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Tag: Fire in the East (page 1 of 3)

1942 MAY I ’42 Soviet Turn

Gregor raced towards the hedge line, his breathing heavy with exertion and his feet heavy with the cloying mud which seemed to pervade the whole landscape. He heard the whine of bullets pass his ear and instinctively dodged sideways.  His blue tunic was brown from the waist down, a sorry sight and not as it should be. He was part of a marine regiment and had spent the first part of the war in his home town of Leningrad. He was born there although in those days it was called St Petersburg. He had survived the revolution and the purges and the first few months of the war spent on board ship.  His father had been a stoker for the Imperial fleet so it was natural that he and his twin brother Prokhor would join up as soon as they were of age. Prokhor had been sent north to the Artic squadron and seemed to have got the better part of it but Gregor had heard nothing from him now for 3 months and the news from Murmansk was not good. He hoped his brother had somehow found safety but each day without news increased his fear that this might not be so. 

For his own part after the fleet was bottled up in Kronshtadt a call had gone out for volunteers for a territorial unit so he had joined up for some of the action and now found himself in the thick of things. Last time he has passed this way he had been moving south over clean crisp snow and they had swept the fascist invaders from their path. But shortly afterwards things started to go awry and now they were fighting for their very existence.  

His blood pounding in his ears as loud as the artillery shells pounding the earth ahead he raced towards the enemy position. A figure in dark green/grey appeared before him. Gregor squeezed the trigger and let out a burst from his sub machine gun which spluttered to empty after a dozen rounds. Luckily it was enough as the enemy fell backward. He burst through the hedge and into the ditch behind. Sensing rather than seeing a figure to his right he swung his now empty weapon around, butt extended. Catching the enemy combatant off guard the butt contacted hard against steel and flesh. The “coal scuttle” arched into the air as the adversary fell backwards with a groan. Gregor pinned him with his boot and grabbing the enemy’s machine pistol. He pulled it upwards; the force of his action dislocating the enemy’s shoulder as the strap was freed from its hapless former owner. Fumbling with the unfamiliar mechanism he swung right and sprayed the third occupant of the ditch. This fellow had been so intent in defending against Gregor’s comrades racing towards him that the savage scene to his right had gone unnoticed and he offered no resistance.

Not stopping, fuelled by desperation and adrenalin Gregor sprung out of the ditch and pressed onwards towards the next ridge line. A group of soldiers were racing towards him. He raised his newly acquired machine-pistol and aimed to fire a burst at the oncoming figures “Nyet comrade, Nyet!! – -they were Russians!!. He crumpled before then the sudden relief draining his ability and will to go further. He was saved, he was safe – for now at least…..

(Note: The stories normally provide a narrative to support a game event such as the Soviet spearhead breaking back to Soviet lines south of Leningrad,. In this case I wrote the story before the die roll and the Soviets rolled a 1! (4:1 attack) and thus failed to achieve the breakout. So a bit of artistic licence here. Let us just suppose Gregor’s unit found a weak spot in the German lines and slipped through before the ring was fully sealed)

 

MAY I '42: Failed breakout of encircled Soviet troops in the North

MAY I ’42: Failed breakout of encircled Soviet troops in the North

Finish Front: At Murmansk the inadequate Soviet forces can only hold their ground in front of the wall of now fully supplied German mountain divisions. In the centre however the attacks are pressed forward eliminating a Finish regiment and the advance reaches the pre-invasion border.

Around the southern lakes the Soviets consider their options but decide to take a defensive stance aided by air support from Leningrad.

Leningrad Front: The Soviet advance West from Narva continues attempting to draw off troops from the south as much as for any territorial advantage. The attacks cadre a German light division.

South of Leningrad the desperate isolated spearhead attempts a breakout, aided both by troops fleeing from the west and by new arrivals. The attack stalls against the German infantry division which holds firm.

The breach north of Kalinin now stretching to the Valdai continues to be a widening sore as troops rush south from Leningrad and others pull back to try and seal the breach.

Moscow Front: The troops west of the upper Volga cling onto the West bank while reinforcement and fortification of the East bank continues. Fresh troops are railed north of the German advance to occupy the region’s swamps and forests.

Tula’s defensive works continue to be strengthened.

May I 42: Sourthern Front reinforces its defensive lines

May I 42: Sourthern Front reinforces its defensive lines

Voronezh Front: The main Soviet attack force struggles to disengage. Harried by Axis patrols and probing attacks they can only withdraw at the speed of their lumbering artillery and rocket units; no more than one hex in most cases. This hinders the more mobile motorized units which are tasked to cover the retreat of their slower comrades.

