Friday, 21 August 2015

The History of elite unit Großdeutschland - part 3; Waking up the bear

The MG42 at work on the Eastern Front.

Having now completed my intended 4 Zugs of summer uniformed infantry, I thought it was time for a little update on the journey of Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland eastward towards Moscow. We last left them enjoying the laurels of victory, after the triumph of Blitzkrieg and the fall of France. Now things move toward a darker horizon.

One of the four Zugs now finished.



The build-up towards Barbarossa

With their famous foe of the Great War soundly defeated, Großdeutschland went into winter camp at Belfort focussing on replenishing the ranks after suffered casualties and additionally to train up on new weaponry. Meanwhile in Berlin the Führer, now drunk on the success of Blitzkrieg and the fall of France, had become more and more obsessed with the prospect of an attack on his ally – the Soviet Union. 

Russian troops fought a desperate but futile battle against
the onslaught of Blitzkrieg in the summer of 1941.
(Picture from: Bashny.net)

The notion that a pre-emptive attack would rob Britain of a potential ally, by forcing a quick campaign to get a German dictated peace settlement, and the general ideology of lebensraum found on the “Slavic wastelands” to the east, drove the Führer’s mind towards this fateful operation. But before he could direct his finely tune war machine east, he would have to secure his southern flank.

The conquest of Greece and Yugoslavia was the last piece of the puzzle,
now Hitler had a unison front to the East.

 This meant that Greece and Yugoslavia, in both cases refusing to fall into the German alliance system, were targeted for armed invasion. The operation was even sanctioned by Moscow (still an ally of Germany at this point), and forces moved into action. Großdeutschland were designated to take part in the invasion of Yugoslavia, supporting an armoured Corps in a drive towards the nations capital, Belgrade. 

HQ base with an officer consulting the roadmap to Moscow.

The attack commenced on April 11th 1941, and meet next to no resistance. In the early hours of the following day Belgrade was taken, with I battalion of Großdeutschland directed to keep the public quiet and by show of force. Hitler now had a unison front east, stretching from the Baltic coast to the Black Sea. It was time to move the pieces into their position for the big attack. Operation Barbarossa was shaping up.



The initial German strength of Operation Barbarossa

At the outset of Barbarossa, the combined forces of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg machine comprised 3 million troops, with an additional force 750.000 from allies like Finland and Romania. These were accompanied eastward by some 3.350 tanks, ca. 7.000 artillery pieces and some 600.000 motorized vehicles. 

The German army had massed an incredible 3.350 tanks
for Operation Barbarossa.

Looking to the skies, they could depend upon the Luftwaffe to support them with about 3.000 aircraft, buzzing ahead with Stuka sirens signalling the impending storm. Though intelligence had fed Moscow with proof of German troop build-up leading up to the invasion, Barbarossa caught the bear daydreaming, of not sleeping. Stalin’s many initiatives in reforming his army had not bore any fruit, on the contrary, the big political purge of capable officers had left the Soviet army with what best can be described as unproven enthusiasts in many commanding positions. This would prove costly in the months to come.

German radio operator.
Like in the Franco-Prussian War and WW1,
German communications and com-equipment
were often superior to that of the enemy. 



Crossing the historic river Berezina

On June 22nd the vast German army rolled over the border and into Russia. What would be the most decisive chapter of WW2 had begun. In May Großdeutschland had been moved up from Yugoslavia and put in support of Second Panzer Group, forming part of von Bock’s Army Group Centre tasked with taking Moscow.

The fight for river crossings and bridgeheads was intense.

Operations began with promising advances and thousands of Russian prisoners taken. Time and again, Großdeutschland would fight encircling actions, mopping up surrendering Soviet troops as the Panzers jumped forward in pincer manoeuvres. On one occasion, fighting outside Minsk, over 150.000 prisoners were taken in a single operation. Another major engagement was fought at Borisov, close to the historic river Berezina. Here Napoleon had crossed with the remnants of his Grand Armée in 1812, some 130 years earlier. Now it was the Russians making a hasty retreat. 

German artillery/air support spotter.

Großdeutschland pushed forward, with many missions consisting of establishing and holding bridgeheads in conjuncture with the Panzers advance. They advanced deeper into the core of Russia, fighting their way towards Yelnya in July. As summer peaked and temperatures grew scorching hot, Großdeutschland fought a series of intense engagements, against defiant Russian units at the well defended railroad junction at Yelnya. Having bumped into a rock on the road, and after more than a month of intense fighting, Großdeutschland was now awarded a few days rest, from which they would be returned into a defensive position West of Yelnya, offering further time to revamp their energy. 

