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Kaunitz

Highlanders! - The battle of Gerbini

18 posts in this topic

This thread is about the creation of a historical map and scenario for CM:FI/GL: The battle of Gerbini which was fought on 20/21st July 1943 between elements of the commonwealth 51st (Highland) Division and the german parachute-tank-division Hermann Göring. As I don’t want to create or play scenarios that are larger than 1 company, and there is a limit to the maximum map-size, the scenario will only comprise part of the battle. But maybe I will end up with several company-sized scenarios.

Context

There is not a lot one needs to know about the overall context: After its landing south of Syracuse, the british/commonwealth 8th army (XXX. and XIII. corps) pushed north along the eastern coast of Sicily. The aim was to get to Messina as fast as possible in order to cut off the germans’ path of retreat and trap them on Sicily. A few kilometers south of Catania – a major coastal town – the 8th army met stiff resistance. Montgomery tried to bypass Catania further to the west, on the inland. In the battles of Gerbini and Sferro Hill, however, he had to learn that his army had made contact with the first (Hauptkampflinie) of three main defensive lines of the Germans, stretching from the west coast to the east cost of Sicily. While the western half of the defensive line made use of the mountainous terrain, here, on its eastern end, it ran along the plain of Catania, a large plain south of mount Etna. The germans set up their defenses at the northern edge of that plain, stretching 40 kilometers along and behind the river Dittaino. At Sferro and Gerbini, the commonwealth/british army tried to penetrate the eastern sectors of the Hauptkampflinie. 

The 51st Highland-division had established a bridgehead north of the Dittaino from which it started a night attack on Gerbini. It was primarily carried out by the 7th battalion Argyll & Sutherland highlanders and 2 companies of the 1st Blackwatch Highlanders – both these battalions were part of the 154th brigade of the 51st Highland Division/XXX. corps/8th army. Gerbini itself was northing more than a crossroad, orchards and a few houses. North of Gerbini, however, lay Gerbini airfield - a major axis aerodrome which had been a high priority target for allied bombers. Also, a single railroad-track ran east-west in between Gerbini proper and the airfield, with a stop at Gerbini station (stazione di Gerbini on the map). Today, you can only make out some remains of the runway on a field in between the railroad and the modern highway.

Sources

For a contemporary 1943 map (1:25.000) take a look here: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/ams/italy_25k/ (Gerbini) (same here: http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/maps/europe/zoomify138659.html ). This seems to be the US Army Map Service -map that the allied troops actually used during the campaign. 

You can compare this to modern maps, like the OpenTopo map (https://opentopomap.org/#map=15/37.47215/14.84386) and google maps (https://www.google.at/maps/@37.4691357,14.842885,1698m/data=!3m1!1e3).  

Thanks to the 51st Division online museum, there are two quite detailed reports about the action available online: The first source is a report by brigadier T. Rennie, the commander of the 154th Brigade, dating from August 14th 1943. It also includes a sketch (based on the map linked above) on which the objectives/artillery targets are marked: http://51hd.co.uk/accounts/gerbini_combs (report + artillery fire plan), http://51hd.co.uk/history/sicily_gerbini (Map/sketch).

Note that if you compare the plan to the report of the action nothing seems to have gone according to plan. None of the 7th Argyll & Sutherlands coys seem to have reached their assigned target area - instead they stayed further to the east and advanced on the airfield and beyond (D coy) and along the railroad (where A coy made it to the station). The west was therefore still held by the enemy as the 1st coy/1st blackwatch found out when it tried to secure the road north to clear the way for the support weapons and got pinned down in the process. The course of the tank platoon is a riddle for me. They showed up at the road/rail junction (where the 7th A&S's C coy held out) in the east at 00:00, then sent a tank to support A coy in the station, but later took up position in the orchard north of Gerbini, in the west. I wonder how the tanks got there.

