The General Staff Archives

Europa Games and Military History

Author: Ken Newall (page 1 of 16)

1943 JAN II Axis Turn

Weather. No change.

Finland and the Army of Norway: The Salla road becomes a boundary of movement as all forces to the north fall back towards Murmansk while those on and to the south move westwards. Finish forces form points of resistance on rail lines to stop the forces in the north from being outflanked by the Soviets moving north from below the Arctic Circle but any pretence of a front line is abandoned as the fragmented forces try to escape west.

In the south of the country the massive motti of 3 inf xxs, a cavalry x and a German and Finnish construction unit breakout SW destroying the Soviet 3-8 cav xx baring the way 60 miles NE of Kotka. In this they are aided only by a lone German tank battalion from outside the pocket. Finnish airpower combines with Luftwaffe level bombers out of Kaunas to provide air support. The Fins escape for another turn but with three soviet tank corps flanking them to the south this is likely to be a brief respite.

Along the coast a thin screen of cadres and low grade German infantry divisions Is all that bars the way to the capital.

Panic in Finland

Panic in Finland

AGN; German units fall back west reinforcing the screen on their north flank as the pocket collapses reducing the perimeter.  Engineers hastily fortify positions along the Kalinin/Leningrad road where the Axis hope to stabilise the line.  North of Moscow the Soviet one hex bulge created last turn is repelled with great losses on the Soviet side.

AGC: No activity of note.

AGS: Despite the appearance of Soviet Guards and Tank units the mixed Axis force presses on with operation Oxbow with 5 attacks consolidating their foothold on the east bank of the upper Don and eliminating some more stacks of Soviet units. However retreats result where eliminating were needed and eliminations where a retreat would do so gains are limited. The German mech units who have now arrived to aid in the attacks limit their exploitation in the light of the Soviet build up.

Operation Oxbow continues

Operation Oxbow continues

Air War:  Despite bombastic promises that the mighty Luftwaffe could supply an entire army Ju52s only manage to deliver one SP of supply to the beleaguered panzer force now far to the east of the retreating front east of Kalinin. This places the cadre in supply but the pz xx remains half strength (U2).  An intercepting Yak7B is eliminated by the FW190 escorts.

In other battles 6 raids seek to prevent reinforcements in the south interfering with the offensive there but only 2 hits are scored against the rail net.

Battle Report:

Diced Attacks = 7
Losses Soviet; res pt =1 , AA=1,
Soviet ground = 43   Soviet Air = 1

1943 JAN I Soviet Turn

Turn Report

Partisans = 3 hits on rail lines

Finish Front: Ski units continue to swing wide of the Germans in front of Murmansk forcing them to retreat in line to avoid encirclement.

The push continues through Salla eliminating two German battalions.

Meanwhile troops driving north cross the Arctic Circle threatening to roll up the central forces from the south.

The main action however is south of the Arctic Circle. Here the Soviets clear the central lake system and continue to move into the Finish interior.

Along the Baltic coast the single tank corps pushes through and eliminates the sole Finish cadre defender with ease. The subsequent advance links with the cavalry unit which infiltrated last December and traps the remaining three Finish Divisions sealing the fate of the main Finish Army defending the capital. It is now only a matter of weeks before the country will fall to the invader. German forces land at Helsinki ready to bolster the defence but the ultimate outcome is assured by the arrival of two more full strength Tank corps transferred from the main front in the south.

Finland in Peril

Finland in Peril

Leningrad Front: High density artillery and Guards Rocket concentrations pound the German Fortified forest crossroads north of Kalinin. The bastion is assaulted from 4 sides and finally falls having been a breakwater against the Soviet hoards for many months.

50 miles to the west a tank lead assault gains another hex pushing the defenders onto the rail line leading East from Veliki Luki, This is a vital artery supplying all the German army to the East and those forces fighting a rear guard action in front of Kalinin – should the Soviets gain a lodgement here the previous Axis losses could pale into insignificance compared to the potential slaughter of an unsupplied army still moving West from its High Tide mark.

The extreme easterly point of this fighting withdrawal is assaulted on a 3 hex frontage but the defending mech XX and comrades retreat in good order.

In front of Kalinin however a concentrated assault by armour and rockets eliminates a fortified infantry division and the Soviets have an opportunity due to their high force concentration to overrun the resulting cadre. However they decide against this move which would bring them into the Kalinin suburbs because of the lack of follow-up forces and the high numbers of powerful enemy panzer formation in the area. Instead the assault force dissipates to brace the flanks against any German riposte.

No Winter quarters for the Axis as the Soviets pound the german defences

No Winter quarters for the Axis as the Soviets pound the german defences

Moscow Front: The Soviets continue with their assault to recover the capital and smash a defensive stack immediately to the north of Moscow NW in order to extend the frontage for the planned assault. This hex which has changed hands already a number of times protrudes into the Axis lines tempting a counter attack in this tit for tat positioning battle for the city.

Voronezh Front: Practically untouched for a year the southernmost hexes are now subject to assault by the Axis pushing East over the Don. New recruits head south from the city to bolster the defenders as arrivals and transfers rush in to the theatre. The Soviets are determined not to repeat the mistake of ’42 when an unsupplied stretch at a town called Kalinin in the north transformed into a gaping breach which almost cost them the war.

So instead of holding the line out of supply units pull back towards the supply railroad 90 miles East and make ready to form up with the new arrivals.

Stalingrad Front: One stack is retained South of Rostov but all other mobile reserves are transferred north to aid the defence of the upper Don.

Air Battles: Some assaults are made against rail lines with a couple of hits as a result. The main highlight is the defiant actions of the Finnish Air Force in the north which together with targeted AA fire aborts 3 IL2s and returns a fourth resulting in all soviet raids failing in their missions.

Battle Report

Auto Attacks = 1, Diced Attacks = 11

Losses:
Forts = 2
German = 58
Finish = 3

Soviets = 24.

1943 JAN I Axis Turn

Narrative

Date: Jan 3rd 1943 13.00 hrs
Location; Voroshilovgrad
Situation; Briefing room at AGS HQ.

