NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 9) – MTSENSK

 

The Germans were in full retreat now as it was obvious that unless a timely withdrawal 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 imposing a hasty retreat, leaving any stockpiled ammunition behind.

221 Divisional Artillery comes under direct attack as MTSENSK is bypassed to the south

221 Divisional Artillery comes under direct attack as MTSENSK is bypassed to the south

As successive German counterattacks east of the river 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 counterattack in MTSENSK

Failed German counterattack from the north in MTSENSK

 

Rearguard crosses the northern bridge 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

The northern bridge in MTSENSK blows in the nick of time. A schnelle PaK battalion protects the engineer demolition party.

MTSENSK is outflanked

MTSENSK is outflanked

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 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 part of the campaign. I decided that running a large (4-6) player game and learning battlefield Chronicler was probably enough to do for one battle without making it into a chore.

 

After the battle - reorganising the toys

After the battle – reorganising the toys

 

 

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NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 8) – MTSENSK

T-34s pass through a minefield gap in 216 Infantry division's MDL

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

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

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 crosses the ZUSHA

Soviet spearhead from 280 Rifle Division crosses the ZUSHA

 

Army bridging assets move forward.

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

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

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

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 counterattack in MTSENSK

Failed German counterattack from the north in MTSENSK

 

Rearguard crosses the northern bridge 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

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 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.

 

 

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NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 7) – MTSENSK

208 Infantry Division MDL and Reserve Defensive Line

208 Infantry Division Main Defensive Line (MDL) and Reserve Defensive Line

With successive waves of Soviet infantry breaking against the defences along the river ZUSHA, it was inevitable that  a breakthrough would come somewhere along the line. As German losses mounted. 216 Infantry Division cracked first to the south of MTSENSK, and 140 Rifle Division pushed into the main defensive line, screened on its right flank by 106 Rifle Division¹.

MTSENSK Southern flank Soviet infantry break into the MDL

MTSENSK Southern flank Soviet infantry break into the MDL

 

Soviets break in north and south of MTSENSK 1943

Soviets break in north and south of MTSENSK 1943

 

Fighting off battalion level counterattacks, 140 Rifle Division broke through to the German divisional artillery in the reserve line, and consolidated there. Fighting was , by turns, lacklustre and heroic, but with weight of numbers on the Soviet side they prevailed. The horizon was becoming hazier with diesel fumes from the approaching tank columns!

MTSENSK Southern flank 216 Infantry Division immediate counter attack fails

MTSENSK Southern flank 216 Infantry Division immediate counter attack fails

 

MTSENSK Southern flank 216 Infantry Division breaks

MTSENSK Southern flank 216 Infantry Division breaks

To be continued …

  1. I have worked out how to show individual bases (Units) now on BC. It wasn’t hard, but with a lot of units, it is tedious.

 

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NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 6) – MTSENSK

Left Flank MTSENSK 1943

The Soviets are attacking from the top of the picture, seen from the German Left Flank .

 

Here is MTSENSK in the Centre of the Soviet Attack

… and here is the view from the  German Right Flank

With the German defence in MTSENSK itself.

As the 28th Rifle Corps 102, 106 and 140th Divisions regrouped in front of MTSENSK, something unexpected happened to give the defenders unexpected relief – I started faffing about on the internet with Battlefield Chronicler. A sane and sensible human being would have started with something small, but as I am neither, I decided to translate the current battle and use it as a learning exercise, which took longer than anticipated.

MTENSK deployment 1943. Not Quite Mechanised Campaign Battle with Battlefield Chronicler

Nevertheless the results are promising, and I am only ten years or so late to the party. The system’s origin in Warhammer  is obvious, but it is still excellent for historical use. My failure to incorporate all the units into the Chronicle will be obvious to the diligent button counter, but it works for me, and that’s a start. When I work out how to import my own components, then the sky is the limit. I like the arrows too. Apparently the maths is quite complicated.

