Category Archives: WWII

Rasputitsa and Horses

One of the chat groups that I follow and contribute to expressed amazement that the Russian Federation is using horses to resupply its troops in the illegally occupied Ukraine. This will not be a surprise to any follower of NQM or Wargaming for Grownups, and Trebian made the point that cavalry was widely used in Russia during the 1920 civil war and World War Two. Although there are more paved roads in modern Ukraine now than in 1940, the final mile across fields to the front line is still as claggy today during rasputitsa conditions as it was in 1945.

Red and White cavalry get properly stuck in!

Trebian, who owns more 15mm horses than I do, also made the valid point that over short distances four legs can be a lot quieter and more mobile than a tracked or wheeled transport vehicle, particularly if said vehicle is up to its axles in mud and revving furiously to get unstuck. My Soviets have always been well supplied by mounted troops, but when a Command Decision sale came along I acquired a pack of German cavalry.

The horses are very nicely proportioned and the riders actually look as if they are on a horse rather than a burro! The riders on these part finished pieces are not in winter camouflage, but rather undercoat! They compare very favourably with the Peter Pig Cossacks on their scrubbier mounts, although I don’t see the small steppe horses reflected in many contemporaneous photos of Cossacks. They all seem to be mounted on horses of a decent size.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Eastern Front, Modelling, WWII

Invade Crete in Ten Minutes

After a busy weekend in a shopping centre (Mall) in Milton Keynes, I am claiming victory for NQM’s first exposure to a non-wargaming public. It attracted just under fifty public contacts ranging from  fleeting “Did you make all those little planes?” to rather longer variations on the theme of  “I used to play with those, and my Grandad was in the desert“. In addition, there were a dozen plays-through almost exclusively from wargamers, but with three small to early-teenage children, who were already computer gamers, trying their luck.

As we were on a busy corner, we also spent a lot of time explaining what all the FOG (Field of Glory) and  AdlG (Art de la Guerre) Competition Gamers were doing in the middle of the concourse (“It’s like a national football league of teams of toy soldiers“). Other stands varied from historical, through the Wild West to the Peterborough Club’s Dad’s Army fighting Zombies on the opposite corner to us, which was attracting a lively crowd and which was the source of much hilarity for all concerned. Apparently everyone could outrun the Zombies except for private Godfrey!

It’s heavier than it looks in Lord of the Rings.

Most of my time was taken up on the Northamptonshire Battlefields Trust stand, which was a busy focus due to the medieval hardware on display. The commonest contact there was ” Would you like to photograph your offspring holding a sword and wearing a helmet?” with the caveat “but only if you promise not to stab your brother/sister” and then a hand-off to the parents with a leaflet and an invitation to visit Delapré Abbey if they wanted a good family afternoon out. Anyone who lingered, showing more detailed interest was handed over to Vincent, or to Alex, who has a History Masters degree and actually knows what he is talking about. We may also have recruited a speaker for our 2023 program who has an interest in the English Civil War.

YesthatPhil came along too. He had had the presence of mind to bring a couple of DBA armies along, so we all managed to fit in a game or two during the days’ quiet spots of calm. As at work, when nothing is happening and you make a coffee, it guarantees that you will be interrupted, so some of the battles were rather fragmented. I don’t know if Vincent or Alex are convinced yet, but we are working on them.

You stick them with the pointy end.

As to Crete, I needn’t have worried. Everyone who invaded Crete succeeded, with between 3:58 minutes and 49 seconds to spare, and I handed out just under twenty information sheets: Okay for a first run out. Improvements to come will be better signage, and as YesthatPhil puts it “Some Fallschirmjäger bling” to attract people in from a distance. I did have, as a contingency, the option for two players to sit down, with one player taking the Commonwealth, but in the event, no-one took up the “Would you like to be defeated by your offspring?” option, as I had weighted the scenario in favour of the Germans. Even so, it was still touch and go for them on a couple of runs-through. Forty nine seconds to spare is still a win!

HERAKLION falls to the Germans!

