Category Archives: 15mm Miniatures Wargames

More Big Numbers on the Ostfront Nov 42- Jul 43

1943 was an increasingly desperate year for Axis forces on the Ostfront. STALINGRAD and KURSK spring readily to mind as examples. Some of the numbers tell their own story*.

The Key Rail Junction

The quality of Soviet infantry had been steadily dropping as the most able recruits were drafted into the technical arms and services (Keimke, 1968, p147), compared to the 5 Soviet Tank armies, each of 2 tank and 1 mechanised corps; the best troops generally being found in guards units. German infantry had been fighting without pause for well over a year, and their generals had been commenting on the lack of staying power that some divisions were now exhibiting.

The Soviets had been ruthlessly concentrating on production, only innovating if it did not reduce volume, or if there was a clear need, so the quantity of tanks available to them does not tell the whole story. This excellent summary gives almost half of the Soviet inventory available at the front as light tanks in November 1942 and roughly a third  in Jul 1943. The numbers are almost constant at about 3,500 tanks, What changed in 1943 is that an influx of nearly 3,000 medium tanks reached the front. In other words, the battles in ’42/3 were as likely to be between Pz IIIs and T-60/70s as T-34s.

In the air, by summer 1943, the PVO outnumbered the Luftwaffe by 2.5:1, so that in November 1942 the Germans, facing some 3,200 aircraft with 4,000 or so machines of their own, found the numbers against them swelling to 8,300 by July. This was triple the size of the PVO in May 1942, and moreover, the new aircraft coming off the production lines were of the latest types.

Balkankreuze2

13th Air Army faced Luftflotte I on the VOLKHOV front with 40-50% extra allocated to the air army as occasion demanded from GKO reserves. In addition the air army had a regiment each of transport (GVF), recce and artillery spotting aircraft:

13th Air Army (formed on 25 November 1942)

  • 275th Fighter Aviation Division “Pushkinskaya Krasnoznamennaya
  • 276th Bomber Aviation Division “Gatchinskaya twice Red Banner orders of Suvurov and Kutuzov
    • 3 Pe-2? (@s3)
  • 277th Assault Aviation Div “Krasnoselskaya Red Banner orders of Suvurov and Kutuzov
      • 15th Guards Assault Aviation Regiment – Il-2 Sturmovik (s3)
      • 566th Assault Aviation Regiment – Il-2 Sturmovik (s3)
      • 943rd Assault Aviation Regiment – Il-2 Sturmovik (s3)
      • 999th Assault Aviation Regiment – Il-2 Sturmovik (s3)

Luftflotte I

  • Kampfgeschwader 1 –  2 Bombers (@s3)  [Ju 88A]
  •  KG1-2“Hindenburg”
  • Kampfgeschwader 76 –  3 Bombers (@s3) [Ju 88A]
  • KG76
  • Kampfgeschwader 77 –  3 Bombers (@s3) [Ju 88A]
  • KG77-1
  • Jagdgeschwader 54 – 3 Fighters (@s3) [Bf 109F]
  • JG54-1 “Grunherz”
  • Jagdeschwader 53 (-) – 1 Fighter (@s3) [Bf 109F]
  • JG53-1 “Pik As”

Subordinated/Attached Units

  • Transport squadron (Ju 52) – Ju 52 transport (L1)
  • five liaison squadrons (Fi 156) – 5 Fi 156 recce (@R1)
  • IV. Flakkorps (anti-aircraft artillery)
    • 2. Flak-Division (Mot)** – Commander (C3) [in Radio truck]
      • Stab/Flak-Regiment 41 – 8.8cm Flak (S3) + Limber (L3) Sdkfz 7
        Stab/Flak-Regiment 151 – 2.0cm Flak (S3) + Limber (L3) Sdkfz 10Stab/Flak-Regiment 164 – 2.0cm Flak (S3) + Limber (L3) Sdkfz 7
      • Flak-Abteilung 517
    • 6. Flak-Division – Commander (C3) [in Radio truck]
      • Stab/Flak-Regiment 43 – 8.8cm Flak (S3) + Limber (L3) Sdkfz 7Stab/Flak-Regiment 164 – 2.0cm Flak (S3) + Limber (L3) Sdkfz 7

leichte Heimat-Batterie 6./I – accounted for in the numbers above

* I have drawn confidence from my last post on numbers that  followers have not just halved. It couldn’t have been the picture of the Ratte could it?

