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.


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!

Tuesday 20 October 2015

The History of elite unit Großdeutschland – part 5: The road to Stalingrad

The Panzer III model from PSC.
I've added some stowage and the Battle Flag to give it a real Barbarossa feeling.

This week it’s once again time to visit the hard fighting Großdeutschland at the Eastern Front. To frame the write up, I’ve painted up another Panzer III, this one from Plastic Soldier Company’s sprue box. A really nice and adaptable model to work on. I added some stowage (Thanks Micke for all the bits) to the basic look, to give it some Barbarossa feeling. I also cut a piece of piano wire, to add the radio antenna on the side.

When in doubt... take a coffee break.

The Battle Flag is a paper print, softened with wooden glue, and sculpted around the stowage, to get the right look and feel. I’ll probably be adding one or two more Panzers to the Barbarossa collection. After that it will be later models for Operation Wintergevitter, with snow-camo. Now – on with the story of Großdeutschland.


The Failure of Operation Taifun & the road to Stalingrad.

The first days of 1942 carried with them a change in the German soldier’s perception of his enemy. The Russians had suddenly put up a real fight, and it was taking a noticeable toll on the worn our German units. The evident failure of Operation Taifun, which not only meant that Moscow had not been conquered, but also in a broader perspective, that this would mean the prolonging of a costly war, resulted in Hitler sacking all commanders, including Guderian, and announcing himself as supreme commander of the Army. This was his way of getting rid of the “obvious incompetence” and lack of spirit in the Army’s high command. The old quarrel between the Führer and the Army lived on. 

Another view of the model. I've been using sand and rust pigments
 from AK Interactive to add weathering.

Infantry Regiment Großdeutschland had suffered immensely during Taifun, and the three battalions were now effectively reduced to two. As a consequence, IRGD was pulled back behind the lines for a complete refitting and some well deserved rest. On the 1. April 1942, the regiment started a reorganization to be expanded to an Infantry Division. The idea was to utilize the veterans of IRGD to build an elite Division, for use in the coming final push against the Bolsheviks. 

A colored image from the summer campaign of 42.

This meant that IRGD’s Oberst “Pappa” Hoernlein was promoted to Generalmajor, and given the command over the newly formed Division. The ranks was boosted with new recruits from Döberitz and other schools across Germany, and it was noted that the Army High Command had assigned Großdeutschland to received to newest equipment for this refurbishment. However, the old veterans of IRGD would remain a sealed elite core, looking down on the “newcomers”. They were the veterans of Barbarossa, and the new choirboys from back home would have to prove themselves before getting accepted in the eyes of their more experienced compatriots.

The German army took massive casualties while
attempting to hold back the Soviet counter offensives.

Having grabbed executive power over the Army, Hitler wasted no time. New plans were drawn up, and in a prolonged war scenario, oil was the key. Where to go for oil? To Caucasus by way of Kursk on to the Don River and Stalingrad, Rostov and Stavropol. The plan was to move forward in a series of encircling attacks in which the new Großdeutschland would get its debut. 

German prisoner getting interrogated. 

The offensive started on the 28th June. As part of 4th Panzer Army (Hoth), Großdeutschland moved forward down the Donets Corridor with the later doomed 6th Army (Paulus) on its left – direction Stalingrad. On the 13th July, Hitler ordered 4th Panzer Army to turn in a more southern direction, towards Rostov. This would prove rather important to the men of Großdeutschland. They fought hard in the end of July, securing an important bridgehead over the Don River.

A closer view of the stowage. 
I wanted to add stuff that would seem realistic and used for the many river crossings.

August saw the start of a massive Soviet offensive around Rzhev, west of Moscow. Großdeutschland was moved North, to help stem the red tidal wave. On the 10th September Großdeutschland fought one of its most wild and savage engagements around the Rzhev railroad. The fighting was bitter, and continued for weeks with no sign of the Soviet pressure letting up. The line held, but at very high costs.

The Soviet Army came into shape in 42. 
It was indeed a completely new enemy the Germans faced.

Meanwhile down South in Stalingrad, the Soviet November counteroffensive had managed to encircle and cut of the entire 6th Army under Paulus, plus half of the 4th Panzer Army (more than 300.000 men). The tide was turning. At Rzhev Großdeutschland had plugged the hole, but at a cost of over 10.000 in casualties. The Russians were no longer the same enemy from the autumn of 41, and more was to come.

Next up: Part 6 “The road to Kursk, Operation Zitadelle”
Thank you very much for reading.

Disclaimer: The usage of violent imagery or politically charged symbols like the Swastika is a conscious act from the author of this blog. Showing history and war in a correct and straightforward manner, is the objective. No political, religious or economic agenda lies behind, merely the philosophy that mankind should learn from its own history, in an attempt not to repeat our mistakes.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Mirkwood Rangers

Mirkwood Rangers scouting for Orcs.

Returning once again to Tolkien’s fascinating world of Middle-Earth, we now leave the tree-elves of Lorien and go east to the vast forest of Mirkwood. Here we find the wood-elves, or other Silvan elves under King Thranduil.

The mighty King Thranduil of the Woodland Realm.

