Tag Archives: Eastern Front

The Soviet Winter Offensive Takes the SERPUKHOV to MOSCOW Line – Winter 1942/3

Knots of German Resistance

As the front around MOSCOW collapsed, the landscape filled with large and small  groups of Germans retreating to the west. Lacking heavy equipment, knots and pockets of resistance caused just enough delay to the advancing Soviets to keep a semblance of order and a front line, albeit one with rents kilometers wide.

NQM Delaying Action Winter 1942/3

 

Some resistance was more resolute than others, 12th Infantry Division, in particular, fighting hard to buy enough time for the front to reform.  Advancing against them were 38 and 57 Rifle Divisions.

38 and 57 Rifle Divisions Advance to Contact

For some of the hard-pressed Landser, it was easier to fight and die in position than to continue trudging through the snow. Iron-hard ground and lack of time to prepare reduced the effectiveness  of the German advanced defensive line.

12th Infantry Division Advance Defensive Line

Behind the forward troops, preparations proceeded as fast as the appalling conditions would allow.

Roads Provided Tenuous Lines of Communication

Anxious troops, with little time to rest, wearily awaited the Enemy. To their front, the forward defensive line is breached.

The Forward Line is Breached

Waves of advancing Soviets press forward to the main defensive line.

NQM Soviet Advance Winter 1942/3

The Divisional Railhead is a scene of frantic activity as the Enemy draws nearer.

NQM Divisional Railhead Winter 1942/3

Even a captured Soviet armoured train is pressed into service.

A Captured Soviet Armoured Train is Pressed into Service

But just as 12th Infantry Division, was at the limit of its endurance, the pressure began to ease. The Soviet advance had outpaced its own supply lines and come to a halt. at the end of this two-hour battle with YesthatPhil taking the Axis, and the Author playing the Soviets as a player-umpire (Plumpire). The Change in the map looked like this:

12 Inf Div holds the SERPUKHOV to MOSCOW line

12 Infantry Division holds the SERPUKHOV to MOSCOW line

The Soviet Winter Offensive Takes the SEPUKHOV to MOSCOW Line Winter 1942/3

The Soviet Winter Offensive Takes the SEPUKHOV to MOSCOW Line Winter 1942/3

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Land Battles, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, Wehrmacht, WWII

MOSCOW Surrounded

20 Motorised Division Stops 2 Guards Mechanised Corps in its Tracks 20 Motorised Infantry Division halts the advance of 2 Guards Mechanised Corps

Depleted as they were from the previous Summer’s Drive on MOSCOW, 7 Panzer and 20 Motorised Infantry Divisions still managed to blunt the breakthrough by 1st Shock Army on the city’s southern flank. No less dangerous though, was the northern flank breach.

Soviet Infantry Break Through on the Northern Flank of MOSCOW

The initial bridgehead was widened until it burst through the reserve line and soon, long columns of Soviet infantry could be seen trudging through the snow on their way west.

Soviet Infantry approaching MOSCOW to Outflank it by the North

Dislodged from their prepared defences on the canal line, all the disorganised infantry defenders could do was fall back to the east or south into MOSCOW.

Attempts by 20 Motorised Infantry to halt the Soviet advance lacked vigour as they had yet to recover from halting 2 Guards Mechanised Corps. 7 Panzer Division  was in no shape to assist, having had its own battle with 1 Guards Tank Corps, so retired west to refuel and reorganise. As part of its reorganisation,  20 Motorised Infantry was redesignated 20 Panzer Grenadier Division.

The defenders in MOSCOW were in crisis, with continued enemy infantry attacks from the east and south, and the rail line of communication to the west in Soviet hands. LittleHitler formally declared MOSCOW to be a fortress even as a relief  by 3 Panzer Korps was prepared.

