Earlier in the month I finished off my DAK update and revealed two boxes of “Tobruk” as the next project. Now, that was meant to be Italians but something weird happened.
Everybody else also started doing Italians. I guess crazy cheap M14/Semovente will do that…So, whilst Italians will be on the menu eventually, I decided to do the other half of the box first and turned my attention to the British.
Now, I’m no stranger to playing the British in the desert war, it was my first FoW army way back in v1 and has been my go to ever since. The initial form of the force was focused on El Alamein with a squadron of Grants supported by a platoon of Crusdaer II/III. When Early war game out, a squadron of Honey Stuarts was added to serve both EW (Op Battleaxe) but also mid war into the Gazala battles, when 3RTR still consisted of Stuarts and Grants. At this point, I started repainting the Grants to reflect my improved 15mm painting techniques and to move the markings from 10th Armoured Division (where 3RTR would move to after Gazala) to the Pre-El Alamein home of 3RTR, 7th Armoured. The Desert Rats!
With two copies of the Tobruk box in my hands, and the Grants swapped with Nathan for his Shermans, I now had 12 each of the Crusader and Sherman. The Sherman made its 3RTR debut in the second battle of El-Alamein, B squadron replacing its M3 Grants with the new tank, giving the regiment one squadron each of Crusaders, Grants and Shermans (plus a few Honey Stuarts and Dingos in the regimental recce platoon).
However, having done El Alamein once before, I was keen to look beyond Supercharger and so skipped a few chapters in “Taming the Panzers“, Patrick Delaforce’s history of the regiment in WW2, to the move into Tunisia.
After the capture of Tripoli in January 1943, 3RTR and the rest of 8th armoured brigade had just under a month to rest and refit ready for the push towards Tunis and the German’s Mareth Line defences. By this point 3RTR had almost entirely shed its M3 Grants, leaving A squadron with Crusaders (the exact split between 2pdr Mk.II and 6pdr Mk.III is not stated) and B and C squadron with mostly M4A1 Sherman II plus a handful of diesel M4A2 Sherman III and a single M3 Grant in B squadron.
Whilst the infantry divisions would execute a frontal attack on the Mareth line, 8th armoured would support the New Zealanders in a “left hook” to turn the defences.
That set the scene sufficient to work our an army. As a fun exercise I used Forces to work out what an armoured regiment would look like in FoW
Whilst mostly for fun it did quickly reveal that only A squadron’s Crusaders (of which I was three short) would make a formation that would fit in 100pts. Clearly some composite squadron were in order!
Going on a Crusade
Cue problem number one. Whilst Shermans can take Crusaders (and just about every other tank) as a platoon in its second black box, Crusaders can only take Crusaders or Grants. *grumble*.
I took all the Crusaders I had into one formation then added a Sherman platoon as formation support.
That left me 47pts to play with. I decided what I needed was some 25pdr (best field gun of the war) and some Kiwis, seeming as 8th Armoured Brigade were supporting them.
The Rifle Company couldn’t quite squeeze some 6pdr in but still gave two blocks of infantry (rallying on 3s thanks to ANZAC) and universal carriers, plus a pair of mortar tubes for some extra smoke and harassing fire. With the Shermans, HQ troop and a Crusader Troop in reserve, there would still be decent anti-tank coverage provided by two Crusader troops and the 25pdr.
Sherman! Sherman! Does whatever a Sher… can.
Okay, so that was the light option, how did the heavy option look?
Figuring a three-tank HQ was an extravagant luxury with Shermans, I opted for two tanks then went with two troops of three Shermans and a single troop of Crusaders. The left only 21pts to cover infantry, artillery and recce.
Clearly some sacrifices would need to be made. 25pdr would eat up 14pts and not leave enough for infantry, let alone infantry and recce. A better option, given every Sherman can fire a decent HE round, AT round and smoke, was to ditch the artillery and focus on the other two aspects with an understrength Motor company, ably provided by 8th Armoured Brigade’s Rifle Battalion; the 1st Buffs.
This is about as small a motor company as I think you can get away with. The infantry platoon needs to be full size given how small it is even then, the 6pdr are too vulnerable to running with just two guns so three is the bare minimum, and the Universal Carriers can get away without Boys AT rifles.
There is some scope for boosting the Motor boys. By downgrading one Sherman to a Grant (as was listed for B Squadron) then that frees up three valuable points to add a 3″ mortar section and some boys AT rifles for the Carriers. Its not going to be my initial configuration but it may be something to play around with given I have two 3″ mortars in the figure case.
So, two potential lists to play around with. The next articles in the series will focus on getting all those tanks off the sprue and into action, so stay tuned!