Thursday, 11 October 2012

PENYA RIVER COUNTER-ATTACK @ DERBY. DAY TWO



back bright and early (sot of), we cleared the previous day’s detritus, but left the wrecked tanks in place as cover, and I re-organised both forces with their reinforcements. For the Russians I combined both the battered rifle platoons into one full strength one, and they would be left east of the river, holding the river bank and marshes where they had crossed (gaining them the name the Marsh platoon). To reinforce the defence line the Russians gain two Zis3 anti-tank guns and tows, and off-table but arriving on turns 1,2 and 3 would be 6 more T-34s carry another motorised rifle platoon and a single SU-152. So far the VVS had been totally absent from the battle, but they would now put in an appearance with a timed PE-2 air strike, and additional fire support was available from a timed 152mm howitzer barrage.

 The marsh platoon, getting wet. 

The Germans were reinforced for the attack with a fresh Panzer IVG squadron and a StuG IIIG squadron, as well as an armoured panzer grenadier platoon. Short of AT guns, a K-18 100mm cannon was drafted in, and took up position were the 88 had been (it having redeployed in the night into the village). Additional artillery was available in the form of an off-table 150mm gun battery and the Luftwaffe was also on call with a timed low-level HE-111 bombing run and another timed Stuka attack to aid the assault. 

With that, the players deployed their forces. The Russians digging in, the Germans weighting their right flank, with the StuGs in position to lead the attack, and the panzer grenadiers waiting in the village for the call to rush to river line.

The Storch takes off again as the StuGs and Panzer Grenadiers roll into the village.

The Germans won the first turn and set too. Again the Storch was airborne early, and circling over the river as the 105mm and 150mm gunners opened fire. The Russian left took the dawn pounding, pinning the infantry and destroying an SU-76 in its firing position. The StuGs, carrying infantry support, rolled forwards, sending more HE into the mix, as did the 80mm mortar from behind the village. With most of their left flank ducking for cover, it wasn’t a great start for the Reds.

Yesterday's Iron Cross winners, redeployed to add their fire to today's assault.

The Russians responded with some return long range fire at the StuGs from the two SU-76s, which missed, and mortaring of the village, to little effect. As ever, the turned ended with removing some (lots of) pinning.
The Germans turn two followed the same course as turn 1, more heavy artillery pounding, more mortars, more StuG fire, more pinning, and a second SU-76 taking a direct hit and being blown sky high. The anti-tank defences were being whittled away. The 88 also joined in the fusillade of high-explosive area fire crushing the river bank.

StuGs on their way to the river. The surviving Panzer III offered some ineffective support.

Again the Russians could only hang tough, but could do little in return. There first T-34s and extra infantry rolled in to join the defences on the right, which seems like a mistake, surely all this fire was a German feint, and when the blow came it would come fast, against the weaker Russian left. For now the T-34s returned fire, pinned a StuG with a glancing AP shell, but little else. Mostly, it was an early morning artillery duel. With lots more pinning to remove, the counters were building up already.

The Russian lines under heavy fire, they weathered it without flinching.

Turn three, and it was time for the big guns. The HE-111 roared in low and unleashed its bomb payload on the woods in the Russian centre, causing much pinning and scoring a direct hit on a Zis3 position which, suffice to say, did not survive the 111’s heavy bombs. The Storch’s radio suddenly ran out of batteries, and failed its radio checks, and the artillery ‘hate’ was mercifully halted for a turn. A StuG lined up one of the newly arrived T-34s and scored a clean kill... it wasn’t looking good, the German tide seems unstoppable today. The Panzer IVs were now on the move through the village as well, soon the storm must break...

An unconventional method of close air support. 

The Russians responded this turn, finally with targets close to their pre-registered target point, the Katyushas cut loose, followed by the timed 152 battery. In a hail of heavy explosions which rocked the village, they pinned most of the Panzers. No direct hits though, again. The other T-34s and the SU rolled in, and it shelled the 88, but the hardened crew were used to shelling by now and cared not! In a bold move, on the Russian right the marsh platoon began to advance! Now the PE-2 came diving it, aiming for the centre of the village again, the Russians were trying to wipe it off the map! Only for waiting MG34s on ambush fire to blaze skywards and pin the aircraft (ie drive it off). The crew pulled out their dive and scarpered for home, damn them!

The marsh platoon move up to threaten the village. 

The PE-2's brief appearance. Note smoking engine.

We were hungry and weary, so at that we called a one-hour halt for some R and R and shopping therapy. One chicken pie, a pint of beer and three shiny new M3A3 Sherman tanks later (not for lunch) we were revived (a bit) and back.

The morning had been the Germans, so far they had inflicted 29 morale losses for only 12 of their own. But now the tide turned. The 88 open fire at the SU-152, scored two hits but only glanced off its armour twice (unlucky). The radios continued to be faulty and the artillery just wasn’t doing the business (they must have been low on ammo now). The German infantry dismounted from the StuGs and approached the river through the woods, but the panzers were still stuck back towards in the village. Another tank hit a stray mine (the third) and was wrecked. Somebody clear that minefield! The German command was frustrated by delays, delays, delays. On the inactive German left the K-18 cannon opened fire on the lurking Russian infantry that had started a cautious probe towards the village, using the still smoking wreckage of T-34s as cover. Its shelling pinned two squads.

Finally, the Russian caught a break, their unpinned infantry in trenches opened fire across the river, spotting the German infantry and inflicted sudden heavy losses. A T-34 pinned another StuG, and the SU-152s shelling pinned the 88 crew. The infantry advance crept forward again, and their fire pinned the K-18 gun crew. Things didn’t look so bright for the Germans after all. Their cautious approach had been be-devilled by pinning and mishaps. 

Russian artillery hammers the village as the Panzers push on, but too late.

With time now running out, we decided that enough was enough. With most of the public gone our job here was done. The German attack had suddenly floundered in the face of a resurgent, determined Russian defence. It was time to inspect the battle ratings and count up the damage. From a grand total of 101 (for both days) the Germans had lost 59 points, leaving them 42 points from breaking, still a healthy total. From their grand total of 124 (for both days) the Russians had lost 82, bizarrely also leaving them 42 points from breaking. What? A draw?

No, there is a tie breaker in the rules. In the event of a dead-heat the side with most scout units wins (hurrah for recce). That was also two a-side, another draw!

OK, final tie breaker. The side that inflicts the most battle rating loss can claim a (very) marginal win. So, it would narrowly be the Germans. But they had not been able to drive the Russian away from their Penya river line, so the front lines remained much as they had been two days ago, such is the futility of war!

It was close. Very, very close.

Thanks to Ken (mostly his boards and terrain), Xones and Fuzz for their help and good cheer, even when are energy was flagging on sunday. 



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