** All the 8.8cm Flak is separated into Regt 41 and 43. In reality there were approx 12 guns per Regt.

Sources:

  1. http://chris-intel-corner.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/tank-strength-and-losses-eastern-front.html
  2. Stalingrad to Berlin by Ziemke (1968)
  3. Boyd A. (1977) The Soviet Airforce since 1918. Macdonald and Jame’s – London.
  4. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luftflotte_1
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_army_%28Soviet_Union%29
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/76th_Air_Army
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Air_Forces_Order_of_Battle_1_May_1945
  8. http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/inhaltsverzeichnisgliederungLw.htm

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Air Forces, Eastern Front, Orbats, WWII

Big Numbers on the Ostfront

German Panzer Battalion from the author's collection. Each model represents approximately 30 tanks

German Panzer Battalion from the author’s collection. Each model represents approximately 30 tanks

One of the pleasures of operational gaming is ruminating on the relative numbers overall of various equipments. Authors are fond of telling histories in terms of events, with the odd number thrown in here and there for key equipments, but they rarely give information in a consistent form.

Wargamers love using the best kit, so sometimes you are left wondering if the Premier Division team that they have picked for the club night is really a good representation of what went on. I enjoy the battles in the corners: The ones that happen when a panzerarmee is nowhere to be seen, but a divisional staff officer is left scraping cooks and drivers together to prevent a breakthrough that may be on its last legs.

2nd Tank Corps Break Into the Northern Advanced Line

Consequently, I am often left wondering if I have the proportions of tanks to antitank guns, or to aircraft to anti-aircraft correct. John Ellis is usually reliable in this respect, so his orbats and ToEs (Tables of Equipment), scaled by the odd figure that is thrown in by a unit history and rounded for NQM, work well.

Here is a previous guess-timet of equipment at GAZALA. When I applied the same reasoning to the eastern front for the 1943 Soviet summer offensive, Ziemke (1968) gives us on page 144:

German troop strength = 3,064,000 + 150-200,000 allies

German Tanks = 2,088

German Anti-tank guns = 8,063

Soviet troop strength = 5,755,000

Soviet Tanks = 7,855

Soviet Anti-tank guns = 21,050

These admitted German estimates give the Germans a 1:4 Tank Anti-tank ratio (actually 3.86) , and the Soviets nearly a nearly 1:3 ratio (actually 2.68).

Comparatively this gives a Soviet vs Axis superiority of:

Troops = 2:1 (actually 1.79:1)

Tanks = 4:1 (actually 3.76:1)

Anti-tank = 3:1 (actually 2.61:1)

This compares well with Zaloga and Grandsen’s (1984) table on page 223 of Stalingrad to Berlin of 9,200 Soviet AFVs vs 2,374 German AFVs in March 1943 on the Ostfront, a ratio of 3.88 :1. The same source tells us on page 222 that the German proportions of tanks to self-propelled guns to troop carriers was in roughly even proportions (1:1:1). By contrast, the Soviet production was 2 tanks to every assault gun and no significant production of armoured troop carriers.

Even allowing for all the usual provisios of servicibility, tactics and quality, this tells me that I should be allowing the Soviets 3+ tanks for every German AFV.

A seperate, and interesting question, is “do all the anti tank weapon totals include anti tank rifles?” I suspect not, as the German ratio is higher, and the Soviets hung onto their anti-tank rifles for much longer. A quick NQM ToE check gives the following numbers:

German panzer division5 Tanks, 2 Anti-tank guns (numbers fluctuated)

German infantry division = 0 Tanks, 3 Anti-tank guns

Soviet tank corps6 Tanks, 2 Anti-tank guns (for 1943, the numbers fluctuated)

Soviet infantry division0 Tanks,  3 Anti-tank guns (allowing the 76mm divisional gun an antitank role and counting the 3 regimental 47mm guns as one Sp3 gun.

