The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Author: Ken Newall (page 1 of 15)

1942 Campaign Commentary

The Axis force other than a final(?) spasm North of Moscow are now in a defensive posture and withdrawing in places on both of the major fronts. This therefore would seem a good point to review this campaigning year’s progress.

The Axis

The Axis plan was to isolate Leningrad from the rest of the country and through isolation ensure the fall of the city and elimination of all Soviet forces in the north and Finland. To this this they embarked on two separate (and diverging) objectives.

In the north the main thrust codenamed “Meatgrinder” was to capture by a single direct thrust the city of Vologda which occupies the vital rail junction between the East and Leningrad/Archangelsk

The southern attack codenamed “Fishhook” had Rostov as its territorial objective but was primarily designed to eliminate Soviet troops and tie up reserves and Soviet tank assets keeping them from engaging in the north.

At one point it looked as if Meatgrinder would succeed.  Although Vologda was never directly threatened the junction at point 2197 was occupied (ever so briefly) and Leningrad was placed out of supply on a couple of occasions. However a Soviet counter attack managed to encircle the advancing German column and they were forced to retreat losing some panzers along the way. Since that highpoint the Germans have repeatedly demonstrated that where they mass they can advance The Soviets for their turn have demonstrated an amazing ability to recover and fight back. So whereas the Germans have steadily advanced it has been at a snail’s pace and the winter rains now restrict any breakout opportunities.

Even in the face of this advance the Soviets were confident enough to strip away their best assets and launch their own (limited) counter attack North of Moscow which has resulted in the re-capture of a Moscow hex and the occupation of the Kalinin/Moscow rail line the consequences of which are still unfolding.

One small aside was the ill-fated attempt by a single panzer corps to drive directly NE from Moscow and try to flank the Soviet defence of the Upper Volga. This unit found itself cut off and made a fighting advance to the safety of its own lines to the NE. What was notable here is that this showed how, if determined and fed with reinforcements the Soviets could hold onto territory and were capable of local counter attacks against German front line units. One hex in particular requires mention. That is the fortified position at 2616.  This has held out throughout the campaign despite actual and considered attacks and has held steadfast as a bulwark against German attempts to clear a corridor along the East bank of the Upper Volga Indeed it could be said its defiance has facilitated the Soviet counter attack at Moscow to succeed for without this the flanks would have been more vulnerable to counter attack.

By any measure therefore “Meatgrinder” has failed in its objective.

The Northern Front in 1942

The Northern Front in 1942

By contrast in the south operation Fishhook achieved all of its objectives but not exactly as planned and demonstrated a classic error of the German command to maintain a momentum of mass aimed at the prime objective.

Initially the plan worked like clockwork; numerous penetrations of the Soviet fortified line between Stalino and Voronezh were made and the resulting encirclement battles at the frontier killed hundreds of points of Soviets. Their mobile reserves were drawn into battle and a number eliminated. The Axis forces then advanced rapidly into the great bend of the River Don and were careful to maintain their objective as Rostov rather than be diverted to Stalingrad en mass which was a tempting fruit.

However they did then make a strategic error. They believed that a small expeditionary attack across the Don just south of Stalingrad would block reinforcements and tie up Soviet relief forces heading to engage their main bridgehead across the Don 100 miles east of Rostov. Thus a small number of panzers moved across the Don just south of Stalingrad. They did briefly staunch the flow of reinforcements but were quickly surrounded in turn. These forces then had to endure a fighting withdrawal back over the river.

(The Soviet’s own ill prepared counterattack into the bend of the river added complications but was dealt with promptly and efficiently.)

Ultimately however the splitting of the forces proved more of a hindrance to the Axis than any benefit it gained them. The diversion of forces rendered the main thrust aimed at isolating Rostov and forcing surrender by encirclement moribund. Soviet reinforcements from the deep south hemmed in the Axis bridgehead which did not now have enough strength the engage these new troops.  The bridgehead was forced to halt its expansion until infantry and the troops from the Stalingrad region could be brought to bear. Due to two river crossings and a limited road network the latter took far too long and much longer than the Soviets re-deployment along the SE bank of the river where they engaged the main bridgehead while the panzers were still struggling back over the Don.

In the end Rostov was taken by direct assault but too few Soviets were eliminated in this second phase of the operation and crucially the dissipated German armour was not strong enough to confront the Soviet tanks who are now pressing against the bridgehead and harrying the retreat.

The larger question isthis; Did OKW made a similar mistake in their Grand Strategy by splitting their forces north and south and running Fishhook at all?

Would the Axis have been better to have put all their assets in the north? If they had done so it is quite likely Leningrad could have been isolated for a period but the Soviets unchecked in the south may well have launched a counter offensive of their own or more likely transferred many more troops and mobile assets against the Germans in the north.  This is a question that will never definitively be known all we do know is that the Germans have failed in the north and at the time of writing they are themselves now under dire threat of encirclement.

The Southern Front in 1942

The Southern Front in 1942

The Soviets

The Soviets are generally pleased with the position at the moment. It is true that it was a dire failure to react to the German breakout at Kalinin in late ’41 that put them under so much pressure in the  north but given that start they have much to be pleased about their current status.

They have for all practical purposes stabilised the line and have just launched their own winter offensive in the north.

Throughout the year although there were some early German breakthroughs in the north they organised their defence well with AT units strong armour units and managed after a while to pull back their armour assets into reserve. They do not fear the German strength now in the north. Furthermore they have through continued local counter attacks caused numerous casualties amongst the enemy armour. Their own attack north of Moscow has proven a good diversion from the main front and the recapture of a Moscow hex an added bonus.

Throughout the entire campaign despite the Axis actions in the south they have not diverted masses of troops south from this sector but managed to maintain just a sufficient amount for the job in hand.

