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Thread: A Most Unlikely Outcome - An Italian AAR

  1. #61
    Paladin General SwordOfJustice's Avatar
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    Bravo! More! More!


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  2. #62
    Field Marshal Nathan Madien's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwordOfJustice View Post
    Bravo! More! More!


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    Congrats! You got the first post in this and the previous page.
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    Thumbs up

    This is an excellent A.A.R. with a lot of work mate! Keep up ...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Karaiskandar View Post
    Outstanding work as always !
    With such an offensive, the Italian units will soon reach Alexandria.
    No doubt. Perhaps sooner than you think, if memory serves...

    Quote Originally Posted by Thundergate View Post
    Wow, the Italian fought the ground battle so well.... so unreal
    and poor Wavell!!
    Yes, i am developing quite the appetite for high-ranking officer injury and/or death in this...i guess its the sensationality of it all...

    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan Madien View Post
    It's certainly a bad day to be a Brit in North Africa.
    as if it could get any worse...

    ...

    oh, wait, it does. And soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by SwordOfJustice View Post
    Bravo! More! More!


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    Thanks! Hopefully today if i can get a few spare hours.

    Quote Originally Posted by Conanteacher View Post
    This is an excellent A.A.R. with a lot of work mate! Keep up ...
    I appreciate it! I've had fun writing it. Now if only i had a decent title to go along with it.

    I did chat with a mod about that; he said that he could change it to whatever without affecting the story or everyone's link to it (it will still be thread 11639416), so i'm going to try to develop a better title for this AAR. Right now i am considering:

    Fratelli d'Italiaar
    SPQ(a)RRRRRRRRRR
    Roma Ascendant
    Augustine Footsteps (or some derivation thereof)
    8 Million Bayonets: Because You Can Never Have Too Many Bayonets
    An Eagle Rises from an Abysinnian Abyss
    ???

    or something along those lines; ideally I'm trying to find a title that no one has used before. if anyone has any suggestions or votes, please let me know.

  5. #65
    Dauphinois à la Noix Karaiskandar's Avatar
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    Well I already proposed Fratelli d'Italiaar but I especially like 8 Million Bayonets: Because You Can Never Have Too Many Bayonets.
    Last edited by Karaiskandar; 15-09-2010 at 20:35.
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  6. #66
    Quote Originally Posted by Karaiskandar View Post
    Well I already proposer Fratelli d'Italiaar but I especially like 8 Million Bayonets: Because You Can Never Have Too Many Bayonets.
    I second the 8kk thingy!
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  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thundergate View Post
    I second the 8kk thingy!
    That title really made me smile...because it is so true!
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    1939 pt 7



    German Panzergrenadiers advance across the Oder River into Silesia


    However unprepared Germany may have been for what the press was now calling the Second World War, Poland was in a far worse state. Germany had not expected the Allies to declare war so soon after the Sudentland operation, and Wehrmacht troops manning the Polish border were temporarily caught off-guard by swift Polish cavalry raids intended to disrupt German preparations for an assault across the Oder River. Though the raids were initially successful in most cases, the Germans eventually rebounded from these early skirmishes and had, by 9 April, reorganized to the point where they were able to initiate a proper offensive into Poland. Furthermore, German troops that had penetrated into northern Czechoslovakia during the Sudentland operation were able to strike Poland’s now exposed southern flank, helping to erode resistance on the main axis of the German attack.


    Polish cavalry retreat from the town of Oppeln after a raid on a German supply depot


    Nevertheless, Poland’s eleven cavalry brigades fiercely contested each German attempt to ford the Oder River. Of all of the European cavalry forces, Poland had by far the best equipped mounted troops with the most modern cavalry combat doctrines; in practice, Polish cavalry operated as a type of pseudo-motorized light infantry, moving quickly over all terrain types to reach their objectives, at which point they would use their mobility to charge into unsuspecting soft-skinned opponents, or in the case of entrenched or armored enemies, dismounting into standard infantry units when battle was engaged.

    Polish cavalry brigades were lavishly equipped compared to other contemporary cavalry units, brandishing machinegun companies, anti-tank gun sections, armored car squadrons, and even light artillery, all of which was designed to be quickly moved and deployed. Particularly menacing to the German armored spearheads forcing their way across the Oder bridgeheads, the Poles found that their WZ36 37mm anti-tank gun had sufficient penetrative power to knock out German Panzer I and II models, especially when employed in ambush positions where it could hit the thinner side and rear armor of the tanks. The tactical flexibility, cross-country mobility, and overall resilience of the Polish cavalry brigades resulted in units equally suited to enemy rear-area exploitation, filling gaps in the line, and covering the retreat of slower forces.


