Background image is Les Dernières Cartouches (The Last Cartridges) by Alphonse de Neuville

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Operation Brassard: The French Return to Elba

Goumiers and their mules boarding a landing craft.
While I'm trying to keep a lot of my gaming attention on exploring the Great War in this year of its opening's centennial (as featured in my other blog, The Hissing Fuse), I haven't entirely given up on other subjects. Last weekend, as mentioned, I had a chance to play Fire in the Lake (and I'll have a longer post on that shortly). But I'm also enjoying an abundance of Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) games recently. My friend Bryan and I got in two Starter Kit (ASLSK or SK) games on Sunday. I also have several games going by email, some SK, some full ASL.

One opponent who I lucked into just recently was kind enough to agree to try out one of Laurent Martin's ASLSK web-distributed scenarios. As a completist, I love the challenge of playing all the SK scenarios--a goal that I might realistically accomplish, where playing all published full ASL scenarios is almsot certainly impossible.

Three of M. Martin's scenarios deal with Operation Brassard, an effort I had not heard of before I came across his webpage. This assault on the island of Elba took place in June 1944, a week and a half after the Normandy landings in France. Ostensibly aimed at neutralizing German observers who were interefering with Allied movement along the Italian coast, the invasion was probably also aimed at giving troops slated for the invasion of southern France a bit of on the job training before putting them up against more significant enemy forces.

With a French commando battalion, a battalion of Moroccan goumiers (and their 200 mules), two regiments (six battalions) of Tirailleurs Senegalais, plus British commandos, bomber and fighter aircraft, and naval gunfire support, the two battalions of German infantry on the island were outnumbered by more than four to one. Despite several missteps by the Allied invasion forces, the German resistance, initially fierce, collapsed after three days. Most of these same troops, the French 9me Division d'Infanterie Coloniale, went on to seize Toulon during Operation Dragoon--the Allied invasion of southern France.

Free French forces had liberated Corsica eight months earlier. With the capture of Elba, France might be said to have completed two legs of a Napoleonic trifecta. But, Axis forces never having reached the southern Atlantic in strength, the Free French were never called on to liberate St Helena.

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