The following is not a battle report but a full Spanish Civil War scenario to play with Big Chain of Command. The Battle of Seseña is a pretty obscure episode of the war, a failed Republican attempt to stop the Nationalists offensive over Madrid in late october 1936. However it was a most remarkable action, the first involving a fairly large armoured column since the First World War and also the first tank-vs-tank battle of the Spanish Civil War.
The scenario has been designed by my ganing chum Alfredo Vitaller, also the author of the Bloody November-Madrid 1936 Campaign reported in this blog and also published as an independent article in the TooFatlardies Christmas 2014 Special.
The photos included in this article were shot at the game played at Club Dragón just before the Christmas period. Most of the minis and vehicles were painted by Kate War Painting
Following the fall of Toledo to the hands of the Nationalists forces in late September 1936, Madrid became now the next objective of Franco’s Army of Africa columns. These approached the capital city almost unmolested, as the moral of the Republicans crumbled and by late October they were to less than 100 km away.
Something was however already changing within the Republican field as the Government attempted to reign over the workers organizations and to make a more efficient use of the available military resources. A very significant step was the Decree forcing the militarization of the militias, the creation of Popular Army of the Republic and the “Mixed Brigades” as the main combat organization.
|Republican HQ (jump off point)|
Internationally, with the fascist Italian and nazi German governments openly supporting Franco's armies, the URSS took a similar step in support of the Republic, and by mid-October the first cargo ships arrived to the Mediterranean ports with planes, weapons and remarkably, 50 brand new T-26 tanks. Soviet and other international communist advisors also flocked into the Republican held-territory, to train the nascent army in the use of these modern weapons.
After a short period of training and concentration, the first Republican tank unit was already operational and the Soviet advisors seems to have pressed hard the Republican Government to put it into action sooner rather than later as the risks of Madrid falling to the enemy were evident.
A decision was taken and the objective was to cut the road connecting Madrid and Toledo with a main attack in the South through the Seseña-Esquivias-Illescas axis, supported by a secondary action in the north aiming to pierce the front at Griñón.
|Click to enlarge|
The Nationalists were so used to see the Republican forces retreating when not routing, that they failed to grasp the threat to its main supply line of such an attack. The 45mm-gunned T-26 was also a total surprise and a cause of concern, as this tank was superior in all aspects to the flimsy German Panzer I and Italian CV 33 reigning in the battlefield until that day.
Historically, after a promising start, the attack failed due mainly to the lack of coordination between the infantry forces and the tank unit committed to the battle.
A column made of 15 tanks moved straight into Seseña emerging from the an early morning mist; the defenders were confused initially as they were expecting the arrival of an Italian armoured column, but when reacted it was late and the tanks crossed the town almost unopposed, firing at the houses, destroying artillery positions and crushing the vehicles used by the Nationalists columns.
|Greisser Column attacking Seseña|
They continue along the road until reaching Esquivias, where a similar panic scenes happened; the Italian column arriving into this town could do nothing being outgunned and lacking any effective protection in their vehicles. Only one Republican tank was put out of action and after a long firing duel with an artillery piece in which the crew was killed due to a shot in the turret base..
In the meantime, at Seseña, the Republican infantry reached the outskirts of this town but the defenders once recovered from the surprise could halt the attack and retain the control of the town.
|Republicans assaulting Seseña|
Later, in the afternoon the tanks retraced their way back and entered Seseña again through the main road instead of bypassing it , but this time the defenders were ready and some of the tanks were knocked out with improvised Molotov cocktails in close combat.
At its conclusion, the Republicans lost 3 tanks, 10 of the crew members and undisclosed number of infantry casualties; the nationalists lost 12 guns, 16 vehicles and had 60 casualties.
According to memoirs of Enrique Líster’s , one of the Republican commanders, the attack failed due to the lack of experience of both tanks and infantry in conducting combined attacks; the tanks just charged forward and did not destroy the enemy’s fortified points of resistance, thus explaining the inability of the infantry to follow.
In the Nationalists field, Esquivias was held by a cavalry detachment commanded by Lt Col Cebollino supported by a 75mm field artillery battery.
At Seseña there were the foot section of the cavalry column, several Moroccan infantry sections, a navy infantry and a weapons section detachment supported by several artillery pieces.
In the Republican side, in addition to the 15 tanks column led by Major Paul Arman “Greisser”, the First Mixed Brigade (made of communist-led forces of the former 5th Regiment) led by Enrique Líster and elements of the columns Burillo and Uribarry (a mixed bag of militia, army and Asalto units from the defence of Toledo)
|Lister's 5th Regiment|
This is an “Attack on an Objective” scenario of the main rules book. Supports are calculated according to the scenario instructions and the Big of Chain of Command indications.
The Republican infantry must control Seseña at the end of a turn and at least 1 Republican AFV must have reached and entered Esquivias in order to achieve victory. The Nationalists win if they prevent the Republicans achieving these victory conditions.
o Tank column Greisser: 4 x T-26, start the game in a column formation on the road to Seseña
o Columna Líster: Use the 5th Regiment list for organization and support options. Deploy in point “B” to the right of the road to Seseña
o Columna Burillo: Use Militia list for organization and support options. Deploy in point “A” to the left of the road to Seseña
o Seseña garrison: Captain Sánchez Pérez Moroccan units. Use the Regulares lists for organisation and support options (no armoured support available)
o Esquivias garrison: Lt Col Cebollino cavalry squadron and an-board 75mm gun piece. Use the Cavalry lists for organisation and support options (no armoured support available)
o Captain Vidal Quadras tank column: 4 x Italian CV33, three with MGs and one with a flamethrower). Deploy in point “C”
Being a historical scenario, the patrol phase is forfeited and the units must deploy in the fixed locations indicated in the notes above and the map attached.
o Greisser’s tank column is allowed only to move along the road and any tank cannot operate more than 12” distance from the road.
o The republican infantry will activate only after the all the operational tanks had crossed Seseña and moved towards Esquivias.
o Seseña garrison: cannot fire in the first 2 activation phases but can roll dice to move or accumulate Chain of Command points, for example.
o Esquivias garrison: the cavalry unit will activate when the Republicans tanks are at 12” of the town limits; the gun will be operational three phases after the first cavalry activation.
o Captain Vidal Quadras tanks: it will be released after th cavalry units at Esquivias are activated for the first time.