The second source, also to be found on the 51st Division online museum, is a shorter account of Dell Porchetta, a member of the 8th platoon of A coy of the 7th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. http://51hd.co.uk/accounts/porchetta_gerbini (His company surrendered at Gerbini station)

I also found this account quite helpful: https://weaponsandwarfare.com/2017/02/25/the-plain-of-catania-1943-part-i/

I could even find some drawings by the Division's artist Ian Gilber Marr Eadie (1917–1973):http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/8379 It is labeled with "Gerbini". We can try to identify the exact location (see next post). 

Some impressions filmed at Gerbini airfield: https://youtu.be/6HOPxnK2a6A

Selection

The Gerbini-attack is too large to be put into a single scenario. Therefore, I've decided to select (a) single theater(s) of the battle. I think that the western flank of the battle is very interesting. Here, the 1st coy. of 1st Blackwatch got pinned down, the 2nd coy managed to take a german pillbox with the help of a smoke screen, AT-guns were moved forward, and also, the german counter-attack on the next morning has been very strong, knocking out a good part of the Shermans who had been positioned in the orchard north of Gerbini. I think that this makes for one (or two) interesting scenarios (attack - counter-attack).

Moreover, I feel confident that maps and the accounts give me a quite detailed picture of the terrain. Gerbini station and the airfield are harder to imagine, since I couldn't find any contemporary pictures. 

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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Gerbini west: axis defenses

I was quite surprised that there is no detailed (by that I mean down to company level for important individual battles) book available either in german or english when it comes to Sicily. So, most of the german dispositions will be guesswork and I'll have a lot of freedom here. For the western sector of Gerbini, however, the reports mention three distinct features: 

1) anti-tank ditch: The accounts and Rennie's sketch mention an anti-tank-ditch, ca. 20 feet deep (lined on the north side with barbed wire), south of Gerbini which served as a starting line for the attack. I've tried to make out the exact location on google maps' satellite views, but I'm not entirely sure, as there are a lot of irrigation ditches all over the place. Moreover, one would assume that the tank-ditch would link up to the Dittaino river to the west and the Simete to the east. Anyway - the anti-tank-ditch was not a really important feature for the battle itself. It would just serve as a starting point. 

2) axis pillbox/bunker: Reports of the action mention a pillbox (maybe this is what is sometimes also called "barracks"?). The bunker is visible on google maps (see pictures). It was assaulted and taken by the 1st coy/1st Blackwatch and will also be a central feature of the scenario. Unfortunately, I could not find a ground-level-picture of it. However, I wonder if this bunker might actually be the left/central building on Eadie's drawing? The shape would fit quite well, I think, and also, vegetation is growing on the building - so it seems to be camouflaged. The building to the right can be found on the contemporary map too (maybe these are the "barracks"?) - a strange dot south of "mass.a Landolina". Moreover, there is (or rather was) a "wood" behind that bunker, which would be correct. The viewpoint would be on strada statale 192, looking north-east. So the tanks would not have wandered too far off the street - a small tip of the (dirt...?) street might be shown in the lower left corner. The rise of the ground is also reasonable and the place has obviously been shelled (crater, defoiled trees, buildings in ruins). Also, Rennie's account mentions two tanks getting knocked out (well, at least "hit") somewhere around here: "Two tanks of the troop sent to E, which had moved far out onto the open and level ground, were hit."  But in the end, it's all speculation. Maybe you are in the mood to help me interpret whether this strange building might indeed be the bunker?

large_000000.jpg.14cc4ae4cf07aa4baacb5cea2a5dd50d.jpg

1.thumb.jpg.1ada1d749bec9b5651b9cfbd7b5f2a5b.jpg

2.jpg.6fa0d1c66e78efe5fa47398488e3d0b8.jpg

3) mines: According to Rennie's account, 6 AT-guns were moved up north modern Strada Statale 192 into Gerbini in order to fortify it against the imminent german counter-attack. The leading portee hit a mine. So one can assume that some parts of the road south of Gerbini were mined.

 

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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Hmmmm,  the oblong shape is strange and it seems completely unsupported. Not good for a bunker.

Did you have a look at the closer vicinity? Anything like possible trenches, bushes containing MG positions or fox holes around?

Here in Switzerland, they still have a lot of WW2 defensive position still standing. And mostly, one can see the defense layout clearly. If you spend a little time to observe.

