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Europa Games and Military History

Category: SE AAR No 1 (page 1 of 9)

1943 FEB II Soviet Turn

Narrative

Kurt distinctly remembered the drill sergeant addressing his basic re-training passing out parade “The Fatherland is in need of fit young soldiers for the Eastern Front, unfortunately all I have got to send are you sorry bunch of old has-beens.”

Being a hill farmer from Bavaria Kurt’s sense of geography was not great but he was pretty damn sure there was not a sea between Germany and Russia – so why on all of god’s good earth was he leaning over the side of a troop transport staring at the half digested remains of his breakfast cascading down into an icy grey, rolling sea?

After the parade he and his regiment has been loaded onto a rail truck and sent to Konigsberg harbour and there onto the troopship bound for Hango.

Having been called to arms as a young teenager he had just had a week of action the last time Germany had called upon him for his dubious soldiering skills. Nevertheless he had managed to acquire a bit more iron in his system than the recommended dose as the icy cold wind constantly reminded him.

He watched as the ship entered the ice floes and followed the narrow channel kept open by their allies icebreakers.

Whilst the national radio stations had been broadcasting heroic stories of daring do from their northern ally he had heard rumours of a complete collapse of the Finish Army. His better informed comrades had said the Fins were shaky allies at best and so the Fuhrer had decided to bolster their resolve by sending them some aid in the form of his unit of reservists.

In the end with the Soviet Fleet bottled up at Leningrad their passage was uneventful and they were moved from the docks at Hango by broad-gauge troop train to Helsinki.

They arrived in absolute chaos. Soldiers and civilians intermixed and scurrying hither and thither as orders or panic directed them.  Soldiers carrying their arms disembarking and marching east to the front; civilians with their suitcases containing what few possessions they could carry fleeing west by whatever means available.

Kurt knew no Finish but heard the panic in the voices and could tell the enemy were not far away.

Two days later the rail line from Hango and the west was cut by advance elements of the Soviet 13th Tank Corps.

It seemed that Kurt’s’ contribution to this war would be shorter than his contribution to the last.

Turn Report

Finnish Front: The pursuit north continues and in the centre more stragglers are cut down.

In the south of the country with their backs against the frozen shores of Lake Paijanne the heroic Finish Motti is finally surrounded and crushed by weight of arms.

Along the cost Soviet 13th tank corps completed the encirclement of Helsinki.

The only highlight for the embattled defenders is that a 0-8 AA unit at Tampere drives off a Soviet GS IL 2 dropping the odds and a low roll allows the defending infantry brigade, against all odds, to check the Soviet two corps tank assault. (NE)

Soviet riposte south of Leningrad, weakened due to the large losses

Soviet riposte south of Leningrad, weakened due to the large losses

Leningrad Front: The loss of the mech division and strengthen of the German defenders forces the Soviets to probe for other weak spots. They identify a 3 division stack to the west of the former thrust and strike pushing back the defenders and advancing into the Axis lines. 

As a matter of course they eliminate a stay behind fortified 3-6 cadre.

Along the Kalinin sector a similar pattern emerges here with greater losses the thrust south of Kalinin is completely stalled but the Soviets do strike further north at a 2 division stack and cadre it including a 6-10 mech unit.  A stay behind fortified 3-6 cadre and 5-6 inf xx are also eliminated in this sector.

Moscow Front: Stalled in and north of the city the soviets launch a surprise attack in a previously quiet sector just south of the city. It fails to dislodge the defenders. (NE).

Winter Battles: Soviet counter attack at Voronezh

Winter Battles: Soviet counter attack at Voronezh

Voronezh Front.  The Soviets take a chance and mustering all available strength including drawing out a guards defender of Voronezh mass and attack the southern Schwerpunkt of the German attempt to encircle thi city. They obtain am Exchange against the 32 point stack cadering the two Panzer divisions (15-10 and 12-10) but weakening their ability to survive a counterthrust in due course.

