Kampf-ing It Up

Today, Duncan looks at the quintessential German formation the Kampfgruppe in all its weird and wacky splendour!

Hi Duncan here and today I’m going to explore the most classically German of formations – the Kampfgruppe. Ever since my yoof I’ve loved looking at themes for armies, fluff and background to apply to my armies to give them some character.

I think everyone is well aware that I have an affinity for playing ze Germans and, with this in mind, I’ve always liked reading around the different units and divisions; looking for personalities and quirks that capture my imagination, and so I was naturally drawn to the German Kampfgruppe.

The Kampfgruppe was an ad hoc combined arms formation; usually employing combination of tanks, infantry, and artillery; generally organised for a particular task or operation and therefore with a finite lifespan. They ranged in size from a corps to a company, but the most common was an Abteilung (battalion)-sized formation and, generally, they were referred to by either their commanding officer’s name or the parent division. The Kampfgruppe has its roots back in WW1, in the latter part of that conflict in the creation of the Sturmtruppen, but they’re fame came in WW2 and in formations that ring through history: Kampfgruppe Peiper in the Ardennes, Kampfgruppe Von Luck in Normandy and Kampfgruppe von Tettau in Holland.

I’m going to delve a little more deeply into a few of these iconic German fighting units; briefly into their history, their composition, where they were deployed and importantly for us how to represent the tabletop.

Kampfgruppe 1001 Nacht

Background:

Kampfgruppe 1001 Nacht is different, even in the ad-hoc nature of the German Kamfgruppe; its name has no bearing to the commander (Oberstleutnant Gustav-Adolf Blancbois), seemingly referencing the Middle-Eastern literary works of the same name. The Kampfgruppe was divided into three combat formations, named Suleika, Harem and Sultan.

It’s one of my favourite formations, not only because it has one of the most unique, and coolest sounding, names, but also its history and composition. The mainstay of the force were three companies of V-2 guards who arrived at the German Ninth Army HQ on the Oder River in early March, 1945. Simultaneously, three companies of Hetzer panzerjäger from the 560th SS Tank Destroyer Battalion, which had been used for training purposes, were sent to join Army Group Vistula on the Oder front. General Theodor Busse, Ninth Army’s commander, decided to form these troops into a Kampfgruppe which could be used as a mobile reserve.

Oberstleutnant Gustav-Adolf Blancbois was placed in command and soon after its formation, a motorcycle company and several anti-tank guns, armoured cars and a company of StuG III assault guns from the 27th SS Volunteer Division Langemarck were added to the Kampfgruppe. The Kampfgruppe’s strength was about 500 infantry and forty-three serviceable armoured vehicles.

The Kampfgruppe was ordered into action near the town of Genschmar, in an attempt to reduce the Red Army’s bridgehead over the Oder, which it failed to do. On the 16th April, during the Battle of Seelow Heights, it was sent into action again near the town of Wriezen – where for all intents and purposes it was eliminated as a fighting force. It was finally dissolved near Müncheberg during the withdrawal to Berlin with its last remaining element being encircled in the Halbe Pocket.

Composition:

Element Suleika:

  • SS-Jagdpanzer Abteilung 560 z.b.v. (SS-Sturmbannführer Wöst)
  • Sturmgeschütze III kompanie (27. SS-Freiwilligen-Grenadier-Division Langemarck (flämische Nr. 1)
  • SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500 (kompanie strength)

Element Harem:

  • Panzer Aufklärungs Abteilung ‘Speer’
  • Kradschutzen kompanie
  • SdKfz 231 kompanie

Anti-Tank zug

Element Sultan:

  • Marschregiment 2 (consisting of three Schutzen-Kompanie)

In Flames of War:

The obvious place to go for this Kampfgruppe was Grey Wolf but I struggled to find a list that really reflected all parts of the Kampfgruppe. I plumped in the end for the Fallschirmjager list only because… well SS- Fallschirmjager! That being said there is a very strong pull towards the Panzer Aufklärungs Abteilung ‘Speer’ – named after that man Albert Speer.