Rostov Front (AKA Crimea & Odessa) A secondary line comprised of individual forts and mech stacks built around the newly formed tank corps take up position to the east of the fortified MLR providing depth to the defence,

The loss of the isthmus fort west of Kerch leaves the defenders no choice but to retreat. Those which can move to the safety of the east bank of the straights. A lone infantry brigade stays as a rear guard in the city.

Air War. Much airpower is devoted to DAS this turn. Long range bombers carry out a number of deep raids into the Axis rear with no effect. Unfortunately the retreat from Kerch exposes an aborted Transport aircraft left in the city. As a result of steady losses to the transport fleet the VVS decides to remove them from harm leaving Odessa to be supplied by the Black Sea Fleet once again.

Combat Report:
Attacks Diced = 4.
Losses:   German = 4,    Fins = 1

 

1942 MAY I Axis Turn

The Axis use the lull to examine their options for the upcoming summer offensive. A number of options are considered:

A Northern Offensive – Primary Aim – to shorten the front and gain full Finish involvement in the East.
This offensive essentially aims to cut off Leningrad as far East as possible by driving North from the Kalinin bulge. In association with this will be a general drive north via the direct route pushing back the Soviet gains south of Leningrad. In the meantime maximum assistance will be given to Finland. This offensive gains little in Resource reduction (3 points for Leningrad but will dislocate the factory) or inflict massive manpower losses but it will considerably shorten the line allowing greater defensive concentrations for the future. The disadvantage of this plan is that there is tough terrain and the main German advantages of mobility and armoured strike power is minimised. Another factor in this plans favour is that the bulk of the Soviet army is far to the south.

A North/Central Offensive: Primary Aim: To take Moscow, Tula and Gorky and eliminate a significant part of the Soviet army in the process.
This is primarily an extension of the 1941 assault and aims to encircle Moscow. Again a drive from the Kalinin bulge but due East then curving south via Ivanavo to Gorky. A second pincer driving from Orel will drive behind Tula and north to meet the northern hook. This aims to maximise Russian losses and will reduce Soviet production by 7 points.

The advantage of this plan is the relatively small geographical area and the fact that the northern flank is screened by impenetrable terrain making a Soviet counter strike unlikely from this direction. The disadvantage is the vast Soviet assault army is to the south which will no doubt move to eliminate the southern pincer.

A South/Central Offensive: This offensives only aim is to eliminate the large body of Soviet Assault troops to the West of Voronezh. This would be a limited positioning offensive with one pincer driving south of Orel and one north from Kharkov. The aim to eliminate as many Soviet troops as possible, The advantage is that this is prime tank country with  lots of rail lines for supply few natural defensive terrain features other than some minor river lines. The advantage is that the Soviets have no offensive concentrations to the south so this flank would be secure, conversely though the northern drive with its flank hard against Tula could suffer attacks from the north and Voronezh in the centre is well defended and fortified. This offensive gains one IRP reduction only.

A Southern Offensive This plan is for a strong mobile force to strike from Kharkov with two divergent thrusts. One aiming at Astrakhans via Stalingrad to secure the city and the flank of the main drive south to Rostov and the Caucuses. The advantage is that his offensive is against the weakest part of the Soviet line and the short hook to Rostov would pocket Stalino and the southernmost part of the soviet fortified line relatively easily. The main drive could capture or eliminate/disrupt 2 factories, the Baku production and 7 or more IRP centres.

The disadvantage of this plan is the vast amount of territory and the fact that the van guard will inevitably plunge out of supply. As with the central plan another disadvantage is the currently unemployed large Soviet assault army which lies to the immediate north which will harry and threaten the long exposed northern flank of this attack.

The Final Plan: Some combination plans are discussed such as a Central/South combination but this is discounted as too ambitious. After much debate Hitler and his General staff agree that Leningrad is to be the key. However there will be some variations and additions to the plan above. The Kalinin drive will strike east to capture the rail triangle with its apexes at Ivanovo, Kostroma and Vologda. This eliminates any help from the east and does not rely on the Finns capturing and holding the line south from Archangelsk north of Lake Ladoga. The single hex bridgehead over the northern Volga adjacent to the NE Moscow hex will try a direct assault to supplement this drive. The offensive will be made in association with a general push north in particular along the direct route from Veliki Luki aiming to reverse the Soviet gains south of Leningrad and taking advantage of the current dislocation caused by their own failed offensive. This drive will be infantry/artillery lead with some panzer support. Code name Operation Fleischwolf. (Meat grinder)

In order to mislead the Soviets as to the true intent of the summer offensive a second drive employing the panzers will be aimed at Rostov in the south. This is essentially the “small hook” part of the Southern Plan aiming to secure Rostov and the Don bend as a defensive line while capturing Stalino and eliminating the Soviet line south to the sea. This will launch some weeks ahead of the Northern push in the hopes of drawing the Soviet central army south. Code name Operation Angelhaken (Fish hook)

Pre-offensive moves. To prepare for the return of clear weather the central Axis forces will pursue the retreating Soviet army and keep in contact with it to reduce its mobility. This will however be an infantry pursuit allowing the mobile forces to move south to take up their pre-assault positions around Kharkov.

