Battle Group Friebe – A Crossfire Scenario in Tarnopol

This Crossfire scenario features Panzerverband Friebe’s attempt to break through to Tarnopol. It is part of the 3 Round Tarnopol Crossfire Campaign but can also be played in isolation. See also the Battle Report.

Historical Situation

Setting: Tarnopol, Polish-Ukraine, USSR; 25 Mar, 11 or 14 Apr 1944

[Basically excerpts from the the Tarnopol page.]

At 0430 hours on 25 Mar 1944 Oberst Friebe set out with an armoured battle group (Panzerverband) from 8th Panzer Division to break through to Tarnopol (Buchner, 1995). Friebe had the 2nd and 10th Panzer Regiments (including a Panther Battalion which led the way), and two half track mounted battalions of Panzer Grenadiers (1st Battalion from 8th Panzergrenadier Regiment and 1st Battalion from 74th Panzergrenadier Regiment). The battle group had to advance through mud, under artillery fire, across the Dolzanca River and then over three rows of hills, each with entrenched Russians. When the tanks stalled in front of defensive positions the Panzergrenadiers dismounted to clear them. By late afternoon the battle group managed to push through three Russians positions before reaching a fourth in woods 4 km west of Zagrobela. Under pressure from concealed anti-tank guns and anti-tank rifles, artillery, mortars, and ground support aircraft, Friebe decided his men could go no further and withdrew to regroup for an advance to the southeast. This second advance never happened as further casualties and the resulting confusion forced the battle group back to the German lines.

On 11 Apr Oberst Friebe set out with his armoured battle group once again, but this time the 9th SS-Panzer Division Hohenstaufen was in support (Buchner, 1995). Panzerverband Friebe stalled in the face of strong defensive fire and Hohenstaufen was delayed at the Wosuszka river. It took until the morning of 14 Apr for pioneers of the division to put a bridge across the river. Friebe led 71 tanks and 27 assault guns toward Tarnopol but the going was still slow. They took Chodaczow Wielki on the evening on 15 Apr, only 9 km from their starting point. There they had to wait for air dropped supplies before continuing on the 16th. But by then it was too late and the Tarnopol pocket had been extinguished.

This scenario represents the efforts of Panzerverband Friebe to break through to Tarnopol. It could be any episode from either major relief attempt, i.e. 25 Mar, 11 or 14 Apr. To fit in with the timeline of the Crossfire Campaign: 3 Round Tarnopol I decided upon 14 Apr.

Map/Terrain


Map produced in CC2
Click on the map to the full size version

Key features are:

  • 6’x4′ table.
  • Fields (out of season), Rough, Contour Lines (not “hills”), Crests, Buildings.
  • The Russians deploy east of the line A-A.
  • The Germans deploy west of the line A-A.
  • The Germans are trying to exit the eastern table edge (E-E).

Note: this is the same table as used in Breakout.

Pre-game preparation

  • Russians roll for the number of snipers.
  • Russians deploy hidden.

Russian Player (Defending)

Objective

Prevent the Germans breaking through to the west.

Forces Available

The Russians get an rifle company plus supports.

  • 1 x rifle company
    • 1 x CC (+1)
      1 x HMG
      1 x on-table 50 mm Mortar (12 FM)
      3 x Rifle Platoon: PC (+1/0), 3 x Rifle Squads
  • with supports
    • 1 x HMG
      1 x FO for off-table 82mm mortar [12 FM]
      1 x FO for off-table 120mm mortar [10 FM]
      1 x FO for off-table Heavy artillery [4 FM]
    • 1d3 Snipers
    • 1 x Anti-tank platoon
      • 1 x PC (+1)
        3 x on-table 76mm ATG (optional tow)
  • As many entrenchments as they want.
  • Russian PC (+1/0) provide +1 in close combat but not for rallying.

Additional Forces in Prepared Defence Variation

If you are playing the Prepared Defence variation then the Russians also get:

  • 1 x Bunker (1 SQ)
    2 x Minefields

Deployment

Deploys first, hidden., east of the line A-A.

