Thursday, 14 February 2013

How Many Tanks?

The slippery elastic nature of orbat numbers on the Eastern Front has many readers confused when they try to understand just how big unit actions were (and I include myself in this catagory). The disjointed way that military historians pepper their texts with numbers that make meaningful comparisons impossible, is intensely frustrating for a Wargamer trying to recreate a particular action. The Red Army Handbook 1939-1945 by Steven Zaloga and Leland Ness (1998), and the World War II Databook by John Ellis (1993) are usually my first points of reference.

I usually start from tank strengths – since these are key indicators. Consider that at full strength, a Soviet tank corps, on its return to the orbat in April 1942, contained 20 KVs, 40 T-34s and 40 T-60s or T-70s.
A Zvezda 15mm T-26 and KV-1 with a Plastic Soldier Company T-34 make the tank element of a 1942 Soviet tank corps
With an NQM tank model representing 30 tanks, then a Soviet tank corps would be 100 tanks represented by 10 Strength points rounded down to 3 models of 3 strength points each. If more accuracy is wanted then the KV is 2 strength points (s2) and the medium and light tank models are (s4) each. Remember this is a full strength “corps” of 3 tank models. At this time a British tank battalion was fielding about 50 tanks represented by 5 strength points or 1 model. I normally round strengths down to allow for the inevitable non-runners scattered around workshops.

A cursory reading of Citadel The Battle of Kursk by Robin Cross (1993) gives the following strengths at the start of the battle on p151. NQM Models are given in (brackets) :

XLVIII Panzer Corps

Grossdeutschland Division: 163 tanks and 35 (1) assault guns, of which, 14 Tigers (1-) and 104 Panthers (3+) with the remaining 45 (1) being Pz IVs. 6 Panzer Grenadier Battalions.
11 Panzer Division : 80 tanks (3). 4 Panzer Grenadier Battalions.
3 Panzer Division : 80 Tanks (3). 4 Panzer Grenadier Battalions.
In total the corps had 300 tanks (10) and 60 Assault guns (2), but note that p205 gives “approximately 470”.

IISS Panzer Corps

Each of Liebstandarte, Das Reich and Totenkopf Divisions having 130 (4) tanks and 35 (1) assault guns, of which 13-15 Tigers (1) the remaining (3) being an even mix presumably of Pz IIIs and IVs,  6 Panzer Grenadier Battalions (or 8 for Das Reich, depending on source).

Anyone fielding Panthers at Kursk should note that by the end of the first day’s fighting 76 (2) had broken down due to mechanical failure leaving only 28 (1) in the field. By the end of the advance, Grossdeutschland was being referred to as a “battlegroup”.
It can be seen that at this stage of the war, A Soviet tank corps is broadly equivalent to a standard panzer division of about 3 tank models, and also a British brigade of 3 tank regiments (battalions in anyone else's army).

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