At Moscow infantry and defensive artillery will replace the panzers in the city while the panzers will occupy the important bridgehead east of the Volga adjacent to the NE Moscow hex. The west bank of the upper Volga north of the lakes will be cleared.

To minimise interference the Finns will be reinforced with a full strength Panzer division and tasked to sever the line south from Archangelsk.

North of Kalinin the rail line from the Valdai will be secured (and converted) and the infantry drive directly north reinforced to interdict or capture the East-West between Leningrad and Vologda.

To support the 1942 summer offensive plan the army boundary between AGN and AGC is moved south so that the whole northern pincer is under unified control. The new boundary is set at the centre of Moscow. Similarly AGCs control span moves to just north of Kharkov.

This turn:

Weather –No Change Snow in the Arctic zone, mud in B & C, clear elsewhere.

Finland & Army of Norway. A three hex assault against a key soviet fort south of Murmansk is successful allowing a Mtn division to advance and widen the route to Norway which had been constrained to a one hex wide corridor.

In the south the main assault is losing steam against a stiffening defence but manages to remove an infantry brigade from the northern flank of the advance.

AGN: AGN moves into offensive mode attempting to capitalize on the tentative encirclement of the Soviet spearhead south of Leningrad. 3 panzer divisions with support troops, mountain, light and infantry divisions launch a pincer move and succeed in trapping the two remaining Soviet assault stacks.  A third attack in this sector eliminates a 3-6 infantry retreating east from the Soviets moves towards Riga.

North of Kalinin the German forces continue to roll up the soviet flank north of the Valdai and the German forces consolidate their hold on the East – West rail line easing the stretched supply line serving the thrust.

May I '42: Heavy fighting along the shoulders of the Kalinin bulge

May I ’42: Heavy fighting along the shoulders of the Kalinin bulge

The Germans also begin the pre-offensive moves to clear the west banks of the upper Volga and start to replace infantry defenders with panzers in the eastern bridgehead over the canal adjacent to Moscow.

AGC: Around Orel/Tula the line thins as motorized assets are withdrawn to prepare for the summer offensive.  Further south in the Kursk sector AGC pursues the retreating Soviet Ist Shock Army and eliminates 2.5 stacks of units in 3 assaults trapping another by infantry advances. Kursk is taken against light opposition as the soviet forces abandon their hard won gains of the last 3 months.

AGS:  Preparations are made to prepare rail lines prior to the launch of the summer offensive and to receive mechanised assets transferring in from AGC.

May I '42: Local Attacks by the Axis in the Central Sector

May I ’42: Local Attacks by the Axis in the Central Sector

11th Army & Odessa Rail conversion reaches the outskirts of the city and the German siege assault train (Literally because composed primarily of rail guns including a new supper massive gun) arrives and prepares to aid the demoralized Rumanians

Although low odds against some tank support the Axis strike at the Soviet defenders at the neck of the isthmus and obtain a HX result and advance into the neck.

Air War. In the north rail strikes obtain hits against two of the lines radiating from Leningrad to hinder reinforcements to the soviet front line.

Central units are also tasked with starting to break up the soviet rail net around the proposed breakout point in the south. (Just north of Kharkov.

In the south the appearance of the Black Sea fleet temps the Luftwaffe against all past experience to try and sink the two CAs ferrying supplies to Odessa. All attempts fail and the ship remain intact. However some compensation is given in the form of two downed soviet fighters from the Odessa defence squadron.

Long range fighters again try to eliminate the soviet Air Transports at Kerch but are beaten back by Soviet fighters and AA one German aircraft is eliminated.

Battle Report
Attacks:    Diced = 11;   Auto elim = 4
Losses:    Soviets = 82   German = 5, Rum = 3

1942 APR II Soviet Turn

The failure to inflict any casualties on the main front last turn, the potentially disastrous isolation of the Leningrad spearhead and the melting snows convince STAVKA that it is time to call a halt to the Winter Counter Offensive.

