The Battle of Celleno

6th South African Armoured Division

The Battle of Celleno, 10 June 1944

By J.C von Winterbach, Mike Bersiks, & Rex Barrett

By 9 June 1944, the 6th South African Armoured Division was spearheading the Allied advance towards Florence and captured Vallerano, Canepina, & Viterbo. But the move towards Florence was delayed by demolitions north of Viterbo, where a blown bridge was covered by German infantry and 3 Tiger I E tanks. With both 4/22 Field Regiment, SAA and 7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA, guns heavily shelling enemy targets, 1/8 and 2/8 Troop of 8th Field Squadron, SAEC, began construction of a culvert under spasmodic fire, but had to withdraw to defensive positions for a while when a Tiger I E tank approached. 

Then, when it became obvious after dark that the newly constructed crossing would not stand up to continual use by tanks, 2/8 Troop had to put a Bailey bridge beside it. It was after midnight on 9 June 1944 that a bridgehead was established over the Acqua Rossa and the exhausted men of 8th Field Squadron, SAEC, were later relieved by the men of 12th Field Squadron, SAEC. 

The advance on the German’s right flank started at first light on 10 June 1944, with the ILH/KimR & SSB moving up to establish contact with the German defensive line north of the town of Aqua Rossa. The advance North was intended to secure the bridgehead around Aqua Rossa, but the ILH/KimR & SSB advance was soon halted by German heavy mortar fire.


“C” Squadron, NMR passed through on reconnaissance at 8:00, and almost immediately drew heavy fire from the German anti-tank screen consisting of 8.8cm and 7.5cm PaK guns, losing two tanks with their entire crew all being killed. On hearing the distress calls over the air, the SSB was immediately ordered forward to their assistance. Heavy resistance was coming from the German 356. Infanteriedivision, which had recently arrived from Genoa under Generalmajor Hans von Rohr. The freshly committed German Division was still raw but it was supported by elements of 4. Fallschirmjägerdivision, 3. Panzergrenadierdivision, 362. Infanteriedivision and 26. Panzerdivision.

Instead of passing the 24th Guards Brigade through the bridgehead as intended, Maj. Gen. W.H.E. Poole now ordered the 11th South African Armoured Brigade in with the SSB leading the way, though the 4/22 Field Regiment was not yet in position to give covering fire. Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg realised that German forces were withdrawing northwards up the axis of Route 2 and intended to turn the German left flank by ordering the SSB to advance on the right flank. The Rhodesians of “C” Squadron were at breakfast when the call came for support. Mess tins, plates and mugs were abandoned with contents unfinished as the men raced to their tanks. The SSB Squadrons were in the lead along the road and had covered barely a kilometre when its tanks were sprayed with machine-gun and anti-tank fire. They had struck the enemy anti-tank screen south of the railway running across their line of advance.

South African Sherman V With “A” Squadron, SSB in right rear and “B” Squadron, SSB in left rear north of the bridgehead, the SSB had hardly formed up for the attack before they came under heavy shellfire. Without waiting for reconnaissance or artillery support Lt. Col. C.E.G. Britz boldly decided to move on in the same formation, with “A” Squadron, SSB forming a firm base on high ground on the right flank as the NMR tanks withdrew from action, “C” Squadron, SSB moved forward against heavy anti-tank fire from guns of all calibres from 2 to 8.8cm, backed by some 50 to 60 MG-42 machine-guns sited in houses and tree’s, and from a number of Nebelwerfer rocket launchers.
While two troops of “A” Squadron, SSB held a firm base, the rest of the squadron were ordered right and forward, to take up hull-down positions from which they put down heavy fire on the enemy’s left flank to such good effect that the German infantry broke and were mown down as they tried to get away. “C” Squadron, SSB had been brought to a halt, but Lt. Col. C.E.G. Britz ordered “B” Squadron, SSB round in a wide left hook which ran into anti-tank fire. This was silenced by superb marksmanship on the part of the South African and Rhodesian tank gunners, before the SSB turned machine-guns on the enemy infantry, who broke and fled.