The key to making the game run on time was to have the player roll five dice using the traditional Risk mechanism, rather than using the Table 12 fire mechanism, and to tell the player if they were attacking or defending. Also having a timer counting down, meant that the player wanted things to move along, as they were focussed on beating the clock, rather than winning the die rolls. Telling the children that the dice only counted if they landed in the box helped too!

In other news … the Hobbit expressed disappointment at the lack of giant stompy robots in his last game. See this remedied over on Pigs in Spaaace. Link in the sidebar.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, CRETE, German Airforce, Theatres of War, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

Crete 1941 – Demonstration Game at Milton Keynes on 17-18 September 2022

As a newly-minted Gentleman of Leisure I now have time to do the sort of things that normal people do, such as going to wargames shows. The show at Milton Keynes is a bit special as it is held in a shopping centre. This means that the public is a bit more diverse than a self-selecting audience of wargamers, and most of the public walking through will be relatively new to the idea of wargaming or military history.

The brief that I set myself was to have a board that took up no more than 3′ by 3′ for convenience and would tell the story in five minutes or play through in ten. This is what I came up with for the board:

It is a five by five grid, giving enough space to visually separate the three elements of Operation Mercury – Orion, Mars and Komet as seen from east to west. A player will need about three or four minutes of orientation, leaving little time for die-rolling.

My first run-through with the Empress took 15 minutes and was too repetitive, It persuaded me that the firing mechanism using Table 12 was the wrong one for this game. Also, there was no need to use the smaller bases, as they added nothing to the story except length. I was also persuaded that giving the players choice slowed the game down too much :

Do you want your bombers to attack the anti-aircraft defences or the troops on the ground?

Each question led to a minute of to-and-fro question and answer sessions, for which I had no spare time budgeted. As with patients, wargamers will not answer a question until you have given them enough information to persuade them that theirs is the right answer.

The second run-through went much better using the close assault Risk-based die mechanism. The player still had choices to make of when to break off the attack, but was led through the historical course of action, and didn’t have to ponder overly long. I am still wondering if putting Greek troops and Italians onto the board as non-acting extras will clutter things up too much and be another distraction.

All that remains to do now is finish any last-minute painting and pack everything up. Hang on! Will W is coming round for a game of DBA this afternoon! 🙂

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, CRETE, Theatres of War, WWII

Hobbit in Tunisia – NQM Squared

The Hobbit came round for a game of NQM some time ago in mid May, but I’ve only just got round to posting the game report. It was a small game with a simple objective … kick the Germans out of a village with a set-piece divisional attack. José, the Hobbit’s dad came along to provide support, and for high tea afterwards.

26 Aus Inf Bde Infantry start line26th and 24th Australian Infantry Brigade start lines, looking from the south.

A lot of the game was spent explaining what tanks and infantry are, and how they interact. Also, when WW2 was. When I started gaming in 1967, WW2 had ended only 22 years ago – ancient history to a thirteen year old, but we had grown up immersed in war movies and comics.

26 Aus Inf Bde moves off26th Australian Infantry Brigade moves off with 24th Brigade to follow, and the divisional artillery in support.

Nowadays, WW2 seems contemporary with medieval knights and the American Civil War, with a puzzling lack of light sabres and robots, to youngsters that have grown up immersed in fantasy and Sci-fi!

Other things that needed to be expained:

  1. Infantry are most successful in set piece attacks if you pound the position with artillery first.
  2. Your plan doesn’t always work the way it does in comics, so …
  3. It is good to have a backup plan, and a reserve.
  4. It is easier to beat the enemy if your recce has first found out where he is.
  5. What battalions, regiments and brigades are.
  6. Where Tunisia is, and why we were fighting the Germans.

26th and 24th Brigades Close assault on Wadi Yawat26th and 24th Brigades Close assault WADI YAWAT.

The game rattled along at a brisk pace, with the village of WADI YAWANT being taken, retaken by a counterattack, and taken again. There was initial puzzlement that “these four men have to be next to the house to shoot at it”. This led onto a discussion about scale and three-kilometer squares.

Artillery moves forward2/7th, 2/8th and 2/12th Field Regiments RAA move forward to support the attack (looking from the north).