Mirkwood features heavily in the new Hobbit movies, and I couldn’t help but be inspired, not least by Peter Jackson’s vision of Mirkwood, but also of the incredible lift in quality GW has managed for the Mirkwood Rangers kit.

Using a ø40mm resin base from Micro Art Studio,
a nice forest ambiance is set.

The Minis are incredibly crisp and clear sculpts, plus it seems GW has developed a new way of injection moulding, offering even finer and more three dimensional details. For my Mirkwood Rangers unit of 12, I’ve bought the box kit containing 10 minis, and I’ll be adding Legolas as the hero, plus a metal cast elven banner carrier from the LotR range

A Mirkwood Ranger attacking from an ambush position.

Adopting Michael’s 3-2-1 basing system, I’ve bought a series of Micro Art Studio “forest” bases cast in resin. This means 3 minis on ø40mm, 2 minis on ø30mm and 1 mini on a ø25mm round base. I’ll build two such sets, giving me my desired unit strength of 12 minis.

The new GW moulding technique has really produced some
fantastic crisp details, just look at the textile waving in the wind.

In the tales of Tolkien, the Silvan Elves of Mirkwood had a long relation with men and dwarves, the latter relation naturally was tainted by a fair amount of distrust. Their domain of Mirkwood was originally known as Greenwood the Great, until the Dark Lord Sauron cast his evil shadow over the lush forest, changing it to a darker and more mysterious place, with danger hiding in the shadows. 

Mirkwood - a mysterious place, with danger luring in the shadows.

In the Hobbit, the elves of Mirkwood are one of the key factions of the alliance that came together to defeat the Orcs at the Battle of Five Armies, fought near The Lonely Mountain. 

The 10 minis boxed set of GW's Mirkwood Rangers offers real variety,
containing10(!) different poses.

Their ability to combine the characteristics of hard hitting but nimble light infantry made them essential to the Elven army I’m building, and even though I initially thought I’d only paint up old stuff in the lead pile, I just had to add these new minis from the Hobbit range. Hope you like them

Thank you very much for reading!

Sunday 4 October 2015

The Danish Warship Tre Løver (Three Lions)

"Tre Løver" using Langton's Anglo-Dutch 1:200 range.

Returning this week to one of my favorite subjects, naval warfare.
I’m continuing the expansion of my Danish navy for the Scanian War, with the overall goal of representing the 3 squadrons of Danish admiral Niel Juel at a 1:4 ratio.

The Battle of Køge Bay.
A Danish Warship has caught fire.

Historically the squadrons contained around 12 warships, so with the 1:4 ratio, this means 3 model warships per squadron. With a total of three squadrons, that sets my goal at nine ships in total. 

Tre Løver, or Three Lions.
The Royal Danish Coat of Arms.

Nine models seems like a realistic target in terms of painting, but also a fair sized collection, enabling me to scale my games from the basic 2 player “squadron vs squadron” sized games, and up to games of 3 players per side, with each player commanding their own squadron.

Tre Løver (on the left) next to Churprindsen for size comparison.
She is a small but mean lady!

Based on the historical deployment of Niels Juel’s navy at the Battle of Køge Bay (probably the most prominent victory in Danish naval history), I’ve decided on the following ships for me three squadrons:

1. Squadron – Admiral Marquor Rodsten

Norske Løve (Eng; “Norwegian Lion”): crew 568 : guns 86

Fredericus Tertius: crew 260 : guns 52

Christianus Quartus: crew 272 : 54

2. Squadron – Admiral Niel Juel 

Christianus Quintus: crew 567 : guns 84

Churprindsen (Eng: “The Electoral Prince”): crew 454 : guns 74

Tre Løver (Eng: “Three Lions”): crew 286 : guns 58

3. Squadron – Admiral Jens Rodsten

Tre Croner (Eng: “Three Crowns): crew 420 : guns 68

Charlotta Amalia: crew 322 : guns 58

Gyldenløve (Eng: “Golden Lion”): crew 268: guns 56

With the addition of Tre Løver, I now have the complete 2. Squadron, commanded by Admiral Niels Juel. In the spirit of my blog, here is a short account of Tre Løver.

"The morning after"
Sailors are trying to salvage usable debris after the battle.

The warship Tre Løver

She was initially planned in 1656, just before the outbreak of war with Sweden.
The commission went to ship builder Master James Robbins, who would have the facilities of the Royal Danish Wharfs at Bremerholmen at his disposal for the construction. Finished in 1657, Tre Løver would measure a 139 feet and weigh just about 1.000 tons.

Another size comparing view of the two ships.

She was smaller than her fellow 2. Squadron warships Christianus Quintus and Churprindsen, but she was fast, manoeuvrable and dealt good damage during her engagements with the enemy. Tre Løver was present at both the Battle of Öland and the Battle of Køge Bay – both mayor naval victories, leading to continued Danish maritime supremacy during the Scanian War, preventing the Swedish Army to reinforce their German territories, while enabling continued Danish reinforcements to the not equally successful army operation in Scanian. 

The Naval bastion at Christiansø.

 Tre Løver was finally comdemned and sunk outside the Danish Naval bastion at Christiansø in 1686. She had served the Navy in over 30 years, seen action in two of Denmark's greatest naval victories. A good third addition to my Scanian War fleet.

Thank you very much for reading!