A Wargaming blog chronicling the campaigns of the Israeli Defense force from 1948's War of Independence through the Border Wars, the 1956 Suez Crisis, the War of Attrition, the 1967 Six-Day War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982 War in Lebanon, through the various incursions one way or the other in the present day. This will be done at skirmish scale in 15mm.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

War for Independence, Fight #1


AKA, the first fight in the Battle of Mar Gush

It's 28 March 1948 in the Palestine Mandate.  Times have been rough in recent years between the Jews and Arabs, but now, with the pending British departure from the territory, the violence has escalated.  As the Brits prepare to leave, both the Jews and the Arabs jockey for position, with former neighbors picking up weapons against each other.  To add to the volatility, Arab volunteers from the nearby Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon are arriving in the area, while the Jews are added to by refugees from war-ravaged Europe seeking asylum. 

There are a number of Jewish paramilitary organizations charged with defending Jewish settlements and carving out a homeland for the Jews, mainly the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi.  While ill-equipped, they are growing in number and sport a large collection of WWII veterans, mostly former British soldiers.  But their ability to project power is weak and their enemies many, and so many villages and kibbutzes are left to their own devices to ward off attacks.  And this is the situation we find ourselves in: not far west of Jerusalem lies the (fictional) Jewish village of Mar Gush, along the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Road, which was the only artery for bringing supplies to the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem.

In early March 1948, members of Haganah visited Mar Gush, delivering weapons, ammunition, and supplies.  They met with village elders to discuss the situation, making them aware of the threat to their village, and brought in a man, a kibbutzim and former Jewish Brigade member by the name of Avi Peled, to help the men of Mar Gush organize a defense.  Among the villagers Avi was able to find 25 able-bodied men, aged 17 to 54, and to this the Haganah was able to provide another eleven men, European survivors of the Holocaust recently arrived.  The 26-year old Avi set about training and organizing the men of Mar Gush; weapons were distributed and the men set up makeshift ranges to test fire their weapons, and took to the nearby countryside to work on rudimentary tactics, part of which was figuring out means of communication with the new arrivals.

After two weeks' training, a Colonel from the Haganah returned to Mar Gush to look in on the situation: he was obviously pleased, and to mark the occasion the Colonel officially recognized the fighters of Mar Gush's infantry company, and made Avi Peled a Captain of the Haganah. 

Following the Colonel's departure, Avi immediately set about making the village ready.  First up was the construction of shelters for the civilians, and then the men moved to the east end of the village, where they created a roadblock, three slit trenches, laid some barbed wire stripped from the fields, and topped it all off with three homemade land mines!  But time was short, and unbeknownst to the inhabitants of Mar Gush, men who wished them harm were already on the way.  Though he couldn't have known it was coming, on the eve of what would become known in Mar Gush as "The Confrontation," Avi called his men together, the entire company, around a set of campfires.  Avi laid out what he foresaw as their task in defending their village, and his understanding of how the odds were stacked against them.  He told his men he would understand if they wished to take their families and flee for the safety of Tel Aviv; when none took him up on his offer, Avi stood and pledged his life in defense of the village, and he was followed by each of the 36 members of his company.

Once concluded, the men returned to their families, but Avi requested Baruch Eitan, Danny Tzur, and Dor Peleg remain behind.  Avi brought them in close; "you are my friends, and the only family I have left.  And, from here on, you are my Lieutenants.  I trust you with my life and, more importantly, I trust you with the lives of our men.  You will sell them dearly, or you will answer to me.  Now go, I will stand watch tonight, go and be with your wives and children."

Overview of map, north is up, with Three-Tree Hill at top right (northeast) and the northern border of the village of Mar Gush visible at left, consisting of a couple stone walls, a few Jewish homes, with east-west and north-south running roads nearby, and flanked by the villagers' fields.

The opposing forces, with Jordanian Army troops at top, members of 1st Platoon at bottom, and Captain Avi Peled and a couple of his men with him.

This fight will be carried out by 1st Platoon (yes, this is a group of irregulars, and so what they are calling a company is actually a platoon, and what they are calling platoons are actually squads.  Don't worry, it will be fixed once they become a real army), from bottom left to top right:

-Lieutenant Baruch Eitan, age 33, former member of the Palmach returned home, MP-40
-Aaron Chaplin, age 44, a refugee from Belgium, Sten
-Dagan Narkiss, age 17, a village youngster, Mauser
-Gal Dayan, age 19, a village youngster, Sten
-Chaim Sharon, age 28, former Corporal in the British Army, Lee-Enfield
-Guy Rabin, age 40, village metalsmith, Springfield 03
-Eliyahu Rabat, age 31, former Sergeant of the Jewish Brigade, Sten
-Avigdor Galil, age 18, village youngster, Mauser
-Dov Cohen, age 37, a refugee from Poland, Sten
-Elijah Davidoff, age 49, a refugee from Czechoslovakia, MP-40
-Abel Landau, age 54, a refugee from Germany and veteran of the German Army in WWI, Mauser
-Asaf Horowitz, age 19, a village youngster, Mauser.