Parts of “A” Company, ILH/KimR accompanied the advance of the SSB, by going into action on the back off the advancing tanks. Soon after, two leading tanks were blown up by panzerfausts at point-blank range after the Germans had shown the “White Flag”. Lt. Col. C.E.G. Britz then issued the order over the radio to the troops to “Show no Mercy”. Lt. Col. C.E.G. Britz reckoned that the enemy was holding with a strength equivalent to a brigade with two battalions up and one in reserve, supported by divisional as well as regimental anti-tank guns. All SSB tanks except his own command tank had been committed, and they were rapidly replenished from the rear, with truck drivers displaying great courage in coming right forward in their open vehicles under fire, and was once again ready to move on to the offensive. “C” Company, ILH/KimR was winkling out enemy remnants hiding among farmhouses, holes, bushes, cornfields, caves and hedges. At this point, artillery forward observation officers at last came forward to report to Lt. Col. C.E.G. Britz.

From 11:45 the guns of the 4/22 Field Regiment were engaging numerous targets, including enemy infantry who were effectively pinned by air-burst. Anti-tank guns to the right, in the area of Grotte S. Stefano, were knocked out by fire from 7/64 Field Battery’s 25-pdr guns, and the 7/23 Medium Regiment’s 5.5” howitzers brought down fire with devastating effect shortly before midday. In less than two hours artillery fire had knocked out five 88’s, sixteen 5cm anti-tank guns, three Machine-guns, a Panzer IV, four Panzer III tanks (most likely Flammpanzer II tanks) and numerous infantry.

“B” Company, ILH/KimR at 14:30 joined “C” Company, ILH/KimR with the SSB, while “A” Company, ILH/KimR swept the slopes towards Celleno village, beyond the enemy’s prepared positions, which followed the steep bank of the railway line running east to west through Grotte and some 4500m South of Celleno. 

South African Sherman V
Working in close co-operation with the tanks, ILH/KimR cleared the approaches to Celleno through a thickly wooded area studded with enemy machine-guns and Panzerfaust anti-tank posts. Wiping up enemy pockets was a dangerous and slow process, and in order not to lose the momentum of the attack Lt. Col. C.E.G. Britz decided to keep the tanks moving. Dismounting from the Shermans “B” & “C” Companies, ILH/KimR kept working with the armour, whose “C” Squadron, SSB now advanced under the railway line and immediately met anti-tank fire from guns sited in depth along the road, with additional infantry opposition from panzerfausts, machine-guns and snipers in the trees.

With the railway atop a high embankment, it was impossible to cross it anywhere except where the road ran beneath the line, but “C” Squadron, SSB got through and made firm on high ground running across the road about 180 meters north of the railway. Having driven through the wooded area cleared by ILH/KimR, the tanks acted as artillery and very effectively shelled Celleno before the Infantry moved in.

With “C” Squadron, SSB firm beyond the railway line, “B” Squadron, SSB passed through, carrying men of ILH/KimR on the backs of the tanks again as they made for high ground North of Celleno. Fighting with every weapon at its disposal, the Squadron got one troop on to high ground North-West of the village and overlooking it, and “C” Squadron, SSB then moved up on the right into an area which had to be cleared of determined German tank hunting parties and snipers by ILH/KimR, who were brought up by “A” Squadron, SSB and SSB Reconnaissance tanks.

While Lt. Col. R. Reeves-Moore’s men of ILH/KimR fought their way towards the outskirts of Celleno, their mopping-up developed into an attack on the village itself, and the SSB moved more tanks on to higher ground northeast of it, thus holding the area and providing sufficient fire support while the infantry prised the Germans out house by house. In farmhouses scattered around about ten large buildings which looked like schools, German remnants had good cover and resisted bitterly, but they were unable to hold back the men of ILH/KimR, who took a large number of prisoners and inflicted heavy casualties.

Knocked out Tiger I E By 20:00 that night as the SSB tanks had run out of petrol and ammunition, and the enemy’s fire had died down. Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg ordered Lt. Col. C.E.G. Britz not to continue the advance until the divisional artillery could come into action further forward to search the wooded country ahead. It was decided not to hold the ground occupied at the end of the day, and as the SSB tanks withdrew to replenish and to rest their crews, many whom had not eaten since the previous night, they took the ILH/KimR men out with them to a position about 3km south, to wait for the 24th Guards Brigade to pass through and continue the advance the next morning

During the action at Celleno, Brig. J.P.A. Furstenberg ordered the PAG to cover the SSB’s right flank, with support from the 4/22 Field Regiment, whose guns effectively engaged the enemy. The PAG Regiment moved up the Viterbo-Bagnoregio road (The area between Viterbo-Bagnoregio is characterized by modest little farms, each with a few rows of vines and assortment of fruit trees. The hills and gullies are rugged and forested), and by 12:30 on 10 June 1944 it had reached a point about 11km north of Viterbo, with “A” Squadron, PAG and the Reconnaissance Troop searching for a crossing over the River Malone. “B” Squadron, PAG coming up from reserve, crossed the river but was pinned by anti-tank fire. “A” Squadron, PAG was already moving along sunken lanes only some 1370 meters from Grotte when enemy anti-tank guns scored hits on five Shermans, three of which “brewed up”. “C” Squadron, PAG covered “A” Squadron’s left and “B” Squadron, PAG moved up to take over from “A” Squadron, PAG but was halted by anti-tank fire, some of which was from a range of only 180 meters. 

