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Battle of Kiev 1943

Battle of Kiev 1943 – The Czechoslovak Assault
With Lucas Watson

On the 3rd of November 1943 the attack on the German defensive line on the Dnepr river began, and with it the liberation of Western Ukraine. The 7th was the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution and Stalin wanted the city of Kiev back in Soviet hands by that date, liberated from the German occupation which had reduced its pre-war population by 80% over two years thanks to the SS.

By the 5th November Soviet forces reached the city and moved in. One of the units participating was the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Brigade, the Soviet backed and armed unit representing the Czechoslovak government in exile. Formed in 1942 as a single infantry battalion the unit had seen battle, by personal request of its officers, at Kharkov in March 1943 and after proving itself was expanded to the size of a brigade including two infantry and one tank battalion but lacking in anti-tank and field guns

The brigade was equipped differently to normal Soviet units and pushed into the city as part of 38th Army. The unit fought all through the day, its objectives being the factory buildings of “Bolshevik”, the zoo area and then later the station and bridge over the Dnepr at Kiev railway station 1. It was a day of fierce fighting for the Brigade, made up of Czechs, Slovaks, Jews and a majority of Rusyn Ukrainians, who fought hard to secure the city by 02.00 on the 6th November against battered and depleted, but tenacious, German infantry forces of 68th and 88th Infantry Divisions. The 88th led by general Roth who would himself become a casualty.

Battle of Kiev 1943

Battle of Kiev 1943

The battle of Kiev saw 2 depleted German infantry divisions attempting to hold off several corps from the Soviet 38th Army. Included in this attacking force was the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Brigade, the Soviet armed unit representing the Czechoslovak government in exile. In the first rules pack you will find our take on this unique unit with special rules based on their history as well as rules for the embattled defenders and the city itself. For example, the Rusyn Ukrainian members of the Czechoslovak brigade fighting hard for their homeland with an improved ‘Follow Me’ tactics roll.

Army Suggestions:
Soviets –
The 1st Czechoslovak Independent Brigade had a glut of automatic and semiautomatic infantry weapons making its platoons some of the best equipped in the Red Army at the time. Despite this they dearly lacked anti-tank guns, mortars and artillery which were only provided by Soviet support units. Units were also depleted after Kharkov and the relentless pursuit of German forces since victory at Kursk.

As a result, I recommend using the Hero Motor Rifle Battalion or the Reconnaissance Company (without cars or half-tracks) as the basis for you force. However, do not include any of the within formation mortars or anti-tank guns, leaving those for support slots.

For armour the brigade was supported by 10 T-34s to attack the factory area and 10 T-70s to attack the zoo area. A unit of either would be a great realistic support choice when playing this scenario and help deal with the lack of anti-tank.

Germans –
The Germans have a bit more freedom with their force selection though it should certainly be based on a grenadier company or the Africa rifles as I will discuss below.

Army group South was battered and stunned after Kursk. The German units were often exhausted and heavily depleted towards the close of 1943 as Army Group South had suffered 200,000 wounded in the retreat to the Dnepr and lost many tanks. For example, what was left of 6th Army had no more than 25 active tanks and assault guns at the time of the battle for Kiev.

To represent these units stretched to breaking point I recommend taking the smallest platoons possible, though still administer heavy weapons. To this end it would be historical even to use the Africa Rifle Company with its very small platoons, though of course all support should be from either Iron Cross or Ghost panzers and not Afrika Corps. For tank support I would use no more than one unit of armour in the entire army, as the vast majority of it was outside the city.

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 Soviet side is recommended as attacker.

1-2: The House (Enemy at the Gates)

3-4: The Boulevard (Iron Cross)

5-6: The Square (Enemy at the Gates)

Additional Special Rules:

Eager officers:
Despite political opposition from the Czechoslovak government in exile in London the men of the 1st Independent Brigade were eager to join the fight. Thanks to a personal letter to Stalin they had their wish and saw battle at Kharkov before their second major engagement at Kiev.

The Soviet battalion or company HQ unit always takes the Tenacity Command Card.

Rusyn members:
During its growth after Kharkov the 1st Independent Brigade swelled its ranks with Rusyn Ukrainians released from the gulags. Hailing from the Carpathians in an area crossing Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine these men were to fight hard on the road to their homeland with Kiev being a key part of liberation.

Soviet infantry units reduce the number required to pass Follow Me orders by 1.

The Dnepr is breached:
Despite some strong defensive positions over the Dnepr in Kiev itself, Soviet forces in both the North and South had managed to create bridgeheads and threaten the envelopment of Army Group South. The river was no longer the full extent of German lines and clinging to it could only offer a temporary defence.

German support units do not benefit from the “Third Reich” rule this game, instead using their base motivation for Last Stand rolls.

Reminiscent of Stalingrad:
The fighting in the city proper reminded both sides of the furious clash in Stalingrad a year previous. With the knowledge of that campaign the Germans offered stiff house to house resistance, as their Soviet counterparts had back in 1942.

The German player may use one copy of the ‘Fortify the Building’ command card at no additional points cost (“Place this card next to abuilding that your HQ unit is occupying. For the rest of the game, infantry teams in this building have a 2+ save”).

Aftermath of bombardment:
As had become common practice before an assault the Red Army commenced the battle of Kiev with a massive air and artillery bombardment designed to rattle the defenders and destroy their emplacements. It was effective but reduced the city streets to rubble.

All open ground is treated as rubble during this scenario (excludes roads).

Last Updated On Thursday, May 16, 2019 by Luke at Battlefront