“So why aren’t there more houses then?”

Wadi Yawat takenWADI YAWAT falls to a well-coordinated attack by two brigades and artillery.

However, the Hobbit is a bright little spark, and soon picked up the concept of moving elements in concert with each other to concentrate fire. Meanwhile, the division’s recce continued to probe beyond the village to locate ambushes and roadblocks.

Supporting Shermans from 24th Armoured Brigade press forward around the north of WADI YAWATSupporting Shermans from 24th Armoured Brigade press forward around the north of WADI YAWAT, looking from the north.

The Hobbit’s ariel recce successfully discovered the enemy’s divisional HQ and logistic echelon. He pounced on it with Hurricanes, and all the glee that only an eight year-old can muster. There goes the Gulaschkannone!

Desert Airforce finds 15 Pz HQ Desert Airforce recce finds 15 Pz HQ, looking from the south.

15 Pz conducted a counterattack that was beaten off by the Australians’ 24th Armoured Brigade reserve. With this, the game ended as the Germans withdrew across the board. Mission accomplished.

15 Pz counterattack15 Panzer Division 8th Panzer Regiment counterattack fails as it meets 24th Armoured Brigade in a head-on battle.

Tea followed after the Hobbit posed for a victory photo!

The consensus was that the game was ok, but needed more giant Stompy robots and OP characters in it¹ I certainly need to add context more gradually. Perhaps DBA next?

Footnotes

1. Over Powered. It’s an online gamer’s thing. Children like being OP superheroes and huge dinosaurs, precisely because they are usually the smallest one around. It makes a nice change for them.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, 8th Army - British and Commonwealth, DAK, Western Desert, WWII

NQM Soviet Summer Offensive 1943 (Part 3) VORONEZH Front

Bf 110s catch the 61 Army headquarters

The following briefing was given to the online player

You are the commander of 1 Tank Army, comprising:

6 Tank Corps

31 Tank Corps

3 Mechanised Corps

You also have Army level artillery and engineer assets and are attacking west along the KURSK-POLTAVA Axis. You expect to meet the defeated remnants of LII Armeekorps. To your north. 5 Guards Army has defeated XXXXIV Armeekorps .

To the south, 23 and 2 Tank Corps are engaging Fascist tanks, and have identified the SS Wiking Panzer Division and 23 Panzer Division.

Your mission is to strike Northwest from POLTAVA and break out into the Fascist rear areas. If you succeed in this aim it is likely that the enemy front will collapse in disarray.

As the Army Commander, It is important to maintain the aim. Your corps commanders will undoubtedly want to protect their flanks and settle for lesser gains. It is your task to ensure that the Front Commander’s will is enacted.

The game is planned for tomorrow with players online and “on table”.

Previous intelligence briefings are available here, should you wish to avail yourself of them.

1 Tank Army Summer Offensive 1943

The Great Patriotic War

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Eastern Front, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, WWII

NQM Soviet Summer Offensive 1943 (Part 2)

Soviets advance to the attack

“Obergefreiter, are those Ivans?”

To the north of the Steppe Front, the Voronezh Front advanced on a broad frontage through the increasingly hilly country towards the more open region of the DONETS BASIN. Here, as further South, the German line was stretched thinly, and in some depth, concentrated around the obvious axes of advance.

Soviet Summer Offensive 02 VORONEZH

Voronezh Front.

From KURSK, the Reka (River) SEYM lazily winds its way west, joining the River DESNA to the east of CHERNIHIV in the Ukraine. Although the river valley itself forms a meandering flood plain with numerous oxbow lakes, the surrounding countryside is closer and hillier, with low rolling contours and forests. Although there are no major settlements, the countryside is dotted with villages and small towns.

It was here that the commander of 2nd Panzer Army (2PzA), Rudolf Schmidt, dug in his forward infantry divisions, 134ID to the north of the river and 296ID to the south, both from LIII Korps. Facing them were 4o  Army (40A) north of the river and 5 Guards Army (5GdA) to the south.