The results are disappointing yet for a time were tantalisingly close to success. The capture of Bryansk was perhaps a pipe dream but certainly it was hoped that Kursk and Orel would both fall allowing two interlinked bulwarks to keep the Nazis at bay. With only Kursk at that right in the front line the plan fails and so the whole line is ordered to disengage.

South of Leningrad the drive south just failed to reach the vital Moscow Road which would have caused a lot of problems for the Axis if it would have been taken.

In this secondary drive south from Leningrad the offensive is over due to enemy action and the initiative is lost. The spearhead moves to extract itself without combat while relief reinforcements move south to aid safe passage but constant harassment from the air prevents any direct intervention.

The Soviets review their options for the coming year.

Their plan is defensive and by nature must therefore be reactionary. However a defensive plan is to be put in place to limit and contain Axis aggression.

The Soviets have maintained throughout the winter a fortified defensive line stretching now from Mariopol on the Sea of Azov to the Volga Canal north of Moscow where it joins the swamps. There is a small E-W section north of the Valdai and then the line is solid from Dno to Pskov where the lakes mark the front line north to Narva.  Planned extensions are to place a fortified ring around Tula which with the remaining Moscow hexes will form a defensive hub. The line is manned with a minimum of 7 points throughout its length.  The Soviet plan calls for the withdrawing attack elements to leapfrog the line and take up interlocking islands of resistance to the east of it. Infantry will form a continuously ZOCed second line with islands of resistance at strategic rail hubs and river crossings.  Motorised elements with Katyusha support will form Kill Squads to isolate and eliminate any Axis penetrations of the line (that is the theory anyway).

The continuing resistance of the Hero City Odessa is one of the great successes of the war and it is hoped that the city will continue to defy the Fascists particularly as it is tying up an entire Rumanian army.

The tactics in north of Moscow on the Leningrad front are constrained by terrain so here massed infantry with AT and tank battalion support will form defensive lines and protect open avenues and river crossings. Fortification is continuing in the area.

In Finland the Finish advance is of some concern and will need to be met with greater force than has so far been spared, The Soviets still maintain the belief that if Finland can be knocked out of the war by a strong attack into the country this will a great advantage and if possible this will be their aim for 1942.

Finnish Front: The Soviets leaguer outside the German lines at Murmansk and glare sullenly at the defensive ring around their city now firmly in German hands.

In the centre of the long line north they push back launching two assaults and while casualties are light they gain ground in both cases.

The main Finish assault is now within 30 miles of Petrozavodsk so reinforcements arrive and prepare to counter attack.

Action in the centre of the north Finland Front.

Action in the centre of the north Finland Front.

Leningrad Front: The isolated spearhead all momentum lost tries to exfiltrate back to home lines. Guards and an armoured xxx move south but are constantly harried from the air. The spearhead does link up back into supply but is not able to take any offensive action.

The troops further north moving west from Narva are only able to force a retreat from the defending German light division.

Further west troops slowly move south through the swamps to plug the gap north of Kalinin but the imminent loss of the vital junction in the forest there will enable German troops to gain full supply without having to rely on long truck columns but this is necessary to prevent the whole line being rolled up. A NKVD infantry division agrees to form the rear guard.

Moscow Front: The Volga canal is fortified and engineers put in place to extend a fortified ring around Tula.

Voronezh Front: The attack force is now reduced to a single line as the rear echelon over the last few months has been fed into the meat grinder. This pulls back as far as possible. Where it will not create holes in the line Katyusha brigades and mechanised troops pull back ahead of the infantry to take position behind the fortified MLR.

Crimea and Odessa; The Crimea offensive is called off and forces retreat to the narrow neck 80 miles west of Kerch.
The Black Sea Fleet is recalled to provide supplies and two CAs are dispatched with ammunition and food to the city of Odessa.

Air War:
A number of deep and medium raids aimed at Axis communication networks produce no meaningful results. The air bridge to Odessa meets more organised resistance than previously and only one transport makes it through although this is at the cost of a ME110c.

Battle Report
Attacks; Diced = 3

Losses: Soviets = None
German = 1,  Finish = 1

1942 APR II Axis Turn

Weather; The freak weather continues with snow returning to the Arctic zone but mud persists in B & C, clear further south.

Finland & Army of Norway. Little action as the German forces at Murmansk sit tight.  Transports arrive from Germany to supply the city ferrying in 20 REs; more than sufficient for the defenders. A fighter is transferred for defence should the Soviets try to interfere from the air.

North of Ladoga the Finns start up their attack again eliminating a 4-6 xx.

