Battalions of Malta
By David Hughes
Facing the elite of the Italian and German
armies in Island
of Death are some
pretty impressive British units. Half of
them, those that were part of the King’s
Own Malta Regiment,
have already been covered in Daily Content.
Equally valuable were the British battalions
present, divided into a couple of groups.
The game abbreviated their names, so here
they are in their full splendour.
The first group contains the three units
with high numbers, the 4th Battalion the
Buffs (4B), the 8th Battalion Manchester
Regiment (8M) and the 11th Battalion Lancashire
Fusiliers (11LF). These came from the Territorial
Army, just like American National Guard or
Australian and Canadian Militia. They were
given a few regular officers and sergeants
and by 1942 were very similar to battalions
There were also two regular battalions that
came to Malta after fighting in France or
North Africa, the 1st Battalions of the Hampshire
Regiment (1H) and the Durham Light Infantry
(1DLI). Although regular in title, most of
their original soldiers had become casualties
or transferred, and they were in reality
just like the territorial battalions.
Another regular unit, the 1st
Battalion Cheshire Regiment, was covered in an earlier
Daily Content. It had lost a number of good
leaders when moved from the Middle East to
Malta in 1940. Because it was serving as
both an infantry and a machine-gun unit its
cohesion and training had suffered.
But the other four were very different.
The 1st Battalion of the Dorsetshire (1D)
and the 2nd Battalions of the Devonshire
(2D), Royal Irish Fusiliers (2RIF) and Queen’s
Own Royal West Kent Regiments (2RWK) had
been on the island since the war started.
Also as there was a permanent threat of invasion
they had not had their best officers and
men taken away to help improve newly drafted
battalions. As a result, by 1942 they had
the highest proportion of regular, highly
trained soldiers of any unit in the British
Army—although a few snobby cavalry
and guards units might disagree.
This is important because in Island
unlike most war games, quality is as important
as size and equipment. As an example a German
parachute battalion (6-7-7) attacks a British
battalion (6-6). In most games the odds are
a poor 1-1. However the German morale value
of 7 is three higher (the maximum modifier)
than the British 4, which creates a much
more desirable 4-1 ratio. Relative morale
really does matter.
of Death the highest Axis morale
is a 7 for the Ramcke parachute brigade,
6 for the Folgore parachute division, 4 for
the La Spezia air-landing division or Livorno
infantry division, and 3 for the rest of
the Italian infantry. All the British and
Maltese are rated at 4. We can find more
examples in Alamein,
a much bigger game using the same system.
Both German panzer divisions and the 90th
Light are rated at 6, while the Italian armour
gets a 5. All the British are 4, with the
Australian and New Zealanders rated at 5,
with the Maoris of the 28th Battalion being
the very best with a value of 6.
While one can quantify guns and armour,
morale (which in this case includes cohesion,
experience and training) is much tougher.
Biases always exist. In my case I always
think German units are over-rated (after
all, they usually lost!) and Italians under-rated
(in Island of Death I think the San Marco
marines deserve a better morale than 4).
Recognising this, I still think the four
battalions mentioned deserve a rating of
at least 5. When the siege was over the Devon
and Dorset battalions became part of the
very effective "Malta Brigade" which
landed at both Sicily and Normandy.
Mind you, the other two were less lucky.
They were part of the British attack on the
Aegean Islands and were forced to surrender
when a real German parachute drop and some
very effective Luftwaffe attacks on British
and Greek destroyers cut them off from any
support. Those who have not played the system
might quibble at such a minor change, but
in this game a morale increase from 4 to
5 means that instead of collapsing into a
battered cadre, you can shoot the Fallschirmjäger
to pieces, just like British regular battalions
managed to do in Crete the previous year.
One other change is suggested, in this case
a very minor correction. The counter mix
includes a 5-6 Maltese infantry battalion.
However, this should not be the 8th Battalion
King’s Own Malta Regiment, but the
8th Battalion King’s Own Royal Regiment — British
military terminology can easily lead to confusion!
So the 8K counter in British colours is a
replacement not an addition.
You can download the variant counters here.
here to order Island of Death now!