Field Marshal Paulus recently promoted for his successful implementation of Fishhook and the capture of Rostov points at the situation map spread out on the table. He is surrounded by a coterie of senior officers in the former drawing room of the Tsarist manor house currently used as the HQ of Axis Army Group South.

The map is marked with what, to the untrained eye, is a spider’s web of lines, circles and arrows, some solid, some dotted all annotated with symbols and numbers,

Titled “operation Oxbow”, to the military minds assembled however it described in great detail the latest plans for the Army Group, assembly points, routes of march, expected points of enemy resistance and possible routes of counter attack. Paulus pointed to a confluence of rail lines and rivers on the Don approximately 80 miles South of Voronezh.

Our Hungarian allies will strike here with engineers to assist the initial river crossing. 7th panzer and 29th PzGren with 503 Hvy Tk battalion, recently redirected from their march to support AGN, will provide assistance then pass through the breech and exploit in an easterly direction securing the flank from any interference by the enemy concentrations in the region of Voronezh.

In the centre Colonel Grazi and his 16th Italian corps will cross here securing the enemy airfield on the East bank of the Don. This attack is to be supported by 12th 30th and 87th infantry divisions and the 183 Tk battalion.

The southern crossing will be managed by the Rumanian 2nd Army and will cross at these points here, here and here; the southernmost fully frozen section of the river. Attack force comprises the 3rd, 5th, 8thand 10th Rumanian who will eliminate the opposition with the assistance of 8th pz and 24th panzer. The mobile elements will keep this tributary as right flank demarcation and will exploit in the direction Borisoglebsk.

Reports are that the enemy is in supply difficulty in this entire sectoe due to the poor weather and will offer little resistance.

Operations to begin simultaneously in all sectors at .07.00 hrs 20th January.

Any questions?

“Will co-ordination will be a problem sir, with all three Axis partners?”

“Our axis partners are separated by our own troops who will assist in the initial attacks and “keep the peace” as it were

Detailed plans are being prepared and will be dispatched by a few high ranking officers to ensure maximum security.  Weather is not good and enemy recognisance is limited to a few short good weather windows so surprise should be total.

Date 5th January 1943   07.45hrs
Location: .Millerovo airstrip.
Situation: Embarkation building. “Luigi have you got my document case?”, “Yes commandant.”  “Good, then we can go”. The pair walk across the crisp snow covered field to the waiting courier transport aircraft. Standing on its tall rigid undercarriage, high mounted wings stretched out it did indeed look like its namesake, a stork poised for flight.

As they strapped in the pilot tuned and remarked. “We need to hurry sirs the meteorologists favour a storm blowing in from the Southeast and we only have a narrow window to reach the 16th’s landing strip”.

“We are ready pilot, please leave at your convenience.”

The aircraft reached the end of the runway and leaped skyward, clearing the embarkation building they had just left and gracefully turning in a wide arc headed for its destination.

Date 5th January 1943   08.40hrs
Location: Somewhere over the frozen Don in the region of the front line.
Situation: Desperate.

The pilot shouting over the roar of the engine and the gathering storm addresses his superior and the adjutant “Hold on this is going to be rough the weather boys got it wrong again. The storm has closed in far quicker than expected. I am trying to get a safe set down point. The 16th airstrip is completely snowbound but the 5th Rumanian reports a pocket of clear weather over their position so I will try for there, hold tight.”

As he speaks the plane lurches to the right and plummets downward dropping 100 meters in a few seconds; the pilot battling with the controls.  Miraculously he holds the plane level and it descends. Gaining level flight on he turns the craft left and right. All are desperately searching the squall to find any patch of clear sky or ground. After 20 minutes or so the adjutant cries “Over there, to the left!!, I think I see some lights!”.

The pilot turns the plane in the direction the adjutant is pointing straining with all his might on the control stick forcing the light airframe against the power of the winds menacing the plane.

“Yes! I see them it must be the Rumanians.”

Minutes later the plane slams down hard between the line of kerosene flares, and bounces three times before becoming earthbound. Just as it is seems safe for the occupants to breathe again the aircraft is sent skittering left by a sudden gust of side wind. Running off the beaten earth runway. the frail undercarriage finally gives way and the plane upends and cartwheels once finally coming to a shuddering halt; inverted.

The pilot’s head hangs limp, his body crumpled over the control stick. The colonel grabs his briefcase as flames start to lick into the passenger compartment and turns to his adjutant. Sensing life he drags him from the wreckage. He sighs’ relief and shouts for help to the advancing soldiers emerging from the gloom of the snow flurries, rifles raised.

An officer steps forward. “Welcome gentlemen to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics,; Colonel, let me relieve you of your briefcase”

Date 7th Jan 1943 09.03 hrs
Location; Hungarian 3rd Corp HQ West bank of the Don approximately 80 miles south of Voronezh
Situation; Radio room

“I repeat, no contact with Colonel Grazi’.  Plane did not arrive as scheduled.. AGS HQ advises must assume plans for Operation Codename “Oxbow” compromised. Attack brought forward to 10th. AGS aware mobile elements still en-route. Secure bridgehead and await further instructions. Confirm receipt STOP.

Turn Report

Weather: No change

Finland & The army of Norway. The German mountain corps withdraws from its position and falls back north towards Murmansk on reports of Soviet flanking moves from ski patrols. Two attacks are planned to seal the breach between the corps and the defenders moving NE on their right flank which has become separated allowing more enemy ski troops to penetrate the line. One attack fails due to lack of supply but the other eliminates a ski unit.

Elsewhere the Fins withdraw support in the north and transport good units south to try and slow the Soviet advance on the capital. This puts a further strain on the Finish/German relationship, already difficult due to Mannerheim’s repeated requests for more assistance in the south; and forces a general retreat in the centre to close the gaps left by the Finn’s withdrawal.

In the south of the country forces desperately move west along the coast to halt the invader.

AGN: The Axis here face a dilemma. They sense hope as the headlong rush West eases and risk of a major encirclement starts to fade as the majority of troops are approaching the new defence line in front of Kalinin.