No further progress in this sector was possible without infantry support, but casualties were inflicted on the enemy and prisoners were taken. Though it had just come under command of the 24th Guard Brigade, the Pretoria Regiment (PR), at 18:00 that day was ordered to move immediately for fire support of the 11th South African Armoured Brigade, and from turret-down positions plastered the Celleno-Grotte area with high explosive rounds.

The Battle of Celleno lasted for 12 hours and culminated as South Africa’s first victory in the Italian Campaign. The 11th Armoured Brigade had suffered a total of 53 casualties, but it had severely mauled 356. Infanteriedivision east of Lake Bolsena for a total of 252 casualties and capturing many prisoners. A year prior to the battle, however, the 6th South African Armoured Division was still training in the desert expanses of Khataba. Under-equipped, under-strength, and unsure of their future, the 6th South African Armoured Division was able to turn themselves into a capable, armoured, fighting force within less than a year.

Battle of Celleno Scenario

The Battle of Celleno scenario uses the Ambush (page 266), Reserves (page 268), Delayed Reserves (page 269),and Prepared Positions (page 264) special rules.

South African Units

RDLI - Royal Durban Light Infantry
NMR - Natal Mounted Rifles
DROR - Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Rifles
RLI - Rand Light Infantry
RB/RPS - Regiment Botha/Regiment President Steyn
PR - Pretoria Regiment
PAG - Prince Alfred’s Guard
SSB - Special Service Battalion
ILH/KimR - Imperial Light Horse/Kimberley Regiment
RNC - Royal Natal Carbineers
FC/CTH - First City/Cape Town Highlanders Regiment WR/DLR - Witwatersrand/De La Rey Regiment


Your orders are to stop the Allied advance towards Florence by holding the town of Celleno.

Your orders are to advance towards Florence by breaking through the German lines at the town of Celleno.


1. For Table Set-up please use the “No Retreat” Mission (page 279) and for Terrain set-up please use the Scenario map as your guide.
2. Starting with the German player, both players now place one Objective each in the defender’s end of the table. The Objectives must be at least 8”/20cm from the centre line of the table, and may not be placed within 8”/20cm of any table edge.
3.The German player then nominates at least half of their platoons to be held off the table in Reserve at the start of the game. The troops held in Reserves will arrive along the short table edge in the German player’s table half. The German player may hold one of his starting platoons in ambush.
4. The South African player then Deploys all their platoons, except those in Delayed Reserves, in the South African Deployment area. The troops held in Delayed Reserve will arrive along the short table edge in the South African player’s table half.
5.Both players, starting with the German player, now Deploy all their Independent teams.

Celleno Scenario Map


1. The South African player may make Reconnaissance Deployment moves for any Recce teams they have on table.
2. The South African player has the first turn.
3. As both sides are in Prepared Positions, all platoons may begin the game Dug In.


The battle ends when:
• The South Africans has Taken any of the Objectives at the start of their turn, or
• The Germans starts any of their turns from turn six with no attacking teams in the defender’s half of the table, or
• If either the South Africans or Germans fails a Company Motivation Check.


• The South Africans wins if the game ended because they started one of their turns holding an Objective.
• Otherwise the Germans wins.
• Calculate your Victory Points using the Victory Points Table on Page 275.


• The Table Size is 6 x 4.
• Scrubs only provide “Concealment”.
• Woods are “Difficult Going” with 12" Visibility & Artillery Bombardments can be fired from within.

