Sunday, 9 June 2013

Breaking Out is hard to do

The Red army has surrounded a small pocket of Franco-Greek forces near Kherson, and the Greeks are attempting to break out. A probe attack by a company platoon of the 5/42 Evzones was launched early in the morning, after a pre-arranged barrage by Allied artillery in Kherson. The Greeks beliebved that there was a weak point on the North road where two large woods interected the lines of Red dugouts and spanish rider barked wire lines. They believed they could get into the woods and break out that way.

Red Lines, showing the 2 woods the Greeks decided to assault, the plan was to focus on the closer one, break in and then break out (red arrows)

As dawn approached, the Greeks filtered quietly through the trees towards the objectives. The Evzones were reinforced by 2 French FT-17 tanks and also brought up one of their Mountain Guns for close support. They decied to assault the rightmost wood en masse, while sending a diversionary force against the other of the 2 tanks, hoping the Reds would think there was a mass of infantry behind them, and mis-allocate any reserves

The barrage started, the tanks gunned their engines, and the infantry started rushing forward, acros teh open ground, one platoon behind the next. The Reds were shaken from the barrage and initially there was very little shooting from their lines, but the Red forward commander guessed correctly what was happening and rushed a squad to a large house just ahead of their lines so they could enfilade the Greeks as they broke out the trees. The Greeks had to divert one of their own squads from the assault to cover this off.

The Greek infantry attack in 2 waves, concentrating on the rightmost flank.

On the other flank the tanks advanced slowly. Initially they were pestered by snipers in a house in front of the Red lines but the 2 tanks raked it with MG fire and the mountain gun put a few rounds in, and it what was left of the house was then all quiet.The tanks trundled on at their magnificent 4 mph maximum speed.

Greeks forces were now starting to get close to the Red lines, but now the Reds had thrown off their shock and started shoting back, taking casualties off the Greeks. At this point it also became clear that a large barn and sandbag wall to the right of the Greek position was becoming a major problem. A squad of Greek Evzones moved up to the spanish riders barbed wire and started shooting at these troops, trying to get them to keep their heads down. The Greeks had Chauchat LMGs whrereas the Reds did not, and this helped them keep a suppressing fire. The Greek captain then signalled the mountain guns to place a salvo on the house, which they did, and that stunned the Reds shooting from it.

Red troops man the sandbag walls by the barn, shortly before the Greeks dropped a mountain-gun salvo onto it

A Red forward party of snipers, egged on by a Komissar, then moved into some shellholes in front of Red lines to enfilde the Greeks, and killed the Greek Captain!. The Greek lines wavered, but then a squad of Evzones charged the snipers, and took them out with cold steel They in turn were then pinned by fire from the Russian lines, but they had stopped the enfilading fire and the first Greek squads gained the woods.

On the other flank, the FT-17s were drawing closer to Red lines, and a Red field gun that had been brought up opened up on them, missing them narrowly. The close support Greek mountain gun shifted fire to silence the Red gun, but it was well hidden in some woods and remained a major threat. The tanks raked the position, trying to suppress the gun, but it would only be a matter of time before it started to knock the tanks out. The Reds also at this point decided to commit their reserves to stop the infantry attack, confident that the tank breakthrough was less likely, but the ruse had worked quite well, giving teh Greeks valuable time - the Reds would be attacking a wood that the Greeks were now moving into.

Red field gun starts to shoot at French tanks over open sights

At this point a noise grew louder, and  overhead a Geek Navy DH.4 was seen. The Greek AO had called it to take out a redoubt on the Greek infantry's left hand flank, but the Greeks in the shellholes were keeping that position's heads down. The semaphores waved desperately from the ground. The DH.4's observer picked up the change, banked and made towards the Russian gun firing at the tanks. A Red MG started to fire desperately into the sky but it was to no avail, the DH.4 made a strafing pass, banked, and then came back, and dropped its load on the position. There was silence from the gun after that.

Greek Naval DH.4 makes low pass over Red positions before bombing the Gun and trenches

And then, just as the Greeks were starting to enter the woods, we ran out of time. It was pack up time. The result was in the balance. Could the Greeks have reinforced the wood in time? Would the Russian reinforcements get there in force first? In counting up the casualties it transpired that the Greek initial barrage had been fairly effective, so Red casualties had also been high and forces were evenly matched still, and the Greeks were more concentrated, but we judged that the loss of the Greek Captain meant the Greeks probably wouldn't have been quite co-ordinated enough to hold the wood and reinforce it fast enough against the oncoming Red wave. The Reds breathed a huge sigh of relief as the Greeks withdrew.

Battle using Bolt Action, the WW2 rules even have the FT-17 tank in it! Sadly we ran out of time just before the real decisive action. I'm very proud of my DH.4, I still need to put the blue centre spots on the Greek roundels but it acquitted itself very well in its first ever sortie. (Its a 1/48 scale Roden kit, and its a bugger to assemble the wings!!)

More Red propaganda and puictures over here from Komissar Janos

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