|General view of battlefield. looking northeastward.|
As the July morning drifted into afternoon, it appeared that the Red Army's attempt to break out of the Kozhenya bridgehead had been contained, if not altogether repulsed. But losses on both sides had been heavy. The early clashes had cost the Soviets the more heavily, but it was not too long before they were giving at least as good as they were taking. On both sides, the armour were wearing most of the punishment. Overall the respective losses at this stage of the battle were Germans, 12SP; Soviets, 18SP. Considering that at one stage the 'score' was 2-10, the Soviets could take a measure of satisfaction.
|Germans recapture Pt138, though with heavy losses.|
At around Pt138 the battle flared up anew. In the early fighting, I/79 PzGr Bn had taken some stick (2SP's worth) from Red artillery, and had fallen back behind Pt138 to recuperate. Now they were called upon to join the counter attack to recover the high ground. Together with the light tanks, they stormed the height, supported by a much reduced company of PzIVs to their right, and at least one StuG company to their left. The Russian assault guns were soon edged off the feature, to be destroyed in the plain beyond. But a handful of T34s remained to contest the further German advance in this sector.
|German attack on Dmitrievka.|
To the north, however, the Russians had been forced back into the town, which they placed in a state of defence. I/6th Rifle Battalion having long since broken and scattered, II/6th garrisoned the north sector on the west bank, whilst what remained of 2nd/6 Tank Coy guarded the bridge approaches. Having retreated to the east bank behind Dmitrievka, 1st/6 Tank Coy, much reduced, began moving to cover the river bank north of the town. The attacking German infantry of 515th Regiment were joined by a company of Marders and one of StuGs. For all the weight of the attacks, the Soviets proved stubbornly hard to shift.
|II/79 PzGr Bn - 'held in reserve'.|
The Germans found their task no easier when Russian tanks appeared on the far bank and began firing into the flank of II/515 Battalion. Meanwhile, the II/79 PzGr Battalion had been withdrawn into reserve on the German left centre (by which is meant that, owing to the limits placed upon one's freedom of action through the unit activation scheme, I was simply not finding the time to bring the unit into action).
|Fierce fighting between high ground and river. What happened to|
6th Pz Coy (Tank 233)?
The recapture of Pt138 came at a serious cost to the Wehrmacht. The last tanks of 5th Pz Coy were reduced to smoking wrecks, and I/97 PzGr had taken further losses. Meanwhile, advancing up the riverbank into the bend, 6th pz Coy had wandered into the range of the hitherto dormant battalion of BM-13 rocket launchers - Katyushas, a.k.a. Stalin's organs. Down came the whining missiles, up went the mass of explosions, and back went half the panzer company (down to 2SP out of 4). The other half remained flaming or abandoned along the riverbank.
|At last, II/4th Rifle Battalion driven into and across the river.|
On the southern flank, with great effort Kampfgruppe I at last managed to lever the II/4 Battalion out of their exiguous bridgehead and into the Mius River. About one third of the Soviet battalion remained (2 out of 6SP), but they had taken a considerable toll. It required the whole of 60th PzGr Regiment, plus at least one panzer company to drive them out, by which time both panzergrenadier battalions had lost 20% of their strength, one PzIII company was left gently smoking on the field of battle, and the other two PzIII companies has also lost vehicles.
|Beginning to attack Kozhenya|
Finally destroying the last of the Soviet armour, Axis command ordered the exploitation onwards to take, seize or carry the Kozhenya village. Two companies of StuGs accompanied I/79 PzGr to the edge of the village. The original anti-tank garrison had long since departed, to be replaced by a fresh company of T34 tanks.
|Lots of burning armour scattered about. On the left,|
Marder crossing to east bank.
Shortly before this time, the Soviet forces had reached their exhaustion point. Heavy armour losses in the centre and northern flanks left them with very slender means to strike blows. Counter attacks being now out of the question, they pulled their forces back into their tight perimeters. However, the Germans were close to exhaustion themselves - within just one Strength Point. I had planned that, having destroyed the remnants of 1st/6 Tank Coy, the Marder would cross the river north of Dmitrievka to seize the objective point on the far side of the bridge. It was hoped, too, that a quick thrust at Kozhevnya might secure that objective point as well, however unlikely.
|Russian perspective, at close of the action. Russians on the defensive,|
but German attacks petering out.
Assessing the likelihood of German success as near zero, I called the battle here, probably wrongly. It is true that the Marder company was at least 2 move away from its objective, which was unlikely to remain unoccupied. On the other hand there was at least a slender possibility - very slender - that the Germans could take Kozhenya. The odds against securing one of the objective points for victory before losing that final SP were still pretty steep. Overall, the result was a draw, tactically and strategically. The Germans had failed to eliminate the bridgehead, and indeed, given Soviet continued occupation of the east back sectors of Dmitrievka, it had expanded along the riverside, at least. Other than that, the Soviets were as distant as ever from a breakout.
Losses had been very heavy, especially in armour. The overall 'butcher's bill' now stood at Wehrmacht 23SP lost; Red Army 29SP. German armour lost 12SP, 11 of them from the panzers; Russian armour lost all of 19SP. A day later, 2nd Guards Mechanised Corps was drawn out of the line, for refitting, refurbishing, and employment elsewhere. For their part, the Germans could not be withdrawn, and waited apprehensively for the next Soviet attack...
(Aside: Had this been a campaign battle, the Germans would have got 12SP back from the 23 lost, 6 going to the armour, specifically the panzers, 3 to each battalion. I Pz Bn would have been rebuilt to Coy strengths of 3, 2, 2SP; and II Pz Bn to 3 and 2 SP. This recovery would be attributed to battlefield recovery of slightly damaged and abandoned tanks, and the odd replacement from Div workshops, Army shipments and what have you. On the whole I prefer a different handling for the Red Army: withdrawal and replacement of whole formations rather than of units. Something to think about, anyhow.)