    Polish WZ36 anti-tank gun crew takes aim at vanguard German armor crossing into Silesia


    During the German push across the Oder, the Italian war correspondent Curizio Malaparte accompanied the soldiers of the 2nd Panzer Division. Of the spirited defense put up the Polish 18th Uhlan Regiment near a bridge near the city of Oppeln, Malaparte observed;
    "The exhaust of the Panzers belch out blue tongues of smoke. The air is filled with a pungent, bluish vapor that mingles with the damp green of the grass and with the golden reflection of the corn. Beneath the screaming arch of Stukas the mobile columns of tanks resemble thin lines drawn with a pencil on the vast green slate of the Bohemian plain…the smell of men and horses gives way to the overpowering reek of petrol; lorried infantry followed the tanks. The men sat in strangely stiff attitudes; they had the appearance of statutes. The open trucks filed by, raising huge columns of dust, which settled upon the weary infantrymen hunched in the back. They were so white with dust they looked as if they were made of marble."
    Eventually, using a combination of amphibious tanks, pontoon bridges, and overwhelming artillery support, German units succeeded in crossing the Oder River into Poland. Beaten but not defeated, Polish cavalry units dispersed into the interior, emerging from the forests to strike exposed targets of opportunity in the German rear and thwarting German attempts to surround them. On the strategic level, Poland was fully cognizant of its marked inferiority to the Wehrmacht, and as such only committed cavalry forces to the distant western border sectors; utilizing their mobility, the cavalry forces were obliged to trade space for time, which would allow the slower Polish infantry armies on the East Prussian border time to fall back southward for the envisaged final defense of Warsaw. In this way, the Poles hoped to hold out as long as possible, tying down large numbers of German divisions deep within Poland while simultaneously giving the rest of the Allies time to break through the German defenses on the Franco-German frontier.


    Sd Kfz 222 armored cars from the Reconnaissance Battalion of 2nd Panzer Division move through a Polish Field near Oppeln


    Meanwhile, far to the south, British Admiral Cunningham and General Wavell rested next to each other in semi-consciousness at a British Army officer hospital on the outskirts of Alexandria. Oblivious to the world, suffering from severe internal bleeding, and nearly mummified by bandages wrapped around most of his head, torso and extremities, an immobile Cunningham had spent most of the past day dribbling saliva into an ornamental Nubian ashtray placed on the floor beside his bed. His vision and hearing were obscured by thick strips of white cloth covering his head down to his nose; Cunningham was blissfully unaware of the hurried pace and nervous shaking of the increasingly-absent orderlies as they attempted to complete their daily tasks. A nearby morphine drip made sure that Cunningham wouldn’t care even if he had noticed the panic settling into the staff. Several rushed transfusions via Cunningham’s unwrapped left wrist resulted in his entire forearm pulsing with a deep plum-colored hue; viewed from certain angles, nurses thought that his bruises, in stark contrast to his white-sheathed and contorted body, resembled a cherry thrust into the middle of a serving of whipped cream.


    General Wavell is brought into BMH Alexandria to join Admiral Cunningham


    In the next bed over, the newly-arrived General Wavell stared longingly at Cunningham. Though the vision in his one good eye was blurred by painkillers, he could make out just enough of Cunningham’s visage to remind himself that he was starving. It didn’t help matters than Wavell’s recent near-death experiences in the Western Desert had finally cracked the man’s sanity.

    Only slightly injured physically, Wavell began to succumb to his baser instincts. His thoughts filled with primal images of death and fear; reality retreated to a distant corner of his mind. Timid at first, Wavell started to emerge from his bed sheet cocoon and began pulling on a stirrup restraint holding his injured left leg aloft until the continued pressure snapped the thin cable; the action caused a counterweight to drop to the floor, where the pulley mechanism broke in two with a rattling crash. Slobbering and uttering a low guttural groan, Wavell crawled down into the space between the two officer’s beds, his drool mixing with Cunningham’s in the Nubian ashtray. The thunder of distant artillery impacts quietly resonated throughout the hospital; orderlies flitted to and fro beyond the open doorway, but no one took any notice of a British Lieutenant-General hungrily licking the exposed toes of a comatose British Fleet Admiral.

