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1942 DEC II Axis Turn

Narrative

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

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

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

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

Turn Report

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

Finland & army of Norway:  Quiet in the North.

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

Southern Finland: The escape of 3rd Inf

Southern Finland: The escape of 3rd Inf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Central Front: The Axis fight to escape West

Central Front: The Axis fight to escape West

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

AGC: No action

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

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

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

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

Battle Report

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

1942 DEC I Soviet Turn

Partisans: Achieve 5 hits on secondary rail lines.

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

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

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

Leningrad Front:

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

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

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

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

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

Battles for Veliki Luki and the Vologda rail line

Battles for Veliki Luki and the Vologda rail line

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battle Report

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

1942 DEC I Axis Turn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battle Report

Combats: Diced = 2

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

1942 NOV II Soviet Turn

Narrative

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

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

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

It appears Hans’ optimism was misplaced.

Turn Report

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

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

Finland hangs on

Finland hangs on

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

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

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

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

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

Moscow Front attacks!

Moscow Front attacks!

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

Voronezh Front: Nothing to report.

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

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

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

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

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

Battle Report

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

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

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

1942 NOV II Axis Turn

Narrative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The situation was saved.

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

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

Turn Report

Weather:  Frost in B all other zones unchanged.

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

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

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

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

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

The destruction of 50th Army

The destruction of 50th Army

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

AGC: No action.

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

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

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

Battle Report

Combats; Diced = 2.

Losses: Soviets = 28;  German Air = 3

1942 NOV I Soviet Turn

Partisans – 6 hits.

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

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

Finland’s agony continues

Finland’s agony continues

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

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

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

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

Soviets drive south from Leningrad

Soviets drive south from Leningrad

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

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

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

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

Soviet attack south of the Don

Soviet attack south of the Don

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

Battle Report

Diced Attacks = 10

Soviet Losses = 14, Air = 9

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

1942 Campaign Commentary

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

The Axis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Northern Front in 1942

The Northern Front in 1942

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Southern Front in 1942

The Southern Front in 1942

The Soviets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Air War

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

1942 NOV I Axis Turn

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

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

In the centre the Axis continue a slow pull back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Battle Report

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

1942 OCT II Soviet Turn

Narrative

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

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

Turn Report

Partisans: 5 rail hits inflicted

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

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

Finnland fights for its life

Finnland fights for its life

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

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

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

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

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

Soviet Winter offensive against AG North

Soviet Winter offensive against AG North

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

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

Voronezh Front. All quiet here.

Stalingrad Front; (formerly Rostov Front.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Combat Report

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

1942 OCT II Axis Turn

Weather Roll: The rains have come, covering the entire landscape in a sheet of mud (except G).

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

In the centre the Axis brace for the inevitable Soviet attack and shorten the lines in a few places.

In the south the battered rump of the main Finish army struggles backwards moving northwest at a crawl inhibited by terrain, weather and Soviet ZOCs.  Meanwhile the 9th Pz takes position in the forests 16m south of Joensuu to hold open an escape route for the hapless Finish forces.

AGN. With the Soviet main line in full supply and their own attack floundering for lack of it the German forces call off all offensive action and reposition trucks to try to bring supplies forward but the difficult terrain leaves hundreds of miles of front unsupplied and thus exposed to Soviet counterattack

The better supplied main drive to Vologda however mounts two attacks advancing in two parallel columns 16 miles closer to the objective and causing some losses to the defenders.

German counteroffensive north of Moscow

German counteroffensive north of Moscow

AGC No action here

AGS. ROSTOV FALLS!!. Not by a tactical pincer surrounding and isolating the city as planned but by a brute force frontal assault. A Rumanian/Italian army stiffened with some German infantry divisions and well equipped with artillery and a concentrated assault Corps and a number of German Assault and combat engineers.

The success comes too late to call off attacks south of the Don which proceed as planned eliminating a number of low grade Soviet units but the Axis do not advance after the combats and consolidate the bridgehead in exploitation. The raison-d’etre for the forces south of the Don is no longer valid so they plan to withdraw as soon as possible – trucks move in to provide supply to cover the withdrawal.

Rostov falls

Rostov falls

Air War: Rostov based fighters take to the skies to defend their air bases in the city. They fail to inflict any hits on the dive bombers aiding the attack but one Yak is aborted by a Ju87. Rostov’s anti aircraft proves a much more formidable defence, aborting one bomber and returning 3 more but the survivors are able to provide enough support to mount a viable attack on the city.

Elsewhere 3 rail hits are inflicted.

Combat Report

Attacks: Diced = 7
Losses: Soviet Isolated = 7 (the Mech xx in the Don bend), Un-isolated = 41
German = 4,
Italian = 3,
Rumanian = 6

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