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I've been scanning the surroundings, yes. To the south, there is some kind of factory or garbage dump today (see link). There are plenty of strange-looking earth shapes, but I think these are of more recent date: https://www.google.at/maps/@37.4654875,14.8386701,179m/data=!3m1!1e3 (the bunker is a bit to the north). But I have to admit that I have no eye for satellite-archaeology. I even tried to make out artillery-craters, but to no avail.

By the way, the only indication that this might be a bunker is the information of the OpenTopo-map which states "1943 bunker" here if you zoom in. And also, this is the position which gets mentioned in the battle-reports. I'm still waiting for my delivery of a small Osprey (sigh) booklet on bunkers in Italy (and Sicily, I hope). I doubt it, but maybe it will prove that this was a common shape for a bunker in Italy. 

The vegetation seems to have changed quite a lot. Naturally, the soil around the Etna volcano is very fertile. In the Catania plain, there are three major rivers (Dittaino, Gornalunga, Simeto) whose water, by means of a system of reservoir dams and irrigation-ditches, is used to irrigate the orchards. I can’t tell for sure how extensive this network was back in 1943. Judging from satellite views, almost all the ditches noted on the 1943 map still exist today. However, the 1943 map does not show the (irrigation-)basins/pools that can be found on the modern satellite view. One would assume that if these existed, they would be represented on the map for sure. Today, the fields around Gerbini are dominated by orange (arance rosse) orchards (and maybe some sparse olive orchards). The question is whether this was true in 1943. In accordance with accounts of the battle, the 1943 map shows only two patches of orchards south of Gerbini (today the whole area is plastered with orchards...). In the smaller, southern one, there are also some symbols for “vine” mixed into the trees. So, if we assume that these patches were the only orchards arouznd, we need to ask what the rest of the terrain (the blank terrain on the 1943 map) looked like.  With no means to make any safer conclusion, I will simply use "ploughed fields" and "dry grass". 

I also wondered what the orange orchards looked like back then. I can’t really nail down the exact look of the modern day orchards. There is only one good choice to represent these short orange trees (perhaps 2-3 meters height) in the engine: bush B. The smallest "tree" (D) is by far too large. The problem, however, is that  I cannot recreate the density and the symmetrical pattern of the orchards with bush B. So, in the end, I will have to make a compromise which needs to focus on the ingame effect rather than on visual and mimetic fidelity. 

Edited by Kaunitz

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Here is an image to give you a broader perspective on the area:

ZB8i65X.jpg

The Highland division attacked from the south. One would assume that the tank-ditch (red) would link up the Simeto and the Dittaino river and would be overwatched? If I'm not mistaken the accounts also mention pillboxes and earth works in the wood north-east of Gerbini station/north west of Gerbini airfield. The 1943 map might give you some idea. (I didn't find anything suspicious on the satellite view).  

And here is a second view concentrated on the "bunker-area" (I tried to blend features of the 1943 map with features of the modern satellite map) - the red square is the bunker, greenish-areas are the 1943-orchards, the green lines follow (approximatively :D) the 1943-contour lines (south: 50 meters, north: 60m), black = streets or paths,, blue = irrigation ditches: 

vEMvYBE.jpg

 

PS: Italy bunker in oblong shape :Dhttp://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-italy-second-world-war-bunker-62473154.html

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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Orange cove

The 1943 map shows an "orchard" in Gerbini. This must be what is called "woods" in the actual battle reports. In the real battle, a platoon of Shermans took up position here (and got badly beaten by the german tanks in the counter-attack). I think it's okay to assume that these were orange-plantations. Today, the area is full of orange-orchards but back in 1943, they seem to have been a bit rarer, judging from the 1943 map -maybe because of less developed irrigation-systems. On the old map, all "orachards" are close to rivers or ditches.

