Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tuchola Forest, September 1, 1939


Situation Report
Northern Poland, September 1, 1939: The flash point for the invasion of Poland was the port city of Danzig and the Danzig Corridor; territory demanded by Hitler in August, 1939 after the conquest of Czechoslovakia.  Following the Treaty of Versailles, East Prussia was separated from the rest of the German Motherland by a strip of land (The Danzig Corridor, also called Pomerania) that granted Poland access to the sea through the city of Danzig.  Hitler’s calls for a united Motherland made the invasion of Poland- Pomerania specifically- inevitable.  The Polish Pomorze Army, centered around the town of Krojanty was tasked with the defense of Pomerania against the formidable German Fourth Army who sought to cross the corridor and reunite East Prussia with Germany.  The Tuchola Forest, in South-Central Pomerania was originally occupied by the Polish 9th Infantry Battalion who dug in and build defensive positions there along the Brda River.  When the war began the Polish forces were further forward anticipating a counter-offensive.  They believed that the Germans would not advance through the Tuchola Forest because of the terrain.  However, the Germans had conducted exercises in the area up until 1919 and General Heinze Guderian, the commander of the 19th Panzer Corps, knew the area well as he had grown up in nearby Kulm.  As the Germans pushed forward and collided with the famous 18th Uhlan Lancers in Krojanty, the 9th & 27th Polish Infantry Divisions fell back into the Tuchola Forest; manning defenses they had dug previously.

GAME LENGTH:  14 turns 

VICTORY CONDITIONS:  The Germans must get one platoon (50% strength or more) off the opposite table edge.

All bridges can support tanks.  The Brda River is fordable by infantry units.  Note the location of 2 pillboxes along the center road, entrenchments along the west (right) bank of the river, the cross-shaped pattern of entrenchments in the woods and trenches along the North road.  There are also 2 artillery emplacements dug on the high ground to the right next to the Center & South roads.  These fortifications are all placed regardless of whether or not the Poles deploy in them.  The Polish defenders set up anywhere on the right side of the river.  They do not start the game dug in unless they are placed in existing fortifications.  The pillboxes may hold 1 stand (anti-tank gun, heavy machinegun, etc.).  There is a ford to the left where the North-South road reaches the Dolina and stops next to the house.
SPECIAL RULES:  The Germans have Ju-87 Stuka (Priority) air support for the duration of the game.  Due to logistical issues with the Polish forces moving into position, the Polish artillery may only fire pre-planned barrages for the duration of the game.
Turn 11 uses Dusk rules while Turns 12-14 are night fighting rules.

3rd Panzer Division
Confident                    Veteran
Leicht Panzerkompanie
Light Tank Company
Battalion Headquarters                        80 pts
1 Panzer I Command tank (Panzerbefehlswagen)
1 Panzer II C (early)
1 SdKfz 9 Recovery Halftrack
A Company (Leicht Panzer)                215 pts
2 Panzer I
3 Panzer II C (early)
B Company (Leicht Panzer)                 130 pts
1 Panzer I
2 Panzer II (early)
C Company (Mittlere Panzer)              450 pts
3 Panzer IV D
Fuel Truck
Supply Truck
Infanteriekompanie - Motorisiert
Motorized Infantry Company
Confident                    Veteran
Battalion Headquarters                        45 pts
2 Command SMG teams
2 Kubelwagen
Company A                                         165 pts
1 Command Rifle Team
1 Kubelwagen
1 Light Mortar Team
1 Anti-Tank Rifle Team
6 Rifle Teams
4 Heavy Trucks (2 teams each)

Company B                                         165 pts
1 Command Rifle Team
1 Kubelwagen
1 Light Mortar Team
1 Anti-Tank Rifle Team
6 Rifle Teams
4 Heavy Trucks (2 teams each)

Weapons Platoons
Machinegun Company                         140 pts
1 Command SMG Team
4 MG34 HMG Teams
2 Heavy Trucks (2 teams each)

Mortar Company                                 130 pts
1 Command SMG Team
4 81mm Mortar Teams
1 Forward Observer / Motorcycle
2 Heavy Trucks (2 teams each)

