This game was played at the same table as the second fight on this column with the Italians as attackers, for earlier action in the area table-lay out and aerial photo take a look here: Campaign Turn 2, Western Column
Leytenat Korotea from the 2nd Squadron and Sjljapin from the 1st took stock of the situation. Ahead of them, where Morduchvitch had been repulsed at the opening of hostilities, Ryzhi was heading back. Sjljapin had tried to help him, but in vain. The two leytenants heard the sounds of what they thought was the Italian armored car - the very same car that had probed Khabibulin's defenses. They were defending the same position that they had thrown back the Italians from that time. Korotea had dug in his men and two AT guns on Kapitan Jegorov's orders. Sjljapin was covering the right flank and acted as a mobile reserve, as his men have not had the time to dig in.
They expected an Italian attack to come from the same direction, bringing armour and support by mortars, so digging in on the left flank seemed the right thing to do. Korotea did not send any men over to the big two-story house on the left, as thought that the Motorized troops fighting for the railway station proper had secured it. The Italians should come down the road and through the gardens and woods. As it tuned out he was right in three of this four presumptions - the house was not secured after all!
That the Italians had managed to infiltrate into it was soon obvious enough as Koroteas platoon was coming under accurate sniper and machine gun fire from the building. And then the Italian armoured car came into action at top speed, driving straight down towards their position. Korotea sent a thankful thought to Kliment Vorishilov (and maybe old Buddeny) for equipping the cavalry with handy anti-tank weapons.
Two shots were herd as the anti-tank guns stopped the enemy dead in his wheels. Korotea heard someone scream angrily in the Italian-occupied house.
The petty Italians answered with their mortars, and the bombs plunged down on the same area as they had when Khabibulin defended this crossroad. Certainly, this was plotted all along!
The anti-tank guns were left outside the barrage and started an uneven duel with the Italians in the house. The fire-fight was getting murderous as man after man of the anti-tank gunners was killed or wounded. The crews fought with valor. The 4th campaign turn continued to to some real harm to both sides, I lost one AT gun due to crew loss and the Italians got an armoured car destroyed. Attrition in materiel had at last started to show.
At the same time, Sjljapin guarded the centre with one of his sections, leaving the other in reserve. He took Borisov with his Maxim with him for extra fire support. But the Italian attack there was not developing very fast and the men could wait uneasily in a orchard until the fighting died away. They did not see much of Mussolini's men.
Back at Korotea's position things were not that easy. The mortar bombs were continuing to fall down on them, but failed to cause to any casualties - a result of the soft ground and entrenchments. The mud was also getting deeper as it started to rain during the bombardment!
But then, after what had felt as an eternity of human misery, the rain stopped, and then the mortar shells stopped coming. As soon as this happened the battle with all kind of small arms fire resumed. When it was apparent to the Italians that the Red Cavalry´s fighting spirit was not crushed by this mortar bombardment they quietly withdrew to where they came.from.
Leytenant Korotea has lunged himself into the house that was the centre of resistance on the left flank. With no thougth about his own safety he endured the bombardment together with his men. This act of solidarity between men and commander kept the Red cavalry moral high during the darkest moments of the battle. For the second time at this table I had to throw in a Senior Leader into a mortar bombardment - it worked out, but oouch what an uneasy feeling!!
Probably there was much truth in what Colonel Tsvetovich had said - the Italians did not desire hand-to-hand combat, and the cavalrymen were waiting in their holes with grenades, carbines and sabers! As long as the will to resist to the death were unbent, the 138th Cavalry Regiment would at least hold their ground in Stalino. The outlook of a swift mounted counter-attack was nevertheless not as promising as before. Most of the exploiting forces platoons were engaged with infantry, if not house-to-house, then a garden-to-garden fight. Much of the attack's momentum seemed to be spent. Korotea hoped that Tsvetovich had something up his sleeve!
This was the second game in a row on the board just south of the railroad station. The first one was a bloody draw (for the Soviets, for the Germans it was a non-bloody draw!) so this was a second attempt to get a decision on this front. Since the last fight was a draw, this was to be a "neutral" game, so we chose the Patrol scenario.
Here you see the battlefield from the western table edge, with the rail-road tracks in the far end. You can see the three German JOPs in the centre of the picture, the barrels and fuel drums. The German player had the opportunity to hava one JOP in the big house in the foreground, which he probably should as the two in the wood in the middle are very close to each other (and the house is hard cover).
Both players opted for a lot of additional infantry firepower - as I remember it, the "armour dice" came up with "no armour", so this was going to be a wholly infantry-based patrol!
The Soviet platoon was armed with two Maxim MMGs and a section of SMG infantry. A SMG section consists of 10 men with SMG, including Junior Leader with SMG, for six Support - since we have house-ruled to alter the SMG range from 6"/12" to 9"/18", this is a really beefy option.
The Germans took two MG34 on tripod (MMGs), as we allow MMGs being taken as sections with a reduced price as well.
The game started of with a vicious clash in the central wood. One German section and MMG deployed and were countered by the Soviet SMG section. The Germans were forced to withdraw and lost their MMG in the process (all crew were "killed" and the Soviets hold the ground, so we decided this MG34 was a total loss for the Germans). This was actually little of a milestone in our campaign, as no heavy weapons or vehicles had been completely lost so far (in six games!). As you may have picked up we use fixed support pools for this campaign, so such losses will start to hurt in the long run.
Then the Soviets tried to make a flanking manoeuvre (you can see it in the top right) but they were stopped dead in their tracks by a German MMG deployed in the open (centre-top of photo). But at this time the flow of the battle was in Soviet hands after the victory in the central wood, and the Germans withdrew from the table to avoid more losses.
The battle for the south end of rail station was over (for this time at least) and it was in Soviet control! Captain Kolomiets was quietly swearing as Leytenant Fadeevich carried home the attack he had failed with one more time... this did not in any way stop the Brigade Headquarters to celebrate the victory.
The same night a telegraph was sent to the 12th Army Headquarters:
"In the fighting for Stalino West Station, the 15th Tank Brigade has taken its objective, killed numerous enemies and captured a heavy machine gun with 1204 rounds of ammunition."
The third campaign turn could be summaried in one phrase: full scale Soviet attack! The Soviet players pushed hard after winning their games in turn 2, with mixed effects. The attack on the western front was pushed back completely, with the Italians retaking the initiative for round 4. The center saw a draw, with the Soviets unable to dislodge the Germans, but ready to give it a new shot as soon as they can re-organize for a new attack.
Meanwhile, the eastern flank is starting to become a Soviet playground, as their troops steamroller the motorized German troops. Will they be able to continue their progress, as the victory condition is becoming visible? We'll see in the next couple of rounds!
WW2 Campaign Blog
This blog follows the second Chain of Command club campaign, set in the intense fighting over Stalino in October 1941.