Category Archives: 15mm Miniatures Wargames

On the Workbench

Stuff that has been lying around for a while had a reshuffle and some work as 90th Light (Afrika) Division* is assembled. Some familiar pieces of equipment are standing in until the correct models are purchased. A trawl of my spare infantry boxes by General Heldenkleber raised enough grenadiers to fill a softskin-mounted regiment, but a few more trucks are needed – can’t have too many of them y’know. The last two 250s have been cobbled together for the gepanzert battalion**

On the Workbench 001

Yesthatphil has pimped the surplus Steyr Kfz70*** that I gave him, which prompted me to fill mine with a few PSC seated infantry and a spare tank commander who should probably be standing on the rear parcel shelf to get that extra bit of height in the desert. Phil’s Italian crew have decided that their mount would look better with a Breda cannon, racing stripes and cool shades for the crew – that sort of thing. My HQ staff have just added some clutter and spread themselves around on the back seats a bit.

90th Light Afrika Division WIPInevitably, with the changing orbat of this division that only lasted for 2 years in the desert, my orbat is a composite.

*90th Light Afrika Motorized Division (Nafziger, 2001):

288th Sonderverband Panzer Grenadier Regiment
155th Motorised Infantry Regiment
580th Reconnaissance Company
606th Army Light AA Battalion
361st Afrika Artillery Battalion, with 3 Batteries of 4 – 105mm Howitzers each
1 AA Battery with (12 – 20mm AA Guns)
Fallschirmjäger (Parachute) Lehr Battalion (700 – 1,200 men in Martuba, 360 present on 1/6/42)
90th Light Afrika Motorized Division (Feldgrau, 2015):
155th Rifle Regiment
200th Motorized Infantry Regiment
361st Africa (Infantry) Regiment
361st Artillery Battalion
190th Tank Destroyer Battalion
Motorised Recce Company 580
Motorised Signals Company 190
Heavy Infantry Gun Company 707
Heavy Infantry Gun Company 708
Nafziger G., (2001) The Afrika Korps: an Organizational History 1941-1943, Nafziger Collection.
Pipes, J. (n.d.) 90.leichte-Afrika-Division http://www.feldgrau.com/leInfDivAfk.php?ID=1  [Accessed 21 July 2015]
**288th Sonderverband Panzer Grenadier Regiment had no armoured transport. These guys are just standing in on their way to Russia until more trucks arrive.
*** Phil can tell a Steyr from a Horsch, even if I can’t.

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Panzer Marsch!

15th and 21st Panzer DivisionsIt is some time since 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions shook out into march formation on the desert sands. Here is progress to date as they form up ready to attack:

15th Panzer Division - 1

New additions to 15th Panzer Division include a new SdKfz 10/4 at bottom right protecting the divisional headquarters and an SdKfz 11 towing the 7.62cm PaK 38 (r) at top left. My SdKfz 250/10 is now in the gepanzert grenadier battalion at middle left.

21st Panzer Division - 1

Similarly,  21st Panzer Division sports a new SdKfz 10/4 at bottom right  and an SdKfz 11 towing the 7.62cm PaK 38 (r) at top left. The gepanzert grenadier battalion at middle left has a new SdKfz 250/11, with a 250/3 for the regimental commander.

15th Panzer Division - 2

3 Chenillettes are still standing in for limbers and an ambulance.

21st Panzer Division - 2

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Sd Kfz 250 “Alte Art” replaces “Neu”

SdKfz 250/3 Afrika Korps DAK

PSC Sd Kfz 250 AlteIn common with the entire WW2 wargaming world, I too am sticking “250 Alte” together and enjoying the plethora of extra bits. The five mortars were chopped down and went straight into Gebirgsjäjer and Landser battalions. Adding deployed trails for the SdKfz 250/11 sporting a sPzB 41 was an inspired touch by PSC, as are the total of 8 crew. No complaints there*. The ’41s should really go into Gross Deutschland, but for the time being the example I have flung together can sit in DAK