Mustering their forces they have two alternatives  1) to attempt a rescue against the encircled Panzer and cadre and hold an easterly line as an escape route for  infantry struggling south through the marshlands or 2) Use the troops moving West and those attacking East to mass against the Soviet Tank Corps thrusting north from the Upper Volga bridgehead.

Reluctantly they abandon their brothers in arms to inevitable destruction and mass against the Tank Corps.  To hold East would risk encirclement and suck more forces into the maw of the advancing Red Bear.

The attack goes in and eliminates the entire Soviet corps only two cadres surviving.

This is the only attack on this front but brings relief to the Axis who dare to hope that they have checked if not halted the Soviet advance.

AGC: No Action

AGS:  A new operation is launched, codenamed Operation Oxbow, against the Soviet units along the narrow section of the Don bend. About 6 hexes of which are U2 due to the limited rail net on the eastern side of the river. The name is derived from the complex confluence of roads and a sweeping river bend about 80 miles south of Voronezh which impedes Axis use of the roads while it is in Soviet hands. The attacks range from here to the thickening of the Don further south.

Operation Oxbow

Operation Oxbow

The attacks go in prematurely before the tanks and mech units in place because the ruse of troop rotation cannot be used for too long and the Soviets are starting to reinforce this sector as demand for troops in the north diminishes.

(Up to now most reinforcements have been sent north but as the front their contracts the density is such that the Russians are fully stacked along most of that front.)

In a truly international operation 5 attacks are launched in total including German, Rumanian, Hungarian, Italian and Slovakian troops. Results are mixed with 2x DE and 3xDR results. Unfortunately the DEs are away from the panzers and the DRs in front of them. They are too far back and un-concentrated to exploit but 5 hexes are gained on the East bank.

Air War:  Most Axis efforts in the north are DAS as they shore up their defences and in the south interdiction is used to impede soviet moves against the crossing of the Don.  A number of operations are contested and a JU87R and Ju88A are exchanged for a Yak7B

Battle Report

Diced Attacks: = 7
Losses:  Forts = 2, Soviets = 45
Air: German = 3 Soviet = 1

1942 DEC II Soviet Turn

Narrative

Alexei pulled the controls gently left and then right as he swept over the leading edge of the friendly front line below.  Looking back he saw a wave in acknowledgement from his comrades. Dropping down over no-man’s land he pushed forward and almost brushing the tops of the occasional stands of birch sent snow flurries skyward from their heavy snow laden branches in his wake.

His orders were as usual quite perfunctory, “Fly north till you find your target, you will know when you are there, then attack”. His passage over his earthbound comrades had awed him despite his years of experience on the northern front around Moscow. He had flown over lines of cavalry, ranks of artillery, columns of tanks and the unmistakable formations of rocket equipped trucks also heading north. But what impressed him the most were the long files of men marching forward with a spring in their stride. After 18 months of brutal warfare they were going to give Fritz a taste of his own medicine.

He flew on north, the weather closing all the time. Keeping low to avoid icing and to minimise the lead time for ground observation it was difficult at times to distinguish the grey of the snow covered ground and the grey of the laden autumn sky but he was soon aided by his approaching target.

Stretching across the horizon east to west was a black line clearly separating land from sky.

Stretching out as far as his eye could see was a miserable tide of bearded, bedraggled and lice ridden humanity, in stark contrast to the proud warriors who had driven west and who had almost succeeded in their aim of conquering his proud country.

Now the boot was on the other foot and Alexei was about to deliver a good kicking.

He pulled back on the stick to gain altitude for his attack run. Some of the young bucks in the flight suggested strafing along the column to cause maximum damage; they generally died young.

Alexei however had developed his own style and was a longstanding veteran of his squadron as a result.

He rolled right and dove diagonally across the column of enemy troops and machines. Finger pressed on the trigger the bullets from his guns cut a swath through the enemy ranks. Some targets dived for cover others seemingly oblivious to the danger plodded on.

His low approach and swift transit meant the enemy had no time to react to his attack.  Pulling out from his dive he swept the plane up and left spiralling to gain more altitude. His reconnaissance by fire had revealed an enemy tractor struggling to pull a large artillery piece along the road now churned to soupy, icy mud by the passage of many before it. This was his target. He flew back across the column and pressed the bomb release. His twin payloads of destruction fell earthward and landed right on target. Hearing the crump, crump of the impact he looked back to confirm that he had hit his mark. Satisfied, he dropped down to floor level for his flight home.

Below him those who had sought shelter in the frozen earth rose up…..and the column shuffled on….. 

Turn report

Partisans: Increased Axis security reduces activity to 3 successful attacks on the enemy rail net.

Finnish Front:  Soviet forces infiltrate across the centre of the string of lakes south of Murmansk while ski units sweep around the left flank of the enemy.  On the road to Salla troops drive NW. The Axis line from here to its termination south of Murmansk is thus fragmented by manoeuvre and threatened with isolation.

The only attack is from Salla where minor units are exchanged.

Below the Arctic Circle the elimination of the Finnish army and its Nazi accomplices continues with the destruction of 9th Panzer. This gallant unit has survived attack after attack and held back the Red Tide for months and months but inevitably the dice finally rolled against them.

For those in the Finnish and German High commands who thought perhaps there was hope to salvage the situation comes a further and probably final blow which shatters any such dreams.

The Soviets open another axis of attack this time directly along the coast from Vipurii driving direct for Helsinki. A massed attack lead by an 11-8 mech corps shatters the centre of the Finish fortified line and the 11-8’s advance isolates a further fortified position. Meanwhile just to the north the 3-8 cavalry xx again lunges forward over frozen lakes and infiltrates the Axis line deep into the rear.

Finland on the Brink

Finland on the Brink

Leningrad Front: The Axis policy of strengthening the line in the north and counter attacking in the south starts to pay off. Despite their best efforts the Soviets cannot concentrate to achieve sufficient odds to mount an attack against the stiffening Axis MLR. They do mass adjacent to the rail line to Kalinin and eliminate a wooded fort but this takes them no closer to the critical E-W rail line. It will however give them an extra hex purchase for their impending attack against the central hard nut of Axis resistance – the fortified forested hex barring the way along the rail line south from Leningrad.