Stalingrad Front: No action.

Air Combat: The usual mix of rail and airfield bombing results in an even number of kills and aborts for limited results. The Soviets add a harassment hit in a clear hex just behind German lines north of Kalinin to limit their manoeuvrability.

The Soviets mount a massive 12 bomber raid on Kalinin Airport to draw out the Luftwaffe. This it does and 13 Soviet fighters are engaged directly by 9 German fighters. The Soviet airmen’s plan backfires as they exchange 3 aborts each but lose 4 fighters without inflicting a single kill on the enemy. Flak over the city aborts a bomber and returns 3 of the rerst. Of the 3 viable bombing runs from the remainder only one is successful.

Battle Report

Auto eliminations = 3
Diced Combats = 9

Losses:
Forts = 3, Soviets = 27, Soviet Air = 4
German = 41, Isolated = 1,  German Air = 0
Eastern = 1, Hungarian = 2, Finish Isolated = 17,

1943 FEB II Axis Turn

Turn Summary

The Axis decide the time has come in the north to stop running and to deal the Soviets a mortal blow. The two most advanced Soviet stacks project a single hex into the German lines. Powerful forces lead by first line panzer units mass to counter attack.

However the victory is a pyric one at best. To paraphrase the words of the indomitable Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. “To roll a one and Exchange against a 24 point stack may be considered unfortunate, but to follow that by rolling a second Exchanging against a 38 point stack is positively careless.”

And thus it was; a massive bloodletting which eliminates 3 Soviet Mech divisions (one guards) 3 Guards rifles and numerous rockets support troops and an artillery division cadre. However the Exchange is a terribly high cost (DRs would have achieved enough.  As the attacker and ensuring AEC is <50% means the Germans can use infantry for most losses but 5 divisions are cadred including a mech xx.

The next few turns will reveal if this is sufficient to blunt the blows from the Soviet colossus.

Turn Report

Weather. The false spring in the south ends with snow returning across the map.

Finland & Army of Norway: The rout continues in the centre and the Germans the north are reduced to a small perimeter around Murmansk and scattered units fleeing towards the Norwegian border.

In the south the legendary Finnish motti launches a desperate breakout assault against a lone 4-6 XX barring its path and eliminates the Soviet driving 16 more miles westwards. Meanwhile the last reinforcements arrive in Helsinki as a 5-6 German division rails into the city just before a Soviet tank corps swings south to cut the route to Hango forever.

The Axis counteroffensive in the North ends in a bloodbath

The Axis counteroffensive in the North ends in a bloodbath

AGN The soviet drive which project one hex into the line occupying the vital railroad from Veliki Luki is assaulted and eliminated! But in an exchange infliction a 24 point loss on the Axis attacker.

Immediately to the south of Kalinin the exercise is repeated and a massive Soviet mech stack is completely eliminated but again 38 points are exchanged including a 10-10 German Mech xx. However this attack does eliminate two Soviet Mech XXX including a guard mech unit)

3 fortified hexes which now project into Soviet lines are evacuated except for two 3-6 infantry cadres and in the case of the position in front of Kalinin a 5-6 infantry division. Acting as groins to take the power out of the Red Tide they are designed to minimise the enemy’s ability to launch multiple hex attacks against the main line at these points. They also prevent lateral movement along the line. They are provided with maximum DAS to force the Soviets to commit additional forces against them. It is hoped that collectively they will allow at least one turns respite from the blows raining down on the German positions.

AGC: The boundary is contracted north to give operational control of Qxbow to AGS.

Operation Oxbow strives to isolate Voronezh

Operation Oxbow strives to isolate Voronezh

AGS:  The Oxbow phase two swings into action with a second assault being launched North of Voronezh. This attack lead by Das Reich slices through the Soviet fortified line (which has been present, unmolested, since the Axis high watermark of 41) This supports the continuing thrust north which is hooking behind two fortified stacks on the river.

