Timeline of the Battle for Moscow 1941

My timeline of the Battle for Moscow 1941.

22 Jun 1941

At 0315 hours the Germans launched Operation ‘Barbarosa’ – the attack on the Soviet Union (Erickson, 1993).

4 Jul 1941: Moscow Volunteer Divisions

On 4 Jul 1941 the GKO began to raise 25 volunteer divisions from Moscow and the surrounding region (Braithwaite, 2006). This was one division for each of Moscow’s Raions. Each division had a number and carried the name of the Raion in which it was raised. Each Raion also had to raise a reserve regiment for replacements. Divisional and regimental commanders and chiefs of staff were regular soldiers. Company commanders were mostly officer cadets. The volunteers elected their own platoon commanders which meant these often had no military experience. The Raion Party Committees supplied the political commissars. Twelve divisions had been formed by 5 Jul. They had little or no training, weapons, ammunition, equipment, or uniforms. Four divisions had Polish rifles but no ammunition. Two divisions had French machine guns, artillery and mortars. Some antiquated French rifles and captured equipment was also issued. Although some training was given most of the volunteers were assigned to digging trenches.

14 Jul 1941: Katyushas

At Orsha the Russians used Katyushas for the first time (Jones, 2009).

16 Jul 1941: Mozhaisk defensive line

On 16 Jul the GKO ordered the construction of the Mozhaisk defensive line – more than 170 km from the Moscow reservoir to the the north of the city – and the formation of the new Reserve Front (Braithwaite, 2006). This front was assigned five NKVD divisions and ten of the new volunteer divisions and formed two new armies each with five of the divisions. From what I can tell the volunteer divisions assigned to the front included: 2nd (Stalin), 5th (Frunze), 6th (Dzerzhinski), 8th (Krasnaya Presnya), 9th (Kirov), 17th (Moskvorechie), 18th (Leningrad). At the end of August the volunteers were given proper uniforms and their divisional flag. They were also reorganised into regular rifle divisions with the full complement of supporting arms. August also saw them moving to the front. By the end of September the volunteers had acquired much, if not all, of the weapons and equipment they needed, and had uniforms and some training. That put them on a par with some of the scratch regular units.

28 Jul 1941

Army Group Centre successfully concludes encirclement battle at Smolensk (Jones, 2009).

Mid Aug 1941

Just after 6 Aug 1941 a passing German soldier noticed that a quarter of Guderian’s tanks were captured Soviet vehicles (Jones, 2009).

21 Aug 1941

Hitler redirects German forces away from Moscow towards the south, to fight the encirclement battle at Kiev (Jones, 2009).

6 Sep 1941

Hitler makes Moscow the last German objective before winter (Jones, 2009).

Der Sterber

Bock’s nickname was Der Sterber (the Grim Reaper) because of his fascination with glorious death on the field of battle. Death didn’t look so glorious to the men of Army Group Centre struggling against cold, lack of supplies and determined Russians.

16 Sep 1941: German Operational Directive ‘Typhoon’

On 16 Sep 1941 von Bock issued his operational directive for the capture of Moscow – codenamed ‘Typhoon’ (Braithwaite, 2006). Third Panzer Group (Hoth) would attack from the north, Fourth Panzer Group would attack in the centre, and Second Panzer Group (Guderian) from the south.

30 Sep 1941: Guderian Attacks

Operation ‘Typhoon’ kicked off on 30 Sep (Braithwaite, 2006) with Guderian’s 2nd Panzer Army launched a preparatory attack towards Orel (Jones, 2009).

1941_map_operation_typhoon.jpg (212615 bytes)

Operation Typhoon

2 Oct 1941: Operation ‘Typhoon’ 

Operation ‘Typhoon’ started in earnest with an address by the Fuhrer (Jones, 2009). The Germans had 1.5 million men, 4,000 artillery pieces, 1,400 combat aircraft and over 1,000 tanks. The German artillery opened up a preparatory barrage at 0600 hours. At noon the 1st Panzer Division crossed the flattened Russians positions. The surviving defenders fought furiously for several hours; they were only overcome by using flame thrower tanks against their dugouts.

The Soviet’s had three ‘Fronts’ facing the Germans (Jones, 2009). enko commanded the Bryansk Front in the south, Koniev commanded the Western Front based at Vyazma in the north, and Budenny commanded the Reserve Front. There were about 900,000 men so considerably less than the attacking Germans.

In the north the Third and Fourth Panzer Groups smashed into the Western and Reserve Front with the aim of joining up at Vyazma (Braithwaite, 2006). Ninth Infantry Army supported Third Panzer Group.

The 10th Panzer Division (Fischer) seized road and rail bridges over the Desna river on the first day of the operation (Jones, 2009). The division pushed on in the moonlight.

The German 6th Infantry Division was on the northern flank of the offensive (Jones, 2009). A notable action was by Infantry Regiment 18 in taking height 215. They attacked across swampy ground, then crossed a river to attack the high ground. The men fought hand to hand in the Russian trenches before rushing their main objective, height 215. The regiment lost 500 men killed and wounded during the day.

Budenny, commander of the Reserve Front, suffered a collapse and lost touch with his staff for three days (Jones, 2009).

Scenario Idea – Height 215

The The attack of 6th Infantry Division could be worked into either a Crossfire or Megablitz scenario. If Crossfire it would concentrate on Infantry Regiment 18 and the capture of Height 215.