If we estimate the tank to infantry division ratio on the Ostfront as:

German = 67 panzer and panzergrenadier divisions versus 331 infantry divisions, (Just under 1:5). (I have taken the German army as a whole but ignored allies giving 335 NQM tanks to 1127 anti-tank guns, or 1 to 3.4.

Soviet = 60 tank and mechanised corps vs 413 rifle divisions (just under 1:7 giving 1 NQM tank to 3.8 anti-tank) from Ellis (1993)38, then these ratios seem reasonable without having to count anti-tank rifles. I do however, need to make sure that the Soviet armour is fielded at full strength or tone down the anti-tank to keep the ratio about right at 3:1. Likewise, the German tank strength needs a lid keeping on it to prevent it creeping too high.

Here is a picture of a Ratte to console the German players :

ratte

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Artillery, Eastern Front, Land Battles, tank, Trucks, WWII

Storm from the Northwest – Days 4 and 5

The Key Rail Junction

Day four of the offensive saw pressure intensify along the north of the line, giving X Korps little time to reorganise. Successive waves of Soviet infantry crashed into the main and reserve lines in numbers that made a breach somewhere in the line inevitable.

2nd Tank Corps Break Into the Northern Advanced Line

Heavy artillery support added to the defenders’ misery.

Army Level Artillery Close Up to the Front Line

When the breach came, it was from a stream of Soviet armour “swarming across the Steppe like rats” with tank riders dropping from the hulls to engage the hard-pressed Axis infantry, and keeping them away from the tanks that rumbled through the positions.

4th Tank Corps is Unstoppable4th Tank Corps Break Through the Main Line 2nd Corps break into the Northern Reserve Line

This mass of men and vehicles heading west needed some co-ordination. Phil’s modelling skills were up to the task, ensuring priority for a steady stream of heavy metal heading into the enemy rear.

Traffic Police Maintain OrderNight Draws in as 4th tank Corps Follows the Setting Sun

A stream of Landser began to head for VYSHNY VOLOCHYOK to reorganise in the security of the town.

Streams of Landser Fleeing SouthIn one of those serendipitous wargaming moments, Phil remarked that this was rather like the scene in Cross of Iron, where Sergeant Steiner waits a whole day to lead his platoon across a road being heavily trafficked by enemy troops. Twelve bases were involved, so I rolled 2D6 to see how many made it across. The score was 11, so the last lonely base will for ever more be known as “Steiner“!

4th Tank Corps Stream West

Link to the map

Some Game Reflections.

Despite the massively compressed ground scale that made this look more like a Hollywood Star Wars re-run, the narrative flowed in a coherent manner.

The decision reached on use of tank riders was that defending infantry small arms could selectively choose to attack tank riders as the attackers closed to win the firefight.

Tanks could ignore losses to riders and still break into a position, even if their losses to riders was higher than losses to defenders (normally this would cause the attackers to go to ground until reinforced).

Once on the position, tank riders could prevent defending infantry attacking tanks that remained on the position as light targets.

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Storm from the Northwest – Days 2 and 3

Day two of the Soviet Winter offensive in the Northwest saw X, II and VIII Korps under heavy pressure along the whole of the line. By this stage of the war, German defensive positions had formalised into an outlying belt of minefields studded with MG42 nests, then a main defensive line backed by a reserve line, all of some considerable depth such that they could not all be carried in the same attack.

II Korps Artillery II Korps artillery in the reserve line supports the failing defensive line of Lt Gen von Seydlitz-Kurzbach’s distinguished 12 Inf Div.