The boss, Captain Avi Peled (right, with Sten), with Danny Tzur and Dor Peleg, the leaders of 2nd and 3rd Platoons, respectively.

The point element of the Jordanian Army element, consisting of two Bren teams and six riflemen.

All the figures are 15mm troops from Peter Pig, and I'm playing these fights using Ivan's "Five Men at Kursk," modified slightly.

It is 1830 and the villagers are tending their fields north of the village of Mar Gush.

Levi, a lad of twelve, sits atop Three-Tree Hill, ostensibly on lookout for approaching marauders, but in practice he is a bit too busy daydreaming and not particularly alert.  Having already had dinner, his full belly and day-long boredom are making it difficult to focus.

And so there Levi sits (bottom left), tossing stones at various tree trunks, when he notices movement out of the corner of his eye.  "What is... oh my goodness!"  Levi fumbles for the Very pistol Avi gave him...

Though extraordinarily nervous, Levi manages to fire off a flare, alerting the village!

While the farmers (top) stare in amazement, Avi is the first to realize the gravity of the situation.  Baruch's platoon is the one on duty, standing by in the east end of the village; Avi crosses his fingers that Baruch has his men moving in reaction to Levi's flare.  Avi yells to Danny and Dor, the other platoon leaders (bottom left): "Follow me, we must bring the villagers in!"

Avi's faith in him is not misplaced; the flare has not even faded over Three-Three Hill (top right, with the Jordanians behind it) and Baruch already has his men dashing north to see what's the matter, knowing that if enemy troops are nearby the villagers in the northern fields are in peril.

Having done his civic duty, Levy dashes down the west slope of Three-Tree Hill (center) screaming to the famers to take shelter.

But the Jordanians are professional soldiers; alerted by Levi's flare, they immediately deploy, with two rifles heading around the north side of Three-Tree Hill (far right), a rifleman and a Bren team moving atop the hill, two riflemen heading through the trees (soon to be known as the Copse of Corpses, or simply, "The Copse"), on the southeastern end of the hill (center left), while a rifleman and the other Bren team move south on the road (far left).

While they've been working their butts off training and have a few combat vets, they're not quite there yet.  In the heat of the moment, Baruch's platoon loses all discipline and simply dashes towards Three-Tree Hill (top right), willing to sacrifice themselves to protect the villagers.  Baruch is at center, between the telephone pole and trees.

The fight is begun.

The combat begins with the professionals of the Jordanian Army (bottom right) spotting the gaggle of Jews charging at them; an enemy rifleman pulls up, shoulders his rifle, and fires...

18-year old Avigdor Galil tumbles to the ground.

Atop Three-Tree Hill, a Jordanian Bren team sets up and scouts for targets...

They (bottom center) immediately spots 1st Platoon (top center) and opens fire with short, disciplined bursts.

And the old Pole, Dov Cohen, falls next to Avigdor in a hail of bullets.

As the Bren team lays down fire, their supporting rifleman moves into the trees.

Chaim Sharon (bottom center) spots the enemy soldier (top center) and fires his Lee-Enfield...

But the former Corporal's rounds thwack harmlessly into the nearby trees.  The Jordanian flinches, then returns fire, but he misses also.

Just downslope, another Jordanian rifleman moves up in The Copse (top right); Baruch (bottom left) spots him, and the former Palmach commando cuts loose with his MP-40...

The target is knocked down (white bead at far right) while another man is pinned (yellow bead at bottom center).  Another Jordanian infantryman tries his luck, moving into The Copse (top center) as the Bren team holds up for a moment to figure things out (bottom left).

But Aaron Chaplin (bottom left), the Belgian, spots him (top right) and sets his Sten to stuttering...

Aaron's rounds pin the enemy rifleman (yellow bead at left).  The Bren gunner's assistant picks his way through The Copse (center top), looking for a good spot for the gun.

Elijah Davidoff, the Czech (bottom left), spots him (top center) in The Copse and fires past Chaim, who's engaging the enemy atop Three-Tree Hill...