Around the easternmost bulge of the rapidly shrinking German army however it is a different story. With a Guards Mech unit in the van German resistance is shattered and the unit drives south meeting comrades advancing north. They trap a full strength and a cadred panzer unit.  Meanwhile by sheer weight of force another panzer is eliminated.

The reverse Meatgrinder

The reverse Meatgrinder

Moscow Front: With the leading edge out of supply the drive north stalls at the tip but follow up forces eliminate the isolated German fort and another infantry division is cadred and its supporting flack and engineers eliminated in front of Kalinin.

VICTORY: Central Moscow falls to a massed attack!!  With engineers leading the assault artillery including rocket and artillery divisions and siege guns join with guards infantry to storm the Central Moscow hex which is retaken.  This is a severe blow to the Nazis hopes of holding the city and the news is suppressed back in Berlin.

Voronezh Front: No activity

Stalingrad Front: No notable activity. Railroad repair and fortification continues.

Air War: No notable large battles but a 0-8 Finnish AA unit turns back 3 Soviet bombers denying them a column shift in one of their assaults.

The Soviets complete a large airstrip building program south of Leningrad to allow their short range fighters to keep pace with the advancing lines.

Battle Report

Diced Attacks: = 16
Losses:  Forts = 4, German = 89. Finns = 5
Soviets = 24
Air : German = 2 (on the ground in Moscow) Soviet = 1

1942 DEC II Axis Turn

Narrative

The column stretches for 100 miles, A miserable tide of bearded, bedraggled and lice ridden humanity, in stark contrast to the proud warriors who had driven West a year ago. With uncertain and sporadic supplies resulting in fuel and food shortages the mass shuffles forward; the tail trying to keep up with the head. The tail constantly harried by the snarling biting beast at its back. The Russian Bear has awakened from its summer hibernation and is prowling the steppe once again.

In the column’s wake the detritus of 20th century conflict; burned out and abandoned vehicles, the rotting corpses of dead animals and men and hanging over all the smoke and acrid stench of burning fuel oil, buildings and funeral pyres.

Black dots approach from the south and a cry goes out. Some dive into the snow filled ditches and icy cold water lining the road desperately seeking cover. Most shuffle on, seemingly oblivious or immune to the roar of enemy planes, the rat-tat-tat of bullets and the crump of explosions sending shards of death into the mass.

This is the road to Velikiye Luki. This is Total War in December 1942.

Turn Report

Weather: Snow falls across all of Russia in A, B and C zones with Mud in D and Frost in G.

Finland & army of Norway:  Quiet in the North.

In southern Finland a counter attack is made against the 3-8 cav xx which infiltrated last turn. The Finish 3rd Inf XX (6-6)  falls back and the 9th Pz and 3-8 cav* is joined by a newly arrived 2-1-10 pz II to force the Soviets back across the icy lake and the 3rd escapes to freedom. The 9th pz returns to its blocking position in the exploitation phase.

Southern Finland: The escape of 3rd Inf

Southern Finland: The escape of 3rd Inf

AGN: The Axis continue with the policy of blocking the northern thrust and attacking on the southern flank. They do however assemble an attack formed from inf xxs, engineers and mobile units. With Viking leading the charge the force hits a 11-10 tk unit which has advanced into the Valdai lake system.  It is annihilated and the cadre with nowhere to run is cut down. The line is restored but weak spots still remain.

This is nowhere more evident that in the right of centre of the line where the Soviet Guards Mech unit broke through. With a few scattered cadres able to fill the line there is nothing the Axis can do to hold back the drive only slow its progress.

The 3 panzer/pg units at the trailing edge of the march West risk encirclement but it is everyone for themselves now at the exposed eastern end of the column.

Immediately east of Kalinin however a serious counter attack is launched with a view to caving in the Soviets left flank and pushing east . The attack targets a large stack of artillery and katyuskas which is supporting a 10-8 mech , they fall back with the 10-8 covering the retreat.  The German panzers concentrate in the advance and exploit NE overrunning a U2 9-7-8 tank unit oblivious to the DAS above it.

40 miles northwest of this prepared assault a hastily mounted attack comprising of a hodge podge of cadres, engineers, flak, security and fleeing pz cadres eliminate the U2 9-7-8 tx unit which had captured the rail line a fortnight earlier.  Supplies are thus restored to the whole army but the hold is tenuous and open to counter attack.

The cut off fort plays no part being some 20 miles behind the front line.  The troops simply sit tight and await their inevitable fate.

Central Front: The Axis fight to escape West

Central Front: The Axis fight to escape West

Moscow sector: An attack is mounted on the 26th Army which temptingly projects into the German fortified line. The stack is eliminated with one Guards cadre all that survives the determined attack.

AGC: No action

AGS: Rumanian, Italian and Hungarian troops start to consolidate their defensive positions in the Don bend but under the guise of these troop rotations a medium force of infantry with some mobile units is moved to the area of the convoluted river bend south of Voronezh. This bend protrudes into the Axis lines and compromises the use of the rail junctions in the area

The plan is to mount a spoiling attack with a view to clearing the east bank of the river adjacent to the rail junction and if momentum is achieved to capture and eliminate the two Soviet airbases on the east bank which repeatedly interfere with rail bombing missions in the area. Resources for this attack are very limited and will not stand determined resistance but the axis/allies are under pressure from Berlin to take action to try and divert forces and resources flowing north. Furthermore at the southern end of the planned breach Trucks extend the supply lines into the river whereas on the Soviet side their lack of ability to stretch their supply lines means that a long section of their front is now at U4.

Air War: Massive GS aids the attacks by AGN with limited activity elsewhere in Zone B.

In Zone C a series of raids is mounted ostensibly a continuation of the ongoing campaign against the N-S rail but concentrated to isolate the area of the planned attack.  4 of the 6 raids are successful..