In the south the German 43rd Army Corps (Heinrici), of Second Army, engaged the Bryansk Front (Yeremenko) directly as Second Panzer Group (Guderian) circled behind (Jones, 2009). Stalin denied Yeremenko permission to use flexible tactics in dealing with the German onslaught. Yeremenko was told he had to hold his lines. Yeremenko drove to the front to organise a counter-attack but drove straight into the advancing panzers. He was forced to abandon his vehicles in a swamp and escape on foot – thus being incommunicado for three vital days.

3 Oct 1941: Guderian Captures Orel

In the south Second Panzer Group (Guderian) broke through the Bryansk Front and captured Orel on 3 Oct (Braithwaite, 2006). The German advance penned the Bryansk Front into two pockets. They fought on until 16-17 Oct.

10th Panzer Division (Fischer) reached Mozalsk, 65 km behind the Soviet front line (Jones, 2009). The panzer troops encountered and captured unsuspecting Soviet columns moving to the front. As part of the mad dash 12 Russian trucks crashed into the German column just ahead of Fischer’s own vehicle. Divisional staff officers engaged the Russians and took 30 prisoners.

5 Oct 1941

On 5 Oct 1941 Koniev ordered Rokossovski to hand over his sector of the line, take his staff to Vyazma, and with the five divisions he would find there, stop the Germans (Braithwaite, 2006).

Yeremenko finally managed to return to his HQ at Bryansk (Jones, 2009). Again he tried to get permission for a withdrawal but whilst waiting for a reply he discovered panzers within close to his command post and had to flee. He quickly rounded up three tanks, some infantry and several trucks and broke through the Germans. However, members of Yeremenko’s staff had already reported to Stalin that the HQ had been overrun and Stalin, temporarily at least, put Petrov in charge of Bryansk Front.

6 Oct 1941

Rokossovski made it to Vyazma on 6 Oct but only found the local police (Braithwaite, 2006). But 10th Panzer Division (Fischer) was already nearby (Jones, 2009). With fuel and ammunition running low Fischer made a quick strike at the city during the evening. The Germans took the airport at 1915 hours. Two hours later the Germans were in the suburbs of the city.

Rokossovski fled Vyazma just in front of the German panzers (Braithwaite, 2006). He collected some medium tanks and armoured cars, a squadron of NKVD cavalry, and elements of the 18th (Leningrad) Volunteer Division that had escaped encirclement. This force was strong enough to push through the occasional German units they encountered. They reached the headquarters of the Western Front on 9 Oct.

Russian 5th Army (Leliushenko) counter-attacked at Mtensk on the Orel-Tula highway (Jones, 2009). The relatively new T-34s, under a competent tank commander, caused Guderians panzer troops some consternation. Colonel Katukov concealed his T-34s in a wood and ambushed 4th Panzer Division as it passed; at the end of the day many or most of the German tanks had been destroyed (Braithwaite, 2006).

Germans captured Bryansk (Jones, 2009, although Jones is inconsistent mentioning both 6 and 7 Oct).

7 Oct 1941

The first snow fell on 7 Oct 1941 however a quick thaw just made the mud worse (Braithwaite, 2006).

Germans captured Vyazma (Jones, 2009). When the 7th Panzer Division of Third Panzer Group (Reinhardt) and 10th Panzer Division (Fischer) of Fourth Panzer Group (Hoepner) linked up east of Vyazma they trapped four armies, including 24th and 32nd with most of the Moscow Volunteer Divisions (Braithwaite, 2006). General Lukin of 16th Army took command of the Vyazma pocket and his men fought desperately. Five of the volunteer divisions that survived the October fighting went on to become Guards Divisions – 18th (Leningrad) was the first – but another five were disbanded due to losses. The disbanded divisions were 2nd (Stalin), 7th (Bauman), 8th (Krasnaya Presnya), 9th (Kirov), 13th (Rostokino).

With the creation of the Vyazma pocket the approach to Moscow was open (Braithwaite, 2006). The military colleges at Podesk produced a scratch force which, together with two or three regiments of artillery and some air defence units held the Germans at a river crossing on the Warsaw Highway.

7-8 Oct 1941: Zhukov Arrives

Zhukov arrived in Moscow on the evening of 7 Oct 1941 (Jones, 2009; Braithwaite, 2006, says 8 Oct). He then drove to Western Front HQ, reaching it at 0230 hours on 8 Oct.

Petrov of 50th Army took ‘temporary’ command of the troops of the Bryansk Front (Jones, 2009).

8-9 Oct 1941

The Germans encircled three Soviet armies at Bryansk (Jones, 2009). Actually there were two pockets. The German 43rd Army Corps (Heinrici) split Petrov’s 50th Army from the other two encircled Soviet armies.

9 Oct 1941

Rokossovski and his men escaped the Vyazma pocket reached the headquarters of the Western Front on 9 Oct (Braithwaite, 2006).

On 9 Oct Zhukov was formally given command of the new Western Front – combining the remnants of the Reserve and old Western Front (Braithwaite, 2006). The Mozhaisk Defensive Line was still incomplete but Zhukov rushed troops into the line to block the gaps. Six rifle divisions, six armoured brigades, ten artillery regiments and machine-gun battalions. Zhukov ordered Rokossovski to defend 100 odd km at the northern part of the Mozhaisk Defensive Line. There he began to form a new 16th Army from the remnants of Lukin’s old 16th Army, Lev Dovator’s Cossacks, the 316th Rifle Division, a regiment of cadets from the School of the Supreme Soviet, the remnants of the 18th (Leningrad) Volunteer Division, and some artillery and other supporting units. The 316th Rifle Division, under General Panfilov, was raised in Kazakhstan during the summer, was up to establishment, was well trained, and fully equipped (Braithwaite, 2006). As soon as it entered the line it earned the respect of the Germans. 316th Rifle Division deployed on the left flank of 16th Army to the west and southwest of the small city of Volokolamsk. A howitzer battalion of cadets from the Krasin Artillery School in Moscow supported 16th Army’s Cossacks, 316th Rifle Division, and the cadet infantry. Although well trained the artillery cadets had never fired their weapons before they entered combat. They had artillery tractors for their guns but the tractors could go at most 8 km / hour. They handed their guns over to 16th Army on 15 Nov 1941 and returned to training.