AGN: In their desperate attempt to sever the Moscow road the Soviets stripped the flanks of troops to bolster their main spearhead and obtain the force necessary to engage the panzer /Infantry stack reduced last turn. This left those flanks dangerously thin.

Choosing the moment to strike the German forces eliminate the weakest defensive stack and breakthrough to the Soviet rear cutting off the 4 stack spearhead. The containment is only by ZOC but will take any sting out of any subsequent Soviet attack. DAS is added to protect the breakout and masses of Harassment blankets the Soviet rear ensnaring the Guards infantry and Tank xxx rushing to the front.

Further east Axis forces take the all-important forested crossroads at the NE of the Valdai and put their front line in regular supply again allowing the truck support to begin the move east to Kalinin. Here the break is further widened but faces increasing opposition from Soviet reinforcements. Harassment is used here also to deny Soviet troops marching south from the E-W rail line the southernmost line of swamp hexes.

Axis counterstroke south of Leningrad

Axis counterstroke south of Leningrad

AGC: MOSCOW WEST IS CAPTURED!. Fanatical but isolated NKVD allow a rump to survive the initial assault but this is overrun in the exploitation phase. The capture of the hex is of great benefit freeing up the bulk of the city which will ease movement, allowing for example lower odds attack (no fear of retreat elimination) and will enable rail engineers to connect a number of converging lines.

AGS: Two attacks eliminate Soviet stacks at Orel and at Kursk which the Germans expect to be back in their hands with a month.

11th Army & the Crimea; The generous air supply lift and a lack of isolation eliminations make an assault on Odessa too risky. Rail engineers begin to convert lines to enable the German siege guns to get within range of the city to break the stalemate.

Due to the vagaries of the confluence of rail conversion, the weather-line and a carefully placed truck the Crimean forces will be in supply during the Soviet turn to resist any attack and will be ready to clear the rest of the Crimea next month.

Air War: Northern activity has been discussed above, in addition a fighter bomber raid on a river flotilla by Moscow scores a hit.

In the south massive raids are again directed at known Transport bases but only one unit (already previously aborted) is destroyed on the ground not diminishing at all the Soviet air lift capability.

Battle Report:
Attacks.   Diced = 7, Automatic = 2.
Losses: Soviet Isolated = 16 Non-isolated = 68
Axis = None.

1942 APR I Soviet Turn

The warming air and continuing precipitation turns the bulk of the battle field to mud effectively shutting down any major offensive but local attacks continue where sheer mass is sufficient to overcome opposition.

Finnish Front: The Soviet Murmansk relief column arrives to find the city has fallen and elite German mountain troops bar the railroad 16 miles south of the city. They muster their forces and prepare for a later assault.

Further south Soviet troops push towards Allakurtti eliminating two German Ski Battalions and Ukhta exchanging a bdr and regular regiment of Finns.

Leningrad Front: The Soviets continue the drive from Narva but the defenders pull back in good order, while  they pull back the Western advance from Pskov to consolidate earlier gains.

The main drive south takes advantage of the failure of the German counter attack and cadres a 16-10 Panzer and supporting infantry division in a 3 hex assault.

At Kalinin the eastern shoulder continues to firm up with a fortified defence east of the river and a screen east of it limiting German expansion. Fresh troops from the East arrive in force along the rail line to the north and prepare to march south through the swaps to set up a perimeter at the periphery. At the western end of the breach the out of supply former front line continues to inch back but maintain a large stack of mainly U2 units at the key forested crossroads at the NE of the Valdai.

Moscow Front: The isolated pocket survives the isolation roll and awaits the inevitable German assault while fortification continues east of the city.

Voronezh Front: More and more of the front line shuts down offensive operations and prepares for defence.  Around Orel two attacks result in a DR and NE signalling the effective end of the Soviet Winter Counteroffensive on this front.

Crimea and Odessa.  Odessa loses nothing from isolation. The attack from Kerch eliminates the German infantry cadre which has been retreating before it and an Italian division in a HX.

Air War. The VVS puts up lots of DAS and initiates a long medium range raid to Dnepropetrovsk aborting a Henkel on the ground.

Local fighter squadrons successfully protect the transport fleet eliminating a German twin engine fighter in the process and the transports deliver 6REs of supply to Odessa against German fighter opposition.

Battle Report:
Attacks Diced= 7
Losses Soviet = 20;
Germans = 17,
Italians = 4,
Fins = = 2

Commentary

Both sides use the relief to review the current position against their plans for the campaign.

Axis

The Axis plan called for all forces to converge on Moscow with a view to surrounding the city and capturing this vital hub.

