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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!