MTENSK Soviet Advance To Contact. NQM Battle with Battlefield Chronicler

 

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NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 5) – MTSENSK

28 Corps breaks through the outpost line in front of MTSENK

28 Corps breaks through the outpost line in front of MTSENSK

Simultaneously with the assault on OREL, the Soviets had launched a broad offensive along the whole front. Second Tank Army and 70th Army attacked to the north of OREL¹. Facing them, on the river ZUSHA Defensive line was part of XXXLVII Korps at MTSENK – 208, 221 and 216 Infantry Divisions. MTSENSK sits on the ZUSHA river, a tributary of the OKA. Although these are too small to feature in the Chadwick Bathtub campaign, they nevertheless played a role in the KURSK battles of 1943. The ZUSHA although small by Russian standards, has a raised west bank, and made a defensible obstacle to form up on. More importantly, MTSENSK has an ornate cathedral and railway station, of which I have both.

Dense formations of Soviet infantry filling the horizon are becoming a familiar feature of the campaign. Even dug-in in depth, the German infantry divisions looked thin and sparse on the ground.

Divisional artillery contributes significantly to the defence of MTSENK

Divisional artillery contributes significantly to the defence of MTSENSK

Four successive waves of infantry from 28 Rifle Corps crashed against the defences of MTSENSK, without breaking in. German casualties were heavy (8 SP out of 12 defenders) but the Soviets’ were higher (16 0ut of  36 attackers), so even though both sides passed key morale tests, the Soviets never succeeded in causing the higher casualties that were needed in any one round of combat to allow them to close assault².

 

4th Wave Fails in the Centre MTSENK

Soviet 28 Corps 4th wave attack fails in the centre at MTSENSK

To the South of MTSENSK things were faring no better, and the attack was unfolding more slowly, but to the north 27 Rifle Corps had reached the River ZUSHA and was lapping around the northern outskirts of the town.

Second wave breaks through the outpost Line right flank MTSENK

Second wave breaks through the outpost Line on the southern flank of MTSENSK

 

to be continued …

 

1. This Battle was fought at Corps Scale Orbat, With German divisions only having a strength of six battalions, and Soviet Corps nine. I had hoped to supplement maps with Battle Chronicler, but the learning curve was a little steeper than I had anticipated for a big battle.

2. In parallel with the changes to ammo, I am imposing a drop of 1 morale level each time a unit reorganises during a battle. Veterans start on 4, regular 3, Conscript 2 and green 1. A unit with no morale value left cannot attack or defend. I’m pretty certain  that folk such as Jim Wallman have been doing this for years with Stonk! (can’t find my copy to check), but I’ve only just caught up.

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Karrier KT4 Spider FAT

Every time that I think there is nothing new to learn about WWII, the net proves me wrong. 4th Indian Division used the Karrier KT4 Spider FAT as its Field Artillery Tractor, to tow 25pdrs. I have amended various orbats accordingly.

I am currently using assorted Quads and CMPs but should be able to bodge something from PSC quads. 

Kudos to the Society of Gentleman Gamers. They have actually printed a Limited run of Spiders, alas, in 1/76th scale.

This week’s post is delivered in the “new” wordpress blocks. I hate it’s “simplicity” and lack of functionality (e.g. no shift+alt+J to justify a block of text).

I hate the way that every new update forces you to go through an imposed learning cycle with no perceivable benefit. It is publishing for the lolz generation. 5/10, average 😦

 

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A Proportionate view of Lend-lease Soviet Armour

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lend-lease Armour comprised some 15% of the Soviet armour fleet. Zaloga¹ is still the go-to author for this. At present, I have very little svoiet lend-lease painted up, so I can either pretend that in the NQM campaign, lend-lease was shipped in allied colours, or I can repurpose some existing stuff. Either way, I am going to have to buy a Churchill!

M4A1 Sherman PSC

Interesting statistics to come out of this table are the almost equal numbers (divided by 100) of Shermans (40), and Valentines (37). Universal carriers (25) outnumber halftracks (11) by more than 2:1. White Scout Cars almost equal both put together at 33. Conventional wisdom has it that Whites and Carriers were primarily used for Recce.  The Komsolets artillery tractor outnumbered all of these at 44.

