18 July 2013

Polish Warsaw HQ tank company vs SS infantry

After the last Early War game Joakim, David's friend, became interested in Early War and wanted to give it a try. He ran the "Infanteriekompanie" from the September Campaign v.2 with all units being SS, though he had to borrow stuff from David and proxy the whole army which is why there are Fallschirmjäger miniatures on the table.

I myself wanted to try out one of the more "funky" Polish lists from the September Campaign and since I had not yet played a single game with my twin turret 7TP tanks I settled for the "Warsaw city defense HQ tank company" which is the only lists that allows for mixing single and twin turret 7TP tanks and also features the rare up armored 1939 version of the 7TP single turret tanks.

From the September Campaign v.2.1.2 OoB description:
"As war broke out a delivery of 11 new 7TP tanks of the latest series arrived in Warsaw and had been designated for the 10th Motorized Cavalry brigade. Unfortunately for the 10th Motorized cavalry brigade these tanks remained in Warsaw for the city’s defense and were attached to the city defense HQ. The tanks were organized into the incomplete 3rd Light tank battalion. The battalion was made up of two companies of tanks, a company of 11 7TP tanks of the latest and improved type, and a company of 7TP dw tanks. The improved 7TP tanks featured several upgrades such as wider track, a lighter and more reliable engine, the reduced weight allowed for improvement of the armour thickness which reached 40mm in places on the frontal armour and the turret. The total production of these improved 7TP tanks only reached 13 including 2 prototypes."

The 1500pts lists looked like this:

Warsaw city defense HQ tank company

HQ 7TP tank
1st Platoon: 5 7TP (1939)
2nd Platoon: 5 7TP (1939)
3rd Platoon: 5 7TP dw

Zmotoryzowanej company (WAMB)
(Warsaw armoured motorized brigade are Fearless/Trained)
1 platoon + 2HMG's

Piechoty company
1 platoon + HMG platoon

Piechoty scout platoon
1 section, mounted on horses

Sporadic air support: PZL.7A fighters

SS Infanteriekompanie


2x Old Infanterie platoons (SS )
1x SS pionier platoon
1x SS mortar platoon
1x SS Anti tank gun platoon (4x PaK36)
1x SS Light artillery battery (4x 10.5cm guns)
1x platoon of 4 PzII
Sporadic Air support: Stuka 87B

The scenario was "No Retreat" and the Germans were defending, starting with two Infanterie platoons on the table, the Pak36 platoon in Ambush and the artillery, engineers, mortars and PzII platoon in Reserve.

Polish motorized infantry started mounted up on trucks safely behind the rest of the  troops and waiting for a breach in the enemy positions, effectively acting as reserves so to not suffer the typical "newly painted unit getting destroyed immediately" accident.

One Polish 7TP and one 7TPdw tank platoon supported by the regular Polish infantry began on the left flank, while the right flank was made up of a single 7TP platoon backed up by a platoon of HMG's. The opposition was quite poor by the looks of it, but both German SS platoons were deployed in such a way that they had to be destroyed before one could move past them. And then there was the danger of lurking PaK36's in Ambush.

The Poles began the battle by slowly moving forward and unleashing several buckets of machinegun fire at the dug in German defenders hugging the ground in their foxholes. The combined main gun and machinegun fire from every unit in range did little damage on the defenders though. When the firing stopped a single Ju87B arrived and dropped bombs squarely on top of three 7TP tanks and some infantry, the explosion however had extremely limited effect and only a single 7TP was bailed out - everyone else escaped without a scratch. Disappointed in the total failure of the Luftwaffe the German commander revealed the PaK36 guns on the left flank and unleashed a salvo against the approaching 7TP platoon - destroying 2 tanks and bailing the two remaining, effectively neutralizing the only capable tanks on that flank.

Polish mounted scouts and the motorized infantry now hesitated to move towards that flank, and moved instead towards the weaker right flank. The motorized infantry should have been dumped in the village and aided the right flank on foot but I figured that a breach would follow up there soon enough and that would mean racing towards the other objective with tanks and infantry before German reinforcements arrived. Meanwhile the Polish tankers climbed back into two out of three tanks and with the help of the company commander and the 7TPdw platoon began firing at the AT guns, knocking a single gun out but at least pinning the German gunners.

Polish infantry now moved out of the forest to keep up with the tanks, there was a fledgling idea of an infantry assault on the SS infantry but the enemy had been smart enough to keep their heads down during all the shooting so they were unharmed and extremely dangerous to assault just yet. I also realized that it would have been so much better to fully commit all tanks to the right flank, which was now only held by a single infantry platoon, but it would be such a hassle to move over to the other side of the table past all units and terrain so I focused on breaching the left flank- despite the apparent danger of the situation with the remaining three AT guns.

