19 September 2013

Battle of Jabłon September 28-29th 1939 AAR

This weekend David and I played another historical scenario from my September Campaign. This was the battle of Jabłon.

The historical background to this battle follows below:

Towards the end of September the "Indepentend Operational Group Polesie" under general Franczisek Kleeberg were maneuvering around German and Soviet forces trying to move south in a ever shrinking tunnel between both closing fronts in the Polesie region of eastern Poland.

The Polish force was made up of various remnants such as the Podlaska cavalry brigade, sailors from the dismantled Pinsk river flotilla, the 50th and 60th infantry divisions and the cavalry division "Zaza". It lacked armor, but it still had ample artillery and anti-tank gun assets, and with the good leadership of general Kleeberg and surprisingly high combat spirit of the two infantry divisions it had fared rather well during the second half of the campaign. Kleeberg who intended to follow the orders of the commander in chief to withdraw over the southern borders, his troops were harassed by spearheads of the Soviet Red Army and multiple battles were fought against the eastern aggressors.

Kleeberg's biggest problem was the dwindling supply of ammunition, but both he and his troops intended to fight on. On September 28th they reached the area near the village of Jabłon where they were attacked by Soviet troops driving towards Chełm and Lublin. The Poles were taken by surprise by Soviet tanks and cavalry units, but managed to organize a defense and set up positions near the village from where they fought off the first attack with the help of intensive machinegun fire and quickly deployed Polish artillery support.

The Poles then counterattacked with their own cavalry, destroying 4 tanks in the process. Fighting continued through the night.. On the 29th the Polish Podlaska cavalry brigade which was heading for Parczew arrived at Jabłoń and was set upon by Soviet infantry and Soviet heavy artillery which had joined the battle. To counter the next attack the Poles entered the village and rolled up their 75mm artillery, masking their positions carefully - the gunners aimed down the road (without optical targeting aid) and opened fire on the Soviet infantry and armoured cars  stopping the advance. General Kleeberg now diverted more of his troops to reinforce the positions, among them a battalion of Polish sailors fighting on foot

The Soviets decided to once again counterattack the Polish held village with their Light tanks, but the attack broke down due to intense anti-tank fire. This attack was followed by Soviet airplanes arriving at Jabłoń and first dropping bombs on the Polish positions and then strafing the ground with their machineguns. Another Soviet tank assault was launched at 20PM, this time the tanks managed to tear into Polish lines but failed to inflict any noteworthy results and was soon forced to withdraw. As it had become dark the Soviet force pulled back and the Poles too withdrew under cover of darkness.

The Soviets would keep attacking the withdrawing "Independent Operational Group Polesie" and additional battles were fought at Włodawa on the 28th/29th and Milanów on September 30th before the Poles broke away from the Red Army and faced the German divisions closing in from the west and southwest.
.........

Scenario objectives

The September Campaign version of the battle has both the Polish and Soviet player  field an army of 1500 points. The Poles deploy 75% of their troops on the table, 25% of their force is in Reserve. 1 platoon may be kept in Ambush. The Soviet player deploys his entire army.

There is only a single objective marker, located in the village of Jabłon. The objective for the Poles is to  hold out until darkness (roll for dusk on turn 4 and onward). If it becomes night, and the Polish force holds the objective marker than they are able to withdraw under cover of darkness and have won.

If the Soviet player manages to capture the objective or destroy the Polish force then the Soviet player has won. The Soviet player may also prevent the Polish army from winning by contesting the objective, as the Poles cannot withdraw unless they have full control over it.

Forces:

I ran the Polish Piechoty Battalion:

HQ
1st Company: 2 platoons with 2 AT rifles
2nd Company: 2 platoons with 1 AT rifle
2x AT-gun platoons
1x 75mm light artillery battery
1x155mm heavy artillery battery
(The Poles are not allowed to field any tanks, or the armoured train in this scenario)

David ran the Soviet Fast tank company:

HQ BT-5
3 platoons of 4 BT-5 tanks
1 platoon of 4 BT-7A
1 platoon of 5 BA-10
1 platoon of 82mm mortars

............

To keep things historical I deployed all artillery and AT-guns along with 2 infantry platoons on the table (1 AT-gun platoon was kept in Ambush). My other two infantry platoons (one of them the Sailors) were kept in Reserve.

David saw the well defended frontline and decided to focus all of his efforts on a single flank. In the very first turn the tightly packed Soviet armor makes contact with the Polish infantry which is keeping their heads down in their foxholes. Tank machineguns and mortar fire has very little effect on the entrenched Polish defenders.

The return fire is devastating, Polish heavy artillery range in among the Soviet tanks, the 155mm shells annihilate 5 tanks and bail 2 in a single barrage! Anti tank guns and direct fire from 75mm artillery further blow up several tanks and the Soviet advance grinds to a halt - 2 Soviet tank platoons break and flee with what little they have left. The remaining Soviet force is navigating through the burning husks of friendly tanks and assaults the Polish infantry which takes some losses and decides to withdraw from the left field into the center of the village.

On turn 2 and 3 Polish reinforcements arrive and begin moving towards the village on both sides of the road while Polish artillery and anti-tank guns keep up their unforgiving fire and wipes out what remaining tanks and armored cars there are left. A few Soviet tanks escape the inferno, but the Soviet attack was halted quickly and brutally with minimal Polish losses (4-5 infantry teams and a single 75mm artillery gun).

Never during my previous games of Flames of War have heavy artillery been able to do such damage to the enemy. I suspected the game would be quick , and was worried for David when he deployed his entire force tightly packed together (no Hen & Chick rule). David replied that he thought it would he hopeless to divide his force.

I thought that he would be able to flank me if he  drove past the 75's where he would be able to wipe out the heavy artillery and attack my forces from the rear and stop all reserves - but David reminded me during the game that artillery in prepared positions could still swing around (something which I find absurd).

So yeah, this outcome was perhaps inevitable. I really believe that David would have had more success in this scenario if he had run the Soviet Infantry Battalion with heavy artillery support backed up with some tanks. That would have been a much more difficult force for the Poles to counter.

1 comment:

  1. I really love these historical scenarios; they add a layer of historical interest which make the game interesting in and out of itself, rather than simply being a match-up between two opposing forces.

    /Anders

    ReplyDelete

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