    Just outside, causalities continued to poor into the crowded wards of the hospital. The Italians were coming.


    Their destinies suddenly intertwined, Wavell and Cunningham were brought together by capricious Fate in an Alexandria hospital


    Just beyond the city to the west, British aerodromes on the periphery of Alexandria were a crazed maelstrom of activity. A bizarre menagerie of aircraft were simultaneously taking off and landing in an intricate pattern; obsolete biplane interceptors were pairing up to escort four-engine strategic bombers as a constant stream of British aircraft soared into the western desert sky. As their Army comrades continued to fall back all along the frontier, the Royal Air Force was making a determined effort to thwart the inexorable Italian offensive into Egypt. Unfortunately for the British, they were having extreme difficulty in locating targets; in almost every British strike, bombers sent to bomb Italian airfields or troop concentrations were failing to locate Italian planes or troops. Worse, several British strike groups had been ambushed by marauding Italian fighters, resulting in significant and inexplicable losses.


    British Gladiator biplanes return to Alexandria after another fruitless mission


    Standing on the third floor of the British Admiralty Headquarters Building overlooking Alexandria harbor, General Sir Claude John Eyre Auchinleck, the overall commander of all Allied forces in North Africa, could not shake the feeling that Italian agents had deciphered his military codes. Already distressed by the impending disaster taking place in the scorched sands of Western Cyrenaica, and saddened by injuries to two of his best field commanders, his heart sank to new depths as he observed the surviving ships of the British Mediterranean Fleet slowly file into the great port outside his window. The charred wreck of the HMS Illustrious, listing at almost 20 degrees to port, still towered over a swarm of tiny tugboats as they attempted to maneuver the great ship into a mooring. A serpentine swath of black oil threaded its way from the crippled ship to the northern horizon. Fires still burned in many compartments of the ship; over a thousand British sailors had perished during the Italian torpedo attack, with many more wounded and missing, including most of the Fleet Air Arm pilots and aircraft. Deliberately focusing on each of the four successive holes in the hull in turn, Auchinleck mused idly that it would take longer to fix the Illustrious than it would to build a brand new carrier from scratch.

    Further out to sea, Auchinleck could see that the damage to HMS Warspite was also worse than previously reported; though thick armor and bulkheads had prevented the mighty battleship from taking on water and prevented a major fire, extensive damage to the superstructure would necessitate a complete overhaul of her communication and electrical systems. It was likely that Warspite would be out of commission for over 6 months. Shifting his gaze towards the inner harbor, Auchinleck observed a procession of gurneys and stretchers ferrying wounded men from a pair of light cruisers towards the nearby BMH Alexandria Hospital; judging by the sheer number of wounded sailors and large torpedo holes in both hulls, it appeared that HMS Norfolk and HMS Orion would also be out of action for a similar length of time.


    HMS Orion, including battle damage to her forward batteries sustained in her pursuit of RM Pola


    Auchinleck walked out a nearby door and onto the roof of the squat brick Admiralty building. A soft Mediterranean breeze was blowing in from the sea; faint whips of jasmine and lavender mingled with the briny scent of the sea, inducing an unexpected wave of nostalgia in the man. Though he had served in the Middle East during the First World War, and India soon thereafter, the exotic breeze reinforced in him the unfamiliarity of his current posting. A high noonday sun warmed his bones on an otherwise chilly April day; even the sunlight seemed to strike differently here, he thought to himself, more focused, intense, and callous. Inevitably, his thoughts turned to his home and to his wife back in Northern Ireland, whom he had not seen in over two years.


    An assortment of damaged and unscathed ships of the British Mediterranean Fleet at anchor in Alexandria


    Surveying the damaged ships in the harbor before him, and to his left, the long lines of trucks arriving with survivors from the western desert battles, Auchinleck realized that he had to defend Alexandria at all costs; the city was quickly becoming a convalescent camp, filled with wounded soldiers, pilots, and sailors that could not be easily evacuated. A bold strike was needed in order to throw the Italians off balance, but how does one stop an offensive as elemental as a typhoon?

    The shrill calls of a passing flock of gulls stoked the embers of Auchenleck’s memory. The sound of the shrieking birds slowly morphed into the cries of men, reminding him of his days fighting in Mesopotamia during World War One; gruesome images of bodies strewn up in barbwire, peppered with machine gun holes, filled his mind. His 62th Punjabi Regiment had fought against a tenacious Turkish defense north of Basra back then; he had lost over three quarters of his command and proven to himself beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is indeed possible to construct defensive positions that are virtually impregnable. Moreover, because he could reasonably assume what the ultimate Italian objective was, as he was literally standing on top of it, an idea began to form in his mind as to where to draw his proverbial 'line in the sand.'