Regimental Support
Anti-Tank Gun Company                    115 pts
1 Command SMG Team
3 37mm Pak 36 Anti-Tank Guns
3 Trucks

Divisional Support
Recon Company                                  165 pts
4 SdKfz 222 Armored Cars

Motorized Light Artillery Battery         360 pts
1 Forward Observer
4 105mm leFH18 Howitzers
(deployed off-board)
Priority Air Support                             150 pts
Ju-87 B Stuka
Total:  2,310 points

9th Infantry Battalion
Fearless                       Veteran
Batalion Piechoty
Infantry Company
Company Headquarters                                    50 pts
2 Command Cavalry Rifle teams
1 81mm wz31 Mortar

Company A                                                          290 pts
2 Command Rifle Teams
1 Anti-Tank Rifle Team
3 Ckm wz30 HMG’s
12 Rifle teams
Company B                                                          290 pts
2 Command Rifle Teams
1 Anti-Tank Rifle Team
3 Ckm wz30 HMG’s
12 Rifle teams
Weapons Platoons
Anti-Tank Gun Company                                 90 pts
1 Command Rifle team
3 37mm Wz36 Anti-Tank Guns
Divisional Support
Reconnaissance Tank Platoon                         65 pts
2 TKS Tankettes
1 TKS Tankettes w/ 20mm FKA gun
Light Howitzer Battery                                       240 pts
4 100mm wz 14/19 Howitzers
[Deployed Off-Board]
Total:  1,025 points
Source:  FOW Blitzkrieg Book


Company B deployed in the trenches along the Upper Road with the ATR sited on the stone bridge, an HMG at the end of the trench closest to the river & another in the damaged house across the road.  2 stands had to deploy in the woods beyond the house due to limited cover for all the stands in the unit.

Further up the road, on the higher ground, the remainder of the Company deployed behind the hedgerows.  The third HMG deployed away from the company in the back pillbox guarding the Middle Road.  The Battalion 81mm mortar deployed on the hill behind Company B’s position.

Company A deployed in the trench network between the Middle & Lower bridges.  The HMG’s deployed on each end of the line (closest to the bridges) with the third in the corner shown above (essentially the center of the line).  The ATR also deployed on the left to guard the Lower Bridge.

Like Company B, there wasn’t enough room in the trenches for all the men, so 2 stands deployed across the road (behind the pillbox) guarding the Middle Bridge with several other stands in the woods along the Middle Road as it ascended toward the rear pillbox.  Of the 3 anti-tank guns, one deployed in the pillbox guarding the Middle Bridge, one in the woods just to the left (shown in the above photo) with the third deploying in the middle of Company A’s entrenchments off to the right.
The 3 TKS Tankettes deployed in the dug-in positions on the high ground between the Middle and Lower Roads with the HQ in the cluster of buildings far to the rear.  The TKS’ will be shifted to confront whatever bridge gets crossed first by the opposing armor.

The German commander ordered B Company Light Panzers across the Middle Bridge with the Panzer IV’s and anti-tank guns firing on the opposite bank to pin down the defenders.  Both Infantry Companies would cross behind the Panzers (still in their trucks) deploying to secure the woodlands once across.  The Panzers for Company B were ordered across the Upper Bridge with the HMG company & armored car companies in support.  The Panzers would circle around behind the Middle Bridge defenders once across.  The mortar company was ordered forward to suppress the opposite embankment from the house by the ford.
Turn 1 - 0800 hours
As the Germans advanced onto the table, the first Stuka swept down and bombed the pillbox position by the Middle Bridge.  The gun was merely suppressed, but the command group for the anti-tank company was destroyed in the woods behind the pillbox. 

The first Polish artillery battery fell exactly where the Germans were expected to be (at the crossroads before rounding Hill 83), but had no effect on the lumbering Panzer IV’s coming forward.
Panzer IV’s shrug off the initial barrage as they advance into the forest area.

