Thursday, 23 November 2017

A Soviet Steamroller? The Soviet 9th Guards Mechanised

The release of documents to historians after the fall of the Soviet Union has given a new insight into The Eastern Front in WWII. It turns out that German General's memoirs written after the war for their new NATO allies were about as reliable as official publications of the Russian Communist Party.

The image given by said general is of supremely capable German Divisions of √úbermensch slaying all around them but being swamped by a sea of Untermenschen, like hosts of mice bringing down elephants. But how real was this?

Well, the Soviet 9th Guards Mechanised Corps was ordered to concentrate on the 4th January, 1945, to break through the German Hungarian defences in a night attack in the fighting around Budapest and then to exploit deeper in axis territory to capture key points.

The heart of a Red Army Mechanised Corps were its three mechanised brigades, and its single tank brigade – note that a Soviet Corps is closer in strength to a western division.  The paper strength of a mechanised Corps in 44/45 was:
246 Armoured Fighting Vehicles (183 T-34, 21 SU-76, 21 ISU-122, 21 ISU-152)
16,438 personnel: about 6,500 infantry in nine motorised rifle battalions and a single tank rider battalion
3 Tank Regiments and 3 Tank Battalions
9 Motorised Rifle Battalions and 1 Motorised Submachine Gun Battalion
3 Motorised Artillery Battalions

Given that Budapest was a key theatre of war, and the 9th was to spearhead this attack, one might expect the Corps to be close to paper strength, and possibly even reinforced above paper strength – yes?

Well this was its actual tank/infantry composition for the battle:
18th Guards Mechanised Brigade: 3 Shermans, 6 Valentines, 3 SU76 SPGs and 620 infantry
30th Guards Mechanised Brigade: 2 Shermans, 2 Valentines and 45 infantry
31st Guards Mechanised Brigade with: 14 Shermans, 4 Valentines, 2 SU76 SPGS and 420 infantry
46th Guards Tank Brigade: with 29 Shermans and 91 infantry
14th Guards Motorcycle Battalion: 3 Shermans, 1 SU76 SPG, and 118 infantry
31st Guards Engineers Battalion: 260 infantry
15th Guards Signals: 2 Shermans
Grand Total: 63 tanks, 6 SPGs, and 1554 infantry
And this was a reinforced break-through unit.


  1. The Sherman tank winning against the Panzers. Who would have thought!?

    1. And how about all those Valentines....

  2. Dear Ashley,
    Speaking as somebody who's been in the field, being able to run is a basic requirement of a useful tank. At the time I joined 2nd Squadron in Cambodia, H Company had 11 of the 17 TO&E tanks--and two of them were deadlined. I can only imagine what kind of servicability ratio a Tiger company had in 1945.
    Mind, the Soviets probably weren't expecting to run into panzers at that point any more than we were worried about hitting
    NVA tanks in 1970. We carried two HEAT rounds in the basic load, but mostly it was canister and Green Ball (shrapnel). I suspect the Shermans were almost all HE with a few AP.
    Any notion of how many Fireflies, John?

    1. There are figures available for serviceability rates on German tanks. The vehicles based on the III and IV were OK but the Panther and Tiger variants had awful serviceability..about 40% if memory serves.

      All the Shermans would be American variants so no Fireflies. Many would have the 77mm though.

  3. An interesting post, John. What is the source?

    Regards, Chris.

  4. I've got more tanks than that....

    1. You've signed for more tanks than that, as I recall.

    2. Ha ha ! You've got a great memory for detail Dr L; one might suppose that's a given, but still.

      There would have been 57 in the whole regiment (battalion), but only 14 in a sabre squadron. :)

    3. I have a retentive mind for odd bits of information. My head is like the attic of an ancient mansion.

  5. What did they have to face. I can't imagine too many Panzer 5s or 6s being there in January of 1945. Also I suspect that the quality of German troops was probably average or below.

    1. Yes, but my point was not that the Germans were at full strength, but that the Soviets had only skeleton formations as well. The Red Horde was a German excuse.