Snapshot Army: Kampfgruppe Kerscher

Snapshot Army:
Kampfgruppe Kerscher
with Casey Davies

On 6 April 1945 the Soviet Red Army launch their main offensive against German forces at Königsburg. Two days later a small group of Tiger I E tanks counterattacked. During the ensuing battle, one Tigers was destroyed, reducing the battalions strength to just 9 tanks.

On 12 April 2. Schwere Panzerabteilung was split up into groups of 2 to 3 tanks, to wait for the Soviet offensive to catch up with them. Oberfeldwebel Kerscher and another Tiger were deployed near Norgau (20 miles/31.5 km northwest of Königsburg).

The next day Kampfgruppe Kerscher engaged the Soviet spearhead and destroyed more than 20 tanks. Later that day the second Tiger I E had to withdraw due to a damaged gun. Kerscher continued to fight, knocking out another 15 tanks.

What Are Snapshot Armies?
Snapshot armies are ones that focus on a very specific time or battle. In this case it is the 511 Schwere Panzer Abteilung during the month of April 1945. Unlike other army lists that are meant to be flexible and offer players a wide variety of options, Snapshot armies are less abstracted and are guided much more strictly by history and by what was actually there on the day of battle.

These armies are, in a sense, ready-to-play straight off the paper. Your army is more or less sorted out for you, the history and special rules are there for reference, and a complete arsenal is included in the back. They put you directly in command of a historical force. What are your orders?

On the evening of 12 April a supply truck brought some ammunition forward and a second Tiger I E, commanded by Unteroffizier Weigand, arrived to reinforce Kerscher. A short while later the two Tigers knock out a further 12 SU-100 tank-hunters. Afterwards, Weigands Tiger and nearby infantry were called away to a different location.

A couple of days later Kerscher’s Tiger suffered mechanical failure and became stuck in third gear. Despite this he tried to support the two Tigers of Feldwebel Hermann and Unteroffizier Baresch, but his tank is hit and he is wounded in the head. Hermann’s tank becomes immobilised and had to be abandoned, while Baresch’s tank was destroyed.

Snapshot Army: Kampfgruppe Kerscher
Snapshot Army: Kampfgruppe Kerscher The survivors manned Kerscher's crippled Tiger and made a strategic retreat. Another tank takes over the position while Kerscher’s tank relocates to the battalions maintenance facility.

On 21 April, Kerscher’s repaired Tiger made its way to the front line and stopped several Soviet attacks in the Neuhäusel Forest with assistance from a pair of Hetzers from 1. Kompanie/502. Schwere Panzerabteilung, a PaK, and a Tiger II from 506. Schwere Panzerabteilung. Between them, 21 enemy vehicles were knocked out and Kerscher brought his personal tally to over 100. The Tiger II then ran out of ammunition and withdrew, while the Hetzers and the PaK were redeployed.
About 18 months ago, in early 2012, I was doing a bit of research into tank markings for my Tiger II army when I stumbled across the Tigers In Combat books by Wolkgang Schneider.

After a quick read, I found myself particularly drawn to Schwere Panzerabteilung 502, later renamed Schwere Panzerabteilung 511, because of the mix tanks they had. On paper in March 1945 they had 10 Hetzer tank-hunters in their 1st company, 10 Tiger I E tanks in their second company and 8 Tiger II tanks in the third company. I thought this would make for a great list

A bit more digging with Phil and his magical mountain of research revealed that Schwere Panzerabteilung 511 never actually received their Tiger II tanks, as the tanks they had been assigned as at the last moment their shipment was diverted to another battalion.

I thought that the exploits of Oberfeldwebel Kerscher would make for an interesting scenario. I had a talk to Mike about this and we instead came up with the idea of creating 'Snapshot' armies.

The next day Kerscher’s tank took several hits and his fuel tanks started to leak. Over 300 litres of fuel spilled into the hull. Kerscher simply drained it off and kept fighting. After knocking out several more tanks he was relieved by two Tigers returning from workshop after repairs. Kerscher was then called on to support the local infantry against another Soviet thrust. His Tiger took another couple of hits and had to fall back to the maintenance facility again.

Kerscher returned to Neuhäusel Forest to engage enemy tanks that had penetrated into the forest. He tried to mount a defence with another Tiger, but when that tiger was knocked out Kerscher withdrew to Pillau. Once he had reached the harbour he had no choice but to scuttle his tank and escape on a ferry to Frische Nehrung (near Danzig).
Snapshot Army: Kampfgruppe Kerscher
Snapshot Army: Kampfgruppe Kerscher

Kampfgruppe Kerscher:
Late War Intelligence Briefing For Kampfgruppe Kerscher, Schwere Panzerabteilung 511, East Prussia, April 1945.

The following Late-war briefing for Kampfgruppe Kerscher contains the following:

■ History of Kampfgruppe Kerscher.
■ Special Rules for Oberfeldwebel Kerscher.
■ Kampfgruppe Kerscher Company Organisation for Flames Of War.
■ Kampfgruppe Kerscher arsenal.

Download a PDF version of the Snapshot Army: Kampfgruppe Kerscher briefing here (right click; save as...; 1.3MB; .pdf format)...

Last Updated On Thursday, June 26, 2014 by Blake at Battlefront