Category Archives: Soviet War Diary

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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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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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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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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SEVASTOPOL

SEVASTOPOL looking north

SEVASTOPOL looking north with German air assets

This Week’s post is just a quick picture dump of my mocked-up SEVASTOPOL board. The idea is to have a multiplayer game outdoors, providing that the Delta Variant of Covid levels off over the next few weeks in the UK.

SEVASTOLOL looking east

SEVASTOPOL looking east with fleet and assault boats.

The plan is to play the game at Front Scale Orbat (FSO) with three or four stands representing a division, and one stand representing a regiment or brigade. My band-saw is up and running again; it took six months to source a replacement blade due to lockdown shenanigans. I have cut a few more river sections and painted them a lurid icy blue, the better to stand out in pictures.

SEVASTOPOL looking south. The central hill represents the Maxim Gorky naval gun batteries.

SEVASTOPOL looking south. The central hill represents the Maxim Gorky naval gun batteries.

The 14 x 8 squared board is being used for convenience, but the game should play better on a non-squared board. Squares distort the terrain too much, making everything more rectilinear than it should be. For mocking up a game though, squares are unrivaled.

Airfields to south of SEVASTOPOL looking east

Airfields to south of SEVASTOPOL looking east

 

BALAKLAVA looking east

BALAKLAVA looking east

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NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 18) – RYAZAN Falls

35 Infantry Division in RYAZAN

RYAZAN lies on the west bank of the River OKA, and by this stage of the spring offensive sat at the southeastern edge of what was beginning to look like a pocket, bounded north and east by the OKA and 13th Army.

8 Rifle Division 15 Corps 13 Army on the E Bank of the OKA

Attacking from the south-east was 42 Corps (16 Lithuanian, 202 and 399 Rifle Divisions) from 48th Army.

48 Army - 42 Corps 16 202 399 Rifle Divisions advance to contact

61st Army comprising 9 Guards Rifle Corps (12, 76 and 77 Guards Rifle Divisions) and five more rifle divisions (97, 110, 336, 356 and 415) marched rapidly to close the pocket along the southern border.  The sprawling town¹ boasted its own Kremlin but was otherwise undistinguished beyond being the birthplace of the famous psychologist Ivan Pavlov. Guarding RYAZAN, was 35 Infantry Division. This unit, comprising troops from Baden and Württemberg, had been in continuous action since 1940 on the west front, and then in the drive to MOSCOW, where it had suffered heavy casualties in the winter of ’41-42.

Further losses followed in the retreat from MOSCOW, and by now the division was burned out and Commanded by Major General Baron Rudolf von Roman.²

48 Army Recce meeting engagement

The opening round of the battle commenced with 48th Army scouts clashing with the forward defensive line south of RYAZAN. They were repulsed with significant casualties, forcing 16 Lithuanian Division to deploy and mount a formal attack.

16 Lithuanian Division Deploys for a formal attack

This eventually succeeded, as 202 and 399 Rifle Divisions worked their way around the west and north of the town to surround it.

16 Lithuanian Division drives in the German outpost line

The Commander of 42 Corps was in no hurry, waiting for his corps artillery to position itself before launching a heavy bombardment prior to a well-coordinated simultaneous assault from three sides of the town.

RYAZAN is surrounded and surrenders

The defenders, already low on ammunition, with failing morale, had been pushed beyond the limits of endurance and surrendered.³

Game Notes:

1. I rated RYAZAN as a medium defensive position.

2. The Germans were rated as Regular (3morale steps), the Soviets Conscript (two steps).

3. The Germans failed their first morale roll spectacularly, with a one!

4. I fought this as another solo game, thinking it would not hold much interest, other than as part of the campaign.

5. The Front Scale Orbat (FSO) was used for this game.

6. I shall take the opportunity whilst the toys are out on the table to do some more detailing and sticking magnetic tape onto bases.

Footnotes

  1. This didn’t stop me using the heavily industrialised IKEAGRAD on its first outing on the wargames table.
  2. Hence the regular rating, rather than veteran.
  3. The artillery rolled a one first time around! The town had no integral logistics to replenish losses, and the division could not trace a line of supply back to a railhead, due to being surrounded. I was surprised by how quickly the Germans folded, but they had already taken over 50% casualties from the preliminary bombardment.

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NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 17) – 2nd OREL (ORYOL)

P&GM STZ-5 with PP crew and metal 122mm M1931-37

 As he pondered his operational maps,  XXXV Korps commander had an insurmountable problem to solve. To both north and south, the Soviets had established bridge crossings and were holding them in strength. His only armoured reserve was heading south to try to stem the flood of Soviet armour heading east. Even if this succeeded, he had the depleted remains of two divisions to hold off six, with half the city of OREL lost already. If he delayed ordering an evacuation, his divisions would be cut off, with Soviet air superiority dashing any hopes that his garrison might be supplied by air. If he withdrew, he would be falling back on his lines of communication and might hope to counterattack when the Soviets reached the limit of their supply chain.

