Bolt Action Campaigning. The Advance On Stalingrad. A Bloody Nose At Keenanskiya

    Eastern Front mini campaign 1. Case Blue: Advance across the Steppe 

     We're still campaigning with Bolt Action but this time it's the Eastern Front 1942. Moving on from the very enjoyable Normandy campaigns we have more ambitious plans
   
      So what's the plan? Well, we plan (hope) to fight four mini campaigns based on the Battle of Stalingrad; these are;

Campaign 1. Advance On Stalingrad; Set during the late summer and early autumn of 1942, most of these battles will take place on the Steppes and in small towns therein.

Campaign 2: Wehrmacht in the Ascendant: The early part of the actual Stalingrad battles with the Soviets on the back foot and the Germans on the offensive.

Campaign 3: Soviet Start Rising: With their troops fought to a standstill, their lines of supply over extended and frozen the Germans forces are on the defensive as the Soviets grind them down in ever more embittered street fighting

Campaign 4: The Corridor. As the trapped 6th Army including the troops of the 135th Regiment fight for survival, German forces outside the encirclement attempt to punch through the Soviet lines and create a corridor to link up with 6th Army. This campaign will be fought by Danny and Richie.

     The last two campaigns will be set in the winter of 42/43. This means winter terrain so spurned on by the amazing book that is Setting The Scene by Pat Smith we aim to have decent looking tables for those battles.
 


     The first mini campaign is based on the German advance towards Stalingrad with my Germans fighting against Danny's Soviets. My chaps represent troops from the 1st Battalion, the 135th Regiment, 44th Division (Hoch und Deutschmeister)  (simply because I want a semi historical link to my Napoleonic Austrians. (I know what you're thinking, I need to get out more😁 )
     Danny's Soviets are based on the 100th Guards Rifle Regiment. Historically these were formerly Soviet Airborne forces who got reassigned to foot slogging for the good of the Motherland in 1942.
     The campaign follows the fates of three of the protagonists; Kapitan Joseph Schaat and Leutnant Hubert Nagel of the st Battalion, 135th Regiment (1/135 Regt) and Lieutenant Simovich Sonovbich of the 3rd Battalion, 100th Guards Rifle Regiment (3/100 GRR) and centres around the capture of a railhead at the town of Keenanskiya.
   

A Bloody Nose At Keenanskiya
    Until recently the small town of Keenanskiya had been held by the Russians but the militia unit guarding it, poorly led by a defeatist minded colonel and disaffected by the sight of the retreating hordes of their front line comrades streaming by them had abandoned the town as the Panzer Divisions approached.
     Word of this cowardly behaviour had reached the 35th Guards Rifle Division and elements of the 100th GRR had been sent to take over the town, it's defenses and it's important rail head.
     At the same time, Luftwaffe aerial reconnaissance had shown the town abandoned and the German 135th Regiment had sent a kampfgruppe under Kapitan Schaat to seize it. So without further ado, lets to the battle
        

Kapitan Joseph Schaate of the 1/135th Regiment, 44th Infantry Division. A long serving infantryman and ex-ranker, Schaat is a very competent Wehrmacht office who was awarded the Knight Cross early in the Barbarossa campaign. (as an aside, this is one of my favourite German figures. I have added an iron cross and a couple of tank destroyer badges as I wanted him to have some proof of his heroic deeds)

Leutnant Hans Zoff of the 1st Battalion, 135th Regiment, 44th Infantry Division. A former banker, Nagel enlisted after the Anschluss and has been with 135th Regiment since his enlistment. An enthusiastic young officer who thrusts himself forward into battle at every opportunity as befits an infantry officer of the Wehrmacht.

Lieutenant Simovich Sonovbich of 3/100 GRR. a tough, determined young officer and firm believer in the Soviet system. He burns with a hatred of the German invaders 
The rail head at Keenanskiya. The Soviets advanced from the left whilst the Germans advanced from the right

The railway station at Keenanskiya which boasted one of the worst railway waiting rooms and cafes in the Motherland


