Following on from recreating an action from the Soviet Ostrogozhsk-Rossosh operation Martin and Duncan take us back in time a little further to the start of the action with the first Hungarian actions in the Battle for Voronezh in late June 1942.
Lets start with a bit of history, the battle of Voronezh was fought by Army Group B where the Hungarians were supporting the 4th Panzer Army against the defending Soviet 40th Army of the Voroenezh Front. It was enabling battle fought to ensure the Axis flanks for the following drive southward were secure. The battle was an Axis victory, they eventually capture the city of Voronezh at the second attempt. However, strategically the fact that this battle took so long to complete, operations starting on 28th June and not ending until 24 July, delayed the start of the main German summer southward offensives. It is now seen as a strategic failure despite the gains. The length of the fighting meant It delayed the 4th Panzer armies push into the Caucuses, sapped much needed strength from units and arguably precipitated the failure of the assault on Stalingrad with the ensuing encirclement of the 6th Army after the Soviet recapture of Voronezh just 6 months later in the winter offensive.
To play the game Duncan would again command the Hungarians in the first phase of operations as they tried to force an initial breakthrough. We decided to use the Encirclement scenario for the game, this reflected the general form of the battle and we kept with the basic 100 points per Force set up from the previous game. This would force Duncan to split his forces and attack along two axes but theoretically making the defenders job harder. The attack was led by the 2nd Armies Light Field Divisions and supported by both Hungarian and German armoured elements as well as the Lufwaffe. For the game. Duncan based his Force on a Hungarian Motor Rifle Company supported by a Hungarian Nimrod Company and a platoon of German supplied Panzer IV. Duncan decided the Rifle Formation would be concentrated in the 60% deployment box whilst the Tanks and a lone infantry platoon would attack from the 40% deployment area.
As the Defender Martin had a Soviet Rifle Company reflecting the troops deployed for the defence of Voronezh. These are a huge mass of teams but with only a 4+ save they are more vulnerable, especially to artillery fire, luckily the presence of a Kommissatr will keep them in the fight but, the platoon sizes make these a tactically challenging Formation to manouver. Having the Immediate Reserves rule meant one of these platoons would be off of the table at the start of the game, making it even more vulnerable it moved on to the table. These would be supported by regimental level ant-tank guns and some artillery. Red Airforce support was plentiful, so Martin added a Sturmovik flight to hunt the panzer IVs and with little Soviet armour available at the time of the Battle (and after taking the Rifle Company very few points either!) he added a company of Red Army T-70 tanks to exploit any weakness in the Axis assault.
The Battlefield ready for deployment
Objective 1 was plced as close to the Hungarian deployment as possible whilst Objective 2 got placed centrally between the two wooded areas. Martin placed two pairs of minefield markers blocking the only open terreain routes through to Objective 1.
The Soviets Deployed first with the larger Rifle Company, BA-10 and T-70 tank company all in Reserve, the remaining Rifle Company held both objectives with their right flank guarded by 45mm anti-tank guns, facing the Panzers as it turned out and the left with the 76mm infantry guns the 76mm artillery guns were deployed centrally to add some defensive AT capability if the Hungarians redeployed to a more central line of attack along with the PTRD platoon which could be used to counter the Nimrod AA and Csaba armoured cars and any Panzer IV assault at a push. The Maxim HMG Company were held in ambush in case the Hungarian infantry broke through the Strelkovy front line.
Duncan deployed as described massing his infantry against the Soviet left and his armour the right with his artillery and mortars positioned to cover both flanks of attack. He deployed toward the table edges looking to catch the forward objective in a pincer like movement.
Turn 1 saw the Axis forces advance as expected along each flank minimising their exposure to multiple Soviet units but a failed Huszar role left the platoon on the extreme right facing the Soviet infantry guns somewhat exposed and in the open. On the left flank the Motor Rifles and tanks moved forward and would be in assault range of the Soviet AT next turn. Shooting saw the Hungarian artillery range in against the Soviet artillery position and knock out one of the 76mm guns but the Luftwaffe failed to put in an appearance and the mortars failed to range in.The Soviet turn started well with the Red Airforce promptly arriving to harry the panzers but no reserves were forthcoming from the Soviet Higher Command. The Soviet units not unsurprisingly unpinned and Martin elected to ambush the Maxim Company against the exposed Hungarian Motor Rifles using a small rise as cover and cutting off an assault route for the trailing platoon. Shooting was pretty dramatic with the Maxims and Infantry guns killing half the Rifle teams everything else ranged in but no damage was done. A platoon of Nimrods opened fire on the Sturmoviks scoring 3 hits on each aircraft to which Martin managed to roll triple 1’s to save on one and the aircraft was shot down, in return the remaining plane bailed out a Panzer IV.
