The Eastern Front – Operation Barbarossa

Operation Barbarossa

September to December 1942 (Posted  September 2013 – Dec 2015)

Army Group North –

IMG_7751

LENINGRAD

VISHNY VOLOCHYOK days 6-9

VISHNY VOLOCHYOK days 4-5

VISHNY VOLOCHYOK days 2-3

VISHNY VOLOCHYOK

Army Group Centre –

IMG_7752 (1)

KALININ to MOSCOW

Winter Offensive Breaches the Walls of MOSCOW

Festung MOSCOW Part One,  Part Two,  Player View

The state of opposing air forces

Army Group South –

IMG_7753 (1)

 June to September 1942 (Posted Mar 2012 – August 2013)

ARMY GROUP CENTRE – MOSCOW – Fall Kloster (Cloister)

The battle for MOSCOW continued through the summer with slow gains being made at great cost. Initial attacks by By 18GR failed to prevent a slow grinding attack by 102, 258 and 268 infantry divisions pushing 40 and 41 rifle divisions eastwards As the season wore on, the Soviets were pushed back beyond artillery range of MOSCOW towards GORKY, and in October, Army Group Centre began to prepare for winter, constructing elaborate defensive lines.

ARMY GROUP SOUTH – Fall Blau (Blue)

Phase 1

Army Group Centre attacked on the boundaries of Moscow and W fronts,taking TULA, STALINGORSK and the line of the railway from MOSCOW to RYASAN.

arch 035

Phase 2

Army Group South  attacked on the axis of KURSK to VORONESH on the southern boundary of W front with SW front, opening a gap in the front that isolated W front from both its flanks.

arch 036

Phase 2a – The battle for the TAMBOV Rail Junctions

2 Pz Korps  attacked Towards Tambov to secure 3 vital rail junctions in this area. As an adjunct, 2 SS Pz Div and 47 Mot Div attacked towards SW Front HQ, meeting unexpected resistance towards the north, which brought this phase to an end.

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.

Phase 3 – The battle for GIROVKA bend

Attacks by XLIV and XXIX Korps were intended to secure the bridges around KHARKOV prior to a sweeping advance by 1Pz Korps to STALINGRAD, isolating S front entirely.

This phase failed, necessitating the use of 1Pz Korps and 14Pz to clear the area. The opportunity for a strategic sweep south to isolate S front was lost when 1 Rom Mtn corps collapsed in the area of TAGENROG.

The Rasputitsa brought an end to operations as it swept south from the end of September and phase 4 was cancelled finally in September. On September 24 1942  Franz Halder, Chief of the OKW was dismissed* by LittleHitler, who ordered all forces to take the defensive and stand fast except for some small sectors in the gap between Army Groups Centre and South. Major reorganisation of the front began as armoured forces were pulled back for rest and refit, and infantry formations replenished their strength after the summer fighting.

arch 034

*Historical event and date, source : (http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/nazioccupation/opbarb.html)

Operation Barbarossa – April to June 1942 (Posted Dec 2011)

ARMY GROUP CENTRE  – FESTUNG MOSCOW – Fall Kloster (Cloister)

Commander Army Group Centre’s War Diary

The battle for MOSCOW ground to a halt as the Rasputitsa made logistic supply and movement difficult in the extreme. Army Group Centre had weathered the winter crisis and felt confident that the summer offensive would see the drive to GORKY continue. Army Group Centre reserves consist of 3 Pz Gp (V, VI Inf Corps and XXXIX, LVIIMot Corps), with 9th Army (VIII, XX Corps) in the line to the North and 4th Army (VII, XIII, LVIII Corps) to the South of MOSCOW. Holding the city was VII Corps comprising 258 and 268 Inf Divs. The initial phase of Kloster was conducted byVII Corps attacking the Northeastern quarter of the city whilst XXXIX Mot Corps attacked the Southeastern quarter with 14 and 20 Inf Divs whilst 7 Pz and 20 PzGren divisions attacked in a tight sweep around the South of the City to compensate for their poor supply situation.

7 Pz and 20 PzGren Divisions attack in a tight sweep around the South of MOSCOW

Soviet resistance was fragmented at first to the East of MOSCOW, as it seemed that Soviet forces had been caught forming up for a major attack. Resistance inside the City was fierce however and necessitated the armoured hook turning back into the Eastern suburbs to assist in mopping up operations and to prevent breakouts to the East.

