Tag Archives: 20 Guards Rifle Division

Battle for the Southern Dnepr – Part 2

Zaporozhye Bridge Blown

Zaporozhye Bridge Blown

The Battle for The DNEPR river progressed pretty much according to plan for the two Soviet armies.  Army Group South,  had little with which to reinforce the front, and what it did have – 1 Mountain Division in the south, and 9 Infantry Division to the west – was fully occupied or too far away to affect the initial battle.

Although weak in numbers, the Romanians, were able to exchange fire across the DNEPR with the Soviets as they attacked DNEPROPETROVSK.¹ Phil, as Major General Seleznev went about his task in a methodical manner, and was not phased by both rail bridges in his sector being blown, eventually making it across the river and pushing 99 Jäger Division to the western outskirts of the city.²

DNEPR Bridge is Demolished

DNEPR Bridge is Demolished

This is what a destroyed major bridge would typically look like on the Eastern Front:

Destroyed Major River Bridge with the Dropped Span Forming a Passable Infiltration Route

Destroyed Major River Bridge with the Dropped Span Forming a Passable Infiltration Route

It is easy to imagine Scouts infiltrating across under the cover of darkness or smoke, but if the gap was more like the bridge below, with ice churning through the gap, then the difficulty becomes more apparent.

Destroyed Major River Bridge with a Clear Gap to the Centre Span

Destroyed Major River Bridge with a Clear Gap to the Centre Span

ZAPOROZHYE suffered a similar state as Colonel General Vasily Gordov concentrated on reducing the city one block (square) at a time. He benefited from sparing use of his attached army level artillery and armour, and the confidence that came from knowing that the front-level artillery was drawing ever closer. In the event, it was not needed but clattered majestically onto the board at the end of the game as if it owned the table. Deftly switching his attached tank brigades from attacking the north of the city to the south gave him the ability to selectively reinforce his assaulting infantry at key parts of the battle.

Romanian Infantry Division with attached Armour and AA

Romanian Infantry Division with attached Armour and AA

68 Infantry Division lost all of its infantry regiments on the east side of the river when General Meissner gave the order to demolish the bridge. Only the divisional headquarters and rear echelon troops survived to form the nucleus of a new division. It was still not enough to prevent the Soviets from forcing the river line.

Although it was only their second game of NQMsq,  Tim and  Steven picked the fundamentals up quickly.  The whole game took 3 hours, not including setup time, and each player handled two divisions, with Army level support on the Soviet side Apart from some loose ends that need to be soloed, the winter of 1942/3 has drawn to a close now, with troops resting and refitting ready for the summer campaigns when the roads dry out after the Rasputitsa.

  1. Against all expectation, the Romanians usually do well, probably because no-one expects too much of them. They spend a LOT of time in the box between games.

  2. The house rule was to roll 4-6 on 1d6 for the German Commander to successfully blow the bridge under fire, becoming easier by one on each subsequent turn. The Soviets could then attempt a crossing if they won the firefight with the far bank – 6 on 1d6 at the first attempt, becoming easier by one on each subsequent turn provided they continued to win the firefight.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Artillery, Eastern Front, infantry, Land Battles, NQM Squared, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, WWII

Battle for the Southern Dnepr – Part 1

Soviet 33rd Army of the South Front Breaks Into ZAPORIZHIZHIA February 1943

Soviet 33rd Army of the South Front Breaks Into ZAPOROZHYE February 1943

As the Battle for KHARKOV drew to its conclusion in Army Group South,  the weaker southern flank was having its own tribulations. Held more lightly than the centre, with a large proportion of minor allied troops (Romanians, Hungarians and Italians) the front had all but collapsed over winter, and as the Soviet Voronezh Front pushed hard against Generakl Kleist’s XLIV Korps, the Southern Front advanced 33rd and 22nd Armies against the key cities of ZAPOROZHYE (ZAPORIZHIZHIA in modern Ukranian) and DNEPROPETROVSK (DNIPRO on Google map)¹.

This far south, the first signs of the spring thaw were making it clear that the cities would have to be taken soon, or not at all. The pressure was on Colonel General Andrei I. Yeremenko. The Operation at DNEPROPETROVSK begins where the last game finished after a long winter pause for reorganisation on both sides.

Strung out between the two cities were the remnants of 7th and 11th  Romanian infantry divisions, although in truth the Romanian I Corps, to which they belonged, was no stronger than a weak division. It was strung over an impossible distance, and all that was saving it was the River DNEPR. In places, the river was one to three kilometers wide. Where it narrowed to half a kilometer, it was also faster flowing and deeper. To add to the attackers’ problems, the ice was also beginning to break up and the west bank was substantially higher than the east. The picture would be somewhere between two extremes. The Soviet players were hoping for this:  Dnepr late melt as rivers in Russia melt from the south northwards.