The Axis came very close to achieving this. The northern hook with the shortest route to the objective met the stiffest opposition but managed to batter through and gain a narrow corridor north of the city hooking around at the rear, The southern pincer marching in a wide arc against limited opposition cut through the Soviet front line and drove north in a wide sweep around the rear of Tula and came within a hex of contacting the northern forces.

For the briefest of moments Moscow was cut off but the rains came just one turn too early for the German panzers and the tanks mired, separated and unsupplied then needed to fight out for their survival and meeting a scratch relief force just south of the City escaped back to the western side of the strengthening Soviet MLR.

By the time the winter snows covered the ground the Axis forces were in control of 2 hexes of the city with a front extending from just West of Narva, around Pskov, up through the Valdai and around the west of Kalinin. From there protruding to two hexes over the upper Volga canal, and then straight south, east of Orel, Kursk, and Kharkov to the coast. At Mariupl. The Crimea was still in Soviet hands and Odessa remained defiant. All this had been achieved at very little cost with no eliminated divisions and only a handful of Stug and flack/Mot At units in the replacement pile and a good stock of accumulated RPs.

The Soviet Winter Counter Offensive changed that, The Axis were pushed back in the centre holding finally just west of Kursk and east of Orel. In the north the ignored Leningrad front exploded with a Soviet Offensive which has taken them to within a hex of the main arterial supply route to Moscow which even now is still in some danger. However the winter battles have not been all one sided and by sheer force of arms and good use of engineers and massed artillery the German forces at Moscow have captured 2 more hexes of the city and invested a third.

More spectacularly just north of the former capital an opportunistic attack at Kalinin taking advantage of the Soviet’s poor supply lines ripped open a breech which has allowed the Axis to move north some 100 miles and threaten Leningrad’s direct rail line to the East.
Despite these successes the Soviet offensive has taken its toll with 6 German infantry divisions in the Replacement pool and as many more cadred and with 4 panzer divisions similarly reduced. RPs are less than half their pre offensive levels and insufficient to replace more than 5 divisions total.

Results of Soviet Winter offensive

Results of Soviet Winter offensive

Soviet

The Soviet plan by its very nature was reactive but consisted of a series of defensive lines to be given up with increasing levels of resistance.
From the start the tactic of massing the armour behind the lines rather than dissipating it for AECD worked well and a rolling battle developed along the Moscow road which came close to preventing the German forces reaching the city. If the tankers has been positioned even further back it may have been possible to rescue even more of them for the defense but the large pocket east of Bialystok trapped too many..

Nevertheless although Soviet losses were high enough troops were saved and the forces held pretty much along the final planned MLR. The exception being the bulge north of Moscow and the loss of the city hexes themselves.
Odessa now given Hero city Status remains in Soviet hands but the easy collapse of Sevastopol marked a black point in the defense of the Crimea. The loss of Kalinin and the advances there however marked the major failure of the Soviet plan to hold the invader at bay along the originally planned stop line of the retreat.

The Soviet Offensive, The plan here was ambitious and while the initial shock gained some ground quickly the plan of reaching Bryansk proved far too ambitious. Ultimately local commanders were unwilling to sacrifice their scares mobile forces in exploitations and the attack was more of a slow grind. Still at this point the targeting of German mech forces and divisional grouping caused severe losses to the German side which they will struggle to make up in the short term.

The northern attack although smaller and on a narrower front gained great tracks of land initially and has come within a hex of cutting the main arterial route to Moscow, however this prize continues to elude the Soviets.
The Soviets successfully held the Finnish forces at bay in the south by the amazing exploits of the 10th Mech but neglected the north to their cost and the recent loss of Murmansk could have been avoided.

1942 APR I Axis Turn

Snow melts bringing relief to the Axis forces

Prokhor looks out from the crow’s nest on the destroyer moored up in Murmansk harbour. The weather has been warming and there was a definite feeling that the icy snows of winter were receding. He recently heard that they were to prepare to make steam post haste and obtain much needed supplies from Archangelsk, formerly icebound to the east. He had observed the narrow channel to the harbour had widened considerably over the last few days and only small chunks of ice remained littering the calm waters of the channel. Within a day they would no longer pose any threat and they could sail.

Enemy activity had been constant and currently their guns were trained to the city outskirts anticipating an enemy attack. Their large guns would help to break up any assault and cause losses to the enemy but he also knew that hunger and lack of munitions was degrading the defenders morale and ability to resist the invaders and feared an assault may cause the city to fall; all the more important that they set sail soon. He heard a drone in the distance from the west and swung round to take a closer look. Air raids were rare and he feared this presaged the much anticipated assault on the city. 