Despite the reinforcements the Germans continued to advance. Kaluga, Borodino, Kalinin, Maloyaroslavers, and Mozhaisk fell (Braithwaite, 2006). And Bock noted that the Vyazma pocket continued to shrink (Jones, 2009). And the Germans contained Russian attempts to breakout south of Bryansk.

11 Oct 1941

The 1st Panzer Division captured Zubtsov on the river Volga 190 km west of Moscow (Jones, 2009).

5th Army under General Leliushenko was in the centre of the Mozhaisk Defensive Line (Braithwaite, 2006). On 11 Oct the 32nd Division under Colonel Polosukhin, three tanks brigades, and the cadets from a Moscow military college took up positions at Borodino. The Borodino battlefield was 16 km west of Mozhaisk (Jones, 2009). Units were sent into the line as they were raised or arrived from the far east.

12 Oct 1941

Bock ordered an all-out push for Moscow (Jones, 2009).

The 1st Panzer Division captured Staritsa on the Volga north of Zubtov (Jones, 2009). They were then ordered to take Kalinin 80 km ahead of them.

On 12 Oct 1941 the GKO set up the Moscow Defence Zone and ordered the construction of another defensive line around Moscow itself (Braithwaite, 2006).

Two rifle divisions broke out of the Vyazma pocket on the night of 12-13 Oct through a swampy sector where the panzers could not operate (Braithwaite, 2006). Lukin then destroyed his heavy equipment and ordered the men in the pocket to escape in small groups. Some reached the Russian lines and others joined the partisans. Lukin was wounded and captured but survived the war.

13 Oct 1941

On 13 Oct the Moscow Raion were ordered to raise another volunteer regiment each but the total was only 10,000 men and they had few arms (Braithwaite, 2006). Another 30,000 men were added from specialist units of the regular army, conscripts, members of the ‘Destroyer Battalions’. These were used to form five full strength Moscow Rifle Divisions. 600 women joined these divisions. Reserve divisions were also arriving from the east.

Hoepner set up his HQ at Gzhatsk, on the main Smolensk-Moscow road west of Borodino, to direct operations in the forthcoming battle (Jones, 2009).

14 Oct 1941

German 1st Panzer Division captured Kalinin (Jones, 2009).

15 Oct 1941

The autumn heavy rain started (Jones, 2009). Dirt roads turned to mud. The Germans struggled to advance particularly as few supplies managed to reach the forward troops. The Soviets also suffered particularly the encircled troops. Both sides found that carts and wagons were much more effective in the mud than motor vehicles.

Against expectations the German high command sent the German 1st Panzer Division north rather than south toward Moscow (Jones, 2009). They were intended to straighten out the Leningrad Front. The focus of both 3rd Panzer Group and Ninth Army was a little town called Torzhok 160 km north of Kalinin. Hilter’s simultaneously committed forces to operations around Leningrad in the north and in the south around Mariopol and the Black Sea in the Ukraine. And the high command pulled some units and aircraft from Army Group Centre to do this. The men on the ground viewed this about turn poorly and were minded of sage advice from military science and proverbs:

Always keep to the main objective – never be distracted from it (Military Maxim)

He who tries to seize everything at once ends up with nothing at all (Proverb)

On 15 Oct the Germans launched a massive attack towards Volokolamsk (Braithwaite, 2006). 316th Rifle Division fought furiously but took Volokolamsk on 28 Oct.

Jones (2009) gives dates of the the Battle of Borodino as 15-19 Oct 1941. Army Group Centre had gathered four motorised divisions at Gzhatsk. Hoepner threw his tanks forward in a giant wedge. The Russians fought back doggedly under their catch phrase:

Moscow is behind us!

The Germans attacked 5th Army at Borodino and took the Shevardino Redoubt in front of the Russian line (Braithwaite, 2006). [Braithwaite (2006) has this incident on 13 Oct but I assume it happened 2 days latter to align with the more complete chronology in Jones (2009).]

The Russians in the Bryansk pocket had to abandon their vehicles due to the mud (Jones, 2009). Any breakout attempts were now on foot.

16 Oct 1941

The Battle of Borodino had become a slugging match (Jones, 2009). with duels between small groups of T-34s and panzers, and multiple barrelled rocket launchers on both sides (Jones, 2009). By the evening German forces had worked their way around the Russian flanks as airstrikes pounded the Russian positions. Hoepner then threw in tanks and infantry. 30 panzers broke through and headed for Leliushenko’s HQ. General Leliushenko led his HQ staff into hand to hand combat armed with molotov cocktails. Leliushenko was severely wounded and evacuated but his men fought on. But Colonel Polosukhin’s 32nd Division held on for five days before retreating, unbeaten, along the road to Moscow.

[Jones (2009) says Leliushenko was wounded on 16 Oct but Braithwaite (2006) says 14 Oct. I’ve followed Jones as he gives a more coherent timeline.]

