Soviet Winter Offensive Jan 1943 Desantny

The Soviet Winter Offensive taxed the Luftwaffe to the limit, with servicability dropping as ground crews struggled in atrocious conditions to keep airframes ready for operations, and airstrips clear for flying.

Tante Ju

One such airfield (Flugplatz Lotti) near VELIKIE LUKIE, was thought to be safely beyond the reach of the enemy. It contained four Geschwäder : JG 54 (Bf 109), KG76 (Ju 88), StG 1 (Ju 87), KG zbV 102 (Ju 52) and a NaGruppe with Uhus.

Flugplatz Lotti

See Phil’s blog for his thoughts on the use of Soviet desantny forces. The two regiments that he deployed brought with them T-60 tanks and the spearhead of the tank and mechanised corps that had broken through from VYSHNY VOLOCHYOK.

The Outer Defences of Lotti are Assailed

Although the Airfield was defended by two reduced regiments of well-armed Luftwaffe ground troops, their morale was simply not up to the task of holding the airfield. An undignified scramble of aircraft and logistic units exiting the base was observed as the unlucky defenders desperately hung on to the perimeter

Logistic Units Scramble for Safety

Before long, Soviets were swarming over the airfield. They have been doing that a lot of late. Casualties were heavy

Game Notes

YesThatPhil got the chance to showcase his new Peter Pig Soviet Scouts. I gave my rebased Luftwaffe field division its second airing. It behaved commendably badly, as one might epect. The air base was laid out in advance and Phil’s brief was:

“commit what you think that you need to take the airfield.”

He finished the job in about an hour of playing, which enabled the whole scenario to be finished from start to finish in about two hours. Coffee, chocolate, cheese and biscuits stopped anyone from starving.

I rated the Luftwaffe division as conscript and the Soviets as veteran.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Air Forces, Axis War Diary, German Airforce, Land Battles, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, WWII

PSC Universal Carriers, and FoW India Pattern Carrier – WIP

 

The Universal Carrier was the workhorse that grew out of the pre-war tankette programmes, and which survived when the tankettes became outclassed by heavier tanks. It found its niche as a light-armoured personel carrier, being superceded in the British army by the US-produced M3 half track, and eventually by the FV432; but not before some 113,000 had been built according to Wickipedia.

PSC have produced a game-changer with their 15mm box of 9 carriers. The variations available have cracked open the market, with a plethora of spare crew and accessories to use after your preferred choice of model has been built.

I doubt if many gamers will be building seven FOO versions straight out of the box – but you can if you want to, and that is the strength of this offering. In price and flexibility they knock the spots of everyone’s resin offerings; okay, so you have to stick them together. Grow a spine youngsters, you are living in the Golden Age of 15mm kit offerings!

My motley crew are undercoated, tarted up with a few extra FOOs and heading off to their artillery regiments for active service. A couple are left for a Soviet lendlease example used by the divisional scout company,  and a spare carrier for a motor rifle battalion.

That just leaves the India Pattern Carrier, a FoW resin offering that has been waiting for some Sikh crew. Spare PSC bodies from the carrier set and a couple of Peter Pig heads completed the job. Here they are in all their silver-headed glory, waiting for some paint – Raman Singh and Jamansing*. The Soviet crew in the carrier behind are from the Command Decision tank Riders, and a PP Scout Commisar.

*Jamansing is a Gurung. I’m not quite sure how he ended up in a Punjabi regiment.

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Soviet Winter Offensive- Battle for VYAZMA March 1943

VYAZMA 35th Infantry Division Defensive Line

Winter deepened its grip on the approaches to SMOLENSK as Soviet forces ground slowly east. 35th Infantry Division Landsers shivered in their dugouts and shell scrapes on the approaches to VYAZMA in a more heavily wooded broadleaf landscape than the southern steppes. Although this afforded more timber for defences, it did little to provide overhead cover.*

VYAZMA Soviet First Wave Break Through

Sitting midway on the MINSK highway between MOSCOW and SMOLENSK, both sides saw VYAZMA as a vital regional hub.

35th Infantry Division Retreats to VYAZMA under Air Attack

“Where is my air support?” was the cry from both commanders. The Luftwaffe were frozen in to their meagre forward airstrips, but Soviet Sturmoviks were seen flying in regimented formations to attack the enemy.

Soviet Second Wave Passes Through the Enemy Defenses

The scouts of 38 and 40 Rifle Divisions were barely slowed by the German forward outposts, and with little by way of artillery to oppose them, soon overran the southern regiment in their main defensive line. In the absence of effective anti-tank guns, even T-60s provided armoured support.

Soviet First Wave Reaches VYAZMA

As the south of the main defensive line collapsed, the central and northern regiments fell back in good order without managing to delay the Soviet infantry to VYAZMA. Here, they at least had effective Flak, artillery and shelter. As the last troops entered the city, engineers sealed off the defensive minefields protecting the eastern approaches.

The Ring Closes Around VYAZMA

Soviet airstrikes pounded the town, answered by Flak that may have had a dissuasive effect, but did little damage. This prelude to the main infantry assault did nothing to dismay the defenders, and a robust defence held the first two waves of Soviet infantry.

Sturmoviks over VYAZMA

After a sustained firefight, 40th Rifle Division broke into the south of VYAZMA, unleashing armoured forces from 5th Shock Army, 4th Mechanised Corps through the minefields but stripping their motor rifle support from them.

5th Shock Army Tanks Break Through

These tanks, on finding themselves unsupported, turned north to attack VYAZMA linking back with 40th Rifle Division, but being engaged by a static and self-propelled antitank gun screen.

VYAZMA Southern Outskirts

Difficulties with snow and supplies had delayed the counterattack of 7th Panzer Division and 20th Panzer Grenadier Division, but it appeared from the southeast of VYAZMA, having conducted a wide outflanking march, but having failed to catch the head of the Soviet southern pincer that was burrowing into the suburbs of the city.

20th Panzergrenadiers Counterattack

Although the attack reached the main MINSK highway, by this stage the defenders in the city centre were collapsing or pulling out of the centre, with little left to oppose the enemy.**

7th Panzer Division Cuts the Minsk Highway

A northern pincer from the Soviet 7th Tank Corps crashed into the city defences at about this time, sealing the defender’s fate. Flurries of Little Führer directives  ordering a defence to the last man had no effect on the masses of Germans fleeing west, but sealed the fate of headquarters 35th Infantry Division and its accompanying divisional troops. Counterattacks by 9th Infantry Division failed to break back in to the city to relieve them.

VYAZMA Falls to 5th Shock Army

Game Notes

*I had put the fir trees out before I toured VYAZMA on Google Map. Yesthat Phil shrugged it off as an annoying fact that gets in the way of a good story. Everybody knows that Russia in Winter is full of nothing but snow, fir trees and wolves. You can’t argue with that.

** Morale was universally high throughout this game, with the exception the Soviet troops to the north of the city, who were content to let their countrymen to the south do the hard work. German shooting was mostly poor, with the exception of the defenders to the north, and the engineers. The two states were not unconnected.

The armoured troops that closed on VYAZMA were previously unknown to Oberkommando Heer but were eventually identified as being part of Lt. General Popov’s 5th Shock Army, previously thought to have been on the Stalingrad Front.

The game was fought over 2 evenings, fuelled by well-preserved Stollen, on a 5 x 3  foot table, hence the rather crowded area around VYAZMA, which would ideally have occupied four times the real estate.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Land Battles, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

Summer of Fun Concludes – on the Workbench

Having enjoyed myself determinedly over summer, this is what the fruit of a Summer of Fun looks like when autumn finally comes:

On the Workbench - summer of Fun Concludes

Just visible on the CMP Quads are some buttons standing in as spare wheels, as they went onto the extra 25pdrs that were made up from the spares on the sprues. The buttons will be covered by cam nets – every bodger’s friend! It turned out that the Sherman front casings did work on my Stuart bodges, with a bit of judicious trimming, and metal exhaust cylinders can be seen on some of the Stuart hulls.

There are more unmade kits in the pile, but I’m concentrating on gaps in my orbats before I go making stuff up speculatively. The  vehicles haven’t loaded up with their crews yet, as they are being painted separately.

 

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Concrete Sniffing in Vienna

Vienna was not intended to be concrete-sniffing holiday, but the  Die of Fate rolled and came up with a six. The lovely Mrs K (Suzanne) had booked us an apartment in a residential area between the Danube and the “Donau Kanal“, which meant that we were on a rather large island outside the old city walls, but near to the Augarten park and railway station. Our morning walk took us through the park and cafés into the city centre. We could have taken the tram, but then we would have missed this:

The Leittürme were smaller than the G-Türme!

Even Suzanne was impressed. We have both seen Flaktürme before in the Ruhr, and to find one looming unexpectedly over the trees in a park was a surprise. Then we walked around the corner and saw this:

It reminded me a little of the Emperor Dalek from the ’60s as it sat there with a squat malevolence that time had done nothing to diminish. Naturally, the locals had dialled it out of their mental landscape and only tourist such as ourselves gawked and photographed it.

 

This larger GefechtsTurm had come off second-best with time*, so part of the lower balcony had been removed post millenium, and steel cables girdled the structure, having pulled  the upper platform a good  metre or so out of alignment. The towers operated as a pair, with the L-Turm controlling fire for the G-Turm. Three such pairs protected Vienna in a triangle.

The Viennese, being pragmatic folk, have turned one Turm into a climbing wall, and another that sits rather inconveniently in the centre, into a Sealife Centre.

The rest of the holiday was filled with excellent Age of Enlightenment sights, food, and a concert in the Anna Kirche that need not concern us here, other than to say that Vienna is well worth a visit even without the concrete.

*And the attention of mischievous children,  who set fire to 2,000 flak rounds that still remained in the tower in 1946, the little scamps!

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Pointless Conversion – M3 Honey Epilogue

IMG_7752 (2)

Both fans of my previous M5 to M3 Honey conversion* may be wondering how well it stands up. It is even more of a pointless conversion now that the kit it represents is available straight out of the box. At the  time I built it, I thought it was too bulky in the front glacis plate. I turns out that I was right, as the comparison shots show.

IMG_7751 (2)

My mid-production round-turreted M3s that are tricked out in olive paint can head off to the Soviet army now that their slots in the orbat are filled with PSC kits. The M5s are still waiting for me to sort out American troops for Tunisia.

Stuart M3s

Originally, about 170 M3s were sent to 7th Armoured Division, 4th Armoured Brigade in March – mid November 1941.  My 5 out of the box represent 150 scaled at 30:1 ….sorted. The PSC box gives enough spare parts to make another full kit from each sprue with a bit of bodging missing bits. It is worth noting that on the instruction sheet, the green and red coloured hulls have been marked the wrong way round. Do a trial fit first to see what I mean.

I think that the spare M4 Sherman forward hull casings might stand in with a bit of trimming. I shall have to check that.

Stuart M3s and an M5 face into the setting sun

*YesthatPhil, and me!

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The Soviet Winter Offensive Takes the KALUGA to MOSCOW Line – Winter 1942/3

292 Infantry Division Watch the Soviet Advanceiv

292 Infantry Division watches the first Soviet wave attack

KALUGA sat on the northern bank of the OKA River, and straddled the main rail line to BRYANSK. As the Soviet advance ground remorselessly west, only 17 Infantry Division and the reduced 12 Infantry Division stood in their path. Along the south bank of the OKA, from SERPUKHOV to KALUGA, 292 Infantry Division kept an uneasy watch, expecting the massed infantry forces to  swing south at any moment. They did not.

The River OKA today, looking east, from Google Map

As the first wave of Soviet divisions hit the advanced positions, the commanding German General took the bold decision to conduct an active defence, forgoeing the dubious protection of his hasty defences. The Soviet Steamroller crashed into the line, shuddered and recoiled with losses. 38 and 54 Rifle Divisions were in the front wave, locked into a desperate struggle with no thought of retreat.

38 Rifle Division Pushes 12 Infantry Division Back onto their Line of Communication

38 Rifle Division Pushes 12 Infantry Division Back onto its Line of Communication

The Soviets continued to reinforce their attacks, pushing 57 Rifle Division into the front line, in some cases, over the corpses of their fallen comrades. As the pressure mounted, the Germans grudgingly gave ground, hoping all the while that their rear echelons were clear of the line of communication, and were heading towards safer rear areas to reorganise.

57 Rifle Division Forces the divisional Boundary Between 12 and 17 Rifle Divisions

57 Rifle Division Forces the divisional Boundary Between 12 and 17 Infantry Divisions

Determined counterattacks ensured that the Soviets were unable to press their advantage following local successes, but eventually the weight of numbers told, as 40  and 47 Rifle Divisions rolled forward in a third wave to push 17 Infantry Division out of KALUGA

Soviet Rifle Division Closes on KALUGA

47 Soviet Rifle Division Closes on KALUGA

Game Notes:

YesthatPhil took the Germans, and gifted me the rather nice diecst Austin  ambulance.

Will took the Soviets and played a very historical “keep advancing, and give me another division, the first three are broken!

There are a mix of players’ troops. As usual, the nice ones belong to Phil.

In this game, I am using ammo markers to represent pins, because I wanted to see what they would look like en-masse.

 

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The Soviet Winter Offensive Takes the SERPUKHOV to MOSCOW Line – Winter 1942/3

Knots of German Resistance

As the front around MOSCOW collapsed, the landscape filled with large and small  groups of Germans retreating to the west. Lacking heavy equipment, knots and pockets of resistance caused just enough delay to the advancing Soviets to keep a semblance of order and a front line, albeit one with rents kilometers wide.

NQM Delaying Action Winter 1942/3

 

Some resistance was more resolute than others, 12th Infantry Division, in particular, fighting hard to buy enough time for the front to reform.  Advancing against them were 38 and 57 Rifle Divisions.

38 and 57 Rifle Divisions Advance to Contact

For some of the hard-pressed Landser, it was easier to fight and die in position than to continue trudging through the snow. Iron-hard ground and lack of time to prepare reduced the effectiveness  of the German advanced defensive line.

12th Infantry Division Advance Defensive Line

Behind the forward troops, preparations proceeded as fast as the appalling conditions would allow.

Roads Provided Tenuous Lines of Communication

Anxious troops, with little time to rest, wearily awaited the Enemy. To their front, the forward defensive line is breached.

The Forward Line is Breached

Waves of advancing Soviets press forward to the main defensive line.

NQM Soviet Advance Winter 1942/3

The Divisional Railhead is a scene of frantic activity as the Enemy draws nearer.

NQM Divisional Railhead Winter 1942/3

Even a captured Soviet armoured train is pressed into service.

A Captured Soviet Armoured Train is Pressed into Service

But just as 12th Infantry Division, was at the limit of its endurance, the pressure began to ease. The Soviet advance had outpaced its own supply lines and come to a halt. at the end of this two-hour battle with YesthatPhil taking the Axis, and the Author playing the Soviets as a player-umpire (Plumpire). The Change in the map looked like this:

12 Inf Div holds the SERPUKHOV to MOSCOW line

12 Infantry Division holds the SERPUKHOV to MOSCOW line

The Soviet Winter Offensive Takes the SEPUKHOV to MOSCOW Line Winter 1942/3

The Soviet Winter Offensive Takes the SEPUKHOV to MOSCOW Line Winter 1942/3

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A Civil Day Out

Lawrence of Arabia Ambushes a Turkish Train in the Arab Revolt

Newark is a splendid place to spend an afternoon, with a plethora of small eating and drinking establishments, and the “National Civil War Museum”. In the same descriptive vein, NQM is the Nation’s “Most Comprehensive WW2 Wargame”.*

Lest this review sound as if the place is not worth a visit, I should hastily add that it is, but that what you find is an excellent local museum that covers the sieges of Newark, and sets it in the context of the English Civil War.** When we visited, a Lawrence of Arabia exhibition was on, which was fun. Who doesn’t love the film? 28mm Figure fans will enjoy the diorama of a train ambush.