In the European part of the USSR the ice in rivers that flow from north to south (the Volga, Don, and Dnieper) begins to break up in the lower course, and the process gradually shifts upstream, so that there is drifting ice for a long period of time

Whereas I had more this in mind. Regardless, the ruling for this operation was that crossing was possible only via bridges. The Soviets still chanced their arm and placed a company of Scouts in the centre of the river with much talk of rubber boats and wading gear. They drowned.

68 Infantry Division, a veteran Viennese formation, was defending ZAPOROZHYE with its rail marshalling yards. The bulk of the city was on the east bank of the DNEPR, which gave the divisional commander, Maj Gen Meissner, a difficult choice on his reserve demolition of the main rail bridge on the southern outskirts of the city. If destroyed too early, his division would be cut off; too late  and he could lose the river crossing.

DNEPROPETROVSK was held by 99 Jäger Division (Regular Viennese, Lt Gen Krakau)² and 9 Infantry Division (Regular Hessen-Nassau, Maj Gen Gebb), although the latter played no part in the early battle, having been pulled to the northeast to cover a gap in the line.

Players for this game were Tim Merry commanding the German lines, Steven Churchus commanding 33 Army attacking ZAPOROZHYE, and YesthatPhil commanding 22 Army against DNEPROPETROVSK. Trebian was still recovering from head wounds sustained during his heroic attack at the front of 20 Guards Rifle Division at KHARKOV, and was unavailable.

We were playing NQM squared with the Corps Scale Orbat (CSO), and it seemed to be going well enough, albeit with the usual umpire tidying up of  Divisional HQs that had wandered off to command other divisions, and the odd cheeky Scout company that thought they might not be spotted creeping over the river.

The decision to start modelling guns and limbers together on a single base was vindicated when even Phil got his (badly labelled on my part) units tangled up. Steven, who was newer to hordes of indistinguishable Soviets fared even worse, which is why I am in favour of players bringing their own toys to the table – they know their own troops better – even if it does highlight my cheerfully sketchy painting (more of that later).

To be continued …

  1. Frank Chadwick rendered ZAPOROZHYE as the more pronounceable ZAPOROZHA.
  2. Reorganised as 7 Mountain Division in winter 41/42. Its NQM equivalent is still in DNEPROPETROVSK, however.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Artillery, Eastern Front, infantry, Land Battles, NQM Squared, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, WWII

Winter Offensive 1942 – Kharkov 2

… This was not shaping up to be a good month to be Hungarian. Astute readers will have noticed the lack of snow on the ground – revealing these photographs as crude Soviet propaganda re-enacted after the event, probably in summer 1943!

Kharkov_07Götterdämmerung, complete with doom laden skies! Is that a space marine (notquitetrademarked) in the background? Probably not!

The four players for this game were Phil and Richard on the Axis side, with Graham and Will on the Soviet side. Richard is new to the group, but the others have history and have grown to know each other’s playing styles well over the last 25 years or so, and there is a ritual to parts of the evening as Players seek moral ascendency over their opponents and *gasp* even the impartial umpire.

Kharkov_0520 Guards Rifle Division storms into KHARKOV despite the best efforts of 16 Panzer Division driving into their flank. Reports of Breakthrough Artillery  massing to the east add to the pressure.

Consequently, cries of outrage, despondency and disbelief will punctuate the evening at carefully judged moments, if it means that an advantage can be had; (I do not exclude myself from this practice either when  it adds spice to the evening). With this in mind, I have a Grumpy Wargamer award available for minor tantrums and a Radio Berlin or Moscow award for what Phil calls sledging.

Kharkov_06The full weight of the southern part of the attack can be seen here, with DNEPROPETROVSK at top left and KHARKOV at top right of the picture.

The tension for the umpire comes when a part of the game is important for a campaign result, but does not necessarily result in a balanced game. On these occasions, I will try to solo game the fill-in parts, but over the years, Graham has had his fair share of desperate defensive battles. He may be cheering up nowadays, sensing a change in the wind.

Kharkov_08Signal Magazine : A closer look at the brave defenders of DNEPROPETROVSK.
Pravda : As our troops advance, evidence of the destruction wrought by the Fascists in DNEPROPETROVSK
is found.

It may be worth summarising that in the NQM campaign the Germans took and held MOSCOW at the expense of reaching the Caucasus oilfields and STALINGRAD. Guess where all the tanks are being built in the south?

