Showing posts with label T34. Show all posts
Showing posts with label T34. Show all posts

8 June 2015

KWC Open Day: Batrep of the Defense of Niedlingen

Open Day FoW in 20mm Game: Defense of Niedlingen, East Prussia (Winter 1944-45)

The  (fictitious) East Prussian Town of Niedlingen is situated a about 600 hundred kilometers east of Berlin, near Arnswalde.

Historical context:

In early February 1945, the 11th SS Panzer Battalion Nordland was ordered onto the offensive as a part of Operation Sonnenwende, the plan to destroy a Soviet salient and to relieve the troops besieged in the town of Arnswalde.
11. SS-Freiwilligen-Panzergrenadier-Division „Nordland“.svg

The offensive had been conceived by Generaloberst Heinz Guderian as a massed assault all along the front but had then been reduced by Hitler to the level of a local counter-attack. Initially, Nordland's attack achieved a total tactical surprise and the division soon advanced to the banks of Lake Ihna in all sectors. However, as the Soviet forces realized what was happening, resistance grew stiffer and the advance began to slow. On 17 February, the division reached Arnswalde and relieved the exhausted garrison. Over the next few days the town was secured and the surviving civilians were evacuated.

Soon however, strong Soviet counter-attacks halted the division's advance, and Steiner called off the attack, pulling the III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps back to Stargard and Stettin on the northern Oder River. The 10. SS-Panzer-Division "Frundsberg", led by Brigadeführer Heinz Harmel, also took part in the operation after being detached from the II SS Panzerkorps in December 1944 (at the time engaged on the Western Front).

Flames of War in 20mm

By 21 February the conclusion was arrived-at that no more useful gains could be made against an increasingly powerful enemy without incurring undue casualties, so Steiner ordered a general withdrawal back to the north bank of the river Ihna.

This is where our battle is set.

Elements of the 11th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg occupy the Town of Niedlingen, East Prussia

General Jaydovich advising Colonel Bruce-chev on the best use of the Soviet Guards Army Tankovy

Russian armour arrive on the banks of the frozen  Ihna River
German pioneers have laid a mine-field on the north bank. A pedestrian bridge (left) and a
single lane metal bridge span the river. The Germans have not had time to dig in, so swift has the Soviet retaliation and pursuit been.

The fuel dump (Soviet Objective 1) is defended by a Pak 40 and MG 42 along with infantry

Turn one:  Colonel Bruce-chev approaches the two bridges, and orders a unit of Cossacks and a unit of Partisans to clear the minefield. As the Don Cossacks had fought on both sides of the war, they are considered expendable, as are the partisans. 
Among their number is a group of nuns, possibly secreting hand-weapons under their habits.

Several groups of partisans succumb to the mine-field. Somehow the nuns survive, and keep moving forward. The Cossacks follow eagerly behind them on horseback.

The second Soviet objective is the town centre of Niedlingen. The only road approach is protected by two stugs and several Pak 40s. The town centre is held by a number of Panther tanks. In the fields beyond  the town is a unit of Nebelwerfers and an artillery battery of 7 LeFH 18 howitzers.

Her Oberst is ably assisted by Herr Leutnant Romlet in his first battle. Fresh out of Panzer schule he is very knowledgable on armour and eager for battle. 

The Soviets attack first, and drive for the bridges

IS-2s clearing a bank on their race for the bridge

Columns of Soviet Armour pouring towards Niedlingen

The German 1st turn sees the lead T34-85 and T34 Obr 1943 destroyed on the bridge. The Soviets are caught in a bottle-neck. They try to cross the frozen river on foot, but the infantry commander falls through the ice on a roll of a 1. (Roll anything but a one, Bruce!)

PTRDs move up to give defensive fire while the heavy IS-2s advance

The Nebelwerfers and LeFH18s take a heavy toll on infantry, mortar units  and 122mm Howitzers, almost all falling prey to the template of mass destruction

Turn 2 degenerates on both sides into an artillery slugfest, with almost all infantry in range being destroyed by artillery fire. Su76s, 85s and IS-2s all unleash a torrent of lead on the German defenders. Pak 40s, mortar units, MG crews, all fall to the murderous fire. 

The  Germans return the favour with all their artillery capable of firing HE and rockets.
The Soviets used foresight, and brought a recovery vehicle with them. The burning T34s are swiftly moved out of the way, and IS2s and ISU 122s start crossing the bridge

Turn Three: CCCP: The Cossacks and Partisans advance through and clear the mine-fields. 
Seems some of the German soldiers are good catholic boys, 
and cannot get themselves to shoot at the nuns. 
They make it to the fuel storage tanks, habits flowing in the mid-winter wind.

The Cossacks cavalry charge the defenders, mowing them down with SMG fire. The last men standing are two artillery observers. They fall to merciless flashing sabres and flailing hooves in the assault phase. The nuns and the cossacks take the objective

Their Turn 3 sees the Germans leave the town centre, in an attempt to outflank the Cossacks attacking the fuel dump.
StugGs, Panthers and Jagdpanthers advance past the church. Reinforcements arrive, but fail to make any impact on the rest of the battle.

