Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Leichte Panzerkompanie: Progress!

The mark of a great campaign like the recent Legio Firestorm Bagration campaign is that it inspires you. And true enough, after a long hiatus, I revisited my FoW Blitzkrieg project - a Leichte Panzerkompanie.

When I left the project, I had finished a platoon of Pz II C and was midway through a Pz III E platoon. I painted the tanks with 9PD insignia, as this was one of the light panzer divisions operating in France. But my late-war 5PD force in the recent Bagration campaign did so well that I switched to 5PD instead. The other good reason for me to switch to 5PD was it was one of only 2 panzer divisions which used 2-digit vehicle numbers instead of the usual 3.

So for the past week, this is what I did:

1. Re-did the list based on my increased experience as a FoW commander
2. Painted German Grey over the 9PD insignia on my Pz II (3rd) platoon, and painted on the 5PD insignia
3. Finished painting the Pz III (4th) platoon
4. Went back and redid the tracks and weathering on the Pz II platoon
5. Basecoated all my remaining tanks in German Grey spray
6. Finished painting 1st platoon, a mix of Pz I and Pz II
7. Started prepping the Leichte pionier platoon

This hobby night, I'll start painting 2nd platoon, made up of a Panzerbefehlswagen, 2 Pz I and 2 Pz II. The army at 1750 points will be made up of the following:

Company HQ - 1 Panzerbefehlswagen, 1 Pz II, 1 Pz I
1st platoon - 2 Pz I, 3 Pz II
2nd platoon - 1 Panzerbefehlswagen, 2 Pz I and 2 Pz II
3rd platoon - 5 Pz II
4th platoon - 3 Pz III
Leichte Pionier platoon - 7 stands pioneers
Luftwaffe 8.8cm FlaK 36 - 2 guns with additional crew
Priority air support - Ju-87 Stuka, schwerpunkt

Out to 2000pts, and as an alternative to the 88s is a Panzerschutzen platoon of 7 stands and 4 halftracks. And you know what, I probably need some mortars too. And a Pz IV platoon would look good too, come to think of it.

Anyways, I'll focus on 1750 first, and we'll see what happens when the Blitzkrieg campaign opens up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

5.panzerdivision truimphs at Bykhov again!

Once again, our brave panzertruppen of 5.panzerdivision defeated the enemy hordes at Bykhov. Having just been returned to the line to man the defences at Bykhov, 5PD was assailed by hordes of Soviet infantry, supported by rocket artillery, self-propelled guns, heavy tanks and Sturmoviks. To make matters worse, by sheer bad luck the Soviets had managed to cut off Bykhov in the previous week, and our troops were fighting with very low supplies. But instead of letting this bitter situation get the better of them, this only served to strengthen their resolve, each man prepared to fight to the bitter end if need be.

As is usual throughout this campaign, 5PD was badly outnumbered. Two huge battalions of Soviet infantry were deployed on the right flank, no doubt intent to swamp our lines. They were supported by two IS-2 heavy tanks, a mortar company, an HMG company and a huge battery of around 14 Katyushas. The left flank was covered by a company of SU-122.

Against this horde, the 5PD detachment mustered up 7 Pz IVH, 6 StuG IIIG, 3 Panther A, 3 Pz IIL, 2 platoons of panzer pionier and a battery of 2 Luftwaffe 88s.

The 5PD detachment was spread throughout the frontline. They had fought on this ground before and was able to use that experience to their advantage. The two objectives, one on each flank, were defended by the trusty panzer pionier. The Pz IV platoon, led by the company commander himself were deployed on the far left against the SU-122s. The Luftwaffe 88s deployed in the center to make full use of their superior range. Interspersed between the guns was the Panther platoon. The right flank was brought up by the 2iC in his Pz IV, 2 platoons of StuGs, with the Luchs recce platoon deployed forward.

The most daunting part of the enemy force was his huge artillery support, and that became a priority target. Also, the enemy's right flank was definitely his weak spot, with only 5 SU-122 covering it. This is something my Pz IV can take care of at range, especially with the help of the 88s. The Panthers were tasked to take out the enemy heavy tanks. The StuGs were to target the Katyushas while sweeping up the right flank with the Luchs platoon. At any rate, 5PD will have to close with the enemy fast or face incessant bombardment from both the Katyushas and Sturmoviks.

