Monday, March 2, 2015

Operation Herkules - Italians @ Malta 1942

For this year's Adepticon, I decided to start playing Bolt Action. It's a game I've been meaning to get into for a few years now but just never had the time or inclination to choose a national force. This past autumn I finished reading an excellent book about the Siege of Malta during World War 2 and the aborted joint Italian/German invasion of the island. Siege: Malta 1940-1943 focused mainly on the naval operations  mounted from Malta to harass the Afrika Korps naval convoys and the mass bombing campaign to force the island into capitulation. 

This got me thinking though - what if the planned invasion of Malta, known as Operazione C3: Malta and colloquially as Operation Herkules, had actually happened? In reality, by the winter of 1941-42, continued Luftwaffe bombing and the loss of several Allied naval relief convoys had brought the island to the breaking point. What if Hitler could have finally been convinced that the taking of Malta would have relieved pressure on Rommel's supply lines? What if Generalmajor Kurt Student, planner of the successful yet costly invasion of Crete, was given a second chance to carry out plans for the airborne invasion of Malta? And finally, what if the normally cautious leaders of the Regia Marina, in contrast to their concept of "a fleet in being", mounted a full-scale offensive amphibious invasion of the island?

In keeping with the pulpy nature of Bolt Action, I'm assembling my Italians for a tabletop invasion of Malta in early 1942. I'm trying to stay as close to the realistic plans and unit assignments for Operation Herkules. As such, I'm using a core of Italian Folgore Airborne and amphibious support units from the MVSN Gruppo Battaglione Da Sbarco. Eventually, I'll add a unit of San Marco Marines, German Fallschirmjager, and captured Russian AFVs from 2.PzAbt.zbV66. Below are Warlord Bolt Action Italian Airborne:

The commander figure below arrived missing an arm. Never giving in and never giving up, I sculpted on a cast and sling! This guy is leading from the front.

Here's everything I'm using for the Bolt Action tournament below. The back row are BTD Italians that will be painted up as the Blackshirt Sbarco Battaglione.

The objectives I'm using are a Fallschirmjager drop canister with road signs, a small Catholic shrine to the Virgin Mary, and a L3 Lanciafiamme. The shrine takes its inspiration from the real-life Blue Grotto shrine on Malta.

The L3 Lanciafiamme objective is removable. I had originally intended to use this in-game as AFV support, but the TO isn't allowing vehicle flamethrowers, so there goes that! I came across the interesting "compact" Lanciafiamme which mounted a smaller fuel tank above the rear engine deck. These modifications were made to ten L3/35s in an attempt to save weight and space and to make the AFV completely air-deployable. It was intended to be slung beneath the fuselage of a Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 bomber, which would slow to near stall speeds and low altitude and then summarily dropped with little more than a small parachute to slow its speed still further! I can't tell if the Italians ever actually tested out the idea but it's a cool story, very cinematic!

This model started as a Company B CV33. While the basic shape is fine, many details were poorly cast or misshapen. As such, I removed nearly all surface detail from the body and built it from the ground up - rivets and all. The most technically-challenging parts were trying to figure out how to model the distinctive flamethrower nozzle and the fuel hose. The nozzle I made by using a copper tube, crimped on one edge; while the hose is simply a solder wire wrapped in thin gauge copper wire.


Lasgunpacker said...

Air dropping a tank seems crazy, but airdropping a FLAME tank? Bonkers.

Anonymous said...

Very cool.
I found this as I was looking up sources for my own idea for a campaign to run on an attempted Malta attack.
In my case, the idea is to seize Malta in May 1941, not a year later. German Army High Command planning staff looked at possibility of seizing Crete and Malta (remember the Germans conquered Greece in April 1941), and favored Malta to clear the transport lanes to North Africa. Hitler wanted Crete to protect the Rumanian oil fields from British bombers... so they went to Crete.
I am hoping to make a combined campaign of Victory at Sea (relief columns from Gibraltar and Alexandria), Wings of Glory (to determine air control over Malta) and Flames of War (ground combat) - with possibly BA for small unit actions.

Zrune lord said...

Being from Malta & living there also I cannot but be interested in this.
Here is a link for a solo game that should interest you.

I would also suggest that you do some in shorts ( Maltese summers are very hot, can reach the 40deg C and over ) & model Cactus Plant ( Pall tal-Bajtar) walls which in those days were as unbiquitous as the stone walls ( Hitan tas-Sejjieh ).

Keep it up