[Jones (2009) mentions the 32nd Rifle Brigade at Borodino and Braithwaite (2006) mentions the 32nd Division. It seems too much of a coincidence that they both carry the number 32 and I need to check another source. I believe the authors are referring to the same unit. According to Jones the 32nd Rifle Brigade were ‘Siberian’ but entered the line without rifles and picked them up while fighting. This would be a surprise as the Siberian formations were well equipped. The Germans thought the 32nd Rifle Brigade fought well. Braithwaite (2006) says the commander of the 32nd Division was one Colonel Polosukhin; a Colonel would be more likely to command a brigade than a division.]

Late that evening Stalin almost boarded a train to be evacuated but instead resolved to stay in Moscow (Jones, 2009). With that decision Stalin also recall more of the Siberian divisions guarding the border with Japanese held Manchuria. It would take 3-4 weeks for the Siberians to arrive and to fill the gap Stalin raised more scratch forces (termed ‘strike forces’) to throw into the front.

17 Oct 1941

The Battle of Borodino still raged (Jones, 2009). Villages and Russian defensive positions were captured then recaptured.

Masses of Russians trapped in the the two Bryansk pockets surrendered (Braithwaite, 2006; Jones, 2009). The pockets began to dissolve although isolated troops were still trying to break out on 20 Oct.

19 Oct 1941

The 32nd Rifle Brigade finally withdrew from Borodino up the Smolensk-Moscow highway (Jones, 2009). The Germans pushed them hard but the 32nd blocked the German advance guard.

Despite determined resistance from the main Russian line the 10th Panzer Division and SS Das Reich Division reached Mozhaisk in the evening (Jones, 2009).

One of the ‘strike forces’ raised in mid-October were the 3,000 men of the 35th Rifle Brigade (Jones, 2009). It included cadets from the Alma Ata machine-gun school and the Tashkent school and veterans from the wars with Japan and Finland. They had ample heavy machine guns, mortars, automatic rifles and grenades. On 19 Oct they began three weeks of intensive training before being sent to the front.

25 Oct 1941

The German 78th Infantry Division finally reached Mozhaisk, long after the panzers (Jones, 2009).

27-29 Oct 1941: Mud

Operation ‘Typhoon’ gradually ground to a halt as Russian resistance stiffened and mud set in (Jones, 2009).

28 Oct 1941

316th Rifle Division (Panfilov) had been furiously fighting the Germans in front of Volokolamsk since 15 Oct but on 28 Oct, against Stalin’s orders, they abandoned Volokolamsk in disorder (Braithwaite, 2006). Rokossovski and Panfilov were both criticized for their handling of this battle. 316th Rifle Division then rallied to defend Volokolamsk highway.

29 Oct 1941: Guderian Approaches Tula

Due to Colonel Katukov’s action on 6 Oct it took Guderian’s tanks until 29 Oct to approach Tula (Braithwaite, 2006). A few regular units and a local volunteer battalion were the only defenders but they managed to hold Guderian and Tula never fell.

7 Nov 1941: Anniversary of the Revolution

7 Nov 1941 was the Anniversary of the Revolution and Moscow celebrated with a parade (Braithwaite, 2006). Stalin had withdrawn the equivalent of two divisions from Moscow’s defensive line to conduct the parade.

10 Nov 1941

On 10 Nov the Bryansk Front was dissolved. Kalinin Front (Koniev) protected Moscow from the northern and Western Front (Zhukov) from the west (Braithwaite, 2006). Reserves from the far east joined Zhukov. Rokossovski’s 16th Army was deployed in depth with carefully placed anti-tank defenses.

13 Nov 1941

German conference at Orsha decide to continue attack on Moscow (Jones, 2009).

14 Nov 1941

On 14 Nov Stalin ordered Zhukov to launch two spoiling attacks (Braithwaite, 2006). Rokossovski was ordered to attack at Volokolamsk. Both Zhukov and Rokossovski protested – to no avail.

15 Nov 1941

The Russian spoiling attacks kicked off on 15 Nov (Braithwaite, 2006). The Germans had more men, tanks and guns and Rokossovski was forced to send untried units into battle. They took just over 1 km of ground but suffered terrible casualties. Dovator’s cavalry were almost surrounded. German artillery and machine guns wiped out the 44th Cavalry Division, newly arrived from Taskkent, when it tried a massed charge across open ground.

The howitzer battalion of cadets from the Krasin Artillery School in Moscow handed their guns over to 16th Army on 15 Nov 1941 and returned to training (Braithwaite, 2006).

16 Nov 1941

As the Russian attacks faltered on 15 Nov the Germans launched their own offensive (Braithwaite, 2006).

At the northern flank of the German line the Ninth Army (Strauss) committed three divisions to clear the area between the Ivankovo Reservoir (aka Moscow Sea) and the Volga Reservoir (Jones, 2009). Strauss didn’t support the offensive so limited his contribution; he thought he should focus on consolidating the area he already held.

Fourth Panzer Group (Hoepner) used fresh forces to attack the boundary between the Soviet 5th and 30th Armies (Jones, 2009). They outflanked many defenders and got onto the Volokolamsk-Moscow highway. One Russian tank brigade was reduced to two operable tanks.