2 Tank Army heavy armour moving forward

2 Tank Army heavy armour moving forward

 17 Panzer fortuitously failed to intercept 16 Tank Corps, with its T-34s, and hit instead  19 Tank Corps, still equipped with T-70s. The lighter tanks were no match for 17 Panzers‘ Pz IIIs and attached StuG IIIs,  and suffered heavily. The stream of Soviet armour  heading west lost momentum and stalled as it reached the limits of its fuel.

Retreat Begins

The order to withdraw had been issued by XXXV Korps Commander, knowing that it would probably cost him his career, but judging it better to save his troops. Headquarters and artillery began to crowd westward as pioneers and infantry began a systematic destruction of anything that could not be carried with them. As 1 Guards Artillery Division arrived at the front and began to pound the west bank, it was already clear that the Austrians in front of them were withdrawing.

Being short of engineers, it took the Soviets some time before bridges in the city centre were able to take heavy enough traffic for supplies and vehicles to cross. As they pursued the fleeing Fascists, a cat and mouse game of rearguard ambush and retreat developed, with the Wehrmacht strewing booby traps and mines in the path of the advancing Soviet tanks. This timely account of the Battle of OREL makes interesting reading

It can be seen that far fewer forces were involved in my battle than the real operation.

Game notes:

  1. Nowadays, OREL or ORYOL (Орёл) appears on Google map as RAZGRAD.
  2.  I set the morale of the two Wehrmacht divisions to 4, and the Soviets to 2, meaning that each Soviet Division would be able to conduct two attacks and each Wehrmacht division four defences before becoming exhausted and disorganised. The early successes of the Soviets meant that these limits were not tested, and OREL fell without much of a struggle.
  3. Another solo game, with the dice deciding a number of things:
    • Would the Soviets reinforce the north (1,2) or south (3-6) crossing site?
    • Would the breakthrough armour swing north around the west of OREL (1-3) or make a deeper breakthrough (4-6)?
    • How much air support would both sides get, one, two or three sorties (1d3)?
    • Will the garrison be surrounded (1-3) or escape (4-6)?
  4.  With an active pair of players, most of these actions would have been decided or gamed by the participants themselves. I could have Skyped or Zoomed the game, but as previously mentioned, I’m pretty much all screened out by work at the moment.

 

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NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 16) – 2nd OREL

102 and 106 Rifle Divs assault 262 Inf Div

262  Infantry Division was raised in Austria, having fought through the Ukraine. As Soviet 102 and 106 Rifle Divisions attacked the eastern approaches to the city, with heavy artillery and Sturmovik support, 486 Infantry Regiment and the divisional HQ on the southern edge of the suburbs caved in under pressure, letting 106 Rifle Division into the outskirts.

106 and 140 Rifle Divs assault 262 Inf Div

A fierce counterattack from 482 Infantry Regiment restored the situation for long enough for the division to withdraw to the west bank, but  with four Soviet divisions curling around the flanks, holding the east bank was out of the question.

262 Div counterattack and withdrawal

262 Pioneer Battalion conducted an exemplary bridge demolition. Nevertheless, the east bank had been lost relatively easily.

Bridge Demolition

Further north, ariel recce had observed activity on the river OKA. A substantial pontoon bridge was being thrown across, with a tank corps and infantry massing behind it.

3 Tk Corps 132 211 Rifle Divs on the E bank of the OKA

17 Panzer Division was despatched north to attack the bridgehead without delay from its staging area just west of OREL. Whatever the failings of their infantry brethren, the panzers fell upon the bridgehead, scattering armour and motor rifle troops, and destroying the bridge.

3 Tk Corps is caught at the N bridge by 17 Pz div

Undaunted, the Soviets were also bridging to the south of OREL. The first inkling that XXXV Korps Commander had that the river line had been bridged, was when infantry from 175 Rifle Division were sighted on the west bank, to the south of OREL. 17 Panzer had been recalled to their original staging area in a central position against just such an eventuality, but the Soviet attack began before they had reorganised and refuelled.

175 and 162 Rifle Divs on the E bank of the OKA

Now it was the turn of 293 Infantry Division to feel the weight of the assault as 175 and 162 Rifle Divisions attacked the southern edge of the city. Raised in Berlin, the “Bear” division fared no better than their Austrian Cousins. 175 Rifles drove the infantry back onto their artillery line before counterattacks from the reformed Austrians restored the situation.

