Monday, 30 July 2018

Kursk 75 - The fight for Hill 252.2 with Bolt Action

This July is the 75th anniversary of the climactic Battle of Kursk 1943, the high water mark of the Nazi invasion of Russia, hence in many ways the turning point of WW2. Within that epic battle it has been claimed that the battle of Prokorovka was the largest tank battle ever seen, which may just been another myth about this most debated over battle! In any case, its long been an obsession of mine, and so I couldn't let the occasion go without a commemorative mega-game or two! As usual Matt at the Hall of Heroes came up trumps and gave over two large 12 x 6 foot tables to the Kursk games day. We were going to have a third Flames of War themed game, but with the Kursk supplements a few months away interest was low. So my mate Terry organised a massive Rapid Fire game in 20mm, and I helped to organise a Bolt Action 28mm game set around the action over Hill 252.2. Caesar and Theo translated my historical ramblings into a workable Bolt Action scenario.

I was too engrossed in the Bolt Action game to really follow what was happening in Terry's Rapid Fire game, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it looked amazing and sounded like a hoot! (and at least you can see above he had the right number of PzIV models, unlike some Kursk games to be seen that day!)

Excerpt from Georg Nipe's Blood, Steel and Myth, p. 313, highlighting the actions around Hill 252.2
Our game focussed on the high point of the Soviet 5th Guards Tank Army’s counterattack at Prokorovka, their imminent break through foiled by just 4 Tigers - albeit they were led by Michael Wittman!

SITUATION. The Soviet 170th (40 x T34) and 181st Tank Brigades (40 x KV1) are spearheading the counter attack of the 18th Tank Corps and are on the cusp of a breakthrough to reach Hill 252.2, which is only lightly held by 7 x Panzer IVs of the 1 SS Panzer Regt and an understrength Pz Grenadier infantry company of the 2 SS Panzer Grenadier Regt, supported by a handful of AT guns and assault guns. However the defensive position of this handful of LAH tankers and infantry is ideal, atop a large slope leading to Height 252.2, and defended by the remains of a large anti-tank ditch, now breached in two places. Their desperate defence lasts long enough for the decisive intervention of 4 Tiger 1s, who, coming in from the flank, cause sufficient damage to the 170th Tank Brigade to eventually persuade it to draw off, after its commander is killed.

For our game, we halved the numbers of AFVs and units, so the 7 available PzIVs were represented by 4 models (2 Panthers had to be pressed into service but used PzIV stats) and Wittman only had 2 Tigers...

The 40 T34s of the 170th Tank Brigade was represented by 2 platoons of 6, but these could be recycled at any point in the game, being resurrected back on the start line a foot into the table, but without their tank rider desantniki from the 9th Airborne Regiment. The follow on wave of KV-1s from the 181st Tank Brigade would have to be represented by 2 model KV-1s, which again could be recycled...

My sources were a bit vague on the composition of those elements of the 2 SS Panzer Grenadier Regiment who defended hill 252.2 itself. Its known that they had some Marder SPAT, some PAK40s, and a few STUG IIIs, but numbers are uncertain. We pretty much gave them all the models we could beg, borrow or steal, which gave them a total of seven 7.5cm KwK L48 heavy AT tubes.

The star of the table for me was the model anti-tank ditch. Bryan texted me the day before the game and said he had a 'solution' for the AT ditch, and I was expecting a strip of black cloth or something similar - but no, he had modelled 12 foot of sloping AT ditch complete with the 2 breaches! What a guy! He and Caesar ran the Panzer Grenadiers, whilst Marc, a Bolt Action newbie, was given the critical 7 PzIVs to run...

On the Soviet side, Russ ran the Airborne infantry on the left flank opposite Hill 252.2 itself, whilst Theo held the centre with a platoon of T34s and a single squad of tank riders. I held the right flank with the other T34 platoon and 2 sections of tank riders.

The pace of the game was set when Russ aggressively advanced his paratroopers with a series of run and advance orders, 

with Theo's armour laying down fire on the Grenadier's AT guns.

On my flank I rather rashly ran my first squad of tank riders up into the right hand breach, were they received heavy fire from the PzIV hull and pintle MGs...

So that they were quickly cut down - my T34s weren't doing too well either!

However Russ's boldness and Theo's well timed support meant that the Soviet steamroller was doing better where it counted...

opposite the objective...

At the start of move 4, it was time for Michael Wittman's Tigers to make their appearance on the flank of the Soviet advance...

Excerpt from Tiger Ace - Michael Wittman Gary L Simpson, p. 208, describing the start of the Tiger intervention in the battle of Hill 252.2 at Prokhorovka, 12 July 1943

And what a view, and an opportunity for flanking fire awaited him!

It was not long before the Tigers made their presence felt! I had to abandon any attempt to support the assault on the hill in order to secure the flank...

After taking losses, and many misses or hits that did nothing but add pin markers, I suddenly got a fluke breakthough…

 - Wittman's Tiger was Knocked Out!

Meanwhile, back on Hill 252.2, Russ had continued his relentless, if costly, advance...leading with the paratroopers, Theo's T-34's supporting with indirect fire.

Determined and bloody hand to hand fighting destroyed one of the PAK nests...

And the PanzerGrenadiers all along the ridge had also taken heavy casualties...

But not as many as the brave paratroopers, so that at the end of move 6 there were more German than Soviet units on Hill 252.2 - victory to the German team! 

But, still, we got Wittman! As always a great game in good company, and our thanks to all those who loaned their models: Ian, Gary, Colin and Terry.


  1. Terrific pictorial account of a great game. You caught me doing an "I'm a little teapot" pose in the first photo. Bryan's terrain building efforts were utterly gob smacking, to the modest words of, "Here's a little something I knocked up in my spare time yesterday." Salutations to Russ for pushing his Soviet infantry hard and us even harder and making a really good contest of it. I'm so relieved he didn't have commissaries or we wouldn't have stood a chance.

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