PSC Sd KFZ Alte Mortar

The lack of a radio frame antennae on the sprue was expected, as they have no use in FoW and other Taccie games, so I made my own. It has been bent a bit by the crew using it as a handrail for jumping in and out  when they are in too much of a hurry to use the back door. A few extra crew crowded in, which is just as well because it hides their unnaturally proportioned lower bodies. As usual, they are in too much of a hurry to go to war, and are tearing off to DAK in their undercoats. Another box may well come in handy for ambulances and limbers, as I only  need a couple more 250s for the grenadier battalions.

Russland, Schützenpanzer »Div. Großdeutschland«

The two displaced 250 Neue will continue to do sterling service in one of my Eastern Front divisions. They will be in plenty of time to put their “retreat gaiters” on.

PSC Sd Kfz 250 Alte

*My only complaint is that the front axle cannot fit into its socket if the wheels are to fit under the mudguards. Oops PSC, someone measured that one badly.

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8th Army Tanks at Alamein

Pay attention meglomaniacs! I wondered how many 8th Army tanks I would need to fight the whole of 2nd ALAMEIN in NQM 1:30 scale if they were all on the table at once. Not as many as I thought as it turns out. As the oddly formatted table below (thanks WordPress) shows, about 36.

I know a nice man with a big table, and who doesn’t have  this many tanks when he pools them with his chums,  so this seems do-able? There are a few gaps in the table below, but it seems about right.

Trebian at GAZALAGeneralissimo Trebian lines up his brave troops to give BIR HAKIEM a good kicking

Sherman Crusader Lee/Grant Stuart M3 Matilda Valentine Scorpion
  8 8 6 3 1 8
8th Army  
1 Army Tk Bde 4 (2)
XXX Corps   6
9 Armd Bde 1 2 1
XIII Corps   1 2
7 Armd Div
4 Lt Armd Bde 1 2
22 Armd Bde 2 2 1
X Corps  
1 Armd Div
2 Armd Bde 3 2
10 Armd Div
8 Armd Bde 1 1 2
24 Armd Bde 3 1

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NQM Soviet Air Army Order of Battle circa 1943

It seems reasonable that the air army and army headquarters would probably be co-located or close by each other (I have no evidence for this yet).

Soviet VVS Air Corps (Box 007 May 2015)

Air Army HQ

Night bomber division: 5 regiments = 5 Po-2

Fighter division: 3 regiments = 3 Yak-7B

Sturmovik division: 3 regiments = 3 IL-2

Sturmovik division (from GKO Reserve) : 2 regiments = 2 IL-2

Fighter Corps (from GKO Reserve)

Fighter division: 3 regiments = 3 Yak-9

Fighter division: 2 regiments = 2 LaGG-5

Bomber Corps (from GKO Reserve)

Bomber division: 3 regiments = 3 Pe-2

Bomber division: 2 regiments = 2 Pe-2

Air Elements at Sub-divisional Level

Transport regiment = Li-2?

Recce regiment = R-10? (I am using a lend-lease Kittyhawk)

Artillery spotting regiment = Po-2?

HQ elements including communication, training and ambulance

 Quoted from table on p. 185 with author’s guesses marked by “?”

Boyd, A., (1977), The Soviet Airforce Since 1918. Macdonald and James, London.

 

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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 fought without pause for well over a year, and their generals had commented 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 cut 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 Regiments 41 and 43. In reality there were approximately 12 guns per regiment.

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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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 about 30 tanks

One of the pleasures of operational gaming is ruminating on the relative numbers overall of various equipment. Authors are fond of telling histories in terms of events, with the odd number thrown in here and there for key equipment, 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 of 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 guesstimate 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 provisos of serviceability, tactics and quality, this tells me that I should be allowing the Soviets 3+ tanks for every German AFV.

A separate, 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 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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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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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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