The Germans attacked the left flank of 16th Army held by Panfilov’s 316th Division and a cadet regiment (Braithwaite, 2006). German heavy artillery and planes bombarded the defenders. Then the panzers began to roll over the frozen ground. The 1075th Infantry Regiment, 316th Division, held the division’s left flank at a small railway crossing called Dubosekovo. Their job was to stop the Germans reaching the Volokolamsk Highway. The regiment destroyed some tanks and suffered significant casualties themselves before withdrawing, without orders, towards evening. Amongst the defenders was a anti-tank platoon equipped with one machine gun, two anti-tank rifles, and some Molotov cocktails. This incident subsequently got talked up as ‘The Testimony of the 28 Fallen Heroes’. In the PR version the 28 men of the anti-tank platoon, under Commissar Vasili Klochkov, had held off 50 German tanks; one man has fled an been shot by his comrades and the other 27 had died fighting. The truth was somewhat different. The regimental commander had heard nothing of these exploits until told by journalists, several of the men survived: one died in a Soviet hospital, two saw out the war as German prisoners of war, one joined a partisan group formed by soldiers but was subsequent arrested by the NKVD as a deserter, and one returned to the Ukraine because a village elder under the Germans and arrested as a collaborator after liberation.

17 Nov 1941

The Germans continued to push the 316th Division back on 17 Nov (Braithwaite, 2006). Stalin partially relented to pleas from Zhukov for reinforcements and the 78th Siberian Rifle Division (General Beloborodov) joined 16th Army in the line. The Siberians stabilised the line for three days before 16th Army was forced back again.

19 Nov 1941

German reinforcements drove the Russians back another 16 km. By 19 Nov 16th Army was at risk from encirclement (Braithwaite, 2006). Zhukov denied Rokossovski’s request to withdraw to the Istra River thus allowing the Germans to take the river at a rush. The Germans captured Istra, Klin and Solnechnogorsk, and got to the Leningrad Highway. 16th Army was again nearly encircled. Rokossovski was nearly captured at his headquarters at Kriukovo. The T-34 troop guarding the headquarters went to refuel thus leaving the staff exposed as Germans entered the village. Rokossovski and his staff quickly evacuated. The Germans kept pushing against the 78th Siberian Rifle Division and 18th (Leningrad) Volunteer Division, attacked the Sheremeievo airport, captured the Yakhroma bridge over the Moscow-Volga canal, and reached Krasnaya Polyana.

The Russians were offering increasingly stubborn resistance and using fortifications more effectively (Jones, 2009). They were starting to make use of profuse numbers of mines in their defense, including laying them on potential German lanes of approach. One incident involved tanks of 5th Panzer Division attacking a Russian stronghold at Denikovo. The Russians had fortified the station building, damaged the road leading to the village and destroyed a bridge, and mined the likely route the panzers would have to take once they left the road. The attacking panzers were ordered to bypass the station, thus cutting off the defenders, and capture the railway line as fast as possible. It didn’t quite play out like that. When the panzers moved ahead of their infantry to positions near the village the Russian artillery began ranging shots. At 1500 hours the Germans were ordered to attack. The German tanks turned off the road when they found the destroyed bridge and ran straight into the Russian minefield. The Soviet artillery also found its range and began shelling the attackers. The Germans then tried to get round the village by driving their tanks and half tracks along a gully. At the end of the day the Russians were still defending the station.

Scenario Idea – Denikovo Station

Although details are lacking this does offer some flavour for a scenario where German tanks and infantry are attacking a Russian held village, with the central position being the fortified station building. Mud should play a part – for example the Bogging Down rule in Crossfire – to increase the significance of the road. Of course the Russian engineers had thought of that and channelled the panzers off the road into a minefield.

Stalin relented again and committed 20th Army, General Vlasov with fresh Siberian divisions, on the right of 16th Army (Braithwaite, 2006). And by this time Russian aircraft were challenging the German air superiority. The Siberians pushed the Germans back across the canal. That was the closest the Germans got to Moscow.

Panfilov of 316th Division was killed by a random mortar round (Braithwaite, 2006; Jones, 2009). In recognition of Panfilov’s courage the division was subsequently awarded the Order of the Red Banner and the title of a Guards Division.

22 Nov 1941

Germans under Guderian captured the town of Yefremov 290 km south of Moscow (Jones, 2009). The Russian counter-attacked continuously in an attempt to regain the large well equipped hospital.

Daylight, by this time, lasted from 1000 hours until 1500 hours (Jones, 2009).

23 Nov 1941

The German Third Panzer Group (Reinhardt) captured Klin on the Moscow-Leningrad highway and pushed south towards Sonechnogorsk further down the highway (Jones, 2009). The German had frontally attacked Klin and taken serious losses in men and material. Rokossovsky pulled his men back to a final defensive line 35 km from Moscow.

24 Nov 1941

In the period 24-27 Nov 1941 German 43rd Army Corps (Heinrici) was involved in heavy fighting against the Russian defensive position south of Aleksin (Jones, 2009). At one point aerial reconnaissance showed a 15 km long Russian column approaching the German flank. The depleted Germans regiments formed a protective screen at the edge of the forest and managed to repel the counter-attack before renewing their own offensive.

The German 87th Infantry division was involved in fierce fighting (Jones, 2009). One company was down to 40 men from 70 two weeks earlier.

26 Nov 1941

The 10th Panzer Division captured Istra 48 km northwest of Moscow but then had to fight off Russian counter-attacks supported by artillery (Jones, 2009).

27 Nov 1941

Overnight the Germans had firmly secured Istra. By 27 Nov they had also taken Solnechnogorsk and were headed for the Russian outpost at Kryukovo (Jones, 2009).

