ITLSU - Square Hill, 1918 - Part2

Started by Martin1914, 29 February 2024, 09:16:04 AM

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Martin1914

We've recently been able to conclude our WW1 Palestine night action using 'If the Lord Spares Us' (Too Fat Lardies) and Pendrakens (mostly). For named locations see Part 1.

(Photo31) The Turkish Kaymakam was anxious to shore up his collapsing defence, particularly to stem the rout of II/136th Regiment. Yet the enemy advance had put his command post in the Main Redoubt at risk, therefore he took the decision to move back to El Mughaiyir village. The Turkish Forward Observer was ahead of him and about to climb up to Post No.4.

(Photo32) The detached platoon from II/136th Regiment with attached MG, from Post No.2, had been ordered to retire to the Khirbet Jibeit ruins and establish flank protection of the Main Redoubt, covering the dead ground to its east. Still under the effect of suppression, their movement was slow. They were taken completely be surprise (Yes, I was!) by the advance out of the darkness of an enemy battalion. The lead company of the 1/7th Royal Welch Fusiliers closed upon them, and the Turks, faced with overwhelming numbers in open ground, showed no willingness to fight and surrendered.

(Photo33) With enemy troops now in the vicinity of the road, I/32nd Regiment anticipated an assault on the Main Redoubt and deployed; two companies forward in the eastern half of the redoubt and one in reserve. The Turkish guns continued to fire on the 1/21st Punjabis occupying Post No.3. In Post No.4, II/32nd Regiment repositioned its attached MG to cover the southern face of the Main Redoubt.

(Photo34) The British Brigadier was feeling confident. He sensed that if 'Johnny Turk' was pushed hard, he would not stand. He ordered all of his infantry battalions to advance to points of deployment and attack their objectives.

(Photo35) The Fusiliers were now at the forefront of 160th Brigade and launched their attack from dead ground east of their 'Square Hill' objective. The darkness proved no cover at this short range, for they immediately drew rifle fire from the defenders. This was joined by MG fire from Post No.4 and the Turkish gunners switched their direct fire to this new threat. Casualties and suppression on the lead company mounted.
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(Photo36) Now that the Main Redoubt was under attack, the Kaymakam was desperate for two things to regain some influence over the battle; to quickly re-establish his command post in the village and for II/136th to recover from its suppression and not leave the field of battle. He needed every available soldier.

(Photo37) The Fusiliers were unable to move forward and continued to suffer from the Turkish fire. The lead company was almost wiped out.

(Photo38) All attempts to return fire proved ineffective against the defenders in the hard cover of the redoubt. The Turkish infantry were able to fire repeatedly and together with the field guns cut down another company (best run of cards I've had for a long time). The Fusiliers lost a battalion officer, which made it more difficult to remove the suppressive effect of the enemy fire. The Welshmen were on their own, conducting an unsupported attack, for the 1/17th Loyals had been ordered to attack on their left flank, but were slow in climbing over the northern spur of the 'Valley View' ridgeline.

(Photo39) Whilst the sound of battle carried over the Judean hills, the company of 5/6th Royal Welch Fusiliers attached from 158th Brigade, had, as flank protection to the brigade, reached its limit of exploitation in the Wadi ez Zawiye. Lying un-spotted for some time, the men had heated a sneaky brew within the cover of the wadi, before the company commander thought he should do something to assist their sister brigade. He ordered a volley of rifle and Lewis gun fire at the enemy position above them at 'Sheikh el' Azeir'. II/32nd were so unimpressed by this distant fire in the dark, that they jeered and ignored the 5/6th for the rest of the action.

(Photo40) The Brigadier realised he had under-estimated the Turks in defensive positions. Attacks with the bayonet were likely to fail unless conducted with fire support. Where the hell was the MG company? The divisional signals were not transmitting his orders as rapidly as required. He was struggling to co-ordinate the brigade's actions. At least the Loyals acknowledged a change of order. They were not to attack. They were now to advance to a position overlooking 'Square Hill' and form a firing line to engage the enemy redoubt, in support of the Fusiliers. 1st Cape Corps would still advance to the right of the Fusiliers and attack the rear of the redoubt. The Brigadier planned a more audacious move. The Punjabis were to attack El Mughaiyir and puncture the enemy defensive line. At 'Valley View' the Punjabis' CO took the written order from the runner's hand. His head dropped for an instant, before he turned to his Adjutant. "Get the companies ready facing northwest. We're going forward again."
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(Photo41) Upon reaching El Mughaiyir, the Kaymakam's command post started issuing his orders. Within II/136th, the officers had finally got a grip of a single company. It was to return and garrison the village.

