Too Fat Lardies Games Day 2011 Tobruk, January 1941
On June 12th 2011, the Too Fat Lardies Tobruk Games Day was held at Lard Island, St Albans. What follows is one man's report of the action.
The first table was a huge L shape, with Italian blinds dug in on the high ground with some areas of barbed wire. The British and Australians were told they had to assault as quickly as possible to make gaps for the armour to exploit. We weren't allowed to concentrate all of forces on a single table and were told that the minefields had been cleared and that reinforcements were available but whatever we lost wouldn't be replaced for the afternoon.
Clive and I were dubiously awarded the roles of chief assault forces supported by Biff's Matildas. We chose to deploy on the extreme left. The other British players were to make pinning assaults whilst we made a breakthrough. On our right were Keith and Dom (against Chris and Max) and on their right, our extreme right flank Zip, Gerrard and Edward (facing off against Elton and Rob). We decided, very wisely indeed it turns out, not to fight in the area where the two sides of the L shape met.
Arriving late no one actually told Clive what troops we had! This lead to confusion where we thought we had on table 3" mortars to be told that they were in fact off table for us to direct. No matter.
Clive had a Company HQ of a rifle section and two AT rifles, plus a Platoon of three sections, AT rifle, Light Mortar and a Big Man. I had initially two Platoons each of three rifle sections, AT rifle, Light Mortar and a big man. Mick turned up late, his train hitting a railway workman and delaying him (He's OK apparently Mick). I gave him one of my Platoons. He'd never played WW2 before let alone IABSM. Mick played a blinder at times though (more later).
We had a hill in front of us with an Italian blind, with another Italian blind on their extrme right rear flank. Another blind was on a hill was on their extreme left flank rear, almost infact facing our comrades on the next table.
Clive and I decided that he would make a demonstration whilst I tried to outflank the initial hill, assaulting it and ignoring the blind to the rear. We thought it might be a fake. We started off with a tea break and initially this was followed by turns where we could move, and then tea breaks. Our spotting was shite, as ever.
I moved round the flank with my two blinds and then Mick arrived and took over one of them.
Joe (Below left) and Egg (guess which one?) were facing us. Hello Joe sorry I didn't realise you were' that' Joe Legan until I'd left.
They deployed four infantry sections with and MMG, Light mortar and an AT gun all dug in on the hill. In closing in on their flank they fired and killed my big man and caused a lot of casualties. My platoon card then didn't come up. My chaps were taking a lot of fire but were keeping the attention from Clive and Mick. Egg's command was being used against Dom and Keith, not against Clive.
Clive called for artillery support from off table mortars and made the inspired decision not to fire ranging shots but immediately fire for effect. With a 7" blast RADIUS his deviation wasn't much and now it fell repeatedly on the Italian left of their hill position. Mick spotted the blind to the rear which was not a fake but infact another full Italian platoon with supports.
Biff's blinds now arrived...a full Squadron of 14 Matildas, but with orders not to stop on our table but exit from the Italian base edge. We had been told another table would appear to the rear for a tank Vs gun battle.
Pressure was on. On the other tables the Brits were fully engaged where we hadn't done much with our aggressive Aussies. My command was all but shot up but Mick, told to ignore the rear Italian Platoon, assaulted and carried the right of the main position. As Clive switched the artillery to the rear Platoon Mick's guys rolled up the rest of the Italian positions whilst Clive's Platoon to their front poured fire into them. The surviving Italians were all captured.
Biff's blinds continued unspotted (there were no Italians close enough to spot them!) until he was 6" from their baseline when a Platoon of three Matilda's were spotted, by then it was too late as he exited without loss.
We had done our job, though personally I hadn't done much.
Dom and Keith (see below) were taking it really bad on the next table from Egg on our table so Clive and Mick now moved across and started the whole co-ordination thing again whilst I moved to occupy the former Italian position with my weak sections.
Chris, Max and Panda
Left to right - Keith, Dom, Biff, Clive, Nick, Joe, Egg, Chris, Max and Panda
The morning game was pretty much over by now and action shifted to the Matilda Vs Italian gun line table.
The Matilda Vs Italian Gun line was a small game fought between Biff and Martin Kay. Martin is the only person apart from Rich Clarke who has been at all the TFL games days, and infact pioneered the German victory as the C-in-C on the Crete Day. Just before xmas Martin was in a serious head on car crash and has been in hospital since. Martin surprised us all by leaving hospital just to be with us for a bit. A very welcome sight Martin continue to get well soon mate.
Basically the Matildas advanced at a slow pace whilst the six (?) Italian guns fired at them hitting them but with very little effect. Eventually the Matildas got near enough for a four to have minor damage, no mean feat when the Italian gun factor was 5 Vs 9 for British armour.
Biff finally got into the guns and began crushing them with his Matildas one by one. Some of Biff's losses would be removed from those available for the afternoon games we were informed. However, no British troops on the other tables had called for any reinforcements and so all were available for the afternoon.
Infact, touring the other tables Clive, Mick and I had very few casualties. Fortunately we had chosen the weakest table. Zip, Gerrard and Edward had been against the strongest Italian position, as it turned out and had been flayed. It was more like the Somme than North Africa.
