T-34s pass through a minefield gap in 216 Infantry division’s MDL
9 Tank Corps from 2 Tank Army followed the 106 and 140 Rifle Division pioneers through newly created gaps in the defensive minefields and was soon streaming through in a dense column with the aim of cutting MTSENSK off to the south in a pocket.
2 Tank Army heavy armour moving forward past Army HQ
To the north, 280 Rifle Division reached the river ZUSHA and attacked across it to throw a thinly deployed battalion of 208 Infantry Division out of its defences.
Closing to the river ZUSHA north of MTSENSK
Fighting off sporadic counter attacks, the lead regiment was reinforced until a firm bridgehead was established, waiting for army level bridging resources to arrive.
Soviet spearhead from 280 Rifle Division crosses the ZUSHA
70 Army bridging assets move forward.
Although not expecting to achieve much against the defences of MTSENSK, a reorganised 102 Rifle Division, generously supported by corps and divisional artillery, resumed the offensive. They broke into the outskirts of the town and were soon engaged in fierce street fighting with the weakened defenders, who crumbled under the heavy artillery barrage.
Fierce street fighting in MTSENSK
Two main bridges in the town remained. With no significant force left to retreat over the bridge, 221 Divisional Engineers blew the central bridge as 208 Divisional Engineers prepared the crossing to the north.
221 Divisional Engineers blow the central bridge in MTSENSK
The Germans were in full retreat now as it was obvious that unless a timely retreat was ordered, a whole infantry corps could find itself cut off with no real prospect of relief. To the south, Soviet infantry from 106 Rifle Division were putting 221 Divisional Artillery under direct pressure, forcing it to break off support to its own infantry counterattacks, and forcing a retreat.
221 Divisional Artillery comes under direct attack as MTSENSK is bypassed to the south
As successive German counterattacks east of the Zusha failed, the withdrawal over the northern bridge became a close fought affair. The surviving elements of the divisional recce from both 208 and 221 Infantry Divisions were forced to screen the engineers’ struggle to destroy the bridge under fire from the east bank.
Failed German counterattack from the north in MTSENSK
German rearguard crosses the northern bridge in MTSENSK
The bridge blew on the second attempt, even as the first Soviet infantry set foot on the bridge. By this stage of the war, the Wehrmacht was reorganising the few remaining mobile elements of the infantry divisions into schnelle (fast) battalions. these were primarily used to shore up the defences during breakthroughs, protect the flanks and to form rearguards. The recce battalions were increasingly replaced with Fusilier battalions, mounted mainly on bicycles.
The northern bridge in MTSENSK blows in the nick of time. A schnelle PaK battalion protects the engineer demolition party.
Little remained for the Germans to do, except to try and extract their artillery from under the noses of the advancing Soviets. This they managed to do at the expense of infantry casualties, sustained during desperate counter-attacks. The retreat began in earnest.
The retreat begins in earnest. The Korps light FlaK battalion can be seen on factory roofs protecting both bridges from air attack
Discerning readers will be asking where all the air support was in this battle. I had decided that running a large (4-6) player game and learning battlefield Chronicler was probably enough to do for one game without making it into a chore. They will also have noticed the fresh unpainted plywood river sections appearing as I decided that a few more were needed.