Now, what would these woods have looked like? I couldn't find a single historical photo of an orange-plantation in the Catania plain. All I could find was this photo of a Sicilian orange tree. :D From this picture I think it's safe to assume that orange trees in 1943 looked quite similar (very short and small!) to those that can be found around Gerbini today (no major differences due to new methods of breeding, etc.). 

orange-trees-of-quality-belladonna-sicil

So, I'm trying to nail down the look of today's plantations around Gerbini: 

tr2Oq5s.jpg

I've tried out a lot of design patterns and different kinds of vegetation. This is the best basic/unpolished design I could come up so far:

zPjszn3.jpg

It consists of sand ground (I'll have to test the ingame effects) because sand has the best matching colour. On top of that, I've planted echelon/arrow-shaped "low bocage" to give the orchard a higher density while still allowing for long diagonal lines of sight. I could still cut LOS here and there. Finally, on top of that, I've planted bush C (3) all over the place - I think it might actually be an orange tree with its white blossoms. The leafes are a bit darker, but that doesn't worry me too much (and there is no real alternative...). Luckily, the bocage reduces the randomness of bush-placement which would otherwise cut all the diagonal LOS. Not quite perfect but close enough. Trees are much too large, while bushes only are not dense enough and too random. So in my eyes a mix of bocage and bush seems to be a good work-around. 

 

PS: In fact these bushes are a tad too short. I might use bush B instead of C, but it looks quite ugly (and doesn't fit to the bocage's colour). But well, gameplay aspects take priority over aesthetics...! So this is the new version with slightly taller trees:

XQwLneQ.jpg

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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Interesting question, indeed.

I had a quick look at Google Maps and found nothing, what I would identify as support position.

For the bunker theory speaks: The thing perfectly covers the Strada Statale 192 to the north. But the it's rear is blocked by the farm, which I assume is there not only since yesterday. Further, I found nothing the like, covering the other approaches to Gerbini.

I agree, with it's "towers" on both ends, it looks like a fortification. Almost "Vauban" like. Could it be an older structure?

Hm, are there no Italians around, to shed some light? I'll ask a friend.

BTW: Where does your nick name come from? I know a town called "Kaunitz" near my home town.

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2 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

Luckily, the bocage reduces the randomness of bush-placement which would otherwise cut all the diagonal LOS. Not quite perfect but close enough.

If you already know this just ignore me. That sentence makes me think that you might not be aware that there is a tree placement option for orchards - or other planted forests. In the editor you have the choice of placing one tree, two trees, three trees, four trees or inline trees. In the editor it is the icon with the tree symbol and the lines. Placing tress with that will arrange them in rows like orchards are planted.

Also I am not sure the bocage is making your orchard look better. Having some forest floor tiles mixed in might be better than bocage hedges.

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2 hours ago, IanL said:

If you already know this just ignore me. That sentence makes me think that you might not be aware that there is a tree placement option for orchards - or other planted forests. In the editor you have the choice of placing one tree, two trees, three trees, four trees or inline trees. In the editor it is the icon with the tree symbol and the lines. Placing tress with that will arrange them in rows like orchards are planted.

Also I am not sure the bocage is making your orchard look better. Having some forest floor tiles mixed in might be better than bocage hedges.

Thanks for the tip! The problem with centralized placement is that it only gives you one tree/bush. (I'm using the bushes because the shortest tree is too large and doesn't look as if it blocks LOS on the ground level like those short orange trees would.) And one bush per 8m² doesn't look like an orchard. These little trees should stand very close together. The bocage therefore serves to make the orchards denser (still with 3 trees it is not dense enough) and align the bushes symmetrically in the action spot. It seems to be my very personal problem, but I really miss something in between the tallest bush and the shortest tree in the editor (also in CM:BS). Forest tiles only come with very sparse (and deep-dark green) undergrowth that doesn't really look right, I'm afraid.

 

2 hours ago, StieliAlpha said:

Wow! Chapeau! How did you find this? 

Let's try to interpret these pictures. I still strongly suggest that the bunker is oriented to the south, which is the direction of the allied advance (and also the tank ditch is supposed to support the airfield against an approach from the south). I think that the first (left) picture shows the bunker from the southeast, the second one (right) from the southwest. (Note the little crater/earth track in front of it which can be seen on the satellite image too). So these two "towers"/risalits are the loopholes. It seems as if there was one loophole at each of the southern corners of the bunker. Outside, each loophole is reinforced with brick-walls that protect it from oblique fire/shrapnel and a little roof against artillery. We can't see whether there were also loopholes to the north (unlikely...).