Seizing the initiative, 5PD moved into the attack. The right flank advanced aggressively, as the StuG platoons spread out while opening fire on the Katyusha battery, destroying only 4 launchers. The Luchs platoons scouted ahead on the extreme right and tested the Russian defences there, gunning down some enemy infantry in the process. The opening round of fire from the Pz IV platoon was not impressive, killing only one SU-122 and forcing another to bail out. The Panthers did not fare any better, and their shots did not find their marks.

The Russian hordes advanced on our right, with both infantry battalions marching headlong towards our lines. A horrible fiery Katyusha bombardement was unleashed on the 88s' and Panthers' position, but after the explosions, smoke and dust, only one 88 was destroyed. Mortar fire on the same area also failed to do any damage. Then on the right flank, the crazed Soviet hordes charged the Luchs platoon with SMGs and grenades! A hail of MG fire from the Luchs and nearby StuGs cut down scores of Soviet infantry, but they still kept coming, such is the unstoppable wave of the Soviet horde. But as man and steel contacted, the enemy infantry failed to do any harm to the light tanks, but were instead further decimated by the merciless point-blank MG and autocannon fire. Goaded by their commissars, the Russians threw themselves into the fray again and again until only a few remained, and even despite their  fearless nature, such were the losses that they fled the battlefield.

Taking advantage of this fortunate turn of events, the Luchs swept up the right flank, with the StuGs in close support. The Panthers stood their ground to concentrate fire on the Russian heavy tanks, and this time the IS-2 company was quickly reduced to smoking ruin as shell after shell found their mark. Likewise, the Pz IV platoon and 88s focused their fire on the SU-122s, quickly  destroying all but one. On the right flank, the Luchs platoon and one of the StuG platoons opened fire on the surviving SMG battalion, thinning their ranks, while the remaining StuG platoon opened fire on the Katyushas, destroying only one. Then the order came - "Panzer vorwart!" - and the entire German tank line advanced as one.

On the extreme right, the Luchs and the StuGs assaulted the enemy infantry. In a short but sharp fight, the Soviet SMG battalion was cut to ribbons and fled off the field. The Soviets were now in a hopeless situation. They had lost all their armor and most of their infantry, and the Germans on both flanks were barreling down on them. In true Soviet style, the Katyushas brought down a fearful barrage on the German forward right fank, with rockets falling on their own comrades still manning HMG positions! Fortunately for the Russains, the infantry were able to find whatever cover they could and came through the bombardment relatively unscathed. Unfortunately for the Russians, the German tanks survived largely unscathed too, with only two tanks forced to bail out. The Russian commander frantically called for air support, but mysteriously, the Sturmoviks did not turn up (really really bad roll).

Then it was time for the coup de grace, as 5PD tanks advanced into the kill. On the right flank, the StuGs and Luchs platoons assaulted the enemy HMG company defending the objective, easily cutting them down to the man and securing the objective for Germany. The remaining forces advanced and opened fire on the Katyushas, finally destroying all launchers. There was nothing more that the Soviets could do, and the handful of survivors of the onslaught retreated off the battlefield.

This had to be the shortest and sharpest FoW battle I had ever experienced. The battle was pretty much one-sided, with the Soviets really lacking in anti-tank assets. A battery or two of ATG would have changed the situation entirely. And this showed in the tally as well. The Soviet force lost 6 of its units in just a few turns, while the Germans only lost a single 88 gun and crew.

It turned out that this was to be the final battle for 5P in this Bagration campaign. Bykhov was held, ensuring that supply lines to Mogilev remained open. The battle also resulted in the retaking of Slavgorod, further securing the German position.

This campaign turn had been nothing short of monumental for the Germans. Although they gained strategic initiative only once, they had managed to win all but one of the battles fought during the campaign turn. The Germans lost Orsha, but also cut off the fallen city by taking Dobryna. The Russian Smolevichi salient was squeezed out and the southern flank was further secured by German victories in Berezina and Zhlobin.