    Auchinleck walked back inside the Admiralty building and, during a series of curt, robotic conversations with his aides, ordered British X Corps (consisting of the 54th [East Anglican] Division, the 59th [Staffordshire] Division, and the 52nd Lowland Infantry Division) to move from their bases in Palestine and into Northeastern Egypt. Initially formed as a Scottish coastal defense formation, the famed 52nd Division in particular was the lynchpin in Auchenleck’s plan, as it had recently been reformed as a light mountain infantry unit; as such, after it was inserted in the defenses belt in the hills south of El Alamein, it would become the anvil upon which the Italian flood would dissipate itself. Due to the Qattara Depression protecting the British left flank, Auchinleck believed that the combination of three fresh infantry divisions, over-extended Italian supply lines, and a narrow front that would funnel the Italians into an exposed position would combine to stop the Italian advance. With a little luck, the Italian thrust would even leave them vulnerable to an enveloping counterattack by the (then) rested and reorganized remnants of 8th Army.

    But first he had to make a telephone call.

    “Get Fellers on the line” Auchinleck barked. He wanted to be sure the American’s didn’t miss this.


    1st Battalion of the Scottish 157th Infantry Regiment (the Glasgow Highlanders), 52nd Infantry Division, pass through Giza on their way to the front

  9. #69
    Field Marshal Nathan Madien's Avatar

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    I see the Poles are holding out better than they did historically. As for the British in North Africa, it still sucks to be them.
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    Dauphinois à la Noix Karaiskandar's Avatar
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    Indeed, their situation is desperate.
    The Polish won't be able to hold forever thoug, they have not faced the bulk of the German Army yet.
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  11. #71
    So we might have an EL Alamein soon but with the Italians leading the attack
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  12. #72
    Field Marshal Nathan Madien's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thundergate View Post
    So we might have an EL Alamein soon but with the Italians leading the attack
    And Rommel no where in sight (although he might not be needed after all).
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  13. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan Madien View Post
    I see the Poles are holding out better than they did historically. As for the British in North Africa, it still sucks to be them.
    No doubt--an Anglo/French invasion on the western front will inevitably draw forces from the Polish front. Also, this is 6 months before the Germans were 'historically' ready for the invasion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Karaiskandar View Post
    Indeed, their situation is desperate.
    The Polish won't be able to hold forever thoug, they have not faced the bulk of the German Army yet.
    Right on, given the defensive nature of fighting in the Ruhr, probably best to send the panzers into Poland and try to tidy up things.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thundergate View Post
    So we might have an EL Alamein soon but with the Italians leading the attack
    i can neither confirm nor deny that you are exactly correct in your assumption here

  14. #74
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    1939 pt 8




    1,800 km to the southeast, Italian Major-General Italo Gariboldi ground the heels of his boots into the top of a crumbling earthen wall near the ruined Nubian fortress surrounding the remains of the ancient city of Kerma. He had leaped atop a knee-high wall adjoining the deserted stronghold in a futile attempt to see just a little further into the no-man’s land between his forces and the suspected British divisions just beyond the Second cataract of the Nile to his northwest. Peering into a set of binoculars, Gariboldi scanned the horizon from west to east and found only scrub bushes and broken boulders punctuating the dry African plain. A cool highland wind swept over and around him, carrying the sound of his boots crunching into the ancient terrace aloft towards the Red Sea.

    Gariboldi was on edge, and for good reason. Every day for the past week, he had feared an attack along this desolate sector of the front; sweeping battles were taking place in the Cyrenaican deserts far to the north, but he had seen nothing to indicate that the British forces in southern Egypt were doing anything at all. SIM agents had confirmed that elements of several British divisions were still deployed in the area, but it was unknown if any of these forces were being prepared to reinforce British defenses around Alexandria or not. As far as Gariboldi was concerned, the British could bury their heads in the sands for as long as they pleased—his forces were in no position to fight anyone at the moment, and as much as he would have liked to aid his countrymen in the north, he knew that his under strength and underequipped colonial levies would make a poor showing in an attack against the lethal and mechanized British. Worse, the Suez Canal had been closed to Italian resupply ships for over a week, forcing many Italian units to forage for supplies as best they could; Gariboldi knew that the troops of his 32nd Militia Division, crouched on the front line 50 km north of Adwa, were living on borrowed time.

