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Mid War Germans in Italy

Mid War Germans in Italy
With David Forrest

Following on from Ryan Jeffares’ excellent article in using Iron Cross to represent German Forces in Tunisia, I’ll be discussing how to use Iron Cross and Ghost Panzer to represent the variety of forces deployed in Sicily and Italy.

The Italian Campaign
Following the Axis surrender in Tunisia in May 1943, the Allied forces set their sights on the island of Sicily with the aim of eventually taking the war to mainland Italy. Operation Husky, launched on 10 July 1943, was the combined British and American assault on the heavily fortified island, pitting the 15th Allied Army Group against two German and two Italian Corps. The fierce fighting in difficult, mountainous, countryside lasted two months before the Allies attacked mainland Italy.

Mid War Germans in Italy

September 1943 saw Operations Baytown, Slapstick, and Avalanche launch 3 separate assaults on mainland Italy. By attacking at 3 different locations, it was hoped that the defending Germans, weakened by the surrender of their Italian Allies, would struggle with multiple invasion forces attacking simultaneously. In an effort to halt the Allied advance, the Germans dug in on the Naples-Bari line, the first of a series of defensive lines stretching from coast to coast. Each defensive line cost the Allies dearly in men, equipment, supplies, and time. It is said that Italy is like a boot, and it should be entered from the top; the Allies were learning that the hard way.

Core Formations
Fallschirmjäger
Starting with the new kids on the block, Death From Above provides you with the Fallschirmjäger Company organisation as well as a wealth of support options. Fallschirmjäger fought in Sicily and Italy, exemplified by 1. Fallschirmjägerdivision’s energetic defence of Ortona against Canadian attacks in fierce house-to-house combat. To accurately represent the Fallschirmjager forces in Italy, use the standard Fallschirmjager Company since the organisation didn’t change over the theatres. You might want to paint some of the Fallschirmjager in tropical uniforms. 

Mid War Germans in Italy

Mid War Germans in Italy

Tiger Heavy Tank Company
Not only were Tigers in Italy used in discrete, dispersed platoons to reinforce weaker areas of the front, but they were also deployed in concentrated companies. Whether it’s in a Heavy Tank Company, part of Mixed Panzer Company, or in a support slot, Tigers shouldn’t be taken in ‘Early’ style platoons, with escort Panzers, as the escort system used in Tunisia and early battles on the Eastern Front wasn’t employed in Italy – the ‘Late’ platoon structure card from Ghost Panzers is much more appropriate here.

PanzerCompany
Not only were Tigers in Italy used in discrete, dispersed platoons to reinforce weaker areas of the front, but they were also deployed in concentrated companies. 

Mid War Germans in Italy

Whether it’s in a Heavy Tank Company, part of Mixed Panzer Company, or in a support slot, Tigers shouldn’t be taken in ‘Early’ style platoons, with escort Panzers, as the escort system used in Tunisia and early battles on the Eastern Front wasn’t employed in Italy – the ‘Late’ platoon structure card from Ghost Panzers is much more appropriate here.

Mid War Germans in Italy

Armoured Panzergrenadier Company/ Panzergrenadier Company
Like their tank-mounted brethren, the Armoured Panzergrenadiers benefitted from a standardised organisation across both fronts, so the formation from Ghost Panzers can be used as is. 

Omitting the half-tracks and taking the mortar and gun team options allows you to field them as a Panzergrenadier Company, and in turn you can tailor this further with Softskin Transports (for the proper Panzergrenadier feel) or the Machine-Gun Bunkers and Pakfront cards should you wish to represent one of the many fortified positions the Germans established as they were forced north through the Italian mainland. The Pioneer Company card is also an option here, for either armoured or unarmoured Panzerpioneers

Grenadier Company
By the time the war had moved from Africa the tailored infantry companies of the Afrika Korps had given way to the more conventionally organised Grenadier Companies of the wider Heer. Like most of the other standardised formations, the Iron Cross Grenadier company can be fielded as it is, without any need to tailor or omit much. This flexible formation provides a solid defensive force, with the numbers to withstand a sustained assault and the heavy weapons to see off all comers, but it may struggle in scenarios where they are tasked with going beyond enemy lines to hold ground. The Pioneer Company card is also an option here if you want to reflect the hard-working field engineer units, and this would work very well in tandem with the Africa Rifle Company below.

Afrika Rifle Company
While the Afrika Korps formations are generally obsolete, if you want to field the remains of an infantry company that has been reduced to a handful of heavy weapons with a few men to screen them, you could use the Africa Rifle Company as a basis for your force. The Pakfront and MG Bunkers cards can be added to dig them into a static position, giving the type of force frequently seen in the defensive lines across Italy as the German Army tried to stretch their limited manpower as far as possible. The small platoons, organic heavy weapons and large number of anti-tank guns make for a great defensive force, and most enemies will struggle to shift these dug in troops.

Mid War Germans in Italy

Command Card Formations
Reconnaissance Company/Fast Company
The Ghost Panzer Reconnaissance Company and the Iron Cross Fast Company both provide the basis for more infantry focussed reconnaissance formations, as armoured cars were less likely to be used as the basis for a fighting formation in the difficult terrain of the Italian mountains. With the Armoured Panzergrenadiers’ optional half-tracks, the Softskin Transports card, and the Kübelwagen Scout Cars card, there are a variety of options to represent infantry reconnaissance companies or fast the Kampfgruppen that were hurriedly assembled to meet the attacking Allies.

Mid War Germans in Italy

Support Units
As well as compulsory units from the above formations, most of the support options from Ghost Panzers are still acceptable support units for an Italy themed force. Artillery support comes from the 15cm Nebelwerfer and towed 10.5cm artillery batteries, while Wespes and Hummels are a great compliment for an armoured formation, and the Panzer II OP is ever-present to direct the big guns.

StuG Gs and optional StuH (from the Assault Gun company) are also an option for defensively oriented formations, with Marders, 5cm and 7.5cm Tank-Hunter Platoons also providing anti-tank options. Light and Heavy Scout Troops, 8.8cm AA guns and Sdkfz 10 half-tracks fill out the reconnaissance and anti-aircraft options. Finally, the Luftwaffe also on hand to provide air support with the ever-present and reliable Stuka D available to German forces in Italy.

 


Last Updated On Thursday, November 28, 2019 by Luke at Battlefront