Retreating Fascist Forces see MOSCOW Dwindle in the Gathering Gloom Retreating Fascist Forces see MOSCOW Dwindle in the Gathering Gloom

Festung Moskau from Phil's Pb-eye Candy BlogSee More Frontline Soviet News Footage on P.B.Eye-Candy

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Eastern Front, Land Battles, Soviet Army, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, Wehrmacht

Bergepanzer III and IV

Enough Sheddery, and trucking about; here are some proper tanks! The Bergepanzer III is a conversion of an overscale Austrian 1/87 jobbie that has been in my collection for ever, but will look fine next to some of my big trucks. The Bergepanzer IV is an old RoCo that did brief service in my AK47 collection. They bring some much-needed endurance to the Wehrmacht.

Bergepanzer III and IV WIPA simple card box on the III, a card plate on the IV, some bits, and that’s about it.

Bergepanzer II and IV undercoatTrue-scale undercoat on the unpainted bits, including the commander of the III.

Bergepanzer III and IV frontView from the front.

Bergepanzer III and IV threequarter view… and the side. Ready to roll.

Apparently, Inland Revenue has an app now, for scouring the internet to expose hidden income. For the books, here is an example of my rock-and-roll lifestyle:

Waking up after a night on the tilesThe morning after a night on the tiles!

Power Tools and BeerPower tools and beer – ideal companions!

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Logistics, Modelling, Off Topic, tank, The Den, Wehrmacht, WWII

Big Numbers on the Ostfront

German Panzer Battalion from the author's collection. Each model represents approximately 30 tanks

German Panzer Battalion from the author’s collection. Each model represents about 30 tanks

One of the pleasures of operational gaming is ruminating on the relative numbers overall of various equipment. Authors are fond of telling histories in terms of events, with the odd number thrown in here and there for key equipment, but they rarely give information in a consistent form.

Wargamers love using the best kit, so sometimes you are left wondering if the Premier Division team that they have picked for the club night is really a good representation of what went on. I enjoy the battles in the corners: The ones that happen when a Panzerarmee is nowhere to be seen, but a divisional staff officer is left scraping cooks and drivers together to prevent a breakthrough that may be on its last legs.

2nd Tank Corps Break Into the Northern Advanced Line

Consequently, I am often left wondering if I have the proportions of tanks to antitank guns, or of aircraft to anti-aircraft correct. John Ellis is usually reliable in this respect, so his orbats and ToEs (Tables of Equipment), scaled by the odd figure that is thrown in by a unit history and rounded for NQM, work well.

Here is a previous guesstimate of equipment at GAZALA. When I applied the same reasoning to the eastern front for the 1943 Soviet summer offensive, Ziemke (1968) gives us on page 144:

German troop strength = 3,064,000 + 150-200,000 allies

German Tanks = 2,088

German Anti-tank guns = 8,063

Soviet troop strength = 5,755,000

Soviet Tanks = 7,855

Soviet Anti-tank guns = 21,050

These admitted German estimates give the Germans a 1:4 Tank Anti-tank ratio (actually 3.86) , and the Soviets nearly a nearly 1:3 ratio (actually 2.68).

Comparatively this gives a Soviet vs Axis superiority of:

Troops = 2:1 (actually 1.79:1)

Tanks = 4:1 (actually 3.76:1)

Anti-tank = 3:1 (actually 2.61:1)

This compares well with Zaloga and Grandsen’s (1984) table on page 223 of Stalingrad to Berlin of 9,200 Soviet AFVs vs 2,374 German AFVs in March 1943 on the Ostfront, a ratio of 3.88 :1. The same source tells us on page 222 that the German proportions of tanks to self-propelled guns to troop carriers was in roughly even proportions (1:1:1). By contrast, the Soviet production was 2 tanks to every assault gun and no significant production of armoured troop carriers.

Even allowing for all the usual provisos of serviceability, tactics and quality, this tells me that I should be allowing the Soviets 3+ tanks for every German AFV.

A separate, and interesting question, is “do all the anti tank weapon totals include anti tank rifles?” I suspect not, as the German ratio is higher, and the Soviets hung onto their anti-tank rifles for longer. A quick NQM ToE check gives the following numbers:

German panzer division5 Tanks, 2 Anti-tank guns (numbers fluctuated)

German infantry division = 0 Tanks, 3 Anti-tank guns

Soviet tank corps6 Tanks, 2 Anti-tank guns (for 1943, the numbers fluctuated)

Soviet infantry division0 Tanks,  3 Anti-tank guns (allowing the 76mm divisional gun an antitank role and counting the 3 regimental 47mm guns as one Sp3 gun.

