Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Breaching the Trasimene Line - Italy 1944 - Day One

So with the table set, the OOB etc sorted it was time to deploy the Axis forces in the defensive positions.

Axis Defensive Positions
As mentioned in an earlier post, the Axis have three lines of defence as follows:

The Italians occupy the farmhouse. All troops are dug-in or within stone buildings that form the farm. The L3-50 is in an AFV pit.

Another view, with the positions providing mutual support.

The second line of defence, with a Fallashirmjager Kompanie dug-in around the bridge, with supporting elements such as tanks, ATGs and AA guns.

Behind this position are some fall back trenches, to allow for a fighting withdrawl should it be nescessary. The FJ mortars are deployed on the rocky ridge (top right) so that they have a commanding view down the valley.

The final defensive position based around the hill top town, with dug-in tanks and ATGs.

One Kompanie of FJ are in reserve and as yet not deployed.

Day One
By the time that the British had arrived at the valley, it was already mid-afternoon and time was running out if an attack needed to be mounted to take the farmhouse and environs that was visible to the Recce troops. The CO ordered them to be careful but to advance to contact to flush the enemy into the open.

The Humber AC was to lead the way, with the Honey in support, whilst the infantry in the carrier were to move to the left and take up positions overlooking the farm.

The Italian troops were under orders not to shoot until absolutely necessary, so as not to reveal their positions. They were confident because they were well dug-in and camouflaged, with support to the rear should they need it and with little chance of their position being flanked.

Positions at 3.00pm onwards. The British recce units had moved slowly forward but hadn't seen any sign of enemy troops. The Italian commander thought of ordering his tank and ATG to fire, but thought the better of it.

Positions at 4.00pm onwards. As the British recce continued their advance, the Italian ATG and tank opened fire, causing hits and forcing them off the road to shelter behind the stone walls lining the fields. The recce infantry debussed from their carrier and moved onto the rocky hill (top left) and radioed back to the CO that contact had been made and requested support. With the British at their mercy, the Italian commander then failed to get his orders through to the tank and ATG to fire once again.

The British recce infantry look on as gun fire erupts from well concealed positions in and around the farmhouse.

The position at 5.00pm onwards. With contact made the British CO ordered two tank troops and a company of infantry forward, supported by a Churchill V CS tank to help tackle the stone buildings of the farm. As they arrived, the tanks only moved on slowly, careful not to become further targets to Axis tanks or ATGs, whilst the infantry pushed forward on the right flank to try and get round the Italian positions. The Humber and Honey engaged the Italians, but only hit the dug-in L5-30.

The Italian commander kept his infantry's powder dry as they had no targets and didn't need to move, but this time he did get through to the tank and ATG which managed to KO the Humber and inflict hits on the Churchill, which shrugged them off.

Reinforcements arrive, with the infantry moving towards the rocky outcrops to try and get round the Italian positions.

The 47mm ATG brews up the Humber AC.

The position at 6.00pm onwards. With the action hotting up, the Honey retreated to leave the 'big boys toys' to take the fight to the Italians. The CO seeing how the action might develop also ordered another two troops of tanks and an infantry company on stand by to move forward. As the infantry company moved forward they came under fire from the Italians that left one platoon suppressed and nearly done for. The Churchills and Sherman combined their fire and after some time, managed to KO the dug-in ATG and add another hit to the dug-in L5-30, which was proving a stubborn opponent. However the incoming fire must have affected it as it was rather ineffective when shooting back, failing to hit anything.

A platoon of British infantry take heavy fire from the Italian positions.

The British tanks trying to shoot their way onto the objective, but are having a hard time in doing so.

The KO'd Italian ATG.

The positions at 7.00pm onwards. With things somewhat stuck and not moving forward quickly, the CO ordered his standby troops forward plus the FAO, but only the infantry company made it as the tanks must have become stuck in a traffic jam on the narrow road. Despite an awful lot of firepower directed at the Italian positions, little was achieved other than the Italian infantry in the maize by the L5-30 taking a hit.

In response the Italian CO played a bit of a blinder, but getting two Double 1's and another successful order off! This led to the L5-30 managing to suppress the Churchill 6 pdr and forcing it back, before it succumbed to combined fire.

The demise of the dug-in L5-30 but at least it gained everlasting fame by forcing a Churchill tank back suppressed. Oh the shame of it!

The British infantry company arrives and pushes towards the hill, but the tanks fail to arrive.

The Italians still hold on despite the overwhelming superiority of materiel facing them.

The FAO arrives (bottom left) and takes up position over looking the Italian held farm.

The position at 8.00pm onwards and dusk starts to fall (-1CV and 50cm visibility). With light beginning to fail and time running out, the CO orders his troops to begin consolidating their positions, which they do. The FAO manages to get through to his battery of 25 pdrs and hits the farm, but only manages to suppress the MG unit. Combined fire from the tanks does little else other than adding more hits but fails to KO any units.

With few if any targets, the Italian CO is quite happy to hold his fire and await nightfall.

Despite intense firepower directed at them, the Italians are just holding on.

The British troops unable to take the farm before night falls.

