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Battle of Kiev 1943

Battle of Kiev 1943 – Panzer Counterattack
With Lucas Watson

In the week after Kiev was captured Rybalko’s 3rd Guards Tank Army pushed the Germans back west some 60km as they scrambled to avoid encirclement of Army Group South and halt the penetration at operational depth. 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH) had recently returned from rear service and recuperation in Italy and it was with them and the 1st Panzer Division that Manstein would stymie the Soviet onslaught.

With Rybalko’s charge 38th Army now had its rear exposed and, on the 12th November 1st SS LAH and 1st panzer formed the centre of an attack to cut off Rybalko and Kiev, flanked by the battered 68th Infantry and three more panzer divisions heading towards Brusilov and Zhitomir. The Soviets rushed in two rifle corps to stop the German drive, but they still made good progress forcing 3rd Guards Tank Army to send two tank and one mechanised corps back to try and halt the panzers after the infantry suffered heavy losses.

By the 15th German progress in the centre was good but 1st Panzer were diverted to cut the highway to Kiev, leaving the 1st SS LAH alone in their central thrust. As they clashed with soviet 6th and 7th tank corps the weather deteriorated, and the SS panzers began to struggle despite inflicting very heavy tank losses on their opponents. On the 19th the other German forces recaptured the city of Zhitomir and 1st SS LAH pushed on hard to take Brusilov in a tactical victory which exhausted the unit.

On the 26th the counterattack was called to a temporary halt. The Germans, and LAH particularly, had more than bloodied the Soviets but the Red Army riflemen, tankers and air force had managed to grind them to a halt in costly battles

Battle of Kiev 1943

Army Suggestions:

Soviets –
The defensive battles in November 1943 were fought by a great variety of Soviet units. For the early stages the 17th and 21st Rifle Corps were initially rushed in and battered by advancing panzers. Later, 3rd Guards tank army lends the 6th and 7th Guards tank corps and 9th Mechanised corps to the fight, putting the Germans on the back foot between the 16th and 19th before being pushed back but eventually stopping them a week later at Brusilov.

As a result, there is a wide variety of formations a Soviet commander could take. Here I would recommend taking a regular or Hero T-34 battalion equipped with the ‘Guards’ command card to represent 6th and 7th Guards tank corps as they clash with the panzers over several days. To represent 9th Mechanised a regular or Hero motor rifle battalion is perfect and to play the beleaguered Rifle corps the standard rifle battalion, sans snipers and with the smaller rifle companies would be ideal.

For a more unusual pick the Germans did report an encounter with Soviet heavy tanks late into the counterattack, so using the KV-1S heavy tank regiment is possible. The only formations to avoid are early T-34s, Mixed tanks and lend-lease only vehicle formations as units equipped this way were not part of the defence.

Germans –
For the Germans the obvious choice is to represent 1st SS Panzer Division Leibenstarte Adolf Hitler who were the core of the German counterattack. To do this I would recommend fielding either: SS-Panzer grenadier company, SS-Panzer company, Tiger heavy tank company (with SS rules below) or Panther company (with SS rules below). The division had spent the moths after Kursk re-equipping whilst acting behind the lines in Italy and so had a large number of heavy tanks and fresh infantry units so feel free to use plenty of big cats and large platoons of grenadiers. Check the SS rules below for this scenario before making your force.

If you do not fancy the SS both 1st and 25th Panzer Divisions fought in the centre thrust at some point in the drive to Brusilov and could be represented by a vanilla Panzer grenadier company, Armoured Panzer grenadier company, mixed Panzer company or StuG assault gun company. These units had not had the time to recover as much as the 1st SS LAH so feel free to field smaller platoon sizes to personal taste. Using heavy tanks from 1st SS LAH as support is encouraged (see rules below)

Support should be from Ghost Panzers and should certainly not include Dianas, 7.6cm guns or early StuGs. German air power was very sporadic by this point in the battle so taking aircraft is possible though not recommended. Ferdinands are a definite option for support however, as these were the last actions fought before they were withdrawn from the East in December and modified to become the Elephant.

Roll on the chart below to determine which mission to play. Recommended forces are between 100 and 125 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: Bridgehead

3-4:  No Retreat

5-6: Rearguard

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.

Red Star above:
Throughout the counterattack the German commanders bemoaned continuous air attacks from IL-2 fighter bombers despite the often terrible weather in which they flew. Soviet pilots and ground crews alike worked around the clock to try and assist their struggling comrades.

Soviet aircraft units may reroll their first failed attempt to arrive on the battlefield. However, when shooting with their cannons the enemy is always treated as concealed.

If the Soviet army contains no aircraft units add one for no additional points cost. This unit only arrives on a roll of a 5+ each turn and does not benefit from the reroll provided above.

1st of the SS:
1st SS Panzer Division Leibenstarte Adolf Hitler were the Waffen SS’ premium unit. The division had fought hard at Kursk on the offense and now faced a similar attack order against less prepared opponents. Having been to Italy to re-equip with more heavy tanks and fresh infantry the unit was as powerful if not more powerful than months prior.

Reduce the cost of the ‘SS-Panzergrenadier’ company and ‘SS-Panzer company’ command cards by 2 points each if used to construct a German force.

In addition, for 1 point per tank you may upgrade ALL tanks in a Tiger heavy tank company or black box support unit from a Tiger heavy tank company to SS heavy tanks. Their motivation becomes “Fearless 3+”

Furthermore, for 3 points per tank you may upgrade ALL tanks in a Panther tank company or black box support unit from a Panther tank company to SS heavy tanks. Their motivation becomes “Fearless 3+” and their skill becomes “Trained 4+”

SS corporal Alfred Schneiderheit:
During the temporary halt to the German attack on the 16th November SS corporal Schneiderheit and his platoon were encircled by the Soviets as part of 1st SS Panzergrenadier regiment. With his anti-tank rifles Schneiderheit saw of several tank and infantry attacks through the night, and was wounded, before leading his platoon the next morning in a daring counterattack which broke the regiment’s encirclement. Earning a Knights Cross.

If the German force contains any SS-Panzer grenadier platoons replace one unit leader with Alfred Schneiderheit. Schneiderheit is an SMG team and his unit’s ‘Rally’ and ‘Counterattack’ ratings both improve to 2+.

 Heavy rains:
Late autumn in Ukraine often sees heavy rains which saturate the ground and soon turn any battlefield into a quagmire and November 1943 was no different, with both sides struggling through the mud.

Any open ground is treated as muddy ground as described in the Flames of War rulebook. Furthermore, any German aircraft must reroll their first successful attempt to arrive.


Last Updated On Thursday, May 23, 2019 by Luke at Battlefront