Last night the Soviet Bear was on the offensive once more. Now, the Soviets were supposed to be facing elements of BAOR but unfortunately the British player had to cancel. While Mrs Thatcher has ordered an investigation on why British forces were not ready to take their place in the line, the glorious French were called on for duty once again. The scenario, developed using the Scenario Generation System, found the Soviets launching a deliberate attack – the French player having forgone the option of a spoiling attack.
As General Pierre Sancelme waited for inevitable Soviet attack he pondered his deployments, and as is often the case, had second thoughts. Then, his mind wandered. Just five days ago he had been with his family at Landau. How quickly times had changed. Now his division were starting to consider themselves veterans. If the Germans and Americans could not stop the Soviet advance, perhaps the French could delay the Soviets while additional French forces moved forward. Certainly casualties over the the past days had been mounting. It was true since the previous action the battered 5th Armoured Division and while some reinforcements had arrived the various regiments remained understrength.
Below, the area of operations. The Soviet forces will enter from the right.
Again Sancelme opted for three regiments forward. But this time he was determined to fight a more mobile battle with at least one of the regiments repositioning early. With again a considerable divisional room to hold the three forward fighting regiments (battalions) were stretched. Sancelme placed the 153 Regiment d’Infanterie, a VAB equipped infantry regiment, in the centre around the town of Anselfingen, with a further company forward in the village of Pressat. Below, elements of 153 RI deployed around Anselfingen. The village of Pressat in just over the river, and not shown.
On the right was 2nd Groupement de Chasseurs, while on the left was 24th Groupement de Chasseurs. Both were mechanised regiments each with two mechanised companies and elements from two tank companies, though understrength and each fielding around 12 AMX-30s each. Divisional artillery assets were limited. Just 12 tubes from 12th Regiment d’Artillerie would be available. Instead, the various regiments would need to rely on their intrinsic 120mm mortars, carefully dispersed to lesson the impact of counter-battery fires.
With a pause in the Soviet advance Sancelme had thrown out small covering forces on the centre and left. Both these sectors were subjected to aggressive reconnaissance. It was likely both areas would be the focus of the initial Soviet assault, though he wondered about his right and how weakly it was held…
At 2pm reports came in of a massed advance against the French left. Two Soviet Motor Rifle Battalions were tasked with securing the ridge and woods northeast of the town of Baudenbach. A Tank Battalion and Divisional Reconnaissance Battalion moved forward further to the right in a turning movement against the French left. Two of the Motor Rifle battalions were directly supported by 2S1s while the advancing regiments had additional fires from divisional 2S3 assets on call. In all the Soviets were advancing on a width of just 2kms and elements of seven artillery battalions in various levels of support.
As expected a series of massed artillery strikes began to hit various French positions. On the left the high ground The ridge running east to west near Baudenbach was hit by concentrated fires by three artillery battalions. This included BM-27 rocket launchers firing improved conventional munitions as well as two army level 240mm mortar battalions. Advanced mechanised platoons were also subjected to concentrated 2S3 fires, a mix of ICM and conventional HE. Despite these horrific fires all advanced elements emerged combat effective from these initial bombardments – though all shaken! Sancelme had reiterated to his regimental commanders the importance of deployment in reverse slope or secondary positions. As a result many positions which were later targets of equally hit by artillery fires were unoccupied.
By 2.30pm and with French positions still subjected to artillery fire Soviet armour moved into range of advanced French positions. 1st Company, 24th Groupement de Chasseurs would engage the Soviet T-80s that advanced by short halts on the ground below for around three hours. Constrained by terrain and harassed by French tank fire and occasional French 155mm artillery fire, the Soviet T-80s milled around in some disorder unable to adequately gain the upper hand while casualties slowly mounted.
Above, 1st Company 24th Groupement de Chasseurs engages Soviet armour. To their left a covering force of French mechanised infantry is deployed in the woods where it was subjected to pre-planned artillery fires.
When 1st Company was initially engaged, and expecting a movement by motorised rifle infantry to support stalled Soviet armour, Sancelme ordered 153rd Regiment d’Infanterie to conduct a spoiling attack. It was to pin the Soviets and support the advanced elements of 24th GC.
Below, 153 RI can be seen conducting its spoiling attack. In the left rear elements of 24th Groupement de Chasseurs can be seen in a reverse slope position behind the first Soviet objective, denoted by the red marker.
Shortly after 2nd Groupement de Chasseurs was ordered to conduct a rapid movement from the right flank to the left deploying to 24th Groupement de Chasseurs’ rear and therefore bolstering the French left rear.
The VAB equipped infantry regiment moved quickly to draw off Soviet infantry. Confused fighting took place along the eastern outskirts of Baudenbach and stretching to within 400m of the positions 1st Company, 24th Groupement de Chasseurs on Baudenbach Ridge.
Unfortunately, the attack by 153 Regiment d’Infanterie was broken up with little gain by Soviet infantry fire, well supported by 152mm artillery fires and in some cases 2S1s firing in direct support. A subsequent order to retire was issued too late and as a result the regiment broke – a result of further casualties during its withdrawal. Survivors would however reform around a kilometre from their original position.
Meanwhile, while one Soviet battalion was held up in the valley two others had pressed forward and were soon engaged against the French second line. Here additional AMX-30s and mechanised infantry exchanged fires with advancing T-80s supported by BMPs.
Above and below, the battle around the French left. Below, the 1st Company of 24th Groupement de Chasseurs has finally been overwhelmed has been overcome and Soviet forces press forward, despite further ATGW fires from other French companies.
Simultaneously, elements of 2nd Groupement de Chasseurs are by now deploying to bolster the French left. Below, AMX-30s and AMX-10s move under the cover of 24th GC’s attached AMX-13 DCA, a self-propelled 30mm AA system.
Despite the arrival of 2nd GC casualties are now mounting for the French. With 153 Regiment d’Infanterie heavily weakened and the 24th Groupement de Chasseurs finally taking significant casualties, a result of four hours of relentless fighting, it was time to break off. As 2nd Groupement de Chasseur was deployed to cover the retirement 24th Groupement de Chasseurs was ordered to disengage after a heroic defence around Baudenbach Ridge. Now the division’s reserve regiments, comprising the three Regiments Cuirassier, would be engaged against the Soviet juggernaut…