German armour rushing towards the Russian advance

Turn 4: The Soviets counter with armour to back up the Cossacks holding the fuel dump.
The T34s make it across the frozen river, but for some reason the assault gun commanders seem to think that their vehicles weigh the same as the medium tanks.

The lead SU 85 plunges to the bottom of the frozen river, with only a small splash and trail of bubbles to mark his passing. The rest stall on the bank.

Desperate to remove the nuns and cossacks from the fuel dump the SS bring up their heavy hitters. 
A King Tiger and Jagd Tiger with an Begleit Panther clank through the narrow streets. The bulk of the factory and station prevent them from drawing a bead on the cavalry troops. They are unable to shoot.

Unfortunately for them, they are now within the range of the tankbusters. 
The Panther is the first to brew up in Turn 5

During their turn 4 the Germans also bring up the balance of their Panthers 
and two tank destroyers of their own

Turn 5: The sole surviving PTRD fires from the farmyard

Hits the flank of the lead StuG who had not thought to wear schurtzen that day. 
This oversight creates a fatal bottle-neck for the German tanks

The assault guns continue to rain destruction, and this time it is the King Tiger that cops it. 
It is hard to stop a barrage of 122 mm shells dropping on your thin top armour

Source of the destruction: ISU 122s and IS-2s en masse, protected by SU 76s and T34-85s

Final moments of the 10. SS Tank Battalion at Niedlingen. 

The tightly packed German armour succumb to a whirlwind of Russian shells. The nuns and Cossacks hold an objective  by the end of the game, and the Germans fail in their attempt to deny the Russians and push them back across the river. 

A resounding victory to Colonel Bruce-chev and his Red Guard Tankovy

Soviet Arms Factory on my Table-top - Getting ready for KWC Open Day

Soviet Arms Factory

We decide to have Late war Soviet Push for Berlin game at the annual open day.

I realised that I had a great deal of unpainted and half-built Armourfast Soviet tanks and tank busters sitting under my work area, so out came the glue and paint:

Pretty soon Su-85s, T34-Obr 1943s and T34-85s were rolling off the production line

A lone halftrack makes a quick getaway, while tigers huddle in their plastic container.

Awaiting tracks, guns fitted

One model had been waiting so long that it somehow lost its gun mantlet. KV1 mantlet and green stuff to the rescue

10 June 2014

The Extent of the Malady: Bagration and then some

The Obsession: Extent of the Wargames Malady Part 1

Surely every miniatures builder-painter-collector has to have an element of OCD.

Getting my Russian Troops ready for Operation Bagration also inspired me to document the extent of my malady: Why not photograph all of my armies ?

So here goes: Za Stalinha! : My 1943-44 Russian Army:

I have only photographed what is just about ready to roll out on the snow-covered steppe. No lend-lease vehicles or equipment either, only the hardware made in Mother Russia:

The River of Heroes, FoW book at the ready

Siberian Ski Troops and Guards Division Iosef Stalin IS 2 Heavy Tanks

Zis 3 Battery no.1 and Medium mortars 

IL-2 Sturmovik's Eye View of Soviet assault guns

The same Sturmovik taking a snap of Zis 3 Battery no 2 ... 

...and 122 mm Field Howitzers

And sweeping over the Tankovy: KV 1-Es, KV 2s and a single KV-85; 
T34s Obr 1941 (Stalingrad turret) and T34/76 Obr 1943s

The ungainly KV2s leading the way

T34/76 Obr 1943

T34 Obr 1941 w Stalingrad turren (I think)

Hastily applied whitewash Camo on two T34 Obr 1942 s and a T34/76

Pride of the Guard's Division: IS-2s

The heart of the Soviet assault: Strelkovy: The humble foot soldiers

Heavy mortars to beat the Hitlerites into submission

Medium Mortars too

Business end of the Medium 122 mm Field Howitzers

Cossacks on the warpath...

and dismounted

37 mm Antitank guns, and a commissar and standard bearer
(to enthuse those that may be slightly unwilling to fight for Mother Russia and Comrade Stalin)

9 June 2014

Back to Bagration?

The Russian Offensive: Operation Bagration

Not really "Back to Bagration", but the alliteration could not be resisted ! Have not played this historical era before, but working on it ! Maybe the title of this post should read "Backed by Bagration" reflecting the triple whammy landed on Hitler's Third Reich:

In Italy the fall of Monte Cassino, then Rome; in Normandy the D-Day landings, followed by Bagration in the East 1944 would deliver a series of crippling blows from which Reich could not recover.

Working away at my Fall/Autumn Russian 1/72 army for a few weeks:

Have almost finished my Siberian ski troops, all based now, just needing one more coat of paint.
Multiple Zis 3 76 mm Guns and 4 x 122 mm Howitzers at the ready, PTRDs and Maxim guns by the handfuls. Darn fiddly those Esci/Matchbox Maxims!