The key table is on p219. Using the same 1/100 ratio, as for the Wehrmacht, gives:

US Tanks   US Mech Guns
Stuart M3A1* 16 M15A1 1
Lee M3A3 13 M17 10
Sherman M4/75 20 T-48 6
Sherman M4/76 20 M-18 [5]*
M31 ARV 1 M-10 [52]*
Total US Tanks 70 Total US Mech 17
British Tanks   APCs
Valentine (UK) 24 Carrier (UK) 12
Valentine (Can) 13 Carrier (Can) 13
Matilda II 10 M2 Halftrack 3
Churchill 3 M5 Halftrack 4
Total UK/Can Tks 50 M9 Halftrack 4
  T16 (US) 1
  White M3A1 33
Total APCs 70

*This table does not include the 2000 – odd vehicles lost in transit in convoys, or the vehicles supplied in fewer numbers than 100. Apparently, five M5 Stuarts made it to Russia, so I can drop one in as a piece of signature equipment, if I ever find where they fought.

Valentine II QRF

  1. Zaloga S.J. and Grandsen J. (1984) Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two, Arms and Armour Press: London. (ISBN 0-85368-606-8)

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A Proportionate view of Soviet Armour

Soviet Tank Fleet 2020

Soviet Tank Fleet June 2020

Having established roughly what the Wehrmacht tank fleet should look like for each year of WW2 on the Eastern Front, it is time to do the same for the Soviets. Zaloga¹ is the go-to author for this. Interesting comparisons that emerge are:

  1. In 1942, 39% of all tanks produced were light, but by 1943 this had dropped to 17%
  2. T34s accounted for 71% of all war production.
  3. In 1943, T-34/85s were only 0.6% of T-34 production, but by 1944, they were 74% and 100% by 1945
  4. Lend-lease tanks were additional to this, and accounted for 15% of all Soviet tanks fielded.
  5. Heavy tanks overall accounted for 9% of war production. If a tank offensive included heavies, then it was probably at least an army-level operation.
  6.  SPGs really only began to appear in 1943, when they comprised 16% of production. this peaked in 1944 (41%), thanks to the SU-76, which alone comprised  24% of all production, or 60% of all SPG production in that year.

QC T-28 (L) and 2 Zvezda T-35s

QC T-28 (L) and 2 Zvezda T-35s

The key table is on p225. Using the same 1/100 ratio, as for the Wehrmacht, gives the following table:

Model 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 Total
Obsolete 1 1
T-26 15 15
BT-8 7 7
T-28 [12]*  
T-40 [41]* 2 2
T-50 [48]* [15]*  
T-60     18 44       62
T-70       48 33     81
T-80         1     1
Tot Lt Tks 1 22 18 94 34     169
T-34   1 30 120 157 37   345
T-34/85         1 110 183 294
T-44             2 2
Tot Med Tks   1 30 120 158 147 185 641
KV-1   1 11 17       29
KV-2   1 2         3
KV-1S       7 4     11
KV-85         1     1
IS-2         1 22 15 38
Tot Hvy Tks 2 13 24 6 22 15 82
SU-76       [26]* 19 71 35 125
SU-122       [25]* 6 5   11
SU-85         7 13   20
SU-100           5 11 16
SU-152         7     7
ISU-122/152         [35]* 25 15 40
Tot SPGs         39 119 61 219
   
  Total 1,111

Zvezda BT-5s QC BT-7 QRF Finnish BT-42 Zvezda BT-5 Artillery tractor

Zvezda BT-5s QC BT-7 QRF Finnish BT-42 Zvezda BT-5 Artillery tractor

*Obsolete models such as T-28s T-35s etc produced before 1941 numbered only 137 examples. Bracketed numbers show actual numbers produced, and are not included in the 1:100 ratio totals.

Zvezda T-60 PSC T-70

Zvezda T-60 PSC T-70

The Soviets counted their entire inventory, operational frontline or not, whereas the Wehrmacht counted only its immediately available strength.