To the North of the City LVII Korps made little headway, but broke up a major attack with Soviet tanks and motorised troops. Elements of 1st Shock Army were identified amongst the dead.

What the Regrouping Means

Until this part of the campaign, I had been inspired by Frank Chadwick’s Bathtub Barbarossa campaign, and indeed his approach had been instrumental in producing a maneagable campaign, particularly his Europa series of hex-grid maps.

Frank’s campaign scaled everything down 25 times and instead of 3 German Army Groups invading Russia, he had 3 Corps and the whimsically named Klein Deutschland regiment. Initially, I followed that approach. The time had come though to introduce a more satisfactory (for me that is, nothing wrong with the way Frank did it) scaling system. I kept the original orders of battle but downsized each unit by two or three levels of command, representing an Infantry division with an NQM-sized infantry regiment or battalion, depending on the scenario.

NQM German infantry battalion from the Author’s collection

It worked for me, but from this point on, the war diaries will have a fracture in them The 3 German Corps will disappear to be replaced by their historical Army Groups (Armeekorps) and subunits. This last statement is only true to a point, because the NQM Barbarossa campaign has departed somewhat from history already. Proir to this post, all of the battles had been fought using my 20mm collection. In fine Soviet style, all previous  shots of my 15mm collection have been assembled after the event for illustrative propaganda purposes!

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

Operation Barbarossa – March 1942

March 1942 – CENTRAL FRONT – FESTUNG MOSCOW

Soviet forces continued to assault into the suburbs of MOSCOW without a pause in the battle. 3 FE Corps swings SOUTH into the the Battle, with Army engineers forcing a river crossing to the SOUTH of MOSCOW. Rivers were still frozen, but engineers were beginning to be concerned about the ability of the ice to take the weight of vehicles. 1 Cav Corps exploited the gap and outflanked the SOUTH of the city until stopped by pickets from Recce Bn / 1 Pz Div.

Soviet cavalry from Phil Steele’s collection sweep all before them

In the city centre, battle outposts of 4 and 5 Inf Regts were driven in until the main defended line to the EAST of the river was engaged. The PAULUS line was manned by  Grossdeutchland division. Repeated attacks were driven off, but the division was gradually forced back to the KREMLIN. By the end of the month, the spring thaw was beginning to set in.

Operation Barbarossa – February 1942

CENTRAL FRONT – FESTUNG MOSCOW

Engr Bn / 2 Inf Div defending the outskirts of the airfield to the SOUTH of MOSCOW came under attack from advance elements of 4 GD Mech Bde. The perimeter buckled but was reinforced by elements of Recce Bn / 3 Inf Div and 8 Regt / 3 Inf Div sent NORTH to MOSCOW from PODOLSK.

February saw plummeting temperatures and heavy snowfalls affecting the ability of both sides to conduct operations, but in the teeth of a snowstorm, 3GD  Inf regiment launched a counterattack against the penetration of 3 Rifle division / 1 FE Corps. The attack, made with Sturmgeshutz support, drove  3 Rifle division back to their start lines outside MOSCOW and effectively destroyed it as a fighting force. Losses to 3 Regt / Grossdeutchland were light and it withdrew after being relieved in the line by  3 Inf battalion / 6 Regt  / 2 Inf Div.

Through gaps in the weather, reconnaissance flights noted groups of Soviet infantry marching to the NORTH of MOSCOW to outflank the defences.

To the SOUTH of MOSCOW 7 Tk Div and  4  GD Mech Bde attacked the airfield, . The attack was driven off with much difficulty. Further SOUTH 3 FE Army launched 36 Div and 37 Div with artillery support against TULA, which was held by  2Bn / 9 Regt / 3 Inf Div and STALNOGORSK respectively. General FRITZ-HUBERT GRAESER, commander of  3 Div ordered that TULA , PODOLSK and SERNUKOV were to be held at all costs. The bridges at SERNUKOV and JN 3916 was to be denied to the enemy, although the value of this was limited given the depth of ice on the frozen rivers.

TULA held through to the middle of the month as successive waves of troops attacked it. As the weather improved, the Luftwaffe was able to attack the forming up areas of the enemy, with Heinkel He 111 heavy bombers making a rare tactical appearance over the front lines. Even this effort was unable to prevent TULA falling to the enemy.