Reinforcements

  • Russian tanks arrive at 1400 hours, all together, on any table edge:
    • 3 x T34/76
  • The Russian air reinforcements (see the Aircraft Special Rule):
    • 1 x Ilyushin IL-2 aircraft (4 x Light Bombs 4/2 SQ).

German Player (Attacking)

Begins scenario with initiative.

Objective

Breakthrough to the west.

Forces Available

Elements of Battle Group Friebe, 8th Panzer Division.

  • Elements of Battle Group Friebe, 8th Panzer Division.
    • Headquarters (Veteran), comprising:
      • 1 BC (+2)
        1 x FO for off table Heavy Artillery (2 FM)
    • 2 x Panzergrenadier Companies (Veteran), comprising:
      • 1 x CC (+2)
        1 x HMG
        1 x 251/1 Half-track with MG only
        1 x FO for off table 251/2 half-track with 81 mm Mortar (12 FM)
        1 x Rifle Platoon: PC (+2), 2 x Rifle
        2 x Rifle Platoons: PC (+1), 2 x Rifle
    • One squad per company has a Panzershreck
    • 3 x Panzer V Panther

Additional Forces in Prepared Defence Variation

If you are playing the Prepared Defence variation then the Germans also get:

  • 1 x Rifle Squad to add to any platoon.

Deployment

Deploys second, west of the line A-A.

Reinforcements

  • The German air reinforcements (see the Aircraft Special Rule):
    • 1 x Junkers Ju 87 Stuka aircraft (1 x Heavy Bomb 6/3 SQ; 2 x Medium Bombs 5/2 SQ).

Victory Conditions

Breakthrough objectives.

The game starts at 1000 hours and ends at 1600 hours or when all surviving Germans have exited the western table edge (line E-E).

The Germans get victory points (VP) as follows:

+1 for each Squad, CC, and BC exiting the eastern edge (line E-E)
+2 for each Vehicle exiting the eastern edge (line E-E)

VPs Result
5 or less Decisive Russian Victory
6-14 Minor Russian Victory
15-23 Minor German Victory
24 or more Decisive German Victory

Scenario Special Rules

  • Special Rule 4, the Moving Clock is in use. The Scenario begins at 1000 hours and ends 1600 hours. The clock advances 30 minutes on 5+ at the end of each German initiative.
  • Fields are out of season (do not block LOS) but orchards are in season (as Woods).
  • Russian ATG can group fire, either a crossfire or fire group.

Aircraft Special Rule

The skies over Tarnopol were thick with Aircraft. Fierce dog fights were common however at times the ground troops of both sides had air support. This rule tries to simply simulate this fluctuating situation.

Each side throws 1d6 for air support at the start of their own initiative (neither side has a modifier). On a 6 something happens:

  • If there is already an aircraft (of either side) over the table the aircraft is immediately driven off the table by enemy fighters. It or a replacement, however, can return in subsequent initiatives.
  • If there is no aircraft over the table then a plane friendly to the player whose initiative it is arrives over the table.

Once on-table aircraft act in a similar way to off table artillery. As with artillery fire, failure to suppress or kill with an aircraft’s attacks does not end the phasing player’s initiative.

Each plane has a certain number of bombs, of a certain potency (HE/EFF), plus machine guns for strafing. A plane’s bomb/rocket load is roughly analogous to the FM of artillery. Bombs/rockets are treated as indirect fire for Protective Cover and strafing with machine guns as direct fire. A plane can do one of the following each initiative it is on table:

  • Drop one or more of its remaining bombs (Dive Bombers can only drop one bomb per initiative)
  • Strafe with its machine guns

An aircraft may not engage the same target in two consecutive friendly initiatives.

For other related thoughts see my musings on Aircraft.

Notes

  • I don’t have three Panthers, so I borrowed a couple from Rich and the Shed. If that hadn’t been an option I would field 1 x Panther, 1 x Tiger, 1 x Pz IV G, and 1 x Pz III M.

References

Buchner, A. (1995). Ostfront 1944: The German Defensive Battles on the Russian Front 1944 [D. Johnston Trans.]. PA: Schiffer.

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