The Cauldron 

Having failed to achieve a decisive breakthrough in the engagements along the Vodista the advanced elements of 8th Panzer Division reformed before being recommitted. The 10th Panzer Regiment’s 2nd Panzer Battalion had suffered heavily in the previous engagement and was replaced by the 3rd Panzer Battalion. Likewise the 28th Schutzen Regiment’s 1st Battalion, having been badly mauled, was allowed time to rest and reform while the 2nd Battalion was allocated to the renewed advance. Yet despite these changes the advanced battalions of the division were moving forward less than 14 hours following the bloody encounter at Vodista.

The Soviet casualties from the previous action had been similarly heavy. This coupled with the German ability to manoeuvre against the Soviet flanks greatly concerned the Soviet commander. Soviet battalion commanders were reminded of the importance of all round defence. Attempts to reinforce the division, including counter battery assets were generally rejected. Again only an under strength Tank Brigade was bought forward to stiffen the line.

As the first German reconnaissance reports came in, and were analysed, it become clear to the German commander that the reorientation of Soviet battalions had created a gap between the towns of Roskopol and Dovhonosy.

Aware of the Soviet armoured formations in the area General der Panzertruppe Erich Brandenberger ordered an advance by 2nd Battalion of the 28th Schutzen Regiment into the gap to both seize high ground and act as an anvil against the Soviet armour. This advance would see the 2/28th Schutzen advance some 3000 yards over open ground. Having secured the high ground an anti-tank screen was to be established overlooking one of two bridges in the area. The majority of the battalion would then conduct a flanking movement against the Soviets deployed in around Dovhonosy. Brandenberger was confident that here a significant portion of the Soviets here would be orientated west and south and therefore by poorly prepared for such an attack. This attack also provided relatively direct access to critical high ground, the battalions secondary objective.

At the same time 3rd Panzer Battalion would conduct a deep flank march and attack Dovhonosy from the south. The aim of this attack however was to draw the Soviet reserves, likely comprising armour across the front of the anti-tank screen. The commander of 3rd Panzer Battalion was given clear instructions to break off at anytime. Both battalions were to be supported by divisional artillery assets. Finally 1st Panzer Battalion was held in reserve slightly to the left of 2/28th Schutzen for exploitation or as flank protection for Soviet infantry attacks from Roskopol into 2/28th Schutzen.

Below, the area of operations with 2/28 Schutzen visible advancing east towards high ground overlooking a bridge. The town of Dovhonosy is visible in the right foreground while the village of Roskopol is centre right.

In the Soviet plans were also checked. With no key terrain in the centre, apart from a bridge near the Soviet rear area of operations the centre was lightly held. Further, acutely aware of the German ability to conduct flanking movements the Soviet battalions were indeed deployed to protect against such attacks. Finally, concerned by the threat posed by Panzers breaking out into rear areas, villages now became hasty blocking positions ensuring that could only be taken by direct assault. Holding has Independent Tank Regiment in reserve the Soviet commander relaxed to await the Germans.

Above the Soviets deployed around Dovhonosy, viewed from the south. The village is held by a SMG company. To the rear is the high ground that would be 2/28th Schutzen Battalion’s secondary objective.

Below, the Soviet right flank, viewed from the west. The battalion in the foreground was not engaged while that to the rear formed part of the position around the village of Roskopol. Both are positioned for all round defence but comprising limited troops (11 stands) have a limited command radius.

The advance of 2/28th Schutzen was relatively uneventful. While often visible to the Soviets they were unable to engage or determine determine the objective of the battalion or the main focus. Finally, as the battalion finally reached its first objective it began to deploy its anti-tank guns on high ground while the infantry orientated for its advance against Dovhonosy. At this point the Soviet forces were unleashed.

Soviet reserves, comprising a converged Tank Regiment were committed to an advance towards Dovhonosy, which it was reasoned was the main German objective. Simultaneously a supporting Soviet infantry battalion, deployed around Roskopol, surged forward.