QRF T-26 mod 1939 PP T-26 mod 1933

QRF T-26 mod 1939 PP T-26 mod 1933

Lend lease is covered in the next post, approximately 15% of the total.

PP T-34 1942 Skytrex T-34 1943 PSC T-34 1943

PP T-34 1942 Skytrex T-34 1943 PSC T-34 1943

In theory, I need way more Soviet tanks to be proportionate, but actually, I don’t. It is hard to fit more than this onto a tabletop, and as the table above shows, the Soviets produced fewer types, but more of them.

Skytrex T-34-85 PSC T-34T

Skytrex T-34-85 PSC T-34T

Zvezda KV-1 KV-2

Zvezda KV-1 KV-2

Zvezda IS-2 WIP

Zvezda IS-2 WIP

QRF SU-76 PSC SU-76 Zvezda SU-152 SU-85 PP SU-122

QRF SU-76 PSC SU-76 Zvezda SU-152 SU-85 PP SU-122

  1. Zaloga S.J. and Grandsen J. (1984) Soviet Tanks and Combat Vehicles of World War Two, Arms and Armour Press: London. (ISBN 0-85368-606-8)
  2. Harrison, Mark (2002). Accounting for War: Soviet Production, Employment, and the Defence Burden, 1940–1945. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-89424-7 in (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_combat_vehicle_production_during_World_War_II) The numbers differ slightly between zaloga and Harrison, but not significantly.

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A Proportionate view of German Armour (2)

Panzer Fleet 1943

Warning! Self indulgent post and sums follow!

In building my German tank fleet (a rather grand name for a pile of toys in a box), I have been trying to keep things in proportion. As a reminder, the proportions in the table below below represent the approximate German tank strengths at the peak of midwar production.

15 cm sIG 33 (mot S) auf PzKpfw I Ausf B

The last surviving 15 cm sIG 33 (mot S) auf PzKpfw I Ausf Bs (above) soldiered on until July 1943 on the Eastern Front. This Skytrex model was kindly gifted by YesthatPhil.

The rough overall proportion of major hull types taken year by year on  a 1: 600 ratio are roughly:

  • 1942: 1 Pz 38(t): 5 PzIII : 2PzIV
  • 1943: 2 Pz 38(t): 5 PzIII : 10 PzIV: 3 PzV: 1 PzVI.
  • 1944: 4 Pz 38(t): 3 PzIII : 7 PzIV: 6 PzV: 1 PzVI.
  • 1945: 2 JagdPz 38(t): 2 StugIIIG

PzIIs PzJaegerII and SPGs

QRF and Syborg PzIIs, BPM PzJägerII, BPM Wespes and FoW SiGII Grille

As a working assumption, I have started with 50%  losses of the prior year , allowing for cannibalised spares and repairs, having gone down the rabbit hole of statistical claims and counter claims, and emerged little the wiser at the end.

PSC Pz38(t), QRF and PSC Marders, SdKfz 139s and 138s, SiG 33 Grille Ausf K, H.

PSC Pz38(t), QRF and PSC Marders, SdKfz 139s and 138s, BPM and QRF SiG 33 Grille Ausf K, H.

I’m not proposing to amass a fleet in full proportion to actual Axis production, but it’s nice to know what my model totals look like, about 0.017%, or a ratiod 10% of German production:

PSC (5) Zvezda (1) and PP (3)PzIIIs

PSC (5) Zvezda (1) and PP (3) PzIIIs

Model Built 1942 Built 1943 Total 1943 My Fleet War Total to 1945
Pz I 0 0 0  1 SPG
6
PzII 1 0 0.5 2 6
Marder II 5 2 4.5 1 7
Wespe 0 5 5 2 6
 All PzI/II Chassis 6 7 10  6 25
Pz 38(t) 2 0 1  1 14
Marder III 139 3 0 1.5 2 3
Marder III 138 1 8 8.5 2 12
Grille 0 2 2 2 5
Hetzer 0 0 0   30
 All 38(t) Chassis 6 10 13   64
Pz III A-F 0 0 0 3 5
Pz III G-J1 2 0 1 3 24
Pz III J2-M 20 0 10 3 20
Pz III N 4 3 5   7
Pz III (f) 0 1 1   1
StuG III A-E 1 0 0.5 1 8
StuG III F-G 7 30 33.5 2 55
StuH 42 0 2 2 1 12
 All PzIII Chassis 34 36 53   132
Pz IV A-F1 1 0 0.5 3 9
Pz IV F2-J 9 30 34.5 3 74
StuG IV 0 10 10 1 11
Jagd Pz IV 0 7 7   7
Jagd Pz IV 70 0 8 8   12
Sturm Pz IV 1 2 2.5   3
Hornisse 0 3 3   5
Hummel 0 4 4 1 7
Mobelwagen 0 2 2   2
Wirbelwind 0 0 0 1 1
 All PzIV Chassis 11 66 71.5   131
Pz V 0 18 18 1 58
Jagd Pz V 0 2 2   4
 All PzV Chassis 20 20   62
Tiger I 1 6 6.5 1 13
Sturm Tiger 0 0 0   2
Jagd Tiger 0 0 0   1
 All PzVI Chassis 1 6 6.5   16
Tiger II 0 0 0   5
Ferdinand 0 1 1   1
0 1 1   6
Total 58 126 155 37 374

PSC StuGIIIs, StuH, StuGIV

PSC StuG IIIs, StuH, StuG IV

PSC (3), Skytrex (3) Pz IVs; BPM Hummel, RoCo Ostwind

PSC (3), Skytrex (3) Pz IVs; BPM Hummel, RoCo Ostwind

Skytrex Pz V and PSC Pz VI

Skytrex Pz V and PSC Pz VI

If you have read this far, then yes, it is an excuse (challenge) for you to to put all your Panzers on parade. I’m easily impressed! 🙂

YesthatPhil has already done it last April.

Sources :

  1. Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle (2011). Panzer Tracts No.23 – Panzer Production from 1933 to 1945. Panzer Tracts. pp. 60–65.
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_armored_fighting_vehicle_production_during_World_War_II
  3. https://www.tankarchives.ca/2014/03/losses-vs-repairs.html [Accessed 25/5/20], who states that repairs kept the 1st Guards Tank Army at 33-50% strength (550-200 tanks) during a two week period that would have seen their strength dwindle to zero.
  4. https://www.tankarchives.ca/2013/07/cheating-at-statistics-part-3.html [Accessed 25/5/20]
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equipment_losses_in_World_War_II#Land [Accessed 25/5/20]

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NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 4)

The timing of the panzer attack was not so fortuitous on this occasion, and although the advancing column was disrupted, the Army Commander of 69 Army was able to gain safety at the crossroads and begin to organise a counter-defence. Recognising that more reinforcements were massing against him, the commanding general of 47 Panzergrenadier Division began a careful withdrawal through the remaining lines of 298 Infantry Division. SS Wiking raced south to cover the staging area, and attacked south of the crossroads. They failed to break into the defended position newly occupied by 3 Mechanised Corps.

Assault Pioneers at the Schwerpunkt. North to Left of Picture

In the midst of this heavy armour battle, the 298 Divisional Assault Pioneers found themselves bearing the full brunt of  1 Tank Army heavy tank brigade. These Männer gegen Panzer acquitted themselves bravely, but were overrun, their sacrifice buying enough time for Wiking to arrive.

Wiking Heavy Armour covers the Reorganisation of 47 Panzergrenadier Division. North to Top of Picture

In their turn, Wiking held the line for long enough for the Ländser of 296 and 298 Infantry Divisions to withdraw with their artillery and heavy equipment intact.

Soviet Tanks of 3 Mech Corps Recover and Counterattack. North to Top of Picture

This  last action effectively marked the beginning of a more general withdrawal along the German line.

Soviet Recce Pushes through the Empty Main Defensive Line



1. Männer gegen Panzer [accessed on 25/5/20]

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