Unfortunately for the attackers the DH results allow remnants to fall back onto the rail line and deny the Axis any exploitation to isolate the city leaving the southern schwerpunkt vulnerable to counter attack. An attack a few miles south by Rumanian and Italian forces eliminates a defending Soviet stack and advances.

Air Combat: In the north most short range bombers and dive bombers are tasked tio provide DAS to the front line particularly over the front line. An air strike eliminated a Guards IL-4 p on the ground and 3 rail hits in the centre attempt to limit any Soviet rail reinforcements reaching the Oxbow engagement.

Two aircraft are exchanged in aerial combat.

Battle Report

Diced Combats = 7

Losses:
Forts = 1, Soviets = 92  Air = 3
German = 60, Eastern = 2 German Air = 1

1943 FEB I Soviet Turn

Finnish Front: In the far north forces close in on Murmansk

Total collapse of the Axis in the centre with a mopping up operation to clean up a few stragglers.

The drive to Helsinki continues chewing up a 5-6 German infantry division reduced to cadre in combat and overrun in exploitation. The 3 division Finnish Motte is surrounded but not engaged.

Leningrad Front: In the far west of the line a division is retreated. The drive directly south from Leningrad is stalled by the increasing density of the defenders. A single 3 hex assault clearing one corner fort.

At the eastern tip of the retreating axis two hexes are assaulted and losses inflicted. But with two DRs out of the 4 attacks these are limited.

Moscow Front: The new commander with the assistance of engineers and new artillery and guard’s rocket divisions succeeds in taking the penultimate hex of Moscow! The Axis have now lost 4 of the 5 hexes they held at the High Watermark of their advance.

Within the Tula fortified zone secret plans are afoot to assemble a vast strike army ready for a summer offensive. Already from scrappage new recruits and replacements a number of the latest Guards Tank corps are in place awaiting infantry support and the end of winter.

Soviet slowly give groud in the Ukraine to the Axis winter offensive

Soviet slowly give groud in the Ukraine to the Axis winter offensive

Voronezh Front.  The majority of non-armour recruits are directed south to bolster the defences but the Soviets continue to pull back placing most units in supply and tempting the axis to advance out of their supply limit. Immediately north of Voronezh rumours of Axis mechanized forces in the area lead the Soviets to bolster the fortified line there.

Stalingrad Front: No action.

Air War: A few airframes are exchanged and Aborted in a variety of  air operations across the front.

Battle Report

Overruns= 2
Auto Attacks = 1
Diced Combats = 6

Losses:
Forts = 4,
German = 71,
Fins = 5,
Eastern = 1
German Air = 2

Soviets = 28,
Air= 1

1943 JAN II Axis Turn

Weather. A warming in the south brings mud to Zone C.

Finland & Army of Norway: In the far north German units fall back to Murmansk and Norway. The few battalions left in central Finland make a bid to escape to the Gulf of Bothnia ports pursued by the Soviets.

In the south Fortifications are started around Helsinki but with hardly anyone to man them they a likely to pose nothing more than a road bump to the advancing Soviets. The large motti once again slides west and into supply due to a tardy Soviet encirclement which placed ZOCless regiments in its path.

The Axis retreat towards Murmansk

The Axis retreat towards Murmansk

AGN: With the Eastern-most units out of supply the Axis desperately move as fast as possible West but in most cases this is only one hex or two. Mech units leave some infantry behind for fear of encirclement.  The northern Soviet advance directly south from Leningrad is too strong to attack directly but an attempt is made against its flanks. As a result an 11-8 mech is cadred but the Axis just do not have the strength to attack the second flank so choose not to advance into the maw of the advancing Tank Army leaving the spearhead in supply.

The Axis contemplate an attack against Moscow and although strength is sufficient the presence of a NKVD political unit on 3x Guards Infantry means any such attack would fail to dislodge the defenders. So no attack is executed.