293 Div Counterattacks

At this point, casualties had been heavy on both sides, with both Wehrmacht divisions down below half strength. Although they could not know it, the Soviets were fast outrunning their supply lines and needed more river crossings.

262 and 293 Div HQ and Signals

17 Panzer set off again in a wide sweep to the south, the plan being to catch the Soviet infantry in the rear. As they did so, fresh ariel reconnaissance intelligence was coming in: The second crossing had been located, and at least two tank corps were streaming west. To add to XXXV Korps commander’s troubles, the northern bridge crossing had been rebuilt and was being held by at least two rifle divisions with armoured support.

3 Tk Corps Rebuilds the N Bridge

Orders were hurriedly amended on the move, and 17 Panzer had a new target; the stream of Soviet armour  heading west.

to be continued …

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

NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 15) – 2nd OREL

70 Army and 2 Tank Army Advance to OREL

The first battle for OREL was fleeting as the Wehrmacht swept east. This time the Soviets were on the offensive heading west. The land around OREL is largely flat,  fertile, grain-producing country, with OREL itself sitting astride the OKA river running north-south. The picture above shows the OKA running through OREL with north at the top of the picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking West into the Centre of OREL

For this game I used the Front Scale Orbat, with a stand representing a single regiment of two or three battalions. Below, we see Soviet 211 Division, with the divisional HQ front left, two regiments behind, and an artillery regiment to the right. The squares on my board are 150mm (6″) to a side.

211 Rifle Division

262 and 293 Infantry Divisions backed by 17 Panzer Division were facing 2 Tank Army less 9 Tank Corps, comprising 3, 16,19 Tank Corps, and 70 Army, comprising 28 Corps (132, 211, 280, 102, 106, 140, 162 175 Rifle Divisions, 1 Guards Artillery Division). Additional Support included 16 VVS.

70 Army was ordered to advance on a broad front to pin the German Defenders whilst 2 Tank Army bridged the OKA and cut it off. Engineer crossings were planned for the north and south of OREL.

OREL West Bank looking North

 

28 Corps HQ and 162 Rifle Division

As Soviet Army level recce advanced, the shape of the defence became clearer.

70 Army Recce advances

To be continued …

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

NQM Soviet Spring Offensive 1943 (Part 14) – KURSK

As 78 Rifle Division was clearing the south bank of the OSKOL, 61, 59 and 41 Guards Divisions were pushing the grenadiers of 14 Panzer Division back into KURSK.

German rearguard action to cover bridge demolition at KURSK

German rearguard action to cover bridge demolition at KURSK

Despite well-prepared defences, the Germans were unable to hold ground against the Soviet steamroller. The motorised troops took full advantage of their mobility to retire over the river.

Panzergrenadiers withdraw past the demolition guard at KURSK

Panzergrenadiers withdraw past the demolition guard at KURSK

All the time, however, Soviet casualties were mounting and ammunition stocks were being depleted. Large numbers of battalions on both sides were down to company strength, with low morale.

Southern KURSK falls to the Soviets

Southern KURSK falls to the Soviets

The survivors of the Schnelle Abteilungen had redeployed to the northwest bank to cover their slower-moving infantry battalions, and as the last self-propelled artillery pieces trundled over the town centre bridges, pioneers began to connect the firing circuits to the prepared bridges. Fierce fights erupted on the river banks, and after a couple of failed attempts, both bridges were demolished in the face of the enemy.

Sturmoviks blast a path through for a river crossing

Sturmoviks blast a path through for a river crossing of the OSKOL

This did not deter the Soviets, as small parties of scouts and guardsmen slipped across the narrow river, at night, to be joined by more of their comrades as bridgeheads were established. Narrow assault bridges were thrown across the river under the cover of Sturmovik attacks.

Rearguard crosses safely but fails to prevent the Soviets crossing the OSKOL

Rearguard crosses safely but fails to prevent the Soviets crossing the OSKOL

The defenders were being pressed from the front and flanks by an enemy that could sense victory.  No help was coming from reserves, who had been committed to holding attacks on both flanks. Despite orders to stand firm, willpower alone was not enough “Wo ist die Luftwafffe?¹“.

14 Pz Div Panzer counterattack fails

14 Panzer Division Panzer Battalion counterattack fails

The single surviving Panzer battalion of 14 Panzer Division threw itself in to the battle around the bridges, but it was too late. Too few Panzergrenadiers could be pulled out of the line to support the counterattack. The Panzers withdrew having exhausted their ammunition and achieved nothing, and the last chance of holding KURSK slipped from 14 Panzer Division‘s grasp.

This concludes the 14-part battle of KURSK.

  1. Off scrounging Flugkraftstoff.

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