Saturday, August 10, 2013

Armoured spearhead repelled-Prokhorovka 1943

Nick and I realised that this year was the 70th anniversary of the battle at Prokhorovka, around Kursk, on 12 July1943. So we decided that we'd try a 20mm Spearhead battle to mark the anniversary. Nick was itching to field as many vehicles as possible, and in his enthusiasm he misunderstood my suggestion that we both use Armoured Division lists, and took a 500 point list composed entirely of tanks.

Realising his error, I did suggest that he amend his list, but he decided to try it out anyway. So here we were, looking for a narrative that might explain the situation .. here goes.

The plains around Prokhorovka appear to be empty - the view looking south.

A solitary German armoured battalion has pushed ahead of its supporting infantry, hoping to exploit the apparent emptiness of the landscape to take and hold the vital river crossings. Glory must have been the agenda for the day.

An under-strength Panther battalion takes up position commanding one of the vital river crossings.

As with so many other facets of this gargantuan battle around the Kursk salient, the Russian army knows what is happening, and pushes forces forward to counter the German armoured thrust. An infantry regiment pushes forward and takes the river line, while an armoured regiment with motorised infantry cross attached positions itself for a sweeping thrust around the southern flank of the German armoured commander.

One of the two cross attached regimental groups pushes ahead undisturbed, moving into position for the intended flank attack.

The regimental commander in BA32 follows closely behind the three platoons of T34s, the lighter BT7s have pushed ahead to provide a reconnaissance screen

The other cross attached armoured battalion takes up a reserve position

The German battalion commander's calls to Regiment have yielded the release of a second armoured battalion, with two of the precious platoons of Tiger 1 tanks in support. But where is the infantry that he desperately needs?
The newly arrived armoured battalion takes up a position on the commanding high ground in the centre.

The Russian left flanking armoured group arrives at its initial positions, with timed orders to move off after a brief stop.
The Russian commander at this stage committed his reserve, manouvring against the German armour in the centre.
The armour swings around to the west of a small village, while the infantry pushes out towards the high ground and the waiting German armour.

Screaming Katyusha rockets fall from the sky, but the German armour emerges unscathed.

With the benefit of smoke from battalion mortars, the infantry advances against the unsupported tanks.

The Russian reserve armour takes up hull down positions on the flank of the German armour but ..

The first round of fire from the Russian went almost unanswered as all but one of the Russian tank platoons was well behind their flank, but the flurry of shooting gave no result. Clearly the Russian tank gunners were over-excited. One platoon of T34s is suppressed.

The German armour manouvres to respond to the flank threat.

A Tiger platoon is suppressed.. but shakes off the suppression.

The southern flanking battalion receives a new order to move off immediately rather than wait in accordance with the initial battle plan, and begins to move behind the centre German armour. However at this stage the German commander also begins to redeploy the Panther battalion to meet the Russian armoured threat.

The advancing Russian infantry begin to attack the German armour in the centre and the first platoon of PzkwIVs is destroyed with infantry anti-tank weapons.

Another of the PzkwIV platoons is suppressed and then destroyed by the Russian armour hull down on the flank.

The southern flanking Russian armour can be seen at the top of the picture.

The German armour in the centre is flanked on two sides with the hordes of advancing Russian infantry. Russian 76mm artillery guns have been pounding the hill for some time creating nothing more than plenty of dust.

And more armour is destroyed by the infantry.

The two Tiger platoons have finally manouvred to meet the flank threat.

And the first T34 platoon is destroyed with the crash of the huge 88mm tank guns.

A second Katyusha strike hits the armour..

and a StuG platoon  from the AT company is destroyed by the Russian infantry.
The Russian infantry have proved unstoppable for the unsupported German armour. The Russian forces hold 4 of the 5 objectives, and the German armour in the centre has failed its morale check and must withdraw.

The German commander curses the inability of his superiors to provide him with the infantry support that he needed, withdraws from the area, and the bridges are lost.

It was quite a learning experience for Nick I think... unsupported armour is so vulnerable. Next time he'll take a more balanced force I suspect

Well played, Nick!!!

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