During the summer of 41 the German army was still bathed in success,
but dark clouds were gathering on the horizon.

On the 7th August Smolensk fell with a devastating 850.000 Russian prisoners taken. This opened the remaining 300km of road towards Moscow. The goal seemed within reach. In part IV we will follow the Großdeutschland to the gates of Moscow, where the Bear finally counter-attacks.

Thank you very much for reading!

25 comments:

  1. A joy to read as always!
    There are a few nicely painted miniatures in there as well =)

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    1. Hehe, thanks Ulf - and thanks for taking out time to give it a read!

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  2. Superb as always Sören! And the very interesting historical background as and added bonus.

    I'm now itching to get started on my own Eastern Front miniatures ...

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    1. Thank you Jonas, I'm looking forward to some good games this fall, with the combined collection of Ulf, Jesper, Mark, you and I we should have some fantastic scenario options covering all phases of the war on the Eastern Front.

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  3. A fabulous post and lovely work along the way.

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    1. Thanks Michael, appreciate you've taken out the time to give this a read! In the next part, the Germans get into real trouble with Operation Typhoon.

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  4. Wonderful brushwork! I love your posts that present new minis as well a bit of period history. Very enjoyable to read. I'd love to do the same when presenting completed battalions/regiments on "Immer Vorwärts!" Time is always factor however, so we'll see.

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    1. First of all, thank you very much for the kind words Jason - its a real pleasure to know that ones scribbles are read and appreciated! Like you I favor a format of combining work from the paint desk with a historical background. Not only does it help me get more aquatinted with the miniatures getting the paint job, but it also quenches my thirst as an author. I've always dreamt of writing a dramatized history book, but that is a mountain I will not be climbing anytime soon. However, blogging has proven a really nice format to create little tales of history that will hopefully get read. Will look forward to new posts on "Immer Vorwärts!"

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  5. Wonderful detailing on your new troops. I really like the stand with the deployed MG and crew.
    Nice!

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    1. Thanks Jon - yeah 15s are a different task than 28s, and I've been pleasantly surprised at what effect a simple color dot on the helmet can create.

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  6. Yet more great additions. Good stuff! I look forward to see them altogether and on the table. /Mattias

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    1. Hopefully they will reach the front monday 10 days from now, as we have a date with the Russians at the club in Solberga :0)

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  7. Great looking troops and nice history lesson, Soren. I find it interesting that Stalin was "surprised" by Hitler's "betrayal." :)

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    1. Thanks Dean, and thank you for reading your way through it - Like you, I've found it amazing that Stalin didn't react sooner to the intel. He probably expected a fight with Nazi Germany, but hoped to stall it. In a show of "good faith" the Soviet government actually sanctioned the Nazi invasion of Yugoslavia and Greece only months before they themselves got a taste of the Blitzkrieg engine. Stalin has killed off many of his capable officers in the army purge, so I expect he was really just trying to buy time.

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  8. Another well detailed group of Germans Soren, and very nice basing too!

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    1. Cheers Chris, not as brilliant as your 15's though ;0) but I'm still developing my skills at 15s, which is a very different "canvas" to work on compared with 28s.

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  9. Great post! Looking forward to seeing your troops on the table!!!

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    1. Me too buddy, looking very much forward to that first game now!

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  10. Beautiful units (and bases) and excellent write up...as always, thanks for that Sôren!

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    1. Thank you Phil! Its a pleasure writing and posting with readers like yourself on the other end of the line.

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    1. Cheers Michael! Soon its gaming time :0)

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  12. As always a highly interesting read and superbly painted miniatures as well! You really make me want to start on some 15's in the near future...

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    1. Thanks M, appreciate it! If you do decide to create a collection in 15mm, I can really recommend the plastic vehicle kits from PSC. They really are easy fits, and a joy to work on! I guess the real argument for doing a collection in 15 is the size of games feasible, and size of the collection you're able paint up in relatively short time. Visually your Blitzkrieg 28s will be VERY hard to beat though...

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  13. Excellent painting as usual as well as your history information. It's always nice to see a project start to come together.

    Christopher

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