But the main German attack was further east and aimed at Krasnaya Polyana, Lobnya, and the Moscow-Volga Canal (Jones, 2009). The 7th Panzer Division reached Yakhroma – 58 km north of Moscow – and captured the crossing over the Moscow-Volga Canal (Jones, 2009). The 71st Marine Brigade was flung against the German bridgehead but despite enormous losses the underequipped sailors failed to retake the crossing.

29 Nov 1941

German forces were within 25 km of Moscow (Jones, 2009). But high casualties, many due to frost-bite, were taking their toll. Some companies within 10th Panzer Division had less than 10 men. Fighting at the Yakhroma bridgehead – 58 km north of Moscow – was intensifying. Bock ordered 7th Panzer Division to abandon the bridgehead and march towards the small town of Krasnaya Polyana, further west and only 32 km from Moscow.

Around this time a member of 18th Panzer Division reported an incident where the Germans had to clear a Russian village (Jones, 2009). One evening the exhausted Germans reached a river with a village on the far side. They attacked across the river that night and expelled the defenders. The Germans then laid mines and set up firing points. In the morning they heard approaching gunfire and realised the Russians wanted to recapture the village. A further exploration of the small village revealed some outlying houses still in Russian control. The Germans surrounded the huts and burnt the straw roofs. But they had to storm the last house because it wouldn’t burn.

Scenario Idea – The Russians are still here

This incident might be a scenario or just suggest a scenario specific rule. The key point is that the Germans cleared the village and only in day light realised that there were more houses still occupied by Russians. They had to clear these as well before dealing with a counter-attack.

30 Nov 1941

The German 56th Infantry Division had been struggling on foot without supplies through through the Russian forest but were by 30 Nov nearing the highway at Solnechnogorsk (Jones, 2009).

The German 2nd Panzer Division and 106th Infantry Division were trying to reach the Moscow-Volga Canal (Jones, 2009). In their way was the 2nd Moscow Rifle Division at the village of Ozeretskoye. The Moscovites put up a fierce fight but could not hold the Germans. A few kilometres behind Ozeretskoye was the Russian 35th Rifle Brigade was digging in. The brigade was the only other Russian unit between the attacking Germans and Moscow. Their defensive position was carefully chosen. They were digging in between Lobnya and the village of Kiovo, 26 km north of Moscow. They had avoided the low-lying ground to their front where the German tanks would have had full reign. Instead their position had a high railway embankment to protect their flanks. The Lobnya station and outskirts of Kiovo were fortified. Likely approach lanes were heavily mined and covered by anti-tank batteries. German mortar rounds landed around the Russians as they laid their mines.

In a bizarre side-show Stalin ordered Zhukov to recapture Dedovsk, 32 km north-west of Moscow, from Hoepner’s Fourth Panzer Group (Jones, 2009). It seemed he’d confused the town of Dedovsk with an insignificant village called Dedovo. When Zhukov pointed this confusion out Stalin was unrelentant and ordered Zhukov, Rokossovsky (16th Army) and Govorov (5th Army) to oversee the recapture of the hamlet. The three senior commanders duly turned up at Dedovo and passed on Stalin’s orders to the local divisional commander. This rather bemused man sent a rifle company and two tanks to evict the Germans from the two houses they’d captured on the far side of the ravine.

The French Legion, comprising Nazi sympathisers from France, arrived at the Fourth Army (Jones, 2009).

1 Dec 1941

The Germans tried again on 1 Dec from the north, west and south (Braithwaite, 2006). The western attack was the most successful, breaching the defences on the Mozhaisk Highway, and reaching Golitsyno. In the north the Germans broke through the remnants of the Kalinin Front in the early morning and captured Krasnaya Polyana from Rokossovsky’s men (Jones, 2009). The German heavy artillery were within 20 km of Moscow, and hence within firing range. 6th Panzer Division were at the outer most bus stops of the capital. A motorcycle patrol made it to the train station at Khimki, only 18 km from Moscow. This was the high-water mark of the German offensive.

At noon the tanks and infantry of the Third Panzer Group (Reinhardt) approached the dug in Russian 35th Rifle Brigade at the Lobnya station (Jones, 2009). German heavy artillery and mortars bombarded the Russian positions before the tanks, half-tracks and infantry attacked cautiously. The defenders noticed there weren’t many Germans in the attacking formations. Their own mortars opened up and inflicted some losses including an armoured car. The Russian infantry waited until the attackers were within 100 m before firing. They concentrated on the enemy infantry. The German tanks tried to retaliate but were constricted because of the railway embankment. Under heavy bombardment the German tanks began to reverse away leaving the dead and wounded behind.

The German Fourth Army (Kluge) offensive kicked off on 1 Dec (Jones, 2009). They committed infantry regiments with little armoured support and made little headway. The untried French Legion attacked but disintegrated and had to be withdrawn. Only the 258th Division broke through the Russian defences but there were no troops to exploit the gap. One of the men of the 258th Division mentioned attacking “battle-hardened Siberian troops, in strong defensive positions, protected by extensive minefields and fortifications” as “an icy blizzard swept across the snow-covered landscape” (p. 128). The blizzard prevented the Luftwaffe from flying in support and froze the machine guns.

Aside from casualties the German divisions were outrunning their supply (Jones, 2009). In the 6th Panzer Division few vehicles were still running. Only one or two assault guns had armour piercing shells and none of the tanks. The remaining vehicles couldn’t advance because the Soviets had destroyed the road ahead. The tank crews were fighting as infantry.