Bridge blown in the nick of time

Second bridge over the River Seym blown in the nick of time.

At the time of the attack however, Schmidt had been arrested and replaced by General of Infantry Heinrich Clößner, a solid and highly decorated commander. Clöβner still retained command of LIII Korps. Consequently, the army headquarters was in some disarray, as Schmidt’s brother had just been arrested for having sold Enigma secrets to the French in 1940!

StG 2 Stukas on target as JG 52 chases the VVS off.

The Soviets came on in the same old way, chewing through both lead divisions, taking moderate casualties themselves, but not being slowed down overly much.¹

As the first advanced outposts of the German defensive lines were being met, scouts were infiltrating around them to reach the first of the major bridge crossings. The German assault pioneers were quicker though and the bridge was blown in the face of the advancing Soviet scouts. Soon the Soviet pioneers were equally busy throwing prefabricated bridge units and anything else to hand over the tangled wreckage to make the bridges passable.

Pioneers well to the fore with well-rehearsed drills.

Stormoviks from 2VVS added their weight to the corps artillery … with less than impressive results! LuftFlotte 4, JG 52 (2 Bf 109s) and StG 2 (1 Ju 87 D) managed to intercept some of the sorties, mitigating the damage that might otherwise have occurred.

With less than impressive results

Heavy dice doing their job … with less than impressive results!

The depth of the German defences was enough to blunt the momentum of 40A, and 38A took over the lead. 5GdA had been advancing north of the River SEYM at a slower rate, having fewer obvious lines of attack.

The German second defensive line astride the river comprised 56ID  “Schwerter (Swords)” and 112ID and the defensive battles here were as fierce but equally as doomed to failure as the forward divisions. The reserve line lasted longer, as it was bolstered directly with artillery fire and the remnants of the previous two lines that had managed to retreat this far. The second bridge was destroyed.

Luftwaffe sees off the VVS (2)

40A logistic transport pushes forward to maintain momentum in the midst of air attacks.

The Soviets had broken through the main German defensive crust, but had exhausted two armies in the process.  7 Guards Army (7GdA) was still well to the east, having just cleared VORONEZH on a very congested supply route that was currently being asked to support four armies. The game ended with the two main lines having been breached, and the Soviets pushing densely packed columns along the road in an westerly direction.

Div HQ in the front line

An obvious choke point!

Game Notes.

  1. Phil is good at this sort of thing, having been playing for at least twenty years, and probably more. He prefers going round the flank with cavalry though, given a choice.
  2. This battle was fought at Front Scale (FSO), so a Division comprised two or three infantry stands representing regiments, an HQ and a medium artillery stand. Recce and engineers were managed at corp level. You can see antitank guns pretending to be lefH 10.5 artillery pieces.
  3. YesthatPhil took the Soviets and I ‘plumpired’ the Germans. As a point of courtesy, I will always try to give the most interesting side to a guest player. It doesn’t always work, but did on this occasion. Besides, I like a lost cause!
  4. I had been mulling over comments regarding the use of pins from the previous post. It dawned on me that the NQM casualty mechanism and Niel Thomas’s four step reduction are similar in all the important details, (he of One Hour Wargames fame). I tried putting all three casualties onto one stand instead of spreading them around evenly, then removing the stand on receipt of the fourth overload casualty. It works, of course, but importantly it has no overall ratio change of effect on a typical combat and it removes the need to stick pins into the bases of your figures. YesthatPhil has always just laid them on his nicely sculpted bases. After Phil had left, I finished off the north using the ‘no pin’ method, and will try it in the next game.
    • It also has the benefit of removing the need to paint traffic light stripes onto the back of every single base, and will reduce the overall numbers of Dead Freds and his mates that are littering the battlefield.
    • Because all the casualties belong to one stand, it is easier to see the state of a unit. They may be less likely to be left behind.
    • The point at which morale checks are needed are easier to see.
  5. Reorganisation will now remove all casualties on a base. I’ve done a quick number crunch, and the effect is similar enough overall to halving casualties, but with the following benefits:
    • It is quicker to do, with less moving around of markers and pins.
    • It is less likely that ‘zombie units’ will be allowed to exist. A zombie unit is one that is carrying more casualties than is permissible, or  that has gone past the point where it should have taken a morale check. In the past we just reasoned that the units ignored their officers, or were inspired by them, or whatever. Zombies just don’t know when to lie down!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under "Rules" Explanations, 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Eastern Front, Soviet War Diary, The "Rules", Wargames, WWII