The Bagration campaign is over. History has been rewritten. Victory to the German forces!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

5. Panzerdivision defeats Soviet hordes in Bykhov and Rudina!

The third week of the campaign sees the Russians desperate to achieve a significant breakthrough, simultaenously throwing their numerically superior forces straight into the German lines in the north, south and center.

5. panzerdivision was in the thick of the action and was sent in to fend off two major Russian attacks - at Bykhov and Rudina.

The Battle of Bykhov
In a bid to encircle the city of Mogilev, Russian Guards tank forces made a frontal assault on Bykhov, defended by elements of 5.panzerdivision. Comrade Colonel Pura's (Puranovich?) battalion of 12 IS-2s, supported by an attached T34/85 company and IL2 flying tanks rolled into the defenders in a brazen frontal assault.

The 5PD forces were made up of 6 StuG Gs, 5 PzIVH, 3 Panthers and an 88mm FlaK battery, supported by 2 platoons of panzerpionier from 3.Armee reserve. The 88s were deployed in woods on the left flank, while the panzerpioniers dug in to defend objectives in the German lines. The PzIV platoon deployed in the far right to lend support to the dug in panzerpioniers, with the 2iC in his StuG in the center, hidden behind the farmstead. To the left of the woods, the main attack force of Panthers, StuGs and the company commander in his StuG deployed in attack formation.

The Russians started the battle aggressively rolling forward on both flanks. On the German left, IS-2s advanced from the village, opening fire on the Panthers without success. The IS-2s in the center sat on one of the German objectives and opened fire on the Panthers, also without any success as the Panthers' thick sloping frontal armor easily shrugged off the 85mm AP shells. On the German right IS-2s and T-34s advanced at full speed towards the Germans.

The battle proved to be short and sharp. In the German opening move, combined fire from stationery Panthers and the 88 battery knocked out most of the advancing IS-2s on the left flank, causing them to flee the battlefield. With the flank wide open, and using the village as partial cover, the Panthers advanced cautiously forwards, with the StuGs following. The advance had to be cautious, with the German tanks staying as close as possible to woods and buildings, as roving flights of Sturmoviks were harrasing the Germans forces throughout the battle.

In fact, on the far right flank, the PzIV platoon was continually hit by IL2 airstrikes, their rockets destroying the entire platoon in just 3 turns. This is the second time 5PD had to face the Russian airforce, and this time the damage was far worse than the experience in Gorki last week. As saving grace, the PzIVs did manage to destroy two T34s at long range before they went out.

As the dug-in panzerpioniers on the right flank braced for the inevitable heavy tank assault, the German left flank launched into an all-out attack. The Panthers rushing into the left of the village and overwhelming Colonel Pura's lone command tank, capturing the objective by the rail line. The IS-2 platoon guarding the central objective near the road desperately swung in at best speed to contest the objective. At precisely this moment, the German StuG platoon broke cover and swung in on the Russian heavy tanks' left flank. Combined fire from the Panthers to the front, and the StuGs and 88s firing into their thinner side armor, quickly reduced the Russian heavy tank platoon to a single tank, who broke and retreated from the field.

5.panzerdivision truimphs again at Bykhov, recapturing Slavgorod, and throwing the Russians back across the line to their starting positions!

The Desperate Defence of Rudina
At the start of the campaign turn, the Russian northern flank was in a precarious position. While they had captured the city of Vitebsk, as well as the surrounding areas Sumalina and Gorodok, the entire northern flank had been cut off supply by German forces occupying Rudina and, importantly, the rail line connecting Smolensk to Vitebsk. Rudina had become a vital target for the Russians.

The 5.panzerdivision kampgruppe that was victourious in Gorki had been pulled into the rear lines of Rudina to rest and refit, and act as reserves for any attempted Soviet breakthrough. Unfortunately for the intrepid panzertruppen, there was to be no rest, as the Russians threw everything they had at Rudina, and every available forces were rushed into battle.

5.panzerdivision forces in the defence of Rudina were made up of 6 PzIVH, 3 Panthers, a panzerpionier platoon, an attached Luftwaffe 88 battery and a platoon of 2 Tiger tanks from 3.Armee reserve. The Soviet forces attacking from the hils of Kholm under Comrade Colonel Khairul (believed to be a traitor of the Reich) were made up of 11 T-34/85s, 8 SU-100s and bolstered by army reserves of 5 SU-76s and 3 more T34/85s.

