The Battle of Celleno

The Battle of Celleno


By JC von Winterbach


CELLENO, ITALY, JUNE 10th, 1944:On June 10th, 1944, the 6th South African Armoured Division deployed their entire 11th South African Armoured Brigade in the advance towards Florence. This would prove the first and also last opportunity during the entire Italian campaign in which the entire 11th SA Armoured Brigade could be deployed in unison. In a daring move, Major-General W.H.E Poole deployed the 11th SA Armoured Brigade without the necessary support from the Divisional Artillery.

Brigadier J.P.A Furstenburgrealised that the German 356. Infantrie-Division would withdraw northwards. The German opposition encountered, comprised of the 356. Infanterie-Division’s left flank. Furstenburg’s intention was to turn the German left flank by ordering the Special Service Battalion (Armoured) to advance on the right.

The advance on the German flank started at first light on the morning of June 10th, 1944. The Imperial Light Horse/Kimberly Regiment (Motorised Infantry) and SSB immediately moved forward to establish contact with the German defensive line north of the town of Aqua Rossa. The advance was intended to secure a bridgehead around Aqua Rossa, but the South African advance was soon halted by heavy enemy mortar fire. The Natal Mounted Rifles (Divisional Reconnaissance), moved forward early in the morning to scout the enemy dispositions around Aqua Rossa. The NMR almost immediately drew heavy fire from the German anti-tank screen, losing two tanks early in the morning. The SSB was ordered forward to come to the rescue of the NMR. The heavy resistance was coming from the 356thInfanterie Division, which had recently arrived from Genoa under General-Major Hans von Rohr. The freshly committed German division was supported by elements of 4. Fallschirmjäger Division, 3.Panzer-Grenadier-Division, 362.Infanterie-Division & 26.Panzer-Division.

The SSB advanced barely a single kilometer along the road when they met stiff enemy resistance in the form of guns of all calibers from 20 to 88mm, backed by some 50 to 60 Spandau machine-guns sited in houses and trees and from a number of Nebelwerfers. Having committed to the attack without the necessary Divisional Artillery support, the leading elements of the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade were now in a rather perilous position. Lieutenant-ColonelC.E.G. Brits, the Commanding Officer of the SSB, decided to advance against the enemy in a two-up formation, with his “A” Squadron forming a fire support base on the high ground whilst “B” & “C” Squadrons advanced further forward. Under the covering fire from the SSB tanks, the NMR were able to extricate themselves from danger.

Under the cover of the firm base established by two troops of A Squadron SSB, the rest of the Squadron was ordered forward into hull-down positions. Lt-Col Brits’ gamble paid off, for as soon as the tanks started to lay down sufficient suppressive fire on the enemy, they broke their ranks. The left flank of the German defenses, almost immediately collapsed, and the enemy infantry was routed. The two squadrons, acting in unison, were able to silence the enemy’s defensive screen. The ILH/KimR accompanied the advance of the SSB, with some infantry going into action on the back off the advancing tanks. Brits committed all of his tanks into action, except for his own tank. Following rapid replenishment from the rear, the SSB was once again ready to move on to the offensive. Whilst replenishment was underway, forward observation Officers of the Divisional Artillery were able to move forward and link up with the lead elements of the SSB. The ILH/KimR proceeded to secure the area.

By midday, the divisional artillery started engaging the numerous enemy targets in and around Aqua Rossa and the town of Celleno. Within two hours of commencing the barrage of 25-pounder’s 5.5 inch Medium Guns, the artillery could account for the destruction of five 88-mm guns, sixteen 50-mm anti-tank guns, three machine-guns, one Mark IV tank, four Mark III tanks, and numerous infantry. Under cover of the artillery barrage, two companies of ILH/KimR joined ranks with the SSB on their advance to Celleno village. A Company ILH/KimR continued to clear the slopes leading up to the village of Celleno. The clearing of the enemy’s prepared defensive positions was only possible through close cooperation between the infantry and the tanks of SSB. The area that was cleared, a thickly wooded one, was used by the 356. Infanterie-Division to conceal a myriad of machine-gun nests, panzerfausts & anti-tank guns. To silence the German guns effectively, a slow and dangerous process, the infantry dismounted from the tanks so as to keep up the momentum of the attack. Brits realised that he had to keep his tanks moving forward towards the vicinity of Celleno, where the approaches were obstructed by a railway embankment which ran right across the South African axis of advance. The only way to negotiate the obstacle was by means of a small road which ran beneath the railway line. The German troops had a series of prepared defensive positions along this road, which made the advance rather dangerous.

C Squadron of the S.S.B managed to break through the German defensive line along the road passing underneath the railway line. The tanks immediately advanced further up the road, and moved into a hull-down position on high ground. The tanks automatically reverted to act as a direct fire support for the advancing infantry from ILH/KimR. The tanks were now in essence acting as artillery, and started to bring down accurate fire on the village of Celleno. Under cover of the fire brought down on the Celleno, the infantry was able to clear the area of any remnants of the 356. Infantrie-Division from their defensive positions around the village. Enemy resistance, however, remained ever-present, and A Squadron suffered a number of losses. Offensive action by C Squadron allowed men of ILH/KimR to advance towards the village. B Squadron now turned their advance to the high ground immediately North of Celleno. Having managed to move one troop of B Squadron onto the high ground, Brig Furstenburg ordered C Squadron into an area on the right of the village which had to be cleared. A Squadron and Reconnaissance Tanks of the SSB, moved the infantry of ILH/KimR further forward, and then successfully dealt with enemy resistance on the right of the village. The mopping up operations of the ILH/KimR quickly developed into a full-scale attack on the town of Celleno. The three squadrons of the SSB were now all moved onto high ground surrounding the village, and from there the tanks could hold the ground and provide sufficient fire support to the advancing infantry. The infantry quickly moved through the town, clearing the enemy resistance out house by house.