The German command took advantage of the congestion entering the battlefield by holding back one company of infantry and light panzers to top up their ammunition levels from the supply trucks.

Turn 2 – 0900 hours

A flight of 3 Stuka’s came in low in another attempt on the pillbox, but the aircraft departed; unable to site in on the targets in the woods.  The motorcycle-mounted FO for the Mortar Company crossed Hill 57 and took up a position behind the hedgerow on the river bank.  Unfortunately, there was too much firepower on the opposite bank and all of the Polish A Company opened up on the lone spotter who didn’t survive the attack.
The Panzer IV’s leading the advancing column pulled up behind some hedgerows to begin firing on the pillbox and anti-tank gun in the woods as the second artillery barrage fell harmlessly behind them on Hill 83.

Turn 3 – 1000 hours

Another Stuka roared in low and, much to the frustration of the commanders on the ground, was unable to spot a target on the opposite shoreline.  The Panzer IV’s remained in a firing line to keep pressure on the Polish defenders at the Middle Bridge.

The Mortar Company deployed in the road by the ford, using the house as shelter from the HMG’s on the opposite side of the river.  The Command group chose to move into the house and use that as a spotter’s position, but failed their roll to enter the house.
*Knock!* *Knock!*  Mortar Command team wasting time to see if anyone is home before taking up a position to spot for the Mortar Company.

On the German left, Panzer Company B and their supporting units branched off and started for the Upper Bridge.  The HMG in the house by the bridge opened up on the soft transports; destroying one of the trucks behind the hedgerow.  Luckily, the HMG teams bailed out successfully and scampered up into the treeline of the hill behind the road.  The third Polish bombardment fell harmlessly on the house just in front of Hill 83.
Polish HMG chalks up a kill as one of the German transports blazes behind the hedge row in the distance.

Turn 4 – 1100 hours
With the zone getting too hot, the rest of the HMG company bailed out of their trucks and took up positions along the hedgerow and in the shed at the corner.  The armored cars & light panzers all put pressure on the Polish defenders on the opposite shoreline as they advanced on the bridge.

The Polish HMG in the house by the Upper Bridge demonstrated their skill with the weapon as they were able to exchange fire with 3 German Companies (the armored cars, tanks & HMGs) and were able to cut down 2 of the German HMG units (including the one in the shed).  Unnerved by the Polish resistance, the HMG Company withdrew.

The Germans continued to direct more firepower on the Polish defenders between the Middle & Upper Bridges.  Even though the Luftwaffe passed harmlessly over the battlefield again, the Panzer IV’s were able to knock out the ATG sitting in the woods while continuing to suppress the pillbox.

Over by the ford, the Mortar Company came under sudden pressure as the next Polish barrage fell on the house, pinning down the group, but not before the HMG’s on the opposite shore were able to pick off one of the Mortar teams.

Turn 5 – 1200 hours – High Noon
Finally, the Luftwaffe are able to zero in on the defensive positions by the Middle Bridge; destroying the pillbox & 2 squads from Company A by the road.

At the Upper Bridge, Panzer Company B and the Armored Cars crossed the river.  The armored cars kept the Polish infantry rooted in their trenches while the tanks began the encirclement.

In preparation for the crossing of the Middle Bridge, the Panzer IV's fired smoke into the Polish defenders on the opposite shore; obscuring the HMG positions closest to the bridge.

The German commander plays 1/72 scale and is accustomed to having less room on the table, therefore he has a tendency to bunch up units when playing 15mm.  Most of the time it isn't a problem as the Germans have air superiority and the Polish defenders haven't had a lot of artillery.  Here, 5 companies bunch up in preparation for the bridge crossing.
Turn 6 – 1300 hours

The Panzers  of Company A cross the middle bridge & assault the Polish defenders, virtually wiping out any resistance to the crossing.