If we estimate the tank to infantry division ratio on the Ostfront as:

German = 67 Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions versus 331 infantry divisions, (Just under 1:5). (I have taken the German army as a whole but ignored allies giving 335 NQM tanks to 1127 anti-tank guns, or 1 to 3.4.

Soviet = 60 tank and mechanised corps vs 413 rifle divisions (just under 1:7 giving 1 NQM tank to 3.8 anti-tank) from Ellis (1993)38, then these ratios seem reasonable without having to count anti-tank rifles. I do however, need to make sure that the Soviet armour is fielded at full strength or tone down the anti-tank to keep the ratio about right at 3:1. Likewise, the German tank strength needs a lid keeping on it to prevent it creeping too high.

Here is a picture of a Ratte to console the German players :

ratte

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Artillery, Eastern Front, Land Battles, tank, Trucks, WWII

Storm from the Northwest – Days 2 and 3

Day two of the Soviet Winter offensive in the Northwest saw X, II and VIII Korps under heavy pressure along the whole of the line. By this stage of the war, German defensive positions had formalised into an outlying belt of minefields studded with MG42 nests, then a main defensive line backed by a reserve line, all of some considerable depth such that they could not all be carried in the same attack.

II Korps Artillery II Korps artillery in the reserve line supports the failing defensive line of Lt Gen von Seydlitz-Kurzbach’s distinguished 12 Inf Div.

Soviet doctrine was evolving to cope, and although not as tactically proficient as they would become later in the war, the early desperate days of throwing waves of unsupported infantry in to the attack were giving way to more coordinated offensives with artillery and tank support. They would attack along a line, then ruthlessly reinforce success, leaving failing attacks to flounder. Thus it was that Lt Gen Wandel found pressure on his 121 Inf Div slackening as troops were diverted to support the break-in to 32 Inf Div‘s main defensive positions.

This attack had been preceded by violent assaults on two flanks against the distinguished 12 Inf Div veterans of Lt Gen von Seydlitz-Kurzbach. The division fell back in good order, having sustained intolerable casualties in the first day of the attack.

Northwest Front 05The vital rail junction on the divisional boundary of 32 and 121 Inf Divs, looking southwest, before  coming under heavy Soviet attack

This relief was, however, only temporary. Day three of the offensive saw renewed pressure on this sector of the defensive line to break open the main railway to VELIKIYE LUKI (Великие Луки)

121 Inf Div Main Defensive LineAll along the northern half of the line, German infantry were falling back to their reserve positions; most in good order but some in disarray. Soviet flags could be seen fluttering over the main line, and in the odd quiet moment balalaika and accordion music could be heard!

More to follow …

The Attack Develops on Day 3Link to the map

Game Notes:

1.More of this battle from the Soviet side can be seen on YesthatPhil’s P.B.Eye Candy Blog

2. This game was planned for Trebian’s 5×11 foot table at Shedquarters. My pasting table is a quarter of the size, so although the length is adequate, depth has been compressed by half.

3. The marked roads are also railways, which is why a Chibi armoured train is parked at the southern end of the track by VYSHNY VOLOCHYOK Вышний Волочек.

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

Storm Forecast from the Northeast

Northwest Front - Opening Stages

The miserable stalemate of the Rasputitsa on the NORTHWEST Front was broken with the first hard frosts of winter. This offensive had been expected for some time, but the ferocity of the assault caught the German line by surprise, and soon reports of heavy fighting were flooding in to X, II and VIII Korps Headquarters in volumes that told of an assault along the whole defensive line north of VYSHNY VOLOCHYOK Вышний Волочек.

Northwest Front 03

126* Infantry Division fought off attacks from militia troops identified as belonging to 30 Rifle Division supporting the northern flank of 31 Rifle Div. The Soviets had blocked the north-south railway from MOSCOW to LENINGRAD, and repeated counterattacks had failed to dislodge them in the previous month.