    Dusk was fast approaching, lacquering the arid expanse of scrub desert to his north in a dusty, Martian-red coating. Long shadows from the indiscriminately-strewn boulders stretched interminably eastward as an auburn sun began to set behind the peak of Ras Dashen, the dominion’s highest point. Dropping off the low wall onto the gravel below, Gariboldi was struck by the realization that the gravel beneath his feet was comprised of the same material from which the wall had been constructed. He bent down on one knee to get a closer look; scooping up a handful, he let the granules sift through his spread fingers. The smaller particles drifted aloft with the east blowing wind while the larger pieces fell back to the ground in conical piles.

    Suddenly introspective, Gariboldi thought of all the battles the fortress at Kerma must have witnessed over the past thousand years; how many times had men cowered behind these very walls before, at a signal, cresting the ramparts to take the fight to a marauding enemy? With a wince, he also considered the alternative, wondering how many times an invader had themselves overcome the same walls and massacred the defenders trapped within. Like their human creators, even these seemingly-eternal walls were returning to dust. An emptiness clutched Gariboldi as thickly as the descending night; the emptiness reminded Gariboldi that nothing can last forever. Perhaps there was some merit behind the fascist mantra of sacrifice…after all, he reasoned, even mountains eventually crumble into dust, oceans eventually evaporate, everything made by human hands will eventually disintegrate…in the end, the only thing that could possibly hope to survive forever is something both worthy of remembrance and popular enough to be passed on. Achilles at Troy, Scipio at Zama, Leonidas at Thermopylae, Marlborough at Blenheim, Alexander at Gaugamela, Caesar at Alesia: powerful men of history flashed before his eyes, their intangible glory mocking the grim banality of a ‘regular’ life.

    With the sunset nearly extinguished, General Gariboldi rose and prepared to descend the small hill back his 55th Regimental command post some 500 yards to the south. The void of oblivion that he had peered into had given him an unexpected strength, a strength that rendered him at once fearless, reckless, bold. His earlier fear had been replaced with a lust to accomplish something legendary, something timeless. Being completely outclassed by his British adversaries only strengthened his resolve to be remembered for all eternity.

    The wind was growing in strength, and he could both feel and hear its affects even if he could not see them. Had sunset been delayed another hour, Gariboldi would have been able to see a colossal storm brewing and churning in the mountains to the northwest. Choosing his footing carefully in the loose sand, Gariboldi wrapped his greatcoat around him tighter in an attempt to keep out the encroaching chill; he felt confident that the British would not attack at night during a storm, and he now believed that the greatest source of discomfort this evening would be another lackluster fire and another cold meal, inevitable pains of being stationed in a mostly treeless area far from the supply depot in Massawa.

    But one thing was for certain; when it came, Gariboldi would not fear combat, no matter what the odds.
    Conveniently for him, the British were already on their way.


    The three divisions of British XL Corps attack the five Italian militia divisions manning the northern sector of the AOI


    The sound of their engines muted by the crashing storm overhead, British Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery led the forward elements of the 7th Armored Division across the Italian border east of Gallabat. Standing upright in the hatch of his command vehicle, a mixture of perspiration and rain dripped from his face as he watched the red taillights of his leading armored cars traverse the shallows of the 2nd Nile cataract. Though lightning blazed above him like a short-circuiting strobe light, there was very little rain; terrific gusts of wind kept most of the precipitation suspended high above in swirling gales, and the large raindrops that did manage to fall served only to annoy Montgomery rather than impede his advance. Far ahead on the black, windswept plains to his south, pathfinder units from the Long Range Desert Group ranged ahead of the main battle group and marked a path through the shoals with red phosphorous flares.

    Over the past 4 months, scouts from the LRDG had clandestinely observed Italian routines along frontier region in addition to planning an attack route to reach them; as a result, Montgomery knew the general pattern of their patrols and the rotation of their sentry posts. From these reports, Montgomery had gleaned that most of the Italians officers liked to dine well after dark, as was their custom, and he had planned to strike just as his opponents were sitting down for their only good meal of the day. In this way, by attacking from the very bowels of a storm that would mask their approach, against unprepared and hungry troops that were out of supply, lacked heavy weapons, and consisted primarily of local conscripts with dubious loyalties, Montgomery felt that he had explored and considered every option for the upcoming attack. On the first day of the war, many of his subordinates had begged Montgomery to attack the Italians immediately; they argued that the weak Italian forces opposing them were too few to defend such a large border, and that the native Eritrean and Somali conscripts would in all likelihood scatter at the first hint of combat. Montgomery’s penchant for extensive pre-planning, however, had prevailed in the end, allowing the Italians a short reprieve.