At the same time the Armored Cars hit the trenches by the Upper Bridge.
Although the Armored Cars had similar success in clearing out most of the squads in the forward trenches, the Company Commander lost his nerve in the face of so many defenders and the armored cars pulled back to the road (perhaps he believed the remaining Defenders would withdraw after losing 5 stands).
Between the two bridges, the Panzers of Company B attempted to mop up the defenders lurking in the woods near the forward pillbox while the Luftwaffe came in and pinned down the machinegun in the rear pillbox.
Despite the surge of momentum from the Germans, the Poles were not about to give up.  Both companies defending the bridges began to consolidate:  Company A began shifting men from the Lower Bridge to deal with the Middle Bridge, while Company B brought men forward from the hedgerows on the hill beyond to take on the armored cars.
The heavy machinegun (across from the mortars at the house) was able to fire across the Middle Bridge and take out a truck carrying some of the German infantry.  At the Upper Bridge, 2 machineguns combined to knock out one of the armored cars.
The German recon commander pays the price for losing his nerve in the assault as an HMG brews up one of the armored cars.
Turn 7 – 1400 hours
The trucks carrying the German infantry crossed the Middle Bridge while the Panzers pushed deeper into the woods.  

Another assault by the Panzers foundered when 3 of the tanks got stuck in the woods, but the Poles continued to fall back rather than engage the tanks at close range.

The leading Panzer II's are ambushed by the waiting TKS tankettes.
Beyond the woods, further uphill from the Middle Bridge, the Panzer II’s came under fire from the TKS tankettes while suppressing the 2nd pillbox.  The 20mm FKA gun mounted on one of the tankettes proved a worthy match against the much larger German tanks.
Just when it seemed the Germans were about to have the battle in the bag, good fortune shined on the Poles once again.  At the Upper Bridge, the Polish B Company had taken up new positions in the trenches and still had 2 Heavy Machineguns in support.  They laid down a thick field of fire on the German armored cars; wiping out the remaining 3.  This left no other German forces attempting to take the Upper Bridge.  With no one to their front, the Poles began requesting an Orders Change to fall back & block the German advance up the Middle Road. (Because of the tactical inferiority of the Polish troops, an Order Change requires a roll of 6 on a d6).
In the meantime, a pre-planned artillery strike came down right in the center of the Middle Bridge (congested with trucks and squads making the crossing).  Fortunately, only 2 German trucks were destroyed with 1 stand of infantry.  What should have been a devastating barrage was nothing more than an inconvenience to the German advance.
Turn 8 – 1500 hours
With the threat of artillery and the Heavy Machinegun in Pillbox 2, the Infantry dismounted across the Middle Bridge and made for the woods.  Combined with the shooting from the Panzers, they were able to drop another squad of Polish Defenders; enough to finally cause them to fail a Route test and the Poles withdrew from the woods.  The Panzer IV’s crossing the bridge put enough firepower on the pillbox to knock it out.
Panzers and Infantry finish pushing the Polish defenders out of their trenches in the woods.

The duel between the TKS and Panzer II’s heated up as the TKS destroyed one of the Panzers.  This squadron of 3 tankettes was all that remained between the Germans and victory.
The Polish Defenders at the Upper Bridge received a successful Orders Change and they pulled out of the trenches and headed back uphill.  The Commander-in-Chief believed they had time to move into the woods alongside the Middle Road by the back of the table before the Germans would get there.
With most resistance quelled, the German column continues up the road.

Turns 9 & 10 – 1700 hours
Turn 9 passed pretty quickly with the Poles pulling back from the Upper Bridge and the Germans in the woods moving up to flank the defending TKS on the high ground.  By Turn 10, 2 of the 3 TKS were destroyed and the Panzer IV’s led the column up the road to victory.
With the breakthrough at Tuchola Forest, most of the Polish 9th & 27th Infantry Divisions were surrounded and eliminated by September 5th.  As the Germans cut across the Danzig Corridor, several pockets of resistance along the coast were by-passed so that the Germans could mop them up afterwards.  The few Polish units that escaped the encirclement managed to withdraw to Bydgoszcz. 
On September 6, Adolf Hitler congratulated General Guderian on his quick progress in closing the Danzig Corridor and “reuniting” Germany.
Battle reenacted October 18 – October 31, 2014.

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