Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Kursk - Part three: Hammer and Anvil

Both sides were determined to show what they were made of (mainly plastic) and no stone was left unturned in the provision of men and equipment. A veritable  flood of the available German armour and as much infantry as could be scraped together formed the hammer to be smashed onto the anvil of the deep Russian defences. Here is the first part of the clash of arms of the Northern pincer as it played out...
The shape of things to come...
 The StuG battalion of the 86 Infantry Division leads the infantry up to the Russian trench line identified from aerial reconnaissance
 They're rather closely followed up by 9th and 18th Panzer Divisions. In the actual battle Model expected the infantry to take the first positions with an infiltration attack but our modern commanders went with the 'all-or-nothing' approach which Model later acknowledged would have been the better option.
 Tipped with Tigers the spearheads shake out onto the other side of the extensive minefields and the ground shows signs of wear due to the heavy rains of the previous days
 The 86th grinds its way on through the mud...
 ...and into another hidden minefield
 An anti-tank rifle lets loose at point blank and up goes the StuG...
 The rest, including the FOO vehicles go on and leave the infantry to deal with the ambush
 Following in the tracks the PBI try to keep up with their mobile support. Minefields are best covered by fire. Extensive use of the anti-tank rifle in Russian service meant having to get really close so, they combined the two extensively training infantry in anti-tank work in order to overcome the former problem of 'tank terror'
 Big, noisy and wicked looking, the tank seems invincible but actually has several flaws that infantry can exploit. It is blind on three sides and deaf. Although it is a support and cutting edge weapon system it does need itself to be supported. Hence tanks are like Bailiffs; always mob handed...
 Morale, as far as the Russians were concerned, was as good as the Germans at Kursk and pretty much ever after. Skill at combined arms and in summer operations is what the Russians were rapidly developing during the battle
 Hitherto undetected anti-tank positions open up and start to score hits...
 ...but, in turn, they attract immediate and accurate return fire
 ..and are taken out...
 Unseen, other than by the smoke of their rocketry, katyushas fire from beyond the Orel Kursk railway line embankment...
 ...targeting the gapped cleared lanes
 ...a wide shot hits the river (no fish were harmed in the making of this battle)
 The Panzergrenadiers are grateful for their armour protection
 The German artillery replies in kind. Under RF rules the artillery has a range of ten feet. This is a problem on a 24ft table. The artillery can only cover the assault so far and then must have been provided with enough space forward to redeploy.
 Although the Germans have plenty of artillery for the focal point of the attack they will need to rely on the Luftwaffe as flying artillery to supplement the barrage as the artillery redeploys by batteries and regiments.

 Minefields and ambushes are being exposed and dealt with...
 Later than anticipated the Russian Air Regiments show up over the battlefield and are immediately driven off by Flak.
 ...smoke over the know anti-tank positions...
 ...and the breaching of the wire...
 Having shaken out from the confines of the breaches in the minefields...
 ... the Panzer Divisions advance, led off by Tiger companies...
 followed by Panzergrenadiers struggling through the churned up morass
 ...and, of course, by the clip board carriers of the Divisional HQ's.
 The Luftwaffe arrives...
 ...and is promptly shot down...
 ...but they are here in force. Having dealt with a large amount of the Russian Air Armies support by shooting up their airfields at dawn, they are free to cover the advance in good numbers
 House rules are needed, due to the size of this game and the important part that airpower played in the actual battle, which means that instead of one aircraft for five turns we've plumped for up to three aircraft per move, per side for three moves. The variables are calculated based on aircraft availability to each side, fuel and a random element. this makes for a pretty 3D battle. Have-Flak-will-travel being an important additional factor.
 The front line takes an absolute pounding...
 ...as do many of the ambushes...
 ...but, as always, eventually the infantryman must take the ground
 Harpe at Corps HQ is quietly confident
 So are the Divisional HQ's...if they are moving up towards the pointy end...
 The last hurrah of the Pz III as a main battle tank...
 The Red Air Regiments are persistent over the area driving off many German aircraft and interdicting on the ground. This aircraft flown by the famous Pinocchiokov...
 Despite this, the Ju 87 B's continue accurate attacks on Russian positions. Particularly effective 'Maskirovka' (camouflage and concealment) practised by the Russians means identification of ground targets, even to the ground elements themselves, is very patchy
 Smoke is a two edged sword; it aids safer movement but can cause significant confusion. In this case the conflation of small errors already is developing into greater confusion...
 ...added to by continuing Russian ground interdiction...
 ...and large scale rocket...
 ...and artillery barrages.
 The subtlety of German arms is sacrificed for the bludgeon of the mass attack...
 ...and an attritional battle may well prove to be victorious...
... but Phyric

Next time: Steamroller

12 comments:

  1. Lovely!!! Cannot wait for more, sir! Model must be pleased. Looks like gratifying progress for the first day.

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    1. I think he would have approved of the progress so far but Nazi's who blow their own brains out get the thumbs up from me. The first line seems to be crumbling as per the battle so here's to seeing the development as we've planned it. A complex but exciting game.

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  2. Truly epic- I love it.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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  3. Loving the shots of the massed armour. Well done as always!

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    1. Thanks Paul. We rarely get to use just about everything and it looks better than I had anticipated.

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  4. What an impressive report, great looking pictures, very atmospheric (love the explosion markers)...Well done, master of the smoke!

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  5. Cheers Phil. Not a clean battlefield but then what ones are. Burn markers by Ross, bangs by me and smoke by surgical cotton wool.

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  6. Hello Service Ration, I added a link to your blog, I did not realize I did not already link to you. Great articles on Kursk, love the untrayed infantry, the aircraft hanging from the ceiling, the vast numbers of vehicles!
    Mike Bunkermeister Creek

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  7. Hi Mike. Often visit your blog and enjoy it very much. Welcome to the stushie (a Scottish word for punch-up) we hope for general historical voracity and some exciting action. Comments and constructive criticism/suggestions always welcome if not always acted upon.

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