I'm not an expert so I wonder whether you think that these loopholes were designed for MGs or bigger stuff?

The pictures also strongly reinforce my suspicion that the bunker is indeed the strange structure we can see on Eadie's drawing. First, I think it's pretty safe to say that this was the only bunker of that kind around Gerbini. Second, it looks like the bunker on the photos! On the drawing, it's obviously better camouflaged/dug in, so that one cannot see the concrete walls. But if you look closer, you can actually see one of the oblique protective brick-walls of the southwestern loophole. The two superstructures on the loopholes still look a bit strange, but on the photos you can see that there might indeed have been something on top of the loopholes that got destroyed.

This still leaves the question about that building in front of the bunker, which must have restricted its field of fire. On the 1943 map, it's hard to say if there really was a building. There is a small dark dot, but this could be anything, really. On the drawing (if it is indeed oriented like I suppose it is), there are ruins directly south of the bunker. These might have been ruins in 1943 as well, or maybe a buildig that got destroyed in the battle. Today, there is a house on this very location, but it bears nothing in common with the one on the drawing. It dates from more recent times. Another issue that the 1943 map shows another orchard south of the bunker which must have limited its field of fire as well. However, if we ignore the possibility of an orchard and assume that the modern house is positioned on the place of the old one, then the most plausible role for the bunker would have been to overwatch the anti-tank-ditch (which was lined with barbed wire) to the south? You can travel down/south the strade statale quite far and still see the bunker, so its field of fire would have been excellent. The question is where the tank-ditch was exactly located. Judging from Rennie's sketch, my guess is a modern day street. But this street is 900 meters away (direct beeline) from the bunker. Not really the optimal distance? But maybe the ditch was further to the north? Any way, the positioning was not bad, given that the allies attacked exactly here - the only bunker far and wide in this area. 

Also, I wonder whether the note on the Rennie's sketch actually refers to the bunker. He clearly circled the position of the bunker and noted "mortar 4 mg task". Suppress/smoke this bunker (which houses 4 machine guns) with the mortars? We are told the Blackwatch coy took it with the help of a smoke screen... 

@ My name is pretty uncreative. My primary military-history interest was/is the Third Silesian War ("Seven Years War") 1756-1763 and I simply took the name of the famous state-chancellor Kaunitz (Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz-Rietberg), which I used as an avatar in some forums for some time. The Kaunitz (czech Kounice) originated from Bohemia. Interesting that there is a Kaunitz in Switzerland. I have no connections to it! I live in Vienna. :) - in the shadow of those giant, immensely ugly WWII-flak-towers.

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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Well, finding was easy. Simply search Google for "bunker gerbini". 😎

I thought, the bunker looks north. That way it would perfectly cover the Strada Statale 192, which branches of from a motorway further north, leading to Catania. I am quite sure, this was a main route ever since ancient times.

I wondered about the attack direction from Gela, too. But probably, the idea was to cover an attack from the main route.

And, of course, this farm to the south: The buildings we see now on Google Maps may be new, but again: I am sure there was "something" ever since.

Looking at the photos, I think the bunker housed MG's. As reference, have a look the web site of the "Festungsmuseum Reuenthal" (see below). IIRCR, the main guns were 105mm, the secondary positions MG's. Note, how small the MG slots look from inside.

I am certainly no expert.  Just an engineer, trying to apply common sense.

And, no, the Kaunitz I referred too, is near Paderborn in Germany. I always wondered, how a place in the mids of Westfalia could have such an "outlandish" name.

https://www.festungsmuseum.ch/about-us/festungsmuseum-reuenthal/museumsrundgang/

Finally: Why don't you ask Sergio Cavacece, who took the bunker pic's back in 2013, if he has any more details. You'll find his contact info in the Internet.

