Saturday, November 24, 2012

The road to Gumbinnen 1914

Rennankampf's 1st Army had crossed the Prussian border five days ago. The town of Gumbinnen lay a day's march away, and III Corps troops were convinced that Prussia was theirs for the taking. III Corps' divisions were settling in for another day's advance when German troops were detected to their front.

The Russian 3rd Division, a reserve division, edged forward capturing a small village to its front before occupying a wood beyond the village.

It's attached regiment of 76mm Putilovs deployed ready to offer support.

The centre of the advancing German forces was quickly targeted by divisional artillery attached to the left flank 4th Division, the gunners quickly pinning an entire battalion of German infantry.

The right flank Russian 3rd Division then pushed forward to apply pressure to the German left flank. This was to be the focus for the ensuing action.

The German divisional commander had anchored his left flank on a local village.

The Russian Corp commander ordered the advance to be resumed, and one Regiment of his left flank 4th Division began their advance against the German centre.

Action was heating up on the Russian right as the 1st Regiment of its 3rd Reserve Division pushed forward. Troops had occupied a small copse, but came under heavy German artillery fire.

A prolonged fire fight ensued, with the Russian regiment pushed to hold on (surviving it's first morale check).

The regimental commander was eventually granted supporting fire from the Corp 4.8" guns, and casualties quickly mounted in the German regiment.

The German Regiment fell back, leaving the village to the Russian advance, and the German right flank hanging in the air.

The German commander ordered his 3rd Regiment to shift to the left to retake the lost village. However for only the second time in the day the Russian Corps artillery came into action. The gap in the centre of the formation below was left after five company stands were eliminated by the Russian guns.

The Russian advance in the centre had stopped in the dead ground before its objective, the high ground in the upper right of the photo below.

The Russian 3rd Division commander had ordered his attached artillery regiment forward, and finally the guns had unlimbered and brought direct fire down on the German regiment trying to move to shore up the German left.

The German forces had been out-shot and out-manoeuvred, and the German commander ordered a withdrawal before the advancing Russian troops. Gumbinnen lay to their rear. Tomorrow was another day.

This game was fought using the Great War Spearhead II draft rules, with Jon and Stan commanding the Russians and Germans respectively. I 'ran' the game to make sure that play flowed, making the repeated references to the rules that were required because we hadn't played GWSH for a couple of years.

The game gave a great reflection of combat in those early days of the war. References to Zuber and his accounts of early battles in the west describe fire fights lasting several hours, and in this case the focus of the action on the Russian right was just that, in this case the Russian regiment managed to win the fire fight before pushing the German forces out of their defensive position. There were several 'lucky' die rolls at the heart of the action here.

In scenario generation system terms, this left the Russians occupying three objectives to the German one, with one Russian regiment having been forced to take a morale test, while two German regiments had also done so. This gave the Russian commander a 6-1 victory.

As I said, it has been a while since we had played a GWSH game, and the game has been a timely reminder of why I love these rules so much. Both players were as rusty as me, and had for example forgotten the need to keep reserves. This meant that Jon as Russian commander lacked the capacity to exploit his tactical victory on his right, while Stan's attempt to shore up his left required a risky shift across the front of the Russian centre. Had he had a reserve, this could have been moved relatively safely to prop up his left..


  1. And, after a great game of GWSH. I watched the Maori All Blacks v Canada the next morning. A very Shawn Taylor type of day :)

    1. I kinda don't get the reference...

    2. Nick

      Shawn is the author of GWSH, and a Canadian... make sense?? LOL


  2. Those guns look great, and the new Germans look fantastic. Sounds like a good game, with a high casualty count!

  3. Nick

    The casualty count was actually relatively low across the whole table.. both Jon and Stan remembered clearly enough what tends to happen when you advance in the open under fire...

    The casualty count on the Russian right where Jon and Stan fought the bulk of the action was certainly high enough to make someone's eyes water...LOL


  4. Hi Robin,

    I've just nominated you...though, to be fair there is no final adjudication, so...I've just given you a Leibster Blog Award.

    Your challenge, should you accept it, is to now award five others blogs with such an honour.