Battle Report

Overruns = 1 ,
Diced attacks = 5
Losses: Soviets 44 (9 from overrun).
German = 2 air.

1942 DEC I Soviet Turn

Partisans: Achieve 5 hits on secondary rail lines.

Finnish Front: Constantly replenished with Resources the Soviet drive east along the road to Salla continues unabated and unseats a Finish regimen/German Ski II from the city capturing it.

The 9th Panzer cadre is unattacked this turn as the Soviets muster their forces and the two Tank xxxs move north to try and make an end run around the whole lake system south of the Arctic Circle. They are checked by a German Reserve division in a fortified position at the end of the frozen causeway at Kuopio

By contrast the freeze allows a surprise move by a soviet Cavalry division north of Viipuri who dashes over a frozen lake hexside flanking a strong position held by a Finish 6-6 xx in forest which is now in danger of isolation.

Leningrad Front:

The drive south from Leningrad slows to a crawl as German resistance stiffens and their defence becomes organized and swelled by Mech divisions moving into the area. Nevertheless weaknesses are ruthlessly exploited and two separate one hex advances menace the Veliki Luki road now only 20 miles distant.

On the extreme right flank of the advancing front another German division is chewed up as it finds itself struggling to fall back ahead of the advancing Soviet tide.

The main threat however is further to the east as the German bulge extending north is contracted at the neck. One advance lead by a guards Mech XX overruns a 2-10 flack unit in exploitation and reaches to within 16 miles of the Germans rail lifeline leading West down which all units fleeing to safety are hoping to use.

The only crumb of comfort for the Germans is a skilful defence by a 3-6 cadre/Flak combination which holds back a massed attack by guards infantry and support troops. Here the defenders channel the attack towards clearings made in the light wooded cover and the flak unit firing over open sites repulses wave after wave of attackers and holds firm.

At the head of the retreating German mass in the far East however the Soviets massacre two hexes of Infantry/Artillery eliminating a division and 6 artillery regiments. Trapped in the freezing, driving snow the divisions offers little resistance and the artillery caught in the open in travel mode are eliminated outright. Only a small infantry cadre escapes the debacle retreating over the frozen swamps and somehow finding a route to friendly lines.

Battles for Veliki Luki and the Vologda rail line

Battles for Veliki Luki and the Vologda rail line

Not content with the two hex breach of the German upper Volga river line Russian forces breach NE of the main gap and advance over the frozen river isolating the remaining defenders. Two of the three hexes are eliminated with a single isolated hex forming an island of resistance where a month ago stood a fortified river line extending for 100 miles.

From the bridgehead established last month the Soviet armour advances north. Out of supply they attempt a risky 3:1 assault against a weak defender holding the rail line with air support. Mustering their own air-force in the assault the soviets achieve a DH pushing the survivors back and capturing a hex of the vital German rail lifeline.

The Soviets do not expect the conquerors to survive a German riposte but this will cause the Nazis great difficulties. The advancing tankers are given a large umbrella of air support and await the inevitable counter attack.

The main difficulty now facing the Soviets is that both tips of the advance in the north and south are operating at the extreme limit of their supply net and, in the case of the units on the rail line, beyond it.

However they do have a plan to extend the net a couple of hexes further north……

Moscow Front: The Soviets consider withdrawing the 26th Army which now protrudes unto the German line following the retreat of the 34th but decide instead to reinforce and to try and hold the bulge.

Instead they concentrate all efforts on assaulting Moscow NW. The arrival in force of 9-6 artillery xxs and the new Guards Rocket division allow an attack to be planned against the substantial defences. In place for a year the defenders are well dug in with tank support. The Soviets have assembled siege guns, engineers, Guards infantry and the above artillery/rocket concentrations to achieve a straight 3:1 attack. The ferocity and intensity of the attack stuns the defenders who fall back loosing half their number as the Soviets storm the city. Not only does this grant the Soviets their 4th city hex it also links the Kalinin/Moscow rail line to the rest of the Soviet rail net and extends the supply line to the front.

Voronezh Front: Identifying a potential weakness in the defences the Soviets start to move secondary troops, engineers and resource points to the gap between the Tula fortified bastion and the river which runs north from Voronezh where there is a single fort line in open country. They will establish a secondary fort line here which will result in a riverine or double fort defence, when completed, extending from the Sea of Azov to Moscow. Here as across all fronts the easing of pressure on the defences allows the Soviets to move NKVD infantry to replacement centres for disbanding to boost the falling infantry replacement rate.

Stalingrad Front: No action; Engineers continue to rebuild the damaged infrastructure and second line tank corps form stacks at rail junctions to be in position to react against any local Axis attacks.

Air War.: The precipitous withdrawal of the Luftwaffe from the threatened airfield cluster now at the tip of the Soviet thrust north from Moscow allows the Soviets free reign to provide GS to a number of attacks and place defensive GS on the furthest north out of supply tank units doubling their strength.

A couple of skirmishes do take place and one IL-4 is exchanged for a ME110C protecting the Veliki Luki line and no rail hits are scored.

Battle Report

Over-runs = 1;
Auto Elims = 2,
Diced Attacks =  14
Losses: Forts = 2;
German Isolated = 10,
Un-isolated = 88; ET = 2,
Soviets = 13.

1942 DEC I Axis Turn

Weather:  Snow spreads south from A to B in the south Rain and Mud persists.

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

In the centre the Axis straighten the line but do not attack.

In the south the 9th pz cadre holds position to allow Finish forces further south pull back west as the threat of encirclement from infiltrating Soviet troops grows.

AGN: (Leningrad sector) OKW has determined that despite the rapid Soviet advance further south from the direction of Moscow the main effort should be directed against the Soviet drive south from Leningrad. The Soviet advance here is slow but poses a greater threat. The Russians have a higher force concentration and are driving down a supplied rail line. So it felt that if this is main threat. In addition the German positions here have some fortified sections and are in generally good terrain. Further still as the northern bulge contracts this allows for a greater concentration of force.

