Tank Combat in North Africa, by Thomas Jentz.
If you have already read my earlier post, 'Wargaming 2008', you will know that I do not really believe miniature wargames are capable of 'simulating' warfare in any meaningful way: I believe what we are doing is playing with toy soldiers. But that doesn't prevent us from doing some research into our period, especially when we are considering a refight of an historical battle.
If you're not familiar with it already, the concept of the stutzpunkt is central to this action: a defensive position prepared for all-round defence which was intended to hold out even if outflanked, and consisting of anti-tank guns supported by infantry with (ideally) some artillery support in range as well. The literal translation of stutzpunkt is (I have found) a little awkward; but 'strongpoint' makes a good one word summary. Stutzpunkt 208 was one of 4 main stutzpunkte which anchored the German/Italian defence during Operation Battleaxe (the others were Stutzpunkte Halfaya, 206, and Qalala). There were 3 other supporting stutzpunkte in rearward 'backstop' positions. The idea of these positions was to delay and damage attacking forces whilst a panzer counter attack was prepared and launched. Some aspects of these positions are shown in the photos below:
This is a pair of German gunpits, including one which seems to contain a 20mm flak gun as employed at Hafid Ridge. Once again, not actually Hafid Ridge (as far as I know) but indicative of how hard to spot such positions could be, even in open desert terrain. The image is from a New Zealand website, 'The Desert War'.
Jentz's book presents most of the primary evidence from both sides regarding Hafid Ridge. The extent to which there were dummy positions, or the extent to which the German defence was in any way 'mobile', is not really clear. It would seem survivors of the first line of positions may have fallen back behind the second ridge to join their comrades, which tempted the British on. The position was certainly arranged in depth, with many, possibly most, of the guns in dead ground between the ridges rather than actually on the ridges.
It is worth noting that both British tank regiments believed they were shelled by artillery at various times, and that the Hafid position contained a number of field guns. However, the order of battle for Stutzpunkt 208 did not include any artillery, just 20mm, 37mm, 50mm and 88mm AT guns. Probably fire from the 88s and the 75mm guns of German Panzer IVs was mistaken for artillery. Benghazi Handicap gives the Germans no on- or off-table artillery for this scenario. German reports indicate the British may have suffered some artillery fire from guns supporting Stutzpunkt 206 during their approach to contact.
I hope this introduction has given you a bit more feel for the circumstances of the battle, whether or not you possess Benghazi Handicap. Without further ado, this was my adaption of the scenario for BKC, using a 4' x 4' table with 6mm size models.
Initial troops: 2nd RTR:
HQ (CV8), 3xA13, 2xA10, 2xA9
Reinforcements: 7th Armoured Brigade
Brigade HQ: CO (CV9)
6th RTR: HQ (CV8), 9xCrusader I
JAXO Column: HQ (CV8), FAO (CV7), 1xcarrier (recce), 3xinfantry units in 3 trucks, 1x2pdr portee, 1x25pdr unit (on or off table), 2 assets
Initial Troops: Stutzpunkt 208 Garrison
HQ (CV9), 1x88mm+tow, 1xSP20mm AA, 1x37mm+tow, 2xm/c(mg) units, 1xm/c unit
Reinforcements: 8th Panzer Regiment
A maximum of 3 battlegroups, formed at the player's discretion from:
CO(CV10), 2xHQ(CV9), 3xPzIII, 3xPzII, 2xPzIV, 3xm/c units, 1x50mm+tow, 1x37mm+tow
All German command units have a 25cm command distance increment.
British initial troops deploy first up to 15cm from baseline. Then German initial forces deploy anywhere up to the centre of the table. All may be dug-in. They may also use hidden deployment, and are allowed 3 fighting units plus one command unit as dummies.
British reinforcements deploy up to 15cm from baseline during the command phase of move 3.
German reinforcements deploy up to 15cm from baseline during the command phase of move 5. Any German reinforcing battlegroup may also use flank deployment on either flank, in the first two thirds of the table.
Both sides seek to break the opposing force, in order to control the area. Minor objective is to inflict 25% casualties, the major objective is to break the opposing battlegroup. No turn limit.
This battle was a natural for the optional 'Hidden Deployment' rules from the first edition of BKC. However, with such a small initial force, and considering the circumstances of the battle, I decided to allow dummy units for 50% of the force, plus a command unit as well. This should keep the British guessing for a couple of moves. Making 2nd RTR deploy first, before the German defence is positioned, is another attempt to give the defenders an edge. The 25cm command distance for the Germans was a small experiment to help them with both initial deployment and the mobile battle to follow. Perhaps this would help to represent their greater tactical flexibilty.
German baseline on the left (this direction is north), British on the right (south). The wadis in this game are 'shallow' in CDTOB terms, so they only count as dense terrain for BKC. The edge of a wadi will break LOS to units within the wadi.
Next move finds the British huddling uncertainly in dead ground. Where will the German reserves arrive?