Again, 88s took up position in some woods, sited in the German left flank, with the Panthers, PzIV and company command PzIV deployed to the left of the woods. The Soviet objective on the right was occupied by the panzerpionier, supported by Tigers in the extreme right and the 2iC PzIV behind the farm in the center.

The battle started off quite disastrously for 5.panzerdivision. While the initial volleys of AP shells knocked out 3 T34s in the left flank, a serious deployment error resulted in one of the Tigers easily knocked out at extreme range by the SU-100s, while the crew of the other Tiger was forced to bail out. A force of 9 T34s with support from 4 SU-100s were quickly closing in on the isolated panzerpioniers, and it looked like the battle would be carried by the Russians in short order.

There was only one thing to do, and risking all, the Panthers and PzIVs on the left flank advanced at full speed into the Russians, intent on capturing the objective on that flank. While more T34s were knocked out, somehow enough SU76s managed to escape destruction and were able to come round the rear and sides of the German tanks, taking a heavy toll on the PzIV platoon. However, superior German crew and weaponry gave the outnumbered panzertruppen the edge and in 3 turns of point-blank range firefight melee, all Russian resistance in the far left flank was annihilated.

The troubles were not over yet for the Germans though, as while the Panthers and surviving PzIVs had reached the edge of the village, they still had the SU-100s to deal with. At the same time, on the right flank, the Germans were about to be overwhelmed as 3 T34s had come into point-blank range of the lone Tiger, firing again and again into the German heavy tank, with another 6 barreling towards the panzerpionier.

The large T34 platoon at the last moment veered right and headed straight towards the objective on the German left flank, which was unoccupied. But the 88 battery in the woods demonstrated why 88s are the stuff of legends as they took out 4 of the advancing T34s in a single round of rapid-firing high-velocity shells. This combined with another T34 crew forced to abandon their tank after coming under fire from the lone Tiger, and the last T34 in that platoon destroyed by a rear shot from the panzerpioneir's command halftrack 28mm gun, utterly broke the Russian attempt to seize the unoccupied objective.

To make matters worse for the Russians, the lone Tiger not only survived repeated volleys from SU-100s at extreme range and T34s at point-blank range, it actually fought back and destroyed 2 of the T34s, forcing the survivor to flee. This was another stuff of legend - a lone Tiger fighting off hordes Russain armor, and surviving to tell the tale!

Not all was going well for the Germans though. The SU-100s deployed in the center entered the village to stop the advancing Panthers, and managed to destroy the whole Panther platoon. The Russian advance into the village was not without cost, and they lost 2 tanks to Panther and 88 fire. The lone surviving PzIV boldly advanced to shoot into the SU-100 flanks, but was eventually destroyed. The 88s avenged the death of the brave panzertruppen though, destroying another SU-100 and forcing the survivor to flee.

The battle had been reduced to a slugging match with both forces reeling and bleeding. But with the demise of the SU-100 platoon, the Russians only had a single platoon of SU-100s left, against the surviving German 88s, dug-in panzerpionier and the lone Tiger. Making matters worse, Russian morale was sapping by the minute. There was only one thing left to do, and the SU-100s advanced towards the panzerpioniers at full-speed. The 88s and the Tiger opened fire, destroying one SU-100, and eventually the Russian resolve broke as the battalion's morale failed and the 3 Russian surviving tanks fled the battlefield.

This was truly an epic battle that was fought desperately and valiantly by both sides. It was so desperate that at one time I even considered limbering up my 88s, so that they can move forward and take the objective on the left flank! There were many epic and legendary moments - the 88 battery knocking out the Russian attack in a single round of fire, the lone Tiger practically single-handedly holding and beating off the Russian attack on the right flank, and the fact that I had to throw in my half-tracks to fight T34s. The Germans lost 2 platoons of tanks, but the Russian force was almost annihilated. What a victory!

Sadly, while 5.panzerdivision defeated the Russians and captured Kholm, a follow up Russian attack on Rudina from Gusino was successful, and the Germans had to fall back to Dobryna.