Edited by StieliAlpha

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1 hour ago, Kaunitz said:

Thanks for the tip! The problem with centralized placement is that it only gives you one tree/bush. (I'm using the bushes because the shortest tree is too large and doesn't look as if it blocks LOS on the ground level like those short orange trees would.) And one bush per 8m² doesn't look like an orchard. These little trees should stand very close together. The bocage therefore serves to make the orchards denser

Ah, right that makes sense. Tree based orchards are good but I can see that small bushes would not quite be right. You want something that looks between the single trees and the current short dense vineyards.

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I've entered "Bunker gerbini" a thousand times. :D I also tried refugio, casamatta and all the like. 

According to the 1943-map, the motorway that you mention did not exist in 1942. It seems as if the major east-west-route in the area was running south of Gerbini (though I did not check all the adjacent map-sectors). So it would even make more sense for the bunker to be oriented to the south. 

@ Kaunitz: Oh, well if it's in Westfalia, then the case seems pretty clear: Since the 17th century, the Kaunitz-family held the dominion/county (reichsfreie Grafschaft) Rietberg (as in Kaunitz-Rietberg) in Westphalia, and Kaunitz was part of it. So they seem to have named one of their villages after their family. :D

 

PS: You can even make out some traces of bullet-impacts on the front of the bunker (on the connection-part in between the loopholes). Interestingly, they're all pretty high up, which would make sense if the bunker was dug-in as it is shown in Earie's drawing.

Edited by Kaunitz

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2 minutes ago, Kaunitz said:

@ Kaunitz: Oh, well if it's in Westfalia, then the case seems pretty clear: Since the 17th century, the Kaunitz-family held the dominion/county (reichsfreie Grafschaft) Rietberg (as in Kaunitz-Rietberg) in Westphalia, and Kaunitz was part of it. So they seem to have named one of their villages after their family. :D

Yep, that's the place.Another mystery solved. I'll surprise my sister with this new knowledge. She lives something like 5 km away from Kaunitz.

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I've taken a closer look at the battle report itself. So here is my understanding of what happened: 

0iw42F8.jpg

1BW = 1st Blackwatch battalion, 7A&S = 7th Argyll and Sutherland Highland battalion. Broad light-blue line = hypothetical german defense. This shows the planned course of actions for 7A&S's coys (dotted arrows) and their actual progress (full arrows) during the night. Of course this depiction gives no information about time and most of it is uncertain. I think that the final positions of A coy and C coy (which had lost all its officers) are well documented. For B and D coy and the tank-squadron it's much harder to tell. Also, the terrain on the western flank is quite interesting (orchard, bunker, ditches/alluvial plain (where the ditch splits up in three parts))

  • D coy started the attack (togeter with C coy) and came under fire. At ca. 00:00, enemy movements were seen south of Gerbini (around the bunker area), so D coy sent two of its rifle sections there (in fact the coy was supposed to go there anyway!) and found the enemy in "considerable strength". The report by Dell Porchetta (A coy) states that D coy took part in the battle for Gerbini station, and that at some point parts of D coy retreated into Gerbini station on their way back from Gerbini airfield. So it seems as if D coy stayed off course and joined A and C coy along the railroad, probably pushing though to the airfield at some point. 
  • B coy was the reserve coy. When enemies were found in considerable strength south of Gerbini (see above), B coy was ordered to "subdue" the enemy there. So I assume that D coy actually advanced into Gerbini. This is quite important since practically none of the other coys of 7A&S seem to have made it there! If we assume that B coy entered Gerbini via the wood/orchard, then we also need to assume that the coy was unaware of the bunker a bit further to the south (which would pin down the blackwatch-coy tasked with securing the road). It's not unreasonable, given that all this happened during the night.
  • The tank-squadron (on paper: 15 tanks) of the 46th Liverpool Welsh Royal Tank Regiment arrived at C coys final position around 00:00. It temporarily sent a troop (3 tanks) to support A coy which was heavily engaged by counter-attacks along the rail/in Gerbini Station (also by a self propelled gun). The further movement of the squadron is a riddle to me. Dell Porchetta mentions that the tanks moved off to support B company, which was sent to "subdue" the enemy south of Gerbini (see above). Next, we're informed that the squadron has taken up position in the woods at Gerbini. I wonder how the squadron moved from Gerbini station to Gerbini woods.

