Hit the Dirt, the supplement for Crossfire, has a scenario set at Ponyri on the northern flank of the Kursk Salient during WW2. It is one of my favourites and I’ve played it several times. But it was obvious that there was a much bigger story behind the brief outline in the HTD. I wanted to find out more. It seems Ponyri Station was the focus of heavy fighting and was viewed as a “little Stalingrad”.
Setting: Ponyri, Kursk Region, Russia; 5-11 July 1943
Details primarily taken from Remson and Anderson (2000).
In the opening moves of Operation “Zitadelle” on 5 July 1943 the German 9th Army crashed into the defensive lines of the Soviet 13th Army on the northern face of the Kursk Salient. The advance was barred by a cluster of fortified towns and villages strung along high ground about 60 km north of Kursk. For six days one of those settlements, Ponyri Station, became the focal point of immense efforts by both sides. Ponyri Station, sitting astride the main rail link between Kursk and Orel, was a collection and distribution point for the collective farms in the vicinity; this in turn made it a natural goal in the German’s North/South pincer move. The Soviets, being under no illusions that an attack would be forthcoming, had previously fortified Ponyri and were determined to hold the village. Among the many fierce battles of Kursk that around Ponyri Station was one the fiercest, the fighting being likened by both sides to a “little Stalingrad”. From July 6-9 a see-saw struggle for control of the schoolhouse, tractor depot, railway station and water tower took place. On the 7th of July alone, the village changed hands no less than 5 times.
The Germans plans had the the XLI Panzer Corps penetrating the Soviet defensive positions and driving rapidly between the road and the railroad line through the high ground where Ponyri was located and then on towards Kursk. This Corps comprised four divisions: 18th Panzer Division, 10th Panzer Grenadier Division, and the 86th and 292nd Infantry Divisions. The 78th Sturm (Assault) Division of XXIII Corps protected the left flank of XLI Panzer Corps and was also involved in the fighting around Ponyri. From west to east the 292nd and 86th Infantry and 78th Sturm Divisions led the assault. The Germans did not, of course, expect unsupported infantry divisions to be able to break through the Soviet defence lines so the assaulting units had large numbers of supporting armored vehicles: tanks, mobile anti-tank guns, and assault guns. The main armoured support was provided by the 90 Ferdinands of Heavy Panzerjäger Regiment 656, containing the entire inventory of these armoured monsters. In addition, the 292nd and 86th Infantry Divisions had the 216th Sturmpanzer Battalion (45 Brümmbärs) and the 177th and 244 Sturmgeschütz Brigades. The 78th Sturm Division itself had a special organization with almost as many armored vehicles as a Panzer Grenadier Division. In addition it was accompanied by an Armoured Engineer Company (either the 811th or 813th) equipped with Goliath midget tanks used for breaching minefields. The 18th Panzer Division contained 72 more conventional vehicles including 5 Pz II, 10 Pz III kz, 20 Pz III 75, 5 Pz IV kz, and 3 Pz Bef Cmd, and also the 101st Panzer Grenadier Regiment. 10th Panzer Grenadier Division had an exceptionally powerful artillery complement: seven artillery battalions, a Nebelwerfer regiment, a heavy mortar battalion and an assault gun battalion.
There are some places I couldn’t locate on the maps available to me. I’d appreciate some help finding them.
- Otschki on the road to Maloarchangelsk
- Lunika, 5 km southwest of Maloarchangelsk
The Soviet units in this sector were from 29th Rifle Corps of the 13th Army. The front line units were the 15th and 81st Rifle Divisions. Behind them was the 307th Rifle Division – the unit primarily responsible for the defense of the Ponyri. In support of the 307th the Russians massed the largest concentration of artillery ever allocated to a single infantry division. Additionally everything the Soviets could muster was poured into the fight. The Germans encountered multiple interconnected trench lines, entire companies of dug-in tanks, battery after battery of anti-tank guns, tank hunting units with their anti-tank rifles and Molotov cocktails, and a constant stream of airstrikes from IL2 and Yak ground attack aircraft.
Battle around Ponyri
Campaign Idea: Ponyri 3 Round Campaign
A potential 3 Round Campaign might have the following rounds:
- Penetration: The German attack on the first Russian defensive line
- Consolidation: The German attack on Ponyri Station.
- Counter-attack: The Russian counter-attack
Having only three rounds, hence games, there is a good chance you’ll play this to completion
Campaign Idea: Ponyri Matrix Campaign
You could use a Matrix Game to determine the general course of events.