Erlabrunn Heights

Major General Viktor Golubev’s was pleased with the recent engagement against the British at Dielingdorf, where the British defenders were shattered after a brief, but determined action. Briefly he considered what could happen if the next line of British defences were breached. Could the Soviet armoured reserves be then committed to the next phase of operations? The roar of a T-64 engine only metres away however bought him back to the task at hand. He regained focus, before such things could be considered he needed to brush aside the British now blocking his advance.

The British commander had approached his brigade’s defensive in an interesting manner, if the reports of the reconnaissance teams were accurate. Strong dispositions were detected on the left, perhaps two battalions, where the key ground was well protected. Meanwhile on the Soviet right a withdrawn battalion dominated the high ground near Erlabrunn. However an equally important ridge further was unoccupied. Of more concern was in the centre where the town of Augsdorf seemed undefended. Was it a trap, which would result in his forces being engaged in costly attacks on Augsdorf, or could were the British forces stretched extremely thinnly and could they be dislocated by a rapid drive forward?

Above, the area of operations viewed from the south. The British right is in the foreground, while Erlabrunn is visible in the top left. The town on the right centre is Augsdorf and is one of five objectives, others are marked by red markers.

Above, the British right, while below the British left near Erlabrunn. Chieftain tanks supported by mechanised infantry are well positioned for defence. Note the three bridges dominated by the Erlabrunn Heights, two of which would see much fighting.

Golubev’s plan was without doubt complex. Part of his plan allowed for further reconnaissance after which reserve battalions would be committed. In addition advanced units could approach their final objective, the Erlabrunn Heights on the British right. The combination of reserves, flank movements and reconnaissance would, he hoped, confuse the British defenders of the Soviet final main effort. The phases can be described as follows:

Phase 1: 1st Battalion of the 68th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment (1/68th), equipped with BMPs, would advance on the right against the British left, crossing the FEBA at 1600, turn 1. The battalion would ignore the high ground on its left but rather mass on the right of a small river for future attacks. After advancing 3km the battalion would deploy into defensive positions around 1730. 2/68th meanwhile would conduct a deep flanking move designed to arrive in the area of operations at 1900, or  turn 6.

Phase 2: At 1630, turn 2, the Divisional Reconnaissance Company would advance towards and through Augsdorf. As 1/68th battalion went into defensive positions the reconnaissance company would complete its sweep of Augsdorf. Should Augsdorf be undefended the company would continue west before seizing an area of wooded high ground. Here it would act as a covering force for operations on the right.

Phase 3: With the planned flanking movement by 2/68th due to arrive at 1900 the advanced 1/68th BMP battalion would at 1930 renew its advance. This would be combined with Hind gunships which would fly over the advancing troops and engage the main British positions around the Erlabrunn Heights.

Phase 3: 1st Battalion of the 244th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment, operating BTR-60s and supported by a company of T-62s tanks, was held in reserve. At 1930 it was envisaged it would move directly forward and add weight to the attacks conducted by the battalions of 68th Motor Rifle Division. At this time the enemy would be aware of the focus of the main effort and would likely reinforce his left flank with one battalion.

Phase 4: The 2nd Battalion of 244th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment would either remain in reserve, being a threat in being, or sweep forward to secure Augsdorf, assuming it was clear.

Each Motor Rifle Regiment would be supported by the regiment’s own 122mm artillery battalion. The attack would  further supported by two additional 152 battalions drawn from division. Air defences comprised layered SAM systems combining battalion, regimental and higher level assets.

Above, 1st Battalion of the 68th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment moves forward towards Erlabrunn which is visible in the distance. Below the battalion deployed into defensive positions near Erlabrunn awaiting the next phase, a timed order.

In the centre the Divisional Reconnaissance Company, comprised of BRDM-2 armoured cars moves towards Augsdorf. The Soviet commander was concerned a detached infantry company could be deployed here. As it transpired it was not garrisoned and the armoured cars continued forward.

By 1500 the British commander had begun to reposition his forces, moving his right flank reserve towards his left. At 1930 the Soviet 2nd Battalion of the 68th Guards Motor Rifle Regiment moved into the area of operations and both battalions moved into the attack.

With the situation now changing rapidly both battalions of the 244th Guards Motor Rifle battalion were ordered forward.

Above, the general situation with 244th MTR in the foreground and 68th MTR moving to the attack in the top right. The Divisional Reconnaissance Company is visible in the top left and is about to be engaged by British forces, as can be seen below. Interestingly British fire here was relatively ineffective allowing the reconnaissance elements to begin a withdrawal. While eventually the company broke they gained valuable time for other forces.

Around Erlabrunn the fighting was intense. As two BMP battalions began their attacks Hind helicopters moved in to eliminate British tanks. Yet it was far from one sided. Well trained Chieftain crews targeted advancing T-64s causing heavy casualties while artillery strikes focussed on supporting Soviet infantry. In retaliation Soviet forward observers requested fire from 152mm self-propelled artillery and caused heavy casualties among the British mechanised infantry.

Soon British counter-battery fires fell on Soviet artillery, though with limited impact. However, British electronic warfare teams were more effective. Having abandoned their usual task of silencing SAM systems they instead focussed on identifying command and control systems. Soviet radio traffic was however limited and instead artillery fires by heavy artillery switched from suppressing 2s3 artillery assets to targeting forward observers.

Meanwhile the other British battalions were now on the move and the Soviet left was under significant pressure as two British battalions engaged a single Soviet battalion deployed in and around Augsdorf.

Below, the British move towards Augsdorf to the right of this photo. Here the T-62 tanks struggled to slow the advance of Chieftains and mechanised infantry, though ATGWs caused some casualties.

However, the advancing Soviets continued to bring pressure around Erlabrunn where combinations of tanks, motorised infantry and artillery stripped away the outnumbered British defenders.

Above, T-62s and motorised infantry engage the British defenders around while Hind helicopters, hopelessly ineffective, engage British Blowpipe teams in the background. Below, the 2nd BMP battalion engage the opposite end of the British Erlabrunn position.

With light fading around 2200 hours the defenders of Erlabrunn Heights, having suffered heavy casualties, began to fall back. Their position had becoming untenable, yet isolated platoons held on preventing the Soviets from securing their final objectives. The much needed Soviet breakthrough had not been achieved, the British had finally stopped the Soviet Bear!

The game was an outstanding success for both players with intense moments as two competing plans developed and played out. From a scenario perspective the scenario was developed with the Scenario Generation System with the British commander selecting to reinforce his defend list with an Option A, while the Soviet player conducted a Hasty Attack without reinforcement. Consulting the victory conditions, and accounting for reinforcements, the game was a narrow winning 5-4 draw to the Soviets. The game, viewed from the British player perspective, can be found here


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