|North Africa 1940-1943 -- The Battle of Mechili|
|by Paul Rohrbaugh|
Mechili, Libya, 24 January, 1941 -- On December 9, 1940 the British launched their offensive, called Operation Compass, against the Italian 10th Army in the Egyptian frontier border with Libya. The British were vastly outnumbered, and the offensive’s goals were limited in scope (it was just supposed to be a “five day raid”). However, it wasn’t long before the surprised and poorly-led Italians were in headlong retreat. Following the capture of the Italian fortress at Bardia, the Italian retreat turned into a full-scale rout. All that stood between the British and complete victory were the remnants of the Italian Strategic Reserve, the Sabratha 60th Infantry Division and the Babini Armor Group (roughly a brigade) who were dug-in at the frontier village of Mechili. The war’s first major tank battle in North Africa occurred here as the British vanguard ran into an Italian force that was ready and primed for a fight.
North Africa: 1940-1943 - Sound and Fury: The Battle of Mechili
Note: This scenario makes use of the North Africa: 1940-1943 Map Guide maps.
Scenario NA-1: Sound and Fury: The Battle of Mechili (3.5 MB zipped pdf)
The British attack went in piecemeal as the scattered units arrived on the battlefield. None of the British attacks were aggressive or vigorous as it was expected the Italians, as before, would break and run when pushed by British tanks. That would not be the case here, as the defenders gave as good as they got, allowing the bulk of the Italian forces that were still under orders to continue their retreat to Tripoli.
The stand at Mechili, however, convinced General Wavell a more daring flanking move was needed if the Italians were to be caught and decisively defeated. The fight at Beda Fomm a few weeks later (Februarly 5th) would be for "all the marbles."