Panzers at the Pyramids
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Panzers at the Pyramids

What if the Afrika Korps had broken through at El Alamein? Rommel, the famed "Desert Fox," even sketched out a map of the pursuit into the Nile Delta had the breakthrough occurred. German units are battalions, Italian units are regiments, and Allied units are brigades. One day per turn, and 8 miles to the hex. Rules are included for air strikes, interdiction, step reduction, limited intelligence, combined arms, petrol shortages, Rommel, the Egyptian Free Officers Coup, uprisings, German espionage attempts, flooding the Delta, and surprise air drops. 11 x 17 color map and 220 color counters. $14.00

Historical notes (from the rulesbook)

The Panic

July 1, 1942 was know as Ash Wednesday in Cairo. The air was thick with smoke and ashes from all of the burning files as British military and governmental officials prepared to evacuate the city. The train station was flooded with refugees. Civil officials with automobiles loaded them with belongings and headed east. Egyptian shopkeepers and hoteliers could be seen preparing red, white, and black streamers and bunting. Pictures of Churchill disappeared, and pictures of Rommel and Hitler popped up everywhere. Mobs took to the streets chanting "Rommel, Rommel, Rommel!"

In Alexandria there was a run on the banks. The governmental gold reserves had already been sent to Khartoum. The British fleet had left, headed for Port Said, Haifa, and Beruit, and the harbor was empty. The BBC ran bulletins on the ongoing "Battle for Egypt" at El Alamein, only 60 miles away. The Italian population, some 50,000 strong, formed a welcoming committee. The general feeling was that the arrival of the Afrika Korps was emminent. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles to the west at Derna, Mussolini had arrived a few days before. His baggage included his white parade horse. He wired Rommel to send word the instant Alexandria fell, so the Triumph could begin.

The Egyptians

A group of young Egyptian officers conspired to overthrow the corrupt old generals who had sided with the British to occupy their country. They went by a variety of different names, including the Free Officers Association, the Blessed Movement, and the Ring of Iron. Egypt was technically neutral, but occupied. The Egyptian army was organized and trained along British lines, with cast-off arms and obsolete equipment. The army conspirators included Gamel Abdel Nasser and Anwar el-Sadat, both future leaders of an independent Egypt. Nasser conspired more behind the scenes, while Sadat was more open and outspoken. It was Sadat who arranged the purchase of 10,000 glass bottles for the production of Molotov cocktails, and who helped to draft a treaty of agreement for Rommel's signature. Unfortunately for Sadat the plane carrying the treaty, and aerial photographs of British military installations, was shot down while on its way to Rommel.

The majority of roads, bridges, and communications were under control of Egyptian soldiers. While most Egyptian Army units were deployed on the fringes of the country (mainly in the south), there were a few units that might have "gone over" had the plotters decided to act. The Egyptian Army had not been on good terms with their British masters, especially since the February, 1942 coup d'etat, known shamefully to Egyptians as the Abdin Palace Coup. In this "incident" the British had removed the nominated Egyptian Prime Minister Aly Maher at gunpoint, and replaced him with an utterly corrupt and pro-British Wafd puppet. They had disarmed several Egyptian Army units, including taking all of the tanks from the Egyptian Tank Brigade. Needless to say, this left the Egyptian Army very volatile and many officiers seeking to avenge their national honor. Nasser wrote, "I am ashamed that our army has not reacted against this attack."

These officers coordinated their activities with other resistance groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood of Sheikh Massan el-Banna and Ahmed Hussein's Young Egypt movement. The Mulsim Brotherhood operated out of local mosques (away from prying British eyes), and was raising and training a paramilitary force. Both the Free Officers and the Muslim Brotherhood were in contact with the pro-Axis conspirators of Rashid Ali al-Ghailani in Iraq, and in contact with the Germans. The conspirators had been active even earlier than 1942; in 1940 as the Italians advanced towards Sidi Barrani they were planning to rise up and seize control of Cairo. The treaty of agreement drafted by Sadat included provisions for German recognition of an independant but pro-Axis Egypt. In exchange, Sadat guaranteed that "no British soldier would leave Cairo alive."