The MP-40 rattles off a long burst, but to no effect.  The Jordanian A-gunner (bottom right) calmly returns fire, pinning Elijah.

The Bren gunner moves up into The Copse (top right) to join his assistant; the youngster, 17-year old Dagan Narkiss (bottom left) raises his Mauser and fires...

Dropping the enemy light machine gunner!

The last two Jordanian riflemen move up on the north side of Three-Tree Hill (far right).  Levi (center) and the farmers are screaming and running for their lives, but the Jordanians are busy scouting to the south for Jewish soldiers.

The farmers in the northern fields seek cover.

While Avi, Danny, and Dor dash forward, trying to get to the villagers (top right).

Chaim, standing exposed in the field (bottom right) with Elijah, Dov and Avigdor lying at their feet (and Baruch at bottom center) and aggravated at missing his first shot, settles his sights on the enemy Bren team atop Three-Tree Hill (top left, with The Copse at center top) and fires...

Knocking down the gunner and pinning the assistant!

And then Elijah slaps a fresh magazine into his MP-40 and opens up on The Copse...

Knocking the other assistant gunner out of the fight!  Well, one Bren team down, the other in bad shape on the hill.  And I think you're starting to figure out the whole  "Copse of Death" thing.

Eliayahu, the former Jewish Brigade Sergeant, spots the enemy riflemen moving around the left flank; he screams to Levi (top center left) to keep running, then sends a stream of 9mm rounds to the base of Three-Tree Hill (top center).

Suppressing both Jordanians and forcing them to fall back into cover!

One of the youngsters, Dagan, dashes into the street (bottom center left), but the enemy rifleman atop Three-Tree Hill (top right) spots him and fires...

Dagan, too green to understand how close to death he is, makes it to the cover of a tree and returns fire with his Mauser, though he misses too.

Not to be outdone, Baruch charges straight up the east road, firing his MP-40 from the hip and knocking down another enemy soldier in The Copse!

With all the commotion, Asaf, Guy, and Gal decide to join Dagan, though they dash across into cover behind the stone wall.

Abel Landau, the former German WWI veteran (and oldest man in the company) calmly moves into the road, takes a knee, and fires his Mauser...

Dropping another Jordanian at The Copse of Death (tp center).  There are three Jordanian KIAs and two knocked down (white beads).

At this point the Jordanians only have four guys still in the fight, with one pinned and two suppressed.  They have three guys knocked down, so able to get back into the fight, but it's going to be hard to reach the guys in The Copse (off camera to right).

As Baruch moves up (top left), looking to get at the Jordanians in The Copse (you can see a knocked down enemy soldier at far left), the enemy rifleman on the hill spots him and fires...

Baruch, who probably got a bit too focused on The Copse (off camera to right) and sort of forgot about the enemy troops on the hill (top right), got a none-too subtle reminder when the .303 caliber round zipped past his ear!  He dives into the cover of some trees and underbrush (red bead, with Abel at bottom left).

While the rifleman (center top) is taking potshots at Baruch, the Bren's assistant gunner rallies himself back into the fight.  He then leans over and checks his comrade, but the gunner is dead.  The assistant picks up the gun and readies it for action.  The two suppressed riflemen on the north side of the hill (far right) attempt to rally back into the fight.

One is good (far right), but the other is a bit shaken up and falls back again (bottom left).

And as that's happening, five more Jordanian troops show up, making their appearance in the southeast (bottom right), with Chaim and Elijah opposite them (at bottom left).

Levi continues running (center right), but the rest of the villagers are content to hunker down and wait for help.

Avi, Danny, and Dor hope the wall and charge across the road, looking to help the villagers get to safety.

Back on the right, Chaim and Elijah start shooting at the Jordanian newcomers, but only manage to knock down one enemy rifleman.

On the north side of the road, another village youngster, Gal Dayan (bottom left, the center guy) sees the enemy soldier atop the hill grab the Bren gun from the dead gunner and opens fire with his Sten.

The (new) Bren gunner on the hill (far right) is pinned, but one of the enemy reinforcements sights in on Gal (top center) and fires.  The round slaps into the thick stone wall but doesn't affect the young Jewish soldier.

His attention drawn to the enemy reinforcements (top right), the village metalsmith, Guy Rabin, turns his Springfield on them and fires...

The Bren's assistant is pinned (yellow bead), but another rifleman returns fire.  Another Arab round slaps into the thick stone wall (top left), but this one is enough to make Guy yelp, drop his rifle, and curl up into a ball at the base of the wall!

