KURSK CAMPAIGN – OVERVIEW
The tank Battle of Prokhorovka, the largest tank battle in human history, occurred on July 12, 1943. It was the pivotal battle of Operation Citadel, the German offensive to encircle Soviet forces in the Kursk salient, also known as the Battle of Kursk, of the Great Patriotic War.
PRELUDE JULY 4-11
From July 4-11, 1943 Generaloberst Hermann Hoth’s 4.Panzer-Armee, spearheaded by the SS-Panzerkorps, had fought through 10-15 miles of Soviet defenses consisting of high-density minefields, entrenched infantry and anti-tank guns arranged in elaborate kill zones (see pakfront).
Many club members answered the call to duty in the run up to what’s been dubbed ‘The Great Big Eastern Front Game’ and played scenario games aimed at recreating the opening days of Operation Citadel With German Panzer and Panzer Grenadier companies throwing themselves against well laid Russian defences. The battles were hard fought on both sides but the Germans slowly fought there way through!
THE PLANS FOR THE 12th – THE BATTLE OF PROKHOROVKA
By the end of July 11, SS-Panzerkorps was close to driving a wedge between the Soviet 1st Tank Army and 69th Army. Unknown to the Germans, a whole army group, the Steppe Front under Ivan Konev stood ready as a reserve to conduct a counter-offensive. Following the German success up to 11 July, and against Konev’s protests, the STAVKA released two armies, the 5th Guards Tank Army under General Pavel Rotmistrov and the 5th Guards Army from Steppe Front to meet the German threat. After forced road marches, the Soviet forces reached Prokhorovka on the night of July 11th.
For the 12th July, the Soviet armies listed above, together with the 1st Tank Army under General Katukov were supposed to attack the German forces and cut off the penetration, trapping and then destroying the advanced German forces.
The culminating battle of the club campaign was played on a large 6ft x 12x table. Each player fielding a 1500 point mechanized or armoured force. The Soviet counterattack would be successful if they pushed though the German lines with a unit of 5 or more Tanks and captured the Germans forward command post. The Germans had to prevent this and in turn take the Russians forward command post.
Kommisar Phil took charge of the Russian attack leading the mainly Tankovy forces of Kapitans; Steve, Peter, Kathy, Andy and Derek while General Von Nettle lead the German defences with Peter, James, Glenn and Warren.
Historically about 500 soviet tanks took part in the battle of Prokhorovka compared to just over 200 German Panzers. In our game we fielded roughly….
14 Lend Lease Sherman
4 KV 1 and 2’s
2 Heavy Assault Guns
23+ Panzer III L’s and N’s
12 Panzer IV F2’s
3 Panzer IV H
2 Tiger 1e’s
2 StuG F/8’s
As well as all the associated Artillery, Rocket, Infantry, Armoured car, Air and AA support!!!
Over 150 Armoured vehicles in total!
With so many Tanks in play both sides used the reserve rules so we could get things going easier. Most of the Russian players started with T70’s and T34’s for there initial attack while the Germans opted to start with there longer ranged Panzer IV’s and Tigers.
On the right flank the Russians made an early attack with light tanks trying to take advantage of a gap in the German line. Forcing the Germans to re-deploy a small force of Panzers to counter the threat, while there T34’s advanced slowly trading shots with a heavy Tiger tank at long range. The Russian light tanks eventually broke off and headed to the centre where the Russian Kommisar was struggling. But by the end of the game German armoured resistance on this flank was thinning as Russian guards KV tanks entered the fray.
In the Centre Hauptman Glenn seized the initiative and launched a daring pre emptive attack against the Russian commander, buckling the Soviet line and with the luck of the fatherland destroying an entire Army. The Russians had to re-deploy there reserve T34’s else they would have lost there forward command post and handed victory to the Germans. The Russians lost almost half of there T34’s in the centre, the steppes strewn with burning tanks!
On the left flank the Russian attack stalled while they waited for more tanks to arrive from reserve, while they milled around in there staging area the German defenders where able to take up advanced defensive positions and when the wave of Russian machines finally came crashing down on the germane lines in a most impressive charge (over 20 tanks en mass) the German crews had there work cut out. But came though, by the end of the game not a single Tank from the charge survived and the German flank held firm.
By the end of the evening the bulk of the Russian forces where spent and they had little chance of achieving both of there objectives. However the Germans had only succeeded in holding the Russian attack off and had failed to capture the Russian command post so the battle raged on!
All in all it was one hell of an evenings gaming. Big thanks to everyone involved
Hauptman James von Funnellhoffen.