  1. Compulsory Fallschirmjager Company HQ (p.33) – CinC SMG, 2iC SMG (55pts)
    • Upgrade CinC SMG to CinC Panzerknacker SMG (5pts)
    • Upgrade 2iC SMG to 2iC Panzerfaust SMG (10pts)
    • Panzerschrek (30 pts)
  2. Compulsory Fallschirmjager Platoon (p.33) – Command Rifle/MG, 6x Rifle/MG (185pts)
    • Replace Command Rifle/MG with Command Panzerfaust SMG (10pts)
  3. Compulsory Fallschirmjager Platoon (p.33) – Command Rifle/MG, 6x Rifle/MG (185 pts)
    • Replace Command Rifle/MG with Command Panzerfaust SMG (10pts)
  4. Fallschirmjager Heavy Mortar Platoon (p.35) – Command SMG, 2x Observer Rifle, 4x 12cm sGW43 mortar (185pts)
  5. Panzer Platoon (p.73) – Command StuG G or StuG IV, 3x StuG G or StuG IV (380pts)
  6. Tank-Hunter Platoon (p.153) – Command Hetzer, 3x Hetzer (340pts)
  7. Grenadier Platoon (p.27) – Command Rifle/MG, 4x Rifle/MG (110pts)
    • Replace Command Rifle/MG with Command Panzerfaust SMG (10pts)

1515 Points, 7 Platoons

Hmmm… apparently 1515pts doesn’t get you a lot of Panzers and Fearless Veteran troops in LW – who knew! This list has its issues – short infantry platoons, no organic AT or AA, reliance on under-gunned Hetzers and StuGs etc. etc.

Do I think it’s mega-competitive? No. Do I think it would look cool? Ooooh yes! Mixing SS and FJ figures to make the bulk of the infantry up gives you some really hobby options.

Kampfgruppe Djedeida

Background:

Formed in December 1942 in North Africa to pursue the allies if they pulled back from the battles north of Tebourba. Under the leadership of Generalmajor Fischer, the Gruppe attacked the Allies west of Djedeida, gaining its nomenclature, but was held up far short of its objective.

I’ve included Kampfgruppe Djededa to demonstrate that, with the release of the new MW Afrika Korps book for v4, we can still create some historical flavour. It’s also nice to have a non-LW Kampfgruppe documented, and the fact that it is also included in the old Flames of War Tunisian Tigers briefing means we also have a Flames of War structure to reference.

The crew seem to be paying rapt attention – but then, how often do you see a two headed camel…

Composition:

Tunisian Tigers PDF

Fallschirmjägerkompanie

2x Grenadierkompanie

2x Flak Batteries

1x Pionier Platoon

1x Panzerjägerkompanie (SP)

1x Schwere Panzer Platoon, 501. Schwere Panzerabteilung

2x Tiger 1E

2x Panzer III N

 

Other Sources:

3 Pz III Tanks

2 PZ VI Tiger Tanks

1 Panzerjäger Company

1 Parachute Company

1 Infantry Company

1 Flak Battery

18 20mm guns

Motorcycle Company (1 platoon)

In Flames of War:

Using the list from Tunisian Tigers as a framework and the new v4 Afrika Korps source book for formations and points I pulled together this 100pts list:

Formation 2

  1. Compulsory Africa Rifle Company HQ (p.28) – CinC SMG, 2iC SMG (2pts)
  2. Compulsory Africa Rifle Platoon (p.28) – CinC SMG, 2iC SMG (7 pts)
    1. 4 x MG34
    2. 1 x 2.8cm AT-Rifle
  3. Compulsory Africa Rifle Platoon (p.28) – CinC SMG, 2iC SMG (7pts)
    1. 4 x MG34
    2. 1 x 2.8cm AT-Rifle
  4. Support Unit Tiger Heavy Tank Platoon (37pts)
    1. 1 x Tiger (8.8cm)
    2. 1 x Panzer III (7.5cm)
  5. Support Unit Marder 7.62cm Tank-Hunter Platoon (16pts)
    1. 4 x Marder 7.62cm
  6. Support Unit 8.8cm Heavy AA Platoon (12pts)
    1. 2 x 8.8cm AA Guns

Formation 2

  1. Compulsory Africa Rifle Company HQ (p.28) – CinC SMG, 2iC SMG (5pts)
    1. Pioneer Company
    2. BLITZKRIEG
  2. Compulsory Africa Rifle Pioneer Platoon (p.28) – CinC SMG, 2iC SMG (7pts)
    1. 4 x MG34
    2. 1 x 2.8cm AT-Rifle
  3. Compulsory Africa Rifle Pioneer Platoon (p.28) – CinC SMG, 2iC SMG (7pts)
    1. 4 x MG34
    2. 1 x 2.8cm AT-Rifle

Now this is more competitive – I am missing my 5cm Tank-Hunter Platoons but I have two nice sized infantry formations and long range, high impact AT in the form of the Marders, Tiger and 88s. The Blitzkrieg-ing pioneers can get up the table and dig in or support the Tiger in objective hunting whilst the infantry, Marders and 88s defend and provide long range support.

