|Fast Air - an A4 Skyhawk pretending to be an Ouragan|
On Thursday at the uni, Bryan and I had our first game of 'Fate of a Nation', Battlefront's foray into the Six Day War. We were expecting modern warfare to be lethal, but even so the pace and deadliness of the action was breathtaking!
Things probably weren't helped by the fact that we were pitting Shermans against state of the art T-55s. My research into this action made clear that the Israeli's should have had M47 Pattons and Centurion 'Shot's, rather than the M51 Ishermans, which, fittingly for the Israeli team, was all that was available.... Now don't get me wrong, I love the look of the M51, and it does pack a powerful punch with its slightly de-rated French 105mm gun, but its armour is still pretty much of WW2 standard......
The Soviet T-55 we were to pit them against had pretty similar performance in terms of penetration with its 100mm gun, but about twice the armour protection - and it told!
The overall force ratio was pretty balanced points wise however, in fact when the third M51 platoon arrived it gave the Israelis the edge in points.
But enough about the hardware and its caps and lims, on with the scenario! This was based on the remarkable events involved in the forcing of the Jiradi Pass on the 5th June 1967, only a few hours into the Six Day War. To save time, forgive me if I quote large chunks directly from my written brief:
Northern central stretch of the Sinai Peninsula, the Negev Desert, between Rafa and El Arish. The main northern most route West towards the Suez Canal enters the Jiradi Defile, a descent and ascent across a large wadi, where a narrow strip of hard desert rocks, bearing the roadway, is bordered on each side by seas of soft sand dunes. This diagram is taken from Shabtai Teveths' 'The Tanks of Tammuz'.
The Six Day War. Pre-emptive Israeli airstrikes have destroyed the Arab Air Forces in Operation MOKED. Now it’s the Armoured Corps time to strike - Operation RED SHEET, the plan to race to the Suez Canal and seal the western exits from the Sinai Peninsula, is a few hours old. Already 3 Egyptian (United Arab Republic – UAR) divisions have been destroyed and the three Israeli Brigades are now halfway across the Sinai, each taking a Southern, Middle and Northern route.
But one UAR Division remains astride the Northern Route to the Sinai exists, dug in around the Jiradi Pass. They are echeloned in depth and dug in on both sides of the road. However, they have been listening to Radio Damascus, which has been announcing that victorious UAR forces are at the gates of Tel Aviv, and so have seen no reason to interrupt their usual mid-day siesta… An Israeli tank company is racing to open up the pass – but owing to its speed has become dangerously spread out on the road…
|Two Platoons Up, the third...somewhere on the way....|
Mission: There are 2 Israeli objectives, the point the road reaches the top of the Northern bank of the Wadi, and the point at which the road exits the table North.
Execution: UAR forces, a (CONFIDENT CONSRIPT) T-55 Tank Battalion, deploys on table, anywhere North of the Southern edge of the Minefield. All AFVs may be dug in and therefore concealed and gone to ground. However to represent the crews sleeping, all start the game ‘bailed out’.
HQ Kuteybh Debabh 1 x T55 with Stabiliser 65 pointsDebabh Company 6 x T55 with Stabilisers 385 points
Debabh Company 5 x T55 with Stabilisers 335 points
Israeli forces, a (CONFIDENT VETERAN) M51 Tank Company, deploys 2 of its 3 platoons on table, up to a foot from the Southern Edge. The remaining company comes on as a reserve in the normal way. Israelis have the first turn.
HQ 1 x M51 100 pointsTankim Platoon 3 x M51 275 points
Tankim Platoon 3 x M51 275 points
Limited Air Support Ouragan CAS 200 points
Tankim Platoon 3 x M51 275 points (Reserve)
Bryan chose to deploy one Company forward of the pass on the edge of the sand dunes, partially covered by the small palm grove. In reality, this grove was probably further out from the road, but is included here to add some variety to the terrain. This Company had the pleasure of the Battalion commanders tank. The other, stronger, company was further back, on the edge of the wadi.
Whilst historically a detachment of Israeli Pattons had been sent on an outflanking left hook through the dunes, some of them managing to get through, I decided against this tactic as my Shermans did not have the 'wide tracks' attribute. I thought I'd adopt the tried and tested 'straight up the middle with bags of smoke' approach - although in my combat appreciation I'd neglected to note that I had neither artillery nor mortars with which to lay smoke....
With the first move, I advanced boldly forward down the middle, taking full advantage of the
Few Against Many ‘Stormtroop’ move in the assault phase, ending up just inside long range of the nearer company of T-55s.
These had been remarkably successful at bailing back in to their tanks from the depths of their slumber - as Bryan observed, clearly the Egyptian crewmen were sceptical of Radio Damascus's confident pronouncements....Having remounted, they set to work demolishing the nearest troop of Shermans....
and it dawned on us that the Sherman's armour could not save against the T-55's modern round. And with Firepower checks on a 2+, escaping with a mere 'bailout' was going to be rare...Bryan was just as surprised as I was at this reflection of the lethality of modern armoured warfare. However on the positive side, my third platoon arrived...
And, despite the robust T-55 being able to escape penetration on a 3+, helped to even the score a little...
I was helped here by the very useful Gunnery First Israeli special rule - Non moving tanks may reroll misses if all targets at long range. Unfortunately lots of hits translated into bails rather than brew ups...
I had been placing great hopes on the IAF chaps to whittle down the hordes of T-55s, but the pilots were clearly exhausted from beating up long parades of Migs on the tarmacs of Egypt and Syria, and both sorties had no result, indeed losing one Ouragan to AA fire. However they did add a touch of class to the otherwise rather grubby proceedings!
Bryan, however, is not one to allow his opponent to pick off his tanks at long range, and clearly neither were the Soviet advisors, as the near company of T-55s moved in for the kill...
However by this time the other T-55 Company was receiving the combined firepower of 2 Sherman platoons...and the survivors decided that discretion was the order of the day...
A final cracking out of a volley of 105mm Sabot rounds was able to brew another T-55...
But the jig was up and the return fire knocked out the last Sherman still firing...
Much as I share the Israeli Armoured Corp's affection for the long lived M51 Isherman, the next time I try this scenario, I'd prefer to field Pattons or Centurions!
Not to say that this introduction to Fate of A Nation wasn't extremely enjoyable and great fun, as well as something of a learning curve, for me at least! Bryan has a few suggestions to make the scenario more balanced, particularly in making one of the UAR companies a reserve also.