Northwest Front Rail Crossroad

12* and 32** Infantry Divs came under heavy pressure that the whole of X and VIII Korps Artillery could not relieve. These positions began to crumble as 34 Rifle Div  penetrated the forests in front of them.

Link to the map

To be continued …

Notes:

*126 Infantry Division was commanded by the newly promoted commander of its 422 Infantry Regiment – Maj Gen Hopper.

** 12th Infantry Division distinguished itself in Poland and France

*** 32nd Infantry Division was known as the Löwe (Lion) division and also had an excellent reputation.

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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 speeded 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. Contempory 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 Korp-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 desparately 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 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 Deutchland 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 understrength 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 commisars (roll another die to pass a failed morale test and deduct that number of hit points 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 inevitibility 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 manouvering 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 Deutchland.

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, they were fighting at regimental strength. At this stage of the war this is not much of an NQM scale-down. 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 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 2nd 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?

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Land Battles, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, WWII

Fall Gabel (Fork)

Fall Gabel (Fork)

Fall Herbst

As the Rasputitsa drew on from the South in Autumn 1942*, German forces in the area of YELETS, East of KURSK made one last attempt to unseat Soviet 5th Army guarding the strategic rail junctions West of TAMBOV. Capturing this area would also dislodge or destroy the headquarters of West Front.

Rumours of Soviet Forces deeper in the East were picked up by the Abwehr, but surely the bottom of  the Soviet manpower barrel must have been reached by now? The plan is to fight this over at Shedquarters as soon as Graham, the WHELKs and I have a free Tuesday evening. In the meantime, I’m painting up more Soviet infantry.

German Forces :

HQ 2 Pz Korps :

Comd Car (s3), Signal Bn Radio truck (s3), Tac Air Liaison Truck (s3), Korps Field Hospital Bn Truck (s3), Korps Arty Bn HQ Truck, Korps Arty Bn 155mm (s3) + Limber (s3), Rear HQ Workshop Truck (s3), Korps Rear HQ Fuel Truck (s3), Close AA Flack Bn 20/37mm (s3) + Limber (s3). Rifle Bn Comd (s3), 3 Rifle stands (s3), MG stand (s3), Mortar stand (s3)

Gross Deutschland Grenadier Division, 4 Panzer Division, 2 SS Pz Division

Supporting From XLVI Korps : 295, 296 Infantry Divisions (North Flank), 297Infantry Division (South Flank)

Supporting From XIV Motor Korps : 47 Motor Division (South Flank)

Soviet Forces :

HQ West Front :

1 Comd Car (s3), 1 Signal Bn Radio truck (s3), 1 Tac Air Liaison Truck (s3), 1 Front Field Hospital Bn Truck (s3), 1 Front Arty Bn HQ Car, 1 Workshop Truck (s3), 1 Fuel Truck (s3), 1 Ammo Truck (s3), NKVD Rifle Bn Comd (s3), 3 Rifle stands (s3), MG stand (s3).

Artillery Division : 2 76mm guns (s3), 2 122mm howitzers (s3), 1 152mm gun-howitzer (s3), 2 120mm mortars (s3), 6 tractor limbers (s3).

PVO Anti-aircraft Division : 37mm Anti-aircraft gun (s3), 12.7mm DShK MG (s3), Quad 48 MG (s3). 3 limbers (s3).

7 Motor Rifle , 4 Tank, 20 Guard Rifle Divisions

HQ 5th Army :

1 Comd Car (s3), 1 Signal Bn Radio truck (s3), 1 Army Arty Bn HQ Car, 1 Workshop Truck (s3), 1 Fuel Truck (s3), 1 Ammo Truck (s3). NKVD Rifle Bn Comd (s3), 3 Rifle stands (s3), MG stand (s3).

RVKG Anti-tank Brigade : 2 Anti-tank rifles (s3), 45mm gun (s3) + limber (s3).

55, 56, 58 Rifle Divisions

* In my fictitious NQM Eastern Front campaign.

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Filed under 15mm Miniatures Wargames, Axis War Diary, Land Battles, Soviet War Diary, Wargames, WWII