Saturday, 30 October 2010

Colonel Katukov's Panzers

The German Army ripped into the Soviet Union in 1941, aided by Stalin's convoluted peasant cunning and paranoia. In the late thirties, his NKVD thugs murdered almost all the Red Army's Officer Corp and Stalin himself forbade the Red Army to take any measures against a German invasion on the grounds that it was all a plot of the SIS, the British secret service.

Only a handful of competent officers were left. One was, of course, Zhukov, another was Colonel Katukov, commander of the 4th Tank Brigade. He had trained his tankers in ambush tactics and fire and movement. One of his battalions was equipped with T34 medium and KV heavy tanks, the finest armoured fighting vehicles in the world.

On the 6th October, 1941, Kakutov laid an ambush for Guderian's 4th Panzer Division, which was advancing up the Mtsensk road as part of Operation Typhoon, the ill-fated attempt to capture Moscow. 4th Panzer was equipped with Pz II's, III's and IV's.

The Germans were horrified to find themselves attacked by tanks whose frontal armour were impervious to their short barreled anti-tank guns.

Following standard tactics the panzers retreated back into cover of their anti-tank guns that were positioned on a ridge behind them. Katukov took the bait, sending his light tank battalion up the road behind the panzers. But his highly mobile, fast, wide-tracked T34 battalion made a right hook through the mud and forests to catch 4th Panzer in the flank. The 76mm cannons on the Russian tanks proved equally effective against anti-tank guns.After a short and bloody tank and gun duel, Katukov withdrew to fight another day, having halted 4th Panzer in their tracks. Guderian had to visit 4th Panzer personally to repair their shaken morale

Shaun and I recreated this battle, using the Rapid Fire rules.

The picture above shows the start of the Russian pursuit, from left to right.

The first tank losses occured after an exchange of long range fire. The 88mm Flak Battery opens up on the Russians taking out a T26 light tank.

4th panzer charges the Russian T34s, closing down the range to try to penetrate the Russian armour. T34s take out the fearsome 88mm flak battery with HE fire.

The Panzer IIIs outmanouvre the Soviet T34s and Kvs, firing into their rear armour and causing losses.

The Russian light tank battalion is massacred and Katukov withdraws his remaing T34s and KVs.

Shaun, alias Col Eberbach of the 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th Panzer Division, wins on points as he had knocked out more than the Russian force. On the other hand I had given 4th Panzer a bloody nose and two thirds of my T34s and KVs were still runners, so I did not think Stalin would be displeased.


  1. Nice battle report John,

    There is an interesting argument that the Soviet Union survived precisely because of the purges. The lack of any effective opposition to Stalin from the Officer Corps ensured that Stalin stayed in power despite the imminent threat of Moscow falling. In the end it was the third strategic echelon of Soviet forces that held the Axis as envisioned by pre-war planning.

    For the record, this is not my theory; I first heard it advanced by Phil Steele when we were discussing a "what if" scenario for Moscow falling.

    Kind regards, Chris.

  2. the purges and stalins mistakes were the main reason why the wehrmacht nearly managed to defeat russia in 41. without the purges the red army would stop the wehrmacht well before moscow. stalin is to blame for the huge loses and the initial succes of the nazi attack in 41.