Welcome to a new series of posts I’m planning to do monthly or bimonthly. In this series I’m going to look at some of the missing options in Flames of War, platoons, lists or campaigns that haven’t been covered yet and work out how to get them onto the table top.
I’m starting with the Panzer-Abteilung 211 – a tank battalion fully equipped with captured French tanks that operated out of Finland at the start of operation Barbarossa. The unit took part in Operation Silver Fox, a joint Finnish and German offensive to capture the Soviet port of Murmansk, before sitting out the rest of the war until the Finnish swapped sides.
Before I go into the details I quickly want to explain why I chose the Panzer-Abteilung 211. I love captured equipment (or lend lease for the Soviets), there is something about using the enemy’s weapons against them that really appeals to me. I have a Soviet list that I will run one day which has no Soviet equipment in it. It’s all either lend lease or captured Germans vehicles. So when I heard that Barbarossa was on the way I started looking up the captured equipment the Germans used during the campaign. I had heard of them using British and French tanks in Russia but I didn’t have much info about it. A quick internet search later I found the Panzer-Abteilung 211 in Finland. I excitedly waited for Barbarossa to land so I could mess around with the lists, but then I found that there were no French or British tanks in the book (bar a few Panhards and Char-B flames tanks). I was a little disappointed (this is to take nothing away from the book, there are a lot lists to cover and one battalion isn’t worth losing a main list for), so I started to looking at other options to run the army ie, you could use Panzer III’s instead of Somua’s for example.
Well thats enough rambling about lets look at the units history and running it in FOW…
After the Battle for France the Germans captured a whole host of French and British equipment. Included in this was around 250-300 Somuas and in the region of 550 Hotchkiss tanks. Many of these were shipped off to Germany’s allies; Italy, Romania and Hungary, yet enough were left over to equip a number of smaller regiments. These would later formed Panzer-Abteilung 211 in March 1941.
As the build up to Barbarossa German officer Erich Buschenhagen was sent to Finland in January 1941, he was tasked with discussing the possibility of a combined German and Finnish attack against Soviet Russia. After much negotiating the Finnish agreed to be co-belligerent and Army Group Norway was moved into Northern Finland to prepare for the invasion of Soviet Russia. During this time Panzer-Abteilung 211 was sent to Finland and along with Panzer-Abteilung 40 (which was equipped with Panzer I’s & II’s) formed the armoured forces of XXXVI Gebirgs-Armeekorps.
The co-belligerent’s planned to attack towards the port of Murmansk in a two pronged attack called
Operation Silver Fox. The first part of the attack was for two Divisions of Gebirgsjagers of Gebirgskorps Norwegen to occupy the Petsamo region. Once this was completed the main attacks would begin.
The two divisions of Gebirgskorps Norwegen (with support from Finnish Board Guard Battalions) would attack towards Murmansk along the coast. This operation was code named Operation Platinum Fox. While this was going on Operation Arctic Fox would attack further south with two German Infantry Divisions (SS Nord and 169th Infantry Division), the 6th Finnish Infantry Division and the two Armoured units. They were tasked with attacking towards Kantalakti through Salla and by taking it they would cut Murmansk off from any reinforcements. During the operation units of Panzer-Abteilung 211 were also directly subordinated to 169th Infanterie-Division and Finnish 6th Division.
The initial attack by Gebirgskorps Norwegen on the 22nd June was launched on the same day as Barbarossa. The attack had achieved complete surprise and the Gebirgskorps Norwegen completed their objectives with little opposition. Three days later Finland joined the war and Operation Silver Fox was launched. The northern attack didn’t go well, the Gebirgsjagers ended up attacking heavily reinforced and entrenched Soviet positions and were unable to make any gains. Added to this the Royal Navy and the Soviet Navy was taking it’s toll and German shipping and supplies started to run low. In September, after three months of fighting the operation was called off and the Germans dug in.
