery attempted to fire at the middle tank. It is important that British tanks are only trained and present good targets. The howitzers ranged in on the second attempt but their hits were abyssmal and no damage was done. The Italian mortars were more successful and destroyed a British counterpart and pinned the rest.
One Crusader managed to get with in range of the L6s and because of Tally Ho fired twice and brewed 1 tankett. The Bren carriers took up a centre postion but out of range and LOS. Platoon 2 that started in a reserve position and platoon 3 advanced towards the centre as well. The mortars rallied and fired smoke to block some of the gun teams of company Primo.
The strong advance of the New Zealand forces had upset the Italian plans and smoke from the mortars had rendered a few guns unusable. But the company could never the less muster a lot of fire against the advancing Kiwis in paticular from a HMG in one of the houses and they rained bullets at the PBI poor bloody infantry but it was as if fortune favors the bold and only one team was destroyed while they were pinned. Here Fabio also decided to move his rear gun teams from their positions to reinforce the rest of the company. Then the L6s moved towards the centre and utilised their high speed (half-track in the desert, counts as road 40cm/16") and could fire at one bren gun carrier and destroyed it. Tenente Colonello Melchiorre went to the center to encourage the Guastatori who had until then stayed pinned. The Italian mortars fired at the advancing infantry of platoon 2 and killed one team and pinned the mortars again. The Howitzers now had a choice, they were still ranged in but now only 1 mortar was under the template so Fabio decided to attempt to range in on a better target but failed to range in on all 3 attempts. Company Primo sent some infantry into the edge of the town. Since the New Zealand infantry was now dug in and gone to ground they could no longer hit from long range with their Elefantinos and HMG but by placing the rifle teams in range and in buildings the New Zealand infantry could either suffer their fire and lay low or should they return fire present themselves as targets to the gun teams again.
The turn started of badly when platoon 3 failed to rally and as it turned out the company commander Major Playle was too far away to influence them. The Crusaders raced back to the centre and fired at the L6s bailing 2. The Bren carriers entered the village and the combined fire of the infantry and bren carriers destroyed 2 infantry teams of Company Primo. The mortars rallied again but this time fired a barrage against Company Primo and killed of a light mortar of the Guastatori and left both them and Primo pinned.
The L6 move back to the right flank and continued to fire at platoon 1 and destroyed one infantry team, in fact the L6s were starting to present a serious problem since they kept on nibbling at the New Zealanders with little danger of return fire except from the Crusaders. Tenente Colonello Melchiorre managed to bring the Guastatori back into action and they went to support Company Primo but were to far the have an immidate effect. Company Primo remained pinned that seriously affected their fire. This time the Italian heavy artillery ranged in on the Crusaders but only hit one that was saved by its armour. It was as if the artillery couldn't live to its standards.
This time Major Playle rallied paltoon 3 and the Universal Carriers sped to the left flank to catch the gun teams of Primo in the open and destroyed 3 teams. The mortars fired at Company Secundo and the mortars and pinned both and killed one infantry team. Platoon 2 advanced and was in a good postion to support platoon 3 next turn while the assault on the Fucilieri in the houses was devastating and 2 infantry teams and the platoon leader was destroyed. But this was not to be, he shrugged of the attack and came back as the Unknown Hero. Despite his great motivation the platoon failed to counterattack but stayed in the game even if they were below half strength. After the assault platoon 3 consolidated into the buildings and now held half the houses. The Crusaders took up a centre postition, mostly to draw fire to themselves but managed to kill of another infantry team from Secundo.
Platoon Primo and Guastatori rallied and consolidated where they were firing where they could. Importantly the last remaining Elefantino managed to fire at the Bren carriers blowing one up and bailing the last. After this the crew fled. The artillery continued to fire against the tanks again catching 2 under the blast but failed to hit either. The L6s continued to fire at platoon 1 and again destoyed 1 infantry team. Still at the end of the turn it appeared that nothing would stop them from taking the centre.
Full of confidence platoon 2 advanced on the Guastatori but their fire and that of platoon 3 failed to pin any eyties. The Crusders used the oppurtunity to come round the ridge and now all 3 tanks could fire at the L6s, hitting each tank once and brewing 3 and bailing the last, who despite being fearless ran away. The mortars fired at Fucilieri Secundo to pin them to make their remaining Elefantino less effective.
