Sunday, 18 November 2012

Partisan Action, Belarus, Autumn 1943....Game Number 23

Soviet Partisans striking a pose.

As the war on the Russian Front dragged on so the strength, equipment and organisation of the Soviet Partisan units increased. They became a significant factor in the continued disruption of German rear areas and lines of communication. Attacking railroads, ambushing convoys and general all round insurrection meant that the Germans had to divert significant resources away from the front line to attempt to deal with the problem. The men of the Gross Deutschland division, the so-called Fuhrer's Fire Brigade' were often involved in operations against the Partisans as Guy Sajer often mentions in his book, The Forgotten Soldier. The following action is loosely based on any one of a number of such operations during Autumn 1943, after the failure of the Kursk offensive.

The Game

I am using Bob Cordery's Big Battle Portable Wargame Modern rules but with a couple of changes, primarily around unit activations and the sequence of play (nothing major then!). Essentially each side has a command level which determines the number of units that are activated each turn. Each side has an activation of 4 but this may be varied taking into account troop quality or the requirements of the scenario being fought. On a turn to turn basis a dice roll is used to add a random element. A roll of 1 deducts two activations, 2 deducts 2 activations. A roll of 3 or 4 means that the score remains he same. A 5 gives a plus 1 activation and a 6 a plus 2. I also tweaked the sequence of play slightly in that the phase players roll for initiative and activation points. Artillery fire is then carried out and costs an activation point to do so. The only special rule I am introducing (aside from the changes mentioned) concerns the Partisan infantry. I have borrowed an idea from Memoir 44 in that should a unit be forced back as a result of combat then it may fall back two hexes rather than one. The rationale behind this is that one would expect that the Partisans would have a much better knowledge of the local topography and so could escape far more readily. All the troops for both sides are classed as average.


1 x Commander (1) - Hauptmann Wesreidau
3 x Infantry (4)
2 x Machine Guns (2)
1 x Mortar (2)
1 x Armoured Infantry (3)

Total Strength 22 points - Exhaustion Level 11


1 x Commander (1)
5 x Infantry (3)
1 x Machine Gun (2)
1 x Field Artillery (2)

The field artillery represents captured German pieces and the Partisans also have deployed 6 minefields around their position, as well as making use of some log and earth defence works. Their base is in fact an abandoned saw mill.

Total Strength 20 points - Exhaustion Level 10

Somewhere in Belarus, Autumn 1943....

The dense and forbidding wall of trees loomed up ahead revealing no clues as to the whereabouts of its occupants. The men of the Gross Deutschland, a single company under the command of Herr Hauptmann Wesreidau, had split into two groups in order to clear the wood from opposite directions. The first group comprised the sole remaining armoured platoon in half tracks  a platoon of infantry on foot and the company mortar section. The other group consisted of two platoons on foot and all the machine guns, accompanied by Wesreidau. The Hauptmann's 'steiner' was left behind under guard with the grab-bag assortment of trucks that the remainder of the unit had to make do with. The plan was simple, the group with the mortar was to provide fire support and the accompanying vehicles some mobile firepower. They were also tasked with ensuring that nothing escaped the German noose and so deployed fairly close to the dirt track leading into the suspected enemy position. Meanwhile the other group was to systematically work their way through the position, eliminating any opposition.

Interrogation of some local peasants had revealed that the wood contained an abandoned saw mill that was being used as a base for the local Partisan band and so a detachment of the Gross Deutschland had been detailed to eradicate them. It was not expected to be a difficult operation and so the main body had resumed  its onward march leaving their comrades to deal with the Partisans. Wesreisdau had tried moving heaven and earth to get some armoured support but was told to make do with the half tracks. So be it - they would have to make do with what was available. Wesreidau put aside his misgivings and concentrated on the task in hand - all the while wondering for how long he could rely on the quality of the German soldier in the face of ever increasing uncertainty and an implacable enemy.

The Partisan band had used the mill for some time and the position was large enough and secure enough to house all of them away from prying eyes or over flying German aircraft. Nevertheless, earth and log barriers had been placed around the perimeter and several fields of mines and booby traps had been deployed in all the likely choke points. They had been slowly building up their strength; in manpower, expertise and above all, weapons and equipment over the last eighteen months or so and were now both well organised and well equipped. Their latest and prized acquisition was a pair of ex German 105mm field howitzers, complete with a generous supply of ammunition. Using the Fascist invaders own equipment against them gave a certain degree of grim satisfaction to the  band's commander and he fervently hoped that it would be soon. He knew that the Germans were coming - local peasantry had confirmed this - and so made his plans accordingly.

The Germans were going to get a big surprise.

The overall position at the start of the action - The Partisans in their camp with the Germans approaching from either flank.

The Partisan camp - note the earth and log emplacements and the rather sinister looking black spots....

Hauptmann Wesreidau with the northern force - note the machine guns, no doubt manned by the veteran, Hals, Lensen, Lindberg and Sajer.

The southern force - primarily in a supporting and holding role.

Turn 1. The German supporting force moves up into position with the mortars and the infantry just entering the woods.