(Photo42) Orders for the Fusiliers had not changed. They were still to attack. Gallantly the reserve company under the CO, continued to press forward through the grisly remains of the two leading companies. One company had routed off the battlefield, whilst only a platoon was alive from the other.

(Photo43) In the full knowledge that his MGs were urgently required to support the brigade's attack, the Brigade MG Officer had encouraged, cajoled and sworn at his heavily laden men, firstly up 'Wye Hill', and then across 'Cheshire Wadi'. As they exhaustedly climbed the last yards to the 'Valley View' ridge, they were subjected to the banter of the signals post established above them.

(Photo44) In his command post on 'Wye Hill' the Brigadier was unable in the dark, to see much of the battlefield beyond the imposing 'Valley View' ridge. The Brigade-Major had assured him that his last orders had been acknowledged by all units, but everything seemed to be taking a frustratingly long time to happen. There were no reports, just gunfire.

(Photo45) Unbeknown to the Brigadier, the Punjabis had gone forward from 'Valley View', although some might say they were in no fit state to do so. They quicky drew direct artillery fire which stopped the battalion in its tracks. Except for a single reduced company which had raced down the lower slope to reach the road, where it was to brave the enfilading fire of the MG on 'Sheikh el' Azeir'.
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(Photo46) Surprisingly suffering no casualties and now beyond battalion control, this Punjabi 'forlorn hope' remained intent on reaching its objective. Who would win the race to occupy the village?

(Photo47) With the enemy assault on the Main Redoubt beaten off, the Turkish gunners continued to fire on Post No.3.

(Photo48) The Cape Corps picked up their pace and moved into the dead ground east of 'Square Hill'.

(Photo49) Prompted by a terse message from the Brigadier, the MG Officer pushed his gun crews to reach the summit of 'Valley View'. Straight away he realised that he would be unable to fire on 'Square Hill' due to the dark. On his own authority, he moved his men on through the enemy position, aiming for lower down the ridgeline, to be able to follow his orders. The hilltop was now under enemy artillery fire and he lost an MG crew.

(Photo50) The Punjabi 'forlorn hope' won the race to the village, but had little time to consolidate their defence. As soon as the alarm was raised, the Kaymakam rushed his command post out onto the hillside to the rear to avoid capture. He couldn't allow the enemy to remain imposed upon the communication to his troops. He ordered both the returning II/136th and II/32nd in Post No.4, to launch a company attack on their respective sides of the village. (Maybe II/32nd shouldn't have been allowed). Under the very eyes of the Kaymakam, II/136th, keen to redeem themselves for their previous rout, stormed in and massacred the small band of Indians.
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(Photo51) The Loyals pushed slowly forward and established a firing line directed at 'Square Hill'. In the protracted firefight that followed, the Turkish defenders in hard cover had the advantage (second best run of cards I've had in a long time). The enemy gunners remained out of reach and could switch fire onto any threat at will. In encouraging their men, the Loyals' officers were hard hit. Their CO didn't respond well to the arrival of the MG Officer, citing the precedence of his positioning and demanding the movement of the Indians out of the way to unmask his MGs!

(Photo52) The Cape Corps continued to make progress and emerging out of the dead ground, a company opened fire on the enemy redoubt.

(Photo53) As per orders II/32nd had dispatched a company to attack El Mughaiyir from the south. Moving downhill the men heard the cries of close combat ahead of them, and then reaching the village had seen the dead Indians and bloodied bayonets of II/136th. The Kaymakam ordered them to return to Post No.4, and they marched back up the hill. As they neared the trench line, the Bascavus shouted for "Silence!", for some of the men had started singing the old Anatolian peasant song 'O, the Grand Old Vizer of Konia'.

(Photo54) The argument between the MG Officer and the Loyals' CO would have continued, if the masking company hadn't withdrawn suppressed from the hilltop. The MGs were now free to engage the front of 'Square Hill', but in the knowledge they would probably become the priority target for the Turkish artillery.