In the south the Axis attack was initially devastating encircling many frontier forces and eliminating many more in the subsequent pursuit.  The Soviets did organise a well executed credible mobile defence to contain the Axis initial attack but their own counter attack inflicted only minimal damage to the enemy. Despite some losses they managed to withdraw most of their armour East of the Don and maintain a defensive reserve.

The defence of Rostov went as well as could be expected. The city itself fell but the Soviets have extracted considerable losses to the Axis mobile forces in the battles east of the Don.

Their own foray across the Don was however quite disastrous. Too few forces sallied West to attempt to trap the Germans across the river at Stalingrad but they were immediately and expertly dispatched by the Axis forces and Soviet command in the south has been far more cautious since preferring to mass and husbanding the remaining tank assets,

As far as drawing off troops which could have been used in the North the Soviets in the south did not call for many such assets north of Tula. They did use many of the reserves south of Tula and a few reinforcements were diverted south but throughout the campaign the Soviets have generally been masters of committing just the right amount of troops to a given situation. Not too much and not too little

Overall then the STAVKA are pleased with the conduct of their forces in ’42.

Currently they hope their new offensive will cut off all German forces in the region Kalinin/Moscow/Vologda and they can deal a deadly blow to their foe.

The Germans however have shown themselves repeatedly to be good in a crisis and strong mobile assets from the south will soon arrive to bolster the faltering northern forces so only time will tell how this next phase will develop.

Air War

Time and again the Germans have shown their mastery of the air. When the Soviets can mass they are able to achieve some local success but every time they mount a large offensive operation or engage the Germans head on the German technical superiority shows resulting in the loss of Soviet aircraft which are no march one-for–one against the German machines.

1942 NOV I Axis Turn

Weather Roll: The rains continue to fall but cold artic winds turn these to snow above the Arctic Circle. ,

Finland & The Army of Norway: Murmansk front no activity.

In the centre the Axis continue a slow pull back.

In the south the remains of 9thpz  pulls back into Jonesuii as the two remaining Finnish units from the main army cover the left flank and the rail line north. New German units arrive at Helsinki as engineers fortify pinch points throughout the central lake system.

AGN: The attack from Leningrad down the Kalinin line caught the Germans mid-way through their belated engineering attempts to fortify the area. The single Soviet rail break is repaired allows new units from Germany to bolster the front joining local reserves and rebuilt units at Kalinin march North. Further East the Germans reluctantly relinquish their hold on the Leningrad/Vologda line deciding not to leave a rear guard which is seen as easy fodder for the advancing Soviets. They hope that falling back to a supplied position will stiffen the defence.

The main attack East continues the German units seemingly oblivious to the crises unfolding further West. Two attacks are mounted. The northernmost is a low odds attack and disaster strikes as an Exchange takes out half the attacking divisions. The resulting force advancing on a one hex front is too weak to exploit the hole created and its advance after combat is hotly debated and may leave the attackers too weak to stand against a determined Soviet counter attack. A few miles south the Germans eliminate another Soviet stack but this is well backed by reserves and no exploitation is possible.

At the bridgehead over the upper Volga the local counterattack by the Soviets last turn cannot be sufficiently corralled so the line moves West conceding 3 hard won hexes to Soviets defenders and finally reliving the 4 hex siege of point 2616.

AGC: A few arriving training divisions swap places with front line units who move North to aid in the defence of Moscow while fortification of the line continues.

AGS. Operation Fishhook is officially declared complete and Axis forces are ordered to cross back over the Don and assume a defensive posture. Freed German armour prepares to entrain north to bolster the defence around Moscow and the North.

Air War. Tactical support aids the German northernmost attack but elsewhere the Luftwaffe mounts a multitude of raids against the Soviet rail system in the north. Flying in waves of two the bombing streams are intercepted by waves of Yaks and Migs unescorted the bombers suffer two eliminations and two Aborts but manage to Abort two soviet fighters and inflict 2 rail hits.

Aircraft in the south that can reach the main Soviet rail north/south bomb it and largely unopposed fragment the line with 3 hits.  The lone Soviet interceptor is Aborted.  Aircraft unable to reach the rail line transfer North.

Battle Report

Diced Attacks = 2
Soviet Losses = 32
German Losses = 10

1942 OCT II Soviet Turn

Narrative

“The Russian infantryman was virtually immune to seasonal and terrain difficulties, furthermore he was almost the complete master of the terrain.  There appeared to be no obstacles for the Russian infantryman. He was as much at home in dense forest as in the swamp or trackless steppe. Difficult terrain features stopped him only for a limited time; even the broad Russian streams were crossed quickly and with the help of the most primitive expedients. The Germans could never assume that the Russians would be held back by terrain normally considered impossible. It was in just such places that his appearance and frequently his attack had to be expected.

The Red infantryman could, if he chose to, completely overcome terrain obstacles in a very short time. Miles of corduroy roads were made through marshy terrain in a few days. Paths were tramped through forests; 10 men abreast with arms interlocked and in ranks 100 deep prepared these lanes in 15 minute reliefs of 1000 men each. Teams of innumerable infantrymen moved guns and heavy weapons whenever they were needed. The Russian materiel was useful in this respect; motorisation reduced to an absolute minimum, the lightest vehicles, tough horses that required little care, suitable uniforms and finally the human mass which moved all loads and performed all required tasks like a machine.”
Extract from “Fighting In Hell” Edited by Peter Tsouras c Greenhill Books 1995

Turn Report

Partisans: 5 rail hits inflicted

Finnish Front: In the centre the Soviets launch their attack eliminating some German Ski troops. Against overwhelming odds a tough Finish 1-6* regiment holds off an entire reinforced infantry division.  The elation is short lived as news of an unfolding disaster in the south reaches the commander.

