Golubev’s Gamble

Major General Viktor Golubev’s pondered the maps in front of him. Yet again he was committing elements of his division, the 27th Guards Motor Rifle Division, in a hasty attack against the British, the second time in less than 24 hours. Desperately he hoped that the division would achieve the much needed breakthrough, especially given the divisions political officer seemed to be particularly interested in the divisions performance…

The battle area comprised the town of Dielingdorf in the southwest. From here a long ridge dominated the battle area as it travelled in a generally northeasterly direction. High points on the ridge were clearly critical objectives as they provided excellent observation points. Three other points of high ground were also critical, as the dominated the road network in the area. Reconnaissance indicated the British were deployed in brigade strength centred on three areas with each likely to be battalion strength. The British left was well forward at the northeastern end of the ridge, while the two remaining battalions were deployed further back. That of the centre seemed to be armour heavy.

Reports from regimental reconnaissance assets indicated two key heights on the left were not held. An obvious plan was a main attack here which would secure two objectives easily. Then a second stage operation, possibly with a deep flanking movement through Dielingdorf to unhinge the British right flank. Below, a portion of the British right flank viewed from the east, where such an attack would have fallen. Dielingdorf is to the left and not shown.

The British right, the left in the photo, is held by a mechanised infantry battalion while the British centre is held by elements of an armoured heavy battalion sized formation. Both are reinforced by ATGW systems. Of course at the time of planning this level of detail was not available to the Soviets. One of the two undefended objectives is in the foreground.

After some consideration Golubev’s opted for an alternate attack to which he allocated elements of two regiments. The 68th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment equipped with BMPs, and the 243rd Guards Motor Rifle Regiment operating BTR-60s. Each regiment would attack with two battalions forward, with each battalion supported by a company of the respective regiments T-64B tanks.

One battalion of 243rd MTR (BTR) would advance in extended order secure the two outlying and undefeated objectives in the southern sector. The battalion operating with little support was exposed to ambush by concealed British covering forces. Once these two objectives were secured the battalion would deploy into defensive positions. The focus of this defensive posture was in the centre where the battalions attached T-64Bs could provide a degree of protection to the main attack.

This main effort would comprise the second battalion of the 243rd MTR (BTR) and the 1st Battalion 68th MTR (BMP) with both battalions attacking the British positions on the northeastern end of the Dielingdorf ridge. The BTRs would likely be attacking frontally, before swing southwest, while the BMPs would attack along the length of the ridge. Meanwhile the second battalion of the 68th MTR (BMP) would conduct a short flank march. The battalion would attacking the rear of the British position before pressing deeper into the British rear capturing a second area of high ground. Attached to this flanking movement was the divisional reconnaissance company, which was tasked with pressing forward at speed to secure this position.

Each regiment would have the support of its own 122mm artillery battalion, limited fires from a divisional 152mm battalion. Further, towed 203mm guns were on-call for SAM suppression and counter battery fires. The divisional area was well protected by long SAM while each battalion was supported by a range of AA systems. Finally, several flights of Mig-23 and SU-7s were on call for ground attack.

Above, the British left flank well forward. To the left the the British centre is visible, well back, while in the rear the secondary objective of the 2/68th MTR battalion.

By 9am the Soviet forces had crossed their start lines. In the south 1/243rd MTR pressed forward over open ground towards its two objectives. Below, two companies of BTRs move through an area of fields. The battalions integral 120mm mortar company begins to deploy to while T-64Bs, drawn from the regiment’s tank battalion advance in support. Each battalion was supported by either SA-9 Gaskin or ZSU-23-4 self propelled AA as well as SA-7.

Below, a general view of the battle with the Soviets advancing from the left. The two sections of the Dielingdorf Ridge are clearly visible. Dielingdorf itself is visible in the very top centre. Objectives are marked by red markers. Three Soviet battalions are visible with a BMP and BTR battalion in the left foreground.

Unlike the Soviet left, the main attack on the right, against the British left was engaged almost immediately. British Chieftains tanks focused their efforts in engaging Soviet tanks at extreme range. However the orientation of the Soviet attack meant not all British tanks were able to engage.

