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3rd and 4th Guards Cavalry Corps

During the exploitation phase of Operation Bagration, as the troops of the 1st and 3rd Byelorussian Fronts advanced on Minsk, the Oslikovskiy Cavalry-Mechanised Group in the North and the Pliev Cavalry-Mechanised Group in South led the advance behind the German lines (see Hammer and Sickle pages 2-9).

An important component of both these groups were the cavalry corps that made up half of each group. 

The Oslikovskiy Cavalry-Mechanised Group consisted of the 3rd Guards Mechanised Corps and the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps under General Oslikovskiy. The Pliev Cavalry-Mechanised Group consisted of the 1st Mechanised Corps and the 4th Guards Cavalry Corps under General Pliev.

3rd Guards Cavalry Corps

The 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps was formed on 25 December 1941 from the 5th Cavalry Corps and consisted of the 5th and 6th Guards Cavalry Divisions and the 32nd Cavalry Division. These cavalry divisions were all pre-war regular formations that had survived the disastrous campaigns of 1941. Initially the corps fought on the Bryansk Front near Smolensk. In January 1942 the corps was sent south to take part in the enlargement of the Izyum Bulge. The front was stabilised by March.

The 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps next took part in the Soviet offensive on Kharkov in May 1942. They were attached to the 28th Army where they formed the army’s mobile group. The army attacked north of Khakov to draw off and contain German reserves, so the armies from the south could encircle the Germans. The attacks didn’t go to plan. Infantry forces became pinned down reducing German strong points, and when gaps were finally opened for the mobile forces, commanders delayed sending them through. When the cavalry was finally released, the Germans had closed the gap and the cavalry was forced to join the infantry in trying to breakthrough the German lines. Pursuit and exploitation operations were out of the question. 

The corps spent the rest of 1942 in mobile battles in the southwest in front of the advancing Germans, harassing them all the way back to the Volga River. In October they were moved to the Don Front reserves to rebuild. Due to a shortage of horses towards the end of 1942 four cavalry squadrons were dismounted to fight as infantry.

Despite these and other shortages, the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps took part in the Stalingrad counter-offensive of November.

Guards Cossacks rest in a forest
Fighting was intense with the cavalry having to deal with uncleared mines, tank counterattacks and, on one occasion, a sabre-to-sabre encounter with the Romanian 1st Cavalry Division. After eight days of fighting the corps had lost 41% of its initial strength.
Cossacks with a regimental gun The corps continued to fight on the southern front taking part in drives on Rostov and the Mius River. In March 1943 the corps was withdrawn back into reserve for refitting. It remained in the reserve until August when it took part in operations to take back Smolensk. They were operating with the 68th Army and the 2nd Guards Tank Corps when they broke through the German rear and cut the Smolensk-Roslavl rail line before taking part in the street fighting for Smolensk in September.

In October the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps was once more back in reserve. In November they joined the 1st Baltic Front and the fighting for Vitebsk. It was then switched to the 2nd Baltic Front reserve in February 1944 where it saw little action.

In June it returned south to the 3rd Byelorussian Front to take part in Operation Bagration, where it was assigned to the Oslikovskiy Cavalry-Mechanised Group along with the 3rd Guards Mechanised Corps. The group was commanded by the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps’ own commander, General N S Oslikovskiy. During Operation Bagration 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps contained: 

5th Guards Cavalry Division
6th Guards Cavalry Division
32nd Cavalry Division
1814th SU Regiment (SU-76M)
3rd Guards Mortar Battalion (120mm)
64th Guards Rocket Mortar Battalion (Katyusha)
3rd Guards Anti-tank Battalion
144th Guards Anti-aircraft Regiment
1731st Anti-aircraft Regiment

The Oslikovskiy Cavalry-Mechanised Group broke behind the German lines at Vitebsk and raced west into eastern Poland and on towards the German frontier. In July 1944 the group came under the command of the 2nd Byelorussian Front, but the advance had slowed as German defence stabilised.

Eventually the group was disbanded and the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps moved to the 2nd Byelorussian Front reserves. On 25 July the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps was awarded the honorific title ‘Grodnenskikh’ for the liberation of Grodno. 

In October 1944 the corps was once more assigned to the 3rd Byelorussian Front to take part in the Vistula-Oder offensive. The offensive got underway in January 1945 with the corps joining the front’s mobile group. The 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps fought its way into East Prussia and fought along it coastal regions into Pomerania in February and March. During this fighting the 5th Guards Cavalry Division took the town of Tannenburg, famed for battles between the Poles and the Tutonic Order in 1410, and between the Germans and the Russians in 1914. For this they gained the honorific title ‘Tannenburgskikh’.

During the operations around Berlin it joined the 2nd Byelorussian Front in a mobile group in the north with the 3rd and 8th Guards Tank Corps. The cavalry struck west while the tanks worked their way along the coast. By the time the war ended the 3rd Guards Cavalry Corps had reached the Elbe River. 