Terrain NotesPlease refer to the following key to deploying the correct terrain types.
1.    Woods
2.    Treelines
3.    Orchards
4.    Farm houses
5.    Plowed Fields
6.    A mix of one and two storey town buildings
7.    Roads

356. Infanteriedivision

Elements of the 356. Infanterie-Division, I. Fallschirm-Korps, 14. Armee (Confident Veteran) (Page 54 Fortress Italy)

Grenadierkompanie HQ (CV)
• 2 Command Panzerfaust SMG teams w/ 2 Sniper Teams

165 points
Grenadier Platoon (CV)
• Command Panzerfaust SMG team w/ 3 Grenadier Squads. (Rifle/MG)

165 points
Grenadier Platoon (CV)
• Command Panzerfaust SMG team w/ 3 Grenadier Squads. (Rifle/MG)

165 points
Grenadier Pioneer Platoon (CV) (White Pioneers)
• Command Panzerfaust SMG team w/ Pioneer Supply horse-drawn wagon
& w/ 3 Pioneer Squads. (Rifle)
• Remember your 3 Barbed Wire Entanglements.

230 points
Grenadier Machine-Gun Platoon (CV)
• Command SMG team w/ 2 Machine-gun Sections. (MG42 HMG)

135 points
Grenadier Mortar Platoon (CV)
• Command SMG team w/ 2 Mortar Sections. (8cm GW34 Mortars)

125 points
Grenadier Anti-Tank Gun Platoon (CV)
• Command SMG team w/ 3 Anti-Tank Sections (7.5cm PaK40 Guns) & w/ Kfz 70 Trucks

160 points
Luftwaffe Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Platoon (RT)
• Command SMG team w/ 2 Anti-Air Sections (8.8cm FlaK36 Guns) & Extra Crew

115 points
Panzer Platoon (CV)
• 4 Panzer IV H

360 points
Rocket Launcher Battery (CV)
• HQ w/ 2 Rocket Sections (4x 15cm NW41 Rocket Launchers)
& w/ Kfz 15 Field Car & Sd Kfz 11 Half-Tracks

150 points
Motorised Artillery Battery (CV)
• HQ w/ 2 Gun Sections (4x 10.5cm leFH18 Howitzers)
& w/ Kfz 15 Field Car, Kfz 68 Radio Truck & Sd Kfz 11 Half-Tracks

215 points
Total (10 Platoons)
1985 points
6th South African Armoured Division Elements of the 11th South African Armoured Brigade, 6th South African Armoured Division, XIII Corps (Confident Veteran) (Pages 76 to 95 of  Road to Rome)
Armoured Squadron HQ (CV) (RHQ, SSB)
• 2 Command Sherman V tanks w/ .50 cal AA MGs

170 points
Armoured Platoon (CV) (“A” Squadron, SSB)
• 3 Sherman V tanks & 1 Sherman IIA tank w/ .50 cal AA MGs

380 points
Armoured Platoon (CV) (“B” Squadron, SSB)
• 3 Sherman V tanks & 1 Sherman IIA tank w/ .50 cal AA MGs

380 points
Armoured Platoon (CV) (“C” Squadron, SSB) (Rhodesians)
• 3 Sherman V Tanks & 1 Sherman IIA Tank w/ .50 cal AA MGs

380 points
Armoured Recce Platoon (CV) (“C” Squadron, NMR)
• 2 Sherman V & 2 Stuart V Jalopy

290 points
South African Motor Platoon (CV) (“A” Company, ILH/KimR)
• Command Rifle/MG Team w/ 1 PIAT Team, 1 Light Mortar Team
w/ 3 Rifle/MG Squads (No Transport)   

190 points
South African Motor Platoon (CV) (“B” Company, ILH/KimR)
• Command Rifle/MG Team w/ 1 PIAT Team, 1 Light Mortar Team
w/ 3 Rifle/MG Squads & w/ 2 M5 Half-tracks & 2 M5 Half-tracks with .50 cal MG

215 points
South African Motor Platoon (CV) (“C” Company, ILH/KimR)
• Command Rifle/MG Team w/ 1 PIAT Team, 1 Light Mortar Team
w/ 3 Rifle/MG Squads & w/ 2 M5 Half-tracks & 2 M5 Half-tracks with .50 cal MG

215 points
Delayed Reserves
Field Battery, Royal Artillery (CV) (4/22 Field Regiment, SAA)
• HQ w/ 1 Gun Troop (OQF 25-pdr Guns)
& w/ 15 cwt Truck, Quad Tractors & Sherman V OP

200 points
Medium Battery, Royal Artillery (CV) (7/23 Medium Regiment, SAHA)
• HQ w/ 1 Gun Troop (BL 5.5” Guns)
& w/ 15 cwt Truck, Matador Tractors & Sherman V OP

325 points
Total (9 Platoons)
2725 points

Last Updated On Friday, May 30, 2014 by Wayne at Battlefront