AGC: Mobile units are moved up just north of Voronezh with a view to capitalizing on Operation Oxbow’s advance south of the city.

Operation Oxbow continues

Operation Oxbow continues

AGS: Oxbow continues with 5 attacks along the front. The shorter lines of supply shift the emphasis north where the advancing front is still in range of the rail net. Strong forces encircle and eliminate a fort 30 miles south of Voronezh but a 6-4-8 Tk escapes elimination at 8:1 due to its -4 AT defence and retreats in good order.

Air Battles: The Luftwaffe once again support the defence of Finland and DAS flies constantly over the retreating/defending troops on the main northern front. Rail busting in the centre causes 2 hits east and north of the Oxbow operation but costs the life of a JU88A.

Combat Report:

Diced Attacks = 6
Losses:
German = 6, Air =1,
Soviets = 22

1943 JAN II Soviet Turn

Narrative

The T34 stopped just below the crest of small ridge. Sergei jumped down off the back of the 31 ton behemoth that had transported him to the front line. His ears still ringing from the sound of the engine throbbing beneath him and his nose still stinging from the acrid smoke of the twin exhausts. As he reached the ground he plunged knee deep into a crisp layer of snow which had fallen overnight. Inching forward to the crest of the ridge he carefully excavated a small hole in the snow and peered through. Below him a few hundred yards away was the objective. He was proud to be attached to one of the best units in the Soviet army a newly formed Guards Mech corps. Learning from past mistakes and with 18 months of painful experience behind them STAVKA had created these new formations to counter the German threat. Equipped with the latest tanks and equipment their mission was to pursue the enemy and drive into the enemy rear turning Blitzkrieg against its inventors – Soviet style.

They had moved from their leaguered position at first light. Now battle was to be joined. From his vantage point Sergei examined the scene before him. A dirt road ran from over his right shoulder east-west and between the farm buildings. Although there had been a recent snow fall it was brown and churned up indicating that many tracks and wheels had used it recently. On the left a low single storey barn of earth and thatch construction attached to a larger two storey structure. A gap then the Farmhouse with the road on its right. A small yard was set in front of the larger barn and farmhouse bounded by a low earth and stone wall, Sergei estimated about 4 meters in front of the buildings.

Sandbags filled some holes in the wall and flanked the road as it disappeared out of sight between the farmhouse and other buildings beyond. At this point concrete posts had been set designed to prevent an unfettered approach by larger vehicles. This was a well prepared position, designed to be held, not some hastily assembled delaying point.

Movement caught his eye off to the right and he turned his gaze just in time to see a metal clad head duck down behind the wall. So, as expected, the enemy had decided to make a stand and was aware of the impending attack.

There was a roar from the T34 which lurched forward and crested the hill. Immediately it was met by an enemy shell which ricocheted off the thick frontal armour and landed a few yards from Sergei as he lay ready to charge forward, the snow sizzling and hissing around the fragment.

Time to go!, he thought, rose, and charged down the embankment along with ranks of comrades. In particular on his left was his long-time friend and fellow combatant Oleg. Their objective was a low opening in the smaller barn with a hessian grain bag draped in front forming an impromptu window pane.

Firing from the hip with is PPS-42.  He ran fast as possible to the opening his legs pumping, his heart pounding. Although only 100 yards the going was tough in the deep snow and he felt his lungs were about to burst as he reached the barn and slammed against the wall. Instinctively he had taken the right side and his friend the left. Unspoken but honed in shared combat and they simultaneously snatched a grenade and with backs to the wall against any back-blast threw them into the dark recess of the barn. Cries of anguish were the only reply from inside. To be sure Oleg thrust his machinegun through the window and sprayed the interior of the barn. There was no reply.