Operation Bagration Exploitation
4th Guards Cavalry Corps

The 4th Guards Cavalry Corps was formed in August 1942 from the 17th Cavalry Corps. This corps was made up of the 9th ‘Kuban Cossack’, 10th ‘Kuban Cossack’ and the 30th Cavalry Division (which like the 32nd Cavalry Division had the distinction of being one of the few regular cavalry divisions to survive to the end of the war and never receive guards status).
Tachanka machine-gun wagon

They bided their time in the Caucasus before being assigned to take part in the Stalingrad counter-offensive in November 1942. At this time they also had the 110th Cavalry Division added to the corps, an under-strength unit formed from a Kalmuck National Division. The 4th Guards Cavalry Corps remained in the north Caucasus region to take part in the fighting against the Germans in that region.

January 1943 saw the corps further north in the Stavropol area. The 110th Cavalry Division was disbanded and it remaining troopers divided between the other three divisions. 

In February the corps was on the move again, crossing the Don River into Rostov-na-Donu, joining the fighting as the Red Army pushed the Germans back the way they had come the year before. In July 1943 it was moved to the North Caucasus reserves before being transferred to South Front in August.

Between September and November 1943 the corps joined the South (later 4th Ukrainian) Front’s mobile group, forming the one of the first Cavalry-Mechanised Groups under the 4th Guards Cavalry Corps’ commander Kirichenko.  The group also contained the 4th Guards Mechanised Corps. This new cavalry mechanised group broke the Mius River line, liberated most of the western Donbas region, and cut land access to the Crimean Peninsula. The group was disbanded in December 1943 and the 4th Guards Cavalry Corps moved to the 2nd Guards Army where it spent its time screening the southern stretches of the Dnepr River. 

In February 1944 the corps was moved to the 3rd Ukrainian Front where they reformed the Cavalry- Mechanised Group with the 4th Mechanised Group and the separate 5th Guards Motorised Rifle Brigade. The group was under the 4th Guards Cavalry Corps’ new commander I A Pliev. In March the group attacked the rear of the Axis forces in Odessa and cut them off from the rest of the front. They disrupted the rear areas of both German 6th Army and Romanian 3rd Army. The operations had advanced the front 200km in 10 days by 20 April and had proved so successful that Pliev received a telegram of congratulations from the Kremlin. Not long after the 4th Guards Cavalry Corps received the Order of the Red Banner and Pliev was made a Hero of the Soviet Union. In May 1944 the corps was moved north to take part in Operation Bagration.
Soviet Cavalry
For Operation Bagration the Pliev Cavalry-Mechanised Group was reformed under the 1st Byelorussian Front. This time the 1st Mechanised Corps was coupled with the 4th Guards Cavalry Corps. The 4th Guards Cavalry Corps consisted of:

9th Guards Cavalry Division ‘Kuban Cossacks’
10th Guards Cavalry Division ‘Kuban Cossacks’
30th Cavalry Division
1815th SU Regiment (SU-76M)
12th Guards Mortar Regiment (120mm)
68th Guards Rocket Mortar Battalion (Katyusha)
152nd Guards Anti-tank Regiment (76mm)
4th Guards Anti-tank Battalion (45mm)
255th Anti-aircraft Regiment (37mm)

Cossack Officer

They operated on the northern edge of the Pripyet Marshes on the dirt roads and trails that were just dry enough to support the tanks. The rest of the terrain was too overgrown and swampy to allow anything other than cavalry to move freely. During three weeks of continuous advance, they travelled 500km, averaging 20km per day to finally make it across the western Bug River. During the advance they stormed and liberated the town of Slutsk on 25 July for which the 4th Guards Cavalry Corps were awarded the Order of Suvorov II Class. In August the group retired to the 3rd Byelorussian Front reserves.

At the end of August the 4th Guards Cavalry Corps moved south to the 2nd Ukrainian Front where the Pliev Cavalry-Mechanised Group was reformed this time with the 4th and 6th Guards Cavalry corps, and the 7th Mechanised Corps. The Group advanced on Budapest in October 1944. The Germans halted the Soviet 6th Guards Tank Army at Oradea to the north, so the Pliev Cavalry-Mechanised Group swung 90 degrees to take the town from behind on 12 October. Between 6 and 25 October the 4th Guards Cavalry Corps covered 525km in winter conditions. During this time they escaped encirclement at Debrecen, cut German supply lines at Nyiregyhaza, Hungary, and assaulted across the River Tisza. For the fighting at Debrecen the corps was awarded the Order of Lenin. By December 1944 the Pliev Cavalry-Mechanised Group was north of Budapest. On 26 January 1945 the Pliev Cavalry-Mechanised Group became a permanent formation as the 1st Guards Cavalry-Mechanised Group.  

They were reorganised and refitted before taking part in the drive on Vienna in March. They then moved through Brno and Prague in Czechoslovakia where they ended the war. The 4th Guards Cavalry Corps was honoured in May 1945 with the Order of Kutuzov II Class for the liberation of Brno.

Cossacks in Flames Of War

Phil, with help from Andrew Haught, has created a Late War Intelligence Briefing for a Soviet Gvardeyskiy Kazachiy Polk (Guards Cossack Regiment). You may notice a few changes from the Intelligence Briefing in Ostfront such as bigger combat companies and options to field some Gvardeyskiy Kazachiy Companies dismounted.

This Intelligence Briefing is equally valid for regular Soviet cavalry as well, as you can see from the two units above, Cossacks and regular cavalry could be found fighting side-by-side.

Soviet Gvardeyskiy Kazachiy Polk intelligence briefing can now be found in Red Bear.

Red Bear


Last Updated On Wednesday, November 23, 2011 by Wayne at Battlefront