Desert Rats in the Green – Using the new “7th Armoured Division” Army Box

Lee takes a look at the new “7th Armoured Division” starter set and how to expand upon it.

The Desert Rats

7th Armoured Division, the Desert Rats, were one of three armoured divisions fighting in Normandy for the British forces. Unlike its stable-mates, the 11th Armoured Division and Guards Armoured Division, the 7th Armoured had a high proportion of veterans from the desert war, with both its brigades, 22nd Armoured Brigade and 131st Infantry Brigade, and supporting units all having fought together since October 1942 and the El Alamein battles and having left Italy only late in 1943.

Equipped almost entirely with fast-moving Cromwells (supported by 17pdr equipped Firefly as the Challenger was late in reaching service), the division was seen as giving the army a hard-hitting pursuit force that could exploit gaps in the enemy line. In practice, the division was worn out and suffered from officers trying to apply lessons learned in the wide expanses of the desert to the tight confines of the Bocage. The division was heavily bruised by the fight for Villers Bocage and under-performed compared to its two “junior” divisions in Goodwood and Bluecoat, leading to a wholesale reorganisation that included removing veteran officers and which led to reinvigorated and more successful unit for the breakout from France and on to the final victory in Germany in 1945.

The Box

The new 7th Armoured Division box contains:

  • A two-strong Cromwell HQ
  • Two platoons of three Cromwell and a firefly
  • A Motor platoon with halftracks
  • A two-strong Crusader AA platoon
  • A four-strong Sexton Battery
  • An OP Sherman
  • Two resin objectives; a destroyed Tiger and a destroyed Cromwell
  • Twenty dice, twenty tokens and two objective markers
  • Unit cards and two decal sheets.

All for £115. Not bad at all, especially when you consider the Cromwells and Sextons would set you back £120 at full RRP.

The Force

The box also gives a decent core force straight out of the box. Sticking all that in Forces we get:

Note, Forces hasn’t yet been updated to put the Sexton at 12pts like Bulge so we are showing 2pts more than we should be.

That’s a decent core force to start with. The four-strong units are even more important with the Desert Rats, as they are “Reluctant”; I’d certainly want both my compulsory units to be at full strength. The addition of the Crusader AA troop is also a cheap “hideaway” unit to keep the army on the table.
Outside the formation, the Sextons provide a very useful artillery punch that can also defend itself versus any marauding armoured cars thanks to its RoF2 25pdr main gun. They are backed up by an OP Sherman to give more ranging options without tying up the HQ tanks.
The only “weak” spot is the Motor platoon. It’s a small platoon in non-armed transports that struggle to survive sustained fire or clear buildings; the two main roles for infantry in a force like this!

Expanding the Force

The box offers a decent core, but there are a couple of areas of shortfall.

Firstly, we don’t have a recce unit to get a “Spearhead”. Sure, it’s situational and by no means obligatory, but the British have several good options so it’s not something to skip over lightly.

Secondly, we are a little lacking in high-end anti-tank. We only have two Fireflies which are fine but not exactly winning awards for volume fire.

To address the lack of a “Spearhead” unit, I go with a troop of three Stuart recce tanks. Whilst Daimlers or Universal Carriers are cheaper, the Stuarts are in-formation and great infantry shredders.

To address the anti-tank, I drop an HQ Cromwell but add a third, albeit understrength, Desert Rat Cromwell Troop and also a troop of four M10C. We expand the Motor platoon to a full-strength Rifle platoon, losing their halftracks and the OP Sherman.

One 17pdr is fine, four is better.

The total investment for this is one M10C box, one Stuart box and a Cromwell sprue (BSO196) as we can use the unused HQ Cromwell and the OP Sherman to build out the third platoon.

Again, over by 2pts as Forces are still assuming 14pt Sextons, not 12pt ones.

That gives us a solid attacking force able to deal with heavy armour and infantry alike. Plentiful direct fire smoke also helps deal with PaKfront which you may run into as well.

We can also swap out the rifle platoon for a Free French FTP platoon. These better optimise the reserves by counting as 0pts for the “up to 60pts on”. They are Reluctant Trained, so not too dissimilar to the Desert Rats, but they don’t hit as hard in assaults. They also give us a point back for an OP.

Other Options

So far, I’ve been to the Desert Rats but, let’s face it, I’m an 11th Armoured division player at heart so let’s dump the “reluctant” attitude and instead gain some confidence with the Armoured Recce regiment of the 11th, the 15th/19th Hussars, circa Market Garden. We turn to a Bulge British “Cromwell Armoured Squadron” and combine the box with two additional purchases, a box of Challengers and a trio of Dingo’s*.

Still lower than a Firefly…

This force doesn’t need attached M10s as the four Challengers and a Firefly** provide plenty of AT15 anti-tank support whilst the Cromwells can deal with dug-in infantry and guns, supported by some foot sloggers from the 159th Infantry Brigade.

Forces obviously has the Bulge Sextons correct at 12pts so no need to go over points this time!

Conclusions

Hopefully, this provides some food for thought and shows the versatility of the box. It’s a superb starter for an LW British force (which is a novelty in itself, as we have previously discussed on “Time of Day”) and one worth considering even if you don’t fancy doing Desert Rats themselves.

* Getting three Dingos cost-effectively is tricky. Two Daimler recce patrol boxes can do it and act as a starting point for an Inns of Court force.

** 15/19th show as having at least one Firefly on the books in August of 1944. Presumably a replacement due to a shortage of Challengers, but it shows that the two 17pdr tanks do mix.

Lee and his “Time of Day” co-host, Mike, have had a look at the new starters and added them to their late war tier list.

One thought on “Desert Rats in the Green – Using the new “7th Armoured Division” Army Box

  1. Lee, thank you for two ways to take this new force. I always enjoy your articles.

    At the risk of ruining a joke, can you explain the “still lower than a firefly” image caption?

    Thanks for your hard work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *