The Railhead at BRYANSK, where 2 Armee Headquarters was located, on the River DESNA, was a scene of frantic activity. Trains bursting with infantry and ammunition were pulling in to the rail-head, disgorging their loads and returning full with casualties and non-essential technical specialists. Palls of smoke marked sites around the headquarters, where confidential documents were being burned. Civilians were being pressed into digging defences. BRYANSK was a city under siege
The infantry of IX Armeekorps, retreating from STALINOGORSK to the north, and LIII Armeekorps withdrawing to the west from KURSK were being thrown back into the line as soon as they reformed. To the west of this area was where the Panzer divisions of 2,3 Panzerarmee and Heersgruppe Mitte were poised for a counterattack, as soon as the moment was judged to be correct.
XX Armeekorps with the veteran Prussian 258 and newly raised 292 Infantry Divisions. Had scarcely reformed at GOMEL before the lead elements of 16 Tank Corps, 2 Tank Army were probing their defences.
The Corps, at the end of its supply line did not press the attack, but withdrew out of contact to await the rest of 2 Tank Army.
IX Armeekorps, although a Korps in name, 7, 78 and 252 Infantry Divisions amounted to little more than a single division as they traveled east by rail to reinforce the defences of BRYANSK.
General Weise, of XXXV Armeekorps defending the east bank of the River with 262 and 293 Infantry Divisions was hanging on to the east bank of the River DESNA but was aware that the west bank had fallen in the south of the city. He counterattacked but failed to make significant progress against the bridgehead.
The Soviet Commander of 61 Army was pressurising his exhausted divisional commanders, expecting progress in the north that proved to be slow in coming against VII Armeekorps with 16, 17 and 387 Infantry Divisions.
28 Rifle Corps comprising 132 and 211 RDs in the first wave of 70 Army in the south made good progress, set back by counterattacks that slowed, but failed to dislodge the bridgeheads. 2 Tank Army, continued to press forward with 9, 16 and 19 Tank Corps until their progress was halted by the veteran dug-in 258 Infantry Division.
The Germans had not been idle : 2 SS Panzer Division and 47 Panzergrenadier Division hit the burgeoning Soviet breakout in flank with a well-timed counterattack. Dispersing the attack, the Panzers did not halt but pressed on to the southeast to meet up with a southern pincer comprising three Panzer divisions, 14Pz, 16Pz and 22Pz east of KURSK.
Following on behind them, were such infantry divisions that could be mustered to reinforce BRYANSK. Casualties were not all one-sided though, the independent Tiger battalion being reduced in fighting strength to negligible levels through a combination of battle casualties, lack of fuel and ammunition, and breakdowns.
At the same time, to the north of BRYANSK, the infantry of 3 Panzer Army¹ were preparing to counterattack to recover lost ground to TULA and beyond.
… to be continued.
- A Panzer army in name only.
Post Game Notes.
1. My Stuka zu Fuss had its first outing and performed better than expected for a short-ranged heavy engineer unit. No-one had told them that heavies normally roll low!
2. My scruffy Airfix US Marine rubber dinghies are back. In compensation, I have some spiffy dug-in markers from Peter Pig.
3. I was resigned to fighting this phase as a solo game, but YesthatPhil arrived unexpectedly with doughnuts! Phil took the Germans this time. If there is only one player, I try to offer them the side that will be most interesting to play, unless they express a strong preference for one side or another. We spent rather longer than planned discussing Ian Lowell’s novel “Rein Bow Warriors” Ruleset, after a playtest on Tuesday night. Trebian has written it up if you like armies that gallop around in wicker baskets on wheels and chuck spears at each other.
4. Again, liberties were taken with scale to bring activity that should more properly have been well off-table into view. In particular the distance from BRYANSK to GOMEL was ludicrously compressed. Hence, the German Panzers apparently popped out of nowhere onto the tabletop.
5. Ignore the T-34/85s, which were not in service yet (first production Dec 1943 according to Zaloga (1984) and so probably not reaching units in significant numbers until Spring 1944). They are supposed to be T34/76s Models 1940-43.