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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Advance on Catania, 1943

The Second World War, Chain of Command, 28mm

By popular demand we staged a Chain of Command game this week, and for a change we set it in Sicily. This was largely because Alan Bruce wanted to use his Italians – two  squads of Bersaglieri backed up by some armour and heavy weapons. We supported them with a German contingent – a Panzer III and some fallschirmjager. These guy were defending a bridge near Lentini, needed by the Allies for their drive north towards Catania. For their part the British had a platoon of the Seaforths at their disposal, supported by a carrier section, some heavy weapons, an armoured car and a troop of three Shermans. As a little incentive to use their infantry the British players weren’t sure if or when the tanks would turn up. The stage was set for an attack and defence game, centred around that little bridge.These games begin with the Patrol Phase, as both sides edge forward their markers. The trouble was, the British got to start pretty far up the table, which meant that when it came to place the “jump off points” where the troops could deploy, all of the Axis ones were on the north side of the river. This meant they had to hold the river line, without the chance of establishing any strongpoints on the southern bank. For their part the Allies placed theirs behind the two storey red-roofed white house to the south-east of the bridge, behind the white flat-roofed factory just south of the bridge, and in the courtyard of the taverna to the south-west of the bridge. So far so good.The Allies began by probing forward with an infantry section, supported by an armoured car. The Humber was soon knocked out by the German Panzer III, which deployed to the north-west of the bridge, while the Italians defending the bridge blunted the British infantry attack. First blood to the bad guys. The next British move was centred around their troop of three Shermans. I know – the purists among you will no doubt tell me the British armour in Sicily tended to be painted in sand, with black camouflagey bits. The curmudgeon in me will reply that my tanks are designed for Normandy, and I’m not bloody well repainting them, just so they can fight Alan’s Italians! Purists will also notice the British universal carriers were also in the wrong colours, while the German fallschirmjagers were actually Normandy-era Wehrmacht troops, in cammo smocks. One uses what one has in one’s collection!Anyway, back to the game. The arrival of the British tanks was countered by a lucky shot from the Panzer III on the far side of the river. it immobilised the leading British tank before it swung round the corner of the taverna. By the time the other two tanks had waddled their way past it the Axis had deployed more kit – a fallschimjager-crewed PAK 40 and an Italian Semovente. A firefight soon followed, where the Semovente and the anti-tank gun were destroyed, in exchange for the troop commander’s Sherman. That left one Sherman facing the Panzer III, and in that duel the German tanker’s luck held – enough hits were scored on the last Sherman to force the crew to abandon their vehicle, and seek solace in the taverna.The British were fast running out of options. While all this was going on the two sides were exchanging fire around the bridge, but despite causing a few casualties to the Italian defenders the British were making no real headway. In fact they lost their Vickers machine–gun, which was their only really effective weapon in the centre. Actually that wasn’t strictly true. The 2-inch mortar firing on the bridge caused a trickle of German casualties – an Italian per turn. That was certainly better than nothing!It was then the two British players (Gyles and Joe) launched their final attack. A carrier section trundled out from behind the white house, supported by fire from the building. On the north bank the Axix deployed a small armoured car – an Skkfz 222, but it was taken out by some nifty shooting from the British PIAT team. The plan was for the carriers to trundle up to the river, debus their infantry, and provide covering fire when the squadies forded the river to take the bridge in the flank. Unfortunately for them the Axis players (Alan and I) had a reserve – an un-deployed squad of fallschirmjagers. They lined the river bank and poured fire into the infantry, forcing the two universal carriers to reverse away, covering what left of the section.So, with that last gambit thwarted the British were out of options. Victory was duly awarded to the Axix players, who defences were hardly threatened during the game. With hindsight the British needed more men and kit if they were going to take the Bridge. At the very least they needed mortar support, but for some reason their FOO never managed to get into action. They could also have done with more tanks, or less Axis armour – one of the two! Still, it was an enjoyable little game, and re-affirmed our faith in a great little set of rules.


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