Race for Leningrad Campaign Diary

This page covers an account of the Race for Leningrad Mini-Campaign played at Mansfield Wargames Club by myself and Paul Scrivens-Smith. We started the camnpaign in June 1997, and tried to resolve one (or tow) battles every fornight. SpearHead was used to resolve the individual battles, and the campaign rules themsleves were re-written as we went along based on the play test.
22nd June 1941 8th Pz Div at Schlauen

22nd June 1941 1st Pz Div at Schlauen

29th June 1941 8th Pz Div at Luga

29th June 1st Pz Div at Pskov

22nd June 1941 8th Pz Div at Schlauen

Terrain: The Russians were defending a village on their left and a hill bordered by woods with a dense wood behind on their right. The terrain was basically open with a few low hills, and the woods building up to the East.

German Forces: 8th Pz Div deployed its entire Panzer Regiment (two battalions of Pz38s and PzIVe) and the II/I Schutzen Battlion. These were supported by two medium artillery battalion (105mm), the divisional armoured engineer company, and various motorcycle and recon companies. Only a single group of Stukas was available in support. One Panzer Battalion and the Schutzen Battalion were assigned to take the village, and the second Panzer Battalion the hill. The original intention was to deploy the recon battalion instead of one of the Panzer battalions, but I hadn't painted them up in time!

Russian Forces: The Russians were defending with a weak Rifle Regiment, so weak that two battalions were amalgamated into a single one. They were amply provided with divisional support units however, having in direct support an artillery battalion (76mm and 122mm), a 120mm mortar battlion and a Flak battalion. The weak battalion was placed to defend the village, with heavy weapons (HMG, AT gun platoon etc) deployed outside. The strong battalion and all the divisional support units were deployed in a line along the hill and off to the flank. The artillery and Flak were positioned for direct fire, with interlocking arcs of flanking fire (ie the guns were sited to fire diagonally).

The Battle: The main German attack drove very aggressively up the main road, motorcycles to the fore, the rest of the units advancing in march column behind. The secondary attack drove forward down the centre of table. Some light Russian mortar and infantry gun fire had little effect on the advancing Germans.

The main Panzer column eventually came into range of the the Russian 45mm guns defending the village, they opened fire from ambush and destroyed the leading Pz38 platoon, however they were then pounced on by motorcyclists. Again some other light defensive fire caused a bit of suppression among the Germans, but no other losses. The secondary attack came under mortar and artillery fire, which succeeded in dispersing some of the German tanks (much cheering from the Russian side of the table at this point).

The main Panzer column launched a furious assault on the village, and despite taking more losses while closing to contact, succeeded in routing the defenders by killing off the more exposed units outside the cover of the buildings. This success was followed up by a ruthless pursuit which wiped out the surviving defenders as they ran for the rear.

In the centre, things weren't going to so well, a combination of 122mm howitzer and mortar fire inflicted serious losses on one Pz 38 company, and another company of Pz38s was almost wiped out as it assaulted two batteries of 76mm field guns supported by infantry and Flak. The few Stukas put in an appearance and destroyed the 122mm howitzers, but the 76s continued to inflict losses on the German infantry and tanks. Finally it was too much for the second Panzer battalion, and they retreated to the rear to reorganise. At this point the Russians revealed a timed attack order, and they set off to attack one of the Germans home table sections, leaving a rearguard behind them.

Despite frantic efforts to change the orders of the remaining German units, their radio net failed completely and the bulk of the Germans headed off the table, while a few elements managed to overwhelm the Russian rearguard and slip onto the hill. The Russian attack succeeded completely, but was now left isolated.

The outcome: The Germans managed to attain a shattering victory by exiting all their remaining units off the map, and being left in control of three of the four table squares. Their armoured losses in particular had been very high however.

22nd June 1941 1st Pz Div at Schlauen

Terrain: Basically open, one small village, and some low hills surrounded by woods and fields. The Russians were defending a wooded hill, and an open hill behind some large wheatfields. The terrain on the German table sections was sufficiently dense to seriously cramp their deployment.

German Forces: The Germans committed 1st Battalion of the Panzer Regiment (Pz IIIs and PzIVes) and the entire 1st Schutzen Regiment. They were supported by the whole divisional artillery regiment, an armoured car company, a company of motorcyclists and the divisonal armoured engineer company. All the divisional units were assigned to support the Panzer Battalion, apart from the one medium artillery battalion which was assigned to the 1st Schutzen battalion (which also got the Schutzen RHQ company). The Panzer battalion was assigned to attack the hill surrounded by fields, going via a hill in the centre of the table. The 1st Schtuzen Bn was ordered to flank march, arriving on turn 3 to attack the flank Panzer Battalions objective. The 2nd Schutzen Battlion was held in reserve behind the Panzer Battalion. The Russians made a maximum fighter effort, and their planes managed to down all the Luftwaffe air support before the battle started.

Russian Forces: The Russians had one strong and two weak rifle battalions, and were dreadfully unlucky with their support units, only being allotted a single AT battalion (three platoons of 45mm). One battalion was deployed to defend each objective, and one held in reserve in the centre.

