262 Infantry Division was raised in Austria, having fought through the Ukraine. As Soviet 102 and 106 Rifle Divisions attacked the eastern approaches to the city, with heavy artillery and Sturmovik support, 486 Infantry Regiment and the divisional HQ on the southern edge of the suburbs caved in under pressure, letting 106 Rifle Division into the outskirts.
A fierce counterattack from 482 Infantry Regiment restored the situation for long enough for the division to withdraw to the west bank, but with four Soviet divisions curling around the flanks, holding the east bank was out of the question.
262 Pioneer Battalion conducted an exemplary bridge demolition. Nevertheless, the east bank had been lost relatively easily.
Further north, ariel recce had observed activity on the river OKA. A substantial pontoon bridge was being thrown across, with a tank corps and infantry massing behind it.
17 Panzer Division was despatched north to attack the bridgehead without delay from its staging area just west of OREL. Whatever the failings of their infantry brethren, the panzers fell upon the bridgehead, scattering armour and motor rifle troops, and destroying the bridge.
Undaunted, the Soviets were also bridging to the south of OREL. The first inkling that XXXV Korps Commander had that the river line had been bridged, was when infantry from 175 Rifle Division were sighted on the west bank, to the south of OREL. 17 Panzer had been recalled to their original staging area in a central position against just such an eventuality, but the Soviet attack began before they had reorganised and refuelled.
Now it was the turn of 293 Infantry Division to feel the weight of the assault as 175 and 162 Rifle Divisions attacked the southern edge of the city. Raised in Berlin, the “Bear” division fared no better than their Austrian Cousins. 175 Rifles drove the infantry back onto their artillery line before counterattacks from the reformed Austrians restored the situation.
At this point, casualties had been heavy on both sides, with both Wehrmacht divisions down below half strength. Although they could not know it, the Soviets were fast outrunning their supply lines and needed more river crossings.
17 Panzer set off again in a wide sweep to the south, the plan being to catch the Soviet infantry in the rear. As they did so, fresh ariel reconnaissance intelligence was coming in: The second crossing had been located, and at least two tank corps were streaming west. To add to XXXV Korps commander’s troubles, the northern bridge crossing had been rebuilt and was being held by at least two rifle divisions with armoured support.
Orders were hurriedly amended on the move, and 17 Panzer had a new target; the stream of Soviet armour heading west.
to be continued …