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North Africa -- Tunisia, Pt 2
The Unprepared and the Elite
by Patrick Graham

Background
Highway 7 to Jefna, Tunisia, 27 November 1942 -- While the late November thrusts of the Allied center in Tunisia had been quickly batted away, hope of quickly ending the Axis defense in Tunisia fell to the drive against Bizerte led by the 36th Brigade. The northern flank offered more opportunities to maneuver than the mountainous terrain that Blade Force was bogged down in. The brigade was given orders to traverse twenty six miles Sedjenane to a crossroads near Jefna, a bold move that would put them within striking distance of the port city of Bizerte if successful. The brigade was in excellent shape to make the advance. At its disposal were four thousand fresh and well supplied troops. Taking the lead for the brigade would be the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

The Argylls had little reason to believe that this valley would be any different from the others they had marched through while traversing the Atlas Mountains. Enemy resistance had been sparse, and it appeared that there was no organized defense on this Tunisian front yet. However, the terrain certainly afforded key advantages for would be attackers. Highway 7 was narrow at this point and bracketed by the steep slopes of Green and Bald Hill. The hills themselves offered ample opportunity for concealment and indirect fir emplacements on the reverse slope. With only one way in and another out, if the entrances to the Valley were cut off then there would be no room to maneuver at all.

To make matters worse, the battalion was under orders to reach Jefna as soon as possible, and such speed required forgoing even rudimentary scouting, especially over such broken terrain. The battalion would be moving forward blind, and that carried as serious risk. Their careless approach provided a perfect opportunity for an opponent who had the resources to pull off a defense that would require so much planning. The Argylls could not have been more unlucky as not only was the valley in enemy hands, but that enemy was led by the very person who had lead the storming of the Eben Emael fortress in Belgium just two years earlier.

Dug into both hills and Jefna itself was the 21st Parachute Engineer Battalion, one of Germany’s most elite fighting formations. Led by Major Rudolf Witzig, the Battalion commandeered several Italian anti-tank guns and positioned them to ambush any convoy passing through the valley. Assisting the guns would be several mortar and machine gun teams that had preregistered points of attack to focus fire on both the valley and the two hills. As A Company wound its way between the two hills, the paratroopers waited and waited until the last carrier had crossed the entrance to the valley.

At 1330 hours on November 27th 1942, the lead company of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders pushes along Highway 7 in Tunisia. Under orders to reach a crossroads at Jefna beyond the two peaks that straddle the highway by nightfall, they fail to notice Fallschirmjager waiting to spring an ambush. The Allies must attempt to reach the crossroad while Axis forces must wipe out the Argylls.

Victory Conditions
This scenario ends after five turns of play. If at this time there are at least three Allied units adjacent to the objective (the white circle), the Allies win. Otherwise the Axis win the scenario.

Maps
This scenario makes use of map D3 from the North Africa: 1940-1943 Map Guide.

Allied Forces

A Company of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Unit Set Cost
Universal Carrier (8) Contested Skies 80
SMLE No. 4 Rifle (2) 1939-1945 6
Bren Machine Gunner (2) North Africa 10
Sten SMG (2) North Africa 8
Inspiring Lieutenant 1939-1945 10
Vickers MG Team North Africa 8
Squad Total 122

Axis Forces

21st Parachute Engineer Battalion
Unit Set Cost
Veteran Fallschirmjager (4) North Africa 40
Light Mortar (2) Base Set 8
Wehrmacht Oberleutnant Set II 13
MG-42 Machine-Gun Team (2) North Africa and 1939-1945 20
Grizzled Veteran Set II 8
47/32 Antitank Gun (2) North Africa 14
Squad Total 103


Set Up and Game Length
Each black X indicates over the foliage indicates the obsticle is not in play.

The Allied player deploys first.

The Axis Player writes down the placement of his Units (using coordinates counting from the lower left corner, letters vertically and numbers horizontally or any other system agreed with between the two players), complying with normal Deployment Rules (paratroopers and heroes must be deployed this way as well). The Axis player keeps their location a secret. Units are revealed when:

  • An Allied unit moves adjacent to an Axis unit
  • An Axis unit moves
  • An Axis unit fires

The Axis player wins initiative on the first turn.

The game lasts 5 turns.

Special Rules
Destroyed vehicles are flipped over. No vehicles may enter a hex containing a flipped over vehicle. Infantry being transported by destroyed vehicles are not destroyed, but are placed in the same hex with a face up disrupted token.

Optional Rules

  • Replace the two MG-42 Machine Gun Team units with two Sandbagged MG-42 Machine Gun Team units
  • Replace one SMLE no 4 Unit with one Inspiring Hero Unit.

Conclusion
The ambush was a complete success for the Fallschirmjager. In ten short minutes, an entire company had disappeared under precise Axis fire. The battalion commander for the Argylls ordered a second company into the valley to relieve A company, while two more companies were sent rushing up either hillside to the twin peaks. All of these attacks were quicklysnuffed out, with accurate mortar and machine gun fire pinning the entire regiment.

The following day the other battalions had joined in a concerted brigade level assault on Bald and Green Hill, but this failed to make further progress. All told, a little under 400 German soldiers stopped the entire brigade dead in its tracks. Jefna would not be taken for another six months. The eight wrecked carriers and many of the dead still remained in the valley for months as a reminder of what Allies were up against if they wanted to drive the Axis out of Africa.

While the inexperience of the western Allies was showing badly at this point in the Tunisia campaign, the lessons of war were slowly being learned though at a high price. Inspire of this victory and the many more to come, the Axis strategic situation in Tunisia was dire, and they lacked the resources to capitalize on any local victories. The weight of Allied materiel, and growing dominance in the air and sea meant that defeat in Tunisia would be inevitable. It was just a matter of prolonging the inevitable, and draining as much from the Allies as possible before a showdown Southern Europe.










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