      Wiping the sweat from his eyes, Kapitan Schaat peered once more through his binoculars at the dilapidated looking wooden shacks strung out along the horizon. Unlike many of the towns they had passed through this week, this one was still intact, having been spared the usual bombing and burning by the Luftwaffe. High command had deemed the rail head there too valuable and too important to risk damaging it by indiscriminate bombing. 
      On being informed that it had been abandoned, Divisional HQ had given the task of it's seizure to the nearest units which was the 135th Regiment. Schaat's regimental commander had briefed him to take a small, armoured force and head straight for the town and and to ignore his flanks, leaving them to the rest of the division.
     In case of trouble the regimental commander had attached an assault gun, light howitzer and a squad of assault pioneers to Schaat's's platoon because "We can't trust those Russkies not to try some trick like doubling back, eh Schaat?"
      Now, as he searched the town for any sign of activity, Schaat thought his commander might be right, for just beyond the small, decrepit looking town he spotted the low, sinister shape of a T34 advancing on the town. Grabbing the radio handset from his radio operator he spoke to his vehicle commanders "Enemy in sight on the far side of the town; advance!! Advance!! Make best speed!" Around him the vehicles, armoured and wheeled, gunned their engines and sped toward the little town.
Both sides reach the town almost simultaneously. On the German side, the assault pioneers in their 251/10 move up to support of 1st Gruppe
      On either side of the half track Gefieter Perrler could see the infantrymen advancing in rushes towards the shacks. Behind them the crew of the light howitzer had unhitched their artillery piece from their truck and were maneuvering it quickly into position. "Achtung! Ivans!!" The young pioneer NCO span around just as the first shots ricocheted off the Hanomag's hull. 
The troops of the 100th Guards Rifle Regiment move towards the stationary train and the hated Germans.
     Gasping, Lt Sonovbich, urged his men forward. The race was on with the Fritzes to reach the town first and it was neck and neck as best he could tell. His men were spreading out along the length of the village, their squad sergeants getting them into cover, as they ran into the town, their truck transport being too precious to risk in the combat zone. Already they would be heading back to collect more troops from the marching columns advancing on foot to help reinforce the town. Meanwhile Sonovbich and his men would do their best to hold back the invaders.
     After receiving the news of the Keenanskiya'ss abandonment, the local NKVD unit had acted swiftly to round up the traitors. Whilst this was taking place, Sonovbich and his men had been told to advance and hold the town. Some support had been provided, a T34, a Maxim machine gun, a medium mortar and an anti tank gun.
      Surprisingly, a group of wicked looking Cossacks on shaggy little ponies had also been sent forward with his group. What use they would be he had little appreciated but they had scouted ahead and returned with the news that the Germans were almost at Keenanskiya.
     This news had given his men a renewed sense of urgency. His men. They had been through a lot together; formerly an airborne unit, they had trained hard, fought hard and suffered much. But they knew one another and trusted one another; they wouldn't fail to hold this town. His only worry were the new recruits, barely trained they had been thrown into combat alongside Sonovbich's men. Thankfully they had a commissar with them to make sure they didn't falter in their first action defending the Motherland
"Forward Comrades!"

3rd Gruppe hitches a ride to town on the back of the attached assault gun, a Stug III
      Covered in dust and clinging on for their lives, 3rd Gruppe were carried into the small town on the back of  the Stug. Crouching behind the vehicle commander, Gefrieter Zittmann waited for the order to dismount. An anti tank shell ripping through the air above their heads was all the order he needed. "Jump! Dismount!" he cried, pushing the still hesitant members of his squad. The Stug was just accelerating as the last of his men tumbled to the ground. Picking themselves up, Zittmann led them forward towards the rail trucks in front of them.....
..and quickly dismount as the T34 targets the Stug

2nd Gruppe move into cover

3rd Gruppe heads for the illusory cover of the train....

....this was to be their undoing as they were surprised by a squad of SMG totting Soviet tank riders who gunned them down to a man (why oh why is it always at times like this that I forget to go "Down"? Actually I know why, I get carried away with the spectacle😊 )

The Cossacks skirt around the flanks of the hard pressed Germans

...as a rifle section moves into the station building


     Cursing loudly, tank gunner Karla Vonivanni, readjusted the gun and looked for the German tank. Her first shot had missed the Fascist tank by a mile. It had been enough to scare the Fritzes on top of the tank and she had laughed at the sight of them tumbling off of the tank. Hopefully a few of them were crushed under the tank's tracks.
      "How could you miss, Private Vonivanni?" shouted the T34s commander. |"Do you think the Motherland can spare the ammunition for you to play with; every shot must find it's home in a German body!!".
     Karla groaned inwardly. Sergeant Katya Attet, was forever going on; watching everything they did and said. She bit her lip to suppress a retort. It would be pointless with such a hide bound NCO like Sgt Attett, she would just reply with some stupid comment about the Motherland. Vonivanni knew she  was right but she wished that Katja Attett would shut up about it and concentrate on the job in hand now and again. It was bloody pointless to fire this gun on the move. And they should be using that building to cover their advance now that the Fritzes were aware they were here. But no, Sgt Attett would never hear of that, the dumb bitch. "Reload!" shouted Sergeant Attett " And get a move on before the Fritzes run away and leave us nothing to shoot at!!"