Tb – 3 (not one of mine, alas)

Operation Barbarossa – January 1942

CENTRAL FRONT – FESTUNG MOSCOW

Heavy attacks along the line announced the start of the Soviet winter offensive on MOSCOW. The rearguard of  1 Pz Div holding the outskirts of MOSCOW was forced back by a series of set-piece attacks delivered with great determination and no small loss of life to the Soviet infantry. Radio traffic intercepted identify three full Soviet armies supported by armour and artillery.

On the SOUTHERN  flank 5 GD Motor Rifle Div captured the main defensive positions in front of MOSCOW. 4 Rifle Div / 2 FE Corps was identified taking the positions spanning the two main roads entering MOSCOW  to the EAST and SOUTHEAST. In the centre,  5 Rifle Div / 2 FE Corps attacked a strong position astride the VLADIMIR-MOSCOW road held by 1Bn / 4 Regt / 2 Inf Div. This position held firm throughout January and February against repeated attacks.

Further NORTH, the defenders (1Bn / 4 Regt / 2 Inf Div) had less success against 1 FE Corps. The division was slowly forced back into the suburbs of MOSCOW resisting stubbornly, but succumbing to three successive waves of attacking infantry. The division was split in two as the attackers forced their way to Red Square and the Kremlin.

Soviet Tank Corps on parade before the war

Operation Barbarossa – December 1941

ARMY GROUP CENTRE – Festung MOSCOW

MOSCOW was declared a fortress city by order of LittleHitler. The defences put in place by the Soviets, which were mostly to the west of MOSCOW were supplemented be extensive works to the east. Minefields and battle outposts were built by corps troops and 1 Pz Division to the west of VLADIMIR. KOLOMNA was fortified and held as a battle outpost.

Soviet attacks began along the whole front and VLADIMIR was retaken. Soviet air forces discovered the position of 1 Battalion / 1 Pz Regiment and bombed it heavily, which forced it to move back to the WEST of MOSCOW. 1/1 Pz Battalion’s locations continued to be bombed long after the positions were vacated. MOSCOW airfield was also bombed. This seriously compromised the Luftwaffe’s ability to support the ground troops, as all air support was being flown from secure bases in MINSK.

By the end of December, the Soviets recaptured VLADIMIR and pushed forward to the Axis battle outposts. 5 Atk Battalion was instrumental in stopping 7 Tk Division in its tracks. The Soviets appeared to be making preparations for a formal attack on MOSCOW as temperatures dropped and the ground began to freeze hard.

ARMY GROUP SOUTH – Fall Taifun – (Typhoon)

The Italians in KHARKOV attempted to close a pincer movement in concert with the Romanians in ROSTOV, meeting at the GROVKA RIDGE to seal off KHARKOV. This was defeated by troops in the KHARKOV pocket who were hastily formed into an ad-hoc division centred on a spare headquarters refitting to the east of GROVKA. Partisans assisted in driving the Romanian Garrison out of GROVKA itself.

5th Antitank Battalion

Operation Barbarossa – October 1941

ARMY GROUP CENTRE – Fall Verwüstung – (Havoc)

Battle for Moscow

The month began with heavy Soviet counterattacks from the East, in deteriorating weather that severely reduced the mobility of Axis armour and air support. Inside the city GD Infantry Division took advantage of firm going and cautiously pressed home attacks that allowed 2 Inf Corps attacks to make good progress from the West. For a while the whole battle hung in the balance. 16 Pz Rifle Div  managed to break through to the Airfield, and fight off counterattacks from the East. Casualties were heavy on all sides as the Luftwaffe was operating at the limit of its ability, and intermittent weather favoured the Soviets, whose airfields were much closer to the front. Deteriorating weather brought much of the fighting to an end by the end of the month

Battle for Orel and Tula – Fall Klemheist – (a climbing knot)

3 Inf Division attacked OREL then TULA in  a two stage operation. 7 Inf Regiment took moderate casualties (equivalent to one battalion of troops) but completely destroyed 20 Rifle Division. 8 Inf Regiment was delayed in phase II of the operation by a light recce and anti-tank screen west of the TULA/OREL road. It went on to take TULA causing 60% casualties on 30 Reserve Rifle Division. Motorcycle Bn / 3 Inf Division pushed east to attack a Soviet gun line to the east of OREL, which had contributed to most of 7 Inf Regiment’s casualties. Motorcycle Bn / 3 Inf Division was repulsed and suffered moderate losses. In a second wave attack 7 Inf Regiment overran the gun line. Due to poor local weather, neither side was able to deploy air assets in the battle.