The Hungarian infantry and artillery unpin but the Panzer IV remained bailed out. The Rifles on both flanks move into assault range whilst the remaining Panzer IV’s continue to advance Dashin forward. Again the Luftwaffe fails to put in an appearance. Having conducted AA operations the Nimrods are unable to shoot this turn as well as the Panzer IV’s. A combination of the field guns and mortsrs kills a couple of Strelkovy and another two 76mm gun reducing thr battery to just 1 gun. The Infantry fire pins down the Soviet Maxim platoon but fails to pin the infantry guns. On their left the Motor Rifles assault the Soviet AT gun line killing just 1 gun but thanks to their light construction the guns succesfully break off allowing the Hungarian Rifles to consolidate behind the stone field walls. On the right things don’t go so well for the attackers failing to pin the Soviet guns meant facing far more defensive fire than desirable (14 dice rather than 10) and the already weakened lead unit is reduced to a single team failing to make contact. (Duncan really should have used his mortars to drop smoke rather than persist in trying to kill the Soviet artillery). The second platoon angle their assault using just a few teams against the pinned down Soviet rifles but only kill a single team, the counter assault is decisive with the Soviets killing all the attacking teams without further loss, repositioning a few teams further forward to pin back the breaking off unit.
The Soviet second turn and a mass of Reserves arrive with the T-70’s appearing behind the infantry guns and the BA-10’s coming on centrally moving to support the Mortar position which was now flanked by the Panzer IV’s. The Red Airforce stunned by the losses in the opening turn doesn’t put in an appearance. The remaining 76mm and combined Soviet mortars kill a couple of Hungarian HMG’s and a mortar, the 45mm AT guns remain pinned down but are now protected from assault by the infantry behind them, shooting against the Panzer IV’s is ineffective.
With the initial assault failing Duncan pulls back the remaining Motor Rifles on the right flank to a more central position where they can support the attack on the left being spearheaded by the Panzer IV’s, which move into assault range against the exposed 120mm mortar position. Again the German aircraft fail to appear! The Csaba armoured cars move to assault the advanced Soviet Riflemen on objective 1. Two Nimrods platoons manouver to add their firepower against the 45mm guns and the reaining platoon moves to protect the heavy weapons and infantry from the advancing T-70 horde. Shooting see’s a BA-10 destroyed and a second bailed out, another 45mm gun is lost along with the closest infantry teams to the mortars, leaving Martin with only guns and heavy weapons teams in assault range. Assault sees the Panzer IV’s launch into the now undefended 120mm mortars killing 2 on the initial charge but in a fit of bravery (they were more scared of the NKVD officer behind them than the tanks) the mortar crews fight back and the Axis tankers were clearly surprised, failing to counter assault and breaking off the attack. The Csaba armoured cars launch a surprise attack across the fenced farm fields killing one of the Soviet Rifle teams who promptly break off falling back into the farmhouse. The Csaba platoon not wanting to get assaulted next turn try to fall back but get tangled up in the crushed and broken rail fencing failing their cross checks, leaving then open to a Soviet infantry assault thanks to the Urrah rule giving them a 6″ of move to contact in assault.
The turn start with the Soviets all unpinning and the remaining reserves arrive on the extreme left away from the main fighting, the Red Airforce returns but the lone 76mm gun withdraws. The PTRD platoon move to protect the mortars and the BA-10 crew remount repositiong to flank thre Panzer IV’s. The T-70’ss dash forward toward the remaining Hungaring Motor Rifles reorganising in the Axis rear. Shooting is ineffective with little damage done. The Panzers remain active and a majot threat to the Soviet position. The Nimrods again open fire along with the Bofors guns and down the remaining Sturmovik – these were now both lost with absolutely no obvious benefit to the Soviets. The Strelkovy thanks to the earlier failed cross checks are able to use the sneaking up on tanks rule and assault the Csaba armoured cars without facing any defensive fire capturing the entire platoon and falling back to their initial positions in the Soviet deployment area.