The Finnish 6th Division crossed the boarder at midnight and started to advance. SS Nord attacked shortly afterwards but struggled against the Soviet lines. It wasn’t until the 169th was brought up to support the SS that any gains were made. The XXXVI Corps wasn’t equipped well for operations in Finland and so it’s performance was poor and made little gains in the face of heavy Soviet counter attacks. The Finnish on the other hand performed very well and pushed on until their supplies were stretched. After the capture of Salla the first main objective of Silver Fox, the advance on Kantalakti was stopped in it’s tracks. The Germans, like they had been in the north had to dig in. The operation was called off in November and the Panzer-Abteilung 211 was sent to Oulu to refit, the unit wouldn’t see action again in the Lapland War.
When I first started this post I hoped that this would be an easy fix. The Panzer III H has similar stats to a Somua being that they have the same armour rating and speed, the only stat difference would be the main gun being slightly better. So by just using this we’d have a have a quick, if not exact fix (having no one man turret would mean you’d lose a lot of the flavor of French tanks). But from my research it seems the Panzer-Abteilung 211 was organised similarly to the Beutepanzerkompanie in Atlantik Wall. This means each platoon would have a command Somua and 3 to 4 Hotctkiss (Long Barreled). I also have to think about their performance during the battle. They only took part in one operation and by all accounts (which I will be honest were hard to find) it didn’t perform that well. So I would recommend rating them as Confident Trained, This also keeps them in line with other captured tanks in Barbarossa. With this in mind here are the points for the core platoons.
1 – HQ
2 Command Somuas 220pts
2-4 Combat Platoons
1 Command Somua with 3 Hotchkiss (Long Barreled) 300pts
1 Command Somua with 4 Hotchkiss (Long Barreled) 365pts
– Note I will aim for future posts to have a “legal” option, but I just couldn’t see a way of doing it with this unit.
Thats the core done, now onto the support. I had hoped that one of the armoured lists would have been similar enough to use as the basis for the unit, but the particular support this unit had makes this impossible. As they were supported by Finnish, SS and Heer support means all the lists needed a lot of messing around so I thought it best to just make my own list.
I have listed some of the appropriate support options with the page number of the book they are from. You probably should only use German or Finnish for support but I will leave that up to you to decide – Please note all the SS and Finnish Platoons will be allies.
0-2 Infantry Slots
Infanterie Platoon Heer – Barbarossa Pg 29
Infanterie Platoon SS – Barbarossa Pg 29
Pioneer Platoon Heer – Barbarossa Pg 32
Pioneer Platoon SS – Barbarossa Pg 32
0-1 Scout Platoon Heer – Barbarossa Pg 31
0-1 Scout Platoon SS – Barbarossa Pg 31
Jalkavaki Platoon – Rising Sun Pg 95
0-1 Jaakari Scout Platoon – Rising Sun Pg 104
– Note you can only pick one of the Finnish, Heer and SS Scout platoons
– All the SS are mountaineers.
0-1 Armoured Slot
Light Panzer Platoon – Barbarossa Pg 17
0-2 Artillery Slots
0-1 Smoke Launcher Platoon – Barbarossa Pg 39 you can only pick the 10.5cm NbW35
Light Artillery Battery Heer – Barbarossa Pg 38
Mountain Artillery Battery SS – Burning Empires Pg 64 (you will need to increase the points to 85pts for two guns and 140pts for 4 guns) They are FV.
0-1 Heavy Artillery Battery Heer – Barbarossa Pg 38
Finnish Artillery Battery – Rising Sun Pg 110
0-1 Heavy Finnish Artillery Battery – Rising Sun Pg 110
German Air Support – Barbarossa Pg 41
Finnish Air Support – Rising Sun Pg 111
After some research I found that in 1941 the 211 used normal solid red or black three digit turret numbers with white outline on the turret sides. It’s hard to tell the colour of the numbers in the black and white pictures but I would go with black numbers. The tanks were painted the standard Panzer Grey, there are pictures during the winter months of them painted whitewash leaving the turret number and national symbols showing. I was unable to find the unit marking, if they had one.
|You can clearly see the number markings in this photo.|
|Somua in snow camo.|
Finland’s War of Choice