Nevertheless German infantry on the left flank abandon their forts and try to exfiltrate south to avoid encirclement from a Soviet mech corps which has now reached the Valdai lake system. Just 16miles East of that corps’ thrust south a 6-10 Mot xx/Artillery stack is forced to surrender its position without a fight and withdraws under threat from superior Russian forces,

The Soviet thrust north Moscow has already outran its supply chain and is thinned. With substantial Axis forces moving West it is believed that the genie can easily be put back into the bottle.

The troops in the East fall back in good order protecting the slower infantry and artillery units. Fortified units remaining against the Upper Volga river (now frozen) hold their positions and a brave infantry division moves out of its redoubt to ZOC and impede the neck of the Soviet spearhead.

Even so the situation along the Veliki Luki Railroad is delicate with only light forces guarding the line.

So relief forces is mustered from rebuilt, upgraded and newly arriving Panzers and the 6-4-8 tk xxx outside Kalinin is annihilated in a counter attack, The German forces cannot afford to concentrate and overrun the corps’ rear support hex of a Tk Brigade and rockets but are obliged instead to fan out and rebuild a defensive line screening Kalinin and the N/S rail line running through it.

After the destruction of the 4th tank army the Axis entrenches around Kalinin

After the destruction of the 4th tank army the Axis entrenches around Kalinin

AGN (Moscow Sector) Patrols, aerial recognisance and reports from the north convince the Moscow defenders that the Soviet forces have thinned and taking advantage of the redeployment of enemy armour the Germans counter attack the 34th xxx which is holding the line adjacent to the MW suburb of Moscow. With dive bomber support and rail gun concentrations transferred from the South they force the 34th back which exposes the right flank of the Soviet occupation forces in Moscow NW.

AGC: Other than minor in-theatre redeployments and engineering work little activity.  Freed of any offensive obligations the Luftwaffe transfers squadrons north but maintains a long range bomber presence to continue to disrupt Soviet N/S communications. Long range fighters redeploy specifically to provide continuous cover N/S along the main communications rail line through Kharkov/Kursk/Bryansk/Smolensk to protect against Soviet deep bombing raids.

AGS: With the majority of offensive capable ground troops transferred north the Axis forces engage in local moves and redeployments to optimise their defence of the great bend of the Don River. They do maintain an occupation of the swamps immediately south of the river to the west of Rostov as a trip wire defence against any Soviet attempt to try to retake the city. Mobile forces meanwhile re-deploy to reserve leaguers at rail nodes.

Air War. Dive bombers assist the attack against 34thxxx and medium and long range units move to provide DAS at critical weak spots in the line. 2 Hits are made against the Leningrad/Kalinin line. The northern force receives a mass reinforcement as fighter and bomber squadrons transfer north from AGS and AGC.

Battle Report

Combats: Diced = 2

Losses:
Soviets = 6
Air German= 2, Soviet = 1

1942 NOV II Soviet Turn

Narrative

The door swings both ways. Displaying a finesse of strategic slanning and a flexibly hitherto unknown the Soviet Army of Moscow under Timoshenko faced with the German wall of steel in the West takes advantage of the freeze and rotates through 90 degrees. The Army launches a well-supported attack immediately to the east of the small lake cluster north of Moscow. Massed Tanks, and Guards infantry fords the upper Volga and drives north head on into the fortified German line. Waves of IIyushins fill the skies battering the German forts. Joined by a sustained rocket attack from the south banks the defences crumble and the stunned and much reduced defenders fall back. Soviet Tank Corps enter the breach and with motorised rocket artillery in support ride over the shattered survivors. Engineers and a lone artillery regiment in transit west are also crushed under the wide tracks of the T34s.

Follow up forces pass through with lead elements reaching to within 10 miles of the Valogda/Veliki Luki rail line with others overrunning the southern tip of the large German airbase cluster straddling the rail line. They catch a ME109 squadron on the ground; few aircraft escape. A further drive reaches the outskirts of Kalinin trapping a low grade German infantry division in the bend of the adjacent oxbow lake. Second echelon guards mech corp support the operation occupying the NW bank of the river and protecting the right flank.

The pattern of attacks and destruction is repeated all along the northern line of the German bulge and numerous breaches are made.

It appears Hans’ optimism was misplaced.

Turn Report

Partisans:  To Support the regular army’s activities partisans launch a series of raids achieving an impressive 6 rail hits. They also score an airbase hit which had been vacated as support troops rushed forward to shore up the Moscow defence line. They aborting a ME110 on the ground in the process.

Finnish Front: Soviet Arctic Command continues to drive out along the northernmost E/W rail line. Circumventing a German 6-8 mtn they eliminate a Finish bdr guard and German rocket unit to the north and push west parallel to the rail line.

Finland hangs on

Finland hangs on

The 9th Panzer cadre continues to deny the Soviets the breakout they are looking for holding firm against another determined attack on its position at the northern end of the central lakes system. However Soviet motorized units infiltrate the lines seeking the more open terrain of the interior and occupy Kupio overrunning a 0-8 flack unit and eliminating a MS406 on the ground which fails to escape. Meanwhile a surrounded Finnish Inf XX cadre stranded in the woods to the east succumbs to an automatic kill as the main drive cadres another Finnish 5-6 inf XX.

Leningrad Front: The drive south from Leningrad down the Kalinin line continues. At the extreme western edge of the advance infiltrating units take advantage of a German error where a gap opens up between two inf divisions and advance a further 16 miles south enveloping a section of the German the fortified defensive line. Just to the east of this a 11-8 mech XXX leads a mainly infantry attack against a 6-10 mot division cadreing the defender and advancing south into the Valdai hill lake system.

The newly arrived 9-6 Artillery XX adds its firepower to a direct attack south towards the vital crossroads and winkles the German defenders out of a fortified wooded hex. The defenders fall back in good order.

To the east of the NS rail a a risky low odds mixed attack strikes directly East in a bid to trap a large group of infantry struggling south from their previous position astride the Leningrad/Vologda rail line abandoned a month ago. The attack succeeds is driving back the defenders and the advance narrows the gap through which the retreating infantry need to pass to safety. Another attack further east along the line make similar headway.