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The Defence of TAMBOV Rail Junction (Fall Gabel AAR)

295 Infantry Division overrun the positions of 55 Rifle Division after a bitter fight.

295 Infantry Division overrun the positions of 55 Rifle Division after a bitter fight.

This battle was fought rapidly over one evening at Trebian’s ‘Shedquarters’ in two hours rather than the six that  I had originally envisaged. Present were Messrs. Graham, Phil, Will and Harvey, a newcomer to NQM, but by no means a novice gamer. Graham took command of Soviet 5th Army. Will and Harvey took command of 2nd Panzer Korps. Phil turned up slightly later and took control of the southern armoured thrust of 4 Panzer Division and Gross Deutchland.

Other newcomers to the game were the new casualty markers. Once the players had become accustomed to them, they sped the combat sequence up significantly, and Graham deserves the credit for pressing me to actually do something about the ****** pins that rarely fail to draw blood at least once in a game. Contemporary gamers are clearly made of less stern stuff than John Sandars, but we all appreciate the increased game speed!

The plan in my own mind was for two infantry divisions to fix the Soviet infantry position around the rail junctions with probing attacks, then outflank them to the south with the Panzer divisions. Von Wyler had other ideas* and attacked due west down the railway on  a two-division front supported by Korps artillery. I was explaining to Harvey the tradition of black heavy dice rolling low numbers, when Graham and Will immediately proved me wrong with some demon dice.

As a veteran NQM player, Will preceded his infantry attack with Corp-level artillery bombardment and an airstrike by the Luftwaffe. The PVO Strany was up to the challenge and had some success in fighting off the attack. I was probably a bit generous in allowing the Soviets to switch army artillery targets early on, but by this stage of the war, they were beginning to  develop the ability to put tactical doctrine into practice.

The German attack began to  cause and accrue some very heavy casualties. Notice that 296 Infantry Division is still on its movement tray. It was easier to do this than explain to Harvey that unit formations are not desperately important at this scale, and usually stay in base contact to count as organised. I needn’t have worried. Harvey picked up what was going on very quickly, like the seasoned campaigner that he is.

For this game I limited the number of stands in a division able to initiate a firefight to six, as we were using one-third strength divisions. Even so, the German attack by 295 Infantry Division began to bite into the northern defensive position of 55 Rifle Division, although 296 Infantry Division had less success against  56 Rifle Division, being repelled and only making headway when 4 Panzer Division cut its deep hook short and turned north into the attack.

I had expected Phil to outflank the Soviet 5th Army and cut into their supply line with his armour, perhaps even disrupting West Front Headquarters, He is normally pretty reliable in this respect, but he judged that the infantry attack needed support after receiving orders, and shortened his hook to attack 55 and 58 Rifle Divisions directly.

Gross Deutchland break into the positions of 58 Rifle Division from the south

Gross Deutschland break into the positions of 58 Rifle Division from the south.

The cost was heavy to  4 Panzer Division, which got caught by Soviet army-level artillery. Phil was using his own 22nd Panzer** to represent an under-strength 4 Panzer Division. Eventually the continual hammering drove the Soviet defences in. They survived a number of morale checks, giving ground grudgingly and responding to ‘stiffening’ by their commissars (roll another die to pass a failed morale test and deduct one hit point from your own side. You can do this as often as you want until you pass or run out of troops!)

The destruction of 4 Panzer Division at the hands of 56 Rifle Division with supporting army level artillery

The destruction of 4 Panzer Division at the hands of 56 Rifle Division with supporting army level artillery.

Graham by now had issued an entertaining series of predictions about the inevitability of socialist victory that saw his 55 Rifle Division gathering its second wind and counterattacking  295 Infantry Division to drive it back. In most other aspects though his pronouncements and the course of the battle coincided only tenuously***.

55 Rifle Division reorganise at Rail Junction 1 prior to counterattacking 295 Infantry Division

55 Rifle Division reorganise at Rail Junction 1 prior to counterattacking 295 Infantry Division.

The arrival of 4 Tank Corps from reserves put any thought of further German exploitation on hold. Off-table manoeuvering from 2nd SS Panzer Division and 297 Infantry Division to the southern flank was countered by 20 Guards Rifle and 7 Motor Rifle Divisions, allowing Southwest Front headquarters to escape further east.

4 Tank Corps engage the right (eastern) flank of Gross Deutchland.

4 Tank Corps engage the right (eastern) flank of Gross Deutschland.

The real Soviet victory though, as 5th Army withdrew, much reduced but still in good order, was that they had fought four German divisions to a standstill and given time for West Front headquarters to pull further east as the first drops of the Rasputitsa began to fall.

5th Army withdraw with little real fighting strength left, but 2nd Panzer Korps is in no shape to pursue them either.