An attack lead by two Tank corps, numerous Tankk brigades, various infantry groups and shored up by massed artillery and a large air presence engages 9th panzer in a direct assault. The Germans crumple under overwhelming odds and the cadre falls back to Jonesuii. The retreat exposes the flank of the second to last full strength Finish division on this front and with no escape it surrenders to a man in the face of a second Soviet assault. There is little now to stop a Soviet breakout into the central Finish heartland.

Finnland fights for its life

Finnland fights for its life

Leningrad Front: Soviet High Command re-designate the Front boundary at Cherepovets.  All forces to the West (and south of Leningrad) coming under the Leningrad Front, those reaming east and south to Tula form the Moscow Front including the Army of Moscow operating West of the upper Volga Canal/North of Moscow.

Sensing the time is right and fearful that every passing day could reveal the large build-up of troops to the Axis the Soviets launch a massive attack south all along the new Front.

Five attacks in all shatter the peace of this relatively quiet and hitherto defensive sector. The aim of the Soviets is to seize or at least interdict the vital rail junction north of Vyshniy Volchek. This line supplies the German drive to Vologda and its capture would plunge the entire German northern effort out of supply.

Two attacks either side of the direct route down the Leningrad/Kalinin line bypass the double stacked infantry division defenders secure in their forts but smash past their weaker comrades to the East and West. Newly raised Mech Corps and First rate 9-7-8 Tank Corp lead the advance.

To support this effort and with the secondary objective of forcing the Germans to evacuate their toehold on the Cherepovets/Leningrad line three other attacks through swamp forest and rivers rupture the German line with a single tank battalion at one point advancing to open terrain beyond. (The mud and ZOC/terrain costs prevent even the most mighty Russian formations overrunning the weakest German defenders)  In all 4 infantry/light xxs are cadred.

Soviet Winter offensive against AG North

Soviet Winter offensive against AG North

Moscow Front; The Moscow Front assumes a defensive posture with the exception of a thrust north from west of Yaroslavyl, which eliminates a mixed stack of German units and presses against their bridgehead East of the upper Volga

Army Moscow eliminates the lone German infantry xx trapped against the lakes and pushing West gains a further 16 mile advance consolidating their hold on the Moscow/Kalinin railway.

Voronezh Front. All quiet here.

Stalingrad Front; (formerly Rostov Front.)

Soviet armour formations press into the eastern flank of the Don bridge-head cadering a 12-10 pz. A second attack fails against stiff Axis resistance desperate to hold open the escape route as the main body of troops prepare to withdraw north.

Air War: In the south Soviet short range formations are able to concentrate against GS targets due to tardy German airfield construction which has lagged behind the main front. Long range strikes attempt to achieve some rail hits but are ineffective.

In the north the Soviets send out their long range bomber force to attempt to isolate the point of attack in the region of Vyshniy Volchek and short range forces attempt to bottle up the main German forces to the east should they attempt to pull back. In support of this latter action all Soviet Moscow based fighters run suppression raids against German fighters based at Moscow targeting the long range twin engine formations.

All these northern operations are largely ineffective although the one hit achieved will hinder the expected German transfer of troops north from the Don bend. German fighters strip away fighter support with patrol attacks and interceptors risk by-passing the remaining Soviet fighter escorts to target the bombers.

Over Moscow the fighters which survive the Patrol attacks are intercepted by strong German fighter forces. All Soviets jettison their bomb loads and engage the German fighter force but it is an unequal fight.

In all these operations cost the Soviets 7 eliminations and 2 aborts, the Luftwaffe having only 2 aborts in return. 2 hits on rail lines are made. The only crumb of comfort for the Soviets is that one of these hits is west and one east of Vyshniy Volchek so do protect the flank of the main attack but a single hit can quickly be repaired so the effect will be minimal if any.

Combat Report

Diced combats = 13
Losses: Germans= 51, Fins = 5
Soviets = 8, Soviet Air =7

1942 OCT I Soviet Turn

Narrative

Reuters Moscow 20th October 1942:
Report from front STOP Jubilant crowds in Moscow suburb of Istra STOP 1st Shock Army recaptures NW of city STOP Soviet forces claim advance N eliminates 5 enemy divisions STOP Peoples Commissariat For Information reports huge advances against Finland STOP Expect Helsinki by March 43 END

Turn Report

Partisans: 4 rail hits inflicted

Finnish Front:  Resource points arrive at the neck of the Kola peninsular ready to push back West towards Salla against the mixed German/Finnish forces. However the Soviets decide to wait until all forces are in place to maximise the effect of the precious resource points so no attacks are made this turn.

In the south the drive north from Lake Ladoga continues eliminating two cadres and the Finish armour brigade.. A full strength division is eliminated in its entirety as its cadre is pushed back against the unfrozen lake and has nowhere to retreat.

The destruction of the Finnish Army

The destruction of the Finnish Army

Leningrad/North Moscow Front. A Soviet push West along the Vologda/Leningrad rail line removes the Germans from the rail hex they so recently captured (cadering a Panzer xx in the DH) and relieves the out of supply section of front. Still two hexes of the line remain firmly in German control approx. 100 miles further west.

At the Leningrad/Valdai railhead under cover of darkness two tank corps (one a 9-7-8) joins the 11-8 mech xxx already in theatre as forces are built up for a surprise offensive designed to drive south towards Kalinin and capture the vital rail junction at  Vyshniy Volcheck which supplies the entire German drive to Vologda.

East of the German schwerpunkt newly arriving troops reinforce the defence and release more tank units into reserve.

1st Shock captures Moscow NW suburbs

SE AAR Oct I Soviet

Army of Moscow: The new army group strikes simultaneously north and south as it comes up against stiff German defences to the west. The northern hook cadres an infantry xx and a mot xx and eliminates a construction unit and light flack battalion, captures an airfield and traps a further 7-6 inf xx against the lakes to the north.