And Russian resistance was stiffening. Hoepner’s Fourth Panzer Group was fighting for a succession of fortified villages. SS Das Reich Division found themselves battling the Siberian 78th Rifle Division. The German’s found the Russians “well-armed and equipped – and every man is fighting to the death”.

As a result of the German successes that day Stalin released two reserve armies to plug the gaps in the front (Jones, 2009).

1 Dec also saw von Rundstedt sacked by Hitler for unauthorised withdrawal (Braithwaite, 2006).

2 Dec 1941

Red Army reinforcements began to arrive at the front (Jones, 2009). A man of the Soviet 71st Marine Brigade noted that masses of new troops, supplies and winter equipment suddenly appeared. The Germans also noted an dramatic increase in the Russian air activity.

In contrast the German were running out of men and supplies (Jones, 2009). The lucky ones were wearing captured Russian coats and fur hats.

In a day of non-stop fighting the 9th Infantry Regiment (Raegener), 23rd Division, captured Spas-Kamenka, just west of the Moscow-Dmitrov highway and 32 km from Moscow (Jones, 2009). This was as close as they got as they lacked the men, material and motivation to continue. Two battalions refused to advance any further.

The advance of 11th Panzer Division stalled in the face of Russian bomber and fighter attacks, artillery and rocket fire and tank assaults (Jones, 2009).

3 Dec 1941

In two days of hard fighting Fourth Army (Kluge) had suffered terrible losses (Jones, 2009). The most successful division, 258th Infantry Division, ground to a halt 30 km of Moscow.

3 Dec saw a major blow for Fourth Army (Jones, 2009). The Russians let the attacking panzers roll over their positions before emerging again. The lead attackers were surrounded. Kluged ordered his men back.

The Siberian 32nd Rifle Brigade trapped some German tanks (Jones, 2009). The Siberians constructed a line of brushwood in front of their camouflaged positions then doused the brushwood with inflammables. The Russians lit the wood when the German tanks were across thus separating the tanks from their supporting infantry. The panzers were trapped in a small area in front of the defensive positions. The Russian artillery then opened up and destroyed the tanks.

Scenario Idea – Tank Trap

Again no concrete details but some interesting flavour. This scenario would involve an attack by German tanks and infantry with the Russians attempting to cut off and destroy the lead force. The defenders probably get a choice of “ploys” to use during the game: flammable brushwood or camouflaged advanced positions. To ensure game “balance” the Russians probably have to sacrifice defenders to get these ploys.

I’m not sure how this would play out in a game. Historically these ploys were a major problem for the Germans so using them on-table should also be a major problem. The question is how to include them in a game and have some game balance.

The brushwood option is a particular problem as it’s effective use is pretty devastating. But effective use involved trapping the tanks close to the Russian front lines and using artillery to destroy them.

I’m not sure how this would play out in Crossfire as tanks are slower than infantry in that game system so are unlikely to penetrate first. Consider using any or all of these ideas:

  • Germans gain Victory points for penetrating as far as possible with the tanks.
  • Russians have few anti-tank weapons thus making the tanks relatively more potent on the table (and certainly use my Crossfire House Rules for armour).
  • Time limit to spur the German player on
  • German tanks deploy mid-way on table at beginning of the game but infantry come on at the table edge.

Fourth Panzer Group (Hoepner) had also run out of steam (Jones, 2009). The German SS Das Reich Division was fighting for the small town of Lenino, 37 km north-west of Moscow. They had captured half the town by the afternoon when Hoepner called off the attack.

15 Russian tanks surprised elements of 6th Panzer Division, Third Panzer Group (Jones, 2009). The Germans were quartered in a village when the tanks emerged from a nearby forest and headed for the village. The surprised Germans ran for their lives. They lost 30 men (including the battalion commander) and abandoned all of their vehicles, artillery and supplies.

56th Infantry Division were expecting the order to attack Krasnaya Polyana and the Moscow-Volga Canal. But with Russian infantry infiltrating the woods to their flank and increasing enemy air and tank attacks they were instead ordered to dig in. They lay mines and dug trenches – in the middle of a snow storm.

The Russians noted the change of German tactics – fortifying the villages and patrolling the roads with armoured vehicles (Jones, 2009).

4 Dec 1941

During 4-5 Dec the Russians defeated Guderian’s last attempt to surround Tula (Jones, 2009). Guderian (Second Panzer Group) and Heinrici (43rd Army Corps) planned the attack on the afternoon of 4 Dec. Heinrici was to break through to join the Eberbach battle group on the highway north of Tula. Only a few kilometres separated to the wings of the German encirclement. However, on the night of 4 Dec temperatures dropped to -30 degrees and the defenders in Tula received reinforcements from the Strategic Reserve.

Eberbach had less 30 operating tanks and these were widely dispersed (Jones, 2009). The Russians brought up Siberians and a fresh tank brigade to face them – with 70 T-34s. The Germans could hear the engines of the enemy tanks less than 2 km away. The Germans expected to be overwhelmed if the Russians attacked.

Regiment 17, 31st Infantry Division, was the spearhead of Heinrici’s attack (Jones, 2009). The men assembled at 2340 hours on 4 Dec and, expecting heavy casualties, asked the Chaplain to accompany them to the front line.

5 Dec 1941

Regiment 17, 31st Infantry Division, went in at 0100 hours on 5 Dec under a bright moon. German artillery fire was sporadic and the cold froze the machine guns. None the less the first German battalion advanced into the Russian held village of Ketri. The Russians then surrounded the first battalion in the village and beat back the second battalion as it tried to relieve the first. As the Russians wiped out the Germans in the village their Germans outside spent the night lying in the snow. Most of those Germans that survived Russian bulleted got severe frostbite. With nothing achieved and Regiment 17 decimated the attack was called off in the morning.