Soviet doctrine was evolving to cope, and although not as tactically proficient as they would become later in the war, the early desperate days of throwing waves of unsupported infantry in to the attack were giving way to more coordinated offensives with artillery and tank support. They would attack along a line, then ruthlessly reinforce success, leaving failing attacks to flounder. Thus it was that Lt Gen Wandel found pressure on his 121 Inf Div slackening as troops were diverted to support the break-in to 32 Inf Div‘s main defensive positions.

This attack had been preceded by violent assaults on two flanks against the distinguished 12 Inf Div veterans of Lt Gen von Seydlitz-Kurzbach. The division fell back in good order, having sustained intolerable casualties in the first day of the attack.

Northwest Front 05The vital rail junction on the divisional boundary of 32 and 121 Inf Divs, looking southwest, before  coming under heavy Soviet attack

This relief was, however, only temporary. Day three of the offensive saw renewed pressure on this sector of the defensive line to break open the main railway to VELIKIYE LUKI (Великие Луки)

121 Inf Div Main Defensive LineAll along the northern half of the line, German infantry were falling back to their reserve positions; most in good order but some in disarray. Soviet flags could be seen fluttering over the main line, and in the odd quiet moment balalaika and accordion music could be heard!

More to follow …

The Attack Develops on Day 3Link to the map

Game Notes:

1.More of this battle from the Soviet side can be seen on YesthatPhil’s P.B.Eye Candy Blog

2. This game was planned for Trebian’s 5×11 foot table at Shedquarters. My pasting table is a quarter of the size, so although the length is adequate, depth has been compressed by half.

3. The marked roads are also railways, which is why a Chibi armoured train is parked at the southern end of the track by VYSHNY VOLOCHYOK Вышний Волочек.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Artillery, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Infantry, Soviet Army, Soviet War Diary, Wehrmacht, WWII

Storm Forecast from the Northeast

Northwest Front - Opening Stages

The miserable stalemate of the Rasputitsa on the NORTHWEST Front was broken with the first hard frosts of winter. This offensive had been expected for some time, but the ferocity of the assault caught the German line by surprise, and soon reports of heavy fighting were flooding in to X, II and VIII Korps Headquarters in volumes that told of an assault along the whole defensive line north of VYSHNY VOLOCHYOK Вышний Волочек.

Northwest Front 03

126* Infantry Division fought off attacks from militia troops identified as belonging to 30 Rifle Division supporting the northern flank of 31 Rifle Div. The Soviets had blocked the north-south railway from MOSCOW to LENINGRAD, and repeated counterattacks had failed to dislodge them in the previous month.

Northwest Front Rail Crossroad

12* and 32** Infantry Divs came under heavy pressure that the whole of X and VIII Korps Artillery could not relieve. These positions began to crumble as 34 Rifle Div  penetrated the forests in front of them.

Link to the map

To be continued …

Notes:

*126 Infantry Division was commanded by the newly promoted commander of its 422 Infantry Regiment – Maj Gen Hopper.

** 12th Infantry Division distinguished itself in Poland and France

*** 32nd Infantry Division was known as the Löwe (Lion) division and also had an excellent reputation.

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Soviet Tank Riders

These Plastic Soldier Company machine-gun armed  infantry are ideal for tank riders. The tiny square magnetised bases that fit into trucks and onto the backs of tanks hark back to the early days of Command Decision and will probably be jolly annoying to play with … we will have to see.

Soviet Tank RidersLeading these PSC Soviet Tank Riders are a pair of pioneer bases. One of the pioneers is actually Japanese, but who cares in this scale?

Soviet Tank DesantnyThese nine bases of tank desantny are the infantry support component of a tank corps if no trucks are present. It is clear from contemporary photographs that not all troops were issued with SMGs and that many rifles were present.

Soviet Pioneer BattalionThe pioneers in their truck.

Soviet Motor Rifle Battalion… And a motorised infantry battalion.

Motor Rifle Troops 1… or you could just glue them in and have done with it!

