Saturday, 14 February 2015

Zabrodzie (Eastern Front, WW2)


18th/19th August 1944, by Richard Baber

Now many of you know I`m no great fan of “elites” on the wargames table and have never been an SS or “big cat” fan-boy, but whilst I was reading Ewald Klapdor’s interesting “Viking Panzers” which I was sent to review for Battlegames magazine I was struck by the number of highly playable small unit actions depicted in the text. This particular battle with a mostly infantry force defending against Soviet attacks seems like a challenging table-top battle.

The Soviet offensive in the east was increasing in tempo all across the entire front, in places spearheads or advanced patrols managed to find weak-points or gaps in the fluid German defensive line. One such break-though occurred east out of Mieczyslawow and threatened the rear-left flank of 5th SS Panzer Division “Wiking” by cutting both the Wyskow-Warsaw road and the rail-line which ran about one kilometer east of the village of Zabrodzie.

Zabrodzie at the time was occupied by the train elements of 5th SS, gathered under the command of 1st Tank Battalion’s headquarters company; the officer in charge was SS-Obersturmfuhrer Senghas. Senghas immediately organized all combat elements from the trains and HQ company and set about setting up defensive positions along the rail-line and then fought a protracted defensive action over the next two days against Soviet infantry supported by tanks, artillery, mortars and anti-tank guns (firing directly). This action allowed panzergrenadier regiment “Westland” to pull back and link up with 3rd and 4th companies of the tank regiment and re-establish the lines. For his quick thinking and well-thought-out actions at Zabrodzie, SS-Obersturmfuhrer Senghas was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 11th December 1944.

Panzer Division battalion and train organizations 1944
Stab Command Staff
Signals and Recce (the Recce here is a platoon of tanks)
Engineers and Recce (the recce here is motorcycles and VW)

Supply Company Command Staff

Workshop Coy Command Staff
1st Repair
2nd Repair
Signals Workshop
Spare Parts

Abteilung Stab - 7 Officers, 41 NCO, 111 Men
Supply Company - 5 Officers, 51 NCO, 103 Men, 2 Officials, 20 HIWI
Workshop Company - 3 Officers, 39 NCO, 164 Men, 3 Officials, 21 HIWI.  

From the AAR we must assume that all of the battalion recce elements were not present at the time (presumably committed elsewhere). Now assuming Senghas had to leave enough men and specialists to guard or in the worse-case scenario drive away to safety those valuable vehicles and supplies, I would give him maybe 200 men to deploy as infantry. In addition he had two damaged Panzer IVs which were being repaired (the main armament seems to have been OK) plus a couple of SP 20mm flak. He also gathered together scattered elements of an engineer battalion and a penal company and combined them into a 58 man company armed with SMGs, rifles and pistols. From Senghas` AAR report we know his men had few LMGs and had to take the guns off the damaged tanks as extra weapons for his infantry.

To make this a table-top battle I decided to give Senghas’ force the following organization -

OC, 2 other officers, RTO, 4 runners

1st company
3 x 10 fig platoons (1 LMG, 1 Panzerfaust) *

2nd company
3 x 10 fig platoons (2 LMG, 1 Panzerfaust) *

Ad hoc platoon (engineers and penal troops)
12 men *

2 - Panzer IV (main gun & co-ax MG)
1 - SP 20mm Flak

* Infantry have a small supply of anti-tank rifle grenades and magnetic mines

 Now for an interesting twist or just esthetics you could have the village on the table-top and field all those interesting supply, repair and communication vehicles. These could be used as objectives for the Russians to destroy (or the Germans to save).

Now according to Senghas the Soviets attacked in company sized groups of 50 or so men. Each attack supported by mortar and artillery fire, including direct AT fire.

 Russian Infantry Battalion (about 600 men)
Battalion staff
3 rifle companies each with (12-LMGs and 3-50mm mortars)
Mortar company with (9-82mm mortars)
Machine gun company with (9-HMGs)
Anti-tank rifle platoon (6-14.5mm PTRD41 AT) 

 Russian Infantry Battalion (wargame version)
Battalion staff (CO, 2IC, RTO + 20 men)
3 rifle companies each with:
CHQ (CO + 5 men)
2 platoons of (10 men, 2-LMGs)
1 platoon of (10men, LMG, 50mm mortar)
Mortar company with:
2 platoons of (2 - 82mm mortars)
Machine gun company with:
2 platoons of (2 - HMGs)
Anti-tank platoon of (10 men, 2-PTRD41s) 
Action timeline

August 18th 1500
The first attack with a couple of infantry companies, directed straight at the German positions with little thought to cover or tactics, supported by mortar and direct AT fire.

The second attack, identical to the first

Two companies attack out of the woods on the German right, one from the woods on the German left. Both attacks supported by artillery and mortar fire.

Fourth and final Russian attack of the day – Russian infantry attacking out of the woods as their earlier attempt

August 19th 1030
After a quiet night the next morning the Russians attacked again covered by heavy support fire directed at left side of the line. They attack from both patches of woods (in company strength), this time supported by four tanks coming from the right (2 Sherman and 2 T-34/76).

Russians attack again from both sets of woods (2 coys each), they bring forward a 76mm AT gun to the edge of the right hand woods to try and knock out the Panzers and support their infantry.

Senghas was informed that the Russians had broken through in the sector north of Zabrodzie on his right! From this time his men receive constant harassing fire from the rear right flank.

Senghas organizes his men and pulls out. By forcing a march via a circuitous route around enemy held villages (in his rear), he managed to get the entire train and units to safety and back into German lines.

I`d like to thank Alan McCoubry and Ashley Ralston for their help with Panzer HQ TO&Es.



  1. Interesting stuff. Keep it up. I trust you will you log these scenarios under your labels like this one? Always looking for historical scenarios within the larger scheme of the actual battles. Thanks.

  2. See my previous post "Scenarios & writing".

    I have dozens more written, most we won`t get to play as they are outside our wargames interests. I don`t play WW2 Eastern Front or Pacific Theatre and don`t play most periods post 1960. But I have written stuff, so i thought I`d publish it here.