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.
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.