The mass of Soviet armour defending the objective of Meatgrinder are re-tasked for offensive operations and take on a 12-10 panzer at the NE tip of the contracting German leading edge. They cadre the panzer.

Moscow Front attacks!

Moscow Front attacks!

Moscow Front: The preamble above covers this attack which has placed the leading edge of the German bulge in the east out of supply. If the Soviets are able to link with their comrades pushing south this will isolate around 30% of all German mobile forces on the Eastern front

Voronezh Front: Nothing to report.

Stalingrad Front: Soviet forces press the German defenders still south of the Don but there are no attack opportunities.

Engineers continue to rebuild the shattered infra-structure of the region. Some armour corps move north but the Soviets retain a mobile reserve as a contingency against any renewed Axis aggression.

Air War:  Southern Finland is subject to some rail bombing raids to impede Reinforcements reaching the front and to prepare the way for a planned attack along the south coast in the spring.

On the main front some deep raids are made but these are ineffective as the long range force has been whittled down over the year.

German fighter squadrons rise in force to engage the GS supporting the attacks over the Upper Volga but suffer another defeat. 8 interceptors by pass the escorts but outnumbered over 2:1 two are returned by the escorts. When the fighters engage the bombing force a 109 and 110 are eliminated for the return of a single Lend Lease A20 and the GS is sufficient to keep the odds favourable.

Battle Report

Overruns = 5 !,
Forts Eliminated = 4,
Auto eliminations = 2,
Diced Attacks =  9

Losses Soviet = 8,
German = 35,
Finns = 7

Air:
On the Ground’ German = 1 Finns = 1
In the air German = 2

1942 NOV II Axis Turn

Narrative

“You know what I hate the most about this place? The dirt; in summer it is dry chocking dust, in the autumn and spring thick cloying mud and in the winter it freezes hard as rock”.

“True enough Hans true enough, But at least now for a time it is hard enough to move.“

The comrades had been together since early in June ’42 when Hans had joined the recon battalion. Both from Bavaria they had soon become firm friends through thick and thin. Both had participated in the push over the upper Volga at the start of Operation Meatgrinder.  They had driven forward and at one point late in     straddled the N/S rail line to Vologda and thought that perhaps they had broken the Soviets will to fight. How wrong they were.  The following week they had been amazed to see massed formations of Soviet tanks, armoured vehicles  katyusha and infantry storm out of the East. They had been forced to withdraw along with the rest of the advanced corp. They received news that they were cut off and for two weeks were fed from supplies dropped from the air as streams of “Aunties” filled the skies. A gruelling month followed, reduced to starvation rations and slogging through snow, freezing fog and then sodden muddy marsh they has managed to fight their way out to freedom.

Two months after that they were on the march East again. Counter attacking their foe in a series of swirling battles of attrition and annihilation along the front. They broke through and with open steppe ahead it looked as if their objective might be reached but the cost had been too high and they were ordered to hold their ground.  Then last week grave news had reached the unit.  A large soviet force identified as the 50th Army had captured their lifeline West. The Veliki Luki – Vologda rail line just behind their formation had been cut. Furthermore Soviet forces were reputedly driving south from north of their position threatening them again with isolation.

They waited for orders to withdraw – then rumour had it that the Fuhrer had been persuaded that it was better to lose the chance of gaining a city than the certainty of losing an army. But they feared the week’s delay which had cost at least one field marshal his argumentative head in the Fuhrerbunker would allow the enemy to complete the encirclement. For days they struggled through cloying mud. The wheeled vehicles abandoned their lighter equipment dragged by horses and the tracked vehicles barely inching forward. The whole battalion had been tasked with moving the material. What they could not bring they destroyed.  Artillery split like peeled spring onions their firing block removed littered the fields as the marched West. Trucks mired up to their axles lay abandoned by the roadside, stripped of anything useable, many burned and now rusting hulks of metal.

By the 6th day they were beginning to lose hope. Reports were reaching them of a Soviet breakthrough south along the Leningrad/Kalinin line many miles West and that Moscow was under threat.

But what a difference a few degrees drop in temperature can make.

It was on the morning of day 7 of their slog West that Hans looked out of the log cabin they has requisitioned for overnight shelter and his whoop of joy had shattered the dawn sleep of the exhausted battalion. Its frost! he cried frost! Thick, white frost!”. Indeed it was, covering the landscape. “Perhaps we can make it after all, he cried”

By nightfall the battalion had regrouped, vehicles were unstruck from where they had been clamped by mud. It was not yet so hard to require heavy equipment to smash so trenching tools, pics and farm tools were all that were needed to free and restore the wallowed vehicles.

The next morning the battalion staff sergeant passed out the orders. The corps was fully mobile again and they were to deal a blow to their Soviet foe who had dared to try and trap them A four corps strong attack was hastily organised and once again the pals were riding high and proud for the Fatherland. Three days later it was all over. With mobility had come supplies, air support, tanks and artillery support. The Soviet 50th Army was trapped and annihilated to the very last man – none escaped the German wrath.

Elsewhere formations arriving from the south has formed up against the Soviet Moscow attack erecting a wall of steel against the aggressor. The 14-10 panzer relieved by formations arriving from the NE moved from its fortified position aside the Moscow/Kalinin road and swung into Moscow NE providing a boost to the second line infantry divisions holding the suburb who had feared a Soviet attack for weeks.

North of the Veliki/Vologda road units were flooding West and opposing the Soviet threat from Leningrad.

The situation was saved.

Hans dare not contemplate what might have happened had the frost not come when it did.

“Hey Padre he shouted to the passing battalion chaplain. You can get off your knees – I think your work is done!!”

Turn Report

Weather:  Frost in B all other zones unchanged.

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

In the centre the Axis continue to pull back executing a counter attack against a lone 1-6* inf III (w) and eliminating it.

In the south the 9thpz  cadre holds the as a German 5-6 freshly arrived from Germany joins the surviving Finnish division covering the main rail line north. In the centre of the country engineers continue to fortify and await the inevitable Soviet breakout into the hinterland.