5th Army withdraw with little real fighting strength left, but 2nd Panzer Korps is in no shape to pursue them either. East is to the left of the photograph.

My thanks go to the players for fitting a lot into a very short space of time, and putting up with arbitrary decisions made to speed the narrative along. A few Heroes of the Soviet Union will have been made from the bitter defence of the  TAMBOV  Rail Junctions by 5th Army. For this battle, an infantry division had between two or three six-stand infantry battalions, so in other words, a division was fighting at regimental strength (currently in 2022, Front Scale Orbat, or FSO uses three 3SP strong battalions per division) . I did however, leave a good deal of the supporting and logistic stuff out. Two hours did not give enough time to consider supplies and ammunition.

4 Panzer Division may be receiving some new Panzer IVs over winter, as it left a trail of burning Pz38(t)s strewn in front of the Soviet positions. The strongest unit that never made it onto the table, with three full Panzer battalions was 2 SS Panzer Division. Perhaps another day?

* Often, it’s the same idea :  “I can see the enemy in front of me, so let’s all attack frontally!”.

** Reputedly the worst Panzer division on the Eastern Front. Phil is almost magnetically drawn to this type of unit as an antidote to the massed ranks of Panthers to be found elsewhere on the web. I’m not criticising Tiger/Panther armies,  just saying.

*** Phil called it ‘trash talk’ but I felt it showed an understanding of Soviet mentality – Stalin didn’t care who he annoyed and felt that everyone was ‘out to get him’. For the record, the Germans were out to get him; the Umpire wasn’t.

****** OuchI’veStabbedTheTipOfMyFingerAgain!!! WhenAreYouGoingToDoSomethingAboutTheseBloodyPinsChris?

Amended April 2022 for spelling and formatting.

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The Battle of Bryansk Revisited

The Battle of Bryansk

This battle was fought in March 1942 in our Campaign back in the 1980s,  It was fought over the course of one three-hour evening on a 1.4m x 1.9m table (about 6ft x 4ft 6in for the New World) and I include it here only because I have updated the map to add to the campaign diary. 

Each phase consisted of about 4 simultaneous moves, which in this campaign we adjudge to be 1 “day”, which in turn counts as half a month.

 Heroic Sons of the Motherland*   

The Soviet forces consisted of 60th Army, comprising 4 Tank Corps, 19 Guards Rifle (GR) Division, and 20 GR Division. In addition OREL is being garrisoned by 51 (Res) Reserve Rifle Division. Troops were at between 60% and 30% of authorised establishments.

The Soviet plan was for 20GR to probe North to the OREL-BRYANSK railway then advance along the railway to BRYANSK, forming the centre of the offensive. 4Tk was to swing North shielding the right flank of  20GR. 19GR was to advance West through the wooded country to the South of BRYANSK, then swing North once the clear country to the West was reached

Fascist Vipers*                           

The Axis forces comprised 2 Panzerarmee Headquarters, commanding 255 Inf Div. Regrouping in the area East of BRYANSK were HQ XXIV (24) Mot Corps, 4 Pz Div, 10 Mot Div, and 267 Inf Div. Units were at between 60% and 50% of authorised strength.

The plan was to hold the North-South line of the BRYANSK railway with 255ID and 267ID, 10Mot and 4Pz were to conduct a mobile defence around the infantry line.

Phase 1 – 60th Army Advances

The Soviet Army offensive opened in poor weather (The umpire rolled 1D6 which came up as a one!), which precluded air support. 19GR advanced through woodland S of BRYANSK to engage 255Inf. Several attacks failed to dislodge the Fascists, and the momentum was lost on the L flank of the Soviet offensive.

20GR made good progress, reaching the OREL-BRYANSK railway, where the divisional artillery set up in range of BRYANSK. The division massed in front of BRYANSK for an assault. 4Tk  recce discovered HQ XXIV Korps and attacked North causing the HQ to retreat Northeast into 4Pz‘s forming up area. The Panzer division was having great difficulty forming up, losing approx 1/3 of its vehicle strength due to the cold . General March had added its aid to Generals January and February this year!

bryansk1

Phase 2 – 4th Panzer Division Counterattacks

4Tk swung Northwest along the railway, following the tracks of 20GR. At this point, both formations were caught by the delayed 4Pz spoiling attack from the N. Although this attack was beaten off by the Soviet armour, 20GR had lost its gun line, destroyed in the first hour of the counterattack. With no artillery, and the Soviet armour out of alignment, the chances of an attack on BRYANSK in the first half of March was lost.

bryansk2

* Not that I’m biased or anything! Perhaps unusually, our group is never short of players willing to play the Soviets, and this despite the Fascists having nicer toys.

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