Saturday, 4 December 2010

Assault on the Seelow Heights

Strategic Situation
The assault on the Seelow heights took place between 16th to the 19th April 1945 and was part of the Battles of the Oder Neisse, the last defended location before Berlin. The Heights are known as the Gates of Berlin.

Marshall Zhukon had around one million men and and three thousand AFVs of the 1st Belorussian Front to force open the Gates. He was opposed by the German Ninth Army commanded by General Heinrici with around five hundred AFVs and perhaps one hundred thousand men. Heinrici decided to defend not the River Oder but to dig in on the Heights. Zhukov's plan was simple and typical of his methods: to hit the Heights with an armoured steamroller and roll over the defenders

The battle was a bloodbath for the Red Army, who struggled across the swamps and up the Heights under intense fire. Zhukov had to admit to Stalin that things were not going according to plan. Stalin authorised Konev, who was having beter success at pushing back 4th Panzer Army, to race Zhukov to Berlin. The Soviet troops were caught in a bottleneck.

With their usual fortitude, the soldiers of the Red Army broke through the first two defensive lines. The final third line was defended at the North end by the 11th SS Panzergrenadier Division Nordland and 23rd SS Panzer Grenadier Division Nederland. The Red Army finally broke through and pocketed what was left of Nineth Army at the Battle of Halbe.

The Wargame
The scenario depicts a Russian Assault Tank Brigade of three battalions assaulting dug in SS in the north of the third line on the 19th of April. Shaun and I only had an evening so, to speed things up, we assumed that the Soviet Tank Riders neutralised the German Panzerfaust (tank hunter) teams and only played the armoured battle.

The Germans have the advantages of defence and the best equipment but the Russians are determined and T34 are fast and dangerous with adequate sloped armour and 85mm cannon.

The SS have a kampfgruppe defending a village on a vital crossroads. Kampfgruppes were German ad hoc formations of variable size formed from available units for a specific purpose. The Germans were just better and more tactically flexible than any allied army. Kampfgruppe Shaun had one battery of Wespe Self Propelled Guns, 88mm Flak guns, 75mm Paks, Stug IIIs, Marder IIIs, Jagdpanthers and JagdTiger IIs, respectively. They have only one company of MkIII tanks (from a training regiment), Panthers and Tiger Is. All the German units are well under strength, many consisting of only a single platoon (one model). The German armour is dug in, until it moves.

The first Soviet Battlion rolls up the road. It has three full strength companies of SU152 Self Propelled Assault Guns, T100 Self Propelled AT Gunss and Sherman 75s, with an HQ equipped with T34s.

The follow up battalion has T34s. It is supposed to exploit after the assault battalion has cleared the village.

Similarly, a third battalion also of T34s, to exploit if the second battalion gets bogged down assisting the SP Guns.

The Assault Guns rush the village and run into withering fire. The Russian second battalion breaks to the left and right to envelop the defenders but the company attacking to the left is destroyed by massed fire from Paks, Flak guns and Panthers. The Shermans force their way into the village reaching the crossroads.

The third Russian battalion is forced to reinforce the left and right flank attacks. The assault gun platoon leading the attack through the village is brewed up by Tigers, blocking the road. The Shermans have to back out.

The Panthers creates havoc, shooting up the T34s. They run into an ambush from the Sherman company but the 75mm shot bounces off.

The Panthers are finally knocked out by 85mm fire from T34s. A company finally gets behind the Jagdtiger and Tigers and brews them up. The Paks are ground under the tracks.

Kampfgruppe Shaun is destroyed but there is no question of exploitation as the Russian Tank Brigade has only a handful of 'runners', but the gates of Berlin are open. Zhukov shrugs and send in the next brigade of T34s. Within two weeks Hitler has shot himself in the bunker.

War Cemetary at Seelow

Eastern Front battles are good inspiration for 40K games. The Soviets are the Guard, (or Human Renegades) or Orks, and the Germans are Tau, Eldar, Marines, Chaos Marines or Necrons.


  1. Really good report John, I was thinking of doing a Seelow Heights game over Christmas. This is good inspiration

  2. DearPaul
    Seelow Heights is a fascinating battle. It is little known in the west but it was part of the last great set piece offensive of WWII.

  3. I was watching a documentary on tanks. The Nazis wasted precious time developing the Tiger tank and they cost a fortune to build, whereas the Soviets tanks were spewing off the conveyor belt and were dirt cheap.

  4. Dear Bartender
    Yes, the Germans were caught in a cleft stick. They lacked the raw materials to match production in any of their their primary enemies, let alone all of the, so they had to go for quality rather than quantity. The problem was that the Nazi state was a competing mass of vested interests resulting in appalling administrative incompetence. So quality turned into endless tinkering with competing designs. They would in theory have been better seved churning out Pz IVs rather than Tigers and Panthers but they could never churn out enough.

  5. Fortunately for us, because if they won the war, we'd speak german here in Hungary, if we were speak at all...

    By the way, I liked this BatRep. Allways liked the tanks and tank related games.

  6. Dear Igi
    The more I read about the Eastern Front, the more respect I have for the ordinary Soviet soldier: badly lead, inadequately trained, often inadequately euqipped and terrorised by the moronic thugs of the Soviet Communist Party, they nevertheless saved the world.

  7. Dear John,

    Are you familiar with the works of John Keegan? I think he wrote quite good books about war. My favourites are The Mask of Command and The World War II. And you are too humble. British soldiers and people did their parts too by not giving in when everybody did in Europe.

    Oh, and I don't want to litter your comments about Hungary's past and idiotic decisions, but i like to talk about it.

  8. Howdy,

    Where is the infantry?


  9. 20mm Tank Battles you cannot beat them

    Good report

  10. Dear IGi
    Yes, have read keegan.
    Thank you for your kind comments about the british. My father fought in N. Africa and Anzio.

  11. Dear JAs
    Left out so we could finish in an evening.

  12. Dear Geordie
    Thanks. 20mm takes me back to a happily missspent youth.