The Battle of Celleno, fought over 12 hours, was effectively over by sunset, with the 11th S.A Armoured Brigade emerging as the victors. The 11th S.A Armoured Brigade could account for a vast number of prisoners being taken, as well as heavy casualties being inflicted on the enemy. By the evening of June 10th, 1944, Brig Furstenburg ordered Brits to halt his advance. Enemy fire had died down, and the tanks of the SSB had exhausted all of their ammunition & fuel. The advance could also not continue due to the Divisional Artillery first having to move forward. Maj-Gen Poole ordered Furstenburg to hold the ground, and the SSB tanks subsequently withdrew to an area three kilometres to the South of Celleno from where they could rest and replenish their tanks. The 24th Guards Brigade would resume the advance on the morning of June 11th, 1944, and continue the rout of the 356. Infantrie-Division.

The Battle of Celleno culminated as South Africa’s first victory in the Italian campaign. The 11thArmoured Brigade, having lost only 14 men killed & 38 wounded, was able to inflict over 200 casualties on the opposing German forces. A year prior to the battle, however, the 6th S.A Armoured Division was still training in the desert expanses of Khataba. Under-equipped, under-strength, and unsure of their future, the 6th S.A Armoured Division was able to turn themselves into a capable, armoured, fighting force within less than a year.


GERMAN: Stop the Allied advance towards Florence, by holding the town of Celleno until nightfall.

SOUTH AFRICAN: Break through the German lines around Celleno and turn their retreat northwards into a rout.


  1. The German player deploys first, followed by the South African player.
  2. The German player may hold one of his starting platoons in ambush. All German starting units are in prepared positions.
  3. The South African player makes any Reconnaissance Deployment moves with their recce units.
  4. The South African player has the first turn.


The battle ends when:

  1. The South African player takes one of the objectives.
  2. The German player starts any of their turns from turn six with no attacking teams in their half of the table.
  3. One of the forces fails a Company Motivation Check.


The South African player wins if they capture one of the objectives, or if they have forced the Germans to leave the field of battle.

The German player wins if they start a turn after turn six with no enemy forces in their half of the table, or if they have forced the South Africans to leave the field of battle.


  1. The table size is 6 x 4 foot.
  2. The Objectives are marked in green.

Please refer to the following key to deploying the correct terrain types.

  1. Woods
  2. Treelines
  3. Orchards
  4. Farm houses
  5. Plowed Fields
  6. A mix of one and two storey town buildings
  7. Road


Elements of 356.Infanterie-Division, 1stFallschirm-Korps, 14.Armee (Confident Veteran)

Grenadier Company HQ
  • 2 Command Panzerfaust SMG Teams
w/ 1 Panzershrek Team & 1 Sniper Team
Grenadier Platoon
  • Command Panzerfaust SMG Team w/ 3 Grenadier Squads. (Rifle/MG)

Grenadier Platoon
  • Command Panzerfaust SMG Team w/ 3 Grenadier Squads. (Rifle/MG)

Grenadier Mortar Platoon
  • Command SMG Team w/3 Mortar Sections. (8cm GW43 Mortars)

Grenadier Anti-Tank Gun Platoon
  • Command SMG Team w/ 3 Anti-Tank Sections (5cm PaK38 Guns)

Luftwaffe Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Platoon (RT)
  • Command SMG Team w/ 2 Anti-Air Sections
(8.8cm FlaK36 Guns) & Extra Crew
Combat Attached (Spread evenly among the Grenadier Platoons)
Grenadier Machine-Gun Platoon
  • Command SMG Team w/ 2 Machine-gun Sections.

Grenadier Pioneer Platoon
  • Command Panzerfaust SMG Team w/ 3 Pioneer Squads. (Rifle)

Panzer-Grenadier Platoon
  • Command Panzerfaust SMG Team w/ 3 Panzer-Grenadier Squads. (MG)
w/ 3 Opel Blitz Trucks
Rocket Launcher Battery
  • Command SMG Team w/2 Rocket Sections (15cm NW41 Rocket Launchers)

Panzer Platoon
  • 2 Panzer III N & 2 Panzer IV H

Elements of 11th SA Armoured Brigade, 6th SA Armoured Division, XIII Corps, 8th Army (Confident Trained)

ArmouredCompany HQ
  • 2 Command Sherman V Tanks & 2 Sherman V Tanks w/ .50 cal AA MG’s

Armoured Platoon
  • 3Sherman V Tanks w/ .50 cal AA MG’s

Armoured Platoon
  • 3Sherman V Tanks w/ .50 cal AA MG’s

Armoured Platoon
  • 3Sherman V Tanks w/ .50 cal AA MG’s

Scout Patrol
  • 2 Scout Patrols w/ .50 cal (4 Carriers) & w/ PIATs (2 Carriers)

Rifle Platoon
  • Command Rifle/MG Team w/ 1 PIAT Team, 1 Light Mortar Team
& w/ 3 Rifle/MG Squads.
Rifle Platoon
  • Command Rifle/MG Team w/ 1 PIAT Team, 1 Light Mortar Team
& w/ 3 Rifle/MG Squads.
Field Battery, Royal Artillery
  • HQ w/ 2Gun Sections (OQF 25 pdr Guns)

Medium Battery, Royal Artillery
  • HQ w/ 2Gun Sections (BL 5.5” Guns)