Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Action at El Forte - Somewhere in Sudan, 1941

First time in action for my newly built early war South African / Kings African Rifles force

A demi-brigade sized force of South African & Kings African Rifles (KAR), typical of the ad-hoc forces used in the East Africa campaign, attempted to raid a major Italian resupply column to El Forte, an Italian fort. The strategy was simple - the KAR battalion, with a Marmon Herrington armoured car company and a motorcycle Recce company attached, would speed off and "cross the T" on the road between the column and El Forte, and attack it head on while keeping the El Forte garrison's heads down.

The South Africans would attack the tail of the column and roll it up, and with scouting Shifta irregular cavalry screening, the SA battalion moved off towards where the column (or at least a dust cloud) could be seen in the distance.

The Italians had other ideas Firstly, a company of Askaris ambushed the KAR trucks as they rode past a village en route. The KAR accellerated on past as they had a long way to go and a South African  company dropped off to deal with the Askaris, which it did, but delayed the SA advance.

This was possibly a good thing, as first a column of Italian motorcycle troops came out the dust, and though the Shiftas dealt with them well enough with some help from the SA Artillery reserve mortars,  they were then attacked by a squadron of Tankettes and 2 of light tanks sporting 20mm autocannonst. The Shiftas took losses from the Tankettes and did what every Irregular unit has done since time immemorial when in trouble - they fled.



Above - Italian convoy screened by motorcycle recce bottom right, SA/KAR forces  top right, El Forte top left


The arrival of the Italian armour stopped the SA advance in its tracks (or more accurately, wheels) and there was an undignified scramble as infantry jumped out their trucks and hunkered down, while the Boys AT squad was deploying as rapidly as it could. In the rear, the SA Artillery 2 pounder AT battery also started to unlimber the minute it could make its way forward enough to a spot where the Italian tanks were visible, but this took time. The South African commander could only growl in frustration as the convoy chugged off into the far distance. The KAR would have to deal with it, the Saffers had more immediate problems - in 1941 a tankette is near invulnerable to anything except the 2 pdrs and the Boys, and can play havoc on infantry and soft vehicles with its machine guns and autocannons.



Italian motorcycles (bottom left) contactt Shifta irregulars (bottom right) while Italian askaris in the village (top right) ambush KAR trucks as they race past.

Meanwhile the KAR force had problems of their own - en route to the Fort the Motorcycles in the vanguard were ambushed by a company of very motivated Blackshirts and more Italian motorcycle troops, and these proceeded to do a lot of damage to the SA motorcycle company, routing it. The  KAR was helped by the Marmon Herringtons arriving and these shot the Blackshirts up, and the remnant Italian motorcycle troops remounted and rode for the fort pursued by two of the armoured car platoons.

The other armoured car platoon fell into the range of the advancing Italian tanks and with some very good shooting were knocked out. The Italian tanks and tankettes were then fired on by the 2 pounders which had now been set up, and the tankettes and one tank platoon were knocked over, the other tank platoon retired at full speed and hid behind a large hill, where the 2 Pdrs couldn't see it.



SAA 2 pdrs open up and the Italian tanks and tankettes (blobs with orange flame top of picture) start to disappear

The SA troops, having no threat from the armour or motorcycles anymore, re-boarded their trucks - when they saw a SAAF Hawker Hartebeest ground attack aircraft fly overheads towards El Forte.

https://slwarlords.forums.net/attachment/download/936

SAAF Hartebeest ground attack 'plane on way to El Forte overflying KAR forces moving towards the fort. Ford trucks and Marmon Herringtons in sight. East Africa was "the last biplane war" as both sides primarily used biplanes in this conflict.

In the meantime the KAR and remaining Marmon Herringtons had reached the road just as the head of the truck column passed by,  and started to shoot it up. Then they got a major shock - what was supposed to be a supply colums turned out to have an entire battalion of infantry at its head (clearly a replacement garrison for El Forte) and they debouched from the leading trucks and formed a battle line while the transport trucks circled around the rear of the firefight and raced for the El Forte.



Italian column moves towards El Forte road, on top right the KAR in their trucks are also racing to "cross the T" ahead of  them 

Worse was to follow - for some reason the trip across the veld in the fine dust had jammed the KAR's rifles (my fellow player threw 4 "1"s for 4 different companies shooting) and they were then badly mauled by the Italian askaris reply fire. The shock was made worse when it was clear that a second battalion of Askaris was moving up from some halted trucks further behind in the convoy, and the troops in El Forte were satrting to get active . It was time for a sharp exit and the KAR re-bussed and scarper...  strategically advanced to the rear.

The SA battalion saw them retreating and being appraised of the situation also decided that a regrouping and re-appraisal may be required!



Duel of Eagles in the skies while on the ground (top left) a vicious firefight is starting between the KAR and Italian askaris

And the Hartebeest? Well, turned out the Italians had had a similar idea and no sooner had it seen El Forte than an Italian Fiat CR-42 appeared on the scene and both 'planes spent 5 bounds "duelling like eagles" and then going home as fuel ran low.


(Rapid Fire rules, 4 player game, and in the kingdon of the Boys rifle the Tankette is like a Sherman and a 2 pdr is an 88)
   

6 comments:

  1. What a great looking game, splendid pictures, I especially like your convoy and the planes...

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    1. Most of the pics were taken by my esteemed Italian opponent, and the 'planes were pretty...useless in the game ;)

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  2. Super game, inspires my 1/300 painting for this Theatre! Thanks for posting!

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  3. Looks great ! And its inspiring me to continue with my stalled East Africa project, any chance of some close up pics of the various infantry forces involved ?

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    1. Didn't take any real close ups, but the SA figs are Strelets Union Infantry and the KAR are Airfix Gurkha & Australiaj figs, sHitas are HaT Natal Native horse. Italians are a variety of mfr's mainly lead figs

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