Scenario Idea – The Die is Cast at Ketri

“The Die is Cast” is the phrase Heinrici used when, at 2300 hours on 4 Dec, he and Gudieran committed their troops to the final push to encircle Tula. The scenario has to involve the German Regiment 17, 31st Infantry Division, and the village of Ketri.

5 Dec 1941

The Soviets launched a counter-offensive on Friday 5 Dec 1941 (Braithwaite, 2006; Jones, 2009, says 6 Dec). The temperature fluctuate between 0° C and -40° C. The attackers advanced about 3 km / day for the next four days. Although Zhukov ordered them to maneuver and infiltrate between prepared German positions, too many conducted costly frontal attacks.

1941_map_soviet_winter_counteroffensive.jpg (201676 bytes)

Winter 1941
Soviet counter offensive

6 Dec 1941

Lieutenant Gudz, who had seen fighting on the Frontier in June, was now in a tank battalion under Captain Khorin (Braithwaite, 2006). Gudz had been involved in the parade on Red Square on 7 Nov but had gone back into action afterwards. By 5 Dec and the commencement of the Russian counter-offensive the tank battalion was down to a single KV and a few T-60s. Khorin was ordered to destroy the 18 German tanks in the village of Nefedievo by 0800 hours on 6 Dec 1941. Khorin in turn ordered Gudz to accomplish this mission with the KV and a picked crew. The crew loaded up armour piercing shells and machine gun ammunition then after dark drove to the front line just over 1 km from Nefedievo. Gudz reconnoitred on foot before the tank moved across a river into position. A modest artillery barrage helped conceal the KV’s engine noise. The snow stopped and the temperature dropped below freezing as Gudz waited for the German voices in the village to die away. Gudz attacked at dawn. Eight panzers were knocked out before the Germans could respond. The German shells bounced off the KV’s armour so the panzers sheltered behind buildings. German infantry advanced in support but the KV’s machine gunner cut them down. The Germans began to retreat as Russian artillery opened up and the nearby Russian infantry crossed in support of the KV. Gudz pursued the Germans as long as his ammunition lasted.

8 Dec 1941

On 8 Dec 16th Army recaptured Kriukovo and 20th Army retook Krasnaya Polyana and pushed on to Solmechnogorsk (Braithwaite, 2006).

9 Dec 1941

Zhukov ordered Red Army units to avoid frontal assaults, bypass German strong points and breakthrough on the flanks (Jones, 2009).

10 Dec 1941

The Russians surrounded three German divisions at Livny (Jones, 2009).

11 Dec 1941

As 16th Army approach Istra the Germans blew up the dam of the reservoir (Braithwaite, 2006). The 78th Siberian Rifle Division and 18th (Leningrad) Volunteer Division had to scavenge what they could to float across the icy torrent and continue their attack, retaking Istra on 11 Dec. Russians also retook Solnechnogorsk on 11 Dec (Jones, 2009).

14-15 Dec 1941

Germans abandoned Klin (Jones, 2009).

16-18 Dec 1941

Hitler replaced Brauchitsch as head of the German Army and issues ‘Stand Fast!’ order (Jones, 2009).

19 Dec 1941

General Dovator took his Cossacks of the recently redesignated Second Guards Cavalry Corps on a deep raid behind German lines (Braithwaite, 2006) (?? when ??). By 19 Dec they were on the Ruza River. Dovator was killed whilst reconnoitring a German position.

Kluge replaced Bock as commander of Army Group Centre (Jones, 2009).

20 Dec 1941

Hitler ordered ‘scorched-earth’ policy against Russian towns and villages (Jones, 2009).

26 Dec 1941

Hitler dismissed Guderian for withdrawing forces without permission (Jones, 2009).

1 Jan 1942

Russians recaptured Maloyaroslavets (Jones, 2009).

10 Jan 1942

On 10 Jan 1942 the Stalin launched a massive offensive. Koniev, backed by 16th and 20th Armies, broke through the German defences on the Volokolamsk Highway (Braithwaite, 2006). The Second Guards Cavalry Corps (now under Belov), tanks and ski battalions went through the gap they created. Zhukov pushed along the Mozhaisk Highway. Belov’s cavalry and Yefremov reached a point southwest of Vyazma but were then encircled themselves; it took until July for Belov to return to the Soviet lines. [Jones, 2009, says second phase of counter-offensives kicked off 5-6 Jan 1942.]

15 Jan 1942

Hitler allowed Army Group Centre to retreat to the Rzhev-Yukhnov line (Jones, 2009).

19 Jan 1942

Model took over German Ninth Army (Jones, 2009).

24 Jan 1942

German relieve Sukhinici (Jones, 2009).

17-18 Feb 1942

Battle of Rzhev results in destruction of Soviet Twenty-Ninth Army (Jones, 2009).

23-24 Mar 1942

Vlasov’s Second Shock Army surrounded at Lyuban (Jones, 2009).

21 Apr 1942

Germans relieved Demyansk (Jones, 2009).

5 May 1942

Germans relieved Kholm (Jones, 2009).


Braithwaite, R. (2006). Moscow 1941: A city and its people at war. Profile Books.

Erickson, J. (1993). The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin’s war with Germany: Volume One. London: Weidenfeld.

Jones, M. (2009). The Retreat: Hitler’s first defeat. John Murray.

Wikipedia: Battle of Moscow

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