The southern attack achieves an even more successful result as lead tank elements bolstered by Guards infantry and an impressive battery of Katyuskas drive into the NW suburbs of Moscow recapturing the hex after 10 months of occupation.

Voronezh Front. All quiet here.

Rostov Front: Unimpressed by the single German pz holding onto a narrow 16 mile strip east of the Don near Stalingrad the soviets contain the unit with infantry and AT units and transfer all armour south. These units join others and drive into the eastern edge of the German bridgehead south of the Don driving it back 16 miles and eliminating two stacks of units with cadres fleeing back across the don and west. Meanwhile an NKVD regiment enters the southern defensive ring just one hex short of the city. It is hoped it can provide ideological resolve before the Axis can mount a major assault – It may be too late.

Don bridgehead under pressure.

Don bridgehead under pressure.

Air War: An airfield building program around Moscow starts to tip the balance of fighter air cover over this area. The northern attack goes in unmolested with GS raising the odds one level.

The southern Soviet attack into Moscow however is heavily contested by 8 German fighters (a mixed force of 109s and 110s) who attempt to bypass 7 Soviet fighters of Laggs, Miggs and Yaks

Of the 8 German units 1x ME109m is aborted, 1 Returned.. The 6 survivors attack the bomber stream inflicting 1 Kill, 2 Aborts and 2 Returns suffering no losses themselves thus only one of the engaged bombers gets through.

The Soviet bomber commitment however is more than sufficient even with these losses to raise the attack to the viable 4:1 (-1) needed and a HX captures the hex.

Battle Report

Diced Combats: = 7

Losses:
Soviets = 7, Air = 2

Axis: German = 42,
Eastern = 1,
Finns = 12,
Rumanian = 3 (Tk Reg)

1942 OCT I Axis Turn

Weather Roll: No change still clear except Zones A and B = Mud.

Finland & The Army of Norway: In the far north German forces lead by SS Nord and with air support retreat a Soviet division and advance to within 16 miles of the rail loops at the neck of the Kola peninsula.

The centre remains quiet.

In the south Finish forces struggle to retreat ahead of the Soviet advance and escape total annihilation. The Soviets are taking no chances and keep sufficient density to prevent any intervention by the 9th Panzer which is not prepared to risk an exchange.

Northern part of East Front

Northern part of East Front

AGN: Troops mass to engage the section of Soviet line which has had its supply cut but being themselves out of supply cannot get sufficient odds for a viable attack, so the Axis await the full effects of the Soviet supply difficulties to hit home. Lets all be out of supply together!

In the main drive German forces mass and push back a Soviet stack gaining a further hex towards the ultimate objective of Vologda, still 70 miles away. They also nip off a one hex bulge to the south of the main advance.

Against the Soviet drive north of Moscow the German forces are not yet sufficient to muster a counter attack but reinforcing reserve divisions and rebuilt Panzers move into the line as engineers start fortifying the current defensive positions. The fight-back will begin later.

AGC: No action

Southern part of East Front

Southern part of East Front

AGS: Axis units attempt the destruction of the Soviet troops in the great bend of the Don.  The mech division however survives an assault but is surrounded in exploitation.

The German panzer trapped near Stalingrad battles back to the main lines but remains east of the river. This move is intended to discourage the Soviet tank forces from moving south where they could strike against the main bridgehead east of Rostov.

That bridgehead does some tidying up, operating against weaker Russian stacks and consolidating their firm hold in the South.

Meanwhile to the north of the river Italian forces arrive from the Stalino assault and join a mainly Rumanian assault on the last remaining Soviet forces north of the Don. Except for the city itself, surrounded now on four sides, no Soviets remain North of the river in this sector.

The brave defenders of Stalino fall to a Hungarian assault bolstered with some German Rail Gun support (including Dora)

Air War: In the south Soviet fighter defenders achieve a rare victory when a large flight of Yaks lead by a Lend Lease P40E. Intercept a raid by Ju88As escorted by a ME110. Two of the mission force are eliminated and one aborted. The fourth turns for home. No soviets squadrons are lost although 2 return for extensive repair. (Aborted)

In the north Soviet fighters mob selected German DAS flights eliminating three more JU88As for the loss of two Laggs.

Overview over the Eastern Front

Overview over the Eastern Front

Battle Report:
Combats: Auto = 3, Diced = 9
Losses: Forts = 2, Soviet Un-Isolated = 47, Soviet Isolated = 6, Air = 2
German= 7, Rumanian = 2, Eastern Troops = 2, German Air = 5

1942 SEP II Soviet Turn

Narrative

“Yuri, pass me some of that gut rot you call vodka.”   “Hey!! who’s calling my vodka gut rot it’s made from the finest potatoes peelings money can buy! I made it myself only last week!”   “Yes but it stinks and tastes of the tank fuel you boiled it up with!”

“Don’t worry my friend, a fascist bullet will get you long before my vodka will.”

“That’s what I like about you Yuri, always the optimist!”.

“Boys – keep your voices down, The fascists don’t know we are here yet. Keep quiet and keep moving”.

“Don’t worry serge Yuri whispered back, almost there and those pampered fools are too fond of their comfort to be out on a night like this; Still holed up in their bunkers I wouldn’t wonder”.

Yuri and his vodka swilling comrade moved further forward. Damp cold and hungry they slid rather than crawled down the ditch that the rain has turned into a small torrent.

Only the sergeant at the rear occasionally ventured to peep up over the ravine sides to ensure they remained unspotted. “Faster, daybreak is only three hours away.” He urged.

Their target was a small mound a few thousand yards ahead barely perceptible above the plain. The Germans had ignored the slight rise concentrating instead on the main defile which lead straight from the airfield perimeter toward the rapidly approaching Russian line.