Shifting Sands Exhibition Train Ambush 1

The museum exhibits give a good Royalist, town-centric view of the conflict, which is fine, because where else would you go to find out stuff about the sieges of Newark? There is also a rather nice exhibition regarding battlefield medicine and surgery, including an interactive exhibit that allows you to use a musket ball extractor on a suitably gory arm. The ball probably hit the brachial artery from its location! The claim that advances in medicine would not be equalled until WWI are overstated though, (anaesthesia in 1829, inoculation in 1796 and nursing in the Crimean War all spring to mind. Proper Anoraks can visit the two-room Museum of Anaesthesia at the Royal College of Anaesthetists opposite the BBC to have their senses thoroughly deadened.

As has been commentated on previously, by others; museums nowadays are interactive experiences to keep the kiddies happy, so we were in our element! Kiddies learn that armour is heavy, and the Governor’s mansion can be destroyed with one ranging shot and one shot for effect by a heavy gun that has digital sights. Adults are left wanting a more balanced view, and more stuff to look at. A diorama of one of the sieges shown on the website was not in evidence. Cromwell was the ghost in the building (Visit Huntingdon for the opposite treatment).

One of the interactive displays gave a good flavour of the shifting balance of power through the war(s) without detail such as town names. Chandler did it better with a few maps, without having to swat kids away that squeeze between you, aimlessly press a couple of buttons, then who wander off to the next exhibit that makes cannon-shot noises. This leaves you back at the default menu, trying to recover the events of 1643 on the interactive timeline.

Honestly, curators, having to press a touch screen to bring up pop-up boxes is not a good way to scan information, I do it for a living, so I have an opinion! We went on an uncrowded Sunday, a crowded one would have been worse. Information was there, if you took the time to read a lot of  typeface on boards in a relatively dimly lit main room (but I can do that in a book). It seemed to me that there was a disconnect between the hard information and the interactive stuff

My idea for an interactive display, is a set of stocks that lock for a pound a minute. Anyone can add coins when your child is in there. Proceeds to widows and orphans! In the Tudor Hall, Prince Rupert was holding forth in full cosplay; we gave him a miss. So, in summary, the museum is worth a visit if you are passing, but should be titled the “Civil War Sieges of Newark Museum“.

newarkMap

Newark Castle is also worth a visit – the river facade is impressive,  I expected it to feature more in the museum though. The river walk is pleasant, with pubs clustered around the town lock (what could possibly go wrong?) There is a nice micro brewery tucked away behind the riverfront, and an excellent teashop by the old post office behind the market square. We scoffed, quaffed, then came home.

*It isn’t.

** You are firmly corrected and told that they were the British Civil Wars, covering Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The NHS conducts this sort of rebranding exercise for fashionable diseases all the time.

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A Grand Day Out

Grab the Ball!

The Medieval folk that run around hitting each other with sticks were out again at Delapré Abbey this weekend. We wandered down, because Delapré is one of our regular winter walks, and because Trebian was presenting his battle of Northampton game; a Cracking Game Grommet, in which Lancastrians discover that cheese tastes best when toasted …

Cracking Game Grommet

Suzanne played for the first time. Within seven moves, she had sacked and burned Northampton (move 1),

Scrope Sacks Northampton

rampaged through the Lancastrian camp, capturing the King (move 6),

Rampaging Through the Lancastrian Camp

and executed a pile of Lancastrian Nobs, reminding me why I generally avoid arguing with Yorkshire Folk!

So That Will be No Quarter then!

That’ll be no quarter then!

I've Always Wanted To Sack Northampton!

At lunchtime, a pair of re-enactors of ample girth were tucking into a medieval meal that seemed to comprise of a lot of wine and pork pies.

Lightweight Camping Chair With Peasant Porter

Elsewhere, a blacksmith of much leaner thew was hammering an iron bar into a sickle, and some enthusiastic medieval gunners were creating loud bangs and rolling banks of acrid smoke. By way of light relief, I bought Suzanne a solid oak medieval folding camp chair, then had to carry it a mile or so back to the car, through the woods, fortified by a rather good pie at the new Delapré café. Personally though, we miss the old volunteers cafe, with its quirky service, homemade cakes and 1950s price structure.

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