NQM Soviet Summer Offensive 1943 (Part 1) Steppe Front

5 Army advances west through close hilly country south of ORYOL.

The Rasputitsa gave the Germans much needed time to recover, with reinforcements reaching the front and tenuous lines being stabilised. The Soviets had not been idle either, with resupply pushing forward along rail lines to reach overextended formations. The failure to capture BRYANSK was felt keenly due to its position on the rail network, but further back, the recovery of MOSCOW meant that rail networks were working smoothly further east.

The thinly held forward defensive line  was quickly bypassed.

Little Hitler was, as usual, pinning his hopes on the new Panzer Vs and VIs, with increasing numbers of Jagdpanzers to mobilise the Schnelle Abteilungen. The promise of even larger tank destroyers – Hornisse (later Näshorn) and Elefants – was mesmerising him and causing him to be optimistic about the prospects for the coming summer. His generals were not so sanguine, looking anxiously to their overextended defensive lines, and shortages of fuel. Nevertheless, they were broadly confident that their reserves massing behind the lines would seriously disrupt any plans that the Soviets might have for the coming summer. Perhaps if the enemy could be tempted to overextend himself, then a return to the glorious days of summer 1941 could be envisioned!

The Romanian main defensive line was quickly overrun.

Stavka had activated the Steppe Front, comprising 4 and 5 Guards (GdA) , 47 and 27 Armies (A) and 5 Guards Tank Army (GdTkA). This front attacked on a narrow axis with the two guards armies leading.  5 GdA  on the southern part of the front hit thinly spread Romanians backed by lightly equipped German infantry.  Phil executed Soviet textbook tactics to perfection, and after a spirited defence from a  Romanian divisional headquarters, the remaining Romanians either folded quickly and were overrun, or retired on zero strength.

Romanian divisional artillery failed to delay the advance.

295 Infantry Division (ID) on the main defensive line (MDL) stood until overwhelmed, with very few Landser making it back from the trenches to the reserve line. This held longer, but 47A broke through the line after a sharp exchange of artillery fire, having passed through 5GdA when the guards executed their third attack and had to pause to reorganise.

Game Notes:

  1. YesthatPhil took the Soviets, I took the Germans. We elected to only game one of the two leading first wave armies in Front Scale Orbat (FSO), meaning that a division was 3 or 4 infantry bases strong with one artillery base.
  2. The countryside is closer and hillier than the steppes. We decided that visibility extended only into the square that the unit was in, unless adjacent to the road/river valley, or on a major hill, when visibility was 2 squares.
  3. I tried a checkerboard defence to spread the line out further. It didn’t work! Phil was able to attack and assault the lead units from three sides at once! I only took a few photos as the game was over fairly quickly! The whole game lasted from 1430 to 1630, with Phil commanding two armies, and with a weak corps under my command. Phil hit lucky as he was up against Romanians playing to form rather than at the top of their game. The defenders were only placed on the board when unmasked by recce. I marked them with shrublets to remind myself where they were. Phil probably worked it out pretty quickly!
  4. We last saw 295 ID here.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Eastern Front, NQM Squared, Wargames, WWII

NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 21) – Second BRYANSK

17 and 18 Panzer divisions bear down on the unsuspecting Soviets of 1 Army17  Panzer division bears down on the unsuspecting Soviets of 61 Army

It was clear to the commanding General of Heeresgruppe Mitte, Generalfeldmarschall Günther von Kluge  that the breakthrough of the Soviet 2 Tank Army had been blunted by 2 SS Pz Division and 47 Motorised Division (renamed PzG).

The ORYEL road is severed by 502 schwere AbteilungThe ORYEL road is severed by 502 schwere Abteilung and 17 Panzer Division.