AGN: The changing weather is akin to a miracle for the German army. The low mobility in the mud had stalled any rapid evacuation west or reinforcement of the pressure points at the front. The collapsing bulge north had allowed some infantry to shift sideways but these in their turn had been mauled by the Soviets. Now it was a different story. Panzers and motorized units from the East arrive in strength and movie into the line supplementing the existing defenders. They are content at the moment to take a defensive posture and await developments and or opportunities. With assets arriving weekly from the south and East their situation can only get better.

Meatgrinder is officially declared over (but not officially declared the failure it is) and all forces are ordered to cross back to the West bank of the upper Volga. The troops are not ready to do so without a fight however. The mobility and supplies provided by the frost are put to good use. The strong panzer formations formerly at the van are reversed and join units holding the line to the west. An attack is scrapped together against the 50th army which sits astride the Vologda/Veliki Luki rail line. Favourable odds are achieved and an attack launched. It is completely successful and the DE eliminates the entire stack including 2 Guards XXs who’s cadres cannot retreat.  Other than the arctic combat this is the only attack this turn but nets 27 factors of enemy units.

The destruction of 50th Army

The destruction of 50th Army

At Moscow a Panzer corps arrives from the south just in time. Held by rail breaks just north and west of Tula it was not expected for another month but the frost allows it to move into the line. The 14-10 pz in the line is able then to move to Moscow NE replacing one of the second rank infantry XX hastily thrown into the front at the start of the Soviet assault. The Germans are confident the city can now be held.

AGC: No action.

AGS: The Don River bridgehead contracts back. Still held in mud, progress is slow. The Axis contemplate maintaining a presence in the swamps south of the river to facilitate any future move south and to require the Soviets to station more troops to hold the line.

Freed mech forces move north and engineers move into place to continue to fortify the bend of the river.

Air War: The Luftwaffe decides to give the Soviets some of their own medicine and launches a series of raids against Moscow area airbases with little short of disastrous results.  When the skies clear the tally is Luftwaffe 3xE (including 2x109Gs)  and 2xA for the  VVS 1xA.  6 deep raids elsewhere only achieve 1 rail hit in the north but the 2 in the south should impede soviet assets moving north from the Stalingrad area.

Battle Report

Combats; Diced = 2.

Losses: Soviets = 28;  German Air = 3

1942 NOV I Soviet Turn

Partisans – 6 hits.

Finish Front: As Res Pts are not needed for fortifications in such vast quantities more are spared for offensive operations in the far north. A stock is building which should allow continuous offensive action going forward.  The Murmansk aspect is however still not threatened but the push continues west along the road to Allakurtti. The advance is blocked by a 6-8 mtn division so swings north eliminating the 271 FHH regiment.

In the south the rump of 9th pz is forced out its fortified position at Jonesuii retreating westwards. Soviet mech exploits north with the small lake protecting its flank.

Finland’s agony continues

Finland’s agony continues

Leningrad Front: The main thrust south along the Leningrad/Kalinin axis continues with Soviet tank and mech corps breaking through to the east and west of the main German defence on the rail line. The Soviets are hampered by their poor mobility. The combination of terrain, ZOC costs and overrun requirements means that a single bicycle battalion can prevent an entire Mech corps from advancing in exploitation. The Soviet momentum is also retarded by German rail hits and the low Soviet engineer presence. (an omission which has cost at least one planning officer his head.)  Finally simple congestion on the road prevents some units moving forward in the exploitation phase. Accordingly while holes are made all advances are limited to single hexe.

The Soviets have now lost the element of surprise but still they have a far greater density of assets in the area than the Axis and with newly formed Artillery Divisions due to reach the front next turn they hope to be able to reduce the German roadblock and force their way south towards Kalinin.

To the west of the main attack the German forces have thinned the line and pulled back behind the river … to protect the rail line to Veliki Luki. Soviet troops take advantage of the reduced enemy presence and leaving dug outs they have occupied for almost a year surge south. They cannot hope to prevail against resistance but do hope to prevent the Germans from thinning the line further, dissuade any more sideways movement to re-enforce the rail to Kalinin and draw off units bound for the main attack zone.

Likewise to the East of the main drive the Soviets develop the attack SE and penetrate the German line to as the Germans collapse back to re-establish supply to their northernmost units.

Soviets drive south from Leningrad

Soviets drive south from Leningrad

Moscow Front: Soviet units south of the German main shwerpunkt continue to drive north into the flank of the invaders and capture a hex of the rail line supplying the front with the defenders falling back in disarray. This threatens the main German supply line and with the companion thrust driving south also making progress and only 50 miles separating the two thrusts even Hitler now must realise that Meatgrinder has ground its last lump of gristle.

West of the upper Volga two attacks are made. That west against the 19th pz fails as the unit fends of repeated tank/katyushka assaults but just 30 miles south the 25th pz loses over half its tanks in a bitter HX and retreats SW exposing further the German’s hold on Moscow.

Voronezh Front : Engineers work tirelessly clearing the rails for units transferring  North but reduced winter mobility means some breaks are out of reach and major assets are held up just north of Stalingrad..

Stalingrad Front. While the best Soviet mobile assets entrain for the north those remaining continue to pressure the Axis forces south of the Don mounting a single concentrated attack and eliminating another stack of units.

Soviet attack south of the Don

Soviet attack south of the Don

Air War: The soviets step up their activity in the Moscow area supporting ground attacks and raiding German twin engine fighter bases.  In the ensuing fighter–on-fighter battles the Soviets cannot hope to achieve parity of losses but they are pleased with the overall tally. (Germans suffer Ex5, Ax3. Soviets Ex7 Ax6). Then two deep raiders are caught by an unexpected concentration of enemy fighters and fail to return. Their 6 comrades further east raid the Veliki Luki line unopposed inflicting a single hit.

Battle Report

Diced Attacks = 10

Soviet Losses = 14, Air = 9

German Losses = 49, Rumanian = 2, Fins = 3, Luftwaffe = 5

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