Meanwhile on the other side of the wood, Hauptmann Wesreidau and the main body move cautiously into the woods. The Partisans are content to sit and await developments.

Turn 2. Taking every precaution, the infantry of the holding force move further into the wood whilst the half tracks move to the edge of the road.

Slowly, ever so slowly, Hauptmann Wesreidau's men continue their advance with the leading machine gun unit (no doubt accompanied by a cursing Hals, a cowering Lindberg and an apprehensive Sajer) reaching the road.

Turn 3. Action! Wesreidau's left hand unit appear at the tree line and open fire at the leading edge of the Soviet position supported by the machine gun. The Russian response was deadly as the stationary infantry engaged the invaders with telling effect.

Meanwhile the other German unit emerges at the edge of the wood and runs into a further part of the Soviet defences - right next to the captured artillery!

Turn 4. After coming under fire from two units of Partisans the left hand unit of Germans is decimated. The machine gun continues to engage the foremost Soviet defence work whilst the remaining infantry move up in support. Meanwhile the other machine gun positions itself to provide flanking fire against the engaged redoubt or the nearer position as required.

The 'holding' German infantry and the southernmost unit of Partisans trade blows as the artillery swings round in support.

Turn 5. The battered survivors from the leading redoubt fall back to be replaced with a fresh unit - straight into the combined fire of a fresh German infantry units and a pair of machine guns. The veteran, with Lindberg as his number 2, took the situation at a glance and fired on the northernmost redoubt, silencing one of the Soviet machine guns.

Disaster! The captured artillery opened fire in support of their comrades with the target being the German infantry currently engaged with them. The gunners, unused to the German weapons, misjudged the range and the barrage fell short, killing one of the defenders. The close combat that followed went in the German favour and so a gap in the Partisan defences was exposed.

Turn 6. The machine guns trade blows with the Soviet knocking out the veteran's weapon whilst the infantry and the other machine gun pour a devastating fire into the battered redoubt. The original surviving unit forced out of the redoubt earlier has linked up with the sole remaining machine gun over the other side of the road.

The German infantry had moved to engage the next Soviet unit but were repulsed with losses whilst the mortar 80mm shells into the Partisan position. The half tracks had picked their way through the woods and were engaging the northernmost Russian unit at point blank range.

Turn 7. Abandoning their position in the woods, the veteran, Hals, Lensen, Lindberg and Sajer deployed the remaining weapon by the roadside and opened fire on the remaining Partisan unit in the redoubt. The German infantry joined in but to little effect whilst the other machine gun delivered the telling blow.

The German infantry reengaged the Soviet infantry and drove them away from their defences whilst the half tracks were content to trade inconclusive blows knowing that help was on is way. The Russians had reached the limit of their endurance and so their remaining troops took to their heels to fall back deeper into the woods. The Germans had carried the position.

The final score - German 7 and the Russians 11

The last few shots rang out as the remaining Germans moved into the abandoned position they had captured at such a cost. What had seemed so easy earlier on had become almost impossibly difficult and it was a real struggle for the men of the Gross Deutschland to prevail - but prevail they did. The veteran, Hals, Lindberg, Lensen and Sajer had survived to fight another day but had little cause to celebrate. An army that is retreating cannot speak of victory with the same degree of enthusiasm as when it is advancing. 


This was quite a small action in terms of the number of strength points but what it lacked in quantity it certainly made up for in quality. My rule tweaks seemed to work out OK in terms of the sequencing and so did the activation system I employed. I am happy with having artillery having to use an activation in order to fire and I also like keeping the artillery fire separate so both of these facets worked out well.

All in all then, it was not a bad way to spend some of a Sunday afternoon.


Phil said...

Don't know the system, but it is looking very nice!

David Crook said...

Hi Phil,

Check Bob's Portable Wargame website out for details - you will not be disappointed!

All the best,


The Angry Lurker said...

I never realised you could use it for this period, damn well done sir!

David Crook said...

Hi Fran,

Many thanks old chap - check out Bob Portable Wargames site for the rules and give them a go - they are really great fun to play with and give quick games but with that all important 'feel'.

All the best,


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...

David Crook,

A very interesting action, with the outcome uncertain until the last moves of the battle.

I must admit that I had not thought of using the rules for an anti-partisan action ... but they work very well indeed.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

Firstly, I hope your cold is improving!

The game worked really well and the tweaks (albeit personal!)put a different spin on things. It has given me much to think about for lower level actions and so I will drop you a line with the thoughts I have been pondering.

All the best,


The Ferrymen said...

Hi David,
What a coincidence, I just started Sajer's book last week; about half way through. What a horrific experience.

Interesting action. I thought it looked like a sure win for the partisans -- just goes to show, you can't tell how its going to work out.
Thanks for another entertaining battle report, although the purple prose was a little subdued. :)

David Crook said...

Hi John,

Thank you very much sir! I am on my fifth or sixth paperback copy of Sajer's book and it is one of my favourite reads for sure.

To be honest, I actually found this to be quite a difficult action to write about - mainly because I did not want to end up using great chunks of Sajer's text.

It was interesting to fight though.

All the best,