    Crusader tanks of Montgomery’s 7th Armored Division assembling in the hours before the night attack


    Gariboldi had just reached the bottom of a hill when the sound of an unusual thunderclap rattled above him. In the roiling wind, it was difficult to even hear the sound of thunder, but this particular percussion rattled in such a way as to vibrate the very ground. Flashlight in hand, Garibaldi scanned the base of the hill behind him; grains of sand and clumps of dirt were still visibly reverberating, spilling out onto the plains in sonic waves. Great gusts of wind flew through the small valley where he was standing, carrying the faint but unmistakable scent of cordite on its tendrils. There was something defiantly unnatural about this storm, Gariboldi thought.

    The Italian general sprinted to the top of the next hill; he was still 200 yards north of his command post, and though he knew he would not be able to see anything, an ancestral and instinctual urge to reach the high ground drove him forward. As he raced upwards, a dim orange glow began to backlight the hilltop. Upon reaching the summit, he peered downward into a blazing cauldron of fire and smoke—burning bodies, panicked screaming, spectral flames arching skyward—his headquarters had been hit. Though he did not know exactly what had happened, Gariboldi’s forward command post had been struck by a dozen 105mm shells from nearby British self-propelled artillery battery, essentially decapitating the leadership of the 32nd Division. Even worse than the loss of command and control, the native Italians that constituted the HQ’s soldiers had been the most motivated and well-trained men in the division; most of these men were now scattered and aflame, fleeing into dark hills beyond the camp, leaving behind a haphazard assortment of weapons and half-eaten meals.

    In this first skirmish to determine the fate of the AOI, British tactical aggressiveness succeeded in surprising the Italian defenders in the hills of northern Ethiopia. Along the eastern portion of the front, the lightly armed 14th and 15th Militia Divisions defending the mountain pass leading to Asmara received the brunt of the main British infantry attack led by the 6th Infantry Division and the 50th Northumbrian Division. Though their local artillery superiority was negated by the pitch darkness, British infantry managed to use the storm and LRDG maps to infiltrate behind the scattered outposts held by the Italian militia divisions; at dawn, the British were able to attack many of these positions from behind, and were further able to direct withering artillery fire on those positions that resisted. By 1600 hours on 13 April, the British infantry divisions of XL Corps had penetrated 20 km into the border defenses, overrunning all of the forward outposts and driving hard for the main supply port of Massaua. As the ragged survivors of the Italian 14th and 15th divisions retreated southward just ahead of the pursuing British foot infantry, they left all of their meager artillery and archaic anti-tank weapons behind; throngs of native African troops clogged the road leading to Massaua, where the 30th Militia Division had fortified the approaches to the port and city. Officers from the nearby Eritrean Corps in Assab attempted to direct the retreating troops into prepared defensive positions in the area.

    150 km to the southwest, Montgomery’s 7th Armored Division continued to punish the bewildered defenders of Gariboldi’s 32nd Militia Division. By the time the pickets realized that a British armored column was rumbling by in the night, Crusader tanks were already operating 15 km behind the front line. There was no communication between the isolated outposts and the remnants of the regimental command post; operating without combat direction, many of the frontier companies simply disappeared into the hills upon hearing the sounds of the British advance. By dawn, the position of the 32nd Militia Division was untenable; Gariboldi had by that time managed to get in touch with several of his battalions and ordered them to disable their remaining heavy weapons and fall back towards the towns of Dese and Denakil with all speed. Gariboldi was also able to reach Viceroy Amendo de Savoy in Addis Ababa via radio, who informed Gariboldi that the Italian 44th Militia Division had been ordered north to cover the retreat of the 32nd.