9YyBXCY.jpg

This image describes the course of actions on the following morning. A strong german counter attack induces the the British to retreat to their starting positions.

Rennie draws some conclusions from this battle:

He sees the failure to reorganize a defense against an imminent counter-attack in Gerbini as the main reason for the defeat/withdrawal. Obviously the ground that had been gained during the night had to be reinforced with AT-guns against the counter-attack. But as pockets of resistance (with the help of darkness) in and around Gerbini  still held out and the road (strada statale 192) turned out to be defended, it seems as if the British were not able to organize a proper AT-gun-defence at Gerbini in time. As a conclusion, Rennie suggests to pre-plan  AT-guns' positions in the furture („It seems now that the A.Tk plan for reorganisation down even to the sighting and responsibility of each gun should be worked out beforehand. A.Tk defence should follow up the various stages of the attack, making good ground as it is captured.”) and speed up the follow-up of the AT-guns in the attack, or, to be more precise, to make AT-guns join the attack. He carries on emphasizing that AT-guns must not stick to a strict AT-role, but should support their infantry’s attack by firing HE rounds. He even suggests to make them fire from exposed positions and follow the infantry very closely (if necessary under the cover of a smoke screen or an artillery barrage). He also argues that even the larger calibre Phearson AT-guns should have been brought up to the AT-ditch to support the attack in this case. 

This naturally makes us question why the performance of the Shermans was so poor. A squadron is a pretty large unit of 15 tanks! One would assume that the Shermans in the woods were in a good position to beat back a counter attack. But apparently, the squadron got badly beaten by the attacking tanks/sp. guns. (Of course we lack a precise number on how many vehicles the Germans could commit).  Rennie mentions that the squadron performed so poorly because it had had no time to prepare the attack and it had not been involved in the planning phase. (Remember it was sent by a different division!): “The Sqn Commander knew the plan at 1700hrs and this left only three and a half hours of daylight for recce. It appears however that in this operation that orders were not given to Troop commanders till after dark and no troop commanders therefore saw the ground or the infantry with whom they were to cooperate.” So the tank-commanders were operating in unknown territory in the dark. This would explain why the squadron failed to take up good positions and was beaten so badly at dawn.

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Two maps with all the details I could find for the attack of the 1st Blackwatch companies on the western flank (since this is my potential first scenario):

K2T8K14.jpg

6Yy9EHG.jpg

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Next, I will try to break this battle down into interesting scenarios and also think about where the german defences could have been. Obvious points would be the bunker (controling the strada statale) and the orchard (protecting the bunker's eastern flank and also enfilading the approach to the railroad, itself protected by the ditch). In fact the area around these two features are mentioned very often in the battle reports. Further obvious defensive positions would be Gerbini Station, the railroad, Gerbini airfield. I still need to take a closer look at Gerbini itself.

For the start, I think it's a good idea to concentrate on the western part of the battle: the night-attack of B company against the wooded area south of Gerbini - which, at some point, was supported by the tank-squadron- , and also the dawn-attack of the blackwatch-companies along the road. A third (very large) scenario could be the morning-counter attack on western Gerbini. Also, the terrain on the eastern flank is quite interesting: orchard, bunker, ditches and alluvial plain (where the ditch splits up into three branches).

I think that the eastern part of the battle is more difficult and less interesting to put into a scenario, as it seems that A, C and D coys were mixed all over the place and I don't really get a clear picture of the events. It seems to have been a slow frontal attack over terrain that was not really that interesting -  just open fields. (Plus I'd need train carriages and ideally some airplanes to properly represent Gerbini station and airfield).

Edited by Kaunitz

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Yep, rather concentrate on the interesting parts, instead trying to capture it all.

I remember playing a Crete scenario, where my German Para's had to attack a few hundred meters over slightly rising Maccia, against a platoon of Kiwi's or so. Not too exciting.

BTW, that's why I keep saying, that even a game like CM can't be a simulation. There is simply too much stuff in RL, which you rather would not waste your time with...,

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