Saturday, 16 October 2010

Operazione C3/Hercules

Before he died, Paddy Griffith had planned to run a multi-player wargame about the projected Italo-German invasion of Malta at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Several of the regular attendees at Paddy's previous wargames at Duxford – led by Tim Gow and John Drewienkiewicz – decided to run the projected wargame in his memory, and I was lucky enough to be able to take part in it today.

I was given the role of CRA (Commander, Royal Artillery) on Malta, which meant that I was responsible for co-ordinating the island's anti-aircraft and coastal defence artillery. I worked directly under the CIC Malta Command (Michael Brett-Pitt) and alongside Martin Davis, who was Staff Officer, Malta Command. I also had to liaise closely with Paul Elton and Paul Goddard (who controlled the Royal Navy), and Dave Townsend (RAF).

Chris Hall (our liaison umpire) supplied us with an excellent and very detailed map that showed the Malta defences, and we positioned our units on the situation map and awaited developments.

Chris Hall briefing the Allied players.
We had expected an airborne assault on the main airfields by the German Fallschirmjagers to mark the beginning of the invasion, closely followed by an Italian seaborne landing in the north of the island.

Michael Brett-Pitt (CIC Malta Command) makes his point.
In fact we were wrong ... the assault began with an airborne landing by the Italian Folgore Division on the Hal Far airfield and Fort Benghisa, a nearby coastal defence fortress. This was followed by what appeared to be a major airborne landing in the north of the island.

Bernard Ganley (Lord Gort, Governor General of Malta) discusses the situation with the Allied team.
Whilst Allied forces were deployed to 'pinch out' these invaders, there were two seaborne invasions in the south and north. The invasion fleets were engaged by the coastal defence artillery, the Royal Navy flotilla based in Malta, and as many squadrons of the RAF as they could muster. Although it was not apparent at the time, the northern invasion fleet was unable to land all the units it had planned to put ashore as many of the landing vessels were damaged or sunk. It also appears that several of the Italian Navy's larger ships were also damaged or sunk.

The southern landings were more successful and managed to capture a landing field intact. Shortly afterwards, large numbers of Axis transport aircraft began to arrive over Malta and prepare to land on the airfield ... but the RAF and anti-aircraft artillery shot down many of them before they were able to do so, and those they did land safely were fired at by heavy coastal artillery batteries that were capable of engaging inland targets.

The southern invasion fleet was eventually driven off after suffering serious losses, leaving the invaders cut off from further supplies. The Allies were gradually closing in around them, and it was only a matter of time before they were driven back into the sea or forced to surrender. The northern invasion force was also contained by the Allied defenders, and the unless the Axis were able to re-supply them, they would also eventually have to surrender or be evacuated.

It was at this point that the wargame ended, and we all attended a very interesting and informative de-briefing.

Tim Gow (on the left) and Jerry Elsmore (the Game Control Umpire) lead the post-game debriefing.
John Drewienkiewicz (better known a just plain 'DZ') who took on the role of Commanding Generalissimo explains what happened from the Italian point of view.
Bernard Ganley (Lord Gort, Governor General of Malta) explains how the Allies reacted to the invasion.
Jim Wallman, who was the Map Control Umpire, tells everyone what really happened.
My thanks go to everyone who helped to organise this event, and I look forward to taking part in future wargames at Duxford.

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