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.
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.
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.