Monday, 14 August 2017

Kursk: Part 13 - Melee's on Wheels

Although a truly great tank the T34 suffered some severe shortcomings when up against the Panzerwaffe. Two are worthy of comment in that they impacted hugely on the Russian prosecution of tank warfare. One: inferior tank optics. The German optics in general were greatly superior to the Western powers but to the Russians they were off the scale. Two: Radio was almost entirely absent at the lower levels of command. this wasn't just in the armoured formations but Russian infantry didn't have radio comms down to Coy HQ level until after the 2WW! The compensatory endeavours resolved on playing to Russian strengths. Firstly, mass, volume, numbers. Stalin said "Quantity has a quality all of its own". Secondly, sloping armour combined with a very reliable diesel engine connected to wide tracks. Thirdly, you could fix it in a field with a spanner and not much else.
Serried ranks of T34's fresh from 'Tankograd'
 Waves plough into the German spearhead
 Pushing ahead in spite of losses
 Katyusha Regiment comes forward to follow up
 The initial shock to the Germans is severe
 Divisional HQ's come under intense pressure
 ...so it just has to be suffered
 Infantry hunkers down in the former Russian trenches
 79 Inf Div. braces for impact
 An old BA10 (yes, I'm running out of kit!) plays forward observer
 Russians await orders to advance
 With the initial shock abating 18Pz form a hull down blocking position
 Suddenly the 'Master Race' (sounds like a public school sports day) realised they weren't up against subhumans but apparent superhumans

 88's in the indirect role
 The STuG's of 10Pz Gren. push through the cleared lanes to take up a position allowing for a possible retreat through their line.
The Russians had something less tangible, but nevertheless recognisable to probably all nations, patriotism. Taken in isolation this rarely wins battles but with the ordinary Russian it had, and presumably still has, an almost mythical quality and endurance despite any given ruler.
 Ally this to intense propaganda, some party loyalty, evidence of the enemies disdain, cruelty and the existential threat faced by an entire race of people and you have a recipe for resistance. Chuck into the mix the support of the Western powers it led to victory
 The kit and the tactics were German. Finesse combined with technical and organisational competence gave the Wehrmacht tactical flexibility. This in turn enabled them to negate superior numbers on many occasions and brought them frighteningly close to victory
 It may have been a developmental cul-de-sac but the 88 L70 test bed 'Ferdinand' made a contribution out of all proportion to its numbers and borne out in this game
 The Russian Air Regiments virtually have the whole sky to themselves now that the Luftwaffe is out of fuel.
 The mass of Flakvierling light AA batteries are a very effective umbrella
 Fleeing PBI litter the field
 The guns are limbering up and getting to the rear
 The Corps is beginning a move through 79 Inf Div. Infantry, HQ and artillery first
 Seemingly endless fire missions leave the commanders worrying about their rear and supply lines
 A fast battalion of BT7's runs onto the pitch
 Katyushas let rip
 Half fire and half wait. It's alternate firing for them in RF
 One FOO comes to an end

 1st Bn 18 Pz Gren Rgt. rolls by the stop line
 Horse drawn kit leaves first being the slowest
 The long sFH18 gunners keep looking over their shoulders

 2/18 PG Regt pass HQ
 More FOO casualties
 The German line is firming up. Panic averted...for now.
 Clearly expecting...
 trouble to their front...
 it's quite a shock when it comes in from a flank...
 The Gun line reacts swiftly and with heightened survival instincts...
 Every gun in range swings into action over open sights
 The 'stop line' STuG's fan out to protect the transport with a counter attacking move

 just in time to see another tank battalion rise out of the ground!
 The Russians are closing around the German flank and coming in like a pincer (the sincerest form of flattery)

 Meanwhile back up the pointy end of the war
 ...T34's are about to cut through the railway line
 ...and the Russian artillery is on the move...forward
'Err...little help!'
 Regaining the lost ground...
 The German radio net is all over the place and the observers are bringing in fire from whomever they can reach (I cut them a lot of slack...because I'm the only one who knows what's going and when)
 Help is on its way...
 ...and safety is in sight
...with the protection of the big guns

It's not the rules, they are well known and simple enough even for me. It's not umpiring because we're all friends and want to see what happens next. But it is more the sheer size of the game. Someone has to keep the scenario on track, make sure it is reasonably authentic in tactics and relative methods of operation and with an eye to an historical outcome. Also to alot reasonable victory conditions so that we get a good quality game whoever turns up and whatever side they play.

Can the Germans survive?
Will the Russians run out of tanks?
Is full fat milk better for you than semi-skimmed?
All this and much, much less...next time.

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