I’m actually quite surprised how this list came out and I’d be very tempted to have a run out of this in a game… it might even be tournament worthy!

Group Pellengahr

Switching to EW now and specifically the invasion of Norway in 1940. It’s not a theatre that you see much of and again was mentioned in a PDF briefing from Battlefront Norwegians 1940

This is a much larger Kampfgruppe than those two we have previously looked at and advanced up the Gudbrandsdal valley as part of the 6 divisions assigned to occupy Norway in Operation Weserübung. Part of the 2nd wave of landings the troops all disembarked in Oslo from the 9th-15th April 1940.

Fighting both Norwegian and the British 148th Brigade and the British 15th Brigade, Group Pellengahr gives some interesting variation to the EW German forces.

Composition:

  1. Infanterie-Division

Infanterie-Regiment 340

Infanterie-Regiment 345

Infanterie-Regiment 362

Artillerie-Regiment 223

223 Aufklärungs-Abt.

223 Panzerabwehr-Abt.

Pionier-Bn. 223

223 Nachrichten-Abt.

 

In Flames of War:

There is only one choice for a force for Gruppe Pellengahr and that this the EW source book Blitzkrieg. I went again for the standard competitive points of 1650.

Infantry Company, from Blitzkrieg, page 92

Formation 1

  1. Compulsory Infanterie Company HQ (Heer) (p.93) – CinC SMG, 2iC SMG (30 pts)
  2. Compulsory Old Infanterie Platoon (Heer) (p.93) – Command Rifle, Light mortar, 9x Rifle (145 pts)
    1. Anti-tank rifle (15 pts)
  3. Compulsory Old Infanterie Platoon (Heer) (p.93) – Command Rifle, Light mortar, 9x Rifle (145 pts)
    1. Anti-tank rifle (15 pts)
  4. Infanterie Machine-gun Platoon (Heer) (p.95) – Command SMG, 4x MG34 HMG (95 pts)
  5. Light Infantry Gun Platoon (Heer) (p.97) – Command SMG, Observer Rifle, 2x 7.5cm leIG18 gun (50 pts)
    1. 2x Horse-drawn limber (5 pts)
  6. Pionier Platoon (Heer) (p.101) – Command Pioneer Rifle, 6x Pioneer Rifle (120 pts)
  7. Infanterie Anti-tank Gun Platoon (Heer) (p.99) – Command SMG, 3x 3.7cm PaK36 gun (85 pts)
  8. Light Artillery Battery (Heer) (p.98) – Command SMG, Staff, Observer Rifle, 4x 10.5cm leFH18 howitzer (275 pts)

980 Points, 8 Platoons

Formation 2

Tank Company, from Blitzkrieg, page 66

  1. Compulsory Leichte Panzer Company HQ (p.67) – CinC Panzerbefehlswagen, 2iC Panzer II C (early) (75 pts)
    – Panzer I (35 pts)
  2. Compulsory Leichte Panzer Platoon (p.67) – Command Panzer II C (early), Panzer II C (early), Panzer I (130 pts)
  3. Compulsory Leichte Panzer Platoon (p.67) – Command Panzer II C (early), Panzer II C (early), Panzer I (130 pts)
  4. Mittlere Panzer Platoon (p.69) – Command Panzer IV D, Panzer IV D (300 pts)

670 Points, 4 Platoons

Wow. I forgot you get tonnes of stuff in EW – especially CT stuff! Two formations is really nice, and the armour might not be great but, when you consider that the allies historically had none, then in the land of the blind the (panzer) one-eyed man is king.

Let me quickly go over the 2 Panzer IVs before I get lynched.

Pellengahrs forces were issued three experimental multi-turrets heavy tanks – the Neubaufahrzeug (NbFz B or PzKpfw VI). Think German T-28 or T-35-esque vehicles with a 75 mm KwK L/24 main gun and a 37 mm KwK L/45 and just 20mm of armour – in one engagement near Balberg against recently arrived British forces one vehicle suffered dozens of hits from Boys Anti-Tank rifles that drove it off!

So the Panzer IVs are in there to account for the “Heavy Armour” of the NbFz B but would need to be tweaked heavily to make it playable in a historical sense but in a more cut and thrust competitive environment does give you some mobile AT.

Conclusion

So there you have it – the Kampfgruppe; literally hundreds of interesting lists just waiting to be created (and I didn’t even go near Kampfgruppe Huber or Swoboda)! I hope you found this little journey as interesting and enjoyable as I did.

Category: Early WarFlames of WarLate WarMid WarRambling

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Article by: Duncan Gosling