Yuri and his comrades were the advance party of a company which had been ordered forward to infiltrate enemy lines and occupy the high ground. There they would wait until their strength had built and they could engage the enemy from his vulnerable flank.

Just before daylight the operation was complete.  Yuri and his comrades had occupied the slight mound and dug in. They camouflaged themselves behind the light scrub and the small ravines that coursed down from the centre and they had welcomed a light mortar squad into their ranks.

Seemingly oblivious to the cold and damp they waited.

At daybreak the sergeant, looking out through his binoculars, confirmed their infiltration had gone like clockwork. The German flack unit and the shattered German division which had moved back onto the airfield three days earlier were completely oblivious to their presence on the flank.

Two hours later the whistles blew, and they rose from their hiding places – “Here goes Yuri! Now we will see if a fascist’s bullet is deadlier than your vodka!!

Turn Report

Partisans:
Inflict 5 more rail hits this turn; some close to the front lines which together with strategic rail bombing has caused delays and frustration for the German quartermaster and transport corps and is holding vital reinforcements from reaching the defenders north of Moscow.

Finish Front:
In the far north lack of resource points prevents attack despite numerical superiority.

In Southern Finland it is a different story as the front explodes shattering the former Finnish main front line.  Advance Soviet armoured elements penetrate the line and trap two infantry divisions struggling through the mud to reach safety further west. One is smashed to a cadre the second, surrounded, is forced into a complete surrender. The Soviets now seem unstoppable on this front and the Finns urgently petition Berlin for more assistance.

1942 SEP II Soviet Turn: Collapse of the Southern Finnish Front

1942 SEP II Soviet Turn: Collapse of the Southern Finnish Front

Leningrad/North Moscow Front
The German occupation of a second Leningrad/Vologda rail hex is a blow lessening the chance of a Soviet re-occupation of the line. They fear the 50 miles of unsupplied front could develop from a sore to a festering wound as happened at Kalinin last year. Units are tasked to move towards the sector to bolster the front but few are free to take up position in force and although they hope to have sufficient strength to resist further gains by the out of supply attackers they do not have enough strength to mount any sort of a counter attack.

On the main front units move to a defensive posture and brace for the inevitable German continuation of their main drive.

Army of Moscow
A new army group is designated under Timoshenko as the advance over the upper Volga continues. Unfortunately the initial hope of a drive into the undefended plains between Moscow and Kalinin is frustrated by the changed weather conditions. That same weather which stopped the German response to the attack now serves to prevent  the Soviet Tank corps from inflicting great damage on the mainly infantry defenders. Likewise the reduced mobility restricts the advance to 2 hexes. Nevertheless another fort and infantry division succumbs.

Voronezh Front
STAVKA realise a drive north from Tula at this point would put pressure on the German defenders and threaten Moscow but they simply do not have any spare offensive capability.

In time Infantry and AT units can replace the Tank corps defending against the main enemy drive to Vologda but currently the tanks need to remain to bolster the defence in this critical sector. For the moment, therefore, this Front remains quiet.

Rostov Front
The smashed force West of the Don flees back East but the single Mech division struggles to escape encirclement and reach safety. Doctrine prevents the unit retreating in the exploitation phase and its fate appears sealed.

Sep II '42: The Rostov Front

Sep II ’42: The Rostov Front

On the East bank however the Soviets counter attack with vigour. They eliminate the German bridgehead close to Stalingrad and trap once again the 3rd Panzer xx (16-10). Further south they drive into the weak German screen between the small lake system and the river Don and eliminate two Rumanian divisions pushing through and ZOCing 3 more Axis stacks. Units moving north from the Caucuses reach the Axis lines in force and clamp tight against the shrinking bridgehead immediately east of Rostov.

At Stalino the two surviving Guards cadres gain some reinforcement by organising other stragglers and survivors from the rubble of the shattered city into the equivalent of an infantry regiment. They brace themselves for the next, and final, attack.

Air War
In the north there is considerably more activity this turn as the Soviets send long range bombers against the rail net and try to eliminate Axis dive bombers and fighters by launching attacks against Moscow and Kalinin air bases. This new higher level of engagement is facilitated by an earlier period of airfield construction which places a large fighter and short range bomber force within striking distance of the front lines and enemy air bases.

To their great shock the Soviets encounter the German FW 190 fighter which eliminates and aborts two of the three squadrons sent to engage them without loss.

In the south activity is more muted due to few air bases and the bulk of the force transferring north to try and wrestle local air superiority from the Luftwaffe.

Battle Report

Attacks: Diced = 7
Losses; Forts = 1,  German  = 19,  Rumanians = 8,  Finns =  8  Air =  2 (one destroyed on the ground)
Soviets Air = 2

1942 SEP II Axis Turn

“The most common Russian form of combat was the use of mass. Human mass and mass of material were generally used unintelligently and without variation but, under the conditions, they were always effective. Both had to be available before they could be used so lavishly and were therefore dependent upon limitless Russian supplies. The Russian disdain for life, always present but infinitely heightened by communism, favoured this practice. A Russian attack which had been twice repulsed with unheard-of losses would be repeated a third and a fourth time at the same place and in the same fashion. Unimpressed by previous failures and losses new waves always came on. An unusual inflexibility of mind and unimaginative obstinacy lay in this use of mass and was dearly paid for. It is not possible to estimate Russian casualties in World War II with any degree of accuracy there will always be a potential error of many hundreds of thousands. This inflexible method of warfare with the objective accomplishing everything through the use of human mass is the most inhuman and costly possible.”