The new recruits, led by their commissar, Artur Skarghyl, move forward, keen to get to grips with the Germans



Lt Sonovbich bursts into song as his men trade shots with the Germans

The Soviet mortar and anti tank gun get to work though neither were terribly effective

Gefrieter Perrler's men get pinned by very effective small arms fire. Casualties quickly mounted

The light howitzer comes into play and is very accurate. However their target, the anti tank gun, were very lucky and only suffered two casualties


Angered by the sight of 3rd Gruppes misfortune, the Stug barrels up to the rail truck and fires at point blank range and hits five of the Ivans.....how many 1s did I roll? Don't ask...

The Cossacks sweep around the now weakened German flank

as the inexperienced squad move forward cautiously, despite Comrade Skarghyl's encouragement

The Cossack's first victims; the anti tank rifle team

Kapitan Schaat was only able to influence one part of the battlefield

Sgt Attett urges her tank crew onward for the Motherland

Meanwhile the German MG34 team lay down some effective fire on  Lt Sonivbich's men

...the sound of their MG34 drowns out the sound of the Cossack ponies hooves as they carry the Cossacks forward to wipe out the MMG team

2nd Gruppe have a struggle on their hands as a Soviet rifle squad catch them unawares. 2nd Gruppe managed to wipe them out only to be wiped out themselves in combat with the Inexperienced rifle squad who would't have charged only the sight of Commissar Skarghyll executing one of their number encouraged the others on to glory!!

The Cossacks continue their rout, this time it was Leutnant Zoff who felt their wrath. A Soviet victory was in the offing

In an attempt to at least contest the Soviet pressure, Kapitain Schaate sent forward the last of the Pioneers to wipe out the squad hiding in the ruins. However, Lt Sonovbich came to their rescue by causing one more casualty on the Pioneer squad, putting a crucial pin on them which ultimately led them to fail their leadership test and they broke and fled

       Sending the 251/10 forward into the cover of a nearby house, Schaat called up the assault gun commander on the radio. "Feldwebel Knapper, you are to pull your gun back to my position. The Pak on the 251 will cover your retreat, do you understand?" "Jawohl"  replied the Stug commander as the Pak 36 on the Hanomag barked out. Behind him, the light howitzer continued to suppress the Russians as did the gruppe , the last remaining one from the platoon. Ammunition was starting ti run short and they were only firing at visible targets. Schaate switched the radio to the regimental net. If they could get reinforcement up quick enough then they might still have a chance of seizing Keenanskiya before the Soviet defence hardened.....To Be Continued

     And that was that. You know you've had a good game when you have been completely drubbed and still come away feeling good. I don't know about you chaps but I find the thought of war gaming on the Eastern Front very enticing and that game ticked a lot of boxes for me.
     A lot of that allure is probably down to watching World At War as a kid and reading lots of Sven Hassell books. And maybe just a little to Cross Of Iron. And also reading Hellmann Of Hammerforce in Battle Picture Weekly....you get the idea. 
     Anyway, back to the game. Danny used his forces to good effect, especially his Cossacks, who, he swears, are never effective in games! I wish he had thought a bit more about their previous poor performances prior to this game (try saying that when your drunk!!) as they were deadly in this game. They took out my anti tank rifle team, my MMG, my platoon commander and, at the end of one turn, were closer to my Opel Blitz than my own guys were so managed to claim that too!
      Fortunately for me I managed to put enough pins on his T34 to hold it up for a turn and also diminish the effectiveness of it's firing at my Stug ( I love my Stug III. I like almost all my other tanks but I love my Stug III; we'll just leave that there but I'm sure I'm not the only one who is under the spell of the Stug) so it survived but with a nasty shot mark on the rear as that's where the T34 shot hit it. 
   Personally, I was too overindulgent, bringing a captain and an assault pioneer squad to the battle when those points could've been better spent...hindsight is such a wonderful thing, isn't it, but I got carried away. I will know better next time, which will hopefully be soon. Next time will see the Soviets dug in in Keenanskiya and the Germans smashing...I mean attacking with every intention of winning. 

Till then, it's time for a tipple; not vodka though, f=brings back to many bad memories,
pip pip,
The General

Comments

  1. Another fine game and a fine report to boot Jim! I had a good chuckle reading through this and looking forward to the next clash 😊

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    Replies
    1. Cheers Danny, it was a corker of a game. Would that be the most effective your Cossacks have been? I see Crusader Miniatures produce Cossacks in German service.....now what could we do with them; Cossack on Cossack action; give both sides the Fanatics rule and play the Meeting Engagement scenario. That's actually quite tempting. Keep the forces small, say a troop of two-three squads and a troop commander and have them clash whilst on a patrol. Anyway, enough temptation; my Krauts will be back; reinforced and ready for action next week.

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