(Photo55) The Turkish gunners didn't disappoint. As soon as the British MGs opened fire, the Turks heard their retort and saw their muzzle flashes. The MG Officer showed a stiff upper lip to keep his guns firing due to casualties and suppression.
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(Photo56) Yet the accumulation of all the British fire was taking effect. The two forward companies of I/32nd withdrew despite the efforts of the Kaymakam and battalion officers to remove suppression. The reserve company was pushed forward to take their place.

(Photo57) The infantry firefight raged on. Although now taking small arms fire themselves, the Turkish artilleryman kept to their guns. They had the range of the enemy MGs on the ridgeline and wiped them out with accurate fire, killing their officer too.

(Photo58) Having reformed the battered remains of his battalion in the dead ground, the Fusiliers' CO was determined to fulfil his last order, to attack. Whilst rifle and Lewis gun fire was directed either side of them at the enemy redoubt, the Fusiliers charged past the northern end of the wire at the enemy.

(Photo59) Dragons rampant! Heavily suppressed and looking over their shoulders at the other companies about to leave the Main Redoubt, the reserve company showed no willingness to fight and surrendered to the Welshmen. (My error here, these Turks in a trench should have been classed as Johnny Turks with no need to test. We agreed the result suited the situation, but it proved critical to the action).

(Photo60) As the infantry streamed past them, the Turkish gunners became the sole defenders of the Main Redoubt. The enemy in the redoubt seemed content to hold what they had won, so they turned their guns on to the nearest enemy in the open. They had been firing since almost the start of the battle and were now suppressed by continual enemy fire themselves. Their reduced rate of fire had less effect.
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(Photo61) The Brigadier judged this the moment to launch the Cape Corps into the attack. Of the two forward companies, one entered the redoubt and filed past the Fusiliers, the other charged directly over open ground. Both converged on the gun emplacement. The Turkish gunners didn't run and fought hard through two turns of close combat, but they were overwhelmed and died at their guns.

(Photo62) The attack order for the Punjabis remained unchanged. After heavy suppression had been removed, this weary battalion was led forward once more.

(Photo63) Learning of the loss of the Main Redoubt and believing that I/32nd wouldn't be able to rally to conduct a counter-attack, he accepted that his left flank had collapsed. If the enemy pushed on from the redoubt, the troops in Post No.4 and the village would be cut off. At 12.45pm. he ordered both units to retire to the wadi to the north of El Mughaiyir. II/136th in the village responded quickly, but II/32nd in Post No.4 proved hesitant to move and started firing on the advancing Punjabis.

This was the parting shot for we called an end here. This was the largest scenario we've attempted so far and provided two days of gaming (63 turns). The effects of ground and darkness on movement and firing proved challenging, but realistic in my opinion. Despite a shaky start, my Turks put up a fight. Once heavily suppressed, it's hard for them to recover with their commander and troop ratings. Direct artillery fire at short range was the cornerstone of the defence, whilst Jace regretted using up all his off-table barrage fire early, before attacking the redoubt. He was reliant on his machine guns and infantry to provide the necessary suppression, after an unsupported attack had failed. As we both forgot that command pips can also be used to activate units, not just for orders and suppression removal, his machine guns were left waiting for their card more often than not, to move forward. Ah, the friction of it all!
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pierre the shy

Another great batrep Martin, many thanks for posting it.

Can I ask what you made the trenches for your Main Redoubt out of? is it bits of "picture framing" edges cut to suitable sizes? looks very effective indeed  :-bd
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
we are not now that strength which in old days
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are.

paulr

Definitely another great report of a great looking game :-bd  =D>  :-bd  =D>  :-bd

I really enjoy the way If the Lord Spares Us generates realistic dilemmas, challenges and results
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Martin1914

Thanks Gents. Glad you enjoyed the report(s).

Peter, the trench sides are 'door' edging/arci-trave cut into modular shapes, painted and sand-topped. The larger 'flat' sections are balsa sheet, cut into shape.

Regards
Mart
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pierre the shy

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
we are not now that strength which in old days
moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are.

streetgang

I remember when ITLSU first was released (in one of the Lard PDFs if I recall correctly), it really seemed like an interesting set of rules. I began to map out a plan for an ITLSU project but faltered with indecision when it came to scale (10 or 15mm) and which figures.

Thank you for the reports, they are much appreciated!
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paulr

We have used ITLSU extensively for 1914 in France as well as the Middle East and they always give great games with realistic dilemmas, challenges and results.

Pendraken have a very comprehensive WWI range ;)
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