Dom and Keith next to us had also had a rough time of it. Max, Chris and Egg from our table had pounded them too.
That said though the Allies had all done their bit and the Matildas had got through both the initial Italian defences and past the gun line, now for the interior.
The afternoon saw Mick, Clive and I vs Max and Chris.
We had to take an airfield entering from the eastern table edge and exit the western table edge destroying all enemy forces. A tough task indeed.
We had three Platoons split between the three players, each of four sections, light mortar, AT rifle and big man. Clive also had the Company HQ, whilst I had a pair of AT guns which would arrive at the rear. We were allowed to enter at the south western corner three blinds per time, and had two dummy blinds. We were to be reinforced by two Matilda tanks from the north western corner on the sixth turning of the blank card.
Quickly we spotted AA guns protecting the airstrip. I was detailed to make a rapid penetration then turn left into the airfiled buildings with Mick.s Platoon in support. Clive bringing up the rear would take the buidings and react to the enemy.
I decided (foolishly as ever) to assault the first AA gun with two squads and failed in their three movement dice, falling short by 1" each time. Exposed, a great target and no chance of further activation my troops were opened up on by everything in sight; three AA guns ringing the airfield and two infantry sections, one in the airfield buildings and one on the Italian baseline with another AA gun. I was actually quite fortunate that I decided to keep two sections back and suffered mainly wounds as I was at long range from three AA guns out of the four available.
A second assault saw me finally take the AA gun but still exposed I took heavy casualties.
Our tactic now was to drop Light Mortar rounds on the AA guns to cause wounds as there was no big man available nor a rally card to remove them. The Italians were firing and fighting hard and we were taking casualties as Clive and Mick pressed on to assault the airfield buildings.
Another AA gun fell foul of the Aussies. Mick went in again and cleared a building of an Italian section in hand to hand fighting, killing an enemy big man.
Suddenly an Italian blind appeared on the baseline far away, but facing my battered Platoon. Italian tanks, we all thought!
Fortunately Biff arrived, though only with one Matilda not two, losses from the lunchtime engagement. By now the remaining Italian AA guns were taking hits from Clive and Mick's infantry, and my light mortar. Biff's tank crushed the third AA gun. We successfully spotted the enemy blind as a Platoon of five Italian tin cans. The Italian tanks were poorly armed, and armoured and a long way away. I revealed my AT guns facing off against them whilst Clive and Mick were clearing the buildings. Initially the Italian tanks tried firing their MG's against the AT guns with little effect. My AT guns weren't activating as their cards were not coming up.
Next the Italian tanks tried to get closer but then their cards didn't come up. Clive called down artillery fire on the building on the Italian table edge containing the last section, and adjacent to the last AA gun. The Italian tanks then tried a direct fire on the AT guns and missed. They then switched to 'area' firing on the British guns with their pesky 47mm guns with better effect. With no big man anywhere near them, and the rally card needed to remove wounds and shock points elsewhere, the guns effectiveness was whittled away rapidly until they had only one firing dice available.
For their part the Italians were having trouble too. With a one man turret and a unable to move AND shoot in the same turn, plus only being able to fire a maximum of twice in a turn the Italians did well considering. Our artillery was falling amongst them and causing a loss of initiative dice or pinning them preventing them from doing much.
Biff's Matilda now made a bee line for the enemy armour as Clive and Mick left the airfield buildings and advanced on our left towards the enemy baseline. They had taken some casualties but considering they were still able to operate effectively.
My AT guns hit a couple of tanks but had no effect, whilst Clive and me had sent big men to try and help their shooting, to no avail. I tried to advance an AT rifle crew but they perished trying to close the distance between them and the enemy tanks. I eventually managed to hit an immobilise an Italian tank at close range then tried to finish it off with an infantry section assault (foolish boy) only to be shot down by MG fire from another tank.
Biff took a couple of hits, but predictably against his armour 9 there was no effect. He then managed to hit an Italian tin can and force it to retreat for a turn with possible engine damage.
Our off table artillery and wounds/shock from the light mortars saw off the last AA gun and the Italian infantry section.
The game ended there pretty much and was considered a draw. We had managed to take four AA guns, two infantry sections and a tank but there were still four more left to destroy to fulfill our victory conditions.
The Allies won just on the day but it was a very close run thing. I must admit the action in the afternoon was much more hectic and so I didn't get much idea what was going on elsewhere but it was a very fun day out.
A big thanks to Rich and Nick of Too Fat Lardies, umpires Panda and Sid, Italian players, Max, Chris, Joe, Egg, Elton and Rob and my fellow Commonwealth players Clive, Dom, Edward, Gerrard, Zippee, Keith and Mick and not least to Martin Kay for his surprise appearance.
Everyone seemed to have a really good day and at times to say it was raucous would be understatement of the year. We did all look knackered at the end as usual though as some of the blokes went out for drinks and a meal the night before it is not entirely surprising. Good company great gaming and a fantastic laugh. What more fun can you have with your clothes on? If you're a fan of Too Fat Lardies then a games day at Lard Island is like an annual pilgrimage to Lard.