Extract from Fighting In Hell – the German ordeal on the Eastern Front edited by Peter Tsouras first published in Great Britain in 1995 c Greenhill Books.
Originally published in the early 50s from the US Department of the Army pamphlets “German Report Series”

The Soviets achieved all of their objectives last turn. Attacks pinned the German main thrust to Vologda and the penetration gained the bonus of eliminating half the German Rail Siege Guns. Elsewhere massed ranks of katyusha and Tanks corps forded the Volga canal and threatens German communications around Moscow. In the South the drive over the Don cut off the German spearhead probing towards Stalingrad and other units isolated German forces South and East of Rostov placing the city back in supply.
But now the cost is to be paid…

Turn Report

Weather Roll = 6.  Zones A and B now Mud!

Finland & The Army of Norway: In the far north and central Finland troops move into a defensive posture as Soviet forces slowly increase.

In the south Finish forces move back into the centre as fast as possible. The 16-10 panzer unit is impotent on its own against the solid ranks of Soviet armour, artillery and infantry slowly moving forward and harrying the retreating Finns.

AGN A low odds, out of supply attack thrusting directly north dislodges the Soviet defenders and allows advanced elements to occupy a second hex of the Leningrad/Vologda rail line placing 50 miles of Soviet front out of supply.

The combination of persistent rain turning the roads to a thick cloying mud and the Soviet penetration of the front to a depth of 30 miles halts the German move east. Forces organise local counter attacks and eliminate the two 6-4-8 Tk corps which overran the Rail Guns and the 9-7-8 Tk corps tethering them to the main Soviet lines.

The infantry probe westwards towards Kalinin is also eliminated by local forces at hand.

However the main Soviet thrust west of the Volga canal north of Moscow remains a serious threat. Two infantry divisions and a few flack and construction units are all that are at hand for the defence to supplement the cadred remains of the fortified line. A hastily rebuilt 12-10 panzer helps stem the tide but with most mobile units embroiled in combat and/or mired in the mud no other help is at hand.

AGC: Units shuffle north but reduced mobility limits the help that can be transferred to Moscow.

'42 SEP II Axis Turn: Army Group South strikes back

’42 SEP II Axis Turn: Army Group South strikes back

AGS: A second attack is launched against the now weakened defenders of Stalino. Most are eliminated but Soviet Commissars lead surviving guards units into the cellars and rubble of the city which remains in Soviet hands.

A mixed force of Axis Infantry and artillery reduce another fort adjacent to Rostov and a low odds attack pushes further into the swamps south of the Don.

The deep German probes into the Caucuses are recalled against the threat of the building mass of Soviet troops moving north.

Further north the Axis mobile forces east of the Don fight for survival and a swirling battle develops on the East bank and the victorious but weak German mech forces re-establish a line screening the Don south of the city from the Soviet tank corps which are now released back into supply.  The armour probing towards Stalingrad executes a fighting withdrawal and reaches the single hex bridgehead held by infantry and a Mech division. Between these two actions two trapped panzers manage to engage a Soviet mountain division and reach the relative safety of the Don crossing back west in the exploitation phase.

However it is in the great bend of the river Don that the Axis force s extract their most devastating revenge. The Soviets had established a screen line across the river in an attempt to isolate German forces east of it and the Axis infantry lining the west bank. This they achieved but in a tactical move for which they are famous the Axis forces execute a backhand blow against the overextended Soviet forces.

The infantry detach from the river and move west and German reinforcements and the last reserve units moved east trap the Soviet advanced forces in a vice. Two tank divisions are eliminated along with a number of tank and motorised infantry regiments. An old style Mech division is isolated and the majority of the Soviet forces west of the river are removed as an effective fighting force.

Air War: Although not without activity with a number of fighter/bomber interactions especially on the main Moscow Front little losses are inflicted and both sides loose just one unit each.

Battle Report

Attacks:  Over-runs = 3, Auto attacks =  6  Diced Attacks =  11
Losses:  Soviet Forts = 2; Soviet Isolated = 18; Soviet Un-Isolated = 88;  Soviet Air = 1
Total Soviet Losses = 106
German air = 1

1942 SEP I Soviet Turn

Summary

The soviets have suffered countless blows at the hands of Germany and her allies but are certainly not out of the game yet.

Local counter offensives across all of the active theatres inflict heavy losses on the Axis forces. Among the highlights:

  • Finland offensive gathers pace as two divisions and 2 artillery regiments suffer elimination together with German allies.
  • Pinning attacks in the north yield unexpected dividends as Soviet Tank Corps overrun the German rail-siege train.
  • Volga Canal breached – 3 forts cleared and 2 German divisions cadred.
  • Offensive launched across the Don German Division cadred Rumanian division eliminated.
  • Panzer division is cadred south of Stalingrad – 3 others isolated.
  • Anti-rail air attacks inflict 8 hits from 15 missions and Partisans break 5 more lines.

Turn Report

Partisans: Inflict 5 more rail hits this turn although not all are against converted lines most of which are held by security forces.

Battle for Karelia turn in Soviets' favour

Battle for Karelia turn in Soviets’ favour

Finish Front: North of the Arctic Circle a smattering of reinforcements fill gaps in the line stiffening resistance.

North East of Lake Ladoga Soviet mech and infantry forces advance to surround and pin a mixed German and Finnish stack which is eliminated while a Finnish cadre is also wiped out,

At the Northern tip of the lake forces driving from Leningrad eliminate another stack cadr eing an infantry division and taking an artillery regiment out of the game. As previously the Soviets know time is on their side in this theatre as Finnish losses mount well past their ability to replace them. The Soviets therefore do not risk a deep penetration.

Soviets Launch Offensive over the Volga Canal

Soviets Launch Offensive over the Volga Canal

Leningrad/Moscow Front. The Soviet Strategy on this front is to mount an offensive operation over the Volga Canal immediately north of Moscow. German entrenched divisions across the river are caught by surprise as a thousands of rocket tubes in the largest concentration of the war fire from their lines on the East bank of the river along a front 80 miles wide. Their fury is unleased as 6 tank corps including 3 upgraded 9-7-8s launch across the river.

