Friday, 23 October 2015

The History of elite unit Großdeutschland – part 6: 1943; The road to Kursk

The PSC Panzer III next to the Zvezda Panzer II.

For this update I’ve finished a further two Panzers, completing my initial Barbarossa painting project goals setup earlier this year. More specifically, I have added a Panzer II from Zvezda and assembled and painted another of the excellent Panzer IIIs from Plastic Soldier Company’s sprue boxed set. The Zvezda looks a little small, even when factoring in that it’s a Panzer II next to a Panzer III. So, for someone building a collection from scratch, I’d probably go with either or in terms of the brand.

Erich von Manstein.
He would take command and lead the 43 offensive, reconquering Kharkov.

Concluding my initial painting goal for Operation Barbarossa, I can now look ahead and plan the next step. Having enjoyed the format of connecting my painting project with the history of Großdeutschland, I decided to continue this trend, but moving time forward to 1944-45, and the last defence of East Prussia and later Berlin, when Großdeutschland gets merged with Luftwaffe Panzer Division Herman Göring. So, I’m actually currently experimenting and test painting, to get the right feeling on German Panzer winter camo. Hope to share the fruits of this work shortly. Now, back to the Eastern Front! Its early 1943, and a new and more troublesome year awaits Großdeutschland.


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The Road to Kursk

January 1943 opened in white, with a clear and crispy winter landscape covered in fine powder snow. But the mood in the German high command was pitch black. On the 14th January, the Russians launched a winter offensive up the Don, breaking the Hungarian Second Army, and by that opening a 200 miles wide gap in the German front line. Further down the Don, in Stalingrad, the 300.000 soldiers under von Paulus was still trapped. 

Another view of the models.
A few stowage details and antenna has been added.
The white helmet decal gives away the IRGD origin.

Großdeutschland was back in its old role as “fire extinguisher”, constantly shifted along the front line to plug holes and help launch counter attacks. It took a hard toll on the men, and the equipment. IRGD was now situation outside Oskol, fighting bitterly to stem the massive Russian onslaught, but were constantly pushed back. The Russians were now better led, better equipped, and they were starting to field tanks and planes which were equal in quality to their German counterparts. The scales had tipped in favour of Mother Russia.

Kharkov in 1942, during Nazi occupation.

On the 2nd February Stalingrad fell. This came only weeks after parts of the Second Army further north also suffered massive losses due to encirclement. The Soviet offensive was starting to pick up real pace, and forced the Germans back. IRGD was hastily plugged into a hole in the line near Kharkov, in an attempt to protect the vital railroad out of the city, which connected two German armies logistically. The were again pushed back, and ended up near Poltava, where they were finally taken out of the front line for a few days of well deserved rest.

Kharkov after the battle.
A few kids inspects the wreck of a Panzer.

During the rest at Poltava, Großdeutschland was also refitted – with Tiger I’s. They were to see action straight away, as German High Command had planned a counter offensive, with the objective of closing the gap in the front line and reconquering Kharkov. On the 5th March, the offensive began, seeing initial success and the re-capture of Kharkov on the 11th, trapping several Russian divisions in their way.

Grenadiers of IRGD during the winter fighting in 43.

After the March offensive, the Eastern front went quiet for a few months. IRGD was back to their resting area near Poltava, getting further reinforcements to fill the gaps. The Third Battle of Kharkov would turn out to be the last successful German offensive on the Eastern Front.

Next up: Part 7, 1943 - The Battle of Kursk.
Thank you very much for reading!

20 comments:

  1. I couldn't find a comparison photo with real vehicles, but here's one of models from the same maker - it appears the II is considerably smaller than the III http://davetaylorminiatures.blogspot.com/2010/10/blitzkrieg-it-has-begun.html Excellent painting as always in any case, Soren; which ties the two together well. Nice history review too.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that link Dean, it certainly supports fielding these two models together with less worry than I initially had forecasted. The PSC kits are very competitive in terms of price, especially comparing to BF, but Zvezda is an outright bargain - so they are worth looking at for sure!

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  2. More superb painting and weathering on those panzers Soren, at the rate you are going you produce panzers faster than people produce figures!!!

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    1. Haha, thanks Chris - I'm in no danger of running out of metal or plastic kits in the foreseeable future, but just to be sure - I'm actually thinking about getting a PSC box of Panther as well ;0)

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  3. They look great and the weathering looks really great! As always enjoyed the historical background material as well.

    Christopher

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    1. Thank you Christopher, and again thanks for taking out the time to give it a read!

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  4. Well, what more to say than f***ing awesome? Your IRGD project really has inspired me to do something similar with my 28mm Germans.

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    1. That would be cool Nick - there are so many good infantry minis in 28 - not least with the Perry's Fallschirmjägers (a personal favorite). Hope you pick up this idea, would be a great read framed by your top notch painting! What unit would you go for?

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    2. Ah, for a starter I think I'd go with 44th Infantry Division "Hoch- und Deutschmeister" for my LW Germans as they also fought in Italy and therefore can act as reinforcements for my Fallschirmjäger. Not so keen on the Perrys thogh... the casting is utter crap.

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    3. Good choice - incredible story about their breakout from Stalingrad. Only 100 survivors made it, and they had fought their way out. Respect!
      Interesting to hear your opinion on the Perry Fallschirmjägers. I have only seen them on the pics in the Perry webshop, but something tells me you have a first hand impression, that didn't convince. Noted :0)

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  5. Replies
    1. Cheers Micke! Soon I'll be giving all the metal we exchanged an overhaul in winter camo!

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  6. Great looking tanks!!! Enjoy the game this week! Remember better dead than Red!!!

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    1. Thanks Mark, and don't worry - I'll be in Moscow before they know what hit them ;0)

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  7. Always wonderful...and you were right, troubles are here!

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    1. Merci Phil - appreciate the comment buddy!

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  8. Fantastic results! As others have mentioned, your weathering technique produces a handsome product. The PzII is tiny. I have a few of these models to build myself.

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    1. Thanks Jon, yeah the PzII is really small - When I field next to a Tiger, it almost look ridiculous. I'm thinking about getting a few PzII from SkyTrex actually, they seem a little taller too. What have you got in the lead pile, BattleFront, PSC or Zvezda?

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  9. Superb work once again Sören! You've really turned into an expert with the weathering powders!

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    1. Thanks Jonas - that rust pigment is a finely balanced tool, easy to over do. I have spend some time examining more talented painters' work on larger scale armor, say Tamiya and so on, just to see what techniques they've used.

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