He  ordered Generaloberst Rudolf  Schmidt of 2 Panzer Armee, to send 17 and 18 Panzer Divisions from XLVII Panzer Armeekorps on a wide encirclement, deep into the rear of the breakthrough, to blunt any reserves that might be attempting to reinforce the attack.

The breah widens and confusion reignsThe breach widens and confusion reigns

The Panzer divisions made good progress, meeting no opposition until they sliced into the flank of 61 Army at ORYEL, hitting 2 Breakthrough Artillery Corps (2BA)¹. With 17 Panzer Division and 502 heavy battalion hitting from the south and 18 Panzer Division contacting from the north some hours later, chaos reigned.

A perfect pincer movementA perfect pincer movement.

In a rare example of coordination at this stage of the war, the Luftwaffe had mustered three Geschwader of fighter bombers (two Bf 110 and one Ju 87 with 2cm anti tank cannon). By good fortune, the attack also surprised reinforcement battalions of tanks heading to 2 Tank Army and a heavy battalion of KV-1s, although they did not go down without inflicting significant casualties on the Panzers.

Die Luftwaffe kommt!Die Luftwaffe kommt!

A very one-sided battle ensued in which the Soviets fought bravely, but took heavy casualties as the army HQ was disrupted, and units scattered. The Soviets singularly failed to interdict any of the Luftwaffe, or to support their own troops with Stormoviks. Hastily mounted counterattacks to reopen the road foundered with heavy casualties.

Bf 110s catch the 61 Army headquartersBf 110s catch the 61 Army headquarters. The purple dice show a further nine hits on the HQ and surrounding units.

Crucially, the supply route to the breakthrough army and troops attacking BRYANSK was severed. Unusually for NQM heavy assets, the Tigers of schwere Abteilung 502 (heavy battalion) failed to roll many ones initially.²

Hans-Ulrich Rudel perfecting new antitank tactics.Hans-Ulrich Rudel perfecting new antitank tactics.³

Softening ground and rising temperatures led to the counterattacking troops being pulled back to BRYANSK, leaving ORYEL in Soviet hands. YesthatPhil took the Germans. He is back on the scene after a trying winter, and is making slow, steady progress. When I asked where the Panzers should aim for, the answer was “about where the ambulance is”. Bless their black little Nazi hearts! They hit light tanks and the breakthrough artillery instead.

Footnotes.

  1. Historically, schwere Abteilung 502 stayed with Army Group North until August 1943. In our campaign, the Northern Front has been very quiet, and 502 has been sent south to where the action is.
  2. It did exhaust its ammunition eventually, but not before racking up a considerable score of light tanks.
  3. At this stage of the war, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was still flying a 2cm armed Ju-87, not the 87G shown here. However, my G doesn’t come out to play much, so …

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Eastern Front, Wargames, WWII

NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 20) – Second BRYANSK

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.

2SSPz and 47 PzGren Divisions Assemble for the counterattack

2 SS Panzer and 47 Panzergrenadier Divisions Assemble for the counterattack.

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.

258 Inf Div halt 2 Tk Army

The veteran 258 Infantry Division halts the lead elements of 16 Tank Corps, 2 Tank Army. Note the dug-in marker.

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.

16 Tk Corps from 2 Tk Army take casualties and halt

16 Tank Corps from 2 Tank Army takes casualties and halts.

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.

47PzGren Div attacks

47 Panzer Grenadier Division attacks.

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.

2SSPz and 47PzGren take heavy casualties but press on to KURSK

2 SS Panzer and 47 Panzergrenadier Divisions take heavy casualties but press on to 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.

The Disordered remnants of 2 Tank Army pull back to the River DESNA

The Disordered remnants of 2 Tank Army pull back to the River DESNA

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.

Footnotes:

  1. A Panzer army in name only.
Is your tank big enough now Tovarishch

Is your tank big enough now Tovarishch?

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.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, NQM Squared, Soviet War Diary, Theatres of War, WWII

NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 19) – Second BRYANSK

BRYANSK looking south.