From here they could now flank the low stone wall but as they turned they saw the last of the erstwhile defenders disappearing around the end wall of the two story barn. A sudden blast removed the top corner of the barn showering debris on the retreating soldiers as a shell from another of the tanks found its mark.

The tanks moved off between the buildings and the firing and mayhem moved off with them into the distance.  Sergei and Oleg paused for breath before moving forward once again……

Turn Report

Partisans = 6 hits on rail lines

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

Units push west across Karelia the individual pockets being enveloped without a fight or succumbing to overwhelming odds where a RP is available, Only west of Salla does a 6-8 German mtn XX bar the way forward.

The destruction of the Finish Army

The destruction of the Finish Army

In Southern Finland two Finish Infantry XXs are reduced to cadres. One succumbs to an overrun attack in the exploitation phase which also destroys a finish D.XXI aircraft on the ground. who fails to scramble to safety. Only the surviving cadre, a lone German 5-6 infantry and a few battalions bar the way to Helsinki. The Finnish motti north of Kotka is bypassed in the south by the advancing Tank corps and in the north by a 6-4-8xxx moving south once again trapping the hapless Finns.

The Arctic Front remains stable

The Arctic Front remains stable

Leningrad Front.  Attacks continue along the line where the mass of Soviets can gain sufficient odds to attack the Axis defenders.

One of these attacks is critical and heralds another chapter of retreat and misery for the defenders.  Driving south a concentrated force of 3 mech corps with rocket, artillery and guards infantry achieve an EX against a critical hex astride the rail lime west to Veliki Luki just by the small lake cluster in the north Valdai. The advance cuts the line and places the bulk of retreating German units to the East of the Kalinin/Leningrad rail line out of supply.

Just north of the small lake cluster south of Kalinin another breakthrough is achieved against the fort nestled in the oxbow lake between Moscow and Kalinin. The Soviets determine it is worth taking the risk of exposing their prized Mech units to counter attack and the 5th Guards Mech forms the vanguard of an exploitation move capturing the Eastern terminus of the road linking Kalinin to the E/W Moscow road.

Moscow Front: One attack only is planned against one of the two Moscow hexes still held by the Axis. At the last minute the attack is cancelled. The general in charge of combat planning is re-assigned to a recruitment centre in Siberia for overestimating by a factor of two the combat capability of the non-artillery attack units just before the units rolled out.

The Axis frontline gets pushed back north of Moscow

The Axis frontline gets pushed back north of Moscow

Voronezh Front:  The northern sector begins to receive lower grade infantry regiments and divisions who have been freed by the reducing front in the north.  Such is the perception of the limited threat posed by Operation Oxbow in the south that some are diverted to man the new double fortification line being constructed between Tula and Voronezh against any Axis Summer Offensive.

Others continue moving south and are joined by some rebuilds out of Voronezh city.

Against the Axis advance the Soviets fall back into supply and consolidate their positions.  Where possible mobile units form islands behind the front line to minimise enemy exploitation. Only two stacks now remain U2 and Axis forces themselves will soon reach the end of their increasingly stretched supply lines.

Stalingrad Front: No combat.

Air War: The attack against Moscow may have been possible with massed air support but in the end the risk of a failure to raise the odds and the possibility of an AR proved too great for STAVKA so instead aircraft support the 5th Mech and its logistic tail with massed DAS against any Axis back-lash.  All other aircraft are assigned to airfield bombing missions to try to suppress the Luftwaffe’s capabilities over the main Moscow/Leningrad front. A massive air raid of 14 aircraft achieves only 1 hit but 1 elimination each and 3 aborts are achieved amongst the combatants.

Battle Report:

Overuns = 2
Automatic Eliminations = 3
Diced Combats = 9

Losses:
German Isolated=16
German Un-Isolated= 63
Forts = 1
Aircraft = 1:
Eastern Troops = 2

Finns = 13
2xAA, 1xRP
Aircraft (on the ground) = 1:

Soviets = 34
Aircraft = 1

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.

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