When paltoon 2 assaulted the Guastatori it turned out that Company Primo was in range and the combined defensive fire scored just enough hits to pin the assault and kill 2 infantry teams. Platoon 2 retreated shaken from the experience.
Saved at the last moment the Italians now regained their momentum. The Guastatori went after platoon 2 while Company Primo fired every available gun at platoon 3 and destroyed 3 teams bringing them to half strength. The Artillery finally did something against the Crusaders but only bailed one. Even after rallying Comapny Secundo could add did nothing more. But the assaulting Guastatori hit platoon 2 very hard. The remaining 2 infnatry teams destroyed one Guastatori in return but where then wiped out to a man. Fabio contemplated for a moment if he should advance against the mortars (which would have brought his Guastatori within minimum range of 2 mortars) but decided against it, the battle would be decided in the village and only the Guastatori were still strong enough to do the job.
Platoon 3 was pinned, platoon 2 was gone and platoon 1 was finally rid of the L6s but close to half strength. Only the Crusaders were left with enough strength to still pull off a victory. Thankfully the bailed crew remounted and the Crusaders advanced and platoon 1 followed them. Mortar fire was ineffective but the Crusaders MG destroyed the last elefantino team and left the way clear for an assault against Company Secundo and the Fucilieri mortars. They assaulted and only a single solothurn anti-tank rifle was between them and destruction. But never underestimate the power of small determined crews that after all the failed attempts af the artillery the small gun destroyed one Crusader and bailed another. The remaining tank was the platoon leader and destroyed one infantry team. Both fucilieri and mortars stayed in place and scored hits against the tank but failed to destroy it and it in return stayed in the battle and ended the solothurns valiant part. But again the Fucileri stayed in the battle and mortars and this time sent the Crusader off capturing the bailed tank. The Crusader remained in play but had retreated. The mortars were still at full strength but now only 3 teams remained from Secundo but they held.
By now both forces where badly blooded and most of the fight had left them. The Guastatori moved to get closer to platoon 3 and company primo fired at the houses. The big success was when finally the Artillery hit the last remaining Crusader and this time sent it up in flames.
Almost anyone could see that the battle was lost so maybe it was in madness that Major Playle rounded up the remains of platoon 3 and readied them for a bayonet charge against Company Primo, platoon 1 also advanced and the mortars fired at the Fucilieri, failing to do damage against the depleted Company but killed of the mortar platoon leader. Major Playle and the platoon assaulted Company Primo and the Guastatori were just close enough to join the assault. The assult came through and killed off 2 infantry and a gun team. The Guastatori and Unkown Hero counterattacked and killed 2 infantry but they stayed in the fight and one guastatori and the Unkown Hero were killed. The Guastatori and Tenente Colonello Melchiorre stayed and destroyed one infantry and this time Major Playle fled with the one remaining infantry team of Platoon 3. Yet none of the participants fled the field even if Company Primo was now down to only 2 teams of the original 14 and had no platoon leader left.
All that was left was the coup de grâce. The Guastatori and Tenente Colonello Melchiorre moved against the Major and the survivors. At the same time the concentrated barrage from the mortars and artillery finished off and broke platoon 1 the final assault saw the end of Major Playle and the reminder of the platoon.
At this point the New Zealanders had lost 5 out of 6 platoons and their Company Commander. Only the Mortars remained and without the company commander they fled.
The Italians had won, with only 1 platoon destroyed it became a 5-2 win but how do you say pyrrhic victory in Italian* Company Primo was down to 2 teams, Company Secundo was down to 3 teams and the Guastatori where down to 4 teams, all below half strength. The morale strength of the Fucilieri had held and secured a victory.
More importantly it had been a great game with highs and lows on both sides and even at the end it could go either way, all that was needed was to break any of those understrength Italians but that didn't happen. What did was we enjoyed ourselves and a good game by any standard is a perfect game for a beginer, made even better by a first time victory! The game was set in a very friendly atmosphere. Starting with a African dinner and then playing with vintage World War 2 music in the background, songs like Fanfara Dei Bersaglieri, In the Mood and White Cliffs of Dover along with inspirational speeches by Churchill, Eisenhover and Mussolini. With the game we drank a nice bottle of Chianti and as the evening progressed the commander of the Commonwealth Forces went with a more appropriate Scotch but all in moderation. This enhanced the enjoyment of good company and an exciting game and comes with my best recommendations.
*Vittoria di Pirro