The second German turn was very unfortunate, the Luftwaffe failed to arrive, another turn without reinforcements, and on top of that the PaK36 platoon failed to unpin and the company commander was just out of reach to help them out with a platoon morale re-roll. The Polish tankers sighed in relief.
Return fire at the Polish tanks was also ineffective, the German infantry still kept a low profile and baited the Poles into coming closer.

Tiring of the poor results from firing at the enemy, the Polish tank platoon on the right flank decided to assault the infantry in the fields, the combat was embarrassing as the tanks broke off and retreated soon after committing to the fight, and but a couple of German teams were wiped out.

At the same time the remaining trio of tanks from the 7TP tank platoon and the company commander opened fire at the German AT guns, and managed in wiping out all gun teams, but the German commander refused to run away and remained in the tree line. There was still the issue of the dug in infantry guarding the objective, the task fell on the 7TPdw tank platoon to attack and destroy the infantry.

Polish tanks moved in and drove around the infantry but were repulsed after a brief fight, losing a single tank which was bailed out to the enemy.

Out of proper anti-tank support the Germans were finally reinforced, but only by a single platoon - PzII tanks arrived from the rear but it would still be another turn before they could join up with the fighting at the front. Now the Poles once again tried to uproot the SS infantry with the 7TPdw platoon, something that turned into a desperate slaughter  and ultimately the SS infantry - although almost completely destroyed themselves - managed to bail three Polish tanks and force the last one to back off, which ended in another three 7TPdw tanks burning...

Now the PzII tanks stood parked overlooking the objective as well, so there was no point in rushing forward with anything, trying their luck the Polish tankers fired at the enemy platoon but only managed to bail out two tanks. The PzII's now moved forward and returned fire, bailing one 7TP and destroying another, the last 7TP passed its morale check and the crew of the other tank soon remounted again.

While the absurd slugfest went on on the left flank the right flanked upped its efforts and charged the SS infantry with tanks and mounted scout cavalry, destroying the German roadblock, at the same time killing the German 2iC, and opening up the road for a flanking attack. Only now the Germans were receiving a steady stream of reinforcements to cover the rear objective - engineers arriving first moved up and dug in.They were soon followed by the mortar and artillery platoon...

Focus had to shift to the killing fields of the left flank if victory was to be achieved soon and without mounting Polish casualties. It all came down to a "death or glory" maneuver by the Polish two 7TP tanks and the company commander, driving around the remnants of the German infantry the tanks opened fire at the PzII's - knowing well that the return fire from the German tanks would be extremely brutal - as luck would have it the Poles managed to destroy the last two working PzII tanks and made the last one to flee. Now the Polish infantry ran past the burning wrecks and assaulted the remnants of the SS infantry in which the German company commander was killed.

With the German force dropping below half strength, and having no company commander, the German company broke and retreated from the battle. The Poles had won the fight, and perhaps an unnecessarily difficult battle. Counting the dead afterwards the Poles had actually not lost a single complete platoon.

German casualties in the fight:

Company commander
Second in command
2 infantry platoons with attached HMG's
1 PaK36 platoon
3 PzII tanks destroyed and 1 fled

The Poles lost:

4 7TP 1939 tanks
4 7TP dw tanks
2 mounted scout teams
4 infantry teams

The reason for the low casualty ratio among the Polish troops is mainly that they were used with restriction. The Motorized infantry never dismounted their trucks and spent the battle driving around behind the front line. The mounted scouts also never attacked until the very end of the battle, and the regular infantry patiently waited until the enemy lines were brutally beaten up by the tanks first - but they were also lucky that the SS infantry chose to not fire at them from the foxhole positions. The Poles were also very lucky in that the German Luftwaffe only managed to arrive on the battlefield a single time, and didn't even kill a single team with that bombing run!

It was great to try out the 7TP dw tanks, firing 30 shots of MG fire each turn is quite awesome but does very little damage against sensible opponents hugging the ground. Though they are pretty threatening to gun teams that have a lower save and allow for more firepower tests. The 7TP 1939 tanks were also pretty good, the armor value of 2 instead of 1 is a great boost in Early War and helped save the tanks from a lot of PzII and Pak36 damage on more than one occasion.

As a whole the Warsaw city defense HQ tank company is a pretty fun list to play but I guess it will have a harder time against an opponent with more AT guns or a tank company as you only have 11 real tanks in the entire force.

Joakim had a great time, and so did I, the battle looked as if the Poles would run over the Germans quickly, but the SS infantry managed toa wonderful job in stalling the advance. Joakim is now thinking about running one of the German reconnaissance lists in the September Campaign v.2 book, I hope he does as it would be nice with more Early War players around the club using my book.

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