    British 7th Armored races to encircle the fleeing Italians


    If anything, General Montgomery was displeased with the utter surprise his attack had wrought. He had expected at least a modicum of resistance from the Italian units; in the event, the militia divisions had fled before firing a shot, oftentimes leaving their weapons at their posts. Montgomery had been counting on at least a day of combat in order to allow the long logistical tail of his division to catch up to his forward units, but now he had to pursue the fleeing Italian or risk having them regroup and form a new defensive line. As a result, his division’s frontage was reduced to a thin point, reducing his offensive striking power and creating a coiled logistical trail that confined his wheeled vehicles to the only road in the area. Montgomery ordered his driver to pull to the side of the road; from the shoulder, he looked back towards the Egyptian border some 20 km distant; a constant stream of vehicles snaked its way beyond the horizon. Most distant were the vulnerable fuel trucks, on whom the whole offensive depended; they would soon be needed to refuel the armored vanguard far to the south. Montgomery banged his right fist against the roof of his armored car in disgust; he had not anticipated having his off-road tracked vehicles being confined to an exposed road. Despite the formidable firepower of his division, Montgomery’s 7th Armored was tethered to an aggravating petroleum leash. Furious that Italian ineptitude had disrupted his meticulous assault timetable, Montgomery dropped back down into his vehicle and made contact with Air Commodore Raymond Collishaw in Ismailia.


    British tactical bombers strike the Italian 44th Division


    Luckily for Montgomery, Commodore Collishaw already had a group of bombers orbiting nearby. AHQ Sudan in Khartoum had ordered the 9th Squadron of 254 Wing into the air over an hour before. Montgomery wasted no time putting them to work, assigning them the task of harassing the retreating soldiers of 32nd Division, pleased that he could continue to take the fight to the enemy even as he paused to refuel his armor. Eventually, the 9th Squadron spotted advance elements of the 44th Division approaching from the south, and Montgomery ordered the bombers to concentrate on this new formation. It did not take long for Montgomery to figure out that the two units were attempting to merge near the crossroads town of Adwa.


    Remnants of 32nd Militia Division retreat towards a rendezvous with the 44th Division near Adwa


    The significance of the Italian assemblage near Adwa was not lost on Montgomery; he was well aware of the special significance that location held in the Italian national psyche. The possibility of repeating a battle, like the Ethiopian victory of 1896 over the Italians, was something that very few officers ever get an opportunity to repeat. For a brief moment, Montgomery was consumed by a desire to send a scratch battle group to Adwa at breakneck speed, forsaking any and all losses, in order to get their first and preclude a battle from even occurring. However, after a few fleeting moments of internal deliberation, Montgomery decided the forsake such a reckless endeavor and proceeded to plan an operation in the ‘proper’ way, which of course meant hours or days of painstakingly researching every conceivable course of action for every possible enemy action.

    A British airstrike at dawn on 14 April caught the headquarters company of the Italian 44th Militia Division on the open plains south of Adwa; Umberto Mondino, General of 44th was one of the many Italian officers killed during the bombing. Immediately afterwards, Viceroy Amendo de Savoy field promoted Gariboldi to take command of both 32nd and 44th divisions until it can be determined which, if any, officers from the 44th survived the attack. In actuality, Gariboldi’s two divisions contained the equivalent of two regiments worth of soldiers, or less than a single full-strength division even when combined. Nevertheless, it appeared that his fresh 44th Division would win the race to Adwa; standing in the center of the Adwa/Gallabat road, Gariboldi directed his survivors from the 32nd Division to reinforce the 44th soldiers who were beginning to fortify the town.

    Over the next two days, Gariboldi managed to funnel the stragglers of the 32nd Division into three ad hoc reserve combat groups, one assigned to bolster the strength of each of the three battalions of the 21st Regiment/44th Division manning the front line; the 44th Division’s other regiment, the 22nd Regiment, was designated as the force’s reserve. The 22nd Regiment was assigned all of the available trucks and vehicles that could be cobbled together in order to make it a rapid reaction force, though the 20 odd vehicles that could be found were only enough trucks to equip one battalion in such a way.


    The formidable defensive terrain near Adwa


    Gariboldi knew that the steep elevation rise near Adwa would force the British 7th Armored along an even narrower front, further reducing their mobility; Gariboldi hoped to use his infantry to block the British advance along the main road, and then use his 22nd Regiment to conduct counterattacks against Montgomery’s rear-echelon supply forces. If he could reach even a portion of the fuel tankers and destroy them, he might have an opportunity to disable the entire division. Still, even with terrain favoring the defense, Gariboldi realized that he had a difficult task ahead of him.