At the end of Turn 3 the Soviet defences are looking very solid, the Axis still have 2 infantry platoon operational as well as the Panzer IV’s and all the Nimrods but time is fast running out when they will be able to get all of the Soviet forces away from the objectives before the advancing T-70’s overrun the Hungarian support positions.
Make or break time for the Axis foces and still no air support. The Panzer IV’s move to re-engage the mortars but they are now better protected. Shooting kocks out 2 more 45mm guns leaving just 1 and the BA-10’s are knocked out by the Panzer IV’s leaving just a lone PTRD team protecting the mortars. The redeploying Nimrods manouver again to bring fire against the advancing T-70’s knocking out a lone tank. The remainder can’t fire due to having conducted AA against the Sturmoviks severly reducing the incoming fire. The Panzer IV assault again fails to provide the breakthrough and they are forced again to break off loosing 1 tank in the process for just one Soviet team killed.
The Soviet turn sees the mortars and infantry unpin and the T-70 continue to advance, the PTRD platoon finish redeplying now covering the exposed flank with all available teams, the HMG’s reposition to be able to fire on the Hungarin Rifle teams held up behind the stone field walls. The remaining 45mm gun fails its last stand test and is lost. The soviet 81mm mortars now range in against their Hungarian equivalents killing 1 team and pinning them down whilst the 120mm continue to fire against the Hungarian field guns reducing them to just a lone team. Fire from the T-70 deals with the Nimrod platoon covering the HMG position and the subsequent assault drives the HMG and Mortar platoon back even if it does no physical damage.
The Field howitzers flee whilst the mortar and HMG plattons rally and dig in. The remaining Pz IV’s again prepare to assault and even the Luftwaffe put in appearance attacking the T-70’s harrying the Hungarian deployment area. Knowing it is now or never Duncan commits his remaining infantry strength to assalt the largely undamaged Strelkovy holding the objectives but they are prepared for the attack. Shooting pins down the infantry but fails to remove any of the HMG teams which could prove critical. The Panzer IV’s knock out a PTRD team but that still left 3 more! The remaining Nimrods and Stukas knock out a few more T-70’s but not really enough. Duncan launches his first assault with the Panzer IV’s but the massed PTRD fire brings the two tanks to a halt long before they engage. The first infantry platoon assault and strike home now it is a matter of numbers and moral but the Soviet Kommissar earns his keep motivating the Soviet Rifelemen and they drive back the initial Hungarian assault loosing half their strengh but which allows Martin to consolidate the remainig teams out of assault range of Duncan’s remainig platoon.
The Soviet turn, the Strelkovy unpin. The remaining T-70’s reposition to assault the reminning rifle platoon and Martin’s second Rifle platoon deploy on to the objective all but sealing the game outcome. Shooting sees the Bofors guns eliminated by the massed soviet fire leaving the mortars, HMG’s and Motor Rifle exposed to the T-70’s which duely crash in to the rear of the Hungarian force delivering a killing blow to any ideas of them being able to attack the Soviet position further. The Soviet position is now too strong for the remaining Hungarian platoons to overcome and we called it a day with the Soviets still very much in position.
Duncan’s decision not to use smoke to screen his troops in turn 1 was the fatal decision and probably led to his downfall overall it meant the Soviets got an extra round of shooting against the infantry in the open which severly sapped their strength. Not being able to mass his armour and infantry with the deployment also hampered Duncan’s attack as he couldn’t amass enough strength to overcome the huge numbers of the Soviet Rifle plaoons despite their 4+ save. They simply proved numerically too strong for the Hungarians to assault quickly enough and the Soviet Reserves although not in an ideal spot coming on on the left corner arrived early and were so numerous they were able to overrun the weakened Hungarian attackers, despite losses. Finally the fical nature of air support proved a hinderance with the Luftwaffe making no impact on the game whilst the mass of Hungarian AA capacity nullified any direct threat from the Red Airforce, but the soviet aircraft arriving stopped the Nimrods shooting on mass against ground targets and that was a sacrifce that assisted the Soviet defence overall.
Well our final game in this mini series will see the Huszars finally take to the field to hopefully push back the Soviet hordes in the Second Battle of Voronezh. Until then happy gaming Martin