1/144 Stuka from the Author’s collection

Operation Barbarossa – September 1941

ARMY GROUP CENTRE – Fall Verwüstung – (Havoc)

Battle for Moscow

13 Inf Division began the battle by assaulting the Western approaches of MOSCOW, preceded by heavy air and artillery bombardment. It was repelled by a firm defence. The freshly arrived Gross Deutschland (GD) Inf Division encircled MOSCOW to the north, and 1 Pz Division did likewise to the south. Divisional engineers threw hasty bridges and ferries over the River MOSKVA. Recce Aircraft observed large columns of vehicles and refugees streaming east out of MOSCOW. GD Inf Division eventually broke through to Red Square from the North to find bridges over the R. MOSKVA intact. The month ended with the north and east of MOSCOW in Axis hands. Soviet defence centred around Industrial areas to the south and the airport, where fighters continued to fly until the very last moment.

ARMY GROUP SOUTH – Fall Taifun – (Typhoon)

On to Stalino

4 Army breached the line of Soviet defences on the DNEPROPETROVSK – KHARKOV railway and pushed on to STALINO. Heavy Soviet counterattacks prevented progress, but a corps recce unit sweeping east found a minor road between  DNEPROPETROVSK and KHARKOV to be open. Kampfgruppe Paulus was created from mobile engineer, anti-tank and recce troops. It raced east and took STALINO unopposed by the end of the month. Meanwhile, the Hungarians encircled KHARKOV.

The Romanian Southern Pincer

“Certain phrases stick in the throat, even if they offer nothing that is analytically improbable. ‘A dashing Swiss Officer’ is one such” 

John Russell ‘PARIS – 1860’

The leisurely advance of Romanian Field Army halted outside DNEPROPETROVSK to invest it, but 3 Rom Division found an unguarded bridge over the River DNIEPR, exploited it, and captured ZAPOROZHA. 2 Rom Division passed through and headed east to link up with Kampfgruppe PAULUS in STALINO.

Romanian Infantry Regiment

Kg PAULUS and 2 Rom division advanced to ROSTOV and captured it. Attached Rom Arty engaged the Black Sea Fleet, which retired to blockade the straits of KERCH.

A  Soviet breakout was made from the DNEPROPETROVSK pocket to hold a new position forward of GROVKA. This position held off an inept attack by Slovak Inf Battalion, but was forced to withdraw by 3 successive waves of attacks by Rom 1 Inf Battalion supported by Rom Airforce and survivors of Slovak Inf Battalion.

The Battle for Kharkhov

The Hungarian Field Army Battalion attacked KHARKHOV, fairing badly, despite support from 302 Hvy Artillery Battalion. A southern outflanking movement by Italian Field Army Division was equally unsuccessful, as it became congested in a narrow land bridge between the KHARKOV pocket and a large pocket of Soviet infantry between KHARKOV and DNEPROPETROVSK, and the survivors withdrew behind the PULITOV Line to regroup.

Operation Barbarossa – July 1941

ARMY GROUP NORTHFall Freya

The Destruction of 11 Brigade

1 Inf division attacked along the KAUNAS-SIAULIAI Northern axis, sending 3 Inf Regiment, which was in reserve, to DAUGAVPILS. 11 Brigade was shattered and pursued North to RIGA through SAULIAI. 1Tk Division counterattacked but met 14 Inf Regiment. The Soviet tanks managed to break through, but not the accompanying infantry and the attack faltered.
1 Inf Regiment pursued the remnants of 11 brigade and broke through a hasty defence at SIAULIAI based around 10 Coy NKVD. The pursuit reached RIGA, but failed to take the bridges as the defence coalesced around HQ 3 Bn NKVD.
The attack proceeded along two axes. 1and 2 Inf Regiments attacked along the RIGA-TARTU-NARVA axis. 3 and 14 Inf Regiments attacked along the PSKAV-LUGA axis with two batteries of attached divisional artillery and a company of engineers. The Soviets reinforce RIGA with 1 Marine Rifle Battalion, but withdraw it as RIGA was bypassed. No real resistance was offered until the outskirts of LENINGRAD were reached at the end of July, by which time 2 Inf Regiment had reduced RIGA and opened the road for communication. Meanwhile 3 Inf Regiment has secured LUGA and the route to LENINGRAD.