With Guy suppressed at bottom left, Eliyahu (bottom center) turns his Sten on the reinforcements (top right) and fires...

The enemy Bren gunner goes down, and a nearby rifleman is pinned.

Yeah, I'm using modern US Marine casualty figures for the Jordanians...

The Jordanian rifleman on Three-Tree Hill (bottom center) draws a bead on Eliyahu (top center) and fires...

The round is so close it actually passes clean through his trouser leg!  The former Jewish Brigade Sergeant (bottom left) snaps left and rips a burst up the hill (top right), pinning his assailant!  Meanwhile, the youngster Asaf moves to help his friend Guy (far left, red bead) get back in the fight).

But Guy is not ready, and decides to make sure no bad guys are hiding behind the west end of the building (bottom left, from top right).

On the far right, Chaim and Elijah have been standing alone against the enemy, despite Elijah being pinned.  Aaron Chaplin moves up to help Elijah out...

But Elijah is laser-focused on the bad guys, and when someone suddenly shows up on his shoulder he almost pees his pants!  Shocked and embarrassed, Elijah falls back behind the trees to regroup himself.

The old German, Abel, moves up to Baruch (bottom left), lights a cigarette, hands it to Baruch, and says "you know, you youngsters have it easy.  This is nothing compared to Belleau Wood."  Baruch smiles, takes a drag, and replies, "well, Old Man, watch this!"  And with that, Baruch reloads his MP-40, racks the charging handle, and charges straight into The Copse of Death (center)!  He reaches the first enemy soldier...

And knocks him out of the fight! (bottom left)

Baruch charges the next enemy soldier...

Two down (top left).  Baruch turns his attention to the Jordanian reinforcements (bottom right); Baruch dashes into the intersection...

And meets a third enemy soldier in hand to hand combat...

And subdues him!

The three remaining Jordanians of the reinforcement team throw down their weapons and surrender to Baluch!

While the four remaining Jordanians on Three-Tree Hill decide to haul ass for greener pastures!

Avi, Danny, and Dor finally reach the villagers and begin shepherding them back to the shelters they constructed in Mar Gush.  Baruch immediately turns the prisoners over to two of his men, then posts security while he and several others go to check on Avigdor and Dov; Avigdor was shot in the bicep, but will be able to return to duty in about a week.  Dov's wound was a bit worse; he was hit in the abdomen and will be evacuated to the hospital in Tel Aviv.  If it's not too bad they expect him to return in mid-April.

Once the villagers were squared away, Avi went and found Baruch.  "That was great work today, I'm proud of you, and I will make sure the entire village knows about what you did today!  And the Colonel, too!  You fought like a lion today, Baruch, and you saved those villagers.  How are your men?"  Baruch relayed the medical status of Avigdor and Dov; Avi stated "we were lucky today.  I think the enemy was a bit surprised by the ferociousness of your counterattack, at how determined you were.  They could not match your determination, nor your aggressiveness.  Trust me my friend, we will not have the best training, or the best weapons, but we have the best men, and so long as we act aggressively we cannot fail!  In any case, they're gone and it's getting dark, but mark my words, Baruch, they'll be back.  Go and get some rest; I am going to feed 3rd Platoon into the line, and will hold 2nd Platoon as reserve.  You're platoon will be the reserve to the reserve!"

Well, a resounding victory!  I must admit, I was shocked as hell at the result of this fight.  With me running the Jewish unit out there like a bunch of fans at a rock concert, I was expecting to take a bunch of casualties and be pushed out of the northern edge of the village.  And certainly when the Jordanians had two men fire and dropped two of my guys I figured that's where we were headed, but my dice were hot and the Jordanians' were cold.  So cold I had to bring in reinforcements just to try and make it a fight, and even that didn't really work as they couldn't get anyone into the center (The Copse of Death) to buddy check their knocked down guys.

The Jewish soldiers and villagers waited anxiously all the next day, but the Jordanians did not come back.  But the next night, in the wee hours of the morning on 30 March 1948, the sounds of enemy troops moving up in the pre-dawn darkness could be heard, again on the north side of the village.  Stay tuned, coming right up!



  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Pat, I appreciate it!


  2. Great battle - its surprising where sheer guts and goo rolling will get you.
    PS: You might consider the Eureka WW2 Australians as well:http://eurekamin.com.au/index.php?cPath=87_102_109_683&sort=3a

    1. Alan,

      Thanks man, and guts always rule on my table, whether they work or not! ;) I'm a big fan of Eureka, but I'm not going to pick any more troops up for the War of Independence, I'm using these guys until we move into 1956 Suez Crisis.