One attack north of the lakes is simply designed to pin German opposition. It eliminates a fort and cadres the defending division but only a lone 3-6 inf xx advances across.

Directly north of Moscow the attacks cadre two divisions. Both retreat, one onto a 1-10 AA regiment guarding the airfield beyond. This stack is overrun by the Soviet Corps in the exploitation phase as second echelon troops fall in behind and drive 60 miles into the German rear.

On the Vologda sector two further attacks are launched designed to pin the German spearhead and limit the redeployment of forces to counter the Soviet advance. The attack south of the bulge 50 miles West of Yaroslavl drives 12 miles into the front before being halted by stiffening German resistance.

North of the bulge however confusion reigns in the German rear as a panicked panzer division flees 30 miles as the front collapses and Soviet tanks breakthrough the German line. They exploit a further 16 miles before being halted by the now halted panzer but their drive yields a spectacular dividend. Caught completely unaware is the main German Rail Assault stack comprising 1x 4-0-R, 2x 3-0-R and 4x 2-0-R which is overrun; the sole Flak battalion defending the stack from air assault offering little resistance to the massed guns of the two stacked tank Corps.

Soviet pinning attack eliminates German Siege Train

Soviet pinning attack eliminates German Siege Train

Voronezh Front – The Soviets contemplate a general assault to support the moves to the north and south but the forces have already been stripped of all offensive capability which makes any such move unviable so the sector remain quiet.

Rostov Front:  In a move designed to ease the pressure on the cut off forces south of Stalingrad the Soviets launch a limited offensive over the Don north of Stalingrad. Cadreing a German division and eliminating a Rumanian 3-6xx they advance in an arch from the breakout point in a South Western direction. Rumanian and German infantry lining the West bank ensure supply is still fed to their troops but the move is such that they will in their turn need to decide if they fall back or seek to hold the river. Axis reserves are limited in the area of the Soviet breakthrough and so the Soviet General Staff anticipate a general retreat by the enemy.

The cut off forces south of Stalingrad coalesce around the German units trapping them and launch local counter attacks where they can. The swirling battles on the open plains eliminate 2 x 2-1-10 Stugs and cadre a 12-10 pz division. The freed main Soviet force exploits back into supply. The two German Mech divisions who penetrated deep into the North Caucuses and a further panzer division around Stalingrad a re in turn trapped East of the Don.

The Rostov Front

The Rostov Front

Air War. In the south the Soviets aid attacks where needed out of range of German fighter cover still West of the Don.

In the north one large attack supports the soviet mechanised attack to the north of the main German bulge but German fighter opposition is poorly co-ordinated and no losses are inflicted to either side.

Otherwise the VVS concentrates on interdiction and flies 15 raids against the rail network inflicting 8 hits and limiting Axis response to the breakout north of Moscow. Critically two hits are on the rail line through Kalinin the main route for German forces transferring south from their heavy concentration in the north.

With no massed air battles taking place losses are light and each side loses only 1 aircraft.

Battle Report

Attacks: : Auto = 1, Diced = 12, Overruns = 2
Losses: Soviets =0
German Isolated = 3, Non-Isolated = 55
Finnish Isolated = 5, Non-Isolated = 5
Rumanian Non-Isolated = 3.
Total Axis Losses  = 71

 

1942 SEP I Axis Turn

Weather. Rain in the Arctic (Zone A = Mud) presages the start of winter.

Operations Meat-grinder and Fishhook operate true to their names

This is a turn of slogging and slicing as AGN and AGC grind forward at a snail’s pace while AGS bursts out of its bridgehead south of the Don to the east of Rostov and wheels…….?

Finland & The Army of Norway: In the far north and central Finland troops slowly move into attack and/or blocking positions. German forces welcome what meagre reinforcements OKW deem to spare for this theatre. (a few ski and high mountain battalions). No attacks are made.

In the South of the country north of Lake Ladoga the brave Soviet Tk xxx motti, out of fuel and hope finally succumbs to a combined Finish and German assault. The main Finish line however continues to pull back fearful that a breakout by Soviet forces could trap them as the gap between the ends of the U shaped defensive line grows shorter.

AGN:  German forces gain another hex directly north pressuring the rail-line to Leningrad still further and threatening to cross it 80 miles east of the existing occupation. A Mech and Panzer division are sent to help with this drive.

In the main drive East directly north of Yaroslavl, Axis forces are content to eliminate a one hex bulge in the line and widen the bridgehead from the bend north of the city by two more hexes. One of these attacks offered the opportunity for a further hex advance by overrunning a Guards Cadre in the exploitation phase but the force needed to achieve the required odds would leave no backup or follow up forces so the move is considered too risky given the preponderance of Soviet armour in the area.

The force which failed to eliminate the fort east of the upper Volga NE of Moscow is redirected 40 miles NE and eliminates another one hex bulge in the line.

AGC: No activity other than the final completion of the cross rail project linking north and south in a complete rail network – however security is not sufficient to protect the whole network and engineers are positioned to repair partisan damage as it occurs.

AGS: A Hungarian attack seizes Taganrog while Rumanian/German forces eliminate the other islands of resistance north of the Don outside of Rostov’s fortified ring. One Rostov fort is taken by direct assaults but the defenders fall back in good order into the city.  Only Stalino remains defiant brushing off a combined Rumanian/Italian assault. (4:1 (-1) = NE).

South of the Don the middle of the doughnut of the Axis two pronged Don crossing which is held by a 5-6 Guards infantry is eliminated by infantry who crossed and massed artillery on the north bank with some armoured support from the advanced force turning inward.

The Axis break out!

The Axis break out!

