Underestimating the speed with which the Russian commander Vatutin would be able to refit and repair for a counterattack the Germans are caught somewhat off guard, with key forces moving or taken out of the front line. The Russian forces were predominantly formed of the 1st Tank Army and the 5th Guards Tank Army both of which had effectively been brought back up to full strength. On the 3rd August nearly 1000 tanks advanced south, initially to be met by the 19 Panzer Division, but later to be blocked by the 3rd Panzer Division, Totenkopf and Das Reich SS Panzer Divisions. This setting provides a perfect framework for a mini campaign of tank battles as the Russian forces breakthrough and then the Germans recover and try to re-establish a coherent front.
The whole offensive lasted 20 days and we could have identified anywhere upto a dozen separate scenarios and battles , this is too many so we have picked out 5 as a representative feel of the predominantly Tank based battles that took place, hopefully each one will give a slightly different feel.
Our first battle deals with the initial breakthrough of the 5th GTA. The germans attempting to fight a desparate retreat in the face of overwhelming Russian armour, have the 6th Panzer Division and Sturmgeschutz Abteilung 911. We played a retreat scenario from the Blitzkrieg rule book, the Germans attempting to hold and get off the table whilst the Russians are looking to steam roll their way across the battlefield.
Panzer IV's and a couple of Panzer III's dug in hoping to ambush the Russian advance
From the same position looking across the battlefield German Wespe Artillery from Abt 911 in the near distance
At the far , eastern side of the battlefield the Germans have taken up positions in fields, woods and the small industrial district
But suddenly from nowhere Russian armour is advancing across the battlefield. It should be noted at this stage that the German commander failed a number of key command rolls early on which put his forces on the back foot from the start. The 5th Guards Tank Army, as would befit an elite force has T34's, occasional KV'1s, all supported by mobile antitank killers in the form of SU76's, SU122's and the most formidable SU152's.
Caught napping and with command learship confusion the Russians immediately make the Germans pay, black smoke billowing up into the sky
Further east two Marder's from Abt 911 are also caught looking to escape from the woods, the Russian advance was so fast the German Propaganda photographers weren't able to capture much footage from here onwards.....!
A better overview of the battlefield, the Russians are sweeping forward
Panzers and Panthers have drawn up a defensive line by the small farm to attempt to give other units time to escape but they continue to suffer from poor leadership and also start to take casualties themselves.
Having captured the field in the foreground the Russians now have open sights to the Wespes who attempt to escape but are blown to pieces as are the two Panzers which had looked to block the advance in the central woods.
Shot taken by passing Russian spotter plane !
In what seemed like a few minutes the Russians have devastated the german defensive position, they are now in danger of outflanking the Panzers at the farm, the Germans have reached break point and have no hope but to flee.
It actually took a reasonable time and was in a strange way a fun battle although it didnt always feel it as the German commander, this was without doubt the most devastating victory the Russians have had in any battles we have played, they effectively wiped out the german forces whose positions were completely over run. Who said war on the Eastern Front was fair ! The german defence was significantly hindered by very poor command rolling.
The Germans will regroup for our next battle, with an encounter battle between the 18th Russian Tank Corps against the 3rd Panzer Division south of Zolochev fought on the 7-8 th August. Encounter at Zolochev.... tbc