Warning, although this battle was fought to a conclusion in three hours, the write-up ties in a lot of loose ends from previous posts at this stage of the campaign. Casual readers are advised that it is perfectly acceptable to skip most of the text and look at the pictures.  🙂

West bank of the BRESNA looking north

West bank of the DESNA looking north.

BRYANSK’s importance to the Wehrmacht was as an army railhead and defended city in the direct path of the closing Soviet pincers. It was also where 2 Armee Headquarters was located. Even today, the city is relatively low rise (four story apartment blocks) and sprawling, with open streets, sitting on the River DESNA. It was not an easy city to defend, so to reflect this, I made the built-up area much larger than has been customary for cities of this size. The first NQM battle for BRYANSK in March 1942 can be found here.

The Luftwaffe on a preemptive strike looking south

The Luftwaffe on a pre-emptive strike looking south.

With the fall of ORYOL, TULA and KURSK, if BRYANSK were to fall before the infantry of IX Armeekorps, retreating from STALINOGORSK to the north, and LIII Armeekorps withdrawing to the west from KURSK, then a potential catastrophe could unfold at BRYANSK. To the west of this area was where the Panzer divisions of 2,3 Panzerarmee and Heersgruppe Mitte were mustering for a counterattack, but were not yet ready.

28 Rifle Corps HQ forming up to attack south BRYANSK

28 Rifle Corps HQ forming up to attack south BRYANSK.

In addition, units were streaming through the city to avoid being surrounded  as the Soviets closed in from the north and east. Amongst these formations were XX Armeekorps with the veteran Prussian 258 and newly raised 292 Infantry Divisions. Both had suffered heavily in the retreat from MOSCOW and were at half strength. The remaining division in the Korps, 183 had fared rather better and was close to full strength. All had withdrawn well to the rear around GOMEL before the battle began.

293 Infantry Division in southeast BRYANSK

293 Infantry Division in south east BRYANSK looking west.

IX Armeekorps had been equally roughly handled by the Soviets, and although a Korps in name, 7, 78 and 252 Infantry Divisions amounted to little more than a single division regrouping around GOMEL. The remaining 35 Infantry Division had lost all its heavy equipment in the retreat, so had been sent to France to rebuild, being reduced also to regimental strength.

BRYANSK Map April 1943 Copyright Dormouse.

BRYANSK Map April 1943 (Copyright Dormouse 2021).

General Weise, the newly appointed commander of XXXV Armeekorps defending the east bank of the River with 262 and 293 Infantry Divisions clearly understood that BRYANSK must not fall.² His Korps had been roughly handled at ORYOL but had managed to break contact and recover to BRYANSK, collecting stragglers on the way and absorbing reinforcements from other retreating divisions. The Korps was under no illusion that another retreat would be tolerated, and set about fortifying their position as best they could.

On the west bank to the north, VII Armeekorps  with 16 and 387 Infantry Divisions had conducted a successful fighting withdrawal from KALUGA, pursued by 10 Army. They had brought with them the Bavarian 17 Infantry Division, and together they held the northeastern quarter of the city, masked by forest on the northeastern bank.

VII Armeekorps with ferry points in the north of BRYANSK.

VII Armeekorps with ferry points in the north of BRYANSK looking west.

The three divisions were well supported by heavy artillery that had been massing there ready for the planned counteroffensive, but in infantry strength they only amounted to a single full strength division. Pioneers had been preparing the main bridges in the centre of the city for demolition.¹ in addition, each division had ferries and pontoons ready to allow infantry to cross the river for logistics and reinforcement.³

Opening shot of new heavy artillery. subsequent rounds were more effective.

Opening shot of Phil’s new heavy artillery. Subsequent rounds were more effective.

The attack began as planned for the Soviets, with desultory recce results doing little to impede or delay the deployment of 61 Army ( in the north and 28 Rifle Corps comprising 132 and 211 RDs in the first wave of 70 Army in the south. 2 Tank Army, in accordance with its orders, found a river crossing well to the south of BRYANSK and lost no time in throwing 2 Tank Army comprising 9, 16 and 19 Tank Corps across the River DESNA with 3 Tank Corps held in reserve to protect the river crossings.