Then in a surprise move the remaining panzers in the southern bridgehead instead of turning Southwest again to attempt a second, more sustained investment of Rostov turn instead Northeast toward Stalingrad. They smash into the hastily prepared Soviet line along the river formed by the outflow from the lake to the south. A 5-4-8 Gds Cavalry holds up the drive momentarily but the cadre is overrun in the exploitation phase as panzers move behind the Don river defenders and reach the Soviet reserve/strike force of three Tk corps and their supporting rocket, motorized and tank brigades. Simultaneously the Germans commit their last mobile reserves save for the Rumanian 1st pz and a tank division arriving in theatre and force a further crossing of the Don at a point 80 miles south of Stalingrad. One panzer swings north to ZOC the gap between the Don and Volga just south of Stalingrad to prevent Soviet counter thrusts from that direction. A mech division holds the bridgehead with a lone Stug Battalion holding a supply route open.  This move places almost the entire Soviet force south of Stalingrad out of supply.

This is not sustainable but is hoped to break up any Soviet counter attack and buy the Axis an extra turn to enable infantry and other troops to cross the Don and assault the city of Rostov from the south.

Supply via the Caucuses is frustrated by a mech division reaching the duel rail lines at Armair

Air War: The air war follows the usual pattern of AS and DAS in the north  and wider ranging rail attacks in the south achieving 3 hits  in an aim to frustrate Soviet reinforcement movements. In a rare victory intercepting fighters sallying from Rostov down two ME110s for no loss.

Battle Report

Attacks: Overruns = 1, Auto = 2, Diced = 11
Losses: Forts = 4 Soviet Isolated = 22    Non Isolated = 38,  Air = 2
German Air = 2

1942 AUG II Soviet Turn

Narrative

Anton lifted his ear from the rail track. “It’s coming, get ready” he shouted..  His jumped down the embankment and sprinted to the cover of the treeline along the side of the railway.

The train came pounding along the track, steam belching, for all it was worth. These woods were a perfect ambush site and the engineman was taking no chances. It was a troop transport, Anton’s favourite target. Stealing the enemy’s supplies was one thing but he had vowed revenge.  Anton watched as the engine and first flatbed with its antiaircraft guns pointing skyward passed; counted three more carriages, then shouted “Now”. A plunger was pressed. The explosion lifted the fourth carriage two feet into the air. It dropped back toward the rails but they were now so twisted out of shape that the wheels found no traction and the carriage started to slide sideways. As it twisted the coupling to the front gave way. The engine and front of the train sped on to safety.  The momentum of the last five carriages drove them forwards thrusting the middle two skyward till they in turn fell back and slid down the bank turning as they went. “Fire” shouted Anton.  The forest treeline erupted into a hail of fire pouring into the carriages. Soldiers that had been “lucky” enough to be thrown free were the first to be cut down.

Some of the group used captured machine pistols but Anton still favoured his father’s old hunting rifle. He raised it, saw a soldier struggling to get out through a window and shot him dead.  A few stray bullets whizzed over the heads of the attackers but they did not pause. Inevitably the occasional shots became denser and steadier as the defenders got organised. Anton glanced up the track and saw more soldiers running back down the tracks from the engine which had stopped a few hundred yards away. “Time to go comrades” he cried. . He turned and joined his fellow partisans as they melted away into the dense forest undergrowth. The enemy would not stray more than a few yards after them for they knew that to do so was suicide.

Later that night the group sat around the campfire exchanging stories of their daring deeds of the day. It was six months since Anton had joined the band. His fearlessness and daring ruthlessness fuelled by his need for revenge and redemption had soon got him noticed and now he led a Section. Indeed the band as a whole was beginning to be referred to as “The Anton Brigade”.

He carved a sixth new notch on the butt of his father’s hunting rifle and wiped it clean. Today was a good day.

Soviets assault Finland.

Soviets assault Finland.

Turn Report

Partisan Attacks = 3 Rail hits

Finish Front:  The line in front of Murmansk is now stabilised and reinforcements continue to flow from the south strengthening the central front and allowing some fight back but the Soviet advanced forces are now out of regular supply so progress is slow targeting weak units such as lone bdr regiments.

Around the shores of Lake Ladoga attacks east to west and west to east damage Finish defenders but the victors content themselves with a pair of strong one hex advances. These threaten to trap the Finnish main front line without the need to expose Tank units to a riposte by the powerful 9th Panzer.

Leningrad/Moscow Front. A great victory!!!.

The stack comprising a 16-10 and 12-10 panzer cut off and surrounded is finally eliminated and with no retreat route the battered survivors trapped in the swamps NE of the main German lines surrender. This assault however takes the whole striking power of the Soviet Tank Corps in the area so little other activity takes place here other than strengthening and consolidation of the line; with DAS where needed. A hex of forces jutting into the lines is evacuated save for a lone 6-4-8 acting as a breakwater to split the German tide of advance.

Soviet attempts to relieve Rostov fail.

Soviet attempts to relieve Rostov fail.

Voronezh Front – No activity other than rail repair and a small number of troop movements south.

Rostov Front: The Soviets assemble an armoured strike force to engage the Axis forces south of the Don but fail in their assault against the northernmost panzer (NE).

Forces from inside and outside Rostov finish off the cadre of the 6-10 motorised infantry division positioned south of the city.

Along the north bend of the mighty Don a spoiling attack by a tank corps fails to inflict losses against a Rumanian infantry division which retreats in good order. The Attackers withdraw back over the river in the exploitation phase.

Air War: As previously most Soviet air flies Defensive Air Support in the Moscow area. In the south a navigation error places a flight of 3x ME110s within striking distance of powerful Soviet fighter forces and two of the three are eliminated in the engagement. In the north a mutual elimination is achieved by a pairing of a ME109F and I-16.

Battle Report

Diced Attacks = 7
German Losses – Isolated = 30.  Finish Losses = 6

« Older posts