It’s September 29th, 1939, and Independent Operational Group Polesie are marching south towards Koch. Attacked by Soviet cavalry and tanks, the Poles are at first beaten back, but then counter-attack and manage to re-take the village of Milanow. This they then prepare to hold in the face of further attacks from Russian infantry with tank support.
The above is a condensed version of the bakground given to scenario #31: The Battle at Parczew from the September War scenario pack. I would play the Poles, defending Milanow; with John and Dave commanding the advancing Soviets.
The picture above shows Milanow as it was represented on our table. The Poles begin the game dug-in under Blinds. All the Soviets have to do to win the game is take one of the two objectives shown by the green ‘eagle’ markers within a certain time limit: the Polish position might be a good one, but it is quite fragile. The Soviets would also gain extra victory points by getting units off my side of the table.
The Forces Involved
The defending Poles had three platoons of infantry, each about 20-men strong. One was a regular platoon, but the other two were border patrol units (KOP). Supporting their infantry were a platoon of three machine guns, a platoon of three anti-tank guns, and a couple of medium mortars. They also had access to two batteries of off-table artillery, controlled by a couple of FOOs.
Much more fun, however, was the fact that a squadron of Polish cavalry would appear from one of the two table corners behind the Soviets at some stage during the game, with the only proviso being that the Russians knew which corner they would be coming from.
The Soviets had, on paper, a very strong force. In addition to a large company of infantry, (three platoons of 40 men each), they boasted a platoon of four machine guns and a whole of company of T-26 tanks: nine of them to be exact. They could also expect air support from Polikarpov bi-planes!
The only problem with the Soviet force was that is would arrive somewhat piecemeal, with only seven of their ten platoons starting the game on-table. The other three would arrive during the game, their appearance governed by the dice.
Initial Positions and Plans
I had deployed my men in three locations. Two platoons guarded the objective out to the left; one platoon, the machine guns and anti-tank guns guarded the objective in the centre; and my dummy Blinds were out to the right in an attempt to bluff the Soviets from punching through and then swinging round into my rear.
The Soviets had a cracking plan. Their seven initial Blinds would conceal all three infantry platoons, the machine guns, the tanks and their commander-in-chief for calling in air support purposes. All their strength would hit the right hand Polish Blinds (covering the objective out on the Polish left), with one platoon of tanks covering their open left flank.
Unfortunately, although the Soviets had a great plan, something got a bit mixed up in its execution!
Rather than starting the game with seven combat platoons on the table, the Soviets actually deployed only two of their three infantry platoons, one tank platoon, and their two HQ’s, the other Blinds being dummy. As this was a big game, with plenty of unit chips in the bag, this meant that they didn’t get to dice for their reinforcements very often and, as the Dice Gods were against them, didn’t get any extra troops even when they did.
That meant that rather than enjoying a numerical superiority appropriate for attacking dug-in troops (at least 3:1, should be more 5:1) they actually had eighty men and only five tanks against sixty Poles with six decent support weapons.
After much shaking of heads had taken place about their less than optimum deployment (presumably accompanied by the execution of several of their Big Men: “Shall we save on paperwork, Comrade?”), the Soviets deployed a tank platoon in the middle of the table, and two infantry platoons on their right.
The Poles quickly deployed the troops around both objectives on table: the aim being both to flood the chip bag to delay the Soviet reinforcements and to have as much time as possible to take pot shots at the Russians as they advanced towards contact.
A couple of the Soviet tanks fell victim to Polish anti-tank guns almost immediately, with the others scurrying for cover behind the woods.
It now looked as if the centre of the battlefield would settle down to a long, drawn-out war of attrition, with each side taking long range pot shots at each other without ever doing any substantial damage. This I didn’t mind: as the Poles, I wasn’t the one on a time limit!
Unfortunately, Soviet air support then showed up in the form of a rather ancient Polikarpov biplane. After one absolute miss, the pilot managed to drop a bomb right inside the Polish trenches, wiping out one anti-tank gun and a machine gun.
This was enough for the Soviet commander to try and break the deadlock by charging out of the field in an attempt to close assault the rather bomb-damaged Polish position.
Unfortunately for the Soviets, there were still a couple of Polish machine gun teams available to defend their trenches, and the Russians were knocked backwards badly damaged.
This is where the Soviet troops that hadn’t made it onto the table could have swept forward and finished the job.
That Blind in the picture above is a 20-man Polish KOP platoon dug in to the houses at the back of the Polish position. I also still had two anti-tank guns left…which would have made, it to say the least, “interesting”!
But the Soviets hadn’t got their extra men onto the table, and showed no signs of doing so…so a moot point. The salient point, however, was that the Soviets had been held and stopped in the centre of the battlefield.
Meanwhile, the Soviets had also been attacking the Polish position defending the other objective marker: moving slowly forward into assault range and then pausing to wait for the reinforcements that would give them enough strength for a successful assault to arrive.
These, however, showed no sign of appearing, so the Soviet commander, his time limit for success rapidly approaching, was forced to try and take the Polish position with what he had. This was unfortunately a bit of a forgone conclusion: forty attacking Soviets versus twenty-four dug-in Poles, and the attack came to nothing.
So that, as they say, was that.
Without their reinforcements, the Soviets had been unable to break the Polish lines around either objective, and were now out of time.
To give you an idea of how serious this problem was for the Soviets, this is what they still had left to bring on:
That’s a few cavalry scouts, a platoon of infantry, a platoon of machine guns, and two platoons of light tanks.
Could they have done it with the above? Well, the battle would certainly have been a lot closer than it actually was, particularly as two of those tanks are KhT-26s i.e. flamethrowers!
A lost opportunity but a good game.