ARMY GROUP CENTRE – Fall Triebwerk – (Engine)

Battle of Smolensk

The northern encirclement of SMOLENSK by I Pz Korps comprised 1 Pz Division, 16 Inf Division, with corps recce and artillery. The attack began well and excellent progress was made. VYASMA, some distance beyond SMOLENSK was attacked and encircled in the mistaken belief that it was SMOLENSK. Confusion was caused by the strongest Soviet tank attacks to date in the war, but these were beaten off, and supply units managed to disentangle themselves from the battle raging around VITEBSK to resupply the forward troops at VYASMA. The month ended with SMOLENSK still in Soviet hands.

 ARMY GROUP SOUTH – Fall Taifun – (Typhoon)

The Battle for Kiev

4th Army reached KIEV and invested it by the middle of July. A pause ensued in front of the defences as artillery was brought up. Bridges were built to the north of KIEV to allow 12 Inf Division to cross the river and encircle the city. However the attack was repulsed by Soviet engineers. The main assault on KIEV had more success, and the centre of the city was reached with only light casualties. Soviet counterattacks seemed unusually fierce after this, but slackened off, and Soviet forces withdrew in good order. The final stages of the battle were notable for the use of 302 Hvy Artillery Regiment, which bombarded the centre of the city.

12 Inf Div Engineers begin operations to cross the river North of KIEV

 Operation Barbarossa -June 1941

ARMY GROUP CENTRE – Fall Lorelei

The northern encirclement of MINSK. II Inf Korps attacked through to GRODNO. I Pz Korps was passed through the infantry and advanced to MINSK, attacking it from the north with corps recce elements. 13 Inf Division attacks from the east. Elements of 1 Pz Division and 16 Inf Division swung north and pushed east to ORSHA to set up blocking positions.
At MINSK, the Soviet Western Military District HQ was captured intact with large quantities of fuel and artillery ammunition by 1 Pz Korps. Infantry losses were moderate.

Operation Barbarossa -June 1941

ARMY GROUP CENTREFall Thor

1st Baranowicze

The central drive to MINSK on axis BIALOSTOK- BARANOWICZE with 2 Inf Korps. The Western MD was split into 2 loosely invested pockets. The attack stalled momentarily to allow logistic support to catch up with the advancing infantry of 4 and 5 Inf Divisions.

2nd Baranowicze
Breakout battle by 2nd Inf Korps to link up with 1 Pz Korps at  MINSK. Fierce fighting saw the outskirts of BARANOWICZE change hands several times before the town was outflanked and bypassed. Large numbers of Soviet troops and artillery were captured, with infantry from 5 Inf Division crossing the Polish border into the USSR, and on to MINSK in late June.

ARMY GROUP CENTRE – Fall Thor II / Tannenbaum – (Fir Tree)

Southern encirclement of MINSK. 3 Inf Korps attacked through to PINSK with excellent close air support. The projected OP TANNENBAUM was cancelled when recce forces discovered that the PRYAPET marches were not passable to vehicles and heavy armour.

ARMY GROUP SOUTH – Fall Taifun – (Typhoon)

The March on Kiev

4th Army drove east to KIEV. En route, they encountered Soviet forces at ZHITOMIR, BUNDICHEV, and VINNISTA; each town being held in divisional strength. Soviet forces fought hard and pulled back in good order despite taking heavy casualties. 10 Inf Division attacked VINNISTA in the South, being forced back with 33% casualties. 11 Inf Division attacked BUNDICHEV, bypassing the defences to the south and north, and linking with Hungarian Mobile Division, which attacked and took ZHITOMIR against minimal opposition.

German infantry advance through a Soviet border village with self propelled artillery

“Not Quite Mechanised” is a set of Operational level tabletop Wargames rules for the period between 1914 and 1950, when most continental European armies had yet to fully adopt motorised transport to wage war. These rules have been around since the mid 1980s. They are available to download for free private use only from  the umpire guideline pages on this blog

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