    Italian soldiers rush to emplace a machine gun overlooking the Adwa/Gallabat road


    As hundreds of soldiers rushed furiously back and forth at dusk on the 16th April, Gariboldi stood solemnly in the shadow of the monument dedicated to fallen Italian soldiers during the 1896 battle. He knew that he only had a short amount of time before Montgomery’s forces would finish refueling and continue their assault. Standing in the middle of a busy intersection, in the presence of thousands of soldiers looking up to him for leadership, Gariboldi feared what could happen to his men, and he silently lamented his fate. On another hand, however, he had mentally steeled himself for combat, fully believing that his encyclopedic knowledge of historical battles would offer him an opportunity to wrest victory from the menacing jaws of defeat. He was the underdog, after all, and was not expected to win; that in of itself was an advantage.


    Italian colonial troopers prepare an ambush on a disguised hillside


    The sun once again fading behind the Ras Dashen mastiff, Gariboldi contemplated how historians would reflect on his actions in the coming battle; he suddenly realized that he needed a catchy quip or defining declaration to cement his place in the annals of hallowed antiquity.

    Squinting his eyes directly into the setting sun, he gritted his teeth and forcefully mumbled “The die is cast.”

    Pausing a few moments for dramatic effect, and then shaking his head vigorously, Gariboldi realized that it sounded terrible. He wasn’t even sure of what point he was trying to make with his Caesarian rip-off. He hoped no one passing by had heard his meek attempt at projecting a majestic utterance. He tried again, setting his jaw against the backlit mountain peak again, uttering “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”

    Disgusted, Gariboldi slapped his palm against his forehead; that particular catchphrase wouldn’t do either. He needed something unique, something germane to the epic confrontation about to occur. Great quotes from uncompressing men filled his thoughts, and he tried to splice many of them together: “We will fight in the shade”…”The problem with Scotland, is that it’s full of Scots”…” I swear so soon as age will permit, I will use fire and steel to arrest the destiny of Rome”…” England is a nation of shopkeepers”…” Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made

    The sun finally set behind the distant western mountains; Gariboldi finally settled on the droll yet earnest battlecry “Kill them all.


    One of 2 batteries of 75mm artillery employed by the 21st Regiment, crewed by native Italian soldiers

  15. #75
    Field Marshal Nathan Madien's Avatar

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    Good old Monty, giving the Italians a good fight in East Africa.

    “Kill them all.” You can't go wrong with that catchphrase.
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  16. #76
    Dauphinois à la Noix Karaiskandar's Avatar
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    Great update...again !
    Love your little map.
    The British will surely give a good fight to the Italian forces in AOI, but I'm sure that the 7th Armoured would had been far more useful for them in Egypt.
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  17. #77
    Kick back Monty! Shame him! How many actual divisions you have defending Ethopia?
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  18. #78
    Absolutely fascinating AAR, didn't think I could be bothered to read another Italian AAR but this is just fantastic!
    I feel like a heroin addict, craving for my next fix.
    Bravo.

  19. #79
    Paladin General SwordOfJustice's Avatar
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    Me too. This is written so well it is like being there.

    Cheers,
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan Madien View Post
    Good old Monty, giving the Italians a good fight in East Africa.

    “Kill them all.” You can't go wrong with that catchphrase.
    Nothing like a good battlecry to motivate the old troops, eh?
    Especially when its all so catchy and short! Nothing worse that bellowing something heroic and forgetting some of the words...

    Quote Originally Posted by Karaiskandar View Post
    Great update...again !
    Love your little map.
    The British will surely give a good fight to the Italian forces in AOI, but I'm sure that the 7th Armoured would had been far more useful for them in Egypt.
    Little map??? it encompasses hundreds of square miles!
    Yes, the HOI2 AI can be perplexing at times; still, the British armor division has enough soft attack to wipe out all of my divisions (or it would, were i not defending in mountains...)

    Quote Originally Posted by Thundergate View Post
    Kick back Monty! Shame him! How many actual divisions you have defending Ethopia?
    I only have the 8 militia divisions that were left after the '36 War with Ethiopia, selected to stay behind due to their hardiness and minimal supply demand. The plan was to hold as long as possible until the North African forces could drive south.

    Quote Originally Posted by messenger View Post
    Absolutely fascinating AAR, didn't think I could be bothered to read another Italian AAR but this is just fantastic!
    I feel like a heroin addict, craving for my next fix.
    Bravo.
    Thanks, i appreciate the feedback! Another update coming up in about 10 minutes.

    Quote Originally Posted by SwordOfJustice View Post
    Me too. This is written so well it is like being there.

    Cheers,
    Sword
    Glad to hear it, thanks for the comments.

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