But the enemy aircraft were already over the front lines and he heard no explosions? Too late he realised the enemy airmen’s intent. His arm reached for the siren and he tuned the handle furiously with all his might. As the wail rose up from the siren the first bombs were falling. A near miss showered him with still icy cold water, the second landing in front of his position blew the forward gun turret in to the air and an explosion ripped through the ship as the ammunition exploded. Prokhor was hurled into the air and down into the icy depths, the momentum of his fall propelling him deep below the harbour surface. He rose a few seconds later already shivering from the icy slivers of cold water piercing his core. He trod water for a couple more minutes not noticing the chaos all around or the vast wall of steel turning toward him. He slipped below the water as the blackness enveloped him dulling his senses as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Above him the bombs fell silent as the vast steel hulk of the once proud ship settled onto the harbour floor.

Weather: Warm winds melt the ice in A, B and C. turning the ground to Mud. Clear elsewhere.

Army Norway and Finland: Henkel’s out of Norway bases sink the destroyer support at Murmansk and ground troops follow up with a desperate low odds assault. The attack is a success and a HX eliminates the defenders and grants the Germans access to the city.

Apr I 42 Turn: The Axis take Murmansk

Apr I 42 Turn: The Axis take Murmansk

The Fins eliminate a Soviet stack but suffer a divisional to cadre loss in the exchange of fire.

AGN: An attempt to nip off the Soviet advanced guard fails (NE) so armour redeploys to a defensive posture along this sector.
The success at Kalinin continues to widen the breach as four more out of supply stacks of Soviet troops are eliminated.
Panzers on the right flank fearful of the Soviet build up NE of Moscow pull back and consolidate.

Apr I 42 Axis Turn: The Kalinin Breach widens

Apr I 42 Axis Turn: The Kalinin Breach widens

AGC: The isolated Soviets outside Moscow West are eliminated.

AGS; The front is defensive except at Kursk where two exposed Soviet stacks are eliminated.

11th Army & the Crimea; The Rumanians finally stage an assault on Odessa but are repulsed and retreat leaving a small rear-guard.

Air War. The Luftwaffe mainly occupies itself with rail bombing and DAS but the usual harassment raids around Kalinin stifle Soviet reaction to the widening hole in their front lines.
In the south large raids are mounted against bases that reconnaissance has determined host the transport fleet but with little success.
As reported above the Soviet destroyer squadron at Murmansk is eliminated in an air raid.

Battle Report:
Attacks: Auto = 4, Diced = 9
Losses: Soviet Isolated = 7. Un-isolated = 67
German = 9    Fins = 3

1942 MAR II Soviet Turn

Finish Front; The Soviet relief column races north – will they be in time to save Murmansk?

Leningrad Front: The offensive drives further south but on a narrow one hex front and still just 16 miles short of the vital Axis rail supply line. The breach is widened west and the attack out of Narva is launched which cadres the defending German infantry division.

Mar II Sov 1942: Soviets push into the Baltics

Mar II Sov 1942: Soviets push into the Baltics

At Kalinin the front continues to dissolve and pull back but a good firm shoulder protects Moscow from any moves East by the Axis.

Moscow Front: Trapped but still dangerous the isolated Soviet pocket at Moscow West swipes at an infantry division and cadres it,

Voronezh Front: The main push continues on the NW axis with the soviets forming a defensive line against any Axis moves from Kharkov. 5 hexes are attacked between Kursk and Tula cadering an infantry division and Panzer XX.

Mar II Sov 1942: Soviet attacks along the main front as the winter offensive slowly peteres out

Mar II Sov 1942: Soviet attacks along the main front as the winter offensive slowly peteres out

Crimea and Odessa: A punitive raid from Kerch retreats the German infantry cadre. Odessa feeds on supplies and hopes the transports will get through.

Air War: The Soviets attempt to ferry supplies into Odessa with some protection from local fighter squadrons. Of the 5 strong transport fleet, 1 is patrol attacked away one eliminated by interception and two more are returned so only 2RE are ferried in to feed 13 REs of troops.

Battle Report:
Combats Diced = 10
Losses Soviets = 9,  German = 31

1942 MAR II Axis Turn

This being posted 100 years from the end of  “THE WAR TO END ALL WARS”  a poignant reminder that lessons were not learned 21 years later;

 

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

Wilfred Owen

Weather; The unseasonal Siberian winds continue to blow maintaining snow cover in A-C (D = Mud, G = Clear)

Finland & Army of Norway:  The Garman forces push East passed the rail line immediately south of Murmansk cutting it off again from the south. In the South the Fins only obtain a DR in an attack north of the lakes.  A reinforcement 6-8 mtn arrives at Petsamo.

