Monday, 17 May 2010

Welcome to the Eastern Front

I managed to put together a game for the club last week, yet another outing in 6th panzer Divisions tour of the Baltic States. This covered the famous tank battle at Rassienie on 25th June 1941 when the Russian 14th Tank Corps attacked the flank of 6th Panzer Div. Only 2nd Tank Div actually made it into contact and sources vary about its exact tank strength, some claim it had 60 operational KV1s! Historically around 200 tanks attacked on the 25th, and Bob Mackenzies strength estimates seemed the most plausible. It was tempting to model the Soviet tank regiments a single entities, but in the end I split them into seperate (small) battalions which went some way to replicating the coordination problems the RedArmy had in this era. This gave the 2nd Tank Div half a dozen tank battalions in two regiments and overall the division was at around 50% strength with 180 tanks, a weak motorised infantry regiment and a battalion of 152mm howitzers. I included 60 T34s and KVs, which subjected the Germans to tank terror.

6th Panzer Recce Abteilung dug in holding the bridge, the divisional Rollbahn runs through the swamp just visible to the NW.
Motorised infantry battalion, 105mm artillery battalion and Regimental HQ resting around Rassienie.
Russian 2nd Tank Division assembled in the woods east of the River Dubsya. 2nd Tank Regiment (T34s and T26s) is towards the bottom, 1st Tank Regiment towards the top. The KV-1s are lined up on the road.
Russians roll forward behing a pre-planned artillery barrage. The Germans were looking throughly fed up at this point.
Motorised infantry, engineers and infantry guns start frantically digging in on and around the ridge east of the town. The first Russian tanks have already forded the shallow river.
6th Recce calls in defensive artillery, but a battalion of T26s overruns the position as the Russian infantry moves up in support. The other Russian tanks bypass the defenders. The Russian artillery decided this would be a good time limber up and move forward.
As heavy fighting rages around the bridge, a battalion from 11th Panzer Regiment arrives from the bridgehead to the north. At this point most of the Russian tanks are over the river and the German tanks are out of sight.
The Panzers overun the Russian artillery while it is still limbered, the 152mm regiment is completely destroyed. Meanwhile the Russian infantry dig in as the 6th recce bn finally breaks and runs. Soviet armoured cars harrass the panzers but fall back.

Further west, more German reinforcements (another infantry battalion plus batteries of Flak 36 and 100mm K18 guns) reinforce the defenders just in time and the Russian assault beats itself to pieces against the Pakfront. The T34s are knocked out by 88s and K18s and the KVs fall back in disorder after a failed overrun attack on the dug in German infantry. Only two companies of the original defenders are left on their feet at this point. Welcome to the Eastern Front!
I was very pleased with the way this game (broadly) followed the flow of historical events, although in the actual battle 11th Panzer Regiment withdrew in disorder after encountering the KVs. 6th recce Bn and a column from 114th IR were overrun by the Russians, but their attack was eventually stopped by a hastily formed pakfront east of Rassienie, which we managed to recreate. The German player was suitable awed by the mass of Soviet armour, but by great efforts did finally manage to stop them. Historically the attacks continued for a few more days as the rest of XIVth Mechanised Corps straggled up to the front, and after the fighting finally ended, some 250 tanks were found scattered in an arc east of the town, many of them out of fuel and ammo. One of the KVs made its way northwards and parked itself on the Rollbahn, where it held out for six days before being destroyed.

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