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Battle of Kiev 1943 – Meleni encirclement

Battle of Kiev 1943

Battle of Kiev 1943 – Meleni encirclement 
With Lucas Watson

After the German drive on Brusilov both forces take time to accept reinforcements as bad weather and ground conditions make attack impossible. Desperate for replacements Manstein’s forces prepare for an attack to free troops from the Korosten pocket and hit the Soviet flank to prevent the incoming 60th Army from repelling their counterthrust towards Kiev. However only Manteuffel’s 7th Panzer received significant men and rearmament.

On the 5th December the attack is continued with 7th Panzer, minus their tigers, as the German ace seeking to collapse 60th Army’s flank. As the panzers hit five dug in rifle corps, the Germans intercept Soviet high command communiques to their outpost troops, doubting the strength of the panzer attack – “your message is unbelievable.''

Due to the ferocity of attack and ill preparedness of Soviet defences the Germans cut through Soviet lines until the 19th, where an opportunity to cut off and destroy two rifle divisions at Meleni arose.

Using 7th Panzer to lead one pincer and two more panzer divisions for the other, the Germans sought to encircle as they had done back in 1941 and 1942. However they made a grave error, due to the lack of infantry and poor weather the Germans made no air or land reconnaissance before their attacks. In this case they failed to realise that it was not two rifle divisions with some support they would fight to encircle but three tank and 4 infantry corps! As a result, despite their best efforts they simply could not close the loop and the attack ground to a halt. Simultaneously, several Soviet armies, including 1st Guards, attacked from positions North of Kiev, having been undetected by poor German intelligence two weeks prior. Exploiting the German focus on Kiev they would put them back on the retreat by the 24th and save the exposed flanks of 38th and 60th Armies, who continued the onslaught against the panzers.

Army Suggestions:

Soviets –
During the last thrust by the Germans towards Kiev the most common Soviet unit was the rifle corps. These were dug in to resist panzer attack before the counterattack of the tank corps and so often met the brunt of the German assaults. In the attempt to create the Meleni pocket the Germans inadvertently found themselves against tank corps also, who found themselves on the defence or in immediate counterattacks to help the infantry.

For the infantry forces I would recommend fielding a Rifle or Hero rifle battalion from Enemy at the Gates with Red banner tank support, as these were the types of unit battered by the recommencement of the German thrust, especially in early December. It would also be possible to field any of the formations from Red banner, as they represent the units which make up the tank corps resisting the German thrust, supported by a healthy amount of infantry. Combined arms is definitely the goal for these Soviet forces.

Germans –
Manteuffel’s 7th Panzer Division is the star of the second half of the German thrust against 38th and 60th Armies. They can be represented using a Mixed Panzer Company, StuG Company, Panther Company or Armoured Panzer Grenadier Company. These can take any of the support from Ghost Panzers with the exception of tigers, as all theirs had been loaned to support 1st SS Panzer LAH.

The 7th had received ample reinforcements, despite the lack sent to Army Group South as a whole, and so fielding maxed out tank and infantry units is recommended where possible. Of course, several less fortunate Panzer Divisions took part in the December attacks and fighting around Meleni specifically. So to field one of these units simply reduce your number of troops and tanks in each unit to the bare minimum, as they were woefully depleted, or utilise strong platoons but few formation units, to represent the pooling of matériel into a single strong unit where attacking piecemeal would have poor results.

Roll on the chart below to determine which mission to play. Recommended forces are between 50 and 110 points. Apply the special rules below to get the real flavour of the battle and the units involved. The German side is recommended as attacker.

1-2: Breakthrough

3-4: Contact

5-6: Counterattack

Additional Special Rules:

Inexhaustible reserves:
The German success in counterattacking towards Kiev had caused STAVKA to deploy masses of troops in the area to hold the line. Poor intelligence and reconnaissance work often meant that entire formations of Soviets had been missed and seemed, to the Germans, to just keep coming from an inexplicable, and inexhaustible reserve of men, guns and tanks.

The Soviet player may reroll their first failed ‘reserves’ dice, even if the overall roll includes one or more successful dice rolls already.

Lack of reconnaissance:
Though daring, the Germans made their attack with very little intelligence as to which Soviet units in what concentrations they would have between them and their objectives. Often having to react organically to threats with less reliance on pre-planned artillery strikes.

Before deployment but after mission selection the Soviet player receives one copy of the ‘Maskirovka’ Command Card for each enemy unit capable of conducting bombardments. (“At the start of the game, after deployment, reposition one of your opponent’s Ranged In markers up to 6”/15cm in any direction”)

Audacious attack:
After the ferocious counterattack over November the Soviets found it hard to believe their enemy could continue to mount an assault with such depleted strength. It came as a great surprise to both the men on the ground and commanders when the German thrust struck out again in December to wreak more havoc and push back further towards Kiev.

Before deployment the German player nominates one tank or armoured transport unit in their force. This unit gains the ‘Spearhead’ special rule, however only units from within the same formation may deploy using the additional spearhead deployment from that unit.

Priority air support:
With the success of the German push back the Luftwaffe managed to temporarily re-establish some of its forward bases in support of Army Group South. Once more allowing the panzers to be supported from the air in coordinated strikes.

Before their first turn, the German player may conduct an attack using a JU 87 Stuka dive bomber flight as if it had arrived in the normal fashion for aircraft. This unit cannot fail to arrive, and the attack may be conducted even if the German force contains no other aircraft.