AGN: In front of the Soviet drive south from Leningrad the second 16-10 panzer arrives but no offensive action is taken and the unit joins arriving reinforcements to bolster the defence.

The Kalinin operation continues with infantry forces arriving to reinforce the panzer spearhead. The Soviet flank to the left of the breach is hanging in thin air and two hexes are rolled up together with the stay behind fortified 4-6. On the German right (East) flank the Germans take out a lone 3-6 but otherwise hold the line. Harassment plasters both flanks to hinder any soviet moves to seal the breach.

Mar II '42 Axis Turn: Axis expands the Kalinin breach

Mar II ’42 Axis Turn: Axis expands the Kalinin breach

AGC; In the latest round of tit for tat at Moscow the Germans take the fortified city of Podolsk  thus trapping the soviet relief column and the city once again.  (Podolsk had been too week left weak to supply troops to bolster the Soviet advance column to relieve Moscow West.)

SE AAR 01 Mar II '42 Axis Turn: Axis expands the Kalinin breach. (c) Ken Newall, 2019

Mar II ’42 Axis Turn: Axis expands the Kalinin breach. (c) Ken Newall, 2019

AGS. Other than eliminating a single 3-6 holding a Soviet weak point no other attacks are made in this sector.

11th Army and the Crimea:  No action on this front but twin engine fighters are transferred south to intercept future attempts to ferry supplies into Odessa.

Air War. Other than the harassment at Kalinin the majority of Axis air activity this turn is flying DAS missions to the front. The one offensive operation is at attempt to eliminate the Soviet transport air bridge ferrying supplies to Odessa. Two airfields are bombed but disappointingly result in only 2 aborts.

Battle Report;

Combats; Automatic = 3.  Diced =5

Losses: Soviets = 37;   German = 3;

1942 MAR I Soviet Turn

In the far north the relief column opens up the road to Murmansk; in the centre the Soviet offensive grinds on aiming to inflict maximum damage and seek out mech forces where possible. On the Leningrad front more troops are poured into the attack to try and regain the initiative while the troops around Kalinin fall back but reinforcements rush in to stabilise the front while at Moscow…

Finland: The soviet relief fights its way north eliminating the German infantry cadre and although the Germans straddle the rail line immediately to the south of Murmansk the city is back in supply.

To the north of the lakes both sides lick their wounds without combat.

Leningrad Front: The Soviets strike back recapturing last turn’s lost advance cadreing a Pz and reinforce the spearhead with copious amounts of DAS. They also expand their attacks immediately west of Pskov and place an attack force ready at Narva.

At Kalinin the forces on the German left flank fall back leaving a token fortified division as rear-guard. On the Germans right forces are reinforced and troops slip past the German spearheads to temporarily put them out of supply.

Soviet Mar I 42: Soviet winter offensive slowly pushes Germans back into the Baltic

Soviet Mar I 42: Soviet winter offensive slowly pushes Germans back into the Baltic

Moscow Front: The Soviets cannot re-take the city but the trapped forces in Moscow West strike SW and link with troops fighting directly west. They cadre a 11-10 pz and link up placing Moscow West back in supply.

Voronezh Front: The main assault plough on the centre 7 attacks are lunched and while 4 result in NEs the rest inflict massive damage. An attack lead by Guards cavalry penetrate a indent in the Axis line and a left hook eliminates an entire infantry corps of 3 divisions whose cadres have no retreat. At Kursk a scratch defence of cadres and security division is eliminated while just south of Tula a 9-10 pz is cadred. All for the loss of 9 points in a HX.

Soviet Mar I 42: Battles of Attrition along the Central Front.

Soviet Mar I 42: Battles of Attrition along the Central Front.

Crimea and Odessa: Odessa receives 10 factors of supply by air and accumulated Inf Reps replace isolation losses. From Kerch a rather belated attack cadres the lone 7-6 infantry division guarding the peninsular but a Guards Cavalry is cadred in the exchange.

Air War: Nursing their losses from last turn the Soviets send some long rail bombing raids out for little real impact. DAS reinforces the defenders falling back from Kalinin. One raid is mounted against an undefended stack of Heinkels at Zaporozhe with 5 of the 6 raiders being returned by AA fire and no effective bombing factors delivered.

Battle Report
Combats automatic = 1. Diced = 11
Losses: Soviets = 9; German = 68;

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