The leading troops of tanks begin to consolidate their position and await infantry support before going into laager.

The L5-30 that performed heroics with its pop gun armament.

End of Day One
With the arrival of the night, the British CO ordered up the rest of his units, ready for deployment in the morning. Plans had yet to be drawn up, as his recce units were carefully probing forward, trying to locate any enemy units. The Italian CO was awaiting orders from the FJ CO as to whether to withdraw or not under the cover of darkness, which seemed the most likely option given his position and depleted force.

Post Day One Thoughts
Well that was a nice little action and certainly a tough one for the British, with the Italian troops putting up a stiff fight. Not entirely unexpected given their dug-in positions and the strong stone farmhouse that formed the centre of their position. So a few thoughts on the first day of this 'mini-campaign':

  • I had forgotten how hard it can be to shift dug-in units or units in stone buildings in BKCII. Still this felt right and having read Zuehlke's book on 'Ortona' entirely historically accurate. As a one off game, this would have been a bit dull and a slog, but as this is a 'campaign', it just adds to the narrative, which I personally enjoy.
  • The highlight for me was the little L5-30 suppressing the Churchill 6 pdr and then forcing it back! What are the chances? I just love it when things like this happen in my games.
  • The British will certainly need to call upon their Air Support going forward, as the next positions will certainly be very tough nuts to crack. The British CO has also requested a Churchill SBG to help deal with the hill top town if and when they reach it.
  • I can see why Churchills were called up for use in Italy as they are perfect with their better off road ability and endurance compared the the Shermans. Without them I can't see an easy way for the British to move forward other than very large amounts of artillery, which as mentioned in a previous post was always readily available.
  • Having the time to play this at my leisure has been a real treat and hasn't felt rushed at all. In fact this first day was played over three mini sessions as family duties intervened at times. One day I will have my own games room or space and this will certainly allow more games to be played.

So now I'm in the process of sorting out plans for Day Two, with a few ideas in my head, but I need to take stock of what happened on Day one and any implications to units with hits etc, before making my final decision. Certainly the Axis force did what it was meant to do on Day One and delay the British advance with minimal units involved.

So until next time stay safe and keep healthy!


  1. The defensive terrain is probably giving the better game for both sides and in particular giving the British something to think about. I like the way that the game opens with reconnaissance.

    1. The British certainly have to think about how best to use their limited support assets. the Axis have also tried to funnel the British into a killing zone by a well placed minefield, but we'll have to wait and see how well or not that works.

      I liked having the Recce moving forward to try and find the enemy, which gives a different feel to the game, but also a nice dynamic of the action building as units come up in support. Also it feels historically right too.

  2. Excellent after action report, Steve. The Italians proved to be able defenders and held their ground remarkably well. Your close up photos and lovely terrain provided a pleasing backdrop to your narrative. In fact, your numerous close-ups allowed me follow the action much more easily in this small scale. Good stuff! Glad to see you are enjoying your new-found freedom of leaving the battle set up for longer periods.

    1. Thanks Jonathan! I find trying to take photos of troops in khaki or tanks with camo schemes rather tricky in this scale, as they tend to disappear into the background. I'm glad the close up helped you follow the action. I'm loving being able to leave the game set up as it's certainly bringing a richer gaming experience to the table.

  3. A great looking game and challenging first day for the British, but as you say, given the scenario set up, it looks historically accurate to me...artillery and air power were the main advantages the Western Allies had from around 1943 onwards, and should be represented in games to give a true feel of the period. Looking forward to Day Two!

    1. Thanks Keith. Certainly a challenge for the British as it should be, but requests for air support have gone in overnight:). Details to follow.

  4. Roll on day 2. I’m looking forward to the next days action.

    1. Thankyou! The overnight movement, repairs and losses have been sorted out, so now it's a matter of recording this and getting onto the action.

  5. Very well presented and interesting action, Steve. It was an interesting tactical problem for the British and I like how the Recce elements were involved, which isn't very often seen in gaming. As the British CO, I think I would call first thing in the morning for a heavy barrage of offboard arty and tank direct fire HE followed by bags of smoke and a close assault by the infantry. Looking forward to seeing if the Italians withdraw during the night and hand the defense over to the FJ.

    1. Thanks for popping by Michael. Normally the British would have quite a bit of artillery but terrain restrictions on gun placements and ammo supply have restricted this to just one battery at present. A nice challenge though and hopefully the air support will arrive to help out too.

  6. A great report and an interesting read. I am glad the idea is coming to fruition. It is an interesting concept for multiple battles on the same table and for ww2 have never really seen it before. One thing about BKC I like (that you noted as well) is how hard it is to dislodge units in hard cover. Not all rules represent this very well.

    Where do you eat while this is setup? It seems it may be a while for you to complete :-)

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it Shaun. Troops in hard cover, especially stone buildings, as very, very hard to dislodge, as I found out once again today! You really do need to use a combined arms approach for solve this problem, which the rules encourage and obviously happened in practice.

      We rarely eat at the dining table, using the smaller one in the kitchen for most meals, for a variety of reasons. With the game now finished SWMBO is happy to have the table back in use for when it's needed;)