The Battle: The Panzers advanced in a wedge, with the Pz IVs to the front, Pz II and IIIs behind, being followed up by the engineers and motorcycles, and hordes of artillery observers. The crested the central hill, dropping off the artillery observers, while the reserve Schutzen battalion moved forward slowly. Some long range anti-tank fire managed to knock out a platoon of PzIIIs and an armoured car platoon.

The flanking battalion entered the battle successfully, and plunged into the long wheat to root out the Russians, with the regimental engineer company and battalions armoured infantry company to the fore. AT guns managed to knock out another Pz III platoon, but now the German artillery brought down pinpoint fire on the located gun positions and destroyed one battery. The German Panzer infantry suffered heavily at the hands of Russian AT riflemen, but the Panzer Engineers opened a devastating return fire with flamethrowers.

The Panzers finally moved out of the arc of fire some of the Russian AT guns while the artillery knocked out the remaaining guns that could fire. The Panzer Engineer rocket platoon fired off a huge salvo at a Russian concentration, which missed completely! The fighting in the wheatfield became more savage as German armoured cars, infantry and engineers moved to close assault the surviving Russians. The Russian reserve battalion meanwhile began to relocate to defend the hill, the leading elements cresting the slope at the same time as the Schutzen SMG/motorcycle platoon, followed by a battery of StugIII and a rifle company. The Russians in the wheatfields were routed, and one German medum artillery battalion laid a smokescreen to cover the flank of Panzer Battalion as it advanced headlong.On the hilltop itself the first exchange of fire was inconclusive, but having destroyed the first battalion, the Panzer Infantry and Engineers could now turn their attention to the Russian reserve battalion.

The final battle was an anticlimax, Russian infantry tried to close assault the motorcyclists and to slip back into the wheatfields, but were destroyed by a storm of artillery, flamethrower and SP gun fire (inlcuding a 150mm firing over open sights), this battalion too was pushed over the edge and routed from the field. The German reserve battalion moved up to exploit and the Russian conceded at this point.

The Outcome: The Germans chose to only take a major victory rather than a shattering one, the commander reasoning that they would be better served by a more limited advance to the better ground around Pskov for their next major effort, rather than getting stuck in the swamps at Luga like 8th Panzer. This allowed a small group of Russian survivors to get away as a composite battalion to the next defence line. The German losses had been relatively light, albeit concentrated among the veteran Panzer Infantry in the 1st Schutzen Battalion and the veteran PzIIIs in 1st Panzer Battlion.

29th June 1941 8th Pz Div at Luga

Terrain: This was fought over identical terrain to 1st Pz Div at Schlauen, albeit with a different orientation. The Russians were defending on their left a three sector village, and on their right a small hill. There was a larger hill right in the centre of their setup area.

German Forces: The Germans committed the 2nd Battalion, 1st Schutzen Regiment and 1st Battalion, 2nd Schutzen Regiment along with the Recon Battalion operating as a complete unit. These units were supported by a couple of divisional artillery battalions and various heavy weapons, AT gun and motorcycle companies. The recon battalion especially being beefed up with extra heavy weapons and motorcyclists. The one Schutzen Battalion was orderd to take the village via the central hill, the other to just advance beside down the table edge and over the small hill. The recon battalion was sent on a deep flank march to try to take the small hill in the rear. Despite another maximum Russian air effort, the Geramns obtained four groups of Stukas for close support.

Russian Forces: The Russians had three weak rifle battlions, and obtained one Flak battalion and an artillery battalion in direct support. One battalion was positioned in the village, another on the central hill, with the attached artillery deployed facing backwards on the reverse slope, and the Flak set up in the rear to cover the guns and the small hill. The last battalion was deployed in a circular defence of the small hill, with the RHQ company attached and a detachment deployed in enfilade with a platoon each of 45mm AT guns and 76m Infantry guns in a small wood to the battalion front.

The Battle: The German recon battalion ran straight into the circular defence on the hill and a desperate close-quarters battle ensued. Meanwhile the mounted Schutzen battalions had been spotted and the battalion mortar platoon on the small hill was able to destroy a rifle platoon still mounted in its trucks. The Russian Quad .50 cal MG AA truck proved very effective in a direct fire role against the recon battalion.

Unfortunately for the Russians, a pair of Stuka groups intervened and destroyed four platoons on the hill, however the German assault was held as the defenders hung on supported by artillery fire from the central hill, and despite being green troops, passing their morale tests gloriously. This situation could not continue for long however, and the German armoured cars swung around the flank for an overrun attack which soon drove the defenders off the hill. The enfilade detachment continued to hang on however, and opened up a devastating fire on the lorry mounted Rifle troops, an entire company being destroyed, and a platoon of JagdPanzer IBs knocked out before they were finally rooted from their position in the woods.

In the centre the Russians managed to change orders and tried to realign their forces. Fortunately the Germans were advancing in column which gave time to redeploy the infantry and start to drag their guns around. A brief firefight ensued, and again following the devstating intervention of the Stukas and German heavy artillery battalion, this green battalion took to its heels and fled.

Finally the Germans pressed on and cleared the village sector by sector, these Russians giving up as well after losing one third of theiur number.

The outcome: Another shattering victory for 8th Pz Div, albeit at a high cost. The next stop is the outskirts of Leningrad.

29th June 1st Pz Div at Pskov

We'll play this in a couple of weeks.

Martin Rapier, University of Sheffield, 18 July1997