The infantry can be seen above having emerged from Roskopol and the woods behind the village. Below, the Independent Tank Regiment and comprising survivors from two regiments, can be seen advancing. Roskopol is visible in the top left.

Having been deployed in defensive positions the Soviet battalion commander could have formed his battalion up prior to advancing. However, encouraged by the Regimental HQ and political officers such detail was forgotten. Instead the determined Soviets surged forward.

The general situation in the centre can be seen below with Soviet tanks and infantry advancing while Soviet artillery began to fall directed by Soviet observers on the high ground to the right. The 2/28th Schutzen was now engaged against three battalions on all sides. The defence of “The Cauldron” had begun!

At this point 3rd Panzer Battalion began its own attack on Dovhonosy. Moving rapidly the battalion deployed drawing fire and inflicting casualties on the Soviet defenders.

The Panzers and Panzergrenadiers were to be supported by 105mm artillery fires. Communications issues however caused delays in these fires. When they did arrive they were often ineffective. The result was the Panzers and Panzergrenadiers were forced to engage in direct fire. These attacks while effective they slowed the advance resulting in the loss of some momentum. However, the Panzers pinned many Soviets reducing their ability to effectively engage 2/28th Schutzen. Fortunately casualties on 3rd Panzer Battalion were remarkably few.

Below, 3rd Panzer presses forward the initial plan to feint here, followed by rapid fall back had been abandoned. 3rd Panzer would instead bypass Soviet defenders and press forward to support 2/28th Schutzen.

Meanwhile in “The Cauldron” 2/28th was becoming hard pressed. As the infantry repositioned to halt the combined infantry and armoured attacks German artillery provided relentless support. The less than optimal positioning of German forward observers meant that heavy 150mm fires concentrated on breaking up infantry attacks while 105mm artillery disrupted Soviet tanks. Yet these relentless fires provided valuable time for the German infantry to redeploy.

With Soviet reserves and infantry committed the German 1st Panzer Battalion, held in reserve, was itself unleashed. Advancing the PzIIs, Pz38ts and PzIVs raced to support the 2/28th Schutzen, as can be seen below. Their advance would see them attack the flank of the advancing Soviet infantry.

Yet the advance of the Panzers took time and the Soviet assault continued relentlessly. Soviet armour, desperate to overwhelm 2/28th Schutzen attempted a series of close assaults. However, each of these assaults was driven back by combinations of anti-tank guns, anti-tank rifles and artillery. Below, KV-1 heavy tanks attempt to overrun Pak-36 anti-tank guns supporting a Flak-88. Also visible are T-34s, T-26s and T-28s.

This armoured assault was immediately followed by a desperate assault by Soviet infantry who surged forward against 2/28th Schutzen. At this critical moment 1st Panzer Battalion began to engage the exposed flank of the Soviet infantry as can be seen below.

With such desperate fighting and merciless attacks Soviet morale had finally reached critical levels. While all Soviet formations had fought with determination the tanks were first to break, being classed as green. Shortly after the attacking Soviet infantry’s resolve broke. With this the Soviet centre collapsed and the Panzers surged forward. Victory had been achieved and the breakthrough could once again begin.

The action was, like that at Vodista, a Hasty Attack developed using the Scenario Generation System. Generally similar forces were used, though some minor changes had been made. The Germans used an Attack List, supplemented by an Option A, while the Soviets used a Defend List without options. Soviet morale was classed as random. Unlike the veterans faced at Vodista here the Soviet tanks were found to be green while both infantry battalions engaged were classed as regular. There was much apprehension by both commanders when these rolls were made! Both Soviet and German artillery, while firing, was generally less effective. Yet again the ability of the Soviets to achieve combined arms was critical. As the Soviet commander described he could either advance his on a narrow front and achieve a degree of cooperation, or advance his tanks on a wider front but likely not achieve combined arms. A fascinating game with many hard choices for both players.

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