2 Tank Army overrun a logistic dump

Lead elements of 2 Tank Army overrun a logistic dump.

As the leading Soviet divisions on the open ground to the east of BRYANSK came within range of divisional artillery, they began to dig in, returning fire with their own guns. Although less effective than the Germans, the weight of fire began to mount against the defenders.

To the north, by taking advantage of heavily wooded terrain, the leading divisions of 61 Army were able to close with the German advanced positions on the east bank of the DESNA. There were also lakes that I did not model in this sector, as I am still coming to terms with the limitations of squares.  356 Rifle Division was repulsed by the reduced 17 Infantry Division that had been reduced to battalion strength before the Soviets withdrew, with 50% casualties inflicted on the Soviets, mostly by artillery and close tactical bombing from a well-coordinated Luftwaffe.

Heavy fighting around the north of BRYANSK.

Heavy fighting around the north of BRYANSK.

Despite this, 336 Rifle Division bridged the DESNA and swung south to attack the positions of VII Armeekorps.

Soviets bridge the River DESNA and attack the north of BRYSNSK

VII Armeekorps hangs on by the thinnest of margins in the north of BRYANSK

VII Armeekorps hangs on by the thinnest of margins in the north of BRYANSK

To the south, the BRYANSK garrison commander tightened his perimeter upon seeing sizeable columns of Soviet armour streaming west to cut off his lines of communication.

Lead elements of 2 Tank Army bypass BRYANSK to the south

Lead elements of 2 Tank Army bypass BRYANSK to the south

So far, his only losses on the east bank had been from artillery fire, but these had been significant, and he pulled his infantry back to spare them further casualties.

More waves of Stormoviks appeared over the city centre. This time, the objects of their attacks were the bridges over the DESNA.

Stormoviks attack Desna bridges

The Luftwaffe broke through the Soviet fighter cover and managed to cause damage sufficient to prevent full third of the Il-2s reaching their target. The bridges had held, but only just.

Stormoviks attack DESNA bridges (1)

The anticipated swing north to attack the city with tanks did not materialise, but the previously static 28 Rifle Corps had finished its preparations for a river crossing, and capitalised on the light defences remaining as they swarmed over the river.

With reinforcements massing on both sides, BRYANSK was becoming the focus of a much larger battle. If the Soviet armour managed to sever communications behind the railhead, then the fall of BRYANSK would become a certainty. If however, the Soviets overreached their own supply lines, then they may have placed their own heads into the jaws of a trap.

… to be continued.

Footnotes:

  1. Shown on the table top by a single bridge with three strength points. All had to be destroyed before the bridge became impassible.
  2. Contrary to expectation, his predecessor had not been shot. Generalfeldmarschall von Kluge was short of good generals at this stage of the war, and had buried the bad news in a welter of even worse news, in his reports to Little Hitler’s daily conference
  3. Phil has some rather nice river crossing markers that are far superior to my scruffy Airfix US Marine rubber dinghies.

Post Game Notes.

1. I was joined for this game by YesthatPhil, together with his rather splendid new horse-drawn infantry support units and heavy guns. They fought as heavy in this game, rather than the very, extra or super heavy guns that they are built as.

2. The Germans were cast as being able to withstand or initiate four assaults rather than the two that the Soviets were capable of, before being forced to either fight disorganised or withdraw to reorganise properly. This mechanism allowed four German infantry divisions to hold their own against eight Soviet rifle divisions in a tense game. The liberal use of heavy artillery and air attacks meant that the casualties were heavy on both sides.

3. Phil was able to switch key units on internal lines to stave off a heavy attack to the north of the city despite having nothing in reserve. The Soviets followed their orders of encircling the city rather than assaulting it in a head-on attack, using their armour to bypass BRYANSK, rather than becoming enmeshed in some very uninviting street fighting.

The follow on will prove to be interesting, as the Germans have reserves massing, and the Soviets are pushing retreating German units into the area.

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