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T-34 T Armoured Recovery Vehicles

T-34T Tractor or Armoured Recovery Vehicle (ARV)

The T-34 T or TT-34? filled the role of armoured recovery vehicle (ARV) or tyagach (tractor), as they appear to have been solely used for towing damaged tanks out of the battle zone*. The more complete role of battlefield recovery given to western ARVs was probably left to the few M3 lend-lease chasses that made it to Russia.

vehicle_t34_5This picture illustrates the way that I believe these vehicles were used … it is a tank hull towing another tank backwards.

My reading of the use of these recovery tractors is that they were all initially hulls with the turrets removed, that were modified in the field to plate over the turret ring. Some had a simple wooden hatch, others one or two hatches. Stowage baskets were added on an ad-hoc basis until some sort of order imposed itself at the end of the war and later. I am suspicious of some of the pictures around showing superstructures, as I think they are postwar modifications.

T-34 T Variants

Having said that, I should really have modelled these tyagach by converting some of my earliest acquisitions. Instead, I used newer Plastic Soldier Company models, raiding my spares bin for odds and ends. The results may not be entirely authentic, but the method is! As ever, they are recognisable for what they are meant to be.

T-34 T Variants (2)The rear ARV is the simplest conversion, and has a prototype tank rider base on the back. More about these in a later post.

Sources:

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-34_variants (this article is pretty useful for comparing T-34 variants)

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Katyusha BM-13s Upgraded

The Katyusha BM-13 on Zis truck or Guards Mortar as it was officially designated was as unpopular with Axis infantry as it was popular with Soviet troops. I am very fond of the two metal models that YesThatPhil gave me some time ago.

Katyusha BM13s (1)

Even though they are showing their age, and the newer Zvezda models are more accurate in almost every respect*, I am loathe to retire them. Consequently, when Phil also gifted me a couple of spare Zvezda launch rails, it was time to do an upgrade.

Katyusha BM13s (2)

Off came the original metal rails and on went the plastic ones. I’m happy!

 Katyusha BM13s (3)

 * The Zvezda kit only comes with enough M-13 rockets for one side of the rails.

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Digging in

Heavy Defended Locality

From its inception, NQM envisioned  defended localities of battalion size. I drew some pictures but never built anything that looked like the original line drawing of a defended area. Here is the first propotype at last!

Medium Defended Locality

Construction was simple. A plywood base had revetments built up with matchsticks to allow 25mm circular and 30mm square bases to fit in. DAS air-drying modelling clay was built up in three or so layers and the whole was painted with emulsion paint.

Battalion Defended Locality from the Reserve Line

Cork formed a concrete bunker for the command stand to show when the defended area was not merely a medium position, but a heavy one.  This prototype was obviously built by a Soviet battalion, as it only has space for  five  bases, but it appears to be full of Germans. Chestikov will have to do something about that!

Heavy Battalion Defended Locality

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Morris c4 15cwt Wireless Van

Morris c4 Wireless VanArmy Morris c4 mk2

My infantry brigades need signals vehicles, so as I have a FoW Morris 15cwt that is doing very little at the moment, it will do nicely as a test for more conversions.

Morris c4 mk1 RAFRAF Morris c4 mk1

Type ‘Panther Tank’ into a search engine and you will be unable to wade through all the pictures that surface in a single evening. There are fewer good pictures of signals trucks around, but it quickly became clear that there were many variations on a theme.

Morris c4 mk1 in SicilyArmy Morris c4 mk1 in Sicily

I quickly found enough views to get a good enough idea of the layout for a wargames quality model based on the c4 mk2 below.

Morris c4 mk2Morris c4 mk2

The work is simple, being little more than a box and some stick-on squares, but I am pleased with the way that the authentic 8th Army ‘tinker’s cart’ look has been achieved and quite like the two-tone effect. Perhaps a Caunter scheme may follow … in a few years!

Stick some card onto a boxStick some card onto a box on the back of the truck …

Put some Paint on

Put some paint on …

Follow with an Ink WashFollow with an ink wash …

Ready for BattleReady for battle …

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