Thursday, June 28, 2018

Battle for Malta - Scenario 5 - Sink the Italian shipping

This is the fifth scenario in a Battle for Malta campaign that follows the exploits of the Country of Dampshire 369 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force fighting against the Regia Aeronautica squadriglia d'aquila - two fictitious squadrons. We use the Wings of Glory WW2 rules, slightly modified to give faster play. We use the Wings of Glory planes where the right model is available, other manufactures are used to fill in the gaps.

We use our own set of campaign rules "Wings Over Malta". These contain 6 basic missions which will be played with alternate sides as the attacker. They will be played first with "early war" planes and then repeated with "late war planes". This differs from our previous Battle of Britain campaign which was a ladder campaign that followed more exactly the historical battle.

The Background

Malta was situated on the increasingly important sea supply route for the North African campaign. It would be a major help to the Allied war effort if the supplies from Italy to the Axis troops in North Africa could be reduced. Malta was the base for many Allied strikes against Italian shipping. The Fairey Swordfish was the Allied torpedo bomber in use at the start of the campaign.

The Fairey Swordfish was initially operated primarily as a fleet attack aircraft. It was already considered obsolescent in 1939. However the Swordfish remained in front-line service until V-E Day, having outlived multiple aircraft that had been intended to replace it in service.

The Swordfish holds the distinction of having caused the destruction of a greater tonnage of Axis shipping than any other Allied aircraft. While there were never more than a total of 27 Swordfish aircraft stationed on Malta at any one time, the type succeeded in sinking an average of 50,000 tons of enemy shipping per month across a nine-month period and during one record month, 98,000 tons of Axis shipping were reportedly lost to the island's Swordfish-equipped strike force.

The Action

Pilot Officer Emmett Hollingberry was drinking his traditional after lunch whisky with the new replacement Pilot Officer Lee N Perrin when the telephone rang. An Italian supply convoy had been spotted leaving port in Italy and heading for North Africa. The Fleet Air Arm were sending a strike of Fairy Swordfish torpedo bombers to sink the supply ships and they wanted an escort from 369 Squadron.

"What-ho!" said Hollingberry to Lee N Perrin, "now's your chance to show what you're made of!". Hollingberry grabbed the course and contact info for the Swordfish and then he and Lee N Perrin ran out to their Gloster Gladiators, jumped in and scrambled.

Knowing how important it was for the supply convoy to get through to North Africa, the Regia Marina had asked the Regia Aeronautica's squadriglia d'aquila to fly a combat air patrol over the convoy as long as possible. Capitano Vitello Tonnato flew his new Macchi C.200 fighter while Tenente Luigi Macaroni and Tenente Vittorio Gambetta flew their Fiat CR.42 biplanes.

The convoy was in a diamond formation heading towards Africa.

The British headed out over the Mediterranean in tight formation heading towards the expected position of the convoy.

The British spotted the convoy and its circling escort of fighters.

Both sides continued straight forward, except for Hollingberry who turned behind the Swordfish.

The planes continued to close, except for Hollingberry who dallied behind the Swordfish.

The two CR.42's opened fire on Lee N Perrin who returned fire.

The two CR.42's turned in towards the Swordfish which had themselves turned towards the Italians. Lee N Perrin's Gladiator got somehow caught in the middle. Hollingberry was still dallying behind the Swordfish.

Both CR.42's opened up on Lee N Perrin at close range.

Both CR.42's then turned sharply trying to tail the Swordfish, but instead ended up tailing Lee N Perrin's Gladiator. Even Capitano Vitello Tonnato in his Macchi C.200 fighter now closed in on the Swordfish. The dilly-dallying Hollingberry was too far behind to affect the combat.

A lucky shot from the Swordfish's rear gunner, and flames shot out from a CR.42 engine.

The two Swordfish headed towards the ships. Lee N Perrin performed an Immelmann which surprised the two Italian CR.42's. Tonnato misjudged his turn ad came in wide. The dilly-dallying Hollingberry was too far behind to affect the combat.

Lee N Perrin's Gladiator was a goner.

The rear gunners of both Swordfish opened up on the flaming CR.42 which didn't stand a chance!

Tonnato in his M.C.200 together with the remaining CR.42 joined forced to attack one Swordfish. The other Swordfish dropped its torpedo. The dilly-dallying Hollingberry was too far behind to affect the combat.

Having dropped its torpedo, the first Swordfish turned away. The second Swordfish turned so as to line up for its torpedo run; smoke started pouring from its engine. Both Italians saw this as a good omen and opened fire again; the Swordfish's rear gunner returned fire.

The swordfish didn't make it, and crashed into the sea with its torpedo still attached.

The remaining Swordfish banked away and headed home. The rear gunner could see the torpedo hit dead centre on the convoy's lead ship. The explosion was too much and the ship broke up and sunk.

The two Italians chased the remaining Swordfish. However Hollingberry was now behind them and opened fire.

Bravely ignoring Hollingberry, the two Italians concentrated on hunting down the remaining Swordfish.

But the Italians misjudged their turns as Hollingberry closed in from behind.

The CR.42 had taken plenty of damage from the Swordfish's rear gunners and now Hollingberry could finish it of with a lucky burst.

Tonnato took a snap shot at the Swordfish and then turned for home.

While Tonnato headed for home, Hollingberry escorted the remaining Swordfish back to Malta. When the landed, the Swordfish pilot asked Hollingberry "What took you so long?".

The ships of the convoy saw the planes crash. A launch was sent to pick up Tenente Luigi Macaroni and Tenente Vittorio Gambetta. Even Pilot Officer Lee N Perrin was picked up POW. The crew of the Swordfish didn't make it.


British Victory

  • Capitano Tonnato: 1 Kill, awarded Medaglia di bronzo al valore aeronautico.
  • Tenente Luigi Macaroni : 1 Kill
  • Pilot Officer Hollingberry: 1 Kill, awarded bar to DFC
  • Pilot Officer Lee N Perrin: POW
  • FAA red-nose Swordfish: 1 Kill, KIA
  • FAA black-nose Swordfish: 1 Ship Kill

Campaign Result so far...

1 Country of Dampshire 369 Squadron Auxiliary Air Force
4 Regia Aeronautica squadriglia d'aquila


ARES has no Macchi C.200 Saetta models so we used resin models Armaments in Miniature (AIM).

ARES has no Fairey Swordfish models so we used metal kits from the Skytrex Action 200 1:200 Scale WW2 range. When I added a peg to the underside of the plane to fit into a Wings of Glory stand, there was no room to add the torpedo which came with the kit; luckily I could use these spare torpedoes as dropped torpedo markers.

The ships are 1:1200 Hallmark models sold by Magister Militum.

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