From Wiki: Operation Bagration (Russian: Oперация Багратион, Operatsiya Bagration) was the codename for the Soviet 1944 Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation during World War II, which cleared German forces from the Belorussian SSR and eastern Poland between 22 June and 19 August 1944.

The operation was named after 18th–19th century Georgian Prince Pyotr Bagration, general of the Imperial Russian Army who received a mortal wound at the Battle of Borodino.

The operation resulted in the almost complete destruction of an entire German army group, with the loss of Army Group Centre's Fourth Army, Third Panzer Army and Ninth Army. It is considered the most calamitous defeat experienced by the German armed forces during the Second World War.

By the end of the operation most of the western Soviet Union had been liberated and the Red Army had achieved footholds in Romania and Poland. German losses eventually numbered well over half a million men killed or wounded, even higher than the toll at Verdun in 1916.

The Soviet armies directly involved in Operation Bagration were the 1st Baltic Front under Army General Ivan Bagramyan, the 1st Belorussian Front commanded by Army General Konstantin Rokossovsky, the 2nd Belorussian Front commanded by Colonel-General G. F. Zakharov, and the 3rd Belorussian Front commanded by Colonel-General Ivan Chernyakhovsky.

The objectives of the operation were complicated. The Red Army practiced the concept of Soviet deep battle and maskirovka. One American author suggests that these Soviet innovations were enabled, in part, by the provision of over 220,000 trucks by the United States to motorize the Soviet infantry. It has been suggested that  the primary target of the Soviet offensive was the bridgehead on the Vistula river in central Poland, and that Operation Bagration was to create a crisis in Belorussia to divert German mobile reserves to the central sectors as a part of maskirovka, removing them from the Lublin-Brest, Lvov–Sandomierz area where the Soviets intended to undertake the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive and Lublin–Brest Offensive.

 This allowed the Red Army to reach the Vistula river and Warsaw, which in turn put Soviet forces within striking distance of Berlin, conforming to the concept of Soviet deep operations — striking deep into the German force's strategic depths.

Army Group Centre had previously proved tough to counter as the Soviet defeat in Operation Mars had shown. But by June 1944, despite shortening its front line, it had been exposed following the withdrawals of Army Group South in the battles that followed the Battle of Kursk, the Second Battle of Kiev and the Crimean Offensive in the late summer, autumn and winter of 1943–44, which the Soviets called the Third period of World War II. Operation Suvorov had seen Army Group Centre itself forced to retreat westwards from Smolensk during the autumn of 1943.

By the middle of June 1944, the Western Allies on the Cotentin Peninsula were just over 1,000 km (620 mi) from Berlin, while the Soviet forces at the Vitebsk Gate were within 1,200 km (750 mi) of the German capital. For the Third Reich, the strategic threats were about the same. Hitler underestimated the threat posed by Soviet troops facing Army Group Centre, and had redeployed ⅓ of Army Group Centre's artillery, ½ their tank destroyers and 88% of their tanks to the Southern front where the German high command expected the next major Soviet offensive to come. Army Group center only had a total of 580 tanks, tank-destroyers and assault guns. They were opposed by over 9000 Soviet machines. The redeployment of forces from Army Group Center left only 80 men defending every kilometer of the front line.

Bagration, in combination with the neighbouring Lvov-Sandomierz Offensive launched a few weeks later in Ukraine, allowed the Soviet Union to recapture Belorussia and Ukraine within its 1941 borders, advance into German East Prussia, but more importantly, the Lvov-Sandomierz operation allowed the Red Army to reach the outskirts of Warsaw after gaining control of Poland east of the Vistula river. The operation enabled the next operation, Vistula–Oder Offensive, to come within sight of the German capital. The Soviets were initially surprised at their success of the Belorussian operation which had nearly reached Warsaw. The Soviet advance encouraged the Warsaw uprising against the German occupation forces.

The battle has been described as the triumph of the Soviet theory of "the operational art" because of the complete co-ordination of all the Strategic Front movements and signals traffic to fool the enemy about the target of the offensive. The military tactical operations of the Red Army successfully avoided the mobile reserves of the Wehrmacht and continually "wrong-footed" the German forces. Despite the huge forces involved, Soviet front commanders left their adversaries completely confused about the main axis of attack until it was too late.

5th Guards advance during Operation Bagration

The end of Operation Bagration coincided with the destruction of many of the strongest units of the German Army on the western front in the Falaise pocket in Normandy. The number of troops involved and especially personnel and material losses inflicted on the Wehrmacht was much bigger in Bagration than in Normandy.

After these stunning victories, on both eastern and western fronts, supply problems rather than German resistance slowed the subsequent rapid Allied advance, and it eventually ground to a temporary halt.

However, the Germans were able to transfer armoured units from the Italian front, where they could afford to give ground, to resist the Soviet advance near Warsaw.