Below, British combat teams on the heights reposition while one Chieftain troop pivots to engage. On the right British Milan teams deployed in a wood engage T-64s of the 1/68th MTR Battalion while Chieftains deployed near the British Battalion HQ in a farm add their weight. During this part of the attack British artillery was particularly active. From the high ground on the ridge British forward observers called in a near unceasing artillery fires on BMPs of the 68th MTR.

Lieutenant Colonel Anatoly Borovkov, commanding the 1st Battalion of the 68th Motor Rifle Regiment provides a brief overview of the initial engagement from his journal:

“The battalion’s BMPs, advanced rapidly towards the ridge with the tanks in close support. As we crested the ridge just after around 9.30am we were met by a storm of fire from British tanks some 1500 yards distant and ATGWs launched from a wooded area 1000m to our front. Much to our relief the fire was generally ineffective. A stark contrast to the hell produced by the relentless artillery fires that focussed on the BMPs. Several vehicles were decimated by direct hits while others were disrupted by the continual pounding. However, junior officers quickly regained control and while our tanks engaged the enemy armour the rifle companies pressed forward engaging enemy infantry.”

Despite a determined effort by British EW teams to jam radio communications Soviet forward observers were soon directing 122mm and 152mm fires at identified enemy positions. Later they would be reinforced by the 120mm tubes of each battalion. The 2S3 battalion allocated to the attack was quickly located and struck by M107 counter battery fires.

Above, the BTR battalion continues to advance. The wooded area and the ridge both caused some delay to the BTRs. Attached to this battalion was an air ground controller. As soon as the Divisional EW teams had accurately located enemy SAM sites dedicated artillery battalions were to conduct SAM suppression fires. Then Mig-23s and SU-7s were to be unleashed. Unfortunately, the British Rapier crews were well trained and frequently turned off their radar frustrating the Soviet attempts to locate them.

While the attack on the British left flank hung in the balance the 1st BTR battalion completed its advance in the Soviet centre and left. Above, 1/243rd MTR Battalion secures its objectives. As they did the attached T-64s deployed to cover the flank. In the distance elements of a British armoured regiment can be seen moving to support the battalion further along the ridge.

Below, a view of the advancing British regiment. Shortly after the T-64 company engaged the British Regiment’s right flank at ranges of 1500.

However, it was on the British left that the battle was to be decided. Finally, the 2nd BMP battalion from 68th Motor Rifle Regiment entered the battle space. While one company moved into the flank of a wood marking the British extreme left two additional BMP companies, supported by attached tanks, pressed deep into the British rear. Simultaneously the divisional Reconnaissance company, acting as a flank guard, moved against the battalion’s follow-on objectives.

Above, the battalion advances on the now exposed British left. The British Battalion HQ is located in the farm area, while rear area SAM are further to the rear.

Below, the overall situation. The BRDMs of the Reconnaissance Company can be seen in the right foreground moving at speed. Their objective is the hill in the right foreground.

At this point the British battalion on the northeastern section of Dielingdorf Ridge, broke having suffered heavy casualties. As it fell back in retreat Soviet forces consolidated their position on the ridge while the 2nd BMP Battalion pressed forward.

This Hasty Attack scenario was developed using the Scenario Generation System. Both players supported their main forces with an Option A reinforcement. Under the scenario the general location of the British forces were known when Soviet planning was completed, but not the actual dispositions. It was later revealed that the British commander had set deployed a trap, using undefended objectives, to lure the Soviets forward into a prepared killing zones. The alternate Soviet plan had been, without doubt, a significant gamble which could have gone very wrong. Indeed, during the course of the attack there were several critical moments the British, despite being outnumbered, looked likely to break at least one, possibly two, attacking Soviet battalions. Such a situation would have unraveled Golubev’s attack. In the end however the arrival of the flank marching battalion decimated the already unhinged the British defence. A fascinating, and very well balanced action. I look forward to another…

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4 thoughts on “Golubev’s Gamble

    1. I have lists for the forces I deployed, but not my opponents. I’m happy to post a couple of these lists in the coming days, with some commentary, if that would be useful.

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