Saturday, 25 February 2017

Kursk: Part Two - Great Expectations

 Model, commander of 9th Army knows he faces 13th Army in this sector and has every confidence in General of Panzer Troops Harpe to bludgeon his way through to the line of hills and on to Kursk, there to join up with 4th Army and so 'cauldron' the trapped Russians. Having done so Manstein will have completed his objective by shortening the line by a couple of hundred miles and be able to create a reserve on which to build for offensive operations in the east in 1944. He would also have set the Fuhrer's mind at rest by demonstrating to Germany's shaky allies the superiority of German arms and provided German industry with another 500,000 or so Russian slave labourers. Harpe and his XLI Panzer Corps will be getting plenty of aid from the adjoining XXIII  and XLVII Panzer Corps by the addition of 9Pz Div from one and 78 Inf (storm) Div from the other. In due course Army Reserve will be sending 10 Pz Grenadier Div to ice the cake.
But as they cross the streams swollen by the torrential rains all is not as generous as it seems
 Harpe watches from his staff car amongst his HQ entourage and knows the actual strength of his formations...the Divisions are not as they were in the summer of '41. Even at the the new reduced TO&E the Divisions are at half strength at best...
 ...and due to the chronic shortage of infantry, armour and assault guns must do the office of infantry formations. So much artillery has been lost along the way that the Luftwaffe must take up the slack.
 Every barrel is still hot from the pre battle 'hate' and still a little shaken from the anticipatory Russian preemptive stonk...
 Alan C's 210 mm's seeing action for the first time!
 Even so, on the ground, confidence is high among the rank and file
 Two Pz Gren Bn's to the Div. One armoured and one in trucks
 Armour is ok to wade but others make good use of the pontoons laid out in the night
 Traffic queues as they shake out in the dead ground before the gaps cut in the massive minefield belts by the pioneers
 The main armoured assault leads off with two Tiger companies. The third is still on trains coming from training grounds in Germany
 Good job the sappers had cocktail sticks an pritt stick or we'd be stuck...pun intended
Boris - "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!"
 Even the big guns will only get shells into the first lines but then the Luftwaffe will have to take over until repositioning can get under way.
"You know Boris, I think they think they ARE hard enough"
"We'll see"
 So far, so good. 9th Pz and 18th Panzer are across with no real difficulties. Ahead of them and waiting for the off, now dawn is up, is 86th Inf Div ready behind their full strength battalion screen of StuG's...
 18th Panzer moves in on the left...
 86 Inf out the front...

...and advancing to contact...

292 Inf Div has yet to appear on the right but is moving. The sky is clearing.  Looks like it might be a nice day...

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Kursk: Part One - Choosing up the sides

 July 1943. A meticulously planned battle, like Kursk, is quite unusual. It was not like D-Day a well planned battle with one side knowing the battlefield and the other not; neither was it like Stalingrad where both sides stumbled into the titanic clash. Both STAVKA and OKH knew that it was going to happen, where and, in large part, who would be involved. The inevitability took the sting out of the 'when' question too so, as Hitler's gut churned as he waited for Guderian's armoured reforms and his arsenals re-equipping of vehicles from the drawing board, the Russians packed the salient and practiced Maskirovka for all they were worth....This is the story of the northern pincer, Models 9th Army, but more specifically the action leading through the outer defenses and against the Central Russian Ridge to the Olkhovatka hills and a town astride the Orel/Kursk railway line called Ponyri.
 The 375,000 Studebaker trucks lend-lease products of the US factories were beginning to make their presence felt and the factories of Russia, that had begun their relocation to the Urals on the signing of the movement order on 23rd June 1941, were getting into their massive stride...
The Russians learn quickly. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the Germans were to get flattered to bits. The Pak-front was adopted with gusto by the Russians...
 ...and although there was plenty of lend-lease armour (amounting to 10% of Russia's giant needs) the latest generation of T34 was by a long way the most numerous of tanks to see action
 Known to be at a disadvantage as far as Russian intelligence sources were concerned, the T34's were dug in to present smaller targets and protection...well d'uh.
 A lot of kit was going head first into the ground
 As you can see no expense was spent...cardboard and matchsticks, but somewhere safe for the regimental mortars
 One of the regimental HQ's. The Political Commissar has the Papasha behind the Comrade Colonel in case he doesn't find the CO's orders conforming to party principals
It may not look much but the Russian defence has more surprises than a Parliamentary expenses sheet...and they can hear engines...lots of them.

Next: Hello Huns, keep your panzers on