The Spies

The German espionage attempts were centered in Cairo, and resembled a Three Stooges short more than a film noir. They had three intelligence assets in Cairo: The Endozzis, Colonel Fellers, and Johann Eppler.

The Endozzi sisters were a pair of Italian nationals who had been employed in the Italian Legation. Along with their mother, they had "worked" the Italian population of Cairo and Alexandria, and complied detailed lists of Italians who were pro-Axis, and those who were not. The lists were to be handed over to the occupying Axis forces, but were instead found by Major Sansom of the Field Security branch of the Cairo Military Police. He bribed the doorman of their apartment, and the documents were found hidden in the bathroom.

Colonel Fellers was the American Military Attachˇ in Cairo. He collected information from the British and forwarded it to his superiors in Washington, DC. Unfortunately for him, the code he used to transmit the information had been broken by the Germans, who used the unwitting Colonel to keep them informed of all manner of intelligence, including the Allied order of battle, air unit deployments, and even reports of spare-parts shortages. Colonel Fellers was replaced during the Battle of El Alamein, and his successor changed the codes on a regular basis, thus depriving the Germans of the reports they were used to.

Johann Eppler was the main German intelligence effort in Cairo. Eppler was born a German, but had grown up in Alexandria. His step-father was Egyptian and raised him as an Egyptian, and Eppler took the name Hussein Gafaar. He traveled in the social circles, and was friends with King Fuad and Prince Kemal. In 1942 the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence) decided to send him back to Cairo as a spy. He and his radio operator, Sandy, were guided across the desert by the famous pre-war Hungarian explorer Count Almasy, who had traveled extensively in Egypt and Libya. It took them two weeks to cross the desert south of the Qatarra Depression, but the Count got them as far as Assyut in the Delta, where they walked the rest of the way to Cairo.

Once in Cairo, Eppler and Sandy assumed false identities and set up operations on a rented houseboat. Eppler located Hekmet Fahmy, a belly dancer and former girlfriend, and used her to maintain "intimate" contact with several British officers (yes, that's her photo in the Time-Life book). She worked at the Kit Kat Nightclub, and together they began to gather intelligence that could be transmitted to Rommel. When Sandy had trouble with the wireless set, Hekmet arranged for a British major she knew (he rented the adjacent houseboat) to obtain a new aerial for her. The code they used to transmit the information was based on the Daphne du Maurier book Rebecca (hence the title of the novel The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett).

Eppler disguised himself as a British officer and hung out by the docks, buying drinks for soldiers and gathering fairly useless information. He also spent much of the cash he had brought on prostitutes and alcohol. Abwehr hadn't bothered to tell him that the suitcase of banknotes he was given were counterfeit (and not very good ones, at that), and Major Sansom was soon on Eppler's trail. The British had also picked up the radio transmissions, and suspected where they were coming from. But the radio broke again, and the man called in to fix it was none other than Anwar Sadat. He was appalled at the drunkenness and debauchery he witnessed, but was able to fix the radio. His fate was now connected with Eppler's.

On July 10 the Allies overran the German radio intercept unit near El Alamein. Among the captured materials were two copies of Rebecca. This confirmed what Sansom already knew (the wife of the German military attachˇ in Lisbon had been known to purchase five copies of the book in March). All he needed was a break to find the wireless transmitter and the spies.

Major Sansom got his break. A Jewish girl who Eppler had been "seeing" turned out to be an operative in the pay of Field Security. She apparently found out about the counterfeit banknotes he had been passing, and put it all together. Samson and a detachment of military police raided Eppler's houseboat. Sandy was unable to scuttle the houseboat, and the grenade that Eppler threw at Sansom turned out to be a pair of rolled-up socks. Eppler and Sandy were arrested, as was Sadat. Eppler and Sandy talked to save their lives, and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. Sadat was jailed, and was